American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Arnold Louis Mumm, 1859-1927

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1929


1859— 1927

(Read at the Annual Meeting, January 19, 1929)

Arnold Louis Mumm, an Honorary Member of this Club, whose father had what was once the creditable, but what has now become a doubtful, distinction of supplying an excellent brand of champagne, died a little over a year ago at the age of 68. For one who had spent so much of his life and energy on the heights, it seemed an incongruous ending to succumb at sea, and be plunged into the depths in the Bay of Biscay on the return voyage to his native land.

Both at school, Eton, and at the University of Oxford, Mumm was distinguished in the line of scholarship and sport. When he left Eton he was captain of the school. Academic successes at Oxford did not interfere with his playing on the university football team. After leaving Oxford, Mumm came to London and studied for the Bar, was admitted at the Inner Temple in 1883, and called to the Bar in 1886. He could have made a good practice for himself, but legal work was not congenial to him; and, owing to an independent fortune, which was quite sufficient for his bachelor needs, a practical incentive was lacking. In 1894 he joined the publishing firm of his relative Edward Arnold, and interested himself in it, both as a reader and a manager for over thirty years.

While cultivating the habits and tastes of a scholar, Mumm continued to show a keen interest in sport and out-of-door pursuits. He is said to have been an excellent shot and a good rider to hounds; and we know that he became a daring mountaineer and a persistent and adventurous traveler. It is in the latter activities that we are interested, and for which we commemorate him here.

At the early age of fourteen, Mumm began his alpine career with the ascent of the Titlis (10,627 f't.), near Engelberg. He celebrated this experience by repeating it fifty years later in 1923. In the meantime he had made scores of big ascents in Switzerland, and in the Dauphiné, had explored and climbed in Africa, in the Himalayas, in the Canadian Rockies, and in Japan, and had visited the glaciers of New Zealand. He was thus a world-wide and legitimately renowned mountaineer; but his inclination was to avoid publicity.

In 1905 he went with D. W. Freshfield to the Ruwenzori, and although this adventure was not successful in its main object, yet it aroused in Mumm the desire to explore as well as to climb. Two years later, he joined General Bruce and Dr. T. G. Long- staff in an expedition to the Himalaya, in the course of which Longstaff, with the two Brocherels, made the first ascent of Trisul (23,400 ft.). Mumm’s chief contribution to mountaineering literature, “Five Months in the Himalaya,” gives a full account of this trip, and incidentally throws a pleasing light on the relations between himself and Moritz Inderbinen, who became to Mumm as indispensable a fellow-traveler as he was a guide.

After his return from Asia, Mumm was attraoted to this continent, where he appeared at the Alpine Club of Canada camps on half a dozen occasions, when he doubtless met many members of this Club, the last time being at Palliser Pass in 1922. He climbed and explored vigorously in the Canadian Rockies, less so in the Selkirks, accompanied by the Right Honorable L. S. Amery, Dr. Norman Collie, Dr. Hastings, and G. E. Howard, and, of course, by the faithful Inderbinen. His attempts on Mt. Robson have become historical. Papers of his, like “Some Characteristics of Mountain Ranges” and “A Mixed Bag,” reflect the combination of a good raconteur with a capable alpinist and experienced traveler. The speaker’s first acquaintance with Mumm began at the Canadian Alpine camp of 1909 at Lake O’Hara. Eleven years later a delightful day was spent with him and Mr. Freshfield at Banff, when Mumm was on his way to the camp at Mt. Assiniboine, which was, I think, the last of his higher climbs in the Rockies. The last of his big climbs seem to have been the Dent du Midi and Dent Blanche in 1921. On the latter he was dreadfully tired, as a Zermatt guide who accompanied him, and whom I employed the following year, informed me. Inderbinen was no longer able to accompany him. He died two years before his “Herr,” who had settled him and his English wife comfortably at Zermatt, and who paid him an appreciative tribute in the Alpine Journal, November, 1927. While traveling in the Tyrol in 1926, Mumm’s physical powers, which had probably been over-taxed for some years, failed him suddenly; and he never regained his health.

Mumm was a person of critical intellect. His friends were inclined to say that he was too prone to be a detached spectator of men and events and to cultivate a philosophic calm. What a refreshing contrast he must have presented to some of the aggressive and futile activity by which he was doubtless surrounded. He was probably very wise in his attitude; it was in accord with his temperament; he was thereby happier and able to radiate this happiness to others. He was devoted to his old Club, in whose interests he spent his time and money freely; but, indeed, he was interested in all alpine clubs and undertakings and helped to inaugurate the Japanese Club.

“It was entirely due to his characteristic diffidence,” says Mr. Freshfield, from whose fine notice of Mumm in the Alpine Journal, May, 1928, I quote, “that he did not succeed to the Presidency. As Secretary his benign and cheerful presence lent a grace even to the most formal proceedings.” And this is part of the tribute which Dr. Longstaff paid to Mumm’s share in the Himalaya campaign: “What struck me most during the whole trip was Mumm’s characteristic patience and unfailing good temper even under discomfort, which was often aggravated in his case by indifferent health. It was wonderful how he endured those awful two nights and three days when we were weatherbound at our high camp, 20,000 ft., on the occasion of our first abortive attempt on Trisul.”

Outstanding features of Mumm’s character were thus modesty, self-control and endurance; qualities which we like to think struggles with Nature in the wilderness and on the great peaks develop and establish as inestimable personal possessions.

J. W. A. Hickson.

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