Monday, 19 September 2016

To call a rescue

This photo does not do it justice BUT this is the point as you approach the CIC hut you realise just how big Ben Nevis is:- Tower ridge is the first ridge on the right, The incident described happened where the main face is marked Observatory Buttress......

Conditions were stable, weather fine until late afternoon when it was due to deteriate. Four of us had an early start and walked into the North Face of Ben Nevis our two mates decided to do a rapid ascent of the Grade III Classic Tower Ridge *** while we opted for the Grade V,5 Vanishing Gully** on the west side of Tower Ridge its a short tough route which should allow us an early finish before the bad weather hit-Well that was the plan.
Everything went fine for us and we finished our route on Tower Ridge in thick mist and heavy snow, here you have an option of going up to the summit plateau or reversing down the ridge, we opted for the latter.
We had not decended far when we heard an ominous clattering and aaaaargh followed by some more clattering, someone had taken a bad fall across on the Orion Face area. From Tower ridge they were very close to us so we could hear them clearly despite not seeing them thro thick mist.
We shouted are you ok, relief as they replied yes but we are hanging in space....oh (S)hit.
Cut a long story short the they were on Obsevatory Ridge one of the many BIG 3*** classics in that area, the leader had slipped draging the second off his stance so they were both falling when one of the ropes snagged on a spike, stopped them but they had been seperated and both of them were hanging in space.
This was before the days of mobile phones so we descended quickly to the CIC hut where there was (still is) a field telephone for emergency use. By now the wind was almost knocking us off our feet and we were glad to get into the hut out of the blizzard.
Thankfully there were three guys in the hut but the (b)astards would not contact the police on just our word, after 20 frantic minutes trying to get them to use the phone I was raving. As a last resort I went over to the log book where every hut user has to sign in. Ripped out a page from the back and wrote down the name of the three residents, shall I say all of them were well known Scottish mountaineers....
I said its 17.00hrs now so I am going down to the fort bill nick {a 2hr walk) to report this incident and the fact that these three guys have refused to phone the message in doing so risked lives and delayed this rescue by at least 2 hrs.
So they reluctantly made the call.
Our problems were not over though, light was failing and we walked off the hill in the darkness, back at the car our 2 mates failed to show, so we reported them missing. The rescue team were in the back room at the nick preparing to go out, they had a busy night ahead. Apparently 11 folks were reported missing, conditions were grim, getting grimer, the rescue services do an amazing job, I did not envy them setting off up the hill in this storm.
We got lucky, found our mates at the chippy at 23.00 hrs they had been caught in the atrocious conditions and escaped by the tourist route the only safe way of the hill that night, we notified the police that they were safe and went back to our digs at the Alex Mac hut.

Monday morning back at work a guy showed me the Daily Express there was a sensational full page 'artists impression' sketch of daring rescue on Ben Nevis. It showed two guys on a steep cliff dangling in space from a rope snagged on a protruding spike with the rescue services lowering from the ridge above to reach them......

 Another view of the North Face from the CMD ridge

No comments:

Post a Comment