Monday, June 8, 2015
Armand Charlet (1900 –1975) was a French mountaineer and mountain guide.
Charlet was amongst the most celebrated mountaineers and guides of his era. Alain de Chatellus regarded him as the "undisputed leader and lighthouse of his generation".
Claire Engel commented,
"[He was] head and shoulders above anyone else. His name has been associated for almost fifty years with the toughest climbs in the range of Mont Blanc. All those who have been with him in the mountains have been struck by his impresssive, almost tragic face, his intelligence and culture, and above all by his speed and poise when climbing,"
and Wilfrid Noyce stated that "It was amusing to note how Armand's pre-eminence was recognized by the other guides and hut-keepers. His word was law."
He made 3,000 ascents and guided over 1,200 friends and clients – of whom a third were women. He specialised in ascents of the Aiguille Verte in the Mont Blanc massif, which he climbed 100 times by fourteen different routes, including seven first ascents.
He taught at ENSA, the French national school of ski and alpinism for many years and had a great influence on several generations of high-mountain guides. He was technical director of the school for twelve years from 1945.
He featured in many of the first mountain films, a genre that developed after the First World War. He was the central character in À l'assaut des aiguilles du Diable (Marcel Ichac, 1942), a mountain film that Engel rates as "little short of a masterpiece".
Portrait by Jean-Claude Pertuzé
During the Second World War, Charlet used his mountaineering skills in assisting people to cross the frontier, in defiance of the Germans.