Roly Smith, left, hands over to Sir Chris Bonington. Photo: Jonathan Williams

Roly Smith, left, hands over to Sir Chris Bonington. Photo: Jonathan Williams

Veteran mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington has been appointed president of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild.

Sir Chris, who has summited Everest and posted first ascents of Alpine routes, succeeds Roly Smith as head of the group, which has 165 members involved in outdoor writing and photography.

Sir Chris is a past recipient of the guild’s top award and has been a member of the organisation for some time.

OWPG chairman Jonathan Williams said: “Chris is well known as a climber, writer and leader in many organisations.

“The guild is honoured that he has accepted our invitation to be president. Chris is a long-standing member, and has won the guild’s Golden Eagle award for his work in the outdoor community.

“I am delighted members have given his nomination such strong support.”

Roly Smith, an expert on the Peak District, is stepping down after 12 years in the post.

OWPG members paid tribute to him at the guild’s annual meeting in Church Stretton. Mr Williams presented the outgoing president with a watercolour painting by guild member David Bellamy, depicting Grindslow Knoll on Kinder Scout.

Jonathan Williams said: “Roly Smith has been the face of the guild for many years and has helped guide it through the many changes that members have faced.

“His contribution, first as chairman and, for the last 12 years, as president, has been invaluable.

“Much of the guild we have today was developed under his leadership and with his efforts and energy. We thank him for his guidance and leadership, and are delighted he has agreed to stay on as vice-president.”

Mr Smith has written more than 80 books on walking and the countryside, many based on the Peak District, and has organised anniversary celebrations of the 1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass.

After joining the guild in 1983, he served as chairman for 11 years before being elected president in 2001. He was made an honorary life member in 2006.

During his term of office he instigated the guild’s Awards for Excellence and oversaw the introduction of the quarterly members’ journal Outdoor Focus. He edited two anthologies of guild members’ work, both of which contained contributions by Sir Chris Bonington.

His professional career included a 20-year stint in newspaper journalism, followed by a period as head of information services with the Peak District National Park Authority.

He is currently commissioning editor for publisher Frances Lincoln and contributes to various magazines as well as publications by the AA, Readers’ Digest and others.

Mr Smith’s predecessor as president, author, editor and former publisher Walt Unsworth, has agreed to serve as a guild vice-president.

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