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The Last, but Not Least Decade
The short history of rock climbing 2000-2010

by Tomasz Mazur (Góry Magazine)
edited and translated by Monika Mlodecka

Entry Book - Part I

Another year behind us - the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. By all existing media we will be flooded with summaries, opinions, retrospectives, juxtapositions and so on of what happened at that time. Besides dozens of prizes, polls, awards, praises... I’m not going to avoid contributing to this "sin" as well. And to make matters worse, this article will provide only a subjective viewpoint of the sample summary considering respectable, important and special events within rock climbing and all that’s connected with it, in the past ten years.

The biggest "sin" of chronological decade limited by two impassable dates - 1 January 2000 and December 31, 2009 - is that certain events, phenomena and trends do not want to surrender themselves to such rigidly marked framework of time, thereby impeding a consistent look, and sometimes even breaking the logic of an evaluation or a summary. Krzysztof Wielicki, in his winter manifesto[1] talking about the golden decade of Polish Himalayan mountaineering, started with the first winter ascent on Everest in 1980 and ended tragically with avalanche accident on the Everest in 1989 (when five Polish mountaineers died) and Kukuczka's death on Lhotse. Are these meaningful frameworks in rock climbing the opening by Patrick Edlinger Ça glisse aux pays des merveilles - the first bolted 8a in 1983 and on the other hand the completed implementation of Wolfgang Güllich's Action Direct - the first 9a in 1991? Or rather, this "historical" decade should be more extended, e.g. since 1979, when Tony Yaniro led the Grand Illusion 8a/+ on his own protection? Or should it end with the other tragic accident, which was Güllich's car crash in 1992?

Therefore we can ask whether it makes sense to summarize a "chronological" decade in discipline such as rock climbing which is so irrational and not subordinated to permanent cycles of time? Wouldn’t it be better to wait some more years, keeping a critical distance, proper perspective and then announce "the winner" and hand out stuffed envelopes for the bests? However, that rigidly set date of the end of the decade, similar to the end of the each following year, when we often summarize past months - is the temptation to look in retrospect, less emotionally, more with the proper balance, and therefore much more widely at what happened in longer period of time, giving on that occasion contribution to the future appointment of "historic" decades.

It is even more intriguing that the opening years of the decade yield the end of some era in rock climbing...

To start with, let’s take a look at what we entered the twenty-first century with... Although for some part of the climbing society the noblest ideas of alpinism, taken as a whole activity of climbing may seem iconoclastic and stab, a major trend, targeted by the eyes of the media, and thereby their customers, strives to achieve the most difficult routs. Regardless of what discipline is climbing like, to generate the highest rate is, directly or indirectly, the most important aim for the top climbers. Obviously, it’s most visible and tangible in the currently dominant bouldering and sport rock climbing.

[1] Taternik 2/2001. The Manifesto was read in 2002 at a congress of Polish Alpinism Association and does not include the fact of the first winter ascent on Shisha Pangma, made on 14.01.2005 by Piotr Morawski and Simone Moro.

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