Ron Smith, who has died aged 82, was a man of many interests and activities: a lifelong Methodist, a scout and youth club leader, and a man who loved the great outdoors. After a childhood dogged by ill health, he became an enthusiastic fell walker, especially in the Lake District, Scotland and the Alps.
I first met him at a bothy north of Glenfinnan one evening in May 1981. He and his wife, Joan, were brewing tea: they had just completed the first day of a coast-to-coast walk through the highlands, in an event then rather grandly called the Ultimate Challenge. We found that we had much in common and a lasting friendship began.
Ron undertook the challenge 10 times and Joan 11. A love of the Lake District, first kindled when visiting Joan’s childhood penfriend in Cockermouth in 1970, led them to climb all 214 summits in Alfred Wainwright’s seven guidebooks. I was in a happy gathering of family and friends on number 214 – Castle Crag in Borrowdale – in 1989, after which they were presented with a certificate that their daughter, Sue, had persuaded Wainwright himself to sign. Ron was then determined to climb them all a second time, completing the challenge with an ascent of Barrow at the age of 80.
There were other achievements in Britain – Offa’s Dyke, the Coast to Coast, and coastal paths in the south-west and Pembrokeshire. But increasingly Ron and Joan looked further afield, and the lure of the Alps became irresistible. Together they tackled the Tour du Mont Blanc, the Alpine Pass Route, and the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. “Not bad for oldies, are we?” said Joan.
They spent several years leading parties for Alpine Overland. Clients studying the brochure began to ask not “Which trip has the best walks?” but “Which one is Ron leading?”, remembering not just his walking skills but his gift for keeping a party entertained with teasing quizzes.
Ron was born in Derby and lived there all his life. He survived rheumatic fever twice in his childhood and later had to give up physical work in the family decorating business in favour of watchmaking, eventually becoming manager of a jeweller’s shop. He married Joan in 1955, after meeting her at a dance.
In the early 1990s coronary disease made a triple bypass necessary for Ron. Typically, he joined a British Heart Foundation walking group, and resumed his energetic way of life. To celebrate his 70th birthday, he embarked on a journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats, with Joan’s support, cycling to his home in Derby, then walking. His surgeon drily remarked: “I feel we can be pleased with the outcome of his cardiac surgery.” Ron raised more than £12,000 for the BHF in sponsorship and through sales of his book Heading North on a By-Pass.
He is survived by Joan, Sue and another daughter, Hilary, and his grandchildren, Katie and David.
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