Text by Richard Sale:
The ascent of Broad Peak, the world's twelfth highest mountain in 1957 was one of the most important climbs in the history of climbing on the great peaks. A team of four Austrians, carrying their own equipment and dispensing with bottled oxygen, took the climbing ideas of the European Alps to the Himalayas / Karakoram, an advance in tactics which laid the foundation for many of the great ascents which followed. As well as being a landmark, the expedition also resulted in the death of Hermann Buhl, at the time the most famous climber in the world.
Arrival in Skardu on 13 April 1957 © Marcus Schmuck
Text by Bill Buxton:
In 1957, a team of four Austrians: Marcus Schmuck, Hermann Buhl, Fritz Wintersteller and Kurt Diemberger made an ascent of Broad peak. This climb was remarkable for a number of reasons, mostly to do with style:
- It was without oxygen
- They had no porters on the mountain, carrying everything themselves
- All four team members summited (a first for an 8,000 metre peak)
- By reaching the summit, Hermann Buhl became the first person to make 2 first ascents of a mountain over 8,000 metres.
Permit for Broad Peak delivered to Marcus Schmuck on April 8th, 1957 by hand
And, to make this expedition all the more remarkable, following their ascent of Broad Peak, Markus Schmuck and Fritz Wintersteller made a flash ascent of a nearby peak, Skil Brum (7,360 m) in pure alpine style. Starting from base camp at 4900 metres, they camped at 6,060 metres, then made the summit the following day. They returned to their 6,060 metre camp that night, and then descended to their base camp in the morning.
The whole ascent, from base camp to base camp was done in 53 hours!
From all of the above, this 1957 expedition was a wonderful precursor of the new style of climbing that what was to follow, as exemplified later in the climbs by Messner and Habeler.
But there was a dark side to this expedition as well. It suffered from interpersonal difficulties. By the time of the second successful summit attempt, the members were no longer climbing as a team of four, but as two teams of two: Schmuck and Wintersteller, and Buhl and Diemberger. Further, following the ascent of Skil Brum by Schmuck and Wintersteller, Buhl and Diemberger made an attempt on Chogolisa (7,654 m). It was on this attempt that Buhl was killed. Thus, the legacy of one of the most stunning expeditions in history of the Himalaya has been dominated by the shadow of Hermann Buhl’s death rather than by its stellar accomplishments.