‘In fifty years he lived a life as phenomenal as that of a hundred long years’. Chetna, Pradeep’s wife and climbing partner, was trying hard to digest his sudden demise. The first Everester couple from West Bengal, who stood atop Everest on 19 May 2016, was to receive a felicitation from the Youth Service Department, Govt. of West Bengal. But Pradeep Chandra Sahoo died of a massive cardiac arrest at Harare, Zimbabwe, his workplace, just a day before boarding the flight to return home.
His love for the mountains took shape in the early nineties, when he completed his basic and advanced mountaineering courses from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, respectively. There he met Chetna, while on an Alpine Style Climbing Course in HMI, and eventually they tied the knot. They divided their time between nurturing a family and nurturing their spirit of adventure. The duo took part in several expeditions together.
Pradeep was a mechanical engineering graduate from IIT Roorkie. His intelligence and potential was also evident in his mountaineering acumen. His meticulous planning for the expeditions was very educative for the team members. He was a born leader. Whether a leader or a team member, his guidance was always for the benefit of the team.
His first job was with Tata Steel Adventure Foundation. There he got the opportunity to work closely with Bachendri Pal. He participated in expeditions to Sri Kailash (6932 m in 1992), Shivling (6543 m in 1994), Kedar Dome (6831 m in 1995), Panch Chuli (1996). He summited Kalanag (6387 m), Gangotri III ( 6577 m) and Bhagirathi II ( 6512 m) during this phase.
Thereafter he left his job to start his own venture; however, the zeal to take on expeditions every year did not diminish. He was the climbing leader for Shinkun west (6127 m in 2004) which he summited. Another of his major achievements was the successfully scaling of Kamet (7756 m) in 2006 when he became a member of The Himalayan Club. Eventually, he led many expeditions under the banner of the HC.
Sahoo was a man of grim determination. After a surgery on his spinal cord following an injury post the Kamet expedition, he gained fitness within a couple of years. He was fit enough to organize and join expeditions to the Karakorams and Kumaon - Stok Kangri (6153 m in 2008), Panch Chuli II (6904 m in 2009), summiting as leader Mamostong Kangri (7516 m) in 2010, Saser Kangri IV (7416 m) in 2011, Jongsong (7462 m) in 2012 - opening a new route to the east summit, and in 2013, becoming part of history, by scaling the virgin Plateau Peak (7287 m), the first ascent of the mountain. I have had the pleasure of accompanying him to each of these climbs and of leading the team to Plateau Peak, where he was a team member.
He served as the Honorary Local Secretary of the Himalayan Club Kolkata Section from 2010 – 2012 and was a Vice President, HC from 2012 – 2014.
Pradeep was a man of passion; for him mountaineering was not only a sport to overcome the challenges of nature, but a way to test the limits of his abilities and to experience beauty.
A true sportsman, kind and humble, Pradeep left for his abode of peace on 20 November 2016, leaving behind his wife, two children, mother and innumerable admirers and friends.
For me, the loss is inconsolable as we had so many plans to climb together, so many dreams to dream together. My mentor and my guide, rest in peace.
(1935 – 2016)
Seldom in life does one meet individuals who leave an indelible mark of their persona on the very first interaction. Their presence invigorates the environment; their thought process inspiring. Such men exemplify change bringing out the best in individuals and enriching the society they live in. They are contributors, role models and mentors. Hari Dang was one such gentleman, whom I was privileged to know in my life time.
I first met Hari Dang in 1995, at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi, where I was the vice principal. Despite being from the same school and having heard much about him, our paths had not crossed earlier. But I made up for lost time, as thereafter I met him regularly in Uttarkashi on his frequent annual forays into the Garhwal Himalaya, which for the Dang family was a second home.
Padma Shri Hari Dang was a highly accomplished individual. A rare combination of many talents and skills, he was a naturalist, environmentalist, schoolmaster, author and a pioneering Himalayan climber, all rolled into one. Educated at Modern School, New Delhi, Hari Dang graduated from St Stephens College, Delhi, with a BSc (Honours) in Chemistry in 1955. He served actively as a member of many national institutions, such as the National Commission on Teachers, AICS, CBSE, National Children’s Board, and the National Integration Council. He helped establish the NIM at Uttarkashi, which came up in 1965. He pioneered the national project for Model Primary Schools in rural, tribal and forest areas of India. He was Chairman of the Third World Education Centre Society and the Wilderness Equity School and Training Centres across India, which he set up for skill development. He was Chief Editor of the Global Journal of Sustainable Development which he launched in 1989 and nurtured over the years. He was also founder member of INTACH and PCED, New Delhi, and SURGE, Gurgaon. To him goes the credit for introducing the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme in India which even today continues to be popular with school children. For his outstanding contribution to youth service at a national level, he was conferred with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India in 1976.
At our very first meeting, I saw in Hari Dang a passionate mountain lover, with a deep sense of caring and commitment for the Himalaya. His knowledge was exceptional. His concern for the Himalayan people and the environment was extraordinary. Articulate, with a boisterous and resonating voice, I must confess that it was a pleasure and a privilege to meet him every time.
An educator par excellence, Hari Dang was a visionary. Having taught at some of the best educational institutions of India, he inspired generations of young minds. His ability to understand and connect with his pupils at a personal level and as a teacher was both instant and immense. He related exceptionally well to his students, understood their psyche and therefore became not only their mentor, but de facto also their friend, philosopher and guide. A teacher who made a difference in the life of many of his students, he served as a School Master at the Doon School from 1959 to 1970. He was the principal of the Air Force School, New Delhi from 1970 – 1977, then rector of St Paul’s, Darjeeling, from 1978-84, retiring, finally, as principal of the Army Public School, which he headed from 1984-90.
Hari Dang always followed an Open Door Policy with his students. He was always accessible, and they could confide in him on any matter and in a manner that they wished to. His late wife, Renuka, was always by his side and greatly contributed to his effort. As a part of character building, he always encouraged his students to take to the outdoors and planned many outings for them as part of the school curriculum.
Hari Dang was also one of the pioneers of Indian Mountaineering. As member of the 1962 Indian Everest expedition, he along with Capt MS Kohli and the late Sonam Gyatso, bivouaced above the South Col for three nights, perhaps a record. The story of that time, spent at 8427 m, is well documented in his personal account ‘Nights of Agony’. He was also member of various school expeditions and climbed Devistan, Maiktoli, Mrigthuni, Kalanag, Mulkila VI, and Jaonli, which took two attempts, before the mountain was climbed, with students from the Doon School, Dehradun. Nanda Devi was his favourite mountain, although he never climbed it. He was a contemporary of late Major John Dias, of whom he often spoke to me with extreme fondness and affection. He was also a member of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation from 1975 to 2004.
Hari Dang lost no opportunity in getting to the hills of Garhwal, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh. These were Himalayan getaways for the Dang family. He adored the freedom of the mountains, celebrated by the poetry of Geoffrey Winthrop Young and W. H. Auden, and revelled in the pristine mountain environment. In fact, the lure of the mountains runs deep in the Dang family, with Hari Dang having set the pace. This can be gauged from the fact that starting from his sons Himraj and Rupin, both ardent mountain lovers themselves, even his grand-daughters, Bagini and Dharanshi, are named after Garhwal Himalayan landmarks. Very often I have seen the Dangs on family trips to the mountains of Garhwal, where they came together and then disperse, with each one doing his chosen trek. He was also fond of other outdoor activities like nature walking, birding, sailing, skiing, river running, and rock climbing.
I have fond nostalgic memories of seeing Hari Dang in his traditional trekking attire in the Garhwal. His old, faithful, aluminum-framed rucksack and his anorak, and his cap and pipe were his constant companions. In my last meeting with him in Harsil, on the banks of the holy Bhagirathi river, we spoke at length about the Garhwal Himalaya, the environmental degradation of the mountains, Wilson’s influence in the region, the Gangotri glacier, 1962 Everest and late Major John Dias. As always, I learnt much from that interaction.
