I questioned myself several times if I should write a wrap up of 2015 or not. It seems like I didn’t do anything really relevant climbing wise after such and eventful 2014, so what would be the point? I’ve done some cool routes here in the Alps but there are far more and better written and better photographed reports on the internets.
The fact is that 2015 was kind a year sort of involved in an eternal haze and dark cloud. Nothing was really going forward and in fact, lots of stuff weren’t working at all. It could be that I finished my one year trip and didn’t go home to recharge, and instead came straight away to actually living in the last continent I ever thought I’d live in, working a job I never thought I’d work and being the poorest I ever was. Suddenly, I didn’t have the time and money for expeditions anymore, even though I am living in Chamonix and getting paid in Euros. If you find logic in that, please be kind enough to explain to me.
So, all that is new, it accumulated, on top of not really closing 2014 properly. So I decided to write this because maybe, just a slight maybe, this will help someone else like I was helped by other people’s advice, small talk, actions, films, blog posts. This is a very personal topic to me, and these are issues I´ve talked to very few and close people about, but by the insistent advice of someone, I´m putting it out there to be taken away once and for all.
2015 was 2014. And 2014 was death. Therefore, up to a certain point, 2015 was death. There you go, but it’s the last time I’m writing about this. I need to close this, and it’s my site and my little way of venting (you are welcome not to read it). So many people I knew died in the mountains, and several times I was in situations that either were absolutely scary or completely stupid dangerous. 2014 continued into 2015, shit kept happening and I didn’t even notice it started messing with my head.
I could have died in July of 2014 in Peru. I could have died in late December 2014 in the Pyrenees. And up to this point, only few people actually knew the whole story. The feeling was that of a person that missed a flight that eventually crashed and everyone else died while you were stuck at the boarding gate. In the meantime other people died inches away from me and in one case had someone not taken away my radio I could have gone back and maybe done something. And then in February it was chilling to climb an icefall where a friend died the year before while having to listen to the grossest, most chauvinistic remarks ever and the next day see such person was himself involved in an accident. Among other deaths, it seemed that every time I went out for something, death was sitting at a ledge nearby and blinking at me – “keep doing this and you’ll be next”.
And so since July 2014, I’ve been watching the same movie of the first accident repeating itself in my head, every single day. That was about watching the same film some 547 times. And the film kept getting more detailed, everything ever so fresh.
And so I got to Chamonix, where you are supposed to be young, pretty, ripped, super social, really good at some extreme sport, and be careless and nonchalant about spending a months salary on booze. And obviously that was the total opposite of the mood, shape and financial conditions in which I arrived here. Deep inside I just wanted to go home and promise my dad I would not give him the disappointment of dying before him, have endless talks with my sister, hang out with my close friends, camp in the bedroom with my nephews. But I had no money. And I had a project for 2016.
The next obvious step for me would be to climb an 8000m peak. I was in Chamonix. So I needed to get back in shape. And I needed money. I wrote down my plan and training and started doing it like there was no tomorrow, which helped me blatantly ignore what was going on in my head. I was excited, focused, and in small disbelief that the time for an 8000 m had finally arrived. “I’m sure everyone here will be supportive and I’ll get really good tips from all these amazing climbers here”. So naive…
During the months that followed, I would get the exact opposite reaction from the people I started meeting in regards of my plans, even though I was just quietly doing my thing as usual. I don´t show off, I like to be left in peace. But the last think I’d expect to hear from certain types would be gratuitous criticism. Who in this planet would think one would be shammed by other climbers for trying to be stronger, or having to rationalize at least once a week about what it takes to climb in extreme altitude, as if if I had to give excuses about why I climb like this or like that. But that’s what I had to put up with the entire summer and some of autumn: “you train too much”, “I climb better than you (and everybody else)” and “my rope system is the best”. The dark side of the climbing community can be a really horrible thing to experience but that´s another text…
And why was I even bothering with all this stuff that I should be ignoring? I was obviously hanging with the wrong crowd.
This is all to say, my support network is in the other side of the ocean, and the one I had here was a far cry from what I’d like (and need) to have. Climbing for me is fun, and if I wanted to put up with celebrities I´d be in showbiz. Add that to the growing mess in my head and I got very close to quit climbing altogether. Or maybe move to Colorado because I get along so well with american climbers. Maybe buy a van and go surf in the African coast for a year (I seriously considered that).
