Rehan Siddiqui was elected BMC President at the AGM on 25 April, just minutes before hearing news of a devastating earthquake in Nepal. We catch up with Rehan in between business trips to Boston and organizing his brainchild the BMC Nepal auction.
Born in Blackburn, Rehan began hiking and rock climbing as an early teenager in the countryside and gritstone quarries around Manchester. He had a traditional climbing upbringing, learning from local climbers and especially his elder brother Nadim.
Rehan started work selling textiles to the outdoor trade before moving to finance and then setting up his current business, providing civil engineering and industrial rope access services globally. In fact, he Chaired the committee which devised and wrote the US national ASTM standard for the industry.
We asked him the following questions:
How did you first get involved with the BMC?
I've had an interest in the BMC for many years because it is the representative body of the sport I grew up with. I've watched it grow from its small offices in central Manchester to being the diverse organisation it is today. I first got actively involved on a regular basis in 2006 Chairing the Equity Steering Group, then as Vice President from 2007 – 2011.
What does the BMC mean to you?
It’s the organisation which represents the interest of its hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers. Everyone involved in these activities has a vested interest in being a part of it. It is there for us. When I say climbers, I mean that in the broadest possible sense to include boulderers, sports climbers, trad climbers, indoor climbing wall users, ice climbers, competition climbers, mountaineers, and so on.
What made you want to volunteer be BMC president?
It’s an old cliché but I do want to put something back into something I've enjoyed, and got a lot out of, over the years. I’ve gained a lot of experience in all aspects of our sport and also in my professional life I have a lot of business experience which the BMC can benefit from.
"I'm delighted to be BMC president. In particular, I'm looking forward to helping the BMC protect the special nature of British climbing and hill walking whilst at the same time ensuring inclusion and encouraging participation in all aspects of our sport by future generations."
You're keen to help protect the special nature of British climbing. Can you explain what that means?
In Britain we've got the lot. Although perhaps not always the weather! We've got great traditional crags and quarries, mountain crags, fantastic bouldering, amazing sea cliffs with history attached to many areas. These need to be protected and promoted so that current and future generations have the opportunity to climb them.
Likewise I am equally keen to see healthy development of sports routes. The climbing community needs to work together to make sure we respect both the traditional and sports climbing facets. I want inclusion and to make sure that we ensure there is quality climbing for both traditional climbers and sports climbers - as well as boulderers, ice climbers, scramblers, hill walkers, and so on - across the range of grades and the country. If we alienate any part of our sport we will ultimately run into problems. We need a careful balance.
What are the main challenges facing the BMC at the moment and what would you like to achieve during your time as president?
Wow, where do we start on that one!
The BMC is a diverse organisation and has grown to in excess of 78,000 members. However, there are a lot more people out there that enjoy climbing and hill walking so I would want to grow the membership to reflect that wider participation.
Access and conservation is at the heart of what the BMC does and indeed is regularly rated as the most valuable service the organisation provides for its members in surveys. The access team will continue to work hard for its members, and the climbing and hillwalking community more widely, to secure better access to the hills and crags of England and Wales and to spread good practice messages which help look after these special places we hold so dear.
I am keen to engage youth in all aspects of climbing and ensure that we build and push forward with competition climbing. We need to have the best facilities and training available to have world class athletes able to compete and win on the world stage.
Another area is participation from under-represented groups. The participation figures among such groups have been low but slowly improving. I am keen to seen the ongoing development of this program. We have achieved a lot but there is still a long way to go. I want to pull together all aspects of our sport. What other sport can young kids, youth, adults and our more senior participants get involved in? For many, our sport is a way of life.
Mountain Heritage Trust has had and still has some of the most experienced and accomplished climbers and mountaineers Britain has had over the years. We have also got art, poetry and literature. I want the BMC to pull together all aspects of the activities we do for betterment of the sport. I guess a key message is inclusion and pulling together.
What three things would you like to achieve during your time as president?
Inclusion and pulling together as described above.
Promote hill walking, climbing and mountaineering and the health benefits associated with what we do – both physical and mental wellbeing.
What's your proudest achievement both inside and outside of climbing?
I am proud of the lifetime of experiences climbing has brought me: the people, lifelong friends, worldwide travel and experiences. Amazing! And the adventure continues….
I am proud of the business achievements I made in the commercial world. I am proud of seeing my kids enjoy the out-door world.
Taking my son when he was five years old up his first multi-pitch route in North Wales is up there. I am also immensely proud of being elected to become president of the BMC. There have been some great names before me so I am humbled.
Rehan (right) with his predeccessors Rab Carrington and Scott Titt. Photo: James Rowe
Who inspires you?
There are many people who inspire me, to name a few:
Chris Townsend – long distance walker and BMC Ambassador. I knew Chris from when I was around 16 / 17 walking in Edale.
Paul Pritchard – from Lancashire quarries to big mountains and he's still doing things despite a terrible accident. A great positive guy.
Ueli Steck – mountaineer and speed solo climber. How does he do that speed soloing!
Gary Gibson – how many new routes has this man done? Amazing!
Nick Colton – The BMC's deputy CEO from Longsight in Manchester. Hard routes on sandstone, gritstone and new routes on the Grand Jorrasses. Yes you can do it all.
Louise – my wife for putting up with me when life and events move at a frantic pace.
Muhammad Ali – What a legend….
What's your next outdoor ambition?
To regularly climb 6b+ / 6c (again). To do more classic snow plods and rock routes in the alps as well as classic long easy mountain trad rock routes.
You came up with the idea to run an eBay auction in aid of Nepal. What can people do to help?
Watch out for our next announcement about the launch of the auction and then please bid bid bid!
Watch the 2014 BMC Equity Symposium on BMC TV:
WATCH: A few weeks with Ueli, by Jon Griffith, on BMC TV:
WATCH: Chris Townsend backpacking in the Lake District, on BMC TV