Climber and entrepreneur Mark Vallance has died aged 72 following a long battle with Parkinson's disease, according to a report from the Climber's Club. Mark was a highly influential figure in the climbing industry who will be remembered for his many contributions to the sport's development, perhaps most notably for bringing Friends - also known as cams - to market.
Climber's Club Honorary Secretary Hilary Lawrenson has posted a short notice on their website:
'I have just heard from Jan that Mark Vallance, past President, died peacefully in Switzerland on 19th April. She and Jody were with him. Mark had been suffering from Parkinson's for some time.
We offer our condolences to Jan, Jody, family and friends.
When we hear about arrangements for a memorial service we will post these on the website.'
A chance meeting with the inventor of the Friend, Ray Jardine, in Yosemite led to Mark receiving a letter from Ray Jardine in 1977 offering him the worldwide production rights to Friends. A bank loan for £5,000 founded Wild Country to manufacture them and a second mortgage paid for Ray's patents.
Mark also owned the gear shop Outside in Hathersage and was part of the team that built The Foundry climbing centre in Sheffield - the first modern climbing gym in Britain. He worked for the Peak District National Park and served on its board. Mark climbed worldwide and his personal climbing achievements include ascents of eight-thousand-metre peaks and the Nose on El Capitan.
A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in his mid-fifties forced Mark to reconsider his approach to climbing before eventually hanging up his shoes in 2010. However, Mark found a new sense of purpose as a reforming president of the British Mountaineering Council during a three-year stint from 2003-2006.
A tribute piece to Mark will be published shortly.