“Realizing dreams – as long as I have dreams, I live” -Stephan Keck
Stephan Keck grew up in the Austrian Alps and started to climb mountains when he was only 14 years old. He was connected with mountain life before he even knew how to walk. He may not have known that he would go on to become an extreme mountain climber, alpine guide and a professionally trained ski and snowboard instructor, however, he did have a sense that he was not meant for any normal, mundane life.
He did many tours around his native Austria when he decided to travel to South America in 1999. He stayed in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina for nearly 4 years. Stephan was intrigued by South America’s beauty and the scenery which contrasted so definitively from what he knew in Europe. He loved the freedom in the region where you could go where you wanted and there weren’t so many rules. The mountain villages were open and those that lived there treated him and all others like family.
Stephan believes it is important to connect with nature. He is a part of nature and it is only through this connection that he can overcome the extreme situations that face him on the mountain.
When Stephan was asked what does he think about when he reaches the top of a mountain, he responded, ”On the one hand I have always been totally relaxed and happy about having reached a goal. Sometimes though, it’s not possible to relax on the highest point of the trip, because I know that I have only done half of the way so far. And then again there are very emotional moments, when everything is perfect – the beauty of nature, the momentary freedom, the sunrise, the tranquillity, the attained goal… that’s one of the moments when I am thankful – thankful for being able to experience such moments.” Simultaneously, there is also a sense of emptiness, as the goal which required so much preparation has been accomplished. However, once home with his family, Stephan cannot help but allow new project ideas to creep into his thoughts.
His biggest challenge was Mount MicKinnley, or Denali, located in Alaska with the highest mountain peak in North America with a summit of 20,320 ft above sea level. On this trek, he spent 14 days in an ice cave in freezing temperatures with no contact with the outside world. Stephan Keck believes that accomplishing extreme goals can be achieved by “personal commitment, positive attitude towards life, willpower, and efficient planning”.
However, there were also moments when Stephan had to choose between his goal and himself. He understood and realized the point when you need to turn back on Mount Everest, without oxygen or porters, and he knew that he needed to be in tune with his lack of confidence. He decided to turn around while another went on. That man did make it to the top but did not make it back down.
Stephan believes this is what he will do for the rest of his life and he never stops thinking about new projects and goals he can master. In fact, Stephan now would like to conquer the 7 summits of which he has completed 4. These are the highest mountains of the seven continents: Denali, Aconcaqua, Carstensz, Elbrus, Everest, Kilimanjaro, Kosciusko, and Vinson. If Stephan can complete all 7 within the next two years, he will set a world record!