Reviews and Responses

Dobro gorniško, alpinistično literaturo odlikujejo tri stvari: Dobra zgodba, velika, presežna dejanja, ki jih opisuje, in živa, slikovita govorica, v katerih je napisana. Ko se vse tri prepletejo na najvišji ravni, dobimo knjigo, ki ne le da nas osuplja, navdušuje in nam ne dovoli, da bi jo odložili, preden je v enem zamahu ne preberemo do konca, ampak seže v globino življenja, kjer se besede in človeška usoda zlijejo v neizrekljivo skrivnost našega obstoja. Alpinist Silva Kara ni samo pripoved o vrhunskih, tako rekoč najodličnejših vzponih iz polpreteklega obdobja svetovnega alpinizma, ki še vedno neponovljeni izzivajo tudi sodobne plezalce, ampak tudi zelo odkrit življenjepis velikega alpinista, ki pa bralca ne osvoji samo kot popis nekega delovanja, temveč seže čez naštevanje in opisovanje opravljenih dejanj in se bere kot izvrsten literaren dosežek, ki bralca potegne v vrtinec silovitega dogajanja, ne da bi pri tem osredotočil samo na veličino dejanj, ki jih opisuje. To je delo mojstra, ki je tako vrhunski plezalec, kot spreten pisec, ki nas osupne tako z močnimi opisi najzahtevnejših vzponov, kot z izredno skromnostjo in igrivim, neposrednim načinom pisanja. Kljub temu, da je še kako živo prisoten v vsem, kar se razkriva na straneh njegove knjige, se kot pripovedovalec umakne nekam v ozadje, tu nimamo opraviti z vsiljivim egom, ki bi nas poskušal prepričati s pridobljenim ugledom v mednarodni srenji, spretno nas posrka v svet gora oziroma še več, v samo življenje, polno obratov, jasnih odločitev brez pretiranega oklevanja, težave, na katere naleti, obrne na glavo in jih doživlja kot prednosti, ki v njem vzbudijo dodaten zagon. Ne razlaga, ampak kot modrec, ki besedam ne poskuša dati posebnega pomena, stvari prikaže naravnost, brez olepševanja ali pritoževanja. O vzponih in usodnih življenjskih obratih pripoveduje z lahkotnostjo, kot da bi opisoval povsem vsakdanje dogodke. Neskončno tovorjenje plezalne opreme v patagonskih gorah, ko se je s svojimi soplezalci zaradi slabega vremena moral v neznosnih razmerah vedno znova vračati v dolino, o več dnevnih pristopih in težaškemu garanju govori, kot da ne gre za nič posebnega. Tudi o smereh, ki jih je preplezal s soplezalci, ki so večinoma vsi svetovno znani alpinisti, elita alpinizma te izredne generacije, ki je slovensko plezanje ne le približala svetovnemu vrhu, ampak ga celo začela voditi, odpirati nova obzorja, se lotevati zahtevnih smeri, o katerih so lahko drugi plezalci samo sanjali, pripoveduje skorajda tako spotoma. Mnoge izmed najnevarnejših in najzahtevnejših smeri kljub temu, da so bile preplezane že pred desetletji, so tudi za sodobne plezalce še neuresničeni izziv in še čakajo, da jih bodo ponovili. Silvo Karo se je s prijatelji kot sta Janez Jeglič Johan, Franček Knez Franček, Pavle Kozjek, Rolando Garibotti, pozneje Andrej Grmovšek in drugi izoblikoval na vrhuncu klasičnega alpinizma na ozadju generacije pred sabo izvrstnih alpinistov kot so bili Šrauf, Marjon, Krivic, Den, Nejc Zaplotnik, Štremfelj in drugi, nato pa se je do konca nadgradil s športnim plezanjem, ki je silovito povišal lestvico težavnosti in vpeljal zahtevo po trdem in sistematičnem treningu. Po nekaterih najtežjih vzponih v domačih stenah se je že zgodaj odpravil v najvišja in najtežja gorstva na svetu. Spominjam se, kako je takrat »eksplodiral« alpinistični