Europe, France, Alps, Mont Blanc

Publication Year: 1937.

Mont Blanc. No. 6 (A.A.J., ii, 365). George W. Heard. Eustace Anderson writes: “When we arrived at the cabin [Grands Mulets], in addition to our own party we found two young gentlemen, Mr. Chapman and Mr. Heard, an American, who had come up with their guide to try the ascent, and who reached the top the next morning in good style.” Chamouni and Mont Blanc, 100. [From a recently discovered Ms. note it is evident that Heard and Chapman returned to the Alps in the following year. On July 6, 1856, they crossed the Col du Tour from Col de Balme to Orsières by way of the Glaciers du Tour, Saleinaz and Trient. Their guides were Zacharie Cachat, Jean Couttet de l’Avanchi and Jean Caron. A sketch of the Col du Tour, as well as one of the Matterhorn, dated July 16th, 1856, are in the A. A. C. collection.] Nos. 41 and 42 (A.A.J., ii, 370). John and Dudley P. Wilkinson. We have been fortunate in securing various photographs taken at Chamonix in 1866, showing the large party which went to the Grands Mulets on September 12th, the brothers Wilkinson going up again on the following day and ascending Mont Blanc on the 14th. It is of interest that four Zermatt guides should have been at Chamonix at that time, the brothers Perren and the Taugwalders, father and son, the last two having been in the Matterhorn disaster just one year before. The Wilkinsons then went to Zermatt with the Taugwalders and made additional ascents (A.A.J., ii, 512).

John Wilkinson also made ascents in 1867, and an inscribed ice-axe and an alpenstock are still in his family’s possession. The axe is 46.5 inches in length and the head 12 inches, the initials I. J. or L. J. being stamped on the head. The wooden shaft is marked as follows: John Wilkinson, Syracuse, New York. Switzerland & Savoy. 1866. Piz Languard, Rothhorn, Breit-horn, Matterjoch, Monte Rosa, Titlis, Stock Horn, Cima Di jazi, Grands Mulets, Mont Blanc. 1867. Weiss thor, Junge Frau, Oberaarjoch, Mönchjoch, Faulberg, Grun Horn, Lugke, Fin- steraar Horn.

The alpenstock is 65 inches long and marked as follows : John Wilkinson, Syracuse, New York. Tyrol & Switzerland. June, July, August, September, 1866. Savoy. Gr. Saleve, Zwisel Berg, Finstermund Pass, Pont Resina, Mortiratsch Glacier, Piz Languard, Maloja Pass, Splügen Pass, Rigi, St. Gotthard, Furca, Rhone Gl., Grimsel, Handeck, Wengern Alp, Kl. Scheideck, Faul Horn, Mürren, Grindelwald Gl., Gemmi, Zermat, Roth Horn, Matter Joch, Breit Horn, Riffel, Gorner Grat, Riffel Horn, Mont Rosa Dufour, Spitzezchenen (?) Horn Pass, Dundengrat, Furke Pass, Scheinige Platte, Tauben Horn, Engestelen Alp, Joch Pass, Titlis, Lauber Horn, Niesen, Schwarz See, Hörnli, Hohthalic- grat, Eggisch Horn, Coldebalme, Tete-Noire, Mont Anvert, Merde Glace, Chapeau Flegere, Grands Mulets, Mont Blanc, Colde Voza, Colde Bon Homme, Colde La Seigne, Gr. St. Bernald.

The altitudes which accompany each name on both ice-axe and alpenstock have been omitted, but the exact spelling has been followed. The list of ascents is more varied, and is an advance over that of James Kent Stone, whose record of climbs (1860) was the best by an American up to that time. [Portraits of the Wilkinsons have been used to illustrate Talbot’s ascent of Mont Blanc in this issue of the Journal.]

Nos. 55 and 56 (A.A.J., ii, 372). Buchanan Winthrop and Robert Kelley Weeks. Rev. A. G. Girdlestone met them on Mont Blanc “with three guides and two porters on one rope,” and joined them when his own companion was obliged to give up the ascent. High Alps Without Guides, 128.

Winthrop and Weeks received the degrees of B.A. from Yale in 1862 and LL.B. from Columbia in 1864. Weeks died in 1876. Winthrop was a fellow of the Yale Corporation from 1891 to 1900, the year in which he died.

The second American woman to ascend Mont Blanc (the first was Miss Brevoort in 1865) was Miss Bridgeford, in 1883. Grand Carteret, La Montagne à travers les Ages, ii, 211.

Riegel’s fatal accident has already been alluded to (A.A.J., ii, 376). His sister has now placed at our disposal a portrait, route sketch and various clippings from (unidentifiable) European papers. From the sketch it is evident that Riegel’s first guide- less ascent was via the Grands Mulets, the Bosses and Corridor routes, and return to Chamonix, although it is uncertain whether the Bosses route was followed in ascending or descending. According to a French clipping, this was in the year before the accident, and therefore in 1897, Riegel being a student at Geneva. [See accompanying portrait and drawing.]

An Italian clipping states that he crossed the Col du Géant alone on July 10th, 1898, from Chamonix to Courmayeur, leaving the latter place on the 12th, bound for Mont Blanc, against the expressed advice of the chief-guide, Revel. Riegel’s body was discovered on July 18th by a party of Lyons climbers, MM. Mathieu, C. Rigaud, F. Rigaud, M. Faure and J. Bornet, below the Dôme Hut, at the base of the main arête of the Aiguilles Grises. Weather being unfavorable, they sent their porter back to Courmayeur with the news, and on the following afternoon nine guides and porters arrived to take down the remains.

Riegel is said to have had with him a Kurz guidebook, and Mieulet’s map, on which he had drawn his proposed route. It is evident, therefore, that he made but one complete ascent of the mountain, traversing the summit by Chamonix routes. This was the first guideless as well as the first solo ascent by an American, and appears to be the only solo encounter with the Corridor route. The press comments, as one might expect, are unanimous in their condemnation.