A Holiday to Remember

By Alan (L) Jones


Alan Barber’s article in the last Newsletter reminded me that an MA Course at Schwarenbach was my first serious venture into mountaineering, although I had been introduced to fell walking, rock climbing and caving with Catterick Dales Club during National Service.  I had just graduated in 1961 and was about to start my first job with ICI Billingham.  It was this holiday in the Alps that convinced me that mountaineering was something I really wanted to do, so I joined the Cleveland Mountaineering Club as soon as I had taken up residence on Tees-side.  I followed up my MA course with a winter mountaineering course at Glenmore Lodge and another MA course at Arolla which included an ascent of the Dent Blanche 4357m. Things did not work out at ICI, so two years later I moved to Manchester for postgraduate research at Manchester College of Science & Technology (which became UMIST and subsequently absorbed by the University of Manchester). At that time I was introduced to the KMC through a mutual friend of Charlie Park, who moved to Vancouver very soon after, but I had previously met KMC founder, Plum Worrall, as my instructor at Glenmore Lodge and who gave me my first ski lesson as there was too much new soft snow for climbing..

The MA course at Schwarenbach was for beginners and included basic training in crevasse rescue and all mountaineering techniques on rock, snow and ice, many of which would horrify present day climbers.  Even then, we were in dispute with the guide about the use of knees.  “If it is easier to use se knee, vy not?”   “Here you vill have to use se knee, sere is no oser vay of doing zis climb”.  Nothing more was said, but 6 English novices got up that route without a single knee touching the rock.

Schwarenbach (still run by the same family) is a magnificent centre with a range of walking, and climbing possibilities and nowadays also skiing.  Peaks climbed were Grosser Lohner 3049m (just a warm-up  walk), Steghorn 3145m, Wildstrubel 3244m, Tschingellochtighorn 2735m (with no early start as it does not involve ice or snow) and, for the climax of the holiday, the Balmhorn 3699m, which did require our first experience of a 2:00am start.  There were magnificent views from the summit of the Bernese Oberland including the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau at the head of the Grosser Aletsch Glacier.  The plan was to traverse the Altes 3629m for the return route but there was too much snow, so we were back at the hotel by 9:30am having climbed the highest mountain in the area.