Ken Wilson - Passionate Defender of British Climbing

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Ed Douglas tweet; "Just heard the sad news that Ken Wilson has died. Can't think of a more influential climbing publisher and editor in the 20th century."

Oh, sad news. Classic Rock, Hard Rock. Extreme Rock - inspirational books that shaped my climbing.

UKC Edit - This thread has now been linked to a tribute article -
In reply to Chris_Mellor:
Mountain magazine created the template for modern climbing magazines - quality pictures, authoritive reporting, respected throughout the climbing world. A huge contribution.
 Babika 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news.
 Doug 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:
> ... Can't think of a more influential climbing publisher and editor in the 20th century."

Definitely true for English language books & I can't think of anyone comparable in French

RIP Ken, you'll be remembered
Post edited at 19:27
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

A great shame. Hugely influential on climbers across the generations. An old work colleague once climbed with a group including him and it was, he said, "like climbing with royalty".


 LizS 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I remember Ken as quite a character at the crag in my early days of climbing, especially the day when we got to climb again at Hobson Moor (after the foot & mouth epidemic had closed down the crags) and everyone there was being particularly friendly and chatty.
Sad to think he's gone now.

 Rob Exile Ward 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

That is terrible news. Whether he intended to or not he ushered in the modern era with Mountain magazine - to kids like me who were just starting out they were inspirational.

And although he may have unwittingly ushered in trends which he later came to protest against, I had a lot of time for his polemics, his advocacy of trad - and his fantastic enthusiasm, which he sustained despite being no great shakes himself.
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Ken... You've left the outdoors community with a great legacy of work.
 The Pylon King 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

A true legend.
 lorettocourt 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Very sad news - will be looking back through by collection of his books. RIP Ken
In reply to Chris_Mellor:
At the Kendal Mountain Festival last year there was a display of his designs for the 2nd Edition of Classic Rock. His approach was just so thorough - based on his vision of the product he detailed exactly what he needed from his contributors. That is how you produce one of the great works of mountain literature.
 davidalcock 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news. His books and Mountain were an inspiration to me in my teens. RIP.
 Chris Harris 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Ken, another great name gone to the crag in the sky.

In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news. Mountain magazine was easily the best publication on mountaineering - Alpinist has tried to do something similar but not as well.
His ethical stance was always superbly argued. A great spokesman for our activity.
 Greasy Prusiks 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Hard Rock got two generations of my family out on the rock. Can't say much better than that.

RIP Ken Wilson
 Goucho 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Ken.

A hugely important and influential part of the climbing world, and one of the best arguers ever.

No doubt St Peter is currently being told where he's been going wrong
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I'm very saddened to hear this - Hard Rock was by far the single most influential book in my early climbing career and he was a great inspiration to me in his total enthusiasm. I shall forever miss picking up the phone to hear barked down the line, "Bolts! What'd'ya think about bolts...?!"
In reply to Chris_Mellor:
Really sad to hear this news.

My Dad's copy of Hard Rock probably inspired me more than anything else when I first started climbing. And my copy of Extreme Rock is one of my most treasured possessions, even though I'll never be good enough to do most of the routes.

Any climber with a keen interest in climbing history should try and track down the early (first 60 odd) issues of Mountain Magazine that Ken edited. Superb for the cover images alone.

I met Ken once at a BMC AGM at PYB. I remember him being very outspoken and heckling Audrey Seguy who had just been elected a VP. I spoke to him in the bar afterwards. He was frosty at first, but once I'd explained that although very young (I guess I was 18 or 19 at the time) I wasn't a wall bread climber and really liked climbing the sort of routes he'd put in Hard Rock, he mellowed considerably. Kindly, he send me photocopy of an article by Alex MacIntyre from an old Mountain Mag complete with a hand written note, containing some anecdote about climbing with Alex. I wish I'd kept it but I bet I didn't.

Rest in peace Ken and thanks for inspiring me so much through your writing, editing and photography.
 Lucy Wallace 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Really sad news. Hugely influential and an encyclopedic knowledge of routes, history and the characters of climbing. He cold called me once to get some info on Arran routes for one of the reprints and I couldn't believe it was actually him. As said above, like speaking with royalty.
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news. But maybe an opportunity for a new book: Classic Ken?
In reply to Chris_Mellor:
Very sad news. One of my true climbing heroes. Hard Rock must be one of the most influential climbing books ever published and Mountain without doubt THE most influential magazine. His polemics against bolts and so on were, at the time, probably necessary; it is to his credit that he was prepared to stand up and take the flak for what many others were thinking - he was certainly influential in shaping the happy coexistence of styles we now have in the UK.
Post edited at 21:42
 jcw 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Goucho:

