Cameron McNeish, former editor of The Great Outdoors, has a new book on its way. Here’s why Cameron says there’s always the hills…
In the March 2018 issue of The Great Outdoors, available now, Cameron McNeish shares an extract from his upcoming book, There’s Always the Hills. Here is a taster, along with a few additional photos – to enjoy the full piece, pick up a copy of the magazine.
By Cameron McNeish
During the winter of 1979/80 I was avalanched in Coire Laogh Mor in the Cairngorms. I came down several hundred feet and thought I was drowning in the snow. The impact of the avalanche was so powerful that my hat, gloves, rucksack and even my wristwatch were all ripped from me. When the snow stopped moving I was buried up to my chest but fortunately my head and arms were free. I managed to extricate myself and other than a few bruises and a badly damaged ego I was fine. However, it was a long time before I could cross a snow slope again without fear. I read everything I could about avalanches, soaked up every bit of information, because I never wanted to experience such a thing again. Did I think of giving up the hills? Of course not. The incident made me want to know the hills better, to understand them better, to treat them with more informed respect, just as you would with any lover you’ve had a tiff with.
I rather like the notion that a couple of angels picked me up, carried me down to the roadside and left me for my neighbours to find
The closest I’ve come to losing my life was an accident while hill-running (of all things). I’d decided to have an afternoon run to the summit of Creag Dhubh, a lovely 756m hill that overlooks the village where I live. As I approached the summit on a fine and clear late September afternoon, I remembered that I had to collect my son from rugby practice at 5.30. I checked my watch. I had an hour to jog down the hill and drive back to the house before meeting him, but something happened and to this day I have no idea what it was. I may have tripped, I just can’t remember, but the next thing I recall is trying to climb over a wall at the foot of the hill and onto the Newtonmore to Laggan road. I tried to jog along the road thinking to myself that this run seemed a lot tougher than usual. Fortunately, I was spotted. One of my elderly neighbours was in her car when she saw me limping along. She stopped but (she later told me), was reluctant to give me a lift in her brand-new car because of all the blood that was dripping off me. Fortunately, another neighbour, Dave Fallows, also stopped and had no hesitation in pushing me into his car and phoning for an ambulance in what was, for the time, a new-fangled mobile phone.
We got back to my house just before the ambulance arrived and I was whipped off to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. Whatever happened obviously involved a long fall down steep ground. I was covered in cuts and bruises, required 40 stitches in my head, had broken my left ankle and snapped the end of the radius bone in the arm, just above my wrist. And I couldn’t recall a thing.
The consultant who operated on me told me this lapse of memory wasn’t unusual; it was the mind’s way of protecting me – and to this day I’m not sure what happened. I’ve gone back to the area and looked around and can only think that perhaps I slipped while crossing a stream, before sliding down a series of short crags. I reckon I must have lain unconscious for an hour or perhaps 90 minutes before stumbling down the hillside to the road. I rather like the notion that a couple of angels picked me up, carried me down to the roadside and left me for my neighbours to find.
I guess I was lucky; my consultant told me at one point that 10 years earlier he wouldn’t have had the technology to save my wrist. A decade earlier my right hand would have been amputated. Not everyone is as fortunate.
Keen to read more? Pick up a copy of the March issue!
There’s Always the Hills is published by Sandstone Press on 15 February 2018
Cameron McNeish wins 2018 Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture
On Thursday 1 February, news broke that Cameron McNeish had been awarded the 2018 Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture.
Nominated by the public and his peers as a mountain hero who celebrates achievement, accomplishment and the spirit of adventure, Cameron McNeish joins the Fort William Mountain Festival Hall of Fame as the 2018 recipient of the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture in the Fort William Mountain Festival prestigious award’s 11th anniversary year.
Cameron McNeish, an award-winning writer whose fields of interest include mountaineering, hillwalking, backpacking and bikepacking, joins previous esteemed winners such as Dr Adam Watson, Jimmy Marshall, Myrtle Simpson and Ian Sykes. He became editor of The Great Outdoors in 1991.
Cameron McNeish said: “I’m thrilled that there is now a national recognition of the direct link between our hills and wild places and the social history, folklore, traditional music and culture of Scotland.
“And I’m delighted to be joining a very special group of people who have, in many different ways, contributed so much to all these aspects of our national heritage. I’m genuinely humbled.”
All images © Cameron McNeish