And then came the news I would not be able to climb Broad Peak in 2016 because of (lack of) funding. And my world fell apart. All the cardio training of the summer for nothing, decreasing the rock climbing training (and obviously losing shape) for nothing, working so hard in the summer for nothing. I’d have to wait until 2017 for BP, and kept training which by this point I was already tired of. I am ready now, and I didn’t want another year of so much commitment to training. It’s freaking exhausting. It´s mentally draining.
And then after deciding to go back into training for rock climbing, I injured a finger.
Came December and the first week and a half weren’t any promising. I was more and more hanging out with the wrong people and in the wrong places. “2015 is a lost year” I thought. Maybe it was time to go home but Brazil is in such a crisis right now that if I did, I could kiss mountaineering goodbye for good. I already had a work contract, a nice new house that I shared with a wonderful person. And something in my gut kept pushing me to keep going. That’s why I didn’t stop training or saving after the negative of BP and the injury.
And then, on the second week of December, a good 2015 began.
I got a message on Facebook from a journalist I know, to be interviewed for a short article on the Brazilian edition of Outside magazine. We got on Skype, and she started listing everything I’ve done in the past years. To my surprise, I had completely forgotten about it. I think I internalized so much the pointless criticism, negativity, bitterness and maybe at times jealousy, since I got here, that I forgot how good I am in altitude, how respectable some of my climbs were, and how hard I worked to achieve all that, everything I gave up to be here, and how much hard work pays off. How much I usually don’t give a f*ck about people that criticize but have no work to show for themselves or to back such immense egos.
And then, I finally watched Meru and cried my eyes out. For the first time in a year and a half, I’ve seen people experiencing the exact same feelings I had after all the accidents – that it was okay to want time away from mountains, to be messed up, to want to roll into a ball and disappear onto and endless tunnel. Maybe I was depressed all this time, who knows. But these guys made it out of it and then climbed one of the most awesome alpine routes in extreme altitude ever. And they worked hard. And they don’t have big egos. They went and did it. No BS. It clicked: I can do that too. Enough of this pit of sadness and revolving horror movie. Life had to go on. For the first time in a year and a half, the Parón movie didn’t play in my head for a full day.Then for 2 days, then for an entire week.
And then the following week, I got the funding I needed for Pakistan. And some other good news came. And I met some really cool new people, and some came back into my life with a twist.
And in three weeks, it all changed. I guess life has it´s ways of giving us subtle hints and small pushes to keep you going. I had to get rid of the bad stuff for the good stuff to come in. And it did.
And this is all to say that shit happens but there’s a reason I keep going back to the mountains, and it is because it is the thing that makes me the happiest. It is the process, it is the summit, it is the celebration afterwards. It is this, so precious, that makes us give up careers, relationships, stability, and be away from our families for. It is the same for all of us. And we can never forget that, even when the people that are supposed to mirror our passions are the ones that brings us down the most.
I know so many people who have been in even worse death situations than me, pulled themselves out of even worse injuries than mine, and are out there kicking ass in whatever it is they do. Unfortunately it seems that this little club of almost-victims does not share much with the world, which I totally understand, as it is quite hard to put all these feelings out there.
It is indeed a black hole that keeps sucking you in, and it is hard coming out of it. But one needs to expunge it, to surround oneself with people who are supportive and positive and with good vibes. Work hard on your goals. Keep climbing in safety so as to keep climbing for many years to came. Everything else – including negativity – is other people’s problems.
(I think most of my readers are positive, hard working and passionate climbers. But if you’re the negative type, if climbing isn’t helping you be a better person, and if you got Cham at your feet to enjoy but instead you’re wasting your body away on crap, then you may be in the wrong sport(s) and in the wrong place. I truly hope you find yourself and/or start making the most of what Cham has to offer, and to appreciate the privilege of living in a place like this. Don´t spread your frustrations around, especially to other people. At least go to to the mountains and fix them, so you come back with a smile.)
I had some stellar last few years in mountaineering, but eventually I would have to learn to deal with tragedies and set backs, and I guess that´s what 2015 came in for. It´s mental game, and it´s always good to be strong at it.
Happy 2016 to everyone. May all of us, no exception, arrive and come out of 2016 better people.