Two years later an expedition led by H.W. Tilman reached the summit of Nanda Devi. At over 25,000 feet, it was the highest mountain to be climbed until 1950.
The Ascent of Nanda Devi, Tilman’s account of the climb, has been widely hailed as a classic. Keenly observed, well informed and at times hilariously funny, it is as close to a ‘conventional’ mountaineering account as Tilman could manage. Beginning with the history of the mountain (‘there was none’) and the expedition’s arrival in India, Tilman recounts the build-up and approach to the climb.
Writing in his characteristic dry style, he tells how Sherpas are hired, provisions are gathered (including ‘a mouth-blistering sauce containing 100 per cent chillies’) and the climbers head into the hills, towards Nanda Devi. Superbly parodied in The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W.E. Bowman, The Ascent of Nanda Devi was among the earliest accounts of a climbing expedition to be published. Much imitated but rarely matched, it remains one of the best.
Harold William Bill Tilman (1898 1977) was among the greatest adventurers of his time, a pioneering mountaineer and sailor who held exploration above all else. Tilman joined the army at seventeen and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery during WWI. After the war Tilman left for Africa, establishing himself as a coffee grower. He met Eric Shipton and began their famed mountaineering partnership, traversing Mount Kenya and climbing Kilimanjaro. Turning to the Himalaya, Tilman went on two Mount Everest expeditions, reaching 27,000 feet without oxygen in 1938. In 1936 he made the first ascent of Nanda Devi the highest mountain climbed until 1950. He was the first European to climb in the remote Assam Himalaya, he delved into Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and he explored extensively in Nepal, all the while developing a mountaineering style characterised by its simplicity and emphasis on exploration. It was perhaps logical then that Tilman would eventually buy the pilot cutter Mischief, not with the intention of retiring from travelling, but to access remote mountains. For twenty-two years Tilman sailed Mischief and her successors to Patagonia, where he crossed the vast ice cap, and to Baffin Island to make the first ascent of Mount Raleigh. He made trips to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the South Shetlands, before disappearing in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1977.
John Porter was born in Massachusetts and he started climbing at the age of twelve, serving his apprenticeship in the White Mountains, Rockies, Cascades and Yosemite. He moved to the UK in the early 1970s to do postgraduate work at Leeds University where he joined a team of climbers dedicated to clean ethics, alpine-style and the fostering of international partnerships. Ascents of the North Face of Koh-i-Bandaka (1977) and the south face of Changabang (1978) with Alex MacIntyre and Polish friends were achieved in the middle of the cold war. Other climbs include lightweight attempts of the west ridge of Everest in winter, the north-west ridge of K2, the east face of Sepu Kangri, first ascents of Chong Kundam I and V in the Eastern Karakoram, and many other notable climbs around the world over a period of fifty-five years. In 1980 he founded the Kendal Mountain Festival with Brian Hall and Jim Curran, and in 2011 he and Brian founded the online adventure film website SteepEdge. John lives in the Cumbrian Lake District working as a consultant in the energy sector. He is a vice president of the Alpine Club and has previously been a vice president of the British Mountaineering Council and secretary to the Mountain Heritage Trust.
His casual fearlessness and physical power established the template for extreme adventure, and his lectures as a charismatic professor inspired the generation of the sixties to test itself in acts of physical daring. Fatal Mountaineer sets Willi Unsoeld's intense life against the story of two defining adventures: the triumph on Everest and a more ill-starred expedition in 1976, when he led a group of mountaineers up a new route on Nanda Devi, the tallest peak in India. One of that gifted group of climbers was Willi's daughter, Devi -- a golden girl named for the mountain she sought to ascend with her beloved father. The intense rivalries within the expedition team, and the dangers of the route, led to an outcome darkened by tragedy, an outcome that continues to fuel one of the most tormenting debates in mountaineering history.
Blending adventure with a frank look at the cultural background, Fatal Mountaineer considers the pressures on mountaineers in a period of our history torn by conflict. It balances hunger for fame with stark tragedy, a man's ambition with a father's love. Unsoeld emerges as an American classic, a self-invented genius of adventure to rank with Mark Twain or Will Rogers for sheer attractiveness. Under the close scrutiny of this thrilling story, his heroism turns out to be deeply authentic-as does his suffering.
Not one to be dispirited, Tilman and his various accomplices—including pioneering mountaineer and regular partner Eric Shipton—continue to trek and climb in locations across China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other areas of Asia, including the Kukuay Glacier, Muztagh Ata, the source of the Oxus river, and Ishkashim, where the author was arrested on suspicion of being a spy ...
Two Mountains and a River brims with the definitive Tilman qualities— detailed observations and ever-present humour—that convey a strong appreciation of the adventures and mishaps he experiences along the way. With a new foreword from prominent trekker, climber and lecturer, Gerda Pauler, this classic mountaineering text maintains Tilman’s name as a unique and inquisitive explorer and raconteur.
For H.W. ‘Bill’ Tilman, the solution lay in Africa: in gold prospecting, mountaineering and a 3,000-mile bicycle ride across the continent. Tilman was one of the greatest adventurers of his time, a pioneering climber and sailor who held exploration above all else. He made first ascents throughout the Himalaya, attempted Mount Everest, and sailed into the Arctic Circle. For Tilman, the goal was always to explore, to see new places, to discover rather than conquer.
First published in 1937, Snow on the Equator chronicles Tilman’s early adventures; his transition from East African coffee planter to famed mountaineer. After World War I, Tilman left for Africa, where he grew coffee, prospected for gold and met Eric Shipton, the two beginning their famed mountaineering partnership, traversing Mount Kenya and climbing Kilimanjaro and Ruwenzori. Tilman eventually left Africa in typically adventurous style via a 3,000-mile solo bicycle ride across the continent—all recounted here in splendidly funny style.
Tilman is one of the greatest of all travel writers. His books are well-informed and keenly observed, concerned with places and people as much as summits and achievements. They are full of humour and anecdotes and are frequently hilarious. He is part of the great British tradition of comic writing and there is nobody else quite like him.
* Two classic mountaineering adventures, in one beautiful volume!
* Part of The Mountaineers Books "Legends and Lore" series for climbers, armchair mountaineers, and readers of classic adventure literature
The publication of The Mountain of My Fear in 1968 and Deborah in 1970 changed the face of the mountaineering narrative. Now these two classic expedition narratives by acclaimed writer David Roberts are together again in one volume for a new generation of readers.
Deborah is the story of Roberts's 1964 expedition with fellow Harvard Mountaineering Club member Don Jensen to the eastern side of Mount Deborah in Alaska. Their two-man attempt on the then-unclimbed ridge was a rash and heroic effort. The story tells not only what happened on the mountain, but what happened in the stark isolation to the climbers and their friendship, as each became totally dependent on the other for survival.
In The Mountain of My Fear Roberts and Jensen come together again only a year after the Deborah climb. In this account, they and two other Harvard students attempt an ascent of Mount Huntington, for the first time via its treacherous west face. The summit had been reached only the year before, via one of its less dangerous ridges. The story is one of a magnificent achievement. But it is also the story of how a perfect adventure can turn into tragedy in a single instant.
Mountaineers, lovers of adventure literature, David Roberts fans, and non-climbers who simply enjoy a good story will value this pairing, by a great climber and a great writer, of two dramatic and enlightening works.
This title is part of our LEGENDS AND LORE series. Click here > to learn more.