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ExWeb interview with Carlos Soria: "Not all climbers like to climb"

Posted: Apr 08, 2011 05:59 pm EDT

(By Angela Benavides/Edit Tina Sjogren) Carlos Soria arrived Himalaya in 1973, at age 34. It would take 25 years and 8 attempts before the Spanish climber got his first 8000er summit. It arrived on Nanga Parbat, Carlos was 59, and it changed everything. Soria plans number 10 this spring and all 14 before he turns 75.

Last month, ExWeb's Angela Benavides sat down with Carlos and his wife of 50 years in their Madrid home for a chat about the meaning of success, Himalayan statistics, Miss Oh, and the importance of knowing that your decisions in life are truly yours.

ExplorersWeb: So - youre leaving again for Nepal. After dozens of Himalayan expeditions, dont you ever get tired or bored?

Carlos: Never! How could I? I'm going to climb! Its the best thing in the world, what I love most. I cant wait to be back in the high mountains.

ExplorersWeb: Some other seasoned climbers dont sound so cheerful after a certain number of expeditions. It becomes routine it seems. Thats not your case though?

Carlos: Its not my case indeed, because I'm absolutely sure that this is what I want to do. It seems obvious, but its not. If you want to spend time in the Himalayas, youd better take a look inside and make sure you really like to climb.

Thats the only thing that will push you through when the going gets tough. Those trying to feed their ego - led by insecurity, circumstances or other people - theyre not going to get the best experience and may eventually hate it. Himalayan climbing is hard enough even for the well-motivated.

ExplorersWeb: How did you stay motivated through so many attempts on 8000ers before bagging your first summit, at almost 60?

Carlos: It was not just about bagging summits I happened to take part in a series of Himalayan trips, and I enjoyed every single day of them.

The summit is very cool, but it's not the only point. Focusing on the summit only is a mistake as big as taking the top for granted. The best memories are rarely from the summit either youre usually too tired and concerned about the descent.

I remember, for instance, the sun rising on Everest and K2 it was magical, it definitely took my breath away. Honestly, if I had turned around, I wouldnt have cared: the views of the rising suns were worth a thousand trips.

ExplorersWeb: Summits may be less important but you also want to complete the 14x8000ers. How does that add up?

Carlos: Well, I only said that I dont mind if I dont summit, not that I dont enjoy it if I do :-)

Of course I too am competitive and motivated by a project like mine. And I want to get to know every single peak from the bottom and up. So - why not?

ExplorersWeb: Compared to other Spanish 8000er collectors you seem to be rather low key. And although you have a number of climbing age records, media/sponsors are not exactly knocking on your door. Is it because Himalaya is no place for old men?

Carlos: I wish I knew! For some reason, this year media suddenly find me interesting because of the age thing, he, he. Sponsors are not yet there though. I try to find support, but get no results. My real record wont be about age, but about funding: I'm about to become the first 14x8000 summiteer on a shoe-string budget!

ExplorersWeb: You usually climb on the cheap and on your own, how is it that you havent made a group of Himalayan friends to meet up with in BC?

Carlos: Well, the language barrier is high. I dont speak English and, while body language works pretty well with the Sherpas, I lack communication skills to talk with fellow climbers which - believe me - I'm extremely sad about.

Also, most of the old friends I used to team up with are not up for a long expedition neither ready for high-altitude climbing anymore Theyre getting old, me thinks (laughs).

ExplorersWeb: Speaking of BC mates and language barriers: after you guys met on GI, you were one of the few defending Miss Oh Eun-sun.

Carlos: I think media have been extremely unfair to Miss Oh, at least in Spain. We met on GI and I can tell you she was not climbing with a big team she was there on her own, with only two Sherpas. She was shy and polite. We all climbed in very tough conditions and reached the summit together.

I was there, I saw her summit and climbing style were fair, so I cant help feeling outraged when I read about her supposedly huge teams on all 8000ers. She had a big TV crew on Anna, but they were there filming, not helping her climb.

ExplorersWeb: On Kangchenjunga though her claim was scrubbed after she confessed that she had stopped below the summit. What's your view of that?

Carlos: Well, I agree the top is the top. But then I'm afraid you should delete most of your stats and start over from scratch good luck with that :-)

Carlos Soria was born in Avila Feb 1939 and soon moved to Madrid, Spain. He attempted his first 8000er, Manaslu, in 1973 - it would take 7 more attempts on 8000ers until he summited Nanga Parbat, at 59.

Spring 2011, Carlos has summited 9 main 8000ers, plus Shisha Central. He is aiming for Lhotse next, climbing with Muktu Sherpa and using no supplementary O2.

He plans Dhaulagiri in fall this year and Kangchenjunga in 2012, in order to complete the 14x8000ers by the time he turns 75.

#Mountaineering #topstory #interview

No place for old men? Carlos Soria, now 72, at a belay on Gasherbrum I, which he summited in summer 2009.
courtesy Carlos Soria, SOURCE
Match made in high altitude: Carlos and wife Cristina last month in their home, after nearly 50 years of a happy marriage.
Image by Toñçin Perezgrueso courtesy Al Filo de lo Imposible - TVE, SOURCE
Carlos on the (true) summit of Manaslu, fall 2010. The top is the top, he agrees but, "then I'm afraid you should delete most of your stats and start over from scratch," he told ExplorersWeb.
Image by Muktu Sherpa, SOURCE
Carlos considers Sama Gaon his home away from home. The very first village he stayed in, Sama has remained the same in a transformed Himalaya. In spring 2010, climbing had changed, Manaslu BC had changed, even the mountain looked different but Sama Gaon was just the same: the same lama in the local temple, the same dirty children, the same lack of facilities. I managed to raise funds and returned in fall with down jackets, boots and new mattresses. It made me happy. In image, Carlos Soria and..
courtesy Carlos Soria, SOURCE