Anne Lister’s ascent
of Mt. Vignemale
Marlene Oliveira and Amanda PrycePublished on 7 August 2021 · Last updated on 16 May, 2023
In August 1838, Anne Lister undertook the most consequential climb of her career as a mountaineer.
Mt. Vignemale, previously thought to be inaccessible from the French side of the border, was the stage of a rush to the summit between Anne and the Prince de la Moscowa. The intrepid Yorkshire landowner was the first tourist to reach the summit of Mt. Vignemale, beating the Prince by four days and earning her spot in the history of mountaineering. However, despite climbing the mountain first, Anne had to prove her achievement to prevent it from being attributed to the Prince. But how did Anne's adventure start? How did she endure the climb and later prove her achievement? And why was her climb of the Vignemale almost forgotten in favour of the Prince de la Moscowa's?
Estimated reading time: 60 minutes.
This article describes active research and the facts and details included have and will continue to be updated as new information is uncovered. If you come across any other relevant information that can help clarify or expand the topics below, please get in touch.
A previous version of this article can be consulted here.
Anne Lister, the mountaineer
Throughout her life, Anne Lister became an accomplished hiker and mountaineer. When opportunity arose, Anne didn't shy from a casual ramble up a hill or a more strenuous climb to the summit of a mountain, even if said task hadn't been undertaken by others before or if there were evident risks. Anne's career as a mountaineer is recorded in her journal, correspondence, and, in the case of some climbs in Switzerland, in Ann Walker's journal.
In the 1820s, Anne climbed mountains in Scotland and Wales, and she also undertook several hikes in England, France, and Switzerland. Perhaps one of the most iconic of these adventures was Anne's conquest of Ben Nevis, the highest peak of the British Isles at 1345 meters above sea level (Wikipedia 2021), which she ascended with very sparse gear and without bringing enough water.
Two years after Ben Nevis, Anne was in France with her aunt Anne when the French Revolution began. At the time, Anne had made an acquaintance of the wife of the British Ambassador in Paris, Lady Stuart de Rothesay, and embarked on a tour of the Pyrenees and the south of France with her friend and her children. However, the weeks of travelling with the Stuart de Rothesays took a bit of a toll on Anne, who felt that she needed exercise and wished she could explore more of the mountains in the Pyrenees region. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Anne would hire a guide and find herself a worthy challenge: climbing Mont Perdu, a summit rising 3355 meters above sea level (Wikipedia 2021).
The ascent of Mont Perdu was a challenge like no other Anne had attempted until then. The adventure started in the middle of the night and a portion of the climb was undertaken by candlelight.
The remainder of the climb proved equally, if not more, difficult, with windy weather at times and some "very difficult climbing". However, once Anne reached the summit of Perdu, it became evident that view was worth the effort:
Later that day, Anne expressed her relief at having completed her climb of Mont Perdu and mentioned how fatigued she was after the excursion. When she returned to her friends, Anne commented how she didn't intend to bring up the topic of her climb due to the more masculine nature of the adventure.
Years later, Anne would confess to her journal that, despite having climbed Mont Perdu, people didn't believe she had done so (Lister 1838).
In 1838, Anne returned to the Pyrenees. This time, she did so accompanied by her partner, Miss Ann Walker. The two ladies had made their way south from Paris, after Ann Walker consulted a French physician regarding some of her ailments. The proposed treatment included baths in the medicinal waters of the Pyrenees. This endeavor had the two ladies setting up in the area for two months and, during their time in the region, Anne and Ann undertook many walks, hikes, and small tours of the region and surroundings. It is not long after their arrival in Luz that Anne reconnects with her old guide from Mont Perdu and it is this same guide who becomes instrumental in her climb of the Vignemale and in getting recognition for her feat.
An inaccessible summit
A lifelong avid reader, Anne notes in her journal on Thursday 19 July 1838 that she is currently reading the 1834 edition of ‘Les Pyrénées ou Voyages Pédestres dans toutes les régions de ces montagnes depuis l'Océan jusqu'à la Méditerranée', a book by Vincent de Chausenque. In this work, the author claims that Mt. Vignemale, the highest summit of the Pyrenean mountain range (3, 298 meters (Wikipedia 2021)) which straddles the French and Spanish border, is inaccessible from the French side (de Chausenque 1834, 339).
