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Europe, Rassemblement International, Chamonix

Rassemblement International, Chamonix. The Fédération Française de la Montagne, governing body for the official aspects of mountaineering in France, organized for this past summer, an international meeting of mountaineers. The most prominent climbing organizations in each of several countries was asked to send two mountaineers to attend the meeting. This Rassemblement International was held in Chamonix from July 15 to August 1. The climbers who attended were given rooms at the Ecole Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme and fed there on the days they were not in the mountains. The American Alpine Club was represented by David Sowles and Rowland Tabor. There were also two climbers from England, Poland, Yugoslavia, Norway, Japan, Austria, West Germany, The Netherlands, and three from Spain. The French provided several representatives, whose position was one of advice and assistance as well as camaraderie. The purpose behind the Rassemblement seems to have been simply to foster good will among mountaineers, and, hopefully, to try to stimulate similar further meetings to be held each year in a different country. The idea is a fine one, though the difficulties involved in arranging a like activity in the U.S.A. seem insurmountable.

Though overall supervision of the Rassemblement was the responsibility of Jean Franco, Secretary of the FFM and Directeur of the Ecole Nationale, direct control was handled by André Contamine, an instructor at the Ecole. Contamine is probably very little known in the United States, though at one time he was as fine a guide and mountaineer as either Rébuffat or Lachenal. M. Contamine would schedule a discussion of objectives. When the various groups had indicated the climbs they wanted to do, he would coordinate these, suggest possible ascents to those who were undecided and finally arrange food and sufficient space at the appropriate huts. The food to be carried up to the huts, as well as the tickets for the télépherique or the cog railway, were distributed just before departure. There was little for the climbers to do but climb. On the whole the group was a young one. The average age was probably in the middle twenties. The finest climb was certainly the Grandes Jorasses by the north spur of the Pointe Walker, done by the Poles with one bivouac. The representatives of the A.A.C. contented themselves with the Mer de Glace face of the Grépon, a traverse of the Aiguilles Mummery and Ravenel, l’Evêque, the north ridge-northeast face of the Aiguille de Géant, and the Frontier Ridge of Mount Blanc. Because of the various language barriers, there was not quite as much mixing of nationalities as there might have been. But notwithstanding these barriers, polyglot parties went out, friends were made, invitations to climb in various countries were given and accepted, and the FFM had real cause to be proud of their Rassemblement.

David A. Sowles