3. J. L. PEIRCE
  4. C. F. W. NOYCE





Robert Kappeler was born on February 16th, 1949, in Frauen- feld. He has left us, all too soon, on April 3rd, 1960. After much suffering, death has delivered him from a dreadful illness for which there was no hope of a cure.

A love of Nature and of beauty made him turn to mountaineering ; and when the popularity of skiing increased in the twenties he was one of its leaders—especially where ski-excursions were concerned.

We made our first big climbing expeditions together in 1934 from the Lauteraarhut; these included a direct ascent to the Grosse Lauteraarhorn from the Aauteraar Glacier, the Anderson ridge of the Grosse Schreckhorn, and a number of less important climbs. The following year we did the Badile north ridge, the Sciora couloir of the Ago di Sciora, and others.

In 1936 he was in the Dauphine, and traversed the Barre des Ecrins and the Meije. 1941 saw us in the Valais where we climbed the Taschhorn, the Dom, crossed the Nadelhorner and then the Zinalrothorn, Matterhorn, and a direct ascent in the Lyskamm from the Grenzgletscher. The climbs of the next summer include the Aiguilles Dorees, Argentiere and Chardonnet, and in 1943 the Bietschhorn, Lotschentaler Breithorn and others, as well as the North ridge of the Weisshorn. Then, in the next year, starting from the Mountet hut, we climbed the Zinalrothorn, the North ridge and Arben ridge of the Obergabelhorn, the Viereselsgrat of the Dent Blanche, and (from the Weisshorn hut) the Schalligrat.

During the rainy summer of 1946, we made up our minds to go to the Karakorum in 1947.

The coloured photographs and the cine film he made of this expedition remain an unforgettable document of it. He was spared long enough to see the Rakaposhi—which was also our goal in 1947 —conquered at last in the year 1958, after many vain attempts ; and it pleased him especially to know that the ascent, carried out along the route traced first by us, was successfully made by the Anglo- Pakistani expedition.

His own last big climbs were in the Dolomites in 1948: Pala di San Martino, Schleierkante of Cima della Madonna, the North Wall of Marmolada and the Towers of Vajolet.

Kappeler was also a water-sport enthusiast. Self-built boats and water-skis allowed him to practise his extraordinary talent in this direction. And after the Second World War the increasing popularity of private flying, too, became one of his greatest pleasures and he was one of the first members of the Frauenfeld flyers group.

His great and varied artistic leanings opened large fields for him for exploring photographic possibilities: his pictures are amongst the finest things he left behind. Unfortunately only a few of these are known ; except for the photographs in Vol. IV of 6 Berge der Welt1949, his friends alone have seen them all.

From my childhood onwards I had the great happiness to be his friend, and no words of mine can describe the true and faithful comrade he was. Only those who dare count themselves amongst those close to him have known his inner wealth of goodness and kindness. His keen enthusiasm, his wisdom, and his knowledge made him an understanding helpmate and a friend in the full sense of this word. The inevitable has happened now, and a rich, full good life has come to its close—too soon. All his friends and admirers are filled with grief and in gratitude they remember him.

Hans Gyr



⇑ Top




Hugh Ruttledge, the distinguished mountaineer and leader of two pre-war Mount Everest Expeditions, died at Stoke, Plymouth, on November 7th, 1961, at the age of 77. Born on October 24th, 1884, the son of Surgeon Lieut.-Colonel Edward Butler Ruttledge, of the Indian Medical Service, he was educated at Cheltenham College from 1896 to 190'3, when he gained a classical exhibition at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He passed high into the Indian Civil Service in 1908 and spent the following twenty years almost entirely in the United Provinces.

He began his mountaineering career in the Alps when on leave from India in 1921 and he was ideally suited to the post of Deputy Commissioner of Almora, to which he was appointed in 1925. He immediately made it his business to know at first hand every corner of his Himalayan domain and to master its human problems. Wise ami sympathetic, he was accessible to all. Accompanied by his wile, also an ardent and tireless traveller, and on some of his tours by such fine mountaineers as R. C. Wilson, Howard Somervell, and Tom Longstaff, he explored the then unknown north-eastern and southern approaches to the mountain rim of the 'inner sanctuary5 of Nanda Devi (25,645 feet). He made other notable journeys, including the first crossing of Traill's pass from north to south, a reconnaissance of Panch Chuli, and he crossed the Lipu Lekh Pass into Tibet, where he was the first European to complete the pilgrim circuit—parikrama— of the holy mountain, Kailas, north of Mana- sarowar. On several of these journeys he was accompanied by Chettan, the 6 father' of Sherpa porters, who had been on the early Everest expeditions, and who was later swept away and killed by an ayalanche on the north-east face of Kangchenjunga.

Hugh Ruttledge was one of the first to whom Sir Geoffrey Corbett and I wrote when contemplating the founding of the Himalayan Club. He became an enthusiastic founder member and the Club's expert adviser on travel in the Kumaun Himalaya. He retired from the I.C.S. voluntarily in 1932, though only 48 years of age. Later the same year, permission was received by the Mount Everest Committee in London for another attempt on the mountain through Tibet.

