Adventure Interview with Thomas Gruber
Julia: Hello Thomas! It's great that you're here online from Norway today and are telling us about your greatest adventure so far.
First of all, it would be great if you could briefly introduce yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Thomas, I'm 25 years old and I'm studying mechanical engineering. At the moment I'm enjoying my semester abroad in Norway and when I'm not studying I'm out in the mountains.
Julia: What does adventure mean to you in everyday life and how important is adventure to you?
"Adventures are very important to me, everything that isn't an adventure is usually boring. For me, adventures mean challenges and dreams come true."
Julia: And what has been your greatest adventure so far?
"It's hard for me to choose the one greatest adventure, but one of the greatest was definitely the Hawelka climbing tour on the Hochkönig last year. I had no idea in advance what was in store for me because my brother took over all the planning. All I knew was that he had done the tour before and, more importantly, with whom he had gone. That information was enough for me to know that it was definitely going to be challenging.
When I watched him packing all our alpine climbing gear, he emphasized again that today's tour will definitely not be an easy one. That only confirmed my bitter premonition and I decided that I won't ask anymore (mainly to be able to sleep better!).
Arrived at the destination, I already recognized the area of the Hochkönig, because we have often gone on tours there. Even when my brother finally presented the upcoming tour to me, I already knew that it was known as an old classic. However, I also knew that this tour has not been renovated since the 1970s. So when I stood in front of this huge wall, I just thought to myself "I could have imagined worse".
My brother led the way and started climbing. It didn't look that difficult from below and I was wondering why he's taking so long for the first stage today. As he continued to climb, I asked him several times if everything was okay. He just replied "yeah, it's not that easy and it's not very secure either!". From below, I just asked myself why he was doing this because there were so many pitfalls on this route. I dismissed it all as saying maybe he's just not in a good mood today.
When he finally reached the first belay, I was finally able to start climbing. After the first few meters I just thought "shit, maybe he was right". The insurance really wasn't the best. There were a lot of hooks, but they were completely rusted and wobbled alarmingly. After a short time I had no idea how to continue climbing and whether I would even be able to finish the route. And so I hung nervously on the rock, with no plan how to proceed. Until I discovered one of those old, rusty and wobbly hooks next to me. For a few seconds, it felt like my whole life hung on this hook, because I slowly pulled myself up on it.
In the meantime, my brother made fun of me and christened the hooks "gear lever" because they protruded about 10 cm out of the rock and could move them in all directions like a gear lever. 😂 When I finally got the same stand as When my brother reached it, I was already afraid of how I was going to manage the rest of the route. Luckily for me, the tour got a little easier afterwards.
However, I discovered a bolt in the middle of the tour, which is usually only found at every intermediate stand.I was really happy about it at the moment as these hooks were the only ones on the course that weren't rusted, wobbly or 50 years old. You can imagine my joy like this: it's like eating vegetarian for a week and then, surprisingly, bacon at last. After this short joy I just climbed up. After a short time I found 2 older hooks again, but I couldn't find anything to hook in over or next to them. Everything looked as if it would not go any further here. As I looked around for other options, I discovered that much further down the real path would have gone further.
Only then did I realize that the bolt should have signaled a turn earlier! The tour would actually have continued to the right around the rock. At that moment I was desperately hanging many meters above the ground and didn't know what to do, because climbing down is much more complicated than climbing up. Normally you can safely hang on to bolts and build yourself a firm footing, but here that was out of the question due to the rusty and wobbly hooks, as I still wanted to live on. So I kind of had to build one myself. Luckily we had all our alpine equipment with us and I started attaching one cam after the other to the rock. A cam is an active and mobile belay device that can be stuck in crevices to secure yourself. I was still terrified after the first two, so I attached two more. At one point I looked like I was stuck in a spider web! 😄
When I felt safe, I informed my brother that he can now follow. He then took the right turn at the said bolt and when he got to the actual stand, he just called out to me, "Yes, you can do it if you want to!". Then he took a picture of me that captured the only 5 seconds I laughed."
Julia: What is the most memorable moment of your adventure?
"The nut stick afterwards! That's the best reward."
Julia: What 3 key takeaways would you give other adventurers?
#1 You don't have to know everything in advance
Sometimes it's good if you don't know in advance what's going to happen. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't plan your tour as best as possible 😄
#2 Find the right partner
Because with the right (rope) partners you can do almost anything!
#3 Finding the line between cowardly and insane
You should ask yourself more often if what you are doing is crazy or if you catch yourself making excuses because you are a coward. The most important thing isn't that you were at the top, but above all the nut stick afterwards!
Julia: Do you have a motto for your adventures?
"The great art of mountaineering is knowing the line between cowardice and madness."
Julia: Very exciting outdoor adventure with a great closing quote. Thank you for taking the time from Norway and have fun with your current semester abroad adventure!.
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