Vincent de Chausenque (1781-1868) was the first amateur climber to ascend the mountain via the Petit Vignemale, from the Cauteretz side. While he did not reach the Pique-Longue (the highest peak of the Massif du Vignemale) he did successfully climb to the second highest point on 30 June 1822 (de Chausenque 1834, 22). This earned him the honor of having the summit named after him; La Pointe du Chausenque.
Anne was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Chausenque’s guide, Jean-Pierre Charles¹ (1796-1842), in 1830 during her first excursion in the Pyrenees, which culminated in her successful ascent of Mt. Perdu. She employs him again as their guide for the duration of their stay in the Gavarnie region in 1838. She notes the following conversation with Charles on the 19th of July 1838:
While Anne and Ann visit a little church in Viey, Charles sets out to investigate this guide from Gèdre and learns that his name is Henri Cazaux² . But, unable to see Cazaux in person, Charles speaks to his wife and reports back to Anne:
Some days later, while out exploring and on their way to the the Pic du Piméné, Anne and her riding party are joined by the Gèdre guide:
The guide went on to explain the route and the journey that should be expected and, after settling on a price of 20 francs to take both Charles and Anne to the top, arrangements were made to meet at Gavarnie later that evening. The plan was to make for the hut nearest the base of Vignemale, sleep there overnight, and set off for the summit in the early hours of the morning. Ann Walker was to sleep at Gavarnie and meet them at Bouchero (Bujaruelo), across the Spanish border, accompanied by Charles’ brother-in-law, Bernard Guillembet³ a few days later.
Unfortunately, the weather took a miserable turn that evening and a low fog drifted in across the mountains. Consequently, it was decided to postpone the excursion until the weather improved, this delayed the ascent for two weeks:
While they waited for the weather to improve Anne and Ann continued exploring the area around Luz-Saint Sauveur and Gavarnie with their guides. The couple visited the Cirque de Gavarnie with its magnificent cascade, the Cirque d’Estaubé, and the nearby valleys. Ann Walker sketched many of the picturesque mountain vistas, and visited the local medicinal baths. All the while Anne Lister was still very much fixated on the Vignemale.
However, the delay did allow Anne to make all the necessary arrangements for the anticipated journey. Including procuring items she would need, having her trusty pocket-watch mended, and preparing her clothing and apparatus for the climb. She had already made the following adjustments to her clothing to allow for easier manoeuvrability when climbing, hiking and generally getting around the rocky landscape of the Pyrenees on foot:
Anne spent the days before the climb reading over the passages in Chausenque’s book that described his ascent of the Petit Vignemale. She also examined her ‘Charpentier map’ of the Pyrenees, familiarizing herself with the area again.
By 5 August, the weather had improved slightly but Charles still had some concerns. Once again the plan was to make for the cabin that evening, sleep there, and try for the summit in the morning, if the weather held:
Once again they were forced to change their plans due to poor weather conditions:
The very next day word reaches Anne that the Prince de la Moscowa, Napoléon Joseph Ney, has engaged the Gèdre guide and was planning to ascend the Vignemale, from the French side, imminently.
Up until this point, Anne and her guides had been content to patiently wait for the weather to turn in their favour, but this sudden threat of competition seems to spur them into action. In preparation for the imminent departure, Anne begins packing her overnight bag, writing letters, and arranging her attire. She details the contents of her travelling bag and clothing in her journal:
Once she was packed and the horses had arrived, the party of four set off for Gavarnie:
The news that there would be a glacier and snow to cross surprised Anne, as Cazaux had stated in their previous meeting that this would not be necessary. Luckily, Charles had come prepared with a spare baton ferré (an iron walking rod) for her to use. However, it would be Ann Walker who really saved the day with her insistence on Anne bringing her well-worn crampons from the ascent of Mt. Perdu in 1830. Finally, with everyone well equipped, Anne was ready to stake her claim on the summit of the Vignemale.
- Charles is often mentioned as Margaras in literature (Bonnal 2018, 179) and Anne Lister referred to him as Charlet at least on one occasion when she arrived in Saint-Sauveur on the 9th of July 1838.
- Henri Cazaux (1796-1862), sometimes referred to as ‘Cantou’ in literature, was a guide from Gèdre. He and his beau-frère Bernard Guillembet discovered the route to the summit of Mt. Vignemale in 1837. He was regarded by some of his clients as a brave man (Bonnal 2018, 167).
