Mountain Paths

Publication Year: 1950.

Mountain Paths, by H. E. G. Tyndale. Edited with an introduction by Arnold Lunn for “The New Alpine Library.” x + 208 pages, 15 illustrations. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1948. Price 12/6. This book is the final record of more than four decades of devotion to mountains, mountaineers and mountain literature. H. E. G. Tyndale began climbing about 1904, when he was a boy at Winchester; he was one of the brilliant “recruits” led into the mountains by R. L. G. Irving, then College Tutor. He was elected to the Alpine Club in 1909 and soon thereafter became the first President of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club. In the now legendary season of 1911, with Mr. Irving and George Mallory, he climbed in the Graians and then made the ascent of Mont Blanc by the eastern buttress of Mont Maudit. To the western Alps he returned time and again—a frank centrist, fond of such spots as Cogne, Arolla and Saas Fee, and content to climb a share of not particularly forbidding peaks. Occasionally he travelled eastward, to the Engadine or to the Julian Alps, whither he was drawn by his regard for Dr. Julius Kugy. Vacations over, he would resume his post at Winchester: he joined the teaching staff there soon after he took his degree at Oxford, and for nearly 25 years he was a house master. He edited and translated a number of well-known mountaineering books, and from 1938 until his death in 1948 he edited the Alpine Journal.

Naturally enough, there is a marked Winchester-and-A.C. air about Mountain Paths. Like certain other thoroughly engaging personal memoirs, the book will doubtless mean most to readers within the author’s own circle, but still mean much—very much—to others who, though of different backgrounds, share the same tastes. It is, after all, of no great consequence if one can not name, offhand, the “future Lord Chancellor” who told the A.C. about climbing the Martyrs’ Memorial and finding “that Cranmer’s head was loose,” or if one hears a good Wykehamist companion identified only as “the Bobber.” What matters is the lasting sense of the mountains’ power to enchant. Chapter VIII opens with a contrast between the Alpine styles of Coolidge (“accurate topography”) and Freshfield (“aesthetic impressions”). The quality of Mountain Paths itself is in large measure traceable to the author’s happy familiarity with Aeschylus and Horace, Milton and Browning, Bach and Mozart. I have it from one who has reason to know, having participated in some of the climbs described in Chapter XIX, that Tyndale was a teacher notonly by direction but by example. This book teaches (as it delights) by reminding us that a mountaineer need not have his sole joy in bagging peaks.

D. A. R., Jr.