What a pleasure it has been travelling with Jim. Seventy-four and snowy bearded, Jim joined us from Kathmandu to Khumjung, walking with us up to 3700 metres before heading off on a ramble down valley.
Not only was Jim a mountaineer, he also taught religious studies at Canterbury University, lived in India for several years, speaks usable amounts of Hindi, Nepali, Sherpa and god knows what other languages and is a constant source of jokes, climbing yarns, facts on Hinduism and related faiths, and stories about poo.
Jim was also a good friend of Ed Hillary’s and is on the council of the Himalayan Trust, so he’s been walking into the Solo Khumbu region for more than forty years to build bridges and schools – every so often he’ll point out the remains of a bridge he helped make which “was exported to India in pieces” when a glacial lake burst its banks and wiped out the valley – and it took me a while to squeeze it out of him, but the tiny mountain airport at Lukla that we landed at the start of our trek… well, it was Jim who walk in and found the site.
The guy has got a hell of a lot of friends up in the Himalayas, and though I think it would be a mistake to call him famous, his beard sure has celebrity status. Grown men have come up to him to say they remember the man with the big beard who visited when they were a child… Basically, what I’m saying is he’s a ridiculously interesting guy, and about the most down-to-earth company you could ask for. We’re missing him already.