Author(s): Jim Perrin
Don Whillans has an iconic significance for generations of climbers. His epoch-making first ascent of Annapurna's South Face, achieved with Dougal Haston in 1970, remains one of the most impressive climbs ever made, a standard to which all modern Himalayan climbers aspire - but behind this and all his other formidable achievements lies a tough, recalcitrant reality: the character of the man himself.
At twenty, Whillans was 5 foot 4 inches tall, a working-class lad with the build of a miniature Atlas. Within a year of entering the climbing world in 1950 he had acquired parallel reputations of great skill and daring on the one hand, and as a hell-raiser, a scrapper and a savage-tongued wit on the other - the Villain of the title, who was turned down for a Queen's Birthday Honour because of a violent fracas with several policemen. His world was miles away from the conventional public-school environment of the upper-class climbers who had for so long dominated the sport, and this itself led to tensions throughout his life.
Whillans carried within himself a sense of personal invincibility, forceful, direct and uncompromising. It gave him sporting superstar status - the flawed heroism of a Best, a McEnroe, an Ali. In his own circle, his image was the working class hero on the rock-face, laconic and bellicose, ready to go to war with the elements or with any human who crossed his path on a bad day.
Winner of Boardman Tasker Memorial Prize 2005.
"Wonderfully crafted . . . One of the most gifted chroniclers of mountaineering. . . Perrin records it all with a subtle sympathy, laying bare British mountaineering's most mythologized figure."
"From the Trade Paperback edition."
Jim Perrin is one of Britain's most highly regarded travel writers and was one of the best British rock-climbers - with many new routes, significant solo ascents and free ascents at the top standards of the day. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph, Climber, The Great Outdoors and broadcasts regularly on radio. His biography, Menlove, was the first outright winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize, for which all of his subsequent books have been shortlisted. His most recent book, Travels with The Flea and Other Eccentric Journeys, was published to critical acclaim in 2002.