Cold and Controversy

I’ve been thinking about the four expeditions working on the Himalayan 8,000ers. If they are having as mild of a summer there as we are here in North America (especially here in Peaklessburg,) then the teams might succeed in getting the first winter ascents. Of course, the season is not the only factor.

With work and my new training schedule, I have struggled to find time to catch-up on what has been happening in climbing news lately, but one story has been inescapable. A simple passing over the headlines kept bringing me to news about the Compressor Route.

In case you’ve been climbing somewhere remote without your smartphone or stuck in endless business meetings, here’s the recap: The controversy began in 1970 when Cesare Maestri climbed the Southeast Face of Cerro Torre in Patagonia with the aide of a compressor drill weighing nearly 100 lbs. The route has been heavily bolted and the drill has hung along the route ever since. Since then, the route has become one of the most popular routes up Cerro Torre. The appropriateness of the bolts have been debated ever since.

Fast forward to January 2012 and Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk climbed the route and chopped about one hundred of the bolts on their descent. The reactions have been mixed. Some praised them for restoring the wall and others criticized them for ruining what was essentially a great sport route. The police detained the two alpinists for a brief time as well. Then, days later, David Lama with partner Peter Ortner successfully freed the Compressor (or is it Formerly Compressor?) Route, while the debate on the Kennedy-Kruk climb went on.

What I don’t understand is the acceptability of placing permanent bolts in the first place. I realize blank faces have few options for protection. This isn’t a subject I’m experienced in. The only place I’ve ever climbed with bolts is the gym. Plus, my focus on alpine mountaineering, for the most part, hasn’t discussed the ethics of bolting on routes. Perhaps you can shed some light on the subject for me.

News on the four attempts to bag the first winter ascents of the unclimbed 8,000 meter peaks has been harder to come by, at least through the main news sites. In short the stories are still unfolding. The saddest news, and most significant to date, came from the Polish expedition; one of their climbers died on Nanga Parbat. So there is more to follow with the Russians on K2, the two expeditions on Nanga Parbat and the international team on Gasherbrum I.

Well, thanks for dropping by once again. If you enjoyed this post, and the many others, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter. Happy reading and carpe climb ’em!

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