German climbers scale Mt. Everest

Written by By Staff Writer The First World War began with German Field Marshal Hermann Göring ordering his army to carve a path through the United Nations in Europe, a path to the top…

German climbers scale Mt. Everest

Written by By Staff Writer

The First World War began with German Field Marshal Hermann Göring ordering his army to carve a path through the United Nations in Europe, a path to the top of Everest.

The clash of the First World War and Everest initially had been known as the “Ich bin ein Berliner” (The Fight of a Berliner) and “Ich bin ein Geis geesst zu globen” (The Fight of a German Expedition).

The First World War signalled the end of Germany’s imperialistic ambitions and became Europe’s decisive war. What unfolded in the last nine months of the war is a story of conquest, resistance and destruction set in a globe-spanning theatre of war.

10,000 years of history

Set in that unforgiving geopolitical context, Mt. Everest proved the perfect crucible for 19th-century European expansion — a man-made place where the western powers had a symbol they could stoke for their own pride and self-image.

German mountaineer Heinrich Himmler and his men were apparently given the go-ahead to go for it. Himmler personally ordered the construction of equipment and supplies to enable their triumph.

Before the war, no German army had ever scaled Mount Everest. But Himmler and his men had their moment. They were brought down to Earth after just 14 days at the top of Mt. Everest, and one of their first orders upon descending was a spontaneous re-enactment of the scene in “Hero’s Travels” by the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

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Germany had made several attempts at the “Everest- Everest Express” before. However, all had failed — it had been exiled in 1924, and it was not until 1935 that German daredevils scaled the world’s highest peak for the first time.

Nine months after the first successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 1936, British mountaineer Robert Falcon Scott died when his plan to reach the South Pole — with the help of the expedition led by an American radioman named Roald Amundsen — led to the unexpected loss of a ventral head rush.

German businessman Philipp Huber and team conquer Mt. Everest in 1965. Credit: Courtesy

Operation Seven Up was his ill-fated second attempt at the South Pole. Also known as “Killer Underpants,” the mission was based on the theory that giant sloths could be used as fur rugs, the same reasoning that led to Scott’s climb in the first place.

Killer Underpants

“The Seven Up” expedition to Antarctica.

Back in 1935, explorers had often developed fur skis to enable them to tramp down steep mountain slopes and climb slopes steep enough to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.

However, those first German climbers had used an ultrasmooth piece of timber for their bulky jackets. This thick piece of timber and its brassy underside caused great consternation from the other teams who thought it might leave an impression on the skins of their fur skis.

Yet for all this hemming and hawing, the Germans proved they were largely more than ready to conquer Mt. Everest and they had the materials to do so, equipment they had originally obtained from the British.

It was being turned into an operational field construction kit rather than as snow-making engines that one of the all-time gaffes occurred. After the first successful climb of Mt. Everest, the Sherpas who assisted the German climbers fled the mountain, sparking a major diplomatic row with the British.

To maintain relationships with the Sherpas, the Germans insisted on keeping the older version of their older sledges, even though they were all now heavy with gear. The Sherpas took to referring to this “Old Snow”.

German mountaineer Michael J. Fieger in 1910

The older version of the sledges, originally invented by British mountaineers, were made from timber milled from twigs that had already been milled and dyed black, allowing it to bear hundreds of kilograms of gear.

In addition to the scarred antiquity of the old sledges, the original smooth timber and spun yarn look of the old engines was also lost as the modern “Snowjacks” used thick wood boards to construct the sledges.

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