Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

Right: Hamish making kit adjustments on the 1975 British Everest Expedition © Chris Bonington Picture Library.

sheer force of will, he dragged the memories to the surface and forced them to form a coherent memory. It was certainly impressive. It was January 1961, Buchaille Etive Mor and three climbers had fallen from Crowberry Gully. Conditions at the time were less than ideal, a previous frost left a hard under-layer that the subsequent snow fall had failed to properly bond to. The lead climber, Robert Gow, was avalanched and swept off route, pulling his partners David Tod and Neil Keith from their stance. The three climbers fell more than 1,000 feet, Robert Gow was dead. Neil and David managed to self- evacuate and raise the alarm. Hamish recounts such events with a quiet assurance, even dark humour. Death is something that is all too familiar and he had a fair share of his own close encounters. In 1951, just 21 at the time, Hamish decided to solo the Charmoz-Grépon Traverse. Whilst all too aware he was pushing the envelope, the exuberance of youth could not be held back. He’d already soloed the Matterhorn’s Hornli Ridge at 18, and made a repeat ascent of Herman Buhl’s winter route on the Predigstuhl in the Kaiser mountains. And a chance meeting with French guide Lionel Terray in Snell’s Field gave Hamish the opportunity to follow Terray and his client up the route. It was clearly too good an opportunity to miss. Hamish remembers well the ‘sheer magic of the great face, walls and towers’. Even 68 years later the experience is as vividly recalled as ever. The climb progressed without fault, on the Mummery Crack Terray watched with interest as the exuberant youth tackled the bold moves. Fear and self-doubt figures little in his recollections, yet looking back to the day Hamish is all too aware of the real reason Terray perhaps wanted him close at hand. Maybe it is ‘preferable to be able to keep an eye on someone, who you know is determined on a course of rash action than to pick up the bits’. Hamish was lucky. Content with the day he began the abseil behind Terray. Yet suddenly Hamish found himself falling through space, out and away from the slung rock bollard. He hit the ledge 40 feet below; the sling had failed, corroded by UV light. His legs had doubled up beneath him, crumpling upon impact. His head was bleeding and he could barely see from the pain. The 600 feet down to the glacier lay to one side. Terray was indeed there to pick up the bits, along with aspirant Raymond Lambert who was climbing nearby on the Grepon.

on the wildest of faces yet not remembering being there. Watching Hamish now re-call the books he read to return his mind to where it is today, it is clear that his relationship with danger and rescue is still as pragmatic as ever. I ask whether rescues were some of the first and most arresting memories to come back. Here Hamish paused again. ‘There’s one on the Buachaille,’ he said before pausing to reflect. ‘I’m trying to sort this in my mind.’ He went to answer suddenly, but caught himself. It was clear the memory wasn’t fully formed in his mind and he had little interest in recounting false information to me. The room fell silent. Hamish’s eyes were fixed on Meall Mòr framed outside his window. He was thinking hard. Maintaining such ordered thinking is

chosen angles and materials. At every turn was the possibility of reinventing what an ice axe could be and the detail with which Hamish produced and refined his designs drove ‘70s winter climbing standards higher. Even now, at the age of 88, his Mk8 MacInnes stretcher — first designed in the early 1960s — is due to be delivered directly to his house for him to review and approve the final model ahead of field testing. Hamish took a step away from the direct design years ago, but the Mk8 is exemplary of modern day innovation, utilising the high grade composites found in the aeronautical sector. Hamish is clearly proud. The fact his original designs still hold up to modern day standards, even as materials have become positively space-age, is a marker of how his meticulous mind has produced lasting designs. Sat across from him now I could see that mind at work. Older, worn and worse for wear, but still unwilling to compromise. It was clear he would not be rushed. I thought at first I might have found a gap in his memory, and I began to wonder how far might I let this silence extend out before I changed the subject. Hamish needed nothing of the sort though. His mind began to fire as he isolated the memory he was after, ‘ah yes, I’ve got it now’. True to form, perhaps from

He went to answer suddenly, but caught himself. It was clear that the memory wasn’t fully formed in his mind.

well documented in Hamish. His engineering background has pushed many innovations that revolutionised safety. The Terror — the first all metal ice axe designed in 1970 — was founded on the principle of precisely



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