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EVENTS & DISCOVERIES
August 19, 1957
MONT BLANC: THE HARD WAY TO THE TOP, STATISTICS ON THE IRE OF THE UMPIRE, WAITING AT THE GOLDEN GATE, THE SORROWS OF JIMMY JONES, FOOTBALL TIME
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August 19, 1957

Events & Discoveries

MONT BLANC: THE HARD WAY TO THE TOP, STATISTICS ON THE IRE OF THE UMPIRE, WAITING AT THE GOLDEN GATE, THE SORROWS OF JIMMY JONES, FOOTBALL TIME

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Umpiring Team

Number Bounced

B. A. (% of all men bounced)

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Paparellas

13

.464

Rommells

7

.250

Summers

4

.143

Berrys

4

.143

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Dascolis

27

.563

Gormans

8

.167

Ballanfants

7

.146

Conlons

6

.125

THE CONQUERORS

In the 171 years since Mont Blanc was first climbed, some 20,000 people have reached its summit, but never, until last week, by way of the Grand Pilastre. This impregnable bastion is a 5,000-foot precipice, 60,000 inches of rock and green ice jutting to the crest, towering just west of the shimmering, impassable Brenva Glacier.

Studying the Grand Pilastre, Walter Bonnati, 27, Italy's foremost climber, wondered why it had never been climbed. He suggested trying it to Tony Gobbi, a 43-year-old former lawyer, a master of ice climbing, as Bonnati is of rock climbing. Gobbi said he'd think it over. Five minutes later he said yes.

On July 31, Bonnati and Gobbi set out without advance notice, and that night pitched their tent at the 10,725-foot level on the plateau beside the glacier and directly below the massive wall that had never been climbed. Bonnati now understood why it had not been. "It looked bad," he said. "Our legs shook a bit."

6:30 a.m. Aug. 1. The climb began with the two men carrying 18 pounds of equipment, including 30 ice hooks, 40 rock pitons, five wedges, two ropes, two rope hooks, an Alpine tent and food consisting of sugar, chocolate, biscuits, condensed milk. Smooth rock rose 1,500 feet directly above them. Beyond the rock lay a 1,500-foot expanse of rock and ice, and above this, 2,000 feet of ice. There was not the faintest handhold on the smooth rock except in a narrow hollow funnel that ended in a half-dome.

Roped to Gobbi, young Bonnati led the way up the perpendicular funnel at the rate of about 15 inches a minute. At the dome, he could find no handholds nor any way out. The climbers had passed the point of no return; they could not climb down. Bonnati could not see the rock face on either side of the funnel to learn if a crevice existed on either side. He could not reach out to drive a piton into the rock face without toppling backwards into the void. After an hour he thought, "I can't stay here until my strength fails," so he lunged out blindly to the right. There was a small projection for a handhold and a crack for his right foot. "I was really very lucky," he said. On the left side of the funnel there was no projection of any kind.

After 12 hours, or 10,800 inches, Bonnati and Gobbi perched on a narrow ledge below an overhang to spend the night. They tried to eat, but could not swallow. The sound of water running inside the rocks tormented them all night.

Dawn, Aug. 2. Overhead lay the worst 50 yards of the climb, 1,800 inches of absolutely unclimbable rock, jutting forward at a 110� angle, a sheer drop of 2,000 feet below Bonnati edged sideways in search of an escape route. He said, "It was the worst fear I ever had to overcome."

Finding a crack in the rock face, he hung backward, pounding in pitons. Hour after hour the two men hammered pitons into the rock, clawed up, pulled out the pitons and hammered in more. They left one behind as a marker for future climbers.

Above the overhang, they were halfway up Grand Pilastre. On the ice, Gobbi took the lead, climbing at the rate of about two feet a minute. That night they wrapped their tent around them in an ice cleft. Again they could not eat; their throats were swollen shut.

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