When it comes to multi-sport versatility, Guido Unterwurzacher runs, bikes, climbs and flies in his playground of the Alps. But with only so many hours in the day, how does the Austrian find the time for all four activities? For Guido, it comes down to having unlimited imagination, insatiable passion and a love of pushing his limits.
Guido seems to have been given four times as many hours each day than the rest of us. How else can you explain that, in a single day, Guido will find time to pack in a huge morning trail run, a lunchtime rock climbing session with routes up to highest grades, an afternoon flight through gorgeous Austrian valleys on his paraglider, and an evening mountain bike ride down twisting single tracks? What would take most of us four days, Guido gets to experience almost every day, always with his big ear-to-ear grin across his face.
This multi-sport versatility is a direct result of where Guido grew up: in Going, Austria. With its surrounding peaks and active outdoor community, this Austrian alpine playground provided Guido with unlimited opportunities to stoke his imagination and passion for outdoor sports.
His mountain education was also bolstered by some key mentors. Guido's uncle Tom taught him to climb at the world-renowned Schleierwasserfall, located near their hometown. This climbing area is famous as the training grounds for none other than Alexander Huber, who once free-soloed the route Kommunist (8b+) here. Having this cliff, with so many hard routes and being surrounded by a community of world-class climbers certainly helped to raise Guido's levels quickly.
"I absorbed climbing like a sponge," says Guido of these years. "It became my major focus. All I could think about all day."
It wasn't long before Guido was also climbing at a world-class level. By age 14, he had climbed up to 8b at Schleierwasserfall. Reaching new levels and higher grades encouraged Guido to test his skills on the World Cup competition circuit. At the Youth World Championships in Courmayer, he found himself fighting his way to an impressive fourth place finish. Yet being indoors was a strange experience for someone who grew up climbing in an outdoor context. To Guido, climbing is meant to be experienced outside:
"My head was always somewhere else," he says, referring to his time on the comp scene. "I couldn't help but wonder what I was doing indoors when the sun was shining bright and I could be outside.
With comp climbing, your results will be irrelevant and forgotten after one year. I made the decision to create memories that nobody could ever take away from me. Your own experiences and memories can't be erased."
This decision to pursue personally meaningful experiences—to seek personal passion over points in a comp—steered Guido on a global odyssey to the most incredible locations in the world. He ventured to the Dolomites, Spain, Yosemite Valley, Pakistan. Patagonia, Norway, and all over Europe—always returning to his home turf in Wilder Kaiser area between trips.
It wasn't just the number of stamps in his passport that were expanding; his portfolio of different mountain sports was growing bigger, too. Just as climbing captured his interest as a kid, now Guido was growing obsessed with flying, running and mountain biking.
"The mountains have so much to offer. I usually go from day to day and pick the activity I feel is best suited for the conditions and the surroundings. I love the freedom to be able to choose the best activity in relation to what's there, rather than being forced to do something that isn't ideal."
Guido's child-like enthusiasm for his new sports—the places they took him, and the people they introduced him to—quickly helped Guido raise his level of ability in each discipline. But there's just one major problem: What to do with all the new equipment?!
Open up the back doors of his van, and you'll see an impressive collection of gear that would rival the display of any fine outdoor mountain shop. Climbing gear nestles besides a mountain bike and biking gear. Paragliding equipment drapes over his running shoes. There's spare bike tires, various helmets, and carabineers for numerous purposes.
I can't go back and change my clothes all the time. My apparel and footwear simply has to be in sync with what I do. I can save weight on my way up and can keep my options open once I'm at the top. I like doing my mountain runs with an ultra light paraglider strapped to my back. It intensifies my run and the thought of gliding down the mountain is the perfect motivation." But it must be asked: Does doing too many sports at once make it impossible to truly perform at your highest level in each sport? Guido says no, insisting that all of his activities don't compete with each other. Rather, they complement each other by providing a foundation of overall strength and stamina. The cardio from running improves his climbing endurance. The forearm strength from climbing improves his mountain biking. And the psychological challenge of paragliding and speed-flying improves his spirit and overall motivation in all four sports. "The gratification of gliding down the mountain you just conquered by foot is incredible," he says. "Flying also gives me the chance to make the best of my downtime days." Guido sums up being a versatile multi-sport athlete as an expression of his love of being outdoors, and using up every drop of time given to him each day. "For me it's about becoming a better athlete every day, and spending as much time outdoors as I can."
And in Guido's world, he sure can use as much time outdoors as possible.
Guido was born on 26 September 1984 in Kitzbühel and spent his childhood years in Going, at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser. He regularly embarks on expeditions to remote parts of the world, including Patagonia, Pakistan, Norway, China, Morocco and Cuba, always looking for new ways to push himself and his limits. He refers to himself as an "allround alpinist". Limiting himself to only one element doesn't suit the Tyrolean; in fact, he feels equally comfortable on rock, ice, snow or even in the air — and he excels on pretty much any turf. Among his many accolades in the world of sports, he has three-peated the 8b+ route known as Des Kaisers neue Kleider (first ascent by Stefan Glowacz in 1994) on Wilder Kaiser, one of the hardest multi-pitch climbs in the Alps, completed first ascents like the spectacular Feuertaufe 8b+ (Sonnwand/Lofer) together with Alexander Huber and some fast-paced ascents in Patagonia, such as the Cerro Torre via the Ferrari route. Also among his achievements are the following: Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Cerro Standhardt and the Aguja Guillaumet, the ascent of the Nameless Tower in Pakistan via the Eternal Flame route, some challenging ice climbs up to grade WI6+ and ambitious sport climbing up to 8c+. Today Guido lives with his girlfriend in St. Johann in Tyrol. He is a certified mountain and ski guide. He leads his own Alpine learning center, speed glides and mountain bikes with passion and yet still finds the time to hold lectures about his exploits and adventures. And if all of this weren't enough — he's expecting his first child in spring.