Nick Kurth caught the bug early on: from scrambling up slabs in the Lake District as a youth on a school trip, to the likes of reading his way through as much mountain literature as he could lay his hands on. Here the BMC's new acting president talks about finding his passion and fitting it around his career.
BMC vice president Nick Kurth has stepped up to be acting BMC president after Rehan Siddiqui resigned at the 2017 AGM. Time to find out what makes him tick:
I found out I was passionate about mountaineering almost as soon as I started! I remember standing on top of Napes Needle, and also overcoming a struggle on Brown Slabs Crack on Shepherd’s Crag, and thinking that I might be hooked. My reading matter turned then to the likes of Everest: The Hard Way, Call Out and The Hard Years. Finally, when my sole shopping destination was Pindisports (the Cotswold Outdoors of its day) I knew that I was probably in this for life.
After school, I had a full career in the Armed Forces and mountaineering/climbing had to be fitted in around it. But I met some fantastic walkers, mountaineers and climbers in the 3 Services. Moreover, I have had some amazing experiences with my club, the RAF Mountaineering Association, and am still an active member. The refreshing thing with the Association is seeing lots of junior personnel all with the same enthusiasm that I had when I was their age.
My two main climbing partners have been my role models for many years; I respect them enormously. Andy Lockwood, a ‘Northern grit thug’ (I hope he doesn’t object to this descriptor!), has been my rock climbing partner for many, many years. He is one of the most patient individuals I have ever met – even when belaying whilst I’m faffing around trying to get some gear into a snowy/wet/cold crag! He is also a pretty impressive climber.
Simon Hall, my Alpine climbing partner and an ex-Royal Marine, is one of the most solid alpinists I have ever climbed with. We have had many 4,000m adventures and I was not at all surprised that he led a team to complete particularly successfully all the Seven Summits without guides. I have still not forgotten the day we managed to complete two 4,000m peaks where we both finished with a ‘1000-yard stare’, having been on the go for nearly 18 hours. Sadly, Simon is undergoing significant medical treatment currently and my thoughts are very much with him and his wife, Gill.
I became involved with the BMC when working on a job for the Ministry of Defence (MOD). I was overseeing setting the direction for the MOD's estate, and I helped the BMC with access to Defence land as I believed that this access needed to be promoted for the benefit of the public. My contributions broadened to include sitting on the Access and Conservation Group, and, subsequently, I chaired the reformed Access Management Group and this included supporting the BMC with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering. I was appointed as a vice president two years ago.
My role as vice president changed after this year’s AGM and the Motion of No Confidence. I am generally of the view, to quote Evelyn Hall, where I may “disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. However, in this case, I have some difficulty with what happened. I am still not entirely sure what the motion was really aimed at and the BMC lost a president, Rehan Siddiqui, an individual who is as passionate about the organisation and the outdoors as I am, has contributed significantly to the BMC's development and has helped many, many people. He has left big boots to fill. However, now we should forge on to the multitude of positive opportunities ahead.
My immediate objective is to get an organisational review underway. This will look at how we manage the BMC and it will also set the forward direction for the BMC. We'll also be seeking members' views with a survey. Findings from the review will be discussed with the Areas and at either an EGM or AGM (dependant on timing). The latter will ensure that the members have their hands fully on the tiller to steer the organisation forwards.
I am also keen to ensure that all our volunteers receive suitable recognition. I have often felt that this has been a gap in the BMC’s armoury and, without question, the contribution from the organisation’s volunteers is massive.
I believe climbing and mountaineering should be accessible to all. We should not suffer from tribalism – the notion that individuals fit into one particular camp. Most of my climbing friends can be seen in walls or walking the hills when the weather is bad and, to me, that is one of the attractions of this strange activity we are all passionate about – it encompasses a vast range of complementary activities. Accordingly, we need to ensure that we have adequate methods for people to gain skills and experience – I think clubs and centres have an important role to play here –and to recognise that we have a broad church – both in terms of people and activities – and all should be welcome.
Champagne or beer? My preference is, as my mountaineering friends will probably acknowledge, both!
READ: Patron Rab Carrington interview
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