An extreme alpinist and mountain guide who fought for his dreams and who merged in the fascination of mountains.
Karl Unterkircher was born on August 27, 1970 and spent his childhood with football and skiing, like all the boys at this age usually do. After having completed primary school he became car mechanic and these were also the years in which he made his first climbing experiences. In 1997 he became a certified mountian guide and since that point of time he made his passion become his profession.
In 2004, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first ascend of the K2, he was invited to take part in an expedition to Mount Everest (8,848 m) and K2 (8,611 m), which he gladly accepted. Within 63 years only and without supplementary oxygen, he succeeded in scaling both mountains and for this reason he was added in the Guinnes Book of Records. From this point his career was a succession of triumphs and every year he participated in one (or more) expeditions. Nearly all his tours were first ascends. His thirst for adventures took him to the technically very difficult south face of the Jasemba (7,350 m) in the Himalaya. Together with Hans Kammerlander he succeeded on May 22, 2007. In the same year, on July 20, together with Daniele Bernasconi and Michele Compagnoni, he climbed the north face of the 8,034 m high noth face of the Gasherbrum II. For this expedition he was awarded with the “Paolo Consiglio” prize by the Italian Alpinist association C.A.A.I.
Unfortunately, in July 2008 Unterkircher started out his last expedition, which was the Rakhiot wall of the Nanga Parbat, but this expedition ended in a disaster. The Nanga Parbat is the nineth highest mountain worldwide and in the local language Nanga Parbat means “naked mountain”. Together with Walter Nones and Simon Kehrer, Unterkircher inteded to scale this 8,125 m high mountain along a new route. On July 15, 2008, at an altitude of 6,500 m Unterkircher fell into an ice crevice.
For his achievements Karl Unterkircher war awarded with several special prizes and awards. In 2004 he was made honorary citizen of Selva. Two years later he became member of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and since 2005 he has been president of the Aiut Alpin Dolomites, local mountain rescue association. In December 2007 he was honoured as “Cator d’Or”.
Karl Unterkircheris survived by his life companion Silke and his three children Alex, Miriam and Marco. Silke Unterkircher, together with the Italian journalist Cristina Marrone, published a book on the life of Karl Unterkircher (available in Italian language: L’ultimo abbraccio della montagna).
“We were born one day and we will all die one day. In the middle there is life, a mystery that no-one has the key to. We are in God’s hands. If he calls us, we have to go, our time is up.” (Karl Unterkircher)