Oscar Eckenstein

Oscar Eckenstein (9 September 1859 – 1921) was an English rock-climber and mountaineer. He was one of the few people who readily climbed with Aleister Crowley, with whom he made an early expedition to K2. Crowley, in his Confessions, praises Eckenstein in several passages, mentioning his gymnastic strength, including his ability to do one-arm chin ups. He also climbed in the English Lake District with George and Ashley Abraham, though their relationship was not always smooth, and in North Wales with G. W. Young and J. M. Archer Thomson. Together with Matthias Zurbriggen he made the first ascent of the Stecknadelhorn (4,241 m) in the Pennine Alps on 8 August 1887.

He was technically very proficient, but rarely took on the role of leader. An early advocate of bouldering, on the Eckenstein Boulder at Llanberis Pass he taught Archer Thomson the art of balance climbing, according to Geoffrey Winthrop Young. In the Kashmirs, in the 1890s, he conducted bouldering contests for the natives - possibly the first such "formal" competitions ever.

He was a railway engineer for most of his life - well educated, and insufferably arrogant (some said). He was not one to mince words, and a long feud with the Alpine Club caused many of its members to denigrate him. Nevertheless, he was a brilliant technical innovator and laid the foundation, with his love of bouldering, of modern British crag climbing. He is credited with designing the modern crampon and developing a short ice axe, as well as analyzing both knots and nail patterns for climbing boots.



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