Skip to main content

I'd rather dance than stand at the bar.

Extrembergsteiger Jost Kobusch ist 26 Jahre alt

As a child he could not jump from the three-meter board, today Jost Kobusch is an extreme mountaineer. The 26-year-old climbs the highest peaks in the world - alone and without oxygen. He is currently preparing for a solo ascent of Mount Everest, alone and in winter. Nobody's done that before him. Here the Bielefeld native explains, why fear can be a good driver, how one learns also from small adventures, and which tips he has for us normal climbers

 


Your development as a mountaineer has been almost unreal. You come from the lowlands, from North Rhine-Westphalia, were on the Zugspitze for the first time at the age of 17 ...
... at that time by the way still with the mountain railway ...

... and four years later you were the youngest solo conqueror of the 6,814 meter high Ama Dablam. Its summit is considered one of the most difficult of all.
Looking back, I can see that there was a lot of "learn or die" in it. I did things that I wasn't ready for, that I didn't have enough experience for. And often it didn't work. I've had a lot of blows to the face. But that's exactly why I learned so much.

Why did you keep overtaxing yourself?
I've always been fascinated by the things I've been afraid of. This has led to the path becoming very steep very quickly - I have just been looking for more and more things that I was afraid of.

Is fear really a good motivation in the mountains?
I'm sure the fear itself isn't. But the right way to deal with it. I used to have trouble jumping off a three-meter board at swimming in school. I stood there, the whole class watched and I climbed back down the ladder again and again. In principle, I didn't care. But I had the feeling that my fear limited me. So I fully attacked, kept going up, faced the fear. And that feeling when you've faced fear and overcame it is addictive.

Jost Kobusch on Mount Nangpai Gosum II in the Himalayas
Jost Kobusch on Nangpai Gosum II, the first to climb the mountain on the Chinese-Nepalese border.
Image credit: Jost Kobusch

Those who enjoy the experience will reach the summit more easily.

When did you realize that mountaineering would determine your whole life?
The decisive moment was certainly the avalanche at Everest Basecamp in April 2015. 18 people died. I was firmly convinced that I was going to die. Surviving that was like rebirth. And for the first time I could clearly see what I wanted: mountaineering, trying everything, living as if it could be over tomorrow.

Others might have stopped mountaineering after such an experience...
I was talking about something else. I always thought you had to study. I was good at school and had all these opportunities. I thought it was about finding a good place in society. At that time I wanted to live up to some expectations. But in the avalanche it became clear to me that I wanted to live my life in such a way that I didn't have to regret anything.

Back then, you were the young savage who took full risks. When did that change?
The turning point for me was clearly the Annapurna, one year after the events on Everest. This mountain is so huge and hostile to humans at almost 8,100 meters - there is often an extreme danger of avalanches and it is also a real challenge for alpinists. On this expedition my risk mindset has completely changed. Before that, I always regarded the mountains as a sports field and felt invincible on top of that. The Annapurna had a death rate of 33 percent at the time. I felt the real danger when I first looked at the mountain and experienced humility for the first time. That's when I started seeing the summit as a bonus.

At the end of the day, you just climb some meaningless, ice-covered pile of stone. That's why you have to give your project its own meaning. Actually, it's about giving your life a direction. To live in such a way that you have no regrets

The path is the goal and the summit is just an encore?
It's not quite like that. I want to get to the top, I'm too stubborn for anything else. But it doesn't always have to be right now and at any price. At Annapurna I was always ready to turn around. I didn't put any pressure on myself and enjoyed every step. This made me super relaxed and it went very well.

And it wasn't easy for you to climb the summit either.
Sure, the first attempt didn't work. Too much wind, too cold. But I had been completely relaxed in the base camp and waited two weeks. Everyone else quivered, trembled and stared at the weather forecast every day. I honestly didn't care. And that's why I still had so many mental resources left for the second ascent. I just thought it was cool that I could be there.

Approach to the route at Mount Nangpai Gosum II
What Jost Kobusch experiences on the world's highest mountains can be experienced by everyone on a small scale: Challenge yourself and carry on, even if it doesn't work out immediately
Image credit: Raphael Schardt

Better to go up the mountain yourself than take the cable car.

Those who allow failure to happen, get further up?
Here, too, the point of view is important. I'm not failing, I just haven't made it yet. Because I know I'll come back someday. I know I'll keep trying until I succeed.

Why are concrete goals like the summit important?
You're really putting yourself through a lot up there. And to endure that, you need a goal. By the way, it's the worst thing when you reach your goal, because you're finishing it. But at the end of the day, you just climb some meaningless, ice-covered pile of stones. In a few years, nobody's going to care what you did. That's why you have to give your project its own meaning. Actually, it's about giving your life a direction. To live in such a way that you have no regrets.

You are on your way alone and without any support, "by fair means", as they say on the mountain. Here, more and more people are using the infrastructure in the high alpine region or riding up the mountain on e-bikes. What do you think of this attitude?
I don't mind e-bikes at all. You have to decide for yourself how to move on the mountain. What I find much worse is that more and more cable cars are being built to bring more and more people to the mountains. I think there's a lot lost. That's not good for nature and not for the experience of the individual.

Jost Kobusch survived an avalanche at Everest Basecamp
Jost Kobusch doesn't just want to climb peaks. Above all, it is important to him to discover the world with the enthusiasm of a twelve-year-old and to retain something playful.
Image credit: Ben Breuer

The mountains are a huge playground

Does only relying on your own power enhance the experience?
Of course. But above all, you also learn something about yourself. If you are always looking for new challenges and sometimes reach your limits, then you will quickly notice how you deal with extreme situations and what type you are.

What can we normal outdoor people learn from this?
I'd rather dance than stand at the bar. Be active, but not dogged. Go to the mountain to have fun. Sporting ambition is all very well. But it is much more important to release this playful element. Imagine a twelve-year-old who is just discovering the world, and keep the enthusiasm for as long as possible. The mountains are a huge playground. There is so much to discover, experience and enjoy. And when you have fun, it releases enormous energies and gives you new motivation.

Is this a plea for more mountaineering on a small scale?
Fine by me. But there's more. I'm all about discovering new things. Venture into unknown things, go on microadventures, do things you're afraid of. Get out of the comfort zone, scare yourself a little. And you'll see that everything feels a lot more intense. That you discover an incredible amount about yourself that you didn't know before. You don't have to climb Everest to get there - the Waxenstein is perfectly sufficient.

Jost Kobusch on the road in the Himalayas

Kobusch has been travelling in the Himalayas since September 2019 and is acclimatising. Because he wants to climb Mount Everest solo in winter 2019/2020. We'll accompany him:

Read part 1 here:"I don't want to arrive"