Ropes and Guns: Mountains at War in World War 1

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FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 8, 2014 - 11:34am PT
2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War 1, modern history's most significant event. Some of it's most vicious fighting happened in Europe's mountains. Amazing scenery, stunning brutality...





I don't know much about the war other than some broad-brush anglophone history and hazy details from ancestors photos. It might be interesting to post some things from around the web: photos, insights, and personal histories.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jan 8, 2014 - 11:43am PT
Super cool video FortABQ.
Thanks for representing the 505!

Although I'd have to say some of those boys had it made compared to the trenches.....
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jan 8, 2014 - 11:48am PT
Via Ferratas are a direct result of fortifications built in the Dolomites in WW1.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Jan 8, 2014 - 11:50am PT
Any climber with a love for reading and a story well-told should check out this book. Helprin is a powerful writer;



Amazon carries it.

DMT
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2014 - 11:55am PT
The via ferrata predates WW1, though the term was coined then. The first equipped route was laid out on the Dachstein in 1843....according to google.

Although I'd have to say some of those boys had it made compared to the trenches.....
I used to think that too, but the casualty rate was much, much higher in the mountains, Survival. Between the cold, the exposure, and the fact that rocks only multiplied the shrapnel of nearby hits, your time in the "vertical trenches" was was a lot shorter than it was sitting around sheltered by dirt and sandbags (poison gas excluded).

From JimT's excellent link below:
During the three-year war in the Austro-Italian Alps at least 60,000 soldiers died in avalanches. [This conservative statistic comes from the research of Heinz von Lichem, in his outstanding three-volume study Gebirgskrieg 1915-1918] Ten thousand died from avalanches in the "lesser" ranges of the eastern half of the high front -- the Carnic and Julian Alps.[2] In the "high" Alps to the west, the Ortler and Adamello groups, the Dolomites, avalanches claimed 50,000 lives.

To put these casualties in perspective, a total of 25,000 troops were killed by poison gas on this war's Western front in Belgium and France. Gas killed an additional 7,000 men on the Austro-Italian front, the greater part on the plain and plateau between the Isonzo and Piave rivers.

A direct hit on a munitions dump. Cima De Vezzana
A direct hit on a munitions dump. Cima De Vezzana
Credit: http://gebirgskrieg.heimat.eu/
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jan 8, 2014 - 11:57am PT
DMT, the gentleman climber scholar from the redneck backwoods of Tennessee,
land of my horse thieving ancestors. (yes, it's true)

I like this guy more everyday.
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
Jan 8, 2014 - 12:13pm PT
I recently went on a WW1 reading binge. What a horrific event. Some guys would come home and basically never even speak again, probably with people around them telling them to shake it off.

Soldier of the Great War is an awesome book. Another one is Birdsong:

Credit: ontheedgeandscaredtodeath
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 8, 2014 - 12:15pm PT
Well, FM, I'd have to agree with you about the World War being the most significant event, but I agree with Ron Paul and many other historians that the cease fire of November 11, 1918 was just a time out so that the powers could raise another generation of soldiers.
The League of Nations failed and the Japanese, our former allies, started the World War going again in China.
White people didn't care very much until Hitler followed suit.

Oh yeah, and the Italians switched sides also (stupido!)
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Jan 8, 2014 - 12:16pm PT
I have the official version of WW 1 history, written in 1918 by Francis March.
Gary

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Jan 8, 2014 - 12:20pm PT
Glissading with fixed bayonets? Ouch!
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2014 - 12:30pm PT
...the cease fire of November 11, 1918 was just a time out so that the powers could raise another generation of soldiers.

That would be true if not for the fact that France did NOT want another war and aggressively lobbied for the onerous terms set on Germany for starting WW1. Some argue that the (greater) powers of the US and Russia, saw an opportunity in a hugely weakened Europe to, basically, take over the planet by effectively letting Germany release Global War 2.0.

Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 8, 2014 - 12:49pm PT

To the artists who did and did not come back:

It is dangerous to assume that an author’s life experiences are directly reflected in his or her fiction. Tolkien is not a World War I writer in the sense that, say, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, or Ernest Hemingway are. These writers directly portrayed their war experience in their stories and poetry. Instead, Tolkien’s war experiences are sublimated in his fiction. They surface in the sense of loss that suffuses the story, in the ghastly landscapes of places like Mordor, in the sense of gathering darkness, and in the fates of his Hobbit protagonists.

from: JRR Tolkien and World War I - Nancy Marie Ott
http://greenbooks.theonering.net/guest/files/040102_02.html

And my own pointer to Wilfred Owen (didn't come back) and Britten's War Requiem.

