Eric Shipton

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Eric Shipton
Eric Shipton
Born1 August 1907
Died28 March 1977 (aged 69)
Occupation(s)Mountaineer, Explorer

Eric Earle Shipton, CBE (1 August 1907 – 28 March 1977), was an English Himalayan mountaineer.

Early years[edit]

Shipton was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1907 where his father, a tea planter, died before he was three years old. When he was eight, his mother brought him to London for his education. When he failed the entrance exam to Harrow School, his mother sent him to Pyt House School in Wiltshire. His first encounter with mountains was at 15 when he visited the Pyrenees with his family.[1] The next summer he spent travelling in Norway with a school friend[2] and within a year he had begun climbing seriously.

Africa and the Himalaya[edit]

In 1928 he went to Kenya as a coffee grower and first climbed Nelion, a peak of Mount Kenya, in 1929. It was also in Kenya's community of Europeans where he met his future climbing partners Bill Tilman and Percy Wyn-Harris. Together with Wyn-Harris, he climbed the twin peaks of Mount Kenya. With Frank Smythe, Shipton was amongst the first climbers to stand on the summit of Kamet, 7756 metres, in 1931, the highest peak climbed at that time. Shipton was involved with most of the Mount Everest expeditions during the 1930s and later, including Hugh Ruttledge's 1933 Mount Everest expedition and the follow-up in 1936, the 1935 Mount Everest expedition which was Shipton's first as leader and the first for Tenzing Norgay, and the pioneering 1951 Mount Everest expedition which chalked out the now famous route over the Khumbu Glacier. Shipton and Tilman also discovered the access route to the Nanda Devi sanctuary through the Rishi Ganga gorge in 1934. Their shoe-string budget expedition operated in the Kumaon-Garhwal mountains continuously from pre-monsoon to post-monsoon, and set a record for single-expedition achievement that has never been equalled.

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, Shipton was appointed as HM Consul at Kashgar in western China, where he remained from 1940 to 1942, then after a brief spell in England was assigned to work in Persia as a "Cereal Liaison Officer" for 20 months during 1943–44. Next he was posted as an attache to the British Military Mission in Hungary as an "agricultural adviser" which position saw him through until the end of the War.[3]

Post-War years[edit]

In 1946 Shipton returned to Kashgar as Consul General, and during a visit from Bill Tilman they tried to climb Muztagh Ata, 7546 metres, reaching the broad summit dome. In 1947 Shipton explored and named Shipton's Arch. He took the opportunity of his Kashgar posting to explore other Central Asian mountains.[4] The first western exploration of the Rolwaling Himal was made by Shipton in 1951 during the reconnaissance of Mount Everest. While exploring the Barun gorge he named Island Peak. In the 1951 Everest expedition, Shipton and Dr Michael Ward also took photographs of the footprints of what may have been the Yeti (Abominable Snowman), an ice axe being included in the photographs to show scale. Because of his belief in the efficacy of small expeditions as compared to military-style 'sieges', Shipton was stepped down from the leadership of the 1953 Everest expedition, along with Andrew Croft, in favour of Major John Hunt: "I leave London absolutely shattered", he wrote. Between the years 1953 and 1957 he worked at a variety of jobs. Shipton worked as Warden of the Outward Bound Mountain school at Eskdale until the failure of his marriage with his wife, Diana. He worked on farms, was awarded his CBE, and in 1957 led a group of students from the Imperial College of Science to the Karakoram.

Final years[edit]

For the last decade of his life, Shipton continued to travel, supporting himself by lecturing and acting as a celebrity guide. He completed the second volume of his autobiography, That Untravelled World, in 1969. He visited the Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia, Kenya, Chile, Bhutan and Nepal. Whilst staying in Bhutan in 1976, he fell ill; on his return to England, he was diagnosed with cancer to which he succumbed in March 1977. He was cremated in Salisbury and his ashes were scattered on Fonthill Lake in Wiltshire.[5]



Shipton's granddaughter Zoe Shipton is an eminent geologist.[6]

Mountaineering highlights 1922–1973[edit]


  • Shipton, Eric. Nanda Devi. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1936.
  • Shipton, Eric. Blank on the map. Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1938.
  • Shipton, Eric. Upon That Mountain. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1943.
  • Shipton, Eric. The Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition 1951. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1952.
  • Shipton, Eric. Mountains of Tartary. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1953.
  • Shipton, Eric. Land of Tempest. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1963.
  • Shipton, Eric. That Untravelled World. Charles Scribner and Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-340-04330-X (Hodder & Stoughton (1969))
  • Shipton, Eric. Tierra del Fuego: the Fatal Lodestone. Charles Knight & Co., London, 1973 ISBN 0-85314-194-0
  • Shipton, Eric. The Six Mountain-Travel Books. Mountaineers' Books, 1997. ISBN 0-89886-539-5 (A collection of the first six books listed – That Untravelled World duplicated much of the previous content.)


  1. ^ Steele, Peter, Eric Shipton: Everest and Beyond (Mountaineers' Books, ISBN 0-89886-603-0)
  2. ^ Shipton, Eric. Upon That Mountain. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1943. (Re-published by Vertebrate Publishing (2019), ISBN 9781912560080)
  3. ^ Steele, Peter, Eric Shipton: Everest and Beyond (Mountaineers' Books, ISBN 0-89886-603-0)
  4. ^ Shipton, Eric. That Untravelled World Hodder & Stoughton, 1969. ISBN 0-340-04330-X
  5. ^ Steele, Peter, Eric Shipton: Everest and Beyond (Mountaineers' Books, ISBN 0-89886-603-0)
  6. ^ The Life Scientific -Zoe Shipton on fracking- 3'24" 8 July 2014
  7. ^ Shipton, Eric: The Six Mountain-Travel Books Diadem Books 1985 ISBN 9780898860757 pp. 796–800

Further reading[edit]

  • Astill, Tony Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance 1935. Published by the Author, 2005. ISBN 0-9549201-0-4
  • Peter Lloyd, Shipton, Eric Earle (1907–1977), rev. Anita McConnell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Tilman, H.W. Two Mountains and a River. Cambridge University Press, 1949.
  • Unsworth, Walt. Everest. Allen Lane, 1981.
  • Steele, Peter. Everest and Beyond. Mountaineers' Books, 1998.
  • John, Earle, The springs of enchantment. (Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-24304-X )
  • Eric Shipton, "Upon That Mountain". (Holder and Stoughton Limited) Printed Oct and December 1943

External links[edit]