Pierre Vittoz (1926-1978)

Swiss Christian priest and missionary.
Tibetologist, lived six years in Ladakh (1950-1956).
Top alpinist, first climber in 1953 of Mount Nun in Zanskar.
Translator of the Gospel into Intermediary Tibetan.
Author of 5 books and... my uncle.


Childhood (1926-1942)

Pierre Samuel VITTOZ was born on 16 February 1926, as the son of the priest Robert Vittoz (1886–1942) and Denise Vittoz (born Rochat) (1887–1982) in French Switzerland. He had one brother Jacques Vittoz (1923-2001) and one sister Madeleine Vittoz (1930--) $$$.

P.V. was the son of Robert-Ernest Vittoz (26mai1896–10nov1942), himself son of Edouard Samuel Vittoz (02août1869–27déc1942), himself son of Paul-Henry Vittoz (1846–1924). Paul-Henry Vittoz was the common ancestor of Pierre Vittoz and me. Paul-Henry Vittoz was PV's great-grandfather (son bisaïeul) as well as my great-great-grandfather (mon trisaïeul).

The Vittoz name stems from France. It harks back to ancient "Huguenots" (French protestants) who took refuge in the reformed cantons of Switzerland in the XVIIth century, at the time of the severe anti-protestant persecutions in catholic France. There are still lots of Vittoz's living in France in the XXIth century.

As for her, Catherine Sophie Gerber, future wife of Pierre Vittoz, was born on 28 August 1927.

PV led a happy childhood in the small mountain village of La Comballaz, in the Les Mosses area, in the Canton of Vaud. His address was Chemin du Dessus 11 in La Comballaz.

La Comballaz
Alpes Vaudoises     (0.24Mb)

La Comballaz
Source: Alpes Vaudoises     (0.19Mb)

His father Robert Vittoz was a protestant priest (pasteur), the priest of the village. His mother was a relentless walker and climber. On Sundays afternoons, she would leave both husband and kids to climb anything she could find in the near vicinity. Like the Mount Chamossaire. She was never tired of steep slopes and the beauties of Nature.

Son Pierre Vittoz might be seen as having received his priesthood talent from his father and his alpinism gift from his mother.

Youth (1942-1950)

Unfortunately, the father died in 1942, as the son Pierre was only 16. The father suffered from varices in his legs. He was killed by a deadly thrombosis.

After the passing away of his father, Pierre Vittoz lived with brothers and sisters and widowed mother in the village of Grandvaux, in the Lavaux region, in the beautiful vineyard-covered steep shores of the Eastern Lake of Geneva.

The St-Saphorin village, in the Lavaux region,
Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, in June 2016.
In the background: the Lake of Geneva.
Source: A Contresens    (0.69Mb)

The Lavaux region in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, in June 2016.
In the background: the Lake of Geneva and the Alps.
Source: A Contresens        (0.58Mb)

Between ages of 16 and 19, PV studied at high school (gymnase) in Lausanne. As a gifted schoolboy, he could join the Mathematics and Latin/Greek section (Maths Spé & Latin-Grec).

Even as an orphan, Pierre lived a happy teenager and young adult life, with his mother taking good care of him. But the family did not have much money. They received widow pension from the (stately) protestant Church, but that did not make them wealthy. Thus, the leisures had to be low-cost and on do-it-yourself basis.

During the 1942-1945 interval (when Pierre Vittoz was 16 to 19 year old), Switzerland was entirely surrounded by the German empire. The borders were hermetically closed. There was no way to travel outside of the country, even for the well-off. Luckily, Switzerland possessed large swathes of wild mountains territory. The mountains offered an ideal escape possibility for Pierre Vittoz, who loved walking and mountaineering. He would depart for several days, leaving his home in Grandvaux on foot or on bicycle, to any possible summit in the cantons of Vaud and Valais. For example cycling from Grandvaux to Taesch (Zermatt), and then taking on any 4,000m of the Zermatt mountain amphitheater.

In one case, he went with friends for a 28 hours-ride just to be able to enjoy the rising morning sun on top of the Diablerets peak (3,210 meter). They left La Comballaz on the same evening, walked the whole night to reach the Diablerets peak. At the end of the night, standing on the peak, the group briefly admired the sunrise. Then, during the morning, they walked back down to Mayens and Diablerets village and Comballaz and Tête Ronde and Cullens.

Around 1943, as Pierre Vittoz was 17, he made friends with Édmond Pidoux (1908–2004), a passionate climber who initiated him to alpinism. Pidoux was litterature professor at PV's high school (Gymnase de la Cité) in Lausanne. Besides teaching and climbing, Pidoux is nowadays mostly remembered for his poems and novels.

Together, Édmond Pidoux and Pierre Vittoz are believed to have ascended all the 4,000 meter-summits of the Canton of Valais. For example, they are supposed to have escalated the Grand Combin, the Pointe Dufour, the Zinal Rothorn, the Weisshorn, the Finsterahorn. For example both made, with a group of friends, a series of climbings (Castor, Lyskamm) in the area around the Mont-Rose in April 1945. The only exception being the Cervin/ Matterhorn in Zermatt, that was way too fashionable and mainstream, in other words too "everybodyish" for P.V. to be interested. Pidoux remembered later that Vittoz and him have achieved about 300 mountaineering excursions.

