12 May 1948|
Kingston upon Hull, England
|Died||17 May 1982
The North-East Ridge, Mount Everest, Tibet
Joe Tasker (12 May 1948 – 17 May 1982) was one of the most talented British climbers during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Born into a traditional Roman Catholic family, he was one of ten children and spent his early childhood in Port Clarence, Middlesbrough then attended Ushaw Seminary, County Durham between the ages of 13 and 20, in training to become a priest. Fascinated by a book recounting harrowing tales of tragic attempts to climb the North Face of the Eiger, he started climbing in a nearby quarry in 1966.
After leaving the seminary he first worked as a dustman before studying sociology at Manchester University. He improved his climbing skills during this time, graduating from rock climbing in Britain to harder routes in the Alps.
His regular climbing partner was Dick Renshaw, whom he had met at university. Together they climbed the North Face of the Eiger in the winter of 1975. This was followed later that year by the first ascent of the South-East ridge of Dunagiri (7066m) in the Gharwal Himalayas. Running out of food and fuel on the descent, they were lucky to survive, although Dick Renshaw suffered frostbite in his fingers.
His first ascent in 1976 of the West Face of Changabang (6864m), which neighboured Dunagiri, saw his first partnership with Peter Boardman, and was widely acclaimed as a bold, magnificent feat of mountaineering. Both he and Boardman were invited to the K2 expedition led by Chris Bonington in 1978, which was abandoned after Nick Estcourt was killed in an avalanche. Following an unsuccessful attempt on Nuptse in the autumn of 1978, a small team consisting of Tasker, Boardman, and Doug Scott made an ascent of Kangchenjunga (at 8,598 m the third highest mountain in the world) by a new route from the North-West in 1979 (with Georges Bettembourg also on the team but not making the summit). A second attempt on K2 and a difficult Winter assault on the West Face of Everest both ended unsuccessfully.
In 1980, he met Maria Coffey, the girlfriend who wrote about her grief following his death in Fragile Edge (ISBN 0-89886-737-1). In 1981, he was part of the British team which made the first ascent of Kongur (7,649 m) in China, accompanied by Chris Bonington, Peter Boardman and Al Rouse. He disappeared with Boardman on 17 May 1982 on the North-East Ridge of Everest. The body of Peter Boardman was found in 1992, resting in a sitting position just past the second pinnacle in the extremely difficult area of the "Three Pinnacles" on the middle North-East Ridge of Mt. Everest, but the body of Joe Tasker is still missing, although some of his climbing equipment was found between the second and third pinnacles.
The Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature was founded in memory of the two climbers.
- Dick Renshaw's Obituary of Tasker
- Voices from the Clarences Anne Davies interviews Joe Tasker, Joe Tasker slideshow & BBC Radio Cleveland's report of Joe Tasker's death