The Last Blue Mountain

The great Karakoram climbing tragedy

Author: Ralph Barker Ed Douglas John Emery

Series title:

Paperback publication date: 05 Mar 2020

Paperback ISBN: 9781912560424

The Last Blue Mountain is the heart-rending true story of the 1957 expedition to Mount Haramosh in the Karakoram range in Pakistan. An avalanche leaves four young climbers stranded in a snow basin, desperately endeavouring to avoid an icy grave. Ralph Barker's book is a mountaineering classic about friendship and fortitude in the face of tragedy.

‘When an accident occurs, something may emerge of lasting value, for the human spirit may rise to its greatest heights. This happened on Haramosh.’ The Last Blue Mountain is the heart-rending true story of the 1957 expedition to Mount Haramosh in the Karakoram range in Pakistan. With the summit beyond reach, four young climbers are about to return to camp. Their brief pause to enjoy the view and take photographs is interrupted by an avalanche which sweeps Bernard Jillott and John Emery hundreds of feet down the mountain into a snow basin. Miraculously, they both survive the fall. Rae Culbert and Tony Streather risk their own lives to rescue their friends, only to become stranded alongside them. The group’s efforts to return to safety are increasingly desperate, hampered by injury, exhaustion and the loss of vital climbing gear. Against the odds, Jillott and Emery manage to climb out of the snow basin and head for camp, hoping to reach food, water and assistance in time to save themselves and their companions from an icy grave. But another cruel twist of fate awaits them. An acclaimed mountaineering classic in the same genre as Joe Simpson's Touching the Void, Ralph Barker’s The Last Blue Mountain is an epic tale of friendship and fortitude in the face of tragedy.

Ralph Barker was born in Middlesex in 1917. He joined the editorial staff of Sporting Life in 1934 and later went into banking. He had some early success as a writer, and several of his sketches were performed at the Windmill Theatre. In 1940 he joined the RAF as a wireless operator and air gunner. After completing his training, he served with torpedo bomber squadrons, taking part in dangerous missions to attack ships bringing supplies to German forces. He left the RAF in 1946 to return to banking, but rejoined two years later. He went on to broadcast with the British Forces Network and work for the Air Ministry. Barker began to establish himself as a serious author on RAF subjects and his first book, Down in the Drink, was published in 1955. This was followed in 1957 by The Ship-Busters, inspired by his wartime experiences. He was subsequently invited to write The Last Blue Mountain, which was first published in 1959. He retired as a flight lieutenant in 1961 and became a full-time writer. Cricket was Barker’s lifelong passion, and he played for the RAF and various Surrey clubs. His first cricket book, Ten Great Innings, was published in 1964, followed in 1967 by Ten Great Bowlers. Barker continued to write non-fiction titles on mainly aviation, survival and cricketing themes, including a compendium of England–Australia Test matches and authoritative histories of the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. His final book, Men of the Bombers, was published in 2005. He died in 2011.

Ed Douglas has been climbing for over thirty-five years and has been a writer and editor for the last thirty. He launched the magazine On The Edge while at university in Manchester, and has published eight books about mountains and their people. His books include biographies of Tenzing Norgay, rock-climbing visionary Ben Moon and the late British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves. His ghostwritten autobiography of Ron Fawcett, Rock Athlete, won the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature in 2010. Three of the essays in The Magician’s Glass were either shortlisted for or won at the Banff Mountain Book Festival in Canada. Douglas’s journalistic work most often appears in The Observer and The Guardian. He is the current editor of the Alpine Journal and lives in Sheffield with his wife Kate. They have two grown-up children.

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