- Bernard Guillembet (1803 - 1901) was a guide from Gèdre. Together with Henri Cazaux, Guillembet discovered the path to the summit of the Vignemale in 1837 (Bonnal 2018, 234).
After leaving Ann Walker at Gavarnie, Anne and her guides travel to the Cabane de "Saoussats Dabattes" (Saousse Dabat) and arrive after darkness sets in. There, they meet five shepherds and a fire is promptly made to cook pâte⁴ while everyone settles to enjoy the food and the warmth. Anne declines the offer of the shepherd's dinner and, instead, eats a portion of her bread and drinks cold milk. After she is done with her sparse dinner, Anne settles into a makeshift bed which, per her own admission, was not “comfortable enough to cheat one into sleep”. After laying down for a little over an hour and half, Anne was ready to go:
Finally, after having some trouble finding the horses, the party leaves the Cabane a little before 3 a.m. A few hours later, just before 5 a.m., Anne's party stops for breakfast and their horses are sent back. While massively sleep deprived, Anne Lister is about to attempt one of the most important climbs of her career as mountaineer:
From the Vignemale, Anne observes the Vignemale's glacier and the other mountains around this peak.
Present day view from the summit of Mt. Vignemale. Move the image to look around. Source: Google Street View.
At the summit of the Vignemale, the guides make a little cairn around a bottle that contains a slip of paper. This little note contained the three guides' names and Anne’s, along with the date and time in which they reached the summit of the Vignemale. Anne copied the little note into the journal entry of the 17 August 1838. The note read as follows:
The note placed inside the bottle left by Anne and her guides at the summit of Mt. Vignemale. Image courtesy of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:7/ML/E/21/0170). You can find the transcript and translation below.
After taking another moment to observe her surroundings, Anne and her guides make their way back to Gavarnie and stop at the Cabane to eat and rest for a while.
Anne and her guides reach Gavarnie in the early hours of the 8th of August 1838 and she finally gets into a comfortable bed after completing her tremendous achievement. Ann Walker arrived later that morning, and after breakfast, they set off on what would become their little tour of several Spanish towns near the border with France.
On her accounts of the day, Anne included the payment of the 5 francs she gave to Cazaux at the summit of Vignemale. Interestingly enough, that note includes Anne’s admission that she was the first to reach the summit of that mountain.
Hommage à la vérité!
After returning from a short journey in Spain, Anne and Ann reach Pierrefitte, another town in the French Pyrenees. In the afternoon of the 14th of August 1838, they’re enjoying their Spanish grapes when Charles tells an interesting tale:
After hearing this, Anne was obviously not happy and decided that she should only pay Cazaux when the matter was cleared:
Anne then determines that they will travel to Luz and Charles would then meet with the Prince de la Moskowa to talk about the ascent of the Vignemale and, hopefully, put the matter to rest.
Napoleon Joseph Ney (1803 - 1857) was a French politician and the second Prince de la Moskowa. He inherited the title from his father, who in 1813 received the title ‘Prince de la Moskowa’ from Napoleon after the Battle of Borodino (Wikipedia 2021). In 1838, the Prince was undertaking a series of excursions in the Pyrenees and climbed the Vignemale on the 11th of August 1838, with Henri Cazaux and four others as his guides (Ney 1838, 807).
When Charles eventually returns from calling on the Prince de la Moskowa, the news did not please Anne Lister:
Faced with the Prince’s refusal to acquiesce that he had been beaten to the summit of the Vignemale, Anne decides to try a different approach: she will not pay Cazaux until he signs a certificate attesting that she had indeed been at the summit of the Vignemale. Anne and Cazaux’s agreement before the ascent ensured that he would be paid after he successfully guided her to the summit of the mountain. His deceit merely prompted Anne to wait for the truth to be restored before she paid the agreed sum. She would send Charles and Pierre to Gèdre to speak with Cazaux and request that he sign a certificate for Anne.
