Obituary: Ron Townsend 1919-2015


It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Ron Townsend on 14th May 2015.

Ron founded the Peak Climbing Club in 1942, and climbed until he was in his 80s.  He climbed first ascents of some familiar routes, including Via Media, Narrow Buttress, Gargoyle Buttress and, of course, Townsend's Variation, and was involved in writing guidebooks in the 1950s and '60s.  He was an honorary member of the PCC and also the Fell and Rock Climbing Club.

Long-time club member John Skelton has written the following obituary:


The man behind the routes

Ron Townsend, founder member of the Peak Climbing Club and one of the foremost gritstone climbers in the post war era, has died. We thought he would live for ever, a view probably shared by Ron! For he was a man full of joy and full of life.

When we look back at life we can only do so from our own view point and experience and I make no excuses for that. Others will have their own memories but they will no doubt be variations on a theme.  I first met and climbed with Ron when Margaret and I were raw teenage members of the Peak. The first thing that was obvious was that he was a brilliant natural climber. A club meet at the Roaches saw Ron float up unprotected routes while we struggled behind him. He would have been about fifty then and the senior person in the club but he was patient, encouraging and we thoroughly enjoyed his company.

Ron was great at encouraging people to climb. The list of Peak members and former members who Ron ‘got started’ is too long to list here but they all know who they are and will be for ever grateful for it. One of the great things about Ron was that he was always more interested in what you had been doing rather than what he had been doing, even though he would have been up to all sorts.

He was a botanist of immense knowledge. He knew the flowers of Derbyshire and The Alps like few others, a keen amateur geologist, a skilled photographer, an expert wood carver, the list seems to go on and on. But his skills and knowledge were not something to keep to himself. They were for sharing and any walk or climb with him would be punctuated by his observations; pointing out the delights of the world which the rest of us somehow walk and climb past.

Ron was a friend to many people because he loved people. He was never afraid of a physical approach, a hug, an arm round a shoulder were natural to him. He was a master at the lost climbing art of heckling. Being slow or trying to put runners in when there weren’t any would always bring forth a ‘witty’ comment but delivered with a great sense of fun.

So we will miss him; not only the Peak but the Fell and Rock and all those who knew him, but we will not forget him. When we walk down Ravensdale or do Via Media or climb on Gable or sit in Langdale he will be in our thoughts and there will be smiles on our faces.

John Skelton, May 2015


Ron Townsend (Photo: Townsend Collection)