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In Memoriam: Alan Blackshaw

Posted on: August 12th, 2011 by Luke Bauer

The American Alpine Club has re-posted this announcement from the British Mountaineering Club. The original story can be read on their website.

It is with great sadness that the BMC announces the death of Alan Blackshaw on Thursday 4th August 2011 at Raigmore hospital in Inverness.

Alan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2007 and had enjoyed a full and active life since then. However, following recent radiotherapy he developed a chest infection which didn’t respond to antibiotics. All the family were there at the time and were with him in the days preceding his death.  Funeral arrangements are here

Alan had an illustrious life.

He was President of the BMC (1973 – 1976), a BMC Patron (since 1978), and a specialist advisor to the BMC Access, Conservation and Environment Group.

He was also President of the [British] Alpine Club (2001 – 2004), editor of the [British] Alpine Journal (1966-70), and President of the UIAA (2004 – 2005).

Alan was born in Liverpool in 1933. He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, Crosby (Foundation Scholar),1944-51; then Wadham College, Oxford (Open Scholar), 1951-54 (Modern History).

He was perhaps best known for the book Mountaineering – from Hillwalking to Alpine Climbing (1966) published by Penguin books that many people simply called Blackshaw’s Mountaineering.  It was the seminal text of its day that was regarded by many as the Bible of climbing and mountaineering.

Alan was married to Elspeth and had a son and two daughters (one daughter from a previous marriage).

During a long and fruitful career Alan worked tirelessly for climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers.  He was an intellectual giant and made an immense contribution to the international and national mountaineering world.
His presence will be sorely missed.

Alan’s early climbing experiences are outlined here in his Valedictory Address to the Alpine Club (2004).

Obituary in the Telegraph

The following is taken from Alan’s own website and gives an idea of how multi-talented he was and how far his influence extended.

Alan Blackshaw
The diplomatic figure of Alan Blackshaw has been a familiar sight in UIAA meetings since he joined the Mountaineering Commission in 1985 and became its President (1991-97). During that period Blackshaw was involved in the introduction of competition climbing and ski mountaineering competitions into the UIAA, reviewing competitions at high-altitude, revising the standard for the guidebook label, introducing model standards for instructor training, and setting up working groups to advise on sustainable mountain tourism, access and conservation, and legal liability.

Under his leadership, the Mountaineering Commission proposed the UIAA Summit Charter for the International Year of Mountains (IYM) 2002, during which two key seminars were organised by UIAA colleagues in Trento and Flagstaff. At the Trento seminar, Blackshaw presented his keynote paper ‘Human Rights and Access Freedoms: is Nature the Missing Link?’ In 1996 Blackshaw had become a member of the United Nations (UN) Inter-Agency Group on mountains, and Vice-Chair of the Inter-Governmental Conference on Sustainable Mountain Development. It was therefore quite natural that he should become the UIAA Special Representative to the UN International Partnership that was launched during the IYM2002 with the support of UIAA.

It is no surprise that Blackshaw has been so effective in helping the UIAA to expand its activities, and build good relations with international bodies. His career started in the Royal Marine Commando (cliff assault and mountain warfare) but was spent mostly in Government service. This included a senior position in the UK delegation to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), acting as the Principal Private Secretary to three Ministers of Power, and other senior postings connected to coal, North Sea oil, and manufacturing of iron and steel.

Like many involved in UIAA, Blackshaw has made significant contributions to his national mountaineering federation. In Blackshaw’s case, this also includes skiing and national sport and environment bodies. Highlights of his service include: Editor of the Alpine Journal (1966-70), President of the British Mountaineering Council (1973-76), Chair British Ski Federation (1985-88), Chair Plas y Brenin the national mountaineering centre (1985-97), Board member Scottish Sports Council (1990-95), Chair Scottish National Ski Council (1991-94), Board member Scottish Natural Heritage (1991-97) and Chair of the Access Task Force, President Scottish National Ski Council (1994-00), President Ski Club of Great Britain (1997-03), Board member Cairngorms Partnership (1998-) and Chair of the Recreation Forum, and President the Alpine Club (2001-04). Blackshaw also made a very significant contribution to new access legislation in Britain, and was called as a witness to the Scottish Parliament on public access to land, for the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003.

Blackshaw was born in Liverpool in 1933 and studied modern history at Wadham College, Oxford. In the 1950’s he made significant climbs in the Alps including NE Face Piz Badile, N Face Triolet, and S Face Pointe Gugliermina. In 1966, he wrote the classic Penguin handbook ‘Mountaineering: from hillwalking to alpine climbing’. In 1972, he made a continuous ski traverse of the Alps (Kaprun-Gap) and over a series of visits between 1973 and 78 he skied Scandinavia end-to-end (Lakselv-Adneram). He has also been on expeditions to the Caucasus, Greenland and Garwhal.

