TOURISM AND MOUNTAINEERING
Rocciamelone was climbed in 1358 by Bonifacio Rotario of Asti, but this was an isolated event. In actual fact, townspeople discovered the Alps only towards the end of the 18th century, driven by scientific reports and by the emotions of romantic spirits. After Haller, Rousseau and the first ascent of Mont Blanc (1786), the 19th-century middle classes started to develop a keen interest in the “delightful horrors” of the Alps, crossing the passes, staying in the first hotels, engaging Alpine guides. Tourism was born together with mountaineering.
The birth of a new industry
In the 19th century, following the pioneering discoveries mainly made by Englishmen, which also resulted in the first peaks being climbed, the Alpine valleys chanced upon a new industry: tourism. The mountain inhabitants still did not know that those eccentric visitors up from the city were destined to break up their culture and history.
The places of waiting
Refuges and bivouacs are the outpost for whoever is thinking of climbing the Alps. At first spartan makeshift shelters, then increasingly comfortable lodgings at high altitude, they have seen the history of mountaineering pass by. The times change, equipment changes, but a night in a refuge is still the best way for immersing oneself in the mystery of the mountain, in the wait for tomorrow.
The bond of the rope and the significance of the piton
The rope is a symbol of mountaineering, because it signifies safety in a world made of emptiness. Ropes have changed much since the time of the pioneers, when a hemp rope tore and broke on the Matterhorn, in 1865, causing Whymper and Croz’s famous tragedy. Today, synthetic ropes have reduced these risks considerably. Pitons were proudly opposed until the First World War, used with the greatest skill in the period of the 6th degree, overused in the 1960s, banished from the 1970s dispute in favour of jamming instruments (nut and friend), and finally restored in the 1980s with the expanding piton (bolt).
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