Archive for solo climbing

Alex Honnold free solos Freeride (5.13a/7c+)

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , on June 11, 2017 by xi'an

神々の山嶺 [the summit of the gods]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2017 by xi'an

The summit of the gods is a five volume manga created by Jiro Taniguchi, who just passed away. While I do not find the mountaineering part of the story realistic [as in the above stripe], with feats and strength that seem beyond even the top himalayists like Reinhold Messner, Pierre Beghin, Abele Blanc, or Ueli Steck (to name a few), I keep re-reading the series for the unique style of the drawing, the story (despite the above), and the atmosphere of solo climbing in the 1970’s or 1980’s, especially as a testimony to Japanese climbers, as well as the perfect rendition of the call of the mountains… Reading Taniguchi’s obituaries over the weekend, I realised he was much more popular in France, where he won a prize for his drawing at the BD Festival in Angoulême in 2005, than in Japan.

Himalayan fight

Posted in Mountains with tags , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by xi'an

“Today,  Everest is too much of a business and there are too many heroes.” Simone Moro

I was reading in Le Monde yesterday about an ugly fight occurring between a team of alpine-style climbers Ueli Steck, Simone Moro, and Jonathan Griffith) and the team of sherpas installing fixed ropes on the normal route to Everest in preparation for the hundreds of clients waiting at Base Camp. The sherpas apparently did not accept the parallel  and faster climb of the three independent climbers to their tent at Camp 3, as well as resented these climbers having completed the fixed rope equipment in a gesture of good will (?). When the latter came down to Camp 2 they were faced by a mob of 100 angry sherpas ready to lynch them and had to be evacuated… Obviously, I have no further details than those I read in various interviews, from Ueli Steck‘s, to Simone Moro‘s, to the sherpas’. So I cannot judge of the responsibility of either side. However, facts are such that the team of three came closed to being stoned to death and that it had to leave Base Camp under a death threat.

This awful story reflects very badly on how much money has perverted mountaineering on Everest: while Steck and his team-mates were working on a genuine mountaineering feat by climbing a new route on a three person team, alpine-style, with no sherpa backup, the sherpas were working for half a dozen commercial companies and the millions of dollars behind (rates range from $50,000 to $100,000 per client!). Preventing climbers from climbing nearby (as long as they do not endanger anyone on the route) goes against the #1 mountaineering rule that mountains (and routes) do not belong to anyone, not even locals, and that faster teams should get priority. As shown in the book Into Thin Air, commercial expeditions have already demonstrated not caring about the #2 rule that one should bring assistance to anyone in danger: helping a perfect stranger down safely rather than bringing a $100,000 client to the top does not seem part of their equation. To be fair, Simone Moro also has commercial interests in the Himalayas through his helicopter rescue company, but I do not think this had anything to do with the current fight, besides being for the general “good—this is arguable, though, given that it gives a false sense of safety to people who should not be there…

Just a note on why I was shocked by this story: Ueli Steck is an amazing Swiss climber of Messner-ian class, who opened new routes in the Alps, Himalayas and Patagonia, often climbing them solo. (See Messner’s interview on Steck’s website, where he states that independent climbers are now perceived as parasites by sherpas.) One of his greatest feats so far is soloing the Heckmair route (the ultimate mountain climb in my opinion, see e.g. Joe Simpson’s missed attempt) on the Eiger Nordwand in 2 hours 47 minutes (it took Heckmair and his team three days in 1937).