The Jonathan Lee Fund
Jonathan Stephen Lee (1946-2023) enabled many people to do wonderful and extraordinary things. He was a schoolteacher, and his achievements in that field alone are special enough.
But it was in both Adventure Training and especially as originator and leader of expeditions that he was truly unique.
He started conventionally enough, leading Adventure Training at Oundle School in the early 1970s with the usual camping and walking trips to the British hills. Even then, there were glimpses of how he would enable such special things in the future.
Right from the start, Jonathan inspired people to do things beyond what they thought possible, and he did this in part by example- sharing his knowledge, demonstrating meticulous planning and being prepared to take calculated risks. But above all, he trusted young people. He delegated to junior people the power to do important jobs where failure would have real consequences.
Jonathan dreamt up and successfully led expeditions with young people to the Ecuadorian Andes, Afghanistan, Ladakh, Tirich Mir, the Alps, and China. All these with young people he had started teaching about the mountains and inspiring them to dream dreams.
Scotland was always a special place for Jonathan. He went to the Scottish mountains as a child and it became a lifelong love affair.
The young people he led to Scotland did things that normally only seasoned mountaineers manage- winter ascents, snow-holing, remote camps, multi-day trips, the Cuillin traverse, and at the same time, learning respect both for the Scottish weather and the Scottish midge. He joined the select band of mountaineers who have climbed every Munro.
Some people were lucky enough to participate in other extraordinary escapades Jonathan dreamt up, such as scrambling up the Corrieshalloch Gorge to the Falls Of Measach, cycling down the Nile, or motorbiking around Brittany and Northern India.
Of course, things went wrong at times, and Jonathan’s temper with inanimate objects was legendary, but before too long, everyone was laughing until they cried.
In later years, Jonathan continued with his love of mountains, learning to ski and taking second generations of his once-young people on trips to wild places.
There are deep and lifelong friendships between dozens of people whom Jonathan inspired and who still meet regularly. One such group is named after one of Jonathan’s favourite places in Glencoe, Scotland: the Lost Valley Mountaineering Association (LVMA).
When we heard about Jonathan’s sudden and tragic death, a group of us in the LVMA wanted to create a memorial that would continue something of Jonathan Lee. This fund, to enable young people who might not otherwise have the chance to experience climbing and adventure that might inspire them in the way Jonathan inspired us, seems a fitting memorial to our dear friend. There are many excellent charities that do exactly this work, and it seems much better to support one of these rather than to invent our own. We were delighted to find Urban Uprising, who have a UK-wide reach but with special emphasis on Jonathan’s beloved Scotland. The ethos of “Elevating and inspiring young people through climbing” seems to contain some essence of Jonathan Lee.