Entity Type:
Raeburn, Harold (1865-1926)
Raeburn, Harold (1865-1926)
Raeburn is generally regarded as the greatest pioneer in Scottish climbing. Responding to the ‘challenge’ from the first wave of early English climbers invading his native mountains in the 1890s, he quickly helped the Scottish redress the balance of first ascents, climbing the difficult Church Door Buttress on Glencoe’s Bidean nam Bian. From then on, his production of important new climbs, particularly on Ben Nevis, was regular. In 1906 he made the most advanced and audacious climb which had then been achieved in Scotland: the winter ascent of the steep ice couloir of Ben Nevis’s Green Gully (Grade IV), a climb of such difficulty that it would not be ascended regularly for another half-century. Such was his modesty, however, that the ascent was not fully recognised until the early 1970s. Raeburn was also a talented Alpinist; he made the first British guideless ascents of the Zmutt Ridge of the Matterhorn in 1906 and made nine new ascents in the Caucasus in 1913-14. After a difficult period during the Great War, being turned down from joining the Royal Flying Corps due to his age, he experienced a late Renaissance in his climbing career, making an extremely advanced winter ascent of Ben Nevis’s Observatory Ridge in 1920, and an attempt on Kangchenjunga which reached 6400m. Aged 54, he was selected as Climbing Leader for the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, but was taken ill and missed much of trip. Nevertheless, he still managed to reach 6700m. Sadly, this was the last hurrah of Raeburn’s climbing career, as his health broke down on his return to Britain.
Standout climbs: Church Door Buttress, Bidean nam Bian 1895; Douglas Boulder Direct, Ben Nevis 1896; The Castle, Ben Nevis, 1898, Observatory Ridge (solo), Ben Nevis, 1901; Observatory Buttress (solo), Ben Nevis, 1902; Raeburn’s Buttress, Ben Nevis, 1908, Observatory Ridge in winter, 1920; The Meije, Ecrins (first solo traverse, 1919).
Further reading: Mountaineering Art, Harold Raeburn, 1920
Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Raeburn, Harold (1865-1926)