© tony astill

Mount Everest : The Reconnaissance 1935 by Tony Astill


Mount Everest 1935 Books: Eric Shipton: Mountaineering books for sale

Best book of Mountaineering History won the James Monroe Thorington award.
Banff Mountain Festival 2006 - order from £35 (signed £45)

A very handsome book which largely consists of contemporary diary extracts, linked by his own commentaries, fills the half-century gap in the Everest record and brings the whole enterprise vividly to life. It all makes compelling mountain reading, courtesy of Tony Astill - Jan Morris, The Times - BLESS HER!

Dense, authoritative and entertaining, is beautifully produced - a worthy conclusion to such a sustained and enthusiastic effort - Jim Perrin

The Forgotten Adventure is a heroic recounting in absorbing and fascinating detail, intimately told, romantic, seat-of-your-pants tale of 1930's exploratory mountaineering - and the rest IS history - Ed Webster, American Alpine Journal

1935 Mount Everest Reconniassance Expedition by Tony Astill

In 1921 the first expedition to Mount Everest was a reconnaissance led by Lieut.-Col. C.K. Howard-Bury and in 1935 there was another similar exploration of the mountain and the surrounding country.

Mount Everest books are usually written by the expedition leader. For the first time, the story of this important, although previously little known, British Mount Everest expedition is told using the diaries and reports of the team members. This new book now completes the history of Everest exploration by filling the gap, so long empty, on the shelves of libraries and mountaineering collections. The foreword is by Lord Hunt of Llanfair Waterdine, who led the successful 1953 expedition, with an introduction by Sir Edmund Hillary and an appreciation by Dr. Charles Clarke, Chairman of The Mount Everest Foundation.

This fifth Mount Everest expedition led by Eric Shipton gave a 19 year old Sherpa Tenzing his first mountaineering opportunity and 18 years later he and Ed Hillary made the first ascent of Everest. Dan Bryant, the first New Zealander to climb in the Everest region, joined team members, Bill Tilman, Edmund Wigram, Edwin Kempson, the surveyor Michael Spender and Charles Warren who found the body of Maurice Wilson, the Everest aviator, which they ‘buried‘ in a crevasse.

With 360 pages and 10 maps, including 3 original sketch maps drawn on the spot by members of the team it also contains other important newly commissioned and re-drawn maps by Ted Hatch of the Royal Geographical Society, with a route map of Tibet from Darjeeling to Everest. The Northern Face of Mount Everest from a Photogrammetric Survey by Michael Spender (by permission of the Royal Geographical Society) is reproduced in colour and original size on the unique double dust wrapper and includes a new sketch map of the region of the Nyönno Ri range and the region north of Mount Everest map shows the route of the expedition, their camps, survey stations and the peaks climbed in 1935. 125 original and previously unpublished photographs taken by the team members illustrate the book.

This ‘Forgotten Adventure’ records in detail the fifth expedition to Mount Everest, a story which has remained more or less untold as little had been written about this small, lightweight reconnaissance since the leader, Eric Shipton read his report to the Royal Geographical Society which was published in the Journals of the R.G.S., the Alpine Club and the Himalayan Club in 1936.

The Everest Committee had applied for permission to make another attempt on Everest, again led by Ruttledge for 1936, but in the meantime the Tibetans gave permission for another expedition in 1935. The objectives of the Reconnaissance being :

1. To collect data about monsoon snow conditions at high altitudes  

2. To examine the possibility of alternative routes from the west

3. To report on the present ice formations on the North Col.

4. To try out new men as possible candidates for the main expedition

5. To try out new designs of tents and other equipment

6. To carry out a stereo-photogrammetric examination

Mount Everest : The Reconnaissance 1935 is the Mount Everest book which has been missing from the annals of Everest climbing and exploration, now completing Everest history and any collection of Everest books. The story is told from the diaries, letters and photographs written and taken by members of the team, particularly Michael Spender, Dan Bryant (the first New Zealander on Everest), Edmund Wigram, Edwin Kempson, Charles Warren and Bill Tilman. Introductions of these characters are written by Norman Hardie, Kim Meldrum, Peter Steele, Audrey Salkeld and Philip Spender.

The party assembled in Darjeeling about May 21st. They took with them, as interpreter, Karma Paul, who had served on all the Everest Expeditions except the first, and  fifteen Sherpa and Bhotia porters amongst whom were some old friends, Angtharkay, Pasang Bhotia, Tsering Tharkay, and Rinzing. There was one Tibetan lad, a newcomer, chosen largely because of his attractive grin. His name was Tensing Norkay - or Tensing Bhotia as he was generally called and a friend of Angtharkay‘. He was only nineteen years old and was to make the first ascent of Everest, with Edmund Hillary 18 years later, almost to the day.

