Hundreds of people have crowned Everest this spring, the year in which two anniversaries are celebrated, the 70th of the first ascent, by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, and the 60th of the opening of a dizzying route, perhaps the most difficult, the which runs through the Hornbein Corridor. Without intending to offend anyone, it is necessary to point out that trampling this mountain along the classic Nepali itinerary sucking artificial oxygen, as 99% of high-altitude tourists do, clinging to fixed ropes and with the invaluable help of Sherpas, has little value in the mountaineering world. In fact, it can be understood as recklessness, no longer because of the harshness of the adventure, but because of the poor preparation of not a few people who intend to take on this summit, applicants who trust their generous budget more than their technical prowess. The recent Everest without a summit by Kilian Jornet, by the committed runner Hornbein, has much more merit than a thousand bland summits along the most well-trodden route.
They are two opposite leagues. The Catalan athlete set out to repeat the dizzying route that, in 1963, the North Americans Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld materialized and that very few have repeated. Jornet did not reach 8,849 meters, an avalanche swept him away after having caressed the 8,000 level. Did he fail? He would say no. The great climbers claim failure to progress. Alberto Iñurrategui is one of them. He completed the 14 eight-thousanders at a very young age without the help of artificial oxygen, and with colleagues like Mikel Zabalza and Juan Vallejo he decided to focus on six-thousanders and seven-thousanders, less commercial but infinitely more committed and stimulating. The exciting thing was knowing that he had very few numbers to complete the adventure successfully. "Failure motivates me, makes me improve. The fear of failure makes you vulgar. I prefer an attempt worthy of a summit than a summit at any price," the Aretxabaleta climber commented in an interview with this newspaper. The challenges that are worthwhile, the ones that will perhaps deserve a page in the history of Himalayanism, are those that offer you very few chances of victory.
Jornet also claims "failure" to try to achieve the unattainable. The summit=victory equation is simplistic. Sometimes yes, but many others no. The important thing is how. His last Everest trek was almost "perfect," an exhilarating puzzle that had everything but the top. From Camp II Nepal he ascended, alone and without bottled oxygen, to the west ridge and into the vertiginous corridor until an avalanche dragged him 50 meters, and he said enough. Thirty hours later he was back at Camp II. The descent was also anthological. His conclusion: "It was a great day in the mountains, everything was perfect, except that I didn't get to the top." And most importantly, he came back to tell it and keep learning.