Gauloises, Don Whillans, the Frogs, and Climbing History.


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Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 11, 2011 - 11:46pm PT
I sadly, must share a Wikipedia article that notes the “strong & foul-tasting” Gauloises of climbing history are extinct.

“Gauloises cigarettes first appeared in 1910. The brand is most famous for its cigarettes' strength, especially in its original unfiltered version and 40 years later filtered Gauloises cigarettes appeared. In 1984 the brand was re-launched to an American type blend of light tobacco and renamed Gauloises Blondes.”

Worse yet! I have been mispronouncing Gauloises all these years!

I am going to blame it on Brit climbing photo-journalist John Cleare: who told me stories of French climbers bivouacking in their etriers, and chain-smoking Gauloises until dawn.

Here is your link to the correct Froggie pronunciation:

For a further appreciation of the cigarette: I offer the writing of legendary British climber Tom Patey.

**A Short Walk With Whillans by Tom Patey!
Eiger North Face**

There is something about Don’s proverbial bluntness that arouses one’s admiration. Of such stuff are generals made. We had a short discussion about bivouacking, but eventually I had to agree with his arguments and occupy the outer berth. It would be less likely to induce claustrophobia, or so I gathered. 

“I’ll have one of your cigarettes,” said Don. “I’ve only brought Gauloises.” This was a statement of fact, not a question.

Then later in this classic story:

“I’m going down,” he said. “That’s what’s going on.”

“Wait a minute! Let’s discuss the whole situation calmly.” I stretched out one hand to flick the ash off my cigarette. Then a most unusual thing happened. There was a higher pitched “WROUFF” than usual and the end of my cigarette disappeared! It was the sort of subtle touch that Hollywood film directors dream about.

“I see what you mean,” I said. “I’m going down too.”

For this whole “must read” story go to the archives of Rock & Ice:


Social climber
Newport, OR
Feb 11, 2011 - 11:54pm PT
Smoked Gauloises, when I was guiding in France...Hell of of a smoke...God bless you all!!
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Feb 11, 2011 - 11:55pm PT

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2011 - 12:15am PT
Jim: I totally agree.

Smoking kills.

However: the 1960's glory of Gauloises and "tough guy" smoking: deserves to be in the history books, just like WWII.

Social climber
Feb 12, 2011 - 12:23am PT
My favourite rolling tobacco. Unable to obtain for over 3 years.
scuffy b

Three feet higher
Feb 12, 2011 - 01:11am PT
Maybe selection was limited in Chamonix in 1958?

Social climber
Feb 12, 2011 - 02:08am PT
So FortMental,you think that Whillans was a porridge eating Scot? Luckily for you he is dead and buried.
Cheers, H.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2011 - 11:14am PT
From a post Dangerous Dan made on ST about meeting Bridwell:

He was also smoking a Gauloises, a habit shared with another big-time climber of that era. I had met & climbed briefly with in Switzerland a few years before - Dougal Haston. It seems the more hard-core the cigarette: so also the climber.


Trad climber
Feb 12, 2011 - 11:12pm PT
I had thought this thread might be about Aristophanes' play

not likely, college boy.


let's start a euro philosophy and climbing thread-- simmel, serres, heidegger, mann, etc. bet that'll get some page count.

actually, randy, you should just start a serres thread so folks who aren't me, gill, and peter have a shot at that rig. haven't yet sat down with it, but the quick skim looks really good.

Mountain climber
Feb 13, 2011 - 04:11pm PT
Gauloises were for girls and posers (Don excluded of course).

Real men smoked Balkan Sobranies. No filter, and a cool oval cross-section.

Now that was a ciggie that made your eyes water!

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 13, 2011 - 07:44pm PT
Let's start an ancient Greek playwrights thread. Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes - the whole gang.

We'd have to make Anastasia post in English, though.

Feb 13, 2011 - 07:52pm PT
I don't know Anders, I doubt that the ancient Greek playwrights' threads were all that interesting. Mostly rough cotton, not too many colors, pretty utilitarian stuff, I'm betting.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 13, 2011 - 08:02pm PT
Darn! I was so looking forward to the toga party.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2011 - 08:33pm PT
The Frogs!

With all the ways one could imagine "thread drift" on this topic: I never dreamed we would go to Greek Drama and now------"Toga Parties."

However, unlike Tami: I do not want to think about Base104's smoking habits.

Man, I brought a carton of those suckers back from France to impress chicks at parties or something lame.
They tasted like gasoline soaked skid mark underwear.

Frogs, Don Whillans, and Climbing History!

All safe topics.

hanging from a crimp and crying for my mama.
Feb 14, 2011 - 06:51pm PT
Most Greeks just went around naked ya know... :)

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 14, 2011 - 10:54pm PT
Ah Gauloses!

I never knew the joy of smoking that "foul tobacco."

I didn’t make it to Europe until the 1980’s.

The other problem was: my father smoked two packs a day of un-filtered Camels.

He “checked out” with a massive heart attack at age 52.

The tobacco culture was all part of the: “real men smoke a lot” ideal that came out of WWII.

Now------hopefully: heavy smoking is just lost nostalgia, for a time when people thought tobacco was cool.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 14, 2011 - 11:47pm PT
Fritz, it should be noted that Whillans also checked out in his 50's, of course he had additional help from copious amounts of alcohol.

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Feb 14, 2011 - 11:53pm PT
What did Whillans die from...? Heart attack..?

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2011 - 12:07pm PT
RJ: Heart attack in his sleep. Besides the smoking and the drinking: he was very over-weight and also seemed ill. (from his biograpy).

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 14, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
Seems like an apt day to bump some history.

I know this Whillan's story has appeared elsewhere on ST, but I just found it again today.

"Don Whillans participated in the 1972 European Everest Expedition. The atmosphere was not the best among the various nationalities, no one wanted to carry loads because everyone was saving himself for a possible summit attempt.

The German climbers heard on the radio that England had lost a soccer game to Germany. The conversation went "It seems that we have beaten you in your national sport", said a proud German to Don.

After a minimal pause Don replied "Aye lad, and we've beaten you at yours, twice."

I also note this long post-mortem of that failed expedition.
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