razvoj, skokoma se je povečalo število vzponov, ki so jih opravili. Če je prej veljalo za veliko dejanje nekaj izvrstnih vzponov v težkih stenah v enem letu, pa se je z njihovim vstopom v alpinizem to spremenilo, saj so jih samo v enem vikendu opravili več kot vsi drugi skupaj. Pri tem jih tuje stene niso ustavile, nasprotno, smeri, v katere so se najvidnejši tuji plezalci podajali le s strahoma in neuspešno, so naskočili z istim žarom, samoumevnim zaletom, pri tem pa so izvrstno pripravljenost in sposobnost plezanja v najslabših pogojih še stopnjevali, ter še deviške stene premagovali, kot da ne bi bilo to, kar počnejo, onkraj vsake dotedanje razumljivosti. Tako je bilo vsaj njihovo plezanje videti od daleč. S to knjigo smo dobili živ, pristen in slikovit vpogled v takratne podvige daleč onkraj vsakdanjega sveta. Ne gre le za alpinistične vzpone ali notranji pogled plezalca, za katerega je alpinizem postal več kot samo neka dejavnost, namreč najgloblja resničnost njegovega življenja, njegovo življenje samo. To knjigo je napisal človek iz dna svoje najintimnejše resničnosti, pri tem pa nikoli ni zašel v vode globokoumnega razlaganja, ampak je s par potezami vedno znal še tako celovite trenutke in izkušnje popisati s presunljivo skromnostjo, kot da bi govoril o pitju čaja ali pripravi špagetov za skromno kosilo. Knjiga je, kot rečeno, delo velikega mojstra, ki se je umaknil v ozadje alpinističnega dogajanja. V ospredje so stopila sama dejanja. In kot že povedano, tu ne gre samo za prikaz osupljivih dosežkov iz najtežjih sten na svetu, ampak za živo pripoved samo, ki je bila sposobna to mojstrsko tudi literarno izvesti. Pripoved niti za trenutek ne povleče pozornosti nase. Kljub Silvovi skromni pripombi, da je pač pri pisanju pogosto posegel po robati gorniški govorici in izrazju, ki je udomačeno med plezalci, to ne zmoti, ampak celo doda gas, kot pravi za Johana, ki je po cestah z avtom divjal z isto gorečnostjo in brezobzirnostjo, ki ju je gnala tudi v stene. Knjiga Alpinist ni samo izvrstna avtobiografija enega najboljših plezalcev svojega časa na svetu in njegovih prijateljev, ampak je samostojno žanrsko delo, rekel bi, da je še ena  prvenstvena smer, ki se jo je Silvo lotil in vrhunsko izpeljal. Nekaj posebnega mora biti v slovenskem alpinizmu. Silvo ni niti prvi niti zadnji od vrhunskih slovenskih gornikov, ki so svoje dogodivščine uspešno prelili v besede. Vsekakor pa spada med najboljše. Knjiga se bere kot kriminalka. Očitno je alpinizem nekaj, kar presega zgolj najzahtevnejše tehnične plezalske sposobnosti, saj v človeku prebudi globoko modrost, ki z vso močjo privre na dan pri pisanju knjige. Ko se človek v najtežjih pogojih prebija proti vrhu stene ali pa beži iz nje, se v kruti neposrednosti golega dejanja v človeku zgane in razgali neka sila, ki na daleč presega samo golo moč za najzahtevnejše vzpone. Sila, brez katere ne bi bilo mogoče preplezati opisanih smeri. Alpinizem ni samo telesna dejavnost, ampak nekaj več, nekaj srčnega. Silvu Karu je uspelo, namreč brez posebnega modrovanja to isto silo, to isto globoko človečnost priklicati na plan tudi v knjigi. S tem je knjiga prerasla ozek krog alpinističnega poročila v univerzalno človeško sporočilo in se, kot ji v popotnico zapiše Franček Knez, skozi podobe sten zazrla v devet življenj. – dr. Iztok Osojnik, literarni komparativist.


