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When there’s more out there

Meet Babsi Vigl

Few sports are as divisive as climbing. It either fills you with intense fear or extreme excitement. For Austrian alpinist Babsi Vigl it’s the latter. Taking her first vertical steps in early childhood, she knew she’d grow up to be a climber. She had no idea, however, just how far it could take her.

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‘I am constantly discovering new places and walls that fascinate and inspire me,’ she explains. Whether it’s climbing her local walls in Tyrol or taking on mega missions in Patagonia, Babsi always manages to find some new angle or perspective. And that might be just as much about herself as the wall.

‘Climbing is like a mirror; we can find out exactly who we are. Failure and turning around is part of discovery and I think it is important and valuable for the development of alpinism. I think it would be exciting and instructive to give these experiences the same value as pure sporting performance and success.’

And Babsi has experienced her fair share of setbacks that have forced her to reassess herself beyond her capabilities and to her mindset. When she was just 15 years old she had a serious accident, which forced her to be away from climbing for the first time in her young lifeWhen she was finally allowed to get back on the wall nothing was working.

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‘The first time I climbed was terrible. I was scared, didn't move well and had gained weight from lying down so much. At that moment I seriously considered whether I would be able to climb again. But I decided to give it a try and since then I’ve known that I can always come back, no matter how long it takes.’

Five years later she was asked to join an expedition to the north face of Mount Kenya, a notoriously challenging mountain because of the terrain. But Babsi excelled in the high alpine and this proved to be a turning point in her climbing and her career.

She’s now a qualified mountain guide, leading people year-round on rock and alpine routes as well as ski descents. Mind you, the skiing aspect didn’t come naturally. Babsi was always drawn to climbing up, so she never spent much time skiing down. But to become a mountain guide you need to be a good skier. Again, her resolve was challenged after she initially failed the ski entrance exam. But using her early experiences of falling and failure in climbing, she applied herself, reframed her mindset and went on to qualify for the course and, eventually, after more ups and downs, she became a fully-fledged mountain guide.

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‘My sport means a lot to me,’ she says. ‘In the mountains I find the opportunity to dream, to pursue those dreams, find inspiration and to realise what I’m capable of.’

And what she is capable of is truly spectacular. She’s put up first ascents close to her home in Innsbruck and been part of an all-female first ascent team in Patagonia.

‘Patagonia was a brilliant and magical time in one of the most beautiful places I know. We were crazy lucky with the weather and managed to do routes that I had hardly dared to dream of before. Patagonia showed me that this is exactly the terrain I want to develop over the next few years, and it showed me what is possible.’