My friend Adrian Trednal wrote this in “All things Cuillin” on Facebook. He has given me permission to use it. I personally loved the book it is a wealth of stories by a man I miss and many others dearly. Many of the tales I knew but the photos some I have never seen before made me laugh. Hamish was more than. Mountaineer he was a good friend and how I miss his banter his phone calls and his company. Glencoe to me will never be the same but this book is a great tribute to a special person, well done all involved. The Editor and the Scottish Mountain Trust has done a great job it’s without doubt an outstanding read and again a big thank you to Adrian for his review. Hamish would be very pleased I am sure !
A review The Fox of Glencoe Hamish MacInnes.
The Holy Grail of Mountaineering (Auto) Biographies
Hamish MacInnes The Fox Of Glencoe
Hamish MacInnes must surely qualify as a polymath of the mountaineering. Not just a talented climber and mountaineer but a world leading authority in mountain rescue, a designer and engineer, prolific author and a safety adviser to many big budget films.
The book is suitably large (368 pages) and well suited to such a larger than life character as Hamish. It’s available in three different editions, Standard, Special and Limited. The Standard is anything but standard; a large hardback, sumptuously produced. The Special includes a nice slipcase to protect your precious book and the Limited (but now sold out) has the slipcase and a print of the man himself.
From a design perspective the book is a work of art from the stylish front cover through the carefully selected double page spreads of colour photos to the layout of the chapters themselves. Scottish Mountaineering Press is certainly on a roll with it’s new look books and everything about the book from the font to the binding, the choice of photos to the written content are all combined to produce an ultra up to date book about an iconic character.
The book only arrived on Saturday and I picked it up meaning to just glance through it but after reading the very moving introductions by Chris Bonington and Michael Palin just felt compelled to keep reading. The book is a clever mixture of stories told mainly by Hamish but bolstered by accounts from close friends and climbing partners. I’m guessing but assume some of the gaps were to cover chapters Hamish hadn’t written before his death last year. This mix of writing works well and it typified by the chapter on the first Cuillin Ridge traverse in winter.
The winter ridge chapter was originally written by one other team member, Tom Patey, for the 1965 SMC Journal but has been upgraded with additional commentary by Hamish and Brian Robertson in 2017. It’s typical of the chapters in the book with excellent writing and contemporary photos. Added touches include a photo of the successful team chilling out post traverse at Mrs Campbell’s house in Glen Brittle. There’s also a photo of the entry in Mrs Campbell’s logbook recording details of the epic traverse.
The ridge chapter was of prime interest to me but all the other chapters make compelling reading and truly capture Hamish’ diverse life. Not only is the writing brilliant but the chapter titles are intriguing, for example, “A Mini, A Train And A Corpse” or, “Y-Fronts Rescue.”
“The Evolution Of The Terrordactyl” provides an insight into the development of all metal ice tools after an accident on the then unclimbed Zero Gully on the Ben. Wooden handled ice axes had snapped yet Hamish had been using his all metal “The Message” for a decade. This tragic accident with three climbers killed prompted Hamish to design the “Terrordactyl” and the story continues to involve Yvon Chouinard and Don Willans whose motor bike tyre was no match for the new all metal tool! Read the book to find out more!
Some of the film work chapters are amongst the most readable. “Kilts, Claymores and Cameras” includes Highlander that was filmed on the Cioch and how in the epic fight scene Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert are secured by 2mm high tensile steel aircraft wire ankle loops attached to alloy chocks secured in the rock.
The chapter on Clint Eastwood and filming The Eiger Sanction makes for a gripping read especially as Clint did his own stunts including cutting a rope and the subsequent fall. Clint took all this in his stride but did ask, “Hey, guys, is this safe?” To which Hamish answered, “It’s safe enough but I wouldn’t do it.”
The book is so diverse covering alpine climbs, an early attempt on Everest, “Jaguars In Glencoe”, exploration and climbing in the jungles of south America and a whole lot more written in Hamish’s inimical style. Ice axes and rescue stretchers, climbs and climbers, friends and partners are all covered. The title of the post reflects Hamish’s involvement in the making of “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” with Michael Palin.
The choice of photos are really good and not just some epic mountain vistas but ones like John Cleare’s “Master engineer at work”, a masterful black and white image of Hamish in his workshop.
This is a fantastic read for climbers, many of whom owe a huge debt of gratitude to Hamish for the development of mountain rescue gear and procedures but also to a wider audience since it’s a fascinating autobiography on so many levels and genres.
Everyone at SMP deserves a huge amount of praise for producing such a bench mark book about such a seminal character as Hamish. This must surely set the standard for future autobiographies/biographies of not just climbers but anyone who has led an interesting life. SMP are on fire and producing new books in distinctive styles at a rate of knots.
Many thanks to Robert Michael Lovell for arranging the swift delivery of this stunning book.
Thank you Adrian !