People often ask me what my blog is about. What is the reasoning behind my choices of alpinists and climbers? I spend most of my time reading, writing and searching for interesting stories related to the mountain world. I am not interested in records or blockbuster exploits. I am, instead, fascinated by people. Faces which tell a story, expressions that go a long way, glances which convey emotions and leave an enduring impression. This is what I find captivating. A passion for the outdoors and a return to the values of respect and gratitude which we should all aim at.
And, of course, I also admire people who can still breathe adventure and find it wherever they go. Luka Lindič is one such character. Fresh-faced with piercing eyes and a strong determination, Luka belongs to the new generation of strong, motivated, relentless alpinists.
I have already talked about him here on this blog, praising his determination.
This year, together with Marko Prezelj and Aleš Česen, he won the Piolets d’Or for his ascent of the 6515 m Hagshu in the Indian Himalayas. (North face, ED, 70°-90° III, 1350m). Here is an abstract of what we talked about.
Let’s start with a provocation. Mick Fowler, attempting Hagshu at the same time as you, wrote an article on his experience, sounding slightly annoyed that, because of the very complicated Indian red tape, two rope parties ended on the same face at the same time. Well, that happens all the time, it’s just part of the game. Nobody has the right to reserve the mountain for himself. It’s as simple as that.
True. The choice of Hagshu was also dictated by that very same red tape. Well, the whole trip was very, very stressful. We first wanted to go to Tibet to climb Phola Gangchen, but could not obtain the permit. Then we aimed at another peak in India, Rimo III, but got nowhere. We thought Mukut Parbat could be an option, but we had to abandon that, as well. We finally opted for Hagshu, which proved to be the right choice. It is difficult to keep your motivation high, when you start getting ready for a project, you gather information, but then have to abandon everything. And this happened three times in a very short time frame.
Hagshu is called the Matterhorn of the Himalayas. Do you think it deserves this title? Yes, I do. We were, in fact, surprised when we obtained permits for it. We found very little information on Hagshu, hardly any decent photo at all. At the moment I am was really into challenging climbs, and was not so interested in exploratory expeditions, so my motivation was not so high. Marko, however, suggested we go and explore the area anyway. Then, when we saw the mountain, we were blown away. We thought that somebody must have hidden all this information somewhere. It seemed strange that such a marvellous face had been kept holed up.
In addition to Hagshu, you opened two more routes during this trip. Yes, we also opened Lazan (5750m), East ridge, TD-, max M5, 700m (2000m) and Hana’s men (6300m), West face, TD, max IV, 1100m, which were our acclimatization projects. We tried to save energy during these ascents, so as not to arrive to our final goal, Hagshu, already exhausted.
In 2009, you opened a new route on Bhagirathi II (Gangotri region, Indian Himalayas) together with Marko Prezelj and Rok Blagus. During this trip, you are know to have said that “Reality is not what it seems, it is in fact much worse” During this trip, Marko always used to tease me a lot, making jokes of all sorts, especially about my mother throwing tantrums, had she known where I was. As a reply to his jokes, I said that sentence, which became a sort of motto for the entire expedition.
You also added that this experience helped you. In what way? When you stand below the face you are about to climb, seeing the routes for the first time, they often look impossible or nearly impossible. I believe it is worth trying to climb then and having a go at them, going and checking because you can always turn around if things go pear shaped.
In your film Determination, you talked about mountaineers being “actors”. This is a very strong point, Do you still believe it’s the case? Well, I would say so. I completely understand that, when mountaineers want to make a living out of their expeditions or deeds, they need to let the media, their sponsors, and people in general know about their projects. We should not forget, however, that alpinism is not a sport like any other one. If you push your limits in, say, football, you do not risk your life, but I think we should adopt a “conservative” attitude in mountaineering and not let it become a marketing game. One can, in fact, easily feel pressure building up, whose consequences may be fatal, if brought to extremes. The media are sometimes pushing too much in order to have compelling, enticing, captivating stories to tell. Mountaineers are also often more concerned with producing films and material in general, rather than focusing on routes and faces to climb.
Does this disappoint you? Yes, it does. It sometimes happens that, if I am in a group of professional climbers, they talk more about how they will shoot a certain section than how they will actually climb it. They do not seem to be bothered by ropes or techniques, but focus on cameras, videos and photographers. I find this quite sad. Skiers and runners seem to be doing the same, too. Of course I need to produce some material myself, but it may be of a lower quality and not as sophisticated, because I am always more concerned with the actual climbing.
In 2014, you completed the first free ascent of Rolling Stones on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, together with Luka Krajnc. This is a very prestigious and difficult route but, apparently, its choice came by chance. Yes, we had decided to tackle the Goussealt-Desmaison route, but then found out the day before that two other parties were attempting that. I thought the experience would sort of change and not feel so serious anymore, with climbers almost running after each other. I like to be alone in a route to fully experience it. We knew that Rolling Stones was a harder option which had never been free climbed before, but we went all the same.
How much gear did you take with you? We were very light, with some bivy equipment, but no portaledge, no haulbag. We only hauled our bags in four pitches, which were rather demanding, as we wanted to free climb the entire route. Otherwise we always climbed with our backpacks on.
2012 was an exceptional year for you. Among your feats, you climbed Divine Providence on the Grand Pilier d’Angle, together with Luka Krajnc. This is considered one of the hardest routes in the Massif. How did that feel?
That was a very good experience. I believe the goal is not only to climb one route or the other, but to do it in a certain style. Luka and I wanted to test ourselves on this project, climbing the route free and in one single push. This can be a stressful choice, for there is not room for mistakes. Errors in route-finding or even a minor falls are not contemplated, as they make you waste a lot of time. And when you know you cannot spend the night on a face like that, time is very precious.
In that same year, you went to the Dolomites and opened a new route there (Forest Gump,VIII+, 650m), North Face of Rocchetta Alta, Bosconero) in September, and then went to Iran in December. Was it a good experience? I have now been to Iran twice and enjoyed it each time. I think it’s good to go to “unusual” places like this, and see for yourself how the situation really is, whether the media report correct news or not. Meet the locals, experience a new culture. We also saw several good climbers down there, which we had not expected at all. Whenever I go to places like this, only good surprises take place.
People say that the quality of rock is not always that good in Slovenia. You felt at home with the typically chossy Dolomite rock I assume. Yes, I did! And it’s true, Slovenian rock is not the best you can find, so that prepares you for places like the Dolomites. Our route, Forest Gump, proved to be on good rock. I go to the Dolomites at least once a year, because I think it’s one of the best places to climb in the world. There’s such a big concentration of good, demanding faces in a compact area, so you could spend your entire life climbing there.
Luka Lindič is sponsored by Arc’teryx, Petzl, the Alpine Association of Slovenia and VertiKala X