A NEW exhibition at the acclaimed Heaton Cooper Gallery is offering a fresh insight into a remarkable historic mountaineering expedition.

Mountain of Destiny: Kanchenjunga 1929 opens at the Grasmere gallery on November 15 until December 31, and tells of an attempt on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, by a German team 90 years ago. The photographs are from the private collection of the British transport officer on the expedition, and displayed alongside paintings of the mountain by Julian Cooper. It will form the curtain raiser to the Kendal Mountain Festival, which runs from November 15-18.

In 1929 Germany launched its first Himalayan mountaineering expedition under the leadership of Paul Bauer. Its goals were explicitly nationalistic, motivated by a desire to rebuild a faith in German manhood and to finally leave behind the defeat and humiliation experienced in the First World War.

Bauer’s various accounts of the Kanchenjunga expeditions in 1929 and 1931 are shot through with the language of struggle and military metaphors, the celebration of mountaineering comradeship harking back to the camaraderie of the trenches. But if the expedition’s goal was to establish German mountaineers on the world stage it also brought them into contact for the first time with the multi-ethnic world of the Himalayas. The photographs taken by Bauer and his colleagues Julius Brenner and Dr Eugen Allwein all exhibit a strong ethnographic sensibility, sensitive to the ethnic diversity of Sikkim and the region. Sherpa and Bhotia high-altitude workers are accorded special attention. They featured in group photographs and individual portraits. One remarkable photograph features the expedition cook Tenchaddar, seated outside a tent, praying in the Lotus position.

Paintings by Julian Cooper of Kanchenjunga, and of a Himalayan porter, will also be on display in the exhibition.