Hamish MacInnes: The Fox of Glencoe

Over the past twelve months, we had been working with Hamish to create a book of memoirs and photography, the majority of which will be seen for the very first time later this year.

Tracing the journey from his post-war conquest of the Matterhorn at just 18 through his historical first ascents of some of Scotland’s best-loved classic winter lines, his epic adventures on big routes around the globe, and his unrivalled impact on Scottish mountain rescue, these memoirs capture the pioneering spirit of a lost age.

Condensing such a vital, illustrious life into a few chapters is a challenge, there can’t be many people who crammed as much in as Hamish did.

Hamish’s deep connection to the mountains and pragmatic approach to risk and loss are vividly rendered in his inimical, wry style in this collection of stories, offering the reader unique insight into the mind of one of the greatest mountaineers of our time.

Our editor Deziree Wilson provides a glimpse of what it’s like to be working on the book:

‘Despite never having met Hamish, I’ve now spent the last few months immersed in his life stories, and I felt a keen sense of loss at his recent passing. With any opportunity for discussion with him now gone, the best I can do is think to myself: How would Hamish describe this? What would he do here? By now, I think I have at least an inkling.

My priority has been to make sure the edited manuscript is still authentically ‘Hamish’, especially since he’s no longer here to rubber-stamp it. One of Hamish’s distinguishing features as a writer was his ability to render perfectly the absurdity of life in a couple of pithy sentences. Irreverent quips and matter-of-fact depictions of serious and sometimes tragic circumstances add an element of perverse humour that somehow remains humane and generous, and there is a sublime elegance in his straightforward style. As an editor, it’s been crucial to capture this essence if I’m to do justice to his memory.

Condensing such a vital, illustrious life into a few chapters is a challenge, though. There can’t be many people who crammed as much in as Hamish did, and trying to distil that into something digestible for the reader is tricky. Inevitably, I’ve had to be somewhat ruthless with my pen, but I’ve justified this by telling myself that a practical, unsentimental approach chimes with Hamish’s own ethos.

It’s often been easy to forget that I’m actually working, as I sit in my pyjamas spluttering into my fifth cup of tea as Hamish recounts some outlandish and protracted escapade, often involving unsuspecting bystanders and unorthodox problem-solving. I’ve rarely enjoyed editing so much, and I have to remind myself that it is a serious business, getting this great man’s memoirs right, and that the end result will be scrutinised carefully.

The irony of reading about such an adventurous spirit at a time when our freedom is so drastically curtailed isn’t lost on me. I wonder how Hamish would have dealt with the constraints we’ve faced in 2020, and if nothing else, I’m reminded to grab life by the scruff of the neck when I can. I’m sure that any reader, regardless of their mountaineering experience, will enjoy Hamish’s wry musings and his unique attitude to life, which might be summarised as: Right then, let’s get cracking.’

The Fox of Glencoe is the final treatise of an extraordinary man, and it speaks of a life lived to its very fullest. Look out for publication towards the middle of the year.

Author biography

After working for many years in adventure education and broadcasting, Deziree returned to university in 2018 to complete a master’s degree in journalism. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and illustrator, but continues to spend as much time as possible climbing, skiing and mountain biking in Scotland and the Alps.