A Skye mountain guide who fell to his death while leading a novice climber on a snow and ice covered climb, made “errors of judgement” a senior judge has ruled following a fatal accident inquiry.
And Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle has called for a new policy to be introduced requiring mountain guides in Scotland to be “properly” qualified and equipped.
Graham Paterson, