ANDRE ROCH (1906-2002)
There cannot be many mountaineers, past or present, who could claim to have derived a spell of active enjoyment from their passion for over fifty years. Andre Roch, who died in Geneva on 19 November 2002 aged ninety-six, was one of the few who did so. He attributed his good fortune to the enthusiasm provided by his father Professor Maurice Roch, a doctor of medicine, Rector of Geneva University, and President of the Geneva section of the Swiss Alpine Club, who used to take him out during his boyhood scrambling on the rocks of the Saleve near his home. At fourteen his ascents included the Fletschhorn, Weissmeiss, and Rimpfischhorn; three years later the traversed the Zinal Rothorn, and climbed the Z’mutt ridge of the Matterhorn; the following year he arrived on the summit of the Grepon late in the evening in a storm. In the winter of 1926, accompanied by Armand Charlet of Chamonix, he climbed the Dent du Requin, the Aiguille du Plan, and the Grepon. Beginnings filled with high promise, and followed by a career replete with a series of remarkable accomplishments.
But Andre Roch was not an alpinist pure and simple. He combined his passion for mountaineering with his interest in painting, photography, as a writer, a lecturer, and as a pioneer in scientific research relating to snow and avalanches. His life spanned practically an entire century, during which mountaineering methods as practised by the pioneers underwent changes to a degree that could hardly have been imagined. During civil engineering studies at Zurich University Andre Roch began to excel as a skier, winning competitions at Cortina in downhill racing, slalom, and jumping. In 1928 he was chosen to train an Italian University team at Val Gardena for slalom and downhill racing. During the winter of 1930-31 he undertook a course of study at the Oregon State College USA, when he climbed Mount Hood. On returning to Switzerland, he worked as an engineer on a barrage south of Grenoble but, having qualified as a guide, he quit his job and worked as an alpine guide and instructor, occupations much more to his liking. In 1934 he was invited to join Professor G. O. Dyhrenfurth’s expedition to the Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram. A route was explored on the SE ridge of Gasherbrum I by which, with some variation, an American party climbed the mountain 24 years later. The S. E. summit of Baltoro Kangri 7275 m was climbed, on ski upto 7000 m; also the Central summit of Sia Kangri 7300 m, survey of several good climbs were made. Dunagiri 7066 m, attempted by W.W. Graham with Emil Boss and Ulrich Kaufmann in 1883, and later by Peter Oliver also by Eric Shipton, was approached from the Rhamani glacier and climbed by its West ridge on 5 July. Moving over to the Kosa glacier cirque, seven peaks were climbed including Rataban 6150 m and Gauri Parvat 6714 m. An attempt on the SE face of Chaukhamba 7138 m ended after an avalanche swept the party’s camp 500 metres down a snow slope, killing two Sherpas.
In 1947, Andre Roch led the first foreign expedition to visit the Himalaya after World War II, the party including R. Dittert and Alexander Graven a leading Zermatt guide. I was privileged to be invited as a guest member. With base camp placed below a moraine ridge on the left bank of the Gangotri glacier, Kedarnath peak 6940 m was climbed, and a possible route was explored on the western approaches to Chaukhamba. We had a team of nine Sherpas with old Wangdi Norbu as Sirdar, but following his removal to hospital after an accident, Roch had no hesitation in appointing Tenzing in his place. From a new Base at Nandanvan above the meeting point of the Chaturangi glacier with the Gangotri, now a popular camp-site facing the NE face of Shivling, Satopanth 7075 m was climbed on 1 August. Two other mountains were ascended, Kalindi peak, 6100 m and Balbala, 6416 m. On 10 September Roch accompanied by Dittert and Ang Tenzing climbed Nanda Ghunti, 6310 m after a final climb of over eight hours, which Roch described as the hardest of the whole expedition. Roch was an obvious choice for the Swiss team which so nearly climbed Everest in 1952. He had a lasting regret that the leader, Dr. Wyss-Dunant, insisted on the return of all climbers from the South Col after the attempt made by Lambert and Tenzing. Roch felt strongly that he and one or two of the other four climbers still on the col had a strong of making it to the top. The following year, Roch joined a team of seven from the Academic Alpine Club of Zurich for an attempt on Dhaulagiri by its forbidding north face. After reaching about 7700 m the route was abandoned owing to serious objective danger. The route was finally climbed in 1982 by a Japanese group after the failure of four earlier attempts and the loss of three lives.
