A Family Affair

Joseph Ravanat’s long lament opens First on the Rope, the legendary novel by Roger Frison-Roche. Is it pure invention on the part of the author? There’s room for doubt. Because behind the fictional character, there was a real man, full of vitality: Joseph “Le Rouge” Ravanel, a high mountain guide, and the grandson, son, brother and father of mountain guides. Better yet, the two men knew each other, as Frison-Roche was Ravanel’s porter during an ascent of Mont Blanc in 1925. Accomplishing many firsts during the early 1900s — Aiguille du Fou, Aiguille Mummery, Arête Sans-Nom à la Verte, Haute Route Chamonix-Zermatt, etc. —, Joseph Ravanel became a literary figure, thanks to Frison-Roche’s novel and the alias of Ravanat.

Nearly eight decades later, the Ravanel family is still producing a fair number of Chamonix-based mountain guides: there are fifteen of them currently working as such. In this cross-generational conversation, family recollections from Solange(93) to Gaspard (17) tell a tale of handed-down knowledge, a connection to the profession, the evolution of the mountains and its sports.
Text: Eric Carpentier for Les Others