Hamish MacInnes dies, aged 90

Hamish MacInnes with one of his early mountain rescue dogs. © BBC Scotland

Hamish MacInnes with one of his early mountain rescue dogs.  © BBC Scotland

By Bill Heaney

Scottish climber, inventor and mountain safety pioneer Hamish MacInnes has died aged 90 at his West Highlands home at Glencoe in Argyll.

MacInnes climbed the Matterhorn as a teenager, and later joined Chris Bonington’s Everest expedition in 1975.

Alongside his climbing endeavours, MacInnes was a keen inventor and played a pivotal role in organising and optimising mountain rescue. He is credited with inventing the first all-metal ice axe and a lightweight stretcher that is widely used around the world today.

MacInnes assisted in the founding of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, which he lead for a number of years, and had a hand in setting up the Search and Rescue Dog Association, and the Scottish Avalanche Information Service.

Due to his knowledge of safety, MacInnes was often involved in supervising outdoor film productions.  He earned the nicknames ‘the Fox of Glencoe’ and ‘MacPiton’ and was an adviser to Clint Eastwood on the film, The Eiger Sanction

In later life, a urinary tract infection caused MacInnes to experience delirium, which was misdiagnosed as dementia. He was sectioned in a psycho-geriatric hospital and attempted to escape.

A BBC Scotland film, Final Ascent: The Legend of Hamish MacInnes, documented his health struggles in later life and is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

One of Hamish MacInnes’s mountaineering mentors was  Dumbarton man Ben Humble MBE , pictured right.

Ben was a Scottish writer and climber who was responsible for the creation of Scottish Mountain Rescue teams as we know them today.

He was also a keen photographer and film maker. During the World War II he produced several educational films in order to support the war effort.

One of his films of VJ Day parades and celebrations in Dumbarton was recently televised to mark the anniversary.

Ben Humble was born in Dumbarton in 1903, one of the sons of the manager of Dennystown Forge at Dalreoch. The family lived at Belfield, a large mansion house in West Bridgend which later became an approved school.

Despite his total deafness he became a dentist, later making advances in forensic dentistry.

A biography of his life, The Voice of the Hills: The Story of Ben Humble was written by his nephew Roy Humble in 1995 and there are references to Hamish MacInnes in the book.

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