Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Speed ascents

At one point in the narrative, Harrer talks about the growing importance of speed in attempts on the Eiger's North Face. He writes, "the resulting mastery of the new technique be proved by shorter climbing times. The motive of competetive racing was slowly, and at first secretly, getting a footing in the minds of Alpine reporters..."(Harrer 146). I thought this was an interesting aspect to include in the narrative, especially because speed climbing is so prevalent in the media regarding mountaineering and alpinism today. Similar to the reporters of Harrers time who seem preoccupied with finding a story in the growing number of attempts to climb the North Face, there are a number of movies that chronicle current attempts on the face (in which climbers do something new, like shatter a speed climbing record). For example, a couple years ago at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, the Outing Club chose to show a film entitled "The Swiss Machine" which is about Ueli Steck's record setting solo climb on the Eiger's North Face. I think that this trend of a fascination with climbing, and what is new and happening in alpinism that is mirrored in the reporters' obsessions with telling the happenings on the Eiger shows the beginnings of arm chair adventuring. Through the newspaper articles and news reports, people were able to interact with what was happening on the mountain through the reporters that were actually able to watch what was happening (if the weather was good, that is). 

I found the chapter recounting the Toni Kurz tragedy particularly captivating because I kept thinking of the images presented in the film depicting this particular climb. Entitled "The North Face" the film follows the group throughout their climb. I greatly enjoyed watching the film, and I would recommend it, but I will say that the end of the expedition, namely the death of the Toni Kurz, takes a couple liberties (the distance the climber was from the rescuer, for instance) when presenting the expedition. Here's the link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM3e4i2KBD0. It's interesting to look at what parts of the story the editors chose to emphasize in the trailer, namely this idea of attacking a mountain, and the pressure to perform for one's country, and then survival, all ideas that we have been discussing in class. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow. That video of Ueli Steck is one of the more amazing things I've seen in a long time. However, while watching the video I found myself thinking of how irresponsible his climbing seems. By testing his limits so intensely, Steck doesn't appear to have respect for the mountain. Harrer's book mentions public sentiments that people climbing the Eiger are on "suicide missions," and I think Steck's reckless climbing was a near-escape from the fate that so many climbers experienced on their Eiger attempts. I understand the fascination with speed and the desire to constantly try and achieve something new, but I'm bothered by Steck's lack of safety precautions and disregard of natural limitations. At the end he is actually running up to the summit--quite a contrast from the other final pushes to the summit that we've read about. One of the comments on the YouTube video says "I get inspired every time I watch this." Is this really what should be influencing aspiring climbers? Does it send the wrong message about human limitations and our relationship with nature?

    Despite everything I just said, I'm still incredibly impressed.