Photograph by Rebecca Hale, National Geographic
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner was named “National Geographic's Explorer of the Year” in 2012 for her extraordinary achievement of becoming the first woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without using supplementary oxygen. Learn More
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's interest in mountain climbing developed while she was growing up in Spital am Pyhrn, Austria. Reverend Erich Tischler, the town's youth leader, would take her on climbs up the surrounding mountains after church services. At the age of 13, Kaltenbrunner ventured up her first major peak, "Sturzhahn," a 2,028-meter climb, and then rarely skipped an opportunity to go climbing. She enjoyed ski, ice, and climbing tours while she completed her nursing training in Upper Austria and Vienna.
Her greatest dream—climbing an 8,000-meter peak—came true at the age of 23, when she succeeded in climbing the fore-summit of Broad Peak in Pakistan, at a height of 8,027 meters. She then put the money she earned as a nurse into different trekking and climbing expeditions to the Himalaya. After climbing the Nanga Parbat—her fifth 8,000-meter peak—in 2003, she decided to become a professional mountain climber.
Today, Kaltenbrunner has climbed all 14 main peaks in the 8,000-meter series. When she reached the summit of K2 (8,611 meters), she became the first woman to scale all 8,000-meter peaks without the use of supplementary oxygen. In addition to her passion for climbing the high mountains of the Himalaya, she also is enchanted with the people and culture of the region.
Latest Explorer News
- Message in a Belizean bottle: think global, act local and step up plastics recycling
- Preserving Traditional Forest Medicine for Future Generations
- March 22, 2015: Understanding Wild Fires, Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in Winter and More
- Reliving a Classic National Geographic Article 60 Years Later
- Pitcairn Islands Become World’s Largest Single Marine Reserve
- St. Patrick’s Day Time Warp: Ireland Before St. Patrick
- Tune in: LIVE Twitter Chat With Explorer Paul Rose
- Messing Around in Boats in Quest of Endangered Trees
- The Enchanted Green Leaves of Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
- An Oysterman Hero in Apalachicola
In 2011, Austrian mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner became the first woman to climb all 14 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen and without porters.
Visit Kaltenbrunner's website and learn more about her adventures.
Inside National Geographic Magazine
Read about the danger and desire on the mountain.
On August 23, 2011, Expeditions Council grantee Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner reached the summit of K2, becoming the first woman in the world to summit all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks without using supplemental oxygen.
In Their Words
I have strength, energy, and success. I am healthy and grateful.
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner is the first woman in history to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-plus-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen, a feat she completed on K2 in August 2011.
Climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner earns National Geographic's prestigious award.
Kaltenbrunner recounts her summits of all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen.
Listen to Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner
Hear an interview with Kaltenbrunner on National Geographic Weekend.
00:11:00 Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner(blurb here)
Our Explorers in Action
Meet female explorers who have pushed the limits in adventure, science, and more.