Going fast to the mountains is not a contemporary activity. If we think that the innovations or tendencies of the lightweight practices in the mountains are recent we are very erroneous, because since the begining of climbing mountains or walking in the valleys, there was someone who wanted it do it quickly.
Climb mountains quickly has been done since the beginning of the times to ensure the survival of the humans. At first, a man or a woman climbed or run a mountain, without using any artificial means (because the intelligence of that hominid did not allow him to manufacture tools) and he made it quick, when he saw himself persecuted by a herd of lions. Running and climbing was the answer he found to prevent his existence from being reduced to be the weekly meals of a feline family. After a while another hominid discovered that he could make sharp ends and spears to protect himself from these animals and not only that but he could invest the roles and be the one running after other animals to get food for his family. Later, the human realized that he could also run behind, or before, depending on the fate of the day, other humans with the same exterminating purpose, but in general for other reasons than their alimentation. But in all these cases, he always ran chasing or being persecuted, by instinct for survival rather than for the pleasure of running.
Later on, when survival was no longer something for which daily struggles were needed, at least for a part of the population, other needs as intellectuals, pleasure or business appeared. With this the religions appeared and in this context, the mountains during antiquity were either a place close to the heavenly world and to God or to hell and damned places. With these beliefs, in the 5th century BCE, the Philosopher and Greek poet Empedocles climbed to the top of the Etna volcano in Sicily to throw himself into his crater, apparently he did it thinking that this would become an immortal God. We do not rush to judge him, then, twenty-five centuries later there are still many people following this belief when climbing mountains.
A few centuries later, in Japan, the lizard En No Ozunu traveled the mountains at high speed, training physically and meditating, often cooling for hours in cascades of frozen water. Apart from meditation in the mountains it seems that demons were also being pursued. During the antiquity, the highest and inaccessible parts of the mountains were not a frequented place, because the belief of cursed forces and the low utility of rising there where there was nothing useful to survive moved away to most of the population of them.
This changed rapidly, when in 905, Abu Dolaf Kazraji climbed to the summit of Damavand, 5610m in Iran looking for minerals. Its sulphurous summit became a common destination for the habitants of the region that ascended-it to extract sulfur and sell-it in the valleys. This commercial interest has also been closely linked to the history of climbing mountains, looking for gold and silver in Colorado or mineral crystals with bright colors and explosive forms in the most hidden and inaccessible places in Chamonix.
Getting to the mountains was a frequent activity in the whole history of humanity, whether it was for agriculture or hunting, to reach high and dominant positions during wars, to traverse countries during migrations or to look for minerals or plants for commerce. Even so, we cannot start talking about mountaineering as an activity until someone climbed as a fence in itself and not as a means for another activity.
As it could not be otherwise, the first to climb a summit guided by aesthetics was a poet; Italian Petrarch, who on April 26, 1336, climbed the summit of Mont Ventoux, in the south of France, for no other purpose than to climb-it. This fact, we could consider in some way the birth of mountaineering. A century later, in 1492, Antoine de Ville under the orders of King Charles VIII of France climbed Mont Aiguille, then called Mont Inaccessible, a rock needle with walls of 300 meters vertical on all four sides. To reach the summit twenty people were needed, one of which was a notary, and the help of ropes, pitons, ladders and other artificial means. Once they reached the summit they camped there for eight days, during which members of the aristocracy in the area took the opportunity to go up and make great meals. This is considered the first technical climb in history.
However, we can consider these events as occasional activities, without initiating what we nowadays know as mountaineering or mountaineering. We have to wait four centuries until we can say that mountaineering becomes a current and popular activity.
On August 8, 1786, Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat stepped on the summit of Mont Blanc, the culminating point of the Alps. The motivations for that rise were mainly economic, because Horace-Benedict de Sausure, a wealthy Swiss scientist who studied alpine geology and thought to discover the geological formation of the Alps rising to its peak, offered a handful of money to whom he get it. Since then, more people, whether aristocrats or scientists, were interested in climbing mountains, and they needed the help of local guides who had the knowledge of the region and the ability to go on this difficult terrain.
The Golden Age
It began then a time that is known as the Golden Age of Mountaineering, during which they were conquering all the main summits of the Alps, and the first alpine clubs and social groups were created to be interested in Mountaineering as an activity in itself and not as a scientific or commercial justification. It was then when the mountain guide profession was born and the concepts of “first ascension”, of alpine ideology with the search of what had never been done and of the difficulty. During that period they were conquered all the great summits of the Alps. French climbers like Michel Croz or Victor Puiseux, Swiss such as Studer, Austrians as Stanig or Thurwieser and Italians as Jean Antoine Carrel were some of the most fruitful. But most of these first ascents were not made by mountaineers of the Alpine arch but by English climbers, who, in the Victorian era, went to the Alps to conquer new summits. Edward Wymper, Albert Frederick Mummery or Charles Hudson among others were the pillars of these promotions, often accompanied by local guides.
The Pyrenean Henri Brulle, who was the precursor of the difficulty climbing in the pyrenees and author of first ascents such as the Couloir de Gaube at Vignemale or the North Face of the Taillon, among other first’s and winter ascents, also left his footprint in the Alps when he climbed during the summer of 1883 Meije in a single day and two years later repeated the feat to the Dru. When this mountain had only three ascents, on a trip to the Alps where he had climbed to peaks like Matterhorn, Dent Blanche or Mont Blanc, he left Chamonix walking and climbed to the summit of the Dru to go down again before the sun was off. Few years later, Brulle leaves mountaineering and for two decades he dedicates himself to the breeding of horses, until entering the old age returns to the mountains, climbing once a year to the Mont Blanc until 1936, with 82 For years, he died at Chamonix hospital after a last attempt interrupted by cold and freezing at his feet and hands.