Monday, 3 February 2014

Mountain Heritage Trust

Doug Scott's Boots
Copyright JEB
I blame Brian Blessed.  Back in the early 1990s I read “The Turquoise Mountain” which charts his attempt on Everest.  I’d only picked the book off the library shelves because the title appealed and I had a tendency to devour books on my regular train commute.  The title seemed to pull me away from the dull monotony of the Datchet to Richmond journey but I had no idea then quite how far it would pull me.

In the book he talked about the mystery of Mallory & Irvine and I was hooked.  As I dug out more books on the subject my interest broadened into mountain and exploration history in general, all of which goes some way to explaining why, some 20 years later, I found myself in Mountain Heritage Trust (MHT) HQ chatting to their Archivist, Maxine Willett.

I thought I had passion and enthusiasm  for the subject, but I quickly realised I’d met my match.  As we chatted about mountaineering history it was hard for me to stay focused on my mission, which was to find out more about just what MHT do.

Macinnes Ice Axe leaflet
Copyright MHT
MHT is a charity which relies on funds from the lottery and various fundraising events, its mission is to capture, collate and catalogue historical documents and artefacts relating to British Mountaineering history.  If I were to ask you to write down a list of British mountaineers within a minute or so you’d realise just how rich and impressive our mountaineering history is, and yet nowhere in this country is there a museum dedicated to celebrating the achievements of the men and women who led the world when it came to conquering the great outdoors.

The MHT relies on materials being donated, their budget doesn’t stretch to bidding in private auctions, but luckily their work is supported by a plethora of climbing greats from Sir Chris Bonington to Doug Scott and the family of Joe Tasker who recently donated a number of valuable items to the collection.

The aim of MHT is to pass on the passion by re-telling the adventures and achievements of our great climbers and encouraging and inspiring others as they embark on their own adventures.  They do this by working with schools, outdoors organisations, local museums and anyone else who wants to join them in their mission.  
Tricouni Nailed Boots
Copyright MHT

The Chorley-Hopkinson Mountaineering Library is housed in the National Trust property at Allan Bank as part of an ongoing working relationship between the two organisations, Additionally they currently have an exhibition at Keswick Museum which reflects on how the First World War affected a talented generation of climbers, personified by Siegfried Herford. In 1914, Herford had made the first ascent of Central Buttress on Scafell, one of the hardest climbs of the era, only to be tragically killed in 1916 aged 24. Also on display is the glass plate camera used by George and Ashley Abraham.

Their next exhibition, opening May 2015, is entitled ‘Kangchenjunga: Five Treasures of the High Snow’ and will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Kangchenjunga in 1955 by George Band and Joe Brown, one of our Patrons. It will also highlight the lightweight ascent in 1979 by Doug Scott, Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker.

There's more info on all the events here

In an increasingly digital age where information is everywhere in the form of blogs, emails and social media, it’s vital that the work of MHT is encouraged and supported as they piece together diaries, letters and other accounts that chart the many achievements in British mountaineering history.  Their goal is to one day have their own dedicated museum, with permanent exhibits and interactive displays where visitors can learn more about our rich history of adventure and achievement and I, for one, would love to be there when they do (and maybe if I ask nicely, they'll invite Brian Blessed along too.)

Dougal Haston's oxygen equipment used on ascent of Everest 1975
Copyright JEB

Copyright MHT

Super Charlet Ice Axe. Purchased by Jerry Smith in Chamonix in 1955 and used by him on his expedition to Ruwenzori (December 1955) and on first winter ascents of Parallel Buttress and the Black Spout Pinnacle on Lochnagar. Also possibly used on Antarctica expedition 1956-1958. Following Jerry Smith's death in 1959 the axe was used by Walter Dowlen (a close friend) for winter climbing in the Alps 1961, 1962 & 1964 including an ascent of Mont Blanc

Modern Ice Axe
Copyright MHT
Jeffcoat, Laycock, Thompson, Herford on Castle Naze c 1912- 13
Copyright unknown & any further information appreciated!

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