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_ Alex Benchea, the white-eyed mountaineer who carries Romania's flag on world's peaks
Alex Benchea, the white-eyed mountaineer who carries Romania's flag on world's peaks
He energetically swings his white cane for the blind a few dozens of inches in front of him, stops for a moment, sniffs the surroundings with his nostrils and ears and continues his way resolutely, as if following a scheme, a route, a programme that has been imprinted on him in the brain, told Agerpres.
"Hello, my name is Alex Benchea". He "looks" at you with his white eyes, passes through you with his "look" and holds your hand firmly, as he probably holds the climbing rope and the rocks of the highest mountain peaks in the world, which he has climbed and where he took the Romanian tricolour with him.
Alex Benchea is 23 years old, has been climbing for over four years and has been completely blind since birth, but, with all his disabilities, he has so far climbed two of the highest mountain peaks in the world, at about 6,000 meters altitude, and these days he sets out for the third peak and aims to climb all 7 peaks of the world, the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each continent, the main objective of all performance climbers.
"My long-term project is the Seven Summits and so far I have climbed two of the seven - Kilimanjaro (5,895 m), Mt. Elbrus (5,642 m), and Aconcagua (6,962 m) is the third, now. I have also climbed on technical mountains - Mont Blanc (4,807 m), Grossglockner (3,798 m), Mt. Olympus, etc.'', says Alex.
He feels proud to be Romanian and shows it in all his expeditions and in all his international contacts.
"On all the mountains I go to, I carry the flag, the tricolour. This is important, to show where we are from, to be proud of it as well. I think that December 1 is a good day that can remind us that we are Romanians, that we can do things, that this country must move forward, on a positive trend, for real things to happen. And the country has done things for me. I know that the Ministry of Sports supports Paralympic sports. Maybe the people of this country do more...because the institutions are more bureaucratic," says Alex Benchea.
"The white-eye climber" is a name, a reputation, that he received before climbing Kilimanjaro. It may come from the colour of his eyes, but also from the whiteness of the heights he reaches. He didn't like it at first, but then he found that it inspired many, which he considers important.
"It appeared before I left for Kilimanjaro, a colleague in charge of communication gave me this name, from The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. At first I was not so attracted to this name, but over time I saw that it impressed many and they liked it. Through what I do, I feel that I encourage others as well. I say that it is important for each of us that at some point in life we have a landmark, a model, a person that we admire, appreciate. And I do have. I think that each of us, at some point, can have something with which to help other people, can push them to be confident, to do things, to be - as they say to me - a source of inspiration for some who are afraid to leave the house or who depend on other people. The mountain helped me to include myself socially, I made many friends and helped many disabled people to do things," he reveals.
Alex is a normal man and in his fight that is exactly what he wants to show and, in addition, to make others do the same. Like any human being, he has frustrations, he also knows what fear is.
"Our minds are very perverse. Sometimes I was more afraid when I thought about what was going to happen next than when I got to the field and was faced with the fact. Maybe it's something normal to be afraid of unknown, again. But maybe that stimulates us. Frustrated that I can't enjoy the scenery when I get up there? But I'm happy, I get people to describe what's around me, before I go up the mountain I document myself, I read literature books, I talk to people who have been there, to describe their experience to me. Not everything boils down to just seeing. And it compensates for the other senses," confesses Alex Benchea.
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