Christian Kuntner (left) was not well known in the international climbing community.I climb for myself, not for anyone else. I dont have anything to prove, he said. American Ed Viesturs (right) had much in common with the Tyrolean - his advice to a new generation of climbers; "Climb for the fun of climbing and do it only for yourself."
You can get away with it once, or twice - if weather and conditions are great. But to survive the death zone over and over again is only for the strongest and the boldest - and the lucky ones.
Annapurna 2003, Christian's diary entry: "Just before starting to abseil, I raised my head and looked at the summit, muttering to myself: I'll come back, and, this time, please let me have you."
Ed Viesturs changed American climbing when he summited 8000+ summits 20 times.
Christian's climbing life included mates such as Wanda Rutkiewicz and Krzysztof Wielicki until he met Italian Abele Blanc (left) in 1999. The rope mates became inseparable.
Destiny decided to give Ed a hand at the very end: Thanks to the fixed ropes, he and longtime climbing partner Veikka Gustafsson were able to climb the dangerous north face swiftly.
Ed Viesturs became one of only five men in the world to accomplish the 14, 8000ers quest entirely without supplementary oxygen.
Christian on Annapurna in 2003. For two months we have lived like real men, courageous, loyal, in fraternity, solidly and idealistically, it was worth it," wrote Abele.
The thin air deprives the climbers of strentgh, the lack of oxygen attacks their mind with confused depression. It's difficult to find courage to survive - let alone to strive.
In a 2003 tribute to Jan Clough, the first victim of Annapurna's south face, Abele dispatched: "He was full of ideals and dreams, just like us. A few hundred metres from the end of the glacier, a tower of ice fell on top of him and killed him." Little did Abele know that the same fate awaited his friend two years later.
Ed on Annapurna summit. "It took 16 years for me to complete this quest and I had finally achieved it. As we wandered back to basecamp it started to snow and for me it felt like Christmas - I had just received the greatest gift of all - the summit of Annapurna."
This year's tale of triumph and tragedy on the 14, 8000er list was more than telling of the reality on our world's highest peaks. And yet the soul of the two mountaineers' climbs remain a great example of the true spirit of a climbing life. Summarized in Abele's final dispatch from Annapurna in 2003: "Well celebrate what has brought our group close together in an extraordinary way, and this adventure that we have shared.
Posted: Dec 28, 2005 04:52 am EST SUBSCRIBER CONTENT PREVIEW FOR FULL STORY: LOGIN OR SUBSCRIBE NOW - UP TO 3 MONTHS FREE
We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2005. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world. And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in the year of 2005. Today number 5: Ed Viesturs and Christian Kuntner Only twelve men have stood on the summit of the tallest mountains in...