Same Old

Friday, 30 September 2011

I was reading a column in the New York Times the other day by my colleague in the outdoor writing trenches David Roberts, who I very much enjoy reading. Among his twenty or so books, On the Ridge between Life and Death and Escape from Lucania are  the best recent publications, along with older works, including Moments of Doubt. Anyway, I disagreed in large part with what he was saying.

Climbing continues to be as adventurous as you make it. At the height of the so-called Himalayan Golden Age in the 1950s there were radios, and air drops, and all kinds of modern technology. We choose to use it, or we don't. He also rather undermined his own argument, by citing Tomaz Humar's rescue in 2005. This proved much too adventurous for the pilot, for reasons Roberts gives, and while it's true Humar was well regarded by the Slovenian public, climbers there were more ambivalent. And of course he died a few years later climbing alone and without any kind of support, rather as David admires.

Anyway, the column was prompted by the death of Walter Bonatti, whose obituary I wrote for The Guardian this month. Researching that I came across this reflection on the media, following the Frêney disaster, in his excellent memoir The Mountain of My Life:

'It was as though the public, more ready to blame than to praise, did not know how to mourn the dead except to the detriment of the survivors. A morbid fascination often surrounds such events and encourages speculation. It must also be said that when in search of a scoop the cynical media will often sacrifice truth for sensation.'

The letters Bonatti read in the papers about his own survival included this choice recommendation: 'There should be a forced labour camp for Bonatti and his friends.'

There's nothing new under the sun.




Posted by Ed Douglas at 12.11 AM