Drama on the Cowal Way


Helen Rose Hill Diary   December 2011

In  November, I went on the Glasgow HF Outdoor club bus outing  to the Cowal Way to walk from Strachur to Lochgoilhead. I was on the easy walk on a very mild dry day. After lunch we had to cross a difficult burn to a path towards Lochgoilhead, about one hours walk away. I slipped on the muddy path and broke my leg. Kathleen, Winnie and John McG stayed with me and the others went on as there was no mobile phone signal. We were all well equipped for food, drinks and clothing. The ground was damp so they used survival bags for me to lie on and to enclose heat. I was nice and cosy apart from a rather sore leg.

My guardians were colder standing around. The pain was intense and I was aware of people around me chatting but I tried to relax as best as I could in the circumstances. I kept hoping I would pass out but that did not happen so my pain threshold must have been quite high. It was two hours before the Mountain Rescue arrived and getting dark. They wasted no time in getting the boot off and putting the leg in a splint. Fortunately, they had gas and air to dull the screaming pain but Alistair held my hand and I think I must have punctured his hand from digging my nails in until the leg was in the splint. The splint brought a lot of relief from the pain.  The photo shows me in shock wrapped up the survival bags.

 A Royal Navy Search and Rescue helicopter arrived which Patrick, one of the walkers, had ordered. He is a paramedic and gauged that the injury justified a speedy trip to hospital. The tibia and fibula is about the most painful break that you can get, I have been told.  I was grateful to get to hospital quickly albeit some distance from Glasgow at Inverclyde. It is rumoured that Prince William was the helicopter pilot! There were some funny moments like Winnie saying if it had been a baby expected I would have been OK as she had been a midwife.

I was winched up onto the helicopter and I was terrified at the thought of it. The helicopter was hovering about fifty feet above. The experience was not at all frightening as I could not see the ground below, just the lights of the helicopter as it was getting dark. The photo is my actual airlift taken by Alistair. I had been writing an essay for University on Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin and I had this strange thought of going up to the helicopter with strong lights and an open door as ascending to heaven. Obviously, my imagination had gone into overdrive. The Arrochar Mountain Rescue accompanied the others back to Lochgoilhead. Kathleen said that their powerful torches made the descent much easier.

The accident happened on Sunday and I had a lengthy operation on Tuesday but I was hopping on my one leg on Wednesday afternoon. An ambulance delivered me home to Glasgow on the Friday. I am now on my fifth leg cast and due to see the Consultant on 29 December when hopefully the cast will come off and I can start to weight bear on the leg. Apparently, I should be on the hills again within six months but at the moment it seems a very long way off.

I am writing this article firstly to thank everyone who helped me that day and secondly to highlight the importance of being properly equipped even on an easy walk in a remote area. Make sure you have plenty of food and drink, layers to put on and waterproofs. The survival bags were a Godsend and made the whole experience a lot more comfortable. Special thanks to Kathleen who came up to Glasgow and collected my car and brought it back to my house. Also, thanks to Patrick for ordering the helicopter as the journey on a stretcher and ambulance would have taken a long time and been very uncomfortable. The helicopter was certainly the best way for me to get quickly to hospital.

It will now be sometime before I write the diary again so wish me luck for a speedy recovery.

Thanks to Ralph and Alistair for the photos.

Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com