Ron James MBE 1933-2023
- Monday 6th March 2023
It is with great sadness that the family of Ron James, MBE, announced his passing on March 1st 2023 at the age of 90. He passed away peacefully, at home, surrounded by his closest family, Ginny, Andrew and Isobel.
Ron devoted his life to climbing and his family. His path crossed many lives and lifestyles, but they were all outdoor and adventure orientated. Many climbers, cyclists, walkers, golfers, students at IM Marsh, and British Mountain Guides owe thanks to Ron for those moments with him. He was a passionate teacher, instilling a belt and braces approach to safe practice in the mountains and on the crags. Many climbers, Guides and Instructors still pass on these practices today, which is a wonderful legacy.
Ron was an incredibly active rock climber with many first ascents of some of North Wales's finest rock climbs to his credit; Lavaredo (VS 5a) on Carreg Alltrem n 1961, Asahel (HS 4a) on Craig y Clipiau in 1955, Mean Feat (HVS 5a) on Craig y Clipiau in 1957, Grey Arete (HVS 5a) on Glyder Fawr in 1959, Bochlwyd Eliminate (HVS 5a) on Clogwyn Bochlwyd in 1962 and Meshach (HVS 5a) at Bwlch y Moch in 1962, are all classics of Wales.
Two of Ron's other classic routes, The Plum (E1 5b) and Lightning Visit (VS 4c) give a good story in Ginny's words:
The Plum Bwlch y Moch
One evening in December 1961 standing with Joe Brown on the road at Tremadog Joe glanced up at Craig Bwlch y Moch and said there is one more plum to be picked. Ron saw where he was looking. Early the next morning Ron and Dave Yates scrambled up to the crag and looked at the vegetated rib right of Christmas Curry. Exploring the base of the vegetation they discovered it had been cut. They successfully ripped down the ivy and exposed a great rib of rock which they climbed and named The Plum.
Lightning Visit Carreg Alltrem
Ron and Trevor Jones (C.T. Jones) went one evening in June 1959 and climbed a new route and named it Lightning Visit as that was all they had time for.
Ron's influence especially with the Rockface TV series in 1974 and the three editions of Rock Climbing in Wales guidebook have inspired many climbers in their early climbing days and is still a bible to many climbers today.
Ron also wrote the Alpine Club guidebook to the Dolomites in 1988, updated in 2005 with a very comprehensive guide. The Dolomites were one of Ron's favourite places to climb and ski.
Ogwen Cottage was bought and developed by Ron and two friends in 1959. Thousands of youngsters have passed through the doors of this world-class outdoor centre, many to move on to great climbing adventures or careers in the outdoors. It became the base for mountain rescue in the Ogwen valley in the early sixties, pioneering rescue techniques for stuck climbers.
In 1959 Ron became the third BMC Rock Climbing Guide in Wales. Between 1996 and 1999 he was President of the British Association of Mountain Guides and was also the BMG treasurer between 2001 – 2004. He became an Honoured Guide in 2004, recognising his major contributions to the BMG. In 2009 his contribution was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to British Mountaineering with a Member of Order of the British Empire medal.
Ron met two young climbers in Calpe at Christmas 1990. They were hitching to a crag, any crag. Ron and Ginny took these climbers under their wing, showed them great crags, gave them lifts every day, fed them, bought them beers, and celebrated birthdays together. It slowly emerged to these young lads that Ron was a legend. He was a Guide, he had written guidebooks, he was not so young, but still pulled hard and showed grace in resting when the alternative of a fall might hurt. He was wise, super safe, belt and braces safe you might say, but safe. On Christmas day that year, Ron, Ginny one of these young lads climbed El Dorado 1 on the sea cliffs of Toix, Calpe. It was a route on Ron's tick list, but a little out of his sharp-end grade. It was my absolute pleasure to share this climb with Ron and Ginny. Many more climbing adventures in Spain and Wales were to follow, our friendship remaining strong.
Ron will be remembered as a truly great man. His enthusiasm for mountains and climbing was infectious. His approach to safety was second to none. He will be greatly missed.
The funeral service will be held at Colwyn Bay Crematorium at 10.15am on Wednesday 15th March, followed by a get-together at Maesdu Golf Club.
Rest in Peace Ron.