Tomaz Humar Dies on Langtang Lirung

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Langtang Lirung (7,234 meters) from the east. Wikipedia photo.

Langtang Lirung (7,234 meters) from the east. Wikipedia photo.

Slovenian alpinist Tomaz Humar, who seemed to have nine lives, has used up the last of them on a Nepalese mountainside. Humar was badly injured and called for a rescue during a solo attempt on 7,234-meter Langtang Lirung, the highest peak in the Langtang region of Nepal. According to his trekking agency, Humar started up the mountain on November 5. He called for help via satellite phone in the evening of Monday, November 9, and last communicated with base camp on the morning of November 10, telling a friend, “This is my last,” according to news reports.

Information about the accident and ensuing rescue attempts remains piecemeal. Initial news reports suggested Humar was stranded at 6,300 meters on the peak. On November 10 and 11, a Sherpa team attempted to reach his reported position on the peak but were unable to locate him. Meanwhile, a group of Swiss helicopter rescue specialists flew to Kathmandu and eventually to base camp. Poor weather and avalanche conditions grounded all rescuers on November 12 and 13. On the morning of the 14th, a Swiss pilot was able to fly a search mission and locate Humar at 5,600 meters, much lower than expected. Using a long-line, the rescuers lowered climber Simon Anthamatten, who had just returned home to Switzerland from the first ascent of the direct south face of Jasemba (7,350 meters) in Nepal, and Anthamatten was able to reach Humar and recover his body.

Humar, 40, lived an extraordinary, colorful, and high-profile life in the mountains. He began climbing in the Himalaya in 1994, putting up a variation to the southeast face of Ganesh V (6,989m) with a Slovenian team. In 1995 he climbed Annapurna, and the following year he achieved two major successes: a new route on the northwest face of Ama Dablam, with Vanja Furlan, and the solo first ascent of Bobaye (6,808 meters) by the difficult northwest face.

Photo courtesy of Humar.com

Photo courtesy of Humar.com

The year 1997 brought tragedy. Humar and Janez Jeglic summited the 7,742-meter northwest summit of Nuptse by a new route on the west face, but then Jeglic was blown off the top by a gust of wind, and Humar was forced to descend alone. Two years later, Humar soloed a new line on the enormous south face of Dhaulagiri to circa 7,300 meters, traversed to the southeast ridge, and then moved back to the south face, continuing to about 8,000 meters, where he traversed over to the normal route (northeast ridge) without tagging the 8,167-meter summit. Exhausted after more than a week of solo climbing, Humar descended to Camp I at about 5,700 meters on the northeast ridge, where he met some expedition mates and waited for a helicopter, which arrived a day later to carry him to town.

In 2000, Humar’s climbing career was interrupted by a nasty accident in which he fell into the basement of the home he was building, badly breaking a femur and heel; life-threatening complications from the injuries forced a long stay in the hospital.

After returning to climbing, Humar mounted a few expeditions before heading to Pakistan in the summer of 2005 for what would become his most notorious climb: a solo attempt on the direct Rupal Face of 8,125-meter Nanga Parbat. After climbing above 6,000 meters on the face, Humar was trapped by poor conditions and spent days waiting for a helicopter rescue, as the world breathlessly followed his ordeal on the Internet. Eventually, Pakistani military pilots in a helicopter strained to the limit by the high altitude managed to swing a rope to Humar and pluck him from the face.

Date of Accident: ca. November 9, 2009

Sources:MountEverest.net, various press reports, Tomaz Humar (by Bernadette McDonald), American Alpine Journal

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