The Big Fall.
We all had a weekend off for a Team wedding at Craigellachie. It was a Classic Highland wedding with lots of whisky. At this time a few of us we’re mad about climbing and had planned to climb on the Sunday after the wedding. We had our own cars we headed for Creag Dubh near Newtonmore after a wild night.
Now I have never been a climber but was getting ready for my Team Leaders course. I had done a few routes here in the past with some of the rock gods. It was also a place that sorted out a few of those in the team who thought Scottish routes were easy! The cliff had a fierce reputation as it was steep and in these days projection was never easy! It’s pretty intimidating and I found it a wild place, we called it “Creag Death“. Lots of the top climbers of the period were putting up routes here. It had gained an even fiercer reputation. In the early days Douglal Haston and friends had climbed routes here but they were not accepted by the SMC due to the names they had gave them, many with a sexual innuendo.
This is from UKC Creag Dubh Crag features
Creag Dubh is one of Scotland’s biggest and finest ‘roadside’ crag.It is worth noting that the SMC refused to publish outcrop routes until the 1970’s despite this being a major crag. The schist with horizontal strata offers some wonderfully steep routes on big holds. Many of these routes are up to 3 pitches and can be intimidating, as they are very exposed and protection may be spaced. The crag faces south and dries quickly, but weeps. Generally the rock is sound but sometimes blocky. Creag Dubh is not a good choice for the beginner as there is little below Severe. However, from VS upwards the routes are good and the choice increases with the grade. The midges can be dreadful during still days, and ticks abound in the bracken.”
Back to our tale: We had a leisurely start and headed over to Creag Dubh it was busy with Glenmore Lodge about. I think there was a assessment going on that day. I was climbing I think with Bruce West on a classic three star VS called the Brute on the Great Wall. It was a Kinloss route Terry Sullivan and N.Collngham Oct 59. It a great climb and we were on it.
It was sunny the crag was busy my mate Jock Pirrie was climbing with a young Paul (Pam) Ayers. Both were climbing well. They were on a route called the Hill a famous now E2 first climbed by K. Spence and J.Porteous in Sept 1966.
Bruce was up the first pitch of The Brute when I was seconding. I heard a shout then a scream and watched as Pam fell from the second pitch of The Hill. He was high up and I saw some gear pull and he ended up just of the ground by a few inches.It was an horrific fall to watch. Jock had just stopped him hitting the ground by inches.
He was hanging on his harness with a face full of character. I will never forget the noise as he fell and I had witnessed many falls in the past. He was pretty shook up but still all there when lowered to the ground. There were soon other climbers around including Glenmore. Pam got lowered he looked okay but was pretty spaced out by his big fall.
He was battered but seemed okay and more worried about his bandoleer of gear he had lost as he fell. It is still I would imagine in the boulders and ferns at the bottom of the cliff? There are a few dead sheep here!
Others had checked him but I got down and said we would look after him. I checked him over again. He climbing in shorts and his Willians Harness it had cut into his groin like a knife due the fall. Pam was pretty worried when he saw it and the shock kicked in. I was really worried to was very near the main artery so we hobbled off not easy through the boulder field into my old Simca car. I thought we could get medical help in Aviemore but we had to go to Inverness.
I drove like a loony and when we got to AE we were told to wait. Pam was struggling by now so I asked the receptionist to get a doctor . I was told to wait. I told Pam to drop his pants and he showed her the cut. The doctor was called and Pam was stitched up. He was told if the cut had been any deeper he could have died as the blood loss would have killed him. Pam was as hard as nails. He was stitched up and given the all clear to go. He had used one of his 9 lives.
He was told to take a few weeks of climbing. Within three weeks we climbed:
Eagles Ridge on Lochnagar, The Long Climb on Ben Nevis (when his stitches came out) another group were horrified as his wound stated to bleed near the top of the route
Tailisman and Clean Sweep in the Cairngorms.
We climbed a lot together and then he went off next year to attempt to climb the North Face of the Eiger with his mate Joe. Now that’s another story. Sadly Jock is no longer with us died at a young age of skin cancer. I will never forget what he said when he found that Pam was okay, he offered to help me but I said I was ok then he asked of anyone fancied finishing the route!
Typical Jock What a man.
Top Tip – If you have an accident make sure you do a thorough check we nearly missed Pam’s injury. You will be shocked as well to see a mate fall.