Monday, 9 November 2009

Lakeland climbing

A couple of news snippets about Lakeland climbing caught my eye today. Firstly, in the Guardian's Country diary Tony Greenbank reminisces about climbing a streaming wet Kern Knotts Chimney with two people who worked for K shoes of Kendal, sometime in the 1950s. All very interesting, but he also mentions that K Shoes used to be called Somervell Bros, and that a family member was Howard Somervell, of Everest fame. An experienced alpine climber and surgeon, he joined both the 1922 and 1924 expeditions, and was a close friend of George Mallory.

Following the attempts on Everest, Somervell turned his back on a prestigious surgeon’s job in London and instead worked for nearly 40 years as a missionary doctor in South India before retiring to the English Lake District. His book, After Everest: The Experiences of a Mountaineer and Medical Missionary, is well respected and the following review appeared in the Manchester Guardian on January 5 1937.

Turning to an earlier climbing generation, UKClimbing features a story about Dave Birkett making a winter ascent of Botterill's Slab, a route high on Scafell, in the Lake District. When Fred Botterill put up the climb in 1903 it was one of the first to be graded Very Severe, a grade it still maintains today. Botterill's Slab, a film by Alison Stockwell, that re-creates the original climb can be seen here.

Sadly the Manchester Guardian didn't feature this first ascent but the period did see an incredible amount of reporting of the growing sport of rock climbing, a number of which are featured in On the Roof of the World.

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