[James Edwards 1976-2016 – Originally posted on 11th November 2016 these personal memories of James Edwards have been republished here].
It was during the summer that I learnt of the death of James Edwards following a fall hillwalking on Ruadh Stac Mor. He was in the remote area of Fisherfield to set up a radio link for ‘The Great Wilderness Challenge’ with Dundonnell MRT.
Dundonnell MRT were not only faced with a rescue in one of the remotest parts of the UK in bad weather, but also of one of their own team members. Despite being in a situation that no rescue team would choose, the rescue was conducted expediently and with the upmost professionalism. Sadly, James tragically died in hospital a few days later.
For those that know James, it was immediately apparent that this was also one of the UK’s best exploratory winter climbing areas, and one in which he was one of the leading protagonists when it came to climbing new routes.
Simon Richardson recently posted an excellent obituary for James over on Scottishwinter.com, which goes a huge way to record James’ contribution to Scottish winter climbing. It was in Scotland that he was most at home and in the remote Northern Highlands in particular. But he was also an experienced alpinist having climbed in the Alps and in New Zealand.
I first met James’ as a student at the University of Sheffield where we both shared lectures in Environmental Geology and Environmental Geoscience. There he shared a house with Gareth Hobson and Sam Barron, making perhaps one of the most motivated climbing households in the area. It wasn’t until James’ moved to Edinburgh that we climbed together with any frequency, both in Scotland in winter and in Chamonix.
James’ passion for exploration, whether it was new crags that he hadn’t visited or the opportunity to climb new routes, was infectious. There are parts of Scotland that I haven’t returned to, and if its remote, I will have almost certainly been there with James.
Our first new routes together were on Coire an Laoigh in the Grey Corries were we also repeated many others including a direct start to the classic ‘Centre Point’ VI,6.
Climbing with James was never a simple mechanical process, it was always an experience, during which we shared many laughs along the way. My memories are numerous, such as taking a 20m ground fall in the Cairngorms and James having to help me into Glenmore Lodge to attend the interviews for the ‘Night Watch’. Walking into Beinn a’ Bhuird, taking some big falls while attempting a new line, and returning from a car bivouac at Invercauld Bridge to try again the next day. He didn’t mind a walk.
James energy was incredible, another memorable experience was climbing Minus One Gully, Indicator Wall and Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis in a day while staying in Onich. He didn’t mind an early start either.
Thinking I would get a steady second day, we decided to do the Long Reach on Etive Slabs. It was great to feel the warm sun on your back and climb in rock shoes, until the sun when down and we were wearing just t-shirts. Not to mention the fact that I had to be back in work in Buxton the following morning.
One of the last times we climbed together was on the Fiddlers Nose (sic) on Sgurr and Fhidleir. The weather deteriorated quickly and we had to bail in some exceptionally high winds. This short bit of video (Facebook post) was taken just before we bailed – rubbish weather, high winds and another route we had to retreat from. James was loving it, in his element as always…
Driving back towards his home near Inverness, James’ spotted a deer that had been hit by a car. Ever resourceful and thinking of feeding his family for a month, James jumped out insisting that we could get the beast into his Berlingo. All I will say on this matter is that lifting a deer into a vehicle is desperate!
It was this rich fun loving life experience that made James one of Scotland’s much loved members of the winter climbing community. Not only that but a much loved teacher in his community near Inverness. My thoughts are with James wife Tanya and their sons Finlay and Reuben. James will be sadly missed.