Harold Raeburn was one of Scotland’s greatest ever mountaineers, with a legacy of prized lines scattered far and wide across the Highlands.
In feats of extraordinary vitality, he made winter ascents of Tower Ridge, North-East Buttress and Crowberry Gully in four days, cycling from Fort William to Glencoe in between. His breathtaking ascent of Green Gully, cutting steps up near-vertical ice with a single axe, was doubtless the hardest ice climb anywhere at the time and was unsurpassed in difficulty in Scotland for nearly three decades. But perhaps Raeburn’s finest achievement was the first winter ascent in 1920 of Observatory Ridge, which remains one of Ben Nevis’s longest and most serious winter climbs. These routes, amongst so many others, were visionary, while beyond Scotland, he pioneered climbs in the Alps, Norway and the Caucasus, attempted Kangchenjunga and was Climbing Leader on the calamitous 1921 British Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition. Tragically, the latter was to be his undoing, precipitating a ‘melancholia’ that had perhaps, to some degree, dogged him all his life.
With extracts from Raeburn’s own elegant writings and accounts from his friends and climbing companions, The Steps of a Giant is an intimate portrait of a master craftsman, chronicling his outstanding mountaineering record while digging beneath the surface of his modest reserve to reveal a complex, driven character upon whose shoulders subsequent generations of climbing luminaries stand.