7 Mountains 7 Continents and why trees mean life


James on summit

James Ogilvie on the summit of Everest

By Russell Bruce

Today a bit of a departure from politics and economics on this blog. There is more to life and how we find our place in this world on a long journey and many interesting people to meet.

Today I want to introduce you to my friend, James Ogilvie, a man with a passion for mountains and trees. James is a chartered forester and a man with some serious ambitions. He will set out in January to climb Mount Vinson in Antarctica, the last mountain in his mammoth challenge to climb  the seven highest mountains on seven continents.

Back in 2007, my wife, Dorothy, and I got involved in helping James raise funds for Tree Aid. With each mountain challenge James also devotes his energy to raise money to plant trees in the Sahel drylands of Africa. More on that in a moment.

Stars coverr

In 2007 James climbed Everest. As well as being involved,  in a small way, with his fund raising for Tree Aid, we also arranged for the publication of his account of his ascent of Everest. The Everest Experience: Staring Down on Stars, with an introduction by Sir Chris Bonington. The publication helped James to continue raising funds for Tree Aid. James eventually raised over £17,500 for Tree Aid from his ascent of Everest,or Mount Sagarmatha as it is known in Nepal. Sagarmatha means goddess of the sky.

Everest was James’ fourth mountain, so this story began somewhat earlier than we got to know him. But I will let James explain that himself, quoting from the first page of  Staring Down on Stars.

” .. it all started 15 years ago with a short unplanned and unexpectedly successful climb of Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa) which ignited a passion for ‘getting high’. From there events gradually evolved into a quest for the  ‘seven summits’ (the highest mountains on each of the world’s continents), climbing Aconcagua (South America) in 2000 and McKinley (North America) in 2005. And so – if my dream was going to be fulfilled – it seemed only natural to think about tackling Everest before it was ‘too late’.  Approaching 50, at a job crossroads and with 2 months leave to spare, it seemed to me that the mountain gods were gently nudging me in the direction of the Himalaya…”

We followed James’ quest when he flew to Georgia to cross the border into Russia to climb Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus, the highest mountain in Europe (5642 metres). It was 2008 and our correspondent was just ahead of the Russian invasion of Georgia, also known as the Five-Day War. Mount Elbrus was number Five.

Number six was the baby of the seven, Mount Kosciusko in Australia (2228metres).

Mountains have something of a sacred feel about them – dangerous, mysterious, inspiring – and for most of us, reaching any of the seven summits is unattainable. Sagarmatha (Everest) was a bit special for me because it is part of Sagarmatha National Park and I was able to arrange a display of James’ photographs in the Gateway Centre at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.  James subsequently took the exhibition all round the country.


Exhibition of James Ogilvie’s photographs of Everest at the National Park Gateway Centre, Loch Lomond

When he is not climbing the mountains of the world or training in the Pentlands or the Cairngorms of a weekend, James is the Social Policy Adviser of Forestry Commission Scotland. Last time we spoke he had 150 Munros under his boots, but maintains he isn’t counting. Latest update from James on the Munros is “Guess what, I’ve  only 44 to go out of 282”. Right, so you are still not counting!

I will never climb any of the these seven summits, but I love mountains and am content to photograph them, to capture a bit of the primeval atmosphere they hold. Last December I made it to the top of Pico do Arieiro, a mere 1810 metres in Madeira, it is not even the highest peak on the island, only the third highest. The only climbing I did was onto the bus and the last few hundred metres from the car park to the summit with its Andean atmosphere.


Andean atmosphere on the summit of Pico do Arieiro

And that is the point about my ‘ascent’ of Pico do Arieiro. By making a small donation to James Ogilvie’s appeal for Tree Aid you can be a part of  his ascent of Mount Vinson as James tackles his seventh summit.

Scots have always gone out into the world and done extraordinary things. There is no part of the story of Africa that Scots have not contributed to and James Ogilvie’s passion for trees and bringing life supporting aid to people in Africa through raising funds for Tree Aid is part of that continuing story.

Watch this video and go to https://www.justgiving.com/james7summits/ to be part of an enduring narrative that stretches from the snow and ice of Mount Vinson to the arid plains of Africa.

It is a great story. As you can imagine it is an expensive aspiration. Kitting out for the extremes and getting to Antarctica is costly, so James is also open to personal sponsorship. If you have a business this is a story that could be an intriguing and eye catching promotion, and one like no other. James is an excellent speaker and comes back from his trips with stunning photographs.

About russellbruce

Writer, journalist and blogger. Worked in advertising and publishing. Former board member Loch Lomond National Park Authority, Chair of Borders Writers' Forum
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