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Chamonix in 1971.... remembered

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 Fredt 17 Aug 2009
I noticed in another thread that Al Evans mentioned that he was in the Alps in 1969.

Can I ask if you happened to be there, specifically in Chamonix, in 1971?

(This question is also for anyone who was in Chamonix in 1971)

In reply to Fredt:

I was in Chamonix in 1971 from 13-16th August.
 Fredt 17 Aug 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Thanks Gordon, the second question was going to be "were you there in September 1971"
(maybe I should have put the month in the first question!)

Anyway Gordon, might I ask if you recall any names of other (British) people who were there and may have stayed into September.
I have one name so far, - Mick Geddes. Strangely I have no record of Al Rouse that year, though he was certainly there in 70 and 72.

I'm trying to build a picture of what things were like generally that summer amongst the British crowd, through to early September.
Were you at Snell's field? Any anecdotes, descriptions of conditions, weather etc would be most welcome.

In reply to Fredt:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> Thanks Gordon, the second question was going to be "were you there in September 1971"
> (maybe I should have put the month in the first question!)
>
> Anyway Gordon, might I ask if you recall any names of other (British) people who were there and may have stayed into September.

When I arrived at Snell's field in mid-August, after a very good season in Bernina/Bregaglia, the weather had turned bad - so everyone was back in Chamonix celebrating a good year. Among those I remember who were definitely there were: Mick Geddes, Al Rouse, Brian Hall, Pete Minks, Brian Molyneux, Roger Baxter-Jones, my brother, and John Syrett; plus a large crowd of us from the South Wales Mountaineering Club. Huge numbers of other 'names' whom I've forgotten. Rab Carrington, almost certainly. Al Harris, maybe.

> I have one name so far, - Mick Geddes. Strangely I have no record of Al Rouse that year, though he was certainly there in 70 and 72.

He was definitely there. (See below)

> I'm trying to build a picture of what things were like generally that summer amongst the British crowd, through to early September.

It was a year of a monumental piss-up at Maurice's - which would have been on the Saturday night of 14 August. It ended up with the Japs and the Brits standing on tables facing each other, singing very obscene versions of various well-known songs (the Brits led by Pete Minks, IIRC). Actually, it didn't end there, because someone fell off the balcony into the river, and I ended up driving Al Rouse, Brian Hall and John Syrett on a crazy late-night escapade.

As a result, the gendarmarie came up the track to Snell's field the very next morning and lined everyone up in front of the huge boulder to take a group photograph of 'suspects'. It just so happened that I was in the woods taking a crap, so was fortunate enough to miss this. The most incredible thing, though, was that, on top of the very boulder - a bit bigger than the largest of the Cromlech boulders - that was a backdrop to the photograph, was sitting a huge park bench that had been stolen the night before from somewhere in the middle of Chamonix, and the police never spotted it! They obviously never looked up!!

> Were you at Snell's field? Any anecdotes, descriptions of conditions, weather etc would be most welcome.

I could write a lot just about that one Saturday night, and the amazing aftermath, courtesy of Syrett and Rouse working in unison. ... Though that may actually have happened on the Sunday night ...

 Fredt 17 Aug 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Excellent Gordon, many thanks. You ought to write a book! ;)

Far too many of those names no longer here.
In reply to Fredt:

PS. Martin Boysen was definitely there, and I think almost certainly, Tom Proctor and Geoff Birtles.
In reply to Fredt:

I am writing even now about 1969 ...
 Ally Baba 18 Aug 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Sounds awesome. Wish Cham was still like that. When did everything start too mellow out?
In reply to Ally Baba:

I don't know. I haven't been back since 1972

As a matter of fact, I don't remember there being such a crazy atmosphere in 1972 as 1971, so perhaps it was already losing something!
 Al Evans 18 Aug 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: I was definitely there in '69 because we watched the moon landing, it was also the year the gendaramarie did a tear gas attack on the Alpenstock and we all escaped through the windows (or was that 70?) and John Porter was rescued and we had to rescue him through the window of the hospital because he couldn't afford the rescue and hospital fees.
Paul Nunn broke his leg over on the Philipe Flamme with Jack Street and an Irish lad was killed who was camping in the next tent to us. (Might have been called Dermot)
I think two Liverpool lads whose names I forget (Arther Decuzelea or something like that) were killed by lightning on the Peuterey Ridge. Sixty nine was an eventful year, it was also our first season. We did the Gervasutti Pillar and noticed strange tracks in the couloir, we thought someone must have fallen but when we got to the hut, in the log, we saw that a day earlier Sylvan Sudan had done the first ski descent of the Gervasutti Couloir, awesome.
Sorry Fred, cant help you with '71 I was in the Bregaglia.



 Fredt 18 Aug 2009
In reply to Ally Baba:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) Sounds awesome. Wish Cham was still like that. When did everything start too mellow out?

I would guess when they closed Snell's Field.
Is it true the Gendarmerie had a hand in its closure?
In reply to Fredt:
> (In reply to Ally Baba)
> [...]
>
> I would guess when they closed Snell's Field.
> Is it true the Gendarmerie had a hand in its closure?

Yes, I think I heard that, too. Apart from anything else it was very unhygenic, of course, in that there were no loos, and the wood was used in lieu of a loo (pardon pun!)
 sutty 18 Aug 2009
In reply to Fredt:

>Is it true the Gendarmerie had a hand in its closure?

Them and scruffy climbers. They started coming round every two days and tried to get people to tidy up their mess, and if they saw the same mess by the same tent twice would offer them the option of getting off the site or being arrested.

