Rock climbing tragedy for British climberAugust 10, 2008
Ian Jackson, 19, who fell while abseiling down a rock face near Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc in the French Alps, had described climbing as “my demon and my cure”.
He was halfway through a six week climbing holiday during a gap year and had been due to start university next month.
His friends who witnessed the incident were said to have been devastated and French police believe a technical mistake may have been made as he abseiled down the Les Gaillands rock face.
Ian died while being airlifted to hospital in Geneva by rescue helicopter from the Les Gaillands face, a popular crag for climbers including beginners, at around 4pm on Thursday.
He was an experienced climber and his family think it unlikely he would have made a mistake.
His mother Angela Jackson, 54, said: “I always worried about him when he went climbing but I never stopped him doing his dream. He was always getting hurt.
“He once climbed up Ben Nevis and the friend he was climbing with was falling and Ian’s quick thinking saved his life. Ian hurt himself in the process and ended up with metal pins in his hand.”
In an entry on his MSN internet messaging page, Ian included his favourite saying which was “climbing is my demon and my cure”.
His mother added: “I could never keep him in the house, even when it was raining he would have to go to a climbing wall. I just wish his life could have been longer.”
Ian, from Guisborough, North Yorkshire, was due to take up a geography degree course at Bangor University in September.
He lived with his mother, father David, sisters Sarah, 33, Emma, 26 and brother David, 17. His family run a fish and chip shop business in Guisborough where Ian worked part-time.
His older brother Simon, 30, was flying from his home in Australia to be with the family.
Mrs Jackson said at the family’s large semi-detached house in a quiet cul-de-sac: “I got a phone call on Thursday afternoon from Ian’s friend who he was climbing with who said ‘There has been an accident and it doesn’t look good’.
“Ian was being taken to hospital but, although he fought, he died in the helicopter.”
His sister Sarah said Ian was helping someone else climbing to the top of the rock face when there was a sudden change in the weather and that person turned around and went back down.
She said: “So Ian had to abseil down the rest of the way but something went wrong with one of his ropes and he fell.
“Ian loved to climb, he was going to university in September to Bangor and I am sure he picked it for the mountains around Snowdonia. He was loveable, cheeky and very determined.”
Ian’s father David, 52, told how Ian lived life to the full, loved to travel and had seen some of the most beautiful places in the world.
Mr Jackson said: “We are waiting here to decide what to do, if we can fly over there or if they will fly him back to us. His friends are very shaken and cut-up.”
A police spokesman said Mr Jackson’s two friends had been watching from below at the time.
He said: “They saw their friend falling from the top to the bottom. They could do nothing because when he was falling it was too late.
“When he was abseiling down, one of the guys made a big technical mistake and he fell. When you abseil you must take two ropes and he only took one rope.
“The helicopter came but it was too late. He fell a long way. He had no chance.”
Detailing his climbing interests in an online blog, Ian wrote: “I was a pretty fat kid, didn’t do much other than eat and play computer games.
“Early teens I got into scuba diving, which got me outside, but didn’t do much for exercise. I was introduced to rock-climbing when I was 14 by Chris Woodal.
“Climbing made me way to competitive for scuba diving, and I soon became bored of this expensive hobby, climbing took over when I was 16, after a trip to the Dolomites.
“These last years I’ve lost my belly, and took climbing seriously, finding it a vent from life, and somewhere to push myself competitively, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, some of it good, some of it bad. Climbing is my demon, but it’s also my cure.”
Ian wrote that, like all keen climbers, he was heading to university to study geography “to get closer to the mountains”.
We send our most sincere condolences to Ian’s family and pray that they can take some peace from the fact that Ian died doing what he loved to do.
I would like to thank Paul Stokes of the Telegraph.co.uk who is the author of this story.