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The higher region of the Alps were long left to the exclusive attention of the inhabitants of the adjoining valleys, even when Alpine travellers (as distinguished from Alpine climbers) began to visit these valleys. It is reckoned that about 20 glacier passes were certainly known before 1600, about 25 more before 1700, and yet another 20 before 1800; but though the attempt of P.A. Arnod (an official of the duchy of Aosta) in 1689 to "re-open" the Col du Ceant may be counted as made by a non-native, historical records do not show any further such activities until the last quarter of the 18th century. Nor did it fare much better with the high peaks, though the two earliest recorded ascents were due to non-natives, that of the Rocciamelone in 1358 having been undertaken in fulfilment of a vow, and that of the Mont Aiguille in 1492 by order of Charles VIII of France, in order to destroy its immense reputation for inaccessibility – in 1555 Conrad Gesner did not climb Pilatus proper, but only the grassy mound of the Gnepfstein, the lowest and the most westerly of the seven summits.
The first men who really systematically explored the regions of ice and snow were Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (1740–1799),as regards the Pennine Alps, and the Benedictine monk of Disentis, Placidus a Spescha (1752–1833), (most of whose ascents were made before 1806), in the valleys at the sources of the Rhine. In the early 19th century the Meyer family of Aarau conquered in person the Jungfrau (1811) and by deputy the Finsteraarhorn (1812), besides opening several glacier passes, their energy being entirely confined to the Bernese Oberland. Their pioneer work was continued in that district, as well as others, by a number of Swiss, pre-eminent among whom were Gottlieb Samuel Studer (1804–1890) of Bern, and Edouard Desor (1811–1882) of Neuchâtel. The first-known English climber in the Alps was Colonel Mark Beaufoy (1764–1827), who in 1787 made an ascent (the fourth) of Mont Blanc, a mountain to which his fellow-countrymen long exclusively devoted themselves, with a few noteworthy exceptions, such as Principal J.D. Forbes (1809–1868), A. T. Malkin (1803–1888), John Ball (1818–1889), and Sir Alfred Wills (1828–1912).
In the Eastern Alps the serious exploration began with the first ascent of the Großglockner in 1800, initiated by Franz-Xaver Salm-Raifferscheid, archbishop of Gurk. Around Monte Rosa, the Vincent family, Josef Zumstein (1783–1861), and Giovanni Gnifetti (1801–1867) did good work during the half century between 1778 and 1842, while in the Eastern Alps the Archduke John (1782–1850), Prince F. J. C. von Schwarzenberg, archbishop of Salzburg (1809–1885), Valentine Stanig (1774–1847), Adolf Schaubach (1800–1850), above all, P.J. Thurwieser (1789–1865), deserve to be recalled as pioneers in the first half of the 19th century.
In the early fifties of the 19th century the taste for mountaineering rapidly developed for several very different reasons: A great stimulus was given to it by the foundation of the various Alpine clubs, each of which drew together the climbers who dwelt in the same country. The first was the English Alpine Club (founded in the winter of 1857–1858), followed in 1862 by the Austrian Alpine Club (which in 1873 was fused, under the name of the German and Austrian Alpine Club, with the German Alpine Club, founded in 1869), in 1863 by the Italian and Swiss Alpine Clubs, and in 1874 by the French Alpine Club, not to mention numerous minor societies of more local character. It was by the members of these clubs (and a few others) that the minute exploration (now all but complete) of the High Alps was carried out, while much has been done in the way of building club huts, organizing and training guides, &c., to smooth the way for later comers, who would benefit by the detailed information published in the periodicals (the first dates from 1863 only) issued by these clubs.
The following two sub-joined lists give the dates of the first ascent of the greater peaks. apart from the two climbed in 1358 and in 1402 (see above).
The main chain of the Alps, also called the Alpine divide is the central line of mountains that forms the water divide of the range. Main chains of mountain ranges are traditionally designated in this way, and generally include the highest peaks of a range. The Alps are something of an unusual case in that several significant groups of mountains are separated from the main chain by sizable distances. Among these groups are the Dauphine Alps, the Eastern and Western Graians, the entire Bernese Alps, the Tödi, Albula and Silvretta groups, the Jura Mountains, Ortler and Adamello ranges, and the Dolomites of South Tyrol, as well as the lower Alps of Vorarlberg, Bavaria and Salzburg.
