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Mountaineering’s Greatest Climb Unravels

NYtimes - 22.02.2015

Bjorn Rune Lie


Cerro Torre: New York Times Plucking Legs of Dolomite Spider

explorersweb - 03.03.2015
Last month the New York Times published an unusual piece about Italian Cesare Maestri's Cerro Torre summit. The article is noteworthy for two reasons: 1, NYT rarely expose climbing cheats and 2, the funny picture illustrating the story.

The spider has been featured at Explorersweb before and there have been climbs trying to solve the matter.

85-years-old Cesare today is probably happy to remember if he took the pink or the blue pill; much less details of a bygone climb. Check in at top Italian mountaineering website Montagna who obviously have lots to say on the matter such as mentioning that there may have been a photo caps mixup.

Cesare Maestri, dubbed The Dolomite Spider, was a bold pioneer of solo climbing. He attempted Torres walls for the first time in 1957. Defeated, he swore to return. In 1959 he climbed the North Face of the mountain with Tony Egger, one of the greatest climbers of his time. It's not clear how far they got. When Maestri came back from Patagonia in 1959, he claimed to have reached the summit with Egger, who had the camera with the summit pictures. Tony was killed by an avalanche on descent, and the camera was never recovered. Controversy was served: Maestri couldn't provide proof, and many doubted his word.

Cerro Torre became an obsession for Maestri, who came back for it once again, full force. Setting off in the Patagonian winter, he would open the famous Compressor route. This time, critics rejected Maestri's style.

One who did stand by Maestri was Casimiro Ferrari, another Italian bound for Patagonia. "Why would he lie?" he asked. "Are we going to doubt every single mountaineering feat, or what?"

To this day the aging Cesare Maestri sticks to his claim that he reached the summit of Torre.

torek, 3. marec 2015, ob 20:29, Boris Štupar, ogledov: 1285

NYT - Kelly Kordes: ESTES PARK, Colo. — THE greatest climb in the history of alpinism, a story of mythological proportions, occurred on Jan. 31, 1959. Cerro Torre, a 10,262-foot spire of granite, rises from the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap like a sharpened spear, so steep that climbing it had long been deemed impossible.

But in 1959, the Italian Cesare Maestri — the famed Spider of the Dolomites — and the Austrian Toni Egger made a futuristic dash to Cerro Torre’s summit. The ascent took a mere four days; the descent another three through a building storm. One of their teammates, anxiously awaiting their return, on the seventh day noticed a body lying in the snow below the mountain. He raced up the slope, his heart in his throat. Cesare Maestri lifted his head from the snow and muttered three words: “Toni, Toni, Toni.”

So the story went. Greatest ascent. Toni Egger gone, killed in an avalanche on the descent, his body missing.

The climb was so far ahead of its time that it would take 47 years and dozens of attempts by some of the finest alpinists of each generation before anyone else would succeed on that same aspect of Cerro Torre. Think three-minute mile. Or a spaceship to the moon — a decade before the spaceship was invented.

Now new evidence adds convincingly to what scrupulous critics have long known: The two never made it to the top.

Beyond the sheer improbability of his claim, Mr. Maestri lacked proof. The team’s only camera was with Mr. Egger. You had to take Mr. Maestri at his word. It was all he had.

In few endeavors is trust as implicit in the DNA of the activity as with climbing mountains: You and your partner, tied together, trusting each other with your lives. It’s embodied in the enduring phrase “The brotherhood of the rope.”

Over the decades, a literal mountain of evidence has piled up against Mr. Maestri’s claimed ascent. Remnants of their passage, in the form of pitons, fixed ropes and other gear, littered the initial thousand feet, which he described as completely exhausting. Yet above, on far more difficult terrain, not a trace has ever been found. His descriptions of features higher on the mountain, which he could know only if he’d been there, were wildly inaccurate.

Perhaps most damning, Mr. Maestri claimed that a storm coated the upper face in ice, allowing Mr. Egger, a virtuoso in such conditions, to get them both to the summit. But the invention of the modern ice ax — absolutely requisite to rapidly climb ice so steep — was still a decade away.

Against all the evidence, Mr. Maestri, now 85, has held his ground, defiantly so, lashing out at his “detractors” and refusing to address the myriad issues surrounding his claim. He remains a hero in northern Italy, though lost in the crossfire has been another question: What happened to his climbing partner? ... Mountaineering’s Greatest Climb Unravels

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