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Item #: OP928-86117
THE LAST HERO: BILL TILMAN: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE EXPLORER Tim Madge 1995 1st ed Hardcover DJ New Multiple Copies Available
By Madge, Tim
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Detailed Product Description

Seattle, 1995, 1st edition. 288 pp, b/w photos. Hardcover with dust jacket. New book, with a small remainder mark on bottom edge.

A biography of the enigmatic and curmudgeonly climber, sailor, writer and explorer that uses newly discovered material not employed in J.R.L. Anderson's previous biography.

Tim Madge's book is fair and exacting. It highlights Tilman's titanic strengths and achievements - as a climber, soldier and sailor, as well as his weaknesses - as a stubborn, sometimes slapdash adventurer. Quoting widely from Tilman's many books, it highlights his humour, his simplicity and his overarching drive and determination. His references also include many of Tilman's letters home to his sister and niece, and comments from those he adventured with and fought alongside.

Tim Madge's book could not be a substitute for Tilman's books, but it does provide a crucial, accessible resume of what is an amazing life of achievement. And in case you doubt whether Tilman was one of the greats, just think of what he achieved: Military Cross in WWI, farming in Kenya, solo cycle trip across Africa, multiple first ascents of extreme routes on East African peaks, years of exploring in the Himalaya, dozens of first ascents of peaks there, first expedition through the Rishi Gorge, first ascent of Nanda Devi, 1936 (the highest ascent until Everest in 1953), DSO and bar in WW2, special forces soldier in Bosnia, Albania and Northen Italy (awarded freedom of the city of Belluno), 114,000 miles of trans-ocean sailing, first crossing of the Patagonian icecap, etc etc. Read Tim Madge's account and weep! 

Wikipedia:

Major Harold William 'Bill' Tilman, CBE, DSO, MC and Bar (14 February 1898–1977) was a mountaineer and explorer, famous for his Himalayan climbs and sailing voyages.

Tilman was born on 14 February 1898 in Wallasey in Cheshire, the son of a well-to-do sugar merchant and educated at Berkhamsted Boys school. He received a small inheritance when his parents died, and this enabled him to live a frugal life of adventure without ever enduring the indignity of having a job.

At the age of 18, Tilman joined the British Army 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, however, began with his acquaintance with 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 embarked for England.

He later volunteered for service in the Second World War, seeing action in North Africa, and on the beaches at Dunkirk. He then was dropped by parachute behind enemy lines to fight with Albanian and Italian partisans, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts, and the keys to the city of Belluno which he helped save from occupation and destruction.

Tilman and Shipton's great partnership and accomplishments almost all occurred in the 1930s when they fortunately had the time, the interest, the ability and skills, and enough money to live a magic decade exploring the Himalaya, while half the world was suffering through the depression, and the other half was preparing for the worst war in human history. Tilman was nibbling at the Nepalese approach to Everest with his recon with Charlie Houston, and Shipton was hired, and fired, as leader of the 1953 Everest first expedition. If there had been no WW2, nobody else in the world was as prepared in the 1940s to make the first ascent of Everest as these two.

Tilman was involved in two of the 1930s Mount Everest expeditions - participating in the 1935 Reconnaisance Expedition, and reaching 27,200 feet without oxygen as the expedition leader in 1938. After penetrating the Nanda Devi sanctuary with Eric Shipton in 1934, Tilman went on to the first ascent of Nanda Devi with Noel Odell in 1936. During his extensive exploration of the areas of Langtang, Ganesh and Manang in 1949 he was the first to ascend Paldor, 5896 metres and found the pass named after him beyond Gangchempo.

Following his military career behind enemy lines in the Second World War, Tilman took up deep sea sailing. Sailing in deep seas on the cutter Mischief, which he purchased in 1954, and subsequently on his other pilot cutters 'Sea Breeze' and 'Baroque', Tilman voyaged to Arctic and Antarctic waters in search of new and uncharted mountains to climb. Tilman disappeared during a sailing trip to climb Smith Island in the Antarctic in 1977. He had accompanied the youthful Simon Richardson and his crew aboard an old, converted steel tug. They made it successfully and without incident to Rio de Janeiro, but disappeared without trace on their way to the Falkland Islands. Tilman was almost 80 years of age.

He has been described by some as a self-indulgent risk taker impervious to the sensitivities of others; one who had little time for those who didn’t live up to his high standards and expectations; and he was even accused of disliking women. In reality, these labels were grossly inaccurate, for he was in fact a very shy, private man who was self-effacing and hated publicity. He was a deep thinker, an avid reader of the classics, and although he never married, he adored his sister and two nieces with whom he lived when not on some distant shore.

Tilman had a great sense of humour, perhaps too subtle for many of his listeners. It was one of his greatest joys to laugh at himself, and see the funny side of life's little foibles. An example is his 'discovery' of Tilman's Disease, characterized as 'the inability to put one foot before the other'. He wrote seven books about his mountain travels, and eight books on his years sailing to extreme climates. One of the last 'gentleman adventurers', Bill Tilman's stoic and courageous exploits have earned him a place of honour as one of the greatest in the pantheon of explorers.


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