Bertle: There will be no climbing on a dead planet


Monday, 6 December

Pirmin Bertle, one of the best rock climbers in the world, has for many years adapted his families to be more environmentally friendly. Five years ago, his family took the boat to South America where they spent two years. In the picture, he is doing Latin Americas first 9a+, Le vent nous porteraat Socaire, Northern Chile on 3600m altitude. We asked him for some comments in regards to the environment and what climbers can do to follow up Alex Megos comments. Here are Pirmin's somewhat radical comments.

"Thank you, Alex! I was profoundly happy to read about the pro-environmental efforts of one of the leading athletes of our sport here on This is a good sign – on a road that currently still leads straight into the desert.

Some years ago, statements like his would have been ripped into pieces by people sitting in the economy class, pushing the uneaten half of their beef steak aside, swallowing their last mouthful with a tasty drink, wearing brand new special rock fashion with their brand-new gear in the belly of the plane, looking forward to a week in a nice wellness-apartment in some far-off oversea place, targeting their first 8a and posting all this with a big and proud selfie-smile on Insta. They would have ripped the pro-environmental efforts into pieces because they would have felt on the winning side of history. Because they were acting all human, all normal, all reasonable, arguing in some of the following ways:

“Beef is important for my amino acids of animal origin, not to eat too much is crucial for my weight, economy class is essential for my bank account. Flying is the only way to cross an ocean for my restricted spare time and alcohol makes it a lot easier to relax (and is fun). Special functional climbing clothes both enhance my performance and the number of hearts on Insta. Alpine club functionaries told me that brand-new gear is without alternatives to my security. The nice apartment is the best way to regenerate between hard climbing days. Sending 8a is one of my main goals in life and the Insta post along with the shit storm comment below the “crazy-Greta-vegan-guy” feels suitable to hide the deep inner feeling of being locked and lost in a tiny capsule of total artificiality, coated in strange, conditioned air, together with obese and fearsome people, miles above the sea – for endless hours.

A situation like this – as exaggerated as I chose it to be – is only bearable with bone-hard rationality and a strong ego (otherwise we would get immediately drowned in the intuitive reality of the highly desperate ecocide society we created and are trying to live in). And this is the main problem about it all: We get told and thus tell ourselves repeatedly that it is all about us. Our health, our wealth, our wellness and our happiness, our performance, and our security. But it isn’t. We’ll never emancipate from the ecosystem.

Life on earth is one. One organism. We are the ecosystem. An organ of it. It's perhaps the most sophisticated flower (and definitely the most poisonous one.) An incredible miracle. Incapable to ever fully understand ourselves. And we can’t commit ecocide without committing suicide. (And by the way: total genocide.) There’ll be nothing of our regards on a dead planet. Neither will there be climbing. Thus, it is time to act. Or rather: Not to act that much anymore. To be precise: Act about ten times less.

Ten times less mobility. Ten times less food consumption of animal origin. Ten times fewer square meters per person. Ten times less web traffic. Ten times fewer things. Ten times less clinging to the material dimensions.

And that is, where the potential of climbing enters the game. Not as an essential part of the solution – but as a part of the great transformation we face. Because we climbers have more of something that many others around us are lacking: Psychological strength, mental health, physical fitness, relative consciousness for what nature is, a cosmopolitan touch, fewer economic dependencies and imperatives, high self-organization, and lifestyle-creativity. And last but not least: we have a playground to protect.

And all of the above are crucial to live and fulfil the change everyone is talking about, but no one really starts with – mostly out of weakness, fear and inner poverty. We can’t leash hold on the materialistic level without enriching the psychological, physical, social, cultural, religious, or spiritual one. Climbing offers a lot on these levels – wouldn’t there be a problem with mobility. But it can be solved and even individual performance – a rather useless concept to collective change – gets enhanced when you alleviate and lighten your life and your ecological footprint. That’s what I have been trying for years now – but don’t get me wrong: it isn’t my story. It is the story that chose me as a part-time protagonist. As I will continue to quit high-end climbing, as many of you as possible will have to carry on with this!

So, I’ll keep it short: I grew up in quite a close contact with nature but really began to intensify this bond in my early twenties when extended low budget climbing trips around Europe meant for us sleeping up to 100 nights per year under the stars, cooking on the fire, taking baths only in winter cold Spanish rivers, moving few and hitchhiking the rest, flying three times in fifteen years, carrying our water sometimes over kilometres, eating only vegetarian (as we couldn’t fridge anything). We thought we were chasing hard routes and a good and easy time, but what actually happened was, that we got profoundly melted into nature and deeply soaked our souls with it.

True ecologic motivation thus emerged increasingly – simply because it could without getting in conflict with our egos. As our ecologic footprint during traveling was already close to “one planet”, we now only had to transfer this knowledge to the all-day life. And found the yurt living, video. It was one of the best and most intense times of our lives, not only because our second child was born there. I lost 10kg, worked more physically, got more resilient and thus much stronger in climbing.

The oncoming 2 years overseas travelling period was ecologically more intense but still decelerated and eased my urge to see the world , video. Especially for sport climbing, there is no better place than Europe.

(And it was by then – up from 2015 – that I understood: the most interesting voyages are those to the inside of you. They don’t cause any environmental damage, take only hours and leave much deeper traces and offer greater revelations than any holiday ever could.) We moved to Germany and 2019 finally found a possibility to live in yurts again ( or Compared to the average German four-headed household we needed only 1/5 of heating, 1/10 of electricity and 1/25 of water. And I freed my own climbing almost entirely from carbon emissions, choosing close by crags as the Schneiderloch in Frankenjura (13km by e-bike). The rest went similar as before but even more intense: one year without cow products, circular economy around our yurts with chicken, sheep, goats and a veggie garden. For me, nothing of this was hard or carrying a taste of denial. Beauty, calmness of the mind, the sound of raindrops on the tent surface and the stars in the dome light were leading our way.

For me it would have been okay to stop here and always live like this, but life had already decided to lead us further. Into the house, the community, and the yurt enterprise we are about to enter in. Fully. () So deeply that despite my climbing shape even without climbing still feels great, I don’t really need it on an elite level anymore. My ego hopefully steps back for longer or ever, permaculture and yurt construction not only keep my sane, but don’t really allow an extra waste of energy and time. High end climbing has done its job to my path in life. I will never quit the sport itself, as I can see the first sectors from our house, and as I will always love it. But once humans will have realized that we are about to end the 200-years-fossil-energy-wave (or decide that it may set an end to our existence) we will again need most of our energy for life, work and survival.

Climbing and climbers will have offered their skills and strengths to this great transformation and participated in preserving a living planet – which will logically result in less (importance of) climbing. Or they will not, helping to pave the road into the desert. There’ll be no climbing on a dead planet. Be aware of that in every moment of your life – not only when you plan your next short-term overseas climbing trip."

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