That Untravelled World: An Autobiography (Legends and Lore)
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• One of the greatest explorers of the 20th century
• Shipton’s Everest explorations set the stage for its conquest by Edmund Hillary
Eric Shipton was an adventurer when adventure meant traveling to places for which no maps existed, scaling mountains whose heights were uncalculated, and encountering people whom no westerner had ever met. That Untravelled World, originally published in 1969, is his autobiography, written near the end of his career, when the passing of time had deepened his reflections on his many accomplishments and companions.
Shipton’s story begins with his early childhood, his first climbs in the Alps, his decision to be a coffee farmer rather than attend university, and his early climbs in Africa. He recounts his introduction to Bill Tilman, through a letter Tilman sent asking for advice about climbing Mount Kenya. This introduction lead to one of the most famous climbing partnerships in history—as bonded in pursuit of adventure as Holmes and Moriarty were in solving crimes.
In 1951 Shipton led an expedition to explore the south side of Everest. His small party of four (plus Sherpas) explored Everest’s Western Cwm to determine if the South Col could be climbed from there. In 1952, unable to get a permit to climb Everest, Shipton and his team climbed “eleven mountains between 21,000 and 23,000 feet, and a number of smaller peaks.” Shipton was expected to be named the leader of the momentous 1953 British Everest expedition but, surprisingly, John Hunt was chosen instead. Of the slight, Shipton wrote, “I had often deplored the exaggerated publicity accorded to Everest expeditions and the consequent distortion of values. Yet, when it came to the point, I was far from pleased to withdraw from this despised limelight; nor could I fool myself that it was only the manner of my rejection that I minded.”
So disappointed was Shipton in being overlooked to lead the Everest summit expedition that he left Britain for South America. He never again returned to the Himalaya yet, as this book reveals, his adventures were far from over.
skiing to be had. While the rest of my party lamented the fact, I was secretly delighted, for it provided both the excuse and the opportunity to climb. The village was dominated by a mountain called the Gross Lohner, 10,023 feet high, which I had noticed on the map before leaving England. Mid-winter, I realised, was not the time for mountaineering, nor did I suppose that I could tackle it alone; nevertheless, I had nursed a forlorn but passionate hope that I might find a way of climbing it. Now,
our surroundings. The Sherpas, whose appreciation of country was more practical than aesthetic, were particularly impressed with the extensive grass land, which, they thought, would provide unlimited grazing for yaks. The season was still early, and the flowers, though beautiful, were not yet so luxuriant as they had been lower down in the Rishi Ganga. We saw many herds of bharal (wild sheep) and though fresh meat would have been most welcome, I was not sorry that we had no rifle. Several long
his room in the early hours of the morning to get some sleep. Compared with the lovely unspoilt towns of Southern Sinkiang, I found Urumchi an ugly, sprawling place, combining the worst aspects of jerry-built Western architecture with the more squalid features of the Eastern way of life. We were entertained with great courtesy, provided with a car for drives into the country, taken to bathe in some nearby hot springs, to the Chinese opera and occasionally to see a Russian film at the
the birds often swam several hundred yards before catching their fish, the various teams became intermingled; but they always returned to their owners. They were unable to fly. Wolfgang Karfunkel was now living in Kunming, where he had found employment as a mechanic at a very meagre wage. He spent much of his spare time with us, particularly at week-ends; he was excellent company, disarmingly naïve, but always cheerful and enthusiastic for whatever entertainment was proposed. He introduced us to
inshore they could come to no harm. Though the current was swift enough to carry them a whole day’s march in a few hours, the water was smooth, and it was a long time since we had seen rapids, which in any case could always be heard from a long way off. With characteristic zeal, they set about preparing their voyage. Placing two inflated mattresses side by side, they fixed them firmly together by lashing a number of staves across them. Then, having made a couple of paddles from pieces of