Alpinist 52

A Mysterious, Lonely Path: The Life of Francek Knez

Posted on: November 16, 2015

[Spread] Francek Knez on the first ascent of Hudiceva Zajeda/Diedro del Diablo (5.10 A2 90 degrees,900m), Fitz Roy(3405m), with Silvo Karo and Janez Jeglic in 1983. [Photo] Silvo Karo

Gasping for breath, I galloped through the forest, trying to keep up with Slovenian alpinist Francek Knez before he disappeared below the brow of a cliff. The ground was treacherous, covered in slippery beech leaves and littered with rounded boulders. Yet the fifty-nine- year-old Francek sprinted ahead with an almost preternatural sure-footedness as I stumbled behind him. I was clearly failing one of his basic requirements of an alpinist: the ability to move quickly in the woods. He'd grown up playing in the forests behind his parents' house in Rimske Toplice, a town in eastern Slovenia near his current home in Lasko. "If you know how to walk in a steep forest, through rotting, slippery leaves, then you know how to walk everywhere," Francek told me when I caught up with him.

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