Bernard Amy Defends Alpinism

Bernard Amy was recently awarded an honorary membership to the Italian Academic Alpine Club. I must fit the stereotype of an ignorant American because I had no idea there was such a club until I heard the news.

Amy, a French mountaineer and a writer is best known among American climbers for his short story “The Greatest Climber in the World.” I became aware of that piece and Amy himself last year when a reader from the place of Amy’s birth — Lebanon — brought them to my attention.

Amy’s acceptance speech, which he gave at a ceremony in Turin, Italy, was well worded and extremely timely. He addresses the criticisms of climbing, particularly of mountaineering and alpinism, most of which revolve around the notion that climbing is a dangerous, frivolous activity.

The speech is brief and worth reading but if there is one key take away in his remarks that defends climbing, it’s that we must not try to explain why we climb but rather what we get from climbing. As Kelly Cordes put it in Alpinist 41, we should stop asking the unenlightened question of why, and instead ask what do you seek?

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