Highlands & Islands

Boy, 8, youngest to climb Old Man of Hoy

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Media caption'I climbed this sea stack for my mum'

An eight-year old boy from Caithness in the Highlands has become the youngest person to climb the Old Man of Hoy sea stack off the coast of Orkney.

Edward Mills, who lives in Dunnet, set himself the challenge to raise money for the charity Climbers Against Cancer.

His mum, Bekki Christian, has terminal breast cancer.

Edward described the trip to the top of the 450ft (140m) column of rock as "quite scary".

'Hidden box'

He told BBC Scotland his mum had taken a ferry to see him during the climb, which then sounded its horn when he reached the peak.

He described finding a box and small book at the end of his climb. He said: "There was a hidden box up on the top and I had a metal card which said 'Mum's gift to Climbers Against Cancer', which I put into the box and I wrote a story in the book.

"I said I climbed this sea stack for my mum and I raised money for Climbers Against Cancer.

"I hope other people will read this book and think of their own ideas about what they might say."

Image copyright Alex Shaw Photography
Image caption Edward Mills tackled the ascent on Friday afternoon
Image copyright Ben West
Image caption Edward Mills tackled the ascent on Friday afternoon
Image copyright NATHAN MILLS

Edward said he started climbing when he was about two years old. He said his mum Bekki was very proud of him.

She told the BBC Scotland news website: "He's done it. He climbed every move himself."

He completed the ascent on Friday afternoon, with his coaches Ben West and Cailean Harker.

Scaled the landmark

The record was previously held by 10-year-old Ollie Buckle, from Flax Bourton, near Bristol.

Prior to that, renowned British climber Leo Houlding scaled the landmark when he was 11.

Edward and his team began their climb at midday and reached the top at 16:55.

His JustGiving page called, Edward vs The Old Man of Hoy, has had donations totalling more than £11,000.

His dad Nathan Mills posted an update on the page which said: "He did it. He is absolutely delighted.

Image copyright Bekki Christian
Image caption Edward set himself the challenge to raise money for Climbers Against Cancer as his mother Bekki has terminal breast cancer

"The hardest thing he has ever done, he said. He was anxious this morning but overcame it to make it all the way to the top."

The eight-year-old made it to the group finals of the British Mountaineering Council's Youth Climbing Series last year - the first time he had entered.

This year he earned a place on the Scotland youth climbing team.

His family said Orkney was a special place for them, having holidayed there many times.

On the fundraising page, his dad said he hoped Edward, and his older brother George's, love of climbing, and the "amazing community" they had become part of through the sport, would help them deal with the "incredibly difficult time" they were facing as a result of their mum's cancer.

What is the Old Man of Hoy?

Image copyright Getty Images

The Old Man of Hoy is one of Orkney's most famous landmarks.

The 450ft (140m) sea stack is formed of old red sandstone and stands close to Rackwick Bay on the west coast of the island of Hoy.

It is one of the UK's tallest sea stacks and can be seen from the Scrabster to Stromness ferry.

It is popular with climbers and was first climbed by the UK's most famous mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington in 1966.

He and colleague Tom Patey returned the following year and were part of the famous three-night live TV broadcast, The Great Climb.

It was one of the most audacious BBC outside broadcasts ever undertaken. About 15 million people watched as the climbers ascended the spectacular stack.

Sixteen tons of equipment were ferried 450 miles from the Firth of Clyde to Hoy in army landing craft to allow the programme to be filmed and broadcast live.

In 2014, Sir Chris marked his 80th birthday by returning to Orkney to climb the Old Man of Hoy 48 years after his first ascent.

Last July, German adventurer Alexander Schulz become the first person to walk to and from the summit of the Old Man of Hoy on a high wire.

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