The artist and arctic climber Martin Schliessler, seen and told by his granddaughter.
If someone were to ask me if I would do my life over again, with all the dangers and risks-
I could only say yes.
For me, climbing in it’s natural form is the most consistent protest against a comfortable lifestyle on the steps of growing prosperity.
The mountains and the great primeval landscapes challenge us to voluntary hardship.
The high points in life only arise from its lows.
The mundane paths of life are inevitably flat.
The combination of automobiles, elevators, air conditioning, automatic operations for every wish-
insure us from the cradle to our funeral.
Preprogrammed professionals that are becoming the process of our civilization.
That is for me, almost certainly a wasted life.
Excerpt from Beruf: Abenteurer [Occupation: Adventurer]
The dichotomy of ice climbing is intriguing: silent glaciers disturbed by avalanches that crash along the mountain face; the camaraderie needed to move with safety while leaving weak links behind in order to survive; conquering a summit then finding the strength to endure its descent; consumed in what some consider the closest thing to heaven on Earth while enduring hell to get there.
My grandfather was addicted to this.
Born in 1929 in Mannheim, Germany, Martin Schliessler was an adventurer, filmmaker, artist, and member of the world renowned Explorers Club in New York City.
Growing up, I didn’t know him well. He was my grandmother’s mysterious companion, the man who was either traveling through other countries or locked away in his studio creating sculptures and paintings inspired by his expeditions.
I knew he was an adventurer. I knew he made films, took pictures, wrote books. I knew he liked to do things that most people would find insane. He liked to climb mountains and to trek through regions of earth that had previously been untouched. To fund these excursions he shot films and gave lectures to fellow enthusiasts. From the 1950s to the 1990s, he made documentaries about tribes in Africa, mountains ranges in South America, Inuit in the Arctic. But what captivated me the most were his films on ice climbing.
I wanted to know more about him. Having heard stories as a child, I wanted to see the extraordinary places he’d been through his lens.
Shot on 35mm and 16mm in some of the world’s most hostile environments, my grandfather documented multiple excursions, including his journeys to Patagonia, Karakorum, Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, and Denali (formally Mt. McKinley), the highest mountain peak in North America.
It was by looking through his old projects that I came to truly value who he was. No longer just an eccentric, he became an inspiration for greatness. To look up at the mountain and climb, even in the toughest of storms.