Lure of the Mountains

The Life of Bentley Beetham, 1924 Everest Expedition Mountaineer

Series title:

Lure of the Mountains is the biography of photographer and 1924 Everest expedition member Bentley Beetham (1886 - 1963). Written by Michael D. Lowes, with a foreword by Graham Ratcliffe, it charts Beetham's life including the 1924 expedition on which Mallory and Irvine disappeared. Features over 30 of Beetham's photographs of Everest and Tibet.

Lure of the Mountains is the first published biography of accomplished photographer, ornithologist, teacher and 1924 Everest expedition member Bentley Beetham (1886–1963).

Written by the late Michael D. Lowes, a pupil of Beetham’s at Barnard Castle School in County Durham, and with a foreword by Graham Ratcliffe MBE, the first Briton to have summited Everest from both the North and South sides, and also a pupil of Barnard Castle School, Lure of the Mountains charts Beetham’s life from childhood in Darlington, to rock climbing in the Lake District and selection by the Mount Everest Committee as a member of the infamous and ill-fated 1924 Everest Expedition on which George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappeared high on the mountain.

Many of Beetham’s images, including those made on the 1924 expedition, were for over 25 years curated by Michael Lowes and are reproduced in this book with the kind permission of the Bentley Beetham Trust and Durham University. His images of Tibet are ‘an important historical record of Tibetan culture and a way of life that in modern times has rapidly begun to disappear’.

Beetham was a highly skilled rock climber and a pioneer of new routes in the Borrowdale Valley, where he established such notable climbs as Little Chamonix on Shepherd’s Crag, and Corvus on Raven Crag. The author, like many other pupils Beetham inspired, was introduced to climbing by his teacher in the Lake District on club trips, and over the years he became a valuable source of information and expert on Beetham’s life and work.

Michael Desmond Lowes (1930 - 2009) was born in County Durham and attended Barnard Castle School where he was taught by Bentley Beetham. Michael was a member of the Goldsborough Club which Beetham would take climbing in the Lake District, and many of Michael's interests mirrored those of Beetham. Apart from his academic career at Durham University, Michael researched and wrote local histories, and was fully involved in the local community in which he lived with Katherine, to whom he was married for 54 years. He was a talented illustrator and a natural teacher. Michael's first encounter with Beetham's photographic collection was as a boarding pupil in his House at Barnard Castle School. Once a year until his retirement, Beetham would present his memorable slide talk on the epic, but fateful, 1924 Everest Expedition. The photographs - almost one thousand ancient 31/4 x 31/4 plate glass slides - remained at Barnard Castle School when Beetham retired in 1950. They subsequently came into the possession of Michael's longstanding friend and fellow York House pupil, Kenneth King, in about 1979. Kenneth, chairman of the Old Barnardians' Club at the time, remained custodian of the slides until Michael took charge of them in the early eighties. Michael became chairman of the Old Barnardians' Club in 1981 - 82 and was a much respected figure. He was an invaluable source of information and spent considerable time over the next 25 years looking after, cataloguing and researching Beetham's slide collection. Realising the importance of the collection, he offered to put the entire collection onto 35mm negative film and from this produce a full set of positive slides. The work was begun in 1982 and was completed in 1987, with the assistance of the Durham University School of Education. As Michael was preparing to complete his book and seek help on how to publish it, he succumbed suddenly to a long term illness. However, he drew great comfort in his final days knowing that his labour of love would be accomplished.

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