Annual Report 2010

The key role of the Mountain Heritage Trust (MHT) is to ensure that British mountaineering’s fascinating heritage is preserved. Under our remit, artefacts, history and traditions are conserved, documented, made accessible and communicated to as wide an audience as possible. The Trust, now in its tenth year since being set up by the BMC, is chaired by author and historian Julie Summers and has several eminent mountaineers on its Board.

In 2010 the family of Joe Tasker generously donated Joe’s archive collection to MHT containing many fascinating outstanding photographs plus several artefacts including Joe’s very first ice hammer and axe, whilst the papers of Giles Barker and his audio interviews conducted as research for his history of climbing in the Peak District have been made available via web streaming on the Rock Archivist website. Exhibitions have been on show in Winchester, Ambleside, Kendal and also at the BMC office in Manchester.

Stoney Middleton, Peak District

Stoney Middleton, Peak District, 2009 © N Colton

MHT continues to develop partnership bids with Keswick Museum and the University of Cumbria to provide greater access and opportunities for display over the next twelve months.

Working with clubs continues apace with several having contacted MHT seeking advice on preservation and bequest issues. In particular the Polaris Club secured its collection of books belonging to J W Puttrell and kindly donated its journal collection to MHT.

The work of the MHT archivist, Maxine Willett includes;

  • Cataloguing artefacts and archive materials held by the Trust.
  • Compiling database records of all mountain heritage resources held in public or private domains.
  • Working with climbing clubs and other heritage organisations to ascertain historical holdings and advise on their preservation
  • Expanding the Trust’s archive.

If you know of any equipment, documents, papers, film, sound recordings or photographs which contribute to the history of British Mountains and Mountaineering, the Trust would like to hear from you.

During 2010 we continued with our outreach projects that celebrate the strength of MHT’s collections and the joint expertise of the trustees.

John Innerdale and Maxine Willett co-curated an excellent exhibition at the Kendal Museum which ran for four months from October. Entitled Everest the Hard Way it focussed on the Bonington expedition to Mount Everest in 1975, with contributions from many of the participants, including an excellent essay by Doug Scott. The exhibition, which was funded from the Heritage Lottery Fund grant secured for the Bonington archive, was well received and it is now ready to tour. We hope it will be used in the context of outreach projects planned for 2011.

MHT Adventure Summit

The inaugural Adventure Summit organised by MHT and University of Cumbria in February considered the nature of adventure (the lessons children learn when participating in Outward Bound activities and adventure holidays), the price of adventure (motivation, risk, tragedy and reward) and the paths of adventure (choices and dilemmas faced by mountaineers). The event featured Sir Chris Bonington and Doug Scott, Julie Summers and Adele Pennington who provided stimulating lectures, film screenings including that of the first ascent of the South Face of Annapurna in 1970 and discussions on psychology and attractions of adventure.

The second event, Mountains of Inspiration, was held during the Keswick Mountain Festival in May and considered how mountains shape art, literature and life. The event was hosted by Eric Robson and included interesting discussion topics proposed by Richard Leafe, Pamela Woof, Terry Gifford, Mark Heyward, Penny Lancaster and Charles Mitchell. The first session looked at the legacy of visual and literary arts inspired by the romantics up to the present day. The second session considered how this legacy had been turned into a major tourism and recreation industry, based on cultural heritage. The finale was a fascinating talk by Karen Darke entitled Outside In, which considered her internal responses to challenges that can’t be faced in a physical way.

MHT continues to be represented in the Our Sporting Life (OSL) exhibition, which is planned for 2012. Julie Summers, hired as an author for the project, is ensuring that mountaineering and climbing have a high profile and she is one of the five leading heritage Chairs within the organising committee. Whether a central London venue is found for 2012 remains a question but to date over 90 venues throughout the UK have signed up to take part in the OSL touring exhibitions during 2011 and 2012. MHT will have a presence in the core exhibition at each of these venues.

MHT’s negotiations with the University of Cumbria continue, despite the widely publicised problems that the university is having with funding at present. We continue to occupy a room in the library on the Ambleside Campus for storage of items.

After four focussed and dedicated years as Chair of MHT, Terry Gifford has stepped down but has kindly agreed to remain a trustee. Terry has been tireless in his efforts to raise the profile of mountain heritage and he is to be warmly thanked and applauded for the success he has had during his chairmanship. Of particular value is the academic respect he has achieved for MHT both within and without the University of Cumbria.

If any clubs require advice and guidance on capturing their history, either orally or in archive form, impartial advice is available from MHT Archivist Maxine Willett who has enormous experience in all aspects of archives, including oral history.