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Hours before the Piolet d'Or is awarded, Italian Cesare Maestri has spoken out to deny one of the nominee's claims, and to state again he did summited Cerro Torre back in 1959. Image of Maestri courtesy of Discoveryalps; background image of Cerro Torre courtesy of Simone Moro.
Topo of "El Arca de los Vientos" (Arch of the Winds) the route climbed by Ermanno Salvaterra, Rolando Garibotti, and Alessandro Beltrami - a climb nominated for the Piolet d'Or. Image courtesy of the team/Colmar (click to enlarge).
I declare and confirm that I have climbed Cerro Torre with Toni Egger, through the East face up to the Conquest Col (Collado de la Conquista) with Cesarino Fava," declared Maestri. "From the Col only Toni Egger and I went on, following alternatively the snowy edge of North-West and the North face." Image of Maestri climbing Cerro Torre, courtesy of GiornalediBrescia.it.
The impressive summit mushroom on Cerro Torre. Maestri claims he followed its icy slopes up to the top. This image was taken by Salvaterra's team in November,2005 - courtesy of the italian team /Colmar (click to enlarge).
Salvaterra (right), Garibotti, and Beltrami(left) summited Cerro Torre at 11.30 pm on November 13. The team had hoped to complete the first repetition of Maestri-Egger&#039;s route, but also check if there were pegs or other rests left by the 59 climbers. They found no traces and the riddle remains unsolved. Image courtesy of the italian team /Colmar (click to enlarge).<br><br>
I dont have any doubt about Toni Egger and Cesare Maestri reaching the top," reported 1959 expedition member Fava. "Ours was the strongest and the most complete team one could imagine at that time. Besides, during the first days conditions on the face and the weather were optimal. Image courtesy of Salvaterra&#039;s team / Colmar (click to enlarge).

Maestri raises hell hours before Piolet d'Or is awarded

Posted: Feb 09, 2006 03:10 pm EST
The International climbing community holds its breath for the Piolet dOr Awards which will be handed out tomorrow in Grenoble, France. Alpinism's equivalent to the Oscars, nominees cross their fingers in the hopes of getting their hands on a prize, while mountaineers from all over bet on their favorites.

On your marks- get set - No!

But when everything seemed ready to go a voice suddenly arose denying one of the candidates claims. It was that of 76 year old Cesare Maestri, the legendary Ragno delle Dolomitti (The Dolomite Spider). As he stepped on stage, Maestri brought some old ghosts back to life.

In a statement addressed to the Piolet dOr organizers, Maestri and Cesarino Fava claim that the Italian team consisting of Ermanno Salvaterra, Rolando Garibotti and Alessandro Beltrami, who were nominated for their ascent to Cerro Torre, did not in fact climb via a new route (which they named El Arca de los vientosĀ“) as they claimed. Instead, Maestri and Fava say that the 3-man team virtually repeated the same route that both Maestri and Fava, along with the late Tony Egger did back in 1959.

47 years of controversy

The arguments presented go way beyond itineraries. Maestri, as he has done for the last 4 decades, continues to claim the absolute first ascent of Cerro Torre; a claim which many climbers do not accept for lack of proof.

Back in 1959, Fava turned round before the main wall, while Maestri and Egger continued reportedly to the summit. Sadly, Tony fell to his death on the descent, taking with him the camera with the summit pictures. The camera was never recovered.

Salvaterra's team found no evidence

Ermano Salvaterra, one of the Piolet d'Or nominees even mentioned he had searched for traces of Maestris team ascent when his own crew climbed in November 2005 (mainly old bolts in the rock) but they found no evidence of the 1959 expedition higher on the wall.

Your organization is of course free to award the prize to whoever you think deserves it, Maestris lawyer wrote in a letter to the Piolet dOr organizers. But in order to restore the historic truth we must recognize that on January 31, 1959 the top of Cerro Torre was reached for the first time and through the route stated by Toni Egger and Cesare Maestri.

Maestri: For the 100th time I summited!

Attached to his letter, the attorney sent statements signed by Maestri and Fava. Given his choice of words, it's clear the old mans anger has not faded through the years.

I, the undersigned Cesare Maestri, following several polemics, doubts, slander, uncertainties and accusations I have endured, in spite of myself, I must firmly confirm what I had already said, wrote and rewritten many times - for the nth and I hope last time, Maestri swore in a signed document.

I declare and confirm that I have climbed Cerro Torre with Toni Egger, through the East face up to the Conquest Col (Collado de la Conquista) with Cesarino Fava. From the Col only Toni Egger and I went on, following alternatively the snowy edge of North-West and the North face, until we reached the edge of the summit mushroom. Then we followed the icy shapes up to the top of Cerro Torre, on January 31, 1959.

Favas account: I found Cesare laying face down

Favas declaration adds some factual details to the story.

