SCALATE NELLE ALPI (in italiano)
MATTI A. JOKINEN
25 years later
Climbing in the fog *
In the summer 1954 I came somehow to Chamonix and Zermatt and found myself scrambling up slopes to the 3000 meters level. With an American Klindt Vielbig we climbed a 3990 meters high snow peak called Wellenkuppe. After that we wanted to make the second highest mountain of the Alps, Monte Rosa. Two other climbers joined us, but high up on the western slopes they got mountain sick, and we had to return to the Bétemps hut and to Zermatt. Then Klindt had to leave, but I stayed and waited for the Matterhorn. A Swiss guide Walter Biner had promised to take me up there if the weather were right. As it was not certain I proposed to make the ice and snow peak Rimpfischhorn. But Walter Biner told me: 'Climb rock as long as you are young and agile. Later you'll have time to ice and snow slopes'. This advice I have followed until now and am following still...
So I made the Matterhorn, and after that the life was not the same as before. Having got back home I found small rock walls in the nearby area of Taivaskallio and started 'conquering' them. The winter did not stop this training, I scrambled on the snowy slopes with the aid of the ridiculously small ice-axe, which was bought in Zermatt the year before. I ordered mountaineering books from the Middle Europe and learned with never ending interest of the fascinating history of the alpine climbing. The gem among them was Anderl Heckmair's 'Les trois dernier problèmes des Alpes'. As the pitons were needed for the little higher walls, I had to manufacture them by myself of iron battens by drilling a hole in the other end and forging the another end flat in the fire of the coal oven of our house.
After two weeks I went to the outskirts of Stockholm and started hitch-hiking towards the South. It was a lucky coincidence, that I had been travelling in the after-war Europe by those means during the beginning of the 1950's. So it was a natural way to act, and without it a costly trip to the Alps would have been unthinkable.
In the Heckmair's book I had read about the Schuster sports shop in Munich, and it was with a little bit shaking hands I stepped inside the famous store. There I was among a plentitude of all possible mountaineering gear, from which I had until now only dreamt of. In the footware department a very friendly and in a way shy man helped me to choose the right boots - very first real mountaineering boots, as the miserable cheep 'shoes' I had found in Nice and used in Zermatt, were a pain to keep. And then I remembered who the man was: his picture was in the Heckmair book, he was Hermann Köllensperger, who had made with Heckmair the Walker pillar of the Grandes Jorasses only a few years before!
This was the first year when souple mountain ropes of artificial fibres were available. The fibres were plaited, intertwined, but not twisted as the English nylon based Viking-rope. Of course I took one of them, as I thought it would hold anything.
With the old triangle-looking war backpack of my father filled with boots, rope, pitons and carabiners I continued the pilgrimage to the foot of the Kaiser mountains, to a small Ellmau village. There I camped in a barn and spread all new gear on the hay fingering them until late of the night.
During the weekdays the Gaudeamus hut was almost empty, but on Friday the climbers arrived from the nearby cities. A group of young Germans took me along to make the Predigtstuhl North Edge. For the first time I saw the immense steep valley of Steinerne Rinne, which fell down between the sky-high vertical walls of Fleischbank and Predigtstuhl. Our group tried to find the start of the climb, and I scrambled after the leader in a ropeless climb. At last we had to clear a tight overhanging passage, on the steep slope already high above the Steinerne Rinne. The others did not follow us, and the leader stated that we had to return back. Our rope was in the sack of one of the others, so we had to climb down the overhang. Luckily enough we made it both and then descended with the others to the Steinerne Rinne.
To be able to live in the Gaudeamus hut more advantageously I became member of the Austrian Alpine Association. The head of the section was Hias Noichl, and with him I could make some climbs in the Törlspitzen. Later on when the Midsummer or 24th of June came, I could join his company and climb in the evening to the top of Ackerlspitze dragging along old tyres. At 8 PM we lighted up the tyres at the same time as other groups did the same on other tops of the neighbourhood. It was a solemn sight to have all around on tens of peaks the tyre lights burning above the darkening valleys.
Later I found new companions, both male and female, and could make many climbs of III-IV degree in the scale of I-VI. The most demanding of them was the Fleischbank East Face, which is of the V degree and one of the most famous routes of Hans Dülfer. One month had passed, and I felt myself ripe for the Italian Dolomites. As my rope of 30 meters had several times been too short, I hiked first back to Munich and bought a 40 m rope. As my money supply was diminishing, I decided to take a model of only 8 mm.
