August 14th, 1946 – August 31st, 2020
John Ward came to the Walking/Climbing scene after joining the Burnley Mountaineering Club in October 1979. It wasn’t long before he joined up with the more active members and by mid May 1980, he embarked on an epic 22mile round of Wasdale taking in Pillar, Kirk Fell, Gable and both Scafells.
July of the same year saw him on his first mountaineering trip to Scotland. Setting off in his little red Fiat Camper Van (the love affair with various camper vans over the years was to remain a big part of Johns life) with two other Burnley members they tackled Ben Nevis via the CMD arête. Skye, Sgurr Alasdair via the great stone shoot and the traverse from Sgurr Thearlach to Sgurr na Bannadich. The very exposed and serious terrain and the lure of the Inaccessible Pinnacle soon persuaded John that some rope work skills wouldn’t come amiss and thus provided the catalyst for him to learn to climb.
A beginners climbing course at the YHA at Pen-y-Pass in September 1980 with a few old library books on the subject thrown in, and he and one of his fellow Burnley companions were ready to embark on what ultimately proved to be for John 40 years of adventure in the mountains.
Climbing trips to Wales the Lakes and the French Dauphiné Alps soon followed for the pair resulting in Johns first 4000m Alpine peak in July 1981 The Barre des Ecrins via the North Face followed by the classic Fissure d’Ailefroide a 900ft 9 pitch VS climb. The second Alps trip a year later saw them climbing Mont Blanc via the Gouter Route. Several classic routes were accomplished over the following years; The Aiguille d’Argentere, the traverse of the Aiguille du Tours, The Wetterhorn, The Matterhorn via the Hornli Ridge and the Cosmic Ridge on the Aiguille du Midi and the long and committing traverse of the Meije.
Furthering his horizons, Wardy, as he was now to become known, soon joined the relatively new Craven Mountaineering Club where he quickly became a stalwart member, with several roles on the Committee, including Chairman in 1995. That was a typically active year for John with Club trips to Rhum, a backpack over the Welsh 3000ers, an Alps trip and completion of the National Three Peaks Challenge.
His competence and skills were appreciated by many in the Craven (and elsewhere), and he had a level of stamina few of us could match! Most of us became familiar with the view of John always ahead or waiting patiently while we tried to catch up, be it on foot or by pedal. He never seemed to mind and memorably said of one party he was leading on one very wintry Lake District outing ‘They went out as walkers but came back as mountaineers’. But that was John all over he seemed to derive as much pleasure out of seeing someone achieve their goal or the enjoyment they got out of attaining it, than anything else.
Known by all in the club as a safe pair of hands his reassuring presence was greatly appreciated whether on sun kissed rock or snowy gullies, and his emergency rope work was second to none. His supportive encouragement benefited many of us over the years, on the hills and rock faces, far and wide, and was a great facet of his character.
He personified being what we call a Mountaineer, and Scotland showed this clearly in the fact that not only did he do many of the classic climbs on the Ben and the like, but he also climbed all the Munros, the first of his peer group to do so, and was well on the way to completing the Corbetts.
The Gritstone Club soon beckoned and by 1993 he was a member enjoying many combined GC and CMC holidays climbing on the crags and peaks of the Alps, Pyrenees and the Picos. On one occasion he gave a lift to a Chamonix guide who looked at John and said: ‘Monsieur, I have seen you before… Skipton…. Crookrise’. Once seen!!
In the past few years John became an Associate Member of the Fell and Rock leading a Hut to Hut meet in October 2019 and a couple of winter meets- the last one in February 2020.
He continued many roles on the CMC committee throughout his time with the Club the last role of Social Secretary as recently as the last AGM. His positive contributions to Club life be it on Hut Meets or day/weekend meets was always appreciated by new and old members and made him many friends.
With all the clubs he joined his company was in great demand and he had more holidays than anyone I have ever known often only having a few days at home before setting off on another epic. To this end he travelled extensively to France, Austria, Italy, Spain, Greece, Norway, Slovenia, Morocco, Holland, Canada and New Zealand to name but a few, all in the pursuit of climbing, walking, skiing or cycling.
Known for his Corned Beef Hotpot and Pancakes, his Blue Fleece Climbing Suit, his love of his bits of tat, and the ‘I’ll just have another brew’ punchline, his time keeping not, he was one of a kind. Fascinated with nuts and bolts and of course his lathes he was in his element; anything mechanical he would love, tinkering and chatting about bikes and cars and the like with a knowledgeable air. He enjoyed adapting things; his anti theft device for one of his vehicles was to remove the gear stick an effective solution as ever there was! Mobile phones was another great conversation gambit and many an hour was passed on this front often accompanied to great amusement (or groans) from the gathered throng. He liked buying head torches of which he had the national collection, along with camping stoves and tents, and he loved driving, be it in his treasured Berlingo or on his moped often exploring the Dales for quiet lanes to cycle, or for finding the best bench to eat fish and chips.
So, a gentle giant with a great sense of humour always calm and measured in his thinking a great asset to anyone whom he was out with wether it be climbing walking or cycling in a nutshell a unique friend and a true gent who will be very greatly missed by all of us who had the privilege to know him.
Thanks John for all the numerous memorable adventurous outings you’ve left a great legacy of happy memories to all who joined you in the great outdoors.
Compiled by Fiona with help from his friends Keith, David, and Chris.