A wild night on Ben Nevis. Heated thoughts after a Rescue!

To be high on a Mountain in the eye of storm is not the place to be. Nature is wild and takes no prisoners and with a massive storm forecast, wild weather and darkness it is not a place that any of us would choose to be by choice. In Mountain Rescue there is no choice, once the Police are informed that someone is injured on a mountain they have a “Duty of Care to help” the casualty.

Lochaber Mrt

Lochaber Mrt


Last night the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team were involved in a Rescue high on Ben Nevis during the forecast storm Abigail. The casualty was located and recovered on Observatory Gully high on the North Face.It would have been an extremely wild night with snow in the dark,add to that the with the wind crashing on the cliffs it would have been a sombre experience. I am so glad no one was hurt in the Rescue and the casualty was safely recovered. It is easy to forget that Mountain Rescue is not given special dispensation by Nature and rescues can be dangerous and a Team Leaders worst nightmare is injury or worse  to one of the team involved in a Rescue. It was always a worry that if team members got hurt on Rescues or training that their families would be covered for their time off work for an injury or even worse . For many years when there were several Police authorities insurance for Teams was varied depending on area they operated in and involved lots of work by the Executive of the Mountain Rescue to try to get the best insurance cover for each team. It must never be forgotten that the Police are in charge of Rescue and with that comes huge responsibility. I thought that when we went to one Police Force that all the Insurance problems would be sorted. If you read Lochabers Mountain Rescues piece below it seems not?

After a wild dangerous rescue feelings can be high but there seems to be some problems and it needs to be sorted before the winter sets in. Maybe it is time to take a deep breath for some decisions to be made and problems resolved by those who have the power and the influence to improve the situation? Times are changing the Media is a powerful tool if used correctly it can also bite you as I have found in my past.  With it will come the comments about Insurance etc and the comments by those with limited knowledge of what is going on. I hope things get sorted and the Team can work on the task in hand in assurance that if they have an injury it will be covered adequately?


From Lochaber Mountain Rescue Face Book

“troops have just returned from the eye of hurricane ‪#‎abigail rescuing a hill walker attempting ‪#‎bennevis via observatory gully. On the scale of difficulty this route is certain death! The casualty was found high on a snow slope with chest injuries and lowered down to the ‪#‎CIC hut. We are so poor we had to dress the casualty in a ‪#‎englishMR jacket. Here he was properly checked over and then taken down the rest of the way by the‪#‎polaris bikes. A very difficult rescue in atrocious weather with a very good outcome.
The ‪#‎volunteers go out in these conditions without hesitation. Leaving family and loved ones behind. Radios are poor and insurance is completely inadequate. Let’s have some support ‪#‎scottishgovernment‪#‎policescotland ‪#‎SMR please! Our team members and families should at least have insurance that is fit for purpose.

Donations to the team via the website just giving site

Todays Forecast – Stay low!

Westerly, typically 45 but 55 gusts 70mph suddenly near showers.
Typically 700m, but temporarily 550m near heavy precipitation.
-2C; but will feel as cold as minus 17 Celsius directly in the wind.
Brief bursts of bright sunshine.
The air very clear, but visibility frequently appalling where in cloud and snow.
Rapidly changing cloud base: shafts of cloud below 600m near showers.
Otherwise cloud widely above 700 to 1000m, generally highest well inland, where rare
glimpses of higher tops most likely.
Extensive; continually varying base; rarely clearing higher tops
Heavy showers, sometimes merging into near-constant precipitation, falling as hail, or
snow above about 450m. Intermittent sudden whiteout conditions. Risk thunder. Still very
wet underfoot, high river levels.
Frequent snow & hail; lightning

Be Aware !!!! What wind speeds can mean!!!!

8 – Gale 39 – 46 Walking Dangerous Twigs breaking from trees Dense blowing clouds of snow
9 – Severe Gale 47 – 54 Blown over crawling Branches break small trees blown over Dense blowing clouds of snow
10  – Storm 55 -63 Progress impossible even by crawling Some trees uprooted  Structural Damage Dense blowing clouds of snow.


Comment by Kev Mitchell

Scottish MR Teams are fully covered by insurance ( the amount can easily be discussed) there appears to be a lot of mis information being put about regarding this and we have seen an ‘explaination’ on a further post by LMRT, sadly it diverts attention from a difficult rescue in appalling conditions by very committed and expert fellow volunteers.


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 Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A wild night on Ben Nevis. Heated thoughts after a Rescue!

  1. ptsd17 says:

    Think twice, Ben Nevis will always be there another day, you might not.
    Maybe Ben Nevis needs a warning system in carparks/entrance routes similar to flag system used at beaches by lifeguards?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Steane says:

    HI Heavy – a few questions and thoughts:

    Just who in their right mind would venture out onto Ben Nevis in that storm? What did they think would happen? Did they appreciate they would be putting the lives of the MRT at risk in the highly likely possibility they would request assistance?
    Who decides whether MRT members should be deployed? Am I right in thinking this would be the call of the Team Leader?
    How often do MRT members refuse to venture out? Clearly, they are volunteers, but there must be circumstances where to do so is suicidal. There’s a duty of care, and then there’s madness…
    What would have happened if an MRT member had been killed?
    What would have happened if the MRT refused to go, and the climber had died?
    Most importantly, how do others thinking of doing something similar learn from this incident?

    There’s an ‘obligation’ on MRT to risk their own lives to assist others – that’s why they volunteer to be members – but what’s the view of Team members when they go to help those in trouble who appear to have applied absolutely no common sense at all? I suspect there’s a few comments ‘behind closed doors’. There are times to stretch the ‘risk envelope’, and then there’s utter stupidity. This incident to me looks like the latter.

    There used to be a summary of incidents on Scottish mountains published in the SMCJ (which I think was very popular), but it appears to have been stopped. Can this not be re-introduced?

    Final thought…’The right of anyone to go into the hills and kill himself in the name of his sport must be safeguarded’ – not said by me, but John Grieve, Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team (1982 SMCJ).

    Keep safe, and hope your health’s improving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • heavywhalley says:

      Will try to get back to you!

      The Police are the authority
      For rescue
      if it a known casualty in a known area they will move heaven and earth to get them!

      Rarely is a search called off due to weather but again the teams have the shout each party on the hill makes their decision and safety is always number 1


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