At the foot of the Tre Cime I met a group of Swiss climbers, who had been there a couple of weeks and were preparing themselves for the return. A young athlete named Michel Vaucher was ready to make with me the Dibona Edge of the Cima Grande (IV+). It was also his first year in serious climbing. Later he became very famous Himalayan and Alpine mountaineer.
Our enterprise went very well except one situation. Michel was leading this rope length, where I had to make a traverse. At first I started too high and soon was stuck in a hopeless place. I shouted and asked for more rope to be able to return. Michel was already high up above the overhangs and did not hear me well. As the rope tightened I shouted louder. But the rope tightened more, and I was near to falling. As I was loosing the hope of clearing this situation, Michel remembered the traverse and loosened the rope. If I only had known the exact french term for 'giving out rope', which is 'du mou', this awkward situation had not arisen.
The Swiss group left, and I started to find a new companion. In the Lavaredo hut I met an Italian rising star called Cesare Maestri. At that time I did not yet speak Italian, and so we did not have any common language. And certainly he was looking for more able partners. I had only made IV degree climbs in the Dolomites, and so he did not accept me to his adventures, which later on were to surprise the climbing world.
Fortunately I met a 18 year Austrian Walter Gstrein, who also was here for the first time, but had climbed in his native Viennese mountains and become used to the extreme routes of the VI degree. I suggested some easier climbs, but he was wilful and wanted to start right with the most difficult routes available. So we took the Cassin route of the Cima Piccolissima into sight and scrambled to the foot of the overhanging tower. When looking for the first crack of this route we somehow moved around and ended up to the northeastern side. After a short rope length we arrived to a wide chimney and noticed that it was the Preuss crack. We made it to the top and then abseiled down in the gully between the Piccolissima tower and the main body of the Cima Piccola.
It was midday, and we were hungry. We descended to the Lavaredo hut, ordered a portion of 'pasta asciutta' spaghetti and a bottle of red wine. After haven eaten we decided to try again. This time the Cassin route was found easily and was immediately attacked. In the middle of the climb on the continuously overhanging wall the grips became scarce and I felt the strength evading my fingers. My feet began acting as in a sewing machine and at last I had to let go. It was my first fall and I thought it was the end. However, the small ring pitons, which had been hammered in by Cassin himself, held as well as our two ropes: my undeveloped 8 mm perlon and Walter's 10 mm plaited hemp rope.
The fall was a real shock, but after awhile I could make this rope length. But it was already 4 PM, and dark clouds were invading the area. So it was decided to return back abseiling down along the yellow rock.
Early in the next morning we went to the Piccolissima tower for the third time and made the Cassin route without incidents. Down in the Lavaredo hut an Italian party was interested in our doings. They had followed our ascent today and had seen my fall the previous day. The leader of the group was a famous mountain guide from San Martino di Castrozza named Gabriele Franceschetti, and before leaving the hut he came to me and gave me a considerable sum of Italian paper money. I was very astonished and speechless.
Then together with Walter we made the famous North Face of Cima Grande. We used about 8 hours for that, but had been a lot quicker if we had found the traverse in the upper section of the wall. After many fruitless tries we climbed the great gully directly to the top, using the 'Aschenbrenner Variante' of the second ascension of the route.
Lonely ascent of the Mont Blanc
Walter had to return home, and I went to Courmayeur, where I visited the famous blacksmith called Grivel and let him forge 12-pointed crampons for me. With these in the backpack I started walking up to the Torino hut. There was a cableway functioning, but its price was far too elevated to my budget. There was heavy snow falling on the massif of Mont Blanc, but as the path was still visible in the snow, I started marching towards North-East, in order to get to the French side of the massif.
On the glacier I met a group of German alpinists marching to the opposite direction. 'Heil Finland, Paavo Nurmi!', said the leader as he passed me. I was left wondering how he could know me.
All went well and I could descend down to the valley of Arve following the path near the railway tracks. In Chamonix I was guided to the 'Biolley hut', where it was possible to camp on the straws of an old shack and prepare food in the garden for a minimal charge.
I could not yet find any company for the mountains and decided to try a sole ascent of the Mont Blanc itself. After a strenous scramble I ended up in the Aiguille du Goûter hut in the evening. There were plenty of alpinists preparing themselves for the night. I found a free corner and tried to sleep and rest myself. But in the midnight the air was quite bad inside and the continous coughing was too much for me, and so I collected my gear and went outside.
