|Birth name||Philip James Conyers Ashby|
Ashby was brought up in Helensburgh on the West Coast of Scotland, the son of a Royal Navy officer based at HMNB Clyde, and educated at Glenalmond College on a scholarship. While in school he started rock climbing.
Ashby joined the Royal Marines and was commissioned a week shy of his eighteenth birthday. He read engineering at Pembroke College, Cambridge on an armed forces bursary. Later on in his career he trained as a Mountain Leader and was also a Jungle Warfare Instructor.
In January 2000, Ashby was deployed to Sierra Leone as a military observer with the UN peacekeeping forces stationed there, tasked with disarming the rebel fighters from the Revolutionary United Front led by Augustine Gbao. However, the situation became hostile and the house where Ashby and two fellow British officers and a New Zealander officer were captured and held hostage. After a narrow escape, they sought refuge at the Kenyan army outpost where they helped defend the camp against several days of attacks. Eventually a decision was taken to escape through the jungle. Fighting dehydration and hunger, the 4 men survived close encounters with the enemy and, assisted by local tribesmen, were eventually rescued by the British Army. After returning, Ashby was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal. The story of his escape is narrated in one episode of the documentary series Banged Up Abroad.
Ashby's autobiography, entitled both Unscathed: Escape from Sierra Leone and Against All Odds: Escape from Sierra Leone was published in 2003. He has also written for other publications including The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail and The Lancet.
Ashby is an IFMGA-certified mountain guide and runs his own consultancy.
In September 2000, Ashby was to learn that he had contracted a virus, possibly from his time in Sierra Leone; it had entered his spine and left him paralysed from the waist down, though he has since made a full recovery.
He and his wife have two daughters. During climbing seasons, he is usually based at the French Alps.