“Silvo Karo. The very name strikes a silent dread into most of the world’s serious climbers. How can a mere man climb these things? The West Face of Bhagirathi III… The Devils Dihedral on Fitzroy… Both the Directissime de l’Enfer and the South Face of Cerro Torre have gone down in folklore as some of the world’s most treacherous walls. Indeed all are still unrepeated after over thirty years! This is no simple auto-biography: this is the story of a survivor who has brought back something precious from the other side.”
“You wonder how Silvo Karo has done so much, how he’s survived, and what it was like to evolve through such incomprehensible intensity. Yet you meet him and he’s quiet, calm, stoic. One evening after some casual sport climbing, our
conversation drifted and Silvo began telling stories from the golden age of Slovenian alpinism – a time yet to be eclipsed. I sat, rapt, as if I were listening to Moses recount the days of the tablets. This is the book we’ve been waiting for, one that brings to life an era and a group of people who still evoke much-deserved awe, as told by one of the masters.”
“This long-awaited memoir from Silvo Karo is a welcome addition to the rich tradition of Slovenian climbing literature. His spectacular and uncompromising performances on vertical terrain are beautifully balanced by his refreshingly modest nature and his light-hearted style.”
“Silvo has always kept up with the times and was eager to share his experiences with the younger generations. This book will give an even wider circle of up-and coming alpinists a chance to experience some of the old alpinist wisdom (or is it madness?) and incorporate it into their own climbing.”
“Not just another mediocre climber writing about a walk up Mt. Everest, Silvo Karo is one of the true heroes of modern alpine climbing, and these are the stories of some of the most difficult mountain faces ever climbed.”
“A book with the biggest number of legendary stories from what was probably the most productive period of Slovenian alpinism, which continues to be a major source of inspiration for me.”
“Through the images of walls one catches a glimpse of nine lives.”
“I’ve known many of the great names of British climbing, tied on a rope with quite a few of them, some have become very good friends (Joe Brown. for example, who died earlier this year and who I sorely miss). But the one whose presence, modesty, and forceful quiet genius impressed me most was the Slovenian big-wall climber Silvo Karo, with whom I spent a few weeks at Tapovan in 1995, and who I brought over to Wales to speak at the DMM Mountain Festival in Llandudno in 1997. A signed copy of his just-published autobiography arrived in my postbox this morning. It’s called “Rock and Roll on the Wall”. In the scale and rigour of the ascents Silvo describes, the style and often the adverse conditions in which they were done, almost everything else written about climbing (honourable exception to be made for Simon McCartney’s enthralling “The Bond”, but even Simon’s undertakings are not on the scale, ambition or frequency of those described here) pales into insignificance. Silvo’s a force of nature. His book conveys the pure, unadulterated essence of top-end mountain activity. I stand in awe. Skip the bullshit, start here, and let your jaw drop in the presence of truly phenomenal achievement.”
“In climbing and mountaineering there are so many different disciplines to be found that it’s sometimes difficult to understand that they all fit under one and the same umbrella. Whether it’s bouldering, trekking from one hut to the next one, climbing 4000ers, 6000ers or even 8000ers, collecting 7 summits, speed climbing, going for big walls or trying to scale peaks in winter, pushing the edge on the highest grades, there’s one thing we can all agree upon; we’re all trying to challenge the vertical and enjoy the mountains and the activities we’re engaging in. And yet there’s probably one category that’s most difficult for mere mortals – like myself – to wrap your head around. There’s a bunch of supremely gifted climbers who open up and ascend routes at the highest climbing degrees that the scales have on offer, on some of the most beautiful peaks during the most brutal of circumstances. Silvo Karo perfectly fits into this exclusive category.
Now I don’t speak Slovenian so I was happily surprised to learn that Silvo’s book “Alpinist” has been translated into English and was published under the title “Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Wall.” As he admits in his own words [page 71, bottom]; “I’ve always been drawn to mountains because of their visual appearance and not the stories they told. That’s one of the reasons why I never climbed the Eiger, for example, where each part of the rock and each peg are drenched in history. Plus, the mountain itself is not particularly beautiful, with all due respect for its historical significance. I prefer slender-looking peaks such as Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, Aguja Poincenot, Grand Capucin, Torre Egger, Trango Tower, and so on.”
Then, as a reader and as a climber, you should already know what’s coming next; if it’s about trying to climb such peaks [“Cri de Roc” / “Scream of Stone”, as they’ve been described in the past] you’ll be in for a fun but extremely rough ride. And he simply doesn’t struggle up Cerro Torre just once; over the years he put three new routes up there, some of which haven’t been repeated after 30 years.
Whether it’s about his 8a+ climbs in Slovenia, or the 7a+ routes on the Torre, or the new line up the West Face of Bhagirathi III in the Indian Himalaya, or the first one day ascent of “Eternal Flame” on Nameless Tower [24h round trip], or Yosemite, story after story in this 300+ page book will leave you breathless. There’s so much information in here that it simply boggles the mind. The translation is excellent and Silvo added a nice and rich selection of images to entertain the reader.
Now, of course, Silvo was lucky to team up with legends like Slavko Svetičič, Franček Knez, Janez Jeglič, Jim Bridwell and others, but the same holds true the other way around; they were lucky to rope up with a talented and skilled individual who has been described by Rolando Garibotti [there’s another name for you!] as “He had the energy of a train engine, and there was something distinctly reassuring about the way he pounded pitons – the rock would ask for forgiveness.”
I’m a mere mortal, my feet firmly grounded, knowing full well about all my limitations. So I concur with the famous words uttered by Steve Gerberding – the first to climb El Cap one hundred times – when he said; “We are not worthy, we are not worthy.” Thank you, Silvo, for taking the time to write this book.”