Photo: Daniel Araiza approaching Camp 3 of Denali, Alaska, June 2018. Courtesy of Línea Directa. Translation of the Spanish version: Molly Elizabeth Fearn
Daniel Araiza, along with Enrique González, passed away on Artesonraju, Peru, on July 18, 2018. This is a biography sketch of him, accompanied by thoughts from some of his friends in the mountaineering community.
We know that these words will not be enough to do justice to the loss that remains tattooed in the Mexican mountaineering community, but we offer them as a gesture in his memory. To those who would like, we invite you to share your thoughts.
Daniel Araiza, a Mexican alpinist who touched the highest peaks with humility, strength and passion; his legacy is ingrained in Mexico’s mountaineering history.
Daniel Araiza Chávez, one of the greatest and most recognized Mexican alpinists of his time, dedicated his life completely to the mountains from a soil nourished by the deepest values. As a driving force of mountaineering in the country, he was an insatiable fighter for the sport’s respect and development. With a prodigious physique and pristine mind, he achieved as many peaks as the mountain allowed him.
He was a “key piece of Línea Directa, a devoted coach for new generations, a mentor of many, he taught them how to climb mountains,” said his teammate Diego Wynter, founder, together with Pedro L. Corcuera, of the community of alpinists – Línea Directa – a team of highly experienced alpinists, passionate about mountaineering and training new and better Mexican mountaineers; a community to which Daniel belonged since he was 19.
Son of the great mountaineer Fernando Araiza Aguilar, his first steps were surrounded by the natural landscapes that characterize the Guadalajara region. From elementary school, Daniel was a member of the Science Institute’s Alpine Club (Club Alpino del Instituto de Ciencias – CAIC). At the young age of 10 he had already climbed Nevado de Colima (4,260m/13,976ft), at 12 Iztaccíhuatl (5,230m/17,160ft), and when he was 18 he participated in his first expedition to the Peruvian Andes where he reached the summit of Huascaran (6,768m/22,205ft).
At the age of 29 Daniel Araiza was, and will be for a long time, a beacon that illuminated the road ahead for Mexican alpinism, authentic alpinism, valiant alpinism, and at the same time, respectful alpinism. Daniel was not a tourist. Daniel was not a client. Daniel, following the alpine traditions of innovation and transcendence, had style.
A multi-sport athlete who climbed ice, rock, trad, big wall, high-altitude and boulder, Daniel was one of the most all-around sportsmen Mexico has seen in recent decades.
Conservative and prudent when required, daring when necessary, a trailblazer in the purest sense, Araiza sought a balance between technical perfection, alpine style, physical and mental strength, and wise risk taking. He climbed in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, France, Switzerland, the Himalayas, and celebrated a good number of collective triumphs as a guide and ropemate.
His overflowing passion for the mountain ignited the flame of life in all those fortunate ones who knew him and who are not few. Daniel marked, with each step, the Mexican history of the grandest summits, reaffirming, along with previous generations, that the incredible is possible.
He ventured, like few others, to live as a protagonist in the history of mountaineering with repetitions, openings and variants that caused us to feel a rebirth in the Mexican interest in world-class projects and ambitions in the mountain.
Among Daniel’s greatest achievements are the twice summit of Denali by the West Rib, in 2012 and 2018; the opening of the route “El inca, el azteca y el cachaco” en Jurau B (5,727m), Huayhuash, in 2014; the IceCalling project with Hector Ponce de Leon in which they climbed Slipstream, Snow Dome, in Canada and Huntington (3,731m) in Alaska; the ascent in less than 24 hours of the Nose in Yosemite; and the summit of Manaslu, his first eight-thousander, in 2017.
Daniel was a leader intent on growing national mountaineering through different institutions. He was part of Línea Directa and a key component in its founding; he served as President of the Mexican Mountain Guides Association in a quest to recover the association from inactivity; he created, along with friends, the company Summit Pro, provider of mountain guide services; he was a founding board member of the Mexico Vertical Foundation; he was part of the organizing committee of the trail runs by Ultra Trail Mexico Series. He was a sponsored athlete, reliable ropemate, and present friend.