Hari Dang is no more with us. After nearly two years of successfully pushing back liver cancer, we lost him on 23 July 2016. In the time since the illness was diagnosed, he visited Landour in Mussoorie many times, the old school, HMI in Darjeeling and the forests in Panna, MP. At the start of winter on Diwali in 2015, he dropped his grand-daughter, Ahilya, for a trek at Barsu, and picked her up at Sangam Chatti, all the while enjoying his last visit to the Bhagirathi valley from Mahidanda. These were his last memories, and those who met him would recall his enduring appetite for life and mountains to the very end.
BRIGADIER ASHOK ABBEY
(1930 – 2016)
With the death of Roger Chorley, Lord Chorley on 21 February 2016, the Alpine Club has lost one of the most distinguished, loyal and innovative members in its long history.
The son of Robert Chorley, the first Baron Chorley, Roger was educated at Stowe School and at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, graduating in 1953 and becoming president of the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club. His parents’ love of mountains was the inspiration for Roger's own passion for mountaineering and the environment.
His father was Vice President of the Alpine Club (1957 to 58) and his mother was president of the Ladies’ Alpine Club (1953 to 55). The happy conjunction of two strands of Roger's life, as an accountant with a passion for mountaineering, led him to become the long serving honorary treasurer of the Alpine Club. He became Vice President (1975-76) and President (1983- 85.)
Always a true internationalist, Roger was much in demand by organizations as varied as the National Board for Prices and Incomes, the Royal Commission on the Press, the Ordnance Survey Review and the British Council.
Roger chaired the enquiry into the handling of geographic information (1985 to 87) and was a member of the National Environment Research Council (1988 to 94).
In 1987 he became President of the Royal Geographical Society.
Following reforms to the House of Lords he was one of the Hereditary Peers elected to remain as a working peer from 2001, sitting as an independent on the cross benches until his retirement in 2014.
By far his most demanding and historically significant role arose when he took over the chair of the National Trust in 1991. Under Roger's professional scrutiny the National Trust policy on land and property acquisition was changed, resulting in the creation of the "Chorley Formula" being applied to most acquisitions up to and including the present day.
Roger became a member of the Alpine Club in 1951. In 1952 he was invited to address the Club (at the age of 21 the youngest member to do so) and as a result of this the Alpine Climbing Group came about. This group broke down class barriers and included women members.
In 1952, together with George Band, Roger undertook a glacier tunnelling project on the Monte Rosa for an American geologist millionaire. It was demanding high altitude work and they climbed together on their days off. This was to have far-reaching consequences. It raised local funds for an extended season in the Alps, when U.K. currency restrictions were still in force.
It raised their level of alpine fitness to a significant degree and enabled them to climb the *Cresta di Santa Caterina on the Nordend. Later in the season, with Ted Wrangham, they completed the direct route on the Mer de Glace face of the Grepon (Knubel crack).
Later still, with Arthur Dolphin and Ian McNaught- Davis, they made the first ascent of the north ridge of Peigne and the south ridge of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey. The following spring George Band was chosen as the youngest team member of the 1953 expedition to Mount Everest.
In 1954 the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club attempted the first ascent of Rakaposhi (8516 m), a formidable peak in the Karakoram range, where although the weather robbed them of an attempt on the summit, they achieved much and gave, in Eric Shipton's words, “a fine example of what can be achieved by a privately conducted expedition on a high and difficult peak.”
In 1956, Roger, in the company of Hamish Nichol, John Tyson, Dick Viney, and Tom Bourdillon visited the Baltschiedertal hut. Bourdillon and Viney set off to attempt a nearby peak but did not return. Fearing the worst, Roger and John climbed up to the glacier at the foot of the Jagihorn and found them roped together. They were dead. There is a view that their deaths ended a golden age of mountaineering.
In early 1957, Roger was invited to join an expedition to Machapuchare, the ‘fishes’ tail’, in Nepal, by the leader Wilfred Noyce. This was to be Roger’s last major mountain expedition, for he contracted polio at Camp 1. Noyce and David Cox climbed within 50 m of the summit before being defeated by a blinding snowstorm. The after-effects of polio would restrict, but by no means end, climbing for the rest of his life.
I was introduced to Roger by George Band after we had climbed together on the expedition to the Bhutan Himalaya. I was living in the Lake District and in due course Roger told me, "I live in London but my home is in the Lake District," and it was clear from the beginning that we shared a love of travel, mountains, architecture and photography. And landscape painting, which soon became the foundation of our travels together. Perhaps I should mention a shared love of the works of Arthur Ransome, certain passages from which could move us to tears…
In 1996 George Band, as President of the British Mountaineering Council, was charged with investigating the possibility of creating a museum of mountaineering to show how the sport had evolved. By 2001, the National Mountaineering Exhibition was completed and was officially opened by Tony Blair. This led to the founding of the Mountain Heritage Trust (MHT) under the chair of Sir Chris Bonington and trustees Roger Chorley, George Band and others. Roger once more used his administrative skills to steer the Trust through its formative years.
His final generous gesture was to give MHT the Chorley Hopkinson Library of mountaineering books collected by three generations of his family which are now housed in the National Trust Grasmere property, Allan Bank.
Throughout this period we travelled extensively with our wives and the first of many journeys was through Central Asia into Northwest China, down the Karakoram Highway to the foothills of Rakaposhi.
In matters of travel Roger was a minimalist; the smallest suitcase possible always accompanied us, the contents closely guarded. We visited Chile to explore Patagonia and the Straits of Magellan, to Peru and Machu Picchu. In Europe, our pursuit of perfection in the art of Baroque led us to Bohemia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic, always with a critical eye. It soon became clear that Roger was in some ways a frustrated architect, full of appreciation and understanding of space, decoration, proportion and composition. His artistic talent was evident in his outstanding photography; his volumes of superb images are a unique legacy but it was in mountains and architecture that he found beauty and inspiration, for he had an extraordinarily refined and acute instinct for mountain topography.
It has been a privilege to have known Roger as friend and companion a man of wisdom and wit with whom life has been fun.
Roger will be greatly missed by all who share the activities that he had graced. Our heartfelt sympathies go to Ann and her sons, Robert and Nicholas, their families and the grandchildren.
(Reprinted with permission from the Alpine Journal 2016)
(1939 – 2016)
From the local mountains to Mt. Everest, one step at a time.
Junko Tabie (Harish Kapadia)
Junko Tabei passed away. Up until just recently, she seemed to be healthy as usual, so it was a shock to lose her so suddenly. I’m left with a profound sense of loss and emptiness in my heart.
The name Junko Tabei, is often associated with Mt. Everest. On May 16, 1975 she was the first woman to stand on the summit of Mt. Everest. This was 40 years ago, back when climbing Mt. Everest was still uncommon and limited to only a handful of skilled mountaineers who could even attempt such a challenge. She was the sixth Japanese person to climb Mt. Everest and one of only 40 climbers in the world to reach the summit at the time. When news broke out about her successful summit, she was catapulted into the spotlight. However, despite her fame and the overwhelming pressure that comes with it, Ms. Tabei kept her spirits up and remained calm, continuing to be her usual self.
Ms. Tabei felt that women had less strength and speed compared to men and wanted to create a strong support network where female mountaineers had the opportunity to climb together. In 1969, she established the Ladies Climbing Club and together they scaled the Himalayan peaks of Annapurna III, Mt. Everest, and Shishapangma – all extreme, high altitude mountains. They enthusiastically and voraciously took on 7000 m – 8000 m peaks. Of course, not everyone can stand on the summit, but she felt strongly that mountaineering was a team effort and that everyone on the team should receive recognition for the climb even though they may not have physically stood on the summit.
