Seb Perth: A two-and-a-half month trek to climb Yosemite’s toughest trail and fail at the last step | Mountaineer | Sports

Imagine cyclist Primoz Roglic going to the Tour he could win, walking from his native Slovenia, but despite the beating and lack of training, he is able to take second place. Belgian climber Seb Perth imagined something similar last fall: His tour would be the toughest trail on the planet, located in California’s Yosemite Valley. And he traveled not on foot, but on a sailboat, crossing the Atlantic on a very long journey. And he couldn’t climb the wall for free because he fell a thousand times on the last step of the main court. Therefore, it could be said, that he ranked second in his own tour. All of this is a protest and action against climate change. The mountains, once majestic and frightening, now look like big, wounded animals crumbling before our eyes: robbers fall like rotting scabies, glaciers agonize like fish washed ashore, granite and limestone spiers crumble and ice recede and disappear.

Climbers are left without a playground and humans without a planet. Is there anyone interested? Almost two years ago, the great Belgian wall climber Sebastien Perthes decided that something had to change in his life. His own inconsistencies and the general hypocrisy of the mountaineering world seemed so uncomfortable to him that he decided to follow the message of his patron, the Patagonian Mountain Equipment Company, at face value. Since then, he hasn’t traveled by plane, traveling in the most sustainable way possible, trying to have targets close to home, and fighting to not be a rabid consumer. Suddenly, how again became more important than what. And it’s not just a matter of climbing style, it’s a matter of purists, but a way of understanding the love of mountains. Mountaineering has always had to explain itself, to justify itself, to analyze all the gaps of activity that tragedies cause rejection and admiration. Now, maybe it’s time that only his actors should be energized by their passion for the mountains and that every climb, every new record is just an excuse to scream in defense of a natural environment on their way to crumbling.

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The hardest known track of the wall is called Dawn Wall and is located in El Capitan (Yosemite Valley, USA). The main pitch class faces difficulty 9a and its creators and the first to climb the road for free (without hanging or holding on to insurance) was Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen. They invested seven years of work to open up and climb this route for free, which they achieved in 2015. In 2016, the best climber in history, Czech Adam Ondra, achieved his second free climb after a week at the wall. Seb Perth wanted to be the third, but in his own way: he had to travel from Belgium to California without flying … So he persuaded seven friends, one of whom was a sailor, to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 15-meter sailboat. The boat had been in a dry dock for a decade: it had to be adapted for sailing and provided with training facilities. But Seb Perth was hardly training: when he was not sick or seasick, the sea was getting rough. He soon assumed he would never make it to Yosemite in shape.

They sailed for a month and docked in Mexico, because their three-month residence permit in the United States did not allow them to dock at one of its ports. From the time they sailed from the Canary Islands until they reached Yosemite, two and a half months passed. It doesn’t seem like the best way to tackle one of the toughest climbing challenges out there. Berthe and his friend Siebe Vanhee had been on the road for a month and a half, and when they launched the last attack, they got stuck in the center court. They stayed here for two weeks, hanging from the wall in hammocks. They climbed the same stadium for seven days and rested another seven. Inevitably, Seb Perth fell into the last step. “I almost went crazy in there. I thought I could have done it, but we were already without food and without water and it seemed unethical to ask colleagues to bring us groceries. And I didn’t want to spend two months on the wall either, so I decided to quit. It’s a path on another level. In terms of difficulty and would have needed a different approach to meet the challenge,” he explained on his social networks because before embarking on Mexico again to undo his journey.

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For decades, mountaineers refused to be recognized as athletes: they claimed their sport was not a sport but a way of life, a way of relating to the natural environment and escaping, in large part, from the society in which they found themselves. There are no real triggers. Today, things are changing rapidly and many climbers are beginning to embrace conscientious training to tackle increasingly complex challenges, while trying not to abandon the core of their activity. Seb Perth’s supposed “failure” looks like an admirable achievement in part because it refers to the pioneers of a world not yet globalized. Not long ago, before plane travel was ridiculously cheap, climbers, mountaineers, or mountaineers spent months on their journeys but in good conscience squeezed out the scenarios at hand. The Schmid brothers traveled by bicycle from Munich to Zermatt to sign the first ascent of the North Matterhorn in 1931. They did so by force because of their circumstances. Now other conditions are required. Perhaps Seb Perth will be remembered as the man who fell on the last difficult step of the Wall of Dawn or as the man who encouraged the rest to rethink their consumerist approach to the mountains.

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