PIPI CARDELL | the path of the mountaineer
María José Cardell, known as Pipi, is a Kayland ambassador, a long-time friend, a great mountaineer and the life and adventure companion of the unpredictable Denis Urubko. Let’s get to know her better in this exclusive interview for Kayland!
- Alpinist, climber, rescuer, mountain guide, skier, photographer, videomaker, member of the “Comité de alpinismo de la Federación Andaluz de Montaña”: are we forgetting something? Is there anything you feel is more “yours”?
Of everything you mentioned, one part is related to my work and another to my hobbies. I am lucky enough to have combined the two to make them my life. However, I have always had a third dream, perhaps the most intimate: writing. For me, it has always been the place to let my emotions loose.
- Let’s make a Wikipedia-style summary for the followers: would you tell us the stages of your professional path and your main goals and awards?
My first ascents were close to home in the Sierra Nevada, then on Mont Blanc. Later, I took the opportunity to join a couple of treks in the Himalayas and Karakorum, alongside Spanish expeditions.
There, I understood that I wanted to admire the mountains from above, not from below.
It was necessary to start in a progressive way though. So I began with six-thousander, then seven-thousander, always with acclimatization, among which I climbed Lenin Peak and then Spantik Peak, for a documentary.
Then, I managed to collect enough money thanks to my profession as a ski instructor so I left for Cho Oyu, 8210 m. The experience was not only rewarding for the environment I was immersed in, but mainly because I was revealed the true path I wanted to take as a mountaineer. In this way, five years ago I achieved one of the most intense adventures of my life. In 35 days I explored a semi-unknown valley of the Karakorum, in Pakistan, climbing a virgin peak of 5,470m and also trying a higher one, all solo.
At the end of this expedition, I thought I had given my all in the mountains. The following year, however, I met mountaineer Denis Urubko and began training for a project together with him, in the expedition. Three years ago, we climbed Khan-Tengri, a seven-thousander, to get acclimatized, and soon after we opened a new route to Chapayev Peak. This ascent received the recognition of the Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports (FEDME) as the best non-European activity of the year.
Immediately after, we set out to open a technical route in the Ushba, in the Caucasus. In the same year, we went to Argentinean Patagonia and even though we didn't achieve our goal of climbing Cerro Torre, we still climbed some of its most emblematic spires.
Eventually, it was time to open a new alpine-style route on an eight-thousander, Gasherbrum II, but unfortunately I was injured in a fall that left me out of the game and Denis opened the “Honeymoon” route solo. Today, we left mountaineering aside to concentrate fully on rock climbing.
- Reading about you, it seems that the relationship between mountains and family is indissoluble as if one element could not do without the other, is this true?
A big part of who we are is a result of the context we create for ourselves. I grew up hearing about mountains and climbing. About the love and respect for them and for nature. Since I was a child, my family, my grandparents, my aunt and my mother taught me how to take my first steps as a mountaineer and climber. I could never have imagined reaching such a level in mountaineering without Denis.
You’ve embraced alpine style: what does it give you compared to other, more technological approaches? Do you have any “secret technique” or any special equipment or training that helps you to deal with it better?
It gives you lightness and consequently speed. You save time and with it energy, at the same time you can gain confidence, so you expose yourself for less time. In my opinion, the best preparation is to get as close as you can to the real situation, in training.
- You’ve discovered that your limits, both physical and mental, are far beyond what you thought and have surprised you. You also say that your abilities are “focused on pursuing extraordinary, not-so-normal activities”. Could it be that your “superpower” is the intelligence to listen to what your body communicates, what the mountain communicates, and combine the two to try something original?
I think this is common to all human beings, it’s just that my activities in the mountains have offered me the opportunity to discover where these limits really reside. We would all be surprised at what we are capable of if we were less afraid to explore our potential by stepping out of our comfort zone. I don't believe I have any special abilities or superpowers to accomplish extraordinary things. Don’t think that I say this out of an excess of humility. I say it because I call a spade a spade.
My experiences, in particular, have directed my steps to want to take on different challenges for the pleasure of discovering the unknown and exploring my inner world, opening up new routes or going out on my own. In both cases, you have to be very sure of yourself and for this, it is fundamental to know yourself well, through things that only experience can give you.
- Let’s talk about Kayland: how is your experience with the brand and its products? Which shoes and boots have you tried and how have they supported you?
Kayland is a trusted companion in which all its professionals reflect themselves. The collaboration regarding the choice of footwear is very simple.
At Kayland, everyone is always willing to listen and help, with the perspective of improving and becoming more and more part of our projects.
On our last expedition to Gasherbrum II, Kayland specifically developed a boot for the eight-thousanders: 8001. My experience with the boot, however, did not go beyond Camp II due to a fall on the way up. In any case, all the way up to the finish there, you traverse technical and very adverse terrain.
The boot responded positively to all our expectations: as proof of this, Denis opened a new route on Gasherbrum II in alpine style, in 24 hours, with those boots! A great team effort! The boots I tried are many, I’ll make a selection:
Apex Rock GTX fits perfectly with the kind of technical mountaineering I like to do. It’s a lightweight boot and adaptable with respect to any terrain or condition where I've ventured, snow, rock and frost, without ever losing precision.
I used Gravity W’S GTX for the approach to the Gasherbrum, crossing the entire Baltoro glacier and the Gondogoro pass with them. They were very long hikes and with Gravity, I walked comfortably with excellent performance. Very good stability and reliability. They were perfect and my inseparable companions during the summer, especially during the approaches to the climbs, which were quite technical. Comfortable, lightweight, breathable, and efficient. What more could you ask for?
My latest purchase for fall/winter was Vitrik W’S GTX. They are proof of how Kayland improves from year to year by never stopping. They give me so much confidence because of the stability they give my foot, thanks to their sole. I recently took a cable rescue course for chair lifts at the ski resort where I work. I put them on the first day and kept them on for the next two weeks. No slips, no problems. I guess the right question is if Kayland didn’t sponsor me, would I still choose their products over others? Absolutely!
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