Horace (Rusty) Westmorland
1886 - 1984
Horace "Rusty" Westmorland was born in Penrith, England in 1886 and educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Blackburn, Lancashire. He worked in the families tannery and leather business until the death of his father in 1909 and then the estate was divided between his mother, his sister and himself. With no professional training he was advised by the brother of the British Ambassador in Washington to enter the Forestry Service in Canada. In 1911 Westmorland went to the prairie province of Saskatchewan but prospects were poor there so he moved on to Vancouver where he met Arthur Wheeler for whom he had a letter of introduction from G.A. Solly of the Scottish Mountaineering Club. He asked to spend the summer working on one of the mountain survey parties as he was a rock climber and had some alpine experience in the Engadine and Dolomites. He spent the next six months working with the surveyors around Tetachuck Lake as part of the Alberta/British Columbia Interprovincial Boundary Commission and continued working seasonally for the surveyors until 1914 as a mountaineer. In the winter of 1913/14 Westmorland did the tracing work over the working maps for the Mount Assiniboine region.
In 1912 Westmorland was invited to take a commission in a Canadian 'Territorial' Highland Regiment. He qualified at Military School and was transferred to the Canadian 'Regular' Army where he served in Belgium and France from 1915 to 1919. In 1943 Lieutenant-Colonel Westmorland used his indomitable personality and connections in Ottawa to found the Number One Pack Horse Troop, as he wanted to revive the Canadian Cavalry heritage. The Horse Troop was called to help in several exercises but never survived long because of changing technology. In October 1944 Westmorland was invalided out where he then returned to his family roots at Threlkeld in the Lakes District for his remaining years
Westmorland's love of the outdoors began at an early age when his father introduced his family to Ullswater and the surrounding fells - camping, rowing, sailing, fell walking and scrambling. However, "Rusty" Westmorland's real climbing career began in 1901 at the age of fifteen when he climbed Pillar Rock in the Wasdale region of the Lakes District with his father Tom and his sister. His father was a keen and competent scrambler, however, he never adopted the use of a rope.
In his late teens Westmorland, and his two cousins Arthur North and John Mounsey, began climbing with a rope. They climbed some of the classics at the time: The North Climb on The Pillar, Scafell Pinnacle by Slingsby's Chimney, Moss Ghyll, Central Gully, Oblique and Doctor's Chimney, Kern's Knotts, Tarn Crag, and Needle and Napes Ridges. One notable ascent with his cousins was on Dove Crag. Initially they thought they would climb either the left hand or right hand route of the Y gully but failed. They then tried and succeeded on a buttress which is now called the Westmorland Route.
In that same year that he first climbed The Pillar with his father he met George Abraham (author of British Mountain Climbs) and in 1910 joined George Abraham and his brother Ashley on a climbing/photographic trip to the Bernina Alps and the Dolomites, climbing the Torre Grande, Croda da Lago, Torre Inglese and the Zsigmondy Kamin route on Cima Piccola. Ultimately, it was the Pillar Rock which held a particular fascination for Westmorland and in his later years celebrated by repeating the climb on his 65th, 75th and lastly his 85th birthdays. Westmorland was elected into the Fell and Rock Climbing Club in 1909, was President in the early 1950's and remained a life long member.
In Canada he was a member of the Alpine Club of Canada and attended their camps in 1912, 1913, 1919 and 1944. Some of his ascents in the Canadian Rockies include The Mitre, Mount Storm, Mount Whyte, Isolated Peak, Mount Magog, Mount Louis and the second ascent of Whitehorn Mountain in 1913. He also climbed Mount Balfour on the Waputik Icefield with Ivor Richards and his wife Dorothy Pilley (author of Climbing Days) and while working for the surveyors he made the first ascent of Mount Tyrwhitt, with the well-known climber/guide Conrad Kain and the surveyor Alan Campbell. In 1922 he visited Vancouver Island and on July 26 climbed Mount Arrowsmith with Brigadier-General Henry Gale and his daughter Ethne, Colonel Richard Greer, Peggy Hodgins, Lindley Crease and a number of others from the local Victoria Section of the ACC, and Mount Maxwell (Baynes Peak) on Saltspring Island and was Chairman of the section for one year in 1923. Then in 1932 he made the first ski exploration of the Yoho Valley with Alexander McCoubrey and Roger Neave. He was awarded, in recognition for Mountain services, the "Silver Rope" badge by the ACC in 1947 and received a Testimony of Appreciation by the British Mountain Rescue Committee. In Europe he climbed and skied throughout the Bernese Oberland and the Dolomites, and with Edward Feuz Jr. climbed the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn, however, his one unfulfilled wish was to climb Mount Assiniboine, the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies.
