Robert Roaf, one of the world's leading spinal surgeons who was keenly interested in Buddhism and traveled to India in pursuit of his love for the Himalayas, has died at the age of 93.
Born in 1913, Roaf spent his early childhood in London and won a scholarship to Winchester College at the age of 13 and received a further scholarship in 1931 to Balliol College, Oxford, to study physiology and biochemistry.
AdvertisementIn 1934 Roaf's parents moved from London to Liverpool where he finished his studies. In 1935 he was delegated to a medical conference in what was then the Soviet Union. Just before departing he was invited by Marco Pallis, mystic and mountaineer, whom he had met by chance two years earlier, to join his next Himalayan expedition as medical officer.
After returning from the USSR and undertaking mountaineering training on ice and snow in Switzerland, Roaf set out for Sikkim in India in 1936 with the Pallis expedition, according to his obituary in The Guardian.
Although the climbers failed to reach the summits of Simvu at 22,360ft or Siniolchu at 22,620ft, both Sikkim and, later, Ladakh, impressed Roaf deeply. He developed a lifelong interest in Buddhism, oriental arts and a deep love of the Himalayas.
After a chequered career, he retired from official posts in 1976 and after a six months' teaching tour of Malaysia, retired to Chester. He continued visiting the Himalayas until he was 85, often to visit Tibetan refugee settlements.
In 2003 he was delighted to receive researchers from the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Sikkim, who interviewed him about his experiences in 1936.
Of his travels, he contributed a paper, Ladakh in 1936, to the International Colloquia on Ladakh (1995) and a piece, Sikkim in 1936, to the Alpine Journal (2001).