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United We Conquer

United We Conquer

Jöttnar
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AN INTERVIEW WITH HUSBAND-AND-WIFE MOUNTAIN DUO, TIM HOWELL AND EWA KALISIEWICZ

The partnership between Tim and Ewa is the focus of our new film, Cold Night, First Light. It looks at their long, tough apprenticeship in the mountains. No magic tricks, hacks or VIP lanes to success – just grit, resilience and a slowly accumulating competence. And above all, trust.


We caught up with them at their Geneva home.

 TIM HOWELL 

 Ewa Kalisiewicz 


As a husband-and-wife climbing, expeditioning, BASE and wingsuiting team, the mutual trust you have in one another appears obvious. Was this apparent from the outset?

Tim: The trust that we have for each other works both in the mountains and in our day-to-day relationship. For three years our long-distance relationship meant we had to have trust in each other. I think that developed into a bond in the mountains. We began to understand and read each other and our comfort levels.


Ewa: For me the trust is inevitable on all levels of our lives: when we’re in the mountains I can trust Tim’s experience, advice and wisdom, which I hardly question. We often come from a different point of view, but come down to the same conclusions… As for the personal life, I dare to say we can take trust for granted - both being people of our word and knowing we both have the other one’s best interest at heart.


What makes a successful mountain partnership?

T: Trust of course is right at the pinnacle of a successful partnership, but that goes without saying. I would say motivation and having the same objectives also is important. I’ve really enjoyed teaching Ewa the technique and skill used in the mountains, and that has meant I’ve been able to visit some lesser technical but still highly enjoyable ridges and peaks. There has been no compromise with objectives because it’s a joy to spend time in the mountains with Ewa, no matter what we are doing.


E: The key is that we both really enjoy the mountains and outdoors in general. It's not like we have to compromise on how we spend our free time together, which avoids any frustrations of suffering through activities only to satisfy your spouse's expectations.


"FOR ME THE TRUST IS INEVITABLE ON ALL LEVELS OF OUR LIVES: WHEN WE’RE IN THE MOUNTAINS I CAN TRUST TIM’S EXPERIENCE, ADVICE AND WISDOM, WHICH I HARDLY QUESTION. " 
"FOR ME THE TRUST IS INEVITABLE ON ALL LEVELS OF OUR LIVES: WHEN WE’RE IN THE MOUNTAINS I CAN TRUST TIM’S EXPERIENCE, ADVICE AND WISDOM, WHICH I HARDLY QUESTION. " 

Is there a recurring theme of conversation over the dinner table? Guessing that ironing, shopping and whose turn it is to take out the bins isn’t it.

T: There is actually an unusual amount of conversations about the bins! Switzerland is very strict with recycling and we don’t want the police coming round again! Haha. But yeah, we often talk about mind-set, risk and of course planning the next expedition.


E: I’d say we mainly talk about our plans and objectives. But let's also face it: aside from what may seem an adventure-rich life, we also have all the domestic issues to keep in mind - the bills, cat’s vet, grocery shopping… Yet there’s no discussion on bins as its solely Tim’s responsibility, as agreed - so no point in discussing it..


Ewa - you hold down a pressured 9-5 job. How do you juggle training, travel and expeditions with a successful corporate career?

E: I would say it's more like an 8am -8pm job on most days! I am quite happy with having the professional life separate from the outdoor activities, which remain in the hobby domain. The more time I spend in the office, the more I have to be outdoors during all my free time and leave days. To the point that it really feels like a waste of time to be just “chilling” on a weekend day. I always try to keep in mind what we’ve planned and that I need constant training and keeping fit to be able to achieve them in an enjoyable way.  


cold night,

first light

A Jöttnar Film

Tim Howell and Ewa Kalisiewicz are husband-and-wife alpinists, climbers, skiers and BASE jumpers.


A partnership built in the cold forge of alpine nights and first lights. 


A story of trust, honesty, resilience and fellowship.

A Jöttnar Film

cold night,

first light

Tim Howell and Ewa Kalisiewicz are husband-and-wife alpinists, climbers, skiers and BASE jumpers.


A partnership built in the cold forge of alpine nights and first lights. 


A story of trust, honesty, resilience and fellowship.


And Tim - you’re now pretty much a full-time alpinist, skier and jumper – a path you’ve carved since leaving the Royal Marines four years ago. Is it all glamour as a professional athlete?

T: I left the Marines so I could spend more time in the mountains, staying flexible and jumping on opportunities, whether that is invitations on expeditions, weather windows or just available partners. I’ve slowly been able to create this lifestyle, but it’s not what you see at face value in Instagram posts or Facebook videos. There have been years of scrimping and saving. The more basic I live on trips and expeds, the more trips and expeds I can go on.


You’re both recently back from Arctic Sweden which saw a 68km ski insertion to open up a new BASE exit. What was the driver here – the feat itself, or the shared experience?

T: This trip was definitely about sharing the experience together. When we got to the jump it became apparent, because of the wind conditions, that Ewa might not be able to jump. We had reached the summit after a 68km ski insertion together and I wasn’t interested in jumping solo. It had all become a shared experience. It wouldn’t have been mission complete if only one of us had jumped. Fortunately, the conditions improved and we both got to jump. 

E: I love when Tim comes up with ideas like this, and what I loved most in this one was the tight schedule, being self-sufficient for days and… really “out-there” in the wild where we hardly came across any other people, being totally drawn into nature and only ourselves to rely on. 


How did the pandemic restrictions affect you both?

T: They did of course, but we were fortunate to be living in Switzerland which was relatively relaxed, and so we managed to explore a lot more of our local mountains. The two covid years were actually my most busy with international travel, so in some ways the pandemic actually opened a lot of opportunities for me. 


E: As bad as it was for the airline industry that I work for professionally, it was paradoxically a great time for training and mountain activities: no tourists, and no queues. Most of the lifts in the Alps were closed, so we just had to walk or ski-tour our way up!  


"...REALLY “OUT-THERE” IN THE WILD WHERE WE HARDLY CAME ACROSS ANY OTHER PEOPLE, BEING TOTALLY DRAWN INTO NATURE AND ONLY OURSELVES TO RELY ON. "
"...REALLY “OUT-THERE” IN THE WILD WHERE WE HARDLY CAME ACROSS ANY OTHER PEOPLE, BEING TOTALLY DRAWN INTO NATURE AND ONLY OURSELVES TO RELY ON. "

How do you both unwind when not in the mountains?

T: Not too sure really. Any more than a day or two of “unwinding” and I get aggravated and unsettled. My time unwinding is spent planning for the next adventure. Especially if there is good conditions and weather then I want to make the most of it. Time unwinding can be spent on bad weather days!

E: Since we live at the doorstep of the mountains and also local “hills”, I find myself often going and repeating the same trails, trying to do them faster and more efficiently, as a way to keep fit and train for the next expedition. I also find a great pleasure in water sports and since we live next to Lac Leman in Geneva, I tour it on a stand-up paddle board. To me, that’s a great form of exercise as well as being a relaxing, unwinding experience.


What’s your go-to piece of clothing that you’re normally wearing in the mountains?

T: I always have my Asger with me. Everything I want from a mid-layer.

E: I never leave for the mountains without my Fenrir down jacket. It’s so light, yet so warm, and it also packs so small. It’s a must-have!


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