A Tribute to Hamish MacInnes

December 01, 2020 2 min read

Last week, we were very saddened to hear that renowned mountaineer Hamish MacInnes had passed away. MacInnes was – and will forever remain – one of the most famous Scottish mountaineers of the twentieth century.

Born in Galloway in 1930, MacInnes was most well known for being the ‘father of modern mountain rescue in Scotland’, having invented the first all-metal ice-axe and the MacInnes stretcher – an eponymous lightweight foldable alloy stretcher that is widely used in mountain and helicopter rescue.

Throughout his life, MacInnes developed a leading climbing record, having made many first ascents in Scotland. In 1965, he completed the first winter traverse of Skye’s Cuillin Ridge and in 1973, he climbed the infamous prow of Roraima in Venezuela. He also took part in seven expeditions to the Himalaya and was deputy leader on Chris Bonington’s 1975 Everest South-West Face expedition on which Dougal Haston and Doug Scott made the first British ascent.

As well as embarking on around twenty world-class expeditions, MacInnes also founded the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team in 1961 and served as team leader for over thirty years. An internationally renowned rescue expert, he also founded the Search and Rescue Dog Association in 1965 and the Scottish Avalanche Information Service in 1988.

In the seventies and eighties, MacInnes was employed as a mountain safety advisor to a number of major films, including Monty Python and the Holy GrailThe Eiger SanctionThe Mission and The Living Daylights. In 1972, he wrote the International Mountain Rescue Handbook, which has become the standard manual of mountain search and rescue teams throughout the world.

Since the publication of International Mountain Rescue, MacInnes authored over thirty books, including Call-out and Climb to the Lost World.

Call-out is the definitive collection of tales about early mountain rescue in the Highlands of Scotland. The book documents MacInnes and the Glencoe Mountain Rescue team’s development of life-saving techniques and equipment in the late 1960s and how these were utilised during ground-breaking rescues on a variety of Scottish mountains. Call-out is an inspiring portrayal of responsible and dedicated mountaineering practice, which is as pertinent today as ever.

Originally published in 1974, Climb to the Lost World chronicles MacInnes’ summit of Mount Roraima with climbing pioneers Don Whillans, Mo Anthoine and Joe Brown the year before. The book recounts the team’s discovery of an alien world of tortured rock formations, sunken gardens and magnificent waterfalls, combined with the trials and tribulations of day-to-day expedition life. MacInnes’ dry humour and perceptive observations of his companions, flora and fauna relay the story of this first ascent with passion and in true explorer style.

If you’re wanting to discover more about MacInnes’ extraordinary life and career, then we would strongly recommend checking out his books. MacInnes’ bibliography can be found on his official website.