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28.07.2015

A few thoughts on:Failure

No one starts their alpine career on the headwall of Cerro Torre; yet that is what I had in mind for myself. Spoilt from success in competition climbing, in 2009 I declared the 3,000 m granite spire my next challenge. I did not just envision summiting by any means. I wanted the first free ascent of the infamous ‘Compressor Route.’ I knew numerous mountaineers had been turned down on the featureless rock, hampered by marginal protection and the notoriously stormy Patagonian weather, unable to do what they thought possible. Back then, I had no idea what it would take to climb the Torre, and how far from success I actually was

Objectively speaking, my first expedition to Patagonia was a disaster. I could hardly have been further away from standing on the summit, not to mention claiming a free ascent. After all my big talk, I received a lot of mockery in return. I had two options to choose from: I could bury my head in the sand and return to sport climbing, never to face this all-encompassing failure again. Alternatively, and from my point of view this was the more appealing option, I could continue on my path, analyze the situation and learn my lessons. I would face more setbacks – I was aware of that, but I was determined to view them as opportunities to grow.


“For me, success is not defined by getting to the top;
it means that I live up to my own standards.”


In climbing in particular, failure is a part of the process. Whether you are training indoors, bouldering or sport climbing: Falling off and unsuccessful tries are an integral part of what eventually leads to success. This holds true for mountaineering as well, but one cannot go much beyond their limits before the risk becomes too great.

It is the small projects that in the end make us grow as a whole. We stop growing the moment we stop trying. Often, just in order to guarantee "success", people will trade an ambitious "Plan A" for an easier "Plan B".For me though, success is not defined by getting to the top of a mountain; it means that I live up to my own standards. If we are satisfied with setting humble goals, we are cheating ourselves. It is the courage to fail that makes the difference.

Looking back on Cerro Torre, the entire process proved so valuable because I stepped out of my comfort zone and rose to the challenge of gaining experience in a serious alpine environment. For the longest time, the outcome was completely unknown. It was only when I discovered the features on the headwall that I knew that it could go. It would come down to me and finding the right conditions. In the end, it took three years until I got my chance, and I seized the opportunity. My dream of free climbing Cerro Torre came true, because I was willing to fail and had not given up.

Published in Magazin Bergwelten

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