A Short Walk with Terray


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Bronx, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2013 - 06:37pm PT
To let the proverbial cat out of the bag, it was fifty years ago and my memory, while not too bad considering, isn't photographic. In this case it was aided by a sheaf of letters that I had written to Royal after I went to Europe and that he graciously returned to me after our meeting in Oakdale. My post on my early climbs in the Gunks also benefited from one of the letters since I didn't actually keep notes on the climbs I did then--or ever.
As to Terray, I am afraid I can't say much more, but he did seem like a robot on our hike, which surprised me, and he seemed disinclined to talk. One small addition, gleaned again from my letter to Royal, was that both he and the Spaniards seemed to think that El Cap was the only big or hard climb in Yosemite. The bulk of the letter deals with Anglada's planned visit to Yosemite and my efforts to make sure he was well received and supplied with whatever equipment he might need. I don't know if he made it that time, but he think he did later.
Thanks for the comments, and remind folks that my book is still for sale (joefitschen.com)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 10, 2013 - 08:29pm PT
Just did...


Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Apr 10, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
Wonderful story Joe.

I had the opportunity to spend a little time with Terray when he visited the Ski Hut in the early 60s as a guest of Steck.

"I remember one day when I was working at the Ski Hut in the warehouse. Steck, my boss at that time, brought Lional Terray out back to introduce him to the "boys". I can still visualize him standing there in his blue farmer-john coveralls, no shirt,with a bong in his hands and this wonderful french accent," So, cese are ce famous bong bongs? No?" Still makes me laugh."

I remember when you took off for Europe after you made the 2nd ascent of the Nose and how jealous I was of your ability to travel abroad. I was stuck in high school forever it seemed. You were probably an old man of 22 or so. Funny, how the image of you, Pratt, Frost and Robbins as much older and wiser climbers will forever be etched in my memory.

Loved you book, what a fabulous pulse on an era and the characters involved.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 10, 2013 - 09:46pm PT
Bong Bong-The Afro-Cuban connection on the Chouinard-Herbert on Sentinel.

Tom once referred to Yvon as the "great namer of names" while telling the story of the FA of the Pharoah's Beard.

Bugaboo in heavy French would be fun too.

Terray had some good hunting in the Americas with Huntington, Chacraraju and Fitz Roy to his credit.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Apr 10, 2013 - 09:58pm PT
Nice read. The borrowed title caught my eye. TFPU!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 12, 2013 - 12:44am PT
This is Terray with his family. Antoine on Lionel's knees and Nicolas in the indian outfit. Marianne, his wife to the left. Terray died not long after this photo. I think that Antoine was four when his dad expired.

Credit: from ledauphine.com

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 12, 2013 - 12:53am PT
Anybody know what paths the kiddies followed?
I'm gonna guess it wasn't climbing.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 12, 2013 - 01:14am PT
Not being a Terray scholar here, I do think that there is a bunch to tell, Reilly, on the two kids and what they have come to. I do know this: Nicolas Terray, the one in the indian outfit above, has this video out now at roughly the age of fifty, promoting the Lionel Terray DVD and accompaning pamphlet/handbook: (french only) Nicolas has a hard time addressing the camera directly and appears almost furtive or damaged. Very interesting to watch. Losing one's father at four must be almost impossible to understand and to overcome.


Antoine is active as all get out as a trail runner, apparently in Chamonix. He is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/antoine.terray and looks great. He was the one sitting on Lionel's lap in the above B&W photo. Here is a little video of Antoine doing a run in Chamonix.


and a photo of him with the expected background:

Credit: Peter Haan
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Apr 12, 2013 - 02:47am PT
Pete graciously left the mystery intact, but for those who wondered,

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is a 1958 book by the English travel writer Eric Newby. It is an autobiographical account of his adventures in the Hindu Kush, around the Nuristan mountains of Afghanistan. It has been described as a comic masterpiece, intensely English, and understated.--Dawiki

TFPU remains a mystery...

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Apr 12, 2013 - 03:18am PT
“The American is very strange.” Whether his observation was due to some quirk I had inadvertently revealed or whether it was just that I was an American I have no idea. But then I thought Terray was strange, too, so perhaps we were even. It did occur to me, though, that if he thought I was strange he should get to know some of my climbing friends back in Yosemite.

Terray had long been one of my idols, right up there in the pantheon with Herman Buhl. And he did get acquainted with some of your strange friends in Camp 4, shortly after an attempt on the East Peak of Chacraraju and a successful ascent of Taulliraju in Peru. We hosted him in Camp 4 towards the end of the summer of 1962.

I had been developing various weird aid devices including hooks and mashies and bashies in the runup to the NA wall. Royal asked me to demonstrate my little rack of gimmicks to Terray. Lionel was quite intrigued and quick to lecture me on all the reasons why these were impractical. I recall one particularly unlikely mashie placed in a shallow dimple in a boulder, and in his best Franglish accent he stated, "I do not think that this will work!" When it held up to my cautious 140lbs, he hopped into the sling himself and bounced gently with a wry grin punctuated with 'merde!' when it still held his weight.

