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Interview #7 Marko Prezelj

October 12, 2017

Interview #7 Marko Prezelj

Marko Prezelj is a well-known and respected Slovenian climber. A family man and a good human being, you can see Marko’s enthusiasm about life in his eyes. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering and is a mountain guide and photographer. He has done numerous impressive ascents, including new routes in the Himalaya, Patagonia and Alaska.We interviewed Marko after he came back from the Indian Kishtwar, where together with Aleš Cesen and Urban Novak he climbed two new routes in alpine style: All or nothing (6250 m) up the West Face of Arjuna (6250 m) and the North Ridge of P6013 (6038 m). 

1. You recently came back from your last expedition in Kishtwar Valley in India. Tell us a bit about your trip.
    Our recent trip to India was a bit different than my previous three trips. The main difference was in the fact that we knew the area and logistics pretty well, since we were in the Kijaj Nullah valley last year on a reconnaissance trip. So, there was no pretending to be spontaneous. We were authentic, but not spontaneous. Our expectations were well defined after the reconnaissance.Weather was challenging with lots of snow and unstable conditions. We had only six days without precipitations while we were in base camp. Looking back, it is clear that we were lucky to have taken just the right decisions.Mixed climbing was as good as it gets – on our limits. And we were having plenty of fun as good friends. After all I was in an  “educated” team with two PhDs – Aleš and Urban. JOverall, there was just the right amount of uncertainty mixed with efficient decisions for an unforgettable trip. Such trips keep me motivated. Unforgettable – the only “thing” we can keep as long as we are alive. Arjuna area is historically a sort of Polish mountain.
    2. You’ve been on expeditions lately with younger alpinists. As you are part of a different generation, how do you feel climbing with the young guns?

      Young (or old) is a mind concept. My body is of course signalising that we experienced many different adventures over the years, but my mind is still flexible. This is that annoying paradox of age: when the head is sorted, the rest of the body starts charging for all those learning years. My mind flexibility is even stronger since I climb with people that have smaller age numbers on their ID card. I think that we work well together with my experience and fresh mind from youngsters. Youngsters are stronger and faster than me. On the decision making process I can still feel that my share is valuable and sensible. It is a good feeling of cooperation and passing the knowledge about creative alpine art forward.
      3. How would you say climbing evolved since you started your climbing career in 1982?
        Climbing, or better say: alpinism, changed a lot. Back then it was all about a sort of a small tribal activity where one could prove only with action. Equipment was good but far from what we can get now. Knowledge and information about everything was very small compared with today. Internet, mobile phones, satellites … social media with the myth of “perfect life” … changed human life in general.Ironically back then was more adventurous climbing than now, in particular in greater ranges where there are plenty of challenges for approach with modern style. Of course the standard went up and now strong climbers are able to free climb on routes that were unimaginable some 30 years ago. Knowledge about training, and life in general is growing exponentially. I dare to say that now is a golden era of free alpine climbing – for someone who wants to push the limits in big mountains, the possibilities went further …But, the time we are living now is not promoting delicious uncertainty and unknown. We want to know everything in advance. Bank will loan us money for our big projects, lawyers will “help” if something will be different than we wanted/expected, insurance company will take responsibility when things will go wrong … We can’t pretend that all this has no effect on the evolution of us as human beings.
        4. Your first expedition to Lhotse Shar in 1987 was an old style “slow and heavy” ascent with fixed ropes and a long time spent on the mountain. When did you realize it’s not the style for you?
          Already on that same trip I felt that I don’t like such kind of approach. I was young and inexperienced. So, I wanted to check next year on Cho Oyu N face, where my feelings were pulling me. There I enjoyed climbing without fixed ropes (from 7350m to the summit) and since then I didn’t try the “fixing” game ever again. It is very different game which doesn’t motivate me.
          5. Is there any particular reason why Slovenian climbers became so good? Hard training, mentality?
            So good?  I don’t think that Slovenian climbers are much better than climbers from other nations. It is on individuals to move the limits.Our national pride is historically connected with mountains and climbing. Slovenia has 2 million population and we are outdoor enthusiasts …Maybe a sort of relentless mentality is present here. Slovenia lies on a place where many rulers were making history. Despite so many turbulent times, Slovenians went through and survived – only two millions, but survived with our own culture and language.
            6. In an article that appeared in 2007 in the Alpinist Magazine, you expressed your thoughts about the Piolet d’Or and the competitive spirit that it has brought into alpinism. 10 years later, do you see any change? What do you think about the direction in which it’s heading?
              Change in PdO?I’m tired from explaining myself. It feels almost like explaining a joke … “Slava” and such things …PdO was a romantic idea that lost the romantic spirit very soon. In the last ten years the event matured. But I don’t see much improvement. It is an aw(kw)ard event that has no real identity. French organizers, now GHM, like the prestigious (glamorous) status of it and British Alpine Club enjoys the (hidden) charge of the selection. When sponsors and media are invited to the beauty contest in storytelling, one can’t avoid observing the classic “vanity fair”. We humans are all narcissistic to certain extend at the end of the day.
              7. What should be done in order to preserve the spirit of alpinism?
                I don’t know. Maybe you should ask Siri or Google? JIf alpinists are honest, the spirit is healthy.Alpinism is such a minor activity. It can survive, or die, only in our small tribal community. As usual, there is certain concern for the future in current pretending society where honesty is merely a naïve word. Self-promotion doesn’t really work in real alpinism where action proves who you are. Words, images and videos mostly uncover who you would like to be … appear like … look like …
                8. You’re quite a busy man, being a family man, mountain guide, alpinist and photographer. Any free time left? If so, how do you spend it?
                  What is free time? And the concept of busy ...? Glorification of busy is always popular. It gives us comfortable excuse for procrastination, or we feel personally important.We talk about priorities in life, I guess. Being just a man is the main challenge for me. I enjoy gardening, old school socializing, reading, cooking sometimes …
                  9. What is important for you in life?
                    Honesty. Curiosity. Passion. Simplicity. Fun. Sincerity and Spontaneity. And persistence in all mentioned.I wanted to mention health, but I guess that those things are fundamental at least for my mental health. The body has to follow for now.

                     
                    Thank you Marko! 


                    Thank YOU for unconditional support, good spirit and excellent food.
                    LYOFOOD is so tasty that even my climbing partners want to eat it …

                    Check out Marko's profile.





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