In the Shadow of Ben Nevis is the story of Ian 'Spike' Sykes. Already a keen climber as a teenager, he was posted to the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, and was involved in some of the most legendary call-outs in Scottish mountain rescue history. The book includes a foreword by legendary mountaineer Hamish MacInnes, a close friend of Spike's.
In 1959, sixteen-year-old Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes left school and, after a short period of work at Leeds University, joined the RAF. Already a keen climber, he signed up on the promise of excitement and adventure and was posted to the remote RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in the north of Scotland. It was the beginning of a journey which would see him involved in some of the most legendary call-outs in Scottish mountain rescue history, including the 1963 New Year tragedy on the Isle of Skye. In the Shadow of Ben Nevis tells Spike’s story from growing up in Leeds in the aftermath of the Second World War, to his time with the RAF during the cold war. After leaving the RAF, he remained an active member of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and was involved in the first lower down the north face of Ben Nevis – an epic 1,500-foot descent to rescue stricken climbers in the middle of winter. Following a two-and-a-half-year stint on Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey, he returned to the Highlands and opened the first Nevisport shop with his close friend Ian ‘Suds’ Sutherland. Together, they brought Sunday trading to Fort William and were one of a small number of shops to revolutionise outdoor retail in the UK. Later, he was a key player in the development of the Nevis Range ski area. Over many years, and against all odds, the project became a reality and a great success. Recounted within these pages are a great many lively tales of adventures and mishaps, told with immediacy and charm. With a foreword by legendary Scottish mountaineer Hamish MacInnes, a close friend of Spike’s, In the Shadow of Ben Nevis is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Scottish mountaineering and mountain rescue.
Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes was born and raised in Leeds during the Second World War. A climber since his youth, he joined the RAF at sixteen, working on the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in the Scottish Highlands during a number of dramatic rescues. After leaving the RAF he worked with the British Antarctic Survey on the southern polar ice cap, where he ran a dog team and worked as a guide for the Survey’s field scientists. Back in Scotland, Spike and Ian Sutherland identified an opportunity for a climbing and outdoor equipment shop in the Highlands, and the first Nevisport shop was born. Both remained as members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue, the UK’s busiest team. Spike was also instrumental in the development of the ski area at Nevis Range on Aonach Mor, where he stayed on as managing director for twelve years. He is currently a director of Nevis Range, which is now also internationally renowned as a mountain biking centre. Spike was awarded an MBE in 1990 for services to sport and mountain rescue, and in 2011 he received the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture. His first book, Cry Argentina (978-1-846248-71-9), a semi-fictional account of the build-up to the invasion of South Georgia in the Falklands War, was published in 2013. In the Shadow of Ben Nevis is his second book. Spike lives in Fort William with his partner Gay, and has a daughter Eilidh.
Born in 1930, Hamish Maclnnes OBE is a Scottish mountaineer with a leading climbing record. He has made many first ascents in Scotland, including the 1965 first winter traverse of Skye's Cuillin Ridge, alongside Tom Patey, Brian Robertson and David Crabbe. In 1973 he climbed the infamous prow of Roraima in Venezuela with Don Whillans, Joe Brown and Mo Anthoine. He has taken 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. In addition to around twenty world-class expeditions, he found time to invent items of advanced mountain-rescue equipment including the MacInnes stretcher and specialised ice-climbing hardware such as the Terrordactyl ice axe.
MacInnes 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 and has been the honorary secretary of the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland, an honorary member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and holds four honorary doctorates. He has authored an impressive thirty-five books, illustrated with his beautiful photography for which he has become renowned, and has also contributed to hundreds of documentaries and films, including The Eiger Sanction, Highlander and The Living Daylights.
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