Hitting a high note

by Celia Weatherley

THREE intrepid musical mountaineers raised over 600 in a sponsored climb of Europe's highest mountains this summer.

Ian Shand, Jim Stevenson and Lenny Smith travelled to Chamonix where they started their ascent up Europe's highest mountain Mont Blanc.

The climbers are all members of the Ballater Pipe Band and raised the money to fund renovations of the bands hut.

The Tarland men set off on July 23 for their eight-day trip to the French Alps.

Following the Gouter Ridge the men scaled 15,000ft up the formidable mountain, but finished their attempt 500ft short of the summit. Their group decided to end the ascent — within an hour's climb of the summit — due to the dangerous conditions.

Ian Shand said: “There were a lot of dangers, a lot of avalanches and a lot of crevasses this summer, there were quite a few deaths this summer. We didn't go to the top because of crevasses, we decided to be safe than sorry.”

The mountaineers went on to climb another four tops in the 15,000 ft range, including the second and third highest mountains in Europe.

Ian, 45, is the most experienced climber out of the three and started climbing when he was 14-years-old. He has done a lot of ice climbing and has experience climbing in Scotland, the Italian Alps and the French Alps. Ian used to climb in the French Alps regularly, and would visit Chamonix every summer, he first climbed to the summit of Mont Blanc in 1979.

Jim, 29, and Lenny, 45, were on their first trip to the Alps. Jim had climbed with his parents as a child, but had no experience on snow or ice. Lenny only took up the sport a few years ago.

Ian said: “They did well, they had never climbed on snow or ice before. To get that far was a great achievement. Next year we will go back to do it again.”

The men spent one year preparing for the trip, and did a lot of practising on the Scottish mountains in preparation for the thin air they would encounter at 14,000 ft.

“We were going up at every opportunity we could. We were climbing on Lochnagar and Ben Macdui and we were going as high as we could.

Even during the week in the evening we would take a quick sprint up one of the gullies on Lochnagar.”

When the intrepid climbers returned villagers in Tarland and Ballater were pleased to see them back.

Next year they will take a different route. They have decided to take the new more difficult route to avoid other climbers, as the Gouter Ridge can get quite busy with people.

Before setting off on the trip Jim started to write a tune titled March To Mont Blanc, which he finished on his return. He has since played his debut at the Aberdeen Arms in Tarland last week, and the performance was said to have gone down well.

The men would like to thank people for their kind donations.