Anne Lister’s ascent 

of Mt. Vignemale 

Marlene Oliveira and Amanda Pryce

Published on 7 August 2021  · Last updated on  16 May, 2023
 Cover photo  by Daniel Villafruela (CC BY-SA 4.0) 

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.

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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.

"Never in my life till today did I know what thirst was - had it not been for water about an hour from the top, I know not what I should have done - my mouth was so dry and swollen that I could scarce speak.

35mins on the top - went to the pile of stones heaped up at the far end of the summit - Looked all round - read The Scottish Tourist account - cannot think that even with the best glasses one could literally see from the German to the Atlantic - but magnificent view - Loch Eil and the fine Loch Linnhe very fine"

15 July 1828 - SH:7/ML/E/11/003 

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.

"After getting about 1/2 way I began to feel much fatigued - we had gone at first as far as we could by candlelight, and it was 4 1/2 before we began to see well - shingle all the way some rather difficult climbing before getting to the premier dégres did it (straight up the face of the rock) to save us 1/2 hour."

26 August 1830 - SH:7/ML/TR/6/0009 

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: 

"very fine mountain view tho' Spain hid in clouds ditto the valley of St. Sauveurs and Luz - Fahrenheit marked 39 - put the thermometer on the snow."

26 August 1830 - SH:7/ML/TR/6/0009 

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. 

“did not mean to say much about it to people in general for it was not quite a ladys expedition"

28 August 1830 - SH:7/ML/E/13/0081 

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: 

a man's portrait in black and white

Vincent de Chausenque by Charles Jouas, as seen in Henri Béraldi's "Cent Ans aux Pyrénées", vol. VI.  Edited by Morburre (CC BY-SA 3.0).

“had Charles at 11 10/’’ for about an hour till 12 10/’’ – He was Chausenque’s guide – read him Chausenque’s observation ‘Vignemale inaccessible du côté de France’ page 339. – Charles says, a man of Gèdres has discovered the way to the top – Told Charles to make inquiries”

19 July 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0148 

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: 

“Charles had inquired about the ascent of the Vignemale – the man not at home but his wife [said] he knew the way very well and there was no difficulty”

20 July 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0149 

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: 

“we found the man from Gèdre who is to be my guide to the Vignemale waiting for us – a gentleman a few years ago employed him to find the way to the top of this mountain inaccessible on this, the French, side – whether the gentleman was killed in the revolution or what had become of him, the man does not know but he paid him 125 francs on his having discovered the way in doing which the man and his companion who crossed a glacier in the ascent were very nearly lost in a crevasse – the man shewed a little mark or 2 on his hand of hurts there received – but the way he discovered is easy – no glacier to cross and very little snow to cross – not more difficult than the ascent of Mt. Perdu”

24 July 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0150 

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:

“Charles came at 7 1/4 to say the Vignemale guide was come – Charles afraid of the cloudiness and advised waiting for moonlight – so did Ann too late at any rate to go to the cabin tonight, and without sleeping there could not possibly reach the summit of the Vignemale in time - [therefore] sent word by Charles that I should probably go to the Vignemale a few days hence, 10 days or a week, sooner or later and would let the man know”

24 July 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0152 

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:

“arranging my dress &c. &c. [et cetera] loops and strings put to my old black merinos that I have all along rode in here, so as to tie it up round me as I did on going to the top of Mt. Perdu”

23 July 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0150 

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. 

a colorful map of a mountainous region

Anne Lister's copy of Charpentier's "Carte Geonostique des Pyrenees". Image courtesy of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:7/ML/TR/16).

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: 

“breakfast at 9 25/’’ had had Charles – very fine morning Fahrenheit 75º at 9 1/4 a.m. he has some fears about the weather – if not good, said I should return without trying the ascent even after sleeping at the Cabane”

5 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0159 

Once again they were forced to change their plans due to poor weather conditions: 

“off at 2 55/’’ – the brouillard very low on the hills – Ann starved and poorly and turned back a little way before reaching the Pont de Sia at 3 40/’’ and I took Charles and rode forwards meaning to go to Gèdre to speak with the Gèdre guide – at 4 a peasant overtook us who was going to Gèdre and would take a message to the Gèdre guide – to say that if tomorrow was favourable I should be at the Cabane in the evening – if tomorrow not favourable, i.e. not fine and clear, I should be at the Cabane the 1st favourable day afterwards”

5 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0159 

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. 

