American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Horst von Hennig, 1902-1992

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993



On November 30, Horst von Hennig passed away at this home of over 50 years in Greenwich, Connecticut. The day before, he had celebrated his 90th birthday. He had been a member of the American Alpine Club since 1952. He was also a member of the Alpine Club of Canada and the Swiss Alpine Club. He was an enthusiastic mountaineer and skier throughout his life until ill health during the last few years curtailed such activities.

Dad loved the literature of climbing as much as he loved the mountains. He served as head of the Library committee for over 20 years. During this time, the Library grew tremendously and became a smoothly functioning operation. In 1981, he was awarded the Angelo Heilprin Citation in recognition of his many years of devoted service to the Club and its Library.

My father was bom in Rathenow, Germany on November 29, 1902. His introduction to the mountains came when, as a young boy, he accompanied his mother to the Alps. In his late teens, a cousin introduced him to hiking and climbing.

From 1919 to 1937, he climbed actively in the northern and western Alps, Dolomites, Apennines and in Sicily. In 1929, in Stuttgart, he married Elisabeth Doertenbach.

He made many winter ascents. I recall spending the winter of 1936-37 in Zermatt. While I was struggling daily to herringbone and sidestep up and snowplow down, Mom and Dad would be off on trips to the Breithom, Oberrothorn and Tête Blanche. Mom said she always stayed behind at the huts to melt snow and tidy up.

Late in 1937, we moved to the United States. After living in New York City for several years, we moved to Greenwich, Connecticut in 1942. In the summer of 1951, while vacationing in Canada with my mother and sisters Tilda and Margaret, Dad met Henry Hall at Amethyst Lake in the Tonquin Valley. It was this chance meeting that led to Dad’s joining the American Alpine Club. He always considered his membership to be a particular honor and took special joy and pride in participating at meetings.

Dad passed his love for the mountains on to his children and grandchildren. I still vividly remember climbing the Allalinhorn, Alphubel, Zinalrothorn and Matterhorn during a spell of spectacular summer weather in 1949. The following summer, we visited the Dolomites and climbed the Torri Grande and Inglese, and Punta Fiammes. He climbed Mount Rainier with his son-in-law Eckart Colsman. In winters, we skied in Vermont or St. Moritz. He attended many Alpine Club of Canada summer camps. Hans Gmosser remembers climbing Mount Edith and the south face of Yamanuska with him in the mid 1950s.

A man of values, with a true sense of integrity and right and wrong, a member of the old guard, a gentleman, the last of his generation—this is how his grandchildren eulogized him. And it is the way many of us remember him. He was gentle and kind, thoughtful, considerate and generous. Above all, he inspired us and taught us to love the mountains, a gift for which we are grateful. And it is in this spirit that his memory lives on.

Dieter von Hennig

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