Jimmy Marshall

Though a relative unsung hero of Scottish and UK mountaineering Jimmy Marshall has been inextricably linked to the development of cutting edge climbing in Scotland since the 1950’s and 60’s. In one legendary week on Ben Nevis in 1960 Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith transformed the shape of Scottish winter mountaineering, advancing it a full ten years. On consecutive days the two men climbed six first winter ascents, including the mini Alpine-route Orion Face Direct (V, 5), while also making the second and much quicker ascent of Point Five Gully (V, 5) for good measure – in seven hours as opposed to more than 40 hours when previously climbed.

The fact they achieved all this using rudimentary ice-climbing gear and by cutting steps up the snow and ice appears, from the remove of the 21st century, to be almost unbelievable. This was a feat of fitness, skill and commitment that some would argue has never been bettered; and the finest achievement in ice climbing using the step cutting technique.

Colin Wells writes in his book “Who’s Who of British Climbing” that Marshall’s skill was such that he could lead routes almost faster than some of his talented seconds could follow.

Marshall was just as skilled an operator on rock and his futuristic climbs were an inspiration to others to push the standards of the day. He wanted to prove that Scottish climbers were as good as, if not better than, any in the world. To prove his point he not only began mentoring and tutoring the new wave of young guns but he also became a prime mover behind the post-war resurgence of the fusty and middle-class Scottish Mountaineering Club, leading by example and filling it with his young dynamic apprentices.

Marshall is also a prolific writer on climbing issues and has been a regular contributor to the SMC (Scottish Mountaineering Club) Journal for many years. His vast knowledge of climbing has both educated and inspired thousands of climbers through his writing.