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Item #: BK1049
FIRST FIFTY YEARS OF THE BRITISH MOUNTAINEERING COUNCIL: A POLITICAL HISTORY Milburn 1997 1st edition
By Milburn, Geoff, Editor
Price: $35.00


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Detailed Product Description
1997. 321 pp, photos. Since 1944 the BMC has been involved with all areas of British climbing, from safety to access to competition. Everything and more about the BMC over the last 50 years. If you're interested in climbing history, or researching a project, this is an ideal starting point. New Hardcover.
 
From the dust jacket :

This book describes the political actions and struggles that have taken place in Britain in order to maintain the seemingly tranquil activity of mountaineering.

Mountaineering, in its various forms, is a pastime (or sport) whose adherents place great value on their independence, and who are suspicious of any attempt to impose organisation and rules. Yet a central body, the British Mountaineering Council, was brought into being in December 1944 by Geoffrey Winthrop Young and Leo Amery, successive Alpine Club Presidents, with the support of the other major clubs of the day. Its original purpose was to provide wartime mountaineering advice to the authorities, but it soon developed idealistic aspirations that matched the reforming mood of the post-war world. As climbing grew in popularity the BMC grew with it, becoming the focal point for the hundreds of new clubs that sprang up in the years that followed.

Not all climbers were convinced of the need for the BMC - indeed there was strong opposition in the early stages from some Alpine Club members and the Scottish Mountaineering Club - and this scepticism remains to this day. But though climbers affect disinterest and distrust for politics, when the need is pressing, they take part in the political hurly-burly as energetically as any other group. They successfully struggled against many of the more bizarre post-war hydro-electric proposals for Wales and Scotland. The Sports Council and the Educational world also encountered BMC political pressure during the Mountain Training Dispute of the Seventies, a time when even the Sports Minister was pleading for relief from the cacophony of protest from outraged climbers.

This book chronicles an eventful political history, describing the BMC's problems, debates and achievements over the first half century of its existence.

It shows how the BMC circulated crucial safety advice in the years (before nut protection and good equipment) when the sport was particularly hazardous. It describes the efforts made to secure better equipment and training standards. It explains the later tension between the overregulating zeal of educationalists and trainers and the mainstream sport keen to keep certification realistic and marginal. It charts the never-ending struggle to maintain access to mountains and cliffs. It describes the often turbulent relationship with the Sports Council - an organisation constantly perplexed by the anarchic nature of climbing. It shows how the BMC organised guidebooks, huts, insurance, climbing walls, conferences, international meets and even how, after years of forthright opposition, it was finally drawn (controversially) into the garish world of formalised competitions.

Much of the business of the BMC is conducted through its many committees. These are manned by a constantly changing cross-section of ordinary climbers who give up their spare time out of a sense of duty to their sport. Their debates, often fiery and opinionated, are the only sure method of dealing with the problems of the climbing world with any degree of consensus and validity.

The work of these committees is described, not in the morale-boosting manner of the annual reports, but with a more dispassionate eye to their successes and failures. BMC activity is also reflected in a collection of photos - for the most part records of groups and events, but still with considerable historic interest. The many hundreds of climbers who have taken part in the BMC committee work over the years are represented by panels of portrait photos (some very rare) of the key office holders which give some impression of the wide variety of characters involved - in terms of age, background, fame or notoriety. The final section of the book is a selection of fascinating articles from the early issues of the BMC's admirable house magazine Mountaineering, by such luminaries as Birtwistle, Longland, Wathen and Tarbuck and including several rare classics of climbing writing.

The First Fifty Years is therefore something of a pot pourri of contributions by many authors, rather than a focussed account by a single historian. They vary in style and interest but for the most part are fresh, idiosyncratic and candid. Much scattered history is gathered and the overall result is a unique and somewhat unusual publication. It will be invaluable as a check on dates, events and personalities, but will also be of great interest to anyone wishing to know more about how political activity has shaped the sport and maintained the freedoms that mountaineers hold so dear.


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