Home again and so many thanks! Review of a special book One Day as a Tiger.

Time flew past in the hospital  and I saw my surgeon and will have another bowel operation in 3- 4 months so will be slow but better progress than I thought and as usual I could not wait to get home. I felt a lot better than last time with the hernia and bowl operation together but still a bit sore and to have an easy two weeks. My mate John had a hairy drive from Inverness to collect me freezing windscreen and fog in the 100 mile journey each way. It is such a busy road and a tragedy that for most of it not dual carriage way and so busy. It was a lovely day and this part of the country was frozen in a sea of frost and very slow traffic. The ice routes must be great but just to see the hills was magic .I was soon home in under 2 hours and had a coffee with John and Mary’s home-made cake lovely and then catch up on my mail. The weather was magic so I had a great short walk round the harbour and along the coast about a mile which was wonderful. My mate the Heron and the Oysters catches were there as we a few other visitors and the view were magic as the sunset. It was great to be back. I have had so many kind words and calls thanks to you all!

Pre op reading

Pre op reading I do not look ill

I have been trying to cut down my mountain library but received this book from my sister as a lovely present for my days in hospital.  The book is “One Day as a Tiger  Alex MacIntyre  and the birth of light and fast Alpinism by John Porter. It is the tale of a small group of climbers who in the words of others isa”a meticulously – researched history of a generation of climber so fuelled by ambition and adrenalin that they came close to climbing them into extinction. ” It peruses the climbing career of a very talented young climber Alec MacIntyre who pushed mountaineering in the Alps and the Himalayas to a new level. This was the age of light and fast pushing boundaries in the 70’s and 80’s. Alex was only 28 when he died after a stone hit him on Annapurna in 1982.

The Incredible Alec MacIntyre. Photo Scottish Mountain Heritage Colection

The Incredible Alec MacIntyre. Photo Scottish Mountain Heritage collection

I had met many of the stars in this book including Alec and many of the other names now long gone. Alec was a rock star in looks like Marc Bowlan with his wild hair and the book gives a great insight into what pushed them on the anarchic but dynamic culture that involved in these heady days. It reaches points in the book that are so familiar the loss of great friends in the mountains and what drove them to it. The effect on the families mothers, fathers, wives and lovers is also a great part of the tale. The awful response from the British Authorities in Kathmandu who should hang his head in shame of the treatment of the author when reporting the tragic death of Alec his friend  who was killed in the mountains.   You travel the world from the early days as a wild student in the wild Leeds University Club to Scotland , the Alps and the Himalayas. It  tries to me to explain why we climb, how selfish and mixed up we are as mountaineers and also the effect of the Cold War on mountaineering during this period which is often overlooked.   The rivalries that emerge between the old and the new generations are well told but the huge developments that were done during this period in attitude, gear and pushing new frontiers is incredible. This was also a time when the regulation of mountain qualifications were in the fore after the Cairngorm Disaster when 6 died including 5 children in the early 70’s.  Their is so much on risk taking pushing the boundaries and the complex nature of these elite climbers  Many of the elite names are here and you get an insight into this crazy life in the mountains pushing it in the Himalayas on so many peaks and the writing is riveting. It also hits so many subjects the Media, Alec’s look into the future and hiis ambition that drove him on, it varies from so many subjects even Mountaineering Politics mainly with the BMC and government groups. Mountaineering though anarchic has a another side in this modern world where administration and politics rule?

Please read this book it is a wild read and I read it in hospital in a day whilst waiting for my operation, I could not put it down.

