K2 kick-off: ExWeb interview with Tunc Findik

K2 kick-off: ExWeb interview with Tunc Findik

Posted: Jul 09, 2012 05:03 pm EDT

(Tina Sjogren) He shot the famous pictures of the crazy Annapurna avalanche and now Tunc Findik has arrived K2 BC. ExplorersWeb caught up with him shortly before his departure to Pakistan and the chat kicks off the brand new K2 season (check out all the action in the list of expeditions, streams are coming up).

ExplorersWeb: Your pictures from the avalanche on Annapurna were unreal. A huge avalanche coming down towards 4 single climbers. What were your thoughts? Tell us what happened?

Tunc: Annapurna, as everyone knows, is objectively very dangerous. Well, a huge ice avalanche on our route (North Face, German route of 1980) was not unexpected for sure!

The gully at 6000 meters we had to climb on the way to camp 3 was a dangerous avalanche chute with unstable seracs overhead. I myself was on my way up to camp 3 that morning, but finally thought it was unjustly risky and decided not to proceed.

It was too late in the morning, this dangerous part is best crossed only very early in the day, which is also not safe. My friends Guntis, Sechu Lopez and I stayed well away from the gully when it happened - the ice avalanche fell. We thought these four people dead. There was nothing to do but just watch. It was not a good feeling!

By a stroke of luck, two were protected under the overhang of the bergschrund and two were somewhat out of the direct impact of the avalanche. They were just shaken.

Nevertheless by then I had decided that with this many bullets loaded in the Russian roulette this peak was not worth climbing! When there is this much risk, climbing is not a sport but something like a deadly combat in a battlefield.

ExplorersWeb: Your video from your Kangchenjunga summit last year is great. How was the climb?

Tunc: Kang is a very beautiful and really big mountain with a beautiful goddess living on it. The route is long and varies from big glacier plateaus to ice walls and long snow gullies, with fascinating climbing on the summit rocks.

İ felt very lucky to summit this peak, with a strong team and in very good weather on summit day. İt was unbelievable! But the general weather that spring season was not good. Too much snow fell, forcing us to wait a long time in the base camp.

ExplorersWeb: You summited six 8000ers and Everest twice, what has been your most difficult and/or memorable climb so far?

Tunc: All 8000 meter peaks are hard, not even one is easy. But I would say Dhaulagiri was my hardest.

It was spring 2009, and we were a very small team - Dawa Sherpa (from Loding) and I, 3 Koreans, my Czech friend David Fotjik and İranian Mehdi Etemad Far (who was killed trying to summit).

David and I summitted without oxygen, in whiteout pierced by lightning and thunder. İt was really frightening but it made me feel the life in my blood!

Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Everest, Lhotse and Cho Oyu were not easy at all but fairly low risk with great weather on summit day. Shishapangma was a very good try, almost alpine style and just 2 people in the mountain, unfortunately we had to turn back due to very big avalanche danger near the north summit.

Anyhow, my most difficult climbs were not on the 8000 meter peaks. I climb multi pitch big face routes in my own country and have faced many life threatening dangers there. No fixed ropes, no sherpas, no rescue guarantee, always difficult lead climbing on crumbly rock and bad ice! These are the real climbing adventures for me.

ExplorersWeb: You're returning to K2. How do you feel about that mountain?

Tunc: Really looking forward to do this climb. For me, climbing on K2 is touching history itself. İt is fascinating to climb this beautiful pyramid of stone and ice.

Compared to Annapurna K2 is not as dangerous but it offers more steep climbing than other 8000’ers. It is for sure a hard and attractive target for any experienced 8000 meter climber!

In 2009 (Ed note: Tunc's previous attempt) there was no synergy in the team, with many fights between expedition members and in any case - the conditions were atrocious with very deep snow and bad weather (normal for Karakorum peaks of course).

I am certain that summiting K2 is quite possible with a coherent team and a bit of luck with the weather.

