Monthly Archives: February 2015

Chamonix Adventure Festival – 25th to 28th March

A thrilling film programme full of amazing adventures !

CAF-logo-verticalChamonix Adventure Festival, in partnership with the town of Chamonix Mont-Blanc, has announced this year’s festival programme with outdoor screenings and filmmaker events complementing the festival film selection.
A film programme packed with inspiring tales will be screened over 4 nights, with filmmakers, explorers and athletes on hand to share their exploits and inspirations. From steep skiing in Alaska, to surfing in the North Sea, remote kayaking in Patagonia, to catapult base jumping across the fjords of Norway! Whatever your sport, wherever your destination – climb aboard and join us for the ride! See the full selection and 2015 trailer here

press release 2015 #02

For details of the films to be screened, go to

Michel Croz 1830 -1865

“Prince of guides”

“Places where you and I would toil and sweat and yet be freezing cold, were bagatelles to him and it was only when he got above the range of ordinary mortals, and was required to employ his magnificent strength and to draw upon his unsurpassed knowledge of ice and snow, that he could be said to be really and truly happy”  Edward Whymper

Michel Croz © Musée Alpin Chamonix

Michel Croz © Musée Alpin Chamonix

Michel Croz lived in the village of le Tour in the Chamonix Valley. He was a peasant farmer, shoemaker and guide. He lived and died for the latter.

From 1859 he was in the very front rank of guides then available for difficult mountain excursions. William Mathews, one of the founding members of the Alpine Club, climbed with Croz between 1859 and 1863 and together they made many first ascents: The Grande Casse (Croz cut 1100 steps in the ice with his axe), Mont Viso, Castor, Mont Pourri…

Mathew’s was in awe of Croz’  prodigious strength and skills and recommended him highly to Whymper. Croz’ subsequent campaigns, primarily with Whymper, in 1864 and 1865, prior to the terrible accident on the Matterhorn remain in the annals of mountaineering.

1864 :

Michel Croz - gravure de Whymper

Michel Croz – gravure de Whymper

* First crossing of la Brèche de la Meije with Edward Whymper, Horace Walker, Adolphus Moore and the guide Christian Almer
* First crossing of the  Col de la Pilatte
* Col du Triolet with Michel Payot and Edward Whymper and Adams Reilly
* Aiguille d’Argentière
* Aiguilles de Tré la Tête
* Mont Dolent

1865 :
* First ascent of the Dent Blanche
* First ascent of the Grandes Jorasses with Edward Whymper, Christian Almer and Franz Biener
*First crossing of the Col Dolent avec Edward Whimper and Christian Almer
* First ascent of l’arête du Moine (Aiguille Verte) with Charles Hudson and Thomas Stuart Kennedy (gb)
* First ascent of the Matterhorn with E. Whymper, C. Hudson, Lord Douglas, D. Hadow and the Taugwalder guides (father and son)

The inscription on his memorial stone in the churchyard at Zermatt reads “bears honourable testimony to his rectitude, his courage and his devotion”.

Christian Almer, the famous Oberland guide

001858PM-2Christian Almer 1826-1898

As a young shepherd in Grindelwald, Almer famously tried to beat the Englishman Alfred Wills to  the Wetterhorn (3692m), carrying a fir tree which he intended to plant on the summit for the glory of Switzerland. Justice Wills and his Chamonix guide Auguste Balmat, somewhat annoyed, hailed this audacious shepherd to join their party and they made the ascent together! Thereafter Almer climbed with many Victorian pioneers. His countless first ascents include the Monch and the Eiger in the Bernese Alps, the Barre des Ecrins in the Dauphiné Alps, and the Aiguille Verte and Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc Massif. Edward Whymper made many first ascents with Almer and Chamonix guide Michel Croz in 1864 and 1865. Whymper congratulated himself on having united such masterful guides, who worked so admirably together, despite the fact that they did not speak the same language!

Almer’s skills were later sought after for oversea’s expeditions, but his wife refused to allow him to depart because “taking a boat was far too dangerous”! To celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary, the couple climbed the Wetterhorn together!

Besides his nimble feet and tough constitution, it was Almer’s character – a blend of cordial simplicity and probity – that won him many admirers.

First Ascents in 1865

Couv.verticalmagazinex300The Golden Age of Alpinism reached its climax in 1865, a remarkable year that was immortalized by over 60 first ascents across the Alps!

