by Carlos Buhler

It was 1980 and a year had elapsed since I’d met and climbed with members of the Montaneros de Aragon for three weeks on the Huandoy peaks in Peru, when I received a letter from these dear friends with terrifi c news: Pepe Diaz, in celebration of the fi ftieth anniversary of the club, had been asked to lead a team of Spaniards from Aragon to an extraordinary Himalayan objective, the East Peak of Nanda Devi. Among those invited were my two close friends, Javier and Lorenzo, from Huesca, with whom I had climbed in the Cordillera Vilcanota. It was absolutely remarkable to receive this new invitation to join them! Immediately, I realized that this would be the greatest mountaineering adventure of my young career. All I could think about was what a privilege it would be to climb among such a tight team of friends. I would be the only foreigner in the group and it would be up to me to fi nd a way to fi t in and add strength to the team.

It is said that Americans are intensely individual thinkers. In many circumstances, this character trait works to our advantage. However, among the Spanish, this tendency would have to be modifi ed. It was with these people that I began to learn anew what it means to be part of a “team.”

I grew up in the sixties and began climbing in the seventies. Mine was a climbing culture built primarily of individuals. Our hard-fought efforts on the walls of Yosemite, the Tetons, the Cascades, and the Canadian Rockies stood as testaments to vision and tenacity. Though the idea of teamwork was not foreign to Americans, the balance of how to make a team function well, is centered around the individual bringing his own strength, skill and abilities which help propel the team towards its goal. Though this concept is fully appreciated within climbing circles of Spain, there is another current in their culture that simultaneously draws from the strength of the team to insure the individual will prosper. In a very general sense, Spanish climbers are about “community” fi rst and “individuality” second. Americans, from what I could see, were driven by the reverse.

Thus, here I was, asked be part of the 1980 Aragonese climbing expedition to a great Himalayan Peak, and the only foreigner to be included. As on Huandoy, it would be a tremendous honor, and simply being invited gave me an enormous boost. At the same time, however, it would be a huge learning experience in multi-cultural “teamwork.”

As luck would have it, our objective was changed, for political reasons, to Baruntse, a gorgeous, 7123 meter Nepalese peak with only one ascent to date. Our route would be the unclimbed East Ridge, and the approach would follow the Arun River from an airstrip in Tumlingtar to a very high base camp on the Barun Glacier beneath the tremendous western walls of Makalu.

Many words have been written about our ascent of Baruntse’s East Ridge and I won’t unnecessarily add to those here. Yet I must say how much climbing with this expedition changed me. In the seventies—a time when I was drawn to the mountains like a child to candy—the American Alpine Club offered very limited fi nancial backing for young mountaineers to acquire experience on the big peaks. It takes a certain level of risk for any club or team to include a climber of modest experience and open the doors for them to new level of climbing. This, in essence, is what the Montaneros de Aragon did for me in 1980 when they included me in their climb of Baruntse.

Three years later, when the American East Face of Everest Expedition selected their team of twelve, there is little doubt in my mind that I was considered for a position, in large part, because of the expedition to Baruntse. Our success on the Kangshung Face of Everest, and what I learned there from my teammates, opened up vast possibilities for me to further my dreams in climbing. To this day, I am fully aware that the life long opportunities I have had to explore the world’s wild places during these past 30 years was born when I met and climbed with the Spanish from Aragon.

Carlos Buhler needs little introduction. His ascents of Everest, Ama Dablam, Changabang, Kangchengjunga, K2, Nanga Parbat, Cho Oyu, Aconcagua, Cerro Torre and countless others have earned him legendary status. We are privileged to count him as our friend. Read more at

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