The world’s oldest mountain guide

by Chris Bertram on June 25, 2004

The world’s oldest mountain guide, Ulrich Inderbinen, has died at the age of 103, having climbed the Matterhorn more than 370 times (making his final ascent at the age of 90). “The Economist has the story”: . I’m sure what they write of him is true, but anyone who has read the beginning of Ernest Gellner’s best book — “Thought and Change”: — will feel slightly suspicious. Gellner illustrates the idea of a society living against “an unchanging temporal horizon”, where everything stays the same “like a train crossing a featureless landscape” with the story of the Taugwalders, survivors of the first ascent in 1865.

bq. [Which]…ended in a disaster in which four men perished and three survived. Of the three survivors, one was an Englishman, Whymper, and the two others were local peasants, Taugwalder father and Taugwalder son. The survivors were of course often interrogated about the event, especially as there was a question of the allocation of blame. When Taugwalder-the-son himself became old, and his father was no longer alive, he sometimes became rather confused: he appeared to think that _he_ himself was Taugwalder-the-father at the time of the first ascent in 1865. This confusion has been attributed to senile feeble-mindedness on his part. But quite a different explanation would promptly occur to a social anthropologist.

bq. After all, in the line of Taugwalders there had always been fathers (with beards, etc.) and sons (without beards, etc.). At the time of the adventure, there was an old one, with beard, and a young one, without beard. Much later, an old one — with beard — was interrogated about the episode: naturally, he identified with the old bearded one, the one who was such at the time of the episode. It would have been absurd for him to identify with a young beardless one, for, by now there was another and (for us) “different” young one, and he himself (now) _was_ the “old one”. There had always been an old and a young one, and the old one now was identical with the old one of any other time, for all times are alike. Whether Zermatt life really was timeless in this way in the nineteenth century, I cannot say; but it is not implausible. (T&C pp. 1–2.)



Lynne 06.25.04 at 5:19 pm

Did Bush create ALL this mistrust or did EU leaders play on this to form their union? I don’t think that anti-Americanism is a good thing to base a union on.


dave heasman 06.25.04 at 5:27 pm

This must have been common when countries started to pay old-age pensions.
In former Soviet republics like Georgia there were loads of very old old boys, and the suspicion was they’d not reported their dad’s death and nabbed his pension.

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