First Ascent of Mount Blanc

At 4,810 meters above sea level, Mount Blanc, situated in the western Alps between France and Italy, is the highest mountain in western Europe. In the summer of 1786, two Frenchmen, Jacques Balmat (1762–1834) and Michel-Gabriel Paccard (1757–1827) set out from Chamonix to climb the mountain’s northern flank. Today, many regard this first, successful ascent as the birth of modern alpinism. The “conquering” of Mount Blanc helped quell a widespread fear of the dangers that mountains presented and inspired countless climbers to emulate the French pioneers. By the mid-nineteenth century at the latest, mountain climbers began to compete with one another and several speed records for climbing were established. However, the downsides of Alpinism soon became apparent in the form of dramatic and deadly failures as well as negative environmental consequences.

Further Readings: 
  • Milner, C. Douglas. Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles. London: Robert Hale, 1955.
  • Shipton, Eric. Mountain Conquest. New York: American Heritage Publishing, 1955.