Mountaineer, charity worker and development consultant, Steve Aisthorpe, studied for his B Ed (Hons) at Ilkley College between 1982 and 1986. Steve grew up in the flatlands of Lincolnshire, but through books and the local scout group, he became extremely interested in climbing. When he
wanted to pursue a degree in Outdoor Education, Ilkley College was an obvious choice as its location on the edge of Ilkley Moor allowed great access to climbing, as one of the lecturers, Pete Livesey was one of the top rock climbers in the world in the 1970s.
Steve has many fond memories of his College days, which were transformational. Steve recalled, “I remember lots of like-minded, high-performing outdoor enthusiasts (climbers, cavers, kayakers etc.) and running straight from lectures up onto the moor to climb in Rocky Valley or Ilkley Quarry. Throughout my time at College, I worked evening shifts as a cleaner in a nearby hospital and did occasional work at outdoor education centres. By saving up from this, I was able to spend each summer in the Alps and, by the time I graduated, I had amassed an extensive mountaineering CV.
A contrasting highlight of Ilkley College was the interaction with a very diverse mix of people. The community life was exceptional. I still keep in touch with a few folk who had very different interests. During my final year at college I was asking big questions about life and what it was all about. Although I was an atheist in my early years at College, through some experiences I had climbing, and through conversations with other students, I left Ilkley College a committed Christian; and that has shaped much of my life since. Following graduation, I moved to the Highlands of Scotland and worked for two years as Assistant Warden at the Badenoch Christian Centre. It was during my last year there, that I went on my first expedition to the Himalayas, which was led by Bill O’Connor, who I had met when he was lecturing at Ilkley College. This led to a further nine trips to Nepal for the purpose of climbing: some expeditions with friends, and some commercial enterprises.”
After leaving the outdoor centre, Steve started a business, Mountain Experiences Worldwide, which he ran from the late 1980s until the early 1990s. Steve reflected, “Highlights of that period included guiding the surviving members of the team that made the first ascent of Everest in 1953 on their 40th anniversary reunion in Nepal in 1993 (you can see me pictured with Sir Edmund Hillary, Lord John Hunt and the rest of the teamon the right ) and climbing the North face of the Eiger with Alison Hargreaves, the first British woman to achieve it. She went on to become well known, but sadly died on K2.”He also made the first ascent of three peaks in Peru and several first ascents of difficult winter climbs in Scotland.
His climbing led to a growing interest in, and concern for, the people of Nepal. Steve completed an MSc in Development Management via the Open University, and together with his wife, Liz, who he married the previous year, started work in Nepal with the International Nepal Fellowship (INF) in
1995. The organisation employed around 500 staff, working on a variety of health and community development projects in the western regions of Nepal. Steve and Liz worked for INF for twelve years and During this time he advanced from Research Officer, to Deputy Director and finally, Executive Director for his last five years, before returning to the UK with their two sons.
Since returning from Nepal Steve has worked for the Church of Scotland. He explained, “I have a consultancy role, helping churches in the North of Scotland to think afresh about their role in society. I am also a board member of SERVE Afghanistan and continue to keep in touch with INF and friends in Nepal.”
At the age of fifty, Steve has lost none of his sense of adventure and is still climbing and mountain biking. He has set himself an ambitious challenge to raise funds for INF’s leprosy and rehabilitation work.