William Woodman Graham

William Woodman Graham

William Woodman Graham ("c." 1859 - "fl." 1932) was a British mountaineer who led the first pure mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas and may have set a world altitude record on Kabru.

Motivated by adventure rather than a desire for fame, Graham had little interest in publicising his climbs, and as a result relatively little is known about his life and achievements. He is known to have climbed extensively in the Alps, reaching most of the major summits and making the first ascent of the Dent du Géant in 1882. [cite book |title=Encyclopaedia of Mountaineering |last=Unsworth
first=Walt|authorlink=Walt Unsworth |coauthors= |year=1977 |publisher=Mountaineers Books |location = London| pages=p. 154
] However, his application to join the Alpine Club was rejected for reasons which are unclear, but the size of the majority against him suggests that he had made influential enemies.cite web |url=http://www.mountain-heritage.org/entity.php?ID=215 |title=Graham, William Woodman (c.1859-unknown) |accessdate=2008-10-08 |last=Willett |first=Maxine |coauthors=Wells, Colin |date= 2006-08-06 |work= |publisher=Mountain Heritage Trust]

In 1883, shortly after he had qualified as a barrister, Graham made a visit to the Himalayas in the company of Alpine guide Josef Imboden. While many of the lower mountains of the Himalaya had been climbed by surveyors and explorers, mainly to make observations of more distant peaks, Graham was the first person to visit the range solely for the purpose of mountaineering. [cite book |title=Hold the Heights: The Foundations of Mountaineering |last=Unsworth
first=Walt|authorlink=Walt Unsworth |coauthors= |year=1994 |publisher=Penguin Books |location = Seattle| pages=p. 232
] He spent the spring trekking in the region of Kanchenjunga, but he was forced to return to Darjeeling by the cold weather and the fact that a porter had accidentally burned his boots.

Once in Darjeeling, Imboden, who had contracted fever, was replaced by the Swiss guides Ulrich Kaufmann and Emile Boss, who had made the first ascent of Mount Cook the previous year. At the end of June the party set off for Garhwal where they explored the region around Nanda Devi. Unable to penetrate the Nanda Devi Sanctuary they turned their attention towards Dunagiri, where Graham claimed to have reached a height of around 22,700 ft (6,920 m) before being forced to retreat by bad weather. [Unsworth (1994) p. 233]

Graham and his companions next attempted a nearby peak, which they believed was the one marked on the map as A21, now known as Changabang. They made an ascent by the West Ridge, which Graham described as "a fair climb, but [one that] presented no great difficulties." [Quoted in Unsworth (1994), p. 234] Modern observers, however, agree that whatever mountain Graham climbed it was not Changabang, which from the west presents a sheer wall which was not climbed until 1976, and certainly not the easy ridge that Graham described.Unsworth (1994), p. 234] It is more likely that he was on the wrong mountain; possibly a subsidiary summit on the southern ridge of Dunagiri. [cite book |title=Abode of the Snow |last=Mason
first=Kenneth|authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1955 |publisher=Rupert Hart-Davis |pages=p. 93-94
Reprinted 1987 by Diadem Books, ISBN 978-0906371916

Graham's confusion was partly due to the poor quality of the maps of the area, and on his return to civilisation he was critical of the Great Trigonometric Survey, suggesting that its surveyors should be trained in mountaineering by the Swiss Army, whom he credited with the finest cartographic work in the world at the time. The criticism was not well received by the Survey, and it may have made Graham more enemies to cast doubt on his accomplishments.