Westmorland was elected to the Lake District Ski Club at a committee meeting at Treadfoot Windermere on May 13, 1938 and was elected as President of the club at the AGM held at the Langdales Hotel, Chapel Stile, Great Langdale on November 24, 1946. He organised the first slalom race in March 1947 and was the first skier down. Westmorland remained President until December 1, 1951, but continued to ski into his eighties on the local slopes.
In 1946 he founded what was originally called "The Borrowdale Mountain Rescue Team" but was switched to the Keswick Mountain Rescue in 1951. This rescue team came about when Wilfred Noyce, who later became a key member of John Hunt's successful 1953 Everest team, fell while climbing Shark's Fin on Tophet Bastion, Great Gable. A gust of wind blew Noyce off his holds and he fell onto a ledge breaking one of his legs. Noyce's climbing partner went for help and a scratch group of six was collected and, after a complicated and gruelling rescue lasting all night, Noyce was safely taken to Wasdale Head. One of the rescuers, "Rusty" Westmorland, was disturbed by the lack of any organisation, trained and willing to help injured climbers and fell walkers. Legally, the responsibility lay with the police, as it still does, but they were neither trained nor equipped for mountain rescues at the time. "Rusty" decided there was an urgent need for a team of volunteers. An appeal in the Keswick Reminder produced an encouraging response; some thirty men were recruited to form the initial team.
Initially there was some scepticism in the valley about the motives and effectiveness of the team, however, this was dispelled when it became obvious that here was a group prepared to go out at any time in all kinds of weather to help anyone in trouble on the fells. In 1965 Horace "Rusty" Westmorland was awarded the OBE by the Queen for his services to mountain rescue.
In 1964 "Rusty" Westmorland wrote a book as part of a series for Pelham Adventure Library entitled Adventures In Climbing, which gave information and advice on the techniques of climbing illustrated by incidents from his own life. The last chapter, entitled "Mountain Life," relates some of his adventures in the Canadian Rockies.
Horace "Rusty" Westmorland passed away at the age of ninety-eight on November 24, 1984, but will be remembered for turning up immaculate on the crags and for his concern with upholding the highest traditions of the mountaineering sport.
Capt. H. Westmorland "Climbing Face of Maxwell Mountain." Daily Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] (September 10, 1922)
"Mountain Climbing Proves Attractive." Daily Colonist, Sunday Magazine [Victoria, B.C.] (August 8, 1922)
Westmorland, Rusty. Adventures In Climbing. London. Pelham Books LTD. 1964.
Editor's Notes. "Notable Fellwalks." Journal of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. (1930) 8. (24). p. 344-347.
Editor. "Dove Crag." Journal of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. (1940) 12. (33). p. 344-347. Correspondence by H. Westmorland from Halifax, N.S. on 26 Oct. 1938.
Westmorland, H."The Ullswater Fells Round The Turn Of The Century." Journal of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. (1945) 14 (39). p. 97-103.
Westmorland, H."It's Tough But It's Grand." Journal of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. (1948) 15. (44). p. 183-187.
J. R. Files. "Jubilee Ascent of Pillar." Journal of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. (1952) 16. (46). p. 125-126.
Westmorland, H."Recollections of George Abraham." Journal of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. (1966) 20 (59). p. 254-257.
Westmorland, H. "Helvellyn on Skis." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 23. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff: Alberta. 1934. p. 56-58.
H. "Rock Pitches Near Halifax, Nova Scotia." Canadian Alpine
Journal. Vol. 26. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff: Alberta. 1938.
Emrick, Larry. "Horse Troop Rode Into History." Vancouver Sun [Vancouver, B.C.] (November 5, 2005) pp. C4
In Memoriam. Journal of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. (1985) 24 (69). p. 142-143.
"Rock Climbing Pioneer Dies Aged 98." Westmorland Gazette [Kendal, Cumbria, U.K.] (November 30, 1984) p. 13
"Committed Men of Keswick Who Answer Mountain Call-outs." Cumberland & Westmorland Herald [Penrith, Cumbria, U.K.] (July 26, 2006)