“Some minutes with Ann till 8 – fine morning but brouillard low [on] mountains again – Fahrenheit 69 1/2º at 9 had Charles and Pierre – the  chasseurs guides say that the Prince de la Moscawa [Moscowa] has engaged Cassos [Cazaux] the Gèdre Vignemale guide to go to the top of that mountain on Thursday (the Prince to sleep at Gavarnie on Wednesday night) be the weather fine or not – my 2 guides have hope that the weather will improve – at last fixed to go this afternoon – to leave here at 3 p.m. for the Cabane – all 3 mounted, and take Charles brother-in-law to bring back the horses and bring Ann and then to meet us at Bouchero at 4 p.m. on Wednesday”

6 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0160 

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: 

“did up my things – take my tartan cloak my Charles cape and jacket – and in my travelling bag a night chemise and one day ditto 1 pair large gray woollen stockings and 100 francs tied up and put in one of the stockings and 2 pair gloves and 1 pair handkerchief and tooth brush, soap, comb, needle and thread, and stiletto all in one parcel tied up in a sheet of large whity brown paper and then in a towel – and also in the bag 1 pair shoes and gaiters – nothing else but what I have on – my merinos gown and 2 white petticoats &c. pair of new strong St. Sauveur shoes, cotton socks and spun silk black stocking legs – a night cap in my pocket and pair of socks and pair and kerchief and one silk handkerchief in my breast and 1/2 silk ditto and a sheet of paper [hid] in my hat”

6 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0160 

Once she was packed and the horses had arrived, the party of four set off for Gavarnie: 

“at 2 55/’’ when the horses came – off at 3 35/’’Charles and Pierre and I all mounted – at the Pont de Sia at 4 1/4 – at the Pont de Douroucate in 20 minutes moreat 4 35/’’ – had passed the bridge and was out of Gèdre at 5 20/’’ – Sent the guides on before and alighted for a minute at 5 55/’’ in the chaos and at the Inn at Gavarnie at 6 1/2 I did not alight but waited 1/4 hour at the door while Charles borrowed 2 pair crampons at 1/- per day each and 2 bâtons ferrés at 1/- each per day; the wife of Cazos having unexpectedly told Charles in passing thro’ Gèdre to provide us with these articles – How is [this]? – Cazos declared on the Piméné and since that we had neither glacier nor snow to pass – Charles had luckily brought a light baton ferré for me thinking it might help me; and Ann had persisted in my having my crampons (these I got for Mont Perdu in 1830) with me, I nothing loth”

6 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0160 

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. 

“I was lightly equipped and my heart was light but for the thought that I had left poor Ann dull and perhaps anxious about me for my own and what I was going to attempt”

6 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0160 

  1. 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
  2. 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). 
  3. 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). 

The climb

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 pâte  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: 

“awoke at 11 50/’’ - lighted candle and looked at my watch - I should have been glad to be off - but Cazos said il faisait trop nuit [it is too dark]- lay down again till 1 55/’’ - I had not slept -”

6 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0161 

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: 

“breakfast at 4 55/’’ and off at 5 20/’’ on foot - at the 1st degree at 6 40/’’ - climbed the chimney - rest at 7 7/’’ for 12 minutes (the Spaniard left us at 7 7/’’) at the 2nd degree that is at the neige [snow] at the cirque at 8 5/’’ put on crampons and off again at 8 18/’’ on the snow without quitting it till 9 8/’’ then rested on a little rocky grassy knoll till 9 20/’’ - took off crampons at 10 10/’’ - rested on top of 2nd crête at 11 1/4 - I lay down a little - Sun - put my cloak on and did not feel the air cold - Thick-clear all the morning except about sunrise and for about an hour - now at 11 40/’’ clouds gathering round - have given up Penticouse - Off again at 11 3/4 - sick first before - at the top at one -”

7 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0161 

From the Vignemale, Anne observes the Vignemale's glacier and the other mountains around this peak. 

“West below us the fine glacier of V-[Vignemale] at the foot of which is the head of the Vallée d’Ossoue, and the fine range of Marboré, Mont P-[Perdu] in the great distance – East fine range of Spanish mountains and saw Penticouse in ascending but the clouds had hid the great distance where we got up – but we could not before distinguish the Port de Penticouse or that of Marcadou – North the French mountains seen but in a mistiness – a haze – clouds sitting just over them  South the Spanish valleys a sea of clouds – the cime culminante of Vignemale the plateau about ten metres long – three or more wide – but not really flat – rounded up on all sides –”

7 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0161 

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: 

handwritten text

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.

