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The mountain playground

The mountain playground

A passionate nature-lover, Horace ranged the alpine countryside, perpetually dreaming of climbing to the summit of Mont-Blanc at the time when nobody had ever envisaged climbing this impressive peak. Horace de Saussure offered ready cash to anyone who would lead an expedition that would take him up to 4000 metres. Several attempts were made but the naturalist was not to succeed in his quest. Marc-Théodore Bourrit was the next to take on the challenge to climb to the summit. Bourrit spent much of his time with the Chamonix mountain guides from whom he learned much about the region and the hostile mountain environment. He wrote many works such “Glaciers of Savoye” whose success made the Chamonix Valley known to the general public.

In 1786, Jacques Balmat, a bona fide Savoyard participating in yet another expedition, got lost on the glacier. He managed to survive the night’s freezing temperatures and made his way back safe and sound. The physician consulted upon his return listened attentively to his account of this incredible adventure that revealed that it was physically possible to survive a night in freezing temperatures. The following year Horace de Saussure and a companion headed off together at four o’clock in the morning to attempt to climb the mountain La Côte. Their equipment was both scant and sophisticated: a walking stick and a hygrometric instrument. Their walk began on the Mont-Blanc’s north face, continued across the Grand Plateau to Les Petits Mulets and then on to the ridge leading up to the summit. Arriving at the summit at 18:23 the pair had fired the starting gun for the race to conquer the alps.