From Civilization to the Mountains
THIS IS A STORY THAT STRETCHES FROM BELGIUM TO PAKISTAN. THE GOAL IS A BIG ONE: TO CLIMB GASHERBRUMI (8,080 METERS) AND GASHERBRUMII (8,035 METERS) ON THE CHINA-PAKISTAN BORDER WITHOUT OXYGEN JUST IN SEVEN DAYS AND PLANT THE TURKISH AIRLINES BANNER FLAG O
We’re in Brussels. Our first stop is the Atomium, built in 1958 for the Brussels World Fair and a city icon today inside a sprawling green expanse. Your head may spin a little when you go up to the top on the escalator, but it’s worth it for the panoramic view of the Art Nouveau and modern cityscape to be had from the magnificent glass and iron restaurant. Our guest, Stef Maginelle, is going to tell us about the most extraordinary and amazing experience of his life…
My first question is whether or not they’ve ever been asked before about the mortal dangers… Stef chuckles, adding immediately that assessing the risks is the key to this business. The real danger is to think there is no risk and get too cocky... He started planning two years in advance. The risks were assessed and ads were circulated to recruit a climbing team. Assembling the four-man and one woman team took exactly a year, and preparations for the team’s 50-day climb another year and a half.
HE KNOWS THE HUMAN BODY WELL
Team leader Stef Maginelle is a physical therapy expert who knows the human body very well. He first focused on what could be done with it and then headed for the mountains. The purpose? To strain the human body to the limit, which is only possible through consistent exercise. “A climb that begins as 3,000 meters can go up to 8,000 with regular workouts and exercises,” says Stef, adding, “I scaled Everest with oxygen in 2007, and then I climbed Khan Tengri in Kazakhstan, which was a more technical climb. The final target was 2 x 8,000 meters in one go without oxygen.” The most valuable experience he gained on G1 and G2 was learning that the challenge has two aspects, half in the feet and half in the brain. What’s important is to stick to the plan and focus.
FOCUS IS EVERYTHING
Stef is in love with nature, which for him is not sand, sea and sun but mountains, cold, snow and ice. This is not a battle against nature but in fact the exact opposite: the experience of living in nature with mental focus. The things you need at the top of the world are ordinary: trust, fun, friendship and family photos. But, Stef emphasizes, when a storm breaks outside, the stories that are told and the jokes that are made in the tent they pitch so they can rest on their way to the summit make all the hardships worth it. He wept when he scaled Everest. G1 and G2 were different, a total commitment to succeed and sense of satisfaction. But what made him the most happy was when world-famous mountain climber Dawa Sherpa congratulated him on his G1 and G2 climbs, saying, “You are a strong climber, you're like a Sherpa.”
Stef’s love for the mountains looks like never ending. Next in line is Makalu, the world’s fifth highest peak, located in Nepal. Preparations are proceeding apace. All we can do is applaud the team’s pluck and wish them success.