Preuss, Paul. The Piton Dispute

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The collection of essays generally known as the Mauerhakenstreit, the “Piton Dispute,” as translated by Randolph Burks, with photographs selected by the translator.

Paul Preuss

Artificial Aid on Alpine Routes By Paul Preuss1

No long philosophical meditations on Alpine questions will I bring here; no attacks that shall cause the cornerstones of a proud decades-old building to shake. Only ideas, ideas that always impose themselves upon me when I'm in the midst of the most active hustle and bustle of mountain climbing, shall be loosely united here. Yet I myself can't say whether the portrait I'm sketching is entirely clear, but it seems to me that the individual ideas can be united quite well into a general portrait. One thing only do I know: that I stand just about alone in my opinions, and whenever I expressed something of them, the answer was always: “Quite an ideal point of view, but a crazy notion.”

The Piton Dispute As alpinism and rock-climbing2 differ, so differ the aims and so differ the demands! The solution to a rock-climbing problem can be alpinistically worthless, this we all know, and this no more concerns alpinism than it does rock-climbing, for in the latter the same solution can possess the highest value. From the rock-climbing point of view, there exists no general difference between the Totenkirchl West Face and any other ascent on the second terrace of that famous mountain, only a qualitative one. From the alpinist's point of view however most of these ascents are completely worthless; the route lines are anything but ideal, and the ideality of the line plays the same role certainly for alpinism as do the greater or lesser difficulties, only in the opposite sense.3 From both points of view the solution to any problem at all only has value if it is carried out independently,4 that is, without artificial aid. That seems to me to be the supreme principle in alpinism as well as in rock-climbing,5 and with that I come to the question of artificial aid. For the ladders taken in olden times on mountain The Totenkirchl West Face, above; 6 The Totenkirchl’s Second Terrace (the routes of the routes, for Winkler's grappling hook and similar highest tier), below aids, people today only have a smile raised at corners of the mouth. But when a modern mountain climber casts the rope thirty-seven times around a block until it holds fast and then ascends it, people admire the daring, energy and perseverance of this. Wherein lies the difference? It is far from my intention to preach against fixed cable routes7: no thinking mountaineer underestimates their value for the bulk of the mountain- and nature-loving public. Something else is of concern to me, to put it briefly: I consider protection by means of driven-in pitons – in many cases even protection8 in general – as well as rappelling and all other rope-maneuvers which so often Georg Winkler and his grappling hook 2

The Piton Dispute make the ascent of the mountain possible or at least are used for that purpose to be artificial aid and consequently from the point of view of the alpinist as well as that of the rock-climber as not free from objection, as not justified. Rappelling! “If there is someplace you can't go down, you should also not go up” – the alpine point of view tells me: “Overcome difficulties with your own strength, on the ascent and the descent alike.” That is the postulate of an honest, sporting conviction. An ascent made without being conscious that everything can go free9 on the descent as well is reckless and unalpinistic; a battle waged with unequal weapons, unchivalrous and unsporting.10 Certainly every alpinist and every climber – with this distinction however I don't want to be understood as saying that a man can't be both at the same time – must be able to rappel; it is a means of deliverance in times of distress, during sudden drops in temperature or nightfalls, after an accident or when straying off-route. But I don't see the value of a traverse of the Campanile di Val Montanaia if this traverse is impossible without a rope; climbing directly over all six Vajolet Towers seems senseless to me if an eighty-meter air journey has to be undertaken to do it. Wherein lies the value of a descent via the South Wall of the Marmolada, from the Winkler or Delago Towers, via the Schmittkamin or over the The Campanile di Val Montanaia, above; Kopftörl Ridge if all the difficulties are only overcome The Vajolet Towers: Delago, Stabeler, by means of dangling on the rope? On the ascent, aid and Winkler, below given from above by the rope is universally frowned upon; but what's right for the ascent must also be proper for the descent! The virginity of a mountain has not been taken when, although you may have gone up free, you did not get down again free – on the contrary even! I would like to express myself quite clearly but without in doing so offending everyone who has ever rappelled (I myself also did it back in the day): Is the victim of the theft reprehensible or is it the thief? The same goes, it seems to me, for pitons too! I don't need to stress that using them as a foothold is unjustified; but what difference is there between downright fixed cable protection and installing triple ropes as protection11 by means of pitons driven in every five meters on difficult stellen?12 I don't understand the value of the feelings nor do I understand the value of the achievement if you swindle your way up a face like this. I too once 3

The Piton Dispute wanted to “conquer” a towering face loaded down with a metal-working shop and a small ironmongery in each pocket. Fortunately I was at that time rebuffed all the same, and today when I reflect on it well, I become conscious of the complete unsporting dishonesty of my beginnings back then! (By way of example, a fact from a modern route report: “The way cannot be missed, since it leads in an almost ruler-straight direction and is marked by 22 pitons.”!!) The most outlandish “Kletterstellen” are “made” with the aid of ropes and pitons: people swing back and forth on smooth walls, entire mountains are ascended with rope maneuvers (– Torre del Diavolo, Guglia Edmondo de Amicis;13 though such “ascents” every now and then aren't even taken by the participants as having full value! –), cords tied to pitons are used as handholds or as “maintainers of equilibrium.” Yet experience teaches that many of these stellen can be climbed free; and if not, they should rather immediately be left alone. The piton too is a makeshift14; it must not be a means to conquer the mountain. I don't want to put the case for the love of danger, which is absolutely present to a certain extent in us modern mountaineers. However it seems to me that the thought: “if you fall, you'll hang three meters on the rope” is of lesser ethical worth than the feeling: “one fall, and you're dead!” If you only want to do gymnastics on steep walls with absolute security,15 perhaps on triple ropes or above a spread out safety net, then you should rather stay at home and put your skillfulness to the test in the gymnastics club. If you cannot also climb a kletterstelle without a belay – from the alpinistic and sporting point of view – then you must not climb it at all.16 In my opinion as leader you are always only entitled to overcome such difficulties and The Guglia Edmondo de Amicis dangers (naturally with the exception of objective dangers such as the danger of crevasses and the like) that you would with the same feelings also overcome solo.17 It is far from my intention to reject entirely the use of a rope; I will not and can not bring into discredit this most important aid to the modern mountaineer; yet it seems to me that in recent times too much mischief has been perpetrated with it. Quite apart from all those who are dragged up the mountain under the motto “as second on the rope” – how many risky maneuvers are often carried out even by leaders just because they are on a rope. – There are even, I believe, individual cases where, precisely in the moment of highest danger, keeping the solid link between two climbers by means of the rope is immoral and imprudent! Certainly with correct, The Torre del Diavolo, center 4

The Piton Dispute methodical execution of a route such cases should not occur, but unfortunately we mountaineers know from our own experience that we aren't proof against happenstance and that under exceptional circumstances even exceptional cases can occur. When the leader is in a precarious position and the second occupies a poor stance that is completely unsuitable for belaying, it is in keeping with my opinion for the latter to undo the solid link of the rope and hold the end of the rope in his hand as firmly as possible! This seems a commandment The two pitons that I of humanity and reason. Apart from the fact that every life that can be had, in defiance of all preserved also must be preserved, apart from the fact that in the event of theories, put into my a fall it's senseless and lawless to pull your friend into ruin with you jacket pocket with care based on the admittedly ideal grounds of true comradeship, this rule clattered so impertinentcontributes at least a little to heightening the somewhat shaky security of ly that Preuss with a such stellen! In each of us, however altruistic we may very well be, genuine expression of concern for our own life plays, at least in the subconscious, a definite unhappiness suggested I role. With the feeling of not, in the event of your friend's fall, having to might like to pack the fall along with him, the second can with much greater calm devote more pitons individually, the strength and attention to the nevertheless possible arrest of the fall than clanking of the iron was he would with the definite thought of, due to his unfavorable stance in a noise like the ting-athe event of a mishap by the leader, having to cling helplessly to the rock ling of the condemned with a heavy burden around the body! How many double falls would man's bell before the surely have been avoided with the consistent application of this execution. – Walter Schmidkunz principle?! A significant role should fall to the roped belay, yet daring everything and carrying out everything trusting in roped belays and pitons is imprudent, unjustified and without style! Belaying the leader with a rope is permitted as and should be a relief-bringing means but not the one true means for making the execution of the route possible. He alone seems to me to have the right to call himself “independent” who can mountaineer on this basis! Not only “that” you get up the mountain and back down again should be of significance – but also “how”! If a horse gallops during harness trotting, it will be disqualified for having an impure gait. We compel the irrational animal into purity of style; should everything be permitted with thinking mountaineers? Let style in alpinism and style in rock-climbing be a demand on all alpinists and climbers; when that demand is fulfilled, all attacks should silence of themselves. With these remarks it is far from my intention to make unfulfillable demands; a lot of bad habits have taken root so firmly that they won't be uprooted in a single stroke. I only thought to offer a few suggestions thereby, suggestions which may with the coming generation fall on fertile ground. I will be reproached with striving for a too extreme hypermodern climbing technique, one separated by a world of difference from the alpinism of past times. I would not like to concede this unconditionally. The manner of execution may well be different, but the basic idea seems to me to be the same; I believe myself to be carrying out a return to the declining alpinism of the purest style, to the alpinism on whose solid ground and soil I believe myself to be standing body and soul. (Deutsche Alpenzeitung, XI/1, August, 1911; S. 242-244) Kopftörl Ridge 5

The Piton Dispute

Artificial Aid on Alpine Routes A Response by G. B. Piaz18

No other article on the subject of alpinism demands in my opinion – and I also take this to be the opinion of the vast majority of all alpinists – a reply so urgently as the article in this periodical's August issue in which Paul Preuss has developed his thoughts on artificial aid on alpine routes. Had Preuss merely confined himself to castigating the not to be denied and not to be condoned abuses that in recent times have been committed with “artificial aids” in rock-climbing, he would never have heard a word in opposition. That however he makes no distinction between use and abuse, that on the way to his ideal, unfortunately too ideal views he tramples underfoot with equal lack of consideration anything that opposes him, that he goes so far as to want to eliminate the use of artificial aids and aids in general cannot and must not in any wise find approval. Such opinions – which for individuals, for a climber of Preuss's abilities, can have a not to be underestimated sporting and ethical value, but which constitute a danger that cannot to be taken too seriously for the great mass of alpinists and namely for the “coming generation” toward whom Preuss especially directs himself – must be opposed with every energy. The use of “artificial aids” is an old practice, one that has been sanctioned in all alpine-theoretical writings and existed since the beginning of alpinism, but this is not why their use must be defended: in this case, being conservative means being humanitarian. The destruction of this method means the emergence of a great danger in rock-climbing. And moreover the author is too significant of an alpine personality not to be able to become dangerous by means of his theory. The hunt for new ideals will always find disciples! To put forward the resolution of a problem without artificial aid as the supreme principle in alpinism and rock-climbing is in Tita Piaz my opinion utterly misconceived, and incomprehensible to all those who see in climbing something more than a purely sporting activity, one steered onto particular paths by arbitrarily fixed norms. The other principle, carrying out a mountain expedition19 with the least amount of danger, seems much more rational and humane to me. Preuss permits himself to be mislead by his ideas to such a degree that he forgets that we were men before we became climbers, that the climber must not repress the man, that our relatives have more right to us than the most shining of climbing ideals. Had the most ridiculous use of pitons saved a single human life, its use would already have been justified thereby. I ask not to be misunderstood: I'm talking about pitons as a means of protection, not as ladder rungs; for I too find climbs characterized by a huge number of pitons to be at the very least ridiculous. The author's great error lies in not having investigated the composition of the soil for which his teaching is intended. The climbing public consists of leaders and followers. The former divide into professional and amateur leaders. Protecting with pitons is principally a question for the leader. Is there 6