During Andre Roch’s first visit to Britain in 1948 he was taken rock- climbing in North Wales. On his next visit in 1954 he climbed Kern Knotts crack in the Lake District, and in 1978 he enjoyed a short spell at Glenmore Lodge. Broadminded, international in outlook, he was at home in any company; his sense of humour, sometimes mischievous, was always alive. He shrugged off any deprecatory comments about current styles in alpinism, seeming to imply that differences also existed between the methods followed in his day and those practised by the early Alpine pioneers – whom he admired. Commenting a few years ago about the proliferation of Alpine Clubs that spread across Europe and elsewhere after the Alipne Club was founded in 1857, he wrote ‘the die was cast, and alpinism was born in the congenial form introduced by the English’.
Andre Roch reaped his richest harvest as a mountaineer, often accompanied by his friends Jimmy Belaieff and Robet Greloz, during the 1930s and 1940s. A list of his Alpine ascents would be far too numerous to mention, but some of the highlights indicate the quality of his climbs. On the Brenva face of Mount Blanc, a variation of the Route Moore, the Route Major, Sentinelle Rouge, and Pear Buttress (2nd ascent); a 20-hour traverse from the col de la Fourche over the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey and the summit of Mont Blanc to the Grands Mulets. The 1st ascent of the N face of the Triolet; the 2nd complete traverse of the Aiguilles du Diable; the 3rd ascent of the N.face of Les Droites; 1st roped descent of the N.face of the Petit Dru; Mer de Glace face of the Grepon; Charmoz-Grepon traverse; Matterhorn: Forggen ridge, and 7th ascent of the N. face; 3rd ascent S.face of the Taschhorn; 1st ascent W.couloir of Dent Blancher; Weisshorn traverse over N. ridge; Eiger Mitteleti ridge; traverse of La Meije; 1st direct ascent of the E.summit Aiguilles du Midi; 1st ascent Zinal Rothorn E. face (which he considered to be one of his finest climbs).
Andre Roch joined the Swiss Federal Institute for the Study of Snow and Avalanches at its inauguration in 1940 on the Weissfluhjoch above Davos, where he worked for over thirty years on the study and structure of snow and the causes and prevention of avalanches. During World War II he conducted training courses for Army officers on snow conditions, weather, and skiing. During his mountaineering career he was thrice caught in avalanches, and twice almost overcome by them. In later years he liked to remark facetiously ‘You will always be bluffed by avalanches, because they don’t know that you are an expert!’
In 1938 Andre Roch led a Zurich Academic Alpine Club expedition to East Greenland when six first ascents were made, including that of second highest peak Mt. Forel 3360 m. he went there against in 1957 and 1959 with glaciological and topographical expeditions. He visited the USA in the winter of 1936-37, climbing and exploring some of the mountains above Aspen, Colorado. In the summer of 1937 he designed the setup of the first ski-runs and chair lifts in Aspen. He visited the USA against in 1949, crossing several passes and exploring number of peaks. In 1950, during an expedition to Alaska, he made the second ascent of Mount Logan. At Aspen in 1967, by then well known and popular, he conducted an avalanche course, and attended a down hill ski race for the Roch Cup on the slope which he had designed, and which bears his name. He returned to Aspen in 1987 where the 50th anniversary of his first visit was celebrated.
As the leader of two small-scale Swiss expeditions organized by the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research Zurich, Andre Roch visited Garhwal twice. In 1939, accompanied by two climbers F. Steuri, D. Zogg, and L. Huber who carried out a photogrammetric survey.
