Blog
5 Agost 2014
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Are mountains the last space of freedom?

- Vous ne pouvez continuer ici avec des baskets!

- Bon jour…

- C’est pas possible, les idiots.

- Bonne journée a vous aussi.

I continue running up, is not the first comment I hear today, and as the arab proverb says “Only speak if what you say is more beautiful than silence” I try to just hear what is more beautiful than silence.

Fortunately, I hear much less insults than when I did for my first time a fast Mont Blanc ascent 8 years ago, I have a lot of guides and alpinist friends that liked and/or accept what we do.  Yesterday I was on Glacier du Tour, a classical “first altitude day” for people who want to climb Mont Blanc. Guides go a lot there to practices glacier approach, techniques and altitude with their clients before go to higher summits. And living on the foot of this glacier and being a great exploring terrain I train often there.  One week ago I was with Emelie going up for a tour on Aiguille du Tour (pun intended) and the first Bonjour we had when we put our foot on the glacier was a curt "On est past dans un glacier sans corde" By a guide roped with 3m long to his client. We say a Have a good day and continue climbing, great that the next guide we cruise made us in a better mode. Yesterday some strong Norwegian friends was going up to Mont Blanc, It’s not a good idea go up the 4 august when is a huge amount of people trying to reach the summit, but they have not holidays all the year! They loved the experience to run up there, the views from the summit and the feeling of the altitude, but they was surprised for a lot of “comments” of guides and people they was crossing, here they chronic if you understand norwigean. Is maybe a miscommunication? Is maybe a fear? Fear to what? To loose clients? To see another style to go to mountains, or to see more “unsafe” people? I don’t think is one of those but is the biggest answer they give, the safety, to be a bad example.

When I ski on a steep slope, or when I solo climb (or more scrambling, I can not consider a V+ is climbing seeing what people is doing today!), or running on a glacier, I don’t do because I want to die. I have not suicidal impulses on myself. I want to be alive, I want to explore and my goal on the mountains is to find happiness, answers to my questions, improve, learn, meet new friends, see, discover, mostly, on a world that is more and more structured and looked, to feel freedom. I think on the mountains, as the sailor at sea, we find the space where we can be ourselves.  And being ourselves we will make mistakes and achievements. If we want to move, if we want to improve, or just to do something, we need to take decisions, and when we take decisions, we’re exposed to make mistakes, and it’s because this mistakes we will improve, as Sampedro says "The defeat has something positive, is never final. Instead victory has something negative, is never final." We all want the perfection, a world without mistakes, a world without fails, and to do that humans invent the rules. We don’t want to die, but everybody will die. We don’t want to fail, but everybody will fail. The perfection is not human, and for the moment, for good or evil, we still humans. Dali say to don’t be afraid of perfection, we will never reach. We humans idealize the past and forgot early what we don’t want to remember, the thinks we don’t want to do and has been doing, or our mistakes projected on the past. As we’re disappointed when an Idol does something that we would never do, we do the same with the past, because is harder to be angry with someone from the past, we simply forgot. But, paraphrasing Lluis Claret (Spanish Cellist) “our voice is also the testimony of those who we have loved and admired, who we have taught and influenced, and mountaineering history is made with a lot of “mistakes” and “bad” exemplary practices who made the sport growing. Light and fast way to move on mountains is not a new think. In 1864, Frédérik Morshead climb MontBlanc from Chamonix in 16h, In early 1900 Paul Preuss climbed solo and claimed for a non bolts, rope use and artificial climb. “With artificial climbing aids you have transformed the mountains into a mechanical plaything. Eventually they will break or wear out, and then nothing else will be left for you to do than to throw them away.”. In 80’s Proffit, Escoffier… try the imposible speedclimbing and joining noth faces of Eiger, Jorasses, Cervin. At the same time Laurent Smagghe, Pierre Cusin, Valerio Bertoglio run up and down in the normal routes, and Alex Lowe setting speed records on Denali or Tetons. History of running on mountains is old.  But mountaineering world, as all the worldlets, are based on a strict ethics and nowrite rules, and those are different for every single person. When we’re on france, guides are educated on ENSA style and rules, on Italy, is the offspring of Bonatti and a strong sport spirit, on old URRS countries the military and competition has a important role, as we saw running competitions on Elbrus or Lennin (7134m) summits. You imagine that on other countries?  No, every country, every person has different views of what is the alpinism.

