Some of the greatest modern climbers have come from the former Soviet Union and Poland including Russian Anatoli Boukreev and Pole Jerzy Kukuczka. Starting in 1991, when Slovenia won its independence from Yugoslavia, Slovenian mountaineers came on strong, with fast-and-light ascents up dangerous faces.
'The Slovenians are the very best climbers in the world,' Reinhold Messner once said. 'They are young, and they are hungry for difficult things. I like them.'
At the time of Humar's ascent, Messner was famously quoted as passing on his mantle:
'At the moment, Humar is the greatest high-altitude climber of the world, His power is in surviving in very difficult situations on huge walls. What he has done is special. I know these walls, and they are very difficult, especially Dhaulagiri.'
When Tomaz flew home from Dhaulagiri, Messner was among the throng of admirers at the Ljubljana airport.
After visiting a shrine to pray, Tomaz walked to the bottom of the south face of Dhaulagiri on 25 October 1999, with his old friend Stipe Bozic, then aged 51, and one Croatia’s top climbers, who would stay at base camp to film the ascent.
Tomaz's following nine-day ascent was historic both in terms of alpinism and psychology, as his survival pushed hard at the world's perception of what a climber can bear in pursuit of his goals.
'We can control our heartbeat, which in cold, drawn-out bivouacs is preferably as slow as possible, it is necessary to disconnect the arms and the legs and draw most of one’s blood into the core of the body and the head. We switch to other dimensions. We become insensitive to pain, cold, wind, homesickness, thirst, hunger. Instead of having dinner we separate from the physical world. But the further you go into the world where there are no reasons or consequences, points of the compass, time points like yesterday or today, where you only are-the harder it is to return. The re-entry into the body is usually accompanied by pain.'
The American alpinist Mark Twight said
'It’s almost a shame when one person alone raises the bar so high, because people might classify him in the freaky, sci-fi category, Dhaulagiri - I don’t think anyone considered going up it by himself. Climbers are not prepared for that kind of difficulty, in that length of time, in those conditions. The great evolutionary steps in climbing take place because of people expanding their psychological capacity. We can improve our gear and our training, but it doesn’t matter unless you can see with enough clarity what is possible. The rest of us just aren’t seeing what he is.'
Stipe Bozic was born in 1951 in Croatia. He is one the most versatile mountain cameramen. He has taken his camera up the three highest peaks in the world, and down to explore the underwater world and the depths of the earth. Stipe is also a competent climber and has taken part in at least eleven expeditions as cameraman: he has climbed Everest twice, K2, Kangchenjunga and Manaslu.
On the 3 November, after nine days of hard climbing, the Slovenian Tomaz Humar finished his new route up the previously unclimbed South Face of Dhaulagiri, 8167m.