As the weather was very poor this weekend in Lochaber there was no hill for me, I have had enough years of getting soaked, wet and scared, I decided to visit Hamish McInnes in Glencoe as I had a few things to sort out as always it is always great to spend time with someone so inspirational. I got to know Hamish through my work with RAF Mountain Rescue as a young team member and as a Team Leader in later years. Hamish is world-famous as a Mountaineer but also as a Rescue specialist, author, filmmaker and as an engineer and inventor of great repute. He was hard at work in his workshop when I arrived and was working on his famous stretchers.It was amazing to look at how far these stretchers have moved on since the early days when Hamish made his first ones and revolutionized their design. His first split stretcher was an incredible piece of equipment and many are still in use today all over the world. After having a look at his new ideas it was off to the house for a coffee and a blether.
I was telling Hamish that I had been to the Mountain Festival in Fort William and that two of the party who climbed the Skye Ridge last winter in the incredible time of 12 hours had been speaking about their trip. Hamish was always at the forefront in his day had done the first winter ascent with Tom Patey , Davey Crabbe and Brain Robertson in 1964. Tom Patey tells the story magnificently in his book One Man’s Mountains. The tale is full of stories of these two epic days in Skye and Hamish remembers it as clear as day. It was all so different in these days, the basic kit, the lack of gear but the competitive spirit and the humour was wonderful to hear at close hand.. We had a great chat about the early days of Mountain Rescue where Hamish and another great character Eric Langmuir were on the Committee of Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams. It was an embryo time for Mountain Rescue in Scotland and what we have today is due to the efforts of others who stuck their heads above the parapet. Hamish and Eric stayed for another two years to ensure the Police did not take over Mountain Rescue and a careful balance was taken between teams and the Police. Hamish is not a Committee man but gave of his time to ensure this happened, we were lucky he did!
The view Hamish has of Glencoe and Aonach Dubh is incredible and he says that this is a huge winter with so much snow about just like 1948. This incredible experience Hamish has and his knowledge of Scotland especially Glencoe is amazing. Not only did he start the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) and was heavily involved in the Avalanche project and many other great life saving efforts. Hamish looked after me and helped me a lot when I was the RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team Leader. I admit I was at times pretty hard work, very keen, and not very diplomatic. Hamish and friends like Ray Sefton, Peter Cliff and many others kept me right and gave me valuable advice which served me well. We chatted about the great work of the helicopters RAF and Royal Navy and the adventures he has had and the stories some which will remain classified to protect the crews. The wild callouts in Glencoe and how the team has grown today and how Mountain Rescue had changed over the years. Hamish also did so much filming for TV and other films abroad and in Scotland his knowledge is exceptional and his work with Dave Clem on the helicopters filming is an incredible story on its own. His books tell many of these tales and are all worth a read, again and again! He has some great views on Wind – Farms but I will save that for another day.
We had some great conversations on many other subjects and Hamish still has so many projects on the go. What a weekend with the incredible Fort William Mountain Festival and chatting to Hamish and other friends. I advise that next year if you have never been to the Festival please go. Please take some young people along as they cannot fail to be motivated by the many people who are doing things in the outdoors not just mountaineering.
The weather was heavy rain as I left for home on Sunday most of the mountain car parks were quite and the hills were pouring water off into the burns. Some of the cliffs were showing their secrets where winter drainage became waterfalls and in a freeze ice falls form and it is always worth having a look in a down pour. It was impressive drive and there was a lot of flooding about. Again I never ventured into the hills, to wet and wild for me I must be getting soft but I will wait for a better day. It was a great weekend though great to see so many friends and the Festival was superb. I left Hamish going back to his stretchers as I had taken him away from his work but had a look at the views from his house. Is there many better views or people in Scotland I doubt it, who has achieved so much in so many fields for the benefit of others. I doubt it, thanks Hamish.