9.21.2016

About mountaineering, climbing and adventure

1968 Messner on Sass dla Crusc, Dolomiti
I'm new here, in telling stories about mountains and mountaineering. I walked my way up more than once but always in silence. Now I decided to have another go, and this time to write. 
Things changed a lot. I wonder if 'mountaineering' or 'alpinism' still is the right tag for what it is now. Probably 'climbing' defines it better as far as the profesional activity is concerned, while 'trekking' is a more accurate description for the rest. 
Once upon a time national expeditions were the most important side of profesional mountaineering and they aimed to climb for the first time the highest mountains in the world. The Alps first, then and definitively the Himalaya. 
When I was a child Reinhold Messner and a few others imposed by their exploits a new concept of mountaineering and called it 'adventure'. No more big and full supported expedition, no more national pride as a drive but the individual quest for freedom in a solitary challenge of personal limits. It wasn't anymore about WHAT but about HOW: solo, 'by fair means', by a new more difficult route, in winter condition. 
2016 Manaslu base camp 4850m. Puja for the next expedition
Messner inspired a whole generation of revolutionary mountaineers but also men and women who walked to the wilderness to experience a different self. A new ecological awarness was finally meeting the cultural refuse of consumerism and it had a part in shaping a different way to imagine an alternative to Capitalist. Mountaineering was a form of counterculture, critical and propositive. 
But it was the result of a larger context, and when it changed mountaineering changed as well. National supported expedition didn't disappear, they became commercial: as Anatoli Boukreev sadly found out, money not merit is now the main requierement to get the opportunity to climb Mount Everest, as tons of people every year do, and NOT by fair means of course, because they can't. That's dangerous and quite sad. 
Now profesional mountaineers rarely get a finanacial support by their countries, that was the normal way it used to work. They have to find sponsors interested in trading money for exposure, and THIS changed everything. Exposure comes with big events, even better if they are regularly held like competitions, or record's attempts. 
To find a sponsor to target the 14 8.000 peaks is easier, but who will pay for kids to find their way up the mountains, to train and to develop as mountaineers? moreover: who will support the less appealing expeditions a mountaineer needs to mature the necessary experience? The answer is complicated and different in different countries. 
The result anyway seems to be a wide diffusion and popularity of rock climbing as speed competition, in the mountains but also on artificial walls, while traditional mountaineering found a new focus  in the opening of more demanding routes. 
Sciliar 
Collecting the ascent of all the 14 8.000 peaks as Messner first did is a goal only few achieved: only 33 men, 15 without oxygen, and no women yet. Thta's a goal sponsors like but mountaineers should reflect about its meaning in their personal career and in their life. In general that's the point: the adventure can be anywhere because it's about your personal desire to push your personal limits, to get to know yourself in a different way, facing the ultimate ordeal that's death, the fight to survive finding your inner resources. That's more likely to happen out of the light spot

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