Enjoying the Sunrise from the Foot of Mount UngaranOctober 18, 2020
Why start running todayOctober 18, 2020
He has taken part in eighteen mountaineering expeditions in the last two decades, so far he has stood on four 8,000 mountain peaks, in 2016 as the first Hungarian at Annapurna.
We visited David Klein at his home in Érd and talked to him about his childhood, his family, success and failure, climbing and freedom, the road leading so far and of course how he sees himself in the world.
Do you remember the first peak you climbed?
I named the hill in the Buda Hills that my father and I climbed as the top of sunny rocks and trees.
It may have been in the early eighties, I wasn’t even a primary schooler yet, but I remember the excitement and the strong spiritual experience I had as a child.
We were not far from the bus stop and I told Dad I wanted to get off the path.
I imagined myself to be an explorer, remembering how I grabbed the rocks, the earthworms rolling beside me, and then I reached the hilltop where the sun was shining.
Interestingly, many later experiences faded in me, I don’t even remember directly several of my climbs anymore, yet it remained in me.
And what was the point when you decided you were going to be a climber?
It was a process, I have several strong memories. I had a mineral-gathering era in elementary school.
I remember already noticing at the time that my friend Barnus was more interested in the scientific part of the thing, but I was more interested in fieldwork.
I hung on a rock with a nylon clothesline so I could use both my hands.
Then I was twelve years old, when my sister met a real rock climber, Károly Csányi, I crashed into them and got acquainted with the sport, which was just a narrow layer at the time.
Karcsi sewed my first seat and the wedges were turned at work. On his advice, a year later, in 1989, I went to the elementary rock climbing course. I made myself older, fourteen, because that was the age limit.
Did you already know that you wanted to do this later?
Even then, I imagined big mountains above the rocks of Oszoly, and then I got to know the Tatras, which have been my favorite ever since, where I feel most at home. At the age of fifteen, I went out to the United States for a year, which was a very strange world, wandering through national parks and seeing that the dimensions were quite different than in Pilis and Mátra.
When I came home, I took the summer and winter high mountain course, and by then, as a high school student, I already felt like I wanted to do that. To this day, I think of myself mostly as a tramp and a climber.
Was he a sporty kid anyway?
I come from an intellectual family where sport had no tradition, nonetheless, or perhaps that is why physical effort was especially attracted. I wasn’t good with ball, I didn’t like team sports and beat others, but I loved running and climbing ropes.
I also had an orienteering period, but I couldn’t orient myself well, I kept getting lost. Orienteering, karate, judo and hiking, these followed one another, but over time I realized that mountaineering has everything I am looking for.
Not only do I not want to “defeat” others or myself, but my relationship with myself is more complicated.
I want to understand my partner, the mountain and myself, while experiencing something beautiful together.
What did your parents say about becoming a climber?
I was trusted and always supported and accepted in everything, accepted. They didn’t even say “son, you’re going to starve to death” when I went to college to study philosophy.
Sometimes they marvel at my adventures, but they are most curious about me and love me unconditionally while not wanting to tell me what to do in life.
I think this is a very rare combination in any relationship for which I am very grateful to them.
Climbing is not the same success and failure as elite sports.
Have you experienced these too?
Climbers experience a wide range of emotions. I remember organizing our first expedition in 1998 to Tirichmir, 7708 meters high, in Hinduk, Pakistan.
I wasn’t at the top, but I had a very strong sense of success, as two out of four people succeeded, which meant “we” succeeded.
We were green-eared, and the business was long and tumultuous, I lost seventeen pounds and caught something that took my belly for half a year.
Still, the experience made me happy, I would love to go back there because there are plenty of opportunities in the seven thousand there.
And did you feel failure? Yes, several times. On the 2012 Mount Everest expedition, for example, I stabbed everything I could: I climbed when I shouldn’t have, and not when I should have, I started to hurry, which completely slipped my strategy.
But there were places where I experienced much worse than failure, in 2010 I lost my partner, László Várkonyi, “Konyit”, under tragic circumstances, when an ice crash swept us.
