“The Fox of Glencoe” Hamish MacInnes RIP

The sad but not unexpected sad news that Hamish had passed away yesterday.


There will be much written by many in the Mountaineering world who climbed with Hamish over the years. His exploits are legendary and so impressive.

Hamish climbed all over the World yet his passion was Scotland this was his playground, his work place. He wrote so many books of his exploits they like his films are a part of his huge legacy.

Hamish climbed all over the World yet his passion was Scotland this was his playground, his work place. He wrote so many books of his exploits they like his films are a part of his huge legacy.

In the early days of Mountain Rescue he was a true pioneer and formed the Glencoe MR Team. They were a great group of top mountaineers called “The Glencoe Mafia” and added to the many local characters, keepers and shepherds they were a team in the true tradition of Mountain Rescue. I was so lucky to meet Hamish and work with him on so many occasions. In these early days he worked with many of the RAF teams who were in at the forefront of Mountain Rescue in the early years .

Hamish in addition to being a first class mountaineer used his engineering background to make lightweight stretchers and ice axes. He designed new techniques for technical rescue all tested in Glencoe. Yet most of all he was a true mountaineer. He was also an innovative inventor who made breakthroughs in the design of ice axes that changed the face of mountaineering. Yet he was still part of of a small Mountain Rescue team in Glencoe this World class mountaineer was one of us.

I got to know Hamish well over the years. I was in the corner of the room at his house as a young lad as he talked about Rescues and other tales. I worked with him on the hill was amazed at his endurance and how he never seemed to feel the cold. He was ice cool in any drama and such a mountaineer. I got to know him better as I became Team Leader of the RAF Teams at Leuchars and Kinloss . He was full of advice and yet he listened to you and shared his knowledge. He had a wild sense of humour, very dry and unique.

He had so many contacts within the military he could get anything done. This was very helpful. Hamish also helped set up the Mountain Rescue Committee and he got things done and ensured the teams had a voice. He highlighted the costs of Mountain Rescue and the work of unpaid Team members to the Police and fought our corner on many occasions. He also handled the politics of Mountain Rescue advising on so many occasions.

He worked with the helicopters all the time improving systems and was a friend of so many aircrew where he was the man they trusted on a Rescue. He had many other contacts in the Special forces and had access to so many state of the art gear that he used on searches or training. He helped the RAF teams a lot in many ways always there when our future was threatened he had the ear of many politicians over the years. If you had the problem Hamish was the man.

I think and I am proud to say we became good pals and I dropped in often to see him in his house in Glencoe. He had an incredible memory. He could produce at any time a picture of some first ascent or of a famous climber on an expedition he was part off.

Hamish stories were incredible and when he took ill a few years ago I was honoured to be part of his network that he spoke to. These were terrible time’s for Hamish and his recent film shows how grim it was for him.

Amazingly Hamish recovered he regained his memory by re reading his many books. I visited him and the stories kept coming back. Listening to Hamish he would drop the names of the famous into the conversation as if it was a normal occurrence . Chris (Bonnington) Clint ( Eastwood) Shaun ( Connery)were regular as was Michael ( Palin)and so many others.

On his recovery he had many visits from his pals. He seemed so happy so well looked after by his local carers who he sang praises of, they looked after him so well and he was fighting back to health. He had just celebrated his big birthday( 90 ) recently and despite Covid on his birthday he was surrounded by his Glencoe pals in the garden. He was overjoyed with a special day.

I saw him recently he was still on fine form. I think he knew we would not meet again. He asked-me if I could sort out a fly past from the Coast guards. He was missing seeing his pals in the helicopters. (Over to your Bristows Helicopters.) My last words were take care as he sat by Tom Pateys desk amongst the pictures of the mountains he loved.

I will miss his lengthy chats on the phone, the huge emails, the visits to his house his incredible memory, his stories, his dry humour, his advice but also his true friendship. Hamish did so much for so many especially those in trouble on the mountains.

There will be so many stories and tales of this incredible man but to me he was “our Hamish” I feel we so honoured to have been a small part of the story. Rest in peace Hamish you were one of the finest men I have ever met. How many lives did you save how many folk are indebted to you? We will never know but what a life , what adventures, what vision. What a man.

There was also a side that many did not see his care for the relatives after a tragedy on the hills was something few knew about. Hamish the man of iron had a heart of gold.

Hamish at Tom Patey’s old desk ! Photo Davy Gunn

“An Iconic Last” Hamish’s words.

“There can only be one” Highlander.

Thank you Sir

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 when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to “The Fox of Glencoe” Hamish MacInnes RIP

  1. Jeanette Bryan says:

    I will always remember sitting in the yellow mountain rescue van while Hamish spoke to the rescue teams on the mountain in search of Stuart. He knew those mountains so well. I was in awe as he directed one of the team to a bothy to check it out. He asked me many questions about Stuart in his calming voice while every part of me was screaming inside hoping for a miracle which was not to be.
    I never got the chance to thank him until March 3rd 2019 (which was Stuart’s birthday) at the showing of his film ‘Final Ascent’. I spoke to him through the microphone, thanking him on behalf of the family. At the end of the show, I managed to speak with him. His first words to me as he shook my hand was ‘the shepherd was the first man out on the search’. His memory certainly had returned as it had been 27 years since that awful day. He lead such a full life and was able to live in the most beautiful place. Rest in Peace Hamish, although something makes me think that won’t happen.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. John Bainbridge says:

    Will never be forgotten.


  3. stevedsmart says:

    A fine tribute, putting a human face on a legend, for those who (like me) only knew his name, not the man himself. Thank you for this.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pete Kay says:

    Cracking tribute Hev’s. Never met the bloke, read about his epic on the Dru, when I was a kid. Climbing with fractured skull, don’t make em like that anymore. Stay safe fella.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John Campbell Stirling says:

    Hi Heavy – long time no see (you may not even remember me). I started my SAR helicopter time at RAF Leuchars in the 70s where many of our ‘jobs’ were out west, Glencoe, The Ben etc and I met up with Hamish on many occasions. At the very beginning he was quite skeptical regarding the value of our helicopters and much preferred his boys on the ground (I think weather uncertainties were to blame). He usually only called us out when his team were stuck or, for whatever reason, could not reach the casualty in time. It meant we were mostly called out late afternoon, dark and in bad weather. This ‘attitude’ continued until one time he called us and I picked him up from the Kings House Hotel, Glencoe – a climber had fallen in the narrow Raven’s Gulley on Buachaille Etive Mòr adjacent. He was in a position where the MRT could not reach him. We hovered just outside the Gully and lowered Hamish and pals down slope of the casualty- it was now dusky. I was guided into the gulley by my Nav, Flt Lt Dave Eley we lowered the winchman FS Davies to the casualty who had severe head injuries (I have unique pictures of them being winched up – taken by Hamish on the ground). We picked up the team and took the lot back to the Kings House where the ambulance was waiting. Hamish was then ‘converted’ and we were pals and comrades ever since (I even feature in one or two of his books). Obviously then it was far to late to fly back to Leuchars so we all stayed in the Kings House and had a great time in that great bar. Happy days – a great trip.

    Liked by 1 person

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