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The Wanderer above the Sea of Ice



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{image_alt} 51cm by 71cm oil on linen

An old man stands in the same pose as Caspar David Friedreich's painting Wanderer above the sea of clouds. The mountain Piz Palu looms above. 

Piz Palü (3,901 m) is a mountain in the Bernina Range in Switzerland and Italy. There are three summits on its main ridge, which runs from east to west. The name Palü derives from the Latin palus, meaning a swamp, and the mountain is said to be named after the Alpe Palü, a high alpine pasture some 4 km to its east.

It is uncertain when the mountain was first climbed, but the first ascent of the central and highest peak was, according to Collomb, probably by K. E. Digby with guide Peter Jenny and a porter in 1866. It was certainly ascended on 28 June 1868 by A. W. Moore, Horace Walker and Jakob Anderegg.

The east peak (3,882 m) was climbed by Oswald Heer, and P. and M. Flury, with guides Johann Madutz and Gian Marchet Colani (the 'King of the Bernina') on 12 August 1835. All three peaks were first traversed by Wachler, Wallner, George, Hans Gross and Christian Gross on 22 July 1868.

The mountain has gained some prominence from the film The White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929), co-directed by mountain-film pioneer Arnold Fanck and Georg Wilhelm Pabst, and starring a young Leni Riefenstahl.

The White Hell of Pitz Palu (German: Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü) is a 1929 silent mountain film directed by Arnold Fanck and Georg Wilhelm Pabst and starring future filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and World War I flying ace Ernst Udet.

The wife of alpinist Dr Johannes Krafft (Gustav Diessl) dies after a crevasse fall. It is implied that the accident was due to his negligence. Ten years later the newlywed Karl Stern (Ernst Petersen) and Maria Majoni (Leni Riefenstahl) arrive in an alpine hut near St. Moritz. They meet Dr Krafft who is obsessed with the death of his wife and is still searching for her in the mountains. Together they depart to climb Piz Palü, not knowing that a storm is approaching. Trapped in the mountain and with Dr Krafft having broken his leg they are forced to spend the night on a small ledge. Dr Krafft who had given his coat to Karl does not survive until the next morning. Eventually the aviator Ernst Udet (played by himself), who is also a friend of Karl and Maria, finds the couple. He alerts the rescuers who eventually safely escort Karl and Maria back to the valley.