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Saturday, 28 January 2012

American Alpine Imperialism, Stevie Royal Haston.

Cerro Torres South East arrête gets climbed in goodish  style and the ascenders chop some  bolts on maybe a different route, result internet mayhem! Shall we look at it for what it was, with that little gap that is so often necessary to make a more reasoned judgement, instead of the internet twitterings of the insane.
Lets start at the beginning, and believe me the start is not Maestri, or the so called Compressor route, the start is in what you think of  alpinism.  For this you will certainly not get a good, or an unbiased definition  anywhere, because stupidly alpinism like climbing, doesn’t have easily definable rules, and that is why there is so much shit going round. The Web now fans any, or even the slightest disagreement into an intolerable inferno, because it desperately wants clicks on its forums of ferment. Clicks mean money, doesn’t matter how you get them, so lets get them any old sly way we can eh!
The news was broadcast around the world when it had hardly happened. I read about the first free ascent before it had happened in fact, was the Net clairvoyant? No the web broadcast incorrect news, you could call them lies if you want. The first free ascent happened after the  so called atrocity of the American Alpine Imperialists by the Swiss Liberation Front.  But it turns out if you read closely, that it was series of variations on the Compressor route. Now then the Maestri route has always been a slight puzzle, but now the Web has solved it for me. This is Cognitive Imperial Conjecture of the first degree. What do I mean, well they stated in black and White that Maestri lied about his first ascent of this mountain. I have my own views on this ascent, private ones, because I am not God, and Maestri as far as I know, didn’t ever go to court. Not being Omnipotent I reserve judgement.
Back to Alpinism. What is it?  Even I am unclear and I have  been an alpine climber since age 16. I think Alpinism is a romantic ideal, its fighting without a victim, plus a view, its being a warrior without weapons, plus a view, its defiantly about seeking out the best, and it has something to do with mountains, I think.  The Maestri route has/had  an estimated 450 golos (bolts) drilled with a construction compressor,  and in finishing below the summit, was it a route, or was it a publicity stunt, and a future  Via Ferratta for Tourists? Is it really the best we can do to honour the iconic beauty of the Torre?  The Maestri obstacle course was always an odd thing, a bastard child, but there are many odd routes, aren’t there? The Japanese bolt route on the Eiger’s right flank. The American aid routes on the Dru, the French aid routes on the Dru, oh and quelle surprise, the Italian aid route on the Dru, It’s a free for all, without the free, wasn’t there one by a hippy and his guitar? Some of these went free, and then fell down, possibly due to all the ironmongery and fat aid climbers in situ. And then one more nationality added its via des Pitons, les Russes. The Eiger by the 1938 route, is not the route it was, it is much easier due to much more fixed protection, many routes have fixed ropes, cables and ladders on them to facilitate the tourist trade to bag summits. In fact there is a whole industry to help tourists to the top of mountains. Do Alpinists or climbers from different countries have a right to chop redundant bolts in others countries. Well I don’t know, I don’t know which law they broke. Can climbers chop bolts on a different route that they didn’t free climb, in their own country or any others for that matter? To me, having grown up through this period of the Compressor route, and having been exposed to the great and less than great Anglo American Alpine conspiracy, I don’t know if those American lads did the right thing. Bridwell showed what was possible on this route years ago, said it was an easyish route, and that it might go free given dry cracks to each side. He even did it in a wet suit, if I remember correctly, and took a huge rib crushing fall on a bungy like single 9mm rope. Today it is imperative that you should only work with websites, and have supporters lined up in advance, don’t risk it being put to a vote, because votes go any which way. Much has been made of a vote about this route, which said the bolts should stay in. Lets look at voting, shall we. When there is a show of hands, it’s always a risky process isn’t it? Most people don’t want to loose, they would rather win, or be on the winning side. When there are weird arguments on the climbers web, it’s the same. Lets look at how fair and just voting is. Bush was cheated in by an electoral scandal, this was not squashed by the Senate, and he seems to have  had the oil industry needs fairly high. In Britain we had Blair, and the weapons of Mass destruction false doctrine, he was voted in all fair and square, so that was Ok, right? Voting isn’t what you think, Clinton was voted in by women, who liked his smile, and he reduced women’s rights on abortion. The people who vote are called the public, years ago they were just called the Mob. Climbing is now ruled by the Mob, who are manipulated by …….god knows, but it’s possibly the Web masters in this case..
Two alpinist talking crack...Stevie consulting Nick the Guru Colton

