Expedition report #3 - Love and freedom

By Gijs Schuurhuis

I’ve been on a few expeditions and during every expedition there this phase in which I start to question if all of this is worth it. Back in 2017 this longing for home stood in between me and the same mountain we were trying to climb now. I feel that I’m in the same phase as I write this in basecamp. Tomorrow we start our first rotation to Pobeda (7.349m). I’m certainly in a better mental place now than I was before.

Earlier today I was sitting on the edge of basecamp, pondering away. This older Swiss guy we’ve been talking to sat down beside me. My German isn’t perfect, nor is my Swiss, and his English was the same. We talked about the mountains he had climbed and it was not for long that I realized I was talking to a legend. Now several decennia older than I am, but back in his days he climbed big mountains he said.

‘Where?’ I asked. He replied, ‘everything in Pakistan.’ ‘Everything?’ ‘Yes, all 8.000-meter peaks: Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, Hidden Peak, Gasherbum(s) and K2’, he replied.

He pointed towards the wedding ring which I wear around my neck. ‘Du hast ein frau? Das ist gut’. I knew he was here with his wife. A friendly couple getting to Camp 2 on Khan Tengri (5.500m), before turning their backs on the summit realizing this was their adventure. Totally content about it. I asked him why he didn’t pursuit the other 8.000m peaks. He replied very shortly; “nach K2, bist du frei”, and that he turned away from climbing and focused on family life.

At 8.600m, K2 is considered one of the most complex mountains in the world. Climbing it is for sure a great feat on one’s climbing resumé. But what struck me was the whole concept of being free after having accomplished something great. To have the freedom to choose not to pursuit other dreams, but instead focus on love is something I deeply admire. Freedom is what we find on the mountain and at the same time it’s a thin line between passion and obsession. When one adds love to this equation, it becomes so complex that it’s hard to grasp. To be ‘captured’ by freedom, that’s what this expedition life is all about.

In not so much words we talked about his family and his children. How he also struggled between love and freedom. A man with little words he made the perfect summary: ‘das leben ist easy, liebe – das ist zwierig.

I think about these concepts of love and freedom. For me they are intertwined and at the same time they feel miles apart. Here I feel free, but I don’t feel love in this hostile environment. My Sarah has never asked me to stop climbing. She offers me the freedom to pursuit my dreams and for that (and many other things) I love her. Tomorrow we leave for Pobeda and I feel prepared. Maybe this mountain turns out to be my K2, we will see.

Ich weiB wie viel es wiegt,

wann es fur mir liegt,

Wohen mann das kriegt,

Wass mann so viel liebt,

Das mann kein tag ohne mehr gibt.

Schön krass, wie das alles verschiebt.


Song:      Schon Krass

Artist:     AnnenMayKantereit         

Gijs Schuurhuis