Snow on the Equator

Mount Kenya, Kilimanjaro and the great African odyssey

Author: H.W. Tilman Sir Chris Bonington

Series title: H.W. Tilman: The Collected Edition

Paperback publication date: 01 Sep 2015

Paperback ISBN: 9781909461147

First published in 1937, Snow on the Equator chronicles H.W. Tilman’s early adventures; his transition from East African coffee planter to famed mountaineer.

'To those who went to the War straight from school and survived it, the problem of what to do afterwards was peculiarly difficult.' For H.W. 'Bill' Tilman, the solution lay in Africa: in gold prospecting, mountaineering and a 3,000-mile bicycle ride across the continent. Tilman was one of the greatest adventurers of his time, a pioneering climber and sailor who held exploration above all else. He made first ascents throughout the Himalaya, attempted Mount Everest, and sailed into the Arctic Circle. For Tilman, the goal was always to explore, to see new places, to discover rather than conquer. First published in 1937, Snow on the Equator chronicles Tilman's early adventures; his transition from East African coffee planter to famed mountaineer. After World War I, Tilman left for Africa, where he grew coffee, prospected for gold and met Eric Shipton, the two beginning their famed mountaineering partnership, traversing Mount Kenya and climbing Kilimanjaro and Ruwenzori. Tilman eventually left Africa in typically adventurous style via a 3,000-mile solo bicycle ride across the continent – all recounted here in splendidly funny style. Tilman is one of the greatest of all travel writers. His books are well-informed and keenly observed, concerned with places and people as much as summits and achievements. They are full of humour and anecdotes and are frequently hilarious. He is part of the great British tradition of comic writing and there is nobody else quite like him.

Harold William ‘Bill’ Tilman (1898–1977) was among the greatest adventurers of his time, a pioneering mountaineer and sailor who held exploration above all else. Tilman joined the army at seventeen and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery during WWI. After the war Tilman left for Africa, establishing himself as a coffee grower. He met Eric Shipton and began their famed mountaineering partnership, traversing Mount Kenya and climbing Kilimanjaro. Turning to the Himalaya, Tilman went on two Mount Everest expeditions, reaching 27,000 feet without oxygen in 1938. In 1936 he made the first ascent of Nanda Devi – the highest mountain climbed until 1950. He was the first European to climb in the remote Assam Himalaya, he delved into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor and he explored extensively in Nepal, all the while developing a mountaineering style characterised by its simplicity and emphasis on exploration. It was perhaps logical then that Tilman would eventually buy the pilot cutter Mischief – not with the intention of retiring from travelling, but to access remote mountains. For twenty-two years Tilman sailedMischief and her successors to Patagonia, where he crossed the vast ice cap, and to Baffin Island to make the first ascent of Mount Raleigh. He made trips to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the South Shetlands, before disappearing in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1977.

Born in 1934, Chris Bonington – mountaineer, writer, photographer and lecturer – started climbing at the age of sixteen in 1951. It has been his passion ever since. He made the first British ascent of the north face of the Eiger and led the expedition that made the first ascent of the south face of Annapurna, the biggest and most difficult climb in the Himalaya at the time. He went on to lead the expedition that made the first ascent of the south-west face of Everest in 1975, when Doug Scott and Dougal Haston became the first Britons to summit, and he reached the summit of Everest himself in 1985 with a Norwegian expedition. He has written seventeen books, fronted numerous television programmes and has lectured to the public and corporate audiences all over the world. He received a knighthood in 1996 for services to mountaineering, was president of the Council for National Parks for eight years, and is the non-executive chairman of Berghaus and a chancellor of Lancaster University.

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