Pavle Kozjeck 1959-2008
I once speculated that our generation would keep climbing until at least the age of 65. After a long pause, you corrected me with certainty, saying that we will keep doing it until 85. In your deeds and judgment, I always felt a warm hand, a safe shelter, a certainty, regardless of the seriousness of problems and hardships on a wall. I always understood you as a man who kept setting new goals, sought beauty in the limited options through natural passages, and pursued your own direction, your own style, character, and values. You managed to see at first glance what others had difficulty seeing, and once you told me that you can immediately sense how to negotiate rocky and snowy labyrinths, how to master a mountain route.
When you saw rusty pitons in walls you called them “old men” out of admiration and respect. I knew what you meant: that you have seen, heard, and experienced the stories of our predecessors, and considered them fair, beautiful, and daring even as you reached beyond them, adding your color, your shades, your stories, your impressions, and your own views. Living alongside you was an earthly fortune.
It is impossible to pay tribute to all the things you achieved. There have certainly been milestones and crossroads, which you shaped conscientiously with discipline—results of your need to reach beyond the already achieved, the already completed. And it is nearly unbelievable how you managed to set new goals, fire new ambitions, ideas, projects, and challenges. You once said that after returning from each expedition you were always inspired by new ideas, as if in a book where one chapter flows into another.
Your excellence also showed itself in knowing when to turn back. Even when you made that choice only 50 meters beneath the summit, as on Dhaulagiri in 1987. In 1989, a few weeks after the expedition to Shishapangma, where you and Andrej Štremfelj made the first ascent of the 2,200-meter-high southwest wall, I visited you at the Ljubljana clinical center. The frostbite had taken its toll. You were hurt and distressed. I saw that you were not prepared to sacrifice a single finger for the mountain. Unfortunately, it happened anyway. But you knew why, and you analyzed the moment when you became aware of this fate.
You trained in the Julian Alps, where you descended difficult trails others only climbed. According to the principle “up-down-up-down,” you managed to combine several directions in a single day, which not only showed your extreme physical condition but also your concentration, intuition, and orientation. You were part of the legendary musketeer company with Franc Knez, Janez Jegli, Peter Podgornik, Silvo Karo, Slavko Svetii.
You first visited the Himalaya in 1983 when making the first ascent of 7,455m Gangapurna in Nepal. In company or alone, you set foot on five summits above 8,000 meters. In 1986, in just five days, you stood on top of Broad Peak (8,051m) and Gasherbrum II (8,035m). When you turned back just below the summit of Dhaulagiri it was after a winter bivouac. This is probably why you had such admiration for the winter climbs of the Poles and their locomotive, Wielecky. In 1998, just beneath the top of K2 (8,61lm), you were forced down from 8,100m due to bad weather. You climbed Everest (8,848m) in 1997 from the Tibetan side without additional oxygen. In 2006, after a one-day solo climb across the southwest wall, you summited Cho Oyu (8,201m).
You also left deep traces much lower, in the Peruvian Andes and in Patagonia, including the infernal diretissima on the eastern wall of Cerro Torre in 1986.
In Huaraz, we once looked at a big photo taken from the top of Mt. Everest. You told me that in 1997 the world had looked exactly as shown in this photo, as if you were in space and could finally see that we live on a round planet. In 2006 you gazed at Everest from the top of Cho Oyu after mastering the southwest wall alone in one day in deep snow. In 2007 your soul was tormented when you reported on the Chinese killing of helpless Tibetan refugees fleeing across the Nangpa La. You telephoned, one of the first to inform the world about this monstrous deed. It was only later that you talked about your climb.
When you fell to your death from Muztagh Tower on August 25, it may have been a fleeting moment in the life of Muztagh Tower, but it shall be engraved into its face forever.
The sun will still keep shining, but its light will never be as warm, bright, or soft. There will still be evenings. And the stars will keep shining, but these bright lights will seem dimmer than they had been. Somewhere and nowhere we shall certainly meet again. Therefore: “No siesta, Pablo!”