A SADDLEWORTH man who is responsible for establishing a popular tourist trail and conquering a previously unclimbed rock face has chalked up another award.
Tony Howard has been highly commended by the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild for the book about his life.With judges describing ‘Quest Into The Unknown’ like ‘the outline for a film’, the book tells the story of growing up in Greenfield in the 1940s and a lifetime of exploration from the Arctic to the Antarctic including north Africa, the middle east, the Americas and Asia.
It tells how he was part of the first ever ascent of the Troll Wall – a rock face in Norway previously beyond the realms of climbers – in 1965, a climb described by Joe Brown as ‘One of the greatest ever achievements by British rock climbers’.
It also details his work in the middle east, including the formation of the award-winning Jordan Trail, which now sees thousands of people head to the country to trek and climb.
Now the recognition is ready to go on another wall – at the home on the hills above his home village he shares with Di Taylor.
“I’m dead chuffed,” said Tony, who has won awards around Europe for his title Troll Wall and is in the stages of negotiating a deal to translate his latest work into Italian.
“It’s a personal book that took about three years to write. Well, three years’ worth of rainy days anyway!
“There were various magazine articles right since the 1950s that were used as the source material, which Di sorted into different countries.
“There are also thousands of photographs and by the end, about a third of what I put together had to be cut out.”
For all Tony’s exploration, there was a subject he felt suited him more than most – Greenfield and Saddleworth.“The first six chapters are all about being around Saddleworth and growing up in the area,” Tony said.
“It was nice writing about it, I’d never written about early life before, growing up in Greenfield and working on a farm.
“And back then, Greenfield was pretty much just that, a green field!”
With his latest award and with the Jordan Trail getting bigger and bigger, Tony could be forgiven for sitting back and looking at what he has achieved. Not a chance of it.
He still has plenty on his agenda and other places he wants to visit.
“There’s a project in Egypt that I’d want to finish but going off the beaten track makes things almost impossible,” he said.
“I’d also like to go to Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan – I’ve never been beyond Iran.”
The scale of Tony’s travels also takes in Canada and the rocky spine of the Americas, the Himalayas, remote Indian provinces, Madagascar, South Georgia and Antarctica.
Quest Into The Unknown – described as a ‘jaw-dropping account of a life of adventure that is the very definition of true exploration’ – takes the reader from Tony’s youth spent developing the crags of the Peak District, via whaling ships in the Southern Ocean, thousand-mile canoe trips in the Canadian Arctic, living amongst the Bedouin in the rocky mountains of Jordan, to the isolated opium tribes of Thailand.
Despite his globetrotting, Tony admits there are countries he cannot and will not visit – even though he has been to Syria three times before.
He and Di spotted a yawning gap when they visited the country and are the brains behind the Jordan Trail, which has brought upwards of $6million to the country’s economy and scooped the World Tourism Award 2018.
Their work over about 15 years has even been met with Royal approval and thanks from more than one ruler.
And as ever, Tony is looking forward to developing it even further, with more journeys planned to work closely with people who live there.
He said: “The Jordan Trail is doing really well and now it is winning even more awards.
“They’re currently training up French tourist guides to work on the trail and even though it is in the middle east, Jordan is safe.”
It is not just books and trails Tony is behind. He is also largely responsible for the design of today’s standard climbing sit harness.