Paul Preuss, Our Founding Father Of Style.

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survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 2, 2009 - 12:53pm PT
**Coz's comment about doing some looking beyond the current media darlings made me laugh, since I was just reading about Preuss. (Thanks Coz, we're on the same page!) I had read about Preuss as a youngster and was inspired by his free solo feats.

He was the John Bachar/Royal Robbins of his day.
Many young pups of today have no idea who he was. But this guy had a serious resume, topped only by his serious BALLZ!**

Paul Preuss (19 August 1886 – 3 October 1913) was an Austrian climber who achieved recognition for his bold solo ascents and for the purity of his climbing style. Born in Altaussee, he attended Gymnasium in Vienna and, later, studied at the University of Vienna and Munich University, where he was awarded a Dr.Phil. degree in 1912. His major subject was the physiology of plants, but soon after gaining his degree he turned to empirical philosophy, hoping to become a university lecturer in that academic specialty.

As a child he was very weak, but grew into slender, well-developed athlete, proficient in chess, tennis, fencing, and, of course, climbing. Still a boy, he became fascinated with a particular climb that had been done on the Trisselwand near Aussee. After several weeks of studying the route, he soloed it – his first adventure on the heights.

Working his way up the ladder of difficulty, he made a solitary ascent of the west face of Todtenkirchl in 1911, taking only 2¾ hours, including a new variation in the upper section.

He climbed more than 1,200 routes in the Eastern Alps, including the northeast face of Crozzon di Brenta and the east summit face of Guglia di Brenta. He also did a cross traverse of the Kleine Zinne, doing all four routes that existed at that time, in a period of one day.

In the summers of 1912 and 1913 he journeyed to the Western Alps, where – under the tutelage of the English climber, Oscar Eckenstein - he learned the skills of ice climbing. Once he felt confident, he began a series of climbs around Mont Blanc, including the direct ascent of that peak via its Brenva flank. He did several noteworthy traverses, including one of the Grandes Jorasses by its Hirondelles ridge.

Preuss published several papers on climbing a year before his death. In one of these – "Künstliche Hilfsmittel auf Hochturen" – he delineates his philosophy of climbing in six "theorems", starting with the axiomatic assumption that a climber should only attempt climbs that are below his highest level of competence. The following are paraphrased versions of his rules:

**1. One should be more than equal to the demands of the proposed climb.
2. One should ascend only those climbs that one can downclimb safely.
3. Artificial aids are justified only in sudden dangerous situations.
4. Pitons should be used only for emergencies, never as a basis of mountaineering.
5. The rope is to be used to facilitate a climb, but never as the sole means for making a climb possible.
6. The principle of safety derives from a reasonable estimate of what one is capable of, not from the use of artificial aids.
Geoffrey Winthrop Young, the great British climber, echoed these sentiments years after Preuss was gone.**


Paul Preuss was said to be amiable and good-natured, and to be a faithful comrade in the most demanding of circumstances.


He died of a thousand foot fall in October 1913 while making a solo attempt of the north face of the Mandlwand.

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 2, 2009 - 01:02pm PT
Here is a picture of Paul Preuss.





Why can't I remember the name of the guy he was in the "piton" war with?
It was a real Harding/Robbins thing!
Dang, I know it will come to me.....
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 2, 2009 - 01:03pm PT
Preuss was one of the most important climbers of the early 20th century.

He represented the purist side in the great Mauerhakenstreit, the battle over the use of pitons and the precursor of all the ethics battles of later years.

The ideal Preuss route was climbed on-sight, no falls, no protection, and then down-climbed with no lowering or rapping.

In Preussian terms, almost no one, today, free climbs anything.

That's one of the reasons he was read out of the mountaineering canon in the German-speaking world and then, later, in the others. That and the fact that he hwas half-Jewish and thus unacceptable to the German-Austrian alpine club, which was dominated by Nazis and Nazi supporters after the late 1920s.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 2, 2009 - 01:11pm PT
Thanks klk,

Here's a picture of the Trisselwand. I believe his first big solo was right up the main buttress. (If I recall correctly from an old mountaineering book.)


**Can you say bad *ss?** Freekin' turn of the century?
How many of you would sans rope that thing in modern sticky??
WBraun

climber
Nov 2, 2009 - 01:15pm PT
How many of you would sans rope that thing in modern sticky??


Most likely not, because .....

He died of a thousand foot fall in October 1913 while making a solo attempt of the north face of the Mandlwand.

