American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Douglas William Freshfield, 1845-1934

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1934

DOUGLAS WILLIAM FRESHFIELD

1845-1934

In the death of Douglas W. Freshfield, at Forest Row, Sussex, on February 9th, at the age of eighty-nine years, the Alpine world loses one of its most characteristic figures, and a man whose career was synonymous with the development of every phase of mountaineering: scientific, literary, technical and sporting. Educated at Eton and University College, Oxford, he was a barrister by profession (Inner Temple, 1870), though he soon gave himself fully to furthering the art of mountaineering and the kindred science of geography. His first visit to the Alps was made at the age of nine, and he returned almost every summer thereafter, joining the Alpine Club in 1864, and becoming a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in 1869. His climbs are too numerous to mention individually ; they include many of the principal summits of the European Alps, innumerable passes and various first ascents. He made more than twenty first ascents in the Andes, the Caucasus and the Himalaya, and had probably visited every considerable range of mountains on the earth, the Antarctic Continent excepted.

Outside of Europe his most notable journeys were to the Caucasus in 1868, 1887, and 1889, and to the Himalaya in 1899. The scientific results of these expeditions were considerable, and he published in connection with them, “Travels in the Central Caucasus and Bashan,” 1869; “The Exploration of the Caucasus,” 1896, with important contributions from others; and “Round Kangchenjunga,” 1903. The latter volume, owing to the unfortunate destruction of the publisher's stock by fire, is rare and expensive. He was the author of various other volumes on Alpine subjects, and contributed numerous articles to the Alpine Journal and the Journal of the Royal Geographic Society. He was president of the Alpine Club 1893-1895 and of the Royal Geographic Society 1914-1917, serving as well on the committees of both institutions for many years, and had much to do with the policy, development, and work of the latter. During his presidency of the former, he had a great share in the installation of the Club, on very advantageous terms, in its present home in Savile Row. Several years ago, when it appeared that another move would be necessary, I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing him relate the history of the housing of the Club from the beginning, in a style both humorous and trenchant. At that time he appeared at least twenty years younger than his actual age.

It would seem no idle coincidence that, in its last issue before the death of this great pioneer, the Alpine Journal discontinued the chapter devoted to “New Expeditions.” Thus the beginning and end of his life mark—and notably—the inception and completion of the conquest of the European Alps.

He was an Active or Honorary Member of the Swiss, French, Italian, American and Japanese Alpine Clubs.

E. C.

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