Explorer Bill Tilman remembered in new book and film
09:29 a.m. EST Jan 21, 2004
A new documentary and biography about Bill Tilman is set for release this month. The documentary is "ICE WITH EVERYTHING-The Life and Times of the Legendary Explorer Bill Tilman" and the book is "Warrior Wanderer." Both cover the life of one of the early pioneers to the Himalaya and Mount Everest, whom many regard as the one of the greatest explorers of the Twentieth Century.
David Glen, the writer, director and producer of the book and film writes, “This is the story of a truly remarkable man. Harold William Tilman trod the summit slopes of well over a hundred peaks, traveled tens of thousands of miles in some of the most remote regions of Asia, Africa and South America, and sailed almost every year for over a quarter century to the frigid wastes of the Arctic and Antarctic.”
Tilman may best be remembered for leading the first lightweight British expedition to Everest in 1938. Members of the small, seven-man climbing team reached an altitude of over 27,000 feet without oxygen before turning back. No fan of the large, “over-blown” expeditions of previous years, and no fan of oxygen or the press, Tilman instead championed smaller, alpine-style climbs and led a self-funded, lightweight British/American expedition to Nanda Devi in 1936. He and Noel Odell achieved the first ascent of the 7,817m peak thereby setting the record for the highest Himalayan mountain ever summited at the time.
In his early years, Tilman fought in the trenches in the First World War and took part in some of the most horrific conflicts, including the Battle of the Somme, where a million men lost their lives. He, too, was wounded in action, but volunteered for service in the Second World War.
Between wars, Tilman moved to Kenya, became a coffee plantation farmer, discovered climbing, and met Eric Shipton with whom he forged a climbing partnership and went on many expeditions, including the one to Everest.
After his legendary mountaineering exploits, Tilman took to the seas, sailing to some of the remotest corners in the world, particularly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. In 1977, as he was about to turn 80, he organized a second journey to the inhospitable storm-lashed Smith Island in the Antarctic. En route, his boat “En Avant” disappeared somewhere in the South Atlantic. Tilman and the crew were never seen again.
David Glen says it took him three years to complete the film and the book - which he considered a labor of love. The author grew up in Kenya as a young boy, and regarded Tilman as a heroic figure. "He did things for their own sake, for the real thrill of discovery, and shunned publicity unlike so many of today's adventurers. In fact, were he alive today he would most likely be horrified that I was producing this film or book!
I hope you will join with me in appreciation for this extraordinary man who undoubtedly must rank as one of the greatest explorers of all time."
Image of Bill Tilman and Mount Everest courtesy of tilman.tv