Mountain Accidents – A survey in Scotland 1925 – 1945
The late Ben Humble MBE was an incredible man apart from being a very experienced mountaineer he was at the forefront of Mountain Safety right up to his death in 1977. He started formalizing and documenting Mountain accidents many years ago and giving his unique view on what may have happened and how they may have been prevented. He did this through the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journals (SMC). These Journals hold a huge history of Scottish Mountaineering and the only source of Mountain Rescue Accident reports for over 50 years. What he and others like the late John Hinde BEM left us was a huge legacy and a massive historical reference of the past, much is still of great value today. I have looked through his first report covering 1925 – 1945 and it makes an interesting read.
This account well worth a read I was very lucky to have met Ben on several occasions and when I completed my Munros a big thing in the mid 70-‘s he was the guest of honour at our party when I completed with another RAF Team member Tom Mac Donald.
This survey is over a 20 year period in the very early days of mountaineering and involves all the rescues that involved SAR parties.
Causes of the accidents:
8 of the incidents involved benightments. In one search troops and an aeroplane was used on the Merrick. On one occasions a searcher was killed when he slipped and fell? Was this on Ben More?
42 of the incidents involved Novices and included are 24 deaths (just under 50% of the fatalities) poor kit especially in winter, no ice axes and many a simple slip.
There were 5 heart attacks which 4 were fatal ( 3 on the summits of the chosen hill)
Accidents to experienced climbers:
9 were due to a slip on easy ground at the end of a route, when the rope was taken off at the top of a climb. The other were lost control glissading (3) avalanches (2) hit by falling rock (2)
10 accidents occurred when the parties were roped together on a rock or snow climb. In two cases both members of the rock climbing party were killed, the rope did not break. In another case the leader was killed on rock and another on snow and 6 cases where the leader was injured.
Of the 6 fatalities 4 were English and 2 were Scots. The average age was 28.
Nature of injuries:
Fractured leg -16
Fractured ankle – 4
Dislocations shoulder/ankle – 6
Facial injuries – 8
Concussion – 3
Fractured ribs – 2
Fractured Pelvis – 1
Usually injuries are accompanied by bruising and shock.
An interesting report of the early years of mountaineering and some of the information is still very relevant even today.
He was indeed an incredible man who I remember well from my childhood as he was a relative of my mum’s. Wonderful to see him still being quoted.
He was inspirational and it is a great read the book on his life, I was very privileged to meet Ben and share a tiny bit of his wisdom.