A social, economic and cultural history of British rock climbing and mountaineering charting the conditions that gave rise to the sport, and the achievements and motives of those who have shaped its development over 200 years. Today’s climbers share a desire to escape from urban society but what makes them take that unjustifiable risk?
To an impartial observer, Britain does not appear to have any mountains. Yet the British invented the sport of mountain climbing and for two periods in history British climbers led the world in the pursuit of this beautiful and dangerous obsession. Unjustifiable Risk? is the story of the social, economic and cultural conditions that gave rise to the sport, and the achievements and motives of the scientists and poets, parsons and anarchists, villains and judges, ascetics and drunks that have shaped its development over the past two hundred years.
Climbing has both reflected and influenced changing social attitudes to nature and beauty, heroism and death. Over the years, increasing wealth, leisure and mobility have gradually transformed the sport from an activity undertaken by an eccentric and privileged minority into a popular part of the leisure and tourist industry. But while much has changed, even more has remained the same. Today’s climbers would be instantly recognisable to their Victorian predecessors, with their desire to escape from the crowded complexity of urban life, and willingness to take potentially unjustifiable risks in pursuit of beauty, adventure and self-fulfilment.