Red alpinism: Struggles between sky and earth.

Red alpinism: Struggles between sky and earth.

“We’re going to take the kids to climb a glacier in the Alps.” At that very second, my imagination was jostled. Feet weighed down by the snowy lightness, lace lips from the polar cold, waist chiseled by the rope, on which Bouba, Didoum and Ahmed are pulling in hyperventilation behind us. A bead of sweat slowly trickles down our temples as social workers for youngsters, the scenarios unfold. Bouba, at the ankle in an inverted right angle, Didoum, the snow stack, which rolls towards certain death; or again, Ahmed becoming an ice cube, his posterity forever engraved in the glacier. “We will climb in roped party, we will be well equipped, don’t worry”.

| Article & Illustrations by Momo Tus
Logos & pictures from Alpinismo Molotov, Antifaschistische Bergfreund*innen & Alpinpunx

From a struggle of the summits…

As the trade unionist Guillaume Goutte writes in his book Alpinisme et Anarchisme, “the border is a political, and therefore human, construction to which the mountain is foreign. At most it is sometimes a pretext to define them”.

Object of covetousness, borders and wars, the nationalist reappropriation of this natural setting has been widely illustrated in history. Symbol of the obstruction of the freedom to come and go, it divides people.

This is evidenced by the sporadic appearance of the blue down jackets of Génération Identitaire (a French right wing movement), claiming a right over the mountains and over the destiny of the migrant souls who cross them.

Here I am realizing that I have always imagined mountain practices as by and for the privileged. From hiking to skiing, from climbing to mountaineering, beyond the economic barrier, the a priori of a tradition of community and closed transmission are mixed together.

In this quest for past struggles, here I am exchanging by eagle flight with Lukas from the Austrian collective committed alpinism Alpinpunx, from the hardcore punk scene.“This ideology is still present on new climbing routes with right-wing extremist route names” will he confide. From peaks to road names, the traces are still there. I’m wondering. The Mountain, symbolizing freedom, was a terrain to conquer and tame.

… to “Molotov” Alpinism.

“In their mountains lived hope and hid freedom” sang the Pioneers of Vercors. The resistance fighters having known how not to tame the Mountain, but to live with it. Because it provides protection and concealment from state control.

Small libertarian groups like the Passengers of hope under the Franco era having, for example, invested the Pyrenees. As Goutte says, the Mountain is a place of “passage of the persecuted, refuges for the oppressed and grounds of resistance for the revolted”.

With this resilient heritage, alpinism has been able to tackle through the 20th century the Mountain in its purest richness: freedom of mind and body.

Lukas confides: “The love for the DIY movement is our constant companion on our excursions. Being in the mountains, whether as a climber, as a mountaineer, on mountainbikes or on a hike, usually always means endless freedom for us.”

Lukas, bringing up the origins of Alpinpunx, then mentions:

“It is not only our job to support ourselves and like-minded people, but also to make everyone feel that their anti-human ideology is not welcome in our beloved mountains.”

These values, from transmission to equality, crystallize within the spirit of the roped party:

“not delegating one’s sovereignty, knowing how to count on others and allowing others to be able to count on ourselves” recalls G. Goutte.

From proletarian climbing… to the gentrification of the climbing walls.

However, in the 1960s, climbing became independent of alpinism in a logic of democratization initiated by the FSGT and worker activists. More accessible to those who could not afford to leave, “Parisian proletarian climbers were riding their bike and pedaling for hours to reach Fontainebleau” tells G. Goutte.

It is difficult to find a better symbol than the location of the first artificial wall: the Fête de l’Humanité (a French left-wing values annual gathering), in 1955.

This initiative participates in the development of walls in gymnasiums. The latter are now neglected, but the spirit of the rope party still finds its way into practice – as evidenced by the manifesto For popular, associative and self-managed climbing” of the FSGT des Popular Sports Guide which relates several militant initiatives such as solidar climbing with youngsters from neighborhoods.

From the Mountain that protects…. to the one which must be protected.

So here I am realizing to what extent the Mountain remains this unique link between sky and earth. To walk, to go up, to climb towards the skies, in the wind and on the rock, in the snow and on the ice, is to be far from the tumult of the world, it is to be a point in an immensity.

In a frozen time, specific to thought. Why should it be the prerogative of the privileged? This is what I would like to be able to bring to Didoum, Ahmed and Bouba. A pause to think. This time is a luxury that the working classes have little of, entangled in daily survival.

The zine Nunatak rightly questions this “fire of the struggles of the Mountain” to “deviate from the marked path of authority and attack what separates us from each other”, from the Union of Shepherds to quarrels between neo-rurals and the “local guys”.

Collective Alpinismo Molotov leaves us with this thought:

“When we say we love nature, do we mean we love it as such, or everything we build around it?”

To meditate…