After travelling, climbing, exploring and surveying across country, the party reached Rongbuk on July 4th.  The reconnaissance began and within a week camp had been established on the North Col. On July 9th. The body of Maurice Wilson was found by Charles Warren. Shipton discussed making an attempt on the summit, but conditions deteriorated and the North Col was abandoned in treacherous conditions. The country between the East Rongbuk Glacier and the Doya La was explored.

Dan Bryant suffered terribly from altitude, spending many days in camp until he, with Shipton climbed in the Lingtren Nup group and enjoyed a wonderful time. Michael Spender accomplished a wonderful piece of map-making, the result being a map of the North Face of Mount Everest. Edwin Kempson walked back to Darjeeling with one sherpa. Shipton, Wigram, Tilman and Bryant set off up the Main Rongbuk glacier and with the idea of climbing as one party but decided to form two parties, one to reach the Lho La and try to force a way down into the Nepal side, while the other was to go up the West Rongbuk glacier. They attempted to climb Changtse, the North Peak in order to take telephotographs of the upper part of Everest and get experience of monsoon snow, but owing to the bad condition of it, the struggle was abandoned. The Everest region was left behind as they set out on a high level route towards Kharta. There were problems with the Sherpas due to rations being short.

During a ‘veritable orgy’ of mountain climbing they had reached the summit of 26 peaks, all over 20,000ft. high and had lived mainly ‘off the country’, sheep being plentiful and inexpensive, also there was an almost unlimited supply of eggs, over 100 were frequently consumed between them in a single day!

Despite suffering from altitude, Bryant had opened the way for another New Zealand mountaineer to return with Shipton for the next reconnaissance in 1951, where Michael Ward and his companions found the route to the South Col from where Everest could be climbed. Tilman made a successful ascent of Nanda Devi in 1936 and returned to Everest in 1938 with Warren and Shipton, who with Kempson and Wigram had been on the 1936 Everest expedition.

This fine expedition had answered all the questions put to them and made a strong case for the superiority of a light mobile party over `heavy cumbersome organisations'.

A catalogue of Mount Everest books item 110 suggests ‘Astill was greatly assisted in his research for the book by Michael Ward’

This statement is not true, although founded on what the bookseller might have been told. Michael was a good friend and displayed great interest whilst I was writing ‘Mount Everest : The Reconnaissance 1935’.

Mount Everest Books and Mountaineering Books for sale


The North Col

Bryant and Tilman

Eric Shipton

Michael Spender

BACK HOME. Michael Spender surveyor of Mount Everest


Of the seven British Everest expeditions that led finally to Hillary and Tenzing's historic success in 1953, that of 1935 remained largely forgotten and unchronicled until the publication of this wonderful and comprehensive book by Tony Astill. In many ways the 1935 expedition proved pivotal, for it was under Eric Shipton's leadership that Tenzing was first welcomed to the elite of Himalayan climbers, even as the participation of Dan Bryant opened the way for Hillary. Astill's contribution fills a critical void in the story of Everest, and it does so with grace and eloquence.

Wade Davis - bestselling author of Into The Silence.

As was the case with Howard-Bury’s Mount Everest: Reconnaissance 1921, such perceptions greatly enhance the reading of Tony Astill’s record of the reconnaissance in 1935. - LORD HUNT of LLANFAIR WATERDINE

A welcome, thorough and definitive account of this expedition. In the detail, there’s gripping stuff. Mostly, however, the book portrays that for which Shipton is best known. You’ll read it with fascination and just a touch of envy - Rebecca Stephens in Geographical Magazine.

