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The Loneliest Mountaineer on Everest

Kobusch, with his penchant for long, lonely, daring climbs, is trying to up the ante even further.

Not only is he climbing in winter and alone without supplemental oxygen, he is trying to reach the top of Everest via the West Ridge, a far more formidable path than the two most common routes, which nearly 98 percent of summit seekers use. Kobusch must contend with sheer walls, bullet-hard blue ice pitched as steep as a church spire and a final gully of ice, rock and snow — called the Hornbein Couloir — in which only a few people have ever set foot.

“Doing a route that hasn’t been done before in winter is another way to do something for the first time,” Bierling said. “What Jost is doing, it’s very technically challenging, and he’s doing it completely alone. If he makes it up he will be standing on the same summit that everyone stands on. But the way he gets there — you can’t actually compare it, it’s so different.”

Climbing Everest by himself is not a departure for Kobusch, but a continuation of his trademark style. In 2016, after he climbed Annapurna I (26,545 feet) solo, he decided he was in search of an experience even more monastic and remote.

“Other people were climbing the mountain on the same day,” he said of Annapurna. “I was looking for true wilderness.”

In 2017, he found it. Kobusch climbed Nangpai Gosum I (24,019 feet), which was then the fourth-highest unclimbed peak in the world, alone. “Next I went looking for that raw space on 8,000-meter peaks, for the hardest and biggest project I could possibly imagine,’’ he said. “And it was pretty obvious. It was Everest.”

This is his second time trying to climb the West Ridge of Everest solo in winter, after an initial attempt in the 2019-20 season. On that attempt, he reached an elevation of 24,167 feet before turning around. In both instances, his solitary experiences have been as different as imaginable from the mainstream Everest that most people know.

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