The Abruzzi Route has not been climbed beyond the bottleneck for many years now. This time I have a warm feeling in my heart and hope we can summit this season.

ExplorersWeb: What's your climbing plan? (high altitude porters, oxygen, ropes etc)

Tunc: I have joined a strong team. My İranian friend Azim Gheycisaz will be there. I have no personal high altitude porter or sherpa and will try to help carry ropes and fix the route, which is the genuine fun for me.

İ will use two bottles of oxygen beyond 8000 meters (camp 4) on summit push night mostly to avoid frostbite because I'm prone to very cold feet and the oxygen helps me to stay warm.

ExplorersWeb: Are you after the 14, 8000ers?

Tunc: After Lhotse in 2006 I thought why not to do all the 8000 meters peaks? İ am physically good at altitude and expert at technical terrain and with a bit of financial support, this is very possible. İ'm not rich and certainly don't have very big sponsors but things do flow for me with new frontiers opening as I go on my way.

I'm an ordinary climber and respect the outstanding people who finish all the 8000 meter peaks in alpine style or without oxygen support. My aim is not to compete with anyone or to join a list of very elite and hard climbers though. İ will try to summit all the 8000 m. peaks as I go along, it's a goal that takes a lifetime.

To summit an 8000 meter giant makes me feel great and that feeling alone is what drives me.

ExplorersWeb: Who inspires you?

Tunc: Great climbers such as Messner, Bonatti, Cassin, Terray, Buhl and many others inspired me, and continue to do so.

ExplorersWeb: What would be your dream climb? Other adventures on your mind?

Tunc: My dream climb is not an 8000 meter peak but on a grand multi pitch big face such as Great Trango Tower or Cerro Torre, or climbing a technical Himalayan 7000 meter peak such as Menlungtse or Nuptse. Outdoor adventures beyond mountain & climbing are not interesting to me.

ExplorersWeb: Is climbing big in Turkey?

Tunc: Climbing is not yet a popular sport in Turkey but at least the times are gone when you said you will go climbing and people would stare at you as if you were insane! There are some mountaineering clubs in Turkey, most in the Universities.

Turkey is more of a rocky mountainous country (especially in the eastern part) and rock climbing is excellent, in uncrowded and perfect settings.

There are individuals interested and talented in technical climbing but the future of Turkish climbing seems to go towards sports climbing on bolts.

Most Turkish high altitude climbers go to Pamirs or Tien Shan for financial reasons, but Everest definitely holds a fascination: only 16 Turkish climbers have summitted Everest so far.

ExplorersWeb: You have volcanoes such as Ararat at over 5000 meter and other great alpine ranges. What about the Ark - any news? ;)

Tunc: We have some perfect dolomitic, Alp- type ranges such as the Aladag Range and Dedegol Range by the Mediterranean sea in south, where real technical, multi pitch trad rock climbing is performed.

Climbing in eastern Turkey is not well-explored due to access problems and it definitely holds a huge potential. Our mountains are still literally virgin and any line you pick on a big rock or mixed face would most probably be a first ascent. Thus I have around 300 first ascents, first winter ascents and even first ascents of the peaks!

At 5165 metres, Mount Ararat is the highest and most famous peak in Turkey. Many people think of the Ark when Ararat is mentioned but to me it's just an unattractive heap of volcanic rock and ice, kind of boring like the normal route on Aconcagua. The mountain is also riddled with bureaucratic problems throughout.

That all changes in winter though when Ararat becomes colder than most Himalayan 7000ers and thus provides excellent training & acclimatization ground for higher summits.

All in all, Turkey offers very fine climbing in wild settings. Every foray into the mountains is an expedition in itself: no huts, no porters, not enough rescue facilities, no good maps. Sometimes you don't meet a soul for weeks.

ExplorersWeb: If people want to explore the Turkish mountains, are you available to help?

Tunc: İ occasionally offer guiding services in the mountains but this is not what I do for a living. Anyhow, I can help or advice.