With a fun personality, with the character and skill of a responsible and happy heart, Daniel knew how to listen and be heard. He guided many while learning from others; asked for advice and took it as a leader.
“El Tanque,” or the Tank, as many knew him, even against his desire to abandon the nickname, was intent on continuing his training, professionalization and positive impact on the community. His impact remains, without considering the expeditions, conferences, projects and roles that awaited him in the future and that he built for himself.
There remains a chair, empty, but with weight, at the table where the community meets to give a voice to the spirit of adventure and mountain culture, that which gives oxygen and life to what we are, to what unites us, known and unknown, as a family. His inspiration will always remind us that the summit is not the highest point.
Eulogy to Daniel Araiza Chávez
(1989 – 2018)
“I met Dan at first through social media and in spite of being from different generations, we soon developed an ‘alpine friendship.’ I love that this generation of young people have approached me.
The brightness in Daniel’s eyes as he listened to my responses, transformed him into a perfect processor that integrated everything into his ‘hard drive.’ Receiving updates from them when they were on expedition made me happy and encouraged me to always motivate him (something that he really didn’t need.)
A frank and eternal smile, deep and analytical gaze, illuminating with his presence wherever he was. It’s difficult to accept it, I wish I could erase this day and start it in a different way.
As I was receiving their short messages, an effort to save money while using their expensive communication system that they brought to Denali just a couple of months ago, I would do my best to understand. Translating their messages and worrying from afar, I had to swallow my feelings and keep encouraging them.
All of us who go to the mountain know that we must enjoy every breath because the next step, not necessarily in the mountain, may be the last. Giving way to what? I don’t know. I only know what I’ve lived and that’s why I do it with dedication and I know Daniel did the same.
I remember the words written by Gerardo Castelazo, the first friend I lost in the mountains: ‘It is preferable to die doing what you love, than to live frustrated and not doing it, waiting for death to arrive.’ Somewhere I hope to find that same smile and brightness of your gaze Dan.”
“When we were 14 years old, his dad took us to El Diente to climb, and after that we learned the way there and would go by bus. At 17 with CAIC we went to the Grand Tetons and climbed the Exum, each leading a rope team. The west face of Tocllaraju was the first ice climb we did. After finishing the wall, the traverse to the top and then to get down by the normal route was complicated. When we arrived to the top, I asked him: ‘do you realize we could have died?’ He answered me: ‘Yes, but I didn’t think you would tell me that now, at least wait until we get down.’ Training speed climbing to climb the Nose with Daniel was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.
A few days ago we were discussing a plan to go to Pakistan to climb in 2020. There are friends who never say no to a beer, Daniel never said no to a climb. I am very grateful with life for the friend it gave me.”
Jonathan “Perseo” Gonzalez:
“I had the pleasure not only of climbing with Daniel, but also becoming very close with him. I had a hard time taking in the fact that one of my greatest friends has left us and that I will not be able to see him face-to-face or share any more moments together. I am happy to have been able to support him in his decision to dedicate himself to alpinism and to see how in just a few years his great achievements inspired all of us. Without a doubt, it’s someone I’m going to miss a lot, a great loss to our community.”
Sergio “Tiny” Almada:
“ ‘Eeeel Pirata . . .’ (The pirate; a phrase we used together while we opened La Arista Mexicana, Piedra Bolada.)
Memories are what always accompany us. When I met Daniel, we were quickly connected by passion and good vibes and we were lucky enough to do projects together. His determination, positivity and empathy were constant over the years. And it will be admirable to see how his energy and teachings remain with us. Daniel was always someone you could trust, talk with and have fun with. He never went beyond the limits of stupidity, and he always acted prudently. We lost a brother, an ambassador, one of the greatest of the mountains.
You will always inspire us to expand our limits, brother. ¡Puro Pa’rriba! And thank you for all that you taught us and you will continue to teach!”