I recall one incident after Shishapangma when I was still a young editor at the magazine ‘Yamato Keikoku’. Our chief editor had titled the expedition report written by Ms. Tabei – ‘Watashi hitori no Shishapangma’ (Shishapangma on my own). It goes without saying that she furiously protested saying that the title completely ignored the efforts of her team that worked so hard during the expedition.
At the time, Ms. Tabei’s high altitude mountaineering was considered extreme as her aim was ‘to be the first one to climb unknown mountains’. She stood above the crowd and earned the title of ‘first woman ascent’ - she was the first woman to complete the Seven Summits (seven of the world’s highest peaks in each of the seven continents).
It was however in 1990 when the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan (HAT-J) was established and she became president that Ms Tabei decided to fully commit herself to a cause. She wanted to change the old-fashioned male-dominated ways of the mountaineering world. Ms. Tabei was a free-thinker and not one to be constrained by stereotypes. As the first woman to climb Mt. Everest, she energetically set about doing anything she could, involving herself in environmental conservation activities, clean-up hikes as well as environmental awareness education activities for youth. In 1991, the HAT-J also hosted an international symposium in Tokyo for Mountain Environmental Protection where Ms. Tabei was undaunted by the presence of the world’s top mountaineers such as Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner.
Still, Ms. Tabei’s position as a woman was what defined her central focus. She founded the ‘Mori no Josei Kaigi’ (Women’s Forest Conference), a group open to all working women, and later on ‘MJ Link’, a group for young women in the their 20’s to 40’s, who wanted to enjoy and learn more about the mountains. When an idea sprang to mind, she was able to gather people around her to create a team and was able to turn the idea into reality.
At the same time, she also had a good sense of humor and a fun side to her. One early afternoon, after attending a party with her friends, Ms. Tabei announced,
“I want to sing chansons1!” and went about organizing a chanson concert at a small hotel in Tokyo, complete with a stage, elaborate dresses and wigs. The first of such concerts was in December 2005 and was called “Chanson Evening – Women Who Fear Nothing”. I was invited to her concerts every year and by the third concert, I was compelled to write a story about these women’s lives. Upon contacting Ms. Tabei, she answered, “That sounds like fun. Let’s do it.”
And later she thought, “Why don’t we write a book about it?” This is how ‘Women Who Fear Nothing’ became a book.”
I would like to clarify now, that the show was definitely entertaining her singing was phenomenal as well! ‘Junko Tabei and the Women Who Fear Nothing’ took place once a year at local venues and continued for 12 years.
Even though Ms. Tabei was full of energy and seemed to be doing well, in the early spring of 2012, she fell ill. She was diagnosed with malignant cancer. She was admitted into hospital and started treatment. However, as one would expect, Ms. Tabei insisted on keeping busy and scheduled her cancer treatment around her mountain climbing activities. Always positive and brave, she didn’t reveal her fears and worries, often saying “I’m sick but I’m not going to be a sick person”. She remained energetic and kept her illness a secret as to not to worry the people around her.
Once a year, during the cherry blossom viewing season, she got together with her old classmates from her hometown, Miharu City to hold a cherry blossom viewing party. They brought locally grown ‘fukimiso’ (butterbur sprout pickled in miso paste) and had a party at her office. My office was close to hers at the time and she often invited me to join her and her friends in the festivities. They spoke in their local Fukushima dialect and had so much fun that they laughed until tears rolled down their faces. No one at the party including myself knew this but that year, Ms. Tabei came from the hospital and went straight back to the hospital after the party. She didn’t tell any of us she was sick because she didn’t want us to worry. Ms. Tabei was just that kind of person.
I’d like to recount another story. One day when I received a phone call from her something seemed to be wrong.
“Ang Tshering Sherpa died” she said.
Not much could sway Ms. Tabei but that day she was unusually upset. I too had climbed with Ang Tshering a long time ago during a trip to Everest Base Camp during which I wrote an article. I think I had mentioned this to Ms. Tabei before and she had remembered this and contacted me to inform me about Ang Tshering’s death. He had died of cancer and this probably deeply affected her as she too was stuggling with the same disease. Ms. Tabei went to Kathmandu to see his wife. She told me that Ang Tshering’s wife cried and was so happy to see her. This is just how warm-hearted and kind Ms. Tabei was.
In April 2014, I received an invitation from Ms. Tabei.
“Would you like to go see the Taki Sakura (waterfall cherry blossoms) in Miharu?”
The Taki Sakura located in Ms. Tabei’s hometown of Miharu, is a single massive cherry tree considered to be one of Japan’s top three famous cherry trees. It is an ancient, majestic tree that was named for the cherry blossoms that hung down from its branches like a waterfall.
“But you know what? I prefer the cherry blossoms in Oshiroyama” she explained as she led me through the long row of cherry blossom trees in Oshiroyama where she had spent her elementary school days. Even though the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, it was drizzling that day and with no one else around, the atmosphere was serene and beautiful. We strolled to Fukuju-ji temple where she had spent her childhood days playing and the Nitanuma wetlands to see the mizubasho (white skunk cabbage). These were among her favorite places. I could almost hear Ms. Tabei saying to us, “I don’t have much time left but I wanted to show you these places before I go.”
Ms. Tabei’s very last mountain was a hike up Mt. Fuji with a group of high school students from Tohoku who had been suffered through the earthquake and tsunami disasters that struck Northern Japan.
“I want these students to climb Mt. Fuji. By doing this, the mountain will give them the energy and the will power needed to overcome their struggles and help them in their recovery ten years down the road.”
It was the fifth trip since the Mt. Fuji programme for the Tohoku high school students began in 2012. Despite her illness, Ms. Tabei went to Mt. Fuji to encourage the students. While she only managed to climb up to the 7th station, she met the students on their way back down at the 6th station and shook hands with each and every one of them, congratulating them for their successful summit of Mt. Fuji. Ms. Tabei’s goal was to continue this program until 1000 students had climbed Mt. Fuji. In order to do this, the students themselves have committed to completing this mission.
Ms. Tabei continued to climb one step at a time. She continued to climb mountains throughout her life and she always followed through in what she believed in. Although she’s no longer with us, the way she lived will continue to be an inspiration to us all.
(Translated by Pauline Kitamura)
(1930 – 2016)
Nick Clinch (Harish Kapadia)
Nicholas Bayard Clinch III was born in Evanston, Illinois, on 9 November 1930. Nick grew up mainly in Dallas, with high school years at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, influenced by his father’s and grandfather’s careers in the military. His father was a pilot and colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
A number of Nick’s pre-teen summers were spent at Cheley Camps near Estes Park, Colorado. There, as junior counselors, our lives intersected and our lifelong friendship began. We were both 16, our birthdays three days apart.
Nick received a B.A. in political science from Stanford University in 1952, followed by a law degree three years later. His education superseded classrooms, as his muse became the mountains that he shared with other members of the Stanford Mountaineering Club and the Sierra Club. Their playground took them from the Sierra and Yosemite to the Coast Range of British Columbia in 1954 and the Cordillera Blanca of Peru in 1955. After graduating from law school, Nick put in a stint with the U.S. Air Force, based in Iceland; he retired to the reserves as a major in 1957, setting the stage for a future life of mountain exploration.
In 1958, Nick collected some friends and acquaintances to pull off the first ascent of Gasherbrum I (a.k.a. Hidden Peak, 8068 m) in the Karakoram, the only one of the 8000-m peaks first ascended by Americans (Kauffman and Schoening). With his appetite for expedition organizing whetted, Nick was back to the Karakoram in 1960, now, “having done the high one, to attempt the hard one.” This was Masherbrum (7821 m). I was invited to come along as climber and doc, my first big expedition experience. With no lack of thrills and spills, Willi Unsoeld and George Bell pulled off Masherbrum’s first ascent, followed a couple of days later by Nick and Pakistani teammate Jawed Akhter Khan in a 24-hour saga that tapped the depths of Nick’s reserves. They topped out as the sun set on K2, then descended through a moonlit night. Nick was never a physically strong climber, but this climb is testimonial to uncommon tenacity and skill.
