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Gaston Rébuffat

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From the Calanques to the Mont Blanc massif

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Gaston Rébuffat
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Gaston Rébuffat was born in Marseille on the 7th May 1921. He starts rock climbing in the near Calanques. The adventure of our future alpinist starts when he is 16. He joins the Club Alpin Français, where he meets Henry Moulin. As Henry has a car, Gaston will get the chance to go beyond his “dear Calanques”.  

In 1940 he joins « Jeunesse et Montagne ». Here he meets Lionel Terray, who will become his roped party companion for his first great climbs. Then, he moves to Chamonix with his friend Terray, where he will work as a farmer in Lionel’s farm, in les Houches. With such a fantastic basecamp for their adventures at altitude, they will soon become the best climbers of their generation. Gaston becomes famous for his style, of a rare elegance.

In 1942, despite his young age (21, while the minimum age is normally 23), Rébuffat’s dream finally comes true: he becomes a mountain guide. He starts to work as a guide in the summer and as a ski instructor in the winter. Anywhere he goes, people are impressed. While completing some “firsts” (South face of Aiguille du Midi, South-West ridge of Pélerins, North face of the Dent du Requin…) and other challenging ascents, he becomes instructor at the National Alpinism School, as well as at the High Mountains Military School, in 1944. Two years later he is the third guide not from Chamonix to join the Compagnie des guides de Chamonix, under the protection of Alfred Couttet.

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« The mountaineer is a man who takes his body where his eyes once looked. », Gaston Rébuffat

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Gaston Rébuffat

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A prolific author

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Justly considered as one of the best alpinists of his generation, Rébuffat is selected with his friends Lachenal and Terray for the first ascent of the Annapurna in 1950. Despite the success that this expedition will earn him, this exploit will remain a difficult moment of his life. The Herzog-Lachenal roped party reaches the summit: it is the first 8000 in the history. The return is dramatic. While Louis Lachenal and Maurice Herzog were distressed, exhausted, wounded and freezing, Terray and Rébuffat commit with unlimited self-sacrifice to bring the winners back alive.

Once back, he decides to dedicate himself to what will drive the rest of his life: sharing his passion for the mountains and the Mont-Blanc massif. Alongside his profession of mountain guide at the Compagnie de Guides de Chamonix, which he is very proud of, he dedicates to photography, cinema and writing. He publishes around twenty books, including “Mont Blanc, Jardin féerique”.

In 1984, he is presented with the “Légion d’honneur”. He dies of illness one year later, at 63.