James Ogilvie, a charity climber, forester and regular festival volunteer, hopes to reach his latest fundraising target at this weekend’s Wood Market having recently succeeded in his attempt to climb the highest summits on each of the seven continents. We plan to help him get over the line!
Climbing the fabled Seven Summits – the seven highest peaks on each continent – is not a project that just gets knocked off overnight. It’s a massive undertaking – and one that has taken James Ogilvie almost 20 years to complete.
A chartered forester who has worked for the Forestry Commission for almost 35 years, James’ love of Scotland’s trees and woodland is mirrored by his passion for mountains and wild places.
His journey to climbing the Seven Summits began in 1997 when he climbed Kilimanjaro – at 5,895m, the highest peak in Africa. This was followed by Aconcagua (6,962m, South America) in 2000; Denali (6,194m, North America) in 2005; Everest (8,848m, Asia) in 2007; Mt Elbrus (5,642m, Europe) in 2008; and Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m, Australasia – an alternate to the higher, but far less-accessible Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia) in 2010.
James finally completed his seventh and final summit in January this year when he stepped atop Mount Vinson (4,892m), the highest point in the pristine wilderness of Antarctica. With fewer than 50 Brits thought to have completed the challenge, it marked the culmination of a major feat of mountaineering.
For many years, his chosen charity has been Tree Aid – an organisation that, since 1987, has played a key role in the reforestation of parts of sub-Saharan Africa, helping more than 500,000 people plant 10 million trees in the drylands of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, plus isolated areas of Ethiopia. Tree Aid’s work helps poor and vulnerable communities become self-reliant by using the potential of trees to reverse environmental decline.
Given his own background, and knowing parts of Africa well – James had a stint working in Lesotho – Tree Aid’s work sits very close to his heart. “I’ve been associated with Tree Aid for some time now and have raised around £50,000 for them down the years,” he explains.
Tree Aid’s focus on the cultural, environmental and community value of woodland also ties in with James’ current position heading up the Forestry Commission’s social and planning policy – a role that sees him deal with issues such as planning, access, recreation, health and learning in and around Scotland’s own areas of woodland.
His first post at the Forestry Commission was actually right here in the Tweed Valley in the early-1980s – one reason why James so enjoys volunteering at the Forest Festival. “I’ve volunteered as part of the front of house team at the Wood Market for the past five or so years now,” he explains.
“It’s now very much a fixture in people’s diaries, with a real community spirit around the whole event. Volunteering here gives me a great sense of well-being. And having worked in forestry all my life, it’s also great to see the value placed on timber products and the wonderful craftsmanship on show.”
James’ current fundraising push is around the climbing of Mount Vinson to complete his Seven Summits challenge. “With the mountain being 4,892m, we thought that would be a good target to reach in pounds. I’m nearly there now and would be delighted to reach or even exceed it at the Wood Market this weekend!”
And to help James do just that, the silver donation to the Wood Market on Saturday will go towards his fundraising for Tree Aid. We might even find a bottle of bubbles from somewhere!
For much more on James Ogilvie’s Mount Vinson fundraising campaign, including a brief video appeal, visit www.justgiving.com/james7summits
An account of his Seven Summits exploits – Getting High: A world at my feet – was published by Borders-based Twinlaw Publishing this summer. http://twinlawpublishing.co.uk/authors/james-ogilvie/getting-high