Conquerors of the Useless (?)

Makalu First Ascent - Expedition leader Jean Couzy on the Makalu summit May 15, 1955 Photographed by Lionel Terray

Makalu First Ascent - Expedition leader Jean Couzy on the Makalu summit May 15, 1955 Photographed by Lionel Terray

September 19th 1965, 4 days before my birth, a man died during an ascent in the French Alps.
His name was Lionel Terray. He was a very talented french alpinist, and was one of my adolescence idols.
I think he was the one who first adopted the definition “conquerors of the useless", referred to some extreme outdoor men. It was true. Surf, climbing, extreme skiing, kiting etc. are all useless activities. At that time, with no money involved, no big sponsors, the reward was at the very best fame. But just for few of them.
Yvon Chouinard, another great alpinist, founder of the brand Patagonia, writes something interesting about:
“Surfing and climbing are both useless sports. You get to be conquistadors of the useless. You climb to the summit and there is nothing there. You could hike to the top from another direction. It's how you get there that is the important part.”
A kind of Zen. It's all about the process, not the goal.

I came to Norway three years ago to ski and kite from Oslo to Nordkapp, alone and by fair means. It was a long and expensive process to organize everything, looking for the most sustainable equipments, asking, buying, travelling and so on. I wanted, and still I do, to make reportages, film a documentary, post on my blog and talk about the fair way the Scandinavian people use to live in harmony with their long and white winter.

In the Alps it's a very 'dirty' game. Snow is black! People go to the ski resorts to have fun and find again a city with all its comforts. A very unfair mean in my opinion. I know something about it because I grew up and lived for many years all around the Alps, and I liked that kind of life style. Easy climbing up with a lift, and lot of fun downhill. And so again and again. And the nightlife was great too!! So fucking easy! But there is a price to pay. Not so difficult to imagine, but easy to forget.

I apologize. I am preaching.
I will go on doing what I was suppose to and reporting the situation here, I mean the one about this 'white gold' business. I think I've shot good interviews, photos, and I skied and kited already about 500 km in southern Norway, around the Hardangervidda Plateau. I met Polar guides, persons who wanted to go to South Pole, and they made it, happily frozen cross country skiers, flashy kiters, mostly wonderful persons, snow workers, patrols, lovers, families so perfectly fit, and boring, making me pray for any kind of imperfect, normal human to appear in the middle of this beautiful white paradise.
I feel good here. I am happy. Very. Should I be scared?
Sometimes skiing, in the white out (looks like floating in a white cloud) I think I'm dead and soon someone will open a big white door and gently says: "Hi, got lost?? stairs to hell are at the end of the corridor, have a nice stay".


A few days ago I red on an online magazine, the Barents Observer, an article about The refugee camp in Kirkenes, a little town in Northern Noway close to the border with Russia. In November about 900 immigrants crossed the border on bicycles. Why bicycles? Because it is forbidden to walk trough the border so the existenz minimum is a cheap bike (sold by traffickers or local shops for a crazy amount of money, up to 400 euros).
600 of them were immediately given proper clothes, a bed and food in the upcoming Artic winter. Some of them, 13, the ones with a Russian visa and permit to stay were sent back to Russia. Soon after the border was closed for immigrants. Kirkenes, 500 km north of the Artic circle is a little town, 6000 inhabitants. 160 refugees find a family offering them hospitality.
I must be there. There is something so positive to talk bout and share. Hospitality in one of the harshest place on the earth, a good camp to protect them from the winter, and a big question mark? How many will be found in spring after the snow melt?
It is important to spread the facts about this “Artic Lampedusa" because many immigrants and asylum seekers are not aware of the situation and the organized criminality is inviting them to use this longer route.
In Finland new arrivals are daily reported and xenophobic 'welcoming committees' called Soldiers of Odin are there. They won't offer them cookies and a warm chocolate I guess.
One Indian man, 33, was found dead after spending 5 days in his car, with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius below zero. Nobody helped him because “he could not pay for service”. Source: The Barents Observer

I feel the urge to change my project, and, partially, the goal of it. I will still have the possibility to ski and kite, and meet people in the snow. I am a free man in a free country. I am one of the happy few. I can do it.

I've been many times in a storm, outside, alone, in a tent, in a snow cave, in cabin, in a bivouac, in a boat. In the Alps, and in Norway. I was well equipped and I survived, when protected I also enjoyed the situation.
What about a mother with her children, no idea about what a snowstorm in the Arctic can be, no idea about just a night at 40 below, or just a simple sunny day at 20 below, and without the proper clothes? Is she enjoying it? Is she free to do what she wants?

I go to Kirkenes.

Thanks for reading and supporting me.


P.S.: There is a very, very good new for me. I will have a companion for the next 20 days (from Feb. the 9th)
His name is Thomas Dietert. He is a very nice guy, met him with his lovely girlfriend during my rowed trip from London to Istanbul, in Golubac, Serbia,in 2012.
He will be part of this important change in Man on the Snow Project.

I let him to introduce himself.

Velkommen til Norge Thomas!

"Once in a while its more than advisible to get out of our "normal" habitats.
Get a fair distance to you surrouundings,to your society,to your "normal life".
It will give you the opportunity to focus.
Focus on things you might have forgotten by living in that "bubble",
focus on things in life you may have not experienced before, and to be aware about the beauty of the earth and life on it.

Here i am. Again.
Thomas. An interested outdoor loving ecologist from Potsdam.
My passion belongs to water and fish.
To experience "water" all over the world you need to travel.
Which is another passion. Traveling brings adventure.
Adventures should be part of our lifes.

Once we have been kayaking on the Danube. It was fascinating.
Meeting Giacomo there, was a big pleasure for us.
A man full of great ideas!
"Man on the River" became the "Man on the Snow".
Another unpredictable adventure is going to start.
Here i am again. #
More than happy to join you again, Giacomo.

Thomas Dietert


*Terray, Lionel (1963). Les Conquérants de l'inutile. France: Victor Gollancz. ASIN B000HJRAVQ.
Terray, Lionel (2000). Conquistadors of the Useless. Translated by Geoffrey Sutton. Baton Wicks Publications; New ed.