New book – In the Shadow of Ben Nevis – Spike Sykes

As the big search for the two missing climbers was halted yesterday afternoon due to wild weather winds approaching 80 -100 mph and Considerable Avalanche conditions. Today the Police, Lochaber MRT, SARDA and the RAF Mrt and if the weather allows helicopter support from Bristows. These are very challenging conditions  and my thought are as always with the families  and all involved in the Search. A new book has been brought out by an old pal Ian Spike Sykes.  Spike was a member of RAF MRT and a leading light in the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team for many years.  He was invo;lved in many such searches and I have ordered it, I imagine it will be a great insight into another era.


1960 Spike  Aladdins Lamp. Cairngorms

In 1959, sixteen-year-old Ian Spike Sykes left school and, after a short period of work at Leeds University, joined the RAF. Already a keen climber, he signed up on the promise of excitement and adventure and was posted to the remote RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in the north of Scotland. It was the beginning of a journey which would see him involved in some of the most legendary call-outs in Scottish mountain rescue history, including the 1963 New Year tragedy on the Isle of Skye.


In the Shadow of Ben Nevis tells Spike s story from growing up in Leeds in the aftermath of the Second World War, to his time with the RAF during the cold war. After leaving the RAF, he remained an active member of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and was involved in the first lower down the north face of Ben Nevis an epic 1,500-foot descent to rescue stricken climbers in the middle of winter.</>

Following a two-and-a-half-year stint on Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey, he returned to the Highlands and opened the first Nevisport shop with his close friend Ian Suds Sutherland. Together, they brought Sunday trading to Fort William and were one of a small number of shops to revolutionise outdoor retail in the UK. Later, he was a key player in the development of the Nevis Range ski area. Over many years, and against all odds, the project became a reality and a great success.

Recounted within these pages are a great many lively tales of adventures and mishaps, told with immediacy and charm. With a foreword by legendary Scottish mountaineer Hamish MacInnes, a close friend of Spike s, In the Shadow of Ben Nevis is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Scottish mountaineering and mountain rescue.


Ian Sykes
15 Feb 2016
  • Paperback £12.99

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,


Castle Ridge, you have to bridge

Its famous chimney!

Ledge Route

A classic wander up the mountain!

The Douglas Boulder

Done when young once

But not when older.

Tower and it sweeping ridge, the gap too big to bridge!

In the mist clouds, cliffs emerge,

Observatory Ridge more a face than a ridge

The hardest by far?

North East a feast of scrambling but in the winter!

The man trap beckons.

Near the top the summit reckons.

So many days, so many friends.

So much fun and memories,

Many happy, some sad.

Carries off in the dead of night,

Unknown people.

Battered, bruised but glad to be alive,

Helped by unknown rescuers and fellow climbers.

This mountain

Ben Nevis.



Heavy Jan 2007

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 Books, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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