La Strada e Questa, by Adolfo Balliano and Irene Affentranger. Bologna: Edizioni Alfa, 1957. 195 pages; 16 ills.; paperbound. Price 1300 lire (approx. $2.10).
This series of fifteen essays is written from an unusual angle. It draws attention to the mountaineering of ecclesiastics, and especially to the exploits of the abbés of the Aosta valley. We hear of St. Bernard (9961081), patron saint of mountaineers, who ran away from France on the eve of his wedding day and was later responsible for the hospices on the Great and the Little St. Bernard passes. In the 18th century we find Father Placidus à Spescha, of Disentis, in the Upper Rhine Valley, who made six attempts on the Tödi, and finally at the age of 72 watched his companions reach the summit, unable to go all the way himself.
Every side valley of the Val d’Aosta seems to have produced a mountaineering abbé. Punta Gnifetti, on Monte Rosa, was named for Abbé Gnifetti, of Alagna, who made its first ascent in 1842. The "Mountain Bear" of Ayas, Abbé Gorret, was largely responsible for the first ascent of the Italian ridge of the Matterhorn, in which he participated in 1865, after Whymper’s victory over the Swiss side. Abbé Bonin, of Pré Saint Didier, fired the imagination of the world by first saying Mass on the summit of Mont Blanc in 1890. Abbé Henry, an excellent climber and writer, put his native Valpelline on the map.
An essay is dedicated to Pius XI, the mountaineering Pope, and another to our own Rev. W. A. B. Coolidge, who climbed 1700 peaks during his life. His mountaineering career had started with his aunt Miss Brevoort and her dog, who possessed little nailed boots and whose name Tschingel is immortalized in the Tschingel Pass in the Bernese Oberland.
The little book is put together with much devotion and knowledge, and would entice any reader to go to Val d’Aosta.