January 2012, Sottoguda. After a full day of ice climbing, me and Laura are preparing for a cold bivy in an unusual spot - next to our car, as a part of our training program for a harsh winter climbing in Chamonix which in the end never happened. A guy walks by and without any wonder asks us - “what are you training for?” The face looks very familiar. It’s Philipp. We often see him in the local climbing gym, but we are always too shy to talk to him.
Later on, we shared a rope on ice, on sport climbs and on longer routes in Dolomites. Sometimes the rope was just between me and Laura, while he was next to us on his own - training for his “little” solitude missions which his mom was not very proud of. “I’m going just for a run” he said, while ice tools were well hidden in a pack on his back.
Each climb had to start with espresso regardless of circumstances - even if it was way too late or a stormy weather was coming. In the beginning, it was difficult for me and Laura to tolerate it, but later we learned to approach climbing with more peace and less rush.
Regardless of being very talented, he was reluctant to take any shortcuts and trained a lot, a lot. He always made fun of his regular climbing partner Bubba who didn’t need to train to climb at a high level, and had a secret plan to make Bubba fat that he would climb worse.
Climbing was definitely driving his life, and such dedication to climbing meant that he had to give up on relations, career, a “normal” life style. We often started conversations with a joke “have you finally found a girlfriend?”. Obviously, packed skis at the back of his tiny car for going down a steep face next morning regardless of whether a partner shows up didn’t help with this.
When I felt disconnected from climbing due to getting lost in the “busy” life, talking to him or seeing his adventures immediately brought back the spark. However, the “seeing” part became more difficult with time due to his humble approach and not willingness to brag about THE climbs - first ascents, hard repeats and free solos.
27th of July, 2018, Chamonix. Philipp is back from his mountain guiding duties which he used to fund his climbing addiction. Three of us meet for an easy cragging day. Good weather, no stress. In between climbs, we talk about his two recent unsuccessful attempts to finish his “little project” - to traverse Aiguille de L’M - Charmoz - … Mt Blanc alone in a day. His traverse has worried both me and Laura. He wants to return to try the traverse again in a few days (but in the end he stays at home as “I [Philipp] got scared!”). We talk about risk and his plans to take it easy with climbing and stop soloing after doing the Walker Spur. By the end of the day, we wave each other and make a maybe plan to meet in Ceuse by the end of the summer.
21th of August, 2018, Ceuse. The message arrived. “Philipp Angelo fell to his death while soloing Walker Spur on Grandes Jorasses”.
And the language. This summer we invented a fake language - a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, etc. which you can often hear in the Midi lift. We used this language while climbing which made us laugh to tear. Although Philipp was older than both of us, due to the way he acted he felt way younger than us. Even the most serious situation could end in laugh.
Godspeed Philipp! We miss you.