In 1966, 50 years ago, the American Alpine Club asked Nick to fuse competing teams from the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast into a unified effort to attempt the first ascent of Antarctica’s highest peak. The expedition not only made the first ascent of Mt. Vinson, it then proceeded to top off about everything else in sight, including the committing ascent of Mt. Tyree by Barry Corbet and John Evans.
Eight years later, the now ‘over 40 gang’ (Clinch, Dick Emerson, Hornbein, but without Unsoeld, who was guiding a circumnavigation of Nanga Parbat) planned a ‘family’ expedition to the Karakoram with wives and a couple of able offspring. The mountaineering goal was to climb Paiju, a beautiful peak at the bottom of the Baltoro glacier, followed by an exploratory first crossing southward out of the Baltoro. We aborted our attempt on Paiju after the death of a Pakistani teammate in a fall then wended our way up the Baltoro and Yermamendu glaciers and over the Masherbrum la, descending upon the surprised citizens of the last village on our Masherbrum approach 14 years earlier.
The expedition to Ulugh Muztagh, in 1985, was perhaps the most exotic and certainly the most remote of all of Nick’s creations. He and Bob Bates consulted with Eric Shipton on the biggest unexplored blank left on Earth’s maps. With Nixon’s opening of communication with China, this expedition became the first joint Chinese-American mountaineering effort. Ulugh Muztagh is a mountain in the Kunlun Range south of the Takla Makan Desert, first spotted by Saint George and Teresa Littledale in 1895 during their attempt to reach Lhasa in Tibet. They reported its height to be about 7620 m, possibly the highest volcano on earth. The major challenge, even a century later, was simply to reach its base over hundreds of miles of roadless high-altitude desert. Bates, trained by Brad Washburn, measured its altitude as 6973 m and our two MIT geology types decreed it not a volcano. Annual precipitation was but a few mm a year.
When the team arrived at base camp, they were greeted by a mountain of hard ice and incipient crevasses. Ulugh Muztagh was modestly steep and very cold, even to Clinch and Schoening, veterans of the Vinson Massif. One unique element of the expedition was the political dynamic between the Han military commander of a team of athletic, inexperienced young climbers from Xingjian interacting with a laid-back team of consensus-seeking Americans, a poorly miscible clash of cultures. Five young Chinese, supported from the highest camp by Schoening and me, attained the summit. They opted for a night descent by a way that seemed less steep. Two of the climbers fell, sliding long distances down the ice, sustaining moderate injuries and immoderate frostbite. The Americans then gave up their own summit aspirations to rescue and treat the two injured climbers. Upon returning to Urumchi, the success was celebrated, and, with a modicum of disbelief, the concern by the Westerners giving up their summit to aid the two injured Chinese was duly appreciated.
With Ulugh Muztagh, Nick and team had so endeared themselves to their Chinese hosts that they were pretty much given carte blanche to return, freed from the bureaucratic hassle faced by most expeditions. Nick had found a photo in a 1926 National Geographic depicting an alluring peak named Kangkarpo, rising above the Mekong River where it descends from the Tibetan Plateau and cuts through the Himalaya toward the Indian Ocean. The first two of four trips to the range targeted its highest summit, Kangkarpo (Meili), with an altitude of 6740 m. Attempts in the spring of 1988 and fall of 1989 were turned back by a surfeit of snow falling both from the sky and, potentially, the slopes above. Two more trips to more modest objectives in the area in the early 1990s met with fascinating exploration and similar outcomes. Kangkarpo remains unclimbed. These were the final chapters of Nick’s expedition-creating life.
Nick became a member of the American Alpine Club in 1954, at a time when it took nominations by two members and no blackballs. He went on to serve as its president from 1968 to 1970. Nick was a visionary who saw the need for the AAC to transition from an exclusive club to a national organization and voice for American mountaineering. It took a decade of patient planning to finally open membership to all comers, during the term of his partner-in-change, Jim McCarthy, as president. Nick brought not only vision but also patient backroom plotting to this evolution. He had an uncommon gift of unassuming and caring leadership. Bill Putnam, in a 2011 presentation to the AAC board, referred to past presidents, “…the very best of whom is seated right down here, Nicholas Bayard Clinch, in my opinion of our history—adjusted for inflation of both dollars and egos—the club’s foremost expedition leader, wisest counselor, and greatest benefactor.”
Nick was always there for others and nurtured many younger climbers. Quietly, he was always plotting how to effect change in a way the old guard could accept. This was a role he loved to play, not only within the AAC but also during his terms as a board member at REI, and, I suspect, during his time as executive director of the Sierra Club Foundation.
Another outcome of Nick’s vision and priceless negotiating skills was the creation of the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch in 1970. Here, Nick was in his element, seeking and obtaining enthusiastic support from his friend Horace Albright, former head of the National Park Service, to convince then-head George Hartzog and others that this was too good an opportunity to let pass. It is fitting that the club opted at its annual meeting in 2017 to name the ranch’s main building the Nicholas B. Clinch Historic Lodge.
Along with many expedition accounts and other writings, Nick was the author of two books, A Walk in the Sky, published 24 years after the ascent of Hidden Peak in 1968, and with his, wife Betsy, Through a Land of Extremes: The Littledales of Central Asia, published in 2008.
Nick had a gift for storytelling and inexhaustible (and at times exhausting) humour, which served to shield his inner dreams and doubts. The only one I knew who could outdo Nick as a talker was Betsy. Once I was visiting Palo Alto home when their planned book on the Littledale explorers was still gestating. Their detective work in finding Littledale archives was extraordinary, and mostly Betsy’s doing, enabled by her years as a National Geographic Society researcher before they met. Late one evening I asked a question. About an hour later, after midnight, as I snuck away to bed unnoticed, they were still totally absorbed in intense exchange with each other. When Nick was in Seattle for REI board meetings, he stayed with my wife, Kathy, and me. Sometimes, when I was out of town, she would find herself listening to Nick’s tales (not always for the first time) as she brushed her teeth, he leaning on the bathroom doorjamb.
Nick died from an untreatable sarcoma of a leg. On November 30, in full dress uniform, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his father and grandfather. Nick, among many other things, was a quiet patriot who believed in his country as well as its and the world’s wild places.
Nicholas Clinch was Honorary member of The Himalayan Club.
This obituary is printed with permission from Dr Tom Hornbein and Dougald McDonald Editor, AAC.
(1943 – 2016)
Alas, another one of the climbing world’s great characters, not to mention an author, film-maker and artist, has gone.
My first encounter with Jim took place at The Moon, a popular meeting pub for climbers in Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire in those far-off days of more relaxed drinking and driving laws. It was Paul Nunn who introduced me to his art lecturer companion, modishly rigged out, with flared jeans, long hair and drooping moustache. Happily, it was to be the first of many meetings, all of which were fun.
Jim Curran (Harish Kapadia)
Jim’s early life was spent in Ealing, London. It was while he was at school there that he made his first visit to southern sandstone in the rather unlikely and highly private Chiddingly Wood. It was a visit that changed his life and started his lifelong love affair with climbing.
Jim came from a cultured family. Both parents were musicians, as is his younger brother Phil. Jim’s talent was for art : he started his artistic studies at Ealing Art School. His passion for climbing was at first satisfied by weekends on southern sandstone, which inevitably led to holidays in North Wales then further afield to the Pyrenees, Dolomites and Western Alps. His progress as a climber was slow but sure.
After his degree, Jim did his teaching training in Manchester where he met his first wife, Ali. He quickly decided to dodge the drudgery of school teaching and successfully applied for a lecturing post at Rotherham Art College. It was a happy move. He found a house in Sheffield, a city to which he was to become closely attached and where he became the father of two lovely girls; his love of Derbyshire and its gritstone edges continued to grow.
