Later, out on some hill, I met Geoff Wood of Bolton who talked of the thrill of nearing a summit when the immediate skyline finally falls away all around you! He was using the only available list of hills over 2,000 feet at that time, in 1980, by George Bridge, 'The Mountains of England and Wales'. I, too, bought the book. Those hills I completed in 1990 and I returned to Scotland to work through all the Munros and Tops in earnest. In total, they make for well over 900 summits over 2,000 feet in England and Wales and over 3,000 feet in Scotland. I have three left at the time of writing. (Now, all completed as of 8 June 2008, when I am updating this.)
FINAL SUMMIT 527 IS A VERY CLOSE SHAVE!
or, Knight's Peak - on our way to our very last summit - bowled a boulder down on us and Becky dodged death by a hair's breadth!
I was with my daughter, Becky and her boyfriend, Tim on 2 June 2008, having just soloed Bhasteir Tooth via the Lotta Corrie route. We were in the gully between Sgurr nan Gillean and my final Top, Knight's Peak, on Pinnacle Ridge. Tim was leading and stepped off a huge boulder wedged in the gully. That extra little push-off sent the boulder but not Tim, thankfully, hurtling down. It missed me on my left side but Becky, who was bringing up the rear, had to step smartly to the left as the thing went thundering down in a cloud of dust down her right side. It missed her by millimetres. It was like something out of an Indiana Jones adventure film. The one with the boulder hurtling down, or rather chasing, Harrison Ford! (Becky's account went, "Tim tried to kill me ... I leapt dramatically out of the way!") From then on, we were rather more zealous in checking for loose rock before using it for a handhold or foothold - for the whole of the rest of the week!
THE BOTHY WITH THE TENT INSIDE!
In March 1992, I had two nights at the Hutchison Memorial Hut in the Cairngorms. Except, such was the filth of the place I actually put the tent up inside the bothy when I was ready to sleep in it! On the second night, I didn't bother and simply slept in the tent outside the bothy, on its lee side.
A shower booth door in Aviemore was completely smashed when I slipped and fell through it. I also hit a deer driving to the next hill but, no pheasants!
MOST BIZARRE ITEM, UNINTENTIONALLY CARRIED IN MY RUCSAC
This was a pillow that was in my bivy/sleeping bag when I hurriedly rolled it up from sleeping in the car the previous night. A quick, and late, decision to go led to an inadequate lunch. Later, I felt really weak and unwell until I realised I needed more food and finally stopped! Then, that evening, in the dark, at the summit of some 3,000 footer I couldn't get the tent pole through the sleeve. I finally managed it when I put my back to the wind that had been keeping the sleeve so tightly shut the pole could not be pushed through.
In Knoydart, I kept on meeting up with the same four guys but, I always got to the first summit of the day before them! Thereafter, they soon pulled ahead and were always far ahead of me for the rest of the day. For three mornings that happened. The reason was that although we were all going in the same direction, they had to peel off from the ridge to get to their bothy for the night. I put the tent up exactly where I had reached by the end of the day, with no diversion! On the final morning, I followed them back to their bothy where one of them took pity on my diet of sandwiches and cereal with dried milk and gave me my first hot food (of soup) for four days. Far better, they kindly gave me a lift back to where I had left my car by the dam and where they had left their second car. Otherwise, I would have been out for a fifth day and night just to do the long road walk back. A coincidence was that all four men came from either my home town or near abouts and I met two of them again at a quarterly meeting of the Halesowen Wildlife Group! On this expedition, I lost my rucsac for a few minutes as I hunted round rocks to find it on returning from doing the Munro that looks like a stuck up thumb and far too steep to climb.
DRIVING NAKED THROUGH THE SCOTTISH NIGHT!
Off the A74 in the Southern Uplands, my night's sleep was disturbed by a whirring sound just as I was getting back into my sleeping bag. I thought it was some engine that had started up in the nearby compound. I got into the driving seat and found a quieter spot to park up and sleep. Except, when I switched the engine off, I still had the whirring. I discovered that it was my electric toothbrush that I had put my hand on squeezing back into the sleeping bag! (I no longer bother with such excesses - the elecy toothbrush; not the sleeping bag!)
SAVED BY AN ICE AXE
This was on the N ridge ascending Ben Hope, many winters ago. There was a steep section in the way. Realising that I might slip, I had the ice axe ready to arrest my fall. Just as well I did because I did slip and the ice axe definitely saved me. I was shocked and shaken but soon recovered sufficiently to climb away onto safer ground where I thankfully collapsed into the snow to eat my lunch. I then retreated back to the car that was my base camp. The next day, I climbed Ben Hope successfully from the south in cloud and snow.
emails from 10 January 2008:-
I was reading your blog and noticed the name of my sister Isobel Rennie who took you for your Mountain Leadership Certificate Introductory Course. I'm glad that she was so memorable as it is now 30 years since she was killed on a mountain in Wales by falling on her ice axe. She died 26/11/77. But she inspired me to go hill walking and took me up my first rock climb on Idwal slabs when I was 18 in about 1973. I followed her example and went snow and ice climbing in the alps.
Nowadays my husband and I do some mountain climbing in the lake district and I do some volunteering for the BTCV (British Trust for Conservation volunteering. It looks like she did a good job of teaching you.
Hilary Salkeld email@example.com
It was so very good of you to write to me and to tell me of Isobel's tragic death.
I was shocked and saddened that such a young and energetic and lovely life should have been so cruelly cut short. I was so impressed with her (and attracted to her) that I returned to Brum and bought the gear she
recommended in October and November 1974 (not just her rucsac!) - and, I never forgot her name. Yet, I never saw her again after that one week. If you would like to tell me more about how she died and how old she was, I would like to read it. But, only if you wish to tell me more. I slipped and fell on my ice axe on the north face of the Ben in 1985 when my wife was pregnant with our daughter. I nearly never met her; I was very lucky to survive! Isobel must have been very unlucky. Now, my daughter with her boyfriend go rock climbing and hill walking and, even ice climbing on a wall outside Symphony Hall in the centre of Brum at Christmas just gone!
I am glad to hear of your outdoor activities, too. I also know and did
much practical nature conservation work through the Halesowen Wildlife
Group when we were more active ten to twenty years ago.
With every good wish
----- Original Message -----
From: Hilary Salkeld
To: 'Tim Weller'
Sent: Sunday, January 13, 2008 8:27 PM
Subject: RE: Isobel Rennie
Thanks for your reply. It was just so odd to see Isobel’s name on the web after all those years.
Isobel had been married for nearly 2 years. She was in the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue and she used to go out on Rescues with her husband John Lyndsay.
That weekend there was snow on the hills. In fact my husband Geoff and I were out walking on Lancashire hills that day and it was a lovely crisp sunny day. Isobel and John had a Shetland sheepdog that they took walking with them. But that day John wanted to go rock climbing with other members of the team so Isobel took the dog and went for a walk with others up a mountain.
The mountainside was so steep that the dog slipped on the snow and landed on Isobel who fell and subsequently landed on her ice axe which went into the aorta.
John Lyndsay got a call for a mountain rescue for his own wife. She was 26 years old when she died.
I got married that summer so our wedding was the last time I saw her.
Geoff and I continued rock climbing and mountain climbing and when the kids were born Hazel (1986) and Adam (1988) they went as well. We took them up Ben Nevis when Adam was 5 years old. Hazel has just finished a degree in Geography and Geology and still likes hill walking especially if it is up volcanoes.
I know that you didn’t know her very well but it is a nice way for me to
remember her after 30 years. Now that I’ve found your blogs I will keep
Thanks for your interest.