American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Joel Ellis Fisher, 1891-1966

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966


American mountaineering lost its most youthful member when Ellis Fisher died on January 6 with his boots on at the age of seventy-four. A member of the Alpine Club (London) as well as the Swiss Alpine Club and those of France and Italy, he was a member since 1921 and workhorse of our Club, which he served as Treasurer from 1924 to 1934 and again from 1939 to 1949, and as President from 1935 to 1937. In addition, he was a life member of the Appalachian Mountain Club and a regular contributor to its Journal and many others throughout the world. Ellis was deeply enthralled with the subject of glaciology, which drew him to the mountains long after his days of vigorous climbing were over. He wrote many learned articles on Forbes banding, ice structure gravitation and related phenomena. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale (1911), he was an honorary member of both the Yale, and Harvard Mountaineering Clubs.

His serious alpinism started in 1906 with an ascent of the Schilthorn, but year after year he kept returning to the Riffelhorn (via the Matterhorn Couloir). It should be noted that he ascended Mount Sir Donald by the Northwest Arête in 1914. He compiled exhaustive bibliographies of the literature of American as well as Canadian mountaineering.

An important executive with the Melville Shoe Company for most of his adult life, he had an active business career and was possessed of sufficient resources to pursue mountaineering as a labor of love. He inspired others to follow, and he will be missed by many who have never knowingly partaken of his generosity, as well as those scores of impecunious young alpinists who were his house guests at the New York Annual meetings of this club. He was a constant seeker of the truth and a campaigner for fairness. It is fitting that he lived to see the first West Coast meeting of the American Alpine Club; for he was the patron of those who urged this geographic broadening of the Club almost twenty years earlier. We, who survive are the poorer; for though Ellis was not in the constant limelight of mountaineering or the many groups he served, his was the strength and steady eye that saw the truth and kept the pace.

William L. Putnam

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.