Author and conservationist; Born August 8, 1936; Died May 12, 2009.

Irvine Butterfield, who has died aged 72 after a long illness, was a Yorkshireman who fell in love with the Scottish hills and inspired a generation to climb them through his writing and photography.

The Perthshire-based retired civil servant's passionate commitment to the countryside was recognised last year when he became only the fourth recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the John Muir Trust, the influential conservation organisation that he helped to found.

A conservationist to the core, Butterfield was best known for The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland Vol. 1, a lavish book of his own words and pictures. It was published in 1986, when the practice of "Munro- bagging" (climbing Scottish hills of more than 3000ft) was still relatively rare. Since then, it has become a popular pastime, and Butterfield's publication, which has sold 50,000 copies, remains the guide book of choice for thousands. Indeed, it is believed to have inspired many hillwalkers to hit the Munro-bagging trail. Sadly, a second volume, majoring on the Corbetts (between 2500ft and 3000ft), and which Butterfield longed to see in print, never secured a publisher.

Born in Farnhill, near Skipton, Butterfield's hillwalking career almost ended before it had begun. Aged 16 and out walking with friends on the Yorkshire moors, a shotgun trigger caught in a gate and he was shot in the foot.

He fully recovered from the accident and, after working briefly in the Post Office, he joined the Customs and Excise service. After working in London, he was posted in 1960 to Perth and then Dundee and Inverness.

He discovered the joy of the Scottish landscape and, while based in Perth, climbed his first hill - the Cobbler - and then his first Munro - Stob Diamh on the Cruachan ridge.

With like-minded friends, he formed the Crochallan mountaineering club. Thus began a life of Munro- bagging. For the next decade he made it his mission to climb every one of them, completing the full 280-odd set in 1971 with a climb to the top of Ladhar Bheinn on the Knoydart peninsula.

His stocky build prevented him from becoming a serious mountaineer and, instead, he found his pleasures in walking the hillsides of Scotland.

Blessed with a warm, if occasionally gruff, personality, he had an instinctive appreciation of Scotland's landscape and a willingness to help and encourage those who shared his passion.

Butterfield - whose mantra was: "Always give something back to the mountains" - achieved just that by championing the ecological cause, giving up countless hours of his free time to help protect Scotland's wild lands.

The success of The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland provided him with a launch-pad to campaign for the conservation of the Scottish wilderness.

He was actively involved in many organisations, including the Mountain Bothies Association (which led to the publication in 1972 of his first book, Dibidil: A Hebridean Adventure, an account of the renovation of bothies on the island of Rum), the Scottish Wild Land Group, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the Munro Society and, of course, the John Muir Trust.

His was the fifth name on the Trust's membership list when it was founded in 1983. He was one of its most highly effective fundraisers, donating the royalties from his second-most popular book, The Magic of the Munros, to the charity's purchase in 1999 of the eastern side of Schiehallion.

When, last year, he was presented with his Lifetime Achievement Award (the three recipients who went before him were writer and broadcaster Tom Weir, ecologist Dr Adam Watson and mountaineer Doug Scott), the trust's chief executive Nigel Hawkins said: "Irvine's commitment has always been underpinned by his extraordinarily detailed knowledge of our mountain country and by his profound, understated and yet transparent passion for its wild landscapes and its history."

Irvine Butterfield, who lived in a cottage at Pitcairngreen, near Perth, is survived by his partner, Moira Gillespie, and his sister, Irene. By Allan Laing