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.