Climb your dreams, adventurer exhorts crowd at Westminster

Published: Monday, March 9 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Mike Libecki (center) is greeted by the audience after talking about his climbing adventures Thursday at the Gore Auditorium at Westminster College.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Clinging to the side of a slanted granite cliff with what climbing equipment he could carry on his back, adventure mountaineer Mike Libecki still couldn't find a reason to ration his passion for climbing and exploration.

"Why wait when super, ultra, top-notch, deluxe reality awaits," he said as he eyed his next adventure. "There are all these places in the world that contain huge walls that no one has ever seen or climbed before."

Libecki captures his adventures with the help of a camera affixed to his helmet, relishing in the joy of being able to share it with someone — if he's lucky enough to survive another of his extreme journeys.

He showed his uncut helmet-cam footage to a packed auditorium at Westminster College on Thursday, eliciting oohs and ahhs from the crowd of similarly dressed adventurers. The multimedia presentation was sponsored by the school's Outdoor Recreation Program, and was enough to pull some diehard climbers off the 46-foot climbing wall at the athletic center on campus, said Jeff McCarthy, director of Westminster's environmental-studies program.

"We hope this inspires you all to get after it, out into the weather and off the plastic," McCarthy said. "All we have is the present moment, and it's all we need."

Although he's racked up quite the travel tab to experience great climbs, Libecki said he has a list of 14 trips to take this year, all of them involving some sort of near-virgin landscape and requiring extra-special attention and gear to get there.

He's partaken of isolated areas of Antarctica, Greenland and the borders of China and Kyrgyzstan, as well as many other locations that are homes to some of the largest, unclimbed granite walls on the planet. With his collections of home videos, Libecki explained to students what it takes to make big wall, solo first ascents while filming, photographing and enduring some of the harshest environments and weather on Earth.

"Dream big, and climb those dreams," he repeated over and over for the crowd. "Life is sweet," was another mantra that the married father of one seems to live by.

After seven days of navigating through sea ice and another week or so of surveying the landscape, Libecki heads straight up, just like he intended, attempting to summit a 6,000-foot wall of granite in unexplored eastern Greenland. After sometimes more than 45 days of solitude in the untouched wilderness, his mentality changes to only think of how "sweet" life really is.

Scaling "kitty-litterish rocks" while stopping to take pictures and document his physically strenuous treks, even sleeping on a ledge reached after 10 days of climbing, Libecki believes the effort is worthwhile to experience scenery that he says, "almost doesn't look real" on video.

"God himself created this spot on earth just for climbers," he says in one outtake, while he is standing amid a skyline of granite towers. "This is what they'd call mountaineering eroticism."

Libecki's trek to Greenland and other information about pristine climbing will be printed in the American Alpine Journal, and he says as long as he has the opportunity, he'll keep on climbing to the highest ends of the earth.

E-MAIL: wleonard@desnews.com

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