Climbing Mt Everest without oxygen A painful way to the top of the world

David Göttler


Climbing without O2, you need to be able fail a lot and grow

David Göttler is a German professional alpinist who is known for his impressive feats of mountaineering. One of his most notable achievements is summiting Mount Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen - something only very few climbers have ever achieved. The magnitude of this achievement can not be overstated, as the lack of oxygen at these high altitudes in the so-called 'Death Zone' can make it extremely difficult and incredibly dangerous for climbers to breathe and function properly.

David Göttler
David Göttler

As a professional, using oxygen is cheating

David Göttler's love of mountaineering can be traced back to his childhood in Germany, where he grew up near the Alps. He was taken on outdoor adventures by his parents from a young age, instilling in him a sense of adventure and a deep appreciation for the natural world. His father was also a climber, and would take David on climbing expeditions in the nearby mountains. It was during these formative years that David first discovered his passion for mountaineering, and he has been pursuing it ever since.

 - something only about 2% of all climbers attempt. He is known for his pure and minimalist climbing style, preferring to climb without the aid of supplemental oxygen and as little as possible external help. That also means that in contrast to the usual Everest climber, when establishing high camps, David brings his own tent, cooker, sleeping back, and more, instead of having Sherpas carrying it up for him. He has successfully summited several 8,000-meter peaks, including Mount Everest, without the use of oxygen. This approach requires a great deal of physical and mental preparation, as well as a deep understanding of the mountain environment and the body's response to high altitude.

As a professional mountaineer, using oxygen is doping – it's cheating.

It is however important to mention that David is using the fixed ropes provided by Sherpas and also uses external support when in the Everest basecamp - where he sometimes needs to stay for two months. On other mountains, however, it can happen that David and his team are entirely self-dependent.

In May 2022, David reached the top of the world.
Watch the moment below:

David Göttler reaching the summit (Source Instagram David Göttler)

How failing made him succeed

Despite his impressive climbing record, David has also experienced his fair share of setbacks and failures. He has had to turn back on several expeditions, including a few hundred meters below the summit of Mount Everest. However, these setbacks have not deterred him from pursuing his pure climbing style, which he views as a personal challenge and a way to push the limits of what is possible in mountaineering. Although he has had to return to basecamp without reaching the summit on occasion, he remains committed to his philosophy of minimalist climbing, believing that the journey itself is just as important as the destination.

When I don't summit it is not that I go down all smiling and happy. Of course I am disappointed. But I learn and grow from failing.

David Göttler in Nepal
David Göttler in Nepal

A 8000m mountain becomes a 6000m mountain

David is a vocal advocate for taking personal responsibility in mountaineering, and believes that many climbers are too focused on achieving quick success without putting in the necessary time and effort to learn and grow. He has observed that some climbers use bottled oxygen on 8,000 meter peaks without the proper training, which can be dangerous and undermine the true spirit of mountaineering.

Taking oxygen to a 8000 meter peak effectively makes it maybe a 6000 meter peak. But people dont want to climb and learn on 6000 meter, because it doesn't sound as spectactular

For him, climbing is not just about reaching the summit, but also about the process of pushing oneself to the limit and learning from each experience. He encourages climbers to embrace the challenges and failures that come with the sport, and to approach each climb with humility and respect for the mountain environment.
However, the emphasises that there is no right or wrong way of climbing:

Of course everyone has the right to be on the mountain and I would never say people shouldn't use oxygen, but taking personal responsibility for your own actions and not only relying 100% on guides is also important

David Göttler during his second hobby - paragliding off the mountains
David Göttler during his second hobby - paragliding off the mountains

The 'impossible is nothing' narrative is BS

His climbing philosophy centers around knowing and testing his limits, while also recognizing the dangers of going beyond those limits. He believes that failure is an important part of the learning process and that pushing oneself too far can have serious consequences in mountaineering.

As he puts it, "The narrative that 'nothing is impossible' and 'never give up' is - to be direct - BS. Failure is an important part of expanding the comfort zone, and safety should not be compromised, as the margin of error on these mountains is so small."

For him, climbing is about finding a balance between pushing oneself to the limit and respecting the mountain environment, and he continues to be a leading voice in the mountaineering community for responsible and sustainable climbing practices.

David have been guests on our Podcast "Art of Adventuring"

David shared his experiences and story on extreme mountaineering and details of how taking responsibility for own failures makes you grow even faster

About David

David Göttler

David is a professional mountaineer from Germany and an accomplished mountaineer. He is known for climbing the highest mountains in the world without using bottled oxygen and summited Everest this way in 2022.
David is a athlete for The North Face and is running a 'Mountain Mentor' education series.

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