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David 'Heavy' Whalley reviews Hamish MacInnes' Call-out

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Hamish MacInnes Call-out

Photo: Copyright John Cleare.

 

This is the classic tale of the early days of mountain rescue mainly in Glencoe, Scotland. Hamish is a world-class mountaineer and yet he spent so much time helping his fellow man and women in distress on these wild hills. He has contributed greatly to safety on the mountains by his huge contribution to Mountain Safety and by his major involvement in mountain rescue, its equipment and design. This was a period where rescue in the mountains was done historically mainly by locals who lived and worked in the glen. Many were forestry workers, fisherman, shepherds and climbers. These were days of simple gear, before mobile phones, GPS and the early days of helicopter rescue. Glencoe is a climber’s mecca, it can be a wild place and it is here where Hamish pioneered many advances in mountain rescue, avalanche techniques and founded the Search and Rescue Dogs Association. He is known as the ‘Father of Mountain Rescue’ not just in Scotland but throughout the world.

I have known Hamish throughout my forty years in mountain rescue from when I was a young novice with the RAF Mountain Rescue teams to more recently when I was a team leader. He is without doubt a world authority on mountain rescue and was always willing to advise and assist many of us throughout our mountain rescue lives. He was always at the forefront of rescue and I owe him so much for his advice over the years, as do so many that climb in these great hills. His knowledge and his skill as a mountaineer are well known but it is Hamish the man, the leader in his own quiet way that stands out in this book. He is a very caring and private man, yet is in regularly in contact with those relatives he has rescued in the past.

I am so glad this book has been republished as an ebook, as it opens these great tales to  new generations. These are the stories of real life rescues many that involve many personalities and characters involved in the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team. It gives a rare insight into their humanity and why they risk their lives to help those in trouble in the mountains.  These were the days before rescues were highlighted by the media, and there are so many wonderful stories in this book it is refreshing to read them as many are now climbing folklore.

This book takes you into the heart of rescues: the tragedy, the triumph of recovering a badly injured walker or climber. I first read it in 1973 when it was published I could not put it down – I was riveted to it and learned so much from it. I reread it often and it is still the same – a riveting insight into the world of mountain rescue. This was written before things like PTSD were accepted as part of a rescue hazard for rescue team members ­– many of the tales are harrowing and yet told in a dignified manner to those who were involved. This is a book that makes me feel that despite what the world throws at us, there are those out there who will give everything to help their fellow mountaineer in trouble.  The rescuers in the book are unpaid volunteers, and in this world of taking and rarely giving it gives me a heart-warming feeling, which continues to this day amazingly.

This is not just a book about mountain rescue but also an incredible series of tales about rescues and the people and personalities involved. Many of the rescues in the book are epics, and yet Hamish and the Glencoe team go about their job as if it were a normal occurrence to risk their lives for people they do not know. These rescues are not without risk at times and yet despite avalanches, rockfall and the wild Scottish weather, Hamish and the team rarely get into trouble.  This is not due to luck but to the skill of Hamish and the team. It also covers a huge history of Scottish mountain rescue and the characters involved. It shows the time they give away from families in the dead of a winter’s night, no matter what, and we must never take this for granted.

This is the classic mountain rescue book, yet so many of the rescues are in the same places that occur regularly now. I advise all mountain rescuers to read this – there is so much to learn in each chapter. There are so many similarities to today’s rescue and its politics! It is a must-read for all climbers, walkers and armchair adventurers. These are true stories and all who love the wild places especially Glencoe and Scotland and will be enthralled by the stories. Hamish and his band of brothers in Glencoe have left a great legacy in pioneering mountain rescue in Glencoe. Hamish’s Call-out is a wonderful tribute to those special people and this book has already stood the test of time. To anyone starting in the mountains – read this book there are so many lessons to be learned.

This is a book of one man’s life and team who have given so much for others. I would advise all to read it and learn that life and nature can teach us so much and build a bond that lasts beyond the experiences that this book covers. Thanks Hamish for a great book, and to Vertebrate Publishing for republishing this book – it’s a classic.  You have to read it.

             David “Heavy” Whalley MBE, BEM

  Call-out by Hamish MacInnes

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