Czech adventurer conquers highest peaks of all European states

Jaromír Zaoral, photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

Czech adventurer Jaromír Zaoral, who lives in Sweden, has set an unusual world record – he conquered the highest peaks of Europe in record time. He set out on the journey in the summer of 2018 and completed the expedition in less than a year. Jaromír captured his experiences in a book called ‘Koruna Evropy’ or ‘Crown Of Europe’, which was released in May of this year.

Jaromír Zaoral,  photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

I spoke to him on the line to Sweden and I first asked him how he comes to be living in Scandinavia:

“I was studying in Prague but I wanted to experience something new. I got an offer from a family friend to work as an au pair in Sweden during the summer.

“I spent two months on a multilingual family of a Czech and Swedish couple who had three babies. I was taking care of their children and at the same time I got a chance to check the local university in the north of Sweden, in the city of Umea.

“I liked it so much that I decided to apply for a master programme there and I was accepted. That’s how I moved in to Sweden. I enjoyed my life in Sweden so much that I decided to stay there.”

During the summer of 2018 you climbed the highest mountain of each EU member state. How did you get the idea to do this?

“Since my childhood, I have always loved mountains and I have always wanted to go on some expedition. During my time in Sweden, I came across an interesting course, called Adventure Expedition, which prepares people for their own expedition.

'On the way down from Grossglockner clouds suddenly disappeared and we had this amazing view',  photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

“They accept students according to their proposals for a summer expedition. Since I was a foreigner, I wanted to come up with something extraordinary, so I decided to climb the highest peak of every EU member state.”

And you actually managed to complete the expedition in just 88 days.

“Yes, exactly, all the European Union countries in 88 days. It was very intense.”

And after conquering the highest peaks of all the EU member states decided to continue and climb the highest mountain of every European country. How long did this expedition take you?

“After conquering the EU peaks, I realised that the Guinness World Record was pretty close: if managed to climb the highest point of every European country in less than a year, I would be the fastest in the world.

“I decide to try it, which meant I had to do it pretty quickly. I had to plan everything through autumn and I summited the rest of the peaks during spring.”

So altogether you ascended 45 peaks. Is that right?

“Yes, 45 peaks in exactly 361 days.”

And did you apply for the Guinness Book of Records?

“I wanted to. But the administration around it is so tough and they wanted so much paperwork from me regarding the application that I decided against it, because it would take over a month. Instead of that, I decided to publish a book about my journey.

'My friends who joined me on my expedition',  photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

And that book has just been published here in the Czech Republic…

Jaromír Zaoral,  photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

“Yes. Unfortunately, it is now available only in Czech. But I hope I will be able to translate it into English in the future.”

The slogan of your expedition was ‘For a united and healthy Europe!’ Why did you chose this motto?

“When I started my expedition, the public opinion about the European Union in the Czech Republic was not very positive.

“There was a survey carried out at the time, which suggested that more than 59 percent of Czechs were in favour of leaving the EU.

“Since I have always travelled a lot and I like the way the European Union works, I decided to use this slogan during the first part of my expedition.”

Which of the 45 mountains that you visited turned out to be the most difficult to reach?

Liechtenstein,  photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

“The most difficult one was the Dufourspitze in Switzerland. It was definitely the toughest climb, because it required a lot of experience.”

Did you actually need the assistance of a mountain climber while ascending the peak?

“Yes, I did. This was the only one, and then one more in Liechtenstein, where I also climbed with a mountain guide. But otherwise I climbed all of the mountains on my own.”

But as far as I know, you never actually climbed entirely on your own. You always had someone with you.

“The most important thing I learned on my way was that everything is possible if you set your goal and do everything you can to achieve it.”

“That’s true. I reached the 45 peaks with 29 different friends and family members. My girlfriend also accompanied me on several climbs, which I really appreciated.”

What were some of the biggest challenges that you encountered on your journeys?

“Finances, of course. Finding money that for the whole trip, which included a lot of travelling, was quite difficult. It was definitely the biggest challenge. And also finding free time. So I am happy it worked out well in the end.”

What have you learned during your journey?

“Maybe the most important thing I learned on my way was that everything is possible if you set your goal and do everything you can to achieve it.

“The biggest surprise might be that I was actually happy in every country and on every peak. I expected that some countries might be boring, but I found something interesting in every country. Even in the countries which have very low hills.”

“I tried local beer on every highest peak and surprisingly the best one I tried was not on the Czech mountain but in Ukraine.”

I know that you celebrated each ascent by drinking local beer at the top of each mountain. What is the best beer you have ever tried?

“I tried local beer on every highest peak and surprisingly the best one I tried was not on the Czech mountain but in Ukraine. It was really excellent.”

Is it true that you used a broomstick to climb one of the mountains?

“Yes, it is. It happened on the way to the Swiss highest point. On the way there, during acclimatization, I lost my pole, so I had to improvise.

“I was lucky to find a broom in the hut below the summit, so I used it instead of the second pole and it actually worked really well.”

'One of the nicest sunrises of the expedition – Triglav in Slovenia',  photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

Did the expedition change your life in any way?

“That’s true. When I started the expedition, I was working as a consultant at the Czech embassy in Stockholm. But during the expedition, I realised that I wanted to work as a photographer.

“So I left my job and I currently work as a self-employed photographer. I am really happy for the change, because now I am doing exactly what I wanted.”

Your book about the expedition, called Crown of Europe, was published in May. What was more difficult, to climb all the 45 European mountains or to write a book about the expedition?

“That’s a good question. I was actually thinking about it, because I have just been writing an article about the experience of writing a book.

Photo: Archive of Jaromír Zaoral

“It took me quite a long time and at the beginning, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just writing a diary. But then I found a publisher and I realised my dream was coming true.

“It took me took me half a year to compete the book and it was a really nice learning process and I met a lot of people. It was really cool thing to do.

“So I would say writing a book is not easy but climbing all the mountains was even more difficult to do.”

And people who don’t speak Czech can follow your journey on our blog, called The Best View Points.

“I wrote the blog because I have many English-speaking friends and I wanted them to be able to follow my stories.

“So I first I wrote my blog in English and now I also have the book, so I have something for both my Czech and English friends. And I hope that one day the book will also come out in English.”

So, do you have any travel plans at the moment?

“I really liked the idea of climbing every highest mountain of Europe, so I am thinking of doing something similar also on other continents.

“But since the coronavirus situation is not the best at the moment, I am taking a break and waiting what is going to happen.

“Now it is time to work, earn some money and save it for next trip.”

See also:

EXPEDITION European Peaks

Koruna Evropy