“I never imagined I would be writing these lines, because those with giant spirits are here to accompany us and guide us throughout our lives.
Beyond being the best Mexican alpinist of the last 20 years, Daniel was an outstanding human being. That was always his true wealth; a giant not only of big walls, but of life itself. The way he climbed is the way he lived, and by the way he lived he inspired everyone with whom he shared, even if for a moment, the rope.
Tanque might not be here with us physically anymore, but I know that his example and spirit will be here forever, in every training session, on every summit, but above all, in every step we take towards the summit of the mountain where, someday, we will meet to hug each other again. Thank you for everything, brother. I love you so much.”
“On the day Daniel called me to tell me that he had made the decision to leave his career as an architect so he could dedicate himself completely to the mountain, his determination was so clear that there was no way of not feeling infected by his enthusiasm; it was the same enthusiasm that characterized each of his projects, each ambitious and exciting.
When he would talk to me about his climbs, my hands would be sweating just imagining the situations that he always handled with maturity, allowing him to reach such distinguished heights and to continue growing as an alpinist, enjoying each moment of his pursuit.
In any field, it is always motivating to encounter people who live life intensely and enjoy what they do to the fullest. Daniel was one of those people.
Today I told our team at Alta Vertical that the best way to pay homage to Daniel is to live life with passion and joy. No matter what we do, let’s do it with deep conviction and overflowing enthusiasm.
Let’s celebrate Daniel’s life. We’re going to miss him, but I’m sure he would want to see his loved ones living life to the fullest, just as he lived it.
We hold you in our hearts, Daniel. We hope that you carry with you our love and it stays with you in the ascent you have now undertaken.”
“I can clearly see Daniel in front of an extremely complicated pitch; the first volunteer to climb it would be him. After seeing the wall in front of him, he began to climb with unwavering calm and concentration, knowing that he could, that he was ready to do it.
With that dedication he went to the mountain, convinced that we have to go look for happiness and freedom, that they are in our deepest passions.
He heard the call and followed it, he had the courage to follow it.
Brother, we are eternally grateful for the legacy you leave with your departure. Until someday!”
“Daniel was a very precise combination of courage and prudence. His lifestyle was a revolution on its own.
When he spoke of the mountains he seemed to have no limits. Before approaching a wall, he had already conquered it many times in his head.
As a photographer and documentary film maker, Daniel gave me the most important moments of my career.
In his climbing there was a style that was reflected in the images, and in his philosophy there was a story that demanded to be told. For Daniel, there was always the backstory, the underlying meaning, before anything else.
His departure leaves many holes to be filled, but I think the story he began to write will continue to be told for many more years.”
Distinguished Climbs of Daniel Araiza’s Career
2010 Pisco (5752m), Perú – South Face/ MD+, ED1/ 450 m, 60°- 90°.
2011 Chacraraju Este (6010m), Perú – Jager, South Face/ ED1 / 750 m.
2012 Denali (6196m), Alaska – West Rib in 36 hours.
2013 Les Droites (4000m) – Espolon Tournier /MD+/ 1200m. Alpes.
2013 Aguille du Midi (3842m) – Espolon Frendo / D / 1200 m. Solo.
2014 Jurau B (5727m), Huayhuash, new route on a virgin mountain “El inca, el azteca y el cachaco” MD+ / 400m. /65°-100°. Opening.
2015 Piedra Bolada, Cañón de Candameña, Chihuahua – “Arista Mexicana” 11b A1 / 500 m.
2016 IceCalling Project with Héctor Ponce de León.
2016 Slipstream, Snow Dome, Canada. WI4+ / 960 m.
2016 Huntington (3731m), Alaska – West Face Couloir WI4+ / 85° / Grado V / 1200 m.
2017 “Serpent’s Tail” Route (WI5R 140 mts), Pico de Orizaba.
2017 The Nose, in Yosemite, in less than 24 hours.
2017 Manaslu (8156m), Himalaya, in less than 24 hours.
2018 Aconcagua (6962m), by the Polish Glacier Direct.