Hello from Kathmandu: Tunc Findik going for Annapurna, "the future is now, and must be lived out fully"

Posted: Mar 16, 2015 03:58 am EDT

(Tina Sjogren) He was born in the shadow of a biblical mountain; lives near a war zone, and climbs killer mountains for work and pleasure. He loves to read the history of war and aviation; his favorite book is Conquistadors of the Useless and his best movie is Cross Of Iron by Sam Peckinpah.


He landed in Kathmandu last week and on the plane out ExWeb caught up with Turkish Tunc Findik enroute to climb the dreaded peak of Annapurna.


He'll blast rock and heavy metal on the slopes but there's a softer side to Tunc: hanging in Istanbul with his wife or rock climbing in Antalya by the Mediterranean sea, enjoying warm evenings with a favorite meal of fresh vegetables, olive oil, pasta with pesto and a bottle of red.


Findik's 43 years on Earth (his birthday is this month) have been passionate. His climbs have taken him to the ten highest mountain tops of the world and he has "only" 4 left: Annapurna, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum 1 and Broad Peak. Here goes from Tunc:


ExplorersWeb: Turkey is gateway to Syria. Have you been touched by the war?


Tunc: Turkey is neighbor to a country at war and although not actually touched by it, we are marred by it. Millions of refugees have migrated to our country and the tension is just too great.    


ExplorersWeb: Speaking of tension, now you are off to Annapurna. When did you get into mountaineering?


Tunc Findik: I really discovered mountaineering when I started University in 1989.  But I  was a very keen trekker ever since a child. At first I didn't think to climb very high peaks or the hardest routes, instead the mountains themselves were fascinating and magical to me, and it was where I could express myself best. 


ExplorersWeb: When did you realize you wanted to summit all the world's tallest?


Tunc: After summiting three 8000m peaks, I realized I was strong enough and that my heart was in it too. 


ExplorersWeb: What has been your most memorable climb yet?


Tunc: Ama Dablam, reputably one of the world's most beautiful peaks, in Nepal’s Khumbu-Everest region was very special to me for its technical climbing and high, shapely summit.


There are so many memorable  big wall and icefall climbs looking back, and every 8000m peak was uniquely magnificent as well: summiting K2, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Dhaulagiri.


Dhaulagiri holds a special place because we were only two people on the team and topped out in thunder and lightning...


ExplorersWeb: How do you feel mountaineering has changed you as a person?


Tunc: Mountaineering has helped me dig out my true self from the murky grounds of everyday life.


It changed my outlook on life itself: life is short and better to live it simply,  and the way you want. It showed me how valuable life is and how colorful the world is. Too much philosophy is not a good thing but there is a great amount of it in alpinism - it still teaches me another aspect of life at every new climbing trip I make. It gave me self-discipline and  taught me initiative and survival, as well as self confidence and believing in my capabilities.


Climbing has set me free. I feel very lucky to see the world from the perspective of climbing. And finally it gave me the power of now: the future is now, this very moment, and must be lived out fully. 


ExplorersWeb: How do you feel mountaineering has changed during your time?


Tunc: Hard to say, because I didn't grow up in Europe or US but in Turkey.  When my generation  started climbing, there was nothing  in our country related to this sport, we had to improve things by ourselves, as we went along.


The new millenium has brought progress in my country, along with many changes in the world and in mountaineering.  Everything is much more global and within reach but also less pure and sometimes it's hard to tell improvement from degeneration. 


ExplorersWeb: What would you tell people who say that 8000ers are easy and Everest is just a pile of garbage and dead bodies?


Tunc:  Any person who never climbed it can say that and logically one may think they are right. But the truth is, there is no easy 8000m peak, including Everest. It's your own choice to use infrastructure, but try to climb an 8000m peak off season and in a small team - it may prove very hard and possibly lethal.


As for Everest, she is victim of demand and supply, but still a very beautiful summit. Dead bodies and garbage can be cleaned, but people’s  attention towards Everest is important. 


Having said that, for me climbing is a whole, from bouldering to ice climbing, from big walls to high alpine peaks. 


ExplorersWeb: What about those stating that going the normal route, with sherpas and using oxygen is not “real” climbing?


Tunc:  Again, this comes down to the matter of choices. What does real climbing mean?  Some people think that real climbing is only to go without oxygen and sherpas. To me real climbing is only alpine big walls and frozen icefalls! Real and fake are not words to decide this, it's all about choices, and 8000m climbing is a life-and-death struggle. 


Perhaps we should blame the guiding society that started already back in the 18th century when some rich gentleman hired tough mountain villagers to climb alpine peaks in Europe.  Again, there is a demand to from rich and amateur people to climb high peaks, and it's supplied by the means of tourism mechanism.  


ExplorersWeb: You told us before that you personally prefer lower, technical climbs. Have you had a chance to do any of those? Why not go for them full time?


Tunc:  I can't limit myself to high-altitude mountaineering only. I specially favor alpine climbs up to 6000m altitudes, big alpine faces and  winter ascents on lower peaks. I have more than 350 new routes in my country; first ascents of tech routes and trad rock climbs, first winter ascents. Actually, when I'm not on 8000ers that's what I devote my time to. I climb almost full-time, but it seems my love for 8000m peaks is also a strong one. Both are the halves of a whole. 


ExplorersWeb: How do you finance your climbing?


Tunc:  By sponsors, as any professional athlete would. I'm pretty well known in my country but  still have a hard time financing my climbs. For some reason it's easier to get gear and services than actual funds. I'm a member of Grivel and Beal teams, local athlete of The North Face and supported by Canon and Bosch. Book publishing helps: I have written 9 books, two are in English. And motivational speeches, if  I am in Turkey to do them!


ExplorersWeb: Why not just climb the Seven Summits, wouldn’t that be cheaper and easier - most people believe they are the highest anyway?


Tunc:  Simply, because it's not really challenging to me. The seven summits project never attracted me at all,  because I'm interested in technical ascents. Still,  I have climbed most of the seven summits a few times, mostly for guiding, but I don't think I'll ever try to go to Antarctica or Ausralasia to climb!


ExplorersWeb: Turkish adventurers are rare; do you know ocean rower Erden Eruc? Do you hang out? Any Turkish adventure profiles we should know about?


Tunc:  Erden is my friend, I admire him hugely. We occasionally bump into each other. There are good rock climbers in Turkey who have devoted their lives to climbing: Ozturk Kayikci and Dogan Palut as well as Zorbey Aktuyun are a few of them. They are my climbing friends and I am proud to know & share climbing adventures with them. 


Tomorrow, final: The inside on the Sherpas and the HAPs, about age, tech and Annapurna.










"Climbing makes me understand who I really am," Tunc told us over email from yet another plane to Kathmandu.
Tunc Findik climbing on his native turf. The highest peak in Turkey (and the entire Armenian plateau) is Mount Ararat with an elevation of 5,137 m (16,854 ft).
courtesy Tunc Findik, SOURCE
High altitude kills, Tunc says.
Another favorite: Pamir mountains in 2006.
On K2, Black Pyramid. "The truth is, there is no easy 8000m peak, including Everest."
"There are so many memorable big wall and icefall climbs looking back," Tunc says, "and every 8000m peak was uniquely magnificent as well."
courtesy Tunc Findik, SOURCE
Himalayan mountain ghost.
Tunc on the summit of G2. While Tunc prefers alpine climbs up to 6000m altitudes, big alpine faces and winter ascents on lower peaks; his love for 8000m peaks is also strong. “Both are the halves of a whole;” he says.

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