Anne Bialek: An adventurer at the top
Before turning 40, Anne decided it was time to change her life. And she does the job properly … Let’s meet the first woman to complete all 6,000m peaks in Bolivia.
Anne, you were not supposed to live in mountains
No. I was born in Burgundy and climbing was not a family passion. I always liked sports, especially running. But, most of all, I loved competition. During hikes in the Alps, I saw these guys coming down from the glaciers… I began dreaming about Kilimanjaro and Annapurna.
This could not have happened?
That’s true. I followed another way. I worked as an engineer in the automotive industry. I had a good job but, passing 30-years-old, I was getting bored. I had a skills audit. I was searching something else. One day, I flashed on the photo of a Bolivian mountain. In 2005, I tried a two weeks trek in Bolivia. It was my first time in the Cordillera and, in a row, my first 6,000m glacier.
Some tried to dissuade me. I was not a top-notch climber but I had to live this. And meeting people on site had a significant impact. At this moment, something clicked. Just back, I left for a lone three month trip in Bolivia. No job, no basis, no contacts and ignoring Spanish language… But this travel convinced me. I had to live here, near these wondering peaks.
And you created Thaki Travel
Soon, I was working as a commercial agent for a Bolivian travel Agency. Very fond of the country and the people, I wanted to build something with them, to play a role in the Bolivian development. With my friend Jérôme, married to a Bolivian girl, we finally created our own travel agency in La Paz. Today, we offer classic tours and sports activities dedicated to alpinists.
You became a famous climber and Andin specialist. But you could have done it elsewhere?
I learned climbing here, not in the Alps. Peaks are very high, more technical. Summer is rainy season so we climb in winter. Altitude and cold give a special taste to the ascent. And Bolivia deserves to be known. Mountain guides from the whole world are now interested and ask to try its beautiful routes and technical walls.
You climb but you also open new paths. Never have enough adventure!
I think I have always been an adventurer. I live my passion. I climbed 13 six-thousand-meter Bolivian peaks by standard routes. I became the only known female to complete all. During the last ten years, I did more than 20, in Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and more.
To open new routes, I leave with one or two guides. Bolivians remain humble facing the nature but today, they like it. They taught me climbing and I give them the taste of exploring.
Tell us about the typical day of an Andin climber
First, we take a rest. We have to save energy not to run out too fast. In the afternoon, we take sun and heat in order to climb at night. Starting at 1.00 a.m. is quite hard. Then that gets better until the two last hours before sunrise. It is long, we wait and when it comes, it is like a rebirth.
In each mountain pass, we make an offering (alcohol, coca leaves, cigarettes) to Achachilas. They are deities protecting the mountains and each peak has one. For Bolivian guides, these offerings are clearing the fear to defile a sacred place. I really care about respecting these ancestral beliefs. The adventure takes a spiritual insight.
What does mountain means to you? In a few words
It increases my taste for life, it fills me. I feel calm and secured. Mountain helped me to grow, to reveal myself.
Being close to 50, I am getting (a little more) cautious. I hope my experience could raise awareness of the nature and our ways of life.
Many Thanks Anne!
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