William Hutchinson Murray lived from 1913 to 1996. One of the greats of Scottish mountaineering, he did as much or more than anyone else to popularise Scotland as a walking and climbing destination to the generations following World War II. In the process he wrote two of the most enthralling and evocative books ever to have been written on any subject: Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland. W.H. Murray's quasi-autobiography, The Evidence of Things Not Seen, was published six years after his death in 2002, and as Robin Lloyd-Jones acknowledges in his introduction, it is fair to ask what added value a biographer can bring to the table just eleven years later.
On the evidence of The Sunlit Summit, the answer is "a very great deal indeed". W.H. Murray may have been a public figure, and a prolific author, but he was also an intensely private man who seems to have taken steps late in life to protect his privacy by destroying letters and papers, and possibly even manuscripts of unpublished books. This left Robin Lloyd-Jones seeking to produce a balanced view of his complex subject based largely on the recollections and writings of other climbers of the era, and on W.H. Murray's own extensive published output.
It is perhaps no surprise that The Sunlit Summit took four years to research and write. Within its covers Robin Lloyd-Jones treats the reader to a masterclass in the biographer's art. You emerge with a sense of having gained as deep an understanding as will ever be possible of a remarkable man, as well as a range of insights into the world in which he lived as a mountaineer in Scotland and the Himalayas, as an author, and as a prisoner of war in WWII. In his foreword, Robert Macfarlane writes "There need never be another account of Murray's life". We would endorse this view: unless some hitherto unknown trove of W.H. Murray's lost papers should ever emerge, no-one is ever going to be able to produce a better, or more thoughtful, more readable, or more compelling account of his life than Robin Lloyd-Jones has done here. The Sunlit Summit is a fitting tribute to a great human being in the year of the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and we wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has ever set foot on a Scottish mountain.