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With up-to-date news coverage, training articles, gear reviews, celebrity profiles, technical tips covering a wide variety of subjects, event reports, big glossy pics and enthralling articles.
So much stuff has been going down in the world of extreme climbing and mountaineering in recent years, and we are perpetually kept updated by the continuous posting on social media. Hardly a week goes by when there isn’t some story of a new alpine-style route on some Himalayan giant, a winter ascent of a heinously steep and dangerous line, or a free solo of a route so long, hard and taxing, that only a handful of climbers are able to climb it in full regalia, or another sick and totally incomprehensible speed record on The Nose . . . the list goes on.
What makes one achievement better than the other? Well, of course there is no such thing as which is the best, or more out there, or more dangerous, or whatever. They are all feats of extreme fortitude, determination and courage, undertaken by climbers and mountaineers, or indeed athletes, of supreme ability, talent and resourcefulness. These men and women are the torch bearers of our ‘sport’, the ones who shift the goal posts, who raise the bar. The ones who keep breaking into the unknown, smash records, and endeavour to go where no one has dared go before. Or if you will pardon the pun, the ones who move mountains.
The wonderful world of mountains and mountaineering, has always had front runners. From the very beginning – I mean, when the 8000ers were first climbed (even with Os) it was considered an outstanding achievement. That was then. The first ascents of the Walker Spur, the North Face of the Eiger, the Bonatti Pillar, and thousands of other similar ascents were heralded as super human achievements. And back then they were. And climbed by the top alpinists of the time – names like Bonatti, Cassin, Heckmair. Not to mention Messner’s achievements in the Himalaya, etc. Far too many names and achievements for this short article.
Today that bar has been raised to unspeakable heights: there have been numerous remarkable achievements by many exceptionally gifted and courageous climbers and alpinists. Outrageous, mind boggling stuff. But let’s just look at two. Alex Honnold’s free solo of Freerider on El Cap in June last year is considered by many as the greatest climbing achievement of all time . . . and it probably is. But it’s no greater or less an achievement than Polish alpinist Andrzej Bargiel’s ascent of K2 (without Os, of course) and subsequent descent on skis – a mammoth 7-hour journey – from summit to base camp. Of course, the two ‘performances’ if you may, are not comparable in any shape or form. One, a long, sustained and super difficult rock climb, the other, a huge 8,000-metre snowy peak, packed to the hilt with objective dangers.
There are similarities, however, that can be drawn; both climbers are extremely fit, superlative and driven athletes at the very top of their game. Neither endeavour had been achieved before. And on both accounts, the smallest mistake by either of them, something as small as a crystal breaking, or an unstable patch of snow, would’ve meant certain death. And most importantly, both performances demanded the utmost from their ‘actors’ – both physically and mentally.
There is a lot of glory and self-satisfaction in forging new routes, climbing new peaks, scaling the biggest and hardest walls, and being the first person to do something that others have thought impossible, or have failed to do before. Of course, many never return from the mountains that bring them so much joy and which ironically keep their souls alive and the blood pumping through their veins.
But will it ever stop? No, of course not! Nothing will stop them from exploring and seeking out new challenges. Nothing will stop them from putting up bigger, harder, and wilder routes . . . and nothing can stop the bar from creeping ever higher and higher. That is just how the game works.
One of my favourite mountain quotes ‘Fearful Exertions’ by the inimitable Austrian alpinist, Hermann Bühl, says it all:
Many a time I have on the summit after a difficult climb, ravenous, my nerves worn out, my strength exhausted, but blissfully happy. It is this feeling that drives us climbers ever and again up into the high mountain tracts, remote from all life; which impels us to undertake the most fearful exertions, which drives us far beyond the narrow confines of the world. Be safe in the hills Tony
A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY IN AFRICA
by Alexandra Schweikart, Christopher Igel
A YOUNG MAN’S LIFE IN ORANGE
by Gustav Janse van Rensburg
Niccolò Ceria pays New Zealand a visit and cleans up
by Niky Ceria
CLASSIC CLIMBS: King Kong – Krakadouw, Cederberg
by Kai Fitchen
IN MEMORY OF DAVE POTHIER
by Guy Holwill, Neil Tolley
ARCO ROCK LEGENDS 2018
CAUTIONARY TALES – Rescues
by Ant Hall
BACK PAGE STORY– THE APE FACTOR
by Terence Livingston