/ NEWS: Obituary of Barbara Mary Roscoe (née Spark)

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UKC News 09 Aug 2019
Barbara Roscoe, nee Spark, one of the leading women climbers of the 1960s, has died at the age of 82 after a 14-year battle with Parkinson's disease. Josephine Flood pens an obituary.

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Mick Ward 09 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC News:

An inspirational lady! Thank you so much for this account of her life.

Mick

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jon 09 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Despite spending the most part of my early climbing years in N Wales I never knowingly met Barbara - though it's not impossible that our paths crossed. I knew her name of course - everyone did - but never really knew that much about her. So it's good to read about her life here. And what a life!

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planetmarshall 09 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Fantastic photos.

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keith-ratcliffe 09 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC 

I met my wife to be on the 1977/78 PGCE course. Barbara was a remarkable person whose influence on both our lives was immense, that is true also for so many other people who knew her. Her 'celebration' event in April was one of the most uplifting events we have ever been part of.

Post edited at 16:19
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In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Thanks for the obituary. My Dad was leader of the Cockermouth MR team in 1964 and rescued Barbara off Pillar Rock after the tragic accident.

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dgp 09 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Barbara was a great supporter of UCNW Bangor mountaineering club and when I was there in the late 60's she was often on the club bus on a sunday morning and I had long chats with her about her love of the hills and her many exploits, She was a kind gentle soul and a great inspiration. I had huge respect for her and the enthusiastic way she encouraged beginners..

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Howard J 09 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC News:

The current issue of Climber has an article about the Jagdula expedition.

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Dave Williams 10 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC News:

I, too, am a 'sparklet', something I've treasured and been immensely proud of all my life, as to get through Barbara's selection process to become one was no mean feet. I feel extremely fortunate to have known her.

Proud to call herself "the little woman with the big voice", Barbara was an extraordinary person and she had a huge impact on me, a young, impressionable, wet-behind-the-ears Welshman. Without doubt, she was hugely influential when I was making key, life forming decisions at a crucial stage in my early twenties while on the OE course at Bangor.

I climbed a lot with Barbara on her days off, both while I was on the course as well as later, apparently because she considered me to be 'safe'. Safety was, without compromise, of crucial importance to her. The physical scars from her big accident had healed, leaving a dodgy ankle as a constant reminder, but the mental scars persisted for longer. She was paranoid as far as threads on chockstones were concerned and her mantra to check and check again was as a direct consequence of her accident. 

The lovely photo of Barbara climbing on Gogarth reminded me of a memorable day we once climbed together there.

As my time on the course was ending, she suggested we go and climb Dream, adding that she wasn't going to lead any of it. Her uncharacteristic nervousness on the walk in added significantly to my apprehension, and with good cause. DoWH was well described in the 2nd edition of Rock Climbing in Wales, Ron James' seminal guidebook of the time. In the description he'd strongly advised that seconds needed to carry prussiks and also know how to use them in the event of a fall from the final pitch. 

I fully realised why she was so nervous. Barbara, Ron's wife, had once told me that, many years earlier, Ron had made an early ascent of the route with Barbara R as his second. It was getting late and to save time and lessen rope drag, he'd led the last pitch with just a few runners. At some stage she'd fallen off and, due to a lack of runners, Barbara had ended up swinging well in space below the roof. Naturally she didn't have any prussiks, nor the means to fashion some out of the gear she was carrying. In the rapidly gathering gloom, a torchless Ron had been forced to reverse most of the pitch and then set up a system with his prussiks to hoist Barbara back onto the rock.....

By the time we were both on the Concrete Chimney belay, Barbara's nervousness had become turbo-charged and she was literally a jibbering, shaking wreck. So much so that I said "you haven't done this since you fell off it, have you." "No" she replied, adding "and I've forgotten my prussiks again!" I silently and grimly handed her mine, and then proceeded to lace the pitch, so much so that I could barely move up the final chimney. Needless to say, despite everything, she climbed across the traverse with consummate ease. 

For a time afterwards, we continued to climb together once or twice a year, usually on days when her husband Don was fly fishing. She particularly enjoyed the challenge of climbing on the bigger crags and we climbed on cliffs as diverse as Craig Cwm Silyn (Crucible and Kirkus' Direct), Craig yr Ysfa (Mur y Niwl and Pinnacle Wall) and Cwm Cywarch (Doom and Stygian Wall), to name just a few. 

Sadly, I missed the event to celebrate her life last April as I was on a climbing trip in Morocco. Somehow though, if she'd have known, I don't think she'd have minded. 

A lovely obituary. What a life indeed!

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PATTISON Bill 10 Aug 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Spent many happy hours at PLas and here in the lakes with Barbara and Don.A lovely lady.My condolences to Don.

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pneame 10 Aug 2019
In reply to Dave Williams:

A lovely reminiscence - added to a lovely obituary. 

I'm glad someone else found the last bit of the last pitch of DofWH rather tough after trying to arrange protection for the second.  I suspect it is a pitch that is actually scarier for the second than it is for the leader. 

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