It is possible that Edmond Pidoux, as a writer and poet, has inspired, or supported, or even fostered the writing career of Pierre Vittoz, who started publishing articles in the Swiss Alpine Club journal at age 19 and would write countless articles and 5 books over the course of his life.

Pierre Vittoz and Catherine Gerber married on 01 April 1950. She became Catherine Vittoz. He was 24 and she was 22.

PV and his wife became Christian missionnaries. They signed with the German "Moravian Church" for a 6-year salaried mission in Ladakh.

The Moravian Church
In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

Ladakh (1950-1956)

"The most beautiful years in my life" said Catherine Vittoz, wife of PV.

In September 1950, Pierre and Catherine Vittoz travelled from Switzerland to Ladakh. The young, just-married couple set off for Bombay, India by sea. From there, they continued by train all the way up to Jammu. Then the couple flew up to Leh (3,500 meter altitude, 70,000 inhabitants in 1981) onboard an old DC-3 aircraft of the Indian Army. The bride Catherine was just as enthousiastic for this travel, if not more, than her husband Pierre.

Ladakh (the "country of high passes" in Tibetan) is the westernmost part of Tibet. It had just joined (on 26 October 1947) the newly independent Republic of India (independent since 15 Aug 1947) as a part of Kashmir. Before that, Ladakh had been controlled by that princely state under British rule since around 1850. By the end of 1948, India had finally secured control over Ladakh, after a 1-year war against Pakistanese militias.

The Tibetan Kingdom of Ladakh extended over 59'000 km2 in the 2019-administrative limits. The region counted 274'000 inhabitants in 2019 (maybe 150,000 in 1950). This means, this region contained 30 times less people on 1.5 times more land than PV's home country Switzerland. Leh was traditionally the capital city of the kindgom of Ladakh. Administratively, both Kargil and Leh were capital cities of the Ladakh union territory in 2019. Leh is situated at 3,500 meter altitude.

Hemis Monastery, 30 km up from Leh, along the Indus river
(Source: LLTD)     (0.12Mb)

Thiksey Monastery, 15 km up from Leh, along the Indus river
(Source: LLTD)     (0.10Mb)

In Ladakh, PV would wander endlessly across the highlands, riding his horse, in order to meet his existing and future flocks, of course, but clearly as well to satisfy his thirst for mountains, for exploration and for adventure. He wrote extraordinary lines on these exploratory travels in his Un Autre Himalaya (a book that should have been named "Six years in Ladakh"), citing such days when he crossed 8 ice-cold rushing rivers one after the other, by walking across them and could just save his horse from the stormy waters... walking between two huge cliffs (one above and one below) on unstable, manually-dug roads, and so on... PV would routinely climb all the 5,000ers and 6,000ers available around him, many without names, as a hobby, just for the fun. He would mostly climb alone.

In April 1951, Child No1, son Jean-François Vittoz was born in Leh. The mother Catherine gave birth at home. The baby came out alive, but very small and weak. He died on same day. It seems that he could not stand the high altitude, difficult to overcome for a European baby.

In 1952, having learnt sufficient Tibetan language and script, Pierre Vittoz started to edit a Tibetan language newspaper with his Christian Tibetan friend Tsetan Phuntsog, the "Ladakh Phonya". He would continue editing this monthly newspaper until his departure in 1956.

Child No2, son Otpal Jean-Christophe Vittoz was born in Leh on 19 March 1953. He survived although he was very small and weak: 1,9kg and 52cm. Mother Catherine gave birth at home. In case of emergency, the only better option would have been the town's military hospital. PV's friend and mentor Édmond Pidoux became the godfather of Otpal Vittoz.

In Summer 1953, PV described himself, when talking with his Nun expedition mates, as "very busy" in Leh. He had started a small weaving business. He was compiling an English-Tibetan grammar. He was editing a newspaper. Catherine was doubling as a nurse. (In Sept 1952, the Leh dispensary being closed, Catherine was going twice a week to a village 20km away to provide advise and medicines to a small local medical center. In March 1954, the dispensary in Leh could reopen.) On evenings, the couple would play chess and bridge with Tibetan guests. PV mostly dressed like a Tibetan, wearing a long woollen robe down to the ankles with wide sleeves.

In July-Sept 1953, PV (27) went for an international expedition to ascend the Nun summit (7,135 meter), in the Zanskar valley, the highest peak of the Indian Kashmir. On 28 Aug 1953, Pierre Vittoz managed the historical first ascent of the Nun. He reached the summit with Mme Claude Trouillet veuve Kogan (who was killed six years later in an avalanche while climbing the Cho Oyu in the central Himalaya) on the very day of his wife's birthday. The French-Swiss party was led by French alpinist Bernard Pierre (1920–1997), who published the full story in his book Une Montagne nommée Nun-Kun.

