Luis Stitzinger, one of the most successful German high-altitude climbers, has been missing in the Himalayas since Thursday evening. The 54-year-old wanted to ski down the Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world at 8,586 meters, as far as possible. His trace is lost during the descent from the summit. The disappearance of the highly experienced mountain guide and big mountain skier has sparked great concern in the mountaineering community.
On May 18, Stitzinger and a group of mountaineers had already started a first attempt at the summit. However, they had chosen a wrong route and had to turn back without having achieved anything. Even then he skied part of the way, which shouldn’t have been a problem from an altitude of about 8000 meters. After three days in base camp, he made a second attempt on Thursday.
Stitzinger wrote to his wife, the mountaineer Alix von Melle, from the last high camp that everything was fine and that he wanted to set off for the summit. This is how the journalist Stefan Nestler reports on his blog “Adventure Mountain”who is in direct contact with Stitzinger’s wife.
Departure in the dark
At 5 p.m., Stitzinger was the last of a group of mountaineers to reach the summit. According to his Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks, he contacted the team at the base camp again at 9 p.m. At this time, it was already dark, he was on the descent at 8300 meters. His plan was to start downhill.
He had previously agreed with another climber, Flower Waganku Wayta Hirkawarmi, to meet at camp four at 7,600 meters. When Stitzinger did not arrive by the next morning (Friday), the Peruvian raised the alarm. A rescue operation could not take place until today, 4 p.m. German time, because fog prevented a landing in the base camp.
The helicopter was to fly a rescue team of four Sherpa guides, who were already acclimatized to the altitude, directly to camp two at 6,400 meters. From there they should ascend and search for Stitzinger. This is also confirmed by Thaneswar Guragai from the organizer Seven Summit Treks. The location of the missing person is also difficult because the location function of his GPS device should be on display.
Stitzinger is an experienced high-altitude skier
For Stitzinger, the Kangchenjunga was the tenth of 14 eight-thousanders. He usually climbed without bottled oxygen, except for two tours of Mount Everest, where he guided guests in 2019 and 2022 as a mountain guide. He also climbed six of the eight-thousanders with his wife Alix von Melle. With a total of seven summit successes, the native of Hamburg is considered the most successful German high-altitude mountaineer.
After his professional expeditions in recent years, he wanted to implement a private project with the Kangchenjunga. Stitzinger had already skied down seven other eight-thousanders, including Nanga Parbat (8,125 meters) in 2008 and K2 in 2011, the second highest mountain in the world at 8,611 meters.
Stitzinger studied sports science and English in Munich and is a trained mountain and ski guide. Since 2004 he has led expeditions to seven and eight thousand meter peaks. In 2013 he became self-employed as a professional mountaineer. Most recently he led for the expedition operator Furtenbach Adventures. Together with Alix von Melle, he regularly gives lectures on their joint expeditions.