You've got it in one.
 Greasy Prusiks 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Goucho:
I'd imagine he's also looking through a copy of hard rock thinking "Hmm now that looks like fun".
Post edited at 22:01
 andi turner 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news indeed. I can't say I knew Ken well, but I did know him long enough to see that terrible disease take effect and as such "rest in peace" couldn't be more fitting. What a legacy
 Greenbanks 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Good grief. To climbers of my generation he was an eternal. My early climbing experiences - like so many other people's - was built around the impatient wait to collect Mountain from the likes of Harry Robinson's in Lancaster. There was utter excitement in pre-web days of opening it up. For those of us not integral to a local 'scene' this was the bible. I recall the issues when the likes of Botterill, Whillance and Lamb were in their pomp - jousting with off- comers for the great lines on Scafell, Deer Bield and the like. Ken captured the lot.
Hard Rock, as others have rightly said, was a watershed in rock-climbing publishing - along with Rock Climbers in Action.
Like so many others, I feel felt that I was personally related to him - such was the connection made by his books & in Mountain magazine.
Of course, there'll be personal friends and family who mourn more deeply. But I'll expect to join several hundreds of thousands of the sport's lovers who feel an emptiness now - a bright star indeed, still shining somewhere no doubt

In reply to Chris_Mellor:
A Macc lad by choice to join others -some past some still with us - John Mayall, Ian Curtis, Mal Creasey & me.
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

God, that's terrible. I didn't know he was ill.

Hard Rock was my reference point for climbing long before I even went climbing. The best climbing book ever.


 Tim Sparrow 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Irreplaceable and Inspiring. Borrowing Hard Rock from the mobile library in 1970 something got me into this. So much of my book shelf is down to him.
 Caralynh 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Ken. Definitely an inspiration to an erstwhile "puerile ticker".
 FactorXXX 12 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

An article written by Mick Ward that appeared in Climber in 1997: -

When I first started climbing, I thought Ken Wilson was a bit of a dinosaur with his 'Thin end of the wedge' approach to bolts. In retrospect, I'm glad that he was so vocal about it, as it made a lot of people think about what was happening and which ultimately led to discussions on where it was acceptable to place bolts, etc.
He also said something along the lines of calling Alan James a vampire for the Pembroke Rockfax...
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Ken was a friend. He was someone I argued with and someone I could respect despite being on different sides in a discussion. I enjoyed my days climbing with him, I remember doing Matinee at the Roaches with him which was a treat as neither of us had done it before. I am very sad to hear that he has left the climbing world, however he has left us with a phenomenal number of books, magazines and articles that truly gave the reader no doubt on what he considered to be the ethical view point of the time. He was a great guy, annoying when he called you at 2.00am, frustrating when you couldn't persuade him he would never understand sport climbing because he didn't try to redpoint something hard enough to matter, but deep down a sincere solid good guy and someone I am proud to say was a good and loyal friend.
 Kipper 12 Jun 2016
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Hard Rock was my reference point for climbing long before I even went climbing. The best climbing book ever.

Reference point - my Dad brought it back as a present when I lived in Africa; I marked every climb in a 60'S AA Road Atlas which I've probably still got somewhere.

Had the good fortune to meet him on a number of occasions in later years....

In reply to FactorXXX:

> An article written by Mick Ward that appeared in Climber in 1997: -

Thanks. That's brilliant.

In reply to Ian Dunn:

Mountain magazine has never been bettered and Ken's coffee table books are a treasure and ALL CLIMBERS should own cold, classic and hard as a minimum. Sad to hear he finally succumbed to the horrid condition but by god one hopes that the mountain crags of heaven have never been sullied by a bolt as there will be hell to pay........
 Goucho 12 Jun 2016
In reply to FactorXXX:

Great article by Mick (as usual) and if I'm not mistaken that's Henry Barber on the front cover of Mountain 42.
 Big Ger 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Mr Wilson, thanks for the books, they were inspirational.
In reply to Goucho:

> Great article by Mick (as usual)

Indeed. And, then again, indeed some more.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading that before now... A heck of a piece, and a heck of a tribute, to a heck of a bloke.

 Des Hannigan 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

One of Life's Great and Good. Wilson would have excelled in many fields, but photography, mountaineering and rock climbing won the prize. Sincere condolences to his family from here in the far west. Ken was a true and unflinching supporter and advocate of Cornish adventure climbing and an enthusiastic celebrant and defender of Cornwalls' magnificent sea cliffs. On a lighter note, he was the inspiration for West Penwith's cheerful 'Tuesday Night Club' (now the Wednesday-that-used-to-be-the-Tuesday Night Club - Ken would have liked that random anomaly.) At Stanage some years ago, on a Wilson Tuesday nighter, Ken was delighted that the visiting Cornish contingent proposed Chair Ladder as the next week's venue. A great loss, but a humane, vital and unforgettable man.

