Frank Sacherer -- 1940 - 1978


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Jan 28, 2009 - 09:40pm PT
Never been to Chamonix. Saw all the markers at Tres Chima. If I were Frank I would want to come home.


Trad climber
Jan 28, 2009 - 09:49pm PT
Until I clicked the links, I didn't realize how much money it cost to keep all those heroes in Cham.

I suppose they just maintain the markers?

The one in Zermatt feels like part of a Disney set. But then, so does Zermatt.

That '60s generation was basically the last one in North America that felt it still had something to do --and had to do something --in the Alps. Sacherer was there for work, but it was an arena that his generation had really grown up with. I don't think that's the case anymore. Andes, Patagonia, Inner Asia and other places have taken over.

Amazing thread. Thanks to all, and especially those who have real emotional investments, for posting.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jan 31, 2009 - 04:58pm PT
I've been trying to think how to respond to
Eric's comments about Frank. They seem
interesting, in that Frank was never, to my
knowledge, known to have much concern for the
needs of his partners. I do not make such a
statement out of disrespect. I have as much
appreciation for Frank as anyone, but one of his
characteristics was his focus, combined with
determination and somewhat ruthless insistence
on a certain strict compliance to what he felt
was style. The spirit often conveyed was of a
man who was ready to achieve his objectives
and was not about to let any sort of
inability or incompetence on the part of
partners get in the way. Eric's entry
is the first mention, of which I am aware,
of a man who actually thought about
his partners and what might make things easier
for them. Frank didn't have to worry about
individuals such as Pratt, or Kamps, who could handle
pretty much any situation, but other individuals
and less experienced companions were, as it seems,
expected to keep up and weren't afforded a lot
of forgiveness, as it were. That was Frank's
toughness. So many have reported, including
Jan, those moments where he cut no one any slack,
so to speak... and even let fly the "words" at
times, in moments of impatience, until Eric's
comment about Frank's concern for the location
of a piton placement, which would indicate clear
consideration for his partners. Or could it be
he was bothered by this placement issue when he was
following and not when he led? One might think
such a consideration for a piton placement
totally incongruous, but... perhaps it's
just another dimension we didn't know about...
and in fact there was indeed that side of Frank
that honestly cared about his companions and
the quality of their experience? I would love to
hear more about this side of Frank.
John Rander

Trad climber
Paris, France
Feb 1, 2009 - 05:42am PT
Here are a few notes and images to fill in the picture of those last days above Chamonix. As remarked earlier in this thread, Frank, Joe Weis and I had climbed a lot together in 1978. I have chosen images from three routes. The first photo (#1) is Frank, beaming on the summit of the Frendo spur of the Aiguille du Midi after our very fast ascent (Joe was traversing the Mont Blanc). The picture was taken Friday, Aug; 25, five days before the accident. The Grandes Jorasses are in the background. The second picture (#2) is Frank at our only belay on the 1100m high Frendo spur (other than that belay, no other protection was used on the route). The late season ice is quite visible on the exit slopes (a pair of climbers had fallen off here during the week). Next photo (#3) is the lower section of Le Linceul (Shroud) on the Grandes Jorasses. I took it two weeks earlier, while descending from the Rochefort ridge to Col de Jorasses traverse with Joe (the two of us had begun to consider doing the Shroud). The season was finishing, and the long term weather forecast was unsure when Joe contacted me Sunday morning, Aug. 27, to see if I could get away from CERN to do the Shroud with him on Monday. I was on shift at CERN, and had doubts about both the weather and the late ice conditions (it’s a long route), so after some hours tossing the idea around I finally declined and called Joe back. He was not giving up the Shroud so easily; he and Frank decided over coffee Monday at the CERN cafeteria to go up in the afternoon. Frank borrowed most of my ice screws and I promised to go up to take photos and check out the scene the next morning. I learned later that they had returned to Geneva for some gear before finally taking the train up to Montenvers. The following photo of the Shroud (#4) is the last taken of them by me. I used a telephoto lens from the Leschaux glacier around 10 or 11 on Tuesday morning. They were very low on the route (looking back at the first Shroud image one can easily locate the same rock outcrop). A zoom of this photo shows that Joe was leading at that moment. Late that evening they would bivouac high on the route, and finish the climb at the Hirondelles ridge as the weather folded. The accident occurred while descending an off-route couloir leading back toward the N. face. Two mysteries surround this climb for me: why the late start, and why after reaching the summit of the Shroud did they go down the complicated Hirondelles ridge? Joe and I had always planned to go over the top (250m higher) to descend by the normal route.

The last images are taken from our “possibly first?” ice ascent of the Chardonnet’s N. Face couloir, done much earlier that summer (note: the 500m high route is now known as the “Goulotte Aureille-Feutren”, it’s first ascent by J. Aureille and Y. Feutren dates back to 1942; Joe was convinced that the early ascent had climbed the 80° gully on rock, as the ice conditions vary considerably). It was Joe’s baby and the three of us did it in a rather long morning, rotating leads. The first photo (#5) was taken in the evening before the climb (the route goes up the obvious central line). The next (#6) shows Joe Weis leading the start of the fairly exposed crutch pitch (overhanging ice bulges) and the third (#7) shows Frank following a steep ice pitch in the couloir above, dusted with spindrift. In the last photo (#8) Joe or Frank took me starting up one of a series of long run-outs we swung to the summit. What I really do recall was the undeniable sensation of adrenaline flowing reminding me of Yosemite days. Frank probably felt the same…


Some links to these climbs (with thanks to Ed):

Le Linceul (Shroud), Grandes Jorasses:

Frendo spur, Aiguille du Midi:

Aureille-Feutren ice gully, Chardonnet:

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 1, 2009 - 12:58pm PT
Fantastic images John!

