A SADDLEWORTH mountaineering legend paid tribute 50 years ago to the day that two brave climbers died in a place they call Wilderness Gully.
The bodies of Graham West, 29, of Stalybridge, and Michael Roberts, 27, from Dukinfield, were found under 20-feet of snow at the foot of the gully at Chew Brook, four miles from Greenfield in 1963.
A team of nearly a 100, including police and troops, had frantically searched for them after an avalanche plucked them from the mountainside.
And 50 years later, members of Manchester Gritstone Climbing Club – which Mr West was secretary and Mr Roberts treasurer – colleagues from Rimmon Climbing Club, family, friends and mountaineering luminaries gathered under the snow-bleached loom of the Saddleworth hills to remember them.
After paying their own tributes at the scene, more than 70 adjourned to The Cross Keys Inn, Uppermill, to share thoughts and memories of the brave pair.
They spoke in hushed tones of Graham West who was seen as ‘one of the foremost climbers of his time’ and who had published his first guide book before the accident.
Paul Braithwaite, the distinguished Everest climber, said: “Although I never met him, Graham was iconic. He was ahead of his time in rock climbing.
“These mountains are unpredictable and dangerous places. They were victims of unforeseen circumstances.”
The memorial was organised by Dave Crilly, a member of the Gritstone Club, who said: “It was not just about their memory but a celebration of the legacy they left. We still go out on the moors and hills.”
The two were in a party of four climbing the gully. The others were John Smith and Alan Wheeler, both from Greenfield.
One of Mr West’s brothers, Tom, carried Graham’s ice axe, recovered after the avalanche, to the memorial … a silent testament to two brave men lost that fateful day at Wilderness Gully.