Julia: Hello Stefan! THank you so much that you are here online today to tell us about your greatest adventure so far.
At the beginning it would be great if you could briefly introduce yourself. Who are you and what are you doing?
My name is Stefan Gatt, I studied sports science in Vienna and then developed very strongly in the psychological direction, attended many training courses and then gave seminars myself for teams and managers. I then discovered my love for experiential learning methods and offered many training courses on this subject. This was followed by my training as a couples therapist, during which I realized that I could apply this in a professional context as well, since the bottom line is that life is always about interpersonal relationships. Before Corona I made 90% of my living from seminars and 10% from photography, high altitude work and mountain guiding. In the meantime this has shifted to individual coaching, via ferrata repairs and mountain guiding.
And that's how I came across REELOQ. I discovered REELOQ on the Dachstein with a customer and immediately thought to myself “this is a good idea!”.
Julia: What does adventure mean to you in everyday life and what is the significance of adventure for you?
For me, adventure is the opposite of routine. And when I say "I hate routine", it is immediately clear what I love! I love the challenge, the new, the unfamiliar, and I also like to be in control of difficult situations.
So for me, adventure has a very high priority in my life, especially adventure in nature. I enjoy the silence, the beauty and the loneliness that await you in nature.
Julia: And what was your biggest adventure so far?
Due to the size of the mountain, one of my greatest adventures was my Mount Everest expedition in 2001. I took a snowboard with me as an additional challenge. It was a custom-made, very light board, but still something you don't normally take on an 8,000-meter tour. Because this is a borderline anyway, especially if you do the tour without oxygen. During this tour, the air pressure is reduced to about a third and the oxygen particles in the air are only 20% of the sea level. This contributes to a performance reduction of 90%.
Of course, I prepared myself well for that. 1,000 vertical meters under an hour were not a problem for me back then (as a guideline: it is said that well-conditioned hikers can manage around 400 vertical meters per hour). That meant that I could only cover 100 vertical meters on Everest in an hour and still gasped like a marathon runner. And this as deeply, strongly and quickly as possible in order to bring the little oxygen available into the body. At that time I had a resting heart rate of less than 40 at home and on Everest it was continuously at 80-90. In addition to the little oxygen, there was also the incredible cold. At that time it was -50 degrees at night and -32 degrees during the day.
For the participants in our expedition, I turned to self-reliant mountain guides in order to only be active as a consultant and coach on site. That worked great and the ascent went well, which is why I really took the snowboard with me and on May 22, 2001 I was the first person to arrive on Mount Everest with a snowboard. Of course, some photos were taken at the summit.
After that, my partner Theo Fritsche started its descent. I carefully buckled on my snowboard so that it doesn't say goodbye down the Everest. On the ascent, I imagined what a great descent I was going to do because there weren't any tracks. However, there was no nice powder in the summit region because the snow was frozen hard. Sometimes a steepness of 45 degrees awaited me - so no descent where I could have made mistakes.
However, I can still remember the moment when I stood in my snowboard and rode down the first waves. It was really a unique feeling that I was the first person who made the first tracks in this mountain with a snowboard. On the slopes above 8,000m I was panting in the snow after two turns, because in a few seconds I had built up so much oxygen in my legs that my thighs were blue. So I slowly worked my way down and was, by and large, twice as slow as if I had just walked.
At an altitude of 7,700 meters, I wanted to turn left into Norton-Couloir as planned, where I could have driven up to 7,000 meters without unbuckling. However, my gut feeling told me that this would not be a good idea. Inwardly, my head and my stomach started arguing against each other. Because on the left-hand side in Norton-Couloir there were several gutters as an entrance, but only one of them could be used continuously. The others would all have ended up in a rock crash. After lying panting in the snow for 10 minutes again, I asked myself the following question: "What happens if you make a mistake?" Then I realized that in this case it would only turn out 50% good for me, otherwise I would die if I made a mistake. This risk was simply too high for me. That's why I then made a turn to the right. I carefully stepped out of my bindings into the crampons, strapped my snowboard to my back and went up to 8,200 meters, mostly on foot, to the last camp to spend the night there. The next day I went back to snowboarding. From 7,600 m I was about the same speed as on foot and from 7,000 m I was twice as fast. It paid off in terms of speed! 😊
In total, I was on the road for 50 days for this adventure, 30 days of which was acclimatization time, we climbed 2.5 days to the summit and it took me 1.5 days for the descent.
Julia: How long have you been preparing for this adventure?
At one level I always say “all my life” because of course a lot of old behavior patterns are called up without them penetrating into consciousness. On the other hand, for 2.5 years with a focus on leg extension training, and a year before that I stopped climbing because I knew that any muscle mass in the upper body would be an unnecessary burden for the expedition. Logically, I had very well trained legs at the time, so my jeans no longer fit me.
Julia: Do you have a wide view from up there or is everything covered by clouds?
Yes, you can see over 1,000 kilometres from the very top. Fortunately, we had dream weather back then, like from Karl Gabl predicted. Up there you could even see the curvature of the earth, it was really impressive! The sky up there is no longer blue, but black like the night. I could see over Tibet, Nepal and India. It was definitely worth the climb.
Julia: Which moment on this trip do you remember particularly well?
A special moment occurred at the pre-summit, 50 metres before the summit. I had a very formative thought "Stefan, now you have half an hour to enjoy the last few meters to the summit. “After that I gratefully enjoyed every step towards the summit. Usually you always hurry to the top, enjoy the view for a moment and then descend again. It was different on this adventure.
Even when I tell the story, I notice that I am touched because it was simply a gift and a great opportunity for me. I am also extremely grateful that my wife encouraged and supported me in this.
Julia: Which 3 key takeaways would you give to other adventurers?
# 1 Make yourself aware a few meters before the summit that you are about to be up.
So you really immerse yourself in the moment and enjoy the last steps much more consciously and gratefully. Realize that you have a healthy body that can climb mountains. Metaphorically speaking, this also applies to other peaks in life, make yourself aware of how lucky you are.
# 2 If you are really ready to stand up for your goal, there is a lot you can achieve in life.
In this way, the impossible is often made possible.
# 3 Ultimately, it is the people in life that count.
... and not the peaks or achievements in life. For example, my wife and children are the most important to me.