On their way back from their climbing success, in Sept 1953, Pierre Vittoz and party were invited in New Delhi to lunch with Indian Prime Minister Nehru, who congratulated them personally. The meeting was intermediated by the French ambassador, who reminded that Nehru's family originally stemmed from Kashmir. Vittoz and party were introduced to Premier Jahawarlal Nehru (1889-1964), to daughter Indira Gandhi-Nehru (1917-1984) and to 9yr-old grandson Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1991).

Child No3, daughter Anne-Catherine Tsesal Vittoz, was born in Leh on 09 Sept 1954. She survived although she was quite small (1,9 kg and 48 cm).

In September-October 1955, Pierre Vittoz (29) joined an expedition aiming at ascending the Ganesh I / Yangra Kangri (7,422 m) in Nepal. This peak is located in the Ganesh Himal range, about 70 km northwest of Kathmandu. The expedition was led by Swiss alpinist Raymond Lambert (1914–1997). The expedition was financed by the city and canton of Geneva as well as by the Himalay Committee of Lyon, France.

However, on 24 Sept 1955, after Base Camp was established at 4500m and as explorations started to establish Camp I, PV fell ill. The party continued the struggle to build Camp I (at 5'030 m) and Camp II without PV who waited sick in his sleeping bag. However, his health went worse, his fever reached 40 degrees. On 30 Sept 1955, the team evacuated him on a brancart down to the village of Sangje (4hrs further down), where a lower altitude could help him recover. Lambert remained on his side in a Tibetan shepherd house. During this time, Gendre, Gauchat and Kogan established camp II. Lambert ordered 12 carriers from Chilime to carry Vittoz and his luggage to Kathmandu. They arrived to Sangje on 6oct1955. Robert Guinot and Claude Morel kindly accompanied the group bringing PV down to Kathmandu.

Lambert could at last come back to ascending the Ganesh I Yangra. The rest of the party had continued to explore and colonize the Ganesh I in spite of adverse weather: terrible avalanches, howling storms. Lambert, Trouillet-Kogan, Gendre and Gauchat succeeded in setting foot on the summit on 24 Oct 1955. When retreating down, however, Gauchat decided to unbind his rope, in spite of the expedition leader Lambert shouting at him not to do so. A few minutes later, Gauchat slipped on an icy slope and died while falling down 800 meter.

P.V. could leave his Kathmandu hospital and come back to Leh by the end of December 1955. He had overcome both a Sumpffieber and a Lungenentzündung.

In July 1956, PV and his whole family had to leave Ladakh and travel back to Switzerland. Pierre and Catherine had been the last European missionaries active in Kashmir.

They had wanted to stay longer, but the Indian authorities refused their visa request. They seemed not to want to keep any foreigner in that dangerous region, under steady military threat by the Chinese army along the Eastern border and by the Pakistanese army along the Northern border (not to mention the Soviet army a few kilometers further to the North). Besides, unrest kept rife in Western Kashmir, where the Muslim majority sithered under the (mostly Hindustic) Indian rule.

Switzerland (1956-1957)

Pierre Vittoz with his family took a 1 year-holiday in Switzerland, Missionary work was structured as an alternance between periods of 6 years without break and 1 year of holidays.

P.V. took over the parish of Les Mosses, in the mountains of the Canton of Vaud. The family lived in a chalet house in La Comballaz.

Even during this period officially devoted to relaxation, PV would waste no time in idleness. They would run around to the mountains and beyond, walking and exploring, everytime possible.

Libamba, French Cameroon (1957-1959)

Pierre Vittoz took his next mission in the French colony of Cameroon. The whole family left in July 1957 for Libamba, 30 km southwest of Yaoundé, the capital city. Libamba sits on the main Cameroonian railway line, connecting Yaoundé to the country's main harbour, Douala. PV had to teach maths and physics there to Cameroonian schoolchildren. The mission was planned to last 11 months, but it finally lasted stayed 24 months.

Children No4 and No5, daughters Isabelle and Irène, were born in April 1959 in Cameroon.

The whole family returned from Cameroon to Switzerland on July 1959.

Mussoorie, India (1959-1962)

For his next mission, PV settled in the city of Mussoorie, in Northern India. Like always, the whole family moved with PV. They travelled from Switzerland to Uttar Pradesh, by sea and by rail, in September 1959.

Mussoorie is located 200 km northeast of New Delhi, in the present Indian state of Uttarkandh (and at this time in Uttar Pradesh). It is close to the city of Dehra Dun. PV had to work in the campus of an American High School.

Mussoorie is located between Nepal and Ladakh, at 2,800&meter altitude. It stands along the foothills of the Himalaya. It is situated 200 km south from the Ladakhi border and 100 km from Tibet. Thus it was not a bad deal for P.V. who longed after his beloved Himalayan mountains.

In Mussoorie, PV was quickly joined (in 1959 already) by his best friend from Ladakh Tsetan Phuntsog, who had to flee Leh at this time.

In Mussoorie, PV and Phuntsog resumed their work about translating the New Testament and the Psalms into Tibetan. They translated the Gospel directly from the Greek into mid-register Tibetan.