When I went to live in Switzerland in 1975, Andre Roch got in touch with me; and from then on we used to visit each other regularly. At his house in Geneva, looking out on the Saleve, surrounded by his library and his Alpine and Himalayan paintings, we would meet during his retirement. He loved to reminisce, to discuss mountains and mountaineers, and he would watch with rapt attention videos of mountain films, his eyes lighting up with the old sparkling smile. At a birthday party held in his garden he introduced me to some of his old climbing friends including Raymond Lambert, Ernest Hofstetter, Alfred Tissieres, Georges de Rham, amongst others. Andre Roch was elected to honorary membership of seven clubs and societies, and he followed his father’s example by serving a term as president of the Geneva Section of the Swiss Alpine Club. He authored innumerable articles and about a dozen books, including Climbs of My Youth (1942), On Rock and Ice (1946), Mon Carnet de Course (1948). His last book, superbly illustrated, Exploits au Mont Blanc published in 1987, contains a history of ascents made on the great mountain.
There could be no better proof of is devotion to mountains than his acceptance, at the age of eighty-four, of an invitation to visit the Baltoro glacier fifty-six years after his first visit, walking much of the way from Skardu to Concordia, and returning with some new sketches of the magnificent peaks which dominate the region. He was one of those fortunate few able to combine his passion for mountains with a profession devoted to the study of their phenomena.
In 1939 he married Emilie Dollfus, who pre-deceased him; he is survived by his son, daughter, grand-children, and great grandchildren.
SHERPA ANG TSHERING II (1905-2002)
Sherpa Ang Tshering II, Himalayan Club No.36, passed away on the 22 May 2002 in his home in Darjeeling after suffering a short illness following a stroke. Born in the year of the Serpent, he was 97.
He began life in the remote village of Thame, which is situated in the upper reaches of the Bhote Kosi river in the Khumbu region of Nepal, Ang Tshering came to Darjeeling in his teens like most Sherpas of the time did, seeking employment and a better life. He was barely 20 years when he found employment in the 1924 British Everest expedition, now famous for the disappearance of the famous climbers Mallory and Irvine on the summit ridge of Everest.
In his lifetime, Ang Tshering saw Himalayan climbing in its infancy and saw it progress with the first ascents of all the major peaks of the Himalaya . Records show Ang Tshering’s participation in a number of these expeditions. The most memorable of these was his role on Nanga Parbat. Ang Tshering was the sole survivor of the party of 4 German Sahibs and 5 Darjeeling Sherpas. Stranded in the highest camps of Nanga Parbat during diabolical weather conditions following a blizzard from the 10 to the 13 July 1934, both Germans and the Sherpas died one by one due to exposure, extreme cold, hunger, thirst and exhaustion. When Ang Tshering came down to Camp IV barely alive, he told his simple and straight forward tale of the tragic events that took place in the heights. ‘What suffering this loyal man had endured and what a super human achievement,’ remarked one of the German survivors of this ill fated expedition. The following year, in 1935, Ang Tshering was awarded the German Red Cross Medal for bravery and dedication to duty in extreme circumstances on Nanga Parbat.
Ang Tshering whole heartedly participated in all expeditions he joined and was responsible in considerable measure for their success. A deeply religious Sherpa, he was among those of his time, who strongly believed that the mountain tops were the abode of Gods. He was fond of recounting the sermon preached by the Grand Lama of the Rongbuk Monastery who, in giving an audience to the1924 British Expedition, had said, ‘let the Sahibs go anywhere they like, but you of the inner faith shall not go to the top, for the mountain tops are the abode of Gods.’ The Lama had blessed the Expedition Sherpa and Bhutia carriers but had warned them that the high mountain that they were attempting to climb was a sacred ground.
Ang Tshering was among the first 10 select Sherpas and Bhutias who were awarded the coveted Tiger Medal instituted by the Himalayan Club in 1938 in recognition of their outstanding performance and contribution to Himalayan Mountaineering.
