June 1960 – TD Gap call – out. No helicopters then? The way it was? Respect as they came off the hill.

5 June 1960 – Three climbers set off from Loch Scavaig by boat intending to return by the Dubhs all had been in the Cuillin before. The weather was perfect and the rock dry. The weather broke at about 6 pm when they were near Sgurr Dubh na Da Bheinn but they decided to continue. They reached the Thearlaich Dubh Gap at 8 pm the rock was slippy the leader attempted the chimney pitch. Roped up the leader fell above the first chockstone whilst putting in a runner, he fell back wards injuring his head. He died about 2 hours later. One of the other tried to climb out onto the wall on the Dubh side, he also slipped but was held by the third man. They spent the night in the gap and were found by a party doing the main ridge. They were helped down to Corrie a’ Ghrundha. They met an advanced party of RAF Kinloss MRT who had been alerted. Body brought down to Glen Brittle. SMC Journal 1961

The belay failure mentioned I would imagine means the runner that was being placed. RAF Kinoss Archives

From RAF Kinloss MRT Archives 6 June 1960 – “Three climbers fell in TD Gap.  1 fatal and 2 with minor injuries.  500ft ropes used for lower.” In these days it was a long way to Skye from RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. There was no Bridge at Inverness and Skye and the roads would be very tight. It was a 7 hour drive before they got on the hill. Carrying a Stretcher, ropes, medical kit and gear by a small team to one of the most awkward places in Skye would be a serious proposition.

The descent with the casualty into the gully would be very loose and dangerous not the place to be. Yet this was accepted as part of the risks of Mountain Rescue in these days pre – helicopter. Then the long carry off to Glen brittle on awkward ground again by a small team. Most would have been National Servicemen on short tours. National Service ended in 1960, though periods of deferred service still had to be completed. The last national servicemen were discharged in 1963.

From The Cuillin Ridge Light “the ThearlaichDubh Gap This is an awkward severe grade climb with a fearsome reputation and is probably the hardest climb on the ridge.” Adrian Trendall

1960 RAF Kinloss archives – TD Gap lower

Mountain Rescue even in the 60’s was pretty basic, if you look at this photo of Skye on the famous TD Gap. The team are using 500 foot ropes and are actually using 2 ropes on the stretcher, there were no helmets then issued and no one is wearing them. Flat caps were the normal attire.

We followed in the footsteps of giants.

From Ray Sefton who was on the Call out “

This was a very long day and night. I was there. In those days the team were issued with Tricouni nailed boots, that sparked all the time and made climbing more difficult on Skye.
The memory of the actions and respect by the farmers remains with me.”

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to June 1960 – TD Gap call – out. No helicopters then? The way it was? Respect as they came off the hill.

  1. Ray Sefton says:

    This was a very long day and night. I was there. In those days the team were issued with Tricouni nailed boots, that sparked all the time and made climbing more difficult on Skye.
    The memory of the actions and respect by the farmers remains with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paddy Millen says:

    Likewise Sunshine I remember it, I think the casualty was in the Canadian AF a Flying Officer, it was probably my first callout and encounter with a dead body at the age of 17, not something you tend to forget.

    Liked by 1 person

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