Mountain Heritage Trust (MHT) celebrated the end of its eleventh year with a hugely successful and enjoyable evening at the Royal Geographical Society entitled Triumph and Tragedy on the Eiger. Chris Bonington and Swiss speed climber, Ueli Steck, held an audience of over 700 spellbound for two hours as they each talked about their unique and personal experiences on the great North Wall. Chris reminded us of the terrible cost of climbing on the wall, dating back to the 1930s when the first serious attempts were made by continental climbers. His own triumph in 1962 was followed, four years later, by the tragedy of John Harlin’s death on the Eiger Direct. Ueli’s extraordinary record of 38 ascents of the North Wall, including his fastest climb in 2007 of 2 hours 47 minutes stands out as one of the great recent achievements within the history of climbing. Nothing could have underlined the relevance of caring for mountaineering’s great heritage more than hearing these two men speak of their role in the continuing history of Europe’s most famous north face.
This event, which raised over £10,000 for MHT through ticket sales and an auction, crowned a busy year during which MHT has sought to raise its profile and bring to a wider audience the value of the work we do. Two ‘Show us Your Nuts’ events at Kendal Mountain Festival gave us ample opportunity to present some material for handling and give visitors an opportunity to show us what they have in their collections and to seek advice from our highly qualified archivist, Maxine Willett.
We were thrilled that visitors brought a variety of items, such as Bentley Beetham’s watch from the 1924 Mount Everest Expedition. Links were established with the family of Charles Meade, the maker of a popular tent in its day. We were made aware of a large collection of mountaineering slides held locally and there were discussions concerning the climbing club local to Kendal – the K Fellfarers as well as the Polaris Club.
Underlining the relevance of MHT to the wider community, Maxine had enquiries at KMF from two students, both of whom visited ‘Show us Your Nuts’ twice. The first had recently joined Manchester University Mountaineering Club and was particularly interested in the journals we had brought along about this club dating from the 1940s and 1950s. The second was based at Northumbria University and was working on a clothing design project comparing changes in use of fabrics and construction of mountaineering clothing. He sent an email the next day:
‘I found your display and hearing about your work fascinating, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.’
KMF also provided Maxine with an opportunity to receive artefacts from Stephen Venables, two Don Whillans audio tapes from Paul Diffley, further artefacts which two visitors brought down from Hamish MacInnes and lastly to learn that the Bullshit books (featuring Alex Macintyre and his contemporaries from Leeds University) are safe in a private collection.
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. To help towards this we revamped and relaunched the MHT website in August www.mountain-heritage.org and the site has attracted considerable traffic. The first MHT newsletter was published on line in December and will appear half-yearly initially.
Maxine assists the SteepEdge web streaming initiative by encouraging film makers to include their films on the site and processes movement of films between the parties concerned. There are now 150 films on this site with others in the pipeline. It is proving to be very popular and a presence at the recent KMF boosted the number of visitors to the site.
MHT is pleased to report that Keswick Museum had been successful in its application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Final details are still being worked out but it is expected that building work will commence April 2012 with an opening for summer 2013 planned. MHT will be opening with an exhibition about Lakeland rock climbers to tie in with the Keswick link.
2011 saw donations of material from Jim Curran (Literary material comprising research notes and edited drafts for his autobiography Here, There and Everywhere, plus material for other books High Achiever, K2 and Trango Tower), Derek Gamble (Peck Climbing Equipment), Peter Gilman (Research papers re Julie Tullis, Alison Hargreaves, Collette Fleetwood, Anatoly Boukreev and the Everest Anthology), Barbara James (Journal collection), Hamish MacInnes (prototype terrodactyl and two oxygen cylinders used on Everest expeditions), Stephen Venables (a pair of crampons worn on Kishtwar Shivling and nailed boots worn by Sir Peter Holmes on Spiti) and Ken Wilson (Papers relating to unpublished novels and research papers for other climbing related books together with a sizeable collection of mountaineering journals) together with items relating to Yvon Chouinard (his own Chouinard ice hammer used on the Diamond Couloir, Mount Kenya, 1975) Johnnie Lees (film and slide material including related catalogue information plus other papers detailing climbs, correspondence and an article), Paul Nunn (administrative papers of Mountain magazine) and Tom Patey (the desk he used whilst working as a GP). Our sincere thanks to the donors for these most generous gifts.
MHT’s negotiations with the University of Cumbria continue and we hope that 2012 will bring some concrete developments that we will be able to report by next year. We continue to occupy a room in the library on the Ambleside Campus for storage of items.
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. 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.
MHT Trustees 2011
Julie Summers (Chair)
Sir Chris Bonington
Professor Terry Gifford
Dr Jerry Lovatt
John Porter (Secretary)
Doug Scott CBE (Vice Chair)
Mountain Heritage Trust
Station House, Ullswater Road
Tel: 01768 840911