Friday, 10 August 2018

Tom Price : I'm a Stranger Here Myself



His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him, that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’ Julius Caesar

Recently a researcher contacted me to question who I believed in a long life were the outstanding characters of the mountain world I had been fortunate to meet and know. I thought for a short while and advised that the three most stand out personalities known well to myself for different reasons had been Tom Patey, Don Whillans and Tom Price! This latter’s inclusion resulted in my interlocutor being rather fazed, ‘I’ve never heard or read anything about him’ she responded ‘who was he, why was he so outstanding?’ And here is an essay which I hope will help to illustrate why I believe this to be so, for although Tom was not a major pioneering climber compared to the record of Patey, or Whillans he led a much more varied life, and one so rich in incident that few others can have equalled it in its diversity of experience. 
 

Tom was born in Sheffield in 1919, and for his first decade of life lived in a rural environment near to Wharncliffe Crags, but his father a railway worker in order to find employment moved his family to a sprawling suburb of Liverpool. Price attended there at its Alsop school, winning a Scholarship to the Cities University to read English and History, and it was at that institution he started to seriously climb, having previously as a schoolboy enjoyed hill walking in Snowdonia. The Presiding spirit of that bodies climbing club was Graham MacPhee, and he was a friend of both Kirkus and Edwards, leading pioneers before the last war also originally based in Liverpool. Tom physically short and slight, with a wiry build and a fearless approach to steep rock moved quickly up the grades, and he was soon by the standards immediately before the War leading routes graded at the top difficulty of the day, Very Severe.


MacPhee was a controversial character, famed for his acerbic wit, and one instance of this noted by Tom illustrates this, it occurred on a University climbing club winter meet on Ben Nevis. Walking up the Allt a Mhuillin glen to camp under the North Face of the mountain, MacPhee hired a pony to carry his equipment, leaving his companions to stagger on behind carrying large, heavy rucksacks. Stopping part way for a rest, MacPhee addressed his companions thus, pointing at Tom. ‘Price’ he observed ‘is like an Alpine guide’ a remark at which its recipient swelled with pride, only to be deflated as he went on to further observe; ‘They do not sweat, they only stink!’, MacPhee was however a Nevis expert, and although based in Liverpool, he produced the first climber’s guidebook to the Ben. Despite the preceding anecdote, Tom stayed in touch and friends with MacPhee until his death in a mountain accident in the Canary Islands in 1963.


The outbreak of war then intervened, and Tom confessed that if it had not he might never have graduated, for he was in trouble for spending all his free time, and waking hours, either climbing or thinking about it, and thus he failed to meet the demands of his course work, including failing Latin! But the war changed everything; few of today’s UK population have a notion as to what it was really like, and typical of those who lived through such life changing experiences, though I must have spent hundreds of hours in his company, the only story Tom ever told me about his war, was that whilst commanding a ship in the Mediterranean near the end of the conflict, and of how the crew and he were nearly court marshalled for running a cigarette smuggling racket in league with some American sailors; which became such a cause celebre that it was resolved by him receiving a command cipher from the Admiralty ‘Stop it!’ 

Other details of his war service I have managed to research post his death in 2013 and it makes for gripping reading. On call up he elected to join the Royal Navy, for as he was later to modestly observe, he did this for the lure of the sea and the watery wilderness of the oceans which meant ‘he spent the war safely at sea’.


But nothing could be further away from the truth of his service, for starting out as a lowly Able Seaman he finished the war as the Captain of a rocket ship. Initially he volunteered to serve in minesweepers in the Western Atlantic, spending over two years in that more than dangerous activity, until one night ashore he was arrested for drunkenness and placed on Captain’s report. But instead of being disciplined when his record was examined he was persuaded to apply for officer selection, which surprising to himself he passed. He was then assigned to Combined Operations, planning and training for the invasion of France. At the D-Day landings he was a lieutenant on a rocket ship carrying Canadian forces into Juno beach, one of the most challenging of the landing sites. Of the first eleven soldiers they landed, ten were killed or injured by enemy fire. Post this event he was promoted and given command of rocket ship LCR 405, which he sailed into the Mediterranean to take part in the invasion of the South of France.


At the end of the war in 1946 he returned to Liverpool, back to its University and its climbing club, but he also joined the Wayfarer’s in order to be able to use the system of huts in the climbing areas. He then spent two and a half years completing his studies, ending with a BA degree and a teaching diploma. Although whilst based in Liverpool he had been nearer to Snowdonia than the Lake District, he opted for the latter for much of his climbing, making ascents in Langdale of routes like Gimmer Crack and Hiatus, and Eliminate C on Dow Crag. On completing his University education, the fell tops and crags of Cumbria were not to be denied and he joined the teaching staff of Workington Grammar School. He also became the coxswain of the local lifeboat, and took part in several dramatic rescues in the Irish Sea. In West Cumbria during that era there was a group of outstanding pioneering climbers led by Bill Peascod; and along with Harold Drasdo and Peter Greenwood, I was fortunate to meet up with them in the Gatesgarth barn in Buttermere in the winter of 1950/1.

Without transport, such activists tended to be ‘centrists’, and for Peascod and his rope mates, that was mainly Buttermere, where they were pioneering some outstanding new routes. They had formed their own club, which like so many of that period was short lived, but amongst their members that weekend I remember meeting Sid Beck and Tom for the first time.
  South Georgia.Image:Royal Geographical Society
 

Tom had by then started visiting the Continent to climb, his first foray had been to the Pyrenees, and later to Mont Blanc and the Valais, managing classic ascents in what were visits, cut short mainly because of money shortage. For quite some years post 1945, British visitors were only allowed to spend a small sum in hard currency on a single trip. You paid for your train journey in the UK (return), but all your expenses abroad had to be covered by this small amount. Some enterprising climbers found ways around this by selling such as a nylon rope to the continentals, but I can still remember how shocked I was as a 18 year old, travelling across France by ancient steam trains that kept breaking down, on the devastation still so obvious from the war, but one could spin money out by living on local produce; mainly bread, milk, eggs and cheese.


Tom was enjoying his life in Cumbria climbing at weekends, casting pearls of wisdom to his pupil’s mid-week, heading out to sea on rescue missions, but an accident on Dow Crag in the early 1950’s shut down his climbing for a while. Fortunately he had just acquired his first nylon rope; tying on this directly with a bowline knot, and with Frank Monkhouse as his second he was leading the classic, ‘Eliminate A’ climb on Dow Crag. Shod in basket ball boots all went well until above the Rocher Perches crux, but on the upper reaches of this route which become vague to follow, Tom lost the usual line and continued ascending up previously unclimbed rock. But as he was moving to gain easier ground, pulling up on a handhold it suddenly shattered, precipitating a long fall. 
 

