Stefan Glowacz


If you are searching for a legendary figure in climbing history, look no further than Stefan Glowacz. A strong mind and a strong will, his gentle manners disguise an untameable and resolute mind, tackling a challenging route on a wall, most probably on a remote corner of the world. Three times winner at the Rock Master in Arco (1987, 1988, 1992) and a highly competitive soul, Stefan gave up competitions to travel far and wide in search of adventure. Among the many expeditions, Baffin Island, Russia, Canada, Venezuela, Oman and Brazil, all conducted by fair means and with one goal in mind: freedom in choosing his destinations and in the approach, be it a kayak to Canada, crossing the Antarctic with a sailing yacht or on a canoe in the Venezuelan jungle. An entrepreneur as well as a climber, Stefan founded Red Chili, a successful and highly esteemed company, together with his friend Uwe Hofstädter, twenty years ago. Where does adventure begin and where does it end for Stefan? How did he develop such a passion for the climbing world and the challenges one may be faced up with? Let’s find out.

It would appear that climbing was an obligation for you at the beginning. How did it all start?   Well, my parents were and are proper mountain enthusiasts and moved to the south of Germany because of the mountains you can find there. Both my sister and I were pretty much always strapped to a rucksack and would go on hikes every single week-end in the summer. I cannot recall any seaside holiday, it would always be the mountains. Kids may become fed up with this and stop pursuing mountain activities when they get older, but I was always connected to the mountains. As I found hiking boring, I focused on climbing. I attended an ice-climbing course at first, which I did not enjoy so much, but a year later a rock-climbing course gained my attention. It was exactly what I was looking for and the start of many voyages.

You certainly travelled at length. Your Oman adventure was something quite unique.        Yes, I went to Oman with Chris Sharma in 2014. We wanted to climb this cave in Majlis Al Jin. The resort and the project were indeed quite exceptional, which is why I was interested in it. At the beginning, however, the plan seemed undoable, because caves are usually wet with loose rock, but this is a dry chamber, with no water whatsoever: it’s akin to a cathedral. The only way in is via two holes, and hardly any water can sift through, which is why the rock is solid. The first time I went there, its dimensions really struck me: I had never seen something like it in my entire life beforehand. I rappelled down to check the rock conditions and it was very solid, just perfect for climbing, so we set off with the project.

Why Chris Sharma? Had you climbed with him beforehand?  No, never, though I had known of him for quite some time. He is one of the few climbers of the “young” generation to have inspired me; he is very creative and always pushes the limits. Other climbers may be stronger than him, but his spirit and approach are captivating. When he started climbing, he was fascinated by my achievements in competitions and so we sort of inspired each other from different points of view.

 Will there be more projects with him?I have to say he is so much into sport climbing, but that no longer suites me. I am more focused on expeditions, and Chris does not enjoy suffering for a long time. He is also very busy and wants to set up some business to make a living out of climbing.  So we may do something together again, but certainly no expeditions.

March 2013. You climbed Seven Giants in a Siberia expedition. Quite an unusual destination.  Red Bull talked to me about this place, as Red Bull Russia wanted to organise a competition or a race there. It felt like it was so far away, so remote and so unbelievably cold that it seemed impossible to be able to do something there, so they let the whole thing drop. But I was still fascinated by it and thought I could go and take a look for myself. I was there in December, but it was too early, with not enough snow and ice to move around safely, then it started to be so cold, with temperatures reaching -50 C and so we decided to quit. We returned three months later and it was much better, with slightly warmer temperatures and enough snow to allow us to move around. I would say that getting there is an adventure in itself. If you look at these icy pillars, they are indeed astonishing, but the climb is not technical, neither difficult, and rather uninteresting. The ambience and the setting, as well as the difficulties in getting there, make this a unique experience.

I’ve heard that the locals criticised you for climbing these pillars.  No, that is untrue. They don’t care so much. There is a myth around this area. The older generation believe that there are ghosts in this place and if you venture out, they will get hold of you. They don’t even want to talk about them, but the younger generations are not interested in this at all. The story goes that seven giants once walked across the hill to kill another tribe: one of the members of this tribe was playing the drum, but he was so fascinated by the scenery that he stopped in awe of it. At this moment the giants were transformed into stone. This is one of the seven Russian wonders, so the place is quite renowned among the locals, but they are not so fussed about it at all.

