Ken Wilson, one of the most influential voices in British climbing, has passed away. His death leaves a hole in the climbing community, but his legacy will continue to shape British climbing for years to come.
As editor of the classic Mountain magazine, he helped form the ethics of traditional British climbing. As the author of several great climbing books, he was responsible for inspiring many young climbers to dream big and tick-off all the classics. And as a supporter of the BMC and the Climbers’ Club, he made sure the community was working to safeguard the ethos of climbing, and to ensure it was accessible for everyone.
Writing in his book, Up and About, mountaineer Doug Scott said: “Ken was a passionate and sometimes vociferous supporter of the traditions of British climbing and an inspired mountaineering magazine editor.
“Mountain magazine had quite an influence on my climbing, especially during the late sixties and early seventies. It captured the profound changes affecting climbing at that period and Ken proved a relentless guardian of the soul of mountaineering – as he saw it.”
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Ken’s list of literary achievements is, of course, long, but its highlights include: being the editor of Mountain magazine from 1969 until 1978, authoring the timeless compilations Classic Rock, Hard Rock and Extreme Rock, not to forget his take on climbing in his anthology The Games Climbers Play, and establishing two publishing houses: Diadem and Bâton Wicks.
Aside from his contributions to print, Ken’s work to support the climbing world extended far and wide. The BMC gratefully accepted Ken’s opinions, both as a volunteer and a critic, and he was bestowed with the title of Honorary Member of the BMC.
Dave Turnbull, chief executive officer of the BMC, said: "Ken was one of the great characters of the last half century of British and world mountaineering – knowledgeable, passionate, committed, inquisitive, loud, annoying, blunt, unstoppable, bombastic, pure and proper grassroots with a deep-rooted conviction as the self-appointed champion of climbing ethics; without Ken British climbing would be in much poorer place than it is today. Ken made an impact wherever he went, he will be a hard act to follow and will be missed by many."
Furthermore, Ken helped mould the climbing clubs we know today; he was a fierce campaigner for women to be accepted as members in the Climbers' Club, the first of many of the causes he pursued vigorously. In November 2015, Ken’s contribution was honoured and acknowledged when he was bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Boardman Tasker trustees.
Ed Douglas, climbing writer and journalist, said: “He may not have been a leading climber, but he helped shape climbing, and almost always for the good. He was without question the pre-eminent publisher and editor of the British climbing scene in the 20th century. He was also deeply committed to his family, his wife Gloria and his two sons. If there is any comfort to be drawn from his last battle, with dementia, then it’s that they were there to support him.”
Our thoughts, respects and well wishes go out to his family. Rest in peace, Ken.
There is a full tribute to Ken in Summit 82, Summer 2016.
There is also a celebration of his life on Saturday 30 July in Sheffield