Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bare hand climbing (AKA the real thing)

The editorial director of Le Monde diplomatique, recently lamented the threat that cheap news represent for serious journalism. Truth is, serious journalism is a rare thing these days. With the death of French climber Patrick Edlinger, cheap news titles were inevitable. You know what I’m talking about - “bare hand” climbing (escalade “à mains nues”).

Guess what? They all fell for it:

Le Monde “Patrick Edlinger, pionnier de l'escalade à mains nues” ( 23/11/2012)

Libération “Patrick Edlinger, mains nues ciao” (18/11/2012)

L’express “Patrick Edlinger, qui avait effectué à mains nues et parfois même sans être assuré...” (17/11/2012)

L’humanité “On l'y voyait vivre totalement sa passion, l'escalade, évoluer dans les gorges du Verdon sans corde, à mains nues, en solo intégral.” (17/11/12)

La Croix “Patrick Edlinger, pionnier de l’escalade à mains nues, est mort” (17/11/12)

We all remember La Vie au bout des doigts (if you’re my age or over that is...), a documentary by Jean-Paul Janssen, featuring Edlinger when he was not yet a legend. This film changed him into a real star in France (forget climbing gear sponsors, French biscuits LU made millions using his charisma). More importantly, climbing reached a wider audience thanks to Edlinger.

It’s almost thirty years since La vie au bout des doigts was released ; thirty years since Edlinger became a legend ; thirty years since climbers started to seriously promote climbing for all. For thirty years France has seen climbing walls flourishing in city parks, schools, and even at nurseries... Climbing walls for all! Nowadays, even the French leaving cert candidates may choose climbing as sports exam - yes, we do have a sports exam for the leaving cert, the so called “education physique et sportive”.

In 1985, surfing the Edlinger wave, French climbers founded the French Climbing Fédération, who merged with the French Mountaineering Fédération a few years later, to become the FFME, a organisation who participated in the birth of the climbing World Cup and who’s now campaigning for the integration of climbing in the Olympics.

And yet, thirty years later, journalists keep talking about climbing “with bare hands”. It makes you wonder if they do any investigation on the topic before writing their papers.

How about gymnastics, or swimming with "bare hands" ?

PS: We'll miss you sorely Mr. Edlinger.

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