 FactorXXX 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Goucho:

Great article by Mick (as usual) and if I'm not mistaken that's Henry Barber on the front cover of Mountain 42.

Don't know if it's Henry Barber or not.
However, what I do know, is that the photography on the covers of Mountain were generally fantastic (no or little text helps...) and the inside photo's were invariably of the same high standard - again, let the photo tell the story...
 AP Melbourne 13 Jun 2016
In reply to FactorXXX:

Aahh, Rest in Peace Mr Ken Wilson. If there's thunder and lightning tonight we'll know he's arrived ...
Met once only, Tremadog cafe car park late eighties. Got an absolute shellacking for placing a bolt on Pen Trwyn. Was only 19 and nearly burst into tears. Top chap though. Respect and thoughts to family and friends.
Hard Rock - wow, bible as a kid.

 rgold 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Known and loved in the US as well. RIP.

Yes, that is Henry Barber on the cover of Mountain 42. On True Grit at Skytop in the Shawangunks.

A link that has yet to appear in this thread:
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I've only just heard this very sad news (stuck in transit near M1). This is a huge loss to the mountaineering world. There really has never been anyone quite like him in the climbing media before or since: a fount of mountaineering knowledge and wisdom, and a supreme upholder of the adventure tradition. He was also a very good and helpful friend of mine (ever since we first went to the Trento Film Festival together in the early 70s) I was very honoured when, despite his illness, he came to my book launch 4 years ago. That must have been one of his very last public appearances.

Has there ever been quite such a great enthusiast re. everything to do with climbing? Nature can be so cruel in cutting down the liveliest spirits.

In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news.

For me, Extreme Rock is one of my main inspirations and has been since the early stages of my climbing. I remember seeing TRip's copy as a Fresher at university and just thinking it was really cool, loads of amazing pictures and stories about all the routes I dreamt about climbing.

When I found myself with a bit of cash and a reasonably priced copy I didn't think twice. Such a brilliant book.

 Nevis-the-cat 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

How sad - he was tremendous character.

He had a real impact on climbing in the 80's and 90's and kept the letters page of On The Edge full with his views. He's no doubt de-bolting the great crag in the sky...
 lummox 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Nevis-the-cat:

As everyone has already said, his books were a huge inspiration. The only Ken Wilson anecdote I can offer is the sight of him being asked to leave the Leeds Wall years ago after using slings draped over holds as protection, rather than the bolts in front of his face.

I think the word is " uncompromising "...
 Jon Read 13 Jun 2016
The Learned Hotshot. That's what he called me. The Tuesday Nighters, a unofficial climbing club, liked to dish out nicknames, and that was the one that Ken decided would suit the gritstone upstart about to head off to Cambridge -- that impressed him much more than the E6 6b I'd just done. "Have you read CP Snow's The Masters? You must!" I loved listening to Ken talk, discuss and challenge. Mostly about climbing, but about other things too. I'd like to consider him a friend too, having seen him and Gloria frequently (as they were only a few miles away from where we lived). I went to see how he was last year, after they moved from the fine grand house and gardens they had near Macclesfield to a flat in London so Ken could be better cared for.

Thanks Ken, for Mountain mag (especially the design brilliance of the covers), Classic/Hard/Extreme Rock, and for being you, your vision, and for challenging 'fashion' and convention, and upholding adventure.
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Very sad, though not unexpected news. I didn't know Ken very well but I got to know him a little through guidebook work. I'd occasionally go round to Wilson Towers for some minor point of information. Gloria would provide the tea and Ken usually a forensic examination of my ethical probity; even then I knew it was a rare privilege. Also, he always referred to me as young man, which said more for his generosity than his eyesight.

Ken really did live up to the cliche of being able to argue heatedly on something he felt passionately about (which was pretty much everything) whilst remaining completely without personal animosity. In fact, it was the willingness to engage in robust debate and stand up for what you believed that he most respected in others, whether or not he agreed with them.

One evening at the foot of the Idwal Slabs we were packing up having just done Tennis Shoe with my daughter as her first multipitch route. Ken came rushing up saying we needed to do it all again immediately because the light was perfect and he was taking photos for the new edition of Classic Rock. Sadly, we needed to get back and it was one argument that he lost but I still regret the missed opportunity.

The climbing world had already become a noticeably quieter and less colourful place as a result of his illness and now he's gone.

