That Untravelled World, An Autobiography, by Eric Shipton. London:
Hodder and Stoughton, 1969. 286 pages, 16 plates of photographs, line
illustrations by Biro, 6 maps and end papers. Price: 45 S.
“The springs of enchantment lie within ourselves: they arise from our sense of wonder.”
These are the words of the greatest mountain explorer of this century, Eric Shipton, a man who is not only unpretentious and a philosopher, but one who has seen more than his share of “antres vast and deserts idle, rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven.” Travel in his early years led to a love of the outdoors, and that in turn to climbing. By the time he was accepted at Cambridge, he had already proved himself in the Alps, but his plan to study geology was so scorned in his college interview that he gave up the idea – and university too – and headed to East Africa to become a planter.
Here in his spare time he quickly began to climb again, making a brilliant route on Kenya with Wyn Harris, and doing sensational climbing with the then inexperienced Bill Tilman. These led to his climb of Kamet in 1931, the highest summit then reached, and to his selection on subsequent Everest expeditions. Naturally he fell in love with the Himalayas and their exploration. In turn there followed his brilliant discovery of a route in to the Sanctuary of Nanda Devi, and then the fascinating Shaksgam Expedition, north of K2, probably the most exciting exploration of his career. One must mention also his other explorations in the Karakoram just before World War II, and his government service at Kashgar and Kunming. Later came his forcing of the Khumbu Icefall to open the route to Everest, his discovery and photographs of the tracks of a strange animal (Yeti?) on the Menlung La, and extensive explorations in Patagonia.
This mild, kindly, unmaterialistic man is equally at home in a Sherpa house, a tent in a Patagonian blizzard or a waterless volcano crater on an unexplored island in the Galapagos chain. No matter how chaotic the circumstances, he meets them with common sense and action, and usually is even able to find a spare moment to brew a pot of tea. There is only one Eric Shipton, perhaps the last of the great travellers on our planet. All of us with a sense of wonder, all would-be explorers (and who of us is not), can now share his life story, and with him climb uncrossed passes and peaks without a name. This is a must book for any mountain library.
Robert H. Bates