American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Othmar Gurtner, 1895-1958

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1959



Mountaineers and lovers of the heights all over the world will keenly feel the loss of Othmar Gurtner. As director and editor of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research in Zurich, he was responsible for planning and publishing six magnificent editions of The Mountain World. He was also editor of Arnold Lunn’s superb “A Century of Mountaineering,” masterminded many of the important details of the plans for the Swiss Everest-Lhotse Expedition of 1956 and became a loved and respected friend and adviser to the hundreds of climbers, young and old, who visited his sunny office on the Mythenquai.

Born in Lauterbrunnen as the sixth child of the family who owned the Hotel Steinbock, he was brought up among the high peaks and started young manhood as an expert and enthusiastic climber and skier. After apprenticeship as a bookseller in St. Gallen, he worked throughout most of his life as author, editor, and journalist. He always preferred to write about the mountains and everything related to them. It was therefore logical that he was one of the prime movers of ski instruction in the Swiss Army and a founder of the Swiss Ski School Association. He was the ski correspondent of Sport (Zurich) and did much to develop public interest in the development of slalom and downhill ski-racing. Like me, his main hobby was geology, and it was through our common interest in accurate and beautiful maps and pictures of the mountains that we were drawn closely together during the last few years. Without his patient and skilled advice and assistance, it would have been impossible to effect the complicated arrangements for the completion and printing of the new map of the Mount McKinley region, now a joint project of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Swiss Federal Topographic Service, and Boston’s Museum of Science.

No one could have brought greater breadth of knowledge, editing skill or love of the mountains to the task he did so well. Zurich will never be quite the same without him.

Bradford Washburn

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