Today Blackshaw lives in the Cairngorms with his family of three teenage children and wife Elspeth who is a local doctor. He works as a management consultant to a wide range companies, organisations, and academic institutions. With an apartment in Le Tour, he is able to make regular visits to enjoy the mountains in the Chamonix valley, and to visit his oldest daughter and grandchildren.


1954-56: 42 Royal Marines Commando, Cliff Assault Wing (Officer Instructor). Continued in Royal Marines Reserve until 1974 as mountain warfare instructor.

1956-79: Government service, including:
- 1965-67: On loan to UK Delegation to OECD, Paris (First Secretary, Diplomatic Service).

- 1967-70: Principal Private Secretary to 3 Ministers of Power.

- 1971-72: Head of Home Branch, Iron and Steel Division

- 1972-74: On loan to Charterhouse Bank, City of London as finance executive.

- 1974-78: Under-Secretary and then Director-General, Offshore Supplies Office, with responsibilities for development of British petroleum-related and offshore- construction capability.

- 1978-79: Under Secretary, Coal Division, London.

1979-now: Management consultant with Strategy International Limited and Oakwood Environmental Limited, or independently, including:

- Clients such as: British Telecom; British Waterways; Central Council of Physical Recreation; The 100 Group of Finance Directors; John Laing; National Coal Board; National Rivers Authority; Oerlikon Canada; Ove Arup; South West Water; and Taylor Woodrow.

- Adviser on public access to land to CCPR and Scottish Environment LINK.

- Academic Adviser to the Highlands and Islands University Project. This included: Chair of Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Academic Development Working Group; Member, Science and Environment Working Group; Adviser, Degree on Sustainable Development and Environmental Management (Orkney College); Delegate to Northern Periphery Partenariat of EU.

Other public appointments, including:
- 1974-78: Member of: Scottish Council for Development and Industry; Offshore Energy Technology Board; Ship and Marine Technology Requirements Board.

- 1990-95: Board Member, Scottish Sports Council.

- 1991-97: Board Member, Scottish Natural Heritage (Chairman of Access Task Force and of Audit Committee).

- 1998-: Member Cairngorms Partnership Board (Chair, Recreation Forum)

- In mid-1950s, did NE Face Piz Badile, N Face Triolet, and S Face Pointe Gugliermina, and other climbs, guideless. Expeditions since to the Caucasus, Greenland and Garwhal.

- Wrote Penguin handbook Mountaineering: from hillwalking to alpine climbing 1966 (in print until 1978). Editor The Alpine Journal 1966-70.

- Alpine Ski Traverse (Kaprun-Gap) 1972. Skied Scandinavia end to end (Lakselv-Adneram) (12 weeks between 1973 and 1978).

- President, British Mountaineering Council, 1973-76; Patron 1978-.

- Chair of Committee for Plas y Brenin, Sports Council National Mountain Centre, North Wales, 1985-97.

- Chair, British Ski Federation 1985-88. Chair, Scottish National Ski Council 1991-94; President 1994-2000. Ski Club of Great Britain: President 1997-2003.

- President, The Alpine Club, 2001-04.

- Mountaineering Commission (1985-97) I was President 1991-97, with Roger Payne as Commission Secretary. Projects included:

- Draft UIAA guidebook label, 1989-97

- Commission recommendation on the introduction of competition climbing to UIAA, 1989-

- UIAA Model Training Standards, 1993

- Report on Ski-Mountaineering Competitions, 1995 (CISAC admitted as UIAA Observer)

- Chairman of Working Party on Sustainable Mountain Tourism, Toulouse, 1996

- Report on High-Altitude Competitions, 1996

- Chair of Working Group on Access and Conservation, 1997

- Set-up Legal Working Group, 1997

- UIAA Special Representative for International Year of Mountains, 1998-

- Member UN Inter-Agency Group on Mountains, 1996-

- Vice-Chair, Inter-Governmental Conference on Sustainable Mountain Development, Trento, 1996

- Council, Mountain Forum, 2000

- UIAA Summit Charter, 2002

- Paper on The Human Right of the Enjoyment of Nature, Trento Seminar, 2002

- UIAA Representative on UN Global Partnership

- Obtained libel damages against The Daily Telegraph 1981 (upheld in Court of Appeal, 1983) and The Daily Mail, 1981

- Witness to the Scottish Parliament on public access to land, for the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003.

2 September 2004

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