In April 2008 you set off for a trip to Baffin Island, looking for a wall that you were not even sure it existed. It’s fascinating how you decide to embark on such projects: can the expedition itself be more important than the actual goal?  I would say that the climbing is only one aspect of expeditions such as this one, and it’s not the most important one. If climbing is my focus, then I devote myself to sport climbing and go to places like Spain, Italy or France for instance. If you are after remote places and walls, other aspects may well overshadow the climbing, for instance where to go, how to find a certain wall with the features we have in mind. Are there the mountains we expect? Will it be possible to set up a very hard climb? There are so many questions that the climbing then takes a minor role when set into the bigger picture of an expedition. I am a really passionate climber and adventurer at the same time: I would say the latter aspect came into being after my competition career finished and I wanted it to have the same standard of the standard I had reached when I was competing. When I go into an expedition the question of how I get to a certain wall – and how I get back to civilisation – acquire the same role as the climbing itself.

Gaurishankar, Nepal. April 2011. This was the first time you tackled complex projects at altitude.  I had always been looking for interesting projects in the Himalayas. All the mountains I knew did look appealing, but I found all the red tape regarding permits, agencies and so on just too exhausting. I go to the mountains because I want to be free and make my own decisions, though that is not possible under these circumstances. I did not warm too much to the way climbing was conducted down there.

So how come Gaurishankar?  Well, at one point I thought I had to give it a go, as opposed to just be an outside observer. At 7134m, Gaurishankar may not be the highest mountain in the area, but the wall we had intended to climb, the south face, with its 1800m length, was very challenging. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, and not the easiest if it’s your first Himalayan expedition. I guess that’s why I was so nervous at the beginning.

You haven’t always succeeded the first time you attempted a mountain, for instance in Roraima Tepuis in Venezuela or in Patagonia, but this time you did not feel like going back. Why?   Altitude was difficult to come to terms with, I felt a lot of pressure, and realised that climbing a wall like that would entail six days to reach the top and three to come down. All in all you would spend a week on the face. Any minor glitch could prove fatal, and I do not want to risk my life for things like this any longer. Perhaps age and experience teach me this; I believe that life is too beautiful to risk throwing it away on a wall. I came to realise this while I was there.

You often talk about red tape and how stressful that is, in particular regarding permits to go to a certain place. Mountaineers sometimes have to refocus because their permits for a specific goal have been denied. How would you react, were this the case?  I need to be attracted to a mountain, and cannot switch this enthusiasm at the drop of a hat, as you are sometimes forced to do with permit allocations.  When I organise an expedition, I want to go where nobody cares about what I do. I set off and a couple of weeks later I go back to civilisation. That’s freedom in my terms. It happened that we would walk for days before we could see the face of the mountain we had come to climb: if you move forward and never sleep in the same camp, then suddenly your target appears and it’s a marvellous experience. You have to try and build a relationship with the mountain you are courting, and if I don’t feel this connection, I cannot climb it.

What role do your sponsors have in your choice of place?  I have complete freedom in this and were they to guide me in my choices, I simply would not accept it, as it would mean it’s not the right partner for me. For this reason I founded Red Chili twenty years ago. I did not want to be obliged to follow rules, but be free to set my own. I wanted to have something in the background, which would financially support me.

Had you envisaged it would become such a big company? Do you still have an active part in this?  Well, I am not simply the co-founder. My friend Uwe and I we have a 50/50 ownership. He oversees the daily business, but strategic decisions are taken together. At the company grew bigger, it meant I had to invest more and more in it, and I enjoy this fully. It’s akin to an expedition. We started it, in fact, thinking that nobody better than climbers could set up something like this, as it is part of our DNA. When we climbed in Yosemite, we felt the need to climb with sensible shoes, for ours were just terrible, and we came up with our own products.  We tried to get all the necessary information to set up a company, what our competitors were doing, R&D and so on; it was just so exciting, exactly like a proper adventure. And it’s still the case now. If I reach the stage I cannot climb anymore, then I would put all my energy into this. I was lucky enough to lead an independent life, just the way I wanted to, so anything that comes now is a gift.

Do you ever think about your competition days?   After Tupilak, we adopted an overland approach and it was the first one carried out by fair means. We realised that was exactly the way we wanted our expeditions to be led, so we carried on that way for all our other projects and searched for new ideas, for instance Greenland with canoes, a sailing boat to Antarctica and so on.

You make it sound smooth and easy, but you’ve certainly encountered glitches and problems.  Of course, these projects are all tough and hard. I would sometimes wonder “why am I dong this?”, but then you know that you always have to suffer in an expedition, if you want to test your limits. There is no playing around with it.

