Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Maestri Unrepentant

There's a fiery interview with Cesare Maestri in the April issue of National Geographic Adventure. Maestri, you recall, was the Italian who claimed the first ascent of Cerro Torre in Patagonia, not once but twice: in 1959 via the northern side and in 1970 by the southeast ridge. The 1959 ascent has long been disputed, and late last year a team of climbers completed the "Maestri route" on Cerro Torre's north side and found no evidence of his attempt above a gear cache only a quarter of the way up the route. Maestri is unrepentant. In the Adventure interview, French climber and journalist Charlie Buffet asks him, "How do you explain the controversy surrounding 1959?" Maestri says, "It is created by all those sons of bitches.... In my life, in my whole life, I never told a lie. Everyone knows I am sincere, I am loyal, I never tried to destroy someone in order to make headlines. I made headlines because I was the strongest solo climber in the world."

Many Italians still support Maestri, and I've talked to very accomplished American alpinists who say journalists and historians ought to leave the 76-year-old climber alone, to let him die in peace. In this interview, the Italian complains, "I am tired, I have had it up to here, and I am fed up. They ruined my life." But to ignore Maestri while he still lives, to give up any chance of a first-hand explanation for what happened on that granite needle in 1959, is an insult to history. The great controversies of mountaineering are surely less important to understand than the tides of war, the progress of science and destruction of the environment, but the truth still matters.

You have to buy the magazine to read the interview, but there's a good story about the controversy and fantastic photos from the November climb at Adventure's web site.

1 comment:

George Bell said...

It seems the most credible evidence that he did not climb it comes from Maestri himself. Why would he return in 1970, and climb the peak in far worse style if he had actually climbed it in 1959? If Maestri has not admitted to his lie yet, I dubt he ever will. Has the body of his partner ever been found?