However, there was more detail than what Anne initially included when she first recorded the details from Charles' meeting with the Prince:
Charles then advises Anne to send him to Gèdre and see Cazaux at the Inn, where Charles would then discuss matters with Cazaux over a glass of wine and would make him admit publicly that Anne had ascended to the top of the Vignemale on the 7th of August 1838. The proposed certificate that Cazaux was to sign seemed reasonable to Charles. The content of this proposed certificate was copied by Anne into her journal of that day and reads as follows:
However, Anne had more to add to Charles’ report of his meeting with the Prince de la Moskowa:
Having heard Charles’ report of his meeting with the Prince de la Moskowa and having agreed with him as to what was to be done with Cazaux, Anne settled into an uneasy evening.
When Charles returns from Gèdre in the afternoon of that day, he tells Anne and Ann what he learned there.
Early in the morning of the 16th of August 1838, Anne, Ann, and their two guides set off for Lourdes. After they arrive, Anne ensures that Ann can have a place to rest from the journey and she asks Charles to go out and ask the oldest and most important lawyer, a Monsieur Latapie⁵ , to come and meet Anne at their hotel. Latapie replies with his own note asking Anne to go to him, as was his custom when meeting clients. Ann ponders going with Anne to meet the lawyer, but then decides to stay at the hotel and rest.
Around midday, Anne and Charles set off to meet Monsieur Latapie. The lawyer is described by Anne as being around fifty years of age and, as Anne notes, “rather rotund au milieu, and of agreeable lawyer-like manners”. Satisfied with the man’s countenance, Anne gets down to business:
After Anne tells Latapie about her issues with Cazaux, she calls Charles so he can relay his version of the events to the lawyer:
After Charles’ explanation, Anne proposes to Latapie that he write her a document to serve as proof that she climbed Vignemale on the 7th of August and that she can ask Cazaux to sign:
With the matter of the certificate arranged and possible legal proceedings agreed to in case Cazaux refused to sign the document, the conversation between Anne and Monsieur Latapie evolves into a discussion about the character of the Prince de la Moskowa:
With this matter handled and in possession of the certificate written by the lawyer, Anne returns to the hotel and finds Ann still resting on the sofa. While noting down in her rough book how long she spent at the lawyer’s house, Anne accidentally misses Ann’s question about the conversation with Monsieur Latapie. This accidental inattention on Anne’s part annoys Ann:
And so, under heavy rain and a few peals of thunder, Anne and Ann are on the road again back to Luz.
On the 17th of August, Anne is a woman on a mission: she’s determined to go to Gèdre to speak with Cazaux and have him sign her certificate, thus proving that she had climbed to the summit of the Vignemale. Ann is still as annoyed as she was the day before, which prompts Anne to check with her and still order the horses for the afternoon. She leaves to Ann herself the decision of accompanying Anne and Charles to Gèdre. With this done, Anne’s thoughts return to the Prince de la Moskowa and Cazaux’s deceit, and she reflects on her motivation both to climb mountains and to restore the truth:
After checking up on Ann again and learning that she was not feeling well enough to ride her horse, Anne arranges for Pierre to come back for Ann later in the day. With this matter settled and leaving Ann at Luz to rest, Anne and Charles go to Gèdre to speak with Cazaux. On the way, they cross paths with a drunk shepherd, whose strange movements remind Anne of Eliza Raine. The shepherd, though drunk, amuses Charles and Anne with conversation about a new carriage road. When the man finally goes on his way, Anne and Charles are both surprised to see him walking steadily despite his drunkenness on a particularly precipitous part of the road.
When Anne and Charles reach Gèdre, they learn that Cazaux is at home, and Anne requests his presence at the Inn and she also requests the presence of the Aubergiste. After ordering wine and cheese for everyone, Anne goes to the kitchen and sits with the men. Cazaux arrives a while later and they finally talk.
With Cazaux admitting that Anne and Charles were telling the truth, Anne surreptitiously introduces the matter of his deceit:
After he reads the certificate, Cazaux agrees to sign it.
With the certificate signed by Cazaux, Anne then pays him:
However, the extra five francs Anne paid him were supposed to serve a very specific purpose:
With all this settled, Anne turns to the Aubergiste and gives the man ten francs to pay for the wine. This action prompts him to say that Anne “paid en prince” and, in a whisper, he added “et même plus”. The Aubergiste also says that Anne paid well and should be treated with bravery and Anne then asks him to tell her more about the dealings of the Prince and Cazaux:
With all this cleared up, Anne agrees to make amends:
However, forgiving Cazaux doesn’t mean excusing the Prince de la Moscowa’s antics:
As it turned out, the Prince de la Moskowa also didn’t pay Cazaux as well as Anne thought:
The Aubergiste, apparently, never doubted that Anne would climb the Vignemale because he still remembered her climb of Mont Perdu.