 Doug 13 Jun 2016
 BALD EAGLE 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Desperately sad news and Ken's superb series of Classic, Hard and Extreme Rock plus all his Big Walks books were hugely inspiring and influential to me. Rest in peace Ken and sincere and deepest condolences to all family, friends and loved ones from a self confessed puerile ticker.
 ill_bill 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I am sure that many of us climbers of a certain age have stories to tell about Ken Wilson.
I first came across his name when the first edition of a climbing magazine came through the post to the university climbing club. It was the wonderful 'Mountain' and i got to read it first. I didn't have much money but I took out a subscription then and there. I still have them. The price was 3 shillings and ninepence or £1 2 shillings for the year. Worth every penny. The photographs, the information , the stories!
Later I bought The Black Cliff and the Hard Rock/Classic Rock series.
Then there were the classic collection 'The Games Climbers Play'.

All inspirational and stimulated me to write a few climbing article of my own.

I did meet him once. It was at a CC AGM, the one where they tried to change the rules to allow women to become members (!). He spoke in favour of the idea but the vote went against us. All the youngsters like me thought it was brilliant idea. Naturally he resigned from the club in a typical Wilson way.

A sad loss but his work lives on.
 DerwentDiluted 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news, one of the reasons I used to think nothing about driving through the night on some crazy puerile ticking mission. I only encountered him once, climbing on Stanage with a certain Hathersage shop owner, suffice it to say that we heard them long before we saw them.
pasbury 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP - as others have said, Hard Rock perfectly defined the aspirations of my generation of climbers, ticking it was purpose enough for big trips all over the UK.
Similarly Mountain was so authoritative and well designed it seemed as if beamed from another planet. When we weakened and considered bolting natural rock Ken stood there unmovable.
 Goucho 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Dave Garnett:

You never had a 'casual' conversation with Ken

No matter what the subject, you always felt you were having a debate, and that debate had to have a winner, and that winner had to be Ken

Yet even when he was trying to beat you into either submission, or the ground, with his point of view, he never got personal - even when on occasions you did.

Always passionate, always full of enthusiasm, and of course, most of all, always right

The world is far less interesting and vibrant place without the Ken Wilson's.
 steveriley 13 Jun 2016
In reply to ill_bill:

Games Climbers Play was a big book in both senses of the word. I'd heard someone mention it and gobbled through a library copy as a schoolboy in the 80s. Might even have been an inter-library loan request. We tend to forget how scarce information was then and the influence a whisper passed on could carry. That meant a really good curator carried so much more weight back then. Or maybe it just hit me at a formative time, I dunno. Anyway, nice work Ken.
 jon 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I didn't really know Ken but met him on numerous occasions. It was, however, the first of those meetings that sticks in my mind and which sort of set the tone. It was aboard the Lundy Gannet in nineteen seventy something. We were a group of five or six climbers of very modest abilities. Another largish group contained the likes of Littlejohn and Keith Darbyshire, maybe Bob Moulton(?)... and Ken, who lurched across to us. His opening salvo went something like:

'Right. What grade do you climb?' (Luckily this wasn't directed at me but at Joe.)
'Oh, about VDiff or Severe...' (Joe had been taken aback at Ken's direct approach was being rather over modest, but not by that much.)
'WHAT? Lundy is about THE BIGGEST BOOM that BRITISH CLIMBING has ever SEEN... and YOU come here climbing SEVERE??!'


On the way back aboard the violently bobbing Gannet, Ken was waxing lyrical to us about one of his team's (the A-team, of course) new routes, using every superlative under the sun, when the author of said route came over and said:

'But Ken, you haven't done it!'
Ken wasn't fazed in the slightest and shot back:
'Yes. But I KNOW!'

Fast forward thirty years or so when he was in the throes of reprinting Rébuffat's 100 best in the Mont Blanc massif, I remember him trying to persuade Madame Rébuffat to allow him to replace the Bonatti Pillar with something else - something that was still standing - maybe one of the Brouillard routes. Mme Rébuffat stood her ground and firmly refused to have her husband's masterpiece sullied, even though that part of the Dru was long since departed. I'd love to have heard that conversation!

RIP Ken.
 Adam Long 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Ken was possibly the first famous climber I heard of. I went to school with his kids, one in the year above, the other in the year below. They weren't into climbing (perhaps unsurprisingly!), but we shared some enthusiasm for days on Idwal slabs. Their Dad, they informed me, was quite a well known climber who 'had been to Everest base camp'.

Later, whilst at Uni, I was soloing one afternoon at Stanage with a mate. Ken was on the next buttress, unmissable in head-to-foot fibre pile and constant chat cutting over everyone. Loud. After about forty minutes we were working our away along the crag when his voice drifted over 'Bloody hell Jim, these lads are getting some mileage in'. I can still feel the glow I felt getting a compliment from such a major figure.

