MUNICH – Our newspaper reaches David Kotler (44) – of course – in the mountains. 3317 meters at Theodulhütte, below the Matterhorn. In the interview, the Munich alpinist talks about his rush to Everest (8849 m), his own ascent to the highest point on earth and tourism in the mountains.
David Kotler, What does albinism mean to you?
It is a relatively wide area as one moves through the hills. For me, this involves being free and independent in the mountains, in small teams of a maximum of four people. If you look at expedition mountaineering without additional aids such as oxygen.
Every year at the start of the Everest season, images of traffic jams on the world’s highest mountain are replayed. This urgency is also related to the fact that Sherpas and oxygen make the ascent much easier.
Absolutely. Anyway, what we see on Everest has nothing to do with albinism. 98 percent of these are simply guided climbs. I was at the summit without oxygen and Sherpas, but I wouldn’t call it albinism. I used standard ropes and didn’t have to put a meter on my own track. But of course it was a completely different style. Only two percent of Everest summits are done without oxygen. People who come around with all kinds of gear in and out naturally feel the mountain differently. So, it is not surprising that the success rate of getting the highest score is very high.
When you successfully climbed Mount Everest in 2022, you had no oxygen and Haribo as a minor stimulant.
There is no rule book for trekking. It is up to us as climbers to document everything honestly and openly. At that time I met a friend in the camp who offered me half a pack of Haribo.
This was a conflict for me as I did not want to accept any help from outside. Eventually I couldn’t resist (laughs). As mundane as it may seem, it’s important to me to immediately contact the place where I’ve accepted outside help. I once compared mountain climbing to an e-bike with oxygen. Sure you can cycle the Tour de France on an e-bike and feel like a great cyclist, but that’s different.
What do you want?
In trekking, we need to be more honest about what we are doing. Great managers always want to climb Mount Everest in their profile. But the next question should be: were you with or without oxygen? We must honestly accept the challenge that nature presents us with little oxygen. Then many will notice: Oh, but now it’s over from 6000 meters. And it won’t be that crowded.
In 2019 you are back 100 meters below the summit. Even then there was a traffic jam.
There were a lot of people there. I am also very clear people. Because it’s hard for me to call them hikers because they’re wearing crampons. Without oxygen and Sherpas, I couldn’t stand there and wait in traffic. But I never decided there was so much going on. You know, you have to take that into account.
This year 454 people want to climb Mount Everest. Like never before. Of course, agencies and Sherpas make a living from this business and make as many successful ascents as possible.
I will never condemn Nepalese tourism. Hopefully I can show them how to make the whole thing sustainable from the start. That they don’t make the same mistakes we do in the Alps. We have everything installed. But to say to the poorest country in the world, “Hey, trade a little less” and tell them to do that seems pretty cynical to me. At the same time we try to milk every last cent from the Alps.
Do you often think back to the moment you stood on the highest point on earth?
The beauty of the mountain is that everyone can discover it for themselves. For some, Munich’s local mountain may already be like Everest. Connecting with nature is very important to me. I was at the top of Mahalu in 2013. Then I felt dry. I learned a lot on the trips, but I was never on top. A third attempt at Everest in 2022 will carry you years in which you will never get up again. This moment is one that many do not imagine. You don’t start cheering or singing. Because you know you have to go back down. Half the time to get there. I was lucky enough to be alone at the summit. It is indescribable. I was in my own world.
Interview: Nico-Marius Schmitz