His first contact with the mountain took place only five years ago, with a friend from Cluj. Then he continued with his university colleagues from Cluj. Last year he was awarded by the Romanian Alpine Club, receiving the Zsolt Torok Trophy for conquering the peaks of Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, and Mont Blanc. We are talking about Alexandru Benchea, a blind young man, who aims to climb the Seven Summits, of which he has already climbed three. He still has four peaks left to climb, Everest, McKinley, Mount Vinson, and Carstenzs peaks.
Alexandru Benchea told us how his story began on the mountain:
"My first contact with the mountain was five years ago. That's when I started. It happened thanks to a friend, a mentor from Cluj, with whom I climbed the mountain for the first time. He encouraged me, he showed me what the mountain meant back then. And it was precisely for this fact, that he had faith in me, that I would succeed, that propelled me. I still remember a more adventurous tour: we got caught in the rain, we slept at a shelter, we went down, it was a very deep experience for me. He triggered the passion, the love for the mountain in me. After that, I continued to go to the mountains, with my colleagues from university, with the teachers, as I taught geography in Cluj, and later I discovered the Climb Again Sports Club Association, with which I managed to complete these climbs. I succeeded together with them, and thanks to them. They gave me all the support I needed, both financially, logistically, and in terms of equipment."
Alexandru Benchea started cautiously, before he tackled the challenges that the two alpine four-thousanders presented him. We are talking about Mont Blanc (4805 meters) and Matterhorn (4478 meters), peaks that require mature technique, high-performance mixed equipment, and resilience:
"I learned trekking on the mountain gradually. I would like to say that it was not easy right from the start. When I began the first laps, I didn't know how to use the tracking sticks. I learned to use them before Mont Blanc and it helped me a lot. And many people ask me how I manage on the mountain, how I orient myself. If the path is wider, I go next to the guide, hold on to his arm, and with the other hand probe the terrain, using the tracking stick. It's already automatic, first you put down the stick, you feel that it's a path, that it's something stable, and then you put your foot down. If the path is narrow, I walk behind the guide, hold on to his backpack, and, in the same way, with the other hand I use the stick to balance myself. And on glaciers, the guide walks in front of me, about 2-3 meters away, we are tied by a rope, and in this case I use both sticks, to delimit the path, to walk on the path."
Known as the "white-eyed climber", Alexandru Benchea told Radio Romania how he trains:
"It depends on the proposed objective. If we are planning to climb a high mountain, being a mountaineer, the main training is structured on cardio sessions, running, several mountain climbs, or test-climbing, a device that simulates climbing stairs. I also did swimming for a while and it helps a lot with the cardio. On the other hand, if there are more technical requirements, I train a lot at the climbing hall, on the artificial wall. Climbing puts my entire body to work. And so does the cardio part, because the mountains have mixed terrain, you have a portion of climbing, but also a bit of hiking."
We asked Alexandru Benchea what feeling he experiences when he reaches the peaks he has dreamed of so much.
"Mostly the feeling of joy, of fulfillment! It's too deep a feeling, something human! It's not like you won the lottery or something else. It's something that stays there all the time, and in my case it's usually the common success, the achievement that I managed to reach a large part of my goal, because there's also the descent, but I'm very happy about this fact, that I've reached up there. I also I think about the time when I will go back to my country or among people, and have the opportunity to share my experience with them."
With extraordinary power of will, Alexandru Benchea dedicated his life to this goal: to climb, to overcome physical and mental limits, to climb the highest peaks of the planet. Deprived from birth of the sense of sight, he compensated by developing his other senses so that he could do as well as any of us who have full senses. He is a man for whom the word impossible has no meaning.