Wednesday 8 August 2012

Owen Glynne Jones: character profile

In this series of articles, beginning with Jones himself, I will introduce the reader to the main characters in my novel, The Only Genuine Jones. Most of these characters are a fusion of fact and fiction, so I will be going to some effort to make the reader aware of how I have changed the real people to fit my fictional story.


Owen Glynne Jones (known to his friends as the Only Genuine Jones) is the main character in my novel; it's his story first and foremost. By profession, he was Master of Physics at the City of London School, but he lived for the holidays when he escaped to the mountains of Britain (and, once a year, to the Alps).

The conflict at the heart of Jones' character is his reputation. Although one of the best climbers in the world, he was a controversial figure who used climbing tactics widely frowned-upon during the 1890s: practicing climbs before making the first ascent, using a top-rope to protect himself, chipping holds, direct aid. He was short-sighted and often jumped for holds when he couldn't see them! These bold tactics yielded results, but also got him into trouble more than once, and he obtained a reputation for falling off and getting himself into disastrous situations. He was also a 'progressive' who sought an end to the conservatism and ancient traditions that he believed were holding climbers back.

The Kern Knotts Crack on Great Gable was Jones' long-term climbing project. Believed by some to be impossible, he kept trying it with a rope held from above for protection, until eventually he knew the climb well enough to make the 'first ascent' (which was witnessed by a number of friends and other climbers). This event poisoned his reputation due to accusations of cheating; accusations largely made by Aleister Crowley, who happened to be in Wasdale at the time and had formed a dislike for Jones. Crowley believed Jones didn't deserve his reputation and did his best to stir up trouble.

By the start of 1897, Jones had also alienated the climbers of Snowdonia with his poor behaviour and desire to collect information on their climbs for his guidebook. He still had loyal friends, but was largely shunned by the climbing world and treated as a maverick.

In reality, Jones was killed in 1899, together with several companions, during an attempt at the Ferpecle Arete of Dent Blanche in the Alps. It was one of the worst disasters in Alpine history and brought an end to a brilliant, but sadly short, career in the mountains.


Out of respect for this great man, I have refrained from altering too much about Jones' character. His history and actions, however, do differ from the real timeline. In my story, I have given Jones the chance to alter his destiny and do some of the things he dreamed about doing in real life, but never got the opportunity to do. Without giving too much away (you'll have to read the book when it comes out!) circumstances place him in the position to make many spectacular climbs that were, in reality, not ascended until many years afterwards. His rivalry with Aleister Crowley is taken to a different level and the stakes are most definitely higher. Although my story is completely fiction with only a loose grounding in fact, I have tried my hardest to be true to the spirit in which Jones lived his life.

I have also modified the strict course of events regarding the first ascent of the Kern Knotts Crack. In reality the first 'official' ascent (after months of practicing on a top rope) occurred on the 28th of April, 1897. In my book I have condensed the amount of time in which things happened and his 'first ascent' is made in April 1896 instead.


Forthcoming articles on Professor Norman Collie, Harold Raeburn, Aleister Crowley, and more.


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