Extreme mountain climber
(Nanga Parbat 8125m; Shisha Pangma 8027m, G II 8045m)
Management training, mental coaching,
different incentives, special children camps
• 1979 – 1983 elementary school
• 1983 – 1987 secondary school
• 1987 – 1991 shipfitter apprentice for gas/water/heating
• 1997 examination for master craftsman’s diploma gas/water/heating
• examination for entrepreneur’s diploma
• examination for apprentice instructor’s diploma
• 1997 – 2000 education as mountain rescue man in rock, ice, winter, canyoning
• 2001 – 2003 education as mountain and skiing guide
• November 2001 education as skiing instructor I
• March 2002 education as skiing instructor II and snowboard instructor
…some words in reagard to my experiences in the mountains
As I grew up in the Austrian Alps, I already had the opportunity to meet the mountains when I was a child. When I was 14 years old, I also started to climb. After many tours in the native mountains in summer and winter I traveled to South America in 1996 for the first time. Since then I have been staying in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina for nearly 4 years in total.
From 2001 – 03 I made the Austrian education for a mountain- skiing and canyoning guide and passed the exam in July 2003. Furthermore, I am a professionally trained skiing and snowboard instructor. Since summer 2001 I have been working full time as a tour guide.
The following list presents some of the most important highlights of my alpine career:
• August 96 Nevado Pisco 5750 m Peru
• Huascaran Pisco Sur 6768 m Peru
• January 97 Cerro Marmolejo 6110 m Chile
• Aconcagua 6956 m Chile / Argentina
• July 98 Huayhuash-Trekking
• August 98 Nevado Pisco, solo 5750 m Peru
• Nevado Urus, solo 5752 m
• Nevado Ishinca, solo 5530 m
• Chopicalqui 6345 m
• Nevado Alpamayo 5950 m
• September 98 Artisonrayu, solo 5750 m Peru
• Misti, solo 5800 m Bolivia
• Huayna Potosi, solo 6088 m
• October 98 Ancohuma, solo 6427 m Bolivia
• November 98 Nationalparc Torres del Paine Trekking Chile
• December 99 Cotopaxi 5897 m Ecuador
• Chimborazo 6268 m
• June 2000 * Huayhuash-Trekking
• July 2000 * Diablo Mudo 5223 m Peru
• Nevada Pisco 5750 m
• July 2000 La Esfinge (5.10 A0 650 m) 5350 m Peru
• Chacaraju Este (Peruvian Spanish) 5950 m
• Tocllaraju (by ski) 6034 m
• May – June 2001 Yosemiti (Salathé, Westface, Half Dome solo) USA
• Lake Tahoe, sport climbing USA
• September 2002 Sardinia, sport climbing Italy
• May 2003 Nevado Tocllaraju 6032 m Peru
• Nevado Ishinca 5530 m
• Nevado Alpamayo 5950 m
• Huascaran 6768 m
• Nov. / Dec 2003 Singhalila Trek / Gocha La India
• April / May 2004 Shisha Pangma 8027 m Tibet
• June – Aug 2004 Nevado Urus 5752 m Peru
• Nevado Ishinca 5530 m
• Nevado Copa, central summit 6050 m
• Nevado Huascaran Norte 6664 m
• Nevado Huarapasca 5432 m
• Nov / Dec Climbing and Trekking Burma / Thailand
• June /July 2005 Gasherbrum II Expedition 8045 m Pakistan
• June / July 2006 Nanga Parbat Expedition 8125 m Pakistan
• Mai to Okt. 2007 Afrika Expedition
• February 2008 Aconcagua 6962 m Argentinia
• March / April 2008 Mount Everest 8849 m Nepal/China
• May to Okt. 2008 Afrika Expedition
• Oct / Nov 2008 Mansalu 8163
• Jan 2009 Equador 2x 6000m 1x 5000m
• May 2009 Mc Kinley exceeding
• Aug 2009 2x Elbrus + exceeding
• Nov 2009 Nepal 19 days; altitude difference of 17000m; 290km walk; 7x 5000m Summit; 1x 6000m Summit
•ttttttSeptember 20011 Alpamayo 5947m – Peru
•ttttMarch 2012 ski touring Norway
•eieAugust 2012 climbing / mountaineering Spain
•iiiiiOctober 2012 Manaslu 8163m - Nepal
… app.70 mountains between 5000 – 7000 m high as well as many tours in the Eastern and Western Alps.
• 2013 Cho Oyu 8200m, expedition – Tibet, with Mt. Everest base camp
We’re going to ask Stephan some new questions every week. You can read his answers underneath
What is home to you?
Home is where I can move freely – where tolerance and respect between people and cultures exists. It’s not bound to a certain place. Home is wherever my family and
I feel good, no matter where in the world that may be. Tying it to some specific location would not fit my idea of freedom.
