When you think about high-altitude or extreme mountaineers, of course the immediate picture you conjure up is of types like Reinhold Messner – a derring-do type with a weathered face, somebody who loves adventure and has no fear. Alix von Melle simply doesn’t fit this stereotypical image, partly because she’s a woman. Count to that her degree in geography from Germany’s northern reaches. Plus, her petite frame and delicate facial features just don’t look like the image most have of an extreme athlete. Nevertheless, the Hamburg-born woman is now the most successful high-altitude mountaineer in Germany.
Together a part of the LOWA Pro Team with her husband Luis Stitzinger, she has already been on nine of 14 total eight-thousanders – they stood together at the summit of six. And all of that was without the use of supplemental oxygen. When Alix isn’t out adventuring on high mountains, she works as the media spokeswoman for the Munich branch of retailer Globetrotter. She lives with her husband in Füssen in East Allgäu, Bavaria.
Alix von Melle is a mountaineer of passion as well as an enthusiastic climber and mountain biker. The desire to climb the highest mountains on earth didn’t come about till later in life. As a child, Alix frequently went skiing in the Alps and really enjoyed the true winter there they didn’t have in Northern Germany. Still, the inclination to try out climbing and ski touring didn’t happen until she was studying geography at the university in Munich. With the Alps just outside her door, Alix learned about mountaineering and started getting deeply involved. Slowly, the Northerner became an all-round alpinist. Her first 8,000er was Gasherbrum II in Pakistan (earlier called K4). With that, her enthusiasm for high-altitude mountaineering was fully ignited.
Alix didn’t come to the LOWA Pro Team until two years after her first eight-thousander – and on her own initiative. During her climb of Gasherbrum II, she was still using boots from another brand for her endeavours. But she just wasn’t happy with them, for one because they weren’t sturdy enough. When her next expedition to a eight-thousander (Nanga Parbat in 2008) was being planned, she searched for a boot that satisfied all of her demands.
She selected the expedition boot 8000 Evo RD from LOWA: “I totally was impressed with this boot. When you’re on an expedition, the correct footwear is a matter of life or death to protect you from hypothermia and frostbite. The Evo just has everything that you need. It’s durable and has great workmanship, but without any unnecessary bells and whistles.
For the climb of Nanga Parbat I therefore asked LOWA if it would sponsor me with this boot. The company immediately said, ‘Yes’. That was just so nice. I also was given boots for the approach. And I was then outfitted perfectly.”
Expeditions are however only a part of Alix von Melle’s life. So she really appreciates the diversity of the LOWA brand: “That’s really just the greatest. Of course, there are other footwear brands that make good products. But some just have hiking or trekking footwear, but perhaps no expedition boots or lifestyle shoes. With LOWA, you are covered all around. I don’t have any other footwear brands now.” And then she added as if confiding a secret: “What you really aren’t supposed to say is that I never break in my footwear. Not the expedition boots, nor the lifestyle shoes. I just simply know that LOWA products always fit me perfectly no matter how long I’m out and about. I’ve never had a single blister.”
For early 2016 there are by the way no summits on the schedule. This winter, Alix and Luis want to go ski touring, ski mountaineering and – if the weather and the conditions play along – they want to do an Alpine crossing. “I really love ski touring. For me, that’s nearly as great as climbing eight-thousanders.” Then, in April, they are heading to Norway for more ski touring. A week in Lofoten and a week in Lyngenalpen. “That’s been a long-held dream of mine”, Alix gushes. And of course at the same time these tours are outstanding training for high-alpine adventures. That’s where they’ll head in summer and autumn.
At this time, summer is planned for Pakistan and autumn in Nepal. “In Pakistan we want to do a first ascent of a 7,000er. If that’s a success and we’re still feeling fit and well, we will also try Gasherbrum I. That’s really in close proximity, and we’ve never been there.” After that, they’ll take a short breather in Germany until they head off to Manaslu after Nepal. In 2012, Alix and Luis had made an attempt there but just 163 meters below the summit they had to turn back because of a strong storm. But the plans aren’t chiselled in stone yet because they know from experience that something can always come up. That doesn’t worry Alix a bit though: “We have so many goals and ideas about where we want to go. When the planning for whatever reason doesn’t work out, we’ll figure out something else.”
My LOWAs are the perfect companion on any adventure and in all of my daily activities. I can always rely on them fully!
- Alix von Melle