Extreme weather conditions: It can storm, snow, become foggy and temperatures drop well below freezing.
One faces extraordinary hardships: At more than 5000 metres, you carry bags of 30 kg up the steepest ice and snow walls for hours, thereby reaching your performance limit.
One takes on great privations: Sleeping on hard mattresses during ice cold nights, for the toilet you have to get out into the cold, the food is in the best sense nutritious, but otherwise one-sided and unhealthy.
One is at the mercy of real dangers: Despite the attempt to avoid risks through technical security and strategic action, they are always present: stone demolitions, avalanches, missteps and slipping…
And yet for me every single mountain ascent I have been allowed to do so far is one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. Rarely am I as happy, balanced and satisfied as during an intensive mountain tour.
How it all started
My adventures started with harmless trekking tours through the Indian Himalayan region. The simple treks became longer, higher and more demanding over time. I was looking always for greater challenges. I feel comfortable in the mountains.. I like the physical effort, the untouchedness of nature, the distance from civilization and the simplicity of being. Eat, sleep, walk. Everything else is unimportant during the tours.
This is where group cohesion, teamwork and mutual support count. On my countless treks I was allowed to make the most intense friendships.
But I didn’t stay with only trekking.
I was looking for more challenging adventures. Higher. Mountain peaks it should be. Not just peaks to which you can walk high, but those, on which one requires both technical equipment and mountaineering knowledge for the ascent.
Since my childhood I have been inspired by books about adventures in the mountains, now I wanted to not only read about them, but I wnated to go on y own adventures.
But where does this call for the mountains in me come from? Why do I find my greatest happiness in the risks and deprivations of a mountain climb?
The question of the “why”
Some mountaineers (as in the film Meru) say (with a wink in the eyes) it is because of the “view”. And in fact, there is hardly a more beautiful moment for me, than the first rays of sunshine on the summit day, who make the snow glitter and you can have a first glimpse of the wide panorama of the mountains.
But is it really just the view one enjoys? For me,I am sure it is only part of the large overall package.
Only a week ago I saw an interview on Youtube with the Swiss extreme mountaineer Ueli Steck, who recently died during an expedition on Everest. The interview was conducted in Swiss German and accordingly I could understand as much. But when asked by the interviewer Schawinski about the “why”, Ueli Steck replied, that we would simply live to comfortbale in these days. In the past, people would have been happy about a warm bed. Today we need new challenges and are looking for the adventure to feel like this.
Are we doing too well in today’s world? Maybe. But many “normal people” are still quite happy with a warm bed and don’t have to climb mountains or go on adventures to be happy.
But there are these handful of people who get driven even further, higher and more extreme. I don’t necessarily mean only in mountain sports. No, all sports, arts and hobbies can be extremely practised – for each individual the extreme is on a different level. And this level is not fixed.
For my mountaineering friend Tobi, with whom I climbed Hanuman Tibba a week ago, mountaineering is a fulfillment of life. As others find their way of life in their profession, in starting a family or in a hobby, he finds it in the mountains.
I compare mountaineering to yoga. Here you say that you become one with yourself and can free yourself from all suffering, if you live in the moment. In yoga, through postures, breathing exercises and meditation.
Mountaineering is pure concentration. If I climb a snow wall several hundred meters high for hours I am 100% there. I hear my breath, focus on my next step, feel my pounding heart, and think of nothing but my current actions. Mountaineering is meditation. Meditation creates liberation from suffering, creates contentment.
In addition, it is certainly a combination of many things that I love when mountaineering: nature, community, sporting stress, the great view, the return to the essentials and, quite scientifically, the extreme release of adrenaline and endorphins.
Climbing Hanuman Tibbas
Our last ascent of the 5932 meter high Hanuman Tibba was not long ago.
I remember lying in my sleeping bag in the tent on the last days of the expedition, longing for civilization. My bones and muscles were hurt by the physical exertion of the last few days.. I hardly knew how to lie pain-free. I had mild gastrointestinal problems and was disgusted by the instant bag soups and ready-made noodle dishes. My head ached due to overexertion. I had lost a lot of weight and at the same time knew that the impending descent would require a lot of strength and concentration. It was cold.
I longed for a warm shower, a piece of pizza and my soft bed.
Just two days after returning, showered and saturated, in clean clothes and with defelted hair, I was already overwhelmed by the social abundance.
The wonderful memories of the expedition made me dream. I dreamed of unimaginable silence, glittering snow, an indescribably blue sky, the infinite Himalayan panorama. I dreamed of breaks on boulders with chocolate bars, shared laughter in the afternoon in the tent and the most beautiful starry sky I had ever seen in my life.
On the last Hanuman Tibba expedition I was not only allowed to learn a lot and go beyond my mental and physical limits, but also made great new friends.
Johanna and Tobi from Germany have enjoyed a six-month break from their daily lives and are now trekking across the Indian Himalayas.
The two came to our office to climb Hanuman Tibba with the professional support of an alpine-style mountain guide.
On her blog “Rice without Everything“, you can not only read about their trekking adventures in India during thelast months, but also get a detailed, highly recommended report about our Hanuman Tibba expedition. Have fun reading.
All photos were taken during the Hanuman Tibba Expedition in June 2017. Thanks for the beautiful recordings to Johanna, Tobi and Jogi.