Andi Spies
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Andi Spies

Alpinist Sails to Greenland for Next Expedition

Caro North: “Meanwhile I Question More and More Expeditions”

Caro North wanted to climb the almost 7,000-meter-high Aconcagua in Argentina at the age of 16. By 2015 at the latest, she made a name for herself as an alpinist with her ascent of Cerro Torre. In the interview, the 30-year-old talks about sustainable expeditions and how difficult they are to implement, her all-female tent camps for the "Girls on Ice" project, and her very personal film "I am North".

Caro North at the shooting of her current film "I am North".

ISPO.com: Caro, as an alpinist, what is your opinion on sustainability and your expeditions to faraway countries?

Caro North: In the meantime, I'm questioning more and more the idea of doing expeditions to places where you have to travel by plane for a long time. That's why I try to look for alternatives. Last year, for example, I spent a month climbing on my bike and trailer. We crossed Switzerland from east to west.

And that's why you're sailing to the next expedition?

Yes, we have planned an expedition to Greenland for next year, to which we will travel from France by sailboat. It's not easy to take the necessary time for such projects, because the effort required to get there and back is incomparably greater with sailing than with air travel.

We all still have to learn this, because I have the feeling that some people are only interested in ticking off as many destinations as possible in a short time. Quickly get to the mountain, climb a route or ride a certain line, and then quickly get back to tackle the next project. If you take sustainability seriously, that doesn't fit.

How long will you be away for the Greenland expedition?

You have to take the necessary time for such projects and get involved in the adventure. That's why we scheduled three months for this trip, eight weeks of which we planned for sailing alone. An expedition like this is a very intense experience.

I know that I'm not perfect in terms of sustainability in my travels either. There is still a lot I can improve. But at least I try to keep my impact as low as possible.

As an all-round alpinist, ice climbing is also part of Caro's repertoire.

How is the topic of sustainability reflected in your everyday life?

Sustainability is a very important topic for me, not only because I studied environmental sciences. Through my job, I travel in an environment where I directly experience the influences and changes of climate change. For example, how the glaciers change year after year. That doesn't make me feel good, because the mountains are the foundation of what I do. We all have to question ourselves, be prepared to act and change our behaviour. This is a big challenge that we all have to face.

How important is it for you to show a clear stance in this context, as the "Fridays for Future" movement has done?

Very important. In Switzerland, the movement was not initially as present as in other countries. But I think it's important that the young generation gets involved, because it's about their future. I used to go to demonstrations. The main issue was environmental protection. In Lausanne, where I studied at the time, there were regular major industry summits. These were often the occasion for such demonstrations.

"When it comes to sustainability, everyone has to go one step further for themselves"

You are still involved in environmental protection and are the ambassador of the NGO "Protect our Winters" (POW). What is your role here?

As ambassador for POW I would like to draw attention to climate change and its consequences. To this end, we support political campaigns such as referendums on sustainable issues, for example. Or we promote the offers for travelling to the ski resorts by train. As a professional athlete, I can help to communicate the issues even more widely.

What I find extremely unfortunate, however, is that there are many people who accuse us athletes of not doing everything right ourselves. Here we should turn the perspective around, think positively and see the things that we have already changed in terms of sustainability. Especially in the social media, people are quick to point the finger at someone, only highlighting the negative, instead of saying: Together, we are each trying to go one step further.

Her positive attitude towards life is written all over Caro's face

You are also involved in social projects like "Girls on Ice". What is that all about?

At "Girls on Ice we want to inspire young women for mountaineering and scientific topics. Both areas are very dominated by men and we want to change that. To do this, we camp with all-female groups for ten days at a remote location on a glacier. During that time we study the glacier, its changes due to climate change and go mountaineering with the girls. It's great to see how these experiences can inspire young women, some of whom are in the mountains for the first time in their lives.

What is the feedback from the participants?

That is extremely positive. You experience the mountains very directly. Like in a base camp, we have no running water and no toilet. I think it's important for young people to have such experiences in nature itself, and not just stay in the cities and spend their free time there.

But you don't just take young women into the mountains, you also travel a lot with groups in general?

Yes, in winter both freeriding and ski touring. Then in May I head south to do a lot of climbing and get fit again here. And in summer I'm back on the road as a mountain guide with guests. I lead them on high alpine tours on the various four-thousand-metre peaks. When I'm not working, I'm out on long, demanding climbing routes. In autumn I take two to three months off. That's also a good time to go on expeditions in the Himalayas, for example, or simply to do my own projects in the Alps.

Caro's passion for climbing was awakened at an early age

"Without the sport, I have withdrawal symptoms".

At the current European Outdoor Film Tour (E.O.F.T) your film "I am North" is running. What is the film about?

"I am North" is a portrait for which a film crew accompanied me in my everyday life and during my various activities such as climbing, freeriding and paragliding. Since the camera team stayed very close to me, the viewer gets an authentic impression of my personality. It was important to me that no scenes were posed for the film, as is often the case with such portraits. I also didn't want to make a "hero film", because that's not who I am. I wanted my attitude towards mountaineering to become clear. For me, mountaineering is about being with the mountain, not about conquering it. That's why the film is not about my expeditions and successes, but about me as a personality.

One also learns that sports are very important to you....

Yes, especially mountain sports, it is my life. It makes me happy and I would go so far as to say that it is my drug. Without sport I have withdrawal symptoms. I am a person who by nature loves to move, who can't sit still, and who can't stand being indoors for long. I need the feeling of going outside, experiencing the mountains - whether climbing in the summer or freeriding in the winter - the feeling of happiness is mega!

"I need the feeling of going out, experiencing the mountains".

Can you pass on this positive energy that sport releases in you to others?

My urge to move is like an inner fire that I feel very intensely and that I may sometimes burn myself out with. I believe that I already have the ability to pass on this enthusiasm for sport to others, as I do in my work for "Girls on Ice" or at the La Cordée youth camps. In the future, I can also imagine inspiring physically handicapped people to go climbing or skiing. Or getting more involved in social projects that use sport as a means of making a positive difference to people.

Tip: If you want to see the film with Caro North, you have the opportunity to do so at one of the many screenings of the European Outdoor Film Tour 2021. Most of the events are currently taking place - when you buy your ticket, you'll find up-to-date information on the Corona rules that apply in each case. More about Caro North and all dates of the E.O.F.T. can be found here.

 

And here you can find the Interview with filmmaker and snowboarder Elias Elhardt who is also part of the European Outdoor Film Tour 2021.

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Andi Spies
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