Thanks for writing up your recollections. The Alps still exert a strong attraction, at least to me, a place where climbing originates. Doing the hard classic routes there would be the same as doing them in Yosemite Valley, with all the difficulties present as well as the ghosts of the First Ascent teams. Doing new routes takes it up a notch, as there is the sense that you are uncovering a thing unseen by those masters, or pushing the standard a bit beyond what had been accomplished.


Gym climber
Otto, NC
Feb 1, 2009 - 01:14pm PT
Those are some great images. Thanks!

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 1, 2009 - 01:36pm PT

Thanks for the wonderful photos. The one of Frank on top of the Frendo spur is about the best I've seen. As I look at the others however, I am still amazed that Frank was up on ice climbs like that. I have some photos of a trip we took up the Mer de Glace to the Refuge Couvercle which is a fun outing since one has to climb up steel cables and ladders to get to the refuge. There are also great views of the Grandes Jorasses along the way. I have one of me gazing up at that mountain just as Frank is saying, "You'd have to be crazy to climb that. Why would anyone want to be that cold and miserable"?

Clearly something changed between then fall of 1971 and the summer of 1979. I wonder if Frank got used to the cold after so many European winters or if he would have stayed with rock climbing if the Dolomites were closer, or if he started doing ice climbing because that's what his friends did? A man of many enigmas, though he certainly does look happy on top of the Frendo Spur. I feel much better knowing that he was so obviously enjoying himself right up to the end.

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Feb 1, 2009 - 01:48pm PT
John Cardy, Jean-Claude and John Rander,

Great contributions from all of you, especially the photos from 1978. What a wonderful memorial to Frank Sacherer has materialized out of cyberspace here, thanks to the initiative of Ed Hartouni.

I spent two summers in Chamonix in 1976 and 1977 and I wish I would have crossed paths with him. I did meet a couple of his colleagues, though. In 1976,Dewi Butler and I shared a bivouac on the Bonatti Pillar of the Dru with a couple of French physicist/climbers from CERN. It seems that there were a lot of serious climbers in that group.

Rick L

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
Feb 1, 2009 - 05:16pm PT

The photos are wonderful and the remembrances help complete the story of Frank Sacherer. He had such an impact on multiple generations of Yosemite climbers. His climbs- Sacherer Cracker, Ahab, L Reeds etc. were an inspiration and a gold standard for us as fledgling free climbers. The ethic he followed cast a long shadow on all of us. I was fortunate to have been with Peter Haan when he freed the L Side of the Hourglass and I know Peter was very mindful of Frank's legacy- before (probably during) and after the climb. Thanks to Ed for starting this great thread and to all who have contributed.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Feb 1, 2009 - 07:27pm PT
I don't know....this has to be the most poignant thread ever here.

Social climber
wuz real!
Feb 1, 2009 - 07:31pm PT
Wow, so that's the shroud. What a beautiful thing. I can feel the yearn, even though I'm, unlikely to ever go there.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 2, 2009 - 12:20am PT
For reference, the "Chamonix Cemetery" thread, with general photos, is at

Plus a bump for a most poignant thread.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 2, 2009 - 12:45am PT
Thanks for the beautiful photos John.

Sacherer with a camera in hand, will miracles never cease? My favorite picture of all time of a most complex and beautiful man.


climber a single wide......
Feb 2, 2009 - 05:44pm PT
Thanks to all who have made this thread so amazing.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 6, 2009 - 02:26am PT
Can anyone tell me who Don Telshaw was and why he would have been Frank's witness at our wedding in Yosemite (I could have sworn it was Dick Erb?!) but the document says Telshaw who listed Fresno as his permanent address.I only vaguely remember him and can't at all remember his relationship to Frank which dated back to much earlier days.I don't believe I ever saw him again after that event?

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 6, 2009 - 03:14am PT

Don was somewhat active in the climbing scene in the early 60's and yes he was from Fresno. He worked for Curry Company, at the Lodge I believe. He did a number of routes with Denny and Sacherer. I did a few climbs with him but have not heard from in for many years. I ran into the wonderful minstrel John Adams at the Nose reunion in Nov and perhaps he can enlighten you as John also was in Fresno in those years and is again living there.


Joe McKeown

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 6, 2009 - 06:45am PT

Thanks! I'm trying to put together a chronology of Frank's life and was checking through my various documents. I can't seem to find any photos and in any case, there were only a handful of people there. It took place in the meadow in front of the church at Yosemite, officiated by the minister of that church. I think we were in fact, the first of several climber weddings in the Valley.


Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 6, 2009 - 06:48am PT
Meanwhile here's another question.

I've read somewhere (in one of the climbing histories perhaps or some of the commentary that circulated with the campaign to save Camp 4) that there was a photo of Frank in what I remember as either Life or Look magazine, as part of an article on the national parks. They caught him shirtless and grubby as he returned from a climb and the caption was something like "Is this the future of our National Parks?". I'd love to have the reference to that article so we could look it up and scan the photo in. It would make a great juxtaposition with the references to him by the Nobel Laureate!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 6, 2009 - 06:50pm PT

you can reach Jon Adams at and I would also try Denny to locate Don Telshaw. I have Glen's e-mail somewhere, but will have to do a search.

The following is another photo from our trip up the Dana Glacier in the early 60's. Sacherer's first time on ice, along with Denny. Nice smile guys!

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 6, 2009 - 06:54pm PT
Really nice summit photo of Frank Sacherer with the Grandes Jorasses in the background. Timeless.

Glen Denny's email is on his website:
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