You were nominated for the Piolets d’Or in 2005 for your route on Cerro Murallon in Patagonia, together with Robert Jasper. What role does this prize play for you?  Well, I am not bothered by it all. You should not search for your goals with the idea that maybe you’ll be nominated for a Piolets d’Or, so this award adds a touch of competition to the mountaineering world, where there should not be. When Robert and I were nominated, I told him that, were we to win the award, we would not go on stage and we would not accept it. We wanted to make a clear statement. I think this prize is a farce; it is not possible to judge achievements in mountaineering, as there are so many different components, such as creativity, performance, risk and so on. Adventure races and climbing, ski touring or trail competitions exist for that purpose.

You have just come back from Baffin Island, after your third expedition there.  What difference was there this time and why did you go back?  Baffin is a magical place for adventure and big wall climbing. The conditions are harsh and logistics can be a real challenge. Our expedition was conceived to be ‘by fair means”, but carrying all the necessary gear for a big wall first ascent was challenging.

… Stay tuned for more!!


All pictures cop. Stefan Glowacz, unless otherwise stated.





Tour du Mont Blanc with a tent. Yes.


Waking up to admire the Grandes Jorasses, anyone??

Hiking amid glorious mountain landscapes, contemplating the immense vertical walls of one of the world’s most famous – perhaps too famous – mountains: Mont Blanc. What’s not to like about this venture? Walking along easy, marked paths, facing gentle elevation gains and smiles galore. Well, in truth, the Tour du Mont Blanc is long. Very long. Especially if you carry a 10-kg backpack. Still, we were up for the challenge and set up everything at the drop of a hat.

Organising the Tour is relatively easy, there is a well-established circuit – its website is here  – where you have access to updated information and precious pieces of advice. You then grab a map, sketch out a rough plan and Bob’s your uncle. The average amount of time needed is eight days with 6-8 hours walking per day.

You can choose to stay in huts – some are more expensive than others – or opt for a tent. I don’t always enjoy the noisy atmosphere of huts, where your neighbour is invariably busy with his or her snorathon, so sleeping in a tent was just sublime – when it wasn’t raining, hailing or we had a thunderstorm over our heads, that is!

France is very well organised, in that you can place your tent pretty much everywhere, offering regulated free camping areas with fresh water close by, while camping is only allowed above 2,500 metres in Italy and altogether forbidden in Switzerland outside designated areas.

Wherever we went, we were greeted with encouraging faces, magnificent vistas and silence. Silence is so precious these days that we all take it for granted. Do we still know its meaning? Do we comprehend how vital it is? Maybe not, since we’re all always too busy with social media or interacting with a computer these days.

Complaining about this trend is somewhat pointless, after all that’s the direction society is going, however I invite everyone to experience the beauty of wild camping. Whether in the shade of Mont Blanc or elsewhere, as the saying goes, the world is your oyster, and you know you cannot simply stand aside and let it go past.

Be adventurous. Be Bold.


All pictures © Lucia Prosino



New crag in Lillaz, Cogne… great rock and rad views galore




Climbing equals freedom, balance, dedication, strength and the love of nature.

The Aosta Valley offers countless opportunities for climbers of all grades and tastes, with crags set amid stunning scenery.

One such case is the new Marcello Gerard crag set up by the Cogne guide Alberto Silvestri together with Marco della Noce in Lillaz, Cogne. It offers grades starting at F5a up to F7b; you will find engaging routes requiring delicate moves, making for an exciting venture.

Bathed in the sun all year round, this is the ideal place if you want to hone your skills at the marvellous game of climbing.

Proudly supported by the Guide di Cogne and Peakshunter.

All pictures © Sibilla Leonida, except where otherwise stated.



LIllaz Cristina Borgesia

Picture © Cristina Borgesio


The opening party…  Picture © Debora Bionaz


Gran Paradiso, a tour in Heaven with Peakshunter.


Going up Gran Paradiso

Snowy peaks, endless ski descents, engaging routes and a taste for adventure Does this sound like Heaven? Well, it is. This is a world famous ski tour set amid Italy’s first national park, the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso. Focusing around the only 4,000-metre peak entirely on the Italian soil, the Gran Paradiso (4,061 m), this is a jewel tour that any ski touring enthusiast should have under his or her belt.

Starting in Valnontey and ending in Lillaz both close to Cogne, the tour touches ridges, cols, peaks and superb descents, intertwined with cozy, welcoming mountain huts, the Vittorio Sella, Federico Chabod, Vittorio Emanuele and Pontese, in the Aosta Valley and Piedmont’s Valle dell’Orco. The days are long and the stages can be technical, involving rappels, ridge crossing, the use of crampons and an ice axe, and you’ll have to carry a heavy rucksack. All the efforts and the energies deployed will pay off in the end, however, as the scenery you’ll encounter is among the most dramatic and exquisite in the Alps.

