Mark Vallance: 1944-2018

Posted by Dave Turnbull on 24/04/2018
Mark enjoying the view from Dead Horse Point, Utah, October 1996. Photo: Mike Browell
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Former BMC President and founder of Wild Country, Mark Vallance passed away on 19 April following a period of illness suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

Mark was an entrepreneur and innovator, a man of big ideas with the drive and courage to put them into action. Alongside American climbing legend Ray Jardine, Mark was widely acknowledged as the ‘inventor’ of Friends, the revolutionary camming device that had an immediate and lasting impact on the climbing world; he even featured on the popular TV programme Tomorrow's World in 1978 demonstrating his faith in them to a bemused presenter by taking a leader fall at Millstone Edge.

Mark put 100% into everything he set his mind to, and I well recall his three-way banter with the formidable duo (and two of the climbing world’s most experienced talkers!) Ken Wilson and Dick Turnbull on regular Tuesday night climbing sessions, not that he ever managed to get much of a word in at times.

In his early life Mark spent time with the British Antarctic Survey and the Peak District National Park Authority, and following the setting up of Wild Country, he went on to establish the Outside store in Hathersage and was part of the team that built the Foundry Climbing Centre in Sheffield.

At the BMC Mark took over the presidency in 2003 from Dave Musgrove and Derek Walker before him, at a time of major organisational upheaval and financial difficulties. He wasted no time in launching a wide ranging Future Policy Review chaired by Bob Moulton which culminated in agreement at the 2006 AGM to adopt a one-person one-vote in place of the club block vote system.

Another of Mark’s brainchilds was the highly successful BMC British Mountain Map, published in collaboration with Harvey maps, which launched in 2005 with a map of the Lake District and now runs to a series of 16 maps across the UK.

In 2016 Mark published his autobiography – Wild Country: the man who made Friends – cementing his place as one of climbing’s great innovators.

Dave Turnbull, BMC CEO


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