Hikers Die on Famed Highland Ridge, But Details Remain Unclear

Three hillwalkers, or hikers, died in the Scottish Highlands over the weekend during a trek in an iconic and challenging location. The three individuals, two men and one woman, failed to return from their walk to the Aonach Eagach Ridge in Glencoe on Saturday, Aug. 5.

Authorities sprang into action when their absence became clear shortly after 9 pm that day, Police Scotland said. Details of the incident remain unclear as of this writing, but the story of the body recovery is well-documented.

A Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched in foggy, misty conditions after the initial alarm. The unit located the three bodies but did not initiate a recovery. The Glencoe Mountain Rescue team returned Sunday morning to collect the remains.

Deaths not suspicious

Although it is highly unusual for three hikers to die in one incident, the deaths did not appear suspicious, Police Scotland said. However, an incident report will be filed with the Procurator Fiscal — an office that investigates deaths and prosecutes crimes.

Police have not released the victims’ names or any other identifying details.

David “Heavy” Whalley, a renowned British SAR worker, commented on the incident to convey his sympathy but discourage speculation.

“As always, my thoughts are with the families and friends of those involved. It is never good to guess what happened and wait until the Police and the Procurator Fiscal make their findings,” Whalley wrote on his blog.

However, Whalley did write that the climbers died in a fall. The information is unattributed, but the terrain the hikers were on at the time of the incident could understandably cause fatal falls.

The Aonach Eagach is a seminal experience for any Scotland hillwalker. The narrow, 10-kilometer ridgeline boasts spectacular highland views and scintillating exposure.

“Whatever measure you use to assess the quality of a scramble — length, exposure, views, or overall adrenal gland-squeezing awesomeness — the castellated crest of rock that looms menacingly above Glencoe is pretty hard to top,” the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) says on its website.

The BMC also notes it’s Scotland’s “most legendary Grade 2 scramble.” At that grade, some people feel comfortable without a rope, but some freeze up in fear, the council says.

Weather on the ridge during the night of the incident deteriorated quickly. As Storm Antoni lashed the British Isles at large, rainfall began in Glencoe around 6 pm on Saturday and the overnight low dropped to 5˚C.

UPDATE: Authorities later revealed that one of the victims was 39-year-old Dave Fowler, a well-known mountain guide. He was guiding 60-year-old Graham Cox and an unidentified 64-year-old woman when the accident occurred.

It remains unclear exactly what happened.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.