Fortunately there were other climbers at the crag that day, and after lowering to the base of the cliff they carried him down to Coniston on an improvised stretcher, a bed spring from the nearby Barrow Boys Hut at the side of Goats Water. 

An ambulance then took him to Workington Hospital, where his injuries were treated; a laceration to the scalp, fractured ribs and an ankle, with sprains to both. He had fallen over 40 feet, and his brand new nylon rope was shredded for almost 20 feet. Tom was always careful about spending large amounts on gear, preferring to kit himself for his outdoor clothes at the Charity Shops, but he confessed the purchase of a nylon rope was one of his wisest choices despite its then high price by the standards of the day!


After serving, quite some years at the same school, in 1955 Tom took a sabbatical to take part in a Duncan Carse led expedition to South Georgia. Younger readers can be forgiven for not instantly recognising the name, but he was radio’s ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’ which attracted 15 million listeners each evening. Carse was an unusual mixture of polar explorer and radio actor. Over four southern summers between 1951 and 1957 he organised, and led the South Georgia Survey. 

This sub-antarctic island is covered in glaciers and mountains, and records a fascinating history, including a first navigation around and exploration by Captain Cook in the 18th century. It is also the island reached by Ernest Shackleton in his dramatic rescue journey in 1916, and it featured much in the engagements surrounding the Falkland’s War in 1982.Even today it can only be approached by a long sea journey, lying in the South Atlantic Ocean 1390kms South East of the Falkland’s, so in 1955 it was a remote destination with uncharted fjords, glaciers and mountains, replete with fantastic wild life breeding on its beaches. 

And now it is once again being keenly visited by climbers, most recently by Stephen Venables and Chris Watts, the former a frequent visitor having made the first ascent of Mount Carse 2300m in 1990. Tom was one of three mountaineers recruited for the 1955/6 party, the other two being Louis Baume and Johnny Cunningham; their task was to get the surveyors into safe positions in the mountains, and they managed a lot of travelling on ski and some technical independent climbing. Tom departed South Georgia with a glacier named after him, and he told me an anecdote about the Dick Barton connection, whose two side kicks in his nightly adventures were ‘Jock’ and ‘Snowy’. Interviewed by the media on his return about this, for Cunnigham a Scot was obviously ‘Jock’ and Tom they decided must be ‘Snowy!’


An interesting fact about Tom’s life is he always ‘moved on’, and in 1961 he succeeded John Lagoe as the warden of Eskdale Outward Bound School, where he remained for 7 years. Somehow despite the fact that Tom was a unique kind of English revolutionary, he fitted this post with such distinction that he remained, into old age someone the Outward Bound movement embraced for his sage advice and support. He was a founder member of the Mountain Leader Training Board, and with John Jackson he wrote the tract of its award scheme, which by the time when I was at the BMC and we took over its administration, it had become one of the largest such training schemes in British sport.


But Tom was to move on again in 1968, back to Yorkshire as an adviser to the West Yorkshire Education authority, where his essays and ideas about the development of outdoor education won him wide respect. His attempt to ‘Bridge the Gap’ between educationalists and amateur climbers set out in such format, was published in both ‘Mountain Magazine’ and the anthology, ‘The Games Climber’s Play’. On one occasion he invited me to speak at a Conference he had organised for teachers involved in Outdoor Education, he posited me with the task of preparing and reading a paper on ‘The History of Mountain Literature’. Somehow I blagged my way through this assignment; which was typical of Tom who always expected students and acquaintances to meet his own level of attainment.


And his next appointment in 1973 illustrates this in spades when he became the Dean of Bingley Teacher Training College; which with his encouragement became during that decade a numero uno place for climbers to study, for his students included Gill Price, Jill Lawrence, Pete Livesey, Pete Gomersall and Bonny Masson. In that era he and I were both members of the Plas y Brenin Management Committee, and living down the hill from Bingley in Guiseley I used to drive up there, to meet up and journey to North Wales together. These were some of the most entertaining, amusing journeys I have ever made. On one occasion Tom elicited to me his thoughts about ‘The Sermon on the Mount’. I wish I had then a tape recorder in my car for it was of such worth it should have been recorded, and I guess for the reader to realise how amusing Tom could be, the sparring between Ken Wilson, and Price was a prime example?, they were two outstanding figures in their own milieu.


Original Image : Outward Bound Trust

When Alan Blackshaw became BMC President in 1973 we decided on the need to review the future needs and development of the Council, and so a ‘Future Policy Committee’ was formed which included both Ken, then editing Mountain Magazine, and Tom. To report that these two sparked off each other is true, for as Tom was later to observe about Wilson ‘that he was a passionate defender of a climber’s right to kill himself in his own way!’ We used to hold these meetings in Pubs up and down the country, but on occasion in more salubrious surroundings, such as The Army and Navy Club in London, close to Hyde Park. 

In one of our discussions held there on ‘The future of Mountain Training’ , Ken and Tom became engaged in animated discussion, and Wilson who on occasion could get very exercised in such debate, suddenly jumped up and shouted out loudly ‘ Climbing is all about dying!’. One wondered what the ex-military types at the bar made of this outburst, I thought ‘crikey’ it might cause one of them to choke over their gin and tonics. Tom’s riposte to this was classic and typical of his gentle strain of humour; ‘Well Ken if that is the case, you cannot have been too active yourself!’
 

Tom was not a bureaucratic type of Principal, and he was always planning some journey or trip himself. With the famous Swiss climber, avalanche expert Andre Roch, and mountain guide who was one of his friends he made a ski traverse of the Alps, with another friend George Spenseley he made a multi-day canoe journey down the Hanbury and Thelon rivers in Northern Canada. He was always keen to get out for a climb and when he became President of the BMC in 1982-1985 we climbed together in Wales, the Peak District and The Lake District. And for some years, even as the ageing process began to catch up with him, he led trips in the USA and did some instructing work for Outward Bound in Southern Africa.


