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A literary critic, a judge and an explorer were among a tiny group of wealthy Britons who conquered the Alps' highest peaks 150 years ago, never expecting their "gentlemen's" hobby would morph into a worldwide sport.Mountaineering today attracts people from all walks of life, who tackle summits well beyond Europe's Alpine range where it all began in 1865 .On July 14 that year, explorer, illustrator and author Edward Whymper made history when he reached the daunting 4,478-meter summit of the Matterhorn on the Italian-Swiss border.The very next day, another British group made it to the even higher top of Mont Blanc, which straddles France and Italy.Today, Mont Blanc attracts climbers by the tens of thousands each year though only a small number ever see the summit.Of the 63 mountaineers who conquered 65 Alpine summits in 1865, 34 were British, followed by 13 Austrians, nine Swiss, six Italians and one Frenchman.
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