Review: Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage by Hermann Buhl. Published by Vertebrate. £9.99

NANGA Parbat is the ninth highest mountain in the world. It was the third 8000 metre peak to be climbed after Annapurna on 3 June 1950 and Everest on 29 May 1953.

On 3 July 1953 Austrian Hermann Buhl reached the summit of Nanga Parbat after one of the most incredible and committed climbs ever made.

Continuing alone and without the use of oxygen, Buhl made a dash for the 8126 metre (26620 feet) summit after his climbing compatriot Otto Kempler turned back. He returned to their camp 6.5 kilometres away 41 hours later having barely survived the bold and massive climb to the summit.

After a calm and windless night near the summit he descended the following day without his ice axe, which he had left on the summit with a Pakistani flag tied to it, and only one crampon.

Vertebrate Publishing have started republishing a number of classic mountaineering books, of which Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage is one, following on from Eiger Direct which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.

This book, written by Hermann Buhl concludes with his story of this epic ascent but also contains a plethora of stories of Buhl’s earlier climbing career.

It starts with his early life in his home town of Innsbruck and him learning to cut his teeth on climbs in this part of the North Tyrol with climbs on the local limestone cliffs, the nearby Schusselkar, the Praxmerkaspitze and the Mauk West Wall.

In 1939 at the age of 24 he joined the Deutscher Alpenverein (the German Alpine Association) and soon became one of the best climbers in Europe. In 1943 he was called up into the Army and joined the Alpine Troops, mostly on the Monte Cassino.

After being captured by American troops he spent two years as a prisoner of war but then in 1946 returned to climbing. Over the next five years he spent time in the Dolomites, climbed the Matterhorn and the North Wall of the Eiger before heading to the Himalya and his attempt on Nanga Parbat.

Despite 31 climbers having died on previous attempts he was determined to succeed which he did after 4½ weeks of setting up various camps on the mountain.

Upon his return to Austria he wrote this book of his life which was published the following year.

Sadly, three years later after being part of a four-man expedition making the first ascent of Broad Peak (8030 metres), the twelfth highest mountain in the World, on 9 June 1957, he died 2½ weeks later in an avalanche on nearby Chogolisa (7654 metres). The world had lost one of the greatest climbers of that time but his life lives on in this superb autobiography, a book I would recommend most highly.

by John Burland