Geoffrey Winthrop Young

Geoffrey Winthrop Young

Geoffrey Winthrop Young D.Litt. (1876 – 1958) was a British climber and author of several notable books on mountaineering. He was also a poet of some distinction and an educator who sought alternatives.

He began rock climbing shortly before his first term at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied Classics and won the "Chancellor's Medal for English Verse" two years running. While there, Young wrote a humorous college climbing guide called "The Roof Climbers Guide to Trinity", a satirical parody of pompous early alpine guides. [Young, G. W. (ca 1898). "The Roof-Climbers' Guide to Trinity"]

During the Edwardian Period, and up until the outbreak of hostilities heralding World War I, Young made many new and difficult ascents in the Alps, including noted routes on the Zermatt Breithorn (the "Younggrat"), the west ridge of the Gspaltenhorn, on the west face of the Weisshorn, and a dangerous and rarely repeated route on the south face of the Täschhorn. His finest rock climb was the Mer de Glace face of the Grépon. In 1911, with H O Jones, he ascended the Brouillard ridge of Mont Blanc and made the first complete traverse of the west ridge of the Grandes Jorasses, and the first decent of the ridge to the Col des Hirondelles. On most of his routes he climbed with the guide Joseph Knubel of St Niklaus. Winthrop Young also made impressive routes time and time again on local rocks in the Lake District and Wales. He was elected president of the Climbers' Club in 1913, and he organised the Pen-Y-Pass gatherings that propelled the advancement of rock climbing and included such technical luminaries as J. M. Archer Thompson, George Leigh Mallory, Siegfried Herford, John Percy Farrar and Oscar Eckenstein. These parties, beginning in earnest about 1907, and sometimes reaching sixty men, women and children, flooded the hotel and overflowed into Eckenstein's miner's cabin and various tents. They came to an end in 1914. [Hankinson, Alan (1977). "The Mountain Men", Heinemann]

During the War, Young was, at first, a correspondent for the liberal "Daily News", but later, as a conscientious objector, was active in the FAU, the Friends' Ambulance Unit. He received several decorations, but on 31 August 1917 an explosion took one of his legs, and his service in the War was over.Hankinson, Alan (1995). "Geoffrey Winthrop Young", Hodder & Stoughton] After the amputation of his leg Young walked sixteen miles in two days to avoid being captured by the Austrians.

He continued to climb with an artificial leg for a number of years, ascending the Matterhorn in 1928. To support himself and his family he worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, and spent much time in Germany, and – having met Kurt Hahn before the War – helped Hahn immigrate to England in 1934. Much of what may be called an outdoor adventure education springs from this connection. The now famous Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and the International Award scheme comes from this co-operation between Hahn and Young. The Outward Bound movement, after World War II, owes a considerable debt to their friendship.

During World War II, Young was president of the Alpine Club, and it was through his untiring efforts that the British Mountaineering Council, the umbrella organisation for climbers in Great Britain, was created in 1945.

Books by G. W. Young

* "Mountain Craft" (1920)
* "On High Hills" (1927)
* "Mountains with a Difference" (1951)


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