I have always been fascinated by mountains and travel and one of the first books I ever purchased was an early edition of Blank on the Map by Eric Shipton which describes his small but dangerous expedition to the Karakoram to fill in the ‘blank on the map’. In 1937, with China under invasion by Japan and also in the middle of a Civil War with the communists, there was no official or government presence in the area.
We have his wife’s copy with his personal inscription ‘To Diana with love from Eric’.
I knew little of Shipton before reading this book. My limited knowledge extended as far as the famous Hunt, Hilary and Tenzing. However Shipton is actually the unsung hero of Everest. His knowledge and expertise of the Himalayas was invaluable and he took part in all the Everest expeditions during the 1930’s and he recounts the climbs in fascinating detail in one of his autobiographies, Upon that Mountain. He wrote that the expedition ‘was far too big and that the number of climbers taken – fourteen – was absurd’.
He was due to lead the successful 1953 edition but was stepped down in favour of John Hunt. Another autobiography That Untravelled Worldalso includes his later climbs in Patagonia.
Nanda Devi (Nanda Devi) is surrounded by a ring of mountains which, despite decades of attempts, no one had been able to enter. Shipton and Tilman with three Sherpas successfully found the access route - Shipton's account is available on our website. This and the lavish expedition of the unsuccessful Everest 1933persuaded him that minimalist expeditions were the only way to reach the top!
We currently have a copy of Ruttledge's account of the 1933 expedition, signed by Sir Edmund Hillary.