Nine years had elapsed since the last expedition, and an entirely new team of young climbers had to be chosen. Longstaff and Bruce recommended Hugh Ruttledge as leader, and the Committee unanimously agreed to his appointment. The choice of the team was left to the leader—by no means an easy task in the short time available. Ruttledge had all the necessary qualities for his task- thoroughness in organization, great energy and perseverance, wisdom, tact and humanity. He took immense pains to weigh up the lessons of past expeditions. Seeking the advice of such men as Bruce,, Longstaff and Norton, he supervised every detail of preparation, and made his own decisions when a.dvice was contradictory. The 1933 expedition was probably the most carefully planned expedition of all that set out to climb Everest from the Tibetan side. It had never been contemplated that the leader should reach the summit. It was his job to plan and organize, and to put the fittest members of his team within range of the summit. The expedition very nearly achieved success. Three men, Wyn Harris, Wager, and Frank Smythe, reached a point within 800 feet of the summit, where Norton had turned back in 1924. Complete success was prevented by the adverse weather, and by the then little-known problems of acclimatization.

Hugh was the most modest and unassuming man I have ever met. He himself had been to the North Col to make decisions for the final attempt and on his return to England was greatly disappointed at the lack of success. He made it clear that he was ready to stand down from the leadership in the event of another attempt. But the Committee retained their confidence in him and chose him again. He led his second expedition to Everest in 1936. Once again it was most carefully planned and all went well to the foot of the North Col. Thereafter the weather, the worst ever experienced by any expedition to the mountain, never gave the slightest hope of success.

Hugh often reminded me of Edward Adrian Wilson, Scott's companion in the Antarctic, who was twelve years his senior in age. Both were lovers of nature. Both were indomitable and had great moral courage. Neither complained at ill fortune. Both shunned and hated publicity. It was always a grief to Hugh that, as City Magistrate of Lahore, he was refused permission to take an active part in the First World War. In the Second, at the age of 56, and in spite of his lameness, he became a keen member of the Home Guard and later chief observer in the Royal Observer Corps. His early retirement from India had been spent with his wife and children on his small island of Gometra, off the west coast of Scotland. Later his passion for the sea led him to spend much of his time on his yacht Eternal Wave. He finally settled in South Devon. He suffered much from heart trouble during his last three years, nursed by his devoted wife. He bore his affliction with calm courage. As was his wish, his ashes were scattered at sea.

Hugh's expeditions to Everest did not meet with the success they deserved ; but his judgement and planning were rarely at fault and much of the experience gained on these pre-war attempts was to bear fruit in later years. To me he was the pattern of a true mountaineer.

Kenneth Mason



⇑ Top




John Peirce died suddenly in Calcutta after a brief illness on October 24th, 1961.

When he joined the Club in 1956, his deep appreciation of the beauty of mountains and his great passion for photography made him one of the most enthusiastic members in Calcutta at the time.

Being concerned with the tea trade in Calcutta, he was accustomed to pay frequent visits to gardens in the Darjeeling hills and Assam. He always returned with a fresh series of cine film which he would project, glowing with eagerness and enthusiasm, before his friends. He visited Kathmandu twice and also Pokhara. He certainly possessed a flair for recapturing in photographs the mountain scenes, and the simple charm of the mountain folk.

In 1958, he took on the duties of Hon. Secretary in Calcutta. The Club had been going through a difficult period just then, with many of its oldest supporters and office-bearers either leaving India for good or relinquishing office owing to pressure of other work. He made an efficient Hon. Secretary, being painstaking and enthusiastic in whatever he did. His other interests were music and painting. He possessed a large and varied collection of gramophone records which he delighted in playing to his friends. The few colour and pencil sketches of his that I sa.w, I thought very commendable. Most of his holidays were spent in Italy, a country for which he had a great affection. He spoke Italian fluently.

T. H. Braham



⇑ Top




Wilfrid Noyce, almost certainly the greatest British mountaineer of his time, died on July 24th, 1962, together with his companion Robin Smith, after ascending a 19,785 feet peak in the Pamirs. He was a member of Sir John Hunt's 18-man Anglo-Soviet Expedition whose main objective was the ascent of Mt. Communism (formerly Mt. Stalin), 24,590 feet, the highest peak in the Soviet Union. The accident was pure chance ; one of those tragedies that can occasionally happen even among the greatest climbers. Few were richer in experience and skill than he ; and he was at the height of his powers.