In 1970, fearing that his Rotherham post was to be a victim of educational reforms, he applied to be a lecturer on the foundational course at Bristol Polytechnic. This marked the beginning of a long and rather unsettled time for Jim as he shuttled endlessly between Bristol and Sheffield. At first, he was not entirely happy in his new post; his marriage broke down. He entered a period of self-doubt and uneasy depression.
Life brightened when Jim took a postgraduate course in filmmaking in Sheffield; once again he had found an art from that excited him, a form of creativity that he could happily combine with his love of climbing. His first film, made with Tony Riley, was A Great Effort, a version of Menlove Edwards’ classic essay. He film was well received. Jim and Tony then offered to make a film of our second and successful Trango expedition, joining Joe Brown, Mo Anthoine, Malcolm Howells and me. It was a joyful trip, with much laughter and good companionship.
It was a pity that the film, which could have been a minor classic, was largely ruined by fogging of so much of their crucial footage that it had to be abandoned. The film might have been spoiled but Jim made amends by demonstrating another of his great talents by writing Trango : The Nameless Tower. It was to be the first of several fluent and entertaining books.
For the next few years Jim concentrated his efforts on film and in 1979 made his first really significant film, The Bat, based on an article by Robin Smith about a first ascent on Ben Nevis, once again made with Tony Riley, and with Brian Hall and Rab Carrington, respectively, acting as Smith and Dougal Haston. It was a satisfying and intense film, which premiered at the first Kendal Mountain Film Festival in 1980. Jim co-created the festival with Brian Hall and John Porter, an event that instantly achieved cult status. The story of the first attempt to screen the film – see below – is both funny and typical of the chaos that occasionally accompanied Jim’s greatest successes.
A succession of expedition films followed; in 1981 he recorded the ascent of Kongur with Chris Bonington, Alan Rouse, Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker. His friendship with Alan Rouse led to his filming on K2 in the terrible season of 1986. After its sequence of disasters and death, Jim was persuaded to write K2, Triumph and Tragedy, which many consider his outstanding work. The tragedy was heartfelt, since it included the loss of one of his best friends, Al Rouse.
He followed this with a history, K2 : The Story of the Savage Mountain, which won the non-fiction prize at Banff Mountain Festival, and High Achiever, a biography of his friend Chris Bonington. There was a collection of essays, Suspended Sentences, and an account of his epic cycle ride from Muckle Flugga to Land’s End, The Middle-Aged Mountaineer. His last and in my opinion best book was Here, There and Everywhere, a memoir which gives an honest and, as ever, amusing account of his life, loves, tragedies, and climbs.
Throughout his years of lecturing, filming, making elegant and witty after-dinner speeches and writing about climbing, it is a wonder that he has any time for recreational climbing, but Jim had a capacity for hard work when it was necessary. His film-making continues apace with trips to St Kilda and the Caucasus, where he climber Elbrus. He filmed for TV and made an Emmy award-winning film of Catherine Destivelle soloing the Old Man of Hoy. He twice filmed on Everest, in the Anders, the Atlas and Tibet. He also filmed an Anglo-Indian expedition to Kinnaur with Chris Bonington, Paul Nunn and Jim Fotheringham, among others. His final two expeditions were to Sepu Kangri in Tibet with Chris Bonington.
Jim was proud of his achievements. Equally, he could be sensitive to sniping and unjust criticism. He was not unnaturally deeply hurt not to have won the Boardman Tasker prize despite being shortlisted no fewer than five times. With typically self-deprecating humour, he shrugged off his disappointment, which was only partly assuaged by receiving a Boardman Tasker lifetime award in 2014. He was less inclined to dismiss what he considered a damaging slight to his safety as a climber when Jim Perrin named him (perhaps light-heartedly, perhaps not) as one of his worst climbing partners. He was not alone in this category but it so happened that all the others were dead. There followed an unpleasant and protracted legal battle perhaps best forgotten.
Throughout Jim’s many trips abroad he maintained his love of rock climbing. He was a safe and determined rock climber who never realized the dizzy heights of the highest standards, but that did not matter to him. He was always a reliable second, ready to have a go, and he managed to climb many fine routes with a grace that belied his large size.
Size was to become a problem in later years as he began to suffer with his joints, in particular his knee. The lack of mobility led to an increase in weight and the end of his rock climbing. Following knee replacement he suffered all manned of distressing illnesses.
His demise as a rock climber was not all bad news, since it allowed him to revive his artistic talent. He had long yearned to return to his art; now he had the time to devote to it. The subjects of his paintings were largely the mountains and landscapes of his life. He produced a bold series of architectural works of Trango, Mount Kenya and notably the mountains around Sella in Spain. He exhibited his work in the Alpine Club in 2004 and finally in his Sheffield studio in 2014. For his last exhibition there, opened by Chris Bonington, he miraculously recovered sufficiently to leave his hospital bed to make his customary welcoming speech.
His last set of paintings was appropriately a homage to his first climbs on sandstone. He painted some large oils of High Rocks and a series of very good, delicate watercolours that capture the rocks to perfection.
Jim was always a delightful companion. He made many warm and lasting friendships and it is remarkable how long some of these go back, not least to the late Steve Durkin, his companion on his first climbs. He was perhaps less lucky with his romantic liaisons. His second marriage to Lorraine came to naught, but despite his chequered love life he always remained a devoted father to his daughters, Gemma and Becky.
Jim’s last years were a torment of ill health and stays in hospital. We visited him several times there when he was at death’s door. Amazingly, he would recover sufficiently to put aside his breathing mask and crack a joke so that one left with a smile. Jim never did give in easily; he was determined to die in his own home. Thankfully he did, peacefully, with his daughters at his side.
Jim may have considered himself a jack-of-all-trades but he was a man of enormous talent. His achievements will last. He will be much missed.
It is difficult to know from the many stories about and by him, which best illustrates Jim’s spirit, a kind of self-deprecating sarcasm. In perfect tune with this spirit, Maggie Body quipped : ‘Jim would have been most impressed that Chris Bonington spent the second day of his honeymoon at his funeral.’
The story of the premiere of The Bat at the Kendal Film Festival has taken on the proportions of an epic for those of us who attended it. It was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon in October 1980 on the United Church just up from the Brewery Arts Centre. The church held around 400, the largest venue in Kendal in those days. First thing on Saturday morning, a team of local climbers clambered onto the roof to cover all the windows with sheets of black plastic while others fitted up the church balcony as the projection box. All worked very well during the morning programme. But unknown to us, including Jim, the church’s usual vicar had not told his replacement that the church had been rented for the whole weekend. ‘Vicar Two’ arrived around 11:30 a.m. to prepare for a 12:30 p.m. wedding and found a congregation of climbers occupying his church. Brian Hall and I told him : ‘No problem, we’ll sort it.’ We didn’t dare tell Jim.
At noon, the film programme finished. As the audience headed for the pub, we went into action. One team took down the clack plastic, another picked up the empties from under the pews and others helped install the flowers. As the first of the wedding party arrived, everything looked just about normal. The wedding took place on schedule, and as the bride and groom left, up went the lads with the black plastic. By 2:00 p.m., the church was again full of climbers shuffling expectantly in anticipation of Jim’s much-heralded new film. Ten minutes later, Jim arrived with his precious spool, which was taken up to the balcony where out half-blind projectionist was waiting to thread the film. Jim gave a brief introduction, then shouted up : ‘Roll ’em!’
The screen spluttered into life with the initial credits – but something was wrong: with only minutes to re-install the blackout plastic, some of the sheets were already slipping off and light was creeping onto the screen, which by now had begun to show the opening credits out of focus. Everyone remained silent, in the hope that situation would sort itself out, when there was a mighty shout : ‘Stop! That’s enough!’ looking down from the balcony, I saw Jim emerge, arms waving in fury in all directions, but particularly towards us standing at the projector. ‘This isn’t good enough! This isn’t good enough! My film is not being shown in f*****g abysmal conditions! That’s the end of it!’ Jim carried on for some time, lambasting the state of our world and everyone in it. There was a murmur of approval and the congregation took Jim’s side.
