Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Jim Curran...Mountain Renaissance man leaves the stage.

Jim Curran on the left at an exhibition of his work

So...Jim Curran has died. Rock Climber/mountaineer, film maker, artist, lecturer and friend to so many. Since I started climbing in the mid 80's, Jim's name was synonymous with what seems like a golden period in mountain culture. So many creative people were producing quality material at that time, that the shallow,self aggrandizing narcissism which passes these days for mountain literature appears like thin gruel after the rich banquet which went before. Jim Curran's name is more synonymous with mountaineering books like 'K2- The Story of the Savage Mountain', 'Suspended Sentences' his auto-biography and his biography of Chris Bonington 'High Achiever'.However, his films and art works are equally well regarded by those who immerse themselves in mountain culture.

If you were looking for a potted biography of the man than look no further than his own website which offers the following run down of his life and times....

He has climbed and filmed on fifteen mountain-based documentaries (including two on Mount Everest), with all the great of the British mountaineering scene, including CHRIS BONINGTON, JOE TASKER, ALAN ROUSE, JOE BROWN and PETER BOARDMAN. He has also filmed in the Andes, Caucasus and Atlas Mountains and China, and nearer home, on the Old Man of Hoy and St Kilda. 

He lives in Sheffield where his painting is constantly interrupted by the attractions of the Peak District in general, and the attractions of climbing on gritstone outcrops in particular. 

His films and books have won many awards world-wide, and he has been short-listed four times for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature.
His films include Kongur, K2 - Triumph and Tragedy, Barnaj, and Trango, all produced by CHRIS LISTER of Northern Films in Leeds.

Book credits include Trango, The Nameless Tower, K2 - Triumph and Tragedy, Suspended Sentences, and K2 - The Story of the Savage Mountain, which won the non-fiction award at the Banff Mountain Book Festival in 1996. He has written the authorised biography of Sir Chris Bonington, High Achiever - The Life and Climbs of Chris Bonington.

He has filmed and presented a series of climbs in the UK for the BBC's Tracks outdoor oriented strand, as well as climbing and filming on Chris Bonington's latest expedition to Tibet. He has also filmed, scripted and narrated the documentary, Rock Queen with Catherine Destivelle, the French climbing superstar, which won him and 'EMMY' award for outstanding electronic camerawork. 

He was Artistic Director of the annual Kendal Mountain Film Festival, and has recently completed a sixteen hundred mile bicycle ride from the north of the Shetland Islands to Land's End, and has written a book about his adventures, The Middle-Aged Mountaineer.

He has had two one-man exhibitions of his paintings and drawings: at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, and most recently at the Alpine Club in 2004. He is now painting full-time.

In 1990, he was involved in something of a climbing 'cause celebre' when he took on another iconic name from the period, Jim Perrin after the latter had traduced Jim Curran's reputation and skills as a climber in a UK climbing magazine article. In his autobiography, Curran says of Perrin...

I was never too sure about my feelings for Jim Perrin. Because of our mutual interest and some similarity with our names, people often got us confused, to my amusement and to his irritation!

Unlike, say, Paul Nunn or Joe Brown, he didn’t seem to have any sympathy for, or understanding of, his partners – me in this case. I felt his climbing was very much for his own self-fulfilment and I was just a portable belayer, a feeling that grew stronger as the day wore on.

10 years later Perrin recalled the climb in print and painted Jim Curran as something of a dangerous bumbly. Although JC was never a rock climbing hot shot and certainly technically inferior to the leader that day, his vast experience as a world mountaineer suggests that Perrin had been creative with the truth. A verdict the court agreed with as Jim Curran emerged vindicated in court and awarded damages.

However,this was just a fleeting dark encounter with a member of the outdoor community,as the overwhelming majority of climbers and non climbers alike who came into contact with Jim Curran, came away all the richer for sharing his humour, intelligent conversation and good company. He was a great friend of Footless Crow and was always helpful and accommodating with advice on mountain matters and requests to re-use his material. He will be missed by a lot of people.


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