|Kinloss MRT STATS 26/09/82||Isle of Skye Inaccessible Pinnacle 32’/44220||Fallen climber aged 65 with back injuries and fractured pelvis when belay failed. |
1000 ft lower on single 500 foot ropes at night and long carry off to Glen brittle. 8.5hrs.
All night carry off very wet
with Skye MRT.
It had been another great weekend on Skye I had just arrived back from a tour in Wales as Deputy Team Leader and then a year at Innsworth in Gloucester. I had managed to get back to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire and was enjoying being home. When you go away coming home is so specail. I had a great weekend rock climbing in Coire Lagan both days, these would be the last days before winter. I was tired as we were having tea at Glen brittle staying at the Classic MacRaes barn. It was a long 4- 5 hour drive home to RAF Kinloss in Moray. There was no bridge to Skye then it was a ferry and then a long drive home. As we sat down to eat we got a message via the local Police that a climber had fallen on the In Pin on Sgurr Dearg we were needed. A Sea King was on the way and would pick us up from the refuelling site at Glen Brittle. It had been raining as we descended or climbs that afternoon and the mist had come in. I doubted if the chopper could get us far maybe into the coire? The gear was split up between us our bags were heavy and bulky not ideal for the ridge.
The helicopter arrived and we were told Gerry Ackroyd the Skye Team Leader was heading off alone ( he was also a guide on Skye and had a fearsome reputation already). We would meet him on the In Pin. The helicopter could only take 5 we had a stretcher, casualty bag, medical gear, radios, climbing gear and one 500 foot rope. I thought this may be an epic so had taken plenty of gear . The chopper came in but the weather was awful the wind had got up and with the mist down they dropped us low in the Coire Lagan below the “Heart lochan”. As the helicopter left you do feel alone, or was that just me? The helicopter had done a great job saved us a long walk but I for one was glad to be off it. I am not a great flyer even in good conditions. It was now up to us and Gerry.
Terry Moore who was the Deputy Team Leader we had decided that he would go ahead from the helicopter to get up to meet Gerry on the ridge as we had no communications at all. My job was to get the rest of us up to the In Pin. I had been here many times but by now it was dark and wet and the screes with the heavy weight and darkness were purgatorial. It is easy to lose someone in the dark and the last thing we needed was to only arrive with one part of the stretcher (it is split and carried usually by two folk.) We made progress and were well aware that the injured climber would be struggling. These were the days before mobile phones and he had been alone below the In Pin as his partner went for help. The route is easy in daylight but now was wet and very slippy we slipped often but I was so glad as we were off the An Stac Scree and working our way up the An Stac by pass to the In Pin. We were soon on the ramp and had to be careful as the loose rocks crashed down into the Coire.
We had been told the helicopter could not help us the weather was to bad there was no Night Vision on board in these days. We knew more of the Skye Team and our team were walking in that would take time, we would be on our own for most of the night. When we arrived below the In Pin Gerry and Terry were with the casualty he was in a bad way,we suspected a back and pelvis injury. He was very cold as were Gerry and Terry. There was a little shelter as we were directly under the descent abseil of the In Pin. The casualty was so lucky he had not rolled off over the crags. He was 65 and we had to get him off the hill as quick and as safely as possible. I had been up the In Pin fairly often in all weathers but that night was different with the rain and the wind it was not the place to be. Everything was done as fast and as safely as possible.
It was decided that Terry and Gerry would guide the stretcher down the others would leave me and Jon Beattie to lower the stretcher then climb down. They would sort out the next belays and try to keep out of the rock fall. It all sounds easy but on a loose cliff. In the dark and wet it was not easy. We were so aware of loose rock and in the dark, we sorted a belay and stated the lower. It all went well but the smell of rocks crashing was awful. Through the gloom we heard the shout that they were safe and we scrambled down, trying to be careful as possible. In these days the torches were not great very hard to pick the line down and it was not a straight lower but had to be done. We had one single 500 ft rope and were aware of it being hit by rocks. It was the same again for another few 100 feet a bit awkward but then the hard work on the screes. We met the rest of the Skye Team and Kinloss boys lower down in the Corrie.
This was brought to my attention and I remember it now. ” Also remember the awesome sight of the pyrotechnics lighting up the whole corrie. Biggest Roman candles I’ve ever seen, lasting a couple of minutes if memory serves? What were thy called? Ground illuminators, or something like that?” Peter Mitchell
Ally – FGI’s, Flare Ground Illuminating. They meant we we could see a lot better and we had help, how could I forget that. (Heavy)
There were over 20 of us now and it was still exhausting work all the way to Glen Brittle. It had been a long weekend and hard going the lower and climb down was mentally exhausting as well. It poured on the way off. We were soaked and the effort to carry our casualty was hard going. Even trying to follow the route down a path in daylight in the mist is hard enough but at night never easy. Gerry ( the Skye Team Leader) knew the way well and kept us right, he was just what we needed. He even cracked the odd joke that kept us going. He had been guiding all weekend so he was tired as well yet he never showed it.
Eventuality as daylight was coming in the light improved but it was still muddy on the path in these days in places. I remember at the end of the night missing the wee bridge at the campsite in the dark and I was straight in the river. It was early morning when we got off the hill exhausted. The Adrenalin was still going as we went back to the Barn in Glen Brittle and slept after some food and a gear sort out. We were soaked again and slept for a few hours then a big drive back to Kinloss later on in the day.
The casualty recovered, he was a lucky guy but what a great call -out lots of learning for all and a life saved. That was the start of a few epic call -outs in Skye and meeting the one and only Gerry Akroyd who was to remain the Skye Team Leader for many years.
I recall helping to carry down a stretcher from Coire Lagan in the 60s. Not easy and needed to change over frequently
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Never is even worse at night in the rain and wet!