Highlands & Islands

Climber tells of surviving major rockfall in Cairngorms

mountain rescue team on mountain Image copyright Cairngorm MRT
Image caption Members of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team prepare to rescue Ron Walker

The experienced climber who was badly injured after being caught in a rockfall in the Cairngorms on Saturday says the incident could have been a double fatality.

Ron Walker had previously warned fellow climbers and hillwalkers of the risk posed by loose stone in Coire an t-Sneachda, and had gone into the area with a friend to climb and clear slabs from Fingers Ridge and above the Goat Track path.

The following is from an article he has written about his rescue which Mountaineering Scotland has posted to Facebook as part of warning about the heightened risk of rockfalls.

"I was quite pleased with the amount of dangerous rubble we managed to clear from the first two pitches.

"However, at the top of the slabby corner of pitch three, just past the optional loose block belay on the left and after about a metre or two on the loose arete, a large area of slab just slid off with me on it.

"I fell backwards with the slabby guillotine-like blocks following me in flight until the one wire runner placed at the start of the arete came tight.

"I'd really thought I'd had it as the large flakes would have taken my head and arms off. By some miracle the fall held after about five metres and left me hanging upside down on the damaged rope.

"Amazingly, I'd only got hit by one block as it bounced by hitting and crushing my right arm.

"As the blocks whizzed by my head and body they cut the main anchor sling at the foot of the pitch. This was between Andrew and the spike belay and the one other thread runner and Andrew's trousers were cut too.

Image copyright Cairngorm MRT
Image caption Duncan Scott, a doctor, helping the injured Mr Walker from the scene of Saturday's accident

"This meant that one of the blocks must have just missed him by a millimetre or so as it sliced through the runner and the belay sling.

"Fortunately the rope wasn't cut through but nicked and my lucky offset number three wire had held. If it hadn't held, all the other slings had been cut by the falling flakes and I wouldn't be typing this and likely a double fatality.

"Spotting the severed sling Andrew managed to place another sling before I was lowered in agony onto the belay ledge.

"Once we were all secured again, Andrew phoned the rescue services and we prepared for the wait by wearing our extra warm layers, bivvi and group shelters.

"It was just after 10.00hrs and very wet and windy.

"A big thanks to Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and in particular John Lyall and Dr Duncan Scott for risking their necks in a particularly tricky and dangerously loose rescue and to Andrew, my second climber for remaining calm and supportive, in miserable weather three pitches up, for the six or more hours following the accident before being lowered off.

"And a big thanks obviously goes to the search and rescue helicopter crew, paramedics, doctors and Raigmore Hospital nursing staff."

Following medical assessments, Mr Walker's arm was found not to have been broken but crushed. He is expected to make a full recovery.

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