Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Alpine Climbing

I could talk about how much I hated Whymper, which is tempting because I hated him a lot, but just this once I'll restrain myself. Just this once. Instead - welcome to the Alps!

One of the things I found interesting in this geographical move was the change in climbing style. Alpine style climbing has been referenced in other books, but this is the first time we have read about it in the mountains where it developed. I was confused by Whymper's frequent retreats from the mountain until I remembered that light packs and fast ascents are the trademarks of the alpine climb. After so many prolonged assaults with layers of camps winding up the mountain, Whymper is actually scrambling amongst the Alps. Where other adventurers shuffle between camps high on the mountain, Whymper can return to the comfort and society of the village inn, even if the locals are dreadfully backwards and superstitious.

The military imagery was strong again in this text, and given the indication in the note about the author - that reads "he fell in love with [the mountains], not for their scenery, which he despised, but because here was the kind of challenge he was looking for" - it seems quite purposeful. The fourth chapter ends with Whymper's next battle plan, where he hopes "to lay siege to the mountain until one or the other was vanquished"(88). As much as I personally find it distasteful, this military description style does complement the quick attack and quicker retreat of his climbing style. 

1 comment:

  1. I also noticed how different this style of climbing is from Himalayan climbing. Whymper comes down off the mountain and is able to stay in inns, drinking and consulting with villagers. This strictly contrasts from the attempts of Everest and Annapurna that we have read in which the climbers are extremely isolated from anyone else. Another aspect of this style of climbing that struck me was that Whymper at one point went climbing and spend a night alone. Although Whymper says this is unusual for him, it would be unheard of in the Himalayas. We have never read an account in which the climbers struck purposefully on their own.

    Like Rachel said above, the image of a mountain as an enemy that needs to be conquered mirrors the way that Herzog and others saw mountains. Although the style of climbing may have been different, the need to vanquish the mountain enemy remains the same in both location.