Greetings! I am James Stone, 65 years old and am semi-retired. I live in the lovely spa town of Harrogate in God’s Own County of Yorkshire. My wife, Julie, bears my foibles. My children do their own thing. I originally decided to create this blog in anticipation of what some might call an adventure of a lifetime. Time would tell*. At the time I was going through about my fourth or fifth mid-life crisis. To deal with that crisis I was not indulging in a brand new sports car or Harley, dyeing my hair, turning to drink or a mistress or any of the other signs of such a crisis. No I had something far more interesting in mind; something I hoped I could achieve before my body failed me.
* though, given what I have done since, perhaps I have had a few such adventures
As a child I was fortunate to be dragged around the world by my parents. By the time I was 12 I had visited Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the USA and places in between. That engendered in me a love for travel.
Two memories stick in my mind from those early years. These are the impressions made on me by the jagged skylines of the Canadian Rockies and the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Those impressions did not then make me yearn to climb to the summits. Indeed, at that young age, I probably did not even know that people even bothered to try to climb them. Perhaps it was just the grandeur of the scenery, the white snow-capped peaks set against a blue sky or the impossibly blue glacial lakes or the extensive forests. Certainly it sowed a seed. But the growth from that seed was slow. During school and university hockey was the focus of any physical activity.
Then the greasy pole of professional life deflected my attention. I could not maintain the commitment required for hockey; by my early 30’s I was also past whatever prime I may have had for that sport. If I was to give up hockey I needed to look for another pastime.
Years before, on our honeymoon, Julie and I had climbed Ben Nevis. Well, it was there to be done. And being the highest point in the UK it was a noble objective. We were raw, inexperienced and, by the time we reached the bottom of that mountain, soaked. I still remember the soggy footprints on the hotel carpet left by our sodden socks as we crept in unnoticed after that climb.
Hill walking, as it still was then, remained just an occasional pastime. We would make occasional forays into the Peak District which was close to our home then in Sheffield. We would also visit The Lake District and, if we were feeling more adventurous, Snowdonia in North Wales. The mountains of Scotland inspired feelings of awe. We did not feel up to tackling them at that time in those early years.
The Seed Germinates
Then in 1983 a book finally fertilised that seed somewhat. We were due to travel to Australia and Julie bought me this book to read on the plane. Before we had even we left on our trip however I had opened the book and devoured it. The book was Hamish’s Mountain Walk by Hamish Brown. It is an account of one man’s solo self-propelled trip of 153 days over all of the Munros. The book is much more than a description of the walk. It also covers the history, culture, geology, flora and fauna of the land he passed through and the people who lived in the Scottish Highlands. It also shows the influence that being out in that environment has.
On our return from Australia our forays into the hills of England and Wales intensified as the hockey diminished. In a couple of years we had well covered the high points of The Lake District and of Snowdonia. But we had not returned to Scotland. So in 1985 I had the bright idea of us doing a winter mountaineering course in Scotland. Such a course would teach us the hillcraft required for scaling the ‘mighty’ Scottish peaks and how to be safe in winter conditions. It would also improve our confidence overall.
The course was memorable not only for one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life (“sleeping” in a snow hole) but also re-opening my eyes to the grandeur of snow-capped mountains. The course coincided with some superb extremely cold but sunny weather. OK so the Scottish mountains may not be quite the same as the Canadian and New Zealand ones. However, with some imagination and in the conditions we had that February, the West Highlands could just about compare.
By the end of the course, I was hooked. For those not in the know, the Munros comprise 282 mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet (914.4m) in height. At that time fewer than 500 people were known to have climbed them all. Then, I did not know whether I would manage them all but, needing a focus outside of work, I thought I would have a go.
And so a passion (some – especially, later, my children – would say obsession) flowered from that childhood seed. Visits to Scotland were frequent. Sometimes we took whole holidays there. On other occasions we would leave after work on a Friday, spend two nights sleeping in the car, be out in the hills during the Saturday and Sunday and then be back at our desks on Monday morning. I was lucky that Julie was happy to indulge me. My good friend, Sue, accompanied me too on occasion. This was especially the case when I attempted some of the trickier mountains on the Isle of Skye.