I do write guidebooks and make topo maps of the mountains. My first book in English was ‘50 Routes İn The Aladag Range’ and it describes some of the traditional multi pitch climbs on our favorite alpine mountain range. The other guidebooks I wrote are in Turkish language only.

ExplorersWeb: After some bad years, Turkish GDP has increased around 9% per year which is on par with wonder growth such as China's. The flip side is high inflation and high debt. How is all this affecting the adventure industry and more directly, how do you get sponsors?

Tunc: Our economy is growing rapidly but finding sponsorship and support for mountaineering is still hard in Turkey. The concept of sport sponsorship remains quite unknown.

You have to be good at marketing yourself which I am poor at! I can get sponsors for the bigger climbs in Himalaya and Karakorum though.

Thankfully, equipment sponsors such as The North Face, Suunto, Beal, and Solgar support me well and I also have service providers such as Globalstar Avrasya and CNN Turk. Turkish İT company İnnova is my current sponsor for the Annapurna and K2 climbs.

Born in 1972, Tunc Findik summited Kangchenjunga in 2011, Makalu in 2010, Dhaulagiri in 2009, Everest in 2007 (and 2001), Lhotse in 2006, and Cho Oyu in 2005. He attempted K2, Broad Peak, Shisha Pangma and Annapurna.

His childhood spent camping and trekking, Tunc took up climbing in 1991 and became member of the Turkish Mountaineering Federation’s high altitude team in 1993.

His first high peak was Peak Lenin (7134 m) at age 21. "İ did not summit there but it literally showed me that i was fit for altitude climbing," Tunc said. The ex-Soviet ranges of Pamir, Tien Shan and Caucasus taught him the basics of high altitude climbing he says, "because there you virtually have to do everything yourself: planning, fixing ropes, carry full packs, route finding."

A professional climber, mountain guide and writer, Tunc resides in İstanbul half the time and spends the rest either on expedition or in the climbing area of Antalya by the Mediterrranean sea.

He is married, favors Mediterranean style food (fresh salad, vegetables, pasta, coffee and tea), rarely watches movies (owns no TV) but loves climbing, especially traditional rock climbing, for the meditation and unique sense of freedom the mountains offer.

Favorite quote: ‘Know thyself!’
Mountaineering motto: "borrowed from great Ed Viesturs, ‘Summit is optional but getting down safely is mandatory!’"

#Mountaineering #topstory

Tunc at work with what he loves most: traditional rock climbing back home.
Image by www.tuncfindik.com courtesy www.tuncfindik.com, SOURCE
Mere months ago Soria narrowly escaped this snow slide on another mountain notorious for its avalanches: Annapurna.
Image by Tunc Findik courtesy Tunc Findik/Don Bowie, SOURCE
How come that K2 has been so deadly compared to Everest in modern days? Clear cut reporting and layout of facts provide closure and answers for future climbers.
Image by ExplorersWeb courtesy ExplorersWeb, SOURCE
Tunc in Turkey: "No fixed ropes, no sherpas, no rescue guarantee, always difficult lead climbing on crumbly rock and bad ice! These are the real climbing adventures for me."
Image by www.tuncfindik.com courtesy www.tuncfindik.com, SOURCE
Aladag: "Climbing in eastern Turkey is not well-explored due to access problems and it definitely holds a huge potential..."
Image by www.tuncfindik.com courtesy www.tuncfindik.com, SOURCE
Aladag: "...Our mountains are still literally virgin and any line you pick on a big rock or mixed face is likely to be a first ascent..."
Image by www.tuncfindik.com courtesy www.tuncfindik.com, SOURCE
Aladag: "...Thus I have around 300 first ascents, first winter ascents and even first ascents of the peaks!"
Image by www.tuncfindik.com courtesy www.tuncfindik.com, SOURCE
Kang: "All 8000 meter peaks are hard, not even one is easy."
Image by www.tuncfindik.com courtesy www.tuncfindik.com, SOURCE