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Obituary: Peter Sperka (1955-2013)
Posted on: October 8, 2013
Peter Sperka was born in 1955 in Martin, Slovakia, between the mountains of Mala Fatra and Velka Fatra. From his family home, he gained a love and respect for people, nature and the mountains. His grandfather was a forester, and his parents were teachers at the university and high school in Presov. The house was full of books and albums. With his sister and his parents, he often traveled through Slovakia, hiking and skiing.
As a nine-year-old boy, Peter had dreamed of becoming a mountain rescuer. In 1977, he started to work as a sports instructor at a military hotel in the Tatra Mountains. There, he made friends with famous mountain guides and mountaineers, and they launched new adventures together. He skied from Rozdielnaja Peak (6184m) to Lenin Peak (7134m), Spartak (6183m) and Congress Peak (6120m) in the Pamir Mountains. He climbed Khan Tengri (7010m) in the Tien Shan. He went to Spitzbergen in Norway three times, crossing 650 kilometers on skis. In the Himalaya and the Karakoram, he summited Shishapangma (8046m), Manaslu (8163m), Cho Oyu (8188m), the foresummit (8030m) of Broad Peak (8047m) and Thapa Peak (6012m). And as a member of the Mountain Rescue Service of Slovakia, he organized and led a mountain rescuers' attempt on Gasherbrum I and II.
With his friends from the Himalayan Club, Peter began climbing the highest peaks in Europe, reaching twenty-three of those summits. As part of this project, he traveled with older climbing partners, visited new places and ranges and learned how to prepare new dishes. He brought new spices and recipes back from each expedition. He liked picking mushrooms and cooking for his friends and acquaintances. His next idea was to climb the highest volcanoes of each continent, and he'd reached four of them, including Damavand (5671m) in Iran and Ojos Del Salado (6893m) in Chile. He also loved ski-touring and ski-mountaineering, representing Slovakia in international competitions in Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain and Poland—and later becoming a ski-mountaineering coach and helping to organize the European Championship of Ski Mountaineering in Slovakia. But his passions were guiding and mountain rescue. Often after a day in the Tatra Mountains with his clients, he'd spend the afternoon and evening working as a rescuer to help other visitors.
His vast experience, love of people, mountains and nature made him an extraordinary, charismatic man. In addition to his five daughters, he had many friends and clients who valued his beautiful stories, zest for life and curiosity of the world. One of his clients wrote, "What we learned from Peter was to make something out of your life, even when the circumstances aren't the best. He made us love nature and mountains more. And introduce us to pivo [beer]." Peter and I lived together for eleven years, climbing and guiding together. I can say to God: "Thank you for Peter."