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Who is the finest alpinist in the world? A question that cannot be answered. For every era has it's own alpinists, tactics change, fashions change, equipment changes, and so on.
What I would like is to present an overview of some fine alpinists who influenced the way we climb today.
This page will grow over the years. Please help me to make this a worthwile document. I don't have all the information about these climbers so please add or mail me if you have anything that might improve this page. And also let me know if you think a certain climber should be added.
The following are some of the climbers who I still want to write about. If you think others should be there also, just let me know.
Born 17 April 1909
Died 16 September 1946
Giusto Gervasutti is of course one of the great alpinists. He holds a long list of first ascents. Several couloirs and pillars are named after him. He was an outstanding rockclimber with great iceclimbing skills.
The Gervasutti Pillar on the east face of the Mont Blanc du Tacul (a classic rock route) is named after him because this is where he died, descending during a storm.
Mont Blanc du Tacul, Gervasutti Couloir - 13 August 1934 (R. Chabod)
Grand Jorasses, East Face - 16-17 August 1942 (G. Gagliardone)
Born 1921 (Marsailles)
Gaston Rebuffat was born in Marseilles and began his climbing on the sea cliffs of the Calanques. He became a Chamonix Guide in 1946 and thereafter made a string of new routes and important repeats, notably of the great alpine North Faces. His subsequent book, Starlight and Storm, became a standard work and established the six great North Faces in the consciousness of all ambitious alpinists. He was a member of the succesful Annapurna expedition in 1950 playing a major role in the saga played out in the final stages of that historic ascent. Rebuffat was a skilful lecturer, writer and film maker whose popularity was based on his powerful romantic and lyrical style.
Dent du Requin, North face - 22 July 1945 (J. Couttet)
Aiguille du Midi, South Face - 13 July 1956 (M. Baquet)
Born 21 September 1924 (Innsbruck)
Died 27 June 1957 (while attempting the unclimbed Chogolisa)
Hermann Buhl was one of those climbers you can call superhuman. This extra-ordinairy climber was the first and only to conquer an 8000 meter peak, solo, bivying at a height of over 8000 meter. This peak was the Nanga Parbat.
Nanga Parbat, North Face (Rakiot) - 3 July 1953 (solo)
Broad Peak - 1957 (F. Wintersteller and M. Schmuck)
Born 1961 (California)
This controversial, hard-core climber changed the way of climbing for a lot of people. He opened some of the most demanding routes in Chamonix, Mount Bradley and Mount Hunter. His book "Extreme Alpinism" is like a masterclass for many alpinists. Currently he is the president of Grivel North America.
Droites, Richard Cranium Memorial - 3 October 1991 (Barry Blanchard)
Aiguille des Pelerins, Beyond Good and Evil - 23 April 1992 (Andy Parkin)
Aiguille Sans Nom, There Goes the Neighbourhood - 28-29 October 1993 (Scott Backes)
Mount Bradley, The Gift That Keeps on Giving - March 1998 (S. House and J. Blitz)
Mount Hunter, Deprivation - 1994 (S. Backes)
Born 22 June 1930 (Bergamo)
During the 50's and 60's many people considered Walter Bonatti to be the strongest climber in the world. He proved this by climbing the East Face of the Grand Capucin and 4 years later by a solo-ascent of the unclimbed West Face of the Petit Dru. These are both remarkeble exploits.
Later he showed that he was still the master of alpinism. One hundred years after the first ascent of the Matterhorn, he opened the first direct route up the North Face, alone and in winter!
Grand Capucin, East Face - 22-23 July 1951 (L. Ghigo)
Petit Dru, Bonatti Pillar - 17-22 August 1955 (solo)
Grandes Jorasses, Walker Spur - 25-30 January 1963 (First Winter Ascent with C. Zapelli)
Matterhorn, North Face - 18-24 February 1965 (solo)
For more video footage, click here.
Born 24 March 1948 (Katowice, Poland)
Died 24 October 1989 (while attempting the South Face of Lhotse)
Jerzy Kukuczka was the second person in the world to climb all 14 8000 meter peaks. So far he is (or was?) the fastest to establish this, and doing so he climbed 11 by new routes, 5 in alpine style, 4 first winter ascents and 1 solo!
Grandes Jorasses, North Face Pointe Hélène, 1975 Polish Route - 3-4 August 1975 (Wojciech Kurtyka, Marek Lukaszewski)
Mount Everest, South Pillar - 19 May 1980 (A. Czok)
K2, new route, alpine style - 1986
Born 14 January 1923 (Düsseldorf, Germany)
Fred Beckey was born in Germany but grew up in the US. He started climbing at the age of 13 and three years later reached the summit of the unclimbed Mount Despair. This was just the start of what might be the longest list of first ascents in the world.
Other than his climbing he has written numerous books about mountainclimbing.
Devils Thumb, Alaska - 1946
Mount Edith Cavell, North Face, Canada - 1961 (Y. Chouinard)
Born: 2 January 1909 (S. Vito al Tagliamento, Italy)
Ricardo Cassin created some of the finest routes in the world. He was involved in opening three of the six great North Faces. He also led a few expeditions, one of them was to the enormous South Face of Lhotse in 1975. We could state he is one of the most important mountaineers of al times.