The Piton Dispute any need to prove that it is of the utmost inhumanity to say to the mountain leader: refrain from a route if as a husband and father you dare not tackle a dangerously friable stelle or dangerous in some other way without letting the rope – for lack of any natural horns to use as protection – run through a securing iron ring; refrain from a route which you yourself may manage entirely safely and securely but which doesn't offer any real possibility of protection for your companion of lesser ability! Or to say: don't try to reduce the danger for your fellow route-mates and yourself – that's unchivalrous! The vast majority of amateur climbers is young, inexperienced and unpracticed; they generally possess more ambition than ability. They are often only just equal to coping with very difficult stellen, but any difficult mountain is a real problem for them. How can one shout to these young people: Just, whatever you do, don't protect with pitons, don't rappel! All that would be unsporting, unchivalrous! What can not or will not be undertaken entirely “independently” on the ascent as well as on the descent should be left alone. The descent is as a rule harder and more dangerous because as is well known we have no more than corns on the tips of our toes.20 Nevertheless: “Don't rappel, that would be unsporting, unchivalrous! That would be a battle waged with unequal weapons! Take care not to reduce the risks!” A peculiar view! Does the mountain perchance behave chivalrously? Does it not set traps of the basest sort? Are brittle holds, rockfall, and so on chivalrous means on the part of the enemy that's to be defeated? Does not ruin, particularly on first ascents, lurk behind every hold? And Preuss calls protecting yourself as much as possible from the mountain's dirty tricks an unchivalrous way of fighting! Was the knight of the Middle-Ages perchance unchivalrous because he protected his chest with armor? “If a kletterstelle cannot be done without a belay it should not be done at all!”21 What alpinist can boast of having such experience that he can assess with certainty the climbability of a, say, merely six meter high section of face? And the proposition: “where you can go up, you can also go down” is only entirely correct in theory; for nothing is easier on a complicated kletterstelle than forgetting the sequence of all the moves. On a ticklish retreat down a vertical face the slightest circumstance is apt to cause a catastrophe! Even the best climber isn't proof against general happenstance! Any alpinist who doesn't comprehend the value of the feeling of having solved a great problem with relative security is genuinely to be pitied; great treasures remain hidden from him! Wouldn't it be ridiculous pedantry to turn back from a stelle when the undefeated face can perhaps be delivered up to us by one piton? We don't want to swindle our way up faces by means of protective pitons;22 we only want to reduce as much as possible by their means the dangers that threaten us, so that, as Lammer23 puts it, of the absolute danger only the danger of the danger remains, like a fraction of one half. We'd rather in the event of a fall hang four or even twenty meters on a protective rope (perhaps with a broken leg) than have the ravens celebrate a feast with our corpse in the dark abyss. 7

The Piton Dispute

Eugen Lammer

I admit without reservation that the worth of a mountain expedition carried out without any “artificial aid� is greater; but this increase in value at the cost of security is unreasonable, inhuman and irresponsible. That moderation in the use of aids in rock-climbing is desirable must be admitted; but in order to attain such moderation, one must not immediately turn to such radical means, so long as not every climber stands at Preuss's level. It is my conviction that wherever serious danger threatens, the use of pitons is of the strictest moral duty, also out of consideration for one's companions. With this the question raised as to whether under certain circumstances the second may or should undo the solid link of the rope, which in any case should never contribute to raising the feeling of security, is simultaneously answered in the negative. I do not at all understand how a person can be so cruel as to want to constrain rock-climbing within limits; after all, we go into the mountains to be free of limits! We go into the mountains to steer clear of all constraints, not to stumble over an even more dangerous one. (Deutsche Alpenzeitung, XI/1, Mitteilungen, Nr. 14, Oktober, 1911; S. 89)

Torre Piaz, Vajolet Towers


The Piton Dispute

My Answer By Paul Preuss [Response to Piaz] The scathing critique bestowed upon my views by the pen of G. B. Piaz compels me to lay my cards on the table even more clearly than I did in the article in question. I readily concede that I've developed my ideas to their ultimate consequences and because of that have gone somewhat too far for practical application. I may have actually attacked the use of, when I primarily wanted to attack the misuse of artificial aids, about which by the way I explicitly said that they “may be permitted as a relief-bringing means but ought not be the one true means for making the ascent of the mountain possible”! To derive a justification for the use of artificial aids from the historical development of mountaineering, as Piaz would like to, indicates in my opinion a misunderstanding of the historical facts; the ways our alpine predecessors looked at problems24 were entirely different, so that today parallels can no longer be constructed between the kinds of means that were employed for problemsolving. From the fact that the absolutely essential knowledge of the use of artificial aids in cases of emergency has been admitted into the textbooks of rock-climbing, no conclusion can likewise be drawn as to the justification of such means when no emergency exists. Nor does adherence to the principle of carrying out mountain expeditions (properly: pure sporting climbing routes of the most difficult sort!) with the least amount of danger have in the present state of rock-climbing much better justification! Piaz himself rejects pitons as “ladder rungs” and accepts them only as a means of protection; yet in his mockery of routes marked by a huge number of pitons he forgets that these too were almost always employed solely for protection on such climbs! Where are you supposed to draw the dividing line between reasonable and excessive use? Continuing the system used up to now should at least soon result in having a good standard for assessing the difficulty of a route – a piton-coefficient – which would be expressed by the ratio between the height of the face and the number of pitons! Incidentally, Piaz unconsciously shows his inner aversion to the unsporting pursuit of the art of climbing with this rejection of such “piton routes.” I am so much the more surprised that he attacks so severely my expression of the “battle with unequal weapons” (which for my part was used only as an image)! Yet as a student of the natural sciences I cannot follow his personifications of the mountains as enemies who Preuss on the Hochtor-Nordwand likewise have unsporting and unchivalrous ways of fighting. It is we humans who always put our ugly ideas into the events of the external world, seeing intention, aim and purpose at every turn, where only elementary natural forces are at work. Nature is and remains without intention! What does not surprise me is that Piaz attacks the practical feasibility of my opinion that everything that's scaled on the ascent is also climbable free on the descent. Piaz in spite of his unusual climbing skill is unfortunately (like all Dolomite climbers) simply in the habit of rappelling over every somewhat difficult stelle.25 Climbing down on the descent should however and can as well be learned 9

The Piton Dispute just like climbing on the ascent. The present state of down-climbing skill must really be found to be shameful should you have occasion, as I did, to transport into the valley in the course of a year, due to good-naturedness or stupidity, sixty meters of rope off the Südostgrat, eighty meters off the Schmittrinne of the Totenkirchl and ninety meters off the HochtorNordwand (the latter admittedly stemming from someone's having strayed off-route). I have saved Piaz's most serious accusation until the end: that with my theory I would bring everyone who wants to follow me into greater danger! Is the use of artificial aids really always such an undangerous thing? How many falls tell of poorly driven pitons; how many fatalities has poor rappelling already cost? The places where driving in pitons would truly be necessary are usually among the hardest parts of the entire route; where the piton-driving is light, with a reliable person behind you, it is in most cases superfluous. However wanting to impose sporting motives and ambitions on professional guides who would have to pay with their own bodies for the whims of those types of clients who have the strange ambition to do precisely the hardest The Hochtor-Nordwand and very hardest routes on a secure guide's rope, this does not enter my head. These victims of their profession should, as well as amateur leaders in the same situation, do everything in their power to ensure their safety. It is just that no alpine significance or sporting value belongs in that case to such routes; only the distorted features of a sublime model are to be found in them. Does Piaz then completely forget those young (and sometimes even With artificial climbing older) climbers who can be observed every Sunday on trips in the Munich aids you have transor Viennese excursion districts who, with blind trust in pitons and rappel formed the mountains slings, tackle the hardest routes without being even in the slightest equal to into a mechanical play- them and without knowing the correct use of those fine things with which thing. Eventually they they have stuffed their pockets? There is also an important demand called will break or wear out, “educating to be a mountain climber,” a demand whose fulfillment is the and then nothing else most important duty of the alpine clubs, periodicals and individual will be left for you to alpinists. Prospective climbers should be instructed to keep their ambition do than to throw them within the limits of their abilities, standing just as high in their intellectual away. – Paul Preuss as in their technological education, no higher and no lower. “It is in limitation that the master shows himself!”26 If a justification for rappelling will ultimately one day only be conceded in exceptional cases and as a makeshift, mountains such as the Guglia, the Campanile, the Delago Tower, etc. may well receive fewer visits, but all the better on that account! All those today who may climb up but are not able to climb down will content themselves with more modest summits, will learn to down-climb, just as rappelling is learned! The limits of their ability are for most climbers today uncertain because they are all building themselves castles in the air with their artificial aids; an actual reasonable use of such aids only takes place today in the rarest of cases. Should one want however to counteract this deplorable state of affairs and eradicate an evil, then friend Piaz, one is permitted to and has to seize it by the roots without “becoming unreasonable, inhuman and irresponsible”! 10

The Piton Dispute I am not the one who wants to force rock-climbing into limits! It has itself set these limits; they lie in the concept of sport, which we can no longer change.27 For my person I am an alpinist, and only when there is no way around it does rock-climbing come for me into its rights. And in that case should I not uphold the highest principle of sport – and, so far as I can, also hold back others to that end – the principle that is common to every sport and ennobles every sport, the principle of purity of style? Beautiful climbing, in a technological as well as an ideal respect, means good climbing, and good climbing means secure climbing! We were men before we became climbers, that is true; we want to prove it by allowing thoughts to prevail over feeling, mind hold sway over body. (Deutsche Alpenzeitung, XI/1, Mitteilungen, Nr. 14, Oktober, 1911; S. 90)


The Piton Dispute

Artificial Aid on Alpine Routes By Franz Nieberl in Kufstein28

No great epoch-making phenomenon goes without its clashes and cleavages. Even in alpinism, though born into the alpen air and grown up near the mountain sun and sparkling snow, such phenomena occasionally came to light. These need not always be worthy of condemnation in advance; mostly however they only bring forth a seemingly sweet but all the more poisonous fruit. Thunderstorms clear the air.29 But now and then the lightning causes an endless amount of destruction; the hailstorm wreaks enormous damage; a lasting deplorable state of affairs arises from all this, so that oftentimes even the clean atmosphere that occurs afterwards can no longer really be enjoyed. Such thoughts struck me while reading Preuss's considerations on artificial aid on alpine routes.30 These considerations may at first have kindled only a small flame, but it's a flame that can according to circumstances develop into a devastating blaze if not checked in good time and confined to its hearth. It seems to me as though the sportsman in Preuss has not only maintained its preponderance over his alpine Franz Nieberl personality but that Preuss is already a sports-alpinist and The Pope of the Wilder Kaiser only a sports-alpinist of the purest stamp,31 in spite of his assurance: “Only when there is no way around it does rock-climbing come for me into its rights.” Never before has anyone dared to express so starkly and baldly the separation of alpinism and rockclimbing32 as Preuss has. That opens dim prospects. Perhaps we shall soon have a “Free from Alpinism Movement,”33 even if this ought not to be placed within Preuss's intention. My fingertips were It is only the inveterate sportsman who won't dare to leap over the limits climbed through, ad- within the concept of sport because he deems that to be contrary to sport, to hesive tape had to be ignoble and ungentlemanlike. And that is what Preuss does; only in this come to my aid, which way can I understand his theory of purification. He wants to liberate the even the severe critic sport in mountain climbing, especially in the case of crag-climbing, entirely probably won't charge from the unsporting dross that still – fortunately, I say – adheres to it, by as a violation of my rejecting every artificial aid there is – rappelling, pitons, and yes, (only theories on artificial shyly hinted at, to be sure) even shoulder stands – as unsporting. Preuss aid since I used the doesn't really act consistently here. So as to climb completely purely, adhesive tape with the completely sportingly without aid, he ought also to reject climbing shoes, sticky side facing in- indeed, perhaps he shouldn't even accept hobnailed boots since their nails too offer an artificial aid. The unswerving sportsman ought to go barefoot ward. in the future as soon as foot is set to rock. That is by no means a sophistic – Paul Preuss quibble, nor an exaggeration; it is really only an inference from the rest of 12

