Expeditions supported by SFAR
Swiss Himalaya Expedition, 1947
Excerpt from: Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, 1939 to 1970. Published in Zurich in 1972
Participants: André Roch, expedition leader; Ms Annelies Lohner; Alfred Sutter; Alexander Graven; René Dittert.
Outcomes: First ascent of Kedarnat (6940 m), Satopanth (7075 m), Kolindi Peak (6102 m), Balbala (6414 m), Nanda Ghunti (6310 m), exploration on Chaukhamba (7138 m)..
The Foundation can thank a woman, the energetic Annelies Lohner from Grindelwald, for the impetus towards this first post-War expedition. Ms Lohner had developed into a tough mountain climber under the expert leadership of Gustav Hasler. She succeeded in engaging the enthusiasm of Alexander Graven for the expedition. He was one of the best guides from Zermatt, and had long dreamed of the Himalayas. Graven brought with him a further client, the industrialist Alfred Sutter from Münchwilen, with whom he had climbed all the four-thousanders in the Alps. Graven wanted to play safe, and approached André Roch to take on the role of expedition leader. He, in turn, brought along his mountaineering friend and fellow native of Geneva, René Dittert. André Roch, an engineer at the Swiss Federal Institute for Research into Snow and Avalanches at Weissfluhjoch, Davos, and also a certified mountain guide, had already successfully led the 1939 Garhwal Expedition, and was the right man to take on this responsible task. In his introduction to the expedition report, Ernst Feuz wrote that the Foundation had not accepted the participation of a woman without some serious misgivings. «We asked ourselves whether we could take the responsibility of asking a woman to undertake this commitment to months of hardship and danger.» However, these doubts were finally put aside, and the success of the expedition and the way in which the participants got on so well together fully justified this decision.
The Foundation had taken over patronage of the expedition, concluding an agreement to equip Ms Lohner and Alfred Sutter, and an expedition agreement with all five participants. Alexander Graven and André Roch were taken on as mountain guides. An Indian transport officer would join them at a later date. Roch was appointed expedition leader. All the important decisions would be discussed with his colleagues, but he would have to take the final decision at his own responsibility.
The Foundation had already taken delicate diplomatic steps to secure the agreement and assistance of the British/Indian authorities, which was no easy matter so soon after the end of the War. Furthermore, the Foundation also procured, allocated, packed and despatched the equipment and provisions, with the help of Neuen Warenhaus AG. All this work had to be carefully thought out and implemented with precision, since so much would depend on it at a later date.
The Garhwal-Himal region was chosen as the target for the expedition, for reasons that were essentially the same as for the expedition undertaken in 1939. An exploration was to be made of the Gangotri massif, a huge group of mountains with many virgin summits at six and seven thousand metres.
The team gave a good account of themselves in this expedition, and could be satisfied with their efforts. They achieved five first ascents under conditions that were sometimes difficult. They added a fine section to the story of exploration and climbing in the Himalayas. Together, they produced a clearly-written expedition report, recording their subjective impressions as well as the mountaineering results of the expedition for the wider world.