The Stammberger story | AspenTimes.com

The Stammberger story

Dear Editor:I would just like to make some corrections to the article written about my friend Fritz Stammberger by Martie Sterling in the Aspen Times Weekly of Nov. 20. Fritz was a German from Munich and not Austrian (I am Austrian). Fritz did chain himself to one of three fir trees, and not as stated to an old cottonwood, in protest of making room for the Miner’s Building, owned then by City Councilman Carl Bergman. Fritz believed strongly in the Green Party. He went to Pakistan to climb Tirich Mir and not to Afghanistan. And about CIA connections, fighting alongside the mujahedeen, that was a made-up story for Hollywood. Someone wanted to make a movie about Fritz’s disappearing.Fritz was my good friend and neighbor at 210 Cooper St. We spoke in our native language, German. In order to enter his apartment, he had to come up the stairway and turn left in front of my sliding glass doors. He had the habit of stepping up to the glass to see if I had female company. When I did he invited himself in, and if he saw me alone he quickly passed to his own place.On his last July 4, he, George Bauer and I climbed Capitol Peak. As we crossed “the knife edge,” Fritz slipped several times. In explanation he said that he had just received new hiking boots from Germany. The soles were supposed to be good for ice and rock climbing. Impressed by my climbing, he asked if I would come with him to Pakistan to climb Tirich Mir, a mountain he had climbed before, but he wanted to establish a new route. I declined because of my inexperience. His next thought was to ask Janice Pennington, his wife, to go with him just to the foot of the mountain, but Janice could not leave her work for more than two weeks. She was working for Dick Parker on the TV series “The Price is Right.” So Fritz took off in August for Germany, looking for someone to go with him. No one had time, so he went alone, something not so unusual for him. Fritz never came back.When the news reached Aspen, Bil Dunaway and George Vicenzi flew to Pakistan, hiring a helicopter to look for Fritz. They found books and clothing that belonged to Fritz in a hut. They found footprints that the helicopter followed until the copter had to turn around because the air at 19,000 feet was so thin. Without finding Fritz they returned to Aspen.A week later Mr. Stammberger came from Germany to visit Janice. They had problems communicating with each other and needed someone who spoke both languages. I was called on to be the translator. Sometimes the conversations went into the early morning and so I got to know Fritz’s life, his relationship with his wife, Janice, and with his father. No way can I accept the speculation that Fritz was secretly going to fight in the war in Afghanistan. Fritz was in love with Janice, still on a honeymoon. I am familiar with all the rumors about his disappearance. He was so sincere about me accompanying him that I push all those speculations aside. For me, Fritz made a misstep, a slip that this time took his life. Every mountaineer would agree.Fritz for sure was an extreme individual, which made him different and special. He was the type of person that Aspen misses a lot and often I have been asked to tell people about Fritz. As his friend and neighbor, I am sorry that they never had a chance to know and listen to him.Michael OhnmachtRedstone

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