In Memory of Ian Angell 1939 to 2006 – Rugby MC

Ian Angell who died in January of this year was an early member of the Rugby Mountaineering Club. He was very active not only at home on Club meets but also in the Alps. We were shocked by the news of his death and the Club and various members who knew him have sent their condolences to Shirley and his family. There follow several ‘appreciations’:

“I climbed with ‘Mad Dog’* Ian Angell in the Alps on an RMC club meet in the summer of 1959. With others members, Pip Hopkinson, Alwyn Spires, Bud Metcalf. Ian and I went up to an unmanned, tumbledown hut, shared with two other English climbers. Next day we made an early start and climbed the North Ridge of the Blatiere in fine weather. However, towards the end of the day it started to snow. This became so heavy that we had no hope of getting down. It was very cold and I asked Ian if I could borrow his gloves. He said “No chance!” but gave them to me anyway. We found a nook and cranny to shelter in, and realised that we had to bivouac for the night. I had a down duvet jackets and woolen britches, Ian had anorak and sweaters but we had no other protection so sat on our ropes all night. Our only food was a bar of Kendal Mint Cake, and we had no water. Next morning we came down; the descent was very dodgy because of the snow and ice. We were exhausted, hungry and dehydrated and met at the bottom of the climb by the two very anxious Englishmen from the hut.

Another memorable event for me was after Ian and I had climbed Mont Blanc. On the way down I managed to fall into a deep crevasse. Luckily we were roped and Ian held me then fished me out. A real climbing friend.”

*In 1960 Ian climbed the Matterhorn solo, (Ian and Shirley and Robin were in the hut, Robin said he did this climb at Shirley’s insistence). A reporter from the “Mirror” happened to be in the hut and asked what Ian was doing. So “Mad Dog Englishman” hit the front page. Ian was in fact a calm intelligent climber.
Robin Prager, April 2006

“I was reminded of Ian during the last work meet up in Cwm Eigiau when I noticed the line of the water supply trench that Ian and I had partially dug more than 40 years ago. I say partially because he hit on the idea that after removing the turfs we could divert the stream into the trench and let the water do the rest. This we did, the water washed out all the soft underlying material, but as a consequence we didn’t have enough excavated material to back fill the trench. The hollow line is still easily identified.

When I first joined the club there were three members, apart from the founders, who I considered to be “mountaineers” only because I had heard that they had been away to Austria on a mountaineering course, they were Robin, Pip Hopkinson, and Ian. That first climbing weekend was brilliant, good weather good company and away from Rugby. It was Ian who took me up my first rock climb, Flying Buttress, which he also took Shirley (wife) up some years later, when she was almost at full term with her first pregnancy. From what I remember of the climb the top pitch involves straddling a sloping ramp. Not a very comfortable pitch to climb for a heavily pregnant lady.

A year after our first climb together we went to the Alps and in that first week climbed four routes, not particularly hard routes but long, a rock climb on the Aiguille d’M, the Blaitiere via the Spencer couloir, Forbes arête on the Chardonnet and the North Face of the Argentiere, the two latter climbs from the Albert Premier Hut. My overriding memory from that week of climbing was the very early starts. When we climbed Forbes arête we made a very early start because Ian had overheard some other climbers discussing the route, and their intention of climbing it the next day. Ian wanted to be the first on the mountain, so we were the first up and away. We were back at the hut having climbed the route, at 8.30 am, before some had even had breakfast.

I last saw him and Shirley at the clubs 40th anniversary meet and he hadn’t changed, he still managed to throw stones into a boggy puddle near to where I was standing splashing me from head to foot. There must be an age when this sort of antic isn’t funny I haven’t reached it yet and thank God neither had Ian. He will be missed by all that knew him.”

Ed Rowlands, May 2006

“Ian died on A’Chrois adjoining Beinn Narnain just west of Loch Lomond in January. He was fatally injured in a fall into a gully and he was alone at the time.

Ian joined the Rugby Mountaineering Club in 1958 having started a Student Apprenticeship with the British Thompson Houston Co. (BTH), and very quickly became hooked on mountain exploration and rock climbing.

The Club was very active and he was encouraged by the likes of Keith Miller, Alwyn Spires, Robin Prager, Russ Bloor, Bud Metcalfe, Pip Hopkinson, Ed Rowlands, Dave Manderville and the rest.

