American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Lydia Hall, 1899-1991

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1992



Two years ago, when she became so terribly ill, although she knew exactly what was going on, her optimism and courage never flagged for a moment. Her patience was thrilling. Her marvelous and oft-subtle sense of humor was ever-present.

A beautiful, thoughtful, warm and gallant friend has left us, and we can all be thankful that we’ve been able to share even a tiny part of our lives with Lydia Lyman Hall.

Mountains and exploration were, of course, the catalyst that brought us together at the beginning—but, as the years went by, the real roots of our relationship ran much deeper than that: countless teas and dinners at 154 Coolidge Hill, weeks together at the Hotel Couttet et du Parc in Chamonix, sumptuous meals together at Zürich’s Baur au Lac, and winter holidays at the Glen House with Bob and Miriam Underhill, and Carl and Dorothy Fuller.

I met Henry and Lydia Hall for the first time in New York on January 9, 1926. That was also the first time I had ever worn a tuxedo, borrowed frantically from someone at the very last moment. Our distinguished mutual friend and former president of the American Alpine Club, Dr. Harry Pierce Nichols, had invited me, age 15, to attend the annual meeting of the American Alpine Club. At that moment, a wonderful 66-year-long friendship with Lydia as well as with Henry Hall began.

Ever since Lydia was a little girl, she always had animals: her pig Lemuel, the turkey Pyramus, a pony Tom Thumb, ducks, hens, geese. But horses were the most important. For years, she was involved with the Millwood Hunt. As Whip, she trained the hound puppies, helped with the trails and rode and showed her own horses. She became Master of Fox Hounds after World War II, a position she held for twenty years. This was a full-time job—planning the “runs,” (it was a drag hunt), directing operations and most important, being a good public-relations person. She had to talk with and soothe land-owners, over whose land the hunt would go. She was hospitable to the members and staff at the hunt teas and was a wonderful hostess, making people feel welcome.

I vividly remember meeting Lydia and Henry late in the afternoon at the Museum of Science four and a half years ago. We drove together to Coolidge Hill. It was a beautiful early-spring afternoon, and I shall always cherish the vivid memory of those last extremely happy moments with both of them at the end of a long, long friendship. Above all else, it was in that lovely living room at Coolidge Hill that Lydia’s grace and warmth and delightful sense of humor captivated us all. Those red-hot cups of tea on chilly winter afternoon, scrumptious cookies and sandwiches, and conversations with endless scores of friends from every corner of the earth. Lydia was always at the helm, full of fun, ever the perfect hostess, ever saying exactly the right thing at the right moment—and always keeping Henry on a rather tight leash.

Bradford Washburn, with assistance from Edith Hall Overly

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