Geroge Finch with his prototype oxygen set Photo: Alpine Club

Geroge Finch with his prototype oxygen set Photo: Alpine Club

The present overcrowding and controversy surrounding Everest shouldn’t blind us to the fact that up until not so long ago, Everest, Denali and other big mountains were significant challenges by any route that demanded the highest skill and dedication from climbers. This important year of anniversaries of the first ascent of Mount Everest 50 years ago and the first American ascent of the mountain 60 years ago, and the centennial of the first ascent of Denali provide an opportunity to reflect on where mountaineering and climbing have come from and what they originally meant for climbers. Everyone loves old climbing photos and the opportunity to see not just the climbers but some of their equipment helps to put their efforts in perspective. Two exhibitions, one at the Alpine Club in London England, and one curated online by Jonathon Waterman for the American Alpine Club, shed light on the early attempts on Everest and Denali respectively.

Primitive Alaskan crampons Photo: American Alpine Club

Primitive Alaskan crampons Photo: American Alpine Club

Any climber can be inspired by the ingenuity, pluck and endurance of the earliest alpine athletes. A similar exhibition of the Canadian attempts and eventual successes on Logan or Everest would make a fascinating display. Perhaps the 2025 centennial of the first ascent of Mount Logan would be a good occasion for that?

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