Higher than the Dhaulagiri
A highly individual mountain climber who writes highly individual books
Since the fiasco of the first Dutch Everest expedition in 1982 - due partly to bad luck, but primarily to internal rivalry - Bart Vos has opted for the most elementary form of climbing. He climbs alone and with a minimum of equipment and back-up, without resorting to other climbers for help, and without using ropes that may have been left behind by earlier climbers. Solo climbing demands extreme discipline in order to avoid making fatal errors, and great mental strength to cope with the icy loneliness.
In his new book, Hoger dan de Dhaulagiri, Bart Vos returns to the Himalayas. The Dhaulagiri is one of Nepal’s highest peaks, a ‘white tooth’ that Vos conquers with an extremely difficult route of his own devising (‘an imaginary taut line on the mountain wall that will be there long after I’m dead and gone’). Surprisingly, the book starts with the final objective, reaching the top. There his altimeter reads 8,185 metres, almost twenty metres higher than the mountain’s official height.
This success was preceded by failed solo attempts in 1994 and 1995, both of which are described in separate chapters. The first failed because of severe weather. The second failure was almost hilarious: in the final phases, Vos had to deal with an inexperienced female climber from Russia who seriously endangered both their lives by following him. Fifty metres below the peak, he was forced to turn back to help her.
Vos also turns a perceptive eye on the land and peoples of Nepal and Tibet. During his expeditions to the area, he has witnessed their increasing dependence on Western development aid, and has watched tourist organisations and mountaineers take gleeful advantage of the passivity of the local populations. His travels also bring him together with old and new friends, among them the astonishing Tibetan Lobsang, whom Vos lovingly portrays. The Tibetans and Nepalis’ stories form a kaleidoscopic picture of a once-so-idyllic Nepal.