An Interview with Hans Standteiner

Thanks for sharing some of your valuable time with us, Hans. It is an honor for us to learn about your climbing stories.

Editor: At what age did you develop an interest in climbing?

Hans Standteiner: The first time I really thought of climbing I was about seven in
Jackson Hole for a ski camp. I saw the Grand Teton and just stared and stared
at it, mesmerized. I tried to figure out how big a person would look if they
were up on that mountain. 

A year or two later I saw a movie called Banner in the Sky. It’s a fictional story about a Swiss boy from Zermatt who wants to, and ends up succeeding in, climbing the mountain above his village (The Matterhorn). After that I couldn’t help but seek out vertical terrain.


When I was about thirteen on a cliff near a waterfall in Austria, I got myself sort
of ledged up. Some older ladies on a walk, (older Austria women can be found
quite a ways from town going on “walks” on Sundays in their Sunday best),
scolded me and told me to get down right away before I killed myself. But even
in my thirteen-year-old brain I figured out it was wiser to climb up than down
climb. So I climbed up and the ladies watched and met me on the trail to
“sei vorsichtig Junge” and laughed. 


About two years later some older, experienced climbers gave us some ropes and
harnesses and taught us how to tie a figure 8. Nice gesture!


Editor: Indeed! Nice of them to lend a hand! What are some of your favorite routes?

Hans Standteiner: I think my favorite routes are the classics put up by the masters:
Rostrum, Astroman (except for the Harding Slot, not fun for us bigger-boned
climbers), Crucifix, and Freestone. Not only are they great routes, they are
also filled with so much history. It’s sort of like climbing with a history
lesson thrown in.

That’s why I would love to climb the Dolomites. It would be so much fun to climb those big classics and think, “Cassin or Buhl or Rebitsch climbed this route when, with what kind of shoes or gear? And oh yeah by the way, they rode their bikes from Innsbruck to climb the thing!” The great climbers’ past, present, and future is always so mind-blowing!


Editor: That's so incredible to learn! So, how do you pick your climbs?


Hans Standteiner: I think we climbers pick our own climbs by how well they match up with our strengths. That makes sense when we want to see what we can do, but I think it’s good to play with that and push beyond our boundaries a bit.

Not being a very good aid or sport climber, I can always learn when around people
who specialize in those disciplines. I learned a long time ago to ask questions
and never be afraid to try your hardest no matter who’s watching. Even if
you’re a bit out of your comfort zone, no one is judging anyway! 


I didn’t really answer that question did I? I think some climbs just attract you.
In a place like Yosemite there’s almost an order: Once you’ve climbed this,
you’re ready to climb that. So you lie in your sleeping bag with your headlamp
and guide book, pondering what’s next!


Editor: Who would you say are some of your climbing icons who inspired you?


Hans Standteiner: When we were kids on the ski team in Squaw Valley. Jim Bridwell
and Kim Schmitz worked on the ski patrol. How cool is that?! They were part of
our community! Max Jones and Mark Hudon were climbing everything at our local climbing area, Donner Summit. When they weren’t going around the country climbing the hardest routes, they were showing us how to climb the hardest routes at Donner.

Ron Kauk was like a mythical figure to us, because he could climb anything, and
he was all for giving us a little advise in a humorous way. Once while climbing
a face climb, I called down to Ron, “I f*!cking suck at face climbing, you gotta
give me some tips!” He said calmly, “well the first thing you gotta work on is
your language.” That’s great coaching. I cleaned up my language and became more
positive about face climbing. Peter Croft, Scott Burke, and Lonnie Kauk have
also taught me so much about my perspective on climbing. 


Editor: Please share your thoughts on climbing as an art form.


Hans Standteiner: I am a blacksmith. We make artistic ironwork for extraordinary
homes. We basically make art every day. But, I would call us artisans rather
than artists. Climbing can certainly be seen as an art form. Seeing the route.
Climbing the route in the style that you think it deserves. A great climber
floating up impossible moves is a beautiful dance to behold. 


But, couldn’t we then say it could also be interpreted as an ugly art form? As when:
hanging on the gear, placing the wrong gear, falling, dropping gear, skating
feet, getting ropes stuck! That would be categorized as comedic art!


I think climbing can give you artistic perception. If you’re on a long route,
sometimes anxious, sometimes scared to death, and pushing yourself for an extra
long time; then, you come to a belay ledge or the summit and look around, and
everything looks so clear and beautiful. Maybe that’s how really great artists
see the world all the time. 


Editor: Very well said. What gifts has climbing given to you?


Hans Standteiner: Coming from a ski racing background, I understand the process of organized sport. As you move up in the ranks, there are people, (coaches etc.),
who decide when you are ready for the next level of competition. They make those decisions.

In climbing, however, there is a beautiful freedom in deciding your path. A beginner could decide to climb the North Face of the Eiger. Not a very good choice, no doubt, but nobody could stop him. Unless his friends tie him to a tree. That’s where the brotherhood/sisterhood of climbing comes in.

Climbers become like coaches to each other. They would advise that guy to work on his ice climbing and rock climbing, get into better shape, and maybe climb the ridge first. Or better yet, see a psychiatrist. 


It’s a liberating sport in that you can decide your goals and determine what skills
you need to accomplish those goals. It’s up to you and your climbing partners. 

Editor: Hans, thank you for an amazing interview, and for sharing your climbing world with us. I'm sure your words will inspire many.

Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.

Editor of the Facebook page: 'An Interview With'.

Editor-in-Chief of

Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.

All images © of the designated photographer and used with Hans Standteiner's written permission.

On the Cover: Hans Standteiner

Cover Date: December 12th, 2014

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