Calum Mallory (pictured right) is a climber, alpinist and mountaineer, whose joy is focussing on winter ascents that require advanced technical skills and knowledge to conquer. Bear Grylls and Sir Ranulph Fiennes both have praised Mallory as an adventurer, and it was on a recent expedition on Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands that Mallory once again found the odds stacked against him when out exploring. Here’s his recount of the string of events, and how Lifesystems' survival kit meant the difference between life and death for this outdoor adventurer.
"I have always carried a Lifesystems survival shelter in my bag when out in the mountains, even if it’s just on a small walk in summer conditions. I most definitely will never be without one in winter conditions. For me, a particular weekend in the Scottish hills confirmed why it is so important to carry survival gear and to be fully prepared for the worst whenever you are in the hills.
My girlfriend and I were climbing on Ben Nevis in the height of the winter season. The day started with good, bright, and even sunny conditions, which is very rare for winter climbing in Scotland. That morning, whilst packing my bag for the day, I ensured I had my survival shelter, along with a thermal blanket- even though my bag was bursting at the seams.
We headed for the hills and started climbing. Hours later, the weather had changed dramatically. The winds had picked up- we were now in a white-out from low cloud cover, and the daylight was drawing in.
It was from this point that we started to encounter some problems. We were being hit hard by the weather, and as a result, I had lost an essential part of a climber’s kit- my ice axe. We still had a fair way to go to finish the route, and without an ice axe, this would be very hard and dangerous.
We decided that the safest option for us now was to get off the mountain fast. We abseiled off of our route down a gully that proved to be longer than we thought. After the first abseil we were at our second abseil point. This is where it all went wrong. We prepared to pull the ropes through, but quickly realised they were jammed. What we would later learn was that the knot had come jammed into a rock crack, preventing us from pulling the ropes through.
Without an axe it would be near impossible to climb back up the abseil route to free the jammed ropes. We couldn’t climb up, nor could we climb down without a rope due to the severity and steepness of the climb on the unconsolidated snow gully.
This was the point when it hit home. We were rim-rocked, there was no way up and no way down- a very tough situation to be in, and one which I had never experienced before. We were being hit hard by strong bitter cold winds, snow drift and the hours of light had expired many hours before. It was this point when it was time to click into survival mode.
We kicked ourselves a small ledge out of the steep angled snow slopes to give ourselves a stable and comfortable platform to figure out our next plan. I remembered that my Lifesystems survival shelter was in my bag, and quickly got to work with getting it unwrapped and getting us inside. It instantly made a huge difference as we were now protected from the wind and the elements. Having the shelter meant that we could now change out of wet clothes for dry ones, add additional layers and also give us time to think away from the distraction of the bitter strong winds.
After thinking through many plans, we had no option but to call for help in the form of Mountain Rescue. We now had a long wait of many hours before any help would arrive so we pulled out the thermal blankets to keep nice and warm, and sat on our bags to insulate us from the snow.
After a nine hour ordeal, rescue had arrived and we were able to safely make it off of the mountain.
(Below: Aerial view of Ben Nevis Summit, from www.friendsofnevis.co.uk)
Without the amazing kit from Lifesystems, our unplanned overnight bivvy in the harsh Scottish mountains would have had a serious or even fatal outcome.
We would like to say a massive thank you to the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team for the incredible work that they do, and for giving up their free time in order to help out fellow climbers in need. Their inspiring work and help does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.
The mountains are unpredictable and accidents can easily happen. It is because of this that I am never without my survival shelter and other items such as my first aid kit, thermal blankets, glow sticks and whistle.
If you are planning a trip out, no matter if it’s in the summer months or just a short route that you know very well, never be without a Lifesystems survival set-up. They weigh next to nothing, and only use up a small amount of space in your bag, but they are lifesavers… literally. They’ll be your best friend when you get caught out in the hills. "
This recount of his experience was shared by Calum with the Lifesystems team and shows how, when you least expect it, packing that survival kit pays off when you're encountering the great outdoors.
Check out Calum’s own blog at his dedicated website here.