Alastair Borthwick Chronicled The Egalitarian Climber

Broadcaster and writer Alastair Borthwick passed away on September 25, 2003. He was born on February 17, 1913, and had married his wife Anne in 1940 who had passed away earlier in 2003. Together, the couple had one son during their marriage.

Alastair Borthwick was best known for his writings on the sports of mountaineering and climbing throughout Europe. When he first began writing about the topic, it was mainly seen as a sport for the well-to-do that took place in exotic locations and was recounted in expedition books. This all started to change in the mid-1900s when the working class started enjoying the sport in their own local areas or by trekking across Europe and staying at hostels.

The author documented these changes and climbing in general in his book Always a Little Further. In particular, he showed how the “grass-roots” movement began in the hills of his home country Scotland. Most of the people that he documented in his book and articles consisted of the unemployed and working class people in the cities of Clydebank and Glasgow. At the time, many in Europe were facing economic troubles and the unemployment rate had skyrocketed.

As per the Chronicles Weekly, the changes made to Scotland’s climbing culture were inspired by a movement that began in Germany known as “Wandervogel“. In the Weimar Republic, enthusiasm was quickly growing for those in Northern Europe who had discovered a love for hiking and climbing. In the 1930’s large network of youth hostels had already been established across Northern Europe in order to accommodate these travelers. The massive amounts of unemployment had created a large population of people with free time who didn’t have much money to spend. This made climbing and hiking an ideal entertainment option for a large part of Europe.

During his time writing, Alastair Borthwick had the opportunity to learn interesting stories from even more interesting people. While the sport was certainly written about before Alastair Borthwick, he was the only one at the time to not write about the mountaineering elite of the day. He chronicled the egalitarian climbers of the day and their personalities.

Alastair Borthwick’s biography: https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/b/alastairborthwick.html

Leave a Reply