If you are after big crowds and noise, look elsewhere. This is a remote, often wild corner of the Alps, where the cold snaps and the wind often blows mercilessly. It is the perfect playground if you want to test your skills and endurance.

We were given sound advice by our guide, Alberto “Silver” Silvestri, both before and during our tour: vital information, often small pieces of advice which enhance your experience and make it an enjoyable one, whether it’s setting the correct pace or telling you what to wear. Alberto is part of Peakshunter, a team of young, motivated and strong mountain guides who love their jobs and want to share their passion. They organise adventures pretty much everywhere in the Alps and beyond.

If you wear a smile on your face, everything will be easier in life; this is especially true when talking about these guides, who will lead you onto hip and groovy adventures, whatever you’ll choose to do.

All pictures © Lucia Prosino and Amin Raouf.

Sponsored by Dynafit, Pomoca, Grivel, Julbo, Tascapan, Distillerie Saint Roch, Farmacia Dott. Nicola


Life in a tent. Big fun. Or is it?


I was in Guillestre, close to Briançon, when I slept under the stars for the very first time. A mattress, a sleeping bag and Bob’s your uncle. Watching the moon and the stars and falling asleep listening to grasshoppers in the distance… what’s not to like? Although most people will sneer at my enthusiasm for such a mundane past time, this first experience proved vital for me. It encouraged me, in fact, to try and do more.

I often meet top-rank mountaineer who think that sleeping in a rusty hut at 3800 metres is luxury – read Marko Prezelj’s account on this here and so my latest adventure around Monte Rosa may look insignificant to them, but let’s not forget that, in life, we progress through little steps.

I will not offer you quotes from Whitman or Thoreau about life in the woods and finding your own path. This is not about rediscovering yourself, being in touch with nature or rejecting consumerism. This is about accepting new challenges head on. Sleeping in a tent on a glacier, anyone? Sure, that’s better than sleeping on a glacier WITHOUT a tent – a common, often compulsory option for most mountaineers – but it still needs some preparation, stamina and good will.

I love Monte Rosa, that’s where I am from, where my roots lie, so clearly that felt like home – we were above the Mantova Hut, at about 3500 m, but a hard, snowy ground will put some strain on your back even if you are as happy as a clam. Who feels like going up a 4,000-metre peak the day after? Well, we did and we struggled, but we loved it.  The Capanna Margherita, the highest hut in Europe at 4554 m is simply stunning.

It’s easy mountaineering, that’s for sure, but my happiness was not in the least diminished after reaching it.

The mountains are your oysters.  I encourage you to try and accept new challenges, be they big or small.   You will feel rewarded and will ask for more.


All pictures © Lucia Prosino


Digging up base camp


A room with a view…


Marvellous sunset.


Going up…


A feather in the sky.


Oh the joys of getting up…


Good night!



Perfect beauty.





Nature is a work of art.




Triple bill in Darfo: Mick Fowler, Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson.

Mick Fowler high on Gave Ding

Mick Fowler high on Gave Ding (Photo M. Fowler archive)


An apparently run-of-the-mill village where you pass by on your way to the spa, the local climbing crag and the many mountains. Or so it would seem… Montagne al Cinema has been running in Darfo Boario Terme for fifteen years and its list of guests is a who’s who in the world of mountaineering: from Patrick Edlinger to Manolo, the Favresse brothers to Christophe Dumarest, Catherine Destivelle to Leo Houlding. Many names, all encompassing exciting, compelling, fascinating stories.

The first two dates in this year’s edition, where I was the translator, presented two different worlds: Himalayan mountaineering with Mick Fowler and “Once upon a climb”, that is the climbing dream lived by Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson. – check their website here

It would be far too easy to think that Mick, a taxman in “real life”, and Caroline and James, a former competition champion and a highly accomplished trad climber, all pursue their adventures simply to follow their passion. You’ll need far more that mere fervour to achieve their results. Determination, curiosity, organisation, the willingness to “open your eyes” and embrace other cultures, different habits, unusual customs are all part and parcel of their success.

Although, clearly, success is not what they’re after. “Success” to them is, for instance, raising money for Caroline’s and James’s charity, Spot or opening new lines in Nepal for Mick (Mick’s latest achievement, together with Paul Ramsden, was reaching the summit of Gave Ding (6400 m) on 22 October 2015).

What are we to make of all this? How can we be inspired by them? Surely, setting up a Himalayan expedition, opening a new line on Reunion Island or repeating famously difficult routes in the south of France or risky ones in the UK aren’t for everybody, but this is not the point. The point is that, ultimately, grades do not matter: sharing a passion is, in fact, enough to unite people, and their stories set an example of how dreams can indeed come true, if you put your mind to it.

