Taliban on Cerro Torre

by Stefano Lovison

Cesare Maestri, Photo Giulio Malfer

We already wrote on Alpine Sketches: around the Cerro Torre the ethics of mountaineering is undergoing a transformation into a religion, with its own priests, warriors and, first of all, with its own demon Cesare Maestri, the person who is seen as the source of all evil.
All this has been dramatically confirmed by the recent events: first the toponym “Col of Conquest”, a place which, despite of all the opinions any of us can have on Maestri, let entire generations of mountaineers dream for years: this place name has been cancelled  by the site PATAclimb.com, managed by the Chaltén Range’s Guru, Rolando Garibotti; a second and much  more militant and arrogant action followed soon, with the destruction of the Compressor Route by Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy.
The expansion bolts, placed by Cesare Maestri on 1970, do not exist anymore: no more existing is what Rolo Garibotti on his site called with contempt “Via Ferrata”, as if after Maestri’s route the Cerro Torre had become a mountain, reachable by any Sunday climber.

What would say mountaineers like Bill Denz, Paul Pierre Farges, Marco Pedrini or Reinhard Karl?; what will say now Jim Bridwell and Steve Brewer, Dean Potter, the Italians of the first winter ascent, Rosanna Manfrini, Hans Kammerlander, Robert Jasper, the Anthamatten and hundreds of other good mountaineers, all persons who for decades had their troubles to climb along that series of bolts and left us wonderful pages? Maybe, in the very beginning, some of them turned up their nose at it, but in the end, from all those pages we can clearly see praise and admiration for Maestri.

Is it really possible that none of them could understand that that was just a simple via ferrata, that no one refused the infamous call of Maestri’s “insanity”?

Which explanation shall we now be given by the ones who, for their own pride and notoriety, decided to take advantage of the bolts to finish their own route, the same mountaineers who now firmly support K&K’s action?

Yes, exactly, what will now happen to those routes?

On the Cerro Torre there are only two climbing lines which are complete: the route of the Ragni, at West, and the Compressor’s one, on the South-East ridge. All the other routes join them, sooner or later. The two routes of the Slovenes and Infinito sud, Devil’s directissima, Quinque anni ad paradisum melt there where K&K chopped everything. And now?? Will they be left unfinished? And will they remain unfinished as a sign of respect or of modesty, as Toscanini did in 1926, when he interrupted the performance of the Turandot as an homage to Puccini, who died before finishing it; or will they simply stay there, hanging and floating in the mid-air of a blind arrogance???

And for which reason only Maestri’s route of 1970 and no other route had to be chopped?? One starts to wonder why only the compressor is considered to be filthy; why not then other symbols of the precarious balance between tradition and innovation, modernity and experience of the past. Again, one starts to wonder for which reason there is no fury against the not less questionable routes opened in many different seasons, as if they were building sites, or against the routes completely opened with the help of fixed ropes, just not to remind the aluminium boxes left inside the folds of Cerro Torre, or thrown down the face, to let them shatter into a thousand pieces and get swallowed by the glacier.

Garibotti adopted long ago the term “by fair means” to refer to the alternative challenge to Maestri’s route. Salvaterra made an attempt with 4 bolts; Chris Geisler and Jason Kruk added 1 more: K&K took advantage of them, but with a “reasonable use”. Which is the difference, from an ethical point of view, between using 10 or 100 of them??

So, the fact that they chopped more or less one hundred bolts will then justify the ones who, better and braver than they are, will chop their own bolts in the name of  the “fair means”??? We should then wait for the new Middle Ages:  be on your guard, you water drop routes of the Dolomites, you  big walls in the Yosemity, you multipitches of Wenden: “Ehi, you climbers who swing on ladders hanging from the bolts of Tis-sa-ack on Half Dome! Barbarians are arriving, to punish the opulence of a decadent mountaineering!”