"Mercredi 7 Aout à 1 heure p.m.

Madame Lister de Shibden-Hall

avec ses trois guides 

Henri Cazos de Gèdre

Jean Pierre Charles de Luz

Jean Pierre Sangou de Luz"

7 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0161

"Wednesday 7 August at 1 p.m.

Mrs. Lister of Shibden Hall

with her three guides

Henri Cazos of Gèdre

Jean Pierre Charles of Luz

Jean Pierre Sangou of Luz"

7 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0161 

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. 

“put our names in the bottle and began descent at 2 10/’’ – at 2 25/’’ down at the snow – at the bottom of the 1st snow at 2 38/’’ at the snow again where we had left our crampons, and put them on again at 3 10/’’ and off on snow at 3 20/’’ – over the whole and took off crampons at 4 – very fine sunny evening but delightful air –off again at 4 10/’’ – after all eating a little I tried a little bit of bread with my weak brandy and water – Stopt to eat at 4 37/’’ to give our Spaniard some bread and wine – we told him to carry our baggage a little farther and then leave us – En route again at 4 50/’’ – at the Col at 6 35/’’ – took hold of the 2 – the Spaniard left us at the Couïla de Lourdes at 7 20/’’ – back at the Cabane of Saoussats Dabats at 8 5/’’ – tired, but would have pushed on to Gavarnie, but Charles said it would be dangerous to attempt such a road in the dark – Drank a good deal of boiled milk but did not eat more than a mouthful or 2 of bread – my dress quite damp from the brouillard on the col – wrapt myself up in my cape and lay down about nine the rest sitting over their soup au lait –” 

7 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0161 

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. 

a black and white image of Anne Lister's accounts
Excerpt from Anne’s accounts of 7 August 1838. Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:7/ML/AC/30). 

“Gave Cazos on the top of the pic culminant de Vignemale to drink my health, I being the first who had ever reached the top except Cazos and his companion who discovered the [passage] (employed to do so by Comte Menard and 2 other gentries who had paid him 125/- for his trouble but had not yet been here since that time).... 5.00” 

Excerpt from accounts of 7 August 1838 (SH:7/ML/AC/30)

4.  Per Anne’s description, pâte was made with milk and a type of flour (“bled de Turkie”). 

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: 

“Charles told us how Cazos [Cazaux] had deceived the Prince de la Moscowa - had told him I had not gone to the top - was sick on the glacier, and could not get farther than the little pic - but the guides had gone to the top - that Charles himself was sick -”

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0165 

After hearing this, Anne was obviously not happy and decided that she should only pay Cazaux when the matter was cleared: 

“Annoyed - would not pay Cazos till this was cleared - either I had gone to the top or not - if I had, it should be avowed - if not, I would not pay -”

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166 

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:

“Charles waited for us at the bottom [of the hill] - he had seen the Prince and the letter Cazos had written him to say that I had not been at the top of the highest pic - that I had only reached the lower pic - Charles explained - said that cazos had deceived the Prince but this the Prince did not seem inclined to believe - saying ‘Cazos lui avait donné le laurier - Ce qui est fait est fait’ and seeming therefore to take this for enough, and to be determined to support Cazos, and to be faché contre Charles? - Pretty sort of Prince de la Moscowa! The littleness of the man contrasts with the sounding greatness of the title - he declined giving it in writing that Cazos had denied my getting to  the top of the highest pic - In fact, he is determined to keep the palm - the Cazos-laurier, if he can -”

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166 

a man's portrait in pencil

Portrait of Napoléon Joseph Ney, Prince de la Moskowa, three-quarter length in profile to left. 1613380334 © The Trustees of the British Museum 

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:

The Prince had told Charles there was no bottle - no! said Charles but did not a Gèdre man go to the top before you, he passing along the glacier? - the Prince’s guides told Charles this - the Prince denied this saying he had called the man back and he had returned - but this according to the 3 guides from Luz was not the case, for the man seeming not to understand went forwards - got to the top, and removed the bottle; at least, the bottle was not found by the Prince and his party - Cazos told them that he and his brother in law had raised the pile of stone that Charles and Pierre walled up around the bottle - one of M.[Monsieur] Flamand’s Vilodry wine-bottles - Queer little business -”  

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166 

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: 

“Moi Henri Cazos de Gèdre je certifie que j’ai conduit sur le pic culminant de Vignemale la Dame Anglaise Anne Lister de Shibden-Hall avec ses deux guides Jean Pierre Charles de Luz et Jean Pierre Sangou de Luz le Mardi Sept d’Août 1838.