Caroline’s next project is the repetition of the Voie Petit on the Grand Capucin, opened by Arnaud Petit and Stephanie Bodet in 1997 and freed by Alexander Huber in 2005. Born and bred on the tropical Reunion Island, she will have to come to terms with the cold, ice, climbing at high altitude, using crampons and sleeping in a tent on a glacier. Leaving your comfort zone to find adventure often means tackling unfamiliar terrain, and this is a case in point.

Mick is turning 60 this year, but will not give up his yearly expedition. “I would be a very unhappy person, were I to do so…”, so stay tuned for more exploits.

If you are short of places to stay in the area around Darfo, do not miss this little gem. The B&B La Teiera  is cozy, to say the least. Step back in time and enjoy the marvellous hospitality of the owners, who have recently renovated this house perched on a small river, with all state of the art comforts.

See you all at Darfo for Montagne al Cinema 2017!


Mick Fowler in Darfo


Chatting with Mick during his talk.

Caroline Ciavaldini 002

The magic couple. (Photo The North Face)

_DS_5455 Daddy Cool E8 Pearson

James Pearson on Daddy Cool (E8 6b) on the sandstone cliff of Carreg-y-Barcud in North Pembroke. He flashed the route and made a more direct ascent in the process. (Photo The North Face)



Caroline on Mezzogiorno di Fuoco, Sardinia (Photo Riky Felderer)


Mick Fowler during his Gave Ding Expedition. (Photo Fowler archive)


Colin Haley. A Patagonian Love Affair


Sunrise on the South East ridge of Cerro Torre as Colin Haley leads the rappel down after a long day of traversing the range together with Alex Honnold – Photo Colin Haley, Alex Honnold

“I’m an old-school crusty alpinist”. Seattle-born Colin Haley greets us with a smile and the devil-may-care attitude, seasoned with sincere modesty, typical of most adventurers. In Chamonix at the Epic Tv shop, Colin illustrated his pivotal, impressive, brave ascents in Patagonia to an enthusiastic crowd. Thirteen seasons in this typically inhospitable territory mean your skin is bound to get thicker and thicker, and Colin’s motivation clearly grew stronger as his objectives came into focus.

Chief among them, the Torre Traverse in a day with Alex Honnold (31 January 2016) and his first solo ascent of Torre Egger (January 19). The latter, first climbed by Americans Jim Donini, John Bragg and Jay Wilson in 1976, is considered the most difficult and seldom-climbed peak of the Patagonian Torre Group.

What motivated him? What drove him to such a challenging exploit? “Finding the balance between motivation and keeping concentration levels high was sometimes tasking”, he admits. Apart from the technical difficulties of the climb itself, the mental aspect is not to be overlooked at all; one silly mistake, such as dropping your rucksack or, God forbid, one rope, and you certainly shuffle off this mortal coil.

Colin is not new to climbing solo: he made the first solo ascent of Cerro Standhardt in 2010 and in 2012 he accomplished the first solo ascent of the north buttress of Mount Hunter in Alaska. Recently, he soloed the California Route on Fitz Roy… and the list could go on and on.

Together with Alex Honnold, the Torre Traverse in a day is most probably one of the most interesting exploits of the season: enchaining Cerro Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger and Cerro Torre in 32 hours “door to door” was an outstanding feature. The first Torre Traverse had been carried out by Colin together with Rolando Garibotti over 4 days in 2008, though this coveted project had been aspired to already twenty years ago by the Italians Ermanno Salvaterra, Andrea Sarchi, Maurizio Giarolli and Ezio Orlandi.

Efficiency, competence and a thorough knowledge of the terrain, Colin comfortable on mixed and iced terrain, and Alex excelling on rock, provided the perfect combination for a successful enterprise.

Colin’s interest in his Patagonian Dreams is still very much alive and kicking, though his other big passion, skiing, takes him to other corners of the world. Chamonix in primis. May the steepest alpine faces be next in line to the throne of Colin?

Stay tuned…

A full report in on Colin’s detailed blog

Colin Haley is sponsored by Patagonia, Petzl and La Sportiva


Getting ready for the talk… – Photo L. Prosino



Rope soloing the first pitch of Spigolo dei Bimbi – Photo Colin Haley


On top of Torre Egger, solo! – Photo Colin Haley


Alex Honnold leading the North Face of Cerro Torre – Photo Colin Haley/Alex Honnold



The sequence outlining Colin reaching the top of Torre Egger along the Huber-Schnarf route – Photo Korra Pesce