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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon


Many of you will be aware of the accident and subsequent mountain rescue that took place on Sunday morning. It is probably the most serious incident on an MM to date. Rob Latimer wrote about the incident and agreed that we should publish it on this site. I'm sure it will make many of us feel quite unsettled as we read Rob's piece below, but I think this article is really important on a number of levels and we are indebted to Rob (and Martin) for spending the time writing it and agreeing that it be made publicly available.

A Heartwarming Outcome and Great Fundraising for Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team
In mid-October 2010 I received an email from Malcolm Machlachlan of Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team, who advised me that there had been a number of very positive outcomes to Martin and Rob's serious accident the previous June at the LAMM.

The gorge where the accident took place was not a familiar place to members of the Arrochar team and the team has rarely been called out to rescue folk in Upper Glen Fyne. By complete coincidence, they were called out to locate and rescue a missing lone walker in the same area only a week after Martin & Rob's accident. Malcolm told me that the team's experiences the weekend before prompted them to send one of the team to check out the bottom of the gorges. To their amazement, the missing walker was found lying in the same stream, within 20 metres or so of Martin Potter. He was also suffering from serious injuries sustained in a fall from a similar spot on the ridge above. It was now 24 hours since the accident and Malcolm feels that their newly found knowledge of the area and Martin's accident a week earlier had saved a life.

Despite the serious injuries Martin Potter sustained when he fell into the gorge and almost a month in hospital, he made a very good recovery and by mid-September was back at work full time. He had his first "jog" since the accident on 23rd October. Rob didn't have an easy time after the accident as skin grafts to his shin failed to take and although it took some months for his wounds to heal, all is well now.

Martin is a partner at Hymans-Robertson, a large company of Insurance Consultants. His work colleagues there were very interested in his rescue by Arrochar MRT and recovery in hospital. When they heard that the rescue team were trying to raise funds for a new Land Rover, they started their own fund raising, asking their clients for donations, prizes for the raffle etc. This included a box for 15 at the O2 arena, a weekend at Cameron house and many other great prizes. They managed to raise the incredible sum of £10,000 and in late September Martin Potter and his colleagues handed over a very big cheque to members of the Arrochar team at a their new offices in Edinburgh.

Malcolm said "This is a great story and means a lot to us to see the marvellous recovery he has made from the condition team members found him in and then also to have our efforts so generously recognised by his colleagues and company directors was very encouraging. The donation will allow us to fit out our new vehicle with the extra fittings and equipment needed to turn a standard vehicle into an ambulance for our purposes (roof rack, radio and comms Aerials and battery fittings, lights, equipment storage, body markings, etc). The timing of which could not be better as we have just managed to secure a suitable new vehicle from a dealer in Stirling. We also have to thank Tuggy Delap of Fyne Ales and all the LAMMers this year for helping us raise another £2,200 to achieve our aim. I don't know if you caught sight of our own efforts in staging a cycle event from Lands End to John O' Groats which was completed in 56 hours and 40 minutes by our 9 riders within the target time of 60 hours and raised another £7,000 in donations towards the new Landrover".

Rob & Martin's Article - June 2010
For those LAMMers who were aware of the rescue helicopter coming in on Sunday morning I hope this will go some way to putting your minds at rest, and for those who were not aware of it, I hope it proves interesting and informative; both what not to do and I hope in part what to do if the unthinkable happens.
The main headline is that we'll both be ok. I think it's important to say that up front.

We were placed C6 overnight which we were more than happy with. Mid camp was the usual mix of soreness and anticipation, time enough to relax and chat amongst the teams.

Our navigation continued to hold up in Sunday's reduced visibility and we only paused for a minute occasionally when we rather hopefully thought we'd gone further than we had (first signs of tired minds creeping in?). Chasing starts certainly make the racing interesting and despite some good running first thing we knew we had C8 and C10 right with us by the mid part of the course. The top section of the decent from Beinn Bhuidhe was superb, a track which we were able to run fairly fast and get ahead of C10 at least, not sure where C8 were at that stage. Then the errors...

Once again we placed ourselves ahead of our true position, having crossed only a small 'plateau' rather than the larger one between Beinn Buidhe and Newton Hill, then on bearing slightly east we hit the southernmost tributary of the burn down towards Inverchorachan. First lesson: if it feels wrong, do bother to check - a glance at the compass would have told me we should hold south. We thought we were on the next burn to the south and we'd only follow it for a few hundred metres, then heading for the larger gap in the crags en route to Newton Hill.