Donnée à Gèdre le 15 d’Août de la même année.

Témoins In présence de Signé” 

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166 

"I Henri Cazos of Gèdre certify that I have guided to the pic culminant of Vignemale the English lady Anne Lister of Shibden Hall with her two guides Jean Pierre Charles of Luz and Jean Pierre Sangou of Luz on Tuesday 7 August 1838.

Dated of Gèdre no the 15 August of the same year.

Witnesses In presence of Signed"

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166

However, Anne had more to add to Charles’ report of his meeting with the Prince de la Moskowa: 

“he said the Prince had ‘devenu rouge, rouge’ when he assured him I had been at the top, but said he had the note of Cazos to prove he (the Prince) had been the 1st - ‘Cazos lui avait donné le laurier!’ -”

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166 

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. 

“I feel strangely out of sorts - perpetual vertiges, sickness - very often, particularly on horseback, all but vomiting - my head heavy - myself dull - assoupie - oppressed - I cannot breathe in these profondeurs - these bottoms of deep valleys never did and never will suit me - I shall be at the utmost length of my tether before we get away to opener ground -”

14 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166 

In her journal entry of the following day, the 15th of August, Anne comments on her restless night: 

“uncomfortable night - waking and slumbering dreaming myself among unclimbable mountains -”

15 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0166 

When Charles returns from Gèdre in the afternoon of that day, he tells Anne and Ann what he learned there.

“had Charles up for 1/2 hour - Cazos not at home - might or might not be at home tonight - but it seems he had told Palasset at the Auberge at Gèdre that I had not been at the top - Long talk with Charles who at last seemed to own that it would be better to consult somebody at a distance - 2 avocats at Lourdes - I am in the mind to go there tomorrow if fine - Poor Charles! he is annoyed as well as I - the Prince set his word quite at nought, as Charles said, considering him Charles as a party against Cazos - and Cazos the one to be believed against the 3 - Charles says the letter he saw that Cazos wrote to the Prince, and that Charles’s beau frère took to the Prince on Wednesday 8th instant (on his taking back our horses) was as follows - ‘La Dame que j’ai accompagnée au Vignemale n’a pas pu arriver qu’au glacier - Alors vous pouvez venir en sureté. Cazos.’ A-[Ann] as much annoyed as I - all for going to Lourdes tomorrow -”

15 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0167 

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 Latapie , 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: 

“Told him I should be glad of his advice - that the grievance was not serious being merely une affaire de sentiment mais que je me sentais un peu blessée, and hoped he could tell me how to set all right - explained briefly - that I had really reached the summit of the Vignemale (he said the Queen of Holland (Hortense) had done it some years ago - knowing he did not understand the thing I said nothing to the contrary - she went en chaise à porteur as the Duchesse de Berri did from Gavarnie by the glacier de Vignemale to Cauteretz) but that Cazos had afterwards denied it for the sake of getting the price for the 1st ascension from a person at Luz -”

16 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0167 

After Anne tells Latapie about her issues with Cazaux, she calls Charles so he can relay his version of the events to the lawyer: 

“called in Charles to confirm my statement - the avocat asked him to sit down - and poor Charles delighted and uninterrupted ran on at length beginning from the first meeting Cazos on the Piméné to his leaving us after our return to the cabane - however poor Charles lengthy simplicity of minutiae convinced the avocat -”

16 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0167 

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: 

“I asked him to write me out a proper and sufficient certificate for Cazos to sign and he did so saying he thought Cazos would sign for the sake of the money he the avocat agreeing with me and advising me not to pay till the certificate was signed - But said I, if he will not sign, what then - If I was in England I could le citer devant le juge de paix and oblige him by X [cross] examination to own the truth - well, said the avocat, and you can do so here - But will you Monsieur come over and manage this affair for me? yes! - agreed that if the man would not sign, I should send Charles over with the certificate to Monsieur Latapis, and he would arrange the procès - we parted very good friends - I thanking him - saying I would do nothing without him, and should pay with pleasure what ever expense might be incurred rather than let the matter rest without being cleared up -”

