The Eiger North Face and sinking islands in Venezuela - Engelbert Breg's biggest adventures
Hi Engelbert, it's so nice that you're with us today in our office. We always start our interviews with the same question: Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Engelbert Breg. As far as I know, Breg is Slovenian or Croatian and means mountain. In my private life, I do spend a lot of time in the mountains. Professionally, I work in sales all over the world.
How did you get into mountain sports?
I'm from southern Styria - so I don't really have anything to do with the mountains, except for the vineyards (called "wine mountains" in German).
When I was about 18 years, I was a part the Austrian Army in Villach. After a mission, our whole group was no longer motivated, and our company commander then tried to change that - and offered us to climb a mountain as part of our alpine training. He suggested either the Mittagskogel (the highest mountain in Villach) or the Großglockner - of course we all wanted to climb the Großglockner.
Was that then, so to speak, the first big mountain tour for you?
Yes, that was really the first big tour, I had never really "gone up" anywhere before. On the Großglockner I was lucky that I was in good shape. When we then arrived at the hut (at 3,454m), I could not even eat the soup because I was shivering so much. That night I didn't sleep either, I was just sick from the altitude. I then swore to myself that I would never go up a mountain again - but apparently the "mountain virus" had already infected me at that time.
This was the beginning of my "mountain career", so to speak. In my professional life, I then also had acquaintances who climbed a lot and took me with them - and that's how it all came about.
What does adventure mean to you and how important are adventures in your everyday life?
Adventures have a very high value for me. Of course, the question arises - what even is an adventure? For me, it's simply "breaking out of everyday life". You're always in your comfort zone, and you don't like to leave it. But that's often a prerequisite for an adventure.
I'm not only allowed to experience adventures privately, but also professionally - two years ago, for example, I was in the Congo on business. Just getting through customs was an adventure in itself.
What was your greatest adventure?
The Eiger North Face was certainly one of the greatest adventures - but that's not quite over for me yet, I still have to "finish" that. I had to abandon the first attempt because I had health problems with my foot. But it was definitely one of the greatest adventures of my life. That vastness there, the wall itself...it's insane.
I've had it in my head for a long time. We flew to Switzerland to have a look at the wall from a distance, and then we walked there a bit. That was very impressive. When we actually "did" the wall, it was like merging with the wall - you are completely enclosed there, because the wall is concave. There is nothing to the left and right, and there is complete silence. Because of this, you also somehow feel an inner contentment and calmness - although you are also tense, of course. The serenity I felt after the climb - I've never felt anything like it in my entire life. That was phenomenal.
My second big adventure was in Venezuela, where we spent a few days in the jungle. Once we spent the night on an island in a river. But then it rained so much that the water became more and more and our island literally sank. As well as this, our tour guide got sick and we were really afraid if we would even make it out of the jungle. But luckily everything went well.
Here you can also see how subjective the term adventure actually is. For me, the Eiger North Face or the jungle in Venezuela is an adventure. For someone who lives there, it's quite ordinary.
What fascinated you so much about the Eiger North Face?
This fascination had built up rather gradually. In literature, of course, you read about the many tragedies there, but also about how incredibly special this wall simply is. There are always mountains that simply have an aura - the Grimming, for example, comes to mind. As a climber, you wonder what the view looks like from up there. It was the same for me with the Eiger North Face, I just wanted to know - what's it like when I'm in there, what's the feeling like when you come out at the top, and am I good enough at all? You don't see the sun there for two days, and you're permanently in the shade. When you "get in" the wall, so to speak - it's cold there, and you really have to dress properly. Of course, that is also a special attraction. The dimensions there are insane, that's also what makes it so special.
Was that more of a physical or mental challenge?
Both are a challenge. With the Eiger North Face, it's simply the length - if you're not in good shape, then it just won't work out. I also went on a tour with my mountain guide before the Eiger North Face, and he "checked" my condition and fitness.
And mentally: there is no one there to take you by the hand. You can't start to dither and hesitate, but if you do -you've lost. Of course, you also have to be willing to take some risks. We slept outside, at -15°C, in a narrow rock shelter. If you look down, it's 1000m down. You have to be able to cope with that.
Was there a moment that has remained particularly memorable for you?
Two moments come to mind. On the one hand: the first difficult spot (the so-called "difficult crack"). When I got through that part, I took a breath and thought to myself - "yes, I can do this". The second moment was when we got back to the bottom. I knew I didn't quite make the climb. (We did turn around due to health issues, after all.) But - I felt such a sense of serenity and satisfaction, it was definitely a high point. All the impressions there, the peace and quiet, that's something very impressive.
That's when you realize that it's not always the summit that counts.
Yes, when we decided to turn around, I was 100% at peace with myself. It was simply the right decision. I didn't want to risk two lives - what right could I have to do that?
You were with a mountain guide. What qualities are important to you in a partner?
You can only climb the Eiger North Face with someone you trust completely. In general - the chemistry has to be right. You often have to listen to your gut feeling.
How do you prepare for such an adventure?
The preparation here took several years. Together with a friend, I made a "three-step plan" and planned over three years which mountain tours we would have to do in the first, second and third year so that we would be fit enough for the Eiger North Face. Of course, you also have to listen to your gut feeling about these things and always inform yourself well, for example, whether there is a danger of avalanches. Preparation is the be-all and end-all, whether it's private or professional.
Our last question: Do you have 3 tips for our REELOQ family / all adventurers and those who want to become one?
- Quitting is not bad! You can still have a sense of achievement. And if you can't do something today, you can always try again the next day.
- Set goals, but also try out as many things as possible. Once you've achieved a goal, the next goals come up by themselves.
- Jump over your own shadow and dare to do something. It's not always just about reaching a goal. Often the preparation and the way to the goal can be almost more beautiful.
In short, don't dream your life, live your dream.
Those are wonderful closing words - thank you so much for talking to us about your adventures!
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