In Memory of Ian Angell
1939 to 2006
January 2006 Ian Angell died from a head injury sustained after a fall while
hillwalking on A’Chrois in Arrochar. He
was 66 and his death stunned all those who knew him.
alpinist, rock climber, ice climber, ski mountaineer, skier and hillwalker, Ian
was all of these because of his love and enjoyment of the great outdoors.
Ian was excellent company while pursuing any of these activities.
born on the 18th January 1939 just a few tense months before the
Second World War and was brought up in Sheringham in Norfolk.
An area not renowned for its hills, although Ian claimed to have climbed
Beacon Hill (105m) the highest point in Norfolk.
He never knew his father who was tragically killed in an industrial
accident when he was two years old. His
mother was a council clerk who later ran a tobacconist and confectionery shop in
Sheringham High Street.
was educated at King Edward VII Grammar School in Kings Lynn and clearly started
climbing when at school as, it is rumoured, his initials can still be found at
the top of the bell tower, which was reached at night from the dormitory and
along the roof. His first recognised rock climb was in 1956 on the Idwal Slabs.
The following year he attended a rock climbing course run by Hamish
On leaving school he went to Rugby College of Engineering,
and while there worked as an apprentice electrical engineer at the AEI works in
Rugby. He achieved a Diploma in Electrical Engineering in 1962 (aged 23) and was
a Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. While a student in Rugby he
was a founder member of the Rugby Mountaineering Club.
1961, as “a slim 22-year-old student,” Ian did a solo ascent of the Hornli
ridge of the Matterhorn in 3 hours 25 minutes, a post-war record. As befitted his modesty he was astonished and possibly
embarrassed that the event became national news on the front page of the Daily
Sketch. In a dispatch from Zermatt
the headline read – “Mad dog Ian climbs it solo!”
The report quoted the Zermatt Chief Guide Godlieb Perren, “a splendid
effort which only an Englishman would dare.
He is a first class mountaineer.”
mother was also quoted, “He’s climbed the Matterhorn?
Oh my goodness that’s quick! I
feel terribly proud. He does a lot
of climbing, but he’s never done anything like this.
At least not that I know of…”
trips were not without incident and while skiing from the Valsorey Hut, up the
Plateau de Couloir on the High Level Route in the mid 1970s he was avalanched.
Frantic digging by various parties, including a following German team, revealed
a cyanosed, lifeless form, and swift, effective resuscitation restored him in
what one companion described as “the nearest thing he had seen to the
resurrection.” Interestingly Ian
restarted the tour only 24 hours later, having recovered from both the trauma
and hypothermia, and the group successfully finished in Zermatt.
was devoted to his wife Shirley who was also a climber and a successful author
who wrote the definitive history of the Pinnacle Club.
On page 178 she relives the
first time she set eyes on her husband to be, which was up a tree outside the
Vaynol Arms in Snowdonia! As she
wrote in her book, “Later he danced the polka with me up and down the road. It
was love at first sight.”
and lived in Cumbria for the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and established many new rock
routes in the area, publishing a guidebook to St Bees Head and a number of
articles about the crags. As was
typical the articles he wrote listed the established climbs but also directed
others to areas where new climbs might be found.
Both Ian and Shirley were members of the Wyndham Mountaineering Club, based around a school
in Egremont which had a climbing wall. He
was also a
member of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team. In
the late seventies he moved to Ayrshire to work at Hunterston.
qualified in 1978 as a British Mountain Guide when he was 39. However, it was not something he publicised, although, he
always took great delight in reminding climbing partners he was entitled to a
free pass when skiing or climbing in the Alps.
He served as treasurer for the British Mountain Guides in the late
eighties and early nineties.
retired from the UKAEA in 1996 and more recently he successfully ran his own
independent business working in various nuclear power stations.
This gave him more time to head for the hills and in recent years he
successfully climbed all of the VS rock routes on Buchaille Etive Mor and
achieved his ambition of a winter ascent of Orion Direct.
Bell ringing was another activity Ian enjoyed. Starting in 1962 in
Markfield, Leicestershire but mainly in Irton, West Cumbria, he was an
enthusiast for nearly 25 years. Ringing
was less frequent in Largs as there was no tower nearby but whenever he was back
in Cumbria he would try to visit Irton and join in on practice nights; he
enjoyed these visits and would comment that it was as if he had never been away.
Despite the absence of bell towers in Largs he put his climbing skills to
good use by carrying out maintenance work on many church towers, most recently
at the Cathedral of the Isles on Cumbrae.
always retained a boyish enthusiasm for the hills and continued to plot and plan
his trips for the coming years with youthful vigour and anticipation.
His easy going manner and quiet nature masked a steely determination when
it came to getting up climbs. He kept himself very fit and was always a willing
companion. He led generations safely up classic routes they would
otherwise not have managed. However,
he always remained modest and unpretentious with no airs and graces. His phone
calls and his conversations were always short and to the point - not much time
for small talk, and would go along the lines of: “Hey Ho are you coming out to
play?” It was little wonder he had such a wide circle of climbing friends.
