To the 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. The history of climbing inevitably reflects the wider changes that have occurred in British society, including class, gender, nationalism and war, but the sport has also contributed to changing social attitudes to nature and beauty, heroism and death. Over the years, increasing wealth, leisure and mobility have gradually transformed climbing from an activity undertaken by an eccentric and privileged minority into a sub-division of the leisure and tourist industry, while competition, improved technology and information, and increasing specialisation have helped to create climbs of unimaginable difficulty at the leading edge of the sport. 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 society and willingness to take "unjustifiable" risk in pursuit of beauty, adventure and self-fulfilment.
Unjustifiable Risk was shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker prize in 2011.
Simon Thompson started climbing at the age of 16 and has been fascinated by the sport ever since. A former director of Anglo American and chairman of Tarmac, he has lived in seven different countries and currently sits on the boards of companies headquartered in Sweden, the UK and the US, but he continues to escape to the mountains whenever time permits.
Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Before 1854: In Search of the Sublime From gloom to glory Aesthetes and heroes Chapter 3 1854-65: A Conscious Divinity Chapter 4 1865-1914: Gentlemen and Gymnasts The Alps The Lake District North Wales Scotland Outcrops The Greater Ranges Chapter 5 1914-39: Organised Cowardice The Lake District North Wales Scotland Outcrops The Alps The Greater Ranges Chapter 6 1939-70: Hard Men in an Affluent Society North Wales The Lake District Scotland Outcrops The Alps The Greater Ranges Chapter 7 After 1970: Reinventing the Impossible Rock climbing Mountaineering Chapter 8 Because it's there? Notes List of Photographs Appendix I A Note on Grades Appendix II Glossary of Climbing Terms Selected Bibliography Index