The full moon was shining in the sky, and there were not much wind blowing. The air was bitingly cold but good to breathe after the stuffy atmosphere of the hut. So I started slowly stepping up the snow ridge, which led to the flat cupola of Dome du Goûter.
After a long traverse I found the aluminum Vallot hut on a rocky pedestal. It was entered by climbing up some steps and then lifting open an horizontal hatch. There was nobody inside, and I rested there until the morning dawned. Now it was easier to find the way on the final ridge to the top of the mountain.
For the descent through the heavily crevassed glacier of the Grands Mulets side I met a cordee of three englishmen, who gladly accept me to join them.
After the Mont Blanc climb I met Bernard Perrier in the Biollay hut, and together we made the fifth climb of the Aiguille Verte North Face via the Couloir Cordier.
Hair rising moment in the Whymper couloir
After the difficult ascent of the Couloir Cordier on the north face of Aiguille Verte we made the top by following the East Ridge. But it was already afternoon, and the sun had begun to melt the snow in the Whymper couloir, which was the only way down. Bernard could tap the sticking snow away from his crampons with the ice-axe, but I took my crampons off. Still the snow packed under my boots, and all of a sudden my feet flew out. I rushed down the steep gully headfirst. Fortunately man's mind works rapidly and clearly in such occasions. On the left side I saw a small rock protruding from the snow and I leaped towards it and got my arms round it. The spirits of the mountain were on my side and so I saw my ice axe lying beside me in the steep snow. Without it the further proceeding would have been difficult. My rope partner Bernard Perrier got totally surprised by the fall, and the rope tore him out of his footholds. He could manage to stay on the slope, but his rucksack fell down and was sucked down the gully to the glacier some 500 meters lower. He could not have held us, had I continued my fall downwards.
After that we thought it was too dangerous to continue with the rope attached and so we continued separately. I made my lonely descent the face towards the gully, hitting the ice-axe shaft deeply in the snow and kicking the tip of the boots into the steep slope thus making steps.
Dangerous descent from the Aiguille du Peigne
We were a company of four to make the Papillon ridge to the Aiguille du Peigne: Pierre Bressot, Guy Richard, Robert Guillaume and me. Robert became later a quite famous guide. He lost his life in the notorious returning from the Pillar of Frénay. We could not make the top of the peak, as a sudden storm surprised us. The descent was started immediately. Guy had taken an ice-axe along and it was with me as I was the last member of the committee. Where the gully was totally covered with ice and snow I buried the axe deeply into the snow. While the other three were carefully stepping downwards, I belayed them with the rope. Above us was a cordée of two Belgians. Then without warning the other Belgian fell and rushed down past his comrade and down the gully. We were at that moment about 250 meters above the glacier.
I saw the Belgian rushing down and then I felt a great weight upon myself. I kept with all my forces from the ice-axe, the only fixed point on the steep slope. The axe kept under the great pressure; the rope to the falling man got tight and stopped him. The lives of six men had depended on the sole ice-axe with the wooden shaft. The face of the Belgian was white as marble and he did not say a word. We all continued the descent in quietness.
Under the giant roof - Cima Ovest
As it was impossible to find rope partners in my own country, I had to study foreign languages eagerly. I could manage quite well in Swedish and German, which we studied in the High School. Now the French and Italian began to be familiar too. Later on I learned the Spanish and some Russian. I have made climbs with friends from 20 different countries, almost always speaking the native language of my partner. A great opportunity was offered by the French government, which invited foreign mountaineers to a three week long meeting in Chamonix, all costs paid. That happened several times in the sixties.
In Cortina I got many good friends among the 'Scoiattoli' climbers and mountain guides. There was Ettore Costantini, who had made the first climb of the extremely difficult Tofana pillar in 1944. He had damaged the other eye, which made him look very wild, like Peter Lorre in the movies. He gave me good advices regarding the pillar route, which became my next target from that day onward. Claudio Zardini and Candido Bellodis, who forged for me special long pitons and cut wooden chocks from ash tree. Some of these may still 40 years later be seen on the Finlandia route of the Torre Grande. With Beniamino Franceschi I made the Miriam route in the Cinque Torri group, which up to now I have made at least five times.
