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THE EARLY ALPINE GUIDES Ronald Clark 1949 1st UK ed Hardcover Very Good
By Clark, Ronald
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London, Phoenix House, 1949, 1st edition. 208 pp, many b/w illustrations and photos, 4 maps, appendices, bibliography, index. Blue cloth hardcover with faded spine, soiled cover and no dust jacket - interior is fine. Very Good.

Biographies of the guides who were the real heroes of the 'Golden Age' of climbing in the Alps: Almer, Croz, Anderegg, Carrel, Balmat, Burgener, etc. 

This book gives biographical details and descriptions of the feats of the mountaineering guides from the Golden Age of climbing in the Alps. This was the period where the first ascents of most of the peaks in the Alps were made: Matterhorn, Eiger, Monte Rosa, Wiesshorn, Aiguille Verte, Monte Viso, Mieje, etc. Mont Blanc was first climbed prior to this period by M. Paccard and J. Balmat in 1786.

The introduction of the book follows:

by LORD SCHUSTER, G.C.B., K.C.B., C.V.O. President of the Alpine Club: 1938-40

This is an appropriate moment at which to refresh our memories of the pioneers, and particularly of the circumstances in which they climbed. Guided climbing is out of fashion. Men, and women, who have learnt the craft, or one side of the craft, among our own native hills, are impatient of the yoke of guidance. Also they like doing things for themselves and being masters of their own districts. Poverty also comes into the story. Ever since 1914 the long guided season has been impossible for most of us from sheer lack of means; and certainly an allowance of fifty pounds for a Swiss holiday leaves no margin for the payment of guides. Let us allow that guideless climbing is the more excellent way, at least for those who are capable of it; but let us also make allowance for the weaker brethren, and let us not forget those who were not weaker-strong men before Agamemnon-and who, in the abundance of their strength, opened the way for us. Above all let us not forget the toughness of the task which lay before them, nor this spirit in which they addressed themselves to it. They began in a world without maps, with few paths above the high pastures, with no Alpine huts, and they had to invent and perfect the technique of mountaineering. The guides were men who had begun as shepherds or perhaps woodmen or chamois-hunters, or, sometimes, smugglers. And the pioneers had to teach almost as much as they had to learn. Their achievement was great and they deserve our gratitude as well as our respect. Let us not forget also that the guideless climber, however great his gain, has also great losses. Some drudgery is a usual concomitant of any sport which is worth while; and some men delight in it. But the early climbers were, for the most part, professional men who came to the Alps from sedentary occupations and were unaccustomed to carrying heavyweights or to continuous step-cutting in ice. They had to toil; but they saw no reason for making their pleasure more toilsome than was necessary. Furthermore, they, and their successors, took a genuine pleasure in the company of their guides. To associate with such men as Melchior Anderegg or Christian Almer was an education in itself. Auguste Balmat must have been a delightful companion, and it was a privilege to see Jean-Antoine Carrel or Michel Croz or Ferdinand Imseng or either of the Laueners or Jakob Anderegg or J. J. Maquignaz in action. This is to mention only a few of those whose life story Mr Clark has told in brief in this volume. There were others, such as Christian Klucker and the Knubels and Lochmatters of the second and third generations, who have a fair claim to a place among the immortals, but they belong to a later age.

It must always be a matter of controversy how the guides of the Golden Age would have fared if called upon to face the art of rock-climbing when it had reached modern standards. In the succeeding period there were some who had at least the latent capacity. Venetz, who disappeared early from Alpine history, was the first man to climb the Grepon crack, and Alexander Burgener, who, as one saw his massive figure roll up the street, did not look agile, but must have been capable, not only of appraising rightly, but also of accomplishing the greatest feats. But how would the early guides of Grindelwald and Meiringen and Chamonix have dealt with the great Aiguilles, brilliant and enduring as the Oberlanders were on their own ice slopes? There can be no doubt that the art of climbing developed with amazing speed between 1865 and 1914. Mountains become, easier the more they are climbed, but men also become more skillful, as well as more daring; and though people have been heard to speak of 'a stroll over the Meije', there will never be a time when technical accomplishment is not needed for the Great Wall below the Glacier Carre.

Mr Clark, with much careful research and much pleasure in the task, has put together a fitting memorial to the early guides who led our predecessors up the delectable mountains and who themselves became, in our minds, a part of what they achieved. Together, they have made the Alpine region for us not a mere playground, but a land of happy and poignant memory. No one can look on the great mountains without a thought of those who first toiled and strove among them. They stand in our minds beside the images of the great amateurs, with those of Hudson, Edward Whymper, and A. W. Moore and Stephen and Mummery and many another whose good friends they were and with whom they

'ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads'.



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