Glencoe is another place dear to my heart, I spent many years loving this place and its people in my years with the RAF Mountain Rescue. As a Team member and a Team Leader I was involved in many call – outs in the Glen. I got to know the Glen and many of its secrets very well and loved the rock and winter climbing over the years. We also explored many of the huge Corries on long protracted searches in the past and have carried a fair few of these complex hills. The Glencoe team are a very experienced and capable team and always have had some incredible mountaineers within their team. Over the years I got to know them and the Glen fairly well, most Rescue in the Glen are memorable. These are great complex mountains with incredible rock features and in summer or winter hold a challenge to all mountaineers. As a Rescue Team we searched and trained in these hills a lot trying to learn about these wild hills and always we had to take great care as the ground is so steep that any slip or trip can be punished these are not easy hills and in winter this is winter mountaineering.
In my many years in the mountains yesterday was a very special day. A few weeks ago I was asked to help a friend Jannine on her return to the mountains after a life changing fall in Glencoe in the winter of 2000. Jannine had fallen nearly 1300 feet down Summit Gully on Stob Coire Nam Beith on a winter mountaineering day.How she survived is amazing as her fall was over cliffs and a Cresta run of very steep snow. She tripped on her crampons and though she tried to brake with her ice axe she could not. In a day that nearly ended in tragedy Jannine is alive today due to the incredible skills of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team and the RAF Sea King helicopter. It was an amazing rescue and despite many life changing injuries she bravely wanted to revisit the area and this was her first winter mountaineering day for over 16 years.
In Mountain Rescue we have to deal with tragedy and it is amazing that Jannine had survived such a huge fall and such serious injuries. I have done several visits to mountains with families or relatives or friends after and accident and it is never easy for all involved. I knew Janines story and many of those wonderful people who saved her life that day in 2000. It was a beautiful day when I picked up Jannine and her spaniel dog Penny from her Bed and Breakfast in Fort William. We travelled to Glencoe and caught up after many years, she was in great spirits and the weather was superb with the hills looking stunning with fresh snow. We were to have a day to remember.
We parked just of the main A82 with the backdrop of a snow frosted Aonach Eag as a back drop. It was a steady pull up into the Corrie to the snow and we had time to stop on the way up and look at the huge cliff that poor Jannine fell down. This is some Corrie with so much wild land and huge cliffs and scree, this is a massive mountain one of the most complicated in Scotland. It is amazing that Janine could survive a fall like that and the huge effort by all to save her life is one of these tales that few know. I asked her if I could write about the day and she was happy for me and how she wanted to thank all those who had helped her and in her long recovery. Jannine was incredibly brave all day and we shared many thoughts together and yet she was so glad to be there. She felt that she was rewarded with the weather and the thoughts of her family and friends on this day. All the way up we were rewarded by the weather and when we got to the main ridge as the views were outstanding. The 360 degrees views were wild with the Ben looking great in it winter garb as did so many mountains on view. The ridge on to the summit is an outstanding walk and was interesting in places and we had to take care. Fresh snow, hidden ice and verglas on rock means take it easy, which we did.
The sun was out and yet it was cold and above 800 metres there was fresh snow and in places ice, yet out of the wind the sun was warm. We reached the top of Stob Coire Nam Beith at 1107 metres and incredible peak on a special day. I gave Janine some time showed her the gully and it is hard to believe that she survived such a fall. Yet she showed such amazing courage and we took time to sit and stare at the wildness of this place and why we come back and at times clear our minds.
Time was moving on and it dark about 1630 so we wanted to be off the hill in good time and after a lunch break we headed back, we had the mountain to ourselves but saw a couple of a far top in the distance, this was our special place today. Coming down is never easy but we took special care being aware of the incredible views and the sun this was a early winters day and so specail.
We were soon back down the screes and met a lovely runner a lass from the Lake district who had run the whole of this complex hill and was amazed at the snow that was about. She was going so well and we had a short chat and a bit envious of her movement on the steep ground yet taking care on the rocky steps as she vanished towards the road.
I had asked Jannine if she wanted to meet Davy Gunn a now retired Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team member and para – medic who had worked so hard along with the team to save her life and as we got down to the road Davy met us for a cup of tea in the Clachaig Inn. It was an emotional hour as they had not met for 16 years and I left them to talk.
Davy is a veteran of Mountain Rescue and joined as a local boy and it was wonderful that him and Janine spent time together that rarely happens in Mountain Rescue especially after all these years. It was sadly time to go and they both allowed me to take a photo of them together. Without a doubt Davy’s skills and that of Glencoe saved Jannine’s life that day as did the helicopter crew and the hospital staff and her strength and courage carried her through many hard years.
I thank Janinne for allowing me just to tell a small piece of her story, there is more than one book in her life after the accident, the recovery, the very dark days and other life changing events, you are an inspirational lady. I am sure your family and Emma and Jacob will be very proud of Mum. It was great that Davy was there he is a private man and is enjoying his life away from the Rescue Team as I do but what a tale he has to tell of his adventures over the years with the Glencoe Team. Janinne is one of so many that he and the Glencoe Rescue Team have helped over the years, what a job they do and we must never take them for granted.
We had a good char on the way back to the Bed and Breakfast where I dropped her off, we were both tired physically and mentally it had been some day. We had a hug and I left Janinne with her thoughts on an emotional and eventful day but what a special lady she is.
Thank you for letting me share an amazing day on the mountains and one I will never forget.
Its ice axe time now folks!
Since our walk Janine has gone from Strength to Strength winning 3 medals all Gold in the Warrior Games in the USA. What an achievement.
2017 July Earlier this month, she took part in the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago – a competition run for hundreds of veterans from US and UK armed forces, most of whom have suffered injuries in the line of duty.
Jannine won gold in the women’s 800m, 200m and 100m track events, and placed fourth in a cycling event – going up against people who had suffered similar injuries in each category.