Entity Type:
Smith, Walter Parry Haskett- (1859-1946)
Smith, Walter Parry Haskett- (1859-1946)
Although Haskett-Smith was not the first person to go rock-climbing, he is usually credited with inventing the modern concept of the sport. In essence, he had the radical idea of not bothering to go all the way to the top of a mountain after making a climb. Rather, he put the rock-climbing cart before the mountaineering horse of the day and decided it was much more fun simply to climb short English routes for their own sake, rather than merely as a bit of training before going on a European Alpine holiday. This paradigm-shift allowed gentlemen to start taking seriously British crags as sporting challenges in their own right. Conveniently, for the symbolic purposes beloved of historians, Haskett-Smith kicked off this era by climbing an iconic British landscape feature; Napes Needle, the 70ft rock spire which stands proud of the lower flanks of the Lakeland mountain, Great Gable. This momentous event in climbing history was undertaken solo in 1886. ‘I felt as small as a mouse climbing a milestone’, he said, after leaving his handkerchief fluttering from the ‘summit’ weighted by some stones to prove he’d done it. Haskett-Smith was also influential for writing the first climbing guide to British crags in 1894. In 1936, on the 50th anniversary of his historic ascent, he again climbed the Needle, aged 77. A large crowd of well wishers shouted up to him from the base of the climb, ‘Tell us a story’. ‘There is no other story’, he replied, ‘this is the top storey’. But in many ways, it was in fact just the first chapter.
Further reading: The First Tigers, Alan Hankinson, Dent, 1972; Lakeland’s Greatest Pioneers, Bill Birkett, Hale, 1983.
Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Smith, Walter Parry Haskett- (1859-1946)