‘A magnificent piece of scholarship’ - Stephen Venables

‘Most impressive and I'm grateful that you have done it as it very much needed putting together. Could be a great resource for some journeys. Pictures are amazing!’ - John Shipton

‘Beautifully produced and the idea of having the second dust wrapper with Spender’s map on is a stroke of genius’ - John Earle

Very much delighted and do appreciate your great work, as Shipton did not write his book on the 1935 expedition. My sincerest thanks to you for sending such a superb book - Yoshimi Yakushi

It is a really superb and great work - Tom Nakamura

The book will hold pride of place among all the other Everest books - Peter Steele

Had it not been for Dan Bryant and his ‘delicious brand of humour’, then Shipton may not have answered that ‘any two’ may join his 1951 Mount Everest Reconnaissance, in reply to a telegram from the New Zealand Alpine Club. The First Ascent of Everest might not have been achieved by Hillary and Tenzing in 1953. And had it not been for George Lowe it is true to say that Ed Hillary would not have been invited to join the N.Z. Garhwal Himalaya Expedition in the first place. More prominent New Zealand mountaineers had been invited, joined and dropped out. George Lowe didn’t know Hillary well but suggested that he would make a suitable replacement. First ascents in New Zealand from 1947 had mostly been achieved by a handful of men, George Lowe, Geoff Milne, Earle Riddiford, Norman Hardie, Bill Beaven, Jim McFarlane et al. Hillary had for the most part been climbing with professional guide Harry Ayres and it was at the Hermitage that he had met aspiring guide George Lowe. They had forged a strong friendship as mutual trust and respect grew whilst climbing together on Elie de Beaumont. Ed returned the favour and spoke favourably to Shipton about his climbing partner George who now got his Everest chance when invited by Shipton to join the Cho Oyu Expedition 1952.

All the time George Lowe was getting along well despite his left arm which had been broken when he was nine. It was never set properly and it’s muscles wasted over time, but George overcame this very successfully, becoming a superb ice climber. His solo adventure on the Lhotse Face of Everest in 1953 is legendary, even though he thought that he had let John Hunt down. It is difficult to cut ice steps at altitude especially when hampered by an arm that was ‘set’ at an angle of 90 degrees and could only flex 15 or so in either way from that. This injury may have been hidden from Shipton, certainly John Hunt was not aware of it. Both Hillary and Lowe escaped a medical examination undertaken by the other team members in London. Hillary had poor hearing, his ears having been blasted in a terrible explosion on his home made boat in the Pacific before he had taken up mountaineering.

Should these injuries have been exposed at a medical then, without much doubt, neither of them would have been involved in the Everest party and the mountain may well not have been climbed in 1953?

tony astill’s book is an admirable reconstruction of a forgotten journey, and I heartily recommend it to anyone drawn to exploration as a science, a pilgrimage, and a reflection of human endurace. Handsome and scholarly, this book presents over 100 original black-and-white photographs from the expedition, many of them previously unpublished. - FELIX NG The Geographical journal

‘The Mount Everest Foundation, the successor to the Joint Himalayan Committee welcomes this book by Tony Astill ‘Mount Everest : The Reconnaissance 1935’  as a contribution to the literature of Mount Everest. As Lord Hunt indicates in his foreword this 1935 British Expedition led by Eric Shipton remains little know. This book outlines the exploratory efforts made by members of the team and we wish it all success in  this 50th. Anniversary year of the first ascent of Everest in 1953.’ Dr. Charles Clarke.

Eric Shipton : Mount Everest

The First New Zealand Himalayan Expedition, in 1951, was initiated by Earle Riddiford, who with Ed Cotter and Pasang Dawa Lama made the first ascent of Mukut Parbat, their target peak in the Garhwal Himalaya. Accompanying them on that expedition, though not to that summit, were two other New Zealand climbers, Edmund Hillary and George Lowe.

Hearing of the success on Mukut Parbat, the New Zealand Alpine Club suggested to the Alpine Club in London that acclimatised New Zealanders would be a valuable asset on the forthcoming 1951 British Reconnaissance of Mt Everest, to be led by Eric Shipton. This resulted in an invitation for two New Zealanders to join the party: thrilling news the four climbers received while they were ensconced in the hill-country village of Ranikhet. A day and a half of bitter dispute rent the party asunder. Which two should go to Everest?

In this enthralling narrative, journalist Lyn McKinnon tells the stories of Earle Riddiford and Ed Cotter, two extraordinary New Zealanders whose climbing achievements were forever eclipsed by the exploits of others. She draws on private papers as well as published work, and extensively interviews Cotter himself, and the families of both men, as well as many other contemporary climbers, to set the record straight.

MOUNT EVEREST BOOKS 1935 HOME. Mount Everest Rare Books. Mount Everest 1953. MOUNT EVEREST BOOKS. MOUNT EVEREST 1935. HIMALAYA BOOKS. George Leigh Mallory. HILLARY AND TENZING. Mount Everest Guest Post. Eric Shipton and Dan Bryant Mount Everest 1935 The North Col of Everest Sherpa Tenzing Mount Everest 1935 Bill Tilman