The Piton Dispute Preuss's demands. But such a “pure, irreproachable” sportsman does not exist. The sports-equestrian uses the most elegant, lightest saddle – actually he should ride an unbridled Mustang. The automobile driver seeks out the finest machines and arms his eyes with protective goggles; the sports-hunter affixes a telescopic sight to his repeating rifle, and so on ad infinitum. With that however we mountaineers have arrived at dangerous ground. Once the sporting element in alpinism comes so much to the fore, as Preuss desires, the alpinism that Preuss wants to raise degenerates in my opinion into a raw sports-pursuit34 that comes to light raw and naked precisely because it strives solely for “purity of style.” I realize quite well that many sporting elements are to be found particularly in the alpinism of today, but I would like to speak out formally and in all seriousness against the cultivation of the sports-bacillus in its pure culture. Piaz has already, very happily to my mind, taken care of this in his response, and I would have remained silent had the editorial staff of this paper not asked me to give my opinion on the matter. I do this gladly in accordance with my sincere conviction and in the hopes of having a useful effect. For the present, Preuss is fortunately still right when he professes to stand quite alone in his opinions. “Quite an ideal point of view, but a crazy notion.” But perhaps this crazy notion will win followers in the “coming generation” and then: goodbye, you old, reliable, deeply refreshing joy in climbing; long live solely the pure stylish rock-climbing! This pure style however will not bring about any pure separation of climbing's votaries into those who will really know how to climb and those who will simply refrain from it because the grapes of stylish climbing hang too high for them.35 It will rather demand sacrifices in such appalling numbers that Preuss himself will one day sigh: The spirits I called; I cannot get rid of them now.36 Our climbing of today suffers from many maladies; artificial aids also share the blame for this, but merely because their misunderstood utilization has led to ridiculous and contemptible misuse. No honest thinking alpinist denies this. It is above all the rope that plays nowadays such a degrading role in the hands of certain people. Intended for the protection of the climber, an external sign so to speak of the inseparable solidarity of brave mountain comrades, the “moral placet”37 for serious alpine routes, it has frequently degenerated into an uncomplaining means of transportation for human sacks of potatoes, into a lasso for recalcitrant mountain horns (also known as “the summit”) as well as into a gymnastic apparatus. That is, of course, a great abuse. The deliberately forced “traverse”38 of a mountain, when it can only be contrived by means of outrageous rope maneuvers, is something I regard as gymnastic exercises that do not belong in the mountains. It does not even occur to me “to traverse” the Campanile di Val Montanaia, the Guglia di Brenta, the six Vajolet Towers, permitting myself the modest remark that what keeps me from doing so is not physical inability and just as little any lack in personal courage. I go into these mountains with high pleasure and climb with high pleasure up the natural route that I can climb back down free (or on which at most short sections of rappelling occur on The Guglia Di Brenta the descent). I certainly no longer rappel on the 13

The Piton Dispute Sudöstgrat of the Totenkirchl ever since I found that this ridge can quite well and securely be climbed by the ascent's bypass route.39 Thus I too, like Preuss, reject unnecessary and deliberately sought out rappelling. Wherever safety is called for, mostly only on short stellen, I calmly hang my rope and go down it. For I do not see why I should not carry out a route that I find beautiful merely because out of prudence I want to cover a small fraction of the way on the rope. The route has therefore not lost an inch of ethical value for me. “If there is someplace you can't go down, you should also not go up; overcome difficulties with your own strength, on the ascent and the descent alike. That is the postulate of an honest, sporting conviction,” Preuss writes. That's quite an ideal point of view! But from experience there are many kletterstellen that I can tell right off by looking that I can overcome, even if perhaps with great difficulties, nevertheless with complete security on the ascent. However hardly a climber will probably exist who can recognize the same stellen as also being climbable free with complete security on the descent. This is the case with most not very articulated, nearly vertical sections of face having poor grip, with many overhanging cracks, and so on. How many quite good climbers would frequently have to turn back under such circumstances? The man in that situation need not at all be assessed as “reckless and unalpinistic” if he thinks to himself: “I can quite certainly get up without any reckless risk. Should the same stelle on the descent not afford me the greatest security for hand and foot, I'll make use of the rope, precisely so as not to set about things recklessly, albeit perhaps unsportingly.” “A battle waged with unequal weapons, unchivalrous and unsporting.” If Preuss uses the metaphor of battle even once, then he implicitly assumes an antagonism between man and rock. Then it's even entirely natural that we personify the warring parties. Thus it would hardly have been necessary for Preuss as a student of the natural sciences to inform Piaz of the absence of intention in nature. Piaz himself would have been quite conscious of that, but just because Preuss speaks of a “battle” Piaz proceeded quite logically when he spoke of the “mountain's basest traps.” Piaz is right. Whether taken figuratively or not, every initiate must admit that much treachery, many dangerous pitfalls and mantraps lie hidden in the cliffs. Whether the mountains have that object in mind or not changes nothing regarding the fact of their existence. Therefore wherever the rope is used as an aid for the capturing of new, otherwise unconquerable “peaks,” wherever the rope is used as a runged rope ladder, as an unbroken chain of stirrups, as a gymnastics climbing rope on a grand scale for the traversing of mountains that by their nature cannot be traversed without steeple-high air journeys, anywhere as well that it has served as a proven means for the purchase of cheap laurels, may it disappear. Were a rope possessed of feeling and the capacity for thought, perhaps it would often break out of wrath over the dishonorable services expected of it. Completely unnecessary rappelling on stellen that can obviously be climbed free without any danger must also be regarded as an abuse. This abuse of course cannot thoroughly be done away with until all those who set off toward climbing truly learn to climb. One must, until one can go free independently, go to school with good teachers. When occasional or renowned tourists40 march into the mountains without experienced companions, naturally they won't know where and how climbing can be done free, and then the poor rope shall have to make up for the stupidity and incompetence of its masters. It is certainly not there for that purpose, although for reasons of safety even in this case I'd sooner have to approve of an excess of rope use over an abandoning of the roped belay in accordance with Preuss's principles. Sound life and limb are simply worth more than the most stylish pursuit of sports. The passage Preuss devotes to maintaining the solid link of two climbers by means of the rope on bad stellen seems to me to be only loosely related to the misuse of the rope. He may on the whole be right with these remarks; however everything here depends on the personal disposition of the individuals involved. I know such worrying situations from experience; if the second in a noble feeling of solidarity doesn't agree to the suggestion of severing the link, this will be an uplifting feeling for the leader that should spur him, if possible, to heightened care. This is worth at least just as much as “the heightening of the shaky security” of the second in the case of unroping. 14

The Piton Dispute That much horrid mischief has been done with pitons is unfortunately only all too true. Manufacturing an iron staircase on an otherwise inaccessible face should by rights be left to those who build the alpine club paths for the general public. I too maintain: the piton is a makeshift and should remain one. But to interpret the word “makeshift” so narrow-mindedly, as Preuss seemingly does, is a dangerous thing. A piton is already necessary41 where a belay is not ensured with absolute security by means of good stances, horns of rock and the like. It is, in my opinion, a moral commandment to climb really serious stellen only with complete security. If this complete security is only to be achieved by driving in a piton, then the iron peg must come to one's aid. The means Preuss specifies for dispensing with pitons is enormously simple. “If such stellen are not climbable free, they should rather immediately be left alone.” Again quite an quite ideal point of view! But of course this doesn't even occur to the majority of climbers; therefore almost no one will deny themselves a route because on one or another short stelle a piton can help them to get over a very bad section of the route with security that without pitons would be a serious risk. This is no swindle, neither in one's own ethics nor in the sport. I do completely understand Herr Preuss when he writes: “The thought: 'if you fall, you'll hang three meters on the rope' is of lesser ethical worth than the feeling: one fall, and you're dead.” That's a mighty ideal point of view. The newly arisen Puritan of cliff climbing certainly means it seriously too. He believes in what he says – until it is perhaps too late for him to realize that the completely strict, sportingly-practiced pursuit of mountaineering is not the infinitely attractive ideal image that we alpinists have in mind but rather a terrible Moloch.42 Herr Preuss, you would really have to be a coldhearted monster if you would stand one day by the shattered corpse of your best climbing partner who had fallen to his death in a place where a small artificial aid, a single miserable piton, would have preserved his life and supported his family and then perhaps wanted to maintain as well: “It's better that way. At least he wanted to overcome the stelle in the properly sporting manner; he fell as an impeccable sportsman; had he driven in a piton, the ethical value of his route would have been driven down.”43 Herr Preuss may be striving for an ideal. I quite believe him, but it is a cold, rigid, frosty ideal. The Grim Reaper already follows the climber of the good old school wherever he goes and lies in wait for the moment the man, perhaps intoxicated and drunk with pleasure from his previous successes, lets for only a second the necessary caution flag. How delighted the Reaper will be when he sees one day the adherents of the Preuss school march off in droves to hurry “aidless” into the mountains! The individual climber who is fanatically ruled by such ideas and does not feel the fatal fall with its terrors; happy is the man. But the sum of tears, of mutely despairing pain, of suddenly dashed hopes that now already lie buried in the mountains, all of that could increase tremendously. Is Herr Preuss not afraid of having such a heavy burden there? May he for his person chase after his ideal. He may well find for himself the sport rock-climber's worthwhile aspiration in his doubtless sincere conviction of its excellence. I even have genuine admiration for the bold theories that he puts forward, theories that do contain much that is beautiful and noteworthy, but that he only puts forward because he can call a quite unusual ability his own, and because, based on it, he sees the crown of rock-climbing therein. But he ought never ever to set up the yardstick of his own ability as the norm, for there are also dii minorem gentium44 who may want to follow him on his bold, sportingly conducted rock path, but are 15

The Piton Dispute not able to! “What he can do, I can do too,” many will tell themselves. I have already indicated what results from this. – For Preuss his theory of purification is the “shining climbing ideal”45 – he keeps it; no one can dispute his right to it. But to teach these beautiful false doctrines to others is something I take to be wholly false and terribly dangerous. Sometimes nowadays I would almost like to believe in a decadence of rock-climbing; for such attempts at purification and reinvigoration are almost always signs of an unhealthy condition. A truly robust organism has no need of such things. Nevertheless here too I would like to believe it's just a passing, meteoric, vanishing phenomenon. The old, honest climbing (I intentionally call it “honest” in contrast to Preuss) doesn't really need to be vamped up to a shiny new. Even with the – moderate and sensible – use of artificial aids, it stands at a previously unimagined height that may no doubt satisfy even us modern climbers. The love of danger is a fine and manly thing; the tasting of a danger, come through, is a great treat, an ethical agens46 that I would not like to miss; but exposing oneself to an all too obviously threatening danger is extravagant47; it's a criminal game of chance with the best goods we have. I also leave the judgment of the so-called world here altogether out of account. The general public can remain a matter of complete indifference to us in our almost always misunderstood activities. But I don't believe I am deluding myself that the majority of serious, reasonable alpinists side with my judgment, or rather have already rendered the same judgment, and that, after all, Herr Preuss will not so easily dismiss. May climbing not be for us an extra-high tension almost perverse titillation of the senses for the exhausted nervous system that no longer reacts to gentler stimuli, but rather a pure spring of healthy pleasure in life and nature. And as is well known pleasures can be enjoyed better in calm than with incessant nerve excitation, not to mention over-excitation. Therefore I assert in precise contrast to Preuss: adherence to the principle of carrying out mountain expeditions (even pure sporting climbing routes of the most difficult sort) with the least amount of danger has even in the present state of rock-climbing unqualified, complete justification. The best here, as in so many cases, likewise lies in the mean. When I consider the lines of the routes on the many faces that the entirely modern “piton-men” have conquered, then I certainly have my – duty free48 – ideas in view of the extensive iron ladder installations.49 In my opinion that has practically nothing to do with mountain-gladdened climbing; but I let these people follow their own path to happiness, and would only strive to oppose it should this “rope and piton work” passed off as climbing be promoted and become an entire school. If a such a face as the venerable Laliderer Wall for instance, which has recently risen to the rank of the hardest route in the Alps (it's sure to be deposed again next year), can truly only be conquered by means of such heaps of iron and braided hemp, then hands off; here I go hand in hand with Preuss. But should the latter climb the same wall without any artificial aid on the ascent or on the descent, something he may ultimately achieve, then it is no doubt permitted to shake your head in view of this extreme as well. For with this stylish climbing he exposes himself, in spite of his eminent climbing skill, to just as eminent The Laliderer North Wall dangers, assuming the difficulties indeed match the 16

The Piton Dispute account given by the first ascensionists. In the meantime – Preuss too may follow his own path to happiness, but he must not recruit students for his bare, stylistically pure sports-pursuit. I would not like to do routes either under the aegis of the Laliderer Wall climbers50 or under that of Preuss and indeed for the reasons already given and because in both cases the sporting way the climbing is practiced doesn't please me, in Preuss's case with the additional subconscious awareness that his climbing involves so much danger to life and limb that risk and profit on the mountain expedition are out of all proportion. For no one can persuade me that the ethical aspect in humans is thereby strengthened to such a disproportionately high degree that it is permissible for it to completely and utterly suppress every other human stirring. Angelo Dibona What now will be the practical application of this dispute of opinions? Preuss himself furnishes this in irreproachable sentences: “There is an important demand, called educating to be a mountain climber, a demand whose fulfillment is the most important duty of the alpine clubs, periodicals and individual alpinists. Prospective climbers should be instructed to keep their ambition within the limits of their ability, standing just as high in their intellectual as in their technological education, no higher and no lower. It is in limitation that the master shows himself!” Yes, in limitation! Something however Preuss would above all have to impose on himself before he went and so flatly and entirely without limitation rejected artificial aid. Everything in measure and aim! In the mountains we are free of constricting limits. If someone with such reverence makes the limits – “that sport itself has set, that lie in the concept of sport” – out to be the sole legitimate benchmarks of our sporting climbing, then we can shout to him with complete justification: My dear fellow, you yourself are not free; your judgment is biased; you may be an irreproachable sportsman – but you really no longer see that beyond the high sport limits there unfurls a completely different, sublime world, notwithstanding your claim to be an alpinist and “only when there is no way around it,” a climber. (Mitteilungen des Deutschen und Österreichischen Alpenvereins, Bd. 37, Nr. 22, November 30, 1911; S. 265-267)