16 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0167 

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:

“Monsieur Latapis said it was an escroquerie on the part of Cazos and that the Prince had not shewn much générosité - I said générosité était une chose fort rare, and not to be expected - but he had not shewn much justisse that in engaging Cazos for the Wednesday night be the weather good or bad, I having previously engaged him for the 1st fine day, the Prince had compelled me to hurry my own ascent and had not acted en gentil homme - M.[Monsieur] Latapis said he had certainly not acted like a Prince - no! said I not like a Prince d’autre jours - but il y a 2 or 3 sortes de princes et quant aux Princes modernes, c’est une autre chose -” 

16 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0167 and SH:7/ML/E/21/0168 

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: 

“On my return found A-[Ann] still on the sofa - she said she had been asleep, and asked why I had been so long, when I had said I should not be long - I explained without thinking much about it that I had really only been to the avocat’s - that I had been 50 minutes there but could not come away sooner - Charles’ story being long; and then, in noting in my rough book the time I had been away, I unfortunately did not (and the noise of the people in the street was enough thro’ the open window to drown all sound of A-’s[Ann’s] low voice) at first hear her ask what the avocat had said - I immediately however gave her the certificate to read - to my surprise, she made no comment! I saw something was wrong, but not knowing what nor having encouragement nor motive for forcing conversation, I had only to inquire what to order to eat - nothing - to go, or not - to go -”

16 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0168 

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: 

“How droll that the Prince de la Moscowa should have so unwittingly put me upon marring his own purpose! - I thought not of certificate - nor cared more for mounting the Vignemale than Mont Perdu the ascent of which last mountain nobody believes - what mattered it to me - I made each ascent for my own pleasure, not for éclat - what is éclat to me? What is éclat to anyone? too often a dangerous bauble - the lightning’s forked flash that kills the object it has fixed on - But come what may I’ll make an effort to tear the Cazos-laurier from this silly Prince - “Hommage à la vérité!” ‘Tis all I want - and I am not inclined me laisser tromper pour rien -”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169

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.

“It was some time before Cazos came and we had talked over the leading particulars of my ascent - Cazos came perhaps in 10 minutes or 1/4 hour and then joined heartily in talking the story over in everything agreed with and confirmed the statement of Charles and myself -”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169 

With Cazaux admitting that Anne and Charles were telling the truth, Anne surreptitiously introduces the matter of his deceit: 

“I told him that my femme de chambre had told me the people of Luz would not believe that I had got to the top but gave the laurier to the Prince de la Moscowa - that was not right - I must have some proof to shew and Cazos and Charles and Pierre must sign me the certificate which I then read aloud - and Cazos, and then the Aubergiste read it -”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169 

After he reads the certificate, Cazaux agrees to sign it. 

“Cazos made not the least objection to sign it - declaring fully and openly that all I and Charles had said was true, and that I had got up to the very top, and got up very well too - Cazos then signed and Charles and the Aubergiste saying he was Maire and could not sign these things his brother-in-law signed as witness”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169 

an handwritten document

Composite image showing the certificate that proved Anne's ascent of the Vignemale. Images courtesy of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:7/ML/E/21/0192 and SH:7/ML/E/21/0193).

With the certificate signed by Cazaux, Anne then pays him: 

“and I then paid Cazos the twenty francs as agreed, and said I, now you asked me 30/- on the Piméné - here then are five francs more, which with the 5/- I gave you on the top = 30/- and here is a 2 franc piece to go for what I was to give you on the top to drink my health - Cazos seemed much pleased - “

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169

However, the extra five francs Anne paid him were supposed to serve a very specific purpose: 

“I desired him to consider the 5/- piece I had just given him to be for taking care of my column and bottle at the top of the mountain - to see that nobody either destroyed the bottle or raised a column higher than mine -”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169

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: 

“I begged him to tell me some of the things he knew - and in the midst of his fighting off Charles had taken poor Cazos to task about his letter to the Prince and here a scene commenced of pro and con - Cazos denied having written that I had not gone to the top - I said if Cazos had been calumniated I would stand by him - All joining in begging Cazos to face the Prince and have all cleared up - at last Monsieur le Maire explained that if Cazos had written as Charles declared his letter would prove, he had done it for money for his family - le monde was hard pressed here, and he hoped I should excuse the man who had made me all reparation in his power”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169