Thanks to the OP.
JimT

climber
Munich
Jan 8, 2014 - 01:19pm PT
This is the website to go to:- http://ww1ha.org/italianfront.htm
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
Jan 8, 2014 - 02:06pm PT
When we visited Marmolada Massif a couple of July's ago, I was floored to find out that the Austrian's had constructed something like 5 sets of barracks under the ice of the glacier. They called it the glacier city.

Such misery. Apparently, many of the mountain corp knew the people on the other side trying to kill them.
John M

climber
Jan 8, 2014 - 02:21pm PT
During the three-year war in the Austro-Italian Alps at least 60,000 soldiers died in avalanches. [This conservative statistic comes from the research of Heinz von Lichem, in his outstanding three-volume study Gebirgskrieg 1915-1918] Ten thousand died from avalanches in the "lesser" ranges of the eastern half of the high front -- the Carnic and Julian Alps.[2] In the "high" Alps to the west, the Ortler and Adamello groups, the Dolomites, avalanches claimed 50,000 lives.

To put these casualties in perspective, a total of 25,000 troops were killed by poison gas on this war's Western front in Belgium and France. Gas killed an additional 7,000 men on the Austro-Italian front, the greater part on the plain and plateau between the Isonzo and Piave rivers.
t

Its true that chemical weapons had low mortality rates, but death wasn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen to a person. Some might say death was preferable to what happened to some soldiers. Things like Open suppurating wounds that didn't heal. Blindness.. cancer, destroyed lungs so that just getting a breath was difficult. These things didn't necessarily kill you. They just made you wish that you were dead.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Jan 8, 2014 - 04:04pm PT
I just spent a day scrambling up a snow-covered peak near the Austria-Italy border... it would be hell trying to fight large-scale war in that terrain. Just advancing a group of folks across it, with nobody shooting you or trying to blow you up, is dangerous in good weather. And with the consistent terrible weather in the region and the primitive gear available in WWI... yet another hell on earth.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Jan 8, 2014 - 04:21pm PT
If you think the subject interesting you may want to check out......

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Punta-Emma-The-Piaz-Crack-Lee-Harvey-Oswald-and-the-Kennedy-Assassination/t11418n.html"]http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Punta-Emma-The-Piaz-Crack-Lee-Harvey-Oswald-and-the-Kennedy-Assassination/t11418n.html[/url]

Steve

Brock Wagstaff

Trad climber
Larkspur
Jan 8, 2014 - 04:31pm PT
Many tunnels in the Dolomites where the two sides watched each other. Quite a few of these soldiers were mountaineers, and they took occasional pot shots at each other through viewing ports like this one in the Tres Cima area.
Tres Cima 1977
Tres Cima 1977
Credit: Brock Wagstaff
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2014 - 04:34pm PT
Awesome links, Steve!
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2014 - 04:37pm PT


Translated from the German: (A recent sign) put up by the "Young South Tyrolean Freedom", the "South Tyrolean Heritage Association" and the "Andreas Hofer Covenant of Tirol" organizations. Politicians of the "Union for South Tyrol" and "Freedom for South Tyrol" was present and revealed together with the others present a plaque with the inscription "South Tyrol is not Italy" at the border crossing. The presence of a group of "Pan-German" Fraternities clearly showed the level of interest in the event.

"nicht" presumably vandalized by Italians....

A short wiki-history of Italo-Austrian relations....
Since the Middle Ages, Austria had a great influence over the Italian states, especially in the north of the country.
After the Congress of Vienna, Austrian control of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, with its key cities of Venice and Milan, created the conditions in which Italian nationalism and Austrian interests clashed in the three Wars of Italian Independence between 1848 and 1866. Tensions remained throughout the 1870s as continued Austrian rule over Italians, especially in Trentino and Istria, inflamed Italian nationalism which in turn threatened Austrian integrity; as a result the Austrians built further fortifications along the Italian border.[1] In 1876, the Austrian Archduke Albrecht advocated a preventive war against Italy.

Despite entering into the Triple Alliance of 1882 (along with Germany), areas of clashing interest remained. Italy's improving relations with France, Italian interests in the Balkans, and continuing nationalism among Italians within Austria-Hungary concerned leaders in Vienna. Italy's adherence to the Triple Alliance in the event of war was doubted and from 1903 plans for a possible war against Rome were again maintained by the Austrian general staff.[3] Mutual suspicions led to reinforcement of the frontier and speculation in the press about a war between the two countries into the first decade of the twentieth century.[4] As late as 1911 Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of the Austrian general staff, was advocating a military strike against Austria's supposed Italian allies.

During World War I, Italy fought against Austria–Hungary despite their defensive alliance signed some decades earlier. By World War I's end, Italy gained new territories from Austria and border agreements were secured.
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