Having settled everything with Cazaux and having in her possession the signed certificate, Anne is satisfied and she and Charles hurry back to Luz. Anne understood that an already annoyed Ann Walker would not take well to a delay at dinner, which prompted Anne to hurry Charles along:
In the afternoon of the 18th of August, Anne leaves Charles at Luz after a few hours of riding and enjoying the views of the mountains and valleys nearby. Charles was to call on the Prince de la Moskowa again to inform him that Anne could now prove her ascent of the Vignemale.
Anne’s evening goes as usual and she has dinner with a still annoyed Ann Walker, who picks up a book while Anne slumbers at the dinner table. Then Charles arrives with news:
After talking with a better humoured but still annoyed Ann Walker, Anne lets her read a copy of the little note published in the newspaper:
On the 27th of August, Anne sits down to write to the Galignani Messenger. Her note serves the dual purpose of asking them to reroute her newspapers to a new address and to request the publication that indicates that the Prince de la Moscowa’s ascent of the Vignemale hadn’t been the first:
A legacy (almost) forgotten
Anne Lister would leave the Pyrenees region in October 1838 after a few troubles with the gendarmes of Mauléon, and her route would eventually bring her and Ann Walker back to Shibden Hall. They spend half a year at home, in which Ann’s state of mind slowly slips into melancholia, Anne and Ann set their sights on another long journey and set off on the 20th of June 1839 with Russia as their destination.
However, after dreaming about visiting Russia for years and reading about it in several travel guides, Anne’s wanderlust wasn’t satisfied by just a glimpse of Moscow and St. Petersburg. She and Ann spend a month in Moscow, but then agree to explore more of the Russian Empire and, eventually, they reach the Caucasus. It was during this stage of their trip, in Kutaisi, that Anne Lister succumbed to a fever. After her death, Anne’s remains were shipped to England and she would eventually be buried in the Halifax Parish Church in 1841.
Despite Anne’s story being almost lost from collective memory, Anne’s journals survived well beyond her lifespan. The account of Anne’s climb of the Vignemale was safely preserved in these same journals. However, this story wasn’t widely known for many years after Anne’s death.
Though Anne Lister’s climb of Vignemale preceded that of the Prince de la Moskowa by a few days and she ensured that the Prince admitted defeat, Anne’s climb would almost fall into obscurity. The newspaper article announcing the Prince de la Moskowa’s conquest of the summit of Vignemale warranted Anne’s correction, but her version of events was considerably more discrete. As we’ve seen, the paragraph Anne had published in the Galignani Messenger didn’t even include her name, which certainly didn’t help with making her achievement widely known.
In 1842, almost five years after his climb, the Prince de la Moscowa published a book in which he gave his account of his own climb of the Vignemale (Ney 1842). An article about his climb had already been published, in the Revue des deux Mondes, in 1838. Anne Lister’s climb was not mentioned in the book.
In 1854, Vincent Chausenque published a new edition of his work “Les Pyrénées, ou Voyages pédestres dans toutes les régions de ces montagnes depuis l'océan jusqu'à la Méditerranée”. Almost a decade earlier, in 1838, Anne Lister had acquired a copy of the previous edition of this book and carried it with her almost everywhere while she was traveling in the Pyrenees region. She compared what she saw with what Chausenque mentioned in his book and used it extensively to plan the tours she and Ann Walker would take almost daily. Before he published the 1854 edition, Chausenque had apparently spoken to Anne’s old guide, Jean-Pierre Charles (de Chausenque 1854, 416). Some interesting passages from Charles’ oral history were included by Chausenque in this new edition of his work. Charles is said to have mentioned how the guides were impressed by Anne’s and Ann’s “strength and bravery” during the excursions of the summer of 1838. Charles also gave Chausenque an account of Anne’s ascent of Vignemale and described her as having “un courage superlatif pour une femme”⁶ (de Chausenque 1854, 416).
