My father, Stuart Kaye, who died at the age of 82, was a committed and determined walker and mountaineer and, in his youth, a talented mountaineer.
He was born and raised in Jackson Bridge, Huddersfield. His father, John, a miner, died in an accident at Sally Wood Pit, New Mill, in 1944, when Stuart was nine years old. His mother, Hilda (née Holmes), a caretaker and housekeeper, was left alone to raise Stuart, his sister Barbara, and their half-brother. In order to help out financially, Stuart left school at age 15 with no formal qualifications to take up a job his uncle Joseph had found for him at the Co-op. A few years later, against his mother’s wishes, he became a miner at the Park Mills pit in Clayton West.
In 1954, he discovered a passion for rock climbing, first in the Peak District, then in the Lake District and North Wales. Two years later he was a member of the British Tysfjord-Rombaksfjord Expedition in Arctic Norway. This expedition broke down the social barriers of the mountaineering world at the time, as most previous expeditions were largely made up of select members from major climbing clubs, universities, or services. The press dubbed the climbers “the workers’ expedition”.
They were funded by a grant from the Mount Everest Foundation, and other sponsors included the Ilford Photographic Society, for whom in return they exposed rolls of different types of film to different atmospheric conditions, altitudes and temperatures. Between May and July 1956, they made several first ascents.
Around this time, Stuart developed rheumatoid arthritis and had to leave the pit on doctors’ orders. In 1958, he married Patricia Jennings, known as Pat, with whom he had started climbing. In 1959 a climbing club was founded in the living room of their home in Wooldale, Holmfirth. The Phoenix Club was where several climbing luminaries cut their teeth, including Pete Livesey and twins Alan and Adrian Burgess.
My father was able to climb for several years, mainly in the Peak District, Lake District, North Yorkshire and Scotland, but as his condition worsened he had to give up. However, he continued to undertake long, high-level treks in the Alps into his 50s and to walk in the Lake District, Scotland and the Hebrides.
After leaving the pit, my father worked as an apprentice fitter at the engineering company David Brown then as a fitter at Hepworth Engineering. During this time he studied for O and A levels in night school, in 1968, at James Graham Teachers’ Training College in Leeds. In 1971 he took a job at Black Combe Primary School in Millom, Cumbria, where he taught until his retirement in 1985.
He went on to live in Bootle, Cumbria, and managed to keep walking until he was 80. He was a strong supporter of rugby league, Whitehaven RLFC and Millom (he had played as a prostitute in his youth).
Stuart is survived by Pat, their two children – my brother Duncan and I – six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.