The event was a snow and ice climbing course in Glencoe run by Hamish McInnes and Ian Clough which ran over a period of a few days. There were about eight of us on the course, and I now only remember three in particular. We all assembled at, and stayed in a bunkhouse in Glencoe. At that time I was twenty nine years old. I drove to this event in my Volkswagen 1300 Beetle, and picked up a hitchhiker on the side of Loch Lomond, who turned out to be heading for the same course. This guy was a few years younger than me. Although it is not relevant to this story, coming round a bend in the road we came across an accident. An elderly lady had been driving from the opposite direction, and her car was upside down on the side of the road. Other people were already in attendance and help had been called, and the lady was not injured, but I was amused because she kept saying repeatedly,
My hitchhiker was a trifle arrogant, and I did not particularly take to him, but he did convey that he was an experienced climber of some ability. At the bunkhouse the next person who remains in the memory was another even younger lad who seemed to be clumsy and inept, but always willing to do more than his share of work, and make brews for everybody. I don’t think he did this to curry favour – he was just a decent sort of guy. The third person was a small fiftyish guy who turned out to be a bank manger and had no previous climbing experience at all - my immediate thoughts were that hewas too old and would prove to be a liability on the hill.*
There was not really enough snow and ice for the purposes of the course, and on the first day we were sent off on a navigation exercise across some wilderness in foul weather.
The second day we were taken up into The Lost Valley in Glencoe to do a mixed snow and rock climb which Hamish said was a second ascent. We ascended a steep snow gully, then broke out onto the righthand rock wall which was sparsely snow adorned. Halfway up this wall the young inept one lost one of his crampons, arising,I suppose, from not having properly strapped them which was predictable from previous observation of this character. We watched as the crampon fell down our previously climbed snow gully for about a hundred feet. We all knew that somebody would have to retrieve it, and everybody seemed to hesitate, and nobody wanted to volunteer, but unnoticed at first, the fiftyish “old” inexperienced bank manager had unroped and set off - he retrieved the item in a competent and modest manner, and I think we all felt a bit ashamed that we had held back and let this chap do the business.
At the end of this day my hitchhiker was muttering that the course was not hard enough. The next morning we assembled to meet Hamish and Ian. I saw Ian beckon to the hitchhiker and they went off together, and the rest of us went off up Bidean nam Bian with Hamish. I suspect Ian took that guy up some desperate climb and scared the hell out of him. All I know is that he was very quiet and subdued for the rest of the time.
My hero of course was the bank manager. The lesson I learnt, which I know is a cliché, is never to judge people on first acquaintance, and I have tried to abide by this ever-since. I am not saying that first impressions are always wrong or right, but it is always worth taking a step back and observing before making radical judgements.