It is difficult to lose a friend and even more difficult to lose someone who is truly passionate about all that they do, but on December 20, 2006, Hari Berger, 34, world-champion ice climber, died in an unlikely event while ice climbing near his home in Austria. Hari´s enthusiasm for adventure and a challenge rivaled his kindness and generosity to others. All who’ve met him were welcomed with open arms and genuine care and respect. As a climber, his loaded gear room was at your disposal and his spare room was there for the crashing. While climbing, he excelled on ice, dominating the mixed ice circuit and establishing new and cutting-edge ice routes each year, with his latest being the multi-pitch testpiece Senda Real (WI 7+) in Chile. On rock he quickly repeated the Alps’ most difficult mulit-pitch challenges (e.g., The End of Silence, an 11-pitch 5.14a on the Feuerhorn of the Berchtesgaden Alps) and even had time to establish his own locally and most recently in Madagascar (the 16-pitch Short Cut, a 5.13a). Hari was driven. Each and every day began early with work as a skydiver, taking tourists on their first tandem jumps into the breathtaking Alps, followed by working a rock or ice project near his home in quiet Salzburg, Austria. The afternoons he continued fixing and preparing his home with his girlfriend, Kirsten, for their soon-to-be newborn daughter, Zoe. Hari would spend his evenings creating and cooking the most wonderful meals around. Whether you were at camp or at home, any time that Hari offered you dinner, it was an offer not to miss! A five-star meal was always perfectly and delicately prepared, with all the fixins, and afterward we’d enjoy wonderful companionship and discussing future climbing plans and dreams under a clear Austrian sky.
We lost a dear friend in Hari — each and every one of his closest friends remains in shock after the tragic loss. I leave you with the words of one of his closest friends and climbing partners, Ines Papert: "I am deeply sad and feel so empty." Hari, thanks for being who you were. We will all miss you dearly.
Rob Pizem is a teacher and climber, and lived with Hari Berger for the past few months in Austria.
Photo by Andrew Burr