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The sport of mountaineering was pioneered 150 years ago by a diverse cross-section of Victorians, following in the footsteps of earlier local explorers who ventured into the upper regions of ice and snow in search of game and minerals. By the early years of the 19th century, a growing interest in the study of geological and glaciological phenomena attracted scientific interest in the origins of the Alps. It was only in the latter half of that century when, by the 1850s, interest in the largly unexplored Alpine peaks began to capture the public imagination, and a sharp increase developed in the numbers of those who tried to scale them. So intense was the level of exploration and achievement that the next decade was labelled the Alpine Golden Age. By the turn of the century the new sport had not only expanded vastly, but had begun to acquire a degree of respectability. The development of new skills and techniques resulted in greater accomplishments, whilst retaining the spirit and traditions of the pioneers. In this book the mountaineer and writer Trevor Braham illustrates aspects of the character and achievements of some of the early Victorian climbers, and their response to the unique attractions of mountaineering. These include Leslie Stephen (the father of Virginia Woolf), Alfred Wills, John Tyndall, Adolphus Warburton Moore, Edward Whymper (the first to conquer the Matterhorn), Albert Frederick Mummery and many more. Trevor Braham's comprehensive history on this period of Alpine mountaineering is essential to any mountaineer's bookshelf.
During the twilight years of the British Raj Trevor Braham spent much of his boyhood in India where, in the mid-1930s, he attended a boarding school in Darjeeling for four years. Dwelling within sight of the magnificent spectacle of Kangchenjunga and its satellite peaks exerted a strong influence upon him, arousing later ambitions. After early trips to Sikkim he joined the Himalayan Club marking a threshold of half-a-lifetime of adventures and activities in the mountain ranges spread across the northern regions of the Indian sub-continent, from Sikkim in the South-east to Chitral in the North-west in an environment very different from the present day. His halcyon years extended from 1942 to 1972, part of the earlier period corresponding with the Himalayan Golden Age in the 1960's when an international frenzy developed for climbing the world's highest mountains. In between he enjoyed summer climbing in the Swiss Alps, joining the Alpine Club and the Swiss Alpine Club.As one of the Himalayan Club's earliest members, he was invited to give the opening address at its 80th anniversary celebrations held in Mumbai in February 2008. Trevor Braham's final work on his life and times in the Himalayas is an insight into the Golden Age of Himalayan exploration when he spent all of his free time until he married on numerous expeditions into the world's greatest mountain range. This is a telling insight into a time when mountains were not subjected to the all-out onslaught of tourist climbers ticking off the peaks as they went, leaving a landscape littered with waste. These are the recollections of a bygone era in mountaineering, never to return.
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