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Mountain climber Duško Čubrilo on the South American mountain Aconcagua

Duško Čubrilo, a scaffolder in Brodotrogir, is an active mountain climber, who recently returned from South America where he climbed the mountain Aconcagua in an attempt to reach the top at 6962 m.   This is not his first climb, he has conquered numerous tops from Europe, Africa, Asia and America. At the end of 2014, as a member of an expedition, he stayed on the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, located between the Tibetan Plateau and India. On this occasion he was climbing the mountain Ama Dablam (6815 m), the third Himalayan mountain top open for mountain climbing.
During our conversation he revealed how his climb of the on Aconcagua went, what went on during the stay of the expedition on this mountain. He also shared his experiences from other journeys and told us that Stipe Božić is his mountain climbing role model.  
 
You are an active mountain climber, a member of the Malačka mountain climbing association, a permanent member of the mountain rescue service and a member of the Macaklin mountain climbing and alpinism club. Can you tell us how you discovered the charms of mountain climbing and when you began to be actively involved with this sport and visit the most dangerous mountains of the world?
I discovered my desire for mountain climbing a long time ago.  At first I enrolled in a mountaineering school, and then a mountain climbing and alpinism school in the mountaineering club Mosor in Split. During my days in these two schools, I learned to mountaineer in winter and summer conditions and to respect the beauty as well as the brutality of the mountains.  In the clubs I found other people with the same interests, and this is how the entire thing started.
I went on my first demanding climb in 2007 when I climbed the top of Mont Blanc (4810 m), and after new climbs just kept on coming: I climbed the Elbrus (5642 m) in the Caucasus in 2008, Mont Blanc in 2009 for the second time, the highest Balkan mountain top Musala (2925 m) and many many others.
You've recently returned from South America where you attempted to climb the 6962 m  summit Aconcagua, the highest summit of the South American Andes. It must have been a demanding route. How did it go, are you personally satisfied with the results achieved?
Of course I'm satisfied with the results, although due to adverse weather conditions we had to give up on ascending the summit only 400 m from the goal, another 4-5 hours of walking.  We had to return because strong winds of 100 km/h were blowing, and only two days earlier in similar weather conditions two mountain climbers from Korea died. Their bodies were still not found while we were there.  Our expedition team included seven mountain climbers. Five of us reached the 6,500 m mark, and two gave up at 6,000 m. In these situations it is important to understand the language of nature and the messages it sends us, which can mean the difference between returning home safe and sound and not.

