Elgeta's square

There is no place in the Basque Country more important than the square of Elgeta for the history of the Basque Mountaineering.

Crossing the archway that starts the road to Elorrio, below the "Arbitrio's" old house, the visitor finds a big, rectangular enclosure, which is prevailed by the Town Hall. A walk across this square means a walk across time and the sentimental history of Basque Mountaineering.

On the porch of the Town Hall there are two commemorative plaques where the following can be read: - Basque - Navarre Mountaineering Federation, Golden Jubilee, 1924 - 1974. - B.N.M/C.F., 1924 - 1999.

In one side of this building there is another plaque that showing its name: "Mendizaleen Plaza" (Mountaineer`s square). Going on in our walk, on the white facade of the "Sociedad Oskarbi", next to the road to Bergara, a third plaque attracts our attention: this plaque reminds us that in that place, in 1924 the B.N.M.F was founded.

Although it may sounds as a paradox, one of the most emblematic places of Basque Mountaineering it is the square of the town, the square of Elgeta, and not the mountain's top.

The square of Elgeta is called "Mendizaleen Plaza" by municipal agreement on 8th January, 78. Nevertheless this decision was only an attempt to adapt its original name in Spanish "Plaza del Alpinismo", Mountaineering Square, that was taken 52 years before the present situation of the country, which in 1978 was in a transition process for the restoration of the language, culture and traditions in the social and public sphere.

The square of Elgeta is for the mountaineering in the Basque Country the starting point of its federation, its incorporation into the movement that promoted the organization of of the sport in supralocal entities of a national nature, so that it would promote and manage common sport interests which otherwise would be impossible to accomplish by smaller.

An well-defined objective in the first article of the regulation that the mountaineers gave themselves to develop the new organization was that:

It constitutes an organism which is common and higher in rank to all mountain and hiking associations of the three provinces of the Basque Country and Navarre. It is responsible of the initiation, management and organization of all the questions related with mountain and hiking in the region.

The square of Elgeta is not emblematic because of its altitude above the sea level; but because it is geographical situation almost in the middle of the "Basque Autonomous Community" (Comunidad Autonoma Vasca). During the the Clubs representatives meeting held in the Town Hall, they passed the regulations and signed the Fundational Agreement.They also agreed a new name: B.N.M/C. F and Antxon Bandres was appointed its first president. He was who, among a lots of mountaineers, proclaimed the beginning of the B.N.M/C.F.

There is not a set list of the founding clubs, but just two years later, when they held another meeting in Elgeta, 69 clubs had already joined the federation. Today only 5 of them keep mountaineering related activities: C.D. Bilbao, Baskonia, Bilbao Alpino Club, Club Deportivo Eibar and C.D. Fortuna.

That second meeting, May 30,1926, sealed the friendship agreement between Basque mountaineering and the town council of Elgeta, giving the name of "Plaza de Alpinismo" to that place which was once again taken up by the mountaineers and endorsed by the mountaineering association in the scroll they gave to the Mayor of Elgeta. It said:

At the Noble and Loyal town of Elgeta the B.N.M. F. decided to have its birthplace. It was in this Town Hall that its founders sealed the event and their commitment to the mountain. With unforgettable hospitality and nobility did Elgeta celebrate this event and it remembers it with the name of its square.

The testimonies that are kept from that second meetting in Elgeta give evidence that the managing body of the Federation took its responsability very seriously, and that the mountaineers were committed to develope their love for mountaineering. Basque mountaineering kept holding meettings in Elgeta.

One of the most important is the one celebrated in April 1936, from which it can be foreseen that the federative activity was very low Few months later, the Civil War came and as a consequence it took hold of the square, and tried to break the Town's link with the mountaineering, giving the name "Plaza de España" to the square, that is, "Square of Spain" and turning the Federation into a Delegation of the Spanish Federation.

Basque mountaineering come back to Elgeta, to its square, in 1949 to celebrate its silver jubilee, and after some other special rallies, it made its return once again. This happened when its managing body, then the Mountaineering Basque Federation, celebrated 50 years of existance: May19th, 1974. On this day they solemnly unveiled the plaque that still reminds us today of the foundation act.

On May 23rd 1999, the 75th anniversary of the Federation was held in the square of Elgeta (Mendizaleen Plaza) and many mountaineers attended the event. Without any doubt, today the Basque Federation of Mountaineering is going through one of the best moments of its history up to the point that each day there more people join this great family.