Dr Grace Hurford, a senior lecturer in department of Business, Law, Policing and Social Science (BLPSS) with the University of Cumbria, has been elected to full membership of the prestigious Alpine Club. The organisation, which has been at the leading edge of worldwide mountaineering development and exploration for 150 years, includes among its honorary members one of the university’s honorary fellows, Sir Chris Bonington, and Yvon Chouinard, climber and environmentalist and the co-founder of the outdoor-apparel company Patagonia.
As a child, Grace was inspired by pictures in the ‘Heidi’ story books of towering mountains of ice and snow. Later, in North Wales, she met and married an Alpine guide and together they have climbed serious routes in Europe such as the Red Sentinel on Mont Blanc, the Cresta Rey on Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and Weisshorn and skied down the South West face of the Aiguille d’Argentiere in Chamonix. Greater ranges climbing includes the Bugaboo Spire in Canada, the NW ridges of Mount Kenya, and 4000m peaks in Azerbaijan. Grace has survived avalanches in Lochnagar in Scotland and the north face of Athabasca in Canada, but now enjoys climbing with her children in slightly less risky environments in the UK and the Alps.
In order to be awarded full membership of the Alpine Club, candidates must have ‘achieved a high level of proficiency and self-reliance, and have demonstrated a commitment to alpine climbing’. The club looks for people who typically will have climbed around 20 substantive peaks or routes at an average grade of ‘PD’ (peu difficile) or above in the Alps or in other ranges or wilderness areas over at least three seasons. Hard alpine routes and serious climbs in the greater ranges will carry more weight than snow ascents. Ski mountaineering ascents are taken into account, as are contributions to mountain literature, science and art.
Of her climbing, Grace says, “A sense of wonder and longing is what draws me to the mountains, and working at the University of Cumbria allows me to be the best that I can be, at work and at play. It is a real privilege to be elected to the Alpine Club, and I look forward to forging closer ties between the AC and the university for mutual benefit.” University of Cumbria Honorary Fellow John Porter is currently president of the Alpine Club.
Earlier this year, Grace received another accolade when she was voted Lecturer of the Year at the UCSU (University of Cumbria Students’ Union) Success Awards, an annual event which highlights the unrecognised work which goes on every day. Her citation described her as “going out of her way to assist students in academic and non-academic situations” and as having “an innovative teaching style, enthusiasm and passion”. On receiving the award, Grace said that she was “thrilled and delighted” and that it was a “pleasure and a privilege to work with our students”.
As part of her role with the University of Cumbria, over the last four years Grace has worked with more than 800 Robert Kennedy College MBA students who all attend a week’s sustainability residency at the university’s Ambleside campus. Key drivers in the residency focus on experiential learning with an emphasis on social responsibility and community, and explicitly re-connecting with nature.
Through this work, and together with colleague Phil Chapman, Grace has collected important information on the impact of these residencies, which she presented recently at the 2017 International Leadership Association conference in Brussels.
“The data is both detailed and robust – over 78% of our MBA students surveyed are making a significant contribution to protecting vulnerable people and the planet now, with some extraordinary case studies at all levels of society.”
Grace ran workshops at the conference on 'Leading for sustainability: teaching, learning and applying' while at the same time networking with the ex head of the CIA, David Petreaus, who was delighted to receive a University of Cumbria stress-relieving sheep!
Hear Dr Hurford interviewed on BBC Radio Cumbria, 2hrs 16 mins in