The following is a short list of innumerable Himalayan Expeditions he had served during his active climbing years:
|1924||Everest||Gen. C. G. Bruce||British|
|1930||Kangchenjunga||G. O. Dyhrenfurth||Swiss/
|1934||Nanga Parbat||Willy Merkyl||German|
|1952||Everest||Dr. E. Wyss-Dunant||Swiss|
|1954||Yeti search||Stopli||Sponsored by Daily Mail United Kingdom|
|1960||Nanda Ghunti||Sukumar Roy||Indian|
|1962||jugal Himal||Akai Takahashi||japanese|
LORD CHARLES BAGOT
Captain H. Charles Bagot of the Gurkhas became a member of the Himalayan Club in 1946 whilst he was Chief Instructor of Skiing at the R.A.F. Mountain Centre which in winter time was based at Gulmarg in Kashmir. In that same year his book Skis in India was published. He was a fine mountaineer as well as skier and we first met late in 1944 at the R.A.F. Base Camp in Sonamarg, when he and I were two of the instructional staff for Wilfrid Noyce, taking aircrews and paratroopers trekking and climbing in the mountains of Kashmir and Ladakh. After I took over from Wilfred Noyce, Charles became one of my staff during the summer and autumn of 1945. He made many ascents in the Thajiwas and Nichinai areas including Haramukh.
He had a very good knowledge of wildlife which he passed on to the “students” . I remember the occasion when because of a sudden storm, he and his party failed by a mere 100 m in reaching the summit of Beraz (5450 m) in the Chiskam Nar. His disappointment and that of his party was greatly mollified by the sighting of a snow leopard during the descent.
R. L. Holdsworth wrote the foreword to his ski book and in it pointed out that whilst (RLH) was a schoolmaster at Harrow, he and Charles (then a boy of sixteen) had formed the Harrow Marmots, a ski club that accomplished many ambitious tours in the glacier regions of the European Alps. Later in life Charles became a Ski Champion of India, a staunch supporter of the Ski Club of India and a proud member of the Himalayan Club.
From 1947 until his retirement in the early 1970′s he was a planter in Sri Lanka and whenever possible would return to the ‘Abode of Snow’ for refreshment of mind and body.
On return to Britain, after a number of years in Shropshire, he came to live in the mountains of North Wales (Snowdonia) and for my wife Eileen and me, it was a great pleasure to ski with him on the Carneddu and to have him and his wife Patricia, visit us at Plasy Brenin and then later at Plas Menai, the National Centre for Wales. We also spent many delightful hours with them at their house on the Lleyn Peninsula.
Charles will be sadly missed by so many friends throughout the mountain world who spent happy days with him on foot and ski.
John A. Jackson
DR. HERBERT RICHTER
My father served in the German imperial army during the First World War (more correct : in the Royal Saxonian Artillery), and was wounded in November 1918. He then joined the German foreign service in 1924,
after studying in Dresden and Munich. His first post was in Poland, and then worked in Italy and various other countries, before he started work in Sri Lanka and India. My parents first met in Sri Lanka, and they married 1937 in Calcutta.
During the Second World War, my parents lived in Tanget, Marco, where my father certainly also took the opportunity to climb the mountains of Northern Africa. After the Second World War, my father worked again in New Delhi (where I was born on 8 April 1953). He lived in Man Singh Road, as far as I remember. From that period I still have pictures in my house here in Munich given to my father from the German Himalaya Foundation, with regard to the German expedition to Annapurna IV in 1955, as well as to Kangchenjunga and Siniolchu mountains. During this second ‘India – Period’, we used to live in hill- stations in Kashmir during the summer period, as well as in Darjeeling, where my father used to climb Himalayan mountains. From 1957 to 1960, we moved to Iraq, and then from 1960-62 Tunisia, and finally 1962-64 to Algeria. Then after the retirement of my father, he lived in Munich, Germany together with my mother, until my mother died in 1992. After his retirement, my father liked to spend a lot of his time in Switzerland, Pantresina city, where he enjoyed very much to climb the mountains in the vicinity of Pantresina and St. Maritz. He also once made a trip to Kenya to Kilimanjaro. and was member of the ‘Dentscher Alpenverein’, Sektian Dresden. Needless to say, that I inherited the love of Asia, and of the mountains of Asia!
