LOWA PRO Team Simon Gietl
From woodworm to passionate climber
Simon Gietl may have chosen to be somewhat “wooden” in his early vocational life. But that all changed when he discovered his calling to a very different type of terrain. The mountain guide and extreme mountaineer from South Tyrol lives with his family in Luttach, Italy, and is generally found somewhere in the mountains – pursuing his passion. No matter whether he’s somewhere between the Dolomites, on expeditions in Greenland, Patagonia or the Himalayas, or on the face of one of the many walls in the world, Simon is an inveterate adventurer. He’s someone who’s more interested in the totality of his experiences than the simple climb to the summit itself.
Simon’s affinity for the world of mountains wasn’t something that simply appeared early in his life. Before he caught mountain fever at 18, he was busy completing a cabinetmaker apprenticeship. The former “woodworm” fell in love with the mountains three years after his first experiences in the vertical world – afterwards, nothing else stood in his way to a career as a professional climber.
While climbing on rock or ice, Simon always concentrates on the challenge he’s posing to himself – both in physical and mental terms. He prefers to take on rock and ice routes that reflect the philosophy of the late German climbing legend Wolfgang Güllich: “The mind is the most important muscle in climbing.” In speaking of himself, Simon says: “I train my body and mind also with the desire to leave behind my own tracks on the alpine faces.” Tracks that have been honoured in many ways, including presentation of the Grignetta d’Oro – the award given to Italy’s best alpinist – in 2016.
Facts & figures
- Bruneck Südtirol
- Home base:
- Luttach im Ahrntal
- Officially certified mountain and ski guide
- Favourite climbing site:
- Dolomite Alps
- Local mountain:
- 1,77 m
- 68 kg
We can now welcome you officially as a member of the LOWA PRO Team. How did you find your path onto the team?
“I was out on an adventure with Hans Kammerlander. He had taken me along on his project to Canada at that time. The goal of the project was to climb the various “Matterhorn” mountains on various continents. In 2013, it was Mount Assiniboine’s turn in Canada. It was of course a huge honour to go with him on an expedition. Back then, Hans had on the LOWA boot LATOK. We of course discussed expedition footwear, and that’s how I became more aware of LOWA. Through Hans, I got to know various contacts there. For a few years, it went back and forth and, today, here I am.”
Let’s go back a little in time from today. How did you actually get your start in alpinism?
“That’s an interesting story. At 18, I started to climb. Back then, I was hitchhiking from Bad Doberan, Germany, to Bruneck in South Tyrol. An older gent gave me a ride, and he had just come from Drei Zinnen (Three Merlons) in the Dolomites. He was on a climb there and told me about his experiences, about how it felt up top, and about all of the experiences he took home with him. I found it so fascinating that I thought to myself, I have to start climbing too. That was really the start.
As a part of that, I must say that school was always difficult for me. I didn’t really understand all those subjects, and the teachers didn’t really understand me as a person. Sport back then – I was in the running, football and mountain bike clubs – were a means to an end. They offered me a lot in these otherwise difficult times. As a young person, I always was seeking something in sports, but never quite found it. After this experience as a hitchhiker, however, I then did my first climbing tour. Just before going to sleep, I knew that this was precisely what I had been seeking all these years. Since then it was crystal clear for me – the “Drei Zinnen” are my mountains.”
What is for you the fascination in alpinism?
“Alpinism is of course for me movement and just “being outdoors”. But the largest motivation and biggest impetus are for me is the condition of being your own judge and jury. YOU decide how you approach the mountain and what you leave behind on the mountain. A mountain does not have innumerable traffic signs that specify the direction and rules. To be your own judge – perhaps even a harsher one – that gives me a truly special joy and motivates me.”
Training is an essential part of any athlete’s existence. How do you overcome your weaker self’s temptations in training?
“I think my biggest fortune is simply that I love to workout. I can never recall a time that I had to talk myself into training. Normally, you set yourself a goal. For me, it is quite important now that I train. Normally I have two or three goals in a year. And I am working out specifically for these particular projects. Once I have set a goal and have thought about it a lot, I will do everything I can to achieve it. Thus, it is no problem for me at all to do things that I perhaps don’t so much like to do. That’s because I just know what is essential for and that I can benefit from it.”
How do you prepare for your tours? Is there any particular ritual?
“First, it is of course vital to scrutinize what you really need for any project. Is climbing technique a focus or is it more about endurance? I then train and prepare accordingly. The “North Three” project last year is a good example. For that, we had a clear goal: We wanted to connect the Drei Zinnen and Grossglockner on bikes non-stop, moving the night through. We were at it for 48 hours non-stop. To us alpinists and climbers it was clear that mountains themselves were not to be the biggest problem. Rather, the 400 kilometres of cycling between them. It was clear to me as a non-pro cyclist that I would be cycling as of spring. I don’t mull things over much, but instead I do it gladly when I know what I need to do. Then, too, it would often happen that I would prefer to do another lap when I was almost home because I knew I would be happy later I did that.”
What do you always have along with you on tours? Perhaps something quite unusual?
“Actually, I always have a guardian angel charm on me. I always have that with me – and that is my family.”
What is do you normally think when you reach your goal?
“When you have ended a project successfully, there are not a lot of thoughts at that moment. Of course, you are pleased that you did it. That feeling of happiness is also important, and that you can check off a project. The real pleasure actually hits you in a week, or perhaps even later, when you sense an inner peace. That is also a really important topic that I have thought about a lot in particular in recent years. That moment when you reach the top is often quite short. You really have to learn to enjoy it. It can only happen once. Often, you are up top, have achieved it, and just want to get back down again quickly. That’s good and fine, but this moment is then just gone. You will never get it back again. That’s why it’s vital to be able to enjoy it emotionally too.”
Do you have a favourite tour?
“My favourite, which so happens to be in the Dolomites and means a lot to me personally, is the “Can you hear me now” tour. I tossed around the idea of this tour with my best friend, who unfortunately later lost his life. He came up with the idea, and I had promised to do the tour with him. Indeed, fate had a different idea. This tour was one where no price of training and preparation could be too high. I was simply determined to do it, didn’t matter what I had to give. It was very important to me to keep my word to him.”
Do you think there is one place that every person should see at some point?
“South Tyrol and the Drei Zinnen must simply be seen. I have the privilege to have seen many other countries and to have discovered many new places. But not any single one would I ever trade for the Dolomites or South Tyrol. That is where my heart is.”
What does it mean to you to live?
“To live to me means freedom. I luxuriate in every day because you never know how many days you have left. That is really important to me. Even when it doesn’t go as you want it to go, for example with projects. Important is to always pull yourself up and keep going. There is always tomorrow. You don’t have to hang your head and see everything negatively. You have to find the positive in failures.”
Do you live by any particular mantra or an important piece of wisdom?
“There is a wise saying that I wrote on my personal training wall after my climbing accident. Feel strong, but not invincible. That is something I hope to never forget.”
Aside from alpinism, what do you also get excited about?
“A day with your family is worth at least as much – definitely. For that, I don’t need to find any extra excitement. That’s just a given. Everything has to stay in balance.”
My shoes for…
Expeditions: ALPINE ICE GTX
“The fit is right, the shoe keeps your feet warm and in winter it is suitable for all types of terrain – whether ice climbing, mixed climbing or at an altitude of 4000 metres. The ALPINE ICE GTX is always the right choice.”