The Best Man at the Best Job – Kev Reynolds (1943-2021)

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A tribute to Kev Reynolds by OWPG Vice-President, Roly Smith

Anyone lucky enough to have attended one of Kev Reynolds’ legendary lectures will recall how he often described himself as “the man with the world’s best job.”

Image of Key Reynolds with Duncan Unsworth
Key Reynolds (left) with Duncan Unsworth (at Walt Unsworth’s funeral)
(Image thanks to Roly Smith)

And I would claim, judged from our 40 years of friendship and as an admirer of his many meticulously crafted guidebooks, he was also “the best man at the best job in the world.”

The sun was shining as Kev passed peacefully away just three days after his 78th  birthday in December 2021 at his Kentish home, set between the High Weald and North Downs. His close family – his beloved wife of 54 years Min and their daughters, Claudia and Ilsa – were with him as he embarked upon his final expedition.

A fellow Essex lad, Kev Reynolds was born in the closing years of the Second World War at Ingatestone in 1943. He first fell in love with the mountains on a Boy Scout camping trip to North Wales. Then in 1965, at the age of 21, he had an opportunity to go on a Nansen Club expedition to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, which he claimed was a life-changing experience.

He started his working life in advertising and local government, later becoming a youth hostel warden at Crockham Hill in Kent for 18 years between 1968 and 1986. Then, encouraged by former Cicerone boss Walt Unsworth, he wrote his first guidebook in 1978 to what he called “his spiritual home” – the Pyrenees. His Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees is now in its seventh edition.

Kev finally took his “leap of faith” in 1986 when he became a full-time freelance writer. His inspirational guiding work in the Alps was to introduce thousands of mountain lovers to the Swiss Valais, the Bernese Oberland, the Vanoise, the Austrian Alps and the Dolomites, notably through pioneering his own routes such as the Walkers’ Haute Route and the Tour of the Jungfrau Region.

Further afield, in nearly 30 expeditions, Kev explored the Andes, Nepal and the Himalaya. He masterminded at least six guidebooks to the roof of the world, including his best-selling Everest: A Trekker’s Guide (1995). And he wrote extensively about England too, writing six guidebooks about his homeland of Kent, Sussex, and the Cotswolds from his base in what he jokingly dubbed the “Kentish Alps.”

Kev produced over 50 award-winning guides for Cicerone over a period of nearly 40 years. Publisher and Director Jonathan Williams said: “Kev was the most modest of men, and the most professional of writers. We will not see his like again.

“He was a major contributor to the world of the outdoors through his books and his 100-plus lectures a year. It was there that his infectious enthusiasm, deep knowledge, understanding of local people, innumerable stories, fine pictures, ability to communicate and essential decency, allowed him to the touch the lives of many.”

Kev was honoured by his peers as one of Britain’s leading outdoor writers. He was an honorary life member of the OWPG, an honorary member of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML), and a member of the Société d’Etudes de la Littérature Anglophone (SELVA) in France.

Kev typically maintained a positive attitude through the long series of illnesses which he suffered towards the end of his life, which had necessitated numerous hospital trips over the past three years.

Kev Reynolds’ lasting legacy will surely be his impressive back catalogue of guidebooks which, as he hoped they might, have fulfilled the dreams of the thousands of walkers who have gratefully followed in his trusty bootprints.

Farewell, old friend. You’ll be sadly missed, but never forgotten.

Header image (with apologies for cropping to fit our header space from OWPG’s webmanager!) courtesy of Cicerone Press

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