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Remembering Andy Nisbet and Steve Perry

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Andy Nesbit (left) and Steve Perry. Photo: Courtesy of Sandy Allan.

The Scottish Highland climbing community was in a state of shock as the news filtered out that Andrew Nisbet, 65, and Stephen Perry, 47, lost their lives on February 5 in a climbing accident on Scotland’s most westerly Munro, Ben Hope.

I was close friends to them both. We were an active climbing trio always trying new routes (unclimbed lines) on our Scottish Mountains.

Andrew Donald Nisbet

Andrew Nisbet was my best friend in the world and my closest climbing companion since the late 1970s.  Andy, as he was more commonly known, was the icon of Scottish winter climbing. He was also an active summer rock climber, alpinist and had several expeditions to the Himalayas and first ascents in India under his belt.

Andy Nisbet. Photo: Steve Perry.

Andy had notched up well over 1,000 first ascents over 50 years of explorative forays into the Scottish hills. He had boundless enthusiasm, encyclopedic knowledge and—with his big flaming red beard and friendly manner—he was the embodiment of Scottish winter climbing.

He was a pioneer and documenter. Andy spent much of his life voluntarily recording, with exacting detail, new routes for the Scottish Mountaineering Club and the Scottish Mountain Trust of which he was a former President and their current New Routes editor.

While Andy loved climbing all over Scotland his preferred climbing area was probably the Grampian Mountains, known locally as the Cairngorms, and he made his home in Boat of Garten. His favorite crag was probably Creag an Dubh Loch. Vertigo Wall, Goliath and the Rat Trap were several of his is early successes that went on to become legendary climbs.

Andy was responsible for pioneering and pushing the grades, establishing some of the first Scottish grade 7’s and 8’s, and Mort on Lochnagar, one of the first Grade IX’s in Scotland. Even as an older climber he was still climbing to a very high standard, melded with the rock and ice of the hostile arctic-like Scottish climbing environment.

Andrew was born on May 23, 1953 in Aberdeen. His father,Professor John Nisbet, was a wartime intelligence officer and educator. His mother was a zoology lecturer. After Aberdeen Grammar, Andy read Biochemistry at Aberdeen University and completed his PhD, but abandoned academic life in favor of winter climbing and worked as an outdoor climbing and mountaineering instructor. His father introduced him to the hills as a boy and he completed his first round of the Munros (282 different 3000-foot peaks of Scotland) as a teenager.

His climbing partners are a who’s who of Scottish winter mountaineering.  He did the Link (Grade VII) on Lochnagar with John Anderson; Vertigo Wall (VII, 7)VII with Alfie Robertson; Goliath with Neil Morrison; Black Mamba and Rat Trap (VIII) with me, Sandy Allan, in a legendary 17 hour push; Trail of Tears with Douglas Dinwoodie; Equinox with Steve Kennedy; Unicorn in Glencoe at (Grade VIII, 8)  and the Needle (VIII) on Shelter Stone, Cairngorms with Colin Maclean; and Wailing Wall on Beinn Alligin, Torridon at grade VII,7 with Dave Mcgimpsey. This is far from an exhaustive list as there are just far too many new climbs and climbing partners to mention.

Professionally, Andy worked as a mountain instructor. His clients would leave with vivid enjoyable memories and tales of superb adventures as he preferred not to focus just on skills training but providing real adventures. Students would find themselves being hauled up unclimbed frozen turf and water falls and overhanging buttresses having just learned to don crampons and swing ice tools! However the most daunting part of the day was sitting as a passenger in Andy’s car as he belted home to catch the next day’s weather forecast on television.

Andy was a prolific climber and a loyal friend to everyone, from the experienced to the total beginner, always helpful and overflowing with enthusiasm. He received the Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture at the Fort William Mountain Festival in 2014.

Andy was modest and a gentleman. He is survived by his sister, his wife, Gillian, having predeceased him in 2006.

Stephen Robert Perry

Steve Perry was one of Andy’s regular climbing partners of late, introducing Andy to the new route potential at Ben Hope about six years ago when they first met. At that time, Steve had done some climbing but in just a matter of a few years he was beginning to establish himself as a leading winter climber and turned his hand to rock climbing, too. Julian Lines takes over the story, saying that Steve’s utter drive and keenness outweighed his lack of experience, helping Jules to climb a project on the Dubh Loch which was finally climbed and named Margrathea at E9 7a. After an unlucky fall on Duntelchaig crag near Inverness, Steve was barely out of his plaster cast when he made an ascent of Elisha Grays at E5 6b.

Steve Perry. Photo: Courtesy of Sandy Allan.

This winter Steve managed to climb his new winter project, Shape Shifter (Grade VIII, 8) with Helen Rennard and Andrew Nisbet.  Prior to acquiring his lust for winter and summer technical climbing, Steve completed a seven-and-a-half month walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats via every 3,000 footer hill in England, Wales and Scotland. He then took on and finished the winter 284 challenge, covering 1,500 miles and 450,000 feet of ascent as he summited all the 284 Scottish Munros in a 121-day push.

Stephen Perry was a true all-around mountaineering enthusiast. He dedicated himself to finding wild and fabulous adventures in Scotland’s most astonishing and magical remote places. He always had a million and one plans and dreams on the go. He was born on November 25, 1971 and is survived by his three wonderful daughters, Adele-Alice Simpson Perry, Grace Schieallion Peach-Perry and Scarlet Aurora Peach –Perry.