Zoltán Demján: Only tracks in the snow should remain after us

Renowned Slovak mountaineer talks transcendental experiences in new film.

Zoltán Demján while climbing Dhaulagiri in 1988.Zoltán Demján while climbing Dhaulagiri in 1988. (Source: Courtesy of Zoltán Demján)

“The Himalayas and mountains taught me humility, which for me means an acknowledgement of, and respect for, universally valid principles such as gravity and balance,” Zoltán Demján says in the opening scene of the film ‘Dhaulagiri Is My Everest’.

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As the world-renowned Slovak climber cooks his favourite Nepalese meal, dal bhat, on a wood range in the cosy, warm, kitchen, at his weekend cottage in Zázrivá, he talks about his expeditions in the snow-covered Himalayas and what he learned from them.

Demján climbed Alpine style - which famous Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner described as “climbing by fair means”, i.e. carrying all food, shelter and equipment as you climb, and without fixed ropes, supplemental oxygen, nor mountain guides.​

​In the one-hour documentary film by award-winning Slovak documentary filmmaker Pavol Barabáš, which premiered in mid-January, having already won Grand Prix as well as the audience award at the Poprad International Festival of Mountain Films in October 2021, Demján explains what is so important to him about the style.

“The Alpine style is an amazing school for clean living,” says Demján, 66.

Nothing is a coincidence

Demján has climbed three of what are known in the climbing world as ‘eight-thousanders’ i.e. peaks over 8,000 metres: Lhotse Shar (8,383 m) in 1984, Mt. Everest (8,848 m) in the same year, and Dhaulagiri (8,167 m) in 1988. He scaled all three as first ascents and without the aid of supplementary oxygen.

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