Retiring to the Lake District he lived first outside Keswick then in a small cottage in Threlkeld, for his was a complex personal life, married with two sons, Gareth and Trevor (both climbers) he had a partner, an accomplished musician, a professional harpist Jean with whom he shared his later years. In 2000 he published an unusual autobiography, ‘Travail So Gladly Spent’ which is more a book of thoughtful essays than a life history, but I recommend anyone who has not done so to read it, for Tom’s character as a gentle and amusing man shines throughout its pages. I write the word gentle with some care, for I did see him once roused in temper. When Tom became the BMC President we were faced with a vastly changing scene over a flood of potential new members, many starting out to climb at the large number of climbing walls then appearing throughout the country. 

The BMC had always been in truth before that an affiliation of climbing clubs, but most of these new tyros were unconnected. As they moved outside and started to travel abroad to climb, there was a demand to access BMC services, particularly insurance. We decided to introduce a new membership category to help them to do this, but some of the elderly patrician leaders of the major climbing clubs opposed this. We had a rather fractious meeting with some of them at an AGM, but Tom roused to fiery speech took no heed and eventually won them over; however it was agreed that such individuals would not become voting members, this was changed during the late Mark Vallance’s Presidency, some decades later.
Besides his book of essays during his last decades Tom was painting his beloved Lakeland hills. One of my proudest possessions is one of these, a panorama view of Scafell which I have hung on my living room wall. He also thoroughly recorded his life for the British Library Archive in oral form entitled ‘I’m a stranger here myself’. The last time I was with him in Threlkeld he was 93 years old and as I said goodbye, he was just leaving to traverse the Cat Bells ridge. He died in July 2013 at 94 years of age. Posthumously some of his paintings and artefacts from his long life were exhibited, entitled ‘Inspiring Adventure’ at the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, late in 2015 into 2016. I will finish by a quote from Tom who when invited to explain his fascination with his time spent in Antarctic exploration; he declared it was.... ‘in pursuit of life’s simple satisfactions and the succour to be found in the wilderness and mountains’. 

Dennis Gray: 2018 
 

Friday, 27 July 2018

Villainography...The Landlord's Tale


The thirst for more of the life or legend of Don Whillans apparently remains unsatisfied. Here's a story no-one has heard as I heard it. I never checked it with Don. During the sixties and seventies a number of climbing clubs with Welsh roots or properties took to holding annual dinners in the Conwy Valley rather than at Llanberis. They favoured the subsequently demolished Victoria Hotel at Llanrwst or the Prince's Arms at Trefriw. At one of these Trefriw dinners the club chose to accommodate its invited speaker and some other guests in isolation from its members. They were quartered at the Fairy Falls in the centre of the village. The licensee at that time was a Yorkshireman called Midgeley, known to locals as Midge. In fact he worked full time as a forester but served drinks himself most evenings. His wife handled food and accommodation.

On one occasion I found myself making idle conversation with him across the bar of the empty lounge. Both of us had half an eye on the muted television news when, surprising me, the bearded face of our hero appeared.

Midge made a sharp hissing noise and his face stiffened. He lunged over to turn the sound  up as the report on Whillans vs. Lancashire Constabulary unfolded. He'd apparently seen it earlier.This fininished,he turned the sound down again. Then he unloaded himself.

'They got back about midnight. They'd all had a skinful but some of them wanted more. They were residents, they weren't that noisy. About half past one I told them I'd like to close the bar. A couple went right off, then the others except for that bugger. He just sat there, sipping away, half-glasses and pints in front of him. In the end I told him I was shutting, could he go up now. He got up, picked up a couple of pints and set off up the stairs. I ran up after and dodged past just as he reached the landing. " You can't take those to your room' I said. He looked at me deadpan. "Oh, sorry", he says, mock polite. Quick as a flash he tipped the drinks over the railing. Now I'd had a new hallway carpet fitted just a week before.' He paused.' So I it im'!

That resonated. In perfect innocence he'd pinched Don's punch-line.

'What happened?'

'He went straight down the bloody stairs, all the way to the hallway. He lay there a minute, not looking up, then he hunched his shoulders up against the wall, reached for his cap, and put it on straight. He looked up at me. He got on his feet and came up the stairs, head down. I just waited. 
He looked me straight in the face for a minute, then he gave me a really nice little smile and said Please....Can I go to bed now?" I stood there and watched till he'd gone through the door.
'He was a bloody menace, but....I liked the feller,' Midge said, shaking his head, mystified. 
 
I'm repeating remarks of over thirty years ago as accurately as I can but a problem has come up. I told this tale to Doug Verity a year ago -- at a funeral, where else? Doug laughed and said, "Oh, in Don's account the battle raged from room to room." So who was right? Somewhere out there Don's fellow-guests might have heard something. But which club was the host club? In any case, the incident seems to me to show both sides of Don's nature.

It happened that I read Jim Perrin's book only a month ago, causing memories of my own to resurface. In fact I never once climbed with Don or even saw him climbing. I always met him in pubs or at parties, where we had many lengthy conversations. Yet these encounters may have spanned as long a period as any other climber's. Possibly, though, the first would be disallowed as not proven.
From Whitsuntide 1950 the end of petrol rationing brought much more traffic onto the roads. That made hitch-hiking to the Lakes practicable so that gritstone became, for me, a local midweek indulgence. But in the April of that year my brother and I were still extending our acquaintance with unvisited outcrops at the limits of our range. One of these trips took us over the border to either Ravenstones or Dovestones in the Chew Valley. 
Image- Daniel Rees.
 
It was a grey day, cloudy but not wet. I don't know whether we had route information but we worked left to right along the crag climbing anything to our taste. We'd seen and heard no-one on the moor. Then, halfway along, we rounded a buttress and found two other climbers. I still see this clearly.

They were standing beneath an overhanging crack seaming the back of a shallow cave. I couldn't take my eyes off their monstrous rope, thick, muddy, a tangled heap lying in a pile. We each said where we came from but not, I think, our names. It was more a matter of "Where are you lads from?" They'd been working right to left. The big hefty youth never spoke. The short one, feet planted, shoulders back, with a flat, challenging stare, told us he'd just climbed the crack. He urged us to try it. He was in nailed boots. Clearly, it hadn't been touched before. It was obviously very hard but completely unappealing -- damp moss, the seam dripping, the finish a heather drapery. It was filthy. And it wasn't thirty feet in height. We'd come to climb full-length routes on clean rock. We declined, moved on, and didn't see them again.

By chance the 'The Villain' happens to include Don's diary entries for the last two weekends in April that year. They were for Ravenstones and Dovestones. That settles it for me and names the companion as Eric Worthington. This was a year before Don met Joe Brown.

