Peter Gerrard, 1933 – 2019
Peter was one of my closest friends. In 1964 he was my Best Man and in 1971 when he married Anne I was his Best Man.
I first met Peter in October 1961 when I joined ICI in Runcorn. We were soon talking about weekends in the mountains, although after playing hockey on Saturdays he was off to see his Mum and Dad in Conway.
We soon had a group of us heading for the hills, if not for the weekend, certainly on Sundays. In the great winter of 1963 we were in the mountains every weekend. But Peter was focused on climbing.
I introduced Peter to skiing when a group of us went to Niederau in February 1971. He learnt to ski and that introduction set him up for his sacrosanct week every year until his last trip in 2018. Anne joined us in February 1973, but it was not for her. It nearly wasn’t for Peter when we had to walk across a well frozen snow slope to reach our chalet. Peter in black leather soled brogues found it rather slippery.
Peter was a great companion in the mountains and a strong climber. He encouraged me up Piz Roseg from Pontresina in the Engadine, and then we tackled the Biancograt on Piz Bernina, probably the hardest Alpine Route I have done. The Swiss have the affectionate name — the Ovamaltine Grat as a picture of the lovely white ridge was widely used in advertisements.
Of course when we had arrived in the afternoon in the neighbouring resort, St Moritz, after a long drive from the UK, we had to enjoy coffee and cake. Peter decided on a second piece and you can imagine each one was accompanied by doppelsahne (a double helping of cream). If we were ever in Frodsham over the weekend Peter would always make a delicious cake, always with an ample helping of cream.
In subsequent years Peter, Alan Jones and I skied many times with the Ski Club of Great Britain, particularly with their pre-Christmas Instruction Group. This led to an interest in achieving an Instructors Qualification. Sadly, of course, by that time in 1982 we were both too old.
By the new Millennium we were far too old and looking up to Peter as a serious mountaineer the Ski Club had the gall to ask me to vouchsafe his ability to join a Ski Tour from Verbier to Zermatt through Grimentz, along the northern side of the Pennine chain.
Peter meanwhile had gone on to take his family skiing and I heard they had very happy times. It wasn’t quite the same with my son Alexander in 1987 as with an overnight train and enthusiasm to hit the slopes, we managed to lose Alexander as we returned to Mottaret and he headed on down to Meribel and missed the last lift.
For many years Peter was a member of the Climbers Club. In later years he skied with the Snow Safari Group headed by Club member and erstwhile Outward Bound Instructor, Roger Putnam. Peter was a regular on the Thursday morning Instruction Groups at the Chill Factore, his inimitable style easily recognised. He will be sorely missed.
Peter was in all senses my Best Man.