AN “inspirational” outdoor adventure expert has died while on a climbing holiday in Germany.
James Howell, 34, was the director of social enterprise My Adventure, which is the trading arm of the Muirhouse Youth Development Group (MYDG).
He was very good, very passionate about the harder-to-reach groups. He just knew that the outdoors are a fantastic resource.Phil Briggs
His colleagues and friends are awaiting more news about the exact circumstances of his death, but it is believed he and several friends had been descending a mountain when they got into difficulty in bad weather.
One of his fellow climbers is in a serious condition in hospital.
The News understands that Mr Howell’s family were contacted by German authorities at the weekend, who delivered the tragic news.
Mr Howell, who had more than 15 years’ experience in outdoor education and adventure activities in the UK, Africa and Asia, had been a driving force in helping to refurbish the Towford Outdoor Centre in the Borders to provide an activity base for youths and other groups.
The project had benefited from a number of donations, including a £3000 grant from the Mikaeel Kular Memorial Fund to create a garden in the tot’s memory.
Mr Howell worked at the Venture Trust, which provides programmes to help people have a better future, for a year before leaving to work on a project in Nepal, later returning to the Capital to work for MYDG.
Phil Briggs, head of operations at Edinburgh-based Venture Trust, said: “He was very good, very passionate about the harder-to-reach groups. He just knew that the outdoors are a fantastic resource.”
Mr Briggs said that he had recently met up with Mr Howell for the first time since he returned from Nepal.
“It’s a real shock,” he added. “He was a great lad, a smashing guy. It’s a tragic loss.”
Roy Douglas, chairman of Muirhouse Salvesen community council, described Mr Howell – who had studied outdoor education at Edinburgh University – as “inspirational”.
He said: “We at the community council give our condolences to the family.
“He was very outdoorsy and loved life. I know that the MYBG group will miss him, and the youngsters within the community that have worked with him.
“It was at a pinnacle point where they were doing well and engaging with young people, especially marginalised young men.”
Local councillor Cammy Day said: “It’s unbelievable. I have met him a number of times. My first business call of the new year was from the MYDG office to say he had died. It’s devastating. He was a brilliant worker and will be missed.”
MYDG’s board issued a brief statement which said: “Over the weekend James was involved in a tragic accident and passed away.
“At this time we don’t know the full details and we want to provide his family and the MYA team with some time to get their head round it.”