My Alpine climbing has in large part been influenced by a huge number of American Alpinists, some French, and the idea of fair play was defiantly from the free climbing ethic that’s was pushed in America in the early seventies. However it was always clear that expediency took precedence over reality. ‘Alpine’ climbing needs defining, and solidifying, so that the standards of today can be used on the routes of the future. What the Maestri route did was rob the future. Cerro Torre is a great mountain and this route was ill conceived, but it has now been baptised, and was ultimately freed a few days later. If you think that both parties weren’t that strained to do their job, because of good conditions, and great expertise, and could climb harder, you must realise that Alpinism is the most open ended part of our great sport.
Far from thinking the two lads were Imperialist in their attitude, I see them as continuing a fine tradition of tidying up, which is going  out of favour by the politically correct pole dancers of today. But to agree we need to define. Kurt Albert did climbing a great service a few years ago, he defined the rules for Sport climbing and we are all better for it. Sadly Kurt is dead, because we need some one to do the same for Alpinism. Kurt did the Walker Spur when he was 17, I think! Alpinism was too ill defined for him, so if you freed something, the next party would still aid it. And claim the same route.
Alpine climbing’s very name will have to be changed soon, because to-days youth might finally understand that the big mountains aren’t just the Alps, or Patagooniacs, but are the Himals. Himalayists is a bit of a mouth-full, maybe good respectful climbers will suffice.
I would like to mention a few American Alpine Imperialista who really impressed me, Greg and Geof Lowe, Bouchard, the super religious Tobin Sorenson, Bridwell. Some Frog Republicans; Robert Chere, Turbo Renault, Fine. German/Austrian Ubermensh; Paul  Preuss, Heckmier. Italians Cavaliers; Gervasutti, Cassin. Out of all these, it has to be Preuss who seems so  Fundamentalist and wonderful. Preuss was the first Profit of Purism, the Iman of the Mountains.   And what a time, the Alps almost empty. And now that I think about it , yep he wrote it all down, he dictated from his high rocky pulpit, his six precepts, or regulations,  and verily they are very, very strict, and in their time they caused a storm, a storm that is worth opening the shutters for, to let in that fresh alpine air and let yourself think, instead of reacting. We all cheat according to Preuss, and of course the Maestro was right.
Is it an Alpine route, 5.12 in the Himalayas.
Paul Preuss advocated pull-ups and no aid climbing which I happen to agree with,  but I am not strong enough to follow his precepts. Preuss was half Jewish so  luckily he died before the Nazis really took over. However his thoughts and beliefs were expunged from German/Austrian  alpine thinking, and ironically were kept more alive in Italy. In Italy a young climber called Maestri took up  some of the thoughts of Chairman Preuss, but obviously not permanently. Isn’t life strange?
So what if Maestri and Egger (possibly Egger&Maestri,, as Egger was the ice Ace) actually did the great Torre in ’59! Very strange things have happened in climbing. I’ll just mention one. When Anker on Oxygen tried the first free ascent of the Chinese Ladder on Everest, it had somehow escaped his mind that this piece of mountain had already been free climbed before, by a bare footed Chinese man!
It's not in the Alps so is it an apine route?

What is clear to me after reading a lotta stuff, is that nothing is clear. The line of the Compressor route does not seem to be free, but very interesting variations  are, and they should become the accepted way.
Last thing, Laurent Grivel produced and sold the first climbing bolt kit in 1927, so you would  perhaps  think that  we might have a few solid guidelines to work with by now. But you would be wrong.