Walter Parry Haskett Smith

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Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 23, 2015 - 12:28pm PT

Walter Parry Haskett Smith


Walter Parry Haskett Smith (1859–1946) is often called the Father of Rock Climbing. Born in Bognor Regis, England, the son of a wealthy landowner, he attended Eton where he excelled at athletics, before enrolling in Trinity College, Oxford.

At Oxford he studied law and continued along a promising athletic path, reaching a long jump (unofficial) world record of 25 feet once in practice. On a university reading party at Aber, Wales in 1880, Haskett Smith became interested in exploring local cliffs, and in 1881 he journeyed to the Lake District and took a room at the inn at Wasdale Head, staying there for two months, meeting Frederick Herman Bowring, an enthusiastic fell-scrambler some forty years older, and, in essence, becoming Bowring's protégé. Bowring had also been an athlete in his university days, reaching 21 feet in the long jump in the 1840s.

By the following summer, Haskett Smith had begun to record his efforts – which were more akin to what we now think of as rock climbing than to the exposed scrambles of previous generations.

A lifelong devotee of etymologies, and possessing a gift for describing past acquaintances, Haskett Smith delighted in producing rambling and witty pieces about his athletic avocation. For instance, in his description of Bear Rock in "Climbing in the British Isles", the reader divines a subtle poke at the new pastime of bouldering: "a queerly-shaped rock on Great Napes, which in the middle of March, 1889 was gravely attacked by a large party comprising some five or six of the strongest climbers in England. It is a little difficult to find, especially in seasons when the grass is at all long."

Wikipedia


Although Haskett-Smith was not the first person to go rock-climbing, he is usually credited with inventing the modern concept of the sport. In essence, he had the radical idea of not bothering to go all the way to the top of a mountain after making a climb. Rather, he put the rock-climbing cart before the mountaineering horse of the day and decided it was much more fun simply to climb short English routes for their own sake, rather than merely as a bit of training before going on a European Alpine holiday. This paradigm-shift allowed gentlemen to start taking seriously British crags as sporting challenges in their own right. Conveniently, for the symbolic purposes beloved of historians, Haskett-Smith kicked off this era by climbing an iconic British landscape feature; Napes Needle, the 70ft rock spire which stands proud of the lower flanks of the Lakeland mountain, Great Gable. This momentous event in climbing history was undertaken solo in 1886. ‘I felt as small as a mouse climbing a milestone’, he said, after leaving his handkerchief fluttering from the ‘summit’ weighted by some stones to prove he’d done it. Haskett-Smith was also influential for writing the first climbing guide to British crags in 1894. In 1936, on the 50th anniversary of his historic ascent, he again climbed the Needle, aged 77. A large crowd of well wishers shouted up to him from the base of the climb, ‘Tell us a story’‘There is no other story’, he replied, ‘this is the top storey’.

Mountain Heritage Trust
.

Napes Needle
[Click to View YouTube Video]

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jun 23, 2015 - 02:07pm PT
Excellent series you've been posting, Marlow.

I particularly like O.P.H. "Who's Your Daddy" Smith.

Not only did he have the knackers to climb only rock, solo, but he carried the extra weight of four names!

jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Jun 23, 2015 - 06:04pm PT
Haskett Smith & Others
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jun 23, 2015 - 06:43pm PT
"Let them be bold, and brave the suppressed laughter of the tweenie maid."

Thanks for such a marvelous website, jgill.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jun 24, 2015 - 07:32am PT
"Haskett Smith first visited Wasdale Head with a reading party from the University in the summer of 1881."

This from the same site.

Could you perhaps explain a "reading party?"

Do they specialize in open books? :0) LOL
jogill

climber
Colorado
Jun 24, 2015 - 11:30am PT
I suppose they took books along and read and discussed them. Anybody here from Oxbridge?

Incidentally, that photo of Haskett Smith may be of his brother instead. A few years ago I got an e-mail from a descendant who sent a photo of the two and he said HS was the one with a huge handlebar mustache and the other was his brother. I'll see if I can find the photo and post it here.



Edit: Below: yes, I never was sure enough to change it, or simpy too lazy when the displayed one looks so good!
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 24, 2015 - 11:36am PT

jogill

The photo in the OP is clearly the same photo as the photo seen of him on your website.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Jun 24, 2015 - 11:59am PT
I just found that 2011 e-mail from a gentleman whose great grandfather was Haskett-Smith's brother. He sent a photo which is on my other computer that shows the two of them sitting for a portrait, and this gentleman's grandmother told him that the brother with a handlebar mustache (not the one on this thread and on my site and Wiki) was Walter, and the displayed photo is of Algernon. I'll find it and post it.

When you get old the history of the sport is fun.

PS: I scanned the photo on my site from Alan Hankinson's The First Tigers, a delightful book.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 24, 2015 - 12:07pm PT

It is also the photo used in the book Great British Rock Climbs - Classic Rock - Compiled by Ken Wilson.

They can all be wrong of course...

I'll change it. It's now updated.

For how long? ^^^^
jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Jun 24, 2015 - 01:20pm PT

This is a photo of Walter Parry Haskett Smith sent to me by the great gandson of his brother, Edmund. The photo on my site and on Wiki is of Edmund, according to this source. It seems Hankinson was in error. As was I.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 24, 2015 - 01:24pm PT

Thanks.

Then I'm quite sure the photo now in the OP is of the correct man.

History ends up wrong when everybody use the same source and this one source is wrong.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Jun 24, 2015 - 02:36pm PT
Haskett Smith's activities in the Lake District are well described in 'Cumbrian Rock'. Much of the climbing he did was solo, not least because it was difficult to find partners. He raised the standard of climbing in the lakes from scrambling to 'Hard Very Difficult' (HVDiff) - about 5.3 I think! But that modest grade encompassed loose mossy unexplored terrain climbed with virtually no gear usually in nailed boots!

Fifty years after the FA of the Napes needle (An iconic ancient British route) he took part in a 'jubilee ascent', watched by a crowd of three hundred who sang 'For he's a jolly good fellow!' When he was at the summit one of the crowd shouted to him 'Tell us a story" His reply was that there is no other story - this is the top storey!'

The father of British rock climbing indeed!

Steve
jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Jun 24, 2015 - 02:48pm PT

1936, the 50th anniversary of his solo FA of Napes Needle.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jun 24, 2015 - 06:21pm PT
Agree with DMT.
Love the history.
jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Jun 24, 2015 - 09:35pm PT
Climbing history is the last refuge of the decrepit climber.


;>)
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