Oh Shit Award #9

Aged about five, I found a long stick that was about the same height as me. For some unknown reason, I decided to walk down the street pushing the stick along, with one end pushing along the pavement, the other end in my mouth. Perhaps I knew this was risky play, like running with scissors, or sticking a loaded gun in your trousers, but it didn’t take very long for the risk to be realised: the stick to hitting an obstacle, stopping dead, the stick jamming into the roof of my mouth, making it bleed. I still have the scar in my mouth to remind me of my stupidity, but I suppose did serve a purpose in that my little experiment did convince me never to walk around pushing along with my mouth again.

The following Oh Shit Award winner is not so silly, but it is the kind of accident that in retrospect is equally as foreseeable and so avoidable. Saying that it is another classic climbers error, one that probably happens dozens of times every winter, to both the novice and the should have known better.


February or March 2008. We were heading for Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm... after a plod up Linn of Dee and Glen Derry. We had stopped at Hutchinson Memorial bothy for a brew and to be greeted by a chap returning from the top with full-on iced beard and nose icicles. We should have taken the hint. My dad had already turned around on the walk-in, not feeling 100% and I in part blame him for not being there to protect me or I was actually worried about him! :-) (got to be someone else’s fault!) 

Setting off up the slope to the loch we put on our walking crampons. And took out our ice axes for the climb. Though the path was still ok, it was getting steeper with ice patches & didn’t fancy trying to attach crampons later if/when it got worse. It was a steady path and easy to navigate...until we reached the loch.  Now in a whiteout, a long way still to go and with an inexperienced member in the group, we decided to head back down to the bothy. 

The return was harder than the climb up. Cold and damp, with the defeat of not getting to the top.... my oh shit award moment happened... 

Its actually a moment of utter lazy arse ness... I decided to slide down/glissade... I moved over to where I could see a good length of snow and ice... sat down and whoosh. First 20 seconds or so brilliant. Bouncing along avoiding rocks...thinking this is a lot quicker than I've been before.

Then, tired legs... back of right crampon dug in.

I stop dead.

My whole body spins around it.

I can still feel the tearing.

I stand up... immediate pain and collapse, ice gives way. I spin the ankle again.....now heading headfirst downhill. Crampon toes bouncing. I perform what has been reported as a perfect ice axe arrest, just as one of the group was considering harpooning me with his ice axe. 


Ankle throbbing like mad I’m helped to get up. Its excruciating. I'm vague as to what happened next. I know I put my head down and walked out back to the car. I don’t know-how. I just did it. Pig headed, not wanting to stop and risk not starting again- definitely not wanting to be rescued. I was nearly being sick with each step, as it clicked and burnt.

About 1km from the car park my Dad walks out to meet us. Back at the accommodation, boot off, the foot is purple green and black. The ankle is black. No break but ligament damage that left ankle weak more than 10 years on. 

John