Itching to Climb

Mountaineer Explorer Pilot

Author: Barbara James

Series title:

Paperback publication date: 14 Jul 2014

Paperback ISBN: 9781898573913

Itching to Climb tells the story of Barbara James's undaunting spirit in the face of adversities, of a life spent facing challenges head on, with a singleminded determination to achieve despite the difficulties that life had laid in her way. This is a story of encouragement and hope for anyone who suffers with eczema, or any similar condition.

Inherited eczema and allergies made Barbara James different from her classmates, something she did not like. She was lucky. The severity of her eczema had lessened when her teacher introduced her to the Snowdonia hills. In 1964 she became a full time mountaineering instructor and mountain rescue first aider in Capel Curig at a time when there were few females instructing or leading difficult rock routes. Divorced in 1976 and with a mortgage to pay, Barbara needed a job, and became the first and possibly the only woman civilian to be employed by MOD to train soldiers. At the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion in Folkestone she learned another language, new codes of behaviour, and to lead expeditions. After early retirement, Barbara took her first holiday in 11 years. She was probably the second person to go, unaccompanied, to the magical Falkland Islands soon after the conflict. Alone she walked up Tumbledown, communed with wild life and was told that "Anyone can learn to fly". So on return, her 50th birthday present to herself was to get a Private Pilot's Licence. A year later she flew a Cessna 40 hours solo around Florida. But nothing Barbara had done was as challenging as surviving, alone, the furiously tourist evenings in Tenerife's Playa de Las Americas. Only the magical El Teide National Park and the genuine, spontaneous kindness of the Canarians ensured her return. She rented an apartment in Adeje village and the locals' initial suspicious looks soon disappeared. Itching to Climb tells the story of one woman's undaunting spirit in the face of adversities, of a life spent facing challenges head on, with a singleminded determination to achieve despite the difficulties that life had laid in her way. This is a story of encouragement and hope for anyone who suffers with eczema, or any similar debilitating condition.

Barbara James grew up in Willaston, Wirral where her parents enjoyed gardening and golf. They were surprised that her introduction to the Snowdonia hills led her to a life of climbing, travelling and exploring. As a young woman in the 1960s, her second-hand 90cc scooter would frequently break down, until one day she could afford a minivan. She worked as a mountaineering instructor in the then all male environment, where an introduction to Ron James led not only to a demolition of her sheltered innocence but also to the discovery and enjoyment of many first ascents of 500-metre Grade V & VI rock climbs in the Dolomites with Ron. Joining the MOD, with the infantry, Barbara had a new language to learn - DAOR (Discharge As Of Right). The one-week courses were Theory of Weapons, and to learn more about the subject she became competent firing the 7.62mm self-loading rifle, and Deployment, when she was driven through Checkpoint Charlie before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since retirement, Barbara has travelled extensively, spending Christmas in the Falklands shortly after the conflict, and later, after training to become a pilot, flying solo around Florida in a Cessna. She lives in North Wales and Itching to Climb, first published in 2009, is her first book.

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