Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

campaigner for the protection of the Scottish environment this became a thread he wove through his articles and TV programmes. Throughout his life he was praised and celebrated by many and received numerous awards including an MBE in 1976. In 2000 he was awarded the inaugural John Muir Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his environmental work. He was an office bearer of several national bodies including the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Scottish Rights of Way Society. From 1984–1986, he was President of the Scottish Mountaineering Club. I had the good fortune to meet him one summer day in 1986. He was taking a stroll up the Cobbler just west of Loch Lomond in the Central Highlands with his two pals, one of whom was celebrating his 73rd birthday. I was with a couple of students heading up to climb one of the classic routes, Right Angled Gully. We met a few times on the ascent (more of which later) and I met Tom later in the day as I scrabbled out of the gully onto the summit of the north peak. To my surprise, Tom was sitting on a small rock about ten feet away. He started chatting and for some fifteen minutes or so we had an enjoyable discussion on mountain matters. He was extremely interested in my climbing gear and our climbing interests. In a subsequent issue of The Scots Magazine , Tom referred to our meeting, commenting on how climbing had changed over the years. ‘Leaving them to their sport I couldn’t help reflecting on the difference in attitude between theirs and mine. Armed with gear and guided by a trained leader they were engaged in rock sport, a form of athletics shown now as television entertainment. They are men who train on indoor climbing walls to attain world champion boxer fitness. Well, it’s all very wonderful in a way, but does it make sense? Not to me, I’m afraid.’ Tom remained an active Scottish mountaineer all his life, but a serious incident in 1970 could easily have halted what was already a rich and celebrated career. In June of that year, Tom and his pal Leonard Lovat (then Deputy Procurator Fiscal for Glasgow Sheriff Court), were climbing on the small peak Ben A’An. Only 454 metres in height, it is exceedingly popular with walkers. Located at the heart of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park it boasts stunning views west along the length of Loch Katrine. From a distance it gives the impression of being a distinct peak although it simply marks the end of a ridge leading north to higher ground. That doesn’t matter since the short one kilometre path to the summit is a pleasant hike for tourists and walkers alike. Additionally, the rock bands are a superb playground for climbers interested in straightforward challenges, but nothing too serious. The route Tom and Leonard were climbing (The Last 80), takes a straight line up the final rock band just below the summit. The two men had ‘opened up’ the route just two years previously. Graded only ‘severe’, it’s a classic climb on vertical mica schist. Tom recounted that it was his first real rock climb

since he climbed the Cioch of Applecross with Tom Patey three weeks previously. Tragically, Tom Patey fell to his death just a few days after their climb. At the time of Tom Weir’s accident it was a clear, fresh evening with a fresh breeze. Tom mentioned that he felt in good form and climbed more easily than the first ascent. He had completed the route and was preparing to belay to a small spike at the top using a ‘short sling of No 2 rope’. In the process, his attention was diverted to a peregrine falcon resting on a nearby ledge. Keen for a better view, he attempted to move closer but in the process dislodged the sling which dropped to the bottom of the route. He was then forced to

is minute and you anchor yourself to a rock spike hardly bigger than the thickness of the rope. You wouldn’t use it unless you had a companion whose competence was beyond question.’ The start of the route involves negotiating a three-metre overhang using good handholds. Leonard started climbing and was almost above the overhang when a handhold failed. His weight came onto the rope and he fell backwards to the ground. At this point, the load transferred to Tom’s rope, his belay gave way and he was catapulted through the air to the bottom of the crag falling about 30 metres. Having hit the ground with some force, he rolled a

Top: Right angled gully. Route starts from the grass at centre picture, up and out of sight between the buttresses © Bob Sharp. Above: Sandy Seabrook with Tom’s statue © Bob Sharp. Right: Tom (left) presenting Sandy with a painting to mark his 25 years as Lomond team leader © Graham Baird.

fashion another belay using the hawser-laid climbing rope. Given the curvature of the rock spike, this turned out to be less than satisfactory. Indeed, in his subsequent account of the incident Tom said that ‘unfortunately, the best belay position above the crucial section is not too good. The ledge

further 20 metres down steep heather-clad ground. It was fortuitous that Leonard managed to arrest his fall with a tight rope else Tom would have slid over the drop beneath. Leonard descended quickly and secured him with the rope. He found Tom unconscious and his eyes

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