During these 3 years at the foothills of the Himalaya, PV does not seem to have been invited to other alpinism expeditions, strangely enough, even as he was available onsite. Maybe his 1955-sickness in the Ganesh Himal had somehow dampened his career, impeding his fame to grow as it should have.

In July 1960, PV's two 1.25 year old daughters Isabelle and Irène died of an allergical reaction to the smallpox (variole) vaccine. The mother would never fully recover from this excruciating pain.

The whole family returned on February 1962 to Switzerland.

Lausanne, Switzerland (1962-1969)

Pierre Vittoz and the whole family spent about 7 years in Switzerland, from February 1962 to August 1969.

PV helped establish the Missionary departement in Lausanne. He became main secretary of this Missionary Department in 1963 (secrétaire général du département missionnaire des Eglises protestantes romandes).

In 1962, PV spent 3 months to improve his German skills in the Black Forest in Baden-Wurtemberg in a Moravian Church center.

Dans les années 1960, Pierre Vittoz adhère au Rotary-Club de Lausanne.

Child No6, daughter Carole Vittoz, was born on 28 Jan 1965.

During this 1962-1969 interval, the family has again travelled a lot, in particular to Southern France.

PV did not forget his beloved mountains. In particular in 1966, he ascended the Lenzspitze, face Nord, and the Salbitschijen, arête Sud.

Yaoundé, Cameroon (1969-1974)

In 1969, Pierre Vittoz took his next mission in Cameroon. The whole family left in August 1969 for Yaoundé, capital city of Cameroon. In the meantime, the country had become independent from France (in 1960).

In Yaoundé, PV was nominated university priest (aumonier d'université). He also managed the CLE publishing house (Centre de littérature évangélique).

In 1971, PV was nominated Honorary Member (membre d'honneur) of the Swiss Alpine Club, Diablerets section. A letter was sent to him on 25 novembre 1971 (annonçant à Pierre Vittoz sa nomination comme membre d’honneur).

PV and whole family returned to Switzerland on July 1974.

Back to Switzerland (1974-1978)

Pierre Vittoz and the whole family came back to Switzerland in July 1974. PV became priest (pasteur) of the parish of La Sallaz in Lausanne.

During this interval, PV was an active member of the "Groupe de Haute Montagne de Lausanne" (GHML). He has been president. He made quite a lot of climbings, on solo basis or in groups, whose list can be found on the association's website. In particular:
1974: Jägigrat, pilier S-E par R. Gilliéron, P. Vittoz et P.-A. Jaunin
1974: Requin, face E par P. Vittoz
1974: Bishorn, faceN-E par P. Vittoz
1974: Dent Blanche, arête de Ferpècle par P. Vittoz
1974: Eperon de la Brenva par P. Vittoz
1974: Chardonnet, face N par P. Vittoz
1975: Aiguille du Midi, Eperon Frendo par P. Staub et P. Vittoz.
1976: Aiguille de Bionnassay, face N par E.Nusslé et P.Vittoz.
1976: Aiguille du Plan, voie Ryan-Lochmatter par P.Staub et P.Vittoz.
1977: Aiguille du Plan, face N par P.Vittoz et P.Staub.
1977: Fletschhorn, face N couloir des Viennois par P.Vittoz.

Pierre Vittoz's personality

On the quality side, Pierre Vittoz at this time was described by his daughter Tsesal as a very positive, blissful and seldom angry man. Equally-tempered. He was patient and granted attention to everybody. He felt along well with his wife. She remembers that the couple barely bickered more than a few times over their whole married life.

On the weakness side, we have the descriptions of PV at age of 27 by Bernard Pierre, the Nun expedition leader, who had not known him before the expedition. Bernard Pierre indeed published a very lively book A Mountain Called Nun-Kun on this adventure, in which he reveals with great sincerity the human side of the story. In his eyes, PV seems clearly not unattracted by women along the way. This may not be surprising during such a 2month-long expedition during which he was separated from his wife. PV was also described as very fond of whisky. This sounds more surprising for an elite alpinist but remains acceptable for a priest and a Swiss national.

Finally, we learn that, when playing cards with his expedition team mates, PV did actively and systematically cheat, by looking over the shoulders and by making discrete signs to his partners. This may be the most surprising and unpleasant weakness displayed by him in these pages here. Indeed, playing unfairly goes against pretty much all the values to which PV should have adhered. As a priest, he should have shown a good example of morality. As a Swiss fellow, he should have been deeply honest in general. As a heroic alpinist, he should have valued above all fair-play and team playing. Fair-play and unconditional mutual help are life-and-death necessities in extreme mountaineering adventures. Even if card cheating is no deadly offense, it is quite shocking.
How could we explain such a dubious behaviour by Pierre Vittoz? Did the guy think that he was beyond any moral duty and that everything was allowed in this faraway place, in this remote glacier (never imagining that he would be finger-pointed later in an international book)? That would not excuse his behaviour, in fact. Was he too brilliant to be able to appreciate card games according to the rules? And thus did he need some added "pepper" to make the game attractive? Or was he so obsessed by the need to win that he would overrun any other consideration? Or was it just his dark side? Everybody has dark sides anyway. These questions shall probably remain open. It is possible as well that Bernard Pierre exaggerated or biased this story. However, a slightly lousy or dubious character trait of PV is found again in his "Across the Nepal" story (his detailed account of the 1955 expedition to Ganesh Himal), in which he never expressed any gratefulness for the expedition team mates Guinot and Morel who relinquished their chances to be the first on the Ganesh I peak in order to save his life.

PV's secret for flourishing at high altitudes (on top of passion and training) was a slow heart pulse (42 beats/minute) and a low need for sleep (5-6 hrs/ night were sufficient for him).

It was during this 1974-1978 interval that I met several times my third cousin once removed Pierre Vittoz. I was 9 to 13 year old at this time and I still remember him.

Daughter Tsesal Vittoz (21) married in 1975 the engineer and alpinist Philippe Staub (05 May 1945–20 Aug 1978).

Decease in the Mont Blanc, Italy (1978)

Pierre Vittoz (52), his son-in-law Philippe Staub (32) and Michel Duport (34), all of them living in Lausanne, went to escalate the Southern, Italian side of the Mont Blanc mountain (4,886 meter) over the week-end of 19-20 Aug 1978. The Mont-Blanc is the highest summit in Western Europe, but a piece of cake (or so it seems) for a champion of 6,000 and 7,000 meter-Himalaya peaks.

However, the three men died on 20 Aug 1978 while climbing. Depending on the versions, they were either victims of a fall of sérac, i.e. big ice blocks falling from a glacier situated above, or the whole wall upon which they were clinging broke loose and fell down.

The fact that such an experienced alpinist, used to 6,000m and 7,000m peaks, disappeared in such an accident was a big-bad surprise for everybody around Pierre Vittoz. This accident has raised (and still is raising) painful questions as to its cause. There are at least six possible explanations, that are not mutually exclusive:

–Could the fact that his own father had died at age 54 have played a role? By letting PV feel unconsciously that he was doomed at this age? Or that he had no right to live longer? (the Family-Ghosts hypothesis).
–Could the fact that he had been dancing on so many 6,000 and 7,000 m summits have led him to underestimate smaller 4,000 m summits? (The Hubris hypothesis).
–Could he have neglected the age factor? Could he have forgotten that one is less fit at 52 than at 27 or 29? Did he overestimate his forces as an almost retired alpinist (the Age-Factor hypothesis)
–Could he have lost his intimate relationship with the mountains during his Cameroonian years? (the Cameroon-killed-him hypothesis). For such a high risk sport, the pure techniques and objective knowledge does not suffice. You need a deep intuition, a kind of sixth sense (like described in his Nun article), that you can only acquire and keep by practising a lot.
–The simplest hypothesis is the laws of probability (the Russian Roulette hypothesis). High mountain alpinism is a very risky sport. You may have 1% chance of dying at each climbing and 10% chance of dying on exploratory 7,000m peak ascents. Hence, you might escape death during one, two, three ascents, or even 10 expeditions if you are lucky. But, sooner or later, the probabilities will catch up with you. The Angel of Death shall knock on your door.
–Finally, the last hypothesis is the beautiful death scenario (the Artist Death hypothesis). Having been in love with mountains all his life, P.V. might have wanted to finish his life in their midst, like a successful artist might want to die on the scene.

We might never be able to settle between these 6 hypotheses (Family Ghosts, Age, Hubris, Cameroon, Russian Roulette and Beautiful Death). They may anyway have all played a role, each one to different extents.

Pierre Vittoz himself seems to have been vaguely aware of the looming danger. During the Thursday 17 Aug 1978 evening dinner that he shared with his daughter before the fatal Sunday 20 Aug 1978 expedition, he suddenly whispered to his daughter that, should smthg bad happen to him, his wife/ her mother should continue her life and not hesitate to marry again.

In Aug 1978, Pierre Vittoz was past president of the GHML), Philippe Staub was president of the GHML) and Michel Duport was caissier du GHML.

PV is buried in the Bois de Vaud cemetery in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The family after 1978 (1978-2023)

After her husband death, the wife Catherine Vittoz fell into depression. The couple had been in good terms over all these years, even after 30 years of marriage. She would only slowly recover after about one year.
She then started to study theology (formation diaconale) and journalism (journalisme RP). She started to prepare and animate religious (Christian) programs on the Swiss radio chain, until retirement. When she got retired, alone again, she felt again the loss of her beloved husband and fell again into depression.
Over the last five years of her life, Catherine suffered more and more mind loss, falling into complete memory vanishing during the last year. She would remember only the death of her 2 daughters Irène and Isabelle. Before deceasing, she spent 5 years in an old-people-home (EMS), out of which 1 year with severe Alzheimer disease, not even remembering her own sons and daughters. She passed away on 30 Jun 2012.

The elder surviving son (Otpal) fell into depression as well after 1978, and recovered slowly. He never fully swallowed this tragedy. He had 4 kids (Ghilaine 1981), pierre-àtienne vittoz 1982, Camille 1984-84 Numa 1985. Ghilaine having Liam Baud 2008, Abigail Baud 2010, Aedan Baud 2013

After losing her 1st husband to alpinism in 1978, daughter Tsesal Vittoz remarried in 1981 with Alain Miéville (1953-). She had 3 kids (Sarah 1982, Laure 1984, Marc 1988). Themselves having now 1 kid (Rachel Jaquenoud, 2 kids (Raffaël and Eéonore Blanc) and 2 kids (Nils and Alexis Miéville).

Tsesal Vittoz has remained a never-tired traveller, like her father was. She has visited the Antarctic peninsula (in Nov.2022), the Falkland islands, the South Georgian islands, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Irak, the Svalbard archipelago twice...

In the post 1978 time, daughter Tsesal Vittoz has returned twice to Ladakh, once in July 2013 and once in September 2014. As a good alpinist like her father PV (she keeps a heart pulse of 46-48, ie quite slow, like her father), she could for example quietly walk up to the Ladakhi pass of Kartu-La (5,600 meter) on foot, after her car got stuck in the bad road.

In the 2015-2020 interval, Swiss archeologist Martin Vernier (specialized in Ladakh) has gathered, recorded, classified and digitalized all Ladakh docus and photos of PV and his wife.

Pierre Vittoz
around 20.

Pierre Vittoz in 1978 at age 52.

Source: L'attrait des religions orientales
Pierre Vittoz
around 52.

Source (0.02 Mb)


CHRONOLOGY: P.V. Biography and World Politics

1926 16 Feb 1926 – Pierre Vittoz was born.
1927 28 Aug 1927 – Catherine Gerber, future wife of Pierre Vittoz, was born.
15 Aug 1947 – India and Pakistan became independent states. Civil war and inter-religious mass killings between Muslims and Hindus followed suit. The princely state of Kashmir, led by a Hindu maharajah, joined the Republic of India on 26 Oct 1947. The Muslim majority and the Muslim Pakistanese neighbours did not like this choice and the region slid into turmoil, with Pakistanese militias trying to invade Kahsmir.
In Nov 1948, the Indian army at last repelled islamic hordes occupying Kargil and threatening Leh in Ladakh. They took over the Zoo-Ji pass with tanks in Winter, freeing the road connecting Leh with Srinagar and Jammu. The Muslim militias were now being kept in check and Buddhism regained some chance of survival.
1950 01 April 1950 – Wedding of Pierre Vittoz (24) and Catherine Gerber (22).
1950 Sept 1950 – Pierre and Catherine Vittoz travelled from Switzerland to Ladakh, with train, boat, train and airplane. They settled in the capital city of Leh (3,500m)
In Oct 1950, the Chinese communist Army attacked the independent Theocratic Kingdom of Tibet along its Eastern border (Chamdo province) and along its Western border (U-Tsang province) touching Turkestan. The weak and under-equipped Tibetan army could not oppose serious resistance. On 19 Oct 1950, 5,000 tibetan soldiers were dead already. On 7 Nov 1950, Lhasa sends a desperate call for help to the United Nations. However, not being a member, having shunned the rest of the world for too long, the Kingdom of Tibet did not manage to attract much attention. Last but not least, the Korean War was raging at the same time. It had begun on 25 Jun 1950 and would continue until 1953. It overnoised the Tibetan War, which remained ignored from the world.
1953 xx Apr 1951: Child No1, son Jean-François Vittoz was born in Ladakh and died on same day.
In June 1951?, signature du traité de reddition du Tibet pliant devant les troupes communistes chinoises (« l'Accord » en 17 points sur la « libération pacifique » du Tibet).
In 1951, frightened by the Chinese invasion of Tibet, Nepal began to open to international alpinists. They granted their annual Everest permt to Switzerland.
In 1952, a Swiss expedition from Geneva attempted to climb the Mt Everest (8,868m in Nepal, the world's highest mountain. They almost succeeded, reaching an altitude of 8,600m.
1952-1956 From 1952 to 1956, Pierre Vittoz edited a Ladakhi newspaper, in Tibetan, the Ladakh Phonya.
1952 During the year 1952, Pierre Vittoz went for explore the Mount Nun (7,135 m), the highest summit in the Indian Kashmir, to find out the best ascent routes in view of the expedition to come the following year.
1953 19 Mar 1953 – Child No2 son Otpal Jean-Christophe Vittoz was born in Ladakh.
1953 28 Aug 1953 – Pierre Vittoz (26) was the first man to ascend the Mount Nun (7,135 m), the highest summit in the Indian Kashmir, together with C.Trouillet-Kogan.
1954 09 Sep 1954 – Child No3 daughter Tsesal Anne-Catherine Vittoz was born in Ladakh.
1955 Sept-Nov 1955 – Pierre Vittoz (29) participated in an expedition aiming at climbing the Mount Ganesh I Yangra Kangri (7,422m) in Nepal. But he was stopped before the summit by a sudden high fever.
1956 July 1956 – Pierre Vittoz and whole family moved back from Ladakh to Switzerland.
1956-1957 Pierre Vittoz with his family took a holiday of one year in Switzerland.
1957 July 1957 – Pierre Vittoz and family moved from Switzerland to Libamba, French Cameroon.
1957 31 Aug 1957 – Pierre Vittoz (31) published his book Un Autre Himalaya about his deep understanding of the Tibetan civilization gained over his six years in Ladakh.
10-23 March 1959: the Tibetan people rebelled against Chinese communist yoke in Lhasa on 10 March 1959. The Chinese engaged in a violent repression that turned into a genocide. In Lhasa only, they killed about 15,000 Tibetans. The Dalai Lama (the "king" of Tibet) secretly fled with a small army on 17 March 1959, crossing the border to India at Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh, on 31 March 1959. Over 1959-1960, about 80,000 more people managed to flee Chinese-occupied Tibet, protected by Khampa warriors.
1959 xx Apr 1959 – Children No4 and No5 daughters Isabelle and Irène were born in Cameroon.
1959 July 1959 – Pierre Vittoz and family moved back from Cameroon to Switzerland.
1959 Sept 1959 – Pierre Vittoz and family moved from Switzerland to Mussoorie, Northern India.
1960 xx Jul 1960 – daughters Isabelle and Irène both died in India of an allergic reaction to the smallpox vaccine.
1962 Feb 1962 – Pierre Vittoz and family moved back from Mussoorie, Northern India, to Switzerland.
1965 28 Jan 1965 – Child No6 Carole Vittoz was born in Switzerland.
1969 Aug 1969 – Pierre Vittoz and family moved from Switzerland to Cameroon.
1974 Jul 1974 – Pierre Vittoz and family moved back from Cameroon to Switzerland.
1978 20 Aug 1978 – Pierre Vittoz tragically disappeared at age 52 in an accident while climbing the Mont-Blanc.
1978 The book by Pierre Vittoz L'Attrait des Religions Orientales published posthumously
2012 30 Jun 2012– Catherine Vittoz, wife of Pierre, died at age of 84.


A non-exhaustive list of Pierre Vittoz' original books, translated books and journal articles (plus writings introducing him).

1946 Paper by PV on his 1945 Mont-Rose expedition. Pierre VITTOZ: "Autour du Mont-Rose", "Les Alpes/ Die Alpen", Journal du Club Alpin Suisse, 1946.

First recorded article by P.V., written at age 19! The champion shares with us his experiences of climbing around the Mont-Rose massif, south of Zermatt, in the Swiss Alps.
1953 Movie on the 1953 Nun expedition Bernard PIERRE: "Une Montagne Nommée Nun-Kun", Film de 60 minutes présenté au Trento Film Festival de 1953.
1954 Paper by PV on his 1953 Nun climbing. Pierre Vittoz: "Ascent of the Nun", a chapter in the book/journal The Mountain World 1954, 224 pages, edited by Marcel Kurz, Ruskin House, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., London, 1954.

Republished in Indian Mountaineer, Number 25, 1990.
1954 Paper by PV on his Nun 1953 expedition Pierre VITTOZ: "Dernière chance au Nun", Journal du Club Alpin Suisse, 1954.
1954 Book describing PV at 27 during the Nun expedition. Bernard PIERRE: Une Montagne nommée Nun-Kun, Bibliothèque de l'Alpinisme, Amiot Dumont, Paris, 1954, 199 pages.
Une recension par D.Dangar (1954).
A very lively book, very nice to read, describing all dimensions (human, cultural, organizational, geological) of the 1953 Nun conquest, that reads like a novel. B.Pierre (1920-1997) describes all events with so much sincerity and so little filter that you feel like being within the expedition yourself. You delve directly into the human soul, right into the most important questions of life. The book has received the French "Grand Prix Littéraire de la Montagne" in 1955.

Translated into English as A Mountain Called Nun-Kun, Hodder & Stoughton Limited, London, 1955.

Translated into 9 languages altogether, the book has received several literature prizes.
1956 Paper by PV on his Ganesh Himal 1955 expedition Pierre VITTOZ: "A travers le Népal", Journal du Club Alpin Suisse, 1956.
1957 Book No1 written by PV
and 1 other author (his wife)
Pierre VITTOZ et Catherine VITTOZ: Un Autre Himalaya, Missions protestantes, Lausanne, 31 août 1957 (31 Aug 1957), broché, 186 pages.

2nd edition: Pierre et Catherine Vittoz: Un Autre Himalaya, Editions du Soc, Lausanne 1958.

15 editions published between 1957 and 1966 in 4 languages (really 4?).
1958 Translation of Book No1 Goldene Daecher – Schwarze Zelte: Herrnhuter Mission unter den Tibetern, Friedrich Bahn Verlag, Konstanz 1958.
Reedited by Christliche Verlagsanstalt, 1966.

