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THE HARD YEARS: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY Joe Brown 1967 1st UK ed Hardcover Rare DJ Fine
By Brown, Joe
Price: $180.00

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London, Gollancz, 1967, 1st edition. 256 pp, 33 b/w plates. Hardcover with dust jacket. Fine.

Brown was the dominant figure in British rock climbing in the fifties. He made the first ascents of Mustagh Tower and Kangchenjunga. 

This is Brown’s autobiographical account, published at age 37, of his many climbs 1949-1963: Mont Blanc Range, first ascent of Kangchenjunga in Nepal's Sikkim Himalaya, first ascent of Mustagh Tower in the Karakoram of Pakistan, classic UK rock climbs with Don Whillans, Pamirs expedition where Wilfrid Noyce and Robin Smith were killed in a fall. This is the collection of his 'early' climbs, as Brown has accomplished many fine ascents since writing this book. Includes an interesting chapter on The Valley Of Assassins in Iran and on Petra, where Brown's climbing skills were employed to explore nearly inaccessible caves high on cliff walls. 

From the jacket: Joe Brown is the greatest household name in British climbing since Whymper; and his book not only describes his many notable climbs, but reflects a most engaging personality with a highly interesting approach to his craft.

He was born in a Manchester slum, the youngest of seven children; his father died before he was a year old. The characteristics he showed as a child—a quite extraordinary self-reliance and an unexpected love of the countryside—are reflected throughout his life-story and his climbing career. He had already begun to explore the country round Manchester by the age of fourteen when he left school to be apprenticed to a plumber. And during the next three years he discovered the gritstone outcrops of the High Peak, and his exceptional climbing abilities became apparent.

The young Brown and his Manchester friends were not alone in their love of rock-climbing: the mass movement towards the hills was on, and it was inevitable that the lads would meet other groups and also seek country further afield. They teamed up with members of the Valkyrie Club for visits to Scotland, and also to Wales where they began exploring the Three Cliffs in the Llanberis Pass. The Valkyrie Club was soon to disband, and some members reformed themselves into the 'Rock and Ice' (Brown among them), a group whose enthusiasm was kindled by the excitement of challenging exploration.

National Service intervened, and it was not until 1953 that Brown paid his first visit to Chamonix. He did some very hard rock routes, and then, the following summer, he and Don Whillans climbed the West Face of the Dru in record time, thereby gaining acceptance into the acknowledged top rank of Alpine mountaineers. These, and other Alpine expeditions, were all done under the toughest conditions, on a short shoe-string: in order to economise on hut-fees. enormous loads of food and equipment were carried up to high-level bivouacs.

In 1955 Brown was invited to join an expedition to Kangchenjunga.  By this time he was running his own building business so was able to take the lime away from home. The party was a huge, well-organised one, employing many Sherpas, and putting a large number of Camps on the mountain in the traditional manner. Brown led the summit party.

The following year he joined a smaller, very different sort of Himalayan expedition —to the Mustagh Tower in the Karakorum. By now Brown was established as the top British climber. In between expeditions abroad he had continued to push up the standard of rock-climbing at home. He made a film: Hazard, for the British Iron and Steel Federation, on the subject of safety—shot in the Dolomites.  He was employed by archaeological expeditions to open up seemingly inaccessible caves in the Valley of the Assassins (Persia) and at Petra. He joined Sir John Hunt's ill-fated expedition to the Pamirs—his impressions of the Soviet Union and his observations of Russian behaviour are described in some of the most pungent passages in the book.

Meanwhile, he had married, and taken a job as an instructor at an outdoor adventure school. For the first lime he had to analyse his climbing technique in order to teach others, and this led him to think deeply about it. Then, after a few years there, he set up his own climbing equipment shop at Llanberis where he still lives.


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