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Climbing » Narratives
Travel » Literature

My Father, Frank

Unresting Spirit of Everest - Tony Smythe


Nominated for the 2014 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.

"This book is timely, well researched and written with the authority of a committed climber. The reader will be watching to see just how objective Frank's son will be and I can only compliment Tony Smythe on dealing with all the major events in his father's life in the most even-handed way. I found the quarrel between Smythe and Graham Brown one of the most interesting sections of the book for Tony's description of the climbing is riveting and his analysis of the disagreements masterful. The reader is left gripped... The book does not lack humour either, and I found myself smiling, sometimes laughing out loud." Doug Scott

Frank Smythe's mountaineering achievements in the decade before the Second World War became a part of climbing history. His intensive Alpine climbing, followed by two Himalayan expeditions - to Kangchenjunga in 1930 and success the following year on Kamet, the highest summit then reached - became the prelude to Everest. And in 1933 on that great mountain, climbing alone and without supplementary oxygen he got to within 820 feet of the top, a record height before efforts were resumed post-war and Everest was climbed in 1953. And as a superb Himalayan finale, in 1937 he returned to the Indian Garhwal to climb difficult peaks up to 24,000 feet in a rapid lightweight style.

The expeditions were central to his lifetime's work as a writer and photographer - 27 books and albums, together with numberless newspaper and magazine articles, intensive lecturing, radio broadcasts and a film. It was an output that made him a celebrity, a rare feat in the days before television and the internet. He had tens of thousands of readers and his name was familiar to perhaps millions of the general public. It was an incredible career, especially since he died at the early age of 48 after a serious illness in India.

Frank Smythe was resolute in keeping his home life private, and few details of it emerged in his writings. It was a turbulent life, even from earliest childhood, and remained so, with ambition and impatience almost overwhelming him at times, and eventually this volatile mix, apart from alienating some more traditional members of the Alpine Club, would lead to the break-up of his marriage. Yet when he was among hills he became tranquil and inspired. Some fifty years after his death in 1949 one of his three sons, Tony, decided to write a full account of his father's life, an extraordinary story he believed was important historically and well worth telling. This book is the result.

The author
Tony Smythe was born in 1934. After leaving school he joined the RAF, serving for eight years as a pilot, flying Canberras and Javelins before resigning to devote more time to climbing and travelling. He made numerous journeys, climbs and expeditions, giving lectures to schools and societies about his experiences in the Alps, Eastern Europe and Russia, Canada and Alaska, the Himalayas and South America. In later years he became a potter, making hand-thrown tableware on a wheel at his workshop in Oxfordshire before moving to the Lake District, where he could indulge his passion for paragliding more intensively. To see more of Scotland he set about completing the Munros, summiting the last in 2005, just 50 years after the first. He is the author of Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia, a 'cult' book of the 1960s jointly produced with his photographer friend, John Cleare, and has written extensively for journals and magazines about his adventures. He is married, and he and his wife have a son, a daughter, and four grandchildren.

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Cordee Code: CNM116
No of Pages: 324
Page Size: 156 x 234 mm
ISBN 10: 1898573875
ISBN 13: 9781898573876
Publisher: Baton Wicks Publications
Published Date: October 2013
Edition: 1 ed , Oct-2013
Binding: Hardback
Illustrations: two 16-pages of b&w plates
Weight: 700g

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