Die Weltalte Majestät (The Struggle for the Gross Venediger), by Oskar Kuelken. 8vo., 317 pages and 54 illustrations, 14 sketches and maps. Salzburg: Verlag “Das Bergland Buch,” 1950. Price, $4.00.
An almost forgotten phenomenon of Alpine history is the curious linking of certain guides and amateurs in the quest for a single peak, drawing them as if with magnetic attraction toward one summit, to the exclusion of any other. Just as Paccard and Balmat became enamoured of Mont Blanc, Whymper and Carrel strove for the Matterhorn; Spescha set his heart on the Tödi and the brothers Meyer sought the Jungfrau. In a broad sense they were men before whose eyes one mountain stood alone as the ultimate goal, but it is seldom remembered that these adventures had their counterparts in the Eastern Alps. Cardinal Sain and his companions had no thought beyond the Gross Glöckner, while Archduke John of Hapsburg, Dr. Gebhard, and Joseph Pichler stood spellbound before the Ortler. It remained for Joseph Rohregger, a peasant of the Salzach valley, to link his existence with the Gross Venediger, the legend-surrounded snow mass which Ignaz von Kürsinger would later call “Die Weltalte Majestät.”
Here is interpolated history: the life-pageant of Paul Rohregger. With him began a youthful dream, leading to solitary excursions above the snowline, long before mountaineering was reckoned a sport. This man, along in 1810, crossed the Kleine Venediger to the saddle below the greater peak, fog and a berg- schrund forcing him back. Archduke John saw the mountain from the summit of the Ankogel in 1926 and, two years later, selected Rohregger to be his leading guide in an attempt by the formidable northwest face, which ended with Rohregger’s nearly fatal slip in a small avalanche near the summit. But success was yet to be his. In 1841, when he was almost seventy, he, with Kürsinger, Spitaler, and others, made the first ascent.
A remarkable sequel took place on September 2, 1930, when Rudolph Graf von Meran, Archduke John’s grandson, stood on the summit of the Venediger with Alois Rohregger, grandson of the pioneer guide.
The book is illustrated with a fascinating collection of old prints and portraits.
J. Monroe Thorington