A MOUNTAINEERING great-grandmother has won a top gong for scaling new heights.
Mary Dickinson received the medal from fellow climbers for her courageous and exhausting exploits on an expedition in the Alps despite having undergone a knee replacement op and having only been climbing for five years.
Mary, 64, who has two sons, three grandchidren and a great-grandchild, took up mountaineering when most women are slowing down and looking for a more sedate hobby.
Mary said: “I started walking with friends in the Lake District first.
“Then a friend said why not try climbing on the climbing wall first. I thoroughly enjoyed it and moved on from there.
“My children think I am mad but they are very supportive and thrilled to bits at what I have achieved.
She was presented with the award by friends and climbing colleagues after a successful summer climbing holiday in the Swiss Alps.
During the trip she climbed the Allalinhorn, a 4,027m mountain, and made other successful climbs.
Mary, of Widdows Street, Leigh, said: “I was happy enough to get to the top, but it was very special that my friends were so considerate as to give me a medal.
“It should be an unofficial Paralympic medal really, as I have had two knee operations in the last two years, one of them a complete joint replacement.”
The trip was meant as a fitness and training holiday during which Mary wanted to advance her rock climbing standard on crags in the Bernese Oberland and on artificial climbing walls.
After several long acclimatisation walks up to high huts, including the ancient Bergli Hut (3,299m) near the Eiger, she soon improved her glacier travel and ice climbing techniques as well, so was able to attempt the high peaks too.
Mary. a divorcee, now retired after working as office manager for Logan and Son’s in Westhoughton, started climbing only five years ago, but was told she would not be able to continue after the knee replacement. However, hard work and a desire to improve her climbing grade means she is now able to continue her aim of climbing more 4,000m summits, including her dream mountain, the Matterhorn.
She said: “Now I am aiming to complete The Munch – I was 400m from the summit when my knee started playing up – and the Matterhorn.”
Friends have praised her tenacity and courage as well as her boldness in pursuing her climbing aims.
One added: “She not only has the drive to pursue her own aims, but is always available on the rope to help the rest of us push our grades on the indoor walls and on the crags.”