At the time Lionel had a broken arm in a sling and was quite depressed from receiving a letter that the French government had dropped his annual stipend in favor of younger climbers. However that didn't stop him from a fast ascent of the Royal Arches, including running unroped across the 'missing rotten log' pitch.

I am not sure how much of the story has been told regarding his career following publishing of his book in 1961.

In September of 1961 he went to Paris to organize the expedition returning to the exceptionally difficult Himalayan peak, Janu. Meanwhile in November he took a bad fall at Saussois near Paris (one of my favorite climbing areas) and broke six ribs. However by the middle of March in 1962 he was establishing base camp for Janu and by mid April they were on top.

A month later he was on his way to Peru leading a strong team to the east peak of Chacraraju with Claude Maillard and Guido Magnone. Considering this too formidable, they went instead onto Taulliraju. High on the peak, Lionel fell and broke his arm, setting off a very challenging rescue operation by the rest of the team to get him back down to base camp and installed safely in a sleeping bag. The other climbers went back up their fixed ropes. Then nearing the high point, they looked down to see Terray, with one arm in a sling and his other hand using a Jumar on the fixed ropes. They then summited three days in a row, the second day with Lionel and a photographer.

Following his brief tour as visiting royalty in Yosemite, Terray made a dash to the Himalayas and caught up in September with some of his Dutch friends going in to climb Nilgiri. By the end of October they completed the first ascent of Nilgiri, with a view across to the north face of Annapurna.

So in one year in 1962 he lead three major expeditions to three ranges on two continents...

The way I heard the story, they had completed an enjoyable climb in sunshine following a rain shower, and were still roped together on a slope of wet grass...
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 12, 2013 - 03:25am PT
I like ze Cassin Bonatti's---you can get your whole hand in zem"---demonstrating "French free" with his own quite substantial mitt.

Cool, Alan, I always liked this description of French Free, when you told me about this back in the mid-70s!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Apr 12, 2013 - 03:51am PT
In reading of the way in which Terray responds to bong-bong,
I am reminded of the story of plonk.

Which hoary vets of the Alps know what the fonk is plonk?

"As always, the truth is in the bottle."--Sherry would say

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Apr 12, 2013 - 04:02am PT
I went to France in the late 60s as a free guest of the French government at the five-star Hotel Henri Quatre and employee of Cegos-Informatique/Cegos-Tymshare to install and train their staff on their first time-shared SDS/XDS 940 mainframe computers (the TymNet backbone to the internet) in the new Bureaux des Collines de St Cloud.

The Bureaux had one of those big tower cranes that was the only way to lift our big (and fragile!) mainframe computers into the huge building that was still under construction. I did my best to brief the crane operator on the challenge to treat the huge computer crates like egg cartons. When he succeeded in depositing the last crate where we could roll on into the building, we all cheered, and I climbed up the outside of the tall lattice pedestal in my business suit and handed him a bottle of champagne from my inside jacket pocket!

I was on a regular three weekend rotation with my wild-eyed Irish girlfriend: one weekend partying with champagne, the next weekend skydiving at Troyes, and the next weekend climbing at Saussois (where I neatly aced all their test pieces),and repeat... Evenings were often spent fencing at the exclusive Club Le Racing and driving around between restaurants in a yellow Lotus Europa.

(just taking a break from dirt-bagging in Camp 4)

The French were always very nice to me so long as I dressed appropriately, honored their cultural mannerisms, and spoke French as best I could. You would better understand their attitude if you saw the way they are overwhelmed in Paris by tourists speaking English and German and who knows what-all...

In the summer on the metro, I sometimes felt like yelling out to all the rude tourists, "This is France! Speak French or stay quiet!"
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Apr 12, 2013 - 08:02am PT
Cool stories. Thanks!

T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Apr 12, 2013 - 08:54am PT
Thanks Joe!

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Apr 12, 2013 - 10:12am PT
"Bong bong" sounds nice in French: bonbon!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Apr 12, 2013 - 12:48pm PT
Voila-"The Conquistadors of the Useless."

I notice this is 1964 and I believe the time he visited the Hut for the first time was 1962.

Royal Arches Register-courtesy of the Bancroft Library, Mnt Records Di...
Royal Arches Register-courtesy of the Bancroft Library, Mnt Records Division, UC Berkeley.
Credit: guido
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Apr 12, 2013 - 01:25pm PT
News view loans something-something de Jean-Clod Killy, pourboire, oh naturelement.

C#m saw? :0)

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Apr 12, 2013 - 03:15pm PT
This is an absolutely cool thread. I almost feel as if I'm reaching my hand out, and shaking hands with one of my heros who has been dead most of my lifetime.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 12, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
That's fun Guido. Antonio Sottile: I met him at Doug Tompkin's first North Face store there on Columbus in San Francisco, maybe a year before. He actually deigned to talk to us kids and was nice and elaborated about climbing in the Dolomites to Dougie. Dougie could hardly stay in his Levi's back then, what with being basically next store to Condor nightclub. He was in and out, so to speak, all the time, leaning on his storefront checking out his immediate neighborhood---the store was already boring and we couldn't compete with Carol Doda in her "monokini".
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