When you think back to your childhood, what are the thoughts that come to your mind?
An infinite number of dreams, the great adventure of discovering the world. But childhood passes by way too fast and you lose interest in the wonders of everyday life. I remember this feeling of security and the absence of existential fear – no room for real anxiety. Then again, being a child means that there are rules, predetermined ways and a lot of things you are not allowed to do. Basically though, I try to do my best to remain a child and see the world through children’s eyes.
What do you believe in?
I can’t get gratification through forms of religious community. I believe in justice and the fact that you have got to take matters into your own hands if you want to achieve objectives.
What pushes you?
The search for the greatest possible independence – or freedom.
How would you define freedom?
Freedom – in our society absolute freedom is impossible. Rules and laws force us to function corresponding to social expectations. Total freedom is something very selfish, which can only be achieved at the expense of others. I was lucky to grow up in a region of the world where I was allowed to develop my own idea of freedom and to live according to it. Thus, for me, freedom is to go wherever and whenever I want, regardless of the prevalent social opinion.
How important is nature to you?
I am a part of nature – only in harmony with nature it’s possible to survive extreme situations. To live in accordance with the elements of nature and not to fight them is my goal. I do not fight to achieve the impossible in nature, but try to find a joint way in order to succeed.
You say that home to you is where your family and you feel good. What is family?
My two children and my wife. They are the people who trust me and give me peace and strength – even if the peace-thing now and then seems a little more difficult. Especially when I have been abroad, I can’t demand ease when I come back home. It was not always easy for me to look after my family and – in the same time – reach the goals and maintain my motivation for extreme tours.
But it was always good to have a family and to know where you come from and where to return. Family is confidence and strength. Only with my family is behind me, I can concentrate on my projects and focus on the realization of my projects with the required energy.
And what position do you credit your family in your life?
It’s difficult to fix the place my family takes inwardly. One thing is for sure: I carry them with me wherever I am. While preparing for my projects and particularly in the implementation there are always periods where I focus only on my goals and me. That’s a protection mechanism on one hand and on the other hand, it’s like elsewhere in life, when you have an important target to achieve, you put it on top priority.
It would be a lie to say, I put only family in the first place – in that case I would walk the way I actually do. But no matter how free and far away I may be – subconsciously in my thoughts they are always present. I see it as an instinctive life insurance and in no case as a restriction or stress at all.
Borders exist to reach out for them, find them and to recognize them in time. This applies to a family covenant as well as any expedition I have been on. As an individual fighter you have nothing to lose and you feel even freer.
As part of a family it’s possible to loose everything. Trust may bind you, but in this case, I only see an advantage. With certain selfishness I can be equally free, while being father of my family and husband. I am glad that a woman found me – that we have found each other – who shares my idea of freedom for the most part or at least understands why I do certain things and why I need some.
To me it’s no burden to live with the responsibilities of having a family. I try not to tax their trust to a certain extend.
Both in your childhood as well as in adult life, there have been there and still are rules. Which are the rules and guidelines you set yourself?
The self-imposed rules grow more relaxed with aging. There have been unnecessary rules, like never go to McDonalds – now I have 2 children and the self-imposed laws are change.
I think there are tons of rules and laws anyway, which must be respected – so I try to avoid self-imposed ones as far as possible. On the mountain though, there are very clear rules for me. These rules should help to detect my limits early enough and prevent me from going beyond them.
Here perhaps the two main rules for high altitude mountaineering:
Everything I learned in the Alps and at home, which moves me to chancel a project, is also valid on a eight-tousander – an avalanche knows no difference between a common mountains and the supposedly unique opportunity to reach a summit at 8000 metres.
Why should I take a larger one on an expedition, than the already known risk? A mountain is still there long after them heroes haven’t made it home again – I don’t want to a hero.
There are also definite rules for the time-schedule. Although otherwise I try to live the whole year without a clock and avoid being bound to something, this item is very important on a high mountain. When I fix a reversal point at let’s say 15 o’clock, I will turn around, even if there were only one hundred metres left to reach the summit. Because one hundred metres at high altitudes could – under certain circumstances – require three hours – then there is night.
Such rules require a great deal of mental strength and discipline. But they keep me alive, at least until now this strategy has worked out. If it’s not for surviving, I very often feel, that certain rules are meant to be broken. This emotion I credit to the child in me and I hope to be able in maintaining it.
How are your concepts of freedom and independence compatible with having a family?
I am fortunate to have a very tolerant wife and two healthy and uncomplicated kids. This means that on the one hand we can realize loads of dreams together and on the other hand I have the freedom to attain some goals by myself.
You have spoken about living with nature, not fighting against it. Do you have the feeling that people actually fight nature?
