Boardman, Peter David
(19501982), mountaineer and author
, was born on 25 December 1950 at 19 Ack Lane, Bramhall, Cheshire, the second of two sons of Alan Howe Boardman (19201979), engineering executive, and his wife, Dorothy Griffiths (b
. 1923), lecturer. From 1956 to 1969 he attended Stockport junior school and Stockport grammar school, and he subsequently went on to Nottingham University, where he graduated BA in English studies in 1972. He gained a PGCE in English and outdoor pursuits, with distinction, from University College of Wales, Bangor, in 1973.
Boardman's professional life was as a mountain guide. In 1973 he became an instructor at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms, where he met his wife, Hilary Eve Collins (b
. 1951), a teacher specializing in outdoor pursuits and in teaching children with learning disabilities; they were married at her home town, Chester-le-Street, co. Durham, on 25 August 1980. In 1975 he became national officer of the British Mountaineering Association, based in Manchester. In 1978, after Dougal Haston's death, he was appointed director of the International School of Mountaineering in Leysin, Switzerland. Elected president of the British Association of Mountain Guides in 1979, he played an important role in that organization's entry into the Union Internationale des Associations des Guides de Montagne. A testament to his versatile skills comes from an elderly member of a trekking party in Nepal in 1980 (the only trekking party he ever led):
I shall cherish the memory of a supremely gentle giant with panther-like tread, who led his motley flock (twelve of us) with patient humour and whose dreaming eyes, usually scanning the far horizon, still managed to keep an unobtrusive watch on the heads of the elderly. (private information)
Boardman began climbing while at school. After joining Stockport's Mynydd climbing club in 1966 he quickly became a proficient rock-climber on the traditional forcing ground of Derbyshire gritstone, as well as in the mountains of Snowdonia and the Lake District. He first went to the Alps in 1970, and rapidly established himself as one of the leading alpinists of the day, with a particular passion for the unfrequented big mixed routes of the Bernese Oberland. As well as climbing the north face of the Matterhorn he made first British ascents of the north face direct on the Olan, the Gervasutti route on the north face of the Breithorn, the north face of the Nesthorn, and the north face direct on the Lauterbrunnen Breithorn.
Boardman's first visit to the greater ranges came with the 1972 Nottingham University Hindu Kush expedition, which made first ascents of five minor summits and climbed five new routes. Particularly noteworthy were alpine-style ascents of the north faces of the Koh-i-Mondi and Koh-i-Khaaik (also a first ascent of the peak). In 1974 a trip to Alaska with Roger O'Donovan yielded a first ascent of the south face of Mount Dan Beard. A trip to the Caucasus followed in early 1975.
These early expeditions led to an invitation to join Chris Bonington's 1975 expedition to the south-west face of Everest. The military organization of the traditionally run expedition (which Boardman described in his diary as one of the last great Imperial experiences that life can offer) was a new experience for a climber specializing in fast alpine ascents, but he adapted well and was selected as a member of the second ascent team. On 26 September, two days after Doug Scott and Dougal Haston reached the summit, he left Camp 6 with Sherpa Pertemba, the expedition sirdar, Martin Boysen, and Mick Burke. Boysen soon turned back, but Pertemba and Boardman reached the summit at 1.10 p.m. While descending they met Burke heading upwards 30 metres below the summit. They waited for over an hour on the south summit for Burke, before blizzard conditions forced them to descend. Mick Burke was never seen again. Boardman and Pertemba only made it back to Camp 6 by the skin of their teeth.
The following year Boardman teamed up with Thomas Joseph [Joe] Tasker
, whom he had first met in 1971 on the north-east spur of the Droites. This was the beginning of one of the best-known and most successful climbing partnerships in recent British climbing history. Tasker was born at 3 Lee Smith Street, Hull, on 12 May 1948, the eldest son in the family of ten children of Thomas William Tasker, painter and decorator, and his wife, Elizabeth Duffy. At the age of thirteen he was sent to Ushaw College, a Jesuit seminary, where he was encouraged in his climbing by one of the priests. On discovering, at the age of twenty, that he had no vocation for the priesthood, he left Ushaw and went on to study at Manchester University, where he graduated in sociology in 1973.