From the Mont-Blanc Massif to the Dolomites, we have identified :

63 alpinists : 34 British, 13 Austrians, 9 Swiss, 6 Italian and 1 French

53 guides : originating from Chamonix, Zermatt, Valtournanche, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen,Val de Bagnes, Pontresina, Meiringen, Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Find out more : List of the First Ascents

Piolets d’Or : Chris Bonington 7th Piolet d’Or Career

Sir Chris BoningtonThe Piolets d’Or global alpinism meeting will take place in Chamonix and Courmayeur from 9th to 12th April 2015. It is quite befitting that this year’s Piolets d’Or lifetime career distinction will  be awarded to Sir Chris Bonington. Born in  1934, Sir Chris began climbing at the age of 17. In 1958 he took part in an early ascent of the Bonatti Pillar on the Petit Dru, and later became the flrst Briton to climb the North Face of the Eiger. His Himalayan adventures began in 1960 with the summit of Annapurna II (7927m) and have included many great faces and summits of the giant peaks! In 2014, to celebrate his 80th birthday, he returned to repeat one of his own famous c1imbs, the Old Man of Hoy, a spectacular sea stack in Orkney!

Chamonix looks forward to hosting Sir Chris Bonington’s visit this April, and Reinhold Messner will also be with us to celebrate the awards.

Read more: Piolet d’or – Chris Bonington

Douglas Freshfield & François Devouassoud, a Golden Age partnership!


François Devouassoud 1831-1905

Born in Chamonix, François Devouassoud joined the Compagnie des Guides as early as 1849. Amongst those who sought his services in the Alps were Freshfield, W. A. B. Coolidge, FF Tuckett, Horace Walker, Adolphus Moore and CC Tucker.  In 1865 in the course of a campaign through the Dolomites, the Tyrolese and the Graubundan Alps, with Freshfield and Tuckett, 23 new expeditions were made, including several  first ascents!

He was the doyen of the pioneers who have set out at different times for the Caucasus, the Himalayas, New Zealand, or the Andes. Freshfield said of him “François makes a science of the use of the rope; no axe cuts more commodious steps in an ice-wall ; he has a natural gift for topography  and has acquired the facility of an educated man in the use of large-scale maps” “It was mainly due to his skill and endurance that we succeeded at the first attempt in climbing and crossing Kazbek and the south-eastern peak of Elbruz in the Caucasus”.  “Devouassoud has proved himself imperturbable, whether asked to ride through the Hauran on an Arab steed, to walk between a double row of Suanetian daggers, or to ford swollen rivers in a Russian post-cart”. He did however have a distinct disliking of Red Indians!



F. Devouassoud (centre back)  D. Freshfield (centre front)


Douglas Freshfield 1845-1934

Considered one of the greatest mountain explorers, Douglas Freshfield travelled and climbed in almost every part of the world, from the Alps and the Pyrenees to Japan and North America. He achieved his first new Alpine route, the Monte Nero, in 1861, at the height of the Golden Age, climbing with most of the great alpinists of his era, and was still exploring 60 years later, making a visit to the US rockies in 1920. But he is most famous for his three expeditions to the Caucasus and a circumnavigation of Kanchenjunga. The latter expedition became a powerful impetus for Himalayan exploration, thanks in part to the stunning photographs taken by the Italian Vittorio Sella, and maps drawn up by the British geologist Edmund Garwood. On his deathbed, Freshfield requested the presence of his faithful guide and companion, although Francois Devouassoud had been dead 30 years.

Jean-Franck Charlet, a local guide – Vertical Magazine

Vertical Magazine has published a superb special issue dedicated to the Golden Age of Alpinism and its legacy 150 years later. Portraits of guides, alpinists, legendary climbs and lasting friendships. Discover an interview with guide and instructor Jean-Franck Charlet, descendant of a prestigious line of Alpine Guides from Argentière : Guide’s portrait

The feat of the year : the Brenva Spur – Vertical Magazine

Adolphus Moore: author of the Alps in 1864

Adolphus Moore: author of “The Alps in 1864″

Vertical Magazine has published a superb special issue dedicated to the Golden Age of Alpinism and its legacy 150 years later. Portraits of guides, alpinists, legendary climbs and lasting friendships.

One of the most remarkable and indeed difficult climbs of the year, was the Brenva Spur on Mont Blanc. This climb was pioneered by Adolphus Warburton Moore and leading guides Melchior and Jakob Anderegg : The spur of the year