Profile: Carlos Carsolio
In his own words
"Finishing all 14 [8,000-meter peaks] is a good feeling, but, you know, we live in a numbers world and I'm not sure I like that. What I like is big mountains. Could be ten of them, or 15. The important thing is, the feeling of the high mountains."
Born in Mexico City in 1962. Both parents climbed, so he was introduced to the mountains as an infant and began scrambling almost as soon as he could walk. Mastered technical rock climbing by his early teens, then moved on to his main love: big walls. Went to Yosemite in 1980, did the tough south face of Aconcagua in 1985 and, that same
year, made the first of many trips to the Himalayas, putting in a new route on the south face of 26,666-foot (8,125-meter) Nanga Parbat, the biggest wall in the world. He specializes in speed ascents (26,905-foot Cho Oyu in 18 hours and 45 minutes; 27,922-foot Lhotse in 23 hours and 50 minutes) and solos. His favorite climb was a 1994 conquest of Pakistan's 26,400-foot
(8,047-meter) Broad Peak, when he became only the fifth climber in history to solo a new route on an 8,000-meter peak. Carsolio lives in the mountains outside Mexico City with his wife and two young children.
On the compact side: five feet, eight inches; 165 pounds. Widely known for his strength, endurance, and iron will. Graced with an excellent sense of humor and an unusual (for the sport) degree of modesty, preferring to talk about other climbers than about himself. Famous for friendly trail manner, often stopping for hours
to chat with other climbers. He's also a romantic, enamored of climbers of yore, skeptical of the aid-heavy expeditions, and utterly turned off by the concept of "peak bagging."
Why do you do it?
"Because it's my life. I find a passion in the mountains. That's the main reason, but it's very difficult to answer, because it's mainly about feelings, and those feelings take in many things: the place, the view, the adventure, the challenge. In the mountains, I just feel very alive."
How will you top yourself?
"I want to go back to Patagonia or Baffin Island, to some of the big walls. I'd also like very much to do some of the walls in the Himalayas. Do some new routes, some solo."
What makes you angry?
"I don't like the pollution on some of the mountains. I also don't like the fact that people are losing respect for the mountains. People who climb a mountain just to say they have climbed it. The whole idea of the number of mountains you've climbed--it's a very Occidental way of doing things; it's a very materialistic point of view."
What's your current focus?
"I've been very busy with slide shows and with our school in the mountains. But I dream of the mountains all the time. I really want to go back. I just don't know exactly where."
Who are your heroes and why?
"I think you do need someone to look up to. When I was young, I had heroes from fairy tales. But as I grew up, I began reading about climbing and climbers. I admired [Austrian climber] Hermann Buhl, because of his style; he was very strong-willed and very focused, and he was a survivor. Now, I have lots of
heroes. Lynn Hill. Peter Croft. And Jerzy Kukuczka [the late Polish climber and one of four to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks]. I climbed with Kukuczka and learned a lot from him."
What scares you most?
"I am very afraid of avalanches, in the Himalayas especially. Sometimes, you have to go up an avalanche-prone slope because there is no other way, but that means you're afraid the whole time. But there are two kinds of fear. People should not be afraid of not succeeding; instead, they should focus on their goals. It's
the real fear that you should hear--the instinct. When a storm is coming, maybe your body is telling you that this is serious. That's the fear you should listen to."
Paul Roberts is a regular correspondent for Outside Online's News & Views section.