Lino Lacedelli of the K2 fame gave me advices for the use of the step-slings. I did not use them very much, but tried to climb difficult passages 'freely', using, if unavoidable, pitons as grips and footholds. Lino told me I should use step-slings instead in order to save strength. With Gualtiero Ghedina we then tried to make the 'Direttissima Scoiattoli', the most difficult route of the Cinque Torri. After the problems in the beginning all went quite well until the last legs of the route, when a sudden storm and rain made us descend quickly.
Every summer when I arrived in Cortina my friends wanted to hear the latest news of the North Europe, told me happenings of the Dolomites and invited me to a glass of wine in the nearest bar. As more friends appeared we went to the next bar and they ordered some wine or beer again. It was virtually impossible for me to offer drinks to my friends, they always insisted to pay the bill. If Albino Michielli was along, our evening continued quite late, as he liked the red wine very well. Sometimes we had to show to each other how we had made such and such overhang in the mountains by climbing the nearby walls or the church tower pedestal.
My Italian friends had to work during the summer, and they could only climb during the weekends and not always even then. So I had to look for companions elsewhere. Once I got the word that a lone Belgian climber was staying in the Dibona hut under the Tofana wall. Of course I went there immediately and found the young strong looking guy outside the hut. He wanted to attack the Tofana pillar immediately, but I had just arrived and was short of training. He was not interested in preliminary projects and explained, that he could take care of the leading. As this was not absolutely to my taste, it was obvious that we would not form a cordée.
The young Belgian would have been too strong and dominant rope partner to me, as I found out a couple of years later, when he made one of the most surprising feats ever realised in the Dolomites: he climbed the north faces of Cima Ovest, Cima Grande, Cima Piccola, Punta Frida and the Preuss crack of the Cima Piccolissima - during one day and alone! I hardly have to give his name, so well known he is: Claudio Barbier.
Ralph Höibakk started climbing at the end of the fifties. We met by chance on a ferry from Stockholm to Finland. Later on I visited his home in Oslo and also the beautiful mountains of Innerdalen. In winter there can be lots of snow, we once had to search long for my parked car on a distant meadow. At last someone noticed a slight bump on the surface of the snow. There was it!
One summer we were climbing on some rocky wall in the archipelago of Oslo. I was in a tight place sweating and cursing when Ralph called: 'Behave yourself and make a good pose, a waterbus is passing by and people are looking at you!'.
In 1958 we were heading to the Alps starting from Oslo towards Copenhagen. It was meant to be a race: who would be first in the youth hostel of the Danish capital. To proceed only hitchhiking was allowed. When I arrived in the hostel with the great rucksack, exhausted but happy, Ralph was lying on a bed as if he had been there a week. He shouted: At last you are here! When asked from the keeper of the hostel, Ralph had arrived just some minutes before.
We flew to Paris with a DC-3 of a cheap Danish Students' Flight. Our rucksacks were too heavy, but collecting the hammers and pitons in our pockets we passed the check up point. When sitting in the cockpit we noticed that the gray wings of the plane had many black patches. And they seemed to sway heavily during the flight.
In Fontainebleau is a sandstone bouldering park, and there we had our first climbing trainings. Our hitch-hike continued along the Yonne river to the coral rocks of Saussois. The place had acquired fame some years earlier as the climbing school of the Parisians who had realized the first ascent of the west face of Dru. During a week-end there were a show of the French Alpine Club, and a lot of people gathered up. Top climbers of the era demonstrated their skill by scrambling up different routes on the overhanging 60 meter head wall.
At last a rescue action was performed. From the top of the crag a 'wounded' woman in an Akila was lowered on a cable-way. But suddenly the pitons came loose, and the Akila fell partly down against the wall. At the same time a heavy rain started, and people fled away in disorder. On the top there is a small hut of the alpine club. There we met some club officials, who told us that the woman was not seriously hurt. They asked us if we were staying in the place and offered us the hut and the remainder of their beer and bread supplies, if we would watch the equipment they had to leave behind in all haste. We stayed there for a week and could sleep in the hut and eat delicious french 'baquettes' and drink Kronenburg beer as much as we wanted.
Some serious training took place, and we could climb many difficult routes as f.ex. the 'Jardin Suspendu'. But a week was enough, and we continued our hike to the East. In Memmingen, Germany, the weather was very rainy, and the Youth Hostel was not in use. So at last we entered the police station and were given quarters in their best empty cell!
