I was very sorry to hear that Jim Curran had died. He was an ebullient and kind figure who was generous with his help – and whisky – to writers like me who were less familiar with the mountaineering world. When I wrote my book about Nanda Devi, he gave invaluable advice.
I was also drawn to him because he was a talented filmmaker as well as writer. The underappreciated late film he made with Chris Bonington when they attempted a remote peak in Tibet – and Bonington has to face up to the ageing process – is a classic and I shared Jim’s frustration that it was screened so badly by television that few ever saw it. Overall he shot some 15 documentaries featuring alpine giants like Joe Tasker, Peter Boardman and Alan Rouse.
He championed the cause of mountaineering films with his stewardship of the annual Kendal Mountain Film Festival and one of my proudest memories is being awarded one of their bronze statuettes of prayer flags.
Both Bonington and K2 have been lucky to have such an accomplished and sympathetic biographer. In the summer of 1986, 13 climbers died on K2, climbing tragedies that aggressively carved the epithet the “savage mountain” into the public consciousness. Jim Curran was at the mountain all summer. The following year, Curran’s scrawled notes became K2 – Triumph and Tragedy. He went on to write his most famous book, K2 – The Story of The Savage Mountain, which won him the 1996 award for best non-fiction at the Banff Mountain Book Festival: ‘a tribute to all those who have set foot on K2, both living and dead.’ He was a five-time nominee for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.
But aside from his multiple creative achievements, one quality will always stand out for me about Jim – a quality that is not always a given in the focused, over-achieving world of mountaineering: he was extraordinarily generous and terrific company.