Six years later in July 1991 on Carn Mor Dearg I had climbed all of the Munros. I was probably within the first thousand to do so, appearing as number 892 on the list of “compleaters” maintained by the Scottish Mountaineering Club. By the time I finished them all Julie was not so far from completing them all herself. Seven years and the arrival of two children later she herself completed the Munros on Ben Wyvis in May 1998.
In 1990 my parents had emigrated to the USA. Now Texas (where they moved to) does not hold that much interest to the mountaineer. But we discovered ever more ingenious means of getting there – e.g. via Colorado and its Rockies – or we moved on to the high desert lands of the western states after a visit to them. This gave me some limited opportunity to climb higher objectives and to experience altitude. In 1996 I also climbed the east summit of Elbrus in Russia with my brother, Derek and, sister in law, Cathy – a peak 5,651m (18,441 feet) high.
These experiences both fascinated me (in terms of the effect of altitude on the body). It showed me how little I knew about this aspect of mountaineering.
We now jump forward to a few years back, around a decade. A degree of disillusionment on my part had set in in my working life. I found it difficult to keep myself motivated. So I decided to slide down that pole. Over the years I had also been giving moral support to two other friends, Caroline and John, in their quest to complete the Munros. So by Easter 2014 I myself had climbed all of the Munros for a second time – a cause for celebration! Fantastic weather blessed the occasion. A party of 23 and two dogs were on The Saddle with me for that event.
With the greater free time a project gestated in my mind. In today’s parlance I guess some might call it a bucket list. Anyway a series of mountaineering objectives coalesced. Could I tackle these whilst I might still be young and fit enough to do so? The project would also enable me to visit parts of the world I had long wanted to go to including Mexico and South America.
The Volcanic Seven Summits
Coincidentally brother Derek had separately been considering a similar journey to Latin America. So when in March 2014 I received an email from him wondering if a collaboration on a trip to some of the higher part of the Andes might be of interest, it did not take long for me to say “yes”. A short negotiation later we had an outline itinerary agreed. We would first go to Mexico to attempt one of the mountains in my project (Pico de Orizaba) plus others for acclimatisation. After Mexico we would fly to Bolivia to cross the Uyuni Salt Flats and then drive over the border into Chile. From there the plan was to attempt a series of volcanoes in Chile and Argentina – Llullaillaco, Ojos del Salado and Pissis – before having a go at South America’s highest peak – Aconcagua.
We departed on 3rd November 2014 and returned in time for Christmas. Blogs appear here reflect that journey. It was an experience – a cultural experience, a sensual experience, a learning experience. It was an experience of great joy (summiting Pico de Orizaba and Ojos del Salado) and disappointment (my high altitude cough and failing to reach the summits of Llullaillaco and Aconcagua).
Since then I continued with my project by climbing Mount Damavand in Iran and Elbrus in Russia. “Elbrus?” I hear you say “But you just said that you climbed that in 1996!” Well, yes I did… sort of. On summit day on that trip we reached the saddle between the west and the east tops. At this point our guides told us that we would climb the (lower) east top. Excuses concerning the weather and route finding were given. The weather was not that bad, no worse than what one would experience in a Scottish winter. But others had made the decision for us. It was a decision that had rankled ever since.
In terms of my project, it was necessary for me to reach the (higher) west top. This I achieved on a very windy, extremely cold but clear day in July 2016.
So what was this project? The aim was to climb the highest volcano on each of the seven continents. As far as my researches could tell only ten or so people had ever achieved this aim before me (though I later discovered another person). This blog has details of all of the climbs (other than the first, Kilimanjaro in February 2014, where there is just a brief blog). I achieved my objective in January 2017 with an ascent of Mount Sidley in one of the remotest parts of the world, Marie Byrd Land in Antarctica. So I am the first British man to complete the Volcanic Seven Summits (and possibly the first Briton). There are links to the climbs in the tables below.
A list of those who have climbed all of the Volcanic Seven Summits is here.
I am now considering another challenge. The clue is here.
Happy reading and thanks for visiting. Please leave a comment.
You can find many blogs of various other climbs I have undertaken on this site together with occasional other journeys and musings. The lists below embed some links to these.