I always enjoyed talking to Don. In the beginning it was rock climbing. For a while he overestimated my ability, probably because in making the third ascent of my hard climb on Castle Rock he'd had to produce an alternative finish in default of the normal finish. Some years later circumstances were reversed. Making the second ascent of his route Delphinus at Thirlmere, I thought I could dispense with his highest peg and straighten the line by climbing a steep little groove just to the right. I got up this only to find that I had to place one myself for the insecure exit. 

In fact, Joe, Don, and the Rock and Ice nucleus were hot on our heels on our own crags though Pete Greenwood and Arthur Dolphin briefly teamed up and raised the existing leading standard on Scafell and Bowfell. Apart from making their mark at Thirlmere the Rock and Ice even raided our home ground at Kilnsey and followed us to Dove Crag. I'd spent a bit of unrewarded effort on these two impressive cliffs. They lifted standards on Dove with Dovedale Grooves, and seven years later Don did it again with Extol.

I remember Don describing at length the ascent of the big pitch on the Central Pillar of Freney. At his high point, trying to climb it free to scorch the French pursuit, he realised that he wasn't going to get up or to get back. He knew he could hang on for a couple of minutes longer and he wasn't ready to drop off as an act of will. So he simply warned Chris Bonington to be ready for this sensational fall. Chris, desperate to have a go himself, told him to let go immediately to-save time. Reluctantly he complied!. Years later I had a letter from a Professor of Applied Psychology who was editing a four-volume series on skill studies. The second book was in process. Could I contribute a substantial essay analysing what factors seemed to be common to extreme performers in rock climbing? He'd written to Don first but he'd declined and suggested I should do it. I felt flattered by this recommendation.

Of course, what it really meant was that Don couldn't be bothered and was earning more from a single lecture than the fee for this task. But I enjoyed it. I was also asked to supply a selection of photographs from which only one could be chosen so I put together a batch from various acquaintances. They were sent on uncaptioned as requested but by chance the one selected was of Delpinus.

Of course, we all learned sooner or later what a monster he could be. When he moved to North Wales we heard the inside stories of events in Penmaenmawr. Long-term friends of Audrey Whillans were already established there and they were equally friends of Maureen and myself. Years earlier my own wife had had to discourage an advance, but then, didn't everybody's? In fact he mellowed as time went by and would even buy a round when reminded. 
 
In his later years his interests shifted. He was no conservationist but he drew a childlike pleasure from animals, birds and fish. At Penmaenmawr he had a big aviary and an aquarium. Just before his final journey we talked exclusively about snorkelling. Maureen and I had been to the gulf of Aqaba, he'd revisited the Red Sea. His instinct for self-preservation was still acute. Thinking he'd glimpsed a shark fin nearby he'd pounded over to a small rock barely breaking the surface. After three lonely hours there he'd realised that if he didn't make the longer swim back he'd die of heatstroke or dehydration. He hadn't enjoyed the trip back.

Despite his immodest cravings for celebrity, women and drink, and all the problems these caused, he was always able to delight with his wit and his uncompromising stance.These may have sprung from Northern folk wisdom but he made them his own. In a backstreet pub he looked sadly at the line of freshly poured pints on the bar. "Want to know how to sell more beer, love?" "Yer what? How?" "Fill the fuckin' glasses!" 

 'Villainography'..the original typewritten essay.

In the Dolomites, on his final journey, a group of British climbers was descending from a hut near the Civetta. They sat down to scan the face, trying to see whether they could spot Hugh Banner and Derek Walker, who were somewhere on the Philip-Flamm or the descent. They'd started from a camp near this point and Derek Price had agreed to collect their gear. He called over to ask for assistance and one or two amongst the group got up reluctantly. Frances Carr, better known as Frantic, also tried to rise but was detained by a heavy hand on her shoulder. "Never volunteer for owt " Don muttered

Harold Drasdo

Friday, 13 July 2018

Ancient Stones and Wanderers

Hamish Brown :Photo-The Scotsman


I had the notion one sunny morning to oblige a reader and go seeking a stone called Clach nam Breatann in Glen Falloch. I had visited it once before, a long time ago, and I remembered it was hard to find for it is not on the map.  Clach nam Breatann is Gaelic for “Stone of the Britons”, and it is of significance because it marked the northern boundary of Strathclyde, beyond which was Pictland.

I made the mistake of parking at the Falls of Falloch, when it is better to drive a mile on up the glen, park at a good lay by on the west side and begin the climb by passing under the West Highland Railway by a cattle creep. You do not see the stone until vou have climbed a few hundred feet to a skyline beyond which it is conspicuous, perched on a pointed knoll. A local name for it is the “Mortar Stone” because from the south it looks like a piece of artillery.
 
Perched on its slippery top and looking down on the steep-sided glen, I thought of the Romans whose Empire stretched from the Black Sea to its north-westerly limit at Old Kilpatrick. They couldn’t use Glen Falloch to penetrate the north because of the Picts waging guerrilla war from these slopes. And even in the expansionist times when the Romans left and the power of Strathclyde grew, they could not contain the native Picts and the Scots from Antrim who combined in 843 to form Alban under Kenneth McAlpin.


Clach nam Breatann leaps into history when Robert the Bruce, in 1306, after his defeat by the English at Methven, headed west and was unlucky enough to fall in with the McDougalls below Ben Lui in Strath Fillan. Bruce was routed in that battle and forced to turn south. In Glen Falloch he paused with his 500 men at Clach nam Breatann before pushing down the eastern side of Loch Lomond to Inversnaid. The stirring events that broke English domination of Scotland were yet to come.


From the Stone you can drop to the railway in a north-easterly direction and find, in less than a mile, a path which takes a short-cut to Crianlarich. It is the soggy remains of General Caulfield’s military road, and it speaks of other conquests, the pacification of the Highland clans, the introduction of sheep and the exploitation of the Caledonian Forest. I walked along the path whose northern signpost was the snowy top of Ben More against which remnant Scots pines of the most southerly fragment of ancient woodland stood bravely.



