Search Site
Horizontal Line

H. W. Tilman - The Eight Sailing and Mountain-Exploration Books

Hardback (1048pp)
  • Hardback £25.00
Horizontal Line

'There is something in common between the arts of sailing and of climbing. Each is intimately concerned with elemental things, which from time to time demand from men who practice those arts whatever self-reliance, prudence and endurance they have.'

Born in 1898, Major Harold William ‘Bill’ Tilman was one of the last great explorers of the century, a renowned mountaineer and sailor who climbed in the Alps, Africa and the Himalaya and who circumnavigated Africa, crossed Patagonia and explored Antarctica in a sailing boat. He made an early attempt on Everest, circumnavigated South America and made the first recorded entrance into the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.

Tilman was also a stylish and prolific writer whose books are popular and widely-read classics. This, the typically unequivocally-titled Eight Sailing/Mountain Exploration Books, deals with his later expeditions across the seas.

When Tilman bought the pilot cutter Mischief in 1954, it was not in retirement from mountaineering but with a mind to search the oceans for new and remote peaks. Over the next 22 years, Mischief, and her successors visited vast swathes of distant waters as Tilman developed a whole new technique of amphibious mountaineering.

The eight books collected here are humorous, learned, and devastatingly candid. They recount voyages to the Southern Oceans – to Patagonia and the Southern Shetlands; to Greenland and into the Arctic Circle and his crossing of the Patagonian Ice Cap.

Not all of Tilman’s voyages were successful or enjoyable. A man was lost at sea, cherished ships where abandoned and crew members, unable to match Tilman’s persistence, deserted or mutinied.

Luckily, most of his crews where made of sterner stuff and were rewarded with good fellowship and humour, an extensive education in climbing and mountaineering and uncomparable adventures in a little, old and unstrengthened ship on rough waters and heavy ice.

Tilman was still exploring at the age of 80 when he disappeared at sea after an entire life of adventure.

Major Harold William ‘Bill’ Tilman was born on 14 February 1898 in Cheshire, the son of a well-to-do sugar merchant. At the age of 18, Tilman was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery and fought in the First World War, including the Battle of the Somme, and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery. His climbing career did not begin until he met Eric Shipton in Kenya, East Africa, where they were both coffee growers. Beginning with their joint traverse of Mount Kenya in 1929 and their ascents of Kilimanjaro and the fabled ‘Mountains of the Moon’. Ruwenzori, Shipton and Tilman formed one of the most famed partnerships in mountaineering history. When it came time to leave Africa, Tilman was not content with merely flying home but rode a bicycle across the continent to the West Coast where he sailed back to England. He volunteered for service in the Second World War. He toured North Africa, fought at Dunkirk, was dropped by parachute behind enemy lines to fight with Albanian and Italian partisans, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Tilman was involved in two of the 1930s Mount Everest expeditions. He penetrated the Nanda Devi sanctuary with Eric Shipton in 1934, and in 1936 he went on to lead an Anglo-American expedition to Nanda Devi, and Tilman and Noel Odell succeeded in making the first ascent of the 7,816-metre mountain. Following his military career behind enemy lines in the Second World War, Tilman took up deep sea sailing and voyaged to Arctic and Antarctic waters in search of new and uncharted mountains to climb, becoming a legendary seaman. For some Tilman was a martinet and misogynist and disaffected crews where known to desert or mutiny. To others, he was a generous and erudite man who led them on the most memorable experiences.

On his last voyage in 1977, in his 80th year, Tilman was invited to crew with mountaineers sailing to the South Atlantic to climb on Smith Island. They arrived in Rio de Janeiro successfully and without incident, but disappeared without trace en route to the Falkland Islands.

  • Title: The Eight Sailing and Mountain-Exploration Books
  • Sub-title:
  • Author: H. W. Tilman
  • Imprint: Bâton Wicks
  • ISBN: 978-0-906371-22-0
  • Rights:
  • Publication date: June 1995
  • Edition:
  • Format: Hardback
  • Size: 237mm x 157mm
  • Extent: 1,048 pages; B&W text, photos and illustrations
  • Weight: 1,550g
  • Retail price: £25

Available soon as ebooks.

The writing style really brings the volume alive, there is nothing so vivid as the human imagination, and Tilman’s written images roll into peaks of excitement as his experiences resonate in the reader's memory.
Martin Stumm, Climbing Magazine

‘It is not usual for the author’s name to appear in bigger type than the title of the book, but H. W. Tilman was not a usual man. A mountaineer and a sailor , he can fairly be called one of the great explorers of the last century, and also a prolific and stylish writer.’
Geoffrey Pallet, Coastguard Magazine

‘These books are very much about the adventure of solving the problem, navigation, practical, interpersonal, of sailing more than mountaineering. Perhaps because of the intimacy of a mixed bag of people leaving, each ship, with a different mixture, to survive the sea in the simplest way. And there is the familiar lacing with Dr Johnson and his won laconic humour  … there are the unspiritual attractions of a life of comfort and security in a pleasant open air prison, with the minimum of shaving and washing, and without the trouble of undressing at night.’
Terry Gifford, Climbers' Club Journal

. . .