Updated: Tale of a cragfast geology student from Strabeg bothy book

Update: The person who ended up stuck on the slope got in touch with me to give me additional details and, in particular, point out that they had a whistle, compass-clinometer and phone on them but were unable to use them at the point they became struck as they were having to use both hands to prevent a fall. I’d wrongly assumed this kit was attached to or in the rucksack they were descending to retrieve. Their unedited reply is in the comments section below. 

Are you sitting comfortably? If you’re responsible for people on field courses, you might not be at the end of this story I chanced upon in the Strabeg bothy book. The reporter is Lorraine McCall, who completed a continuous round of the Corbetts to raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Support in 2014. You can still donate through Lorraine’s JustGiving page, where I note people have found other tales Lorraine has left in other bothy books.

Lorraine was staying in the bothy when she heard some cries, which she at first took to be a lamb, then a child and finally went out to investigate. Upon venturing out she located a person who was cragfast (stuck and unable to move up or down). Lorraine also saw a couple of people moving towards the person and decided to head to a point where she had mobile reception to use the extremely useful ‘Text to 999’ service to report the incident to Mountain Rescue.

She returned to find that the two people moving towards the person had reached them and had brought them down. This is not unusual, as it is usually easier to go up from below than descend into unseen ground. Lorraine went back to the point where she had signal to let the Mountain Rescue Team know they could cancel the call out.

Upon returning to the bothy, she met the party of three. The two people who went up to the crag, in wellies, were up the strath fishing and to take a whisky in memory of a dead friend. The person who had been stuck on the crag turned out to be a geology student. As this area lies close to the Eriboll section of the Moine Thrust, in the UNESCO North West Highlands Geopark, with Durness and Inchnadamph ‘just around the corner’. The geologist’s pack had fallen down the crag and they2017-07-06 16.45.53had descended to try and retrieve it and become stuck. Many people still work in remote areas alone and there is nothing intrinsically dangerous in this practice. Sometimes we do now carry SOS beacons but in this case, the thing that would have helped to bring Lorraine out sooner would have been a whistle, costing a few pounds, to give a distress signal. Kit such as whistle, compass, map and phone to be attached to your person. In falls, rucksacks are sometimes ripped from the back, so if your means of calling for help, other than your voice, are in the pack, you can become separated from them. 

All is well that ends well, and for the other details of the civilized ending of the story, which features whisky, you’ll need to visit the bothy and read the book. Unless Lorraine writes a book about her adventures and includes the story in there. She dropped her hill plans for the day and she and the two fishermen were exemplars of the ethic of helping your fellow hillgoers.

I am a palaeobiologist in my early 40's carrying out research work. I am based in Scotland.

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Posted in Geodiversity, Mountains, Navigation, Scotland
One comment on “Updated: Tale of a cragfast geology student from Strabeg bothy book
  1. Natalja says:

    Hello. I was that geology student from back in 2014. For a bit of context – I did have a compass clino and whistle around my neck, but due to the fact that I was holding on to roots with both hands (while facing forward), I could not use the whistle. In this case, I would not have been able to use my phone either. We do geological mapping in pairs, but our instructor had warned us not to ‘work together’ as it could be considered cheating/plagiarism – instead, we just told each other where we going that day. Obviously, after this happened I refused to go out alone.

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Al is a Summer Mountain Leader
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