Photo courtesy of The University of Nottingham

Doctor Doctor

I’m very honoured to have received an honorary Doctor of Science from The University of Nottingham.

The award, the highest an academic institution can bestow, is presented to mark outstanding success or distinction in an individual’s field of expertise. It was a pleasure to return to my original university after many years away and make a short speech to the final group of engineering graduates receiving their degrees.

Quite a few people have asked «Why ? Why are they giving YOU another doctorate ? You’ve already got one. What do you need another for ? »

Here’s the citation, kindly put together by Professor Phill Dickens of The University of Nottingham :

Vice Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Dr Andrew Perkins (known throughout the climbing community as Andy) has made an enormous contribution to the world of mountaineering which started in the early days scrambling in the UK’s Lake District and visiting the Alps at age eight with his parents. He received a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nottingham in 1981 and it was during his studies at Nottingham that he furthered his passion for mountaineering. He was a Treasurer of the University Mountaineering Club and is quoted as saying:

“At Nottingham Uni I got into climbing full time, with a part time job as an engineering student”.

He then researched textile engineering and obtained a PhD from the University of Leeds after which he worked for a company called Troll which was one of the leading mountaineering equipment suppliers. His innovations at Troll led to new harnesses and hardware devices that have made climbing much safer.

He has made a series of bold and life-threatening ascents at the highest standards of rock and ice climbing both in Europe and in the greater mountain ranges of North America and Asia. Andy has pushed the limits of lightweight mountaineering beyond the “industrial scale” of Himalayan expeditions of the late 20th century and was one of those few innovators who saw that safety lay in speed, fitness and intelligent planning rather than corporate sponsorship and force of numbers.

Andy’s ability and determination have demonstrated equal success below and above the snow and ice line with many first ascents and first British ascents.

Mountaineers often need to decide when to back down when faced with situations that become out of control. Examples of this are when Andy was attempting the mountain Cerro Kishtwar in the Kashmir with Brendan Murphy. They spent 17 days on the North West Face, reaching within 150m of the summit before retreating over extreme ground with food and fuel supplies exhausted.

In addition to his personal achievements he is a noted expedition leader, taking all of the British Team to Gasherbrum IV and an international team on the first ascent of Adi Kailash in the Himalaya.

Andy’s contributions to society and the environment go beyond the scope of the ethical expedition. He works for the RSPB in Morocco to protect endangered bird species.

He was part of a team of seven that rescued two separate groups of climbers on Denali in Alaska during a period of atrocious weather and he received the Denali Pro Award which is presented to individuals or teams who make exemplary contributions to the Denali climbing community in regards to safety, self-sufficiency, and assistance to other mountaineers. In 2008 he also received a Citizens Award for bravery from the US department of the Interior for this act.

I would like to read you a press statement on this event:

On May 20, 2004, these seven individuals risked their lives to save a Korean climber who sustained severe head injuries in a fall at 18,200 feet on Mt. McKinley’s West Buttress. Alerted by radio at the 14,200-foot camp, the rescue team immediately mobilized. They reached the 17,200-foot high camp in just over 3 hours, a remarkable demonstration of strength and stamina given the elevation, technical terrain, and whiteout conditions. The patient was found 800 feet below Denali Pass on the Harper Glacier. Semiconscious and severely frostbitten, he was packaged in a sled and dragged back up to the Pass. The team then faced a series of time-consuming technical rope lowerings to the 17,200-foot camp in gale-force winds, arctic temperatures, and driving snow. The rescue team reached the temporary safety of the high camp shelter after 18 hours of grueling and dangerous work. Following a night of constant medical care at high camp, more bad weather the next day forced the team to complete an additional 3,000-foot technical rope lowering to the 14,200-foot camp, from where the patient was evacuated a day later. Without this team’s selfless efforts, there is no doubt the climber would have perished.

Andy now lives in Chamonix, France overlooking Mont Blanc with his wife Lise, where he is a Mountain Guide and also provides height safety services to various film units in both outdoor and industrial environments.

He is also a photographer and organiser of the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, Britain’s premier mountain cultural gathering.

Andy Perkins is a mountaineers’ mountaineer. He has pushed the boundaries of his sport whilst reducing the risk to others via his professional life and his active contributions to mountain safety.

Vice Chancellor to you and to the whole congregation I present Andrew Perkins as eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.