So, what is an alpinist?

Etymologically Alpinist is the one who is in the Alps, Alps signify valley because when people from the mountains are now on the north of Italy and south of France, Suiss and Austria where more interested on the valleys where his cows eat grass than on the summits where it was nothing to do.

Wikipedia says The term mountaineering describes the sport of mountain climbing, including ski mountaineering.[2] Hiking in the mountains can also becomes a simple form of mountaineering when it involves scrambling, or short stretches of the more basic grades of rock climbing, as well as crossing glaciers.

Maybe to general, so is piolets d’or who defines the alpinism? Go to the hardest, explore, find, reach…So is Tomaz Humar climbing alone in a really seracs exposed face, or Ueli Steck climbing fast on a big north face, I don’t think is on the “safety” rules anymore… 

For me, the best description ever I read about what is an alpinist I read-it on Jordi Corominas Alpinism dictionary (a beautiful treasure are all the subjects on this special dictionary) If you don’t understand Spanish here the first paragraph:

X: Xuelian. X (Roman numeral): Alpinist is a desire to be an attempt to be something, a goal. It's an idea that every day we intend to take shape, a dream many times tested and achieved just a few. Always we’re not a mountaineer; there are many days when you did not cross any limit, there are times that we only try, other the exploration is unsuccessful and there are some in which we're just not at the required level. Therefore when someone says it's mountaineer, I smile, how he can talk without your hands sweat, without feeling a chill on the back? Without being ashamed to be so mediocre?

But the question here is: Are mountains only for alpinists?

We’re discussing for a long about the ethics of alpinism and what is responsible or not, but who say that mountains are propriety of alpinists? Is because you’re not an alpinist that you can not go to the mountains? Mountains means for me freedom, one of the rare places of freedom that we can find on the most and most humanized earth. If you ask me where I can find freedom, I will say, in addition on mountains, on the sea, on the deserts probably, and on the art. Painting is freedom, Imagine that on the siècle XVI in a major artistic expression we define the canons and rules of painting following the measures of Botticelli or Da Vinci. It was a great art, close to find the perfection some would say, but then what is about the impressions and lights of Monet, about the sentiment of Guernica of Picasso, the emotions reflected by Kandinsky… And what about the photography, because is not using a paintbrush is not art anymore? We can say the same for all the arts, for music, literature… One world without freedom must be safe, must be controlled, but must be really boring.

And it’s not about tastes, I don’t like when snowhoes destroy my ski track or to climb an 8000m peak with o2, as I don’t like Van Gogh, reggaeton, electronic or science fiction books. Is about respect, about accept that our truth is not an universal truth, and anyway, is easier to enjoy climbing, skiing, surfing, running, painting or wherever you want to do in mountains and say “Bonjour” if you cruise someone. You will be happier and he to.

Ok, I’m being very optimistic, too much dreamer. Maybe is easy to do that on lost Alaskan mountains, some deep scandinavic, Antartica, Altai or Sijote-Alin where you will be surprised to see some humans, but on the most part of the well known massifs the part of the problem is the overcrowding. We’re on a structured and regularized world and when we have holydays (all at the same dates) we want to go out of our jammed and stressed city and find some free place. Mountains are this place and all we go to the same because we have not much time and these mountains have easy access. And there, seeing that it was not exactly the freedom we was expecting we’re more irritable and disappointed, so the easy think, is to try to make disappear with that bothers us. And what bothers human is, in general, the different. So we try to scare or to show that they are not welcome the ones doing something different, to have more place for ourselves. So “Alpinists” are rude with runners, runners are rude with bikers, bikers are rude with walkers, and walkers are rude with paragliders because everybody thinks mountains are their own.

Humans we like rules, we like to have an answer on every question, to have a paper where is written what we can or not do in every situation. And in a freedom place (and I hope mountains will never became under a politic rules) all the persons involved, because they spend more time there, because they work there, because they buy there, thinks they have a bit of right to make this rules.  Jeff Mercier, one of the world best Mix climbers and rescue patrol proposes some options. Personally I think taking away all the access to the mountains (funiculars, Cable cabs, heliports…) we will have a less influx of persons and more spaced.

But mountains are not there for one of us, mountains are simply there. Is between us to respect each other, to accept that nobody owns the mountains and to be grateful to have the possibility to spend, everyone in his form and pleasure, time on them.