Ronald Naar 1955-2011

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 27/05/2011
Ronald Naar

One of the best all round mountaineers of his generation, and undoubtedly the most famous from the flat lands of Holland, Ronald Naar, has died, aged 56, on Cho Oyu.

Naar, a guide, motivational speaker, photographer and prolific author, appears to have felt unwell at the 7,500m Camp 3 on Cho Oyu's Normal Route and decided to go down. He had managed to descend to c6,800m when he died.

Naar began climbing at 14 in the Alps, where he eventually made more than 600 ascents. He also made more than 40 expeditions to various mountain regions around the globe, many of these exotic and rarely visited locations.

During the 1970s, spurred by the introduction of revolutionary ice climbing equipment and enhanced technique, cutting-edge alpine climbing took place on the great, mixed, north faces.

In this period Naar was often in the news, particularly with early climbs of notable routes in the Bernese Oberland, where he made the second ascent of the North Face Direct on the Gletscherhorn, and a partial new route on the Lauterbrunnen Breithorn.

He also made the third ascent of the North Face of Dent Blanche, and first Dutch ascents of the 1938 Route on the Eiger and Central Pillar of Freney, at a time when these were still considered highly prestigious achievements.

In 1980 he visted Peru, where he soloed the West Face of Yerupaja and made the fifth ascent of Chacraraju Este via the difficult South Face.

However, it was in the following year that he achieved his first major success in the Himalaya, when he made the sixth ascent of Nanga Parbat via a variant to the Schell Route on the Rupal side of the mountain. Naar reached the summit alone when his partners turned back on the final ridge.

Much later in his career he would climb Everest and K2, and become the first Dutchman to complete the Seven Summits.

Naar travelled widely, often during guiding assignments with select clients. He was the first "non Soviet block" mountaineer to climb Mongolia's highest peak, Huiten, in the remote Taban Bogd; he made first ascents of 6,000m peaks in Bhutan; he made the first ascent of Gori Chen II in the difficult-to-access Assam Himalaya of Aranachal Pradesh; first ascents on the Antarctic Peninsula; a granite monolith in the Suranam rain forest.

He also made many successful expeditions on ski: winter in the Indian Himalaya; a crossing of Greenland via a new route; Queen Maud Land to the South Pole; a traverse of the Northern Patagonian Icecap, which included a rare ascent of Patagonia's highest summit, San Valentin

His last high peak, in 2009, was Muztagh Ata (7,546m), which he climbed in 11 days after reaching base camp.

However, some events in Naar's lengthy career proved controversial, and on occasions his actions in the mountains were highly criticized. He was certainly unpopular amongst sections of the climbing community, especially in his home country. Yet despite this, many found him an honest and likeable person.

Antarctic expert Damien Gildea, who climbed with him on the Peninsula, notes that Naar carved out a successful career as a professional adventurer, based on a high level of competency, a lot of drive and ambition, but still a clear love of being in these places.

"I remember him proudly showing me a photo of his wife and kids, and I also remember him not giving a shit about knocking rocks and ice down on me as he climbed above".

Fritz Vrijlandt, chairman of the NKBV - the Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Association, said that "with the death of Ronald, we have lost the icon of Dutch mountaineering".
 



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