Last August American mountaineers learned that Professor Jean Juge of Geneva, the man who for years had been the principal driving force behind the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme, had died on the flanks of the Matterhorn (after completing the ascent via the north face). With his death, the climbing world has lost not only a fine alpinist, but also a great teacher of mountaineering techniques, a great promoter of brotherhood among all climbers, and above all, a fine gentleman.
Jean Juge knew, as all mountaineers do, that it is not so much how long a man lives that counts, as in the manner in which he leads his life. Certainly Juge lived out the traditional allotted span; but in the manner of his death, at an age far beyond that at which most climbers hang up their boots, he showed us all not only how to live, but also that the enthusiasm and dreams of youth can be continued and with perseverance and courage can sometimes be extended to outstanding achievements even in old age.
There is no point in recalling the principal achievements of M. Juge’s career, for they are well detailed elsewhere, nor is there need to stress that even in his sixties Jean Juge was making climbs on which many skilled alpinists in their twenties would hesitate to embark. The fact is, however, that for those Americans who knew him, the number of men like Professor Juge, of whatever nationality or background, can be counted in mere handfuls. Very few of us can excel at the same time in our vocations, our favorite sport and also in our ability to impart to others that feeling of general humanity which transcends national, economic and social boundaries. This, more than anything else, was his supreme quality.
No doubt, Jean Juge died as he and many another mountaineer might wish. But those of us who survive him will long wish that it need not have been so soon.
William L. Putnam