We found ourselves looking down a steep, craggy gully with a narrow line of wet scree near the top. Martin was at the top of the scree when I took my first look down. It was obviously not an easy route and in hesitating I said that he should avoid the scree, maybe look to go left of it where it seemed the grassed and stepped slope might be more passable. Now when I think about it, we should have backtracked and, perhaps given time to think, we would have (Second lesson: only experience will teach you where your limits are but be very careful pushing them, it only takes a fraction of a second). As Martin tried to get off the scree, heading across to the left (it was maybe two steps to cross it and find 'safe' ground), it all went away from under him, no time to scrabble for better purchase, he simply slid away. All I recall is that he was sliding feet first until the first drop, taking the first hit on his feet he then 'rag-dolled' and more than likely blacked out. Whether it was two or three drops I'm not sure; between each I thought he might stop but his momentum kept him moving and dropping again. He landed the bigger drops on his right side and at some point struck his head. His rucksack shoulder straps had come off, as had one shoe. He finally came to a rest in the burn (face up) some 20m below his initial slip. I stared. I shouted. I blew my whistle six times but didn't wait for a reply. I started down, at the time not really thinking about going around, it would have taken time, maybe several minutes to get to him (a bit of a moot point in this instance but a good general rule, Third lesson: don't make yourself a casualty too - you'll be no good to anyone then!). I managed to avoid the scree and get down part of the way, then I too slid on the steep, wet ground. Momentary panic: "if I end up lying next to him we're screwed...". Luckily, having fallen and smashed my left leg into the rock, I didn't have the same momentum and stopped above a further drop. Scrambling down to him I kept asking for a response and kept saying that I was ok (perhaps more for my benefit than his). I don't remember my fall really but it was enough to rip my rucksack's hipbelt off, take my thumb compass and my watch. Apparently my clothes have holes in but I've not looked yet...

He was conscious when I reached him and was able to moan saying, "Ow" repeatedly. Right, don't move a casualty, but he's in a stream, ok, so move him. I placed the tent ground sheet to the side of the stream and managed to lift him towards it. He helped but then realised how bad his arm was and was complaining about his elbow. Great, hold that thought, rather than concentrating on the hole in his head. I pulled on my jacket and a hat so I could keep working, then I got him covered with the fly sheet, pulled a survival bag on as far up his legs as possible. His jacket was on so I added his fleece (leaving the bad arm inside it when it became obvious he wasn't able to lift it). I went through his bag for first aid but couldn't see it. Fourth lesson: make sure you know exactly where the first aid kit is. I was getting cold hands and starting to wonder if it had fallen out, as some things clearly had. I had his hat and a pair of my tracksters; that'll do. I bound his head wound with the ronhills best I could, pulled his hat over the top and left my water bottle and a powerbar next to him (his water was missing somewhere on the hill). I put his whistle in his hand and said remember to blow it, just keep doing it; it would give him something to do, but being by a waterfall might not be that effective.

To make sure I knew the exact location I decided to go down the burn and this would also give me the easiest terrain to run for help once I got into Glen Fyne. The alternative would have been to get back on the course and I may have found someone sooner. Whether we'd have got help sooner I wasn't so sure, it was more important to get help to the right place. I found my watch and it was still working. So, altitude check; 605m. I knew the weather had affected it so bear that in mind for later; time check 1035, "Martin mate, I'm going for help" thinking there's nothing else I can do for you, "I promise I'll get someone, hang in there...". I just used some tape on my leg, nice and tight, at least that'll keep it together.

I reckon the whole thing only took 10 minutes from his slip to me leaving, so around 1030 and at 605m plus/minus adjustment. It was pretty tricky getting down to the glen but there's a track down the main tributary and once I was on that it became easier. In the glen I could see a team but too far away to get their attention. Then I met with a team who had already retired from the race, "you'll be quicker," they said, fair enough, it hurts like hell but I guess they may be right. Altitude check, Inverchorachan - 110m, mine said 180m so take 70m off the 605m, that'll be 535m, ok "535m at 1030", repeat constantly until you can't possibly get it wrong (and it took my mind of my leg). Then I met a couple of guys who had bikes, perfect, you couldn't do me a favour could you, sorry to trouble you, we're in a wee bit of bother etc. etc. No problem, they were off to the event base.

I kept up a reasonable run/walk routine until I got past Glen Fyne Lodge where I met a car, not mountain rescue but a chap who lives up there, did I want a lift? Well, I thought not to start with, after all the bikes would get there soon and send the team back up to meet me, but he really didn't seem to mind and it made sense to be absolutely sure the message got through, so yeah ok, thanks. He dropped me off just as the two rescue teams were leaving the event centre. I stopped them and gave the best description I could, then it was over to the professionals.
They really are professional, such a good crowd, while the hill teams were off in a blast of 'blues and twos' I was looked after and calmed, kept warm, and as best they were able, informed of progress. They'll get him soon, HMS Gannet is on the way, don't worry you've done all you can...
We waited and they made sure I wasn't panicking any relatives, finally - helicopter's with him, he's on the winch, he's away, now make that call. Our wives are good friends so once I'd called Michelle she went round to see Martin's wife Amanda and tell her face to face, "he's being airlifted to hospital, he'll be alright".

He had a broken left ankle, badly cut knee, fractured pelvis, 5 broken ribs on his right side and a punctured lung, 3 broken ribs on the left, broken right elbow, dislocated and broken shoulder, predominantly severed ear, cut face and head, fractured skull, minor cuts and grazes on all limbs and hands.

I got away with one major laceration below my left knee two small punctures in my right shin, and a collection of cuts, grazes and bruises including a very swollen knee; no break or ligament damage though.

Martin has already had 3 hours of surgery but is now out of the High Dependancy Unit. He should make a full recovery. I have had the wound surgically cleaned and have to go back into theatre next week for a skin graft as there wasn't enough viable skin to close very much of it.
Thank you to Martin Stone and LAMM and Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team. I guess this is a cautionary tale but let's take some positives from it; we all know the risks and sometimes accidents happen. Please keep it in perspective and just be prepared, know your limits (and occasionally push them) and let's all keep enjoying these incredible, inspiring, challenging places.

Rob Latimer & Martin Potter

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