THE TALE OF THE TOUR
Swiss aristocrat, geologist and explorer Horace-Bénédict de Saussure first visited the Chamonix Valley in 1760, and became obsessed with Mont Blanc. “It became for me a sort of illness,” he later wrote. “My eyes could not encounter this mountain, which one sees from so many spots, without my being seized with a pang.” Saussure was so struck by Mont Blanc that he issued a reward to the first person to climb it – achieved by Dr Michel Paccard and farmer Jacques Balmat in 1786. Before that, Saussure returned to the region several times. In 1767, with a large entourage of guides and mules, he completed the first known circuit of the massif, taking largely the same route walkers follow today. Saussure’s passion for, and writings about, the Alps gave rise to a new concept: of mountains as natural playgrounds where adventures might be had. They were not to be merely farmed or feared, they could be enjoyed. Saussure is now known as the ‘father of mountaineering’.