Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

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rolling. After a brief moment he had come to, but had difficulty comprehending what Leonard was saying. Tom reported that his back and ribs were giving him great pain. As he shivered, each violent spasm felt like a pneumatic drill was piercing his spine. Hospital examination later revealed that he had suffered several broken ribs, compressed and chipped vertebrae and a broken hip. He reckoned the steepness of the ground on to which he fell and the subsequent slide, cushioned his impact. He was also lucky to strike heather and not rocks. In a subsequent report, Leonard described the incident in vivid colour. ‘We were climbing the last wall before the summit, on a route we worked out ourselves two years ago. Tom had gone up ahead and belayed — looped our climbing rope round a rock boss. He was out of my sight. Then I started to work along under the overhang separating us. In this position you are leaning back, relying on overhead handholds to keep you from falling. One of my handholds snapped off and I fell backwards. The rope was tight for a second, and then it came slack. As I fell back, I had one thought: he’s come off. Then I saw Tom, as I fell still further back, coming out above me just like a high diver. I fell on to a small flat space and he hurtled over me on to a steep heather slope. We started to slide down, still roped together and I just managed to stop us by digging in.’ Lucky to be alive, Leonard realised that Tom required urgent outside help. He said to Tom, ‘I’ll have to leave you now. Try not to slide and for God’s sake, don’t take off that rope. I’ll be back as quick as I can’. According to Tom, it was now 9.30pm although the incident report prepared by the Lomond team secretary indicated a much earlier time of between 8.00pm and 8.30pm. Leonard made his way down the track to the Forestry Commission lodge by the roadside. Here, he phoned fellow members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) in Glasgow. Notably, he didn’t call the police or mountain rescue. In fact, it seems he may have been unaware of the Lomond team’s existence and thus didn’t know that Ben A’An was located within the team’s patch. It’s important to point out that some months later, a member of the team spoke to the forester whose telephone Leonard used on the night of the accident. He had offered Leonard the Forestry Commission’s own MacInnes stretcher, but Leonard refused, saying he’d make his own arrangements as he wished to avoid publicity. Of further note is that whilst Leonard was making the phone call, the forester made up a flask of tea and some sandwiches to take up to Tom! It is not known if they arrived! Realising they would need a stretcher, the SMC set about locating one. Glasgow police were contacted and an officer then called his counterpart at the Drymen police station, located just a few hundred metres from the team’s base. At this point the Lomond team received a call from someone (no name

Top: At the official ‘opening’ of Tom Weir’s statue, left to right: Jimmie MacGregor, ‘Tom Weir’, Rhona Weir and Cameron McNeish © Paul Sanders Photography. Above: Map section showing the relation between Ben A-An, Drymen and Balmaha © Crown copyright and database rights OS 100050486. Above right: Press clipping from the Glasgow Herald.

given), saying that a man (no name given), had fallen on Ben A’An and asked if the team had a mountain stretcher. The person appeared to have very little knowledge of the incident. The team member who answered the call replied in the affirmative and the person said he would make contact later. He then called off. It later transpired that the person who called the team was a family member of the Drymen police officer. The officer was away at the time and couldn’t take the call from Glasgow. Notably, the team’s committee was in session at its base in Drymen at the time, but given the uncertain nature of the communication, members were unaware of the ongoing incident and didn’t respond. Team members heard nothing else until 11.30pm when a second call was received from the officer on duty at the Drymen police office. He reported that it was Tom Weir who had fallen on Ben A’An and that a senior member of the SMC, Sandy Cousins, was at the station asking if a stretcher could be delivered to him. Sandy Cousins explained to the constable that nine members of the SMC were on the hill with Tom and that no members of the Lomond team were

required, only their stretcher. The team leader, Sandy Seabrook, replied that the team’s stretcher would be made available immediately and that it would be accompanied by two team members — himself and one other. Fifteen minutes later, both members met Sandy Cousins and together they drove to Ben A’An. On arrival they learned that a MacInnes stretcher had already been obtained and was on the hill. Sandy decided to leave the team’s own new stretcher behind and take the remaining kit — first aid, ropes etc. The three men hurried up the hill and, around 1.00am joined the SMC group and Tom Weir at the foot of the climb. At this point, it became clear that the stretcher on the hill, which had been obtained from a local outdoor education centre (Montrose House in Balmaha), was in very poor condition, with broken tubes and missing webbing. Whilst all this was happening, Tom had manoeuvred himself into ‘position of prayer’ which he reported was less painful than lying on his back. But he was still in need of urgent medical care. With help from others he was positioned onto the back of a club

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