Freezing cold, which crawls up the fluffy down suit and penetrates your existence.
A bitter cold which paralyzes not only your words but your thoughts, as well.
Some -50°C high up into the thin air, where mountaineers pull together strength, endurance, and courage beyond imagination. An ascent of the mountain set in stone, yes, but mostly an ascent of pain and suffering.
High altitude winter ascents are cold. And you need to have a lot of passion in your heart to undertake such a venture. For Tamara Lunger cold has a lot to do with one’s current physical state, of course, but it is to a great degree mental.
“I don’t want to know the temperature and so I always try to feel what is going on around me and try to make the best out of it.”
It takes a big warm heart and a lot of courage to dive into the alien frozen world of high altitude winter ascents. And Tamara did so in 2016 during the international winter expedition on Nanga Parbat. But it takes even more courage to stop a few hundred meters before what would be the first winter ascent of the summit and take the decision to turn. To swallow your ego. I was wondering what could the thoughts running through one’s head be in a situation like this. Now I am more inclined to think that in those conditions thoughts probably don’t run, but rather go at a slow pace.
“I am so close to the summit and so close to something historical for a woman, but now I go for life.” – this is what Tamara’s thoughts were orchestrating. – “I was so sure that I would have died if I would have gone to the top of Nanga Parbat.”
Would she go back?
“I think not. I am in peace with this mountain. It gave me a lot and I learned a lot. I think it is always important to give a big value to the experience, but I do not want to do it again and again. It was unique for me and I want it to remain like this in my mind.”
Acceptance and letting go are virtues you need to work hard for. Even though they could make life easier in a way, one needs to go on a long conscious way to reach their state. After all, we are not masters of all forces influencing the situation we encounter ourselves in.
After the Nanga Parbat expedition, in the spring of 2017, Tamara and her climbing partner Simone Moro did an attempt to traverse the ridgeline of Kangchenjunga in Himalaya. They reached 7200 m, but due to Moro’s sickness, the team decided to return to base camp. They did not make another attempt.
The pressure of achievement on professional athletes is enormous. Sponsors have expectations. Fans are demanding. But most of all, the athletes themselves create in their minds expectations and demands that are a heavy burden to carry, especially uphill.
“In the last period, I experienced this a lot. It made me really sad because it makes you feel like you are never good enough for the people. And everybody needs to be loved and respected. And for us, sometimes we are just evaluated because of the summit and not for the human values. Sometimes it is very difficult to survive with this hurting.”
On February 11th, 2018, after just over 7 hours of climbing with a technical steep mix towards the summit, Tamara and Simone accomplish the first winter ascent of Peak Pobeda (3003m) in Siberia’s Chersky Range. The name of the peak means “victory”. In a certain way, it becomes a milestone victory for Tamara. Not just because of the actual summit, but because of the journey itself.
“It was not the summit, but to conquer my inner blockage. I had to go through inner obstacles as over the last expeditions I was not successful and I had too much pressure on myself. I request a lot from my body and try to push hard, but sometimes it is not always your fault.
I wanted to go on this expedition with another mood. I tried to be relaxed and calm, to feel the moment. I was simply waiting for what would happen to me.”
Along with the alpinists, yet another reached the summit of Pobeda – the sock monster. No joke here! When she goes on an expedition, Tamara always carries with her something small from her family.
“This time my niece made a socks monster for me. So I took this monster to the top of Pobeda and she was very happy about this.”
The map of experience
Even though she can often be found where water is in its hard aggregate state, Tamara is like floating water herself – changing and adapting.
“It is constantly changing. When I am happy I see a totally different Tamara than when I am not so happy. Normally, during an expedition, I am very happy because I am where I want to be. Then, after an expedition, no matter whether I had success or not, the whole world gives me confusion. Of course, you don’t have only fans. You have the opposite and for me, because I am so sensitive, it is very hard to have this kind of people.”
Hardly anyone who is alien to the world of expeditions can understand the tattooing effect they have on a person’s life and character. For Tamara, one that holds a strong sentimental value was the expedition on Cho Oyu in 2010.
“There was one south Tyrolian guy Walter Nones who died and I helped them to bring the body down. For me, this was very hard. I remained in BC for another 14 days. I had to struggle a lot with these pictures in my mind and it was really hard. But I needed to stay there, even alone. To learn something out of the experience. And then of course Nanga Parbat when I fell down and I already quit my life. But then I got it back and everything was good.”
If our scars and wrinkles are the maps of what already happened in our lives, then the beats of our hearts must be the compass of what is yet to happen. Tamara’s heart is surely beating in the rhythm of excitement for her next venture. One that I personally am looking forward to following.
“Now I have to train because mid-March I will have to go to Vienna and with a team of 7 people, we try to do a traverse of the Alps from Vienna to Nitza. It is sponsored by Red Bull and so I am very happy to challenge also this long trip and I can’t wait to start.”
The Ice of Eyes
Tamara Lunger loves harmony, she is harmony herself. I had the chance to meet her at Bansko Film Fest in 2015. I can say with both hands on heart she radiates calm and positive vibes. She is a warm beating heart among fields of ice. Yet, the coldest ice is often the one in certain people’s eyes.
“I would address this sentence to the negative people and to the people who always need to put their comments into everybody’s life. I think we should all look more at ourselves before we evaluate other people.”
Whether you are a public figure or simply the person next door, there are always eyes on you. It is hardly possible for one to be loved and approved by everyone. What is crucial is to stay honest with yourself and keep following the path you have chosen. I look at Tamara and see inspiration. I see a sincere soul, a genuine loving smile, and a brave heart. And so my eyes become a gateway to an inspiration that fills my heart.
* Photos & Video: Courtesy of Tamara Lunger