Joe Tasker: climber ‘extraordinaire’ 1948-82
I mentioned in a previous post that I cycled past the site of a former climbing business, called Magic Mountain, based in the Hope Valley, Derbyshire. The business had belonged to Joe Tasker, an old school friend from the 1960s. As children, not only did we live in the same small
town in County Durham, but we also went to the same boarding Seminary College (Ushaw College) just outside Durham city. Joe came to the forefront in the climbing world in the late 1970s, along with Dick Renshaw and Pete Boardman, eventually teaming up with Chris Bonington.
My memories of Joe at school were of a tall, gangling teenager, little taken to sport of any kind, and always complaining of the cold! He invariably had four blankets on his bed, even in summer! His main strengths seemed to be in his studies. He was one of those enviable characters who could get by in exams without investing too much effort. But, one day, one of the masters took him down to a nearby quarry (where the stone had been quarried to build the College in the early 19th century) and taught him the basics of rock climbing. Well, that proved to be a life-changing experience for him. He was immediately hooked. In his university days, he devoted all his spare time to climbing, and when he started climbing in the Alps, he frequently got himself a holiday job in a dry-ice factory to toughen his body to sub-zero temperatures. What a change from needing four blankets on his bed!
He eventually teamed up with Dick Renshaw and Pete Boardman, and they began to pioneer lightweight, self-sufficient expeditions to the Himalayas. All this contrasted starkly with the multi-million £ expeditions mounted by Chris Bonington, who had the power to attract major sponsors, and who organised huge teams of sherpas, guides and baggage trains to get them up to base-camp. In the case of the Tasker/Boardman/ Renshaw team, it was a question of scraping together what they could to make anything happen. Their pioneering efforts sprung from a situation of need. They simply could not afford the ‘bells and whistles’ of the Bonington-type ventures.
(to be continued)