As we shamble our way through this confusing new millennium, there are those who would have you believe that there is nothing new under the sun. They would point out our GPS tracking systems, our Google Earth satellite images of your house, our broadband connectivity to villages in Sri Lanka, and our four wheel drive enabled, armor plated SUV’s capable of scaling mountains with their treads and shrugging off the constant menace of Plesiosaur attacks and they would say to you that there is nothing left worth discovering on the planet. They would say we’ve been everywhere worth going and done everything worth doing on this planet. They may start explaining to you that we need to build a permanent base on the moon.
Do not listen to these people. They are wrong.
Mike Libecki wants to show you why.
One of the world’s most notable first ascent climbers (meaning Libecki is the first recorded climber to summit many of his climbs), Libecki has spent the last decade making a name for himself in the climbing community, regularly scaling towering rock walls in some of the world’s most remote locations, making climbs to summits where no one has ever stood before. But finding some place that is completely new, while doable, requires a ton of research, and Libecki spends plenty of hours poring over obscure contour maps and dredging up tips from scientists and fellow climbers to find unexplored areas of our world.
“A lot of the places I go to I don’t know what’s there, it’s a reconnaissance, and then it ends up being these huge walls…Virgin earth is just really tempting to me, especially if there’s lines on a contour map that show big walls and climbing.”
empting as it may be, untouched earth is becoming rarer and rarer, making just finding an expedition increasingly taxing every year.
“In today’s day and age with technology, the media and just how many people are doing it, it’s getting really difficult to find virgin, first ascent stuff out there…It’s definitely a big challenge.”
But challenging as it may be, finding a never before scaled peak is only the first part of the battle. Before he sets out on these expeditions, he’s got to make sure he’s got the proper gear to handle terrain that no one’s ever seen before. He is, in essence, packing for the sort of terrain that used to be marked ‘Here There Be Monsters.’
“Every expedition turns into training for the next, and you learn so much from every trip... you learn so much about what to take, what you need, and how to prepare mentally and physically,” says Libecki. In the true adventurer spirit, he claims that “The greatest part about a lot of these trips is, you maybe don’t know how to prepare. There’s a lot of mystery out there. So that’s the drive, that’s the fuel, that’s the enthusiasm of going…”
Solitude and self sufficiency also help to drive Libecki in his expeditions; the climber is notable for doing many of his ascents on his lonesome. While many climbers use buddy systems to ensure safety if something goes wrong on an expedition, Libecki explains that the solitude of the ledges and cliffs is a huge motivator for his climbing.
“What’s really cool about going solo is, it’s sort of capturing what I really want, which is utter solitude and an amazing challenge of every single things you have to do yourself,” Libecki notes, “I sort of get possessed by it, because I know every single thing is up to me… It drives me like nothing else. Since I packed my first trip solo, I’ve just become obsessed with it… The bottom line is there’s nothing like…soloing up this huge vertical wall and sitting on the summit and being where no one’s ever been before and doing it by yourself… it’s the epitome of utter solitude.”
Don’t get Libecki wrong, he’s not a selfish guy when it comes to his climbing. In fact, once he’s descended, there’s very little he likes more than sharing his experiences with others. To this end, Libecki, a long time photographer and videographer, spends a lot of his off time speaking and giving presentations on his climbs like the one he’ll bring to Western on Thursday, Feb. 22. These presentations consist of slides and videos Libecki brings back from some of the world’s most far flung corners.
“It’s just amazing, because you go up to these places that no one’s ever been to, and many no one will ever go again… it’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to share these places with people that can appreciate this planet and what’s out there. The second best thing about going on these trips is being able to share them."
Libecki’s show is in high demand as he brings his panoramic visions from the wildest parts of the planet to venues all over the world, and he feels lucky to have the opportunity to show his audiences views that few people in the world will ever experience.
“It’s an honor to be part of a tribe that’s human that can appreciate adventure and the earth and the beauty that we have in our lives.”