The books obviously have never been far away. But total respect for a man prepared to think though his ethics clearly, to take a stand for them and, as others have said to be able to separate argument from animosity.
In reply to FactorXXX:

Mick Ward's article is genius. What I'd give to able to write like this; "It's his belly and it's his rat" Gold, pure gold.

 scott titt 13 Jun 2016
 Al Evans 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Maybe worth a posthumous MBE for services to climbing?
 Jim Walton 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
I was there at that book launch Gordon, he still asked a couple of searching questions for you.

Many forget that he was on Bonington's first SW Face Expedition and made a carry to Camp 1 and was one of the driving forces behind getting women voted into the Climbers Club.

He has left a series of publications that have influenced two generations.
Post edited at 14:41
 Adam Long 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Jim Walton:

> Many forget that he was on Bonington's first SW Face Expedition and made a carry to Camp 1

Ah, thanks Jim, that explains what his sons must have been talking about.
I only met him once, very briefly at a wedding afew years ago. I remember mentioning something very innocuous (at least I thought so) about climbing walls and received a brief lecture and a good finger wagging in return. I felt quite honoured.

 Rick Graham 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Robert Durran:

I first met Ken ( and jon + Ian P ) at a BMC working group on climbing walls.
Having Ken as your committee chair was an out of world experience!

Ken is best known for Mountain and the coffee table books, however he was a key player in other areas.

The bolting debate has already been mentioned, as has the CC /men only clique.
He was a prime mover in exposing the Maestri/ Cerro Torre scam and ( I think, it was before my time ) the McCallum affair on Gogarth.

If Ken had not pushed climber-friendly climbing walls in the early 80's a whole industry might not have developed. Most of us would be stuck at E2 5c.

On many levels, Ken steered climbing, a big man. RIP.
 nutstory 13 Jun 2016

My warmest thoughts go to Gloria, to Ken' sons, and to his family and close friends.
In the dawn of November 1998, I spent a couple of days with the Editor of the mythical British magazine Mountain. Ken kindly welcome me and my family at home, and gave me access to his incredible collection of climbing books. I spent exhilarating times with one of the strongest supporters of the Clean Climbing philosophy on the planet.
Post edited at 16:21
 nutstory 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Rick Graham:
Massive tribute to Ken - thanks for Mountain magazine and all the books. Seminal works, brilliant photography, highly influential in firing our enthusiasm.
 andrewmc 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Currently on a 'puerile ticking' Classic Rock holiday; finished off North Wales last week. Had to give the Lakes a miss this time due to weather but got Red Pencil Direct this morning; hoping to get Parson's Chimney tomorrow/day after if it stops raining then one day (maybe two) at the Roaches.

We (well more my partner) may have been railing against Ken's route choices on Friday while 'climbing' Great Gully, but still sad he has gone - RIP.
 Postmanpat 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I can still remember buying my first copy of Mountain (no.19) at the YHS shop in Charing Cross and poring over the contents on the way home, and then the excitement building in anticipation of each edition coming through the post.
In the back of my mind I think I always have a list of Hard Rock routes that need doing and drives me on. I wonder if the current generation are aware of the way he transformed the quality of climbing "media" through his own iconic photographs and the photos and writing that he published in Mountain. Every subsequent publication owes a debt to him. He was inspirational to generations.

I only met him one or twice. The first time was at the Brunel wall and in the pub afterwards when he remarked to someone "I've never met Ron Fawcett. He could be Ron Fawcett", pointing at me. So I've been claiming for forty years that Ken Wilson mistook me for Ron Fawcett

Very sad that he's gone.
 Rick Graham 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

> I can still remember buying my first copy of Mountain (no.19)

So, a new way of defining your climbing cv, " I first bought Mountain Mag copy number....... "

Sadly I got number one, and remember Mountain Craft.

Another legacy, RIP Ken.
pippac 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Henry Barber took me to meet Ken in the late 90s, thinking we would come to blows. Ken gave me a grilling about my climbing and when I told him, as he dragged each detail out of me in his usual commanding fashion, about my first Alpine season, 11 peaks in 11 days, including 6 of the 7 highest peaks in the Alps, he became a fan. Other climbers weren't interested in what I was doing because they were all interested in their own projects. 'Do you know what she's done?' Ken turned around and barked at Henry. I became good friends with Ken and his wife, Gloria, always being welcomed into their big rambling home when I was up their way, going to the Lowry Museum together on a day too wet to climb, dissecting debates on climbing and world peace alike. Time with Ken was like several rounds in the boxing ring, but much more fun. One of my over riding memories was of being driven across Deryshire with Ken and Gloria in the front (he loved driving and was 'an expert' at that too) with me and my young daughter Becky in the back, all singing Old McDonald Had a Farm at full throttle. You challenged us and made us laugh in equal measure Ken. You are missed. Pippa Curtis
 ring ouzel 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Ken, I never met you but when I worked in Tiso's in the early 80's I would always read Mountain from cover to cover. Hugely inspirational. No magazine has ever come close.
 Fidget 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

> Mick Ward's article is genius. What I'd give to able to write like this; "It's his belly and it's his rat" Gold, pure gold.