The performance of the Canadian Jason Kruk and of the American Hayden Kennedy is the result of a unilateral decision and of a concept of mountaineering in which there is a lack of respect for the figures of the past as well as the clear lack of the capability to contextualize some performances (or the attempts), relating them to the conditions, to the available equipment and to the isolation of those places at the times of Maestri. El Chaltèn, which in 2007 expressed itself against the unbolting of Maestri’s route since it was to be considered  as “historical heritage”, now correctly considers K&K “personas non grata” for the community.
By chopping almost all of the bolts (with  Kruk and Kennedy who gave themselves the right to determine a degree of purity) they consciously and voluntarily cancelled a part of history, as if Maestri had been a detestable and bloodthirsty dictator, and as if his route was a monument to him and not just the traces of a man’s efforts on a mountain.

On the other side, this question gave unpredictable effects: as it always happens with big disputes, even the most radical positions got smoother and some of them even radically changed.  K&K’s performance has been useful in that a different image of Cesare Maestri has come back to our mind and now we see him even as an almost nice person (he, who never distinguished himself as particularly endowed with sympathy or popularity…). They succeeded in carving out he most human and fragile side of Maestri: not the mountaineer who raped the Cerro Torre, but the man who, despite his hatred for that mountain, lived inside and outside it as nobody else did and this for more than only his winter memorable feat, for those 54 days of mountaineering – followed by many others the next autumn – with frostbites and the use of a gas-powered compressor , which resulted to be, in the end, if not fully useless, a feat in the feat,  “a la Fitzcarraldo”: since 1959, Cesare Maestri, is for good or evil inside the Cerro Torre.

Thanks to this  “little, infamous story” we see as unpleasant not only the purists, K&K, but also and most of all Garibotti, together with his inclination to codify everything, to put labels everywhere in a world which is so chaotic and so full of variables: so did he when he arbitrarily changed the name of Col of Conquest in Torre-Egger Col; so does he when he indexes the routes ending nowhere, or the ones climbed without reaching the summit, with or without snow mushroom and for how many metres. Garibotti labels as not reached summits in which the climber arrived up to a few centimetres from the top and in many an occasion  he cast doubts on routes and words of other mountaineers.

As we already said, it has been a crusade and not a fruitful discussion: no interlocutor took part to it, and the youngest and the yuppiest ones, the ones with the most boundless ego (the same ego which drove Maestri in his own performances, some 40 years ago, let’s remember it to the critics) took the question in their own hands. Had it been done by Garibotti himself, it would have been much more understandable, but he didn’t have the alpinistic and even the moral courage for his own convictions. So, it is exactly for these reasons that I blame Garibotti in the same way as K&K.

To the whole community of mountaineers I ask now how much can still make sense this  everlasting doggedness. The reprimand against K&K in itself is not sufficient; on the other side, I think it is impossible to ask for compensation’s measures or the restoring or the recovering the Compressor’s route so as it was. I do think, anyway, that we can ask at least not to cancel the route from guides and topos. In this sense I ask not to remove the route from the collective memory and to fully rehabilitate Cesare Maestri’s figure, both from human and alpinistic point of view. In the end, I ask to understand and to see the light of sincerity which surrounded all his actions from his first and dramatic ascent to Cerro Torre together with Toni Egger and Cesarino Fava.

