Learning to transcend limits
“Who else are you – metaphorically speaking – when you stand before your naked self? This is something that has fascinated me since my youth,” Evelyne Binsack says right at the start of the extensive conversation. It’s a question that has followed the 55-year-old throughout her life. The woman whose limits seems to know no bounds has made it to the highest, the southernmost and the northernmost points of the world on the strength of her own muscles alone. This makes her the only person to have crossed the entire hemisphere under her own steam, a feat that constantly forced her to confront new limits. At the North Pole it was the cold and wildness that got to her, at the South Pole the violent storms, and at Everest the extent of its exposure.
Who is Evelyne Binsack?
Evelyne Binsack was one of the first females in Europe to qualify as a professional mountain guide and, in 2001, was the first Swiss woman to climb Mount Everest. Currently 55 years old, she has climbed the highest, southernmost and northernmost points of the world using only the strength of her own muscles. Today, Evelyne Binsack is a speaker and leadership coach.
First experience of limits as an athlete
Evelyne Binsack first started addressing the issue of limits when she was a young athlete. Crossing your pain thresholds over and again, while maintaining a healthy approach, will make you grow. "The more often you do it, the better you will get to know your body," she says. You also improve your skills and train your willpower. This will help you to steadily improve in a certain area and gradually set your limits to a higher level. "But to accept this kind of exertion, you need real passion," says Evelyne Binsack. This is the only way you'll be able to endure and face the inevitable difficulties and consequences of such extreme forms of exertion.
Respecting limits is the real strength
However, the mountain guide does not present a case for ignoring limits all the time. Thinking back to her expeditions to the polar regions or the highest mountains in the world, she compares the experience of exploring limits with having protective switchpoints in the body. “Your own limits never just appear out of the blue,” she says. Rather, the body has numerous thresholds you can choose to step over until there are none left at the end. Anyone who has reached total exhaustion and crosses this last threshold is prepared to die. Even when suffering unbelievable exhaustion, she was still aware of this last limit and knew when it was time to stop.
Collecting experiences of limits
She herself has been at this defining point several times in her life. In Patagonia, for example, when she spent a month on Fitz Roy in lousy weather and simply couldn't continue. She also collapsed shortly before reaching the South Pole after a team member had stolen her food. And after getting hit by an ice avalanche on Mount Everest, she caught a virus at base camp. Although she attempted the mountain again after her recovery, she had to abandon the expedition.