Sounds like a reference to 'feeding the rat' by Al Alvarez?
 Fidget 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Only heard this news today, very sad, I had hoped to visit him in London at some point, didn't occur to me that I may not get a chance. I knew Ken a little bit through the Tuesday night climbing lot. I won a copy of Classic Rock in a competition and he was to post it to me, and he contacted me to ask a little about me to know what to write in the dedication. When it arrived, he'd seen that I was local and added a note to suggest I came out to the Roaches to climb with his lot. I was surprised and honoured to be asked to come climbing by such a well known character, so I went along. Within about 2 minutes of meeting him he was challenging me with personal questions and endeavouring to match-make me with various climbers he knew. A legend

 Nigel Bond 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Ken many thanks for your books particularly Classic Rock finally completed the list a few years ago, what a great choice. Thoughts and prayers are for your family at the present time.
 Simon4 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Goucho:

> No doubt St Peter is currently being told where he's been going wrong

Well obviously an archangel needs to be instructed on ethics.
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Cold Climbs, Cold Climbs, Cold Climbs, Cold Climbs. Mountain Magazine, Mountain Magazine, Mountain Magazine, Mountain Magazine. Hard Rock, Hard Rock, Hard Rock, Hard Rock. Ethics, Ethics, Ethics, Ethics. 16 reasons why I'll miss ya!
 Dave Hewitt 13 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news, as others have said. On the walking rather than the climbing side of things, Ken Wilson should also be remembered for having published the lavishly illustrated High Mountains guidebook by Irvine Butterfield (another much missed man of strong opinions). That first came out in 1986 and remains the favourite Munros guidebook for a lot of people.

There was meant to be a second volume covering the Corbetts, but it never appeared (Irvine used to chunter about this a fair bit), probably on grounds of expense given that the production values of the first one were remarkably high and it must have cost a fortune to produce. The one volume that did appear remains a great piece of work, with the feel of having been a labour of love for everyone involved.
 Rob Exile Ward 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

That's a good point. At a low time in my life the Big Walks was a lifeline - I blew money on it that I could ill afford. But 'big' meant 'big' - I've never managed more than a handful of them in the single day that they were all supposed to take.
 Dave Hewitt 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

I'd forgotten he'd produced the Big Walks as well (the one I was meaning was the doorstop-like The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland, which covered routes up and down Munros and Furth equivalents). There was also Classic Walks, too - both it and Big Walks had Richard Gilbert as the main writer, as I recall. I've never owned a copy of either of those but have long had a much-used copy of the Butterfield book.
 paul mitchell 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

I wonder who might now rant on about bolts,now that Ken has gone.Just who,I wonder......Hmmmm.....
I guess those issues haven't really gone away.

Ken's books helped inspire me to higher grades,and to help me understand British trad.I commend anyone who hasn't read Hard Rock to get a copy.A man firm in his opinions,and ready to admit inaccuracies.I will miss him. Mitch
 GrahamD 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Who remembers his all too brief appearances on UKC ? unfortunately I think his well reasoned, well written arguments were a bit lost in an environment of one liners.

 elcidcampeador 14 Jun 2016
In reply to GrahamD:

I was lucky enough to climb with him as a kid growing up in Altrincham. He was an inspirational figure in so many ways. Here's how I will always remember him:

The Altrincham All Stars would convene from all parts of the UK and drive up to the Peak in search of obscure crags and strong beer. There were memorable, sun-drenched evenings on Ramshaw or Bowderstones, and hopeless attempts to get up the first ten feet of Mortlock's Arete at Chee Tor or Beatnik at Helsby. More successfully, I got to the top of some strenuous E1 on Wildcat Tor, seconded by Ken Wilson, who couldn't make an orthodox ascent because he had left his EB's behind and had to climb in his suede boots. As he hauled himself up the rope to the belay, he congratulated me on being a proper climber at last.
 Simon Caldwell 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

> There was also Classic Walks, too - both it and Big Walks had Richard Gilbert as the main writer,

Wild Walks as well. These three (but WW most of all) were an inspiration that led me from bimbling to mountaineering to climbing.
 Bob Moulton 14 Jun 2016
In reply to jon: Yes, I was on that trip to Lundy, although I wasn't party to that conversation. However, I was involved in a similar conversation in The Radjal (Sp?) Arms with Ken, Toni Carver and Frank Cannings, which resulted in Toni naming his route The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Clearly Frank was the Good, but I am happy never to find have found which of us was which of the other two! In fact, I met you in the Marisco Tavern and I have probably still got the description you wrote down in my notebook of the new route that you had done.