During the summer I had followed Caulfield’s road right across Strathfillan and over Rannoch Moor, then across the Devil’s Staircase to Kinlochleven. This was for a new series of my television programme, Weir’s Way, and some of that journey made in a heatwave, with hordes of clegs and midges, had been memorable enough.
 STV crew filming 'Weir's Way' in the early 1970's


What surprised the camera team was to find that we had the route to ourselves. We met no walkers except in the Glen Nevis gorge, yet the roads were humming with traffic. One of the things I find interesting, working with different production teams, is how they grow to like the hills. Indeed, cameraman Harry Bridges has become a Munro-bagger on his own account and now claims a score of 20.


Perhaps some of this was due to a programme I did with Hamish Brown in the Arrochar hills with Hamish recounting his great trip across the Munros in a single walk of 1640 miles in 112 days and 450,000 feet of climbing. I was impressed at the lightness of his rucksack con­taining nylon tent, sleeping bag, stove, pots and food. I could lift it easily with one hand and reckon it was hardly more than 20lb.


Hamish grudges time spent in motor cars, and believes that to get the best out of the hills you should expedition across them, using bothies, or camping, carrying your own food and bivvy material. He can afford to look for novelty, since he has now done all the Munros five times. A few days before I wrote this he knocked on my door at 9am to talk about the sharp peaks of the Garhwal Himalaya where he plans to go next year as a member of a light­weight expedition to bag Himalayan Munros of around 20,000 feet.


Despite wintry weather, he was just back from a high camping trip in the Braemar copies of the Cairn­gorms, and as we talked he told me something of his background which was new to me. Born in Colombo in 1934, one of his earliest memories is of his parents going off to climb Fujiyama, leaving him disconsolate. But they did take him to the Valley of a Thousand Hills in Natal. A banker in Japan, Hamish’s father had to make an exciting escape from Singapore to reunite with the family in South Africa before coming back to Scotland. With such outdoor-loving parents, Hamish began on the right footing, though it was in the Ochils while at Dollar Academy that he learnt his stuff.


He grinned when I asked him what he had done in the way of work since his R.A.F. days as a National Serviceman. “Lots of things. I’m a ‘stickit’ minister – I was for two years an assistant in a Paisley parish. I gave it up to teach English at Braehead, Buckhaven, then went on to outdoor activities. I was there for twelve years, and readers of The Scots Magazine will probably re­member some of the articles I wrote of our doings.


“Now I’m a freelance moun­taineer/instructor, writer and lec­turer. I do mountain guiding by arrangement. I organise regular holiday courses in winter and summer. I just like being amongst the hills, and I have probably an unrivalled knowledge of the High­lands and Islands off the beaten track. I have almost finished a book on the long walk across the Munros. I’ve written fiction stories for maga­zines, and a guidebook to the Isle of Rum. I’m very happy – and very poor.”

But rich in experience through his travels in Ethiopia, Cyprus, Morocco, the Andes, Pyrenees, Corsica, Poland and most alpine regions of Europe. From among a lot of adventurous men I know, I cannot think of another who has crammed so much into a mere 43 years. The basic thing is, of course, that he is pre­pared to barter security for moun­tains, and has the capacity to enjoy a full life NOW, rather than playing safe and laying up treasures for his old age. Being a bachelor helps, of course!

Tom Weir. 1975: first published in the Scots Magazine

Friday, 29 June 2018

Fantasia



I HAVE a dream of a perfect piece of landscape — everything is what I want it to be, green meadow here, rocky limestone towers there and the odd gingerbread house dotted around the lower bits. Its a model, like those Lego land villages, but much, much better; more realistic and more sympathetic, yet being so perfect it is much less possible, a more genuine fantasy. It is alpine, with wild rocky towers, tall dark conifers and rounded green meadows; all these exquisite features are linked by narrow, but well made and marked, winding pathways. The surfaces are carefully tended like the best Swiss and Austrian examples, deliberately winding through changing and challenging landscapes yet making access easy — a real delight to follow. 'You see what I mean, its an old hobby horse of mine; I would prefer our hills, especially the popular areas, to have access created by easy well marked paths. It would destroy a few people's idea of a wilderness experience; it may lead a few tourists into weather they can't handle, but it would give many more a moving hill experience just like so many British walkers and mountaineers get in the alps. 

But to continue, for this is about a journey through this exquisite land. It's about a run, or rather a jog, not because I want to pass quickly, but because I want to carry little or nothing and I always want to see around the next corner. I alight from a toy train at a station which is a milk churn stand in a field, it is 8.00 a.m. on a surprisingly warm October morning and the way is obvious. A metalled path winds enticingly upwards through indescribably green rising meadows towards a little village and onion dome church a kilometre or so away. There are no field boundaries but carefully spaced pointed wooden toy town farms, balconies bedecked with flowers, indicate a carefully apportioned landscape. At the onion dome village a small cable car rises a thousand metres over more meadow, then forest and finally limestone towers to the final peak on a long fang like ridge of limestone. I ignore the car and jog gently upwards, the ascent so well graded and picturesque that I barely notice the 500m of climb I've done so far. 

The metalled footpath and pastures finish at a little but and cafe below the first of the white screes and crags of the ridge above. I walk the next 500m of ascent, intrigued by the crags through which the now strong path zig zags. The limestone is not dolomite but shining white Yorkshire stuff with the bedding tilted on edge giving crags of white sheet like slabs made easy by numerous lines of jugs and flakes eaten into the surface by water flowing down the surface —everything looks about V.Diff or easier. Below the final tower containing the top station of the cable car a path traverses off rightwards to gain the ridge; I take this and in a few hundred metres I'm jogging along a perfect little path that winds along the undulating crest of what is really a quite sharp limestone ridge. On either side a couple of hundred metres of cliff give way to steep forested slopes — down the side I haven't seen before, the forests continue down for over a thousand metres to flat valley bed containing a large milky green river. The ridge may be exposed, but the path constantly weaves from one side to the other giving little time to appreciate the exposure on any one flank. Small stunted junipers smell nice and impart a garden like atmosphere to this high place. 

This dream like situation continued for three kilometres — its called the Hoher Kasten ridge — until a tiny grassy saddle was reached after which all progress was stopped by a monolith limestone tower rising from the saddle. Half on the saddle, half hanging in space was a tiny hut and veranda. I stopped for a coffee and thought the veranda the most exposed situation I'd so far come across, with a view vertically down to the Rhine, and across to the little republic of Liechtenstein. The escape from the but and saddle was signposted — a cable led diagonally around the smooth buttress marking a line of chipped boot holds. Around the buttress the path reappeared swooping in and out of gullies on natural sloping ledge lines. The next three kilometres passed in seconds, the path a perfectly formed earth ribbon gently descending as it traversed the steep rocky hillside below the rocky crest before dropping sharply to a magnificent rock saddle at the junction of five paths the Saxer Lucke. To the right is the narrow defile of the dark green Falensee backed by the vicious looking Hundstein while ahead the route climbed ever so gently through scree floored valley below the quite striking Kreuzberge towers, five or six distinct fangs of gleaming white sheet limestone. 


