Weekend Warm-Up: Sarcasm, Humor, and the First Ascent of Sura Peak

The trouble on Sura Peak, at first, was that Marek Holecek couldn’t find a partner.

In Mammut’s Simply Beautiful, the energetic first ascensionist and two-time Piolet d’Or winner reflects.

“Not that friends would be missing, but they had their own plans. Or they told me, ‘Mara, I can’t go right now.’ Which might have meant, ‘I won’t go anywhere with you anymore,’” he jokes.

Holecek pauses to grin playfully toward the camera crew — but not for long. The Czech alpinist talks fast, climbs fast, and means business, even though he’s side-splittingly funny.

That all suited young gun Matej Bernat just fine, who finally picked up repeated calls from an unknown number that turned out to be Holecek, prospecting for a Himalaya partner.

“I had no information,” Bernat, a bespectacled dentist, admits in Simply Beautiful. “But I didn’t need it.”

Subsequent events:

  • The two climbers count out their savings in hundred-dollar bills on a cheap desk ahead of the trip to Kathmandu. “Oh, we’re bleeding. Oh, it hurts. The kids are hungry, and here just two dried pigeons [to eat].”
  • They proceed to the bars.
  • They agree “to bind ourselves to one rope, to be friends for life and death.” (Holecek’s words)
  • They complete an exacting first ascent on a little-known 6,764m Himalayan peak.


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A post shared by Marek Holecek (@marekholecek)

Does climbing ever have to be more complicated than this? Should it have to be? Absorb Holecek’s cryptic mountain wisdom, enjoy Bernat’s vivid sarcasm, and hang on for the ride. If you’ve ever had one of those days, or weeks, or entire expeditions where you had to laugh just to keep from crying — this one’s for you.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.