With the establishment of mountain tourism on most of the eight-thousanders and all of the Seven Summits plus a few other mountains, the required alpinistic skills have been reduced to almost zero. By alpine skills I mean independent climbing, acting and making decisions on the mountain. Everything that used to be required on these mountains has now largely become superfluous thanks to the technical infrastructure on the mountain. It is enough if you learn to walk with crampons in the base camp and to attach yourself correctly to the fixed rope (Cover photo: Mount Everest summit, photo: Robert Bösch).
An opinion article by Robert Bösch
What is currently going on in the mountains of the world – or in the social media – in terms of record attempts requires a more critical journalistic assessment. Unfortunately, the climbing style on the mountain is hardly ever discussed - although that should be the core of every success report.
The phrase "Harila and her team" is simply adopted as if it were a football team. But “team” in this context means, above all, the division of labor on the mountain: some people tow, trail, erect the tents and install the fixed ropes, the others climb the trail with minimal luggage and report on their “heroic deeds” as effectively as possible in the media.
Announcement alpinism at its finest
That Harila announces that she will now climb all 14 eight-thousanders without oxygen - of course in record time - and then already on the second mountain - notably the lowest eight-thousander - reaches for the bottle because it was a bit windy and she realized that "without" it wasn't quite so fast is like «with», actually proves everything. Announcing great things and then already reaching for the bottle between 7000 and 8000m sounds somehow ridiculous.
The comparison with the mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, which is often used, is really inappropriate. Comparing these two women - one took 13 years (how slow) and the other just 1 year (so strong) - is probably not really thought through:
Gerlinde never intended to do all 14 eight-thousanders at first. Over the years and the successful ascents, this project came about. But there was never an attempt to do all the peaks as quickly as possible. It was all about the style.
- Gerlinde delivered on the mountain and then reported about it.
- Gerlinde climbed all 8000m peaks without oxygen. How big the difference is between with and without can only be estimated by people who have really traveled at high altitudes without it. They are worlds. Harila may have noticed a bit now.
- Gerlinde was never on the road with a "team" that took over the tracking work, setting up tents, looking for a way, carrying oxygen bottles for the (weaker) media star. She was always a very strong and responsible person on the mountain. She was often the strongest and most "pushing" person in the rope team. For example with her extremely strong performance when climbing K2 from the north with Wassilij and Maksut.
I was with Gerlinde in the Shisha Pangma south face. I know their strength on the mountain.
But «Nims» is a different story – which is actually not true. It's exactly the same, only badder.
Extraordinary act on the mountain
Mountaineering has always (also) been about fame and honor. John Hunt, leader of the British Everest expedition in 1953, has prepared everything so that the news of the summit success - if it takes place - arrives in London in time for the coronation of Elizabeth II.
He certainly wouldn't have turned down the possibilities of social media if this form of communication had existed back then. It would have been easier than rushing a letter to Namche Bazaar on foot. But no matter how the "summit victory" was communicated, it was the act on the mountain that was extraordinary.
Anyone who likes to present themselves on social media to become famous or because they think their actions are relevant to humanity should do so. However, this is not at the same time proof that the service provided is really worth mentioning.
It would be the task of good journalism to separate the wheat from the chaff here - and to classify the current events with mountaineering expertise and not simply to reproduce what the protagonists spread on their media channels.
To the author
Robert Bösch, photographer, geographer, mountain guide, has been a freelance professional photographer for over 30 years. In addition to commissions from industry and advertising, he works for well-known national and international journals and magazines such as Geo, Stern and National Geographic. He published numerous illustrated books. Robert Bösch is an ambassador for Nikon.
As an alpinist, his travels and expeditions have taken him to all seven continents, where he has tackled many well-known and unknown mountains on difficult routes. He climbed Mount Everest on a commercial expedition for a film and photo assignment. He accompanied many of Ueli Steck's ventures.
That might interest you
- David Göttler: The big interview after climbing Everest without supplemental oxygen
- Trend reversal at K2: large commercial teams on the mountain for the first time
- Ondra climbs 8c + route backwards - no joke!
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Credits: Cover picture Robert Bösch