1. I know that your childhood was focused on music. Do you still have something to do with it?
Not really. I mean, I do still play my instrument which is piano, but I don’t perform and I don’t do anything professional. It’s just personal activity.
2. I think you weren’t thinking that someday you’d tbe he most famous mountain books writer. You’re now an icon and inspiration for people like me. Who was an inspiration for you?
There were a couple. One of them is David Roberts. He’s an american writer. He’s older than me. He’s written a lot of books, many of which are from his personal perspective. He was also a climber. He was an inspiration because he was an educated writer and author and he writes very well. The other person is a british guy – Andy Cave – and his very first book was an inspiration for me. It’s called ,,Learning to breath”, and it’s about how he grew up in a mining family in Northern England and about his evolution from a miner’s child, from working in the mines, deep underground into a high attitude climber. And it’s beautifly written. The other is a fictional writer, his name is James Salter and he writes about a lot of things. His writing about climbing is so precise, so lean, nothing extra. I reread his work all the time.
3 .What makes you believe that mountains are the best topic for your books?
Well, I think it’s because I spend quite a lot of time professionaly and also personally in the mountains, climbing myself, just doing things in the mountains. But also all those years as I worked at the festival (Banff Mountain Film Festival) I became familiar with a lot of climbers, so I got to know their stories. It’s kind of a natural evolution that I eventually started writing about them I guess.
4. You wrote about a lot of climbers (mostly from Poland). Are you still in touch with them? Have you made friends with anyone, or are those just professional relationships?
Definitely I’m friends with a lot of them, so it’s not just professional. I have written a lot about polish climbers but not only, also slovenian climbers, some american, and so on. But I think for some reason I have become more a part of a polish mountaineering community than any of those other countries. It’s like my second home now.
5. Those climbers are the best of the best. Have you ever been stressed before meeting any of those people?
I wouldn’t say stressed. I might be a little bit stressed the first time that I interviewed Wojtek Kurtyka. It wasn’t for ‚Art of Freedom’ it was for ‚Freedom Climbers’. Because everybody said ,,Oh… you know, I don’t think he’ll talk to you. He never talks with journalists, he never talks to anybody”. And I thought ,,Ok, well I have to talk to him. It’s for a book”. So I was a little bit nervous that he would say ,,Ok, we have one hour.”. But no, he was really forthcoming and he had a lot of great stories and thoughts and opinions. My nervousness was misplaced.
6. And what about writing about them? You’re responsible for writing as it was – truthfully.
Yeah, it’s a huge responsibility. And what it means, as best I can, is to check multiple sources. I try to check two or three, as many sources as I can, about the certain story. There are so many different opinions about one single event, particularly in mountaineering, because the situation is often stressful, mind frightening and so people’s perceptions what happened, who did what, who said what is different. You have to try to get the whole story and figure out what is the truth. And the truth for one person is not the truth for another. It’s not just because they’re lying, it’s because that really is a different truth. So that’s an interesting job.
7. In your book ”Freedom Climbers” you wrote that the magic of the Polish golden era has ended and that it’s heritage was waiting for daredevils. This is how it was eight years ago, has something changed? What about climbers like Adam Bielecki, Kinga Baranowska, even Janusz Gołąb and Andrzej Bargiel? Aren’t they good successors?
I think it’s definitely changed. When I was writing that book, and after that, I talked to a lot of climbers since then, a lot of the older climbers. They all have all said that there was a kind of a gap between that generation and what is happening now. There are some reasons I think why this new surge of energy is happening. Part of it actually is the actions of that older generation to help, mentor, teach and raise money for expeditions. It didn’t just happen, there’s a lot of background work that has to take place in order for another generation of climber to do great things. I absolutely agree that there is a new kind of surge, Lots of climbers, lots of expeditions and well… lots of interests. It’s incredible.
8. I know that you’re very active – skiing, hiking, rock and alpine climbing or even canoeing. What are you’re records in mountains?
I don’t really think I have much to say there. I’m not a „records” kind of person. I actually do climb, like maybe three times a week, in winter I ski four, five times a week. I mean I’m very active, but I’m not great at anything. I’m just a normal person. I climbed and skitoured in lots of exotic places but nothing special.