Freddy Grossniklaus

Interview

Where and how did you grow up?

I grew up in a mountain village in Beatenberg. In a small room with lots of space outside to play, and to get wet and dirty. We often helped the grandparents to keep the rabbit hutch clean, to pick mushrooms or berries, to do gardening or to do the woodwork. Since there were not as good clothes in the old days as there are today, this was often a wet affair. However, we really learned a lot. Later, our father also took us on longer trips to look for rock crystals. This pursuit took hold of me and until today it has remained my hobby. The crystals are also everywhere at home.

 

Why did you become a mountain guide?

I have been a mountain guide for thirty years. What attracted me to this job was independence. You are your own boss and don't have to stare at your hammer from 07.00-18.00 somewhere on the roof. You are outside in this breathtaking environment and you can engage with your guests and their stories, teach them something, share your experiences and you know in the evening why you are tired. Another plus: I'm still fit and healthy at the age of 58 and don't have to go to the gym in the evening.

 

Now you already do sports in your job, what excites you in your free time?

Well, sports, too. For example, sport climbing, ski touring and cycling. Looking for rock crystals is also a hobby, sometimes I have to walk for 8-9 hours and if I'm lucky, I carry a 50 kg backpack back ;).

 

Do you have a tip for people who want to start mountain sports?

Good basic training is important. The basic mountaineering course teaches the basics like knot tying, how to walk with crampons or on a rope and the correct use of the ice axe. After that, it is important not to set your goals too high right away. In this way, dicey situations can be avoided, or remedied with a suitable solution. This is close to my heart because as an inexperienced child I was just lucky to have survived in such moments. I want my guests to have the appropriate training in order to avoid exactly such situations.

What is the most memorable experience you've had?

This was three years ago when we were on our way to the mountain hut "Margherita" at 4500 m.a.s.l.. We had to look for the hut with the compass because a cold front and with it a violent storm had come and we couldn't see anything. At ten o'clock in the evening, we decided to go to bed, but we heard a cry for help from the open windows. Three of us, in full gear including ski goggles and crampons, decided to answer the call for help.

After half an hour we suddenly saw five people sitting on the ground. All of them were perfectly equipped for the trip. However, the storm came faster and more violent than expected, all of them were too exhausted to go further and could not reach Rega (rescue service). We gave them tea and cookies and led them back to the hut one by one. One woman in the group fell around my neck at the end and said, "You saved my life!" If they had stayed outside overnight, they would not have had a chance to survive.

What was the scariest situation you've ever experienced?

I had a scary situation at Mittelhorn. A guest and I had been walking for some time. At a steep spot, I belayed the lady so she could continue descending. Once at the bottom, she thought she was almost on flat terrain, took off running, started sliding and lost her ice axe. Realizing the dicey situation, I slammed my ice axe and the tips of my crampons into the snow. Fortunately, I was able to hold her. I wouldn't have died, but sliding 50 meters down a steep rock face with an ice axe and crampons is not pleasant for the body. A close "almost" accident, just because of a misunderstanding.

I had another situation with a Canadian who wanted to climb the Eiger, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc with me in five days. Before we started, I inquired about his experience by mail and phone. According to his answers, he was well prepared. Tiptop, I thought, and met him on Kleine Scheidegg. He was waiting for me in Adidas pants, sneakers and a huge backpack. First, we deposited all unnecessary material from his backpack on the way and started the tour.

Arriving at a large crevasse, I told him that he had to wait a moment, whereupon he just kept going and stumbled right in front of the crevasse. He fell down headfirst. I had to mobilize all my strength to hold him down in great pain. I knew that if he fell, I would fall too. And neither of us would have survived. Because no one will find you there and there is no reception either.

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