The time of the great endeavours appears to be over. Climbing mountains with the high amount of uncertainty that was characteristic for the expeditions of Mallory for instance. Actually, the uncertainty remained as longs as 1978 when Messner and Habeler were the first to proof that you could climb Everest without supplementary oxygen.
But the lack of maps, the risk linked to the equipment, not knowing a thing about training regimen, all this is long gone. Alpinist nowadays can prepare a climb with the help of Google Earth, train in altitude environments or sleep in altitude tents.
Being a pioneer is something that I personally love about climbing. Even when rambling around in the Bavarian alps (where most certainly billions of people have been strolling around before), I love the feeling of discovering something new. Especially in winter times when being the first after new snow and having a fresh track is among the coolest things in mountaineering.
So maybe the above stated assumption is wrong. That there still are things to be discovered. Even in professional alpinism the envelope is constantly being pushed. Remember Steve House and Vince Anderson climbing the Rupal face in alpine style or Ueli Steck soloing Annapurna’s south face. Wherever a route is already established, the pioneer achievement is re-doing it faster. The tendency to complete routes ever faster appears to be the discovery of our days.
On the other hand, there are still peaks unclimbed. Expeditions are ever searching for the highest unclimbed peak. These summits are only now in the scope since the equipment and training allowed for more technical, more demanding routes. Back in the days of Mallory, they were merely impossible.
So with this article I wanted to discuss what I miss in alpinism, just to find that it was still there – the place for a pioneer. Waiting for a brave person to take the challenge.