Alpinist Porter calls for making mountaineering a way of life

Mumbai: There is a need to distinguish mountaineering from the “commercial circus” that happens on the Everest where people crowd the peak in a quest for personal fame, opines the noted Alpinist John Porter.

The president of the Alpine Club in Britain which is the oldest mountaineering club in the world,is not against people pursuing their passion for the mountains.

“Mountaineering is seen now as whatever happens on the Everest and the Everest has become a commercial circus. People think they can buy a ticket to the summit, he told PTI in an interview over the weekend here.

You need to distinguish between adventure tourism, and mountaineering or Alpinism, Porter avers. Porter, who along with a few other mad men made a name for themselves by pioneering the art of Alpinism, was in the city to attend the 18th Girimitra Sammelan, an annual congregation of mountaineers in the financial capital.

At the event, he was introduced as among the last survivors of a breed which almost climbed its way into extinction, in a reference to some of his closest friends who perished following their pursuits.

In the comments that come after the world was shocked to see a long queue near the summit of the Everest during this year’s climbing window, Porter says depending on all sort of support from the Sherpa to climb a peak, is not mountaineering.

One needs to put in the time and energy in the pursuit, and gain relevant experience which helps in taking better decisions in the future to be a mountaineer, he proffers.

Referring to the practice of the Sherpas setting up fixed ropes right from the base camp to the summit, he has the following to offer: As soon as you unclip from the rope, then you are climbing.”

Elaborating on Alpinism, the discipline Porter has pioneered, he says mountaineers take excess risk by spending more time on the mountains, thus they develop the concept of climbing light and fast after necessary study of a peak.

The more you can cut down your weight, the faster you can go up remain safer atop. That is the joy of climbing. Come back in the nick of time safer, he says.

Porter also advises that if something goes wrong, the mountaineer should have the presence of mind to hold onto safety as the paramount interest and turn back.

He also lists amongst the list of absolute necessities the need to take a relook and recounts the climbs completed sans any tents or hammocks or even sleeping bags, where the climbers expose themselves to two uncomfortable nights using only down-jackets for warmth.

Asked if this is the most puritan way of climbing, he answers in the affirmative saying, “it’s certainly spiritual, but there are no holy grails in climbing. The most important thing is to come back.”

He says there is also a need for mountaineers to learn the art of suffering, thanking a few Polish climbers for helping him understand the same. On the Indian mountaineering scene,

Porter says the country always had strong climbers and recounted a joint expedition he had with the city-based explorer Harish Kapadia in the Himalayas way back. He also feels development of sport climbing bodes well for climbing and will help the discipline of mountaineering.

By Ashish Agashe