Our expedition has been awarded a $ 1,600 Shipton-Tilman grant from Gore-tex®, for which we are deeply appreciative and grateful. The Shipton-Tilman grant (as the name suggests) is an annual grant set up to support expeditions that tackle their objectives in accordance with the lightweight, environmentally sound philosophy of the 20th-century British explorers and mountaineers Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman.
I am lucky to own a copy of the 1943 first edition of “Upon That Mountain” (pictured) by Eric Shipton, purchased for the princely sum of £10 from a second-hand bookshop in Llanberis. In it, Shipton discusses at length his involvement in various attempts to survey and climb Mount Everest in the 1930s – expeditions which were often expensive and extravagant affairs. Shipton explains that he did not see the need for 14 climbers, 170 porters and 400 pack animals to climb Mount Everest and outlines his view that 6 climbers and 30 porters would stand just as high a chance of success. He complains about the environmental cost of the large expeditions to Everest – the removal of so many local people and animals from agriculture would lead to food shortages in the area the following year. He also disapproved of the fact that cases of champagne were transported to base camp, and of the fact that the enormous financial efforts being put into climbing Everest and other 8,000m peaks were distracting the mountaineering community from the vast ranges of unexplored mountains that remained in the Himalaya.
In the next chapter of the book, entitled “Small Expeditions”, Shipton expounds his philosophy that mountain exploration should be conducted by small teams with exploratory objectives travelling and climbing in alpine style with a minimum of baggage. Shipton’s view was that an expedition with one climber is a small expedition, while an expedition with 3 climbers is a large expedition. To illustrate his philosophy, he describes in vivid detail his exploration of the Nanda Devi sanctuary in India with Bill Tilman in the 1930s.
Shipton’s views were not fashionable at the time, and ultimately led to him not being included as part of the expedition that successfully summited Mount Everest in 1953. However, 35 years after the deaths of Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman the merits of their lightweight, environmentally sound and exploratory style of expedition are now widely accepted. Gore-tex® award grants every year to expeditions that reflect Shipton and Tilman’s philosophy, and we have been lucky enough to be awarded one of these grants this year. Gore-tex® have also provided us with shiny new jackets for the trip which we tried out climbing the weekend before last (photos below). Unfortunately the weather was far too good to test out the waterproof properties of the jackets but I am sure the British weather will be back to its usual self soon.
I will finish with a quote from “Upon That Mountain” by Eric Shipton, at the start of Chapter IX, “Small Expeditions” – one of many passages from the book that could just as easily have been written today:
“One cannot wander far from the normal trade and tourist routes without being impressed by the enormous area of the earth’s surface still unexplored… The superficial observer is too apt to suppose that, because the South Pole has been reached the mysteries of the Antarctic Continent are all revealed, or to imagine that if Everest were climbed then there would be nothing more to discover in the Himalayas… But the detailed exploration of the world is very far from complete… Even a well-mapped area may be terra incognita to the botanist, the geologist, the zoologist, the archaeologist. There is no end to it.”
– Eric Shipton
Thanks very much to our friend Wilf Sargeant for being the photographer. In return Wilf gets a day climbing with Gore-tex®-sponsored athletes!