The Piton Dispute

Artificial Aid on Alpine Routes: A Reply by Paul Preuss in Vienna [Response to Nieberl] The reader of this periodical will hardly, from the critique my remarks on artificial aid on alpine routes received from the pen of Franz Nieberl, have obtained clear picture of the ideas I explained in that essay.51 He likely takes me for a really wild and unbridled companion, for whom nothing, not only not the lives of strangers but not even his own life, is sacred. Herr Nieberl only presented a distorted picture of the views I set down there, which naturally could all the more easily be combatted since the entire logical connection of ideas and many of the most important principles established there have fallen by the wayside in his way of seeing things. This fact compels me to concern myself – once again and in more detail than is agreeable for me and perhaps for the editorial staff of the Mitteilungen – with the question of artificial aids. It seems immensely regrettable to me that Herr Nieberl was incapable of separating the subject matter from the person and permitted himself be led in his way of regarding theoretical opinions by a prejudice toward my person. Yet however much he may take me for the pure, incorrigible sportsman capable of none but sporting feelings, I still don't believe that a refutation of this view, or the view itself, falls within the scope of a public discussion of theoretical questions. I would only like to allow myself the one remark that to a certain extent I take the credit for it if I disregard emotions, feelings and moods in such discussions and let myself be swayed by the purely logical succession of the theoretical ideas about alpine theory and technique52 and not by atmospheric pictures and my non-sporting love for the mountains. Logical thought, aesthetic sensations and feelings, these are things that must be separated in such considerations, just as must – entering more closely now into Nieberl's reply – alpinism and rock-climbing. I do not want to discuss this question, which has no immediate, necessary connection with the question of artificial aids, in detail; doing so Preuss on the Hochtor-Nordwand would too easily fan again into a fire the coals that 53 have been glowing since Steinitzer, something that unfortunately frequently seems unwelcome. I only want to remark very briefly that in my opinion alpinism and rock-climbing lay at the endpoints of a long series in which every transition between both extremes exists, that rock-climbing is in many cases just as independent of alpinism as for instance sporting snowshoeing is. Both the sport of snowshoeing and the sport of rock-climbing are already capable of existing as ends in themselves, a fact that becomes clear to anyone who wanders with open 18

The Piton Dispute eyes through the most popular climbing centers. Only if you are blind or will not see will you not concede that with the ascent of the Piazkamin on the East Tower of the Vajolet or the Nieberlkamin on the Totenkirchl rock-climbing has become an end in itself. Or is the alpine element perhaps preserved by dashing on to the summit from the second terrace of the Totenkirchl – so that the route is counted in the route report?54 The fundamental idea that emerges from every sentence of my remarks and was also not picked out by many other readers (fortunately not by all of them) is also not sufficiently minded by Nieberl. Although he himself quotes my sentences: “ keep ambition within the limits of ability, etc....,” he does not seem to be completely aware of the full import of these words, and that this could happen to a Franz Nieberl arouses in me the consideration that I myself have possibly opened the door by means of my stylization to numerous, admittedly possible, misinterpretations. (So for example some individuals believed that everything I demand of the leader would also be laid down as a requirement for the second on the rope!) So as to counter these misunderstandings, I want to try in the following to present once more the guiding principles of my views in a stylization that can leave no room for doubt: 1. You should not be equal to the mountain climbs you undertake, you should be superior. 2. The degree of difficulty that a climber is able to overcome with security55 on the descent and also believes himself capable of with an easy conscience must represent the upper limit of what he climbs on the ascent. 3. The justification for the use of artificial aids consequently only arises in the event of an immediately threatening danger. 4. The piton is an emergency reserve and not the basis for a method of working. 5. The rope is permitted as a relief-bringing means but ought never be the one true means for making the ascent of the mountain possible. And what I gladly concede: 6. The principle of security56 ranks among the highest principles. But not the frantic correction of one's own insecurity attained by means of artificial aids, rather that primary security which with every climber should be based in the correct estimation of his ability in relation to his desire. First ideas presumably have no need to be established at any greater length. Or should I first have to prove that it's not of any use to us merely to go up in my opinion, that we mountaineers must have reserves when we find ourselves on a hard route, reserves that even in immediate danger conduct us safely back into the valley again? It is not when the kletterstelle seems too hard to us that we should, in order to overcome it, hang on pitons in blind trust – it is rather only when adverse conditions impede us from methodically carrying out our route, when outer circumstances have weakened our strength and our selfconfidence, then let pitons and rope be our deliverance from distress. Nieberl too rejects the conquering of faces with pitons, rejects superfluous rappelling. But can he determine the dividing line between rational and expedient piton use, the dividing line between necessary and superfluous rappelling? Herr Nieberl rappels over “short” stellen; he wants to conquer a “short” stelle protected by pitons, but where does “short” begin and “long” stop?57 Opinions on this might be as various as the climbers and even more so

Preuss on the Predigtstuhl-Nordkante 19

The Piton Dispute than the kletterstellen. Perhaps one wants to delimit “short” and “long” numerically, like that Saxon Swiss58 climber who, although he wants to be taken seriously, nonetheless writes: “If an impassible stelle cannot be overcome with the aid of one ring, then it should not be done at all.”59 (BergheilKalender, 1912, O. Jüngling: “Künstliche Hilfsmittel”) One meter that can no longer be climbed on an ascent is infinitely long in my opinion; nature has erected a bulwark for us men there, a bulwark the overcoming of which is meant to go beyond our strength. And not the genuine mountaineer, no, only the inveterate and incorrigible sportsman, whose pathological ambition is put above all else, leaps with disregard over such limits, bringing himself across with protection from pitons in places where his own self-assurance60 fails, and he ought therefore to admit to being defeated. But correcting your own insecurity by tying yourself into pitons at every opportunity and then calling this procedure fostering security is a great error. Its principle is not security, but securing,61 and what Herr Nieberl calls “love of danger” and as such finds “fine and manly” he searches for by passing absolutely protected as near as possible to the possibility of a danger; he thus cultivates a feeling that according to his own principles he ought not to have, could not have. But the middle course that Herr Nieberl would so readily like to take unfortunately leads to where we already are today, so that at hard stellen climbers do not ask: “Where will I get to when I am up there?”, but rather only: “Where will I fall when I don't get up?” With artificial aids just about anything can be accomplished! (In Nieberl's view and Jacobi's too, which incidentally strongly influenced Nieberl, I ought to count even climbing shoes as artificial aids. During this line of reasoning Nieberl repudiates the accusation of sophistic quibbling from the outset because his unerring instinct tells him nonetheless that this is the only correct term for it.) The “old, joyful art of climbing” that Nieberl so readily claims for himself becomes, according to such principles, a mindless and meaningless craft. But as far as climbing on the descent is concerned, I have to flatly contradict even such an authority as Herr Nieberl. I quite readily admit that climbing on the descent is harder than the reverse, but only because very few people are used to it, and because they have not learned it. Admittedly the hardest stellen can only be descended if one knows them from climbing up. But that a kletterstelle exists that would be possible with security on the ascent but not on the descent, that's something I contest from my own experience. Climbing on the descent is something that can be learned, as I also emphasized in my reply to Piaz, and as I expressed above, a climber's climbing ability on the descent must have a determining influence on his route selection. The fact that Nieberl highlights the dangerousness of my theories so much shows how little he has penetrated into the spirit of what I actually demand. I would indeed be “a cold-hearted monster” and my ideal “a terrible Moloch,” were it true that I demand of mountaineers that they ought to so to speak “die in beauty.” How baseless it was to ascribe this demand to me is something Herr Nieberl may see from the following: I gladly follow his notion: “a single miserable piton would have preserved his life and supported his family.” Yet I ask further: Has it been necessary, and will it always be necessary for things to get to this Preuss in action point? Is there really no power that will be capable of 20

The Piton Dispute preventing the mountaineer of his own accord from always forging ahead to the utmost limit of his abilities and exposing himself where life and death already stand in unstable equilibrium? Many mountaineers, alarmingly many, have fallen to their deaths in recent years precisely while conquering difficult stellen. But would a single one of those dead from past years have fallen had the moral and sporting feeling of each of them been thoroughly animated by the How I could have principle: not one step up where you cannot get down? A Moloch is the taken it all personally previous principle; that unfortunately is shown by the experiences of the had I wanted to! But I past decades; hundreds have fallen victim to it. Does then Herr Nieberl don't want to, because believe that the majority of mountaineers know how to handle ropes and the subject matter goes pitons better than the rock and themselves? For in order that artificial aids beyond the person and be, as Herr Nieberl says, “used moderately and sensibly” you would because I would like to already have to have achieved perfect mastery. But then you no longer see such childish resis- need them because you can already determine the limit of your own ability. tances eliminated from And now Herr Nieberl will perhaps understand me correctly when I say: the evolution of the “There is an important demand called educating to be a mountain climber: sport. Prospective climbers should be instructed to keep their abilities within the limits of their ambition,62 standing just as high in their intellectual as in – Paul Preuss their technological education, no higher and no lower. It is in limitation that the master shows himself! The moral placet for hard routes does not consist in physical abilities or climbing technology skills but in the education of the mountaineer's intellectual and moral foundation and in his line of reasoning. The beautiful time of the old mountaineering can be resurrected if the “over-simplification of sport,” as Karl Planck63 terms it (Österreichische Alpen-Zeitung; August 5, 1911) – the craft-like pursuit, as I myself would like to call it – is put in its place64 through the sporting regulation of routes and through the intellectual and mental education of the mountaineer! Now the mountains are hated, fought with every means – we shall learn once more to fear and to love them! (Mitteilungen des Deutschen und Österreichischen Alpenvereins, Bd. 37, Nr. 23, Dezember 15, 1911; S. 282-284)


The Piton Dispute

Marginal Notes to P. Preuss's “Artificial Aids” By Paul Jacobi65

In the first August and the second October issues of this periodical, Paul Preuss published two articles, “Artificial Aids on Alpine Routes” and “My Answer,” both of which, the second to a higher degree than the first, caused quite a stir in alpinist circles, and justifiably so, by their condemnation of modern climbing technique,66 but which also must not pass unchallenged with regard to the inferences drawn in them and their proposed corrective measures. Even though the author himself endeavors in the course of his treatise to soften his demands in their abrupt form, these themselves are put are so precisely that on the one hand this toning down is only perceived to be a concession to the reader, but on the other one feels pressed to examine them in their logical justification and practical feasibility. After a few preliminary words in which the meticulous separation of alpinism and rock-climbing particularly stands out, since rock-climbing must actually be regarded as being merely a component of alpinism, albeit one of the most important, in his first essay Preuss puts forward the proposition that “from the point of view of alpinism as well as that of rock-climbing the solution to any problem at all only has value [Wert] if it is carried out independently, that is, without artificial aid.” But what are artificial aids? “Protection by means of pitons, in many cases even protection in general, rappelling and all other rope-maneuvers...” Then – imposing itself upon us as a necessary inference – pretty much our entire active development in the Alps will from the alpine and rock-climbing point of view probably be absolutely worthless [wertlos]. Preuss contrasts this with the assertion that the construction of a parallel between long ago and now with regard to alpine problems67 is inapt, an assertion for which no satisfactory explanation can be discerned. An alpine problem in the final analysis always consisted and consists still in reaching the summit of a mountain via a previously thought-out route; the solution to this problem consists – today as well as formerly – in the more or less successful assertion of human intelligence in the face of the raw forces of nature that oppose the attainment of this preset goal. In this respect we speak of a battle of men with the mountain, and this personification of the latter is a usage that is generally practiced in alpine literature, one that Piaz also uses with complete justification in his response without thereby deserving a rebuke, since he too will have been aware, without having studied the natural sciences, of the metaphorical sense of his remarks. It should be admitted that elements of a proof for Preuss's hypothesis could be constructed from the coefficients of difficulty, that is, from a comparison of what was formerly considered difficult and today, but a discussion of the pros and cons of this would go too far afield to fit within the scope of these marginal comments. We come now to the second question. If protection is only objectionable, that is, artificial aid, in many cases, then when is it permitted? The only definite answer that Preuss gives relating to this is “when necessary” [im Notfall]. However since no closer precision has been established in either article as to what “when necessary” might mean – because Preuss, probably owing to the aforementioned concession to the reader, indulges repeatedly in contradiction (for instance “If you cannot also climb a kletterstelle without a belay, you must not climb it at all.” Five lines lower: “It is far from my intention to reject entirely the use of a rope...”) – we can only hold on to the literal meaning of the words, therefore “in a case of emergency” [im Falle der Not]; but that pretty much amounts to turning the complete rejection a priori of protection into a basic principle.68 Now taken theoretically this would perhaps have its justification. If the roped belay, etc. is ever an artificial aid – and this is what it is, at least in regard to moral quality – then let it be permitted everywhere or nowhere. But I go even further; if the rope, used for protection, is an artificial aid, then so are ice axes, climbing shoes and in the end our hobnailed boots 22

