Derek Walker, who served as both president and general secretary of the BMC, died in January at the age of 76. A slideshow of pictures of Derek is now available below.
Derek had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As BMC general secretary from 1989 until his retirement in 1995, he oversaw major changes, including the relocation of our premises to Didsbury.
Derek began mountain walking in 1954 and took up climbing in 1956 during national service with the RAF Mountain Rescue in North Wales. He was president of the University of Bristol Mountaineering Club in 1959-60 following the first of many Alpine seasons in 1958. He joined the Climbers’ Club in 1960, and served as president from 1984-7. He was a member of the Alpine Club and the Fell & Rock CC.
Before joining the BMC in 1989, he had a long and successful career as a teacher, becoming headmaster of the British School in Punta Arenas in 1966 before teaching at Helsby High School in 1971 where he remained until his appointment as general secretary.
He was a friend of Don Whillans, with whom he first climbed Carnivore on Creag a’Bhancair in 1962, when Whillans made the first ascent of his direct finish. Derek chaired Don’s memorial committee following his death in 1985, which ultimately led to the acquisition of Rockhall Cottage as a climbing hut. In 1991 he led Carnivore for himself, ‘with all the benefits of modern gear and remain in awe of the Villain’s enormous strength and drive’.
Derek led the first British expedition to Patagonia in the winter of 1960-61 and was part of Chris Bonington’s expedition in 1962-63, which made the first ascent of the Central Tower of Paine. Derek, with Ian Clough, made the third ascent of the North Tower.
‘Derek was a very special person,’ BMC patron Sir Chris Bonington says, ‘a good friend, a wonderful family man, a good steady climber who contributed a huge amount to the sport in so many different ways in his work for the BMC.’
Following his retirement in 1995, he climbed, trekked and travelled across the world, including the Himalaya, China, South Africa and revisiting Patagonia. Among his happiest experiences in later life was sharing in the new routing boom around Tafraoute in Morocco with old friends Joe Brown, Trevor Jones, Les Brown and many others.
‘I was lucky enough to climb with Derek in his 50s and 60s when he was still very fit and enthusiastic,’ says former Climbers' Club president Mike Mortimer. Derek’s technical skill, Mortimer adds, allowed them to do rapid free ascents of the Comici route on the north face of the Cima Grande and the Spigolo Strobel on the Rochetta Alta di Bosconero.
'He was particularly proud of doing the Cassin on the Torre Trieste: up and down in the day with time for a beer before descending to the valley to join the family for a celebration meal. We also climbed the Gogna on the Marmolada’ south face in 12 hours when he was sixty years old. We managed a climb in the Dolomites only a few months before he died. I still find it difficult to believe he is no longer with us.'
Derek was elected president of the BMC in 1999. Well liked and an able negotiator in sometimes fractious circumstances, he was a great servant to British climbing and will be much missed.
'He was a wonderful diplomat,’ Bonington says, ‘very inclusive, always had time for everyone and never had a bad word for anyone. He was devoted to the climbing club scene, took an active part in club business and was a very effective president of the Climbers’ Club. He's a huge loss; a person loved and respected by all.’
A memorial service for Derek was held at St Laurence Parish Church in Frodsham on Thursday 31 January with a reception afterwards at Frodsham Golf Club. BMC representatives were among about 300 people who attended the packed-out memorial service, clearly reflecting Derek's popularity.
The BMC wishes to express its deepest condolences to his wife Hilary, and the rest of his family.
Obituary: The Independent
Watch a slideshow of pictures of Derek.
Derek Walker from team_BMC on Vimeo.