In recognition of his contribution to UK mountaineering he was made an
honorary member of both Rugby Mountaineering Club and Wasdale Mountain Rescue
Team. He became a member of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club in 1972 and from
1976 until 1980 was assistant warden at Brackenclose, the club hut in Wasdale.
1981 Ian joined the Scottish Mountaineering Club and played a full and active
part in Club activities. He first served on the committee from 1983 until 1988
and then as a Trustee of the Scottish Mountaineering Trust. In 1998 he became the Honorary Club librarian. With his
fondness for mountaineering books and journals, this was a role he enjoyed.
With it came a lot of hard work; however he approached this role with
characteristic vigour and the club benefited from the long hours he put in to
catalogue and organise the library. Without
doubt he has left it in good condition and will be a hard act for anyone to
was a willing contributor to work parties at huts and was one of the stalwarts
during the construction of the Raeburn hut at Laggan. His name was always at the
top of the list when volunteers were needed.
worthy and valued member of the SMC Ian had a lifetime of achievement in the
mountains - extending from the local outcrops close to the many places he lived,
to the debilitating heights of the Himalaya such as Mera Peak.
He was generous with his time taking people out and showing them the
ropes whether it was on his local crag near Largs, the Quadrocks, or on the
higher mountain ridges. Over the
years he climbed with many in the SMC and most of the Glasgow JMCS showing his
youthful enthusiasm and sense of fun. Friends
would regularly receive post cards from him detailing his exploits and those
fortunate to receive these will appreciate that they normally took some time to
it was a skill developed working for UKAEA but he always impressed with his
ability to organise. He loved adventure and 1992 saw the first of his visits to
the Staunings Alps in East Greenland, to enjoy ski touring, climbing and living
in Arctic surroundings. He returned in 1994 and again in 1996, achieving first
ascents on each visit and naming one Shirley's Peak after his wife.
He enjoyed these Arctic trips and in 1996 he also visited Spitzbergen,
where he freely admitted that his characteristic calm was finally disrupted by
the discovery of polar bear tracks all around his tent. But it did not put him
off. He was busy planning his return to Greenland to go ski touring this year.
cared passionately about the mountain environment and was dismayed by the recent
proliferation of radio masts and wind turbines. He objected to the wind turbine
erected at the CIC hut and because of his high principles was not slow to tell
the Club. He believed that the only
responsible approach was to take only photographs, leave nothing but footprints
and he took great care to ensure he left no trace of his visits to wilderness
enjoyed a good few laughs over the years both as the subject and perpetrator of
many jokes. People were never slow
to pull his leg about his fancy light-weight skis and bindings and the unique
skiing style which he had perfected. It
was called “a stem and a wheech.” This
obviously touched a nerve and of course backfired.
When in the Alps and trying to follow him down a steep descent in soft
snow with a heavy sack on, Ian had adapted his technique for such conditions but
others had not. Those that ended up
in a heap were admonished with the comment, “Now, you've been spending too
much time on the pistes young fella-me-lad, you must learn to stem and
wheech.” This anecdote captures
the essence of Ian and his interaction with the mountains.
Ian was effective.
the years he climbed to high standards both in summer and winter. There are few
classic routes in Scotland he had not done. His enthusiasm amazed. Normally if
he was repulsed on a route he would be back up at the first opportunity, often
with another partner for another crack at it. He didn't like unfinished
Ian moved into semi retirement he decided the time was right to do the Munros.
Previously he had steadfastly refused to become a Munro Bagger. As was his
style, once he decided to do it, the routes and outings were planned to maximum
effect and in April of 2005 he was joined on Sgor Gaoith in Glen Feshie by a
group of more than 50 family and friends. Such was the man nothing was left to
chance. To ensure there were no
surprises on the day, Ian reconnoitered the route to within a few metres of the
top beforehand. For once the weather behaved and he was cheered on to the summit
as Golden Eagles flew below over Loch Einich.
It was his day and a grand event, celebrated in style both on the
mountain and also later in the evening down in Kincraig.
was also very involved in the local community and church though he rarely spoke
about his Christian Faith. It did
allow him to show his concern for those who were less well off. At his death he
was chairman of an effective group which had successfully lobbied to make Largs
a Fair Trade town and he was a member of Largs Churches Together.
At the funeral on the 25th January, seldom has a church been
so overflowing with family, friends and colleagues paying their last respects.
survived by his wife Shirley and three sons, Timothy, Adrian and Stephen. He
also took great delight in his 2 granddaughters Bethany and Megan.
He had a wide circle of friends who climbed with him over many years.
They will all cherish memories of excellent days on the hill, with fond
memories of a fine man of the mountains.
died from a simple fall while doing what he loved, in the hills. The inquest report suggested his injuries were such that he
died instantly, a finding which may bring some comfort to those who knew him.
C M Jones
obituary first appeared in the Scottish Mountaineering Journal and is reproduced
with the kind permission of the editor
Ian on Sgor Gaoith Summit