Journal Archive - The 1960s

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 1960s are the final batch of Journals to be added to the website.

The 1960s saw several far reaching changes to the Association. Membership was at a high with over 700 members annually. Many of the members were now from outside London and wanted more than the London centric activities that the Association provided. Weekend meets in huts were started to encourage younger members who couldn't afford to stay in Hotels and meets were organised outside the usual Wales/Lakes/Scotland venues. A more Northern influence was coming in with a proposal of a Northern Dinner. In the mid 60s,after the long standing Editor retired, the Journal was totally revamped.

Although the membership was in excess of 700 (783 in 1964) it was felt that with the currency resctrictions still in place there could not be an Alpine Meet every year. So after the 50th Anniversary Meet of 1959 there were no Alpine Meets in 1960 or 62. The annual Easter Meet continued either in N Wales, Lake District or Scotland.

The 1961 Alpine meet was at Kandersteg. The Jungfrau, Monch, Eiger, Matterhorn and Piz Bernina were all climbed. During the summer a party of six Cambridge mountaineers led by an ABMSAC member spent two months on Baffin Island in an area south east of the Penny Icecap.

There was no Alpine meet in 1962 but the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Britannia Hut was commemorated in August. As had become customary on such occasions the Association made a present for the upkeep of the hut, this time new furnishings for the common room. Membership of the Association remained strong at 717 at the end of the year. 1962 saw the retirement of an editor of the Journal for 33 years, Marshall Clarke. He was given honorary membership.

In 1963 the Journal was revamped. The Editor asked for articles and details of climbs done by members during the year. There was a favourable response. This was the first time that members had individually contributed to the Journal. Up to then only formal meets or expeditions had been reported. Members were asked to contact the editor with ideas of articles, no longer than 200 words and at least one photograph. We have kept with this format.

There was a meet in 1963 at Zinal. It was, though, wet. Some climbing was done, but nothing spectacular. The pattern of Alpine meets every other year was altered to a meet every year in 1964 and a meet was held at Sils Maria. A trip in the other direction to the usual was represented by a party of Swiss coming to Cornwall to climb on the Cornish cliffs. They enjoyed it!

The centenary of the first climbing of the Matterhorn was the subject of a great celebration. In London an exhibition was mounted by the Alpine Club, the Swiss National Tourist Office and the ABMSAC at the Tea Centre in the Haymarket. In all about 8,000 people came to see it, so that it was reckoned quite successful. Zermatt made a huge splash with a week of celebrations from 10th-17th July. Two Vice-Presidents, Frank Solari and J.G. Broadbent, the Joint Hon. Secretary, Peter Ledeboer, and a senior member, Alfred Gregory, represented the Association. The Association held its own summer meet later at Grindelwald. The participants were scattered over four or five hotels, which is not the most satisfactory arrangement, and the weather was consistently bad. However a participant (with rose coloured spectacles?) commented that it was a success socially.

1966 was a quiet year. The Alpine meet was at Arolla. A party climbed the Aiguilles Rouges D'Arolla and another made the traverse and circumnavigation of the Ruinette, a minor epic.

In 1967 the Alpine meet in the Lotschental was memorable. The first big expedition was to the Jungfrau. In spite of poor weather in the early morning the summit of the Jungfrau was reached. It was followed by a long trudge back to Fafleralp, reached by moonlight. The other big expedition was the Bietschhorn. The party numbered eleven — in retrospect clearly too many. The party set off from the Bietschhorn Hut at 2 a.m. and reached the foot of the west ridge as the dawn was breaking at 4.30 a.m., when there was a break for a snack — the only one for the whole of the rest of the climb. It took until 3.30 p.m. to reach the summit and immediately begin the descent of the north ridge, at 9.30 p.m. sunset came with the party still on the ridge. And it took another hour before a 90m abseil could be arranged over the bergschrund and on to the glacier.

Under the Presidential guidance of Vincent Cohen, with the support of Peter Ledeboer, the Association broadened its activities in the British Isles. In 1967 the Committee experimented with adding two week end meets at huts in addition to the Easter Meet. These were a success and from 1968 a series of weekend meets were proposed and proved successful.

Alpine meets were at Obergurgl and Kandersteg in 1968 and 69 respectively.

The formal Annual Dinner in London attracted in excess of 100 members each year. At the Diamond Jubilee Annual the SAC presented gifts from each Section of the SAC that had British Members, the attendees were “spellbound”. As the social side of the club was growing with the week end meets it was agreed that a Northern Dinner should be held and a date was fixed for the first such occasion on Saturday 14th February 1970, the arrangements being left in the hands of Walter Unsworth.

At the end of the decade the committee was persuaded to overcome their previous reluctance and take steps for the production of an Association tie. A pleasing design was approved and was an immediate best seller, with 168 sold by January 1970!

Journals from 1960 to 1969: 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969

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 6 July 2020

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