Mountaineering: On Boukreev track 7: Cesare Maestri's Compressor Route

Bolts from the Compressor Route Photo: Mikey Schaefer
Bolts from the Compressor Route Pic by Mikey Schaefer
"The big noise of our motor fills the Valle del Torre. It's a dare to every mountaineering taboo. To somebody, it could seems a  blasphemy: for me it's an antem against prejudges and preconcept ideas, it's the antem of the man ready to get any help in his hard work by any artifice or machine as far as he is the one solving the problem, with awarness and reason, as far he's not conditioned or submitted by the mechanical tools.
While we are getting ready to descend an evil plann arises in me: I'm going to take off the wall all the screws. I'll leave it as clean as we have found it. I'm going to break the screws, so even to use the same holes we made will be impossible for who will try to climb after us. I know I'm a bastard, that it's irrational and dangerous, but, given all the polemics, I'm firmly determined to do it."
When I read Cesare Maestri short story about the Compressor Route ascent in the anthology by Albino Ferrari ("Racconti di parenti e scalatori"), I got astonished. I must admit I didn't know about it in dettails. It made me feel unconfortable. Not the fact: the story. The way Maestri had wrote it, the words he had used. This story sounds different fron the rest, and different from anything else I have read so far about mountaineering. 
First of all, the claim of a brute anthropocentrism made even more ideological by a reductive equation of 'human' and 'technical reason'. Humans fill the scene as the motor noise fills the valley, mountains are just the raw material in an industrial process whose output is the industrial culture. In spite Cesare Maestri was a communist, he's concept of human is subalterne to the dominant class concept, marked by productivisme, consumerism, and a pathological 'faustism', that's a childish deny of humans limits. 
Unfortunately a large part of '900 communist movement failed to emancipate from this concept and as a consequence to build a true alternative to Capitalism. Nervertheless a different kind of humanism, more comprehensive and critical, is present for exemple in the work of a communist philosopher like Gyorgy Lukacs and I can find it in the Soviet education of Anatoli Boukreev, where the quest for the human perfection begins with the awarness of the human limits and the respect for the 'other', 'nature' included. The Soviet experience is a complicated combination, or better a fight, of the two concepts, and that's way it requires a complex, ponderated evaluation.
Secondly, the rancour, the aggresiveness, the hate. Boukreev writes: "Big Mountains are a completely different world. You can not conquer them, only rise to their height for a short time; and for that they demand a great deal. The struggle is not with the enemy, or a competitor like in sports, but with yourself, with the feelings of weakness and inadequacy. That struggle appeals to me. It is why I became a mountaineer.” No enemy, no competitor, no need to prove something to somebody, just the burning desire to go beyond yoursef, to dissolve your ego, to focus on the hard challenge and to forget about the rest of the world. That's how mountaineers usually describe mountaineering. Maestri instead planns to deliberately act like a jerk, against the mountain - row material and nothing else - and against the other mountaineering, breaking the basic rule of solidarity. 
Why did he do that? why did he climb with such an heavy soul? To respond to the criticism by the mountaineering community about his claim he had climbed the Cerro Torre in 1958 with Toni Egger, who had lost his life falling in the way down, bringing with him the camera and so the evidences of the summit reach. I don't go into the dettails of the story, but it has been demonstrated that Maestri had never been on the summit of Cerro Torre. He admitted he didn't consider part of the mountain the ice part atop, but even the route on the rock wall he described in 1958 doesn't exist and a photo he claims was taken on Cerro Torre was actually taken on Perfil de Indio. 
Criticism invested also his way to climb, and his wide use of artificial helps. Messner used to say his aim was to leave on the mountain just his steps, that the wind quickly canceals, Maestri was ready to leave on the mountain a huge number of expansion bolts and other fixed protection, precluding a free climbing approach to a clean wall to the future generation of mountaineers, or simply to the next ones with better thecnical skills.
By Maestri's point of view there is no difference between technical climbing shoes or clothing and the use of a compressor: technic is a kind of estension of the human hand, nothing is 'natural', the nature of humans is exactly the 'artificial', the 'tool'. That's true and Karl Marx well explained it. However the consequences of using a tool instead of another one or in add to it are different and important. Punching somebody by a hand is different from hitting him or her by a club, and very different from shooting with a gun. What's the aim? Machiavelli wrote that "the aim justifies the way", but history taught us that it doesn't mean that any way is fine, because some way end to vanify the aim. The way must reflect the aim, there is no shortcut. Mountaineering's aim is to face the extreme challenge to get to know the self. At least this is the aim mountaineers usualy state. 
Of course you can set as your goal to become famous making the press talk about your achievements. You can feed your ego collecting 'conquests'. All ways are fine then. People will say you are brave, trouth is you are just weak, in need of confirmation. 
The difference is evident in your reaction to criticism. Also Messner and Boukreev have been criticised, the first one about the circumstances of his brother's death on Nanga Parbat, the second one about his conduct on  Everest in 1996. More bitter Messner, more saddened Boukreev, they both reacted lifting the standard: climbing 8.000  m mountains without oxigen, climbing solo "by fair means". They both fighted to establish the trouth and to restore their honour, but the most relevant consequence was that they accentuated their focus on their inner motivation. It seems that Maestri did the opposite.
The Compressor Route is a part in the mountaineering history. A controversial one. In 2012 Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk climbed the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre "without using any of Maestri’s bolts for protection and during the descent chopped 120 of his bolts." Reactions were mostly favourable and many mountaineers signed a petition in support of the bolt removal. I'm sorry to say that few Italians signed it. In 2014 the Italian blogger Stefano Lovison published an article against the the bolt removal, judged arrogant and ahistorical. Many readers expressed their support.
As far as me, I agree with Reinhold Messner, who commentated: “Maestri was free to put the bolts in 1970, Jason and Hayden were free to take the bolts out. Cesare demonstrated that CT was possible with the compressor, Jason and Hayden demonstrated that it was possible without. They have all my respect – for having liberated the Compressor route from the grips of conquest alpinism, a style that we should finally get over with.” 
As I said, what make me sick isn't the fact but the story, the feeling of the feeling Maestri's put in his angry fanatic words. Mountaineers climb to feel at peace, not to hurt back, not hating and claiming something for themselves.

