Septuagenarian mountain climber Lady Noel Collum from Fletching has just returned from her fundraising climb in Nepal on behalf of The Friends of Sussex Hospices, (FSH.)
Despite valiant efforts, horrendous and deteriorating weather conditions prevented her reaching the 6476m Mera Peak. However she did reach Mera-la, the 5350m high base point below Mera Peak despite falling and hitting her head on day six.
Lady Collum made the climb at this time of year as it generally has optimum weather conditions, but unusually bad weather delayed the start by three days. After battling up the lower ridges to Mera-La, she took her local guide’s advice and turned back as heavy snow was concealing crevasses.
She said: “It was a good experience, although I was disappointed to be thwarted at the last stretch. What is important is that I really hope I achieved my objective of raising money for the hospices.”
FSH chair Kathy Gore, from Framfield, said: “In September last year her original plans for the climb had to be postponed when she had a fall at home so she was very pleased to have made the trip this year. We are full of admiration for her determination – especially as she doesn’t like heights!”
Why does she indulge in such an extreme activity? She laughs: “I’m not very good at office work.”
She believes hospices provide an invaluable service to the community but receive very little government funding.
Noel Collum and her husband Hugh were enthusiastic walkers. A few years after Hugh’s untimely accidental death at 65 in 2005, she made her first serious mountain climb. In her 70th year, she scaled Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK in memory of her husband who suffered from the disease.
“I felt the need to do something to prevent other wives being widowed too early,” Noel said, although she adds this was “more of a walk than a climb, and required no technical skills, just the determination to keep going.” She subsequently climbed Mont Blanc in the French Alps with a friend in 2011. Going up is easier than going down as she has metal pins in both feet following surgery.
Her four grandchildren are baffled by her mountain climbing exploits “but always glad to see me safely home”.
Noel Collum is a down to earth and passionate hands-on gardener. Her fabulous six-acre garden opens to the public and constantly evolves as she develops new ideas.