Mountaineer's parents grieve for children's loss

Jackie Kemp
Sunday 20 August 1995 23:02
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JACKIE KEMP

Katie Ballard - Alison Hargreaves's four-year-old daughter - still does not know that her mother died climbing K2, the world's most dangerous mountain, her grieving grandparents said yesterday.

Joyce and John Hargreaves broke down in tears at the news conference organised by their son-in-law, Jim Ballard, at a ski centre 700 metres up Aonach Mr in the shadow of Ben Nevis in the Highlands yesterday.

The couple who travelled from Derbyshire to be with their grandchildren were told that their 33-year-old daughter had finally been confirmed dead this weekend. "Katie just thinks she is lost, she doesn't know her mummy is dead," Mr Hargreaves said. The grandparents admitted that they do not wish Katie and Tom, six, to travel to see the peak where their mother died.

Jim Ballard has said that he intends to take the children as soon as possible to see "their mother's last mountain". He plans to take them perhaps as high as 5,000 metres up the 9,400m mountain.

Mr Hargreaves said: "We personally think it's too soon. But if Jim says he wishes to take them we won't say they can't go."

"We are agreeing to differ on that," Mrs Hargreaves said. "We would rather they waited until they are much older."

John Hargreaves, weeping amid a crowd of journalists, said: "I lost my own mother at the age of five and from personal experience I can say that it's not until you are older that you feel 'I wish I could have known my mother'".

He added that he was "very proud" of his intrepid daughter and that neither he or his wife had ever tried to dissuade her from her exploits.

Jim Ballard, weary but still keeping up a brave face, tried to persuade a clinging Katie, whose green eyes are a vivid reminder of her mother, to smile and show her face to the camera.

He defended his wife vigorously against claims in yesterday's papers that experts in Pakistan had called her decision to attempt the summit "suicidal".

"Nobody can say that, even an expert climber can't say that. If the bad weather had held off for just one hour longer, she would almost certainly have made it back to Base Camp.

"I can't believe that my wife, a little woman and a mother of two, managed to drag six other mountaineers up to the top if conditions were bad. Three of them were Spanish and the only Spanish she spoke was 'paella'".

Mr Ballard was distressed by reports he had received from Pakistan that media agents were offering locals "seven-figure sums in dollars" to go up the mountain and retrieve Alison's personal effects, including her diary. "I don't think that is the sort of thing that should be done to someone who's dead, he said."

He had also been distressed by an unsigned hate letter with an Aberdeen postmark which he had received amongst the dozens from people offering commiserations.

Obituary, page 14

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