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Jeffrey Witter, born in 1995, is living proof that coming from the Netherlands is no barrier to making your mark in the vertical world – as a famous climber, mountain photographer and a romantic too. When he was young, his parents would take him to the mountains of France, Italy and Switzerland; at the age of just six he hiked 15 kilometres through the Verdon Gorge. His recollection of the event: “a torture.” But it did not stop him loving mountains. It was when he started his engineering degree in 2015 that he rediscovered them – this time using his hands as well as his feet. He took an alpine climbing course, together “with some interesting guys from the military and the government,” he says – and moved on to serious mountaineering on his own a while later. But he is cautious by nature, and that includes climbing too.

Naturally, he had to serve his mountaineering apprenticeship by working his way through the 4,000ers in the Alps in his logbook – and dealing with the associated challenges. In 2017, as he finally struggled to the summit of Mont Blanc, he was forced to spend the night on the toilet. On the Dent du Géant, “one of the prettiest mountains in the Alps,” according to Witter, some mishaps along the way meant they spent 13 hours on the route, only to then end up sleeping in the hut’s drying room with all the wet clothes. His passion for the mountains meant his bachelor’s degree “took quite some time,” but this is probably more down to ambition.

“If we went climbing for a week together, we’d probably get to know each other better than we know some of our friends.”

Date night on a portaledge

Alongside his work as a production engineer, he enjoys teaching climbing in Freyr, the famous crags in Belgium, some 250 kilometres from where Witter lives in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam. But that’s not to say that he has to spend all of his free time on vertical rock. He also enjoys travelling through the mountains on foot – with a camera always at the ready. This is how he communicates his passion for the mountains and encourages others to break out of the routine of everyday life. But it also helps him focus on specific elements, “for example some special light on some leaves”, he says.

Jeffrey also took his girlfriend, who isn’t a climber, out to Freyr for a pretty unusual date. Abseiling and jumaring were high on the agenda, before spending the night on a portaledge (a mobile platform that can be suspended from a rock face). It just goes to show that romance is also in the eye of the beholder.

4 questions for Jeffrey

There are so many prejudices about Dutch people? One of them is, that your favourite food is cheese? Correct?

No! My favourite food is lasagne. My mother’s lasagne is the best you can get anywhere, not just in the Netherlands.

But you must travel by caravan!

(Jeffrey laughs) All the holidays I went on with my parents were in fact by caravan. My parents still travel with a trailer, and some of my climbing buddies have campervans. But me and my girlfriend, we take a tent, stay in small hotels or use Airbnb. Especially in Italy, you can stay in a small, but inexpensive hotel – and get great food.

What is so fascinating about mountaineering?

For me it is the combination of nature, the movement itself and – most of all – the people you meet. If we went climbing for a week together, we’d probably get to know each other better than we know some of our friends. It’s a constant battle in your head, with all the safety issues; the decisions you make, they matter. Climbing is like a strategy game. It just clears your head completely.

Do you also enjoy spending a day by the sea? Or does it always have to be the mountains?

I live close to the sea, and I love to walk in the dunes. There are loads of ways to have adventures, whether it’s a 200-kilometre bike ride or exploring a country with my girlfriend. Still, climbing gives me the greatest satisfaction.

Hanwag Ferrata II GTX – a versatile mountain boot

Jeffrey's favorite shoe: HANWAG Ferrata II GTX

“The Ferrate II GTX is a really versatile shoe. It’s not too stiff, it’s comfortable at the ankle, and the sole is quite flexible. It’s perfect for technical rock climbs in the Alps – and also for approaches.” (Jeffrey Witter)

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