‘Okay, Jim!’ Brian shouted down in his best Mr Fixit voice, ‘we’ll sort it out and show the film this evening.’ The drama ended and the congregation filed out, unexpectedly entertained by Jim rather than his film.
We patched up the church blackout and managed to complete the screening of the afternoon film programme. At 7:00 p.m., the church was more than packed with a crowd wondering what might happen next. With a new projectionist, and extra care, the film was shown in focus with audible gasps and cheers at the end.
The film clearly added something completely new to the climbing-movie genre. At the close, Jim stood at the front of the church to take applause and cheers, a day none of us ever forgot, and a special moment for Jim.
These Obituaries are printed with permission from the author and editor Ed Douglas, The Alpine Journal 2016.
(1926 – 2017)
Born in London in 1926, Warwick was educated at Montessori infant’s school and local prep schools until 1939 when he joined Stamford School, Lincolnshire. Both his father and mother were mobilized for the emergency. The school was evacuated to Wales in 1941 due to the Blitz. He had worked as a Bicycle Messenger Boy during the early part of the Blitz.
It was here in Wales that he was introduced to and discovered an affinity with wild places. Aged 17, he quit school and joined the Royal Marines. He gained his Green Beret and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Dispatched to the Far East, the atom bomb stopped the war and he was appointed OIC (Officer-in-Charge) Suspected Japanese War Criminals at Stanley Prison, Hong Kong. He also had a spell in command of small boat anti opium patrols from Cheong Cheow Island, before opting for Demobilization in 1947.
Garry Weare HLS Australia (left) with Warwick Deacock
Civvy Street did not appeal to Warwick and, unsettled by his service experiences, he spent three years in a variety of ways including Chauffeur Des Camion (heavy truck driver) in France, which paid for sailing and climbing experiences. Missing the comradeship, he re-joined the Regular Army with the Middlesex Regiment, known as the Die Hards.
He had many interesting appointments including the Command of the Ski and Mountain School of the British troops in Austria and a spell seconded to the French Foreign Legion in Indo China. His sporting involvement included army representative selection at Rugby Union, athletics and boxing; additionally he found time to enjoy hockey, basketball, water polo, shooting, botany, photography, filming and writing.
He maintained contact with exploration, visiting wild country in Alaska, Arctic Lapland, the Karakoram and Himalaya, as a result he with a friend were instrumental in establishing ‘Adventure Training’ in all three British Services. Tedium had no chance as he volunteered for the Parachute Regiment and served with Airborne Selection Company. On return to the UK to carry the Queen’s Colours at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, he heard that Everest had been summited by Hillary and Tenzing and decided that ‘expeditioning’ was the path he should follow.
At this time he married Antonia Fransisca Van den Bos, a South African born architect, and was also asked by John Hunt (team leader of the successful Everest expedition) to assist in setting up the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. In 1956 he volunteered for the SAS, undertook three patrols on deep penetration in Northern Malaya, then was suddenly moved to the Oman. He was second in command of a squadron in that ‘Kiplingesque’ war; it was when he discovered that he was actually fighting a force of CIA trained Omani Nationalists trained in the Yemen that he came to the conclusion that he had been put in a stupid situation and, having just made Major, resigned his commission.
In 1958, as a member of a combined (British/Pakistani) Services Expedition, and after successfully completing the first ascent of Mt Rakaposhi in Pakistan, Warwick crossed the border to India to meet Antonia and spend a few days walking with her in the mountains of Lahaul, before she and two other ‘expedition wives’ (making up the Women’s Overland Himalayan Expedition) continued to Padam in the remote and seldom visited region of Zanskar to climb a virgin peak (her book No Purdah in Padam tells the story). Warwick marked this meeting and those days walking in Northern India, as the ‘birth of trekking’.
He migrated to Australia with Antonia and daughter Kate (12 weeks old) in 1959. His task in Australia was to establish the Australian Outward Bound School at Fisherman’s Bend on the Hawkesbury River in NSW and during this period he was also involved in the establishment of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Australia. When his three-year contract with Outward Bound expired he went to Heard Island as an Assistant Scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division. This trip culminated in an attempt to ascend Big Ben but after five days pinned down by a blizzard near the summit, followed by two nights in an ice cave, Warwick and his two companions finally managed to retreat from the mountain. With the leader suffering from frostbite they then had to traverse nine glaciers with no equipment and sparse food.
On his return to Australia, with Antonia, Kate and new son Nick, he decided to drive around Australia in a VW Kombi van. In possession of an eight square feet sheet of canvas, two billy cans and 100 pounds in the bank, Warwick worked his way round Australia as a way of ‘de-pommifying and ‘fairdinkumising’ himself! During the trip Warwick undertook a Survey of Leisure Interests and Recreation and spoke to anyone who stood still long enough! The report was later presented to then Governor General Lord de L’Isle.
It was as a gravedigger, in Katherine NT, that he decided to go back to Heard Island for another crack at Big Ben. He organized a private expedition using the Patanela, a 63-foot gaff rigged schooner. He invited Sir Edmund Hillary to be Patron, and H.W. (Bill) Tilman to skipper the boat. He managed to raise 86,000 pounds in nine months to finance this 10,500 nautical mile trip. In addition to a variety of scientific, medical, zoological and botanical studies, he and four others achieved the first summiting of Big Ben. The book The Sea and The Snow and a BBC TV film shot by Warwick gave accounts of the trip. To Warwick this vividly demonstrated that “You CAN do things for yourself with drive, initiative and teamwork”. Whilst leader of this expedition (also acting as cook) he reflected on his ‘Leisure Survey’ and on his return he started his own company.
On returning to the mainland, in 1965 Warwick registered Warwick Deacock Enterprises. Purchasing 80 acres of unspoilt bushland in the Kangaroo Valley south of Sydney, Antonia designed and, with a team of friends, Warwick built an experimental leisure centre which he named Chakola (an aboriginal word for Lyre Bird) and organized holiday camps for school children. He later had the property gazetted a Wild Life Refuge (No. 207). At the same time he established Ausventure - Australia’s (and one of the worlds) first specific ‘Adventure Travel’ company. From 1966 he organized and led commercial walking and snow craft groups in Tasmania, the Australian Alps, Fiji, New Guinea and the Himalaya.
So there was no chance of tunnel vision, he became Founding Secretary of the Australian Conservation Foundation in Canberra and also re-invented himself as a Human Relations Consultant to work with Rupert Murdoch (one of the sponsors of the Heard expedition). For five years he had a film/talk segment on the ABC TV show On the Inside. He wrote articles for money and, on occasion to make ends meet, swept the public bar at the Spit Bridge Hotel.
Warwick organized the first commercial Australian trek to the Himalaya in 1967 and the first Australian climbing expedition to Nepal in 1975, but later withdrew from organizing commercial mountaineering expeditions as he felt it too dangerous for paying customers. Through his company Ausventure he developed close contacts with Nepal, becoming Honorary Consul General for Nepal from 1978-88, covering the King’s visit from Nepal for the Australian Bicentennial. He also arranged two ‘Personal development’ 10 day courses for business; later Experiential Learning evolved at Chakola, created by Derek Lucas, an ex Royal Marine.
In 1980, Warwick organized a private expedition to attempt the ascent of Annapurna III in Nepal; Lady Luck was out and an avalanche buried five of the seven climbers, with three dying. The expedition was abandoned and on his return to Australia delayed shock set in. Antonia suggested a visit to friends in Brisbane and it was these friends who introduced them to Maleny in the Glasshouse mountains. They purchased a one-acre block, ultimately building a second home there in 1989.
Through the 1970’s and 80’s Warwick was frequently away leading trekking and tour groups to the Himalayan regions of Nepal and Kashmir, Africa, South America and many other places. He was an active member of the Himalayan Club2 and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, and was involved for many years in various conservation3, recreation and adventure travel organizations worldwide.