Easy climbing leads for two kilometres to a col at 2000m. Here all is pure white, either rock, scree or limestone slabs, such is all land above 200m in this little area, the Alstein. Turning right onto a short climb gave access to the Chreialp ridge and a three kilometre traverse through a seemingly impossible area of broken rock, cliffs and towers, but the path led through this high level chaos with virtually no rise or fall. Half way along a gentle drop led to the Zwinglipass before climbing slightly over and through the jagged summit towers of Altmann and a sharp drop to a saddle of red scree and red stone but on the Rotsteinpass. A bowl of goulash here and off I ran along a beautifully easy smooth rock path leading to the Lisengrat, a sharp ridge abutting the white rock pyramid of Santis, at 2500m, the highest lump of rock in the area. Once on the Lisengrat the path becomes a switchback of chimneys, ledges and cables as one dives in and out of towers of the vertically walled ridge. Suddenly it was over at a perfectly clean rock saddle below a 200m, easy angled slab leading to the summit of Santis. Downhill before me stretched the return leg of the journey, another ridge system containing the Altenalp towers and finally Ebenalp. First however the path descended a cliff by cables and cut steps to gain a steep little blue glacier, the Blauschnee, with an easy groove to follow across its slopes to reach the Rossegg valley, a gentle cwm of pure white scree. 

The path through this lot had been carefully created by flour graders sifting the big lumps of scree from the path leaving only a perfect surface through this wilderness. Gentle downhill running led to a traverse through a hole in the Altenalp ridge after which the path followed the ridge system for three kilometres all the while descending gently as it wove in and out of crazy but solid limestone pinnacles and fangs. It took just three quarters of an hour to cover the most improbable piece of ground from the summit of Santis to the end of the ridge at the Schafler hut; nearly five kilometres of rock.A sharp grassy descent to a saddle led to a gentle ascent over the rocky but rounded Ebenalp, the rod covered in sweet smelling shrubs There is a cable car down frorr Ebenalp, but I chose to run down the remarkable descent route through the summit cliffs and so to my starting point at Schwende.

 The legendary Pete Livesey on Downhill Racer

A grassy path leaves the summit heading ominously for the 200m cliffs surrounding the plateau, but disappears into a funnel shaped depression before the edge is reached. Steps lead down into an icy cool cave with daylight just filtering through from both ends. A long descent through the sizable cavern breaks out onto the cliff face at an alcove and ledge system into which is built a church. An airy traverse along the ledge leads to a but built beneath overhangs in the cliff face. A ladder from the but drops into the forest followed by three kilometres of delightful downhill work through dark forest and meadow into the valley at Schwende and the toy town trains. It had been a six hour dream of most intensive mountain experience in a landscape as near to fairy tale stuff as one could imagine. The route is of course real, from the Apenzell side of the Alpstein range in N.E. Switzerland. It could be done at walking speed in a day (guidebook time 15 hours) but most parties stop over at least once en route.

Pete Livesey: 1990. First published in Climber and Hillwalker-October 1990

Friday, 15 June 2018

The Drasdo Brothers......Northern Expressions



The Drasdo Brothers- Neville (left) and Harold outside Lakeland's Old Dungeon Ghyll at one of the last Bradford Lads reunions they attended together.

Derision is the burden that the avant-garde learns to bear; but in 1947 climbing had an oral culture, remarkable for the start of the post war ascendancy of northern working class British climbers’ Harold Drasdo
 
Imagine you are 14 years old, you have been climbing for three years since 1947 and in the winter of 1949/1950- March to be precise- you meet in the Hangingstones Quarry at Ilkley, a 20 year old from Bradford, just returned from Athens, on National Service. Tall and gangling, he is however so knowledgeable about climbing and climbers, as you begin to realise whilst chatting in a corner attempting to stay out of the biting cold wind, ever present on Ilkley Moor in winter. You hang on his every word. You complain about the weather and the cold, but your new found friend declares he has 'been dreaming about being here in these conditions for the last two years' whilst soldiering in Greece, where 'the heat had been unrelenting’. 
 
There were no other climbers present that day, it being mid-week (the average worker was still employed six days a week in March 1950). I had bunked off school and my new found friend was on demob leave, so we agreed to climb together. Our first route being the ‘Fairy Steps’ a Hard Very Difficult, which was climbed in boots, followed by ‘Nailbite’ another Very Difficult , and finishing with ‘Josephine’ a Severe wearing rubbers. It is hard for me now so many years later to wonder what I must have been like as a 14 year old, but my partner that day wrote later I was a ‘streetwise youth’. As we departed to head home he to walk over the moor to Dick Hudson’s to catch a bus to Bradford, me descending to Ben Rhydding for a bus to Leeds I learnt that he was Harold Drasdo, soon to be known in local climbing circles as ‘Dras’.

'Dras' when he was working at Derbyshire's White Hall Outdoor Centre
 
Drasdo is an unusual name (there is a town by that name in Germany south of Berlin) , and so it stuck with me, and over the ensuing weeks meeting at Ilkley and other West Yorkshire outcrops, and coalescing into a larger group of activists, we became known as 'The Bradford Lads'. Several of whom besides the Drasdo’s; such as Pete Greenwood, Don Hopkin and Alf Beanland, were also to develop amongst the lead climbers of our area, and later until his death in the Alps in 1953, our best known group member was Arthur Dolphin. Nobody of my age was to my knowledge climbing regularly in that era, unlike today with the spread of indoor climbing, but in 1950 the popular image of climbing being it was highly dangerous, and in retrospect it actually was.

One element now revolutionised was the basic equipment then in use, another was a lack of instruction, for the only pool of knowledge was held by its regular participants and you learnt on the rock by example or experience as you progressed. And also perhaps you might have managed to obtain a copy of the then recently published Penguin paper back, ‘Climbing in Britain’ by John Barford for the princely sum of one shilling (ten pence). And before the modern reader thinks that was an incredible cheap bargain, Dras told me at his first job as a 16 year old he was paid £1 a week. But he did enjoy two weeks holiday, which made him feel lucky to be so employed! 
 
