Thursday, 4 March 2010

Guess who's 80 this Year?

As a young Highland lad in the early 70’s climbers were still seen as something of a mystery by Glencoe locals, but one name was very well known. Hamish MacInnes. Without Hamish, Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team would have taken many more years to form and become the extremely well organized and trained rescue service it is to this day, saving many lives through Hamish’s technical and medical initiatives. To this day he has a keen interest and maintains the team’s stretchers with the new MacInnes Mk 7 the mainstay of Scottish rescue evacuation. My climbing role models at that time were either in the rescue team, or working for Glencoe School of Winter Mountaineering as instructors. As a young sixteen year old mad keen on climbing, Hamish took me and another local lad Ronnie Rodgers under his wing. As the youngest, as long as I tagged along on rescues not getting in the way and helping a bit, then odd bits of gear would arrive from “Fishers of Keswick”(pre Nevisport) or Typhoo’s (Tiso’s), ordered for me by Hamish to encourage me for my labours.
I am not sure emulating these masters was safe, as copying Nicholson’s soloing was fraught with risk and I did end up needing rescued with friends myself from the North Face of Aonach Dubh in winter at sixteen. Hamish and Walter Elliot led the rescue and got us to safety. Hamish always had a word of caution or advice for us local lads and despite needing rescued because of inexperience, it was, and is not his nature to pass judgment.

Rescue Twisting Gully 1979
Someone told me one time that I should “carry a camera - as one day it will carry you”. Good advice that took me many years to action. If I had a camera in my early climbing and rescue years, one picture I wish I had taken was that of Hamish in Glen Etive beside an abandoned min-van. We had gallon cans of beans in our old WW2 rescue truck as sustenance, and lacking a plate and spoon there he was sitting on a rock beside the river with his iconic cap on, eating cold beans out of a mini headlight glass with a big dirty channel peg. That image will always stay locked into my brain as the epitome of a hard man climber picture. Yet behind that picture is a gentleman. Another picture I would love to have taken was in his house with a gathering of many very well known climbers, with Hamish dishing out his potent Birch Bark home made wine from gallon flagons. The later devastation flopped around the room paralyzed from too much intake, some adorned with African masks and other things on the nether parts from his expeditions would have been hilarious.

Hamish is a tough customer. Cold doesn’t seem to bother him and he has always been immensely strong. This strength at the end of an axe has produced many classic winter routes, not least of which are Agags and Ravens with a youthful Bonnington. I meet Hamish often, out for his daily walk or in the local coffee shop for a daily tea and scone. If the picture of him eating beans out a headlight will also be locked into my minds eye forever, so will be the esteem shown to him from all the greats in world mountaineering. Sitting chewing the fat for a few hours about fishing, films and mountains with Hamish, Yvon Chounard, Cubby and Jimmy Marshal last year I remember as so typical of Hamish’s broad range of interests and friends, and a man unique in his contribution to world mountaineering and mountain rescue.

Left to right 1975.  Wull Thompson - Willie Elliot - Sandy Whellans - Jeff Arkless

1 comment:

  1. Great post, I enjoyed reading that a lot! Happy birthday to Mr MacInnes.