Remembering Hansjörg Auer. By Nicola Tondini
Italian alpinist Nicola Tondini remembers Hansjörg Auer, the great Austrian mountaineer who died last week in an avalanche in Canada, along with David Lama and Jess Roskelley.
I don't want to talk about how great a mountaineer Hansjörg Auer was: he doesn't need it. All I’d like top do at this point is recall a fun anecdote, a chance encounter I had with him on Tempi Moderni on the South Face of the Marmolada in summer 2017. I was belaying my partner/client just before the famous 6b slab pitch. Every now and then I’d glance down at the two French team far below us, when all of a sudden a great jacket popped up at the end of the long traverse, 100m below me. I continued to belay my partner, but by the him he’d almost reached the belay, I was joined by Hansjörg in his green jacket. We said hello, exchanged two words and I told him to set off before me. He waited for his climbing partner, thanked me and then climbed the 6b pitch as fast as me when I’m on grade IV terrain, rushing upwards ahead of an imminent storm. They climbed the route in less than 5 hours and I can assure you that I have never seen someone climb with such sensitivity and speed.
On 25 October 2018, Hansjörg and I met in Selva di Cadore, in a beautiful wooden Tabià hut. I’d asked him for an interview. I wanted to hear his thoughts, in addition to those of Christoph Hainz and Reinhold Messner, for the film Don't Be Afraid to Dream. I’d met him a couple of times at lectures we’d both be invited to, and was fascinated by him as a man, as well as a mountaineer. On that October morning we talked a lot, not just about climbing. We shared our outlook on life, even from a spiritual point of view. And his thoughts are one of the most unusual and powerful parts of the film.
After the microphones had been turned off we discussed the last thing he’d mentioned, namely how sometimes he felt, up in the mountains, the presence of some loved ones, those who are no longer with us. I feel very much the same and told him I’m convinced that through every person we are given the chance of seeing a little bit of heaven, a tiny fragment of the image of God. And that this can be seen more easily in some people than others. I also told him I believe that one day we’ll all meet up and meet our loved ones, those we’ve met down here on earth. The image of God will also be composed of fragments of each of them. He smiled and I knew he was thinking about Gerhard Fiegl, his good friend who perished on Nilgiri South whom he mentioned in the interview.
Those words now also hold true for him. Hansjörg, for Sergio, Klaus, myself and and all those who worked on the film, was someone who lived life profoundly, at peace with himself, almost completely conscious of the fact that he had placed his life in the hands of destiny. When we take to the mountains, we will all feel him by our side.
May God be with you
Non Abbiate Paura di Sognare, the film about Nicola Tondini directed by Klaus Pierluigi Dell'Orto will be first screed at the Trento Film Festival 2019 on 27/04 and 30/04/2019.