Climber Plans Olympic Protest atop World's Summits


Conceptual illustration courtesy of

Climber Plans Olympic Protest atop World's Summits

Italian mountaineer and artist Alberto Peruffo has unveiled a plan for a series of mountaintop protests of Chinese repression in Tibet. The “Sad Smoky Mountains” project will begin in the first 10 days of May, when the Chinese are planning to summit Mt. Everest as part of the Olympic torch relay. Peruffo and friends will climb the Matterhorn in the beginning of May and will ignite orange and red smoke flares on the summit. These symbolic torches, he says at his website, will represent “an evanescent color of spilled blood, shame on those who have always remained in silence. Food for those who resist.”

Peruffo is encouraging friends and fellow mountaineers to stage similar protests on well-known peaks during the first 10 days of May. Protest climbs already are planned for the Breithorn, Gran Sasso, and other European peaks. (The protests will be coordinated locally through Peruffo’s website so the red smoke will be visible at the same time from many summits.) Then, on August 8, the day of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, Peruffo hopes that red flares will be lit atop mountains and buildings worldwide at precisely 1 p.m. local time. He plans to solicit photographs and film of the protests, and will assemble them into a permanent work of art. Learn more about this conceptual art project at the Sad Smoky Mountains website.

Peruffo staged a similar public art event in 2007, when 400 people carrying wooden crosses created a “Wandering Cemetery” in and near Vicenza, Italy. He is a longtime mountaineer, with new routes in the Alps and the Himalaya.

The Chinese crackdown on Tibet in March, following protests and riots in Lhasa and other cities, has sparked worldwide protests, including major disruptions of the Olympic torch relay in London and Paris, and a climber-staged protest yesterday on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. An unknown number of Tibetans and Chinese residents were killed during the riots and subsequent crackdown. Chinese plans to carry the Olympic torch up Mt. Everest in May have closed the northern side of the mountain to Western mountaineers. Meanwhile, Nepali authorities, bowing to Chinese pressure, have allowed expeditions to the south side of Everest but will not permit any climbers on the upper mountain from May 1–10. Everest expeditions also will witness the strange spectacle of Nepali troops and government censors stationed on the mountain to prevent protests and unauthorized sat-phone or Internet dispatches.

Date of Report: April 8, 2008,,

Comment on this story