|British travellers in Switzerland|
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The British tradition in Switzerland dates is centuries-old. Great Britain has long served as a model for Switzerland, for which it is highly grateful. Switzerland was one of the first countries to adopt the production techniques developed during the English industrial revolution. But by far the most significant British contribution to the Swiss economy was the creation and rapid expansion of alpine tourism. The wealth and beauty of the Swiss mountain landscapes were brought to the fore by the English mountaineers, whose adventures thrilled all of Europe. Their passion for exertion in a grandiose environment was contagious, and, generations of Europeans later, their spiritual descendants can still be found each winter in the Swiss ski resorts.
The true starting point of modern mountaineering was the ascent of the Wetterhorn Peak by Alfred Wills in 1854. The early mountaineers belonged to the well-to-do English bourgeoisie. Alfred Wills was a judge, Francis Tuckett a gentleman farmer, while Mummery and Matthews were businessmen. The most famous, Edward Whymper, earned his living as a writer. These pioneers had to be excellent walkers and carry their packs a considerable distance, which explains why the circle of mountaineers was always quite limited.
The climbers decided to form a club to tell of their holiday adventures, and so the British Alpine Club was born. The first meeting was held in 1857, in London. The mountaineers recounted their stories and adventures in alpine magazines. Some, like Edward Shirley Kennedy, Sir Leslie Stephen and reverend Isaac Taylor (pioneers of the Monte della Disgrazia), would become star members of the club.
The quest for the Matterhorn brought mountaineering to the general public. Edward Whymper, who had already conquered the Grandes Jorasses, the Aiguille Verte and the Ruinette, embarked on the event. In July, 1866, he forestalled the Italian mountaineers and became the first person to ascend the Matterhorn. The descent was tragic; four of Whymper's party fell to their death.
Ever tempted by technical prowess, mountaineers followed Whymper's example. C.T. Dent and J.M. Hartley took on the Drus, the highest summit of the Chamonix, which they surmounted in 1879. Mummery then became the most brilliant English pioneer when he opened up a new access route to the Matterhorn. Martin Conway, his rope partner, wrote The Zermatt Pocket Book, the first guide to climbing the Pennine Alps. The English Alpine Club soon give rise to other climbing associations and passed on its passion for mountaineering to the Continent.
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