A Tribute to Des Rubens by Geoff Cohen
Des was a well-known and very popular figure in the Scottish mountaineering world, as attested by the huge numbers that attended his funeral. He started climbing at Edinburgh University in 1970 and soon became President of the university mountaineering club, establishing friendships, including with his wife Jane, that were to endure throughout his life. Des was a bold and proficient ice climber, with a variety of new routes to his name, especially in the more remote corners of the Highlands. He was not only a great lover of the Scottish hills (he had just four Munros left to do), for walking, climbing and ski touring, but also a keen stravaiger of the wild coasts and islands, with a few sea canoeing trips to his credit. Abroad Des took part in over a dozen climbing expeditions, mainly to the Himalaya (starting with an early trip to Afghanistan in 1972) but also to the Caucasus, Andes and Canadian Rockies. He succeeded on many peaks over 6000m, but was rebuffed at about 7500m on Gasherbrum III and Nanga Parbat. In the Alps Des achieved many great classics of the 1930s (eg Walker Spur, Gervasutti Pillar, N Face of Dru) and more recently, in his sixties, had been ticking off the 4000m peaks, usually by routes more challenging than the voies normales.
Des was an extremely warm-hearted and affable person – it would be hard to find anyone he had crossed swords with. In his professional life he was a teacher of outdoor activities at Craigroyston High School in north Edinburgh. The outpouring of tributes from former pupils, colleagues and members of the Muirhouse community showed how deeply his commitment to taking disadvantaged kids to the outdoors had affected their lives.
Although Des had only recently joined the AC he was well known to many through his long mountaineering career. One of his more recent achievements was to revive the SMC ‘s Edinburgh lecture series, by bringing in Alpine Club and JMCS members. He devoted much thought and energy to this lecture programme and was a delightful and amusing presenter of the speakers, thus ensuring a growing attendance, drawing people from a considerable distance.
Though I will miss him terribly, I count myself incredibly fortunate to have had him as a close friend and climbing partner for over forty years. We formed a harmonious team with similar outlook on the mountains and both enjoyed our inexhaustible banter.
Des will be sorely missed by his many many friends, and my heart goes out to his family.