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. – Jim Perrin, writer, climber (UK)


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. – Bob A. Schelfhout Aubertijn, writer, climber (NL)


I bumped into Silvo Karo on the streets of Huaraz, Peru in the austral winter of 2000. He was with the Italian Mauro “Bubu” Bole. Craig Luebben introduced my group, and we asked Silvo what they’d been up to. He humbly replied, “just a little climb in the Cordillera.”

He and Bole the had just done the first ascent of “a little” Cruz del Sur, a 2,600-foot 7b on La Esfinge (the Sphinx), a massive granite bubble in the Blanca.

The comment was typical, I’d learn, of one of the world’s greatest alpine wall climbers. He was always humble, always downplaying.

He recently released a memoir, Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Wall, and if humble is our theme, Silvo is the master. It tells the humble story of a kid growing up in a tiny Slovenian village before the end of the Cold War, a humble kid meeting like-minded souls, and a humble approach to the very, very hard climbing that grabbed his attention: extreme walls.

In fact, the extreme nature of both the training and climbing in this book is quite mind-boggling (in the Summer of 1982, Silvo did an amped-up version of the standard Colorado-Wyoming-South Dakota tour with 172 routes climbed in “a little over a month.” These weren’t single-pitch sport routes. These were mostly multi-pitch climbs, routes on the Diamond, Hallet Peak—you get the point). In this book, the 1993 fifth ascent of Wyoming Sheep Ranch is little more than a footnote!

New route after new route in his beloved Julian Alps (many of them cycled or run to) are punctuated by climbing trips that seek out the most extreme terrain on earth. Straight out of the gates in 1983 (at age 23), he climbs a new route on Fitzroy, followed by more wild Patagonian routes, including two on Cerro Torre. His description of his and Janez Jeglič’s ascent of the 1200-meter line (“the Jeglič–Karo” on the south face) is truly the stuff of nightmares. It’s terrifying but highly addictive reading for anyone who’s ever jugged frozen fixed lines on an alpine wall—in Patagonia or wherever. It made me feel physically ill.

Their ascent of the 1990 west face of Bhagirathi III is just as soul-throttling, but for Silvo it seems just another run-of-mill “madmen and masochists” outing. He laughs. I want to hide away from the sight of it.

Rock ‘n’ Roll isn’t just a memoir, it’s also a peek into that period of the 1980s and 1990s when Eastern Europeans were becoming the both the greatest high-altitude alpinists on earth but also the greatest alpine wall climbers on earth. While the Poles were banging out first winter and new-route ascents of the 8,000-meter peaks, other Easterners—particularly the Slovenes—were tearing up both big peaks and massive alpine walls. During this period, they did some of the most important climbing ever done on earth. Janez Jeglič, Franček Knez, Marko Prezelj, Tomaž Humar, and Silvo are household names to anyone who follows alpine climbing (even the famously doubted Tomo Česen shows up).

Of course, Silvo outlasts many of his early partners, but his attachment to Patagonia is reborn decades later with Rolando Garibotti as the pair climb massively long link-ups and variations on huge routes as well as new routes, like Cerro Murallón. Solid stuff.

But what catches the reader off guard is just how extreme the Slovenes were. Time after time after time, they are jugging torn and frozen ropes that snap from the ice, dodging barrages of stones, and hanging in icy corners by their harnesses—literally beating themselves up to pursue some of the world’s greatest climbing objectives. This story is like reading a prescription for suicide. You expect death at any second, but somehow Silvo and his wildly talented partners daintily dance between the bullets in some of the most dangerous places on earth.

What I loved most about this book is the unforced humility. Silvo took up climbing with his friends, got good, explored his world, then he just kept on going. And he looks back at as one great adventure, which is the best way to look back at any climbing life, including one of the most impressive the world has ever seen. – Cameron M. Burns


I have been waiting for Silvo to write this book for a long time. I was afraid he would not embark on the difficult task to share with a wide audience what not everyone can truly grasp. Silvo and his partners have forged a legendary partnership that resulted in some of the most impressive Alpine walls ever climbed. We can only be grateful to read his stories. The man has seen it all. – Korra Pesce, Alpinist


Kennt ihr den „heimlichen Mr. Cerro Torre?“ – eine Rezension des Buches „Rock n Roll on the Wall“

Drei Erstbegehungen an diesem für den Alpinismus so wichtigen Berg. 3 Routen, die jede einzelne für sich, wenn nicht zu den größten Kletterrouten aller Zeiten, zumindest jeweils als Alpine Meilensteine gesehen werden. Die Ostwand des Cerro Torres noch im alten Expeditionsstil, die wilde, riesige und überhängende S-Wand im puren Stil einer zweier Seilschaft und dann die Route „Slowenian Sit start“, die fast die doppelte Länge des ohnehin schon mit 31 SL nicht gerade kurzen Ultraklassikers der SO Pfeilers von Cesare Maestre, im reinen Alpin Stil…..

