Entity Type:
Tilman, Harold William (1898-1978), known as Bill
Bill Tilman, who is often credited, along with his long-standing climbing partner Eric Shipton, in creating the original ‘lightweight expedition’ approach, was a remarkable man of action who continues to inspire generations of adventurers. Not only did he succeed in 1936 in attaining the highest peak then attained on Nanda Devi (despite suffering from altitude sickness), he fought in two World Wars and was parachuted behind enemy lines in the Balkans at the age of 45 to organise resistance to the Nazis. As he got older, rather than retiring to a well earned pipe and slippers rest, he turned to exploring the remoter mountains of the world using ancient sea-going barques, several of which sunk amongst ice-floes leading to major epics. To top it all, he was a wonderful, understated writer, describing his adventures with a wit so dry sparrows could bathe in it. Nevertheless Tilman had a reputation as a morose, misogynistic curmudgeon. The frequency with which his crews mutinied and jumped ship speaks volume for his particular brand of irascibility – it was clearly an acquired taste. Nevertheless, he inspired tremendous loyalty in others and is regarded by many as the last great hero of the twentieth century. As befits this status he died with his sea-boots on, disappearing without trace aged 80 (along with the boat and the rest of the crew) in the treacherous southern waters off Antarctica.

Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Tilman, Harold William (1898-1978), known as Bill