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Crowley, Edward Alexander, (1875-1947), known as Aleister
Crowley, Edward Alexander, (1875-1947), known as Aleister
Crowley is one of the more memorable characters of British mountaineering history – for all the wrong reasons. Hopelessly addicted to self-publicity and opiates, he also dabbled in the occult, styling himself the ‘Great Beast 666’. As well as his fondness for sacrificing cats and goats, his reputation for notoriety soared when he set up a bohemian hippy-style commune in Sicily which advocated 1960s-style ‘free love’. The only problem was that this was in the 1920s. The tabloid press had a field day, dubbing him ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’. In pure mountaineering terms, Crowley is significant as one of the pioneers of Himalayan climbing, being a member of the first expeditions to attempt the second and third highest peaks in the world, K2 and Kangchenjunga. These expeditions were, predictably, a bit of a disaster. At one point on K2 Crowley chased off a team member at gun point after an argument, and when an avalanche killed three porters and injured two climbers on Kangchenjunga, Crowley famously remained sipping tea in his sleeping bag, despite the audibility of their cries. ‘Not that I was over-anxious in the circumstances to render help. A mountain “accident” of this sort is one of things for which I have no sympathy whatever.’ Nevertheless, Crowley was clearly a handy climber. He was one of the Wasdale Head regulars during its heyday (making a new route up Napes Needle) and pioneered climbing on the chalk cliffs of Beachy Head. He was also one of the first climbers to explore Mexican volcanoes, climbing Popocatapetl in 1900.
Further reading: The Beast Demystified, Roger Hutchinson, Mainstream, 1998

2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Crowley, Edward Alexander, (1875-1947), known as Aleister