In the Cortina area we of course visited the Cinque Torri and climbed one of the most difficult routes called 'Via Dimai', which winds up the southeastern face of the Torre Grande. Then my companion had to leave, as he had a late-season appointment with an old Norwegian friend. I decided to go the Tre Cime, where I met the Austrian Himalayan climber Markus Schmuck and his party. They offered a rope partner to me in the form of engineer Rudolf Bardodej of Salzburg. I was a bit ashtonished as I had read and heard of him a lot. He had made difficult climbs just before the wars with the beautiful Helma Schimke. This year he was quite out of training and asked me to act as the leader of our team.
Our route was the famous Spigolo Giallo, 'Yellow Edge', a vertical and overhanging 300 meter ridge of the Cima Piccola, climbed the first time by Emilio Comici, Renato Zanutti and Mary Varale in 1933. It was rated as a VI degree climb even then, when we tied the ropes round our bodies at the foot of a cool, shady diedre. I made the two first rope lengths in it by spreading my feet to both sides of the 'open book'. After that we were in the sun and on the yellow ridge itself. Sometimes there were very few pitons, and I recall climbing vertically some 20 meters without meeting any belays. But the grips were good and there were plenty of them.
Engineer Bardodej came after at a brisk pace, and except one false step where I had to descend a difficult overhang, we went up quite rapidly. In the upper part I met a big leaning tower, which started to move slightly when I put my fingers in the crack. I wonder if it is still there, who knows.
This was a fine end to the long campaign of the year 1958.
At those times I got a thought of trying to conquer the overhanging North face of Cima Ovest. I wrote to Walter Gstrein in Vienna, and he was ready to the adventure. But during the spring we heard alarming news: Two Swiss climbers were laying siege to the formidable wall, which comes over some 70 meters. At last these two Swiss and also two Italians climbed the wall through a little bit different lines. We found consolation in trying the second ascent.
As a training we made the first climb of a small virgin wall near Cortina, the East wall of Torre Grande. It had been attacked in vain by several
top climbers of Cortina and was considered impossible without using expansion bolts. When waiting for Walter to arrive, I prepared the three first rope lengths with the aid of some Italian friends. With Walter we cleared the wall, and the new route was called 'Via Finlandia' after that.
For some reason later on the route was announced to have been made by Finnish
Walter Gstrain and Matti Jokinen. It would have been better to announce it made
by the Finnish Matti Jokinen with Walter Gstrein especially as it has been me
who had originally had the idea of the climb and who had lead the way right from
We scrambled up three rope lengths on the North Face of Cima Ovest just under the great roof, which seems to close the way further up. But we saw how it could be made. As it was late, the night was spent under the 15-m roof hanging in slings and on small rocky bands. It was a long night, but we were happy knowing that the next day we could solve the problem of the great roof.
In the morning, however, a violent storm broke out and at last snow began falling. We knew that it was over for us. It was a lengthy and difficult business to slide down with the ropes, as the wall was so heavily overhanging. But we succeeded. Helmut Dumler writes in his book 'Drei Zinnen': 'At the end of July 1959 the Finn Matti Jokinen and the Viennese Walter Gstrein stare up to the gigantic roofs of the "Swiss Route". They are coming from the Cinque Torri, where they had made the "Via Finlandia" in 12 hours. Both have been planning the first climb of the frightening part of the wall, but have arrived here only too late. Now they want to make at least the first repetition. However under the roof they are surprised by a terrible storm, which forces them to return back.'
After having rested for a day or two we attacked another great climb, which was one of most difficult in the Alps: the Pilastro of Tofana with its many roofs and the feared 'Back of the mule' just after the mid-way band. We knew that the great Austrian Hermann Buhl could not clear the overhang, but found a way on the side of it.
We climbed leading alternately as always. Walter cleared the roofs with great skill, and then we arrived to the band and it was my turn to try the 'Back of the mule'. Somehow I could manage it without any extreme measures and after that the wall was only vertical above us. It began to snow and at last rain and we had to hurry up in order to get away from the inhospitable wall before the night.
Two years later I received a big letter with many express-stamps on it. It was an invitation to participate in a four-man Norwegian Himalayan expedition headed by Professor Arne Naess. It was an avant-gardist enterprise, as at those times the high peaks were assaulted through the easiest routes, not by the steepest side as the Tirich Mir pillar. Hectic times followed, and when the day came everything was ready. But then at the last moment a cancellation came from Pakistan.