In 1867, a new edition of John Murray’s “A Handbook for Travellers in France: Being a Guide to Normandy, Brittany, the Rivers Seine, Loire, Rhône, and Garonne, the French Alps, Dauphiné, the Pyrenees, Provence, and Nice, &c. &c. &c. : the Railways and Principal Roads“ was published. In this book, there is a note about historical ascents of the Vignemale. Anne's ascent is omitted, but the Prince de la Moskowa's account of his ascent is cited:
In the beginning of the 20th century, Henri Béraldi published volume seven of his work “Cent ans aux Pyrénées”. In this book Béraldi included a chapter about women’s experiences in the Pyrenees. In the course of researching the history of Vignemale, Béraldi speaks with none other than Henri Cazaux’s son, who was an octogenarian when he made Béraldi’s acquaintance (Béraldi 1904, 134). In 1903, the octogenarian confesses to Béraldi that he kept the image of “lady Anne Lister” as “une superbe femme”⁷ . Cazaux Jr. also gives Henri Béraldi an account of Anne’s ascent of the Vignemale, but erroneously says that Anne and “her friend” (Ann Walker) had both climbed the mountain (Béraldi 1904, 135). Nonetheless, Béraldi includes this second hand account of Anne’s ascent of the Vignemale in his book. After mentioning that the Prince de la Moskowa’s ascent took place a few days after Anne’s, Béraldi asks: “Et pourquoi, dans son récit, pas un mot de l’ascension de lady Lister faite cinq jours auparavant???”⁸
In 1909 another pioneer of Pyrenean mountaineering died. His name was Henry Russell and he had become devoted to exploring the Pyrenees in 1861. Russell too ascended to the summit of the Vignemale in September of 1861 and he would later successfully reach this summit many more times, both in summer and winter, and the routes he used would eventually be travelled by many others (Bailey 2005). The route Cazaux used in 1838 with Anne Lister and the Prince de la Moskowa is graded as AD- and considered somewhat laborious but not terribly hard (Reynolds 2010, 231). Russell was also interested in sleeping at the summit of Vignemale and, in 1882, would see the first of his caves completed (the ‘Villa Russell’, at the Col de Cerbillona, 3205 m above the sea level) (Wikipedia 2019). It was one woman in Russell’s team that would name the pass Anne Lister used in 1838 as Col Lady Lyster (Summit Post, n.d.). The pass is directly above a corridor named after the Prince de la Moskowa. Thus, even decades after beating the Prince to the summit of Vignemale, Anne Lister’s pass continues to rise above the Prince’s corridor.
In the late 1960s, Vivien Ingham was studying Anne Lister’s life as the main topic of her thesis (Anderson 1995, 190-192). It was in the course of this work that Ingham would become interested in Lister’s adventures in the Pyrenees and, consequently, how she would learn about Anne’s ascent of the Vignemale. Intrigued by this, Ingham would then travel to the Pyrenees herself in search of more information about the Vignemale and Anne’s guides (Maury 2000, 9). It is there that she met Pierre Vergez-Lacoste, a local hotelier and mountaineer. To the hotelier, Ingham mentioned the desire of writing two articles about Anne Lister’s time in the Pyrenees, one for the Alpine Journal and another for the Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society (Ingham 1969). Verguez-Lacoste then introduces Ingham to a few books that he thinks might be of use to her, such as that of Vincent de Chausenque. In the winter of 1968, French historian Luc Maury⁹ visited Pierre Vergez-Lacoste and learned about Ingham’s visit to the Pyrenees (Maury 2000, 9). By then, Ingham was busy studying the books suggested by Monsieur Verguez-Lacoste and researching Anne’s last adventure in Russia. Maury would then establish contact with Ingham and they would discuss the events of the decade of 1830 to 1840 in the Pyrenees and compare those with Anne’s journal entries (Maury 2000, 9). They would then agree to have successive publications, both in France and England (Maury 2000, 9). A meeting in the following month of September 1968 is also agreed to, but Ingham’s illness prevents her from travelling (Maury 2000, 9). Vivien Ingham would die in January 1969 and, with her death, the contact with the French historians would cease. Monsieur Vergez-Lacoste would die in October 1970. Ingham’s paper recounting the story of Anne’s climb of Vignemale was published in the Alpine Journal in 1969 and her other, longer, article about the same topic would be read to the Halifax Antiquarian Society and then published in the Transactions of the same Society.