With all this cleared up, Anne agrees to make amends: 

Poor Cazos owned his fault, and all present agreed to forgive and Monsieur le Maire our Aubergiste promised to intercede with the Prince and hoped I should do nothing against poor Cazos - no! said and held out my hand to the poor man, saying je ne me sens que de regrets pour vous et je vous pardonne de tout mon coeur -”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169

However, forgiving Cazaux doesn’t mean excusing the Prince de la Moscowa’s antics: 

“but said I le Prince ne s’est pas trop bien conduit envers moi - c’est une affaire d’honneur et je lui arracherai ce laurier à tout prix - rien ne me manque pour bien le faire - j’ai de l’âme, et de force, et de l’argent, et je n’en épargnerai rien - je lui arracherai ce laurier - the Aubergiste agreed with me as to the petitesse of the Prince’s declaration that he would not make the ascension if I had done it - and that it was not well to engage Cazos for the Wednesday whether the weather was fine or not when it was known that I had engaged him for the 1st fine day - the Prince thus compelling me to hurry my ascension - besides tho’ he had engaged Cazos for the Wednesday he the Prince still waited the arrival and did not go up till the Saturday -”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0169 and SH:7/ML/E/21/0170

As it turned out, the Prince de la Moskowa also didn’t pay Cazaux as well as Anne thought: 

“I hope as I said to Cazos, that the Prince had paid him much better than I had done - I saw the Aubergiste’s significant look - probably his Princeship did not pay the man better -

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0170 

The Aubergiste, apparently, never doubted that Anne would climb the Vignemale because he still remembered her climb of Mont Perdu.

“the Aubergiste (Monsieur Palasset, Maire) had said, he recognised me on 1st seeing me again and said he was sure I should ascend the Vignemale - yes! said Charles he knew of our ascending Mont Perdu”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0170 

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: 

“Charles! said I, il faut se dépêcher - Mademoiselle ne voudra pas dîner sans moi -”

17 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0170 

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. 

home at 6 3/4 having left Charles in Luz to go to the Prince de la Moscowa to explain that I could now prove my ascent of the Vignemale, and to see whether he would now believe it or not - for if not, I think of mounting Charles and going to Lourdes tomorrow to consult Monsieur Latapis again as to what step I had best take for as I have gone up, and gone up first, I determined nobody else shall run away with the laurier if I can help it -”

18 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0170

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:

“had Charles from 8 to 8 1/4 - contrary to Charles expectation the Prince de la M-[Moscowa] seems to have received him very well and to be at last convinced that I really did get to the top - but he made use of a word against Cazos which he (Charles) could not repeat to me - But Charles had had to wait some time (the Prince at dinner) and the Prince’s servant had told him (Charles) that he the servant had Cazos’ brother-in-law go up before them who had probably taken away the bottle but that the Prince had said (to him the servant) he would go on and if he could not be first he would be 2d [second] - Charles asked the Prince [if] he would like to see the Déclaration - No! said the Prince “Je m’en rapporte à vous” - but said he “if Cazos should make another Déclaration?” Charles thinks the matter well ended - Eh! bien - said I - C’est bien - Le Prince commence à nous croire - mais cependant je penserai à cette expression - “Si Cazos faisait une autre déclaration” - mais vous avez été bien reçu - j’en suis bien aise”

18 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0170 and SH:7/ML/E/21/0171

Days later, on the 25th of August 1838, Anne sees a little notice in the Galignani Messenger of the 21st of August, which informs of the Prince de la Moskowa’s ascent of Vignemale. 

a black and white newspaper article

Notice of the Prince de la Moskowa's ascent of the Vignemale, published in the Galignani Messenger of the 21st of August 1838. Image courtesy of / Bibliothèque nationale de France. 

“and see too this paper published Tuesday 21 August p.[page] 3 col.[column] 2 and 3 the following ‘The Prince de la Moscowa, and his brother, M.[Monsieur] Edgar Ney, accompanied by five guides, made a successful ascent, on the 11th inst. [instant], to the summit of the Vignemale, the 2d [second] loftiest mountain of the Pyrenees, being only a few feet lower than Mont Perdu, and which was hitherto inacessible”

25 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0175 

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: 

“gave A-[Ann] the paragraph above copied from this morning’s paper to read - she thought the Prince de la M-[Moscowa] himself must have written [it] - I smiled but made no comment -”

25 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0175 

The 26th of August 1838 brings good news to Anne. After a few days of fiery temper and silent treatment, Ann finally decided to forgive Anne and they made up. 

