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Stewart Green

Albert Mummery: A Thoroughly Modern 19th-Century Climber

By October 30, 2012

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Victorian mountaineer Albert Mummery (1855-1895) was simply one of the best climbers and mountaineers in the late 19th century, when climbing was still in its infancy. When you look at Mummery's life and climbing career from today's perspective, you realize that Albert was a man ahead of his times.

In the late 1800s, most people hired guides to take them to the mountaintops in the French Alps but Albert Mummery became an equal partner with his guides, often swapping leads up icy couloirs, or simply not hiring a guide and going on his own with competent friends. Mummery also did climbs that required technical skill and he sought out difficult routes. Again, he was a modern climber because he looked for those difficult routes on unclimbed peaks or up unclimbed buttresses.

Albert Mummery was a pioneering climber, whose ethic of climbing fast and light still resonates with today's alpinists. He was also a man who loved climbing and was both passionate and joyful about being in the mountains.

Albert described his climbing philosophy: "The true mountaineer is a wanderer...a man who loves to be where no human being has been before, who delights in gripping rocks that have previously never felt the touch of human fingers.... Equally, whether he succeeds or fails, he delights in the fun and jollity of the struggle. The gaunt bare slabs, the square precipitious steps and the black bulging ice of the gully, are the very breath of life to his being."

Read my new article Albert Mummery Profile: Famed British 19th-Century Climber to find out more about Mummery's interesting life and his attempt to climb Nanga Parbat, a dangerous 8,000-meter mountain in Nepal.

Buy Albert Mummery's classic book: My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus

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