After his retirement in 1992 Warwick found much to keep him active, serving on the Council of the Royal Geographic Society Queensland and introducing a series of ‘Geo Opinions’. He also accepted the position of Patron of Youth Challenge Australia and worked as a volunteer eco-tourism advisor for AESOP (Australian Expert Overseas Programme), undertaking two projects in Thailand.
In 2010, with Antonia in failing health, they relocated back to Sydney to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Soon after Antonia’s death (in March 2012) Warwick built a demountable ‘eco yurt’ and lived in the bush at Chakola for six months, before settling back in Sydney’s northern beaches at the RSL Anzac village complex.
Warwick returned to Nepal twice more – first to attend the wedding of Lhakpa Tsering who, with his brother, Warwick and Antonia had helped put through school after the death of their father; and again in 2015 to attend the inauguration of a water filtration and distribution project built by Lhakpa near Lukla in the Everest National Park. He twice visited Oamaru in New Zealand to reunite with his Heard Island expedition mates.
In December 2016 Warwick celebrated his 90th birthday with family and friends. In late March 2017 he visited Chakola to inspect bush regeneration and weed eradication work done by Nick under the auspices of a grant from the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, spent a couple of nights in his eco-yurt and enjoyed a meal at the local bistro where he waxed lyrical about many things close to his heart.
Sadly, Warwick suffered a stroke and died peacefully on 3rd April 2017 with Kate, Nick and Nick’s family at bedside. He had remained active and enthusiastic until the end, sitting with a dram of his favourite evening wine beside him and no doubt planning new adventures at the close of day.
Warwick is survived by his daughter Kate and son Nick, and their children Damien and Maya Deacock and Lotte Newton.
Warwick received his share of awards and rated the following three highly :
Royal Geographic Society J P Thompson Medal for Exploration in 1992 in recognition of his Original Botanical Transect of the Gibson Desert by camel;
Australian Geographic Society Adventurer of the Year Gold Medal in 1993 for A Lifetime of Adventure and the Inspiration Given to Many Others;
Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997 for Service to Conservation and the Environment in particular Chakola Wild Life Refuge, Kangaroo Valley, NSW.
EDDIE VANN WITH NICK DEACOCK
(1941 – 2016)
In the early 1970s, an editor at the publisher Hart-Davis, MacGibbon phoned the climber and magazine editor Ken Wilson with a proposition. A rather dry German mountaineering book of selected climbs had been doing well. Would Wilson do something similar in Britain? His response was typical, both for its directness and its vision: “You won’t want to do the kind of book I would like.” But Wilson, who has died aged 75, got his way, and in 1974 published Hard Rock, among the most influential climbing books of the 20th century.
For what was essentially a collection of illustrated essays by different authors about the best rock climbs in Britain, Wilson – thanks to his boundless energy and already considerable reputation as a guiding force in the climbing world – was able to attract leading climbers such as Chris Bonington and Royal Robbins, as well as the best climbing writers, including Jim Perrin and Ed Drummond. He even got an essay from Al Alvarez. As Wilson had promised, the book made no concessions to the uninitiated. He knew his audience inside out, had an apparently limitless appetite for work and had no time for the kind of sensationalized froth many of his competitors traded in. Authenticity was key and his customers loved him for it. Ultimately, he helped shape the world he was describing.
Wilson followed Hard Rock with a string of similar titles, and with the book distributor Ken Vickers launched a publishing house, Diadem, which they later sold to Hodder & Stoughton. Following Hodder’s merger with Headline, Wilson left and started again with a new company, Bâton Wicks. His speciality was the compendium. Mountaineering suits the shorter essay, and Wilson produced two fat volumes of them, editing the first, The Games Climbers Play (1978). He then published collections of the work of past heroes, particularly of the great exploratory mountaineers of the 1930s, Eric Shipton and HW Tilman, as well as the environmentalist John Muir.
Having started climbing and walking with the scouts in the early 1950s, Wilson had a firm understanding of the British hill-walking world, and published books for it that had all the depth of knowledge and integrity of those he produced on mountaineering. They were equally popular not least Irvine Butterfield’s The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland (1986) and several collaborations with the walking writer Richard Gilbert. You could hardly be a hill walker or climber in Britain without having one of Wilson’s books on your shelves.
He was born in Solihull, son of John, a stationery salesman, and his wife, Blanche (nee Colman), and after leaving Solihull school studied architecture and photography at Birmingham College of Art. He moved to London and spent four years working for the architectural photographer Henk Snoek. When a job came up running a Youth Hostel Association magazine called Mountain Craft, he saw a chance.
By then Wilson had been climbing and walking for 15 years, starting with a holiday in the Lake District in 1953, the year Everest was climbed. He had grown up with the future communist organizer Dave Cook, and the two had the mountains in common. They went to the Alps together for the first time on a Mountaineering Association course, climbing 19 peaks around Arolla. Although never a leading light, Wilson climbed a number of impressive alpine routes, including the Younggrat on the Breithorn.
In the 1960s, he was a charismatic force in the cool, young climbing scene that developed in Llanberis, north Wales. Competitive, boisterous and opinionated, Wilson was a shrewd observer of the talent around him. When he took over Mountain Craft, it very quickly became a natural platform to share his passion and use his connections. He soon bought the magazine, changed its name to Mountain, and re-launched it with a fresh new design that caught the mood of a rapidly changing world.
Through the 70s, Wilson maintained a network of correspondents around the world and for a while Mountain was the international forum for all things mountaineering. For all his ebullient confidence, Wilson was remarkably open and collegiate, a firebrand preacher who ran a very broad church, matching lofty overviews of the Himalayan scene with satirical takes on the pomposity of its stars by Tom Patey and the brilliant cartoonist Sheridan Anderson. The magazine had serious journalistic credentials, too, exposing fraudulent climbers and producing exemplary coverage of the Cairngorm tragedy in 1971 when six young people perished in a storm.
On top of all this, Wilson was immersed in the hurly-burly of climbing politics, with an occasionally Machiavellian relish, campaigning for women to join the Climbers’ Club, sitting on committees of the British Mountaineering Council, advising guidebook writers, steering policy and all the while making his strong opinions known to succeeding generations of new stars about the ethical direction his beloved mountaineering should take. It made him, in many ways, a conscience of the sport.
He met his wife, Gloria, living in north London in the mid-1960s. They married in 1971, had two sons, Andrew and Owen, and moved to Cheshire. They all survive him.
(Reprinted from The Guardian of 28th June 2016 with permission)
Ken Wilson was a life member of The Himalayan Club
(1941 – 2016)
Col Amit Roy
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling was passing through its most turbulent period when Colonel Amit Roy took over as its Principal in early 1986. The bespectacled, suave and efficient officer from Corps of Signals, saw to it that all training courses of the institute were conducted successfully and according to schedule. He completed his tenure with flying colours even as the ‘queen of the hill stations’ was experiencing violence because of the ‘Gorkhaland’ agitation.
Born at Patna, the capital of Bihar in 1941, Roy studied in Patna and then in Bhagalpur before joining the Indian Army as a commissioned officer in 1963. His love for adventure steered him towards mountaineering and the Army provided him the necessary impetus and opportunities to pursue this sport.
Roy successfully completed his mountaineering training from HMI Darjeeling. During training he climbed Bidhan peak and thereafter participated in many high altitude treks and expeditions. As a member of Army expeditions, he climbed Gangotri I and Brammah in Kashmir Himalaya. Col Roy led the Corps of Signal’s expeditions to the Kinner Kailash massif and Chaukhamba I. He also trekked in Australia and reached the top of Mt. Ngourahoe and Mt. Ruapehu in North Island, New Zealand.