After the Garhwal trip, Graham and his companions returned to the Kanchenjunga area for the climax of their campaign; an attempt on Kabru, which Graham claimed to have climbed by the East Face in three days, reaching the summit on 8 September.Unsworth (1994), p. 235] Kabru, at 7,349 m (24,111 ft), was far higher than any other mountain climbed at the time, and its ascent was and remains the most controversial aspect of Graham's expedition. Doubt was cast on whether he really had climbed this mountain or whether he had mistaken a nearby, lower mountain called Forked Peak (6,200 m, 20,340 ft) for Kabru. His ascent was doubted by membery of the GTS, and by contemporaries including Martin Conway and William Hunter Workman (both of whom had rival claims to the world altitude record).Unsworth (1994), p. 236] However, it was supported by climbers such as Norman Collie, Thomas Longstaff and Douglas Freshfield - Freshfield having travelled extensively in the same area himself. In his history of Himalayan climbing Kenneth Mason argued that Graham had not climbed Kabru, pointing to the vagueness of his description of the mountain, inconsistencies between his account and modern observations of the mountain, the remarkably quick ascent he claimed, and the fact that he appeared to have suffered little or no altitude sickness on his ascent. [Mason, p.94] In a more recent history, Walt Unsworth argued that the vagueness of Graham's account was to be expected from a man who was a mountaineer rather than a surveyor, and that now Mount Everest has been climbed in a single day without oxygen Graham's claims seem less outlandish than the once did, so suggested that he should perhaps be credited with the ascent after all. The controversy remains unresolved.

After Kabru, Graham attempted several other mountains in the area, but the onset of winter prevented him from making serious progress on any of them. He disappeared from mountaineering history after his year in the Himalayas, and after making his initial report of his Himalayan expedition he never made any further comment or engaged in the ensuing controversy. For many years it was rumoured that he lost all his money and ended his days as a cowboy in the United States, but in fact he served as British Consul in Durango, Mexico, from 1910 until 1932.Unsworth (1994), pp. 392-3] The year of his death is unknown.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • William Woodman Graham — (né en 1859 et mort après 1932) était un alpiniste britannique. Il mena en 1883 la première expédition dédiée exclusivement à l alpinisme en Himalaya et a peut être établi un record d altitude sur le Kabru (7 412 m). Biographie On sait… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Woodman Graham — (h. 1859 – fl. 1932) fue un montañero británico que lideró las primeras expediciones puramente montañeras al Himalaya y puede que estableciera un récord mundial de altitud en Kabru. Motivado por la aventura más que por un deseo de fama, Graham… …   Wikipedia Español

  • William Graham — may refer to:In politics and government: * Sir William de Graham, 12th century Scottish knight * William Graham, 2nd Duke of Montrose (1712–1790), Scottish nobleman * William Graham, 7th Earl of Menteith (1591–1661), Scottish nobleman * William… …   Wikipedia

  • John Woodman — infobox bishopbiog name = John Woodman religion= Roman Catholic Church See = Diocese of Ross Title = Bishop of Ross Period = 1476 ndash;1480 × 1481 consecration = unknown Predecessor = Henry Cockburn Successor = William Elphinstone post = Abbot… …   Wikipedia

  • Record d'altitude en alpinisme — Dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle est apparue l idée de record d altitude en alpinisme, qui recouvre deux notions distinctes : soit le plus haut sommet gravi, soit la plus haute altitude atteinte. La course à ces deux records a… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Kabru — Le Kabru vu depuis Dzongri au Sikkim Géographie Altitude 7 412 m, Kabru IV Massif Himalaya …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sommets des Alpes de plus de 4 000 mètres — De gauche à droite, la Dent d Hérens (4 171 m), le Cervin (4 478 m), la Dent Blanche (4 357 m), l Obergabelhorn (4 062 m) avec la Wellenkuppe (3 903 m), le Zinalrot …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dent du Géant — The sharp pinnacle of the Dent du Géant (left) at the western end of the Rochefort ridge (centre) Elevation …   Wikipedia

  • Dent du Géant — La dent du Géant, avec la pointe Sella à gauche, et le point culminant, la pointe Graham à droite Géographie Altitude 4 013 m, pointe …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Kangchenjunga — For other uses, see Kangchenjunga (disambiguation). Kangchenjunga Kangchenjunga early in the morning, from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”