It is very sad news, but for me not perhaps as sad as when he told me of his diagnosis, having known him since since 1965 when I shared a flat with him in North London, a short distance from The Crown on Highgate Hill, which some cluimbers of our generation may well remember!

 Fiend 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

RIP Ken.

Now can someone please PLEASE get a pdf up of the classic Mick Ryan interview / profile of Ken in On The Edge, where he phones up and berates Steve Mayers amongst many other things.
 Deleted bagger 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Sad news. I found his books an inspiration. Combed them for very detail. Invaluable resource in days before pocket guides and tinternet.
 Hat Dude 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I remember hearing Ken saying that he hated the term "Trad Climbing" and much preferred to refer to it as "Adventure Climbing".

Perhaps we could adopt this as a tribute
 Jim Nevill 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Bob Moulton:

Yes, very saddened to hear the news, though I'd heard he had been ill for some while.
I used to go to the Crown in Highgate with mates in the 70's to cadge lifts to North Wales from Ken, Jonesy, Cooky, Kingston, the Holliwells and others. Ken was always good value. Also, I recall him asking my advice (!) as to whether his follow up to Hard Rock (Classic obviously) should include some colour photos - he didn't just give advice. Curiously, soon after, I was at the Roaches when he ran out of film whilst shooting Dave Cook and John Cheesmond on Via Dolorosa. I took a colour transparency which he used in the first edition, I'm still proud about that!
My condolences to Gloria and the family.
 Chris the Tall 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Fond memories of Ken at BMC meeting some years ago.

Henry Folkard mentioned an issue at Ravensdale between an unnamed climber and the head of English Nature, where the former had told the latter exactly where he could stick his bird's nest. Henry reported that thanks to an apology from the climber the matter had been resolved before the police got involved.

At which point Ken interrupted to state that he hadn't apologised, merely issued a clarification.

Like so many others, I was an avid reader of Mountain, Classic Rock, Hard Rock and Games Climber Play, and am very grateful for the inspiration that they gave me. And whilst I may have disagreed with Ken on a few issues, there was no doubting his passion, enthusiasm and huge contribution to British climbing
In reply to Fiend:
> Now can someone please PLEASE get a pdf up of the classic Mick Ryan interview / profile of Ken in On The Edge, where he phones up and berates Steve Mayers amongst many other things.

Along those lines -
The link is broken, but Ken is quoted:
"Even awkward descents are being removed. No need to walk down from the Grochan now (quite a tricky little descent), as there is a great big abseil sling on a tree. Same at Tremadog. Yesterday I found and removed a great big fixed sling on the Milestone Direct. What was that for ... a quick descent to avoid the tiresome awkward bit of a scrambling descent. Such ground used to be valued for inculcating fast moving on mixed ground skills ... these days (particularly with the advent of ballet shoes for all ... scrambling descents are regarded as more "awkward bits" to be got rid of. They all fall into the category of processing the environment to make it more cuddly, make it nice for "exercise" rather than uncertain for "climbing".

and more - Ken makes an appearance at the end
Post edited at 18:41
 Rich 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Only met him once while climbing in Northumberland. He walked up and started having a go at my mate, who was trying to figure out a move and well above gear, for not having sufficiently bright clothing to look good in the photo Ken was about to take. We all had a good laugh about it later and my recollection is of him being very knowledgeable and entertaining.

Like many others, my set of Rock books has been central to my climbing life. Best wishes to friends and family.

 colinnave 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I got to know Ken around 1991 when Pat Devine suggested I come along to the Tuesday Nighter's gathering (at Eastby - we travelled a long way in those times). He was a driving force for the informal group. After minor (?) questioning, I was honoured with the nickname Colin the Boffin or Boffin for short. Subsequently Ken held the rope and gave encouragement on some of my most memorable climbs on grit (Hardings Superdirect, Right Unconquerable, Bachelors Left, Old Salt, Embankment 3 come to mind. "Come on Boffin, this will be a good one for you". Routes at the top of my grade. He nearly always got it right.

He did not delude himself when his memory started to go, saying at an early stage he was suffering from Alzheimer's. We said no Ken, everyone forgets names as they get older - he wouldn't have it. He still enjoyed climbing until he believed he was becoming a liability and then we could only entice him out for walks. I am sure he was right in all this and it was typical of him.

Just before this, we did Revelation at Sergeant Crag Slabs in 2011. He chortled away at how good it was and "Well done Boffin". He even acknowledged that the prepared abseil point made sense in that environment. Here he is on that day looking at Gash rock

I think this might be the last time he lead a climb, some time in 2011 at Windgather

Now, the famous hairy trousers - 2008

and a demonstration of their advantages

Even up to the last year, Ken was still there when you talked to him - one to one about climbing or of course politics. He liked walking round the local park when he moved to London and commented on the changing skyline of London visible from there. Still the architect in him.

