Noel Williams, inspirational high school teacher, author of respected mountain guides, founding member of the Lochaber Geopark, retired member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue and accomplished hill runner, has won this year’s Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture.
Nominated by the public and his peers as a mountain hero who celebrates achievement, accomplishment and the spirit of adventure, Noel Williams, from Torlundy, near Fort William, joins the Fort William Mountain Festival Hall of Fame as the 2019 recipient of The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture in its 12th year. He joins previous esteemed winners that include Cameron McNeish, Dr Adam Watson, Jimmy Marshall, and Myrtle Simpson.
As a well-known and respected member of the Lochaber community, having moved to the area for the climbing in 1974, Noel Williams said: “I feel very lucky to live in such a wonderful part of the country and I’m amazed to be given an award for doing activities I enjoy so much. I’m passionate about helping people appreciate some of the astonishing events that have shaped the local landscape. I hope that, despite the difficult economic climate, Lochaber Geopark will continue to spread this message.”
Rod Pashley, Chairman of The Highland Mountain Culture Association which runs the Fort William Mountain Festival, said: “This Award recognises a lifetime of inspiring others and sharing knowledge and passion for this spectacular area we live in. Noel is quiet and unassuming, hiding his great contribution to mountain culture. We are delighted to be able to recognise Noel’s hard work, dedication and passion by presenting him with this well-deserved Award.”
Kerry McDonald, General Manager of the Liberty British Aluminium Smelter at Fort William, who sponsor the Award, said: “As an employer whose home is at the foot of Scotland’s tallest mountain and right at the heart of the Highlands, we are very proud to be associated with an award which promotes the rich and distinctive culture we enjoy here. Noel has done a huge amount over the years to highlight our unique environment and way of life and we applaud him for his work that richly deserves this special honour.”
Noel Williams has written and edited guide books that have inspired thousands of mountain walkers and climbers. His great knowledge of the mountains, shown in his books, guides and magazine articles, has been garnered through painstaking research and thousands of hours exploring the hills – From author of ‘Scrambles in Lochaber’ (1985) to editor of Highland Scrambles South (SMC 2017). His interest in geology has also reached print, including Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis – co-author (NCC 1989) and Exploring the Landscape of Ben Nevis & Glen Nevis (Nevis Partnership 2016). He’s also contributed photos to a number of different guides.
Noel was a member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue team for many years and for a while was deputy leader. He was involved in some big lowers on the North Face of Ben Nevis, including the first night-time lower on the Orion Face. He retired from the team in 2011.
Noel taught for 10 years at Lochaber High School where he was involved in running the school mountaineering club. Several of his pupils went on to become members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team. He later taught at Kinlochleven High School until his retirement in 2005.
Although he claims to be not much of a runner, Noel Williams has completed 21 Ben Nevis Races, as well as Tranter’s Round and six marathons. He has also completed quite a few new routes on the sea cliffs of Skye.
The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture will be presented to Noel Williams at a special ceremony on 23 February 2019 during the Fort William Mountain Festival 2019, which runs in and around Fort William and Lochaber from 20 to 24 February 2019. The 5th Scottish Youth Ambassador for Mountain Culture will be announced shortly and will also receive their award on 23 February.