Imagine cyclist Primoz Roglic going to the Tour he could win, walking from his native Slovenia, but despite the beating and lack of training, he is able to take second place. Belgian climber Seb Perth imagined something similar last fall: His tour would be the toughest trail on the planet, located in California’s Yosemite Valley. And he was traveling not on foot, but on a sailboat, crossing the Atlantic on a very long journey. And he couldn’t climb the wall for free because he fell a thousand times on the last step of the main court. Therefore, it can be said, that he ranked second in his own tour. All of this is a protest and action against climate change. The mountains, once majestic and fearsome, now appear as large wounded beasts crumbling before our eyes: Cerax They fall like rotting crusts, glaciers agonize like fish washed ashore, granite and limestone spiers crumble and the ice recedes and disappears.
Climbers are left without a playground and humans without a planet. Is there anyone interested? Almost two years ago, the great Belgian wall climber Sebastien Perthes decided that something had to change in his life. His own inconsistencies and the general hypocrisy of the mountaineering world seemed so uncomfortable to him that he decided to follow the message of his patron, the Patagonian Mountain Equipment Company, at face value. Since then, he hasn’t traveled by plane, traveling in the most sustainable way possible, trying to have targets close to home, and fighting to not be a rabid consumer. Suddenly, how again became more important than what. And it’s not just a matter of climbing style, it’s a matter of purists, but a way of understanding the love of mountains. Mountaineering has always had to explain itself, to justify itself, to explain all aspects of the activity for which tragedies cause rejection and admiration. Now, it may be a time when the actors are just as energized by their passion for the mountains and that every climb, every new record is just an excuse to scream in defense of a nature on its way to crumbling.
The hardest known track of the wall is called Dawn Wall and is located in El Capitan (Yosemite Valley, USA). The main pitch class has difficulty 9a and its creators and first to climb the track for free (without hanging or holding on to insurance) were Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jurgenson. They invested seven years of work to open up and climb this route for free, which they achieved in 2015. In 2016, the best climber in history, Czech Adam Ondra, achieved his second free climb after a week at the wall. Seb Perth wanted to be the third, but in his own way: he had to travel from Belgium to California without flying … So he persuaded seven friends, one of whom was a sailor, to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 15-meter sailboat. The boat had been in a dry dock for a decade: it had to be adapted for sailing and provided with training facilities. But Seb Perth was hardly training: when he was not sick or seasick, the sea was getting rough. He soon assumed he would never make it to Yosemite in shape.
They sailed for a month and docked in Mexico, because their three-month residence permit in the United States did not allow them to dock at one of its ports. From the time they sailed from the Canary Islands until they reached Yosemite, two and a half months passed. It doesn’t seem like the best way to tackle one of the toughest climbing challenges out there. Berthe and his friend Siebe Vanhee had been on the road for a month and a half, and when they launched the last attack, they got stuck in the center court. They stayed here for two weeks, hanging from the wall in hammocks. They climbed the same stadium for seven days and rested seven more. Inevitably, Seb Perth fell into the last step. “I almost went crazy in there. I thought I could have done it, but we were already without food and without water and it seemed unethical to ask colleagues to bring us groceries. And I didn’t want to spend two months on the wall either, so I decided to quit. It’s a path on another level. In terms of difficulty and would have needed a different approach to the challenge,” he explained on his social media because before embarking on Mexico again to undo his journey.
For decades, mountaineers refused to be recognized as athletes: they claimed that their sport was not a sport but a way of life, a way of relating to the natural environment and escaping, in large part, from a society in which they found nothing. Real motivators. Today, things are changing rapidly and many mountaineers are beginning to embrace conscientious training to face increasingly complex challenges, while trying not to give up on the core of their activity. Seb Perth’s supposed “failure” looks like an admirable achievement in part because it refers to the pioneers of a not-yet-globalized world. Not so long ago, before plane travel was ridiculously cheap, climbers, mountaineers, or mountaineers spent months on their flights, but in good conscience squeezed in the scenarios at hand. The Schmid brothers traveled by bicycle from Munich to Zermatt to sign the first ascent of the North Matterhorn in 1931. They did so by force because of their circumstances. Now other conditions are required. Perhaps Seb Perth will be remembered as the man who fell on the last difficult step of the Wall of Dawn or as the man who encouraged the rest to rethink their consumerist approach to the mountains.
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