From 1999 until his death, my father was handicapped and had to use a wheel chair due to a brainstroke.
DR. G. R. PATWARDHAN* (1916-2002)
If you are trekker and mountaineer you could not have missed Dr. G. R. Patwardhan. He was a veteran mountaineer and Himalayan explorer and was a legendary character. During 1960 to 2000, years and generations of mountaineers from Pune and Mumbai knew him. He trained many people. They loved and respected him. As far as
Dr G. R. Patwardhan was not a member of the Himalayan Club. This obituary is printed as a special tribute. – ed.
mountaineering information is concerned, he was a last word on Gangotri glacier of Garhwal Himalaya, he could read the region like the lines of one’s palm. 1960 onwards for more than 33 years he used to visit this area and climb new peaks every year. All these years he took young people with him on treks to Sahayadri, Western Ghats and trained hundreds of people in mountaineering skills. Though he lost his hearing during his army service, he used to grasp everything with his intelligence, common sense and sense of humor. Not very tall, stalky built, very fair, mischievous, grey, spectacled eyed.
He was born in 1916 in Pune and did L.C.P.S. He used to play and love cricket and rowing in college days. He took short service commission and joined Army in 1942. He lost his hearing due to a bomb shell and left Army in 1946. Then again he took a diploma in Tropical medicines in Kolkata and went to Africa, served for 10 years as medical officer in Eden. And then as his hearing power was further decreased he left medical service and came back to Pune in 1956. At the age of 40, during 1956, he completed his basic and advance course in mountaineering at HIM, Darjeeling and took to mountaineering. Mountaineering exploration in Himalaya became his main goal accompanied by training young aspirants in this field. He had a great love for hill and mountain flowers and vegetation. He used to read lot and was very fond of books. He had very good collection of books mainly on sports, adventure, mountaineering and World Wars. He used to inspire young people to read books and give them books to read. He was very particular about keeping appointments and very particular about time.
He had a great sense of humour. He used to joke with quite a serious face and once he was assured that it had hit the target he used to have a hearty laugh, with his grey eyes. He was very sincere in every work, very deep, full of knowledge and very austere in his behaviour and his thoughts.
He was very particular in communicating in English and only in English. Many a time I tried to argue with him and spoke Marathi, but all this fell on deaf ears (which he really had!). Others used to communicate with him through writing. As he started mountaineering at the age of 45 he called himself ‘Man of 45′.
He had been feeling weak for last 10 years. But he used to visit Sinhgad at regular intervals. For last few months he was perhaps feeling his end was nearing, so he gave message to his fellow friends and mountaineers to assemble on Sinhgad on 31 December 2001. Everybody enjoyed to be with this legendary character. Nobody knew it was the last occasion. He breathed his last on 28 June 2002.
The Himalayan Club Obituary
C. E. J. Crawford Dr Ardito Desio Andre Roch
Dr Herbert Richter Major Roy Berry Lord Charles Bagot E.D.Avari J.A.Gaitonde Sir Peter Holmes Prof.F.C.Rodger Maj.Gen M.R.Rajawade Dr.P.A.Naik
Dr.Ripley S.Dhillon Dr Atusushi Tokunaga
Honorary Member 1937 Honorary Member 1972 Honorary Member 1996
Life Member 1938
Life Member 1944
Life Member 1946
Life Member 1946
Life Member 1952
Life Member 1955
Life Member 1958
Life Member 1959
Life Member 1974
Member 1949 Member 1983