Mo Anthoine: Feed a rat | The Mountaineer | sports

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Mo Anthoine, with the writer Al Alvarez.
Mo Anthoine, with the writer Al Alvarez.

Certain mountaineers, and of the good ones, focus on success and to achieve it they dispense with many other considerations. They choose a seasoned, strong, highly technical teammate, strut each other and on their return they do the math: is what they have done to appear in the media and deserve an extension of their sponsorship? Some do not even wait to return: they send photos and videos from the top, things of the immediacy. The strange thing, since professionalism broke into the world of mountaineering, is to choose a partner based on their sense of humor, their personality, the experience that will mean starting a trip where almost everything, except laughter, is uncertain. The strange thing, in professionalism, are friends, because colleagues and companions on occasion take their place: the muscle before the heat of a joke.

Mountaineering has always been sold as a serious matter, an exercise where laughter is rare and deaths abound. It is not like that, nor does it have to be, although at times tragedies annihilate sublime moments. Everyone knows the legends of Chris Bonington and Doug Scott, the British couple who marked an era in the Himalayas between the late 1960s and early 1980s. The best thing about these two was not their ability to be ahead of their time, the undeniable success of their numerous expeditions, or their ability to raise money … the best were the characters that gravitated around them, radically free, different and incapable of giving importance. . Don Whillans, for example. Or this one: hardly anyone knows Mo Anthoine (England, 1939-1989), a contemporary of both and the star of a delicious book: Feed the beast, by Al Alvarez (Libros del asteroide).

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Mo Anthoine could be famous, but he didn’t feel like it, which did not prevent him from living to climb, always with friends and whatever their level: he took care of them, protected them, comforted them from his cynical and intelligent humor. That is what a rope partner is supposed to do. One of his regulars was the poet and writer Al Alvarez (London, 1929-2019), passionate climber and so unconditional of Mo Anthoine that he wrote a book for him. The original title, Feeding the rat (Feeding the rat) graphically describes Mo Anthoine’s drive to escape from a life devoid of the emotions he longed for, to peer into its entrails and go out to find its physical limit, but above all, mental. In the mountains of half the planet, in the highest or in the modest walls of your land: go outside to look at yourself, to look for yourself and get to know yourself to measure yourself with reality without hiding behind smoke screens. “I cannot conceive of anything sadder than dying without knowing who you are or without knowing what you are capable of,” he confesses in the book.

In the search for this knowledge, Mo Anthoine not only climbed: he founded a mountain equipment company, revolutionizing safety items or climbing clothing at the same time; but he was also a film stuntman, cameraman, occasional builder … Famous he never wanted to be, aware of how much he would lose in exchange for gaining almost nothing. Al Alvarez also lived by similar codes: a professor of literature at Oxford and a literary critic, he sent all of this out to write about the thoughts that kept him awake. His work investigates, for example, the idea of ​​suicide, the night or poetry.

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Doug Scott recounted in a tremendous book his odyssey to escape alive from the Ogre, in 1977, a sietemil tremendous from Pakistan. Scott, with both ankles fractured near the top, and his partner, Bonnington, with several broken ribs, descended thanks to Mo Anthoine and Clive Rowland, but the latter two quickly disappeared from the story: no doubt, the media of the time judged that Four heroes were a crowd for a story that, by force, should be simpler. When the four reached the base camp, it was deserted, since their companions had left them for dead.

Who survives a week in a storm on a 7,000 meter mountain? Mo Anthoine was still able to travel like a spectrum 55 kilometers to find a village where he could ask for help. Al Alvarez covers several episodes in the life of the mountaineer and several of the ascents they shared, moving the reader with the modesty of his friend, his strength and his integrity: it is a story that gives off heat, it is a story of loyalty, of search for a certain integrity, of fighting to remain unique defying any imposed current. You wish you had a fireplace so you could read by the heat of the fire.

No, the mountain did not kill Mo Anthoine prematurely, but it did kill a tumor with which he lived pretending that he was not there: on the mountain he was a master when it came to relativizing the most cruel situations, an attitude that extended throughout his existence. Why complain about what you have chosen when things are not exactly as you wish? In his case, he always knew how to excuse the miseries inherent in his passion. That is why it is called passion. More than 400 people attended his funeral. And everyone would have wanted to claim that one day they were his friends.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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