The Piton Dispute because even they contribute to relief and the heightening of security. Now after we have granted a theoretical justification to the rejection of artificial aids, we want to make clear to ourselves the feasibility of its practical implementation, the setting about of which however might lead to a negative result. Purtscheller69 once said, “In the high mountains, there are not only things you cannot do but also things that you should not do,” and on almost all of our so-called very hard rock-climbing routes there is at least one stelle – precisely the very hard one – that surely belongs to the latter category, assuming – that the person climbing it is not adequately protected. Admittedly Preuss says, “However it seems to me that the thought: 'if you fall, you'll hang three meters on the rope' is of lesser ethical worth than the feeling: 'one fall, and you're dead!'” If that's the only thing that one thinks on such a stelle he may perhaps be right. A careful climber, one who is more Ludwig Purtscheller than merely that, but rather at the same time also a man with a heart and mind, will in the course of this mull over many other things besides. Certainly one thinks first of all, “if you fall you're dead” – a thought that more or less arises from animal instinct and for that reason alone ought not to make any claims to ethical value – but the thinking man continues on logically, “If you're lying down below, then the danger will begin for your fellow men. Your corpse will perhaps lie in an inaccessible place; your companion will try to reach you at any cost, even that of sharing your fate; worse still, strangers, leaving wife and child at home, will have to set out at the risk of their lives to retrieve you. And perhaps none of this will happen if you climb with a rope. In that case I ultimately prefer the "shameful” feeling of a potential fall onto the rope of three meters.” He who is solidly tied into the rope while leading the difficult stelle will also have to rectify his speculation, “I'll only fall three meters in the favorable case”; for who gives him the absolute certainty that unlucky happenstances won't occur (happenstances whose possibility Preuss too mentions in several places), and upon the entrance of these the entire preceding chain of thought can be appended here, strengthened by consideration for one's companions. The expenditure of energy used for self-overcoming while reflecting upon all these factors is therefore in either case only minimally different. And yet every climber should at the very least constantly bear these factors in mind; moral duty requires it. But it is precisely the eventuality of double fall that is to be avoided by free climbing, I hear in reply. That is a matter of dispute, one that ranges the province of casuistry, and if Preuss exclaims, “how many double falls would have been avoided,” I counter: how many thousands of falls were rendered harmless by the rope or at any rate made less severe. And because only a minute number of accidents with bad outcomes can be set against these thousands of accidents that have been averted, we therefore choose the lesser of two evils. For confirmation of what was said above it might not be out of place here to compare Preuss's remarks with the opinion of another modern climbing-competence. Franz Nieberl writes in his “Klettern im Fels”:70 “Careful and conscientious protection is the moral placet for hard routes, which can become very foolish and reckless undertakings in its absence. You owe it to your relatives, yourself and even according to circumstances to human society not to gamble irresponsibly with your life and the lives of others.” An opinion that stands contrary to Preuss's. And yet Preuss will hardly succeed in branding a man like Nieberl as an outdated authority. Daring everything trusting in the belay is something every 23

The Piton Dispute rational climber will condemn just as he condemns superfluous rappelling, etc.; such maneuvers are even anything but alpine, characterizing the reckless go-getter or the enthusiast. Ropes and, if need be, pitons are to serve only for protection against unforeseen happenstances – the moral coefficient is not the main issue but rather a side one. But a hard route laid down entirely in accordance with the strictest rules of alpine protection technique decidedly possesses more style and sooner has claim to the title “work of art” and, because standing morally higher, to the distinction “ethically valuable” than one carried out unprotected or one that is insufficiently protected, say, merely for reasons of making a quicker progress. And if Preuss questions this by claiming that “Nor does adherence to the principle of carrying out mountain expeditions...with the least amount of danger have in the present state of rock-climbing much better justification,” so it stands to hope that he will truly stand alone with this afterlife-theory. For this hypothesis is not only “unreasonable, inhuman and irresponsible,” but it would, established as a guiding principle, constitute a downright public danger. Courage and bravery are ethically valuable factors; daredevilry and foolhardiness however are ethically to be rejected. I do not doubt that Preuss, from his point of view, was led by the best of intentions with his suggestions, but his remarks and preeminently the last cited sentence can – given the popularity that the name (despite or because of the youth of its bearer) Preuss enjoys – lead to downright dangerous consequences particularly with rash young folk, and it should also be more prudent of him in the future to suffer that other children of men may do routes according to old method that he did according to his, and that these latter may nonetheless consider themselves justified in claiming that they too “made” this or that face. But if Preuss believes he is standing on the solid ground and soil of the alpinism of the purest style it's good that he'll be in a position to present other proofs than what an inference drawn from the comparison of alpinism and horse-racing to his alpine sports-concept is capable of providing us. (Deutsche Alpenzeitung, XI/2, Mitteilungen, Nr. 16, November, 1911; S. 99-100)


The Piton Dispute

Artificial Aid on Alpine Routes By Paul Preuss [Response to Jacobi] As in any discussion that goes into any detail, so has the debate over the question of artificial aids given rise to a series of errors and misunderstandings that, due to the use of an incorrect stylization or even more often to an incorrect comprehension of a precise stylization, was capable of causing a hopeless confusion. P. Jacobi's “Marginal Notes,” which appearing in the second November issue of this periodical, is an apt instance of this. An evaluation of the few arguments that Jacobi has presented not based on mistaken interpretations is something I can largely spare myself – I don't want to needlessly try the patience of the editorial staff of the Deutsche Alpenzeitung, which has already opened its columns so often now to the factors interested in this. In a longer explanation of my point of view, which will appear as a reply to an article by F. Nieberl in the Mitteilungen des Deutschen und Österreichischen Alpenvereins, Jacobi's fundamental arguments will receive their assessment as well. I therefore confine myself here to defending myself against his actual errors. It is not the alpine problems in the fundamental sense of the word that have changed since the bygone heyday of the mountaineer, it is rather, as I explicitly remarked, the way of looking at the problem.71 No man will be able to deny that someone who sets about being the first to climb the thirteen chimneys leading to any terrace on the Totenkirchl's north side is guided in doing so by a different line of reasoning than the first ascensionist of the Winkler Tower, the Zmutt Ridge, or the Marmolada South Face, even if both endeavor to “reach the summit [and Marmolada South Face sometimes not even that] of a mountain via a previously thought-out route.” The battle Jacobi and Nieberl are waging against my attacks on Piaz's personifications is also based on a mistaken understanding of my words (which incidentally was not judged so tragically by my friend Piaz). When I speak of a “battle with unequal weapons” I mean that we men must from the outset reckon with the dangers of the mountains, therefore also with rockfall, friability, etc., while – figuratively speaking – the mountain cannot reckon that men will tackle it with iron pitons, hammers, chisels, rock drills and perhaps even cement. The “mountains' weapons” are of a natural sort that cannot escape our reckoning, but these sorts of human weapons are unnatural! – That mountains are personified lies in our linguistic usage and in our human inability to think impersonally. In reality 25

The Piton Dispute mountains are always the standard by which, never the enemy against which we measure our strength. “If you can not climb a kletterstelle without a belay (= could not and would not climb without a rope!), you must not climb it at all” – – “It is far from my intention to reject entirely the use of a rope (= therefore one still need not always do it without a rope!).” Where a contradiction is supposed to lie in these two phrases remains a mystery to me. To characterize climbing shoes and hob-nailed boots as artificial aids is in my opinion a prime example of a sophistic quibble. With this same line of reasoning, it ought also in Jacobi's opinion be considered justified from the alpine and sporting point of view to have a rope ladder tossed down from the summit in order to get up. What Jacobi writes about the line of reasoning of the climber on a difficult kletterstelle is characteristic of the weak, decadent type of modern mountaineer who goes to the mountains so as to numb his shattered nerves by means of intense impressions. Physically and mentally sound, strong men belong to the carrying out of mountain routes! But if, during the overcoming of a hard kletterstelle, anyone really thinks of the difficulties that the---body-recovery expedition will encounter, then that someone should, if he is not so prudent as to give up climbing on his own, be forbidden the mountains and be placed in a sanitarium for nervous conditions. Jacobi is quite right when he quotes Purtscheller: “In the high mountains, there are not only things you cannot do but also things that you should not do,” but he should also apply this sentence to those who want to undertake difficult mountain expeditions with his line of reasoning. That passage in which I speak about the possible necessity of undoing of the rope link between two climbers was also outright misunderstood. This error too will be refuted in the Nieberl article. It is only the eventuality of a double fall that I want to avert in the most pressing danger by climbing free (cases which, as I explicitly wrote, should not occur with methodical route execution), not falls in general. In actual fact, it goes Preuss on the first ascent of the Guglia without saying that I remain opposed to Nieberl as well as di Brenta to Jacobi in my opinion that, in the event of a fall, it is better to have only the one participant come off than the both of them. For this reason the leader has the duty in such cases – if he possesses the necessary presence of mind – to induce the second, possibly even by twisting the facts, into unroping. Security is even my highest principle; that's something that Jacobi has completely misunderstood. It's not the principle of security that seems unjustified to me, it's rather the – in the present state of rockclimbing (= as climbing is pursued nowadays) – alleged adherence to this principle, which in reality is not abided by at all. Should one want, as I do, to adhere to the principle itself, the way rock-climbing is practiced must be set on a completely different foundation. Let how I conceive this principle be established for the last time in these pages in six theses that contain nothing other than the fundamental ideas of my previous essays and whose justification every thinking mountaineer has to concede: 1. You must not be equal to the mountain climbs you undertake, you must be superior. 2. The degree of difficulty that a climber is able to climb with security on the descent and also 26

The Piton Dispute believes himself capable of with an easy conscience must represent the upper limit of what he climbs on the ascent. 3. The justification for the use of artificial aids consequently only exists in the event of an immediately threatening danger. 4. The piton is an emergency reserve, not the basis for a method of working. 5. “The rope is permitted as a relief-bringing means but ought not be the one true means for making the ascent of the mountain possible.” 6. Security ranks among the highest principles. But not a frantic correction of one's own insecurity attained by means of artificial aids, rather that primary security which with every climber should be based in the correct estimation of his ability in relation to his desire. The reason for the battle that was waged and is waged against these theses seems clear to me. Following my principles seems to me to require falling back from an attained but illusionary height of relative performance, and many a person would, regarding routes he had carried out according to his old method, today feel something like a pang of conscience. Certainly giving up an acquired height is difficult; this we mountain climbers know quite for certain, and the millionaire accepts more modest circumstances with difficulty too. I also don't want to cross the paths of the “veterans” and compel them to deeds which they either ought not to expect of themselves or which would humble them. Yet in a time when not only theoretical arguments but also envy and jealousy as well as misjudgment of personal motives have sought to hinder the infusion of new ideas, it doubly pleases me that not only a few thinking “veterans” but also many thinking “youngsters” swear to my banner. Should someone reproach us however with rushing the non-thinking “youngsters” into danger, then to that I say: we will know how they are to be educated so that they become mountaineers Preuss on the Rosengartenspitze and not craftsmen of the noble art of mountaineering,72 East Face mountaineers and not problem- and record-thieves. If alpinism has a future in which it is to hold its own even against cable railways and trips by airship, then it lies in the alpine sport we uphold because we love it. The editors: With these closing words we conclude the debates for now. The Munich Bavarian chapter of the Alpine Club will hold a public discussion meeting on this topic at the end of January, which we will report on in due course. (Deutsche Alpenzeitung, XI/2, Mitteilungen, Nr. 19, Januar, 1912; S.115-116)


