The Banff Centre The Banff Centre Mountain Culture at The Banff Centre

Banff Mountain Book Festival

Jim Bridwell

John Earl

John Earl and Eric Shipton on ice fall - Tierra del Fuego.

Friday, November 2
Daytime program
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Max Bell Auditorium

John Earle

Mountains of Glass

Mountains of Glass is a film about a 1963 expedition led by the veteran mountaineer and explorer Eric Shipton to the unexplored Darwin Range in Tierra del Fuego. The film follows two first ascents and gives a vivid picture of the geography and nature of this remote area — a rugged region of high winds, glaciers that reach the sea, fur seals, and condors. John Earle was the director/cameraman on this expedition, and with the silent footage from the film as a backdrop to his presentation, Earle will provide insight into a remarkable man and a remarkable era in mountain exploration. 

Born in Sri Lanka in 1907 and educated in England, Shipton established his climbing credentials in the Alps. While farming coffee in Kenya, he met his future mountaineering and expedition partner Bill Tilman. As the only veteran of all four of the 1930s Everest expeditions, Shipton remains one of the great Everest and Himalayan explorers and has become a mountaineering legend.

In the 1940s Shipton was posted as Consul General to Kashgar, China, and also spent terms in Hungary and Persia. Most of Shipton’s life was spent exploring, writing, and lecturing. He later focused on exploring the remote regions of the mountains and ice-caps in South America, and in the mid-50s he traversed the southern Patagonia icecap.

Earle had the opportunity to get to know Shipton when Earle was an instructor at Eskdale Outward Bound School in the Lake District, where Shipton was the warden, and then later as a friend and on expeditions to Patagonia. In January 1963, Earle accompanied Shipton as a director/cameraman for the film The Elusive Volcano on an expedition led by Shipton to reach an extinct volcanic peak in south-west Patagonia. Later in 1963, Earle also accompanied Shipton on the expedition featured in The Mountains of Glass.

Earle has always had a love of mountains and wild places. He started climbing in Wales while still at school and subsequently went on to climb 20 seasons in the Alps. His first expedition to the Himalayas was to the unexplored Kanjiroba Himal (western Nepal) in 1961, where he made his first film for BBC Television, working with producer David Attenborough. This expedition led to many more film projects around the world. Earle has been a cameraman for numerous films and BBC Television productions including Sherpas of Everest, which featured Eric Shipton leading the first trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Earle has also presented for BBC Television’s childrens and educational programs and is the author of The Springs of Enchantment: Climbing and Exploration in Patagonia, and several walking guidebooks for Dartmoor, Exmoor, and Cornwall. Though semi-retired, he is currently head of the Dartmoor Expedition Centre.

2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth, and the 30th anniversary of the death, of Eric Shipton.

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