That was in 72. I think the site adjacent also had a hand in it when people would camp free in Snells field then use the toilets on her field. As in other places, climbers spoilt it for themselves.
Snell set up his site when the place behind the Biolette was closed for similar health reasons, people shitting everywhere in the woods. Then people spoilt his site, idiots.
 Doug 18 Aug 2009
 alan edmonds 18 Aug 2009
In reply to Fredt:
> Al Rouse that year, though he was certainly there in 70 ....

I was party to the incident on the West Face of the Blatiere when our party arrived at the ledge below the Fissure Brown only to find Geoff Birtles belaying Al. Al had fallen some distance out of the fissure and courageously gone straight back and led the wedgeless pitch. I think it was his first Alpine season.Having trained on Cheshire sandstone (like me) he wasn't used to gritstine-like off-widths at that stage in his climbing career.

Subsequently we all got caught in a phenomenal thunderstorm in which (according to the chapter in Al Rouses's biog) Al and Geoff split up on the descent.We sheltered in the Plan d'Aiguille telephrique station and were stunned (metaphorically) by fireballs shooting up the cables and exploding over our heads. This may be the thunderstorm that Arthur Decouzel (?) and partner were killed on the Grand Cap as I recall.

In 1971 I was in Courmayeur with Paul Sidoli (the climbing priest) and met Joe Tasker in the Val Veni out on his first Alpine season.
 Fredt 20 Aug 2009
In reply to alan edmonds:
> (In reply to Fredt)
> >
> In 1971 I was in Courmayeur with Paul Sidoli (the climbing priest) and met Joe Tasker in the Val Veni out on his first Alpine season.

I'm sure I've seen a photo somewhere of Joe at Snell's field, around that time.

In reply to Fredt: Fredt, thanks for starting this thread. Sometimes I really do believe there is such a thing as the good old days. Reading this thread with interest as I love the antics of the past which (wrongly?) now seem unlikely in this day and age. As sutty highlights, we climbers cause the loss of these wide stories through inconsiderate actions. We are the undoing of ourselves.

really good thread - hope people continue to post on it.
 alan edmonds 20 Aug 2009
In reply to Fredt:
> I'm sure I've seen a photo somewhere of Joe at Snell's field, around that time.

He was with Roger Mear who I seem to recall had been a racing cyclist up until then and subsequently became a polar explorer.
 Al Evans 20 Aug 2009
In reply to alan edmonds: Hehehehe, I think Geoff only went on it because we had done it in '69 and I'd told him it was easy That was the year Brian Molyneaux removed the giant wooden wedges. He had them outside his tent as trophies and some irate french guides turned up for them. They were going to replace them as they couldn't get their clients up the Fissure Brown without them. Obviously if they were still not there in 1970 they either didn't or somebody else removed them
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to alan edmonds) That was the year Brian Molyneaux removed the giant wooden wedges. He had them outside his tent as trophies and some irate french guides turned up for them. They were going to replace them as they couldn't get their clients up the Fissure Brown without them. Obviously if they were still not there in 1970 they either didn't or somebody else removed them

1969 was also the year Brian Molyneaux, Leo Dickinson and Pete Crew opened - in August -a very nice route on the Italian side, on the east face of the Aiguilles de Pra Sec (a satellite of the Jorasses). First the entire face was touched!

 Mike C 20 Aug 2009
In reply to alan edmonds:
> (In reply to Fredt)
> [...]
>
> He was with Roger Mear who I seem to recall had been a racing cyclist up until then and subsequently became a polar explorer.

Roger managed a fair bit of decent climbing as well, often with Steve Bell, a couple of pics in Steve's gallery here:
http://www.ukclimbing.com/photos/author.html?id=68477
 Al Evans 21 Aug 2009
In reply to Luca Signorelli: Are you sure it was Pete Crew? It would more likely be Pete Minx, I can't remember Crewy being out that year and Pete M was a mate of Leo and Brians,
 Al Evans 21 Aug 2009
In reply to Mike C: That was good to see, I didn't know Steve posted on here. Did some climbing in the UK with Steve, notably Heart of the Sun, and was on the Everest trip that there are some pics of on there.
 Fredt 21 Aug 2009
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Luca Signorelli) Are you sure it was Pete Crew? It would more likely be Pete Minx, I can't remember Crewy being out that year and Pete M was a mate of Leo and Brians,

That what the old Vallot says, but your comment is very interesting! Do you know if Minx can be contacted in any way?

And by the way - anyone here knows if Crew, Dickinson or Molyneux have email or something?
 Al Evans 21 Aug 2009
In reply to Luca Signorelli:

Leo's is
Leo@adventurearchive.com

I have an address for Brian but no e-mail.
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Luca Signorelli)
>
> Leo's is
> Leo@adventurearchive.com
>
> I have an address for Brian but no e-mail.

Thanks Al, I'll try to get in touch with Leo.
In reply to Al Evans:

> (In reply to alan edmonds) That was the year Brian Molyneaux removed the giant wooden wedges. ...they couldn't get their clients up the Fissure Brown without them.

A few years later, a mate told me that the Fissure Brown was festooned with wedges - and there was even an extra one below (Gallic irony?), in case someone needed more. My mate was well pissed off as he dearly wanted to do it free.

The guy killed by lightening was probably Alfred de Kouzel (sp?). Poor devil. Someone once told me a deliciously naughty tale of his antics on a certain Welsh classic. But not suitable for relating on these august forums.

Mick

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