When we left the snow cave that night, Toni Egger, Cesare Maestri and I climbed quickly by the fixed ropes via the first big dihedral up to the base of the glacier. Once we arrived there my two mates asked me to go on with the load as high as possible. By the evening we reached the Conquest Col; when I arrived there, the impressive North face and the North-West ridge seemed far too difficult for me.

Toni Egger and Cesare Maestri helped me down a long traverse. From that point I continued alone, using the bolts we had previously placed on the way up, until I reached the fixed ropes on the lower great dihedral, and proceeded to the snow cave. Six days later I found Cesare laying face down and almost buried in the snow.

The strongest team imaginable

I dont have any doubt about Toni Egger and Cesare Maestri reaching the top. During our expedition Cerro Torre was like a huge iceberg of snow and ice, whitened from the humid winds from the West and hardened by cold temperatures. Toni Egger had anticipated in ten years the ice-climbing techniques. Ours was the strongest and the most complete team one could imagine at that time.

The Egger-Maestri team was skilled enough to reach the summit. Besides, during the first days conditions on the face and the weather were optimal.

Salvaterras not a new route neither alpine style

Its my firm belief that the last, even if remarkable, ascent by the roped party Beltrami-Garibotti-Salvaterra on the East, West and North faces of the Cerro Torre is not a first ascent, but a partial repetition of the original route EggerMaestri of 1959, connected with some pitches of another existing route on the West face and combined with short variations. Neither has been achieved in pure alpine style, since they fixed ropes to climb some pitches faster.

All alpinism history in doubt

It is interesting that Maestris reaction comes right before the Piolet dOr is awarded yet he made no public statements when Salvaterra team debriefed on their expedition last November.

Now he vents his rage and accuses those who take his silence as a confirmation that he and Tony never reached the summit. I claim once more the right to be respected, he calls out. Moreover, Maestri highlights the impossibility to proving all climbs for certain. Good faith must be presumed otherwise, the entire history of alpinism shall be in doubt.

The old spider probably didnt care much about what three climbers could claim. But when Salvaterras team was nominated for an international award - that sparked Maestris anger and brought back a bitter controversy that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

What about Ermanno?

On the other hand, Ermanno Salvaterra has not clearly claimed a 'first ascent'. Originally they hoped to achieve the first repetition of Maestri's route - only they were not sure that ascent had ever ended at the summit.

Ermanno and his team do believe they have opened a new route, but at the same time, they have never denied that their climbing line shares a number of sections with other routes.

The Piolet dOr to the best climbing activity of 2005 will be awarded tomorrow in Grenoble, France. This year Alpine-style parameters seem to be prevailing over siege-like ascents. Favorites are again new routes opened on 8000ers, but both were achieved in light style: The Kazakh route on Broad Peaks SW face by Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov, and the new line on Nanga Parbats Rupal face by Americans Steve House and Vince Anderson. However, the jury might surprise everyone by awarding some of the other finalists, which achieved routes on lesser peaks.

Italians Ermanno Salvaterra and Alessandro Beltrami, and Argentinean (US resident) Rolo Garibotti summited Patagonian Cerro Torre at 11.30 pm on November 13 - funny enough - on the exact one year anniversary of Ales and Ermanno's reaching the same summit via a new route on the East face in 2004. After waiting in bad weather for weeks, Ermanno, Ales and Rolo grabbed the chance at first weather window. They left BC early morning November 12.

The trio had to endure two bivouacs on the wall: One on the way up and one right below the summit mushroom after reaching the top. Salvaterra reported the climb was done in alpine style, though a new route the team has called El Arca de los Vientos" (The chest of winds).

At the upper sections of the wall, the climbers traversed from the North face in order to join the Ragni di Lecco route. The team had hoped to complete the first repetition of the controversial route opened by Cesare Maestri and Toni Egger in 1959. Retracing Maestris footsteps, the goal was not only to climb the route, but also check if there were pegs or other rests left by the 59 climbers, to prove they actually climbed the wall. They found no traces and the riddle remains unsolved.

Cesare Maestri, nick-named The Dolomite Spider, was a bold pioneer of solo climbing. He attempted Torres walls for the first time in 1957, only to be rejected, swearing to return. In 1959 he climbed the North Face of the mountain with Tony Egger, one of the most outstanding climbers of his time. Its not clear how far they got. When he came back from Patagonia in 1959, he claimed to have reached the summit with Tony Egger, who had the camera with the summit pictures.

But Tony was swept away by an avalanche on descent, and the camera was never recovered. Controversy was served: Maestri couldnt provide proof, and many doubted his word.

Cerro Torre became an obsession for Maestri, who spared no expense in a second expedition. Setting off in the Patagonian winter, he would open the famous Compressor route. However, his critics despised Maestri's methods.

On the contrary Casimiro Ferrari, another Italian bound for Patagonia, affirmed his confidence in Maestris words. Why would he lie? Are we going to doubt every single mountaineering feat, or what?

Cesare Maestri is 76 years old, and keeps on ensuring he reached the summit of Torre.




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