Monday, 8 August 2011

Alan Blackshaw Remembered

Yesterday I was saddened to hear of the death of mountaineer and conservationist Alan Blackshaw. I was privileged to know Alan, first meeting him when he chaired the Cairngorms Partnership Recreation Forum on which I sat as the representative of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland over a decade ago. Since then I have met Alan at various meetings and corresponded with him on access and conservation matters, growing to admire his fierce intellect and determination. He was deeply involved in mountaineering organisations and served on many committees, contributing to the position of mountaineering in Britain today. In particular he was an expert on access and played a major part in the debates that led to Scotland’s fine access legislation. Details of his career and other information can be found in the obituaries already published by Cameron McNeish and To Hatch A Crow. There will be many more.

Thinking of Alan I remembered his seminal book “Mountaineering From Hill Walking to Alpine Climbing”, first published in 1965, and dug out my old battered and well-thumbed copy, purchased in 1974. “Blackshaw’s Mountaineering”, as it was always known, was the mountaineering handbook of the time, a comprehensive volume by one of the then leading mountaineers. Flipping through it now takes me back to another time – a time of canvas rucksacks, wooden-shafted ice axes, cagoules, moleskin breeches and woolly balaclavas. The basic ethos of the book is still valid of course. The following quote from the book was true for Alan and, I hope, for many of us who have followed him:

“Mountaineering may come to mean something more than a sport; you may find in it a philosophy of living. If you do, and I hope you may, then you and the mountains will be inseparable through life”.


  1. Would have liked to have met him. I learned a lot from his book when I was starting out.

  2. There must be many more battered copies of the Penguin "Blackshaws Mountaineering" guide out here. Blackshaw not only inspired a generation - he also told them how to do it.