Former BMC president, guidebook author and chair of the BMC Access Management Group; is there anything to do with climbing and the BMC that Dave Musgrove hasn't been involved with? Let's find out a bit more about one of our most dedicated volunteers and worthy winner of this year's George Band Award.
Dave Musgrove: stalwart of the BMC
I first started Rock Climbing, aged 15, in October 1964 on a youth club trip to Hetchell crag near Leeds. From that day to this I’ve considered myself a ‘Climber’ and even today, 54 years later despite a successful career in the Police Service and dabbling in several other hobbies and pastimes it is Climbing that defines me. It always will.
Having been born in Leeds and living in this area all my life, inevitably Yorkshire’s Gritstone and Limestone outcrops became my constant playground. In the 1970s I climbed a lot in the Peak and in Wales and through the 80s I concentrated more strongly on the Lakes with regular Easter trips to Pembroke.
I’ve had several trips to the Alps and Dolomites over the years but never really thought of myself as a serious Mountaineer, generally choosing long rock routes rather than snow and ice.
During the 1990s guidebook work focussed my attentions back to Yorkshire where I spent much of the decade developing new crags and new routes throughout the county. In the Mid 90s I was persuaded to be the treasurer of the Yorkshire Bolt Fund and inevitably that meant I got involved in a complete overhaul of many long neglected limestone crags creating several new sport climbing playgrounds and fully revitalising their popularity.
A bizarre accident in 1997 on the Skull on Cyrn Las left me with a bit of problem with the fingers of my left hand and my first reaction was that my climbing career was over. That thought didn’t last long however and with the encouragement and support of Doctors, friends and family I was back on the rocks around seven weeks later and soon climbing almost as well as I had always done.
I started making more frequent foreign rock climbing trips around the turn of the Millennium, first to Spain and later to Kalymnos where I even added a few big new routes of my own and was instrumental in the setting up of the Glaros Bolt Fund which has since raised around 40,000 euros for the equipping of new routes on the Island.
Since 2000 I have been a director of Leeds indoor Climbing Wall and continued to maintain a Yorkshire new routes database on the wall’s website.
Why did you volunteer for the BMC and what made you keep coming back?
I’ve been a BMC member since the late 1960s as a member of the Rock and Ice Climbing Club, but I first started attending BMC area meetings in 1990 around the time I took on editorship of the YMC rock climbing guidebook series. Guidebook work got me involved with local access officers and National Park staff and I suppose my understanding of the work of the BMC evolved from there. Sometime in the late 1990s I became secretary and then Chair of the Yorkshire Area. As area Chair I was voted onto the Management Committee (later the National Council) and soon after that was elected to the Exec as a VP in 2000. In 2002 in the absence of any other willing ex VPs I agreed to stand as President during another rather turbulent period of BMC history.
Following my period as President I thought I could retire gracefully and go back to being a simple climber again but the organisation has a habit of keeping an invisible chain around you and I was soon reeled back in!
I was still writing guidebooks to the Yorkshire area, and by that time also running the Yorkshire Bolt Fund and re-equipping lots of routes on Yorkshire Limestone and so I suppose it was inevitable I eventually became the local area Access Officer for the Yorkshire Dales region and that led eventually to membership of a technical committee sub-group writing BMC guidance notes on bolts and bolting and later I joined the Quarries working group looking at the thorny issue of attempting to gain formal access to disused quarry sites (unfortunately still with very limited success). In 2012 the old Access and Conservation committee evolved into the current Access Management Group and I became a member under Nick Kurth’s chairmanship. Two years later Nick became a VP and I took over as chair of that group and so I remain.
What’s the best thing about being a volunteer?
I suppose over more than 50 years of climbing I’ve gained a lot of experience and I suppose it’s the feeling of well-being knowing that I’m putting something of that experience back for the benefit of others. I was also very fortunate in being in a position to retire from full time work relatively young which gave me more free time and the opportunity to keep using some of my workplace management and leadership skills within the BMC arena.
Dave feeling quite chuffed after completing the first ascent of A Room With A View, 7a+.
Your favourite moments and why?
I have never thought of myself as a great or innovative climber so I suppose my proudest moment was when I first saw my name on the Honours Board of past Presidents in the BMC office, listed with so many of my previous heroes and the great names of British Climbers of the last 70 years. I still feel a mixture of humility and pride whenever I pass that Board.
What has been the biggest challenge?
My period as President coincided with a particularly difficult time in the organisation’s history. Large debts incurred by the ill-fated Rheged exhibition, and the proposal to split the BMC and create a parallel organisation Mountain Services Ltd along with several other difficult personnel issues led to a threat of near bankruptcy for the BMC and it effectively fell to me to sort the mess and turn the organisation around. I managed to do that and set up a review chaired by Mark Valance to come up with safeguards to ensure the organisation never got financially overstretched again. That led to a relatively stable period for many years. I left the Exec exhausted but satisfied that the BMC could continue to grow and I could go climbing again!
Why should people volunteer?
One often hears the phrase ‘The BMC should do this’ or ‘the BMC should do that’. The reality is that most of the work of the BMC is done by us, as ordinary individual members. Next time you feel like complaining about something the BMC is or isn’t doing why not get involved yourself and help to do it better?
What’s next for you?
As I’m nearing 70 I’d like to think I could retire gracefully and join the committee of the local Bridge club. However, I suspect I'll be drawn back to the BMC in some capacity, hopefully for many years yet to come, as long as my skills and experience remain useful to the needs of the organisation. I’m still as keen as ever to climb rocks so the BMC will remain very relevant to me.
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