American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alfred Edgar Roovers, 1911-1934

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1935


On December 15th, 1934, Alfred Roovers was killed in a fall from the cliff at Arden, New York. His serious mountaineering began only three years ago, but in that short period he had made an excellent record of climbs. Loyal and enthusiastic, he was already known as one of the Club’s most promising younger members.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on April 2nd, 1911, he was left an orphan at the age of eighteen, thereafter living with his aunt, who for him took the place of parents, sharing his love for the mountains. Summers he spent traveling and climbing, winters he was studying; first at St. John’s College, Brooklyn, then at the School of Commerce of New York University, where he was a senior at the time of his death.

The Adirondacks were the first mountains he knew, and for them he had a lasting affection. At the age of twelve he climbed Mt. Marcy with his family. In his own words, “This was my first climb, and it was a good day’s work for me at that time. I was so sleepy that I tramped the last hour with my eyes shut whenever the going was easy. Five long years passed before I tried another climb in the mountains, or better, before I had another opportunity to do so.” Beginning in 1928 he made frequent trips to the Adirondacks, often alone. He walked far over many of the trails, and climbed most of the principal summits. On December 1st of last year he made his third ascent of Marcy ; while spending his Thanksgiving holidays in these mountains for the fourt consecutive year. It was his last climb.

He went abroad in 1929. but spent most of his time traveling. His only taste of the mountains was a short tour in Tyrol with his aunt and a friend. The next summer he was again abroad, this time walking in the Riesengebirge with the same companions. It was in the following year that he climbed his first big mountain, Longs Peak, in Colorado, which he traversed with O. H. Bonney. He also made a few minor climbs in Glacier Park.

His serious climbing began in 1932 with a season in the Alps. Before going to Grindelwald in July, he made another walking tour in Tyrol, and climbed the Schwarzenstein. At Grindelwald he did the Mettenberg, and the traverse of the Strahlegghorn. with a guide ; and then with an English friend. D. C. Powell, made several minor climbs. The rest of his climbing that summer he did with Powell and a guide. From Grindelwald he traversed the Finsteraarhorn by the Agassizjoch, and went on to Zermatt. There he put in two weeks, making ascents of Riffelhorn (Matterhorn couloir), Zinal Rothhorn, Weisshorn, Matterhorn, and finishing with the Wellenkuppe-Obergabelhorn traverse (descent by the Arbengrat).

In November, and again the following April, he went on solitary walking trips in the Adirondacks. During the summer of 1933 he was a member of Henry S. Hall, Jr.’s party in the Coast Range of British Columbia. En route West, he stopped for some climbing near Banff, and in Garibaldi Park, near Vancouver. In the Coast Range he was one of the party which made the first ascent of Mt. Combatant. Before returning East he ascended Mt. Shuksan, with the guide Hans Fuhrer, and attempted Mt. Baker, only to be turned back by the weather.

He was elected a member of the American Alpine Club in November ; and also joined the Adirondack Mountain Club, an organization in which he had an active interest. He took up skiing during the winter, and went at it with his customary energy and enthusiasm. The summer of 1934 was devoted entirely to climbing. With Hans Fuhrer, more friend than guide, he began in June with the Tetons, where Teewinot, Nez Perce, Moran, Owen, and the Grand Teton were climbed. Then came a traverse of Mt. Rainier, by Puyallup Cleaver and Tahoma Glacier; and finally a prolonged attempt on Mt. Robson, where bad weather defeated the party.

From the Rockies he went to the Alps, where he arrived early in August. With a friend he made a guideless tour across the Oberland from the Diablerets to Grindelwald, climbing the Wild-horn and the Wildstrübel en route. At Grindelwald he made his first climb as leader, an ascent of the Wetterhorn, on which he proved himself thoroughly capable. With the same companion, and a guide, he traversed the Kingspitze, in the Engelhörner, and later started for the Schreckhorn, only to be turned back by the weather. Before going on to Zermatt, he did the Mönch and the Jungfrau from the Joch, whence he had gone in the hope of skiing. At Zermatt, with Felix Julen, he traversed Monte Rosa (three summits), and the following day went on over Lyskamm, Felikhorn, Castor and Pollux (descent by the north wall). He next made a traverse of the Dent Blanche by the Vierselgrat, and also did the Pointe de Zinal. Two days of ski-mountaineering from the Gandegghütte, including ascents of Théodulehorn. Piana Rosa, Breithorn and Klein Matterhorn, rounded out his stay in the Alps.

On his return to Brooklyn in September, he continued his week-end trips into the country for walking or rock-climbing. It was on such a walking trip, while alone, that he met his death. Nobody who knew him can believe that he was killed in attempting alone a difficult route up a steep face. The evidence substantiates the only explanation, that he fell from the top of the cliff, while walking along the edge—a loose stone, perhaps, or a hidden branch in the underbrush, and a stumble.

The spiritual element in mountaineering appealed to him as strongly as did the sense of physical accomplishment; and while he appreciated the technical difficulties of a climb, the mere fact of being in the mountains was enough to give him pleasure. He was entirely happy walking and scrambling below the snow line ; yet at the same time he remained full of ambition for the great climbs. Quiet and unassuming, he had a sincerity and unaffectedness of character found only rarely. In the mountains he was uncomplaining, cheerful, strong, and always willing—an ideal companion.

D. W. B., Jr.

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