Where the Mountains End, the Universe Begins

On the edge of outer space with Marija Stremfelj, renowed climber, the Guiness World Record holder.

Marija with her husband Andrej


Marija is a truly inspiring woman, conquering the toughest challenges of her field. Yet, as she explains, although dreams should be visionary, we should break them into small, concrete tasks once the conditions turn extreme. “Once above 8.000m, the goal might be something as simple as doing a single step,” she adds humbly. “The more concrete the goal, the more probable it is to be accomplished.”

Marija explains, that a climber experiences the climb on three levels:




“During the climb, I feel very grounded. One has to follow the movement itself and the challenges present at the very moment. However, I always felt a bit of detachment from the climb itself. It is a feeling, that I am not just a climber. It is very difficult to describe it with words. You get a feeling that you are moving through space, that is not ordinary. Because it is really not, it is something special.”

The climbing experience reminds us of outer space. The oxygen density in the air is lover, conditions are unknown and require human adaptation. At the same time, something more is present, the bigger picture, connecting the dots.


“On the top of Mount Everest, after I took off the oxygen mask, I felt as if I was sailing into a very special world. The view was outstanding. One could see all the way to Tibet. But what amazed me the most, was the curve of the planet Earth. The arc of the circle. I thought I was in the middle of outer space, watching the Earth bend. All the problems suddenly seemed small. They disappeared. Everything stood still. There was no space, no time. Nothing was there. I realized how connected we all are on Earth. In our everyday the Earth seems so big. But when you see its arc from above, you start to realize how small and fragile it actually is. On such an expedition, one experiences the power as well as the smallness of mankind.”

It is the same feeling astronauts report experiencing when seeing the Earth from outer space. It causes the cognitive shift in awareness about our planet and what truly matters in life. Some know it under the term Overview effect.

View of the Earth from outer space, causing the Overview effect


But, before you experience enlightenment at the top of the mountain, you have to go through a long process of different thoughts during the climb. “In the hours and hours of ascent, you think about yourself a lot. You have to deal with yourself.”

When the terrain is challenging, your mind is occupied. However, if the terrain permits and walking becomes a routine, other thoughts might creep into mind. Internal cleansing begins as you think about why you are here. “I always stop thinking about it. I deliberately deny these thoughts. Simply because I am here and thinking about it is not going to change it. This mindset helps me to be here right now, not in the past, not in the future. And there are climbing challenges to be solved right here, right now.”

“We have the power of thought. We can consciously say no to one thought and start thinking in the opposite direction. The more often we do it, the less often it occurs. We must decide to be here and now.”

Marija during our interview in Kranj, Slovenia


“No,” Marija answers instantly. “Conquering Mount Everest was never my goal. It is about lifestyle, not about the goal. My life is climbing and everything that comes with it. Mountains were laid inside my cradle. They have set me free.”

“If only Everest was my goal, what would I do for the rest of my life?” she laughs. “Of course, achievements during the path bring a lot of satisfaction with them. Especially, if you devote lots of time and effort to them. So I was very happy to stand on the top of Mount Everest. My preparations for the climb were tough. Physically and mentally. I have read a lot. Books about philosophy and climbing books, describing the path to the top."


“There are many stars in the Himalayas. Such a multitude of stars that you feel as though you could grasp them. When I look at the stars, the ones I see, seem tangible and perceptible. I often imagine myself flying to them. And I also picture the background behind them that I don't see, but I know that it is there, I know that it is huge and I can only imagine the excitement behind them.”

In her youth, her favorite TV show was about the Universe and characters traveling between planets. “I would definitely be on the list,” she adds. “Outer space is a continuation of the mountains. If the top of Mt. Everest is already so amazing, how beautiful it must be in space.”


“All the society needs is someone to break a myth, that it can not be done”.

Then she compares it to climbing: “No matter how steep and unachievable the mountain seems from the distance, once you get closer, it starts to open up, showing you the path. It starts guiding you. It is the same with outer space. From the distance, it seems unapproachable. But once you decide to come closer, planets itself will show us the path. If we open up our minds, we are going to see things that we haven`t seen before.”