HERE you have the statement in support of the bolts removal:

"In 1952, after making the first ascent of Cerro Fitz Roy, Frenchman Lionel Terray described the nearby Cerro Torre as “an impossible mountain,” a phrase that described well the ice-capped, mile-high granite needle. In early 1968 an Anglo-Argentine team composed of Martin Boysen, Mick Burke, Pete Crew, Jose Luis Fonrouge and Dougal Haston attempted the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre, managing to climb 450 meters above the Col of Patience without placing any bolts. In December of 1970 Italians Ezio Alimonta, Carlo Claus and Cesare Maestri climbed to within 60 meters of the summit, turning around while still on vertical ground, having placed upwards of 300 bolts with the help of a gas-powered air compressor. Courtesy of the use of the compressor, the “impossible mountain” was no more. In January of 1979 Americans Jim Bridwell and Steve Brewer completed Alimonta, Claus and Maestri’s near miss, finishing the so-called Compressor Route. In January of 2012 American Hayden Kennedy and Canadian Jason Kruk climbed the southeast ridge without using any of Maestri’s bolts for protection and during the descent chopped 120 of his bolts.

We, some of the many climbers who have devoted much energy over the last decades to climbing in the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs, shaping the region's climbing history, are in full support of the bolt removal:

Jorge Ackermann, Tomy Aguilo, Conrad Anker, Bjorn-Eivind Artun, Trym Atle Saeland, Scott Backes, Scott Bennett, Bjarte Bø, Carlos Botazzi, Martin Boysen, John Bragg, Ben Bransby, Chris Brazeau, Phil Burke, Tommy Caldwell, Ramiro Calvo, Ben Campbell-Kelly, Rab Carrington, Dave Carman, Robert Caspersen, Andy Cave, Yvon Chouinard, Carlos Comesaña, Kelly Cordes, Inaki Coussirat, Pete Crew, Sebastian De la Cruz, Alejandro Di Paola, Leo Dickinson, Ben Ditto, Jim Donini, Martin Donovan, Dana Drummond, Magnus Eriksson, Gabriel Fava, Nico Favresse, Silvia Fitzpatrick, Ralf Gantzhorn, Rolando Garibotti, Stefan Gatt, Chris Geisler, Jon Gleason, Gustavo Glickman, Milena Gomez, Colin Haley, Brian Hall, Kennan Harvey, Jorge Insua, Peter Janschek, Hans Johnstone, Neil Kauffman, Joel Kauffman, Hayden Kennedy, Michael Kennedy, Andy Kirkpatrick, Jason Kruk, Ole Lied, Whit Magro, Klemen Mali, Carlitos Molina, Marius Morstad, Avo Naccachian, Fermin Olaechea, Marius Olsen, Ian Parnell, Luciano Pera, Korra Pesce, Doerte Pietron, Michal Pitelka, Kate Rutherford, Mikey Schaefer, Stephan Siegrist, Pedro Skvarca, Zack Smith, Bruno Sourzac, Rick Sylvester, Jim Toman, Doug Tompkins, Jvan Tresch, Roberto Treu, Sean Villanueva, Adam Wainwright, Eamon Walsh, Jon Walsh, Josh Wharton, Andres Zegers

We also support the removal of the Compressor Route bolts:

Vince Anderson, Chris Bonington, Mick Fowler, Steve House, Heinz Mariacher, Reinhold Messner, Paul Pritchard, Sonnie Trotter, Mark Twight

Editor’s note.