The Piton Dispute

Artificial Aid on Alpine Routes

By Hans Dülfer in Munich73 [Summary of Alpine Club Discussion Meeting] The question of the use of artificial aids on alpine routes, stimulated by the remarks of Dr. P. Preuss, has intensely occupied the circle of alpinists of late. On the 31st of January of this year an evening discussion meeting devoted to this topic took place in the Bavarian chapter of our Alpine Club in Munich. At the request of the editorial staff, in the following lines I shall report briefly on the proceedings. After a few introductory words from the first chairman of the chapter, Judge E. Oertel,74 Dr. P. Preuss in brief remarks established his standpoint which is above all laid down in his six guiding principles (cf. Mitteilungen 1911, No. 23). These “guiding principles” also formed the basis for the evening discussion meeting. Herr Franz Nieberl, the first speaker, referred in a few introductory sentences first of all to the relationship of alpinism and rock-climbing and depicted alpinism as to a certain extent a concept that among other things also encompasses rock-climbing. It would not be befitting for rock-climbing to occupy a position in relation to alpinism that would be Sketch of Hans Dülfer just as independent as the one occupied by, for instance, sporting snowshoeing. Admittedly, even Nieberl could not close his eyes to the fact that rock-climbing, for instance in Saxon Switzerland, is perfectly capable of existing for itself alone and being its own raison d'être. Nieberl's position on the above-mentioned six principles took shape approximately as follows: With Proposition #1 (“You should not be equal to the mountain climbs you undertake, you should be superior.”) Nieberl is in complete agreement, as long as it only comes into consideration for independent climbers who are in the lead. In order to comply with the principle put forward in Proposition #2 (“The degree of difficulty that a climber is able to overcome with security on the descent and also believes himself capable of with an easy conscience must represent the upper limit of what he climbs on the ascent.”) Nieberl deems it necessary, as Preuss also emphasizes, to learn every kletterstelle so well that you virtually know it “blindfolded,” and even then in Nieberl's opinion many a kletterstelle will be found that you may be able to manage with security on the ascent but not on the descent. Incidentally Nieberl generally considers climbing on the descent to be easier than on the ascent. Theoretically, in Nieberl's opinion, the boundary line drawn by Preuss is correct, but in practice it will not always be feasible. Nieberl concedes the correctness of the 3rd Proposition as well (“A justification for the use of artificial aids consequently only arises in the event of an immediately threatening danger.”) but calls for a precise determination of the term “danger.” According to Nieberl any kletterstelle that “brutally obstructs further progress on a face that's easily passable everywhere else” would also have to be regarded as an immediately threatening danger. The 4th Proposition: (“The piton is an emergency reserve and not the basis for a method of working.”) 28

The Piton Dispute is even declared by Nieberl to be self-evident. Piton routes are absolutely to be rejected. For Nieberl a case of emergency ad with it the justification for the use of pitons arises the instant he “does not want to turn back before the world of rock's occasional bulwark.” Nieberl also gives his complete assent to the principle: “The rope is permitted as a relief-bringing means but never as the one true means for making the ascent of the mountain possible.” Employing the rope for senseless traverses of otherwise untraversable mountains or for aid with the so-called “potatosack technique” is unwarranted. It may however still be used for example to overcome a single unclimbable break in the ridge on a longer ridge route. Regarding #4 and #5 Nieberl remarks that the setting of boundaries between short and long for sections of rappelling and so on has to remain left to the alpine sense of tact. The 6th Proposition: “The highest principle is security, but not the frantic correction of one's own insecurity attained by means of artificial aids, rather that primary security which is based in the correct estimation of ability in relation to desire,” strictly speaking brings nothing new; it only gives expression to something that's long since been universally recognized as true. Hans Dülfer Protection however should also be a safeguard against unforeseen happenstance. Pitons and rope don't provide direct aid in such cases, since the stellen were still climbed free.75 Nieberl also concedes the legitimacy of the principle: “only in a case of emergency may one make use of an artificial aid,” only he doesn't want the concept “case of emergency” to be interpreted narrow-mindedly. Nieberl thinks that Preuss, with his complete rejection of artificial aid, throws by the wayside just about every alpinist of significance, every previous alpine textbook, and so forth, precisely because artificial aids were in fact used by alpinists of the “old guard.” In general therefore Nieberl declares himself to be in agreement with the six basic principles; he even adds that no one who obeys them exactly will expose himself to subjective dangers. The danger doesn't lie in Preuss's theories but rather in their observance not being correctly carried through by everyone. Along with that would also have to be reckoned that there will be many, particularly among young mountaineers, whose reckless daring cannot be checked by any theoretical consideration and whose intellect, to their own shame, is not capable of grasping the crux of Preuss's explanations. To conclude, Nieberl remarked that in the mountains “everyone should follow their own path to happiness.” This sentiment was also put forward by P. Jacobi, the next speaker, in the form that one goes to the mountains “in order to be able to enjoy life to the full” and only “because it pleases a person and for rest and relaxation.” Jacobi too, regarding Propositions Four and Five, calls for a more precise explanation of the “emergency-term,” as well as a clarification as to what the difference between “relief-bringing” and the “one true means” consists in. Jacobi reproaches Preuss: “You want this as a rule: no rope and no pitons! – but aren't frank enough to declare this openly, partly because you yourself feel that it's absurd and immoral and partly because you yourself, at least when you climb with others, aren't able to dispense with this useful thing.” Jacobi stresses that even climbers of the securest quality, like all men, aren't proof against objective dangers and so ought not to disdain the aid of the rope against them. 29

The Piton Dispute Paul Hübel76 advocated most warmly for adherence to the six theses put forward by Preuss, justifying them by means of a practical example. Among others he sets out: a danger that warrants the use of artificial aid does not need to be immediately present but can also be given by attendant circumstances (impending change in the weather, by an expected bivouac), a point of view also taken up by Preuss in his paper and later stressed once again as thoroughly justified.77 Hübel attaches importance to the fact that the demand for purity of style, particularly as a means of education toward genuine mountaineerhood, will have a beneficial effect and believes that it can under no circumstances be dangerous. However he is nonetheless surprised, precisely in consideration of the ideal goal, at the separation, so sharply emphasized by Preuss, between alpinism and rock-climbing since he sees a certain danger in a radical Paul Hübel emancipation of rock-climbing. Amidst general tension Dr. Georg Leuchs78 took the floor. He explained that he too completely bases himself on Preuss's point of view, yet given possibilities for protection should where advisable be used. The separation of alpinism and rockclimbing appears to him to be quite warranted because the factual existence of pure rock-climbing is not to be denied. And that is also why the establishment of definite conditions for the execution of this is necessary. An indeterminate feeling in every mountaineer has already decided between fair and unfair. Now if you want to fix this distinction, then the natural dividing line will thus be drawn by the demanded rejection of artificial aids. The difference79 between Piaz, Nieberl and Preuss seems to lie only in the fact that Piaz will permit perhaps thirty, Nieberl perhaps three, but Preuss no pitons at all. Leuchs added that the Georg Leuchs establishment of this last ideal demand is only to be approved of. In his closing remarks Dr. Preuss explained his point of view on the nature and relationship of alpinism and rock-climbing, in the course of which he explained that an as harmonious as possible unification of the two is the most desirable of goals. In a renewed detailed discussion of his six theses he stressed most emphatically that the possibility of climbing down hard stellen on the descent is dependent both on the amount of practice the climber has had and first and foremost on the use of the correct method in negotiating difficult kletterstellen. The distinction between artificial and natural aids, between fair and unfair, lies to be sure, as stressed by almost every speaker, in the mountaineer's sense of tact, but it is also this feeling that clearly differentiates as to whether one is, as leader, also using the link formed by the rope in order to get up the mountain or precisely because one is climbing the mountain. The clean separation of fair and unfair deemed necessary by Dr. G. Leuchs must be carried out with every energy, because without radical measures even the most moderate advance could not be achieved.80 Fulfilling the ideal demand being put forward must, for mountaineers who can't grasp the entire question with the desirably deep understanding, be made into an absolute moral duty. An absolute "Thou shalt" in that case can protect them from ambiguous interpretations and the dangers that perhaps result from them. Doubtless even the practical implementation of the principles would be possible should everyone work most carefully during the education of the new generation of mountaineers. With a word of thanks to all the participants in the meeting, Judge E. Oertel closed the evening. (Mitteilungen des Deutschen und Österreichischen Alpenvereins, Bd. 38, Nr. 5, März 15, 1912; S. 69-70)


The Piton Dispute 1

1 Paul Preuss (1886-1913), an Austrian mountaineer, Jewish on his father's side, who advocated a return to the “pure” alpinism of Georg Winkler and Emil Zsigmondy. He was renowned for his bold free solos, often close to the limits of the free-climbing of the day. Yet his soloing eventually caught up to him. At the age of twenty-seven, he fell a thousand feet to his death while attempting to make the first ascent of the North Ridge of the Mandlkogel free solo. His legacy was actively suppressed in the 1920s by the prevailing anti-Semitic elements in the German and Austrian Alpine Club. It wasn't until the 1970s that Preuss was rediscovered. [All notes are the translator's except for three, which will be so noted.] 2 The word I am translating as “rock-climbing” – Klettersport – is no longer in common usage. The current word for rockclimbing is Felsklettern. I was tempted to translate Klettersport literally, but “climbing-sport” is clunky and the more euphonious “sport climbing” will obviously not do today. The term refers to climbing that doesn't necessarily have a summit as its goal, climbing as sport, in and of itself. The paradigm cases of Klettersport in these essays are the climbs on the second terrace of the Totenkirchl and in the Elbsandsteingebirge, pretty much what we mean today by rockclimbing. By Preuss's time most Alpine peaks had long been attained, so the focus turned to more difficult routes up to the summit, and increasingly not even to the summit. Hence rock-climbing, where difficulty in and of itself was often the goal, gained in importance. It was on such routes that pitonwork and pendulums were mainly being practiced. Preuss didn't want this to bleed into alpinism, as it was increasingly starting to do. So he often called for a radical separation of the two, leaving rock-climbing to its pitons and alpinism to its purity. I will translate the rarer Felsklettern as “cragclimbing.” 3 These last two sentences are more than a little opaque. I'll give my interpretation: a) From the rock-climbing point of view, there exists no general difference between the Totenkirchl West Face and any other ascent on the second terrace of this famous mountain, only a qualitative one. I take this to mean that for the rock-climber, alpinism is merely another species of the genus or general category of “climbing.” Whereas for the alpinist, rock-climbing is in fact a separate genus. So far so good. The latter half of the next sentence offers a bit more of a challenge. b) From the alpinist's point of view however most of these climbs are completely worthless; the route lines are anything but ideal, and the ideality of the line plays the same role certainly for alpinism as do the greater or lesser difficulties, only in the opposite sense. How can a role be played in two opposite senses? What exactly is this role, anyway? Surely by "ideality" Preuss means the beauty, the aesthetics of the line (one major criterion of which would include how much artificial aid is required; thus it would include purity of style). The aesthetics of the alpine line is prized by the alpinist over pure difficulty, whereas mere rock-climbing lines are "anything but ideal” – or at least more concerned with difficulty than with the beauty and ethical purity of the line. No doubt Preuss would admit rock-climbing is also concerned with the beauty of the line, if to a lesser extent. Thus aesthetics and difficulty would play similar roles in both, with this difference: alpinism values aesthetics over difficulty and rock-climbing values difficulty over aesthetics, hence the roles are played in contrary senses. This conclusion may also be reached if the sentence is read as implying “for rock-climbing”: the ideality of the line plays the same role certainly for alpinism as do the greater or lesser difficulties [for rock-climbing], only in the opposite sense. The “role” could then be interpreted as referring to the high importance each of these has in their respective realms of climbing. So if we assume Preuss would admit that aesthetics has a place in rock-climbing and difficulty a place in alpinism, then “in the opposite sense” could again be read as referring to the reversed polarity for each kind of climbing in the importance of aesthetics and difficulty. 4 The German selbstständig emphasizes standing on one's own without outside aid more strongly than does the English “independently.” 5 Note that Preuss is not claiming that climbing independently (with purity of style) is in fact the supreme principle in rock-climbing – as we've seen, most rock-climbs prioritize difficulty over purity of style and so are without “value” (Wert) or “worthless” (wertlos) as was just stated above regarding the Totenkirchl rock-climbs – he is merely claiming that it ought to be the supreme principle. This passage suggests that the separation of alpinism and rock-climbing that Preuss desires cannot be so simple. The same purity of style is required in both. So what sense then would it make to try to separate them over issues of style? In the end it may be that Klettersport for Preuss is more an attitude toward climbing – a technological one – and not so much a completely different kind of activity. This technological attitude can be seen as expressive of a broader cultural trend that was common in alpine circles, a critique of sport and a sports-oriented attitude. See notes #35 and #54 for more background on this. 6 Georg Winkler (1869-1888), a Bavarian mountaineer. Despite his occasional grappling hook, Winkler was renowned for his bold pioneering soloing. Note however the year of his death. His body wasn't discovered until 1956, when it was finally released from a glacier. 7 “Fixed cable routes” translates versicherte Felsensteige, which includes any form of fixed installation used to make a