For me it’s difficult to make general statements, such as “the victorious ascent and my battle against the mountain, the weather, conditions, etc.” For me there is no such thing as victory with regard to reaching the summit, because I do not wage a war against mountains or nature. What really counts for me is to be at the right time at the right place.
I get the impression that we, humans, generally tend to consciously ignore our limits and then, having overstepped them, the battle begins. Unfortunately, when looking at the world, I see lots of fighting going on – natural disasters, wars, marriage crises …. So why turn the realization of a dream into a further battle?
What’s worth fighting for?
I’ve always had an aversion to FIGHTING. Personal commitment, positive attitude towards life, willpower, efficient planning and above all using one’s brains and taking against extreme fanaticism are just some of the possibilities how we can banish the thought of fighting. Committing yourself to make a child smile again – that’s one of the things for which it is worth to give everything.
It’s an investment into a future all of us will benefit from. We should strive towards creating a world in which our children will be able to keep laughing bright-eyedly. We should all contribute to quickly improve the situation in regions where these things have ceased to exist – it does not take a lot and may already be necessary in our immediate vicinity.
I’d fight for the protection of my family – I wish that I will never need to do so.
How do you mentally prepare yourself for the expeditions?
I don’t do mental trainings. I set myself many little goals during the preparation phase. Attaining these sub-ordinate goals encourages and strengthens me mentally. During long sessions of endurance trainings, I picture possible scenarios and go through the hence resulting expedition processes – therewith, I try to further strengthen myself.
I achieve mental relaxation by doing many solo training sessions. Being all by myself in the mountains for hours clears my mind.
What do you think about when you stand on the summit?
On the one hand I have always been totally relaxed and happy about having reached a goal. Sometimes though, it’s not possible to relax on the highest point of the trip, because I know that I have only done half of the way so far. And then again there are very emotional moments, when everything is perfect – the beauty of nature, the momentary freedom, the sunrise, the tranquillity, the attained goal… that’s one of the moments when I am thankful – thankful for being able to experience such moments.
In such moments I again and again have pictures of my family and other loved ones in my mind, who, to some extent, lived the same dreams of a lifetime and have already passed away. In general though, all these moments are truly beautiful.
The danger that you expose yourself to – do you consider it a calculable risk?
What is a calculable risk? From my point of view, in the best case, I can identify risk and decide for myself how much perceivable risk I want to take in order to attain a goal. There’s that saying in German – better acting cowardly once than being dead for life. The readiness to assume risk decreases with every year that I have survived.
That does not mean that the goals become easier, no, it only means that I use my brains more and more. From 16 through 25 years of age, I was close to and even overstepped the limits of the consciously perceivable risk. I am happy that the opportunity to ascend an eight-thousander came very late. This surely helped a lot to minimize excessive ambition.
I think that up on the mountains I still get into situations in which I cannot consciously detect a risk or in which I don’t identify the danger or even oversee it. Experience, a certain instinct and a lot of protective powers, or luck as one may call it, are the most important factors in order to correctly identify and/or safely survive dangerous situations.
Life is perilous and always ends with death – I just hope that I won’t die before having reached the age of 85 and that I will still be more or less healthy then.
What are you afraid of?
Anxiety is relative – for me there are insignificant or irrelevant fears such as trying to get from Tyrol to Chamois within five hours and fearing to be caught by a speed camera while driving 180km/h.
This fear of getting caught by a speed trap can quickly become massive anxiety – for example, if I lose control over the vehicle – within a second it turns into fear of life – your children having an accident, avalanches, crash,… For me there is essential fear, which I compare to respect.
As long as I fear certain situations, tours and routs, I have respect and approach them more concentrated and look at them with open eyes. In general I consider fear to be something very positive – I also believe that fear helps you to instinctively do right in extreme situations.
Why do you make expeditions? Motives, motivation, emotion…
First there was only the love of adventure. Then I realized that I am very good at managing extreme situations and that I feel comfortable being all by myself in total remoteness. Being on the go, no matter if on an eight-thousander, in the desert or the jungle, getting familiar with the nature and culture of the respective regions – finding and taking the simplest, most human and natural way into the remotest regions of the world.
Attaining one goal after the other, I dared to go higher and higher and, like with everything else, it is great when you succeed. However, success is not front-ranking; it’s the act of doing it, to be on the go and to render possible the supposedly impossible. Then there was a time when, from an occupational point of view, I could earn most with expedition mountaineering and guiding tours to great heights.
Nowadays I have totally distanced myself from guiding paying guests to sites which are, for me personally, unbelievably beautiful – just because they have enough dough and it sounds good to have been there once. I don’t understand people, who do not want to live nature but only strive to celebrate another “victory”. It’s easy for me to motivate myself for new goals. I just have to make sure that I can include them all into my plans. Realizing dreams – as long as I have dreams, I live.