Stefano Lovison
Thanks to Marina Morpurgo

translated by Luca  Calvi

The following approve and sign this document:
Pietro Agosti, Luca Astesani, Max Bacchilega, Silvio Bagnini, Luca Bassi, Damiano Basso, Gianni Battimelli, Sergio Bella, Alberto Benassi, Lia Bencivenni, Davide Berti, Paola Bianchi, Nicoletta Bocca, Annalisa Boccanera, Enrico Bortolato, Paolo Boscariol, Marco Bresolin, Diego Brezzo, Giovanni Busato, Matteo Caffini, Alberto Calesini, Luca Calvi, Adriano Campardo, Paolo Capponi, Antonio Castaldi, Lorenzo Castaldi, Alberto Castioni, Davide Cecchi, Luca Cesaretti, Nicola Ciancaglini, Samuela Cobianchi, Valerio Coletti, Paolo Colombera, Lorenzo Conserva, Andrea Corradi, Nicola Cozzani, Claudio Cremona, Paolo Cristofari, Francesco Davini, Angelo Davorio, Davide De Bona, Davide De Carli, Dario De Rossi, Saverio De Toffol, Aldo Dello Iacovo, Lorenzo Don, Roberto Donati, Luigi Drovetti, Massimo Esposito, Matteo Faganello, Luigi Fantoni, Andrea Ferrari, Marco Flamminii Minuto, Giovanni Folli, Emanuela Franchin, Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Garau,Monica Gardellin, Andrea Gasparotto, Gianluca Gemin, Gabriele Giardini, Luca Giraldo, Emiliano Giuffrida, Alberto Graia, Edoardo Gri, Eva Grisoni, Daniele Guastavino, Uliano Guerrini, Daniele Guidi, Roberto Iannilli , Bruno Illuminati, Andrea Jasson, Marco La Magna, Francesco Lamo, Marco Lanzavecchia, Roberto Losco, Pierpaolo Lovisa, Valentino Lunelli, Bastianina Madeddu, Ermanno Maistri, Andrea Malacco, Alberto Malinverni, Paolo Marchiori, Matteo Marin, Cesare Mauri, Lorenzo Mazzola, Simone Mazzoletti, Gabriele Meraviglia, Giovanna Moltoni, Bruno Moretti, Mario Moretti, Marina Morpurgo, Ester Moscati, Sebastiano Motta, Enzo Nardelli Claus, Matteo Negri, Walter Novello, Andrea Orlini, Jimmy Palermo, Cristiano Pastorello, Umberto Pellegrini, Emanuele Pellizzari, Pelucchi Stefano, Marco Penzo, Emmanuele Pescialli, Carlo Piovan “Rampegon”, Alberta Poltronieri, Giovanni Ponziani, Flavio Poratello, Rudy Prampolini, Mauro Puntel, Enrico Rettore, Rinaldi Silvano, Fabio Riva, Giacomo Rovida, Fabrizio Rofi, Anna Maria Rosanò, Simon Russi, Giovanni Sabatini, Alessandro Saggio,  Davide Scaricabarozzi, Claudio Schwarz, Noemi Sciuto, Jacopo Selleroni, Marinella Sia, Loretta Spaccatrosi, Ennio Spiranelli, Donaji Suarez, Massimo Tamborini ‘il Tambo’, Mirella Tenderini, Giorgio Tessaro, Francesco Tibaldo, Paolo Tomasi, Enrico Tomasin, Fausto Tonetto, Stefano Tononi, Giuseppe Traficante, Guido Valota, Marco Vegetti, Antonio Virtuoso, Luca Visentini, Carlo Xodo, Fabio Zafalon,  Filippo Zolezzi

and the  Mountain Guides:
Dario Albertoni
Ruggero Andreoli
Maurizio Arosio
Hervé Barmasse
Daniele Bernasconi
Matteo Bernasconi
Guido Bonvicini
Luca Biagini
Francesco Canale
Franz Carrara
Gualtiero Colzada
Tullio Faifer
Marco Farina
Carlo Ferrari
Diego Fregona
Matteo Galli
Maurizio Giordani
Paolo Martinelli
Paolo Masa
Luca Maspes Rampikino
Lorenzo Merlo
Peter Moser
Ivo Mozzanica
Moreno Pedroncelli
Claudio Pozzi
Augusto Rossi
Renata Rossi
Andrea Savonitto
Mauro Scanzi
Davide Spini
Ettore Taufer
Massimo Tamborini
Nadia Tiraboschi

For more information:

PATAclimb, quando la toponomastica nasconde una crociata
Le linee effimere della Torre Egger
Cosas Patagònicas
In due sulla Torre Egger
Cerro Torre 

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