Memorial fund to honour climber who died in Alps

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A MEMORIAL fund is to be set up in the name of a Sheffield climber who died at the age of 22 in an accident in the French Alps.

Bursaries will be given to young climbers in memory of student James Brownhill, who is believed to have fallen more than 2,500ft near the resort of Chamonix with climbing partner David Evans, from Liverpool, who also died.

James was a qualified physiotherapist, having just graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University a few days before his death.

His family, father Gary, mother Christine, twin brother Joe and older brother Tom, aged 26, will attend the graduation ceremony, with Joe collecting the degree on James’ behalf.

The funeral is today (Thursday) at 11.45am at Grenoside crematorium, when climbers and other friends from Holland, Norway, France, Germany and other countries are expected.

Gary, an accountant, said: “The many messages of support confirm that people felt he was a positive, forward-thinking, friendly and enthusiastic individual.”

The James Brownhill Memorial Fund is being managed by the Mountain Training Trust to provide bursaries for the type of courses that helped to develop James’ skills.

He had climbed since the age of 17, regularly with Joe and occasionally with Tom.

His interest was sparked by the Scouts, and then by a family trip to Austrian mountains.

A bursary which James benefited from subsidised an Alpine mountaineering course in Chamonix and James climbed in the UK, Europe and South America, developing different and varied styles of climbing.

A trip to Venezuela, while at Tapton School, resulted in James and Joe going to South America in their gap year in 2008 for four months, where they took the chance to scale the volcano Chimborazo, the closest point on earth to the sun.

Since 2007, James had been to Chamonix region each year and summited Mont Blanc twice, last year with Joe.

He was with David Evans, another experienced climber, who had already graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, on a peak known as the Aiguille du Midi when the tragedy happened on July 1.

Reports from the Chamonix and climbers in general highlighted the likelihood that potentially when one of them slipped, the quality of the ice was not strong enough to hold them both and they fell.

James was a keen sportsman. He was a field hockey goalkeeper, again with Joe, and they represented Abbeydale club, Yorkshire and the North of England at under-16 and under-17 levels, which continued through to MMU.

James also skydived and was president of the MMU sky diving club, where he completed more than 50 dives.

Gary, who lives with Christine, a district nurse, and Joe, who has just completed a degree in architecture at Birmingham City University, in Lodge Moor – Tom is an electrician in Bristol – said he had discussed the risks of climbing with James.

“But he enjoyed the climbing and the freedom. Although he was destined for a working life in physiotherapy, he enjoyed developing and testing himself whilst not losing a sense of reality.

“He wanted to be with other climbers, to get to know them and to find out what makes individuals tick.”

Gary added: “The family is extremely grateful for the messages of support and flowers from friends and family of ourselves and James’ friends.

lDonations to the James Brownhill Memorial Fund can be made through the Mountain Training Trust, bank sort code 20-26-20, account number 40732176, with the reference James Brownhill, or send cheques made out to Mountain Training Trust to John Heath funeral directors in Sheffield.