Petrol rationing finished in 1950 and we discovered hitch hiking. And so after having perforce needed to concentrate on our local outcrops, we began to travel far and wide with the Lake District and Langdale in particular being our Mecca. We stayed in barns and the one at Wall End Farm in Langdale became known the length and breadth of Britain. Often I was in the company of Dras and eventually I met his younger brother Neville. They both made major contributions to climbing, together and individually but for me it was my thinking, my education they affected most. Like me they were both scholarship Grammar School boys, leaving at 16 years of age, and working at low paid jobs, Dras as a clerk in a Health Unit and Neville an opticians; but studying at night school and eventually gaining entry into Higher Education, their outstanding later careers being founded on an impressive ability to master facts. 
Cairngorms 1958.

Dras was reading widely from the first, and I can remember him as we spent long winter nights in a doss under Castle Rock, in Thirlmere recounting to me the story of the first ascents of the North Face of the Eiger, and the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses. I was so smitten by these stories, I sent to Paris for Anderl Heckmair’s ‘Les Trois Derniers Probleme Des Alpes’. Which despite five years of French at school I struggled with to make sense of the stories, but Dras was reading much wider than mountaineering books, and we began to think of him as an intellectual! I can also remember him recounting stories to me about hitch hiking, and one article in particular he valued highly, was written by the American poet and mountaineer Gary Snyder.

Through such sharing I found out that Dras, like me, had started climbing at Ilkley in 1947. Why Ilkley? If you lived in Bradford or Leeds, and relied on public transport, then it was easiest to reach at a time when the dislocation caused by the war was still a major factor in our everyday lives; food, clothes, and fuel were all still rationed. To visit Almscliff was much more difficult than Ilkley. For me it meant a bus to Bramhope then tramp the miles from there to reach the Crag. Despite such difficulties there was a keen spirit of adventure in our approach which was essentially light hearted. Being so much younger than my companions I was sometimes the butt of their humour, one such instance was when they contacted The Bradford Telegraph and Argus and joined me as a member into their ‘Nig Nog club'! It seems incredible now that this could have existed in a City with a high ethnic population, but this was a young person’s club sponsored by that newspaper.

I read out my ‘joining’ letter to my older companions the weekend after receiving this by post in Leeds 6. ‘Dear Dennis, we welcome you as a ‘Nig Nog’ into our club, please try and make all your friends ‘Nig Nog’s’ as well’. They laughed long and hard at this, but I got my own back. We lived next to a chemist and I managed to obtain some medicine bottles, and labels. I poured some coloured liquid into these and handed one to Alf Beanland, Dras, Greenwood & Co. On the label I had printed, ‘Peter Pan Liquid Jollop for Ageing Youths’ I think in those early years of our friendship two climbs stand out. In September 1952 with Dras in the lead, we managed to pioneer one of the Lake District’s hardest climbs of that era ‘The North Crag Eliminate’ at Castle Rock; which is still graded Extremely Severe. This was in retrospect an unusual climb, for one of its pitches meant climbing a large yew tree, then from its top most branches launching onto the rock face to make a difficult upward rightward traverse to reach a secure ledge, below the intimidating top pitch. 
Castlenaze 1957
For me, being at that date a small 16 years old, it was the moves from off the tree I found the most difficult of the route. This climb illustrated for me that whilst Dras was not the most naturally gifted performer in our group- Greenwood and Dolphin being more so- he was the most determined, and once he set his mind to a task he was usually successful. 
 
Another memorable day in 1952 was when Dras and I climbed Hangover on Dove Crag, and noticing on a buttress to its left hand side, an impressive line, which commenced with a steep crack. Dras set off up this, but it was seeping wet inside its edges, and some way up this he managed to hang a sling and I lowered him down. I then tried to lead this, but could not reach as far as Dras and hanging by the sling he had placed I could see that the next moves would be beyond me, so I too then baled-out. The Following weekend I met Joe Brown in Langdale, and I told him about the outstanding difficult line we had discovered on Dove Crag.

He was very interested, and with Don Whillans visited and ascended the route which they called Dove Dale Grooves. A route so difficult for its era, that a decade elapsed before it was repeated. The reader may be surprised, but Dras was not annoyed with me about blabbing about our great find to Joe, for we both recognised that if any climbers could have pioneered the route at that time, probably only Brown and Whillans were capable of achieving such a result.
 
The death of Dolphin and the opportunities that developed for some in the 1950s for entry into higher education, or to better ones prospects in work further afield would eventually lead to a break-up of The Bradford Lads. Dras managed to study in Nottingham and qualify as a teacher. This then led to a career in Outdoor Education, first in Derbyshire at Whitehall, but then as the Warden of the Towers Education Centre near to Capel Curig . But throughout he continued to explore and pioneer new rock climbs. A major development, in which he and his brother Neville were key figures, was the discoveries they made over several visits to The Poisoned Glen in Donegal. This came about by Neville exploring climbing possibilities in that part of Ireland in 1953, returning home and convincing Dras about possible new routes that might be found in that valley, which they visited in 1954. Over many visits in following years they did manage to climb 20 new routes, perhaps the two which have become best identified with them being The Berserker Wall and the Direct on Bearnas Buttress?
Donegal Days

With his outstanding literary abilities Dras was invited by the FRCC to edit their first ever guidebook to the Eastern Crags, an area in which he had been an original pioneer with classic routes like ‘Grendel’ (VS 4b) in Deepdale. The volume he produced in 1957 was a ‘big effort’ on his part, for without transport and often minus a climbing partner, much of his checking and routing was achieved solo, and taking these problems into account, the guidebook he produced was first class. Transport was a big problem in our early climbing days, for as the 1950’s progressed hitch hiking became too slow and crowded (so many other competitor’s out on the road also seeking lifts) and therefore many climbers moved onto motor bikes.

Dras was one of these, but initially he did not display great driving skill. He bought an ex War Department machine, for I believe about £40, and drove it up to Langdale. With me riding pillion we set off from the Old Dungeon Ghyll Car Park to ride up to Wall End Barn, with our fellow Bradford Lads cheering our departure. At the first sharp bend leading up to our destination he lost control, wobbled across the road and hit a wall. I was lucky and landed on a grass verge, but Dras was injured, fracturing an arm quite badly. So it heralded for us a return to hitch hiking.

