John Ellis Roberts who had been Head Warden for Snowdonia National Park, President of Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team and who was also a retired British Mountain Guide, sadly died in a climbing accident on Dinas Cromlech in the Llanberis Pass on Friday 18 July, just a few days before his 71st birthday.
The tragedy of losing “John Êl” in an accident on one of the cliffs where he had diligently, over so many years, helped to save hundreds of lives is so tragic and poignant.
John had been the backbone of Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team for decades: his practical contribution and his professional knowledge of the mountains have been priceless on so many occasions. John was respected as a knowledgeable and conscientious leader, hardworking and particularly respectful of the dangers on the mountain. Over the years John served the Team in many ways; for many years he was a tireless Equipment Officer and developed new equipment and rescue techniques. He contributed as a wise Chairman and an extremely diligent Call Out Co-ordinator.
On his retirement he was nominated as the Team’s President and last year, when the Team celebrated forty years at Nant Peris, John was made an Honorary Member. He was a very private and unostentatious person but the award meant a lot to him, not only as a celebration of his long association with the Team but in receiving an acknowledgement from colleagues who had worked alongside him on hundreds of call outs and which reflected the respect they had towards him.
The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team was founded in 1968 and John, as Head Warden of the National Park, became involved from the beginning, sharing his infectious enthusiasm for the work and his professional experience as a Mountain Guide which provided a firm structure and an efficient start to the Team. In 1972 John was primarily responsible for establishing a Mountain Rescue Post in Nant Peris.
John’s whole life was linked to the mountains and the cliffs that shaped him from childhood in ‘Stiniog. As a young lad living in Blaenau Ffestiniog he pioneered a handful of new routes on the nearby crags of the Moelwynion and it was this love of the mountains that formed his career as the Head Warden, Mountain Guide, Search and Rescue Dog Handler, skier and more recently a cyclist in the mountains. His love of the mountain environment made him a “mountain man” in its widest definition. John contributed to a range of associations and mountaineering bodies and this was widely acknowledged when he was awarded an MBE for his services to mountaineering.
When people recall the fond memories spent in his company on and off the mountains, it’s John’s considerable contribution to his “square mile” that remains paramount. John’s involvement in the work of mountain rescue was pioneering and his enthusiasm was infectious. That’s why the nature of his death on the cliffs is so especially sad for all who knew him.
There are very many walkers, climbers and mountaineers who literally owe their lives to the work John did as a Mountain Rescuer over a period of more than 40 years and it's only right that during that period John was awarded over six commendations for bravery.
John was also widely recognised as being an expert in the world of upland path construction and in an area with so many strong characters, he stood out as one of the most significant influences in shaping the network of paths and in campaigning for resources and funds to carry out vital path repairs on some of the most highly used and eroded paths in Snowdonia.
John contributed extensively to the work of the only Welsh language based mountaineering club, Clwb Mynydda Cymru and had frequently guided on many of their meets in the Alps. He was also a past chairman of Mountain Training Cymru from 1999 to 2003, contributing his unique and extensive knowledge to that organisation during its embryonic times.
The British Mountaineering Council extends its condolences to his family, his many friends and colleagues in the world of Mountain Rescue and conservation. This article is based on the words of John Grisdale, the current chairman of Llanberis Mountain Rescue team and the original tribute can be seen on the team's website.
A public funeral has been arranged for 10.30am on Saturday 26th July at Bangor Crematorium.