Al Mac Leod

Al Mac Leod

These were wild days and in the military we had a few incredible climbers who were driven by the same ideals, This was never easy at this period as the military has to have a different approach to mountaineering due to legislation but many of us got round it some how. You needed these people who on a rescue may and did go beyond what was expected when conditions were against you. It was trying to keep it all as safe as possible that never was easy and you must have ambition in mountaineers and in a rescue team. We had some superb mountaineers many who were capable of this new light and fast attitude. One of my best friends Al Mac Leod was one of them who was killed soloing the Matterhorn North Face by stone fall a powerful Scottish Alpine and Himalayan Climber.  A few years before in the early 80’s I had lost another good friend descending the Pic Badille Mick Heron who fell and again we lost another star with a young family and no Insurance at the time as Al did!   I had nightmares with the authorities trying to get them home. In the end the RAF were very good after a lot of pressure was put on them. In the 90’s I lost 3 friends in a week    Mark, Neil and Paul to the mountains and most months at one time I was  on rescues for people I knew.  I met Pete Boardman on many occasions whilst he was at Glenmore Lodge he was one of the superstars of this era who also sadly died in the mountains on the  North East Ridge of Everest it was unclimbed at the time. He explained in detail in Elgin at a Moray Mountaineering Club Lecture  this new approach in 1978 to Himalayan mountaineering and we were spell-bound by his tale he spoke of a incredible climb not his recent Everest Success but an Alpine ascent of the West Wall of Changabang with Joe Tasker. He died with Joe Tasker high on the pinnacles of the North East ridge of Everest at the same time as Alec and Britain lost three outstanding mountaineers.

The memorail to Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker at Everset Base Camp Tibet we cleaned it up in 2001.

2001 – The memorial to Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker at Everset Base Camp Tibet we cleaned it up in 2001.

  • These books are also well worth a read The Shining Mountain: Two men on Changabang’s West Wall (with material by Joe Tasker) (1978) Hodder and Stoughton, London.
  • Sacred Summits: A Climber’s Year (1982) Hodder and Stoughton, London.

It took the military many years to catch on to this approach as they were still into the huge expeditions of the past.  We went on one of the first”light and slow” in the Himalayas on our first trip an incredible adventure for us all and we all came back  we never summited but came back safe and friends. It was a huge learning curb for us all and a how to work in a wild remote mountain with no porters was incredible hard work. This book really takes you into a mountaineers mind and what it was like at the elite end of this crazy game. It also reminds me of an era when so much was happening in the UK so many young climbers breaking through, their tale has rarely been told.  Maybe some one should!

I keep getting asked when my book is coming out well John Porter who wrote this great book said he was working on his for 15 years  He states”Hows the book going – words that made my stomach churn.” he said I had to get it finished and what a job he has done of it..

When I get better! The Blog is enough just now.

Alec MacIntyre was one of the legendary early 1970s Leeds University group of climbers. They arguably epitomised the last hurrah of a macho era when climbers pursued ‘birds ‘n’ booze’, sported big hair and persisted in calling each other ‘youth’. ‘Dirty Alex’ as he was known, (a reference to his ‘charmingly chaotic personal lifestyle’ as one of his obituarists put it) was a leading player in the British charge back into the Alps in the mid-late 70s when the ‘front-point revolution’ was exported to the continent. An elite group of Brits pushed the standards, particularly on ice, shocking the complacent French and Italians. For a brief period MacIntyre and his raiding British compatriots reigned supreme, knocking off the Grand Jorasses’ giant ice-sheet The Shroud in a day, putting up new steep ice lines on the same mountain and bagging the first non-seiged ascent of the very difficult and dangerous Harlin Direct route on the infamous Eiger North Face. MacIntyre then concentrated his considerable skills in the Himalaya, where he was a fierce advocate for ‘Alpine-Style’ ethics. He made several outstanding Alpine-style ascents and attempts on major objectives (Dhaulagiri, Changabang, Shishapangma, Makalu), often with international groups. With his good looks, confidence, and impecunious lifestyle, he was widely liked and admired. Mountains, however, sadly proved once more they are no respecters of reputation; MacIntyre was cruelly struck down in his prime by a single stone which hit him square on the head while he was climbing on Annapurna.
Further reading: The Shishapangma Expedition, Doug Scott & Alex MacIntyre. Granada, 1984.
Notes: Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Family, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, Local area and events to see, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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