Gaston Rébuffat was a French alpinist, mountain guide, and author. He is well known as a member of the first expedition to summit Annapurna 1 in 1950 and the first man to climb all six of the great north faces of the Alps. In 1984, he was made an officer in the French Legion of Honour for his service as a mountaineering instructor for the French military. At the age of 64, Gaston Rébuffat died of cancer in Paris, France. The climbing technique Gaston was named after him. A photo of Rébuffat atop the Aiguille du Roc in the French Alps can be found on the Voyager Golden Records.
The Aiguille du Midi is a 3,842-metre-tall (12,605 ft) mountain in the Mont Blanc massif within the French Alps. It is a popular tourist destination and can be directly accessed by cable car from Chamonix that takes visitors close to Mont Blanc.
The Mont Blanc massif is a mountain range in the Alps, located mostly in France and Italy, but also straddling Switzerland at its northeastern end. It contains eleven major independent summits, each over 4,000 metres (13,123 ft) in height. It is named after Mont Blanc, the highest point in western Europe and the European Union. Because of its considerable overall altitude, a large proportion of the massif is covered by glaciers, which include the Mer de Glace and the Miage Glacier – the longest glaciers in France and Italy, respectively.
Charles Hudson was an Anglican chaplain and mountain climber from Skillington, Lincolnshire, England.
The Aiguille du Dru is a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif in the French Alps. It is situated to the east of the village of Les Praz in the Chamonix valley. "Aiguille" means "needle" in French.
Melchior Anderegg, from Zaun, Meiringen, was a Swiss mountain guide and the first ascensionist of many prominent mountains in the western Alps during the golden and silver ages of alpinism. His clients were mostly British, the most famous of whom was Leslie Stephen, the writer, critic and mountaineer; Anderegg also climbed extensively with members of the Walker family, including Horace Walker and Lucy Walker, and with Florence Crauford Grove. His cousin Jakob Anderegg was also a well-known guide.
The Dent du Géant is a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif in France and Italy.
The golden age of alpinism was the decade in mountaineering between Alfred Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Edward Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, during which many major peaks in the Alps saw their first ascents.
Sarah Katharine "Katy" Richardson, also referred to as Kathleen Richardson, was a British mountain climber. She made numerous first ascents in the Alps and climbed frequently with her close friend Mary Paillon.
Mary Isabella Charlet-Straton was a British female mountain climber. She made several first ascents in the Alps with Emmeline Lewis Lloyd as well as the first winter ascent of Mont Blanc with her future husband Jean Charlet in January 1876. The peak Pointe Isabella was named in her honour after she had taken part in its first ascent.
Alexander Burgener was a Swiss mountain guide and the first ascentionist of many mountains and new routes in the western Alps during the silver age of alpinism.
Edward Shirley Kennedy (1817–1898) was an English mountaineer and author, and a founding member of the Alpine Club.
The silver age of alpinism is the name given in the United Kingdom to the era in mountaineering that began after Edward Whymper and party's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 and ended with W. W. Graham and party's ascent of the Dent du Géant in 1882.
Miriam O'Brien Underhill was an American mountaineer, environmentalist and feminist, best known for the concept of "manless climbing" - organizing all-women's ascents of challenging climbs, mostly in the Alps.
The Torino Hut is a high mountain refuge in the Alps in northwestern Italy. Located near the border with France, it is about 15 km (10 mi) southwest of Mont Dolent, the tripoint with Switzerland. The refuge is in the Mont Blanc massif above the town of Courmayeur in the Aosta Valley, Italy. It can be most easily accessed from the Italian side by the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car from La Palud in Courmayeur, with a change at the Pavilion du Mont Fréty. It can also be reached from Chamonix via the Aiguille du Midi, either by cable car which crosses the massif, or by a long crossing of the Glacier du Gèant. The refuge lies nearly directly above the 11.6 km (7.2 mi) Mont Blanc Tunnel, which passes deep underground, and connects Courmayer to Chamonix.
Armand Charlet was a French mountaineer and mountain guide.
Henri Cordier or Henry Cordier was a French mountaineer. In his short two-year career, he became the first Frenchman to reach the level of the English members of the Alpine Club, in the silver age of alpinism in the second half of the 19th century, which was dominated by the development of mountaineering in the Alps. With some of the Alpine Club's mountain guides and mountaineers, he led significant first ascents in the Mont Blanc massif and in the Dauphiné Alps.
Louise "Loulou" Boulaz was a Swiss mountain climber and alpine skier who made numerous first ascents in the Alps.
The Goûter Route is one of the two normal mountaineering routes used to reach the summit of Mont Blanc in the Alps, ascending to a height of 4,808 metres (15,774 ft). The route lies on the north side of the mountain, in France. Usually reckoned as the easiest route up Mont Blanc, it is extremely popular with mountaineers, seeing thousands of ascents per year.