The Piton Dispute


9 10




14 15


steep section of rock manageable for the capable tourist: steps, chains, ladders, boards, etc. Basically an early form of the via ferrata, termed a Klettersteig nowadays. Versicherte usually means “insured” or “assured,” and contains sichern, which can mean “to belay” or “to protect.” So you're insured a safe protected way up. See note #8 below. Protection=Sicherung, which in a climbing context usually means “belay.” But since it clearly fits the context better, it will mostly be translated as “protection” throughout these essays (for instance just now, “protection by means of drivenin pitons”), save for a number of instances of “belay.” But it's important to bear in mind that “protection” can also include belaying, as it clearly does here. The reader should be warned at the start not to understand “free” in the same way we understand the term today. Some commentators have taken this passage and other similar ones to mean that you must always down-climb the same route you ascended, or else the ascent would be of little “ethical worth.” Preuss makes no such explicit claim. It is sufficient if you could down-climb the route; it is not necessary that you always do so. However, the context and ideals of the times may have made such an assumption obvious to his readers. Fixed cable protection=Drahtseilversicherung; protection=Versicherung. See note #7. The term Versicherung is used to refer to the fixtures installed on via ferrata. It's not clear whether the second occurrence of this term in this passage refers to such installations in the form of fixed pins and ropes. Since I have seen the term Seilversicherung used in other documents from the time simply in the sense of a “roped belay,” the second occurrence may well just refer to being belayed by three ropes, etc. In either case, safe gear insuring success, such as ladders and cables, is invoked. Short for Kletterstellen or “sections of climbing.” This term is used for sections of Class 4 climbing and above which might be separated by Class 3 scrambling or easier, such as might naturally occur on a mountain. I leave this untranslated since Kletterstelle or Stelle on its own seems to have a more technical sense than “section of climbing” or simply “section” does for the English-speaking climber. It is custom not to capitalize German nouns in English. We will treat kletterstelle as singular and kletterstellen as plural. Where the italicization of this term may produce confusion due to its close proximity to any italicization for emphasis, I will leave it in standard font. This comment about the Guglia Edmondo de Amicis (in the Cristallo Group of the Italian Dolomites) refers to Preuss's sometime climbing partner and contemporary Tita Piaz (G. B. Piaz, see note #18). To quote Doug Scott's Big Wall Climbing (Oxford University Press; New York, 1974; p. 18): “Some of [Piaz's] methods were unconventional, especially on his first ascent of the Guglia Edmondo de Amicis in 1906 when he climbed the Punta Misurina, opposite the Guglia, and threw an iron ball attached to a cable over the summit of the pinnacle. He then pulled the cable tight and inched his way across the void hoping that the iron ball would stay jammed between two blocks of rock. He could certainly climb in better style than this and, in fact, he later regretted the incident.” The Torre del Diavolo, in the nearby Cadini di Misurina Group of the Italian Alps, was conquered in 1903 using similar rope tricks from Il Gobbo, the next tower over. Makeshift=Notbehelf, literally, a substitute in distress or need. Two paragraphs back, rappelling was to be used only “in times of distress,” in der Not. Security=Sicherheit, whose other major senses are “safety,'” “(self-)assurance,” “certainty” and “reliability.” Since “security” covers the range of these senses better than “safety” (which would have been a bit more apt in some places), it has been my preferred translation, though I have rendered it a number of times as “safety” or “self-assurance” when these meanings are paramount. But it will be important to keep in mind that “security” can also mean “safety” and “selfassurance.” We get a better sense now of what Preuss means by “free.” Still, it's not entirely clear from these essays exactly what he means by “free.” Sometimes he seems to imply that nothing less than free soloing is free; at other times he seems to include climbing fourth class, belayed but without gear; and at yet other times slinging natural flakes and horns as protection also seems to be allowed. What is clear is that, in addition to aid in the modern sense, climbing with pitons in any way, whether for belay anchors or for protection in event of a fall, would be considered artificial aid by Preuss. Doubtless today's camming units and other “natural” protection would also be deemed artificial aid (chalk, too!). Interestingly, shoulder stands weren't rejected out of hand as aid. What goes even more against the grain of the modern sensibility is that rappelling, as we see have already seen, is also artificial aid. If you have to rappel to get up or off a route, it wasn't done free. So in effect Preuss would condemn almost all modern climbing as artificial aid. However, it should be stressed that Preuss's demands for pure climbing are not quite as severe as they at first appear to be. Free soloing may be his ideal, but he never claims that such climbing is the only ethically legitimate way to climb. It's acceptable to climb with a rope as long as you could and would climb the pitch up and down free solo (and with a suitably calm frame of mind). Strictly speaking, it would be entirely possible to obey this principle and never actually solo anything. Presumably (even though he never directly addresses this) the slinging of flakes and the like as protection would also be acceptable under these same conditions. Would Preuss allow the use of piton protection under these conditions? Absolutely not. Passive protection? Probably not. Regarding the parenthetical comment in the following sentence, it would have been nice had Preuss developed his thoughts on protection and objective dangers a bit more.


The Piton Dispute 17 Preuss's footnote: This no doubt only holds for sections that are climbable for a soloist! Shoulder stands for example reside, I believe, right on the dividing line between artificial and natural aids because, due to the height of the kletterstelle, an unconquerable technical obstacle exists for the individual. 18 Giovanni Battista “Tita” Piaz (1879-1948); the “Devil of the Dolomites.” A pioneering Italian mountaineer and guide from the Ladin-speaking region of the Dolomites, an anarchist who was tossed in prison several times for his opposition to governments in any form, a guide who had little love for presumptuous wealthy clients, Piaz was a stand-out character in a field already saturated with strong personalities. He is credited with inventing the technique of lie-backing. He was an occasional partner of both Preuss and Dülfer. 19 Mountain expedition=Bergfahrt. Both are similarly old-fashioned terms for a mountain climb. 20 Corns=Hühneraugen. An untranslatable pun. For “corns,” the German would literally read “hen's eyes.” Presumably a reference to the difficulty of seeing while down-climbing. 21 Quotes in these essays are quite often inexact. So any deviation is not my doing. 22 Protective=versichernden. This could be a reference to via ferrata style protection (see notes #7 and #11), but this particular use of the term doesn't seem to have anything directly to do with such protection. Perhaps he means “assuring.” 23 Eugen Guido Lammer (1863-1945), an Austrian mountaineer and writer who in fact celebrated the dangers of alpinism, so much so that the climbing journals even refused to publish one of his essays. When the increasingly anti-Semitic German and Austrian Alpine Club expelled its Jewish Donauland chapter in 1924, they formed their own alpine club, open to Jew and Gentile alike. Lammer joined it in protest. 24 The ways...looked at problems=Problemstellungen, which can also simply mean “problems” or in this passage the “problems our alpine predecessors faced were entirely different.” This ambiguity will be the source of some misinterpretation in Jacobi's essay. 25 Piaz had also been setting fixed rappel anchors for his guided climbs. 26 My translation for this context of a verse from Goethe's poem “Natur und Kunst”, “Nature and Art.” 27 This passage makes more sense when one remembers that “rock-climbing” translates KletterSPORT. 28 Franz Nieberl (1875-1968), nicknamed the “Pope of the Wilder Kaiser,” an important Austrian mountaineer who pioneered many routes. He published a climbing instructional manual in 1909. 29 Given the importance of purity in this essay, it should be pointed out that in German thunderstorms reinigen the air or, read literally, purify it. This same goes in adjectival form for “clean” in the following sentence. The “phenomena” being referred to are of the atmospheric variety, though clearly the broader sense is also meant. 30 Nieberl's footnote: Cf. Deutsche Alpenzeitung, 1. Augustheft 1911, S. 242, and Mitteilungen der Deutschen Alpenzeitung zu Jahrg. XI, Oktober 1911, Nr. 14 in 2. Oktoberheft 1911, S. 89. 31 See note #34. 32 Nieberl wrote (Kletter)-sport to emphasize the sports aspect. Regarding the preceding sentence, remember that rockclimbing translates this same term (though without the parentheses and hyphenation). 33 Modeled on the name of the anti-Papist and Pan-Germanic “Free from Rome Movement” founded in Austria in 1897. 34 Sports-pursuit=Sportsbetrieb, also rendered as “pursuit of sport.” Oddly enough, at the time these essays were written the accusation of pursuing sport was something of a rebuke in many circles. What we now consider sport started out in the 1800s largely as an English phenomenon and was popular with the working class. Toward the late-1800s it began to make its way into Germany. As the German elite saw sport, and in particular soccer, increase in popularity, they became concerned. Not only was it non-German, but it was also associated with the English working-class, and so inherently dubious; worse still, it first gained popularity among the middle-class youth in Germany, potentially corrupting a more culturally important stratum of German society. This concern found expression in a debate over the effects such sports might have on German culture. Sport was said to foster: competition, egotistical individualism, striving for recordbreaking achievements, a desire for public recognition, as well as a trend toward specialization, all of which was considered not only alien to German culture but downright harmful to it. German values, virtues, social and cultural cohesiveness and distinctiveness would all be undermined if sport were allowed to take further root. In contrast, the very nationalist and military disciplinarian German gymnastics (Turner) movement was seen as fostering all the properly German social character traits and virtues. In fact the Turner movement actively militated against sport. Alpinism was also deemed a refuge from the foreign “sports-pursuit.” Both activities highlighted experience over achievement, wellroundedness over specialization, group functioning over individualistic competition, and so on. Hence any encroachment of a sports attitude within the sphere of alpinism would only be looked down upon by such as Preuss and Nieberl, though Preuss's attitude toward sport is a bit more complicated than that. (It is interesting to note that our alpinists sometimes refer to the sporting attitude in climbing as mere gymnastics!) More on this in note #53. To return to the term in question, the word Sportsbetrieb has definite crass economic overtones, such as business, factory operations and pursuing a career or trade. 35 Weil ihnen die stilvoll Klettertrauben zu hoch hängen, a play on the idiom die Trauben hängen jemandem zu hoch,


