Historical Rock Climbing Images

Page 8

More Early Images from the British Isles

Bhasteir Tooth
Bhasteir Tooth, Skye
Three climbers - two to the left
and below the obvious one.

Photo Abraham Bros   ca. 1910
Salisbury Crags

When is a foothold a hand"hold"?
Harold Raeburn on Salisbury Crags,
 Edinburgh, early 1900s


Central Buttress Scafell

Central Buttress of Scafell
Lowest Climber is in the Flake Crack
Photo Abraham Bros. ca. 1920

Herford on top of Flake Hereford's lead of the crack

Siegfried Herford
leading the famous
Flake Crack on the
Central Buttress, 1914.  (E1 = 5.9)
Photos G. S. Sansom

I placed the photo of Herford on top the Flake first because it is said he downclimbed the pitch before coming back to make its first ascent. Even then, combined tactics - like those the Germans used - were required. First, a loop of rope was placed high on the pitch around a chockstone, using shoulder stands. Failure ensued. The next day the party returned to make a another attempt. In the Fell & Rock Journal (1914), G. S. Samson writes: "We decided that combined tactics would be necessary, and accordingly ran a second rope through the loop. Herford tied on one rope and I on another, whilst Gibson and Holland manipulated the respective ropes. I followed Herford closely up the crack and hung on to the loop whilst he used my shoulders as footholds. Directly he vacated them I climbed three feet higher and hung on my hands from the top of the chockstone, whilst he again employed me as footholds, which are most sorely needed at this point, for the crack is practically holdless and overhangs about twenty degrees. A minute or two of severe struggling and he reached the top - to the great joy of all members of the party."  

S. Herford

Siegfried Herford entered climbing during H. M. Kelly's "4th Period", beginning 1903-1905, when British climbers moved away from ridges and gullies and onto slabs and walls. The ascent of Botterill's Slab [5.8] on Scafell in 1903 is the significant benchmark in this regard. (In Saxony, this period began approximately the same time - 1903 - with the ascent of Lokomotive Esse [5.6+] by Kunze and Perry-Smith).
Botterill on his slab

Fred Botterill on the first ascent
of his slab route 1903
Herford on the Scoop

Siegfried Herford
on the Scoop, Castle Naze ca. 1910   (5a = 5.9)
A  hyperactive child with a brilliant mind, at the age of 18 Herford entered Manchester University in 1909, excelling in mathematics and technical studies, eventually becoming one of the world's first aeronautical engineers. He also became Britain's most accomplished climber, reaching 5.9 levels or above before meeting a tragic end in 1916 in the chaos of the Great War. Siegfried enjoyed soloing, and was known to do risky leads - e.g., he made the first ascent of Ilam Rock [5.7], a crumbling limestone monstrosity hitherto "climbed" by throwing a rope over the top and going up hand over hand. [Read Siegfried Herford: an Edwardian Rock Climber (2000) by Keith Treacher]  

Herford took down-climbing and falling safely very seriously, and - as mentioned - actually climbed down the Flake Pitch before making its first ascent. "There is a small school which believes that some practice in falls is well worth having! Herford belonged to it, who practised long jumps down into boulders . . ." - Dorothy Pilley in Climbing days (1935).   

I would guess there was little difference between Herford and his close companions in Great Britain and Perry-Smith and Fehrmann and associates in Saxony with regard to levels of pure climbing difficulty during the period 1909 through 1916. Of course, the rock was quite different in the two regions, making a more informed comparison difficult. And the Germans were more accepting of artificial protection than the British, putting the latter at a disadvantage on very steep and exposed terrain.

Geoffrey Winthrop Young speaks to this issue when describing an experience in the Alps ca. 1928 in Mountains With A Difference (1951)". . . . Of late years the corner is often climbed direct, but with the technical aids of pegs and snap-rings. I cannot regret that such safety-first methods did not enter into our mountaineering philosophy. It is a neat problem of technique, to learn how to attach oneself safely if artificially to rock at any moment of doubt, of excessive difficulty or of prolonged climbing strain. But it can never be as fine a trainer of skill, or set such a premium upon good nerve, climbing prevision and mountain knowledge, as the judgments which we had to learn to make before we launched - or refused to launch - our merely human power of attachment upon any long passage of difficulty, of danger, or of excessive nervous demand."

Herford & Mallory

Siegfried Herford &
George Leigh Mallory

Pen-Y-Pass  1912
Photo Geoffrey Winthrop Young

Shoulder Stand ca. 1900

A Typical Shoulder Stand ca. 1900
Photo Abraham Bros


M. Dalton 1900

Dalton at age 33
Photo Mayson of Keswick
The Professor of Adventure , Millican Dalton (1867-1947), was an eccentric mountain guide who lived in caves in the Lakes District. Here, Dalton and friends get a bit of exercise after breakfast . . .  

(Thanks to Mathew Entwistle for bringing Dalton to my attention.)
Millican Dalton & Friends 1919
Left to Right: Millican Dalton, Arnold Barker, Madge Barker, unknown. Quarries near Castle Crag  1919
Photo Mabel Barker