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Monica Jackson obituary

My mother, Monica Jackson, who has died aged 99, was a mountaineer whose passion for the peaks was nurtured by her childhood in India and her adulthood in Scotland. Among her most notable feats was her participation, in the 1950s, in the first all-female expedition to the Himalayas, about which she wrote a book.

Monica was born in Kotagiri, India, to Scottish parents, Heather (nee Kinloch) and her husband, Ralph Morris, who had bought land in the state of Mysore, where they set up a coffee plantation.

Largely self-taught up to the age of 10, Monica was eventually sent, with her sister, Sheila, to boarding school in the UK, in the village of Arlesey in Bedfordshire. At 16 she went to Benington College in the US, but when the second world war broke out she cut off her studies and returned to India.

There Monica met and married Bob Jackson, an advertising executive. They had two children, Sue and me, and the family moved in 1949 to London, from where we would often go on long visits to a family cottage in the highland village of Tomintoul in Scotland.

It was there that Monica became a member of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club. In 1955 she and two Scottish climbers, Evelyn Camrass (later McNicol) and Betty Stark, set off on the first all-female expedition to the Himalayas, exploring an unvisited area of the Jugal Himal in Nepal and making the first ascent of a 20,000ft peak which they named Gyalgen after one of their Sherpas. She and Stark wrote a book about their adventures, Tents in the Clouds, which was published in 1957.

Thereafter Monica was a very active climber in Britain and abroad. She climbed in the Cilo Dağı in eastern Turkey (an expedition recorded in her 1966 book The Turkish Time Machine), in the Atlas mountains in Morocco and in the Alps and Dolomites.

While her children were at boarding school, Monica was based permanently for several years at Tomintoul until, after a spell in the south of England, she and Bob ran the Stein Inn on the Isle of Skye. In her 50s she took a degree in archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University and subsequently undertook research in India funded by the Ministry of Overseas Development. Based in an area not far from where she was born, she wrote a thesis on caste and kinship, and finished her doctorate at Edinburgh University in 1976, followed by a book, Going Back, describing both her early years in India and her later demographic research in the country.

From the mid-1970s she was based in Edinburgh, and though she no longer climbed, she continued to go regularly to the Highlands to walk up as many Munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000ft) as she could. She remained young in spirit until the last few months of her life.

Bob died in 1986. She is survived by her two children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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