In 1971 Dras edited a new edition of the Lliwedd guide for the Climbers’ Club having been elected to that organisation in 1966. Taking this on, was truly a brave decision for despite its huge bulk and ease of access it was seen even at that date as something of a backwater, whereas once in the early years of the 20th century it was at the cutting edge of climbing development in this country. Maybe it might yet be again, but Dras had to overcome the curse of Lliwedd in preparing this volume, for its two previous editors, Archer Thompson in 1909, and Menlove Edwards in 1936 both ended their lives, committing suicide by poisoning. He remains however the only such guidebook editor to have published such a volume in both The Lake District and Snowdonia.
Latter days: HD on the esoteric Tremadog VS 'Wanda',where a basking adder held up progress!

Established in Wales and a key figure in the development of Outdoor Education, Dras decided to put his thoughts about this into print and he produced a seminal work, ‘Education and the Mountain Centres’. This was a thoughtful analysis of the role of risk and the experience of an exposure to nature in the development of young minds; in 1972 when it was first published it made a major impact on this then fast developing field of education. It remained in print for many years and sold hundreds of copies nationwide. A more eclectic work that Dras was involved with in this decade was a joint publication with the US climber and academic Michael Tobias, ‘The Mountain Spirit’ published in 1980. This was in retrospect an unusual and surprising work, a potpourri of articles, poems, and anthology, and some pieces written especially for the book by David Roberts and Arne Naess and by the authors. It was full of Zen and Tao, including a piece by HSU who visited every mountain range in eastern China in the 16th century. It was met with such a mixture of like and dislike that it remains one of the most unusual books to be published in that era. 
 
A person who was impressed by ‘The Mountain Spirit’ however was a friend in Manchester, who at that date was a drama student, Nick Shearman. I attended at a theatre in town to see him act in a stage adaptation of the Dracula story. He was also a keen rock climber, and thus when he admitted an interest in meeting Dras I took Nick to meet him at The Towers. Shearman was an enthusiast for the plays of Samuel Beckett, and once met up they gelled and discussed Yeats, Beckett, Joyce and mountain themed writing till the wee small hours. Shearman remained impressed, and I valued his opinion for he was an outstanding personality himself, who went on to enjoy a major career in television production as an independent and at the BBC. This meeting led on to me organising in Manchester a Mountain Literature Evening, at which Dras was one of the speakers, others being Ivan Waller telling about an amazing escape from a crashed plane in the war and Tony Barley who survived an epic rescue after a huge fall in a remote area of South Africa; the theme of the Evening being ‘Risk and Adventure’. 

Dras was a serious thinker, and he loved to draft, rewrite either a talk or article to firm up his ideas which is why he did not publish easily, but the articles he did finalise such as ‘The Art of Cheating’ originally published in Mountain Magazine are worth re-reading, again and again. 
Bradford Lads at that thar ODG.

In 1997 Dras published an autobiography, ‘The Ordinary Route’, which besides describing a life full of climbing in many different locations Yosemite, Greece, The Sinai besides the UK and Ireland he revealed his thinking about access and conservation in mountain environments. I had forgotten just what a good read this book really is, having re-read it before commencing this article, and the chapter on access campaigns underlines his lifelong belief in anarchism; which confirms the need to support local action, away from centralised decision making.

Dras was a lifer when considering his climbing activities, and in the year 2000, he and his brother Neville celebrated 50 years of new routing; ‘Cravat VS 4C’ on Bowfell’s Neckband crag in 1950 and ‘Two against nature S 4a’ on Craig Ddu, Moel Siabod in 2000. He was a consistent explorer of crags in North Wales, and continued to be active in the Arenig’s for many years, accompanied by John Appleby and other friends besides occasionally his brother.

Neville Drasdo has now retired from a stand out career in optical neuro physiology, as a Professor in the school of optometry and vision sciences at Cardiff University, producing 80 research items and receiving over 2000 citations. As a climber, many of his early years were confined due to working on a Saturday in Bradford. Climbing on his one day off he nevertheless managed to pioneer some highly technical routes on local outcrops of which Bald Pate Direct E2 5c at Ilkley and Alibi HVS 5b at Widdop are illustrations of his abilities. Physically he was a doppelganger of Dras and when I was 15 and Neville 19, in 1951 we met up in Glencoe, staying in Cameron’s Barn high in the Pass on the edge of the Inverness Road. We ascended several classic routes on the Buachaille Etive Mor; the Whortlebury Wall, Agag’s Groove, Red Slab and The Crowberry Ridge Direct.


HD on the first ascent of 'Jac Codi Baw' on Arenig Fawr
We even tried the then hardest route in Glencoe, Gallows Route; Neville almost succeeded on this but sticking in the final groove, unable to exit from it, his retreat back down the groove and across the traverse he had made to reach this was heart stopping! This climb had been unrepeated since its first ascent by John Cunningham in 1947, and for us teenagers to nonchalantly be attempting this makes me wonder at our initiative even now.

Neville went on to make some impressive first ascents on Skye and in the North West Highlands of which his 1000 ft route on the Sgurr an Fhidhleir in Coigach was a major development in that area. And in North Wales his most impressive new climb was in accompanying Joe Brown on the 1st ascent of ‘Hardd’ E2 5c on Carreg Hyll Drem.
Dras died in 2015 and though Neville is now suffering from a serious medical condition my most recent message from him was that he was still ‘Hanging On’.

And now as I finish with this, I see in my mind’s eye two figures standing together in the winter of 1951/2. We are in Borrowdale early in the morning and snow is lying deep on the ground and set like iron. This vision is one of the Drasdo brothers, wearing boots shod with Tricouni nails, and they are just leaving to climb in the Newland’s Valley. The rest of us Bradford Lads are heading for Great End, long ice axes at the ready, to do battle with its famous gully climbs. But that was not for Dras, he was ahead of the game and he had realised that the future lay in climbing rock routes in winter conditions. They did just that, climbing a severe summer route, made all the more demanding layered by snow and ice.
Harold under Pavey Ark

Harold and Neville Drasdo were two of the most outstanding, creative climbers of my generation. 

From humble beginnings they carved out for themselves lives and careers of great worth and their achievements and character will keep their memories alive for all who knew them. Which in Dras's case are the hundreds of school children who were introduced to the rivers, hills and moorlands of an outdoor adventure playground, which is a truly suitable memorial. 

Dennis Gray 2018.

Special thanks to Maureen Drasdo and Gordon Mansell for supplying many of these never seen before images.