Andrej Stremfelj was born in December 1956 in Kranj, where he still lives today. He began climbing in 1972 with the Kranj Alpine Club.
After graduating from Ljubljana University went on to teach physical education at Skofja Loka High School. He became a mountain guide in 1982 and a fully qualified IFMGA guide in 1997.
Many argue that Andrej’s most significant achievements took place in 1989, when he made first and second winter ascents of three steep and difficult routes on the north face of Mangart [the third highest peak in Slovenia], and in summer 2002, when he celebrated 30 years as an alpinist by climbing, within the space of 40 days, 30 different routes on 27 different peaks throughout Slovenia.
The most notable of these was Zajeda on Široka Peč in the Julian Alps. However, it was the creation of bold, technically difficult routes in the Greater Ranges, articularly at the highest altitudes, where he really made his mark.
In 1977, Janusz Loncar’s Yugoslav invited him to attempt the fourth ascent of Gasherbrum I (8,068m) via a new route, the southwest ridge.
In poor weather and climbing alpine style above 7,200 metres, Andrej and another Slovenian icon from the era, Nejc Zaplotnik, completed the first ascent of the ridge in difficult conditions.
In 1979, he made the first ascent of the West Ridge Direct on Everest (8,848 m; he would return to Everest in 1990, making an ascent of the Normal Route with his wife Marija, the first married couple to stand together on the summit).
In 1983 he made an unusual alpine style ascent of the Bezzubkin Pillar on Pik Communism (7,49 5m), in 1985 a new line on the east face of Dhaulagiri – though his party was unable to summit after reaching the east ridge at 7,500m), and in 1986 a 32-hour round trip ascent of Gasherbrum II (8,03 5m) from base camp.
In 1989 he climbed a new route in alpine style up the central pillar of the southwest face of Xixabangma (8,027 m).
Two years later, in 1991, came perhaps his masterpiece, a bold alpine style ascent of the south ridge of Kangchenjunga to the south summit (8,476 m), an climb awarded the first ever Piolet d’Or.
In 1999 he made the first ascent of the north face of rarely climbed Gyachung Kang (7,952 m). Inevitably, climbing at high altitudes isn’t always successful. An attempt to make an alpine style ascent of the British Route on the south face of Annapurna was thwarted low down by dangerous conditions. However, there were two notable “failures.”
In 1981 he reached 8,250 metres on the unclimbed south face of Lhotse (8,516 m), and in 1988, in an attempt to make its second ascent, reached 8,100m on the southsouthwest pillar – the Magic Line – of K2 (8,611 m).
At slightly lower altitudes Andrej made first ascents of a number of Himalayan peaks such as Nyanang Ri (7,071 m, 1989), Boktah (6,114 m, in 1991), Palung Ri (7,012 m, in 1995), Siguang Ri Shar (6,998 m, and a new route on 7,309 m Siguang Ri, both in 1999), Lashar I (6,842 m in 2005), and more significantly the two highly-coveted summits of Menlungtse (7,181 m, via the east face in 1992), and Janak (7,041 m, via the southwest pillar in 2006).
Outside Asia he travelled to Patagonia in 1996 to put up Born under a Wandering Star on the east face of the North Tower of Paine.
“Only special people can successfully maintain a genuine enthusiasm for life into their later years,” said Marko Prezelj.
“In this regard, Andrej Štremfelj may be unique. His attitude to alpinism, including life, preserves both a freshness and maturity. In spite of huge social changes, the values he transmits to our whimsical tribe have not changed.
“His role as a pedagogue completely fits his character. Andrej conveys his experiences and views primarily by direct example, although he will sometimes produce writing that displays an appropriate emphasis and compassion. He is still able to connect playfulness and responsibility, one of the essential ‘tricks’ that has ensured he has reached a mature age both satisfied and happy.