The Piton Dispute which means “it's just a case of sour grapes,” but literally reads that the grapes are hanging too high, as in the fable. 36 Two lines from Goethe's Der Zauberlehrling, “The Sorcerer's Apprentice.” My translation. 37 Placet: a vote of assent; from the Latin, it pleases. 38 Traverse=Überschreitung, which in a non-alpine context can mean the “overstepping” (of bounds) or “transgression.” But the term is more likely put in quotes merely because the mountains weren't really traversed at all. It might seem from the following sentence that Nieberl is against traversing mountains in general. But he is probably merely assuming that the listed mountains couldn't be traversed without unacceptable artificial aid, and that's why it would never enter his mind to try to do so. 39 The Sudöstgrat is Grade IV (5.5-5.6 YDS) but mostly Grade III (5.4). The bypass (Grade III) allows the Grade IV crux section to be avoided. 40 Turisten is also an out-dated term for mountain climbers. Famous foreign or non-local alpinists who would be unfamiliar with the terrain and might try to climb guideless may be meant. 41 “Makeshift” translates Notbehelf, literally a substitute in need; “necessary” renders nötig. Presumably this is part of Nieberl's demonstration of the broader meaning of Notbehelf. 42 Moloch: a god to whom children were supposedly burned in sacrifice. See for instance Leviticus 18:21 or 2 Kings 23:10. 43 Each “driven” in this sentence translates a different verb in German. 44 Gods of a second class; lesser gods. 45 This, slightly altered, is Piaz's phrase, not Preuss's. 46 Agens, drive, urge, conduct, do, act. The sense here is probably that of an “ethical motivator.” 47 Extravagant=überspannt, literally over-tensed. Besides “going beyond the bounds of reason” this term is also used to refer to overexcited nerves. The metaphor of morbid nerves continues four sentences below where “extra-high tension” translates höchstsgespannter. “Super highly-strung” is also a possibility but that doesn't make much sense when applied to anything but living beings. These terms are also used in an electrical context. It was something of a commonplace in the alpine literature of the day to apply the analogy of a morbid nervous condition to people who supposedly climbed for unapproved motivations. Moreover since at that time such diagnoses of “hysterical” nervous conditions were usually reserved for women, this comparison had other connotations as well, unflattering to a manly mountaineer. 48 This is probably an “in” joke referring to Nieberl's profession as a custom's official. 49 Iron ladder installations=eisernen Versicherungsanlagen. The term “ladder” does not appear in the German, but something like it is implied. Versicherung is a reference to the fixtures installed on versicherte Felsensteige. See note #7. If it wouldn't have been anachronistic I might have translated this phrase as “via ferrata installations.” 50 The “Laliderer Wall climbers” refers to the climbing team lead by Angelo Dibona. Quoting Scott again (Big Wall Climbing, p.19) “In 1911, with the Mayer brothers and Rizzi, he climbed the Laliderer North Wall (900 metres). This was probably Dibona's greatest undertaking and was certainly a landmark in the exploration of the Northern limestone ranges. This route fully deserves its V grade [5.7-5.8] and remains today a serious proposition...[T]he celebrated ascent of the Lalidererwand in the Karwendelgebirge...was conquered by the brothers Mayer, under Dibona's leadership, in 1911, only after the repeated employment of iron hooks and pegs.” It should be pointed out that such reliance on pitons was by and large an exception in Dibona's alpine career. Messner reports in his Paul Preuss (J. Berg bei Bruckmann; Munich, 1996; p. 226) that Dibona claimed to have placed only six pitons on this ascent (and only fifteen in his entire career). 51 Preuss's footnote: Deutsche Alpenzeitung, Jahrg. XI, Nr. 9 and 14 – Mitteilungen des Deutschen und Österreichischen Alpenvereins, Nr. 22. 52 Technik could also be translated as “technology.” I should also point out that “moods” in this sentence translates Stimmungen and “atmospheric pictures” Stimmungsbildern (depictions of the mood underlying a situation or event). A reference to Nieberl's thunderstorm metaphorics? 53 Heinrich Steinitzer (1869-1947), a Bavarian mountaineer involved in a debate over modern sport-oriented alpinism vs. traditional alpinism. His 1910 Natur und Kultur argued that a sports attitude (see note #34) was infiltrating almost every aspect of culture to its detriment. Even alpinism, formerly deemed a sanctuary from such competitive, egotistical, record- and recognition-seeking impulses was not immune. He distinguished between a sport-oriented alpinism and an experience/pleasure-oriented one, and he perceived the former attitude to be inexorably on the rise. Even before Natur und Kultur his ideas had sparked an on-going debate. His main opponent in this was Eugen Lammer (see note #23) who maintained that a sport-oriented alpinism on the contrary promoted culture (though he didn't condone its worst abuses): camaraderie between individuals, a sense of group identity, the confidence arising from struggles and success in the mountains transfers to city life, nerves stressed by city life are soothed via danger, the drive for competition can be sublimated, and so on. Steinitzer's point of view surely influenced Preuss's critique of rock-climbing as Klettersport; and we can better see why Preuss's conception of rock-climbing was ultimately more of an attitude toward climbing than something completely different. Nevertheless, Preuss's conception of alpinism is hardly free of sporting elements. So much so in fact that for him the entire issue is recast in terms of the opposition of fair and unfair ways of pursuing sport


The Piton Dispute

54 55 56 57



60 61




in climbing. Though he often expressed his love of nature, he seemed little interested in pleasure-alpinism in and of itself. This is a reference to the yearly list of one's ascents submitted to one’s chapter of the alpine club. The Bavarian Chapter’s Route Report form for 1912 read, “Only summits and passes over 1,500m are to be listed.” With security=mit Sicherheit, which would normally simply be translated as “safely” or “securely” but maintaining this somewhat awkward Germanic construction preserves the additional meaning of “self-assurance.” Security=Sicherheit. So the senses of “safety” and “(self-)assurance” are also in play here. While this might seem a misprint, since there is a strong tendency to assume that it should read “where does 'long' begin and 'short' stop,” in fact it isn't. Nieberl believes that pitons are acceptable for short non-“free”-climbable stellen on much longer routes. So rephrased, the question might run: where does this longer route context stop and the shorter piton-justifiable stelle begin? Location of the Elbsandsteingebirge where Rudolf Fehrmann and Oliver Perry-Smith had been pushing the limits of bold, hard rock-climbing (up to 5.9, and perhaps even 5.10!). Fehrmann drew up a set of rules published in the 1913 supplement to his guidebook that were similar in many ways to Preuss's. These published rules were no doubt influenced by them, but Fehrmann was climbing by his own version of them long before Preuss came on the scene. In the Elbsandsteingebirge, the rock is too soft for pitons, so large rings were drilled for protection, but only on lead and as few as possible. These were mostly used for belay anchors, but often placed not too far below a crux. This keeps falls to a relatively reasonable distance. Though this latter practice of placing them below a crux may have appeared at a later date. However that may be, the area is renowned for its bold often unprotected leads. Whether Preuss's comment here represents a misunderstanding of the use rings serve there or not, I leave an open question, especially as the context for Jüngling's comment is unknown. On an interesting historical side note, before carabiners had been adapted for climbing (around 1910), these rings had to be large enough to put a muscular arm through so you could tie in. Self-assurance=Sicherheit. In the next sentence, insecurity=Unsicherheit. The explicit opposition is lost in English. Security=Sicherheit; securing=Sicherung. A play on words which English can accommodate reasonably well. Besides “protection” and “belay,” Sicherung can also mean “safeguarding” or “securing” (in the sense of securing something for oneself or someone else, for instance, securing tickets or victory). So the idea is that relying on artificial aids secures the climb for you – instead of relying on one's self-assurance – making its success a foregone conclusion. This is the only instance where I translate Sicherung in this manner. On a related note, climbers at the Elbsandsteingebirge adopted the principle Sicherheit ist wichtiger als Sicherung, or “Self-assurance is more important than protection,” probably coined by Fehrmann (influenced by Preuss?). Since I generally find the practice of inserting problematic foreign terms into a text in brackets to be very distracting, I mostly abstain from doing likewise (except in a few instances where it doesn't interfere too much with the flow of the sentence), but since it would be helpful in this instance: “And not the genuine mountaineer, no, only the inveterate and incorrigible sportsman, whose pathological ambition is put above all else, leaps with disregard over such limits, bringing himself across with protection [Sicherung] from pitons in places where his own self-assurance [Sicherheit] fails, and he ought therefore to admit to being defeated. But correcting your own insecurity [Unsicherheit] by tying yourself into pitons at every opportunity and then calling this procedure fostering security [Sicherheit] is a great error. Its principle is not security [Sicherheit], but securing [Sicherung], and what Herr Nieberl calls “love of danger” and as such finds “fine and manly” he searches for by passing absolutely protected [mit absoluter Sicherung] as near as possible to the possibility of a danger; he thus cultivates a feeling that according to his own principles he ought not to have, could not have.” This appears to be an exact quote from Preuss's “My Answer” to Piaz, but the above clause is reversed. “My Answer” has: “Prospective climbers should be instructed to keep their ambition within the limits of their abilities” (my emphasis). Though the “My Answer” version makes more immediate sense, there are a number of reasons not to treat this reversal as a misprint: the possessive adjectives in the German have been appropriately declined for the switch, Messner's Paul Preuss reproduces this same reversal, and the reversal does make some sense in this context (Once your ambition has been properly educated, once you have achieved this kind of mastery over yourself, you won't try to acquire or use technological abilities that would go beyond this.). But why then the quotes? Perhaps he's not quoting at all but just saying something similar. On the other hand, the implication seems to be that Nieberl didn't understand the passage correctly the first time, and it was quoted (more or less) correctly earlier in this essay specifically with regard to Nieberl's poor grasp of the “words.” I leave this to the reader. Planck was an advocate and high school instructor of gymnastics who presumably sided with Steinitzer regarding the “sports-pursuit” issue. According to a brief account of the article, he was concerned about alpinism between destroyed externally by the encroachment of transportation into the mountains (and no doubt the crowds of the unwashed that go with it) and internally by some kind of over-simplification. In 1898 he published a very nationalistic tract against English football (the “English disease”): Fusslümmelei, which translates into something like “Foot(ball)-Loutishness.” In seine Schranken gewiesen ist literally reads something like “is shown its limits.”


The Piton Dispute 65 I have not succeeded in uncovering any biographical data on Jacobi, other than the obvious: that he was an Austrian or German mountaineer. Most likely he was a respected but non-noteworthy alpinist. 66 Or technology. 67 Problems=Problemstellungen. This will be relevant in Preuss's rebuttal to Jacobi. See note #24. Other instances of “problem” in this passage render the German Problem. 68 Im Notfall has two senses: “in a case of emergency” and “if necessary.” But when unpacked as im Falle der Not the phrase has the unambiguous sense of “in a case of emergency.” So Jacobi's point seems to be this: if the use of aid is only justified when it is necessary, and it is necessary only in emergencies, then protection (which is precisely used to prevent such emergencies) is ruled out in principle. Preuss however never uses the phrase im Notfall. He uses Notfall without the im, which merely means “emergency” or again “case of emergency” as I have usually translated it. Strangely, Preuss doesn't address this point in his reply. 69 Ludwig Purtscheller (1849-1900), a pioneering Austrian mountaineer. 70 Translated: Climbing in the Cliffs or Climbing on the Crags. Nieberl's instructional manual, first published in 1909, served well, with Nieberl's updates and later with the help of Toni Hiebeler (in 1960 and 1966), for over fifty years. 71 See note #24. 72 This seems surprisingly complimentary, at least to an American sensibility. But as we have already seen once before (in his reply to Nieberl), Preuss is opposing the crafts and art, seeing craftsmen as mere common technicians repeating tricks of the trade versus the true noble creative artists. This dig would probably be more readily understood in Europe, certainly in the more class- and guild-conscious Europe of the early 1900s. 73 Hans Dülfer (1892-1915), a German mountaineer, known for pioneering the use of extensive piton placements and tension traverses (using his rappelling technique, the famous Dülfersitz) on previously unclimbable faces, but also known for his outstanding free-climbing ability. He developed a method of belaying with two carabiners (which could only be an improvement over the methods of the day!). Despite his sometimes heavy reliance on pitons, he didn't overuse them and was quite capable of bold, hard unprotected leads. In climbing philosophy he is often seen as Preuss's polar opposite. They were friends all the same. One wonders how rappelling was done before the Dülfersitz! Which raises the question as to just what kind of rappelling was Preuss criticizing? Had the Dülfersitz been recently adopted, prompting Preuss to ask the inevitable ethical questions that crop up regarding any newly introduced technique? 74 Eugen Oertel (1867?-1944), a Bavarian mountaineer and also the author of various articles on alpine issues. He was some kind of chief circuit or county judge: “Oberamstrichter E. Oertel.” He is credited with inventing the avalanche cord in the early 1900s. 75 Nieberl's use of “free” here seems much closer to our own (though he'd still include shoulder stands!). 76 Paul Hübel (1881-1960), a German alpinist and author of books on alpinism, among them the 1920s bestseller Führerlose Gipfelfahrten [Guideless Peak Expeditions]. He shared Preuss’s climbing philosophy of putting the human element over the mechanical. He was also instrumental in developing one of the first plastic climbing helmets, which appeared on the market the year of his death. 77 It would have been nice to hear more about Preuss's views on this. 78 Dr. Georg Leuchs (1876-1944), a German medical doctor and alpinist who did many pitonless first ascents up to Grade IV around the turn of the (last) century in the Wilder Kaiser, Dolomites and West Alps, among them the first ascent in 1902 of the Totenkirchl's East Wall. He was also the Führer of the Munich Chapter of the German Alpine Club until 1941 during the early years of the Nazi regime. 79 The argument in the above sentence and the next few will be easier to follow if I point out that two sentences back “decided” translates entschieden; in the previous sentence “difference” translates Unterschied, while “distinction” in the previous sentence and the next paragraph translate Unterscheidung, and “differentiates” unterschiedet. At the beginning of the second paragraph below “separation” translates Scheidung. The basic meaning of the verb scheiden is “to separate.” Unfortunately, it is not possible to translate all these related words with the some form of the same English term. The basic idea seems to be that the demand for purity of style will transform the vague sense of fair and unfair in every climber into an explicit one. It's not clear whether the resulting natural dividing line will be different for every climber, as perhaps suggested by the enumeration of the number of pitons that Piaz, etc. will allow. Or whether this vague sense is the same in everyone and just needs to be brought to the fore, thereby ending any debate, as Preuss's comment below – “the clean separation of fair and unfair deemed necessary by Dr. G. Leuchs” – leads one to suspect. 80 This paragraph is surely a continuation of Preuss's closing words. Dülfer seems by and large to have resisted interjecting his own opinions into this report.


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