Fred Smith obituary

Other lives: Climber who was instrumental in setting up of the Merseyside Mountaineering Club

My friend Fred Smith, who has died aged 96, was an accomplished climber who set up the Merseyside Mountaineering Club with a group of friends in 1958. He was invited to be its first president, and it still thrives today.

Some years before the MMC’s foundation, Fred had joined Liverpool’s senior climbing club, The Wayfarers, and had partnered, among others, the pioneering rock-climber Peter Harding, making a number of new routes in Snowdonia. He was also a regular visitor to the Alps and, accompanied by some of the leading British mountaineers of the day, including Dennis Davis and Ray Colledge, climbed peaks such as the Matterhorn, Täschhorn and Monte Rosa.

During that time Fred also taught basic mountaineering skills to would-be climbers at evening classes, some of whom were women who found they were not allowed to join the Wayfarers. To solve this problem, he and a group of fellow climbers from the evening class decided to establish the MMC.

Fred Smith, left, on a climb in Spain in 2007 at the age of 81.
Fred Smith, left, on a climb in Spain in 2007 at the age of 81. Photograph: from family/Unknown

Fred was born in Bebington, Wirral, to Arthur Smith, a technician at Lever Brothers, and Ada (nee Peers), a nursing sister. He left Bebington secondary school at 14 to take up an apprenticeship at the shipbuilders Cammell Laird, the first of several jobs that provided a background in all things practical. While working as a draughtsman at the Liverpool Telephone Exchange in 1956, he met Elizabeth (Bett) Walker, and they were married the same year.

After working for three years in Malawi as a representative for McConnells, an import/export agency, with Bett’s encouragement Fred changed direction by joining the staff of the British Mountaineering Council in 1974 as an administrator.

A year later he moved into commerce, first as a salesman with the mountaineering equipment supplier Karrimor and then as director of his own company, High Places, selling climbing gear. In the early days he had mixed fortunes, until a huge order from the Ministry of Defence for 245,000 pairs of socks proved to be the launchpad for future success.

Across the years Fred continued to go to the mountains whenever he could. He was rock-climbing in southern Spain into his 80s and climbed in Austria and the Dolomites when he was 87. When no longer strong enough, he would walk on local hills. He also maintained an active interest in the MMC, attending its committee meetings into his 90s.

Bett died in 2020. He is survived by their son, Ian, and daughter, Christine.

Paul Davis

The GuardianTramp

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