Al died whilst soling on the the North Face of the Matterhorn a few years later. It was one of the hardest periods of my life getting him home. I have lost a good few pals in the mountains it’s never easy and even today the mountains still take a toll.
I was scanning some slides yesterday and came across this classic. It’s of my great pal Al MacLeod on the Eiger North Face taken by Ted Atkins who is a another friend no longer with us. Al is wearing his yellow Lion Rampant hat he always wore and was going to get me one. He popped in to see me when he left for the Alps. He was such a lovely crazy wild man who became a great pal.
He was the one who helped me after Lockerbie coming over at Christmas to look after me. A big hard man with a heart of gold.
There is something about friendships that are forged in the mountains. Many call it the “fellowship of the rope“ yet how many lasting friendships do we forge during these crazy days on climbs and Rescues?
Over the years we may disagree or even fall out yet most relationships are rekindled. When your under extreme pressure your pals see you “warts and all” They see you exhausted and struggling yet you get through it if you have good pals for life.
I have been so lucky to have met so many characters throughout my life and as you grow older you look back and appreciate friendship more.
On Everest in 2001 we had two team members summit Dan Carrol and Rusty Bale. We had others at the high camp all going as well as you can at 8000 metres. One of the troops got ill at the high camp. Everything stopped-as did personal ambitions and they helped him down to the North Col at 23000 feet . Here our Doctor got him going again by fluid intravenous drip and he got off the hill safely. There was no disagreement just get out pal off the hill that was what mattered. This showed me how we looked after each other no matter what our personal aims. A few expeditions on the mountain were only interested in the summit at any cost and sadly several died that year. The high mountains take no prisoners but working together you can cut the odds. We all knew each other from many years of Mountaineering we had a bond that went beyond summit ambitions. All coming back safe and well was the ultimate success.
Look after your pals and family especially in these strange times.