:-)
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 2, 2009 - 01:20pm PT
survival--

The Mauerhakenstreit is often described with Preuss on one side and Hans Duelfer, one of his acquaintances, on the other side, because Duelfer was known for his inventive use of the new technology, i.e., his invention of the pendulum.

But the guy who actually wrote the most compelling anti-Preussian critique was the Ladin guide, Tita Piaz.

Piaz's defense of pitons and rappelling hit all the points we still hear today: The purist approach is needlessly dangerous; the purist approach is elitest and would keep the vast majority of folks out of the mountains; the purist approach would mean that professional guides and SAR folks would be constantly putting their lives in the hands of their incompetent clients, etc.

Btw, if we were compiling a list of most significant rock climbs of the 20th century (and in the earlier 20th c, rock climbs / alpine climbs wouldn't be sharply distinguished), then a number of Dulfer, Piaz, and Preuss's climbs would have to be included.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 2, 2009 - 01:21pm PT
Werner, yeah I know.....Lots of great climbers have died in falls....
:O(
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 2, 2009 - 01:32pm PT
Todtenkirchl means Deaths Chapel.

Nothing like an inviting name for old Paul, eh?





The West Face of Todtenkirchl, 2 3/4 hrs, in what ever funky shoes/boots he had on at the time.



Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 2, 2009 - 01:56pm PT
A fair chance he may not have lived through WWI to be discriminated against.

Don't know the figures for Austrian WWI soldiers of jewish descent (a group that included a decorated corporal named Adolph Hitler, son of half jewish and illegitimate Alois Schiklegruber), but 20,000 German jews died in the ranks.
mrtropy

Trad climber
Nor Cal
Nov 2, 2009 - 02:14pm PT
Where is the best place to read up on him? Any books or good articles?
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 2, 2009 - 02:20pm PT
mrtropy-- not much in english. i published a piece on the mauerhakenstreit, but it's in an austrian scholarly journal, it's not online and i'm not allowed to reproduce it here. good thing, too, 'cuz the piece has two really embarrassing typos that'll get corrected when i finish the book.

frison-roche and jouty's history of mountain climbing has a brief bit on preuss. the english wiki article has some problems.



meanwhile, how's yr deutsch?

http://www.buchfreund.de/productListing.php?productId=42759556&used=1

it's also available in a french translation.
mrtropy

Trad climber
Nor Cal
Nov 2, 2009 - 02:26pm PT
nicht gut
hb81

climber
Nov 2, 2009 - 02:40pm PT
Messner wrote a book about him, but it seems to be out of print. Also it has probably not been translated into English, guess you're outta luck there :(
bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Nov 2, 2009 - 02:53pm PT
Doug Robinson published a two-part article -- can't remember the title -- in Mountain back in the 70's that went on at some length about Preuss.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 2, 2009 - 03:33pm PT
Maybe Doug will post it up for us?

klk, dude where did you get all scholarly and interested in Preuss?
What all is going to be in your book? When can I get my flippers on it?

You sound like the real deal, history wise. I'm just the guy who was hiding an old climbing book inside of the math book I was supposed to be looking at in the high school library.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 2, 2009 - 03:38pm PT
It sounds like he was pretty skilled, and interested in style (and also what me might now call "ethics" since piton use can affect the experiences of other climbers).
Died at age 27 soloing - apparently the cumulative risks caught up with him.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 2, 2009 - 03:56pm PT
survival-- took a wrong turn, ended up in grad school, hung out with a bad crowd, etc. now i'm a professional historian.

i'm writing a cultural history of climbing in europe and north america. i'm about half-way done. but scholarly histories take forever-- seven to ten years is pretty common --so it'll probably be two more years before it's out.



bvb-- tx. i dont recall doug's piece. if you look it up tonight, give us the cite if you have a chance, eh? i don't have anything like a full run.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 2, 2009 - 04:06pm PT
There's a two-part article by Doug Scott in Mountains 33 and 34 (March and April 1974), entitled The Great Pioneers of the Eastern Alps. 21 pages in all, including many period photos. Roughly the period 1900 - 1940. It seems to have some stuff about Preuss, but I don't have time to scan and post it now. Maybe later.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 2, 2009 - 04:11pm PT
klk, wow......once again I am humbled by my friends on ST. I'm such a nobody.
Sure hope I get to see that book!!

Anders, awesome! Would you pleeeez scan and post for us?
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 2, 2009 - 04:12pm PT
MH: There's a two-part article by Doug Scott in Mountains 33 and 34

Ah, mystery solved, Scott not Robinson.

He used those for the chapters in his Big Wall Climbing (1974). That's not hard to find used, and it's cheaper than the Frison-Roche & Jouty.
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