11.28.2016

Mountain: On Boukreev's Track 6: What 'Summit' Means?

Anatoli Boukreev
"I arrived on the top at three-fifteen. [...] I straddled the summit crest, riding it like a horse, and took pictures. [...] From my friends I knew that the southern point was 8.013 m, by some calculation only five m higher than where I sat. I considered the traverse, looking at the huge snowdrifts that had built up over the technically easy relief. They were weighted and ready to carry a person down despite every precaution. Experience told me that I had about a 10 percent chance of reaching the south peak alive. How the snow had felt coming up the ridge was fresh in my mind. I knew the conditions were not right for more gambling with my life. Inside me, as it would be with any mountaineer, ambition was raging, but continuing would go agaist all logic. I had put my life on the line many times in 1996, but for important reasons. I don't know how other mountaineers will judge my actions, but I left the ridge with the feeling that I had climbed Shisha Pangma." (Anatoli Boukreev, "Above the clouds" p.195-196)
When I first read this I thought that Anatoli Boukreev wasn't just a great mountaineering but moreover a great man, a man able to use his brain over 8.000 m as well as his heart, ready to risk his life to save other lives, but cleaver enough to prevent his ambition to kill him. 
The summit certificate
"As far as me I had climbed Shisha Pangma" I quoted by heart commentating an interesting news on 4sport.ua: About 200 mountaineers climbed the Manaslu but only three obtained a certificate of the ascent, by the Nepali authorities.
The point is: what 'summit' means? and what 'climbing atop a mountain' means? such a mountain then, a 8.000 m giant covered in snow, with a serious risk of avalanches and a very narrow ridge. Manaslu is 8156 m, the eighth highest mountain in the world. Commercial expeditions have turned it in a crowded popular aim but it doesn't make it easier. 
Risultati immagini per manaslu summit
The narrow summit of  Manaslu
The Nepali authorities want a picture from the summit, that's the highest point on the mountain. But Mingma Sherpa, Managing Director of Seven Summit Treks, doesn't agree. According to him several climbers have successfully climbed to the summit of Manaslu, but failed to take a picture from there. The  peak of the mountain is indead too narrow to allow more than one person per time to stand on it, so many take photo and video just below. And this is due to the large number of mountaineers climbing to the top and to the unstable weather conditions: few people want to take the risk of waiting for their turn! Even Reinhold Messner said that the Department of Tourism of Nepal is more interested in tourism than in mountaineering.
Yannick Seigneur
As far as me, I think this story shows how far the commercialisation has gone even in the Himanayas. I remember Yannick Seigneur wrote: "This wild mountains aren't a circus like our Alps." ("Makalu pilastro ovest attacco finale" in the anthology "Racconti di pareti e scalatori" by Marco Albino Ferrari, in Italian). That's no more true. Himalayas is now a bigger circus, and more lucrative.
Commercial expeditions shouldn't exist. People shouldn't be allowed to climb a 8.000 just because they can pay for it. The Nepali authorities are discussing a law aiming to make a selection based on experience, not on money. I think it's a good law, because in my opinion you can't stop a mountaineer who's ready to dare the mountain by fair means and you must stop an amateur who's ready to spend a lot to have it easier. Mountains, also the Alps, should be again a place instilling respect, honesty and a bit of fear.
Climbing a mountain by fair means require courage and realism. It isn't just the summit, it's the whole human experience that gives it its value. It isn't the picture, for sure. It isn't the certificate. The perfect ascent could remain a secret and keep all its meaning. It's a matter of awareness. That's why it's done. Otherwise it's a kind of exhibitionism, miserable and sterile. 
Sharing such an experience is dangerous. Tempting, almost unavoidable. It makes it more real but probably poorer. Alienation and objectivation are two sides of the same thing. Writing is a fair compromise, a personal objectivation that is possible to share... However this is another story.

No comments: