Oliver Perry-Smith

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Oliver Perry-Smith (right), 1907

Oliver Perry-Smith (October 11, 1884 in Philadelphia – 13 May 1969[1]) was an American rock climber, mountaineer and skier who moved to Dresden in 1902 to attend a technical university.

Climbs in Saxon Switzerland[edit]

He became well known in the Sächsische Schweiz for the first ascents of major sandstone rock towers such as:

  • Schrammtorwächter (VI) in 1905
  • Kanzelturm (VI) in 1905
  • Teufelsturm (VIIb) in 1906 (at 5.8+ - with a shoulder stand - a very difficult rock climb)

and first ascents of several climbing routes that are still very popular today, e. g.:

  • Spannagelturm Perrykante VIIb in 1906
  • Falkenstein Südriss (VIIa) in 1913
  • Daxenstein Klavier (VIIa) in 1913
  • Daxenstein Perryriss (VIIb) in 1913

(All grades Saxon rating)

In total "he made more than 90 ascents in Saxon Switzerland, 33 of which are rated VI or above; there were 32 first ascents, 13 solo climbs and 36 additional ones on which he led".[2]


On a trip to the Alps in 1908 he and his friend Rudolf Fehrmann made a number of first ascents.

  • The most famous is the "Fehrmann Corner" (in German, Fehrmannverschneidung), V-, on Campanile Basso, SW face (also known as "Guglia di Brenta", in Brenta group in Dolomites, on August 28). Despite its name, this route was led by Perry-Smith (because, as explained in biographical article in AAJ 1964, "Fehrmann was the first to sign the summit book and later he was assumed by later climbers to be a leader"[3]).
  • One of others of their new routes is the north face of Cima Piccola di Lavaredo (in German: Kleine Zinne), Aug 15.[3]

In the Alps "his repeated ascents include also Weisshorn, Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, Zinalrothorn, Wellenkuppe, Obergabelhorn, Kleine Zinne".[2]


Beside his achievements in climbing, he also won the Austrian championship in cross-country-skiing and ski-jumping in 1914.

Other aspects[edit]

There are a number of anecdotes depicting Perry-Smith as a rather unusual character:

  • When people doubted his ascent of 'Perryriss', he climbed that route again and wrote in big letters 'Perry' on the rock. (it can still be read today)
  • He owned a Bugatti race car and got in trouble with the police several times for driving fast and hazardously.
  • He was once arrested for getting drunk and disturbing the peace by threatening people with a pistol in the town of Bad Schandau.

In the year 1914 Oliver Perry-Smith returned to the US, never to visit Saxony again.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Proceedings of the Club: Secretary report for the year 1969, AAJ 1970, pp. 224, lines 6-8 (for pdf version, see External links)
  2. ^ a b J. M. Thorington, In Memoriam: Oliver Perry Smith..., AAJ, 1970, pp. 218 (see section "Sources")
  3. ^ a b J. M. Thorington, Oliver Perry Smith; Profile of a Mountaineer, AAJ, 1964, p. 113 (see "Sources")


  • J. Monroe Thorington, Oliver Perry Smith; Profile of a Mountaineer, American Alpine Journal (AAJ) 1964, pp. 99–120 (with 14 photographs in additional plates)
  • J. Monroe Thorington, In Memoriam: Oliver Perry Smith (1884-1969), AAJ, 1970, pp. 218–219

External links[edit]