In a chilling turn of events on Friday, November 17, an experienced climber faced a nightmare while attempting a solo ascent of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Britain. The 44-year-old individual found themselves in a precarious situation after a misstep with an ice axe resulted in a gruesome self-inflicted injury.
The solo climb began around 11:30 am, navigating the challenging Carn Mor Dearg route. Despite clear conditions on that day, recent heavy snowfall added an element of danger to the already perilous ascent.
Descending a slope, the climber lost footing and instinctively raised hands to shield the face during the fall. However, the grip on the ice axe proved calamitous as the sharp tip penetrated the nose near the eye, leading to a significant amount of bleeding.
Recalling the incident, the climber shared, “In an instant, I was lying on the mountain covered in blood. I stumbled on the snow, my boot spikes jammed, and I lost my footing. As I was falling, I put my hands up to protect myself, but I had my ice axe in my hand, and it hit me straight in the face.”
Amidst shock and panic, the climber realized the severity of the situation. Alone and injured, they understood the potential life-threatening nature of the predicament. Displaying remarkable presence of mind, they promptly packed the wound with snow, a skill acquired through rescue courses taken after relocating to the Western Highlands two years prior.
With a signal acquired on the phone, the climber urgently contacted the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (MRT), triggering a swift response, including a coastguard helicopter. Fearing the worst, the climber resorted to calling for help and using a whistle from the backpack in the hope of attracting nearby climbers.
Fortune favoured them as a group of hikers responded to calls for assistance. Calmly, they placed the climber in a survival bag, providing crucial support until the arrival of professional rescuers.
The Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team airlifted the climber to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where they underwent surgery to address the gash above the nose. Reflecting on the incident, the climber expressed gratitude for the collaborative efforts that ensured their rescue, stating, “I am just glad that I survived to tell the tale and can’t thank everyone involved enough.”
Highlighting the unpredictable hazards of mountain climbing in Scotland, the climber urged fellow enthusiasts to exercise caution and preparedness. Emphasizing the importance of being aware of the risks, they cautioned against embarking on climbs ill-equipped for the challenges posed, especially during this time of the year.
A spokesperson for the Coastguard provided details of the rescue operation, stating, “The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Inverness airlifted an individual with an injury on Ben Nevis. The alarm was raised at about midday on November 17. The individual was flown to Inverness from where they were taken to hospital by road by the Scottish Ambulance Service. Police Scotland and Lochaber Mountain Rescue were also alerted.”
The incident serves as a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of mountainous terrains and the importance of thorough preparation and caution in the face of challenging conditions. As climbers continue to pursue their passion for scaling heights, this ordeal serves as a cautionary tale, urging individuals to prioritize safety and awareness in their mountaineering endeavours.