The man who dreamt of Everest

Clinton Dent had a head for heights spending his holidays in the Alps conquering unclimbed peaks with friends from the Alpine Club.

The late 1800s were the golden age of climbing and Dent risked life and limb with little more than a firm grip and a stout pair of walking boots.

He was club president and led by example conquering summits including the 4,000 metre ascent of the Lenzpitze and the first ascent of the south-east ridge of the Zinalrothorn.

He recorded many of his exploits in his book, Above the Snowline, and was the first to suggest Mount Everest could be climbed with the right expertise and equipment.

Dent listed his interests with the Alpine Club as ‘mountaineering and travel, any form of hard exercise, collecting art and photography.’

His greatest challenge was the imposing granite bulk of the Aiguille du Dru.

It had had been studiously avoided by an earlier generation of climbers because of its technical difficulty and became something of a personal quest taking a determined Dent 18 attempts before succeeding.

Climbing was a dangerous pastime and he lost several friends during his time as a mountaineer including four colleagues who disappeared in a snowstorm during an ill-fated expedition in the Russian Caucasus.

Dent was a well respected surgeon at St George’s and a keen author producing several works including studies on ‘post surgical insanity,’ heart surgery and combat wounds in the Boer war where he was posted as a medical correspondent with the British Medical Journal.

Clinton Dent died in 1908. A memorial plaque can be found in the Britannia Hut, a staging point for climbers, in the Alps.