Ben Nevis Accident in Zero Gully – a few thoughts for those involved.

I came back after a great day in the North West to the news of an accident on Ben Nevis on Zero Gully where two climbers fell one was killed  and the other in hospital. My condolences to the families and hope the surviving climber recovers. After you have spent a day especially in winter in the mountains you feel  special, the views, the light and the mountains breathe energy into you, but winter and mountains can at times take a tragic toll.  It is so hard for those who have not appreciate the beauty of nature in its wild state why we love these places?  Zero gully is one of the classic climbs on Ben Nevis’s North Face climbed many years ago it has a world re-known reputation as it was a breakthrough in climbing standards when it was first climbed in 1957 by H amish Mc Iness, Tom Patey  and A.G. Nicol.  It is still a serious climb even by today’s standards and hard to protect especially in the gully higher up and I had a bit a of a scare here many years ago. The possibilities of a fall when you are tired ( the climb is over 1000 feet) is very serious and one has to work hard for protection and belays. In a mountaineering accident it is very hard to work out what may have gone wrong and it must have been a real shock to climbers and the Lochaber Rescue Team who went to help after the accident. Unfortunately I have been to many of these tragedies and my thoughts and prayers are with all concerned. I pray the survivor recovers, this part of Mountain Rescue I do not miss.

The Ben – Memories

How many times have I walked that path?

Through forestry and muddy track.

Bag bulging, sweat pouring,then the great cliffs mourning,


In the mist clouds, emerge, as do memories

Mostly happy, some sad.

Carries in the dead of night, with unknown people.

Many glad to be alive, helped by fellow climbers.

Heavy Whalley 2012.

On a happier note I had a great day at Aviemore yesterday with Sue Booth who lives in Canada with her husband Dave and Rhianna Sues granddaughter aged 4, what a girl! It was lovely to jump into the world of a 4 year old after hearing about the tragedy on Ben Nevis. I learned many new things we went on an Alphabet hunt, the Squirrel cafe in Glenmore but the squirrels and birds were hiding from a sparrow hawk and then a long swim with Rhiannas noodle. My granddaughter Lexi will love the new skills I have learned.The old body was pretty tired after that lot but the legs enjoyed the swim and we had such fun. The day finished with a great meal in the Hotel and a quick watch of “Barbi Swan Lake” incredible music and then the wet drive back to Burghead, with the thaw in full force. There is a huge thaw on and the mountains are shedding the snow rapidly temperatures were very high along with a south West wind. It is up early today and back to Aviemore to see them again I am having such fun being a 4-year-old again, I play the part well.

Life can be so short, so fickle at times and you have to take what you can and enjoy it.  Health is far more important than wealth so enjoy it while you have it.

Great friends and family are a wonderful thing and you need to look after them? Mountaineers spend so much time away on our “Affair” with the mountains and wild land Worth remebering?

Please Rhianna take it easy with me today, my age is catching up and ribs are sore!


About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Poems. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Ben Nevis Accident in Zero Gully – a few thoughts for those involved.

  1. Katie says:

    Dear heavywhalley,

    I am the sister of the climber who died. It goes without saying that this has been a terrible and sudden loss for our family and we are all struggling to deal with the loss of my brother, Paul. He was a loyal, modest and quietly confident guy. The things that he achieved in hi life make myself and our whole family very proud. Mountain climbing was his one true passion in life and spent evey weekend he had free on a mountain somewhere. He is an inspiration to me and many of his other friends.
    Thank you for writing this article, you words mean a lot. Unfortunately I don’t know how the other climber is doing but my thoughts go out to him and his family. I wish him a speedy recovery.
    I hope that others can take inspiration from your words too


    • heavywhalley says:


      Many thanks for your kind words, I feel I have to try to use my experience after 40 years in Mountain Rescue to try to explain why we climb and the effect is has on those we love. I have dealt with many families in their loss and have lost great friends to the mountains, but they are like a drug or a lover they drag you on with their beauty and danger, that is why we do it. Your brother sounds a great man and I feel for you and the family for their tragic loss. I saw your thread on UKC and I am sure you all have the thoughts of the climbing community at this difficult time.

      I will try and find out how Paul’s climbing companion is doing for you if I can. Please give my love to your family. I feel I have to write about such a tragedy as few explain how such a tragedy effects all concerned, very few people do this as it is a very difficult thing to try to do. I have been trying to write a book on my experiences in my rescue career and the effect it has been on the families and the rscuers, a tricky subject, but one I feel needs dealt with.

      Stay strong in the days ahead like Paul was, he would be proud of you. God bless you and your family at this difficult time.

      Kind regards

      David ” Heavy” Whalley


  2. Katie says:

    Dear David,

    Thank you for your kind words. My brother was and always wil be an inspiration to me.

    I have now found out that his climbing companion has left hospital and is recovering at home. David and Paul did not know each other but had met on a forum and arranged to meet at Ben Nevis to go climbing. I am trying to contact his family to pass on my bast wishes and hope that some day we can meet.

    I am very interested in this book that you are trying to write and I wish you all the best with it. I often enjoyed reading one of Paul’s many climbing books. It was a real in site into what he did. Please let me know if you are ever successful in getting your book finished as I would love to read it.

    Best regards
    Katie x


    • heavywhalley says:

      Thanks for the information Kate – my friend said that he was getting out of hospital. I am in Canada climbing and hope to do some writing when here as the body is getting old. This is a wonderful place to be, this is why we climb and why Paul did, special places and special people. Take care you are in my thoughts. xxx


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