Exploration of the High Alps

Exploration of the High Alps

The higher region of the Alps were long left to the exclusiveattention of the men of the adjoining valleys, even when Alpine travellers(as distinguished from Alpine climbers) began to visit these valleys. Itis reckoned that about 20 glacier passes were certainly known before 1600,about 25 more before 1700, and yet another 20 before 1800; but though theattempt of P.A. Arnod (an official of the duchy of Aosta) in 1689 to"re-open" the Col du Ceant may be counted as made by a non-native, historicalrecords do not show any further such activities until the last quarter ofthe 18th century. Nor did it fare much better with the high peaks, thoughthe two earliest recorded ascents were due to non-natives, that of the Rochemelonin 1358 having been undertaken in fulfilment of a vow, and that ofthe Mont Aiguille in 1492 by order of Charles VIII of France,in order to destroy its immense reputation for inaccessibility -- in 1555Conrad Gesner did not climb Pilatus proper, but only the grassy mound ofthe Gnepfstein, the lowest and the most westerly of the seven summits.

Early 19th Century

The two first men who really systematically explored the regions of iceand snow were Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (1740-1799), as regards the
Pennine Alps, and the Benedictine monk of Disentis, Placidus a Spescha (1752-1833, most of whose ascents were made before 1806), in the valleys at the sources of the Rhine. In the early 19th century the Meyer family of Aarau conquered in person the Jungfrau (1811) and by deputy the Finsteraarhorn (1812), besides opening several glacier passes, theirenergy being entirely confined to the Bernese Oberland. Their pioneerwork was continued in that district, as well as others, by a number of Swiss,pre-eminent among whom were Gottlieb Samuel Studer (1804-1890) of Bern,and Edouard Desor (1811-1882) of Neuchatel. The first-known Englishclimber in the Alps was Colonel Mark Beaufoy (1764-1827), who in 1787made an ascent (the fourth) of Mont Blanc, a mountain to which his fellow-countrymenlong exclusively devoted themselves, with a few noteworthy exceptions, suchas Principal J.D. Forbes (1809-1868), A.T. Malkin (1803-1888), John Ball(1818-1889), and Sir Alfred Wills (1828-1912).

In the Eastern Alps the serious exploration began with the first ascent of the Großglockner in 1800, initiated by Franz-Xaver Salm-Raifferscheid, arch-bishop ofGurk. Around Monte Rosa, the Vincent family, Josef Zumstein (1783-1861),and Giovanni Gnifetti (1801-1867) did good work during the half century between1778 and 1842, while in the Eastern Alps the Archduke John (1782-1850), Prince
F. J. C. von Schwarzenberg, archbishop of Salzburg (1809-1885), Valentine Stanig(1774-1847), Adolf Schaubach (1800-1850), above all, P.J. Thurwieser (1789-1865),deserve to be recalled as pioneers in the first half of the 19th century.

Late 19th Century

In the early fifties of the 19th century the taste for mountaineeringrapidly developed for several very different reasons: A great stimulus wasgiven to it by the foundation of the various Alpine clubs, each of whichdrew together the climbers who dwelt in the same country. The first wasthe English Alpine Club (founded in the winter of 1857-1858), followedin 1862 by the Austrian Alpine Club (which in 1873 was fused, under the nameof the German and Austrian Alpine Club, with the German Alpine Club, foundedin 1869), in 1863 by the Italian and Swiss Alpine Clubs, and in 1874 by theFrench Alpine Club, not to mention numerous minor societies of more localcharacter. It was by the members of these clubs (and a few others) thatthe minute exploration (now all but complete) of the High Alps was carriedout, while much has been done in the way of building club huts, organizingand training guides, &c., to smooth the way for later comers, who wouldbenefit by the detailed information published in the periodicals (the firstdates from 1863 only) issued by these clubs.

First Ascents of Major Peaks

The following two sub-joined lists give the dates of the first ascent of the greater peaks (apart from the two climbed in 1358 and in 1402, see above), achieved before and after1st January 1858.

Before January 1, 1858

* Titlis (1744)
* Ankogel (1762)
* Triglav (1778)
* Mont Velan (1779)
* Mont Blanc (1786)
* Rheinwaldhorn (1789)
* Großglockner (1800)
* Ortler (1804)
* Jungfrau (1811)
* Finsteraarhorn (1812)
* Zumsteinspitze (1820)
* Tödi (1824)
* Altels (1834)
* Piz Linard (1835)
* Großvenediger (1841)
* Lauteraarhorn, Signalkuppe (1842)
* Wetterhorn (1854)
* Mont Pelvoux (1848)
* Diablerets, Piz Bernina (1850)
* Dufourspitze (Monte Rosa), Mont Blanc du Tacul, Weissmies (1855)
* Laquinhorn (1856)
* Pelmo (1857)

After January 1, 1858

* Dom, Eiger, Nadelhorn, Piz Morteratsch, Wildstrubel (1858)
* Aletschhorn, Bietschhorn, Grand Combin, Grivola, Rimpfischhorn (1859)
* Alphubel, Blüemlisalphorn, Gran Paradiso, Grande Casse (1860)
* Castor, Lyskamm, Monte Viso, Schreckhorn, Weisshorn, Wildspitze (1861)
* Dent Blanche, Gross Fiescherhorn, Monte Disgrazia, Täschhorn (1862)
* Dent d'Hérens, Parrotspitze, Piz Zupò (1863)
* Aiguille d'Argentière, Balmhorn, Barre des Écrins, Marmolata, Mont Dolent, Pollux, Presanella, Zinalrothorn (1864)
* Aiguille Verte, Grand Cornier, Matterhorn, Ober Gabelhorn, Piz Roseg, Tschingelhorn (1865)
* Piz Cengalo (1866)
* Piz Badile (1867)
* Piz Palü (1868 (or 1866))
* Hohberghorn, Langkofel (1869)
* Cimon della Pala, Lenzspitze (1870)
* Rosengarten (1872) * Meije, Piz Scerscen (1877)
* Aiguille du Dru, Mont Maudit (1878)
* Punta dell'Argentera (1879)
* Aiguille des Charmoz, Olan (1880)
* Aiguille de Grepon (1881)
* Dent du Géant (1882)
* Bishorn (1884)
* Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey (1885)
* Stecknadelhorn (1887)
* Fletschhorn (1889)

ee also

*Golden age of alpinism
*History of the Alps
*Silver age of alpinism



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