Great memories and great friends - both Ken and Gloria (who was his rock as firm as any bit of Stanage).

Colin (the Boffin)

In reply to Chris_Mellor:

Life would have been very different without the inspiration provided by Extreme Rock and Games Climbers Play.
 Solaris 14 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

What a massive influence on my life Ken had. I look forward to reading through the other posts later, but before doing so I must record my debt to a man I first encountered as a calllow 14 year old (via Mountain 18, iirc)...

Thankfulness for my sense of the aesthetics of climbing and climbing photography (Mountain passim, and The Black Cliff); for shaping my politics (Mountain, passim, attacks on Jannick Seingneur, and Dave Cook articles in particular); for giving me a sense of the importance of irreverence towards the establishment (Mac the Belly, South Audley St, the Cairngorm tragedy, Sheridan cartoons); for legitimating my late adolescent love of argument (a good number pints); for sheer enthusiasm for climbing and its characters (The Black Cliff especially); for teaching me that you don't have to be a great climber to be a real climber; and for defending the distinctive traditions of British climbing, which are now envied elsewhere in the world.

Thank God for Ken.
 Tim Cumberland 17 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

I had the pleasure of knowing Ken for over 30 years, he was never less than enthusiastic, he had an opinion on everything from climbing to politics and to having "sprogs." (Children). His ability to get people on to the crag through personal or literary encouragement got us to many great routes. I will always remember he at full flow brandishing a pint, a packet of crisps whilst trying, normally successfully, to convince the Tuesday evening crew to visit some obscure crag that he had on his radar. It frequently turned out better than we thought.
You may of disagreed with him, but you always respected him. He made many a climbing trip more memorable.

Sadly missed, thoughts to Gloria and family.
Tim Cumberland aka Albanian Sid.
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:
For those of you interested in all things Hard Rock, here is a link my own homage to Ken's magnum opus. . I think it speaks volumes about Ken to say that no sooner had that piece been published in High than I received a letter from him saying how humbled he was by the article.
Post edited at 14:08
 davidalcock 18 Jun 2016
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:

Hello, I'm afraid your link doesn't work... I'd be interested to read your piece.
 jon 18 Jun 2016
In reply to davidalcock:

Works fine for me.
In reply to davidalcock:
Hi Dave, the link works for me too but if it still doesn't work, go to , third link along the top is Features, click on this and select Hard Rock, scroll down the main page until after the bit Ken Wilson wrote and you'll see a link to the article - it's called The Big Tick. There's quite a few other pages there about all the books in the series.

If that still doesn't work, send me a message and I'll post you a photocopy.
Post edited at 20:49
 davidalcock 18 Jun 2016
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:

Thanks, it was the mobile site that was kicking my phone off the page. Desktop works fine. Right, off to read...
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

There's a nice obituary of Ken in today's Telegraph.
 Jon Read 21 Jun 2016
In reply to Jon Read:

Thanks for that. Very touching "could be spotted attired in antique clothing and equipment that looked as if it belonged in a museum" - made me realise again what a big influence he was on me even though I never met him. His publications were definitely a major factor in keeping the flame of climbing and mountaineering burning.
In reply to pneame:

The review describes him as 'cantankerous' and 'brusque', and it's true that at times he came across that way because, really, he was a perfectionist and had the very highest standards and principles. He raised the bar with climbing magazines to a level that has never been excelled (and probably never quite equalled again). But, above all, he had a heart of gold. In Aristotelian terms, he was a 'great-souled man'.
 sinbad 22 Jun 2016
In reply to Chris_Mellor:

As a novice climber and student at Crewe and Alsager college at the end of the 80's I had the great fortune to be introduced to 'The Tuesday night team'. Although now many years ago, the memories of those heady evenings still burn bright. Not just the mad dash to far away and often obscure crags you'd never otherwise go to, but primarily the 'theatre' that followed in a nearby pub at the end of the night. A 'register' was taken before 'proposals' for next week's venue were put on the table. Before voting could take place 'oratory' from the proposer was required extolling the virtues of chosen crag. Needless to say, Ken was often at the forefront, telling us all, in the way that only he could, where we should go, and why'. Little did I realise at the time the values and the passion he was instilling in me, but here I am decades later reflecting on his wisdom, his passion and his love for this game we call climbing, something far more valuable than the vertical gymnasium he feared it might one day be reduced to. Thank you Ken, for everything, you are very fondly remembered.

 Hat Dude 23 Jun 2016
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:

> There's a nice obituary of Ken in today's Telegraph.

Would Ken have appreciated the irony of an obituary in the Telegraph but not the Guardian

 rif 30 Jun 2016

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