How many days did the climb take?  What impressed you most on this journey, what was most difficult, what are some of the obstacles you came across?
The climb took 22 days. It was an unforgettable experience. I was most impressed by the people, complete strangers suddenly become your best friends in a very short time period, and you share with them the good and the bad. Most of the mountain climbers were from South America, but also from other parts of the world.  
The climb was well organised, but also strenuous, because on top of the challenging climb, we carried backpacks that weighed about thirty kilos, although we only carried basic necessities like the tent, a small cooker and the most essential food required for survival.  When we returned to civilization, however, I had the chance to try South American delicacies, Argentinean beef steak and top-quality Argentinean wines, truly extraordinary.  
The most difficult moment was when we realized that we had to return so close to the goal, but common sense prevails in such situations. If you ignore the warnings of nature, the consequences can be deadly. The worst thing is to get the news that someone else has died on the same route you are taking. Only a moment of carelessness and it can happen to anyone, so it is important to collect one's thoughts and go ahead.
How did you feel when you began your conquest of this harsh mountain, what is it that keeps you going towards the top in spite of the numerous dangers?
I am always lead by my desire to conquer a mountain top, which is why I wanted to climb the top of the Andes - the Aconcagua. A very positive atmosphere prevailed in the expedition, we all had the same goal, to climb the top and share the joy of our common success. This feeling of joy and satisfaction can only be known by the people who were there and felt it, it cannot be put into words and describes, it is priceless.
The conditions of our stay in the Aconcagua National Park are highly controlled. The camps must be set up set on designated sites, and we were not allowed to leave the path during the climb.  
I enter all my climbs into a diary, so I can remember one day where I was and what I did.
Which of your climbs do you remember as the most impressive one?
All of my climbs are fond memories. In addition to the tops I already mentioned, I also climbed the highest North African summit in Morocco - the Great Atlas (4100 m), and I went to the Himalayas in an attempt to climb the Dablam (6812 m).
In late 2014 you were part of an expedition climbing the Ama Dablam mountain in the Himalayas. Why this summit and did you succeed?
Ama Dablam was something completely new for me, a mountain on the other side of the world. We did not succeed in climbing this 6812 summit, having only reached the 6200 m mark. We had some bad weather conditions and the path was technically very demanding. The path is marked and strictly controlled by the agency charged with organising the climbing path and the ropes. In case of a tragedy, the ropes break and time is needed for the employees of the agency to return them to working order.
It is precisely because of the technical complexity that I wanted to summit the mountain. In addition to physical and psychological capacities, the conditions of the climbing require a skilfulness in handling the technical facilities.  
The difference between ascending the Aconcagua in South America and the Ama Dablam in the Himalayas is great. Climbing the Ama Dablam was technically more demanding, but we were accompanied by Sherpas, who carried our things, helped us pitch our tents and cook. When we climbed the Aconcagua, we had to do all of this by ourselves.
How do you prepare and how long do the preparations last before leaving to such remote and dangerous mountains? What do you have to do to make sure that you will accomplish your goal?  What does it mean that mountain climbers must go through an adjustment stage before climbing?  
I constantly work on my physical fitness, but 5-6 months before the climb it gets a lot more intense. On top of mountain climbing, I ride my bicycle and jog. Also, I need to prepare mentally because arriving in a completely new civilization requires quick adjustment. There is a lot of mountain climbers who, upon arrival in a new country immediately give up because they get scared of the height, the uncertainty, the harsh nature, food, diseases, etc. In order to overcome these fears, I need to be mentally prepared and resolute in my quest.  
All mountain climbers must go through the acclimatization stage. The body must prepare for the lack of oxygen in the organism as there is increasingly less oxygen the farther you go. For instance, at an altitude of 5000 m there is half the oxygen than in normal living conditions.  This is why the body must be gradually prepared and the mountain conquered step-by-step. We always start with an altitude of about 2000m and raise it gradually. We stay at every next altitude for about 2-3 days. Before every departure, we measure our blood pressure, breathing and blood oxygen levels.  If the measures are satisfactory, we continue, and if not, those climbers are returned to the base camp.
Who are the people with whom you embark on such risky undertakings and how do you get know each other beforehand?
The trip to South America was organised by the Extreme Summit Team agency, and I was the only Croatian to have joined the expedition. The condition to join was the summit of a 5000 m mountain, which I did when I climbed the 5642 m Elbrus in the Caucasus. I didn't know any of the other expedition members, and I had just got to know them before the expedition, but our common interest and desire to summit the mountain brought us together.
What are your future plans, do you have any particular desires?
My short-term plans are to return to the Alps, in Italy, Austria and France. There are summits I haven't yet been to and that I am drawn to. As far as my long-term plans are concerned, I am not quite sure. Something will come up, I'm sure.
Finally, would you recommend to young people to get involved with this sport and, if so, how to begin their mountain climbing journey?
I most certainly would advise young people to get involved with this sport because all activities take place in nature.  Being in nature unites our body and spirit, improves health, pushes the boundaries of our physical and psychological endurance, and contributes to social interaction and great friendships.  Everyone who feels they have an affinity to mountain climbing should come to the Malačka mountain climbing association or join any other mountain climbing club. We will socialize and learn together, visit mountains and look forward to our new accomplishments.
Duško Čubrilo: My mountain climbing role model is Stipe Božić
"My mountain climbing role model is Stipe Božić. He is a man who is truly deserving of respect because there are a few others who will be able to repeat the achievements of his career. He is a true professional, but also a true friend and mentor. The advice he gives me before I leave for an expedition means a lot to me and makes my stay in the harsh mountain environment easier ".             
Considering his rich experience, it I is no wonder that Stipe Božić is a great presence in the world of mountain climbing, and that both experienced mountain climbers as well as beginners seek his opinion and advice. However, according to Božić himself, the entire wisdom of mountain climbing lies in man, and not in nature.  
"I always tell them to weigh their desire to climb a summit and their abilities because the greatest danger is the danger we carry within us -- if they do not prepare for what awaits them. Subjective dangers are often more hazardous than objective dangers such as the slope, the altitude, the cold and avalanches".

Stipe Božič has demonstrated a number of times that he is stronger than nature itself. But it is not the struggle between man and nature that is at hand here, some human challenge of or defiance against nature, but the primeval human instinct to live in harmony with nature and its laws.
"I have an extraordinary love for nature, particularly mountains since they are one of the last parts of our planet that has remained untouched by humans. Mountains also represent a spiritual challenge because I feel that by climbing a summit I am reaching something supernatural".
On many occasions, the mountain has shown its most brutal face to him, but even then he did not succumb or surrender. As he himself puts it, this was the case when he climbed the second highest summit in the world.
"It was when I was climbing the second highest summit in the world that I experienced my life's biggest trial.  After climbing the summit, I had to spend the night in the open without sleeping equipment, on a steep cliff at an altitude of 8,000 metres. The descent after this dramatic night turned into an odyssey of survival in which, unfortunately, my friend from Slovenia Boštjan Kekec froze to death".

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