List of some of the more memorable mountains climbed
|Mountain||Country||Height||Date of Ascent|
|Ben Nevis||UK- Scotland||1,345m (4,409ft)||25th May 1981|
|Snowdon||UK - Wales||1,085m (3,560ft)||11th September 1982|
|Scafell Pike||UK – England||978m (3,209ft)||28th March 1983|
|Ben Macdui||UK – Scotland||1,309m (4,294ft)||12th March 1988|
|Carn Mor Dearg||UK – Scotland||1,233m (4,012ft)||6th July 1991|
|Humphrey’s Peak||USA – Arizona||3,851m (12,633ft)||12th November 1992|
|Elbrus - east peak||Russia||5,621m (18,442ft)||6th August 1996|
|Wheeler Peak||USA – New Mexico||4,012m (13,161ft )||24th April 2000|
|Mount Elbert||USA – Colorado||4,399m (14,440ft)||28th August 2001|
|Slieve Donard||UK – Northern Ireland||850m (2,789ft)||26th September 2009|
|Mount Sinai||Egypt||2,285m (7,497ft)||30th October 2010|
|Borah Peak||USA – Idaho||3,861m (12,668ft)||4th July 2011|
|Mount Hood||USA – Oregon||3,429m (11,249ft)||7th July 2011|
|The Saddle||UK – Scotland||1,010m (3,310ft)||18th April 2014|
|La Malinche||Mexico||4,461m (14,636ft)||5th November 2014|
|Iztaccihuatl||Mexico||5,230m (17,160ft)||8th November 2014|
|Siete Hermanos||Chile||4,856m (15,931ft)||26th November 2014|
|Jebel Toubkal||Morocco||4,167m (13,671ft)||22nd June 2017|
|Mount Kosciuszko||Australia||2,228m (7,310ft)||18th January 2018|
|Mount Taranaki||New Zealand||2,518m (8,261ft)||30th January 2018|
|Mount Ruapehu||New Zealand||2,797m (9,177ft)||2nd February 2018|
|Pico del Teide||Spain - Tenerife||3,718m (12,198ft)||8th September 2018|
|Volcán Acatenango||Guatemala||3,976m (13.405ft)||13th November 2018|
|Mont Blanc||France/Italy||4,810m (15,780ft)||9th July 2019|
|Cerro Parinacota||Bolivia/Chile||6,342m (20,807ft)||25th July 2022|
|Nevado Sajama||Bolivia||6,542m (21,463ft)||28th July 2022|
|Volcan Cayambe||Ecuador||5,790m (18,996ft)||2nd August 2022|
|Volcan Cotopaxi||Ecuador||5,897m (19,347ft)||5th August 2022|
The, er, bucket list
|Mountain||Country||Height||Date of ascent|
|Mount Rainier||USA||4,392m (14,410ft)||1st August 2013|
|Kilimanjaro||Tanzania||5,895m (19,341ft)||23rd February 2014|
|Mount Giluwe||Papua New Guinea||4,367m (14,327ft)||13th August 2014|
|Pico de Orizaba||Mexico||5,636m (18,491ft)||11th November 2014<|
|Ojos del Salado||Chile/Argentina||6,893m (22,615ft)||3rd December 2014|
|Damavand||Iran||5,611m (18,408ft)||6th August 2015|
|Elbrus - west peak||Russia||5,642m (18,510ft)||24th July 2016|
|Mount Sidley||Antarctica||4,285m (14,058ft)||14th January 2017|
|Volcán Tajamulco||Guatemala||4,220m (13,845ft)||21st November 2018|
|Ağrı Dağı (Mount Ararat)||Turkey||5,137m (16,854ft)||To be attempted.|
|Kinabalu||Malaysia||4095m (13435ft)||To be attempted.|
|Fuji-san||Japan||3,776m (12,388ft)||To be attempted.|
|Mount Etna||Italy||3,323m (10,902ft)||To be attempted.|
|Mount Vesuvius||Italy||1,281m (4,203ft)||To be attempted.|
Oh and finally, an explanation. What is this Clach Liath about? Well they are two Gaelic words (and a bit of a play on words at that). Clach means ‘stone’ and Liath means ‘grey’. An apt description of me perhaps…? There is a fuller climbing resume for me here.