James’ passion for wild places and ‘getting high’ stemmed from several family hill-walks in Wales and Scotland where he remembers surviving midges, rain and being dragged uphill in unsuitable footwear. Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh’s Award camping trips followed and pretty soon it was off to Oxford University (Balliol College) and further-flung expeditions to places like Svalbard. An unlikely ascent of Kilimanjaro followed by Aconcagua seamlessly ‘morphed’ into his quest to climb the seven summits.
James’ day time job has always been forestry. A Chartered Forester with a keen interest in trees, woods and forests, he has worked for the Forestry Commission for 35 years in many roles, including managing England’s largest upland and lowland forests and overseeing grants and regulations in Scotland. He spent two years with the Lesotho woodlot project in southern Africa. Currently he heads up social & planning policy for Forestry Commission Scotland, managing a team of advisors dealing with planning, communities, access, recreation, health, learning and skills. As the owner of small woodland he knows the hands-on challenges – and priceless rewards – of looking after trees.
James’ other books include Heritage Trees of Scotland (a celebration of Scotland’s amazing trees); Staring Down on Stars (an account of his Everest ascent); and Adventure Holidays Worldwide (dedicated to his late Uncle James who died in a climbing accident on the Matterhorn whilst an undergraduate at Balliol College).
After finishing the seven summits James is consoling himself by completing Scotland’s Munros (282 mountains over 3,000ft high) with hill-loving friends. Only 40 to go now (but who’s counting!).