Obituary: Miles Hutchison, ‘Man of the Mountains’, hill-walker, oldest compleater of Munros

Miles Hutchinson, the 'man of the mountains' has died at the age of 90
Miles Hutchinson, the 'man of the mountains' has died at the age of 90
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Miles Hutchison, “Man of the Mountains”. Born: 6 July 1926, in Holme,Yorkshire. Died: 6 June, 2017 in Ayr, aged 90

Miles Hutchinson, who died recently, was deservedly regarded by many as Scotland’s foremost “Man of the Mountains”.

He had earned the accolade for many years as the oldest living Munroist, having completed his first round of the Munros in 1955. He is number 23 on the list of ‘compleaters’, a list now numbering over 6,050. He went on to complete a further three rounds of the Munros in 1992, 1998 and 2004, and added the successful completion of the Corbetts, the Grahams and the Donalds to his impressive climbing CV. He climbed his final Donald, Carrifran Gans above the Grey Mare’s Tail, in 2014 when he was 87 and what was to be his last Munro, Schiehallion, two years earlier aged 85. Miles’ knowledge of Scotland’s mountains and glens was unrivalled and even in the latter days of his terminal illness he could remember the details of all his climbs and the names of even the most insignificant of Scotland’s hills.

In 2004, at the age of 78, having finished the other lists, he “discovered” the Marilyns, the name given to every high point in the UK with a protuberance all round of 150 meters. There are 1,556 of these and Miles was proud to be elected immediately to the Marilynists’ role of honour having then climbed more than the required 600.

This gave Miles a new lease of life and in his eighties he travelled far and wide from his home in Kirkcaldy ‘ticking off’ the Marilyns and in his 91st year he climbed ten of them, bringing his final total to 1,119. What impressed his climbing friends was not only his continuing commitment, energy and stamina but his enthusiasm and ability as a driver, thinking nothing of a 200-mile round trip to tick off another one or two Marilyns.

Never someone to take the easy way up a hill or along a ridge he would always opt for an ‘interesting’ route up the duller Munros and scramble over every pinnacle on mountain ridges such as Liachach in Torridon.

Miles was not just a hill walker. He was a member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, having been elected to it in 1955 and later a member of its committee. In his younger days he was an accomplished rock and snow and ice climber with many fine routes, winter and summer, to his credit and creditable Alpine experience. He was also an active member of the Lochaber Mountaineering Club for many years.

Miles owed his love of the hills to his parents. His father was a well respected GP in the village of Holme in Yorkshire where Miles was born in 1926. Family holidays were spent in Scotland where Miles and his younger sister Mary were introduced to some of the wilder parts of Scotland.

He gained his Natural Sciences degree at St John’s College at Cambridge University and following his National Service as a Sergeant in the Royal Army Education Corps based in Egypt and further studies at Bradford University he took up a post with the British Aluminium Company in Fort William. Whether fortuitously or by design this move to Lochaber and the proximity of Ben Nevis and easy access to the Northern Highlands allowed him to pursue his love of the mountains.

There he met Margaret whom he married in 1954. They set up home in 
Kinlochleven where their first son, Miles, was born in 1956, followed by John, four years later. The family moved to Kirkcaldy in 1966 where Miles lived up until January this year.

He remained with British Aluminium, latterly part of Alcan, for the rest of his career, working for 15 years as a manager at the smelter in Kinlochleven before moving to the Burntisland Works in the role of Research Scientist/Technical Officer and retiring from there in 1988.

Miles’ other great love, apart from his family, was gardening. To this he applied the same dedication and pursuit of perfection which he gave to his hill climbing and he was undoubtedly an expert.

Miles was encouraged by Margaret in the pursuit of these two great passions and they enjoyed a long and happy life and celebrated their Golden Wedding in 2004.

Having cared for Margaret in the latter years of her own debilitating illness until her death in 2012, Miles continued to enjoy an active life, pursuing his hill walking and gardening with undiminished energy and enthusiasm and celebrated his 90th birthday in the Lake District with family members. Still climbing in the latter half of 2016, he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in January this year and passed away peacefully on 6 June.

He is survived by son John and his wife Sandra and by his two grandchildren Andrew and Nicole.

IAIN PARK