London, G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1935. 14 cm x 22.5 cm. XIII, 352 pages. 69 illustrations. Hardcover [publisher’s original green cloth] with lettering on spine and front board. Good condition only with stronger signs of external wear and staining to boards. Boards rubbed. Wear and rubbing to spine but binding still firm and strong. Occasional spotting to otherwise clean interior. Preowner details on front endpaper. Loose emphemera within: Daily Telegraph obituary of Dorothy dated 2 October 1986.
Reminiscences of author’s extensive climbs in hills and mountains across Britain and Europe in the 1920s.
Includes, for example, the following: The Lake District / The Isle of Skye / Corsica / The Mont Blanc Chain / Into Spain and Back Again etc.
Her biography evocatively describes her first encounter with those Welsh hills, capturing the powerful feelings of transcendence and the experience of the sublime that loses little of its verve in the passing years: “It was like waking up from a half sleep with the senses cleared, the self-released. It was as if I had never seen anything before to strike me as beautiful. The Aberglaslyn Pass seemed the limiting possibility of awful grandeur. Sheer rock walls were edged with sentinel trees in dark silhouette against sky. Wordsworth does not exaggerate at all; the hills, the cliffs, the cataracts haunt the mind first gives itself to them ‘like a passion’. I was distraught by the feelings that arose. They came with a shock of utter newness upon me, and a mossy rock would stare at me like a stranger until nothing in the world seemed to matter except my desperate attempts to discover what its significance could be. Hours passed trying to describe, in a note-book, the flowing water, clear, softly lipping over stones with a chase of fleecy foam-mice running out from under them over amber and cat’s-eye depths. They were both of a joy and a pain, an endless excitement and an endless excitement and an endless disappointment. I was helpless before these feelings and knew my helplessness.” (p.2)
Dorothy Pilley Richards (16 September 1894 in Camberwell, London – 24 September 1986 in Cambridge) was a prominent mountaineer. She discovered climbing on a trip to Wales and, as she recalled much later, “Mountain madness had me now for ever in its grasp.” Joining the Fell and Rock Climbing Club, she began forging her own path in the British mountains, a youthful exuberance later leading her to the European Alps and beyond.
In the 1920s, she climbed extensively in the Alps, Britain, and North America after her marriage to educator, literary critic, and rhetorician Ivor Armstrong (I.A.) Richards.
Ignoring societal expectations and traditional gender roles, Dorothy’s exploits in the hills were anathema to London life. Living in Cambridge with husband academic life did not appeal to Dorothy, the hills and peaks instead taking on “something of the place that a university may hold for others.” In 1928, she made the celebrated first ascent of the northwest ridge of the Dent Blanche, with Joseph Georges, Antoine Georges and her husband, which she described in her well-regarded memoir, Climbing Days (Wikipedia).
However, her single-minded enthusiasm for the mountains did not prevent Dorothy from contributing to mountaineering culture in a benevolent manner; she was founder, President and Journal Editor of the Pinnacle Club for women from 1921 onwards, a ‘tireless recruiting sergeant’ for various clubs with a penchant for both sharing stories and listening to the adventures of others in the mountains, until her death in 1986 at the age of 92. (‘Climbing Days – The Life and Climbs of Dorothy Pilley’ from UK Climbing website)
She also made an abortive attempt on K2 and a perilous but successful venture along the Old Silk Road.
A belated biography of this path-breaking female climber was published in 2016: ‘Climbing Days’ by Dan Richards.