The Alpine Club, the world’s first mountaineering club, was founded in 1857.  For over 150 years, members have been at the leading edge of worldwide mountaineering development and exploration. 

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News has reached us that John Ashburner passed away on 5th May at Aintree Hospital, Liverpool, after a courageous 5-year battle with cancer of the larynx.

Members would be welcome to send their tributes to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that they can be posted on the website.

 

Tributes  

#1 ac_administrator 2017-05-15 18:01
Paul Newby writes:

''My life changed for ever when, at the start of our second year in Cambridge, John Ashburner came to my room to tell me that he would like to come on my youthful mountaineering expedition to Turkey the following year. Despairing of attracting mainstream CUMC members, I had been advertising my plans more widely and had made a halting start on recruiting what would turn out to be a superb team of talent (eventually amassing three Chairs, two Fellowships of the Royal Society and a Fleet of research ships), but we were still thin on proper mountaineering experience. When John, already at the centre of CUMC life, an engineer, seasoned alpinist and excellent rock climber, decided that he would prefer something wilder, more uncertain and more distant than the Alps that next summer of 1965, he definitively secured our success in the Ala Dağ. Afterwards, he invited me to join his super-lightweight foray (with Henry Edmundson) to the Afghan Hindu Kush in 1966, and I knew that our lifetime friendship was sealed. This was a golden age for Afghanistan, and for our young selves. I believe John was the only one of us who ever returned to our Hindu Kush approach via the Panjshir valley, now for the unfortunate professional purpose of assessing the mineral resources left behind by the Russian military, in the form of derelict tanks and other hardware.

Following Cambridge our lives diverged because of John’s, and my own, overseas careers. He was soon writing splendid letters from Allahabad where he wangled a berth in Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) to use as a springboard for forays to little-visited parts of the Himalaya, most notably the first ascent of Mukar Beh in Kulu in 1968, an epic movingly described in AJ 74 (1969) p 58-66. At some point I was sadly unable to accept his suggestion that “it’s about time we went on a camel ride”. I think he meant in the Sahara. It would not have been a short one. However, he built on his Asian horse- and donkey-management experience, gained on our expeditions together, by becoming, he told me, the world expert on modern animal traction, and many of his later UN postings were to the desert regions which he hankered after, especially in Africa. In the 1970s John had shifted to South America, began to operate in Castillano instead of English or French or Dari or Hindi, in due course found his wife Patty and became permanently based at a fine house on the flank of the volcano Guagua (pronounced WaWa = baby) Pichincha above Quito. He brought his family back to England in 1997.

Even when we were both back in the UK, the distance between south Hampshire and Southport sometimes seemed unbridgeable, but our letters and infrequent rendezvous kept us together. The wonderful fiftieth anniversary Ala Dağ reunion in the French Alps (Turkey might already have been too far by 2015) showed that, despite John’s struggle with his illness, his zest for life and for travel was undimmed; our 2016 Hindu Kush reunion was at his home in Southport, more poignant and perhaps a little muted, but also a tremendously successful nostalgia trip.

Messages over the past week have shown that John is sorely missed both by his climbing companions and his very diverse work colleagues. Particularly because of John’s life in different countries overseas, none of us can know about all of his exploits. I hope others will follow by adding more detail to my necessarily partial tribute.”

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