Being Greta Pontarelli

June 10, 2015  |   Galya Morrell


Being Greta Pontarelli

The moment I saw Greta Pontarelli at The Age of Happiness Festival in Montenegro, my soul has been rejected from peace. Greta would visit me at night and torment me till the very sunrise. Every night, next to her, I was becoming Greta myself: weightless, divine and free. I would overcome the gravity and I would fly. Being Greta was my destiny, the unattainable one.

When people invite me to talk about my adventures in the ”hard-to-get-and-hard-to-survive” places, they are genuinely interested in the hardships one has to endure on the road. And no matter what the talk is about, at the end conversation always comes to “matters of health”.

“Isn’t cold bad for your health?” “Don’t you get sick when it is -76F?” “Are there any doctors on the road?” “Is there any way to train to get used to extreme temperatures?”


Almost a year has passed since. But then, a week ago, I “got lucky again”. Fortune offered me a chance if not to become Greta Pontarelly, but to make at least one step closer to her.

This is how it happened.

We have just arrived from the North Pole and were about to escape from our winter kamiks into home slippers, when the radio broadcasted the speech of Ramzan Kadyrov, the President of Chechnya, where he prounounced us “polar spies”.

 Having not a single chance to exonerate ourselves, we reatreated to the sidewalk of the world history – to our little den in Kratovo.

We sat on the grass and looked up the sky. So much was happening there! Birds were dancing in the air ready to redecorate their nests, spiders were flying from tree to tree waving their nets, and little yellow butterflies, still sleepy after winter, were smelling apple tree buds, still unopened.

And then we saw these massive, half broken humangous branches, each weighing at least 50 kg; they were hanging dangerously right above our entrance door. Something had to be done.


I started with a call to the local limbing company – just to find out that the price of limbing just one single pine was equivalent to the price of one parachuting with an instructor onto the North Pole. It was just ridiculous! 90% of this outrageous sum would end up in deep pockets of a fat owner of the company who has recently purchased a title of a local “forest ranger”; and then only 10% would go to a 20-year old migrant from Central Asia who would be swinging high in the air along with the wind and his little saw.


So, I thought, there ought to be another way. And having lived through the recent crisis on drifting station Barneo (, I knew what to do next. I cycled to a nearby store and bought a rope, a chain, and a pair of leg-irons. Leg-irons came at a price of only 3,000 roubles which roughly equals $30.


I have never tried leg-irons before. And now, being 55, suddenly got courage. So, for the third day in a row, I am climbing up these huge trees – up and down, like a monkey.


Of course, a got a teacher. A young handsome Tadjik who had mastered this trade in his native Tyan-Shan Mountains since he was 13. Well, trade is not an accurate word for this skill. It is rather art. And swear, it is no worse than ballet, aerobics, joga and everything else. And in some senses, may be even better. Every single muscle, and every single cell of your body works! And it works with joy! Not only you overcome the gravity, but you grow wings! And your soul gets ready to fly – as it always wanted to.


And yes, a hundred years old pine tree of which ships heading to the North Pole were once made is not comparable with Greta Pontarelli’s elegant poll. But when I am high in the sky swinging along with the wind, smart little spiders, dancing birds and yellow butterflies, I know that I can be Greta Pontarelli.

And now, an important announcement. I  am ready to visit you  with my ropes, chains and crampons, and clean the old brances which you can't reach. And I can teach you the art of climbing trees at the age of happiness! Just buy me a ticket!

So, if anybody tells me tomorrow: “Go climb a tree!” I would answer: “No problem, come along with me. I know how. But do you?”



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October 31, 2015  |  Galya Morrell


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June 10, 2015   |   Galya Morrell


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May 1, 2015  |  Galya Morrell



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