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Solo, Part II: Silvia Vidal
8. What enables you to overcome fear and move on, especially when stranded on a portaledge in bad weather?
9. When some people are alone they have so many internal thoughts that it can drive them crazy. Do you ever feel yourself drift into insanity on walls?
No. I can use the word craziness as an expression, but I've never actually felt crazy.
10. In "Life is Lilac," you say that you speak to the rock and ask it permission to climb up. Do you also speak to yourself on solo climbs?
Yes, but that's something I do sometimes even when I'm not climbing!
11. Does talking to yourself help you keep sane on such long trips?
I don't feel as if I have to try to keep my sanity.
12. Is soloing the purest form, for you, of engaging with the mountains and the environment?
The author on the first ascent of Sargantana (VI A4 5.9, 560m), Porcelain Wall, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, California, in 1997. The route was one of the first new lines established on the wall in a decade. [Photo] Pep Masip
No. I think there are other options for engaging within one's environment, and soloing is the one that I have chosen.
13. For you, is the experience of climbing a hard aid pitch something that everyday life can satisfy?
I think that in everyday life you can find many "hard pitches" to be climbed, and sometimes you don't choose them. However, there is comfort in knowing that you have control over beginning a hard aid line— it is not something that just happens.
14. What's been your hardest moment alone on a wall?
Probably on Shipton Spire, when I was rappelling the route, and I couldn't reach the lower belay. I had to spend a night without my portaledge between two small rocks in the middle of a pitch. I knew that if it began to snow, as it had in recent days, I would have been in trouble. In retrospect, I think of it as one of my best, most unforgettable bivouacs.
15. How do you deal with coming back to the "real world" after a month on a wall?
Badly. There's a big contrast between being up there and being down here. It takes a long time to readapt mentally and physically. After my last expedition (Shipton solo ascent), it took months before my body recovered fully.
16. Do you feel depressed when you return from a wall?
No, that's not the feeling. It's just that I need time to fully understand the experience.
17. Do you dread or look forward to being home and talking with people?
I'm always happy to see my family and friends.
[Photo] Silvia Vidal collection
18. How does soloing affect your daily life?
I don't solo all the time. I have many great memories from soloing, and I think they are an important part of my life experience, but soloing is not always part of my daily life. But I think that all the intense experiences that we have, related to climbing or not, change us little by little.
I've realized that soloing is just a tool. And— like a tool— it changes you in different ways depending on how you use it.
19. What is your advice for young alpinists who look up to your accomplishments?
Always try to do what you feel.