Hermann Hess Helfenstein

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Hermann Hess Helfenstein
Hermann Hess Helfenstein.png
Born(1916 -02-03)February 3, 1916
Engelberg, Switzerlan
DiedOctober 14, 2008(2008-10-14) (aged 92)
Santiago, Chile
  • Skier
  • Climber
  • Adventurer
Known forHe stood out for first ascents and exploration in Patagonia.
Spouse(s)Frida Schwabe

Hermann Hess Helfenstein (Engelberg Switzerland 03/02/1916 - Santiago Chile 14/10/2008), was a well-known skier, climber and adventurer. He was member of the "Schweizer Alpen Club" (SAC in Switzerland) and "Deutscher Anden Verein" (DAV in Chile). He stood out for first ascents and exploration in Patagonia.

Early life in Switzerland

He was born in 1916 in Engelberg OW,[1] a mountain village in Switzerland. There he started sking and mountaineering in the Swiss Alps were his`parents ran a Hotel.

Career as a mountaineer in Chile

In 1937, he had the opportunity to leave his homeland as he was hired as an Engineer by a tourism company for the installation of a hydroelectric turbine in Peulla situated in Chilean Patagonia.

When he arrived at the place, he was impressed by the beauty of the environment and its majestic volcanos. That's when he first climbed the Volcano Puntiagudo with his partner Rudy Roth through the South Face. [2] Unfortunately the young Rudy Roth slipped and lost his life during the descent. [3]

After this experience that shoked him deeply, Hermann Hess lead two expeditions to the Northern Patagonian Ice Field starting from the east. They were sponsored by the Swiss naturalist and geologist ArnoldHeim. The expedition from 1939 to 1940 was integrated by H. Hess, A. Heim, W. Schmitt, H. Moser and H. Neumayer. [4] The expedition from 1945 was integrated by H.Hess, A. Heim, H. Smoll, A. Valmitjana and J. Studer. In those times, they has the opportunity to give unknown and nameless summits an denomination such as Cerro Siniolchu, Cerro Cristal, Cerro Tronco and climb some of this peaks for the first time. [5]

In the meantime, Hermann Hess lead and sponsored his own expeditions [6] to the Northern Patagonian Ice Field from 1941 to 1942 starting this time from the west with E. Hoffmann, J. Alig, G. Mani and the porter I. Vargas finding severe climatical and geographical difficulties. [7] In that decade it can highlight the successfull first climb with R. Eggmann and J. Neumeyer to the isolated Volcano Maca (2265m) in 1944. [8]

Return to Switzerland

In 1950 he gets married to Frida Schwabe in Puerto Varas. He had 2 Children, German and Roland and in 1960 he returned to Switzerland. There he climbed important summits in the Swiss Alps such as Mont Blanc (4810 m), the Matterhorn (4478 m), Eiger (3970 m) and Piz Palü (3901m).

The memory and charm of South America make him return to Chile in 1962 and so he emigrated with his family to Santiago. There he undertook the higher summits from the North Anden with members of DAV like Wolfgang Foerster, Franz Oestemer and other friends until his death in 2008.

His motto was: "As long you have challenges in your life, you live, if not you only survive".


  1. "Home - Engelberg-Titlis". www.engelberg.ch. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  2. Potthoff, José Miguel. Volcan Puntiagudo, Andes Handbook, 2007. https://www.andeshandbook.org/montanismo/cerro/311/Puntiagudo
  3. Hess, Hermann. La Primera Ascencion al Cerro Puntiagudo fue Gloriosa y Dramatica Chile: Revista Andina N°48 Pages 23-25, 1945.
  4. Echevarría, Evelio. Chile Andinista : Su Historia. Ediciones El Mercurio, 1994.
  5. Heim, Arnold. Südamerika, Verlag Hans Huber, page 106, 1952.
  6. Gedda, Francisco. Al Sur del Mundo: La Temible Ruta de los Hielos. Sur Imagen, Taira, 1995. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTUu-8k0J0Y&feature=youtu.be
  7. Della, Carlos. San Valentin. Tecpetrol, 2010. http://www.tecpetrol.com/patagonicos/cuaderno10/cuaderno10.html
  8. Della, Carlos. Volcanes Australes. Tecpetrol, 2010. http://www.tecpetrol.com/patagonicos/cuaderno15/cuaderno15.html

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