Tessa Cousins

Tessa Cousins

The climber who died in an accident on Skye on Tuesday was a fearless explorer who lived life to the full, her family said.

Tessa Cousins was belaying the lead climber on the Cioch Direct route on Sròn na Cìche when a dislodged boulder hit her on the head, fatally injuring her.

Her family today issued a statement, paying tribute to the 56-year-old climber from Cape Town, South Africa.

They said: “Tessa was a fearless explorer and climber from early childhood and loved the outdoors. She loved the earth and the wilderness and learned to farm as a smallholder in Stilbaai as a young woman.

“Tessa was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955, the fourth of five children. She had four children and seven grandchildren who will miss her sorely, as will her four siblings.

“She married Jonty Rubin and then Noel Oettle, both farmers, and then became a rural development worker in Lesotho and Zululand

“In the 1990s she worked for the land rights NGO, AFRA, facilitating community decision-making in KwaZulu-Natal, and helped pioneer the use of participatory rural appraisal methods in South Africa.

“She completed a master’s degree at Wye College in the United Kingdom. She was highly regarded as a trainer and facilitator, and became a Kellogg Foundation Fellow for several years.

“In recent years she contributed to new thinking on land-tenure policy, rural livelihoods and water-resource management, the last while working as director of a small rural development NGO, Award, in Mpumalanga. In all these capacities she was much valued and loved by many people.

“She lived life to the full, delighting in the mountains and in the sea, sharing these passions with her dearly beloved partner Dirk Versfeld.”

Three other climbers injured in the incident are recovering in hospital.

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