The many climbers in the first list have made important contributions to alpinism in the Chalten area including ascents such as the ones listed below. This list is meant to indicate their love for climbing in the Chalten Massif, their connection to the place, and a level of devotion that has helped shape its history. The ascents are in no particular order, and range from 1963 to 2012:

The first attempts to climb Supercanaleta (1963 and 64), the first ascent of Supercanaleta (second ascent of Fitz Roy), the first ascent of the California route (third ascent of Fitz Roy), the first attempt on the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre, the second ascent of Cerro Torre, and an impressive near miss on the east and north faces of Cerro Torre. 

The first ascents of Aguja Guillaumet, Torre Egger, Cerro Piergiorgio, Volcan Lautaro, Aguja Mermoz, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Pollone East, Aguja Cuatro Dedos, Aguja Tito Carrasco, Aguja Volonqui, Marconi Central, and the second ascent of Poincenot;

Eight new routes on Fitz Roy, two new routes on Torre Egger, two new routes on Standhardt, seven new routes on Poincenot, three new routes on Desmochada, six new routes on Saint Exupery, three new routes on Mermoz, eight new routes on Guillaumet, and new routes on Aguja Pollone, Domo Blanco, De la Silla, Aguja De l’S and Cuatro Dedos;

The first Argentine ascents of Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, Torre Egger, Aguja Standhardt, Punta Herron, Aguja Poincenot and the Ragni route on Cerro Torre;

The first free ascents of Linea de Eleganza and of the Ferrari-Corazon combo, both on Fitz Roy’s east face;

The first complete ascent of El Tiempo Perdido to the Ragni route on Cerro Torre, the first ascent of the Corkscrew on Cerro Torre, the first ascent of the Torres Traverse, and the first ascent of El Arca de los Vientos on Cerro Torre;

The first winter ascents of Fitz Roy, Torre Egger, Poincenot and Guillaumet, the first winter ascents of Vol de Nuit on Mermoz and the Ragni route on Cerro Torre.

The first ascents of the Wave Effect, the Pollone Traverse, the North Pillar Sit Start, and the first to fourth ascents of the Care Bear Traverse;

The second female ascent of Fitz Roy, the second female-team ascent of Fitz Roy, and the first female ascent of the Ragni route on Cerro Torre;

The first ascent and solo of the East Face of Adela, the second solo ascent of Supercanaleta on Fitz Roy, the first solo ascent of Standhardt, the second and third solo ascents of Saint Exupery, the second and third solo ascents of Mermoz, and the first solo ascents of Aguja Rafael Juarez and Guillaumet.

Other notable contributions include spearheading the successful repeal of the climbing fee program that the National Park Administration (APN) attempted to pass in 2005;

donating significant funds towards building the climber display in the Park's visitor centre; successfully repealing the motion by the Provincial Land Administration to pass to private control the area of Cerro Piergiorgio, Cerro Pollone and the north face of FitzRoy; bringing to fruition a trail restoration project that involved donating 4400 man hours of work to the National Park; participating in a number of volunteer rescues; and creating a free online resource database of all mountaineering activity in the area.

Links to the Thoughts of:

Jorge Ackermann, “Now who had the right to take bolts out? The ones who climbed the route without using the bolts had the right to take them out and Jason and Hayden chose to do this and I respect their decision. They climbed the headwall beautifully and I applauded them for it, this is a huge accomplishment in the world of climbing. A bit more discretion would have helped to keep the scandal under wraps but now it is done. In the end though, it is Cerro Torre that we are talking about and it seems that it is a mountain that does not incite discretion.”

Martin Boysen, “About time!”

Pete Crew, “It is time that the Maestri nonsense was knocked in the head once and for all.”

Ben Campbell-Kelly, “What could be better than having an iconic mountain with only challenging routes to the top? No gimmicks and no via ferratas! It's exciting to see how the new generation is making its mark.”

Risultati immagini per cesare maestriLeo Dickinson, “The compressor route on Cerro Torre should never have been in existence – nature did such a beautiful job at making Cerro Torre a world class mountain. The bolt route has been a scar on the history of mountaineering for too long..”

Reinhold Messner, “Maestri was free to put the bolts in 1970, Jason and Hayden were free to take the bolts out. Cesare demonstrated that CT was possible with the compressor, Jason and Hayden demonstrated that it was possible without. They have all my respect – for having liberated the Compressor route from the grips of conquest alpinism, a style that we should finally get over with.”

Pedro Skvarca wrote, “Personally I believe that the bolts should have never been placed. I was never in agreement with Maestri’s action, he made a grave mistake and breached the ethics of mountaineering.”

Mark Twight, “Having grown up in the culture of climbing that I knew, and been mentored by the men who inspired and educated me, I never thought I would see the day that anyone would be ‘against’ chopping those bolts.” 

1 comment:

Ilaria said...

Aslo Heidegger prosposes a critique of the reduction of 'human' to 'technical reason' but I don't share his point of view, traditionalist and politically fascist. A critique of it is possible - and it's been realised - by a revolutionary point of view.