Journal Archive - The 1930s

The Committee have wanted to make our Journals available to all members, past and present and climbers in general. Although copies of all our Journals are archived in the Alpine Club library in London they are not readily available for review. It was thought that the easiest way to access the Journals was to digitise them.

The work to digitise all the Journals was started following a legacy from Alasdair Andrews, who died in 2011. The Committee decided to start from the current year and work backwards so to include the majority of the time that Alasdair was a member. The Journals from 2013 going back to 1975 were copied as PDF files and were put on the website.

Late in 2019 the Committee agreed to continue with the work and complete the digitising of the Journals from the founding year, 1909, to 1974. This work was completed in February 2020. The PDF files are being loaded onto the website in batches.

The activities of the Association widened during the 1930's. At a special general meeting in 1930 the normal subscription to the Association was doubled to £1 to pay for a room in London. For old members this increased subscription was optional. The alteration was modified by classifying those who live 75 miles from Charing Cross as Country members and they paid the old rate of 10 shillings per annum. The raised subscription enabled the Association to have a good room in the Great Central Hotel, Marylebone for meetings and to house the library.

Another innovation in 1930 was the Association Dinner in Switzerland in August. In the past there were occasional dinners at Saas Fee as a sort of birthday feast for the Britannia Hut, but this time new ground was broken by meeting at the Monte Rosa Hotel in Zermatt. Forty eight members and guests dined together, and had a most cheerful evening with the President in the chair. This dinner became an annual affair at different venues in Switzerland.

The informal dinners in London on the fourth Wednesday continued; it was found necessary however to remind members that morning dress should be worn. Informal discussions were arranged on particular topics such as 'Some lesser known climbing centres in Switzerland', 'The Engadine as a climbing centre', and 'Climbing in Britain'.

An important development was an Easter meet held at Dolgellau in 1931. This was the first climbing meet the Association had ever arranged. There had been dinners in the Swiss Alps in the summer season, but climbing activities had been left to individuals and their friends. The Dolgellau meet included the ascent of Cader Idris and 'the more venturous spirits attacked the Milestone Buttress on Tryfan'. The Easter meet became a regular feature, either in Wales, the Lake District or Scotland at various venues. Rock climbing and ridge walks were the order of the day, along with easy ridges and gullies on the NE face of Ben Nevis – pretty much like our UK meets of today.

A series of annual joint evening meetings was arranged with the Ski Club of Great Britain at the Alpine Club, the first being on 'Skiing and Mountaineering'.

Two members were included in the 1933 Everest Expedition. Hugh Ruttledge led it while Frank Smythe climbed as high as any member of the party. The expedition was however fated by the weather and so thwarted in its attempt on the summit.

At home the committee were concerned about the number of accidents, especially fatal accidents, to climbers. Section Uto (Zurich) had brought out a handbook of alpinism, Technik des Bergsteigens, and it was resolved to translate it for the benefit of members; the English edition was given the title The Technique of Alpine Mountaineering. An advance copy the book was available in January 1936 and available for 2s 6d (12.5p) - Note from Editor: we have the original typescript with editing marks and a copy of the pocket book in our archive.

The Depression hit the Association hard, in 1932 61 members did not renew their membership. It was difficult to get to Switzerland and those who did found the pound greatly depressed in value against the franc (the SFr was worth 9.5d (4p) before 1931 and 1s 4d (about 6p) after the financial crash). Swiss guides and hoteliers had been used to the British being well off patrons, and still expected them to be; now, however, they were not. Swiss tourism was badly affected by the slump – and in 1933 free ski lessons by local guides were offered for holidays in Wengen! However 40 members still managed to travel to Zermatt for the 25th Anniversary Dinner at the Hotel Monte Rosa, on August 1934.

By 1935 the membership had dropped to 501. The Committee reckoned that membership was dropping as young climbers were not joining due to poor exchange rate and high prices in Switzerland. The increasing tendency among young climbers was to dispense with guides. The Committee stated that “It becomes the duty of all climbers to discourage our younger men from attempting too much at once and particularly on peaks where the snow and ice conditions are difficult”.

In 1936 membership dropped below 500; the Committee thought that apathy had set in and asked if each member in London could bring one recruit then the membership could be restored to 600! However 53 members still managed to attend the annual dinner in Zermatt!

Although the membership didn’t dramatically rise in 1937 the Committee were happy that membership had slightly increased. The Swiss devalued the franc, but too late for the summer season. Things were looking up. Membership continued to rise with 580 members in 1939. The 75th anniversary of the SAC was celebrated in Olten, the Association President attended. Proceedings started at 1pm with the formal dinner at 7pm and dancing continued until 5am!

In 1939 an Alpine Meet was proposed in conjunction with the Geneva Section, but it did not go ahead due to lack of numbers. The mounting political situation in Europe put many members off travelling. However in August 1939 30 members managed to attend the 30th Anniversary dinner in Zermatt.

The Second World War hit the activities of the Association even harder than the First. In 1939 monthly dinners were maintained, while the informal discussions and the ladies night were cancelled. The Annual Dinner in London in November was cancelled, but a luncheon was managed.

By 1940 there could be no evening meetings and the monthly dinners were abandoned....... more to follow

Journals from 1930 to 1939: 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939

This series of Journals gives an interesting insight into a bygone age. I hope that you enjoy dipping into them.

Mike Goodyer, Hon. Editor, updated 27 April 2020

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