On the other hand, a bird could have been caught with me in 2019, when my partner, Szilárd Suhajda, stood up on the most technically difficult mountain peak in the world, the 8611-meter K2. Yes: I didn’t get up, but I feel like we did it two, and I consider this one of my most successful climbs.
So there are many ways to come home from the mountains.
In such a sport, how much can one rejoice in one’s success?
Very! But it also depends on how you get started. If you’re really a team at home already, that’s natural.
It’s worth working consciously on these goals, which is why I love the puja ceremony so much before you start climbing.
At such times, I can once again think about what my goals are, who I am and why we are here.
Once you have the goal, it is easier to compare the result with what happened in retrospect. So it was with K2.
Sure, I have a strong sense of lack because I didn’t make it to the top, but it was a rational decision to turn back, plus Solid did the same for me at Everest in 2017.
This is in our relationship. They take great care to prepare.
How much of a tradition did this have at home?
This was forced by Zoli Ács and Laci Mezey at the time.
They studied at the College of Physical Education. When we started planning our first expedition on a napkin in a shelter in 1997, they already said it was important to be physically prepared because we are beginners, to give ourselves so many benefits.
The old saying that mountaineering can only be prepared by mountaineering is not true, I would rather reverse the fact that mountaineering really cannot be prepared without mountaineering.
Climbing skills are needed, even on a technically simpler route, so that one can react when circumstances change, but cross-training is also very important.
This recognition was already present in the West in the eighties, but at home we did not confess for a long time that our sacred and beloved passion is indeed a sport.
Of course, even then, it was true that a conscientious climber would also improve his stamina, only this was treated with shame.
Sponsored climbing also had no tradition at home. This can also be attributed to Ács Zoli, like most creative ideas, filming and snowboarding. As a twenty-two year old Tatra, plaid shirt climber, I had a lot of resistance to these at first, but we didn’t have the money, let alone the Hindukus, the evening party either.
But then I realized there are three options: either you have your own money, or you’ll be a mountain guide, or you’re looking for a sponsor.
The first one was dropped out, I never had money, mountain driving is foreign to me because I feel like I wouldn’t achieve my own goals and I love being free during an expedition.
So we decided on the third. We’ve learned a lot, but it’s still sufnituning today, and to this day, raising sponsorship money is like a chaotic rodeo.
Even after all this time, even though I have four and Szilárd has eight to eight thousand, including the hardest and the most dangerous.
How much did it affect your daily life that you had so much in the East?
It had a strong impact on me because I saw that people could be happy even in worse circumstances, but at the same time I recognized the privileges of having a Hungarian passport as a European man, a graduate.
If one gets to know the lives of those who work for a fraction of the Hungarian salary from morning to night, it contributes to his worldview.
And wandering taught me to come to terms with uncertainty as well.
How long did you live in a yurt and why?
I didn’t want the rain to fall on my head. For half a year before that, I chatted alone in India with a stick, barefoot.
I was walking in a sheet and looking for the answers to the big questions of life – or I was just being zakkanva.
I thought it was such a rare thing to exist as a human being – the result of lengthy biological and social development is who I am – one day I might have to strip myself down as much as possible and think hard… When I got home, I didn’t know when I was going somewhere again.
The family had a plot of land with a small emergency house in Erd, and at the idea of my girlfriend at the time, we set up a yurt from Mongolia in which I lived for ten years.
I loved it, maybe I would love to live in one like this again. I learn a lot from Nori, my girlfriend, about responsibility, adult life, practical things, in return she is also open to say that I will get a yurt again if I can finish my construction, which has been going on for many years.
But he also tolerates Zsigulim, for example, even though he knows he’s stupid.
By the way, what is your civilian occupation?
We live a very wild West life with Solid, but since he is already a family man, he deserves more respect for undertaking this.
I try to stand on more legs, on the one hand we have a book publisher founded in 1999 in which we are three owners, dad, my brother and me.
We deal with the publishing of psychological and pedagogical textbooks and textbooks, which sounds good, but not so good a business in Hungary today.
In addition to Szilárd, we undertake motivational lectures and complex leadership trainings, with excursions, psychological-based team-building exercises and climbing-themed lectures. But it’s also precarious bread, and we can’t completely dedicate ourselves to that because of the actual climbing.