‘Only a man in the devil of a hurry would wish to fly to his mountains, forgoing the lingering pleasure and mounting excitement of a slow, arduous approach under his own exertions.’
H.W. ‘Bill’ Tilman’s mountain travel philosophy, rooted in Africa and the Himalaya and further developed in his early sailing adventures in the southern hemisphere, was honed to perfection with his discovery of Greenland as the perfect sailing destination. His Arctic voyages in the pilot cutter Mischief proved no less challenging than his earlier southern voyages. The shorter elapsed time made it rather easier to find a crew but the absence of warm tropical passages meant that similar levels of hardship were simply compressed into a shorter timescale.
First published fifty years before political correctness became an accepted rule, Mischief in Greenland is a treasure trove of Tilman’s observational wit. In this account of his first two West Greenland voyages, he pulls no punches with regard to the occasional failings, leaving the reader to seek out and discover the numerous achievements of these voyages. The highlight of the second voyage was the identification, surveying and successful first ascent of Mount Raleigh, first observed on the eastern coast of Baffin Island by the Elizabethan explorer John Davis in 1585. For the many sailors and climbers who have since followed his lead and ventured north into those waters, Tilman provides much practical advice, whether from his own observations or those of Davis and the inimitable Captain Lecky. Tilman’s typical gift of understatement belies his position as one of the greatest explorers and adventurers of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Harold William Bill Tilman (1898 1977) was among the greatest adventurers of his time, a pioneering mountaineer and sailor who held exploration above all else. Tilman joined the army at seventeen and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery during WWI. After the war Tilman left for Africa, establishing himself as a coffee grower. He met Eric Shipton and began their famed mountaineering partnership, traversing Mount Kenya and climbing Kilimanjaro. Turning to the Himalaya, Tilman went on two Mount Everest expeditions, reaching 27,000 feet without oxygen in 1938. In 1936 he made the first ascent of Nanda Devi the highest mountain climbed until 1950. He was the first European to climb in the remote Assam Himalaya, he delved into Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and he explored extensively in Nepal, all the while developing a mountaineering style characterised by its simplicity and emphasis on exploration. It was perhaps logical then that Tilman would eventually buy the pilot cutter Mischief, not with the intention of retiring from travelling, but to access remote mountains. For twenty-two years Tilman sailed Mischief and her successors to Patagonia, where he crossed the vast ice cap, and to Baffin Island to make the first ascent of Mount Raleigh. He made trips to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the South Shetlands, before disappearing in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1977.
Born into a New Zealnd pioneer family of farmers, boatbuilders and engineers, Colin Putt is a distinguished climber, sailor and engineer, described by Tilman as ‘a man of infinite resource and ability’.
Annie Hill is the author of Voyaging on a Small Income, a study in the economics of continual travel and self-sufficiency. Like Tilman, Annie has covered more than 160,000 miles under sail, including multiple voyages to high latitudes in all seasons.