I was in North Wales on 29 July 1980 I had seen plenty of tragedy in the mountains and learned much of the effect that personal loss brings when we lost one of our own Mick Hernon in the Apls. Mick was a great pal and on 29 July 1980 was killed whilst descending the Pic Badile after ascending the West Face. Mick was a well-loved man by the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and joined as a member of the Stafford Mountain Rescue Team. Mick was at RAF Valley in North Wales when he was killed in the Alps and climbed with us often. I had just taken over as Full Time Deputy Team Leader at RAF Valley when we received the news. It was a tragic day for us all Mick left a young wife and two young children who were with him in the camp site in the Alps when the news came of his accident .
This was one of my first times I had lost personally a close pal in the hills and Mick’s family were with him on a RAFMA Meet where Mick training for a magor Himalayan Expedition. It was a sad time made worse as Mick had limited Insurance for an accident in the mountains at the time and we had to pull a few strings to get Mick home.
I met Mick on my MLC ( Mountain Leadership Certificate) in Llanryst in North Wales and we partnered up. We had some fun he was an incredible mountaineer even then it was November and we had snow. I will never forget our steep ground assessment on the “Parsons Nose” complete with snow and then the camping phase and run along Crib Goch. After that we became big pals and as he progressed to one of the best climbers in Wales we met many of the top climbers of the day at the climbing Walls where Mick would at times climb with a heavy sack to improve his skills. He came winter climbing with us in these days we got a winter in Wales and we did some of the big routes of the day then in Wales. We did some good stuff on the Black Ladders/ Ogwen and Llanberris some of the best ice climbs at the time. He was often at our local crag Gogarth where he and Stan Owen were on the big routes regularly after a days work. It was all go we all climbed and he was making a big name for himself in his unassuming way. He only joined the team at Valley for a short time as he had a young family and wanted to spend his valuable time with them. Yet he was always willing to help our young budding rock stars improve. He was such a valuable asset to us and hugely helped pushed the Valley Teams standards.
The funeral at Stafford was a sad affair and one that took a long time to come to terms with for many of us that someone of Mick’s talent should get killed in the mountains Mick at the time was an outstanding climber and was destined for greatness. We all still miss him and what a hard lesson to us all at the time and throughout life. To leave a young wife and two girls was the real tragedy and I always wondered about them as we all moved away from the South ?
This tragedy made me push the troops and pals to get insured when in the Alps or overseas. This is still so good advice even today and I have lost a few pals in the big mountains in the past and you must always have Insurance if it all goes wrong. My best pal Big Al MacLeod was killed on the Matterhorn North Face in the 90’s he had no Insurance and what a tragedy that was at the time. Please , please get Insurance if you are going abroad.
I know go forward to 2017 in June Mick’s daughter Marie has been in touch she read a piece I wrote in my blog a few years ago and was touched by the words and sent me a photo of her Dad. I wonder does anyone have any photos of Mick in the Mountains? I got some lovely replies and will pass them on to Marie
Please share and get in touch with me if you can help.
In Memory of Mick Hernon.
Some words on Mick Hernon – from pals
We heard about Mick’s demise while at a party in Seattle, prior to Valley/Leeming’s ascent of Mount Rainier. Alister received the sad news during a phone call from Tony Jones back home. Incredibly sadI remember Mick trying to customize a Maciness Massey ice hammer by attempting to convert it into a form of ice pick. Back in work shops he grinded off about two pounds of steel and shortened the shaft. A wee bit too top heavy but a good idea.. ….EHollister –
Woody Woodyart – remember Mick very well , on his first weekend with MR , I ” took ” Mick climbing on a gritstone crag ,Robs Rocks , he just flew up every route that I was capable of leading , ended up dropping him a rope on several HVS s .
A great climber and a lovely, lovely man .
There is a Stafford team photograph 1976 with Mick on , I will post it on you .
I remember Micks wife and children, and have often thought about them .
Rest in peace Mike , a great loss .
Keith Atkinson – Great friend who introduced me to climbing. At my wedding reception he spent loads of time trying to convince my new bride to forgo my honeymoon so that I could go to the alps with him. Sadly just after the honeymoon news reached us of his untimely death. I will always remember him for his mentoring that caused my love of climbing.
Pete Weatherhill – Did a lot of training with Mick and a few epics, like trying to do Dream of White Horses and ended up on Concrete Chimney! Also did the Karrimor Mountain Marathon.
Eric Joyce – A very talented climber. Mick was my instructor on my first summer course and an inspiaration for me to push my own limits of ability. I cant remember how it came about, but we met up by chance one afternoon just before he departed to the alps. Turned out to be quite a hard bouldering session at Caley Craggs, Otley near my hometown. He was a natural gritstone climber. We arranged to get in touch when he returned from his trip. A great loss.
Thanks all any photos appreciated thanks. Heavy