During his tenure at HMI, he had to oversee the Tenzing Norgay’s funeral – the Sherpa whose first ascent of Everest, with Edmund Hillary in1953 prompted the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, to set up Asia’s first mountaineering training institute in Darjeeling. Mountaineers from India and abroad including Sir Edmund Hillary converged upon Darjeeling to pay their last respects to the ‘Man of Everest’. Col Roy organized the event very efficiently.
After finishing his tenure at the HMI, Roy was returned to an Army unit in 1990 and served there till his retirement in 1997. He then served Indian Mountaineering Foundation as its Director for a couple of years. He was associated with the Delhi-based Himalayan Environment Trust for some time. He also served as Principal of the West Bengal Mountaineering and Adventure Institute under the Youth Services Department of Government of West Bengal for five years.
Roy was elected a member of the governing council of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for a number of years during which he served it as its Honorary Secretary, Chairman of the East Zone Sport Climbing Committee and National Chairman of the Sport Climbing Committee of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. Roy also represented India at UIAA meetings.
During April 2016 Roy was rendered him invalid as a result of cerebral episodes. He passed away on 8 November the same year. He is survived by wife Rupa, and two married daughters.
Colonel Roy received a Chief of Army Staff Commendation for participating in rescue missions in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides being a member of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Darjeeling and the Himalayan Club, he was a Fellow of Royal Geographical Society. He will be sorely missed in Indian mountaineering institutions as a strategist and organizer.
(1966 – 2016)
Goutam Ghosh, one of the most dedicated climbers of his time, was an associate member of Indian Mountaineering Foundation and took part in many IMF expeditions. As a police officer, he had led the police parade in West Bengal on numerous occasions and was the recipient of the Special Service Medal.
His interest in mountaineering grew after doing a rock-climbing course in Sushunia Hills, Bankura. Then he attended basic and advance mountaineering training at HMI, Darjeeling, and the Search and Rescue course at NIM, Uttarkashi.
Goutam Ghosh became member of the Himalayan Club in 2003. He was part of the core team which Meher Mehta built to take activities of the section to the next level. He was a classic example of an ordinary man reaching extraordinary heights (pun intended) by taking his passion for mountaineering to near madness. Often people avoided him because he would steer any discussion on any topic towards a mountaineering conclusion. While discussing mountains, this soft spoken ASI of the Kolkata police would transform into a super energized person. This passion resulted in more than 30 expeditions with 14 summits, numerous treks, countless rock climbing courses, few rescue operations and even a cycle expedition to Bangladesh. His major expeditions included Everest, Satopanth, Changuch, Nilkanth, Kamet, Trisul I and II, Papsura, Dharamsura and Chaukhamba amongst others.
Apart from his family, his colleagues and organization helped him to pursue his passion. Along with Rudra Prasad Halder, he continued The Himalayan Club, Kolkata section’s connection with the police force and Everest. This connection had first started with Col John Hunt, who was first posted at Noakhali and then at Kharagpur as Superintendent of Police.
Goutam’s first Everest expedition was with NIM in 2009, led by Col M M Masood (now Brigadier), he reached a height of 7200 m. He was injured in an avalanche on Lhotse face. In spite of his injury, he saved the life of another climber, a policeman from Europe, who later presented him with his police helmet as a token of gratitude. Sadly, no one was there to save Goutam this time and lots of questions remain unanswered. News reports declared that “two men—identified as Paresh Nath and Goutam Ghosh—were near the summit of the 8848-m mountain on 21 May when they lost contact with the rest of their team. Rescuers later found Nath’s body near the South Col, at 8000 m and marking the beginning of the ‘death zone’. Ghosh’s body was also spotted the same day on the Balcony—a mid-way stop between the South Col and the summit, before strong winds forced back rescuers…”
Today, when false summit claims are becoming a norm, I remember an expedition to Chandra Parvat in 2003 organized by the Summiteers. The team initially reached a high point and declared it to be the summit. Later, when they realized their mistake, in an organized slide-show, they declared that fact. The leader of the expedition was Goutam Ghosh.
There are mountaineers of this era, in this part of the world who are probably technically sounder, better climbers, more knowledgeable than he was, but there are few who have a group of junior climbers that claim him as their guru.
He went early, somehow forgetting by Ed Viesturs’ advice, “It is a round trip, getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” We will all miss you Goutamda, rest in peace in a place that was very close to your heart - Everest.
Sushunia hills under Bankura district of West Bengal is often compared to Fontainebleau near Paris. As many of the noted alpinists in France had their initiations on the boulders of Fontainebleau, a number of climbers from West Bengal, who later reached the top of some of the eight thousanders, started on the rocks and boulders of Sushunia.
So it was quite natural for Subhas Paul, who was born and brought up in Bankura, to join a rock climbing course at Sushunia in 1997 when he was in his mid-twenties.
Subhas completed his basic and advanced mountaineering courses from HMI, Darjeeling in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He also completed Search and Rescue from NIM, Uttarkashi and Method of Instruction from HMI, both during 2003.
Despite living in a far flung district and pursuing a tough job of a truck driver for living, it was Subhas's love and interest for adventure which drew him to different Himalayan expeditions. He climbed many peaks including Mt. Kharcha and Frey Peak. While attending different mountaineering courses and participating in expeditions, he heard much about Mt. Everest. Soon his interest also turned on the world's highest mountain and he started thinking about an attempt to reach its top.
Subhas Pal on Everest
The Youth Services Department of West Bengal government provided some financial assistance and drawing support fi-om different sources, Subhas joined the guided climb to Mt. Everest through an agency in 2014. As luck would have it, their venture was called off after the death of the Sherpas on Khumbu ice fall which forced him to turn back.
But Paresh did not give up and drew all his resources to make another attempt on Everest in 2016.It is reported that to arrange the necessary finance Paresh had to sell the small truck he owned and some other properties. Finally his long cherished dream to scale Mt. Everest fructified - but at the cost of his own life.
On 20 May night Subhas also set out from South Col for the summit along with three other climbers from West Bengal – Gautam Ghosh, Paresh Nath and and Suneeta Hazra. Unlike others in the group, Subhas achieved his goal of climbing Everest and then somehow managed to return to South Col. But while descending to Camp III from South Col next day, Subhas, who was reported to be totally exhausted, breathed his last near the ‘Geneva Spur’.
It was indeed a rare case where a climber in a guided attempt on Everest through oft- repeated South East ridge route died below South Col while returning from successful ascent of the peak which indicates a lack of coordination between the climber and the agency he engaged.
Paresh Nath, a resident of Durgapur in West Bengal, lost his right hand below the elbow at a very young age following a fire accident.
But his indomitable spirit for adventure led Paresh into the world of mountaineering. His quest for climbing began after he first joined a rock climbing course in 1985. Despite his handicap Paresh’s passion for adventure grew and he completed Basic and Advanced Mountaineering Courses from JIM, Pahalgam and HMI, Darjeeling respectively. He also completed Method of Instruction (MOI) training from JIM.
Paresh joined several mountaineering expeditions, many of them as the leader and summiteer. Notable among these include Kedarnath Dome, Chandra Parvat, Gangotri II, Gangstang, Rubalkang, KR 5 and CB 13.
Like many others, Paresh’s wish to scale Everest came true with financial assistance from West Bengal Government and he went in 2014 through an agency in Nepal. Like Subhas and others, Pal also had to come back from Base Camp after death of Sherpas in an avalanche on Khumbu ice fall.
Paresh, who used to run a small adventure equipment shop for a living, planned to make another attempt when the Nepal government opened the peak for pre-monsoon season of 2016. With help from different organizations in Durgapur where he lived and drawing whatever resources he had, never-say-die Paresh, at the age of 53, again went to Everest. But his ultimate dream remained unfulfilled as he breathed his last about 100 metres above South Col while returning from an unsuccessful attempt to reach the top.
Subhas and Paresh are survived by their spouses, who are housewives with school going children. Both families are now in dire need of financial support for their sustenance and children’s education.