My first encounter with Ian in the hills was not surprisingly in the Pass on a Club meet at Humphrey’s field. He was short of a partner and was looking to do some ‘wonderful’ climbs. He had a disarming and persuasive manner and soon we were roped up doing Wrinkle, Crackstone Rib and The Cracks on Dinas Mot. We climbed in boots (Hawkins’ bendy ones were popular) with little or no additional gear. Nuts were in their infancy so one carried a selection of stones to be fitted on the way up and a sling and karabiner completed the protection. If there was no crack one took a deep breath and carried on. We were in our element.

Our next outing was a little later and the scene was the Wenallt and we were camping in the lovely flat field below the crag. The day started by now in typical fashion.

‘Well Dave, are you coming climbing? I’ve a really nice climb lined up which I’m sure you will enjoy’.

The impression given was that he would lead. Not so ‘Just your cup of tea’ handing me the sharp end, I fell for it every time but didn’t mind. By this time I had acquired a pair of Hawkins’ Masters rock boots, red laces and all! Ian on the other hand continued to climb in boots.

We did an interesting little climb on Clogwyn y Bustach called the Gallop Step which started and finished at ground level in two fine pitches. Ian’s technique was impeccable, he was very safe and confident, a joy to watch and a great guy to be with. That day we continued with Bovine and Carol Crack on the Wenallt.

In 1966 in damp conditions and again in boots we climbed Minestrone, Wallop and Froth at Stony Middleton, the latter in those days graded Exceptionally Severe. Nothing fazed Ian.

Ian and Shirley attended the RMC’s 40th Anniversary Dinner at Newlands in 1998, during which he invited me to join him on a trip to Jan Mayen. Sadly and regrettably I never made it but I bet Ian did.”

Dave Atchison, May 2006

“Ian died on the 14 Jan descending Ben Dornich in Arrochar. He was out walking on his own and fell into one of the many crevasse like fissures on that mountain.

I first met Ian when he came to Rugby in 1957 and joined the RMC. He quickly became a competent and skilful mountaineer. In our early years we had one holiday in the Austrian Alps together when with £15 each and 3 weeks holiday we traversed and climbed peaks in the major Austrian ranges east of the Brenner pass. This meant we lived very impecuniously on cheap food in the huts and slept in ditches and on railway stations in the valleys. On another occasion I have a recollection of joining him on a fine Friday night as we arrived in Wales to go and sleep on top of Crib Goch It was during his stay at Rugby that Ian met his future wife Shirley.

Ian became a Guide moved first to the lakes where he was (amongst other things) very active in opening up St.Bees head and the lower crags of Eskdale and Wasdale and then up to Scotland where he joined the Scottish Mountaineering Club, he was also a member of the Alpine club. Throughout his life he was active in the hills and after Shirley and the children they were his passion.

Ian was a great guy to climb with –full of enthusiasm and vigor – I treasure the memories that I have of him. For Shirley and his children I can only feel some of the devastation and loss that they must be experiencing.

His going brings a tear to my eye.”

Pip Hopkinson

“The second RMC meet after its foundation meet was in Wales and I recall Bill Harrison leading me up my first rock route i.e. Canopy Wall on Milestone Buttress, Ogwen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and somehow or other I arranged to meet up with Ian in Wales on the following weekend as I wanted to have a go at leading it. Ian gave me some instructions on where to meet.

Transportation in those impecunious days was mainly by hitch-hiking and so arrangements had to be very flexible. I remember turning up on the Saturday morning and after some scouting around at Wern Y Gof Uchaf, Ian suddenly loomed up wearing a sort of poncho anorak and a big smile. The impression I had then has always stayed with me – a firm chin and a very determined glint in the eye.

My new Viking rope was given a successful christening on Canopy and emboldened by this we decided to have a go at a V.Diff. I don’t know why we decided to chose Craig Y Tri Marchog on the Carneddau for this but we got there, climbed the very mossy and greasy route and so Ian supported me for my first Diff. and V.Diff lead.

Just knowing that one’s friends are still about even though there is little or no contact is a comforting thought and the death of one, such as Ian, puts a hole in the fabric.”

Russ Bloor

These tributes first appeared in the November 2006 Rugby Mountaineering Club Newsletter and are reproduced with the kind permission of the editor.

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