The Love of High Mountains

We arrived back in Zermatt today, Friday – a place that feels like our second home. It’s 50 years since I first came here as a young teenager for a week, and also spent a second week in the neighbouring Saas valley. My wife’s first visit here was 43 years ago and between us we have been here eighteen times we think, but it might be nineteen: we’re losing count!

The Matterhorn from Rotenboden

Today, however, is bittersweet. Yesterday (12 July 2012) nine mountaineers lost their lives (and others were injured) in a massive avalanche on the slopes of Mont Maudit while on their way to the summit of Mont Blanc via a route that is commonly called ‘Les Trois Mont Blancs’. This is the worst single loss of life in the Alps for many years and my heart goes out to all those and their families involved in this tragedy. Exactly why that massive avalanche chose that moment soon after 5am to unleash its deadly force we may never know. Climbers climb through the night because that is the time when temperatures are at their lowest and when ice and snow are expected to be stable.

Back in 1995 when my son was just seventeen years old I guided him to the summit of Mont Blanc by Les Grands Mulets route – a route not often used now due to deterioration in the glaciers. It was a fantastic climb and I was privileged and proud to have safely guided him to the summit of the European Alps and back down again. Before guiding that route, I meticulously checked the guidebooks, the weather, reviewed images of the route and studied it – and climbers on it – through binoculars. I conducted a full evaluation and judged it safe, and our abilities sufficient.

Since then I have often looked at ‘Les Trois Mont Blancs’ route and placed it on my list of unrealized ambitions. Should it stay on that list or be removed? On statistical grounds the chance of something similar happening are slim. We climb to stay safe, we evaluate the risks. No doubt all those who were overwhelmed yesterday had also evaluated the risks involved. But can you really quantify the unquantifiable?

Probably in the next 10 days I will set off to climb a 4000M peak and before setting off I will have evaluated the risks as I always do.

About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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18 Responses to The Love of High Mountains

  1. Lovely post and a way to help people remember that we go to mountains to live. They enhance our lives.

  2. oneowner says:

    It’s very unfortunate about the loss of life recently on Mont Maudit. The only small consolation is that they died doing something they loved doing. Isn’t that what we wish for ourselves?

  3. Well done Andy, you have articulated thoughts that many of us have had, but were unable to express so well.

    Back down to earth, your image of the Matterhorn in the post is simply outstanding!

    • LensScaper says:

      Many thanks Paul. Not easy to write about this tragedy. The image is from last year’s visit. We appear to have brought the rain with us (dammit)! Mist shrouded valley today, but should improve. Here’s hoping

  4. I miss being around the mountains. I haven’t hiked in almost a year!

  5. Victoria says:

    Wow, beautiful picture!

  6. Mark says:

    Stunning photo, good luck with the next climb and watch your step.

  7. seekraz says:

    I met an older gentleman on my hike in the mountains yesterday and he showed me the summer remains of avalanches that have occurred in our canyons over the past few years…I felt humbled by their destructive power…and awed…and concerned for our lives as we hike there in the snowy winter. Such a tragedy, Andy…as we do go there to refresh and replenish ourselves. Thank you for sharing this…..

  8. I am stunned on so many levels here, Andy. That is a huge loss to contemplate here. What a wonderful tribute you’ve put together in your post… it’s really driven home the realization of how fragile life really is. Please, climb with caution, my friend.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for writing back about this post, Scott. Always difficult writing about a tragedy like this and trying to put a personal slant on it. I will stay safe. High climb coming up tomorrow – perfect weather window for it

  9. Reflections like these are always great to look at!

  10. Irnest says:

    That is a truly outstanding picture!! The reflections in the water and the white flowers in the foreground are amazing. Well captured

  11. The Love of High Mountains | LensScaper présente astucieusement ses pages, donc je suis certain que beaucoup de personnes sera totalement d’accord avec moi.

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