DAVID NEACSU: EVERYONE HAS THEIR EVEREST!
David Neacşu is one of the people Romanians are proud of. He discovered his passion for climbing the mountains in 1977. In 1994, he put together the first Romanian expedition on Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. In 2014, this audacious mountain climber continues to conquer the world and inspire people both with deeds, and words.
What is your first memory about the mountains?
I was 13 and together with a cousin and a friend, both older than me, we left Pietroşiţa to reach Scropoasa cottage in Bucegi. It was April, big snow, no trails or paths. We were poorly equiped (I had no boots, backpack or mountain jacket) and, eventually, we got lost. We spent the night in a sheepfold and we swore we’d never climb a mountain again. But I changed my mind soon.
When and how?
In the summer holidays of 1977 I took a morning train to Bucegi. A quiet boy, sitting on a cylindrical backpack on the wagon lane, caught my eye. At that time, that person who had such bag was recognized as being a genuine climber! I learned that he was to meet a friend at the train station to go to Bucegi and climb. But the friend was not there. The guy accepted me as a teammate. I thought it would be easy, I had no idea what I was to do. Until we reached the wall bottom, I was at ease. But up there, I discovered another world, more beautiful, full of sensations I’m still after when climbing mountains. This feeling you can not live unless you love the rock, the wind and the big void underneath you.
How were things for the Romanian climbers before December 1989? What was the supreme satisfaction related to climbing in those days?
Until the Revolution, the mountains and rock climbing helped me stay mentally sane. Literally! Every week, I would go to the mountains, regardeless of weather. There were many travel clubs in that gray period of my youth. There were hundreds of us getting together in competitions organized in the Romanian mountains. Starting 1987, strangers showed up. They were actually members of the former “Securitate” staff (the Romanian Intelligence Service), trying to find out what we were up to. They tried to scare us but we were united. I think the greatest satisfaction of that time was that wherever you went in the country for climbing, you met up with friends. We were a big family, strong and united. I made my best friends in those days. It was a colorful, fruitful, joyful time of my life in a gray country.
In 1994, not only you put together the first Romanian expedition on Kilimanjaro but also broke the world record of fastest ascent climbing. Was it something you planned or just happened?
We were five to leave Romanian, each of us carrying heavy backpacks and 500 dollars. Once we reached the mountain, in Tanzania, I learned that the ascent tax was 200 dollars a day per person. I thought I was losing my mind. So we went to the head of Park Kilimanjaro, a Tanzanian of about 2 meters height, and asked him to let us pay the fee for one day, or 200 dollars, and the rest, upon return. After much insistence and pleading, he agreed. We left at once. We did not sleep, we stopped only to eat something. On August 6, 1994, at 6 am, the Romanian flag was waving on top of Africa. The job was only half done, so we had to start climbing down. Normally, a relaxed climber (with money) takes 5 to 6 days to complete the trip. We did it in…49 hours. The former record was 64 hours. In Nairobi, near Stanley Hotel, there is Private Safari tourism agency. There, on display, there are still my boots I wore while establishing a new record in fastest ascent climbing on Killy.
What was the most difficult mountain top to climb?
The mountain that scared me to death is in Bolivia and it’s called Illimani. There were four of us but only two would climb. Only my friend got sick and i had to do it on my own. I managed to get to the top, took some pictures with the flag, cried with joy and then I realised I had to climb down a 300 meters vertical wall of ice without the second ice ax and rope and by myself. It took me 3 hours. When I reached to the wall bottom, my legs were shaking with fear. I swore I’d never climb in my life again. Two weeks later, I was climbing Cotopaxi Volcano, in Ecuador. I learned not to say never, NEVER!
What is it that normal people can borrow from a climber’s mindset?
There is nothing to borrow. Everything is inside of us, this power to succede, regardless of difficulties, problems or weather. But you have to climb. We are all weak, yet strong. Willpower will get us to the top. Everyone has their Everest. Any Everest, in any field of activity can be conquered. Our motto on Everest was: “A step up, step forward!”. If we, ordinary people, could climb on the top of the world, I think anyone can overcome any difficulty. Just dream, set a realistic goal and do whatever is humanly possible to get there. You’ll see that you can and you’lll become stronger and better. We have an amazing power inside of us. Those who say they reached their limits are lying!