In seinem vor kurzem auf Englisch erschienen Buch „Rock n Roll on the Wall“ beschreibt Silvo Karo detailgetreu die wilden Abenteuer in einem noch spartanischen Patagonien, ohne Wetterbericht und Träger, dafür mit monatelangem Warten und vielen wilden Rückzügen aus den diversen Routen. Nicht zu vergessen natürlich die Route der Slowenen „Devils Dihedral“ am Casarottopfeiler aka Pillier Goretta des Fitz Roy, welche 1983 die erste Route der „Drei Musketiere“ in Patagonien darstellte. Leider sind Francek Knes und Janez Jeglic aka Johan mittlerweile umgekommen.

Für mich sehr interessant ist auch die Schilderung des Werdeganges des Weltklasse Alpinisten und Kletterers Silvo Karo. Von den ersten Klettertouren in seinen Heimatbergen, den Julischen Alpen, über viele Klettertrips ins Velebit (Paclenika) und schließlich in die große Welt der Berge. Karo erlaubt auch einen Blick hinter die Kulissen und schildert detailgetreu die Mühen des Trainings mit seinen Freunden sowie die Finanzierung der einzelnen Expeditionen.

Außerordentlich ist sicher das große Abenteuer am Bhagirahi III mit Johann und der unmittelbar nachfolgenden Expedition zum Mt. Everest Westgrat.

Für Alpinhistoriker interessante Erlebnisse beschreibt der Autor im Kapitel „California“, wo es um gemeinsame Touren und Anekdoten mit dem legendären Jim Bridwell in Kalifornien geht.

Viele weitere Klettertouren unternahm Silvo Karo auch mit dem legendären Rollo Garibotti an den wilden sturmumtosten Türmen der Fitz Roy Gruppe. Etwa eine Begehung einer Route am Poincenot und viele andere.

Auch die Welt der großen Himalajaberge sind für Silvo Karo keine Unbekannten. So war er Teilnehmer an einer großen slowenischen Expedition zum Yalung Kang (Kantsch) in deren Zuge ein gewissen Tomo Cesen m i t Sauerstoff den Gipfel erreichte und wie vorhin schon erwähnt einer Expedition zum Mt. Everest.

„The older the crazier“ ein Kapitel, in dem sich so manche Kletterer der alten Schule wiederfinden können. – Wenn auch nicht in derselben Liga wie Silvo Karo. Bei so mancher meiner kleinen Abenteuer in meiner persönlichen Felsheimat des Dachstein könnte der Titel nicht treffender sein. Für den Autor allerdings geht es dabei um solche „Kleinigkeiten“ wie die Route „Eternal Flame“ am Trango Tower im Karakorum. Noch mit 45 Jahren gelang ihm dabei die erste Begehung dieses Ultraklassikers an einem Tag. Immerhin bis zum Grad IX in 6000 m Höhe…….

Nachvollziehen kann ich auch das große Abenteuer Cerro Murallon in Patagonien, wo nicht mehr die Kletterschwierigkeiten, sondern das gesamt Abenteuer im Vordergrund stehen. Wobei auch bemerkenswert ist, dass in der Nähe der Uppsala Hütte für Silvo Karo der schönste Platz Patagoniens liegt…..

Besonders berührend empfinde ich das letzte Kapitel „Descent“ wo Silvo Karo mit den „Jungen Wilden“ Sloweniens, 20 Jahre nach seiner Erstbegehung am Bhagirathi III mit Johann, einen Versuch an der „Sharks fin“ am Meru machte. Eindringlich schildert er, wie ihm sein „Schutzengel“ zuflüstert: „es ist genug“. – Walter Laserer, alpinist


Silvo’s book Rock ‘n’ Roll on the wall and especially its English translation was long-awaited. Slovenian alpinism and especially the striking lines climbed by Silvo and partners around the world are a huge source of motivation for me. I expected the book to be a nice collection of trip reports and very directly written. IT IS SO MUCH MORE, as you really get an insight into the restless personality of Silvo. There is not a single ascent done without learning from the previous. Surely he is restless and driven by the beauty of the mountains but furthermore, he strives for perfection. His climbing style is a constant evolution and gets purer and purer, minimizing the safety margin to a bare minimum but always calculated enough to push it through. This self-reflection and the way how he reaches his goals is what makes the book so rich and amazing! – Fabian Bull, alpinist


V knjigi ni lirskih izlivov, ni visoke filozofije, ni izživljanja s podrobnimi opisi nadčloveško težkih detajlov, hkrati je pripoved zelo tekoča in berljiva. Ko jo preberemo, je, kot da smo prebrali kak realističen roman, v katerem je zajeto bistvo neke družbe in neke dobe. – dr. Tomo Virk, literarni zgodovinar in teoretik