In the summer I was to meet Ralph Höibakk in the Dolomites. I was early in the Cinque Torri group and made the frightening Dimai-crack of the Torre Grande with Luciano da Pozzo of Cortina. He had some trouble with his heart, he had an inborn fault there, and the doctors had forbidden all sports from him. The Dimai crack widens and at last closes itself, and the output of it is the crux of the climb. I do not recall any more which one of us was leading there, but it was really one of the hardest passages I have made.
Then I met the American Dale L. Johnson there, and together we made the 'Direttisima Scoiattoli', which was the hardest route there before we had created the Finlandia line.
Then a letter from Ralph arrived: 'Sorry I am a bit late, but so that you would not get lazy I send you a young Anders as a companion'. And after some days an eager Norvegian climbing debutant Anders Opdal appeared in the hut. I introduced him to the Cinque Torri group, where we made many fine routes. One of them was the Via Miriam, and I was still leading the way. I was already above the final diedre sitting on the edge of a belay shelf. Anders started climbing the diedre which contains the crux of the route. I belayed him keeping the rope wound round my body, as was the custom at those times. All of a sudden I heard a shout and felt a tremendous pull in the rope, which pressed me hardly against the shelf. My feet were pressed against a rock, and I squeezed the rope with my fingers as much as I could. At last the pressure went off, and I could breathe more freely once more. It was a near thing. I had forgotten, that Anders weighed more than 90 kilos!
Ralph arrived in his time, and the three of us we made a new very direct route through the southern wall of the Torre Grande. When waiting for the Norwegians I had started this enterprise at the foot of the tower making the first short rope length to the small horizontal bands, between the Scoiattoli and the Miriam route. I had to drill a couple of holes for the smallest pitons in order to get forward, but the most pitons were inserted in natural fossil holes and some thin cracks. When our route crossed the Via Miriam, a difficult overhang had to be cleared. After that our way went in a beautiful diedre
Next summer we made a radio program for the Finnish Broadcasting Company about climbing. My companion was Martti Timonen. It was a success and later the Company wanted to send us to the Himalayas, Everest region. Again we collected gear and all possible equipment and asked for a permission to climb a mountain there, possibly Kangtega or Thamserku, but when the crucial date was near, again arrived a letter of cancellation, this time from Kathmandu, Nepal.
Accident when climbing
In the 1960s I found climbing company in homeland. Our favorite wall was near Helsinki in Sipoo. We trained there also in winter. It was a funny sight to see Bill from the U.S. Embassy and Juri from the Russian Trade Mission hanging in their step-slings side by side on the snowy rock wall, as those were the years of the cold war. Much later after the fall of the Soviet regime Juri was a candidate for the ambassador to Finland, but another Juri, Juri Derjabin was elected.
In 1962 the Finnish Alpine Club was founded. Next year we got an invitation to ENSA in Chamonix, where an international alpinist meeting was held. All travel expenses inside France as well as the three weeks' stay in ENSA with cableway tickets and provisions for all climbing parties were offered by the government. I could not get a companion from Finland, but was ready to go alone.
In the autumn of 1963 I tried to make the first free climb of the route called 'Giant'. We had quite short ropes then and made such climbs in two parts. My partner was belaying me in 10 meter's height, and I was 2 meters higher in an overhang, when the piton I was pulling from came suddenly out. It was a 2:1 fall, and the load in my partner's hands must have been tremendous. He had to let go, and I fell those 12 meters down, where nasty blocks were waiting. I could turn around in the air and tried to steer with the hands towards the only even spot on the ground. There I landed, but unfortunately there were a small stone just where my left knee hit. I felt the hard pain and with my hand I found a hard lump under the skin beside the left trouser pocket. It was the patella bone that had been smashed to several pieces and pulled up there by the muscles.
My comrades brought me to a hospital with great speed, and I was operated. My whole leg was in plaster the three summer months. It healed well, and in the autumn I could walk again. However, the fourth intervertebral disk had probably suffered a damage, as I was getting trouble with my back later on.
In 1965 we were on the Mont Blanc with our tape recorders. During the night in the elevated Goûter-hut I got an attack of severe back pain. It went over with the aid of strong pills, and early in the morning we started scrambling up the slope to the Dôme du Goûter. However, the wind was blowing too hard and we had to abandon the effort. It meant also a 25 years' pause to my mountaineering activities.