Joe Tasker climbed extensively in the Alps with Dick Renshaw from 1971 to 1975, with an impressive string of ascents that included the north face of the Eiger (in summer in 1973 and then in winter in 1974) and the east face of the Grandes Jorasses (which he considered one of his most memorable alpine climbs). In 1975 he and Renshaw made a pioneering and epic alpine-style ascent of the south ridge of Dunagiri (7066 metres) in the Garhwal Himalaya.
The ascent by Boardman and Tasker in 1976 of the west wall of Changabang (6864 metres) in the Garhwal Himalaya (India) over a total of forty days is widely recognized as a major breakthrough in lightweight expedition climbing in the Himalayas. Boardman's account of the expedition, The Shining Mountain
(1978), was an immediate success in the climbing world and won the 1979 John Llewelyn Rhys memorial prize. In 1978 both men joined a small expedition led by Chris Bonington to the west ridge of K2 (8611 metres). The expedition was abandoned after Nick Estcourt was killed by an avalanche. In 1979 Boardman and Tasker teamed up with Doug Scott and Georges Bettembourg for another pioneering oxygen-free ascent of the north ridge of Kanchenjunga (8598 metres). The three British climbers all reached the summit, despite the fact that Boardman broke his ankle on the approach march.
Boardman and Tasker went back to K2 in 1979 with Doug Scott and Dick Renshaw, but were beaten back by avalanches and bad weather. In 1980 Boardman made another fine alpine-style ascent of the west ridge of Gauri Sankar (7134 metres) in Nepal with John Barry, Tim Leach, and Guy Neidhardt. That winter Tasker joined an unsuccessful expedition to the west ridge of Everest, which led to his first book, Everest, the Cruel Way
(1981). In 1981 both men joined Al Rouse and Chris Bonington to climb Kongur (7719 metres) in China's Xinjiang province.
Boardman's final expedition, and Tasker's, was to the north-east ridge of Mount Everest in the 1982 pre-monsoon season. The expedition was a small one: the other climbing members were Dick Renshaw and Chris Bonington. On their fourth foray onto the ridge the two men disappeared while attempting to climb the series of pinnacles below the junction of the north-east ridge with the original north ridge route. They were last seen alive on 17 May 1982, moving upwards at approximately 8200 metres on the north-east ridge of Mount Everest, some 600 metres short of the summit. Bonington wrote: Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker lost their lives on a climb they were superbly qualified to attempt and which they both deeply and maturely wanted to achieve (Alpine Journal
, 1983, 286). Boardman's wife survived him. Tasker was unmarried. Both men wrote acclaimed books which were posthumously published: Peter Boardman's Sacred Summits
(1982) and Joe Tasker's Savage Arena
(1982). An appeal after their deaths led to the establishment of the annual BoardmanTasker award for mountaineering literaturea fitting tribute to two of Britain's leading mountaineers and authors.
José Luis Bermúdez
C. Clarke, In memoriam: Peter D. Boardman, Alpine Journal, 88 (1983), 2659 · D. Renshaw, Alpine Journal, 88 (1983), 27074 · C. Bonington, Mountain, 87 (1982), 367 · C. Bonington and C. Clarke, Everest: the unclimbed ridge (1983) · C. Bonington, Everest the hard way (1976) · b. certs. · m. cert. [Boardman] · private information (2004) · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1982) [Peter David Boardman and Thomas Joseph Tasker]
C. Bonington, photograph, repro. in C. Bonington, The climbers (1992), 239 · T. Tullis, photograph, Alpine Club, London [see illus.]
Wealth at death
£23,083: administration, 1982, CGPLA Eng. & Wales