Translation of Book No1 from French into German by Winfried Thiemer.
1968 Translation by PV Pierre Vittoz: The Way of Power: the Acts of the Apostles in Tibetan, 1968.
1 edition published in 1968 in Tibetan.
1970 Book No2 written by Pierre Vittoz Manuel de l'engagement chrétien, 1970.
2 editions published in 1970 in French and ....
1970 Book No3 written by PV Guide des Alpes Vaudoises, Club Alpin Suisse (CAS), 1970.
1970 Text translation by PV The New Testament in Tibetan (Traduction en tibétain intermédiaire entre sacré et vernaculaire par Pierre Vittoz et Eliyah Tsetan Phuntsog)
1 edition, published in 1970 in Tibetan.
Book No4 written by Pierre Vittoz
together with two other authors
Pierre VITTOZ, Pierre JACCARD: Ladakh, Editions Artou, Genève, 1976, 50 pages,
ISBN-10: ‎ 8190437852, ISBN-13: ‎ 978-8190437851

Pierre Vittoz, Pierre Jaccard et Haia Müller: Ladakh: fuer Reisende, Alpinisten und Liebhaber der tibetischen Kultur, Editions Artou, Genève 1976, Collection Artou Reiseführer.
Book No5 written by PV
and 2 other authors
Pierre Vittoz: L'Attrait des religions orientales et la foi chrétienne, Collection "La Parole et les hommes", Éditions Labor et Fides, 1 rue Beauregard, 1204 Genève, 1978, 59 pages, ISBN: 978-2-8309-0174-6.
5 editions published in 1978 in French.



PV has a lot of homonyms, in Switzerland and in France.

The "Vittoz Method" (la "Méthode Vittoz") in psychotherapy was not invented by Pierre Vittoz, but by Roger Vittoz (06 mai 1863–10 avril 1925). Roger Vittoz was a Swiss doctor born in Morges VD and who lived first in La Brévine NE, then in Les Verrières NE and finally in Lausanne VD. In 1911, Roger Vittoz published a book about his pyschotherapeutical method, entitled: Traitement des psychonévroses par la rééducation du contrôle cérébral.

Pierre Vittoz (1948-), né en 1948 et habitant Nancy, en Lorraine (France). Ayant fait l'École Nationale d'Ingénieurs de Saint-Étienne.

Pierre Vittoz (1950-), né en 1950 et habitant Villefontaine (à 30km de Lyon).
Peut-être le même Pierre Vittoz que celui qui est devenu en février 2012 le président du Comité de Jumelage de la ville française de Francheville (dans la grande banlieue de Lyon) avec Steinheim en Allemagne. Jumelage lancé vers 1982.

Joseph Louis Pierre Vittoz (1913-1979), born on 13 Sept 1913 in Burcin, Isère, French National Institute of ... and deceased on 05 Nov 1979, Pin.

Un autre Pierre Vittoz (1914-1993) est né de Victor Pierre Alexandre VITTOZ und Tante Fine VITTOZ. Victor né le 14.10.1886, à Burcin, 38690, France. 2 frères et soeurs. Pierre a épousé Jeanne VITTOZ (RASSAT) (1912), 2enfants.

Un autre Pierre Vittoz (1914-1993) est né de JEAN PIERRE JOSEPH VITTOZ (né 19. September 1885 à BURCIN-38) et ANNE ALEXANDRE VITTOZ (née JULLIEN) ANNE ist geboren worden am 15. Februar 1888, in BURCIN-38, France. 5 frèes et soeurs.

Un autre Pierre Vittoz (1928/29-1978) est mort le 22 déc 1978, à l'âge de 49 ans, selon annonce de la police de Lyon, 3e et 4e arrondissements.

Un Pierre Vittoz a été membre du conseil d'administration de la Dallas International School au Texas, USA, en 2008-2009. Il a étudié à la Temple University à Dallas/Fort Worth. Il a été aussi Chief Executive Officer for Isas à Midland, Texas. Ce Pierre Vittoz a dirigé ensuite pendant 6 ans la Mission laïque française à Paris.
Pierre Vittoz was a Headmaster at Mission laïque française based in Paris. Previously, Pierre was a Head of School at Dallas International School. The Mission laïque française, or "French lay mission", is a non-profit organisation founded in 1902 by Pierre Deschamps. This organisation works to spread the French language and culture by creating and running schools outside France.

Un Pierre Vittoz de l'Université Lumière de Lyon a été responsable du secteur Jardiland à Nouméa en Nouvelle-Calédonie 2014-2022, puis acheteur pour Greenway NC (2022-2022), puis acheteur pour Cabinet Richard Koch.

Un Pierre-Etienne Vittoz est analyste quantitatif en données informatiques à Lausanne, en 2020-2023.

Un Pierre-François Vittoz a soutenu en déc 2016 sa thèse de doctorat en chimie "Valorisation de bioressources dans des matériaux catalytiques organométalliques: préparation, caractérisation et applications en catalyse".

I found the information and pictures above on the following websites:

Tsesal Vittoz (acvittoz at, daughter of Pierre Vittoz, kindly provided precious biographical information on her father at two meetings on 14 Feb and 22 Feb 2023. But when it came to supplying photos, she just disappeared from the scene (no reply as of 29 May 2023).

Bernard Pierre and his book on the Nun expedition.

The Moravian Missions archives.

The Swiss Alpine Club journal.

The American Alpine Journal.


Created: 09 Mar 2023 – Last modified: 29 May 2023