In late October, 2015 Hansjörg Auer, Alex Blümel and Gerry Fiegl successfully made the first ascent of the South Face of Nilgiri South (6839m). It was one of the finest ascents of the season in the Himalaya and it marked the completion of a long anticipated project.
Nilgiri is located in the Annapurna massif in Nepal. Comprised of the North, Central and South Summits, the South Face rises directly from the glacier at 5,400m up to 6,839m at the summit. The expedition followed a technical and steep approach to base camp where the team immediately started the process of acclimatisation. After spending two nights at advanced basecamp at 5,300m, the conditions allowed for an immediate first attempt of the peak.
“Out of his eyes shined the brightest light when we all reached the summit together. What happened next was one of the darkest moments in my life.”
– Hansjörg Auer
Hansjörg, Alex and Gerry climbed a line on the right side of the face, via the previously unclimbed Nilgiri Spire (6,780m) and then by traversing a spectacular and exposed ridge, they reached the summit of Nilgiri South at 11am on October 25. It was the first ascent of this face and only the second ascent of the South Summit itself since the Japanese FA in 1978.
The team’s descent via the previously unclimbed Southwest Ridge was more technical and difficult than they had expected and they were forced to bivouac a few hunded metres below the summit. With no chance of rescue, they continued on down the next day. Amid challenging conditions, at approximately 2pm on the 26th of October tragedy struck: Gerry Fiegl fell to his death. Despite rescue attempts his body couldn't be recovered. The remaining team members were devastated by their loss but chose, instead, to celebrate the successes of their young friend and fellow alpinist.