Jacques Balmat, called le Mont Blanc (1762–1834) was a mountaineer
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...
, a Savoyard
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....
mountain guide, and born a citizen of the Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia
The Kingdom of Sardinia consisted of the island of Sardinia first as a part of the Crown of Aragon and subsequently the Spanish Empire , and second as a part of the composite state of the House of Savoy . Its capital was originally Cagliari, in the south of the island, and later Turin, on the...
He was born in the Chamonix
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or, more commonly, Chamonix is a commune in the Haute-Savoie département in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It was the site of the 1924 Winter Olympics, the first Winter Olympics...
valley. A chamois
The chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra, is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe, including the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the European Alps, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus. The chamois has also been introduced to the South Island of New Zealand...
hunter and collector of crystals
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...
, Balmat completed the first ascent
In climbing, a first ascent is the first successful, documented attainment of the top of a mountain, or the first to follow a particular climbing route...
of Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco , meaning "White Mountain", is the highest mountain in the Alps, Western Europe and the European Union. It rises above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence...
with physician Michel-Gabriel Paccard
thumb|Portrait of Michel Gabriel Paccard. Reproduced from an old portrait in the possession of M. J. P, Cachat, of Chamonix . From a photograph by Tairraz, of Chamonix...
on August 8, 1786. For this feat, the king of Sardinia
Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia
Victor Amadeus III was King of Sardinia from 1773 until his death. Although he was politically conservative, he carried out numerous administrative reforms until declaring war on revolutionary France in 1792...
gave him the honorary title le Mont Blanc.
Balmat and Paccard's ascent of Mont Blanc was a major accomplishment in the early history of mountaineering. C. Douglas Milner wrote "The ascent itself was magnificent; an amazing feat of endurance and sustained courage, carried through by these two men only, unroped and without ice axes, heavily burdened with scientific equipment and with long iron-pointed batons. The fortunate weather and a moon alone ensured their return alive."
Eric Earle Shipton CBE was a distinguished British Himalayan mountaineer.-Early years:Born in Ceylon in 1907 where his father, a tea planter, died before he was three years old. His mother buried her grief by taking Eric and his sister Marge and travelling constantly for the next five years...
wrote "Theirs was an astounding achievement of courage and determination, one of the greatest in the annals of mountaineering. It was accomplished by men who were not only on unexplored ground but on a route that all the guides believed to be impossible."
Gaston Rébuffat was a well-known French alpinist and mountain guide. The climbing technique, to gaston, was named after him. He was a recipient of France's prestigious Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 1984....
praised Balmat's climbing abilities, describing him as "This man, robust, resolute, this crystal hunter who, as it turns out, possesses an extraordinary mountaineering sense, an unerring instinct for the crevasses and serac
A serac is a block or column of ice formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier. Often house-sized or larger, they are dangerous to mountaineers since they may topple with little warning...
s of the glaciers ..."
After the successful ascent, Balmat collected the reward offered 25 years before by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure
Horace-Bénédict de Saussure
200px|thumb|Portrait of Horace-Bénédict de Saussure Horace-Bénédict de Saussure was a Genevan aristocrat, physicist and Alpine traveller, often considered the founder of alpinism, and considered to be the first person to build a successful solar oven.-Life and work:Saussure was born in Conches,...
to the first man who could climb Mont Blanc. On August 3, 1787, he assisted de Saussure himself to reach the summit with a party of about 17 people.
During the Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...
, Savoy fell under French control, and Citizen Jacques Balmat became a member of the council of the commune
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...
. He led an unsuccessful attempt to introduce Merino
The Merino is an economically influential breed of sheep prized for its wool. Merinos are regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep...
sheep into the Chamonix valley.
Balmat was criticized for his autobiographical account of the climb, later published in English as Jacques Balmat or The First Ascent of Mont Blanc: A True Story, since his account downplayed the role of Dr. Paccard. Milner describes Balmat's story as "cloudily romantic and largely fictional" and quotes four analysts of mountaineering history who discovered errors in Balmat's version of events.
Shipton describes Balmat as "boastful and conceited" and that "in character, he was both vain and mean. Success went to his head, and he soon began to amplify his part in the exploit."
Balmat died by falling off of a cliff while prospecting for gold in the Sixt
Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is a municipality in the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France.- Geography :The town ranges in altitude from , and three-quarters of its area are part of a Natural Reserve and thus completely uninhabited...
valley in 1834.