Ian Smith, Lynn Robinson receive George Band Award 2017

Posted by Peter Burnside on 04/04/2017

The 2017 BMC George Band Award goes to guidebook gurus Ian Smith and Lynn Robinson for their outstanding contributions to the BMC and mountaineering over many years. Congratulations! Let's have a look at why they were nominated for the award.

The George Band Award for Exceptional Voluntary Contribution to Mountaineering recognises people who have played a significant role in the BMC's work over an extended period of time. 

Lynn has been involved in BMC guidebooks for many years, was secretary of the Peak Area from 2010-2015, and is now involved in the Women's Development Group. We've already interviewed Lynn about her stellar work for the BMC, you can read it via the link below. 

READ: Rockstar Volunteers: Catching up with Lynn Robinson

Ian's involvement stretches back more than 35 years, as he's been a stalwart volunteer with both BMC and Climbers' Club guidebooks, as well as taking the role of secretary and chairman of the Peak Area in the 1980s. Considering this, he's also a candidate for the title of Rockstar Volunteer, so we decided to find out a bit more about him.

Having started climbing aged 14, back in 1968 – the days of hemp waistlines and hawser-laid ropes – Ian spent the rest of his life seriously exploring many of the UK’s most cherished crags, and some of the totally remote, all while photographing, writing, and editing all things climbing related.

Ian provided photos for the 1981 BMC guidebook to Derwent Valley, before his involvement with The Climbers’ Club guides took off. Since then, he's served as the Journal Editor, Vice President, President and sat on the Publications Sub-Committee since 1987 working on guidebooks.

His first book as editor was the Ogwen Carneddau guidebook in 1993, he wrote the first ever guidebook to Jersey and the Channel Islands after visiting and climbing numerous new routes in 1984, and he was involved with countless other seminal titles such as the double volume to Pembroke in 1995, and most recently the new CC guidebook to Dartmoor.

But guidebooks are just the tip of the iceberg. Ian’s tallied up a remarkable CV of climbing credentials, including: Deputy Editor of High, working for Climb magazine, then becoming the Deputy Editor at Climber magazine as well. And his photos have been featured in Climber & Rambler, High, Mountain, Vertical (France), Rotpunkt (Germany), Climbing (USA), amongst others.

He’s since retired, but we’d gamble Ian is not done with climbing, publications, and guidebooks just yet. Here he tells us all about his history with the BMC and mountaineering:

Ian Smith's story

I began volunteering for the BMC when I was asked to give photographs to the Derwent Valley guidebook. A short while later, I became the Secretary of the Peak Area Committee in 1982 and then Chairman in 1987-88. It was a matter of wanting to get involved to, as the old cliché goes, 'put something back' into the thing that I loved doing, which had given me lots of brilliant friendships and that I felt was an organisation doing important work.

I think I was influenced by friends and mentors who had been volunteers for the BMC too, and it felt like I was continuing a fine tradition. There's a case that, for me, once I had started volunteering it became something of a habit, in a good way, and my default position was, if asked, to contribute in a way I felt appropriate was to say yes. 

What were your favourite moments and why?
The excitement of being involved with guidebooks has never left me. I well remember receiving a copy of the Derwent Valley in 1981 with one of my photos on the cover and thinking it was brilliant to participate; that has never left me. I think guidebooks are more than just 'tools' to show climbers how to find crags and routes, they capture the times, create memories and keep our history alive.

Despite missing out on climbing competitions by a decade or so, I throughly enjoyed commentating on them between 1997 and 2015, with highlights being the senior World Championships of 1999 and the junior World Championships of 2010. I know that competition climbing isn't approved of by all but I hold to the firm belief that climbing is a 'broad church' and it's part of a great variety. There's no doubt that it is possible for some climbers to only take part in just one aspect of climbing, but many former competition climbers have also amassed amazing track records outdoors on cliffs and mountains, examples being Leo Houlding from the UK, Catherine Destivelle from France and American climber, Lynn Hill, amongst numerous others.    

Any memorable occasions from your 35-year-long service?
As mentioned before, getting my hands on a new guidebook is a real buzz. But the most memorable times have been away from the formality of committee rooms and the socialising that often followed meetings, dinners or events. Having a pint with Paul Nunn and Ian McNaught Davis after a Management Committee meeting was seriously entertaining with laughter, wit, polemic and argument all featuring – and even better if Ken Wilson was there as well.

Being the photographer on the Women's International Meet in 1984 and the International Youth Meet in 1987 were very special times. On the Women's Meet, I will never forget Jill Lawrence's ascent of Right Wall, the first E5 by a woman, and to then see Catherine Destivelle, Rosie Andrews (USA) and Christine Gambert (FRA) repeat the feat was so exciting. Later in the week taking Catherine Destivelle up to Stanage for her first gritstone experience was pretty special, not just because she's a brilliant climber but she took to grit like a local and was stylishly cruising bold E3s with ease.      

Why should people volunteer their time for the BMC?
If climbing matters to you, then maybe giving something back by volunteering is the right thing to do. If nobody did anything, we wouldn't have what we've got in terms of access, equipment standards, safety standards both outdoors and indoors and, in fact, the ability to go climbing at all might be jeopardised. If you've got a professional skill or trade that could help the BMC then that's fantastic, but sometimes just taking part with an opinion and willingness to help is enough.

One way to start volunteering would be by going to an Area Meeting, which is usually open to anyone, and meeting fellow climbers and finding out more about the BMC. Secondly, join a club, either a local or national one, and get involved by representing the club at an Area Meeting. Clubs originally formed the BMC back in 1944 and, quite rightly, still have a significant involvement, while individual members have become more important and influential; this mix is a real strength of the organisation.

Volunteers can only be recruited if they know about the BMC, know why it's important, and are informed about what they may be able to do to help. Continuing to use, appropriately and efficiently, the rapidly changing digital media formats is crucial and not easy, but is easily the best way to communicate with members.

What are you going to do with your time now?
Retired now and doing a bit more travelling, still climbing (doing Wreckers Slab on the Culm of North Devon recently with Dave Viggers and Terry Gifford to celebrate Terry's 70th birthday was a brilliant day out) but doing a lot more hill walking in the UK and Europe with my wife and friends.

I'm still very involved with Climbers' Club guidebooks, very pleased to see the new Dartmoor guidebook in the shops and just about to start on its companion volume to the, predominantly, limestone crags of South Devon. No specific volunteering with the BMC at the moment but if asked who knows...  


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