Boardman-Tasker awarded to Freedom Climbers

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 19/11/2011
Short-listed authors (from left to right) Ian Smith, Steve "Crusher" Bartlett, and Tim Hannigan. Lindsay Griffin

Canadian author Bernadette McDonald is enjoying the rare accolade of having won both the 2011 Banff and Boardman-Tasker literary awards.

On Friday 18th November at a very well attended ceremony in Kendal [that is part sponsored by the BMC], the Boardman-Tasker Charitable Trust awarded this year's prize, a handsome cheque for £3,000, to Freedom Climbers.

This meticulously researched story tells how Polish climbers emerged from the Second World War and the rigours of Soviet occupation to discover, and then dominate, high altitude climbing in the 1970s and '80s.

It was felt, according to this year's judging panel, to be one of the most important mountaineering books published in the English language for many years.

The award ceremony, hosted by Joe Tasker's brother Paul and accomplished author Julie Summers, is now an annual event at the Kendal Film Festival, with much of the afternoon devoted to Summers' interviews with the short-listed authors.

Only three of the five short-listed authors was able to attend the ceremony: Ian Smith (Shadow on the Matterhorn); Tim Hannigan (Murder in the Hindu Kush) and UK born Colorado resident Steve Bartlett (Desert Towers).

However, whilst Joe Simpson (The Sound of Gravity) was unavailable, his editor, Val Randall, ably stepped in to "the void" to discuss the evolution of this powerful novel.

Unfortunately, McDonald was in a hospital bed, having just undergone pre-booked shoulder surgery. However, she was visible in the form of a video recording, reading an extract from the book.

As all three available authors had written historical works, after their individual interviews they grouped on stage for a typically astute and penetrating Summer's probe into the various ways in which they had carried out their research.

Barry Imeson, chair of this year's three-man judging panel, then took the stage to deliver the customary award speech.

Imeson began by mentioning some of the books that had not made the short-list, in particular Prelude to Everest by Ian Mitchell and George Rodway, and A Day to Die For by Graham Ratcliffe.

Prelude to Everest is a biography of the little-documented Himalayan climber Alexander Kellas, whose ascent of Pauhunri in North East Sikkim marked, at the time, the highest peak climbed by man.

A Day to Die For sets out to establish the real story of the circumstances surrounding the 1996 disaster on Everest, by one who was on the South Col at the time.

Other non short-listed books worthy of mention were; Adrian Hendroff's From High Places, a celebration of Irish mountains; Over the Hill by Graham Wilson, a delightfully written collection of often-forceful views on mountain-related matters; Troll Wall by Tony Howard - the story of the historic first ascent; The Challenge of K2, Richard Sale's well researched history of the World's second highest mountain; and Peter Berg's Scrambles with a Camera, which makes available Edward Whymper's excellent slides.

After announcing the winner, the audience was surprised to find that McDonald had pre recorded a "fake" acceptance speech, which began with the words that if this was actually being shown to the audience then she was the happiest author alive.

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the award and will mark an introduction of a young writers' prize, plus a re-issue of the classic Boardman-Tasker Omnibus. The BT Award is now arguably the most prestigious prize in mountain literature and there are already a number of excellent books being submitted for the 2012.

For more information visit the Boardman Tasker Charitable Trust

The photo shows short-listed authors (from left to right) Ian Smith, Steve "Crusher" Bartlett, and Tim Hannigan



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