Frédy's duties at Sandoz changed with the move back
to Switzerland. He returned to chemical research, and later,
after his official retirement in 1965, he was a consultant
to drug testing programs conducted in hospitals.
Back in their beloved Alps, Dorly and Frédy made up
for all the years overseas. They invited friends over for
a fondue to laugh over old times, and managed to get out almost
every week of the year for climbing, sailing or skiing. They
ascended most of the high summits in the Alps and were particularly
fond of the Valais region (known among English-speaking mountaineers
as the Pennine and Bernese Alps). Few of their old friends
were in as fine physical form as they were, so the Marmillods
usually climbed alone, often on less-travelled routes. To
avoid weekend hordes, they climbed mid-week, especially after
Frédy's retirement when he began working half-time.
Later he worked less and climbed more.
Throughout their mountaineering career, the Marmillods never
resorted to artificial aid. To do so, they felt, was equivalent
to being dropped onto the summit by helicopter. Frédy
always let on technical pitches, first up and last down. Although
Dorly had enough experience to be a fine leader, she preferred
to have Frédy lead.
The family teased Dorly about her habit of stocking all the
huts in the Alps were plastic juice extractors. She and Frédy
liked to flavor their tea with lemons, and she always carried
an extractor in her rucksack. Whenever she slept at a hut
she checked to see if there was an extractor on the premises.
She placed dozens of them throughout the Alps and kept lists
of the huts that still needed them. Whether they were useful
to anyone besides themselves is difficult to say, but she
enjoyed making this contribution to the comforts of others.
The same goes for her ritual of making sure the hut was in
better shape when she left it than when she arrived. The hut
was spic and span, down to scrubbed floors, when the Marmillods
At Frédy's insistence, Sandoz allowed him to live
and work in the canton of Vaud while officially on the payroll
of the Basel office. The Marmillods decided to settle permanently
in Vaud, and in 1968 they had a house built for themselves
in Féchy, a small village twenty kilometers west of
Lausanne. The view was marvelous. In the foreground lay the
picturesque village, population 300, and its church steeple.
Beyond, Lake Geneva was visible almost in its entirety. They
called their home Survigne, for it perched on a hill covered
with vineyards. Each autumn the vineyards turned golden brown
after yielding a fine variety of wine with an honorable reputation
Survigne was conveniently located for sailing, rock climbing,
and alpinism. Three of the daughters lived in nearby cities,
and Frédy had only to step outside to tend his garden,
a pastime that gave him increasing pleasure over the years.
Elvira stayed in Argentina when the Marmillods left South
America, but she was not forgotten. When Christiane married
in 1975, Mariette's present to her was arranging, secretly,
for Elvira to attend the wedding. The reunion was an overwhelming
emotional experience for everyone. Now known as Elvira Barrios
Gondar, she is married with two children in Buenos Aires.
She lives not far from Françoise Marmillod, who settled
in Buenos Aires with her husband and little girl.
In 1974 Pakistan opened up the Karakoram for the first time
in many years, an event that rekindled Frédy's interest
in high-altitude mountaineering. One of his life-long dreams
was to climb in the Himalaya, and the Baltoro seemed to him
the most awesomely beautiful mountain valley on earth. He
and Dorly joined forces with two friends, Dr. Daniel Bach
and Romaine Ebener, and together they planned their lightweight
expedition. They scoured maps for a good 6000-meter peak off
the beaten track and found one in the Karfogang Group at the
head of the Mustagh Glacier.
They arrived at Skardu in late June 1977. Due to a late departure
from Switzerland and a series of setbacks and calamities,
they never reached their original goal. By the time they arrived,
warm weather had swelled rivers to flood stage – a common
occurrence this time of year – washing away bridges
and making jeep and foot travel difficult and hazardous. They
had to wait a week while the bridge over the Indus River was
repaired. Once past the Braldu River, their twenty-five porters
made shorter stages than expected. Some of their food supply
spoiled in the heat during these delays.
By the time they reached Liligo, it was obvious insufficient
food remained to carry on to the head of the Mustagh Glacier.
Base camp was placed at Liligo beneath their new objective,
the west summit (6368 m) of the Urdukas.
The first night at base camp, the Marmillods erected their
tent on what seemed like a perfect site, a bank of sand next
to a stream. They awoke in the middle of the night to find
their tent afloat! Blocks of ice had dammed the stream and
changed its course. Luckily there was no harm done and they
moved their tent to a safer spot. Unfortunately, high-altitude
rations stored nearby were swept away by the torrent.
With the help of two porters, high camp was installed on
the North Ridge of the Urdukas at 5000 meters, and the following
day the climbers pushed on to 5900 meters. An exposed ridge
guarded by large gendarmes separated them from the final snow
pyramid. The final traverse would require hard work, another
camp, and more food than was available. The group had to admit
that they had lost their last opportunity to reach a summit
in the Baltoro Basin. They turned round, disappointed, but
grateful for the bonds of friendship that had grown strong
among them through much adversity.
Dr. Daniel Bach recalls some of the Marmillod's contributions
toward the expedition: Frédy organized the expedition
with meticulous care. He was patient and firm in discussions
with the prefect of Skardu over the reopening of the bridge
on the Indus, and he was skillful in negotiating with the
porters. Dorly came through every trial with graciousness
and good humor. They were strong hikers, although Frédy
suffered an attack of gout on the return march, brought on
my heat and dehydration." [letter from Dr. Bach to author]