Frank Smythe

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Francis Sydney Smythe, better known as Frank Smythe or F. S. Smythe (6 July 1900 – 27 June 1949), was a British mountaineer, author, photographer and botanist. He is best remembered for his mountaineering in the Alps and the Himalayas. He identified a region that he named the "Valley of Flowers", now a protected park. His ascents include two new routes on the Brenva Face of Mont Blanc, Kamet, and attempts on Kangchenjunga and Mount Everest in the 1930s.[1] It was said that he had a tendency for irascibility, that some of his mountaineering contemporaries said "decreased with altitude".[2] Smythe was educated in Switzerland after an initial period at Berkhamsted School, trained as an electrical engineer and worked for brief periods with the Royal Air Force and Kodak before devoting himself to writing and public lecturing. Smythe enjoyed mountaineering, photography, collecting plants, and gardening; he toured as a lecturer; and he wrote a total of twenty seven books.[3] Smythe's focused approach is well documented, not only through his own writings, but by his contemporaries and later works.

Among his many public lectures, Smythe gave at least several to the Royal Geographical Society, his first being in 1931 titled "Explorations in Garhwal around Kamet", his second in 1947 titled "An Expedition to the Lloyd George Mountains, North-East British Columbia".

Smythe was a prodigious writer and produced many popular books. However his book "The Kangchenjunga Adventure" launched Smythe as a legitimate and respected author.[4]

During the Second World War he served in the Canadian Rockies as a mountaineer training officer for the Lovat Scouts. He went on to write two books about climbing in the Rockies, Rocky Mountains (1948) and Climbs in the Canadian Rockies (1951). Mount Smythe (10,650 ft) was named in his honour.

In 1949, in Delhi, he was taken ill with food poisoning; then a succession of malaria attacks took their toll and he died on 27 June 1949, two weeks before his 49th birthday.


  • 1927 and 1928 Smythe, together with T. Graham Brown, made the first ascent of two routes on the Brenva Face of Mont Blanc, the Sentinelle Rouge and Route Major. These were the first routes to be put up on the face.
  • 1930 Smythe was a member of the international team (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain), to attempt Kangchenjunga. Under the leadership of Professor Dyrenfurth.
  • 1931 Smythe was the leader of the first successful expedition to climb Kamet (7,756 m) in 1931, at the time it was the highest peak yet climbed. During the Kamet expedition Smythe and Holdswordth discovered what they called the Valley of Flowers[5] in the Himalaya, now in the state of Uttarakhand, India.
  • 1933 Smythe was a member of Hugh Ruttledge's Everest expedition.[6]
  • 1936 Smythe was again a member of Hugh Ruttledge's 2nd Everest Expedition.
  • 1938 Smythe was a member of Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman's[7] expedition to Everest.


The following is a list of the books written by Frank Smythe;[3]

  • Climbs and Ski Runs (1930) Blackwood, Edinburgh
  • The Kangchenjunga Adventure (1930) Gollanz, London
  • Kamet Conquered (1932) Gollanz, London
  • An Alpine Journey (1934) Hodder, London
  • The Spirit of the Hills (1935) Hodder, London
  • Over Tyrolese Hills (1936) Hodder, London
  • Camp 6 (1937) Hodder, London
  • The Valley of the Flowers (1938) Hodder, London
  • Peaks and Flowers of the Central Himalayas (1938, The Geographical Magazine article)
  • The Mountain Scene (1937) A&C Black
  • Peaks and Valleys (1938) A&C Black
  • A Camera in the Hills (1939) A&C Black
  • Mountaineering Holiday (1940) Hodder, London
  • Edward Whymper (1940) Hodder, London
  • My Alpine Album (1940) A&C Black
  • Adventures of a Mountaineer (1940) Dent
  • The Mountain Vision (1941) Hodder, London
  • Over Welsh Hills (1941) A&C Black
  • Alpine Ways (1942) A&C Black
  • Secret Mission (1942) Hodder and Stoughton, London
  • British Mountaineers (1942) Collins
  • Snow on the hills (1946) A&C Black
  • The Mountain Top (1947) St Hugh's Press
  • Again Switzerland (1947) Hodder, London
  • Rocky Mountains (1948) A&C Black
  • Swiss Winter (1948) A&C Black
  • Mountains in Colour (1949) Max Parrish
  • Climbs in the Canadian Rockies (1950) Hodder, London

Many were subsequently re-published in the USA, some of the best have been gathered into collections.


  1. ^ Odell, NE (1949). "Mr F S Smythe". Nature 164 (4163): 266. doi:10.1038/164266a0. 
  2. ^ George Band (2003). Everest: The Official History. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. 
  3. ^ a b Smythe, Frank S (2000). The Six Alpine/Himalayan Climbing Books. Appendix V: Baton Wicks. pp. 933 and 934. ISBN 1-898573-37-9. 
  4. ^ Harry Calvert (1985). Smythe's Mountains: F. S. Smythe and his Climbs. Gollancz. 
  5. ^ F. S. Smythe (1949). The Valley of Flowers. W.W. Norton. 
  6. ^ Hugh Ruttledge (1933). Everest 1933. Hodder and Stoughton. 
  7. ^ H. W. Tilman (1938). Mount Everest 1938. Pilgrims Publishing.