Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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JONES , HUMPHREY OWEN ( 1878 - 1912 ; DWB , 468-9).

Though he began climbing comparatively late in life he was in the front rank. According to Geoffrey Winthrop Young , the most famous climber of the day, he was an ‘ideal comrade’ whose ‘ climbing was a model of agile, accurate and elegant movement ’ ( On high hills , ( 1947 ), 299). He appears to have visited Zermatt in 1906 and began rock-climbing seriously in Snowdonia the following year under the guidance of J.M. Archer Thomson , headmaster of John Bright School , Llandudno . Soon afterwards he was assisting that arch-climber to complete his pioneering of Lliwedd and his discovery of the climbing cliffs of Crib y Ddysgl , Llechog and Creigiau Gleision . Starting in 1907 , Jones led a number of new climbs in Snowdonia which remain in vogue, including some ‘very difficult’ ones like Paradise on Lliwedd ( 1909 ) and some easy, popular ones like Criafolen on Tryfan ( 1910 ). In 1911 he created new climbs in the Cuillin with his sister Bronwen and Archer Thomson . (According to Young , Bronwen Ceridwen Jones — later Mrs. Mawson ; 1890 - 1981 — was the first to show how a female climber could excel a male by means of measured steps rather than mere strength; she contributed the essay on climbing clothes for women in the first ed. of Mountain Craft ).

Every summer from 1908 onwards Jones concentrated on the southern side of Mont Blanc , completing many first ascents, a number of them in the company of Young and the guide Joseph Knubel : among the most important were the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey from the west ( 1909 ), the usual path up the Brouillard ridge (the pinacle of his pioneering work on Mont Blanc , according to Young ), the western ridge of the Grandes Jorasses and the west face of the Grépon ( 1910 ) and L'Isolée ( 1912 ). His wife too was a skilful climber ; she led the Pinacles’ Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean without male company. Jones was elected to the Alpine Club and the Mountaineers Club in 1910 , serving on the committee of the latter. The little he contributed to the mountaineering journals was strictly factual but he read the works of Welsh authors like O.M. Edwards ( DWB , 192-3) . There is a memorial to him in Lewis' School , Pengam ; La Pointe Jones is the name given to the north summit of Aiguille Blanche (4104 m.) in the Vallot Guide ( 1930 ed.).


  • North Wales Chronicle , 16 and 23 Aug. 1912 ;
  • G. W. Young , On high hills memories of the Alps (London, 1927) (1927) ;
  • Alpine Journal , 27 (1913) ;
  • W. Idris Jones , Y Gwyddonydd , 7, 4 (1969) — details of his work as one of the most important and fruitful chemical researchers of his day;
  • Alan Hankinson , The Mountain Men, an early history of rock climbing in North Wales (London, 1977) , (1977) ;
  • John Shorter , ‘Humphrey Owen Jones (1878-1912)’, Climber and Rambler , 18, 2 (Feb. 1979);
  • idem, ‘Humphrey Owen Jones, F.R.S. (1878-1912), chemist and mountaineer’, Notes and records of the Roy. Soc. of London (London) , 33, 2 (March, 1979) ;
  • information about his library from Dr. R. Elwyn Hughes , Cardiff.


Dr Ioan Bowen Rees, (1929-99), Bangor

Corrections and additions:

JONES , HUMPHREY OWEN ( 1878 - 1912 ), chemist ;

b. at Goginan, Cards. , 20 Feb. 1878 . The family removed to Ebbw Vale , and the son was educated at Lewis’ School , Pengam . Entering the University College of Aberystwyth , 1894 , he was in the first group of graduates of the University of Wales in 1897 . Proceeding to Clare College , Cambridge , he graduated with high distinction in 1900 . In 1902 he was appointed Jacksonian Demonstrator in the University Chemical Laboratory and Fellow and lecturer of Clare College . He carried out a considerable amount of chemical research of high merit and was soon recognized as an authority on the Stereochemistry of Nitrogen and on Fuel Oils . With Sir James Dewar he studied the metallic carbonyls . He was elected F.R.S. early in 1912 . A mountaineer of repute, he spent his leisure climbing in Snowdonia and on the Italian side of Mont Blanc . He m., 1 Aug. 1912 , Muriel Gwendolen Edwards , of Bangor , Fellow of the University of Wales and a fellow worker. They both fell to death on 15 Aug. 1912 , while climbing on Mont Rouge de Peuteret , and were buried at Courmayeur , Northern Italy .


  • Orig. papers in Journal of the Chemical Society , 1900-12 ;
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society ;
  • Reports of the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science , 1904 ;
  • obituary notice by Orton in Nature , 1912 , 89, 638.


Emeritus Professor Thomas Campbell James, D.Sc., Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001