By Dan Coles
A nine-year-old rock climber is putting professional climbers to shame – after scaling some of the UK’s most dangerous rock faces to raise money in memory of his mum.
Edward Mills, from Caithness, Scotland, is the youngest person to have ever scaled the Old Man of Hoy – a 450ft sea stack off the north coast of Scotland -leaving experienced adult climbers slack-jawed.
And incredible Edward has used his unusual hobby to raise almost £50,000 for charity – in memory of his mum who passed away in August 2018.
His mum Bekki passed away after a battle with breast cancer, but used to love watching her son climb – and made him promise he would never stop reaching for the stars.
The brave schoolboy has vowed not to break his promise to his mum – and is always looking for the next record to set with his dad Nathan, 46.
Edward said: “My mum was so proud of me when I started climbing, and I wanted to impress her, I wanted to be the boy that took challenges on and finished them.
“I reckon if she could see me now, she would hug me so tight I probably wouldn’t be able to breathe, that’s how happy she would be for me.”
“I climb with my dad a lot, we often just go outside and find rocks to climb just for fun – we also do competitions and climb at a mixture of different clubs.
“It felt amazing when we made it to the top of the Man of Hoy, we had planned it for years and my mum got a ferry to watch me do it.
“I love climbing, it feels free, and there’s no better feeling than getting to the top of a difficult climb.”
Edward first started climbing aged two, when his dad took him to an indoor climbing centre, and now climbs every weekend at an array of different places including Mid Clyth, Railay Beach, Toridon, Dunnet, Dartmoor and Latheron.
Bekki was a very outdoorsy person, who loved to be outside around nature, during different holidays they would see him climbing different walls for fun, which is where his rock climbing interest started.
Nathan said: “I’m so proud of Edward, the passion he shows for what he does is so wonderful to watch.
“The fact that he has raised over £40,000 for a charity that is so close to our hearts is a really beautiful thing, and I know his mum would be so proud of him.
“His commitment and enthusiasm is really wonderful to see, I hope that he does maintain his passion for climbing and that spark of desire to beat whatever challenge the next climb stays with him.
“Climbing really has been his passion and his life from those early days when we saw him up on the rocks on the beach on holiday, or up a tree to now where he is learning skills and techniques, the technical aspects I didn’t even know existed.
“His mum was suffering with breast cancer from as early as he can remember, and he knew that she liked how much of a challenger he was.
“Bekki was delighted with Edwards enthusiasm and his aptitude to climbing. She loved the outdoors and was very keen that we all did the same and Edwards climbing formed part of that.
“Although not a climber herself she tried to learn as much as she could to help and encourage him in every way she could.
Edwards mum, Bekki, was able to watch Edward climb the world-famous Man Of Hoy, part of the Orkney archipelago off the north coast of
Scotland. The threateningly large boulder is renown amongst climbers and forms part of the list of notable climbs to be done by any climber.
Bekki caught a ferry that sailed passed the rock as he was climbing, and then again when he made it to the top. The climb Edward completed took 5 hours and is only recommended for experienced climbers.
Edward said: “When we first went years ago to a climbing arena, they said I wasn’t very good at it so I wouldn’t be able to, so we just went to a different place and I kept practising.
“I’m definitely not afraid of heights, I only get a little scared if my foot slips when I’m up high, but not fully, because I have done lots of training.
“I want to continue to be a person that isn’t scared to try, that’s what my mum wanted for me, and it’s something I will continue to do.
“It’s also something me and my dad enjoy doing together, we climb all the time.”
Nathan added: “Enabling Edward to pursue his passion for climbing just makes it all worthwhile for me, it’s what parents do for their children. Its great exercise, both physically and mentally, it instils confidence and a sense of achievement.
Climbers against Cancer is the charity that Edward has raised over £40,000 for.
A Spokesperson for Climbers against Cancer said: “Climbers against Cancer was founded by John Ellison in 2012, when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. John was a climber and a climbing judge.
“His exposure to the sport made him very aware of the amazing support and power of the climbing community around him.
“CAC quickly became the adopted charity of the climbing world and is the official charity of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC).
“Edward Mills, at just 8 years old, is to date, our largest individual fundraiser with a total currently standing at £41,032.24 with gift aid and it is still rising.
“His sponsored climb of Orkney’s Old Man of Hoy was followed by thousands of people all around the world and he went on to win the Pride of Britain fundraiser of the year award.”