Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Coming up: Ken Smith's portrait of Bentley Beetham

Bentley Beetham: Photo courtesy of the Beetham collection: Durham University

" After the 1921 and 1922 Everest expeditions another team was assembled in 1924 and Beetham accepted an invitation to join the party Short,muscular and designed to go the distance Beetham, seemingly oblivious to pain and discomfort, was known as a tenancious mountaineer. It was probably Somevell , a member of the 1922 expedition, who recommended him. Under the leadership of General Bruce, the nine climbers included Somervell, Norton, Odell, Noel, and Mallory.

 The expedition was particularly unlucky experiencing some of the worst weather for 30 years and with leading members struck down with illness. General Bruce was forced to return to Darjeeling after contracting malaria and Beetham developed a serious stomach infection during the walk in. Noel later wrote, 'Beetham, who is one of the stoutest men of the Alpine Club — a man with a marvel of pace and endurance on the mountains. A climbing companion who Somervell himself could not outrival in the Alps nearly died of dysentery But such was the strength of his constitution and determi­nation that he was able to go on...'
Later, Beetham developed an acute attack of sciatica and did not get higher than Camp 3. In Somervell's opinion he would certainly have been a contender for the summit. But it was not to be. After Norton and Somervell, who were forced to turn back less than 300ft below the summit, Irvine and Mallory made their ill-fated attempt and were never seen again. A memorial cairn was built, at Base Camp, on which Beetham carved an epitaph to those who lost their lives in the 1921-23 and 24 expeditions — the Chinese destroyed the monument after their occupation of Tibet.'

This Friday,Footless Crow welcomes acclaimed outdoor writer and author of numerous insightful climbing biographies,Ken Smith on board.
In the first of a regular series of articles about those UK climbers and mountaineers who have helped shape the sport,Ken offers a revealing and in depth overview of the life and times of Bentley Beetham. A Cumbrian schoolteacher who opened up and developed the beautiful 'Jaws of Borrowdale' as a popular climbing venue but who was also,an active mountaineer in the greater ranges. Perhaps best remembered as being a key member of the legendary 1924 'Mallory' Everest expedition.