Aleister Crowley: Mountaineer

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Predictably, there’s been a flurry of online reference to Crowley as a result of the anniversary of the successful climbing of K2.

Equally predictably, the tone is not positive!, for example, refers to “the mad Aleister Crowley in 1902 … the drama of the Mountaineers Mountain continues to mesmerize the world of mountaineering.”

The excellent refers to “the irreverent and bizarre Crowley” but balances this with a reference to the “second attempt, this time via the saddle between K2 and Skyang Kangri (7,544m, The Staircase), [which] redeemed Crowley and his superb mountaineering skills.”

Read more for the Crowley references in the article…

The first attempt on K2 took place in 1902. One of the members of the doomed expedition, the ‘wickedest man on Earth’ and also one mean climber, was Aleister Crowley. He had many important solo climbs in the Western Alps, including a couple of firsts. For several years he had been moving swiftly up the ranks of the occult orders much to the dismay of the senior members. After offending just about every person involved in black magic at the turn of the 20th century and incurring several ‘attacks’, Crowley left his home in London. An accomplished climber, he found his way on to the K2 expedition.

Bad omen

The first bad omen for this first attempt on K2 was the arrest of Eckenstein, the expedition leader. Rumor has it that Eckenstein’s old nemesis, William Conway, then the president of the Alpine Club, had arranged for the incarceration in Kashmir. Three weeks later Eckenstein was released and joined his team at base camp only to walk into a raging debate on which route to take. The irreverent and bizarre Crowley wanted to attack the South-East Ridge but the team decided on the North-East Crest. As it turned out Crowley was right; the team had to turn back at 6,000 meters. To make his point during the frustration of failure, Crowley took out a revolver and threatened several members of the team. The expedition regrouped and planned for a second attempt.

Down from thin air into deep fogs of Heroin

A second attempt, this time via the saddle between K2 and Skyang Kangri (7,544m, The Staircase), redeemed Crowley and his superb mountaineering skills. When a fellow climber was struck by pulmonary edema, Crowley was the only one to recognize the severity and insisted on taking the sick man off the mountain. This decision saved the climber’s life but prevented the team from reaching the peak. Soon after the expedition Crowley began a long descent into heroin addiction. His behavior became more bizarre and iconoclastic and his activities more infamous each day.

Bat wife

At one point he became convinced his wife was a bat, Crowley forced her to sleep tied upside down in a closet at nights. By the time of his death, Aleister Crowley, was a permanent fixture in the world’s history of the occult, and a lesser known climber on the first attempt on K2.

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