The most brilliant marketing action in the history of mountaineering was devised and perpetrated by Reinhold Messner, the first man to climb the 14 mountains of more than 8,000 meters of altitude on the planet. He knew that the company would grant him eternal fame and millionaire income. What he did not imagine is that it would end up turned into a matter of tourists. Messner climbed the Nanga Parbat, the first of his eight-thousanders on June 27, 1970, lost his brother Gunther on the descent and if he did not also die at the foot of the mountain it was because a shepherd rescued him from his delusions. Sixteen years later, on October 16, 1986, Messner completed the list and left the crumbs for the rest.
The woman achieved it a quarter of a century later: Edurne Pasaban stepped on the summit of Shisha Pangma on May 17, 2010. She closed a collection premiered on Everest nine years earlier and confirmed herself as the first mountaineer to reach the 14 longed for peaks. Then, nobody took out the calculator pointing out a truism: They spent 7 years less than Messner spent. With regard to mountaineering, the chronometer is rarely an indicator of the value of an activity. That's why now we can look with caution at the penultimate news about the 14ochomiles: an unknown Chinese mountaineer named Luo Jing said he completed the series in just over six years. Record or anecdote? Anecdote, since apparently, and according to the testimony in the magazine Slope Catalan climber Xavi Metal, who was in the Shisha Pangma on September 29, the Chinese did not reach that day the top (8.027m), but only the antecima (8.008m). Between one and the other there is a very delicate edge, and Metal saw her turn around without overcoming that last difficulty.
The future, the 'sietemiles'
The public not initiated, or half initiated, tends to look for shortcuts to understand and classify the value of the ascents, perhaps because the mountaineering is an activity[/TEX]d complex and not subject to the laws of common sports. The elite mountaineering looks today with indifference to the world of the 14 eight-thousanders, and if you pay attention to these giants is thinking about their winter ascents or openings in technical areas.
Messner predicted two decades ago that the future of mountaineering would go through the sietemiles, for commitment, minimalism and technique at the service of climbing. The public, on the other hand, defends half-truths: higher is more difficult; faster is more meritorious. Following only this popular logic, of not having fallen into the trap, China Luo Jing would be the most outstanding mountaineer among the 40 that make up the list of fourteenchomilists. But this list differentiates those climbers who used artificial oxygen from those who dispensed with this enormous help, and this difference would be even greater if the style used were remembered. Here, nobody, not even Messner, would shine as bright as the Polish Jerzy Kukuzcka, whose last name will not say anything to 90% of those who do know Messner.
Kukuzcka was determined to tread the 14 nine years after Messner debuted in the Nanga Parbat … and ended up on his heels (a year later). Messner himself acknowledged that the Polish had been bigger (because he climbed in winter four of them and opened 9 tracks, by 7 Messner and, also, at a frenetic pace) … But the mountaineering does not remember Messner for his 14 , but because it was the first (next to Habeler) to climb in alpine style and without artificial oxygen Everest against medical opinion, or the first to climb this mountain alone, or the first to reach the seventh grade in climbing .
Today a large part of the members of the list of fourteenchomilists they limit themselves to reach their summits by the normal routes, almost always using in one or several summits bottled oxygen, fixed ropes and tall bearers. Many are not even climbers. The Chinese Luo Jing does not escape the norm: she has used artificial oxygen even in low eight thousand as the Shisha Pangma (8.027 m), fixed ropes, porters and, of course, the normal routes.
Alberto Iñurrategi completed the list of 14 to 33 years of age: the fourth man, and the youngest, to do so without using artificial oxygen. Of a brutal honesty, Alberto has always minimized his career in public. "When my brother Felix and I climbed Everest without oxygen, the media gave us a coverage that made me blush, the same as when I finished 14. But the reality is that Messner had already climbed Everest without oxygen many years before, and already there were others who had 14. The myth of the 14 must be left behind to begin talking about avant-garde mountaineers who really climb, with an ethic, a value and a shortage of commendable means. What is the value of climbing a mountain that can climb a person who puts on crampons for the first time in his base camp? "He asks.
Also Guipuzcoa Edurne Pasaban has been away from the Himalayas for almost eight years: "I had not heard of Luo Jing. I imagine that he will have used artificial oxygen in a massive way, helicopters to link base camps and that he will have enormous economic support to move at that pace … ". The details come with a dropper from China, and describe a 42-year-old mother who discovered mountaineering in 2007 and hopes to "inspire other women, mothers in particular." In 2018, Luo Jing was able to scale Lhotse, Broad Peak and Shisha Pangma (up to the antecima, apparently). In passing, Pasaban notes a recent news: at least 200 people have tread this fall the summit of Manaslu (8.163m), an unusual traffic for this mountain.
"I lived a very beautiful time in which there was still no massification now. When we made a summit at Manaslu, we climbed half a dozen at the top … Now the tall porters of Nepal (known as sherpas) have set to work piece by piece to equip routes on the margin of Everest, "says Pasaban. Of the 200 summits reviewed, 120 refer to Western mountaineers, while the rest were Nepalese tall porters in the exercise of their work. That is to say, almost every Western aspirant carries with him a guardian angel who assembles his tent, cooks and carries spare parts of artificial oxygen. And, of course, the whole mountain is sewn to fixed ropes, an umbilical cord to which all the candidates are tied. Thus, a delicate mountain becomes a place devoid of commitment: it only takes good time to go up and down without too many risks.
Now that Everest is scary (the masses of ice that fall from the killer in the waterfall of the Khumbu have discouraged many aspirants), Nepal seeks new horizons for its porters, who also dare with the K-2. Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Shisha Pangma, Broad Peak … are increasingly popular destinations. And when there are almost a hundred Sherpas working by piece on the mountain, placing the ropes that make it much safer, the company is much simpler. It is a business.