“A-[Ann] came to me last night easily persuaded her to get into my bed after a little previous play and then in quar[t]e[r] hour had a pretty good kiss”

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:

“Mrs. Lister will also be much obliged to Messrs. Galignani to insert the following paragraph in the next edition of your Messenger after receiving this note - 

‘We noticed some days ago, the ascent of the Prince de la Moscowa and his brother, Mr. Edgar Néy, with five guides, to the summit of the Vignemale hitherto thought inaccessible. We find that an English lady had, four days before, ascended with three guides to the same summit which, though inaccessible from the French side, is not more difficult of ascent from the Spanish side, towards the East, than high mountains in general.’”

27 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/22/0004 

a black and white newspaper article

Anne's correction, published in the Galignani Messenger of the 3rd of September 1838. Image courtesy of / Bibliothèque nationale de France. 

5.  Monsieur Latapie, or Latapis as Anne writes, was a lawyer from Lourdes. He would become Anne’s go-to legal counselor during Anne’s time in the Pyrenees. 

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.

The title page of the Prince de la Moskowa's book, published in 1842. Image from Les Amis du Libre Pyrénéan.

The first page of the Prince de la Moskowa's account of his own climb of the Vignemale, published in the Revue des Deux Mondes in 1838. Image from Wikisource.

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”  (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:

“The ascent of Vignemale is sometimes made from the lake, which is either crossed in a boat, or skirted by the path on the l. [left] The clue to the ascent is the Gave, which forms the waterfall at the extremity. Following its bank, we ascend in succession, in the course of 1 1/2 hour’s walk, 5 different stages or steps of the mountain, each of which the torrent clears by a leap. The mass of the mountain is of limestone, which here overlies the granite prevailing from La Raillère to the Lac de Gaube. The Gave has its origin in the foot of a glacier stretching nearly up to the top of the mountain. Its crest is topped by 3 detached peaks. The highest, the Pic Longue, is 10,820 ft. above the sea, surpassing every other in the French Pyrenees. The view is said to extend into Spain and over a large part of the French portion of the chain. This excursion cannot be performed without the aid of experienced guides. It was made by the Prince de la Moskowa in 1838, who has described it in the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes’. 

[There is a difficult mountain path among broken rocks and the débris of glaciers, from the Lac de Gaube over the shoulder of the Vignemale, keeping that mountain on the rt.[right], through the Col or Port d’Ossouè and down the Val d’Ossouè to Gavarnie. It will require 8 or 10 hrs.[hours], and should not be undertaken without good guides, being one of the most difficult pedestrian expeditions in the Pyrenees.]”

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” . 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???”

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. 

a snowy ridge in a mountain

The Col Lady Lyster. Image and annotations by Topopyrénées Mariano.

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 Maury 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. 

a newspaper clipping

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.

6.  In English: “Superlative courage for a woman”. 7. In English: “a superb woman” .8. In English: “And why, in his account, not a word of the ascent of Lady Lister made five days before ???” 9.  Luc Maury (1909 - 2011) was the son of French geographer and cartographer Léon Maury. He was interested in the history of the French Pyrenees and published several articles about the mountains and their people in the Revue Pyrenees. He also published a book that contains the story of Anne’s ascent of the Vignemale. 

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:

"I had my white cotton night cap in my pocket and my clasp-knive of London 1826 - I had in my breast pockets a pair of cotton socks, a whole black, twilled silk handkerchief and 1/2 a light coloured foulard (the one I went to the top of Ben Nevis in 1828) and Charpentier's map of the Pyrenees, and my little note rough book containing my passport -" 

6 August 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/21/0161

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:

“inked over 1st p. of rough book account of ascent of Vignemale –” 

14 September 1838 - SH:7/ML/E/22/0017

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. 

Anne’s 1838 passport, as displayed at Wakefield in May of 2022. Photo by Marlene Oliveira. Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (SH:7/ML/1013). 

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. 



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.

See also this talk by the authors at the Anne Lister Research Summit on15 Oct., 2021:

You can see the Twitter thread from @PackedWith for further commentary:


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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