Luc Maury published an article about Anne Lister’s climb of Mont Perdu in the journal of the Societé Ramond and other articles about Anne’s and other early ascents of the Vignemale in publications such as the Revue Pyrénées. Maury would eventually also write a book telling the story of Anne Lister’s ascent of the Vignemale. His book (Maury 2000) includes diverse excerpts of Anne Lister’s journal of 1838 and also includes his account of how he met Vivien Ingham and how their collaboration started. It was likely due to the work of these historians and of some others that Anne Lister’s ascent of the Vignemale became known to more people.
Many other authors would also include Anne’s ascent of the Vignemale in their books, with various degrees of accuracy. One of such authors was Nanou Saint-Lebe, who included Anne in her book “Les femmes à la découverte des Pyrénées". However, one author in particular took it upon herself to climb that which was known to some Anne Lister enthusiasts as “Anne Lister’s mountain”. In 2003, Jill Liddington and a few family members and friends packed their bags and travelled to the Pyrenees. Their goal? Reach the summit of Vignemale, just as Anne Lister had done over a century before them. This adventure was recorded in the Halifax Evening Courier of the 13th of August 2003.
An article, published in the Halifax Evening Courier, about Jill Liddington's and Annabel Nairn's ascents of the Vignemale. Image courtesy of the Halifax Courier.
Anne Lister’s papers and Vignemale
As mentioned previously, Anne only brought along minimal gear for her climb of Vignemale. Naturally, her baggage included not only her clothes but also food and other essential climbing gear, such as crampons. However, she also packed a few other items, among which there was a notebook and other documents:
Given Anne’s penchant for writing travel notes in little notebooks ("rough books", as she referred to them), it is safe to say that this notebook likely contained her notes and observations regarding this part of her travels in the Pyrenees. The notebook included an account of Anne’s pioneering ascent of Mt Vignemale, written in pencil, which she was preserving in a manner similar to what can be observed in surviving travel journals:
Unfortunately, it seems that this notebook hasn’t survived and whatever notes therein contained and not copied by Anne to her journal are likely lost. Fourteen other travel journals from other travels survive and are held at WYAS Calderdale (reference SH:7/ML/TR).
Fortunately, two other items that made the trip to Vignemale have survived. These are Anne’s Charpentier map of the Pyrenees (SH:7/ML/TR/16) and her passport from 1838 (SH:7/ML/1013), which referred to Ann Walker as her niece. Both items are held at the Calderdale office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service and the passport was recently exhibited at the Wakefield office of the same archive service for the Anne Lister - In Her Words exhibition. These are seemingly the only two surviving items that summitted Vignemale with Anne Lister.
A close-up photo of Anne’s Charpentier map of the Pyrenees, showing the location of Mt. Vignemale. Photo by Marlene Oliveira. Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:7/ML/TR/16).
Anne Lister’s Vignemale trek, visualized
Anne's journey to the summit of the Vignemale is one of the routes available to modern climbers. To make it easier to visualize, we've created an interactive map.
Anderson, Olive. 1995. “The Anne Lister Papers.” History Workshop Journal, 1995, 190-192. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4289398.
Bailey, Rosemary. 2005. The Man Who Married A Mountain: A Journey Through the French Pyrenees. London: Transworld Publishers.
Béraldi, Henri. 1899. Cent ans aux Pyrénées. Vol. 2. 8 vols. Paris.
Béraldi, Henri. 1904. Cent Ans Aux Pyrenees. Vol. 7. 8 vols. Paris.
Bonnal, Céline. 2018. Les guides de Gavarnie et de la vallée de Barèges. Pau: Monhelios Editions.
de Chausenque, Vincent. 1834. Les Pyrénées; ou, Voyages pédestres dans toutes les régions de ces montagnes dépuis l'océan jusqu'à la Méditerranée. Vol. 1. Paris: Lecointe et Pougin, Libraries.
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Special thanks to Kathrynn Williams, Steph Gallaway, Alex Pryce, and Chloe Nacci for their feedback and assistance proofreading this article. A special thank you also to David Glover, who kindly helped us understand Vivien Ingham's background and went above and beyond to source information about her. We wish to thank also the West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, for kindly allowing us to reproduce the images from their collections included here. Finally, we kindly thank the Halifax Courier, for allowing us to reproduce the newspaper article from 2003.
On May 16, 2023
Added information about Anne's accounts to "The climb" and added a new section ("Anne Lister’s papers and Vignemale").
On August 7, 2021
The original version of this article was published. It can be consulted here.
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