American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Das Silvrettabuch, Das Besetz der Berge, Um den Montblanc

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  • Publication Year: 1942

Das Silvrettabuch, by Walther Flaig. 8 vo., 216 pages, with 54 illustrations, index and 3 maps. Munich: 1940.

Das Besetz der Berge, by Mason-Rohrer. 8 vo., 250 pages, with illustrations. Munich: 1940.

Um den Montblanc, by Paul Geissler. 8 vo., 50 pages, with 6 illustrations. Munich: 1941.

The twenty-ninth, thirtieth and thirty-first publications of the Gesellschaft Alpiner Bücherfreunde show no diminution from the excellent standard maintained by this group of Munich booklovers.

The volume dealing with the Silvretta is a thoroughly good one on this mountain group of N. E. Switzerland, extending from the Albula pass to the German frontier and the Arlberg. The boundaries, huts and traces of ancient culture are described, followed by accounts of climbing on many of the major summits. As this is a famous skiing area, the winter conditions are presented, with special details on equipment and travel routes. The bibliography and maps supplement the fine illustrative material.

It is not generally known that A. E. W. Mason’s Running Water (1907) went through eight German editions (Das Gebot der Berge, by Georg Rummler) and has long been out of print. Max Rohrer has modified the text in a new edition, shortening the gangster episodes in London to the benefit of the Alpine scenes, making Skinner less of a professional criminal, and weaving the character, Hine, whose fate, following the ascent of Mont Blanc, was left in doubt by Mason, into a new romantic ending.

The third book is a small one, but contains six rare documents bearing on the first ascent of Mt. Blanc by Paccard and Balmat in 1786. The first of these, (1) a portion of the diary of Baron von Gersdorf, has never before appeared in print, and is a confirmatory account of considerable importance, recording von Gersdorf’s personal observation of the ascents as well as his subsequent interviews with Dr. Paccard. The other items are well-known to Mt. Blanc historians: (2) Saussure’s notes given to him by Paccard fourteen days after the ascent (the German translation from the French edition of Freshfield’s biography, Geneva, 1924); (3) German translation of the prospectus for Paccard’s unpublished book; (4) Bourrit’s pamphlet of September 20th, 1786 (the German translation in Höpfner’s Magazin für die Naturkunde Helve- tiens, 1787, being here reprinted) ; (5) Balmat’s accusation of October 18th, 1782; (6) The 1787 Dresden translation by von Gersdorf of Bourrit’s letter to Miss Craven.

When, however, the author claims that both Paccard and Balmat are entitled to equal credit for the successful ascent of Mt. Blanc, one cannot agree. This might be true of the physical effort, but certainly not of the scientific and intellectual preparations, which were Paccard’s alone (see Carl Egger in Die Alpen, April, 1941).

The closing paragraph of the author’s introduction mentions the placing of the Paccard plaque at the Hotel de Ville of Chamonix in 1932 (largely through the efforts of the American Alpine Club), the book itself being a minor supplement to Dübi’s Paccard wider Mont Blanc in upholding the convictions of confirmed Paccardists.

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