Wilfrid Noyce was born on December 31st, 1917, at Simla, the son of Sir Frank Noyce, a( distinguished member of the Viceroy's Council. He was educated at Charterhouse and at King's College, Cambridge, where he obtained a first in Modern Languages. When he entered the Army in 1940 he was already regarded as one of the foremost young climbers in Britain. He had compiled (together with Dr. J. M. Edwards) two guide-books on Welsh climbs, having pioneered several hard, new routes; and he made many notable ascents in the Alps. He served in the Welsh Guards and King's Royal Rifle Corps; and, from 1942, in the Intelligence Corps in India. He became Chief Instructor at the R.A.F. Aircrew Mountain Centre in Kashmir. He carried out many new climbs there, both solo and with other climbers from the Armed Services ; and he compiled a very useful guide-book published in 1945 by the Club entitled A Climber's Guide to Sonamarg—now unfortunately out of print. It was during his service in India that he undertook two small expeditions to Garhwal in 1943-44, so delightfully described in Mountains and Men (published in 1947). In 1945 he visited Sik- kim in company with Angtharkay and climbed Pauhunri, 23,385 feet. I shall never forget my meeting with him in Gangtok immediately after this ascent—a quiet, kindly and utterly modest figure, scarcely eager to talk about the climb still less to flaunt the achievement.

On his return home, he did two more terms at Cambridge and then began his career as a Modern Languages master, first at Malvern and from 1951 at Charterhouse. The Club has reason to be very grateful to him for taking on the post of Hon. Editor during this very difficult period and for putting the Himalayan Journal back in circulation (Vol. XIII, 1946) after the long hiatus of the war years. In Easter 1946, whilst climbing in the Lake District among familiar crags, he had an accident, his third on well-known climbs. This accident—the personal injury meant nothing to him, but it had shaken his faith at the roots—acted very nearly as an obituary to his climbing. Within a couple of years he had withdrawn his membership of the Alpine Club. His visits to the hills were only occasional now ; and often they were merely to introduce boys to the mountains. In 1950 he married, and he seemed destined to settle down to a sedate, scholarly life with his abiding interest in poetry and literature.

Then in 1953 came John Hunt's invitation to join the Everest party, and his almost hesitant acceptance. Everest marked the turning point in his climbing career. From then on, his skill and reputation as a climber, no less than as a writer, rose to greater heights than ever before. His personal success on the expedition, in opening the route to the South Col, was followed by his outstanding book South Col, probably the finest account of a Himalayan expedition ever written. A poem published in the book reveals something of his personality:

"... That in the storm My hand may stretch to help, Not cringe in the glove to warm ; . . . That in the lottery (My last, my worthiest prayer) No envy bleed, When, as I know my heart, Others succeed . .

He was, in fact, one of the fittest and most competent members of the party during the crucial assault period.

South Col met with immediate success, and was translated into several languages including Russian and Japanese. He was an interesting lecturer ; and especially during recent years he was much in demand not only at home, but also in Europe where his fluency in languages was a great asset. He was elected to the committee of the Alpine Club and also the Climbers' Club; besides taking on the editorship of the Climbers' Club Guide-books. His first book of poetry {Michael Angela) was published in 1953. This was the forerunner to a regular output of work of high literary merit and quality ; poems, translations {Starlight and Storm by Gaston Rebuffat), a novel {The Gods are Angry); The Springs of Adventure, in which he attempts to analyse the feelings and motives of climbers.

There followed two important Himalayan climbs—and two more books. The first on Machapuchare in Nepal in 1957, which is described in Climbing the Fish's Tail. Noyce, together with David Cox, reached a point 150 feet from the top and it was only a turn in the weather and lack of time which prevented them from completing the ascent. In 1960, he led an expedition to Trivor, 25,370 feet, a hitherto unattempted Karakoram peak ; the expedition is described in To the Unknown Mountain (reviewed on p. 185), his last published work, and considered by many to be his finest. In addition to his onerous duties as leader, he also led the summit climb, being the fittest member of the party and at the top of his form.

There are very few expedition books which are free from the tiresome cliches and hoary platitudes of a long-drawn-out, even if successful, ascent. South Col is one; To the Unknown Mountain is another. Why ? Because the writer has put much more into them than the mere story of an expedition. He has projected his own highly sensitive personality honestly and without fear of criticism ; and he has brought to life a picture of his companions. This is writing of the highest order.

Wilfrid Noyce was rightly called a scholar mountaineer, in the classical tradition of the great climbers of the ‘Golden Age' in Europe. But he was more than that. He was in step with the masters of the most advanced modern techniques, and he could compete with the best of them. A talk he gave to the Alpine Club in 1960 (reprinted in the Alpine Journal, Vol. 63) illustrated this perfectly. Scholarly and sensitive, it described climbs of a very high order indeed, carried out with much younger companions, e.g. the north face of the Dent d'Herens and the fourth ascent of the Furggen ridge of the Matterhorn.

In 1961, Noyce gave up schoolmastering to devote himself entirely to writing—a career in which he would have excelled with his sensitive temperament. His character was richly blended with courage, gentleness, modesty and integrity. The loss to British mountaineering that his death ha caused is immeasurable. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his wife and two sons.

T. H. Braham


⇑ Top