Entity Type:
Whymper, Edward (1840-1911)
Whymper, Edward (1840-1911)
Edward Whymper perhaps did more than any other individual to first bring the sport of mountaineering to wide public prominence. He did this by (a) becoming fixated on the conquest of the ‘Everest’ of the day, The Matterhorn, (b) succeeding in climbing it (c) having a terrible accident on the way down in the company of an aristocrat (d) writing all about it in an interesting and engaging manner. It is clear that Whymper was into ‘direct route’ mountaineering as a means to career progression. Unlike most of his posh Alpine Club contemporaries, the lowly wood-engraver from London served no apprenticeship in climbing, instead flinging himself at unclimbed summits right from the word go. In fact, Whymper’s original ambition had been to become a polar explorer, inspired by the contemporary epic adventures being enacted in the Arctic by the Royal Navy. Quickly realising the impossibility of achieving this aim, he turned instead towards the more accessible ice and snow of The Alps. Typically ambitious, he aimed straightaway for the two highest unclimbed Alps of the day, the Weisshorn and the Matterhorn. Whymper dipped out on the Weisshorn (beaten to it by his great rival John Tyndall) forcing him to focus solely on the Big M. He succeeded in 1865, but at the cost of the deaths of three of his companions. The ascent and the ensuing media sensation over the deaths created the first global media mountaineering story. Although Whymper mostly avoided hard technical climbing after 1865, he explored mountains in South America and the Canadian Rockies. In 1871 he wrote Scrambles Amongst the Alps, a seminal book which inspired many others to begin writing about their mountaineering achievements.
Standout climbs: 1st British ascent of the Pelvoux; 1st ascent, Alps: Aiguille de la Sausse, Barre des Ecrins, Mont Dolent, Aiguille de Trelatete, Aiguille d’Argentiere, Grand Cornier, Aiguille Verte, Matterhorn; 1st ascent, Andes: Chimborazo, Sincholagua, Antisana, Cotopaxi; 1st ascent, Rockies: Mt Michell, Mt Whymper, Mt White, Mt Kerr, Mt Marpole, Isolated Peak, Mt des Poilus, Mt Collie, Trolltinder, Crowsnest Mountain.
Further reading: Scrambles Amongst the Alps, Edward Whymper, 1871
Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
Access Points:
Whymper, Edward (1840-1911)
Related Items:
B055 : The Ascent of the Matterhorn
Related Entities:
British Library, Department of Manuscripts
Cambridge University: Scott Polar Research Institute
Gloucestershire Archives
Natural History Museum
Royal Geographical Society
Sheffield Archives
The National Archives