Obituary: Dame Freya Stark
Friday 14 May 1993
She started to climb before the 1914- 18 war, with her adopted godfather (who was also mine) the scholar WP Ker, later Professor of Poetry at Oxford. In 1913 he took her climbing in the Gran Paradiso range south of Mont Blanc; in 1919 they were again on the Italian side of the Alps, climbing from Courmayeur and walking over the passes between the valleys that radiate from Monte Rosa, ending at Macugnaga in the Val Anzasca. In 1923 they returned to Macugnaga and as they were climbing towards a minor summit, the Pizzo Bianco, 'WP gave a sudden cry and died': his heart had stopped. He was buried in the old church at Macugnaga, under the great East face of Monte Rosa.
This gigantic wall of ice and snow, 10,000 feet high, had seldom - as WP told Freya - been climbed, because of the danger from avalanche and rockfall. But in 1924 Freya, climbing with a Macugnaga guide, became the second woman to reach the summit of Monte Rosa by this route. They had to start the climb before midnight so that the Marinelli couloir, which runs up the face, could be traversed while still congealed by night frost.
This was the high point of her climbing life. In 1931, while travelling in Persia, she had plans to climb Takht-i-Suleiman, but was foiled by a rival climber who bribed her shikari to lead her to the unclimbable side of the mountain. Her delight in just being among mountains endured: 'Nothing will ever hold me like the mountains,' she wrote me in 1975.
In a letter to me of May 1979 she confessed she was 'not up to much (86)' but had 'an unreasonable but happy wish to look once more on the Himalaya', and especially 'to ride from Indus source to Oxus across Pamirs'. Would she need a Russian visa, she asked me; and would her heart hold out? I think she half hoped it would not, and that, like her beloved WP, she would end her life suddenly, among great mountains.
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 2 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 4 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 5 Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...
£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...
£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...