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Valery Babanov
Photo by arch. V. Babanov
Hans Kammerlander
Photo by arch. H. Kammerlander
Silvio Mondinelli
Photo by arch. S. Mondinelli
Stevie Haston
Photo by arch. S. Haston

Mountain stories: Courmayeur, August 2010


4 evenings and 4 great mountaineering stories as told by Valery Babanov, Hans Kammerlander, Silvio Mondinelli and Stevie Haston. The evenings will be introduced by Vinicio Stefanello, editor of PlanetMountain.com.

4 great alpinists and 4 great stories which are united by the passion and love for the mountains. This is the programme for the 4 meetings, spread out over 4 evenings, which the Courmayeur Town Council has organised together with Grivel Mont Blanc during the month of August at the foot of Mont Blanc. The very same mountain which more than 200 years ago witnessed the birth of alpinism and which, even today, is a symbol and sum of the Greater Ranges and that fascination which these lands have always exerted on man. An irresistible attraction which gave rise to the history of alpinism, comprised of a multitude of personal stories and great achievements. All of which are extraordinary and, at the same time, extremely human undertakings. Like those absolutely unique moments experienced on the mountains across the globe by Valery Babanov, Hans Kammerlander, Silvio Mondinelli and Stevie Haston. These great alpinists, the special guests of the August evenings at the Jardin de l'Ange in Courmayeur, will be introduced by Vinicio Stefanello, the Editor-in-chief of PlanetMountain.com, the online magazine recognised as one of the most authoritative in the mountaineering world.

It all begins on Saturday 7 August with the stories, adventures and the mountains climbed by Valery Babanov, one of the world's leading alpinists of the last two decades. Born in 1964 in Omsk, Russia, Babanov is an example of an alpinism which searches for and explores the very limits and which always remains true to itself. His is a truly extraordinary experience which encompasses all facets of this sport. His ascents, his solo climbs or extremely small and "lightweight" teams, include 7000ers in the ex Soviet Union, the Mont Blanc granite, Big Walls in Yosemite Valley, the cold and difficult Alaskan faces and the Himalayan giants. A real adventure which has continued to amaze the climbing world both for its versatility and the immense quantity and quality of the ascents: over 600 climbs, many of which first ascents, always extremely difficult, all climbed in perfect style. It comes as no surprise therefore that Babanov won the Piolet d'Or, the world's mountaineering Oscar, in both 2001 and 2003. And it comes as no surprise that in just 16 days he managed to establish two new routes on two 8000ers (Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I). This is just the latest of his undertakings, absolutely incredible. Just as incredible as the entire life of Valery Babanov, UIAGM Mountain Guide and true "citizen" and "explorer" of the world's highest peaks.

On Saturday 14 August the appointment is with an icon of Himalayan mountaineering, Hans Kammerlander. The man who, departing from Acereto in the South Tyrol, ascended one summit after the next to widen his horizons and to reach, with his impeccable style, the highest mountains in the world. His is a path of great alpinism and also life which, in the beginning, was undertaken in the company of Reinhold Messner, with whom Kammerlander shared a staggering seven 8000ers. All were special experiences. Such as that first traverse of two 8000ers, Gasherbrum I and II, an absolute achievement carried out in 8 incredible days at altitude. And then there was the first ascent of the SW Face of Cho Oyu ad the NW Face of Annapurna. And one mustn't forget the historic ascent of Lhotse which crowned Messner as being the first ever to climb the 14 highest mountains in the world. After which adventures never stopped coming for Kammerlander. These include, amongst others, the fist ski descent (another of his great loves) of Nanga Parbat. And the ski descent down the North Face of Everest: this memorable achievement resulted in Kammerlander climbing, fast and alone, the roof of the world in just 17 hours - a record which to this day remains unbeaten. Other jewel to be remembered includes the first ascent of Shivling's Central Pillar (6543m), one of the world's most difficult and beautiful peaks, while more recently, namely in 2007, Kammerlander ascended Jasemba (7350m). Hans Kammerlander has reached the summit of 13 of the 14 highest mountains in the world. Manaslu is the only peak missing from the list. But there, in 1999, he lost two friends. And he no longer wants to return to this peak because, as he states, "It would be too painful." And this is an indication to the stature of Hans Kammerlander, the 54-year-old Mountain Guide from Acereto, both a man in the truest sense of the word and an extremely talented alpinist.

