Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Coming up: Terry Gifford's portrait of mountain artist William Heaton Cooper

" Talk turned to Lining Crag in Borrowdale below which I had camped last year and discovered Heaton's routes on what he called in his autobiography, Mountain Painter, an 'insignificant piece of rock that no-one had bothered about.' How had he first come across it?
'For me,. the painting always came first. I had been painting in Langstrath one day in 1934 and I walked back down to Eagle Crag  to have a look at it. Further up Greenup Gill in the evening, I came across what I realised was a fine little crag. I soloed Greenup Arete that evening for fun. I liked the texture of the rock which seemed like Gimmer. I took Jim Cameron back two years later and we did Evening Wall. We just did these climbs for fun, you know, and then later Jim Cameron wrote them up."

"A rather different spirit from that of today?" I suggested.
"Oh yes, we didn't descend, for example, by an easy way off, or abseil, in our day. We climbed down the same or another climb. That's why lead climbers in our day did not fall. They didn't climb what they couldn't reverse. I think the art of climbing down is needed now, don't you, in world leaders for example? But I liked the last line of the poem you sent me about Evening Wall and the painter, In the evening of life amongst the crags.. I hope you weren't offended by that."
"Why should I be? I'm well past the evening. It must be nearly midnight. I can't live for ever!"

This Friday,respected UK climbing writer,Terry Gifford recalls a meeting with the remarkable Lakeland mountain artist-William Heaton Cooper.
The artist in question is the central figure in a Cumbrian mountain art dynasty which includes his father,the Victorian landscape painter Alfred Heaton Cooper and son Julian Heaton Cooper.