Today his company still makes climbing equipment.
Cima Ovest di Lavaredo, North Face - August 1935 (Ratti)
Piz Badille, North East Face - 13 July 1937 (Ratti and L. Esposito (Molteni, Valsecchi))
Grandes Jorasses, Walker Spur - 4-6 August 1938 (U. Tizzoni and L. Esposito)
Gasherbrum IV - 6 August 1958 (Bonatti, Mauri, Gobbi, Oberto, De Francesch, Zeni, Maraini)
Mount McKinley, Cassin Ridge - 1961
Born 21 February 1901 (Trieste, Italy)
Died 19 October 1940 (while climbing in Selva di Val Gardena)
Emilio Comici will always be remembered as the first alpinist to climb the "inclimable" North Face of the Cima Grande (Große Zinne). He had to improve the techniques for artificial climbing a lot to make this possible. He opened over 200 routes in the Dolomites, many of them are classics. He was one of the first alpinists to climb UIAA grade VI. He died when a rope snapped while climbing.
Civetta, North West Face - 1931 (Benedetti)
Große Zinne, North Face - 13-14 August 1933 (Guiseppe and Angelo Dimai)
Große Zinne, North Face, first solo - 1935
Kleine Zinne, Gelbe Kante/Spigolo Giallo - 1933 (Varale and Zanutti)
A mountainhut in the Dolomites is named after Emilio Comici.
Born 13 December 1970 (Austria)
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner is the first female alpinist to enter this list. Hopefully not the last. This professional mountainclimber is well on her way to becoming the first female climber to climb all 14 8000 m peaks. At the age of 23 she climbed Broad Peak and 8 other 8000 m peaks followed so far.
9 of the 14 8000 m peaks
Born 24 July 1960 (Algeria)
Catherine Destivelle grew up near Paris and was soon a climbing addict. In 1988 she climbed the hardest route ever climbed by a woman, Chouca at Buoux. At the age of 25 she became a professional climber. In 1990 she became the second person to free climb the Trango Tower and the first and so far only female to reach the summit. In short one of the best female alpinists ever!
Trango Tower, Slovenian Route, first female and second free ascent - 1990 (Jeff Lowe)
Grandes Jorasses, Walker Spur (Cassin), first female winter solo ascent - January 1993
Matterhorn, Bonatti Route (North Face), second ascent, solo - winter 1994
Rare English interview
Born 12 October 1906 (Munich, Germany)
Died 1 February 2005 (Oberstdorf, Germany)
Andreas "Anderl" Heckmair grew up as an orphan. At the age of 11 he went on a recreation-holiday to Switzerland. There he became a mountain-addict. He learned the profession of a gardener, but couldn´t make a living of this during the world economic crisis. In this time he left Munich and tried to make his way as a cook in several huts in the alps. During this period he made some great climbing tours in the Western Alps, Eastern Alps and the Dolomites. In 1938 he made the first ascent of the notorious Eiger North Face with Ludwig Vörg, Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer. He was the informal leader and made some courageous parts of the now classic "Heckmair-Route". In WWII he had to serve on the Eastern front. After 1945 he joined some
expeditions to the Andes and the Himalaya and worked as a guide.
Grand Charmoz, North Face Direct, First Ascent - 31 July 1938 (G. Kroner)
Eiger, North Face, "Heckmair", First ascent - 21-24 July 1938 (Ludwig Vörg, Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer)
Born 17 September 1944 (Brixen-Bressanone, Italy)
Reinhold Messner is perhaps the greatest of all. He was certainly the first to do a lot of stuff. Like he was the first to climb all 14 8000 meter-peaks, the first to climb an 8000 meter-peak without supplemental oxygen, the first to traverse an 8000 meter-peak, the first to solo Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Do I need to go on?
He has written a number of very nice books (e.g. Der 7. Grad) and today he's running the Messner Mountain Museums.
Civetta Northwest Face ("Weg der Freunde", First Ascent) - 1967
Eiger North Pillar (First Ascent) - 1968
Droites North Face (First solo, 4th overall) - 1969
Nanga Parbat (8125m, Rupal face, First Ascent, 3rd EA) - 1970
Mount Everest (8850m, First Ascent without supplemental oxygen, 15th EA) - 1978
K2 (8611m, First Ascent in alpine style, 4th EA) - 1979
Completion of climbing all 14 8000 meter-peaks and the seven summits - 1986
Born 19 July 1951 (Évreux, France)
Patrick Gabarrou is an extreme mountaineer. He could also be called mr. Mont Blanc. Open any guidebook on this region and you will find his routes. Many of them very beautiful and challenging. He was French champion in ski-alpinism in 1989 and had his first major climbing accident after 35 years of hard climbing. He also opened routes in several other regions like Canada, Bolivia and Patagonia.
Just too many. Gab opened more than 250 routes, many of them in the Mont Blanc Range. But to name a few: Supercouloir and Gabarrou-Albinoni (Mont Blanc du Tacul), Directissime, Alexis, A leï and Heidi (all on Grandes Jorasses), Boivin-Gabarrou (Droites), Gabarrou-Silvy (Aiguille sans Nom), Devine Providence (Grand Pilier d’Angle), Hyper Couloir (Mont Blanc) and many many more…