Ascents and Descents

An alpinist's memoir

Series title:

Ascents and Descents is the autobiography of Peter Allison: civil engineer, rock climber, ski-mountaineer and mountain guide. In a sixty-five-year climbing career, he climbed hard lines on the high mountains, including the North Face of the Eiger and the Hörnli Ridge on the Matterhorn. Peter tells his story with honesty, humour and frank detail.

I personally have always been quite comfortable either halfway up or halfway down a steep, snowy mountainside. Ascents and Descents is the autobiography of Peter Allison: civil engineer, rock climber, ski-mountaineer and mountain guide. Starting out on the crags of north-east England as a young boy, Peter soon became immersed in the emerging climbing scene of the 1950s, when harnesses were a thing of the future, and hemp ropes and plimsolls were the staple climbing gear. He soon began to explore ice climbing and mixed climbing, progressing to crags in the Lake District and then the Alps, and claiming several first British ascents. Over the course of an impressive sixty-five-year climbing career, he climbed hard lines on the high mountains, including the North Face of the Eiger and the Hörnli Ridge on the Matterhorn. Having initially juggled climbing with a thriving and extremely busy quarrying business, Peter decided it was time to dedicate more time to his love of the hills, and qualified as a mountain guide, subsequently specialising in routes on the Chamonix Aiguilles, the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Aiguille d’Argentière. He built an excellent reputation, balancing fun and risk with safety and prudence, and always putting his clients first. Ascents and Descents tells of the highs and lows of climbing, from standing on a summit in perfect conditions to the frustration of years of rehabilitation from a broken pelvis. Peter Allison recounts his colourful story with honesty, humour and frank detail, leaving you in no doubt about his true passion for the mountains.

Peter Allison studied civil engineering at Nottingham University in the early 1960s and worked for a company of consulting engineers before leaving to develop the family quarrying business with his two brothers. Even though Peter enjoyed inventing practical solutions to engineering problems, his real passion was rock climbing. He started out on Crag Lough in Northumberland as a fifteen-year-old climbing in plimsolls. He moved on to the crags of the Lake District and North Wales, ascending the hardest climbs in those areas at the time. For many years, he continued rock and alpine climbing – including such routes as the Walker Spur and the North Face of the Eiger – in parallel with his business career. However, he increasingly found that there was not enough time to realise his mountaineering ambitions, so in the mid-1980s he left the family business and trained to become a mountain guide. From that point, Peter was in his element fulfilling his own aspirations and those of his clients.

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