In this Mountain Profile essay from Alpinist 69–which is now available on newsstands and in our online store–Claude Gardien recounts Walter Bonatti’s checkered relationship with Mont Blanc. Gardien writes: “Again and again, on mountains around the world, he’d lived through the hell of alpinists, when the elements unleash and everything becomes suffering, tragedy, grief. On Mont Blanc, he’d also known a few moments of ineffable beauty–as if he’d encountered that formidable privilege, as the writer Georges Sonnier suggested, of ‘contemplating the eye of the god.'”
Henry Duhamel was an influential figure in the early exploration of la Meije, one of the last, great unclimbed Alps in the Massif des Ecrins in France. This essay by former Vertical editor Claude Gardien–part of Erin Smart’s Mountain Profile in Alpinist 59–recounts Duhamel’s rich life as an inventor and explorer who never quite attained international fame and who died after slipping on ice in a military barracks during World War I, but who nevertheless helped usher in a new age of French mountaineering and skiing.
Sixty-five-year-old French alpinist Patrick Gabarrou is always watching the mountains. He spends a great deal of time in the Alps–he sees them in different seasons, different lights. He discovers features that are not often visible–features less-devoted climbers might miss.
IN 1952 A SPIRE of monolithic granite presented a high challenge to the climbers of the day–a dare that the setting sun outlined each evening, illuminating its burnished slabs with a red flash that no alpinist could ignore. The West Face of the Drus had a reputation for invincibility. “There, in any case, is something that will never be vanquished by man,” declared Pierre Allain, who had observed the 1000-meter wall during his first ascent of the North Face in 1935.
SEPTEMBER 22, 1871, WAS ONE of those magical autumn days, when your gaze pierces farther than usual across the crystalline air. Mists had already consumed the valleys, obscuring most signs of human presence–apart from the occasional plume of distant smoke that rose straight up.