American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Edmund Gifford Oliver, 1881-1939

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1940



In E. G. Oliver the Club loses a member who possessed one of our most distinguished records. He had climbed, as I recall it, in every major group in the Alps and had done practically all the principal summits, most of them by “fancy” routes. He made a few first rate expeditions guideless but, as he expressed it, found it difficult to gather together a sufficiently strong party for a long enough period of time to accomplish the sort of expedition he had generally in mind, and consequently travelled mostly with professionals.

At the time I knew him he was climbing with Adolf and Alfred Aufdenblatten, who were actually in his employ when his climbing career was terminated by the fearful accident to the train on the viaduct at the Montanvert (1927). His noted first ascent of the S. face of Mont Blanc in 1919 was done in company with the two Aufdenblattens, as was the passage of the Col du Lion and the Col du Tour Noir. I do not recall what guides led him over the Col du Mont Dolent, but imagine that he was the only mountaineer to have done all three passes. His ascent of the E. face of the Aiguille de Bionnassay by a variation of R. W. Lloyd’s first ascent, was also done with the same men. This year (1926) he also attempted an ascent of the Col du Bionnassay, but when half way up, one of the largest ice avalanches he had ever seen actually passed over the heads of the party when halted for lunch on the lower lip of a large transverse schrund, and the expedition was forthwith abandoned. His ascent of the Nordend of Monte Rosa was done in company with Otto Fuhrer. It is perhaps needless to give a further list of his climbs other than that to be found in our Club Record Book.

Personally, though a man of considerable reserve, Oliver was a charming and lighthearted companion with a tremendous sense of humor, and one of the best read and best educated men I have ever met. He was educated at Marlborough and King’s College, Cambridge, and later became a solicitor in London, enjoying a large and prosperous practice. A solicitor, of course, does a business which in this country is generally handled by a trust company. His brother was one of the most noted King’s Council of the day. Oliver was a member of the Alpine Club of London, the Austrian Alpine Club, the Groupe de Haute Montagne, and a Life Member of the French Alpine Club.

E. C.

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