The following is the full transcript of American rock climber Tommy Caldwell’s TEDx Talk titled “What are you up against?” at TEDxKC event.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: What are you up against by Tommy Caldwell at TEDxKC
It had been 6 days since our last meal. What had started out as a climbing trip of a lifetime, had become an entirely different type of adventure, one marked by suffering, and death.
My girlfriend and I with 2 friends had helicoptered into a remote mountain region in southwest Kyrgyzstan 2 weeks before. We spent a week sleeping in hanging tents high on the grand yellow granite walls of the Karasu Valley. On our 8th day, we woke to gunshots — hunters I thought? No. Bullets were ricocheting off the walls around us. We took our long telephoto camera lens, and looked down to see 4 men with machine guns, and rifles waving, making clear their message, descend to the ground, or be shot.
A rebel insurgency called the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had moved into the valley on a suspected mission to pave an opium trade trail through the mountains, and a war had erupted. We found ourselves caught at the point of collision, taken as hostage, used as human shields against the Kyrgyz military.
As the battle escalated, we ran. Then numb with terror, we huddled behind a boulder on top of a dead Kyrgyz soldier’s body, as a machine gun, and mortar fire flew overhead. As it got dark, 2 of our captors forced us to drop everything, and run with them. Then for the next 6 days, they pushed us, fleeing.