The journey continues on Friday 20 August with Silvio Mondinelli and with what one could define as being a alpinism which stems from the heart, one which privileges humanity and solidarity. Because this is what the 6th person to have climbed all fourteen 8000ers without the use of supplementary oxygen gained out there in the field, with his numerous expeditions in the Himalaya, his 16 times on a 8000m summit and his record of four 8000ers (Everest, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II, Dhaulagiri) ascended in just 5 months. Mondinelli's alpinism doesn't stop at the top but goes well beyond the summit itself, observes the world around it. An alpinism which is also a "teacher of life". It is for this reason that Mondinelli immediately did his utmost to help the Sherpa people. And it is for this reason that Mondinelli is known, not only for his proverbial physical strength, but for his uncountable rescues even at the highest altitudes. Some of these rescue operations are practically unknown. Others were witnessed by those alpinists who group together on the world's highest peaks. And other rescues kindled friendships which will remain eternal. It comes as no surprise that this "rescue" aspect is not only a natural instinct, but also a profession which Mondinelli exerts at the foot of Monte Rosa, as a Mountain Guide and member of the Alagna Valsesia Finance Police Force. A calling which, in the alpinist born in Brescia and adopted in Valsesia, combines with his project of a mountain university which teaches the difficult art of taking to the mountains and organising expeditions. With a constant, underlying current of a mountaineering which stems from a great love for the mountains and which touches the very heart of mankind.

The series comes to an end on Thursday 26 August with the great mountain stories experienced by Stevie Haston, the British alpinist and ice climber who is the emblem of the desire to continue evolving and discover new horizons. Proof of this is the first ascent of Descente Lolitta, an ultra-steep route in the French Grotte de Sabart which reaches the extreme grade 9a. If one then adds that year Haston celebrated this top climb at 52 years of age, then one can begin to comprehend the depth of this achievement. But, if this didn't suffice, there is more to come, for in recent times Haston has carried out various other headline climbs. Such as Bim Bam, one of the hardest and most dangerous "trad" routes in Wales, or the ascent of the immense Greenspit roof in Valle dell'Orco. It has to be underlined that these are absolutely cutting-edge performances, even for the younger generations of climbers. But after careful analysis of Haston's climbs you cannot be amazed by his current achievements nor of his extreme versatility and flair. Ever since early his early days Haston left his mark with ascents of some of the hardest routes in Wales, on-sight or solo. Routes with carry his signature in the Alps include, amongst others, the second winter ascent of the North Face of the Eiger and the Walker Spur in winter, free solo in a mere 8 hours. One mustn't forget that Haston was, and still is, one of the world's most prolific ice climbers, with first ascents and repeats of some of the hardest routes around. And then, at the start of the new millennium, he was one of the prophets and maximum interpreters of dry tooling, the so-called " extreme" climbing. It was in Valsavaranche where he invented The Empire Strikes Back, a true manifesto for this winter activity. Haston's is an adventure comprised of many different experiences, of imagination and many obstinate battles. A story which will have no end, like all great Mountain Stories.

Mountain stories - Jardin de l'Ange di Courmayeur, 21.00
Saturday 7 August - Valery Babanov
Saturday 14 August - Hans Kammerlander
Friday 20 August - Silvio Mondinelli
Thursday 26 August - Stevie Haston
The evenings are hosted by Vinicio Stefanello – editor of PlanetMountain.com





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