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Congratulations to Steve Hartland - First Brit to complete the UIAA list of 82 x 4000m peaks in the Alps.

Steve Hartland, a member of the ACG/AC since 1990, and British Mountain Guide from Chamonix, has successfully completed the UIAA list of 82 x 4000metre peaks in the Alps in August 2016.

Steve Hartland, a British mountain guide and member of the Alpine Club, has become the first known British completer of the UIAA list of 82 x 4000m peaks in the Alps.

Steve realised that when he first climbed the highest summit of the Grand Combin (Combin de Grafeneire, 4314m), in Switzerland, he had missed one of its other summits (Combin de Tsessette, 4141m).  In order to complete the 82, he returned in August 2016 for this final summit.

Steve had become attracted to this ambition, almost obsession, in 1982 as a young Alpinist.  Now age 53 and a fully qualified mountaineer, guiding from his base in Chamonix, France, he has found that continuing an adventurous personal climbing life has been an invigoration for his often somewhat repetitive professional guiding (eg he has ascended Mont Blanc over 30 times).

Lists of 4000m peaks in the Alps have been in circulation since the Austrian, Karl Blödig, wrote of 76 peaks in 1923.  Subsequently refined down, the Englishman, Robin Collomb, itinerant alpinist, artist of mountains and guide book publisher (West Col), wrote ‘Mountains of the Alps’ in 1971 with a list of 439 summits over 3,500m.  52 of these were over 4000m and this book (or more cheaply, photocopies of just a few relevant pages by impecunious Brits) became the bible pages for British Alpinists until the UIAA published their definitive list of 82 in 1994. 

Coupled with Richard Goedeke’s guidebook (1991) and Diadem’s ‘The High Mountains of the Alps’ (Dumler and Burkhardt, and Ken Wilson, 1994), lists began to multiply.  These descriptions, largely following the Collomb list of 52, can be undertaken by any reasonably fit person with a keen motivation, whereas the UIAA list of 82 will require the highest levels of Alpine mountaineering ability and commitment.

Until Steve Hartland completed his odyssey of 82, notable earlier ascents by guides Martin Moran and Simon Jenkins included 75 in a single traverse of 52 days in the summer of 1993. 

Since the 1970s mountaineers have had to battle with the ever-changing nature of glaciers and snowfields; wider crevasses, open bergschrunds, global warming, and even of the relaxation of the grip of permafrost that acts as the glue to stick the highest and most prominent summits together.  Sometimes enormous rockfalls can result.

Such conditiions will continue to challenge our mountaineers in the Alps and beyond.  Well done Steve.  Best wishes to future adventurous mountaineers.

John Allen                          30 November 2016

Photograph by John Allen