What does a petite widow in her early seventies who in her own words has ‘always been terrified of heights and useless at sport’ do to raise money for her favourite charity?
She climbs mountains. And not just any old mountains. On September 2 Lady Collum, who lives in Fletching, is going to climb the challenging 22,000 foot high Mera Peak in Nepal’s Himalayas.
When asked why she indulges in such an extreme activity, she answered: “I’m not very good at office work! And I believe that hospices offer an invaluable service to people but receive very little government funding.”
Noel Collum and her husband Hugh were enthusiastic walkers, and a few years after Hugh’s untimely accidental death at 65 in 2005, Noel 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 was suffering from the disease when he died. She explained: “I felt the need to do something to prevent other wives being widowed too early - although 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. And now she is going to tackle Mera Peak.
Lady Collum finds coming downhill more painful than going up, because she has a number of metal pins in both feet following surgery.
She laughed: “Going uphill is always exhilarating but because of my feet there is a plan for me to abseil back down part of Mera Peak.”
Her four grandchildren are somewhat baffled by her mountain climbing exploits “but always glad to see me safely home!”
As well as tackling heights, Noel Collum is a very down to earth and passionate hands-on gardener. Her fabulous six acre garden in Fletching is regularly open to the public, and constantly evolving as she develops new ideas.
To support Lady Collum and Friends of Sussex Hospices use her JustGiving page: http://www.justgiving.com/noelcollummerapeak
Mera Peak was first ascended by Col. Jimmy Roberts and SherpaTenzing on May 20, 1953.
It is well liked because of the magnificent views of peaks above 8,000 metres, including Mount Everest, Mt Lhotse and Mt Kanchenjunga.
Another rewarding aspect is the chance to venture into less visited and unspoiled areas in the Everest region where climbers can see hills of dense forest and terraced fields and explore the rich culture of the Sherpa ethnic communities .