Goodbye to Zsolt Török, one of Romania's foremost mountaineers
Vlad Capusan remembers his friend and climbing partner Zsolt Török, one of Romania’s foremost mountaineers who lost his life in a climbing accident on 14 August 2019 in the Făgăraș mountains.
It's been more than three weeks and it's still hard for me to find the words and deal with the pain of such a great loss. Zsolt Török died on 14 August in the Făgăraș Mountains, as a result of a fall close to the summit of Negoiu while solo climbing up Creasta Fierastraului. He was on a training session for the next expedition we were planing together, in the Caucasus.
Zsolt was a symbol not just for the close-knit community of climbers in Romania, but for the country as a whole, a model of passion and enthusiasm for me and my generation. He redefined the impossible through his fantastic mental strength, always keeping the team together and pushing certain ascents for days on end, regardless of conditions.
The story of his ascents on the Rupal Wall of Nanga Parbat or the "Marathon of the big walls" in the Alps, fed me over years with inspiration and fuelled my desire for adventures in the high mountains.
I am convinced that much will be written about Zsolt’s expeditions and that his mountaineering curriculum, condensed into a few pages, will certainly be impressive for those who did not know him. I though had the privilege of knowing another Zsolt, which only a handful of people got to know. A simple man with a soul of gold and an unwavering passion for the mountains.
For a long time Zsolt was my mountaineering mentor, my climbing partner and closest friend. We endured many sleepless nights together, were caught by an avalanche in the Himalayas and we slept in a crevasse in Patagonia, but each time Zsolt was optimistic and always managed to crack a joke, and to inspire positivity that made me believe nothing is impossible.
I remember in particular our first ascent on Choltase in spring 2016, after 4 bivouacs we managed to reach the summit in bad weather and in difficult conditions. That experience would change my vision about technical climbing in the Himalaya, and it was with Zsolt I learned to feel comfortable in the uncomfortable.
Although he was known by the entire alpine community in Romania as one of the most complete Romanian mountaineers, he was a modest man who respected and appreciated the ascents of others.
Ever careful to promote the true values of alpinism and careful never to offend, Zsolt was always interested in the history of a particular route. The legendary ascents in the Himalayas were always an important topic for him; the elegance of a route determines the ambition of the climber, he often told me.
Zsolt did not view alpinism as a sport but rather as a lifestyle, where with each expedition you improve and can provide a valuable lesson to others. His mountaineering was never about “conquering peaks” or "breaking records”, but a soulful fulfilment as he journeyed to the summit.
Over the years we shared the rope and adventure from Cheile Turzii to Patagonia & Himalaya, opening some new routes and enjoy beauty of the thin air.
I had the chance to live some extraordinary experiences with Zsolt in the mountains: we drank the best coffees from our narrow bivouacs, enjoyed countless sunrises and sunsets from the highest ridges. We laughed, we cried, we argued a few times and then we reconciled, each time realising that the true strength lies in the team spirit.
I saw his kindness when, after trekking of over 100km on the expedition to Peak 5 in the Himalayas, he gave his boots and took the load from a tired porter whose feet were destroyed.
As I got to know him better I noticed both the problems he struggled with to finance his expeditions, but also his pure joy when he became an athlete sponsored by Climbing Technology, as well as the appreciation the climbing community gave him after each ascent. Regardless of the expedition he was on, whenever he reached a summit he was proud to wave the Romanian flag, the country he loved so much.
The last years were the most beautiful for him. After we managed to climb Cerro Torre in Patagonia, Zsolt managed to complete our project on Pumori in the Himalayas, opening a new impressive route on the southwest face with Teo Vlad and Romica Popa. And, more importantly, he managed to find the other half of his soul and marry Laura.
Even though time will heal the pain of his death, his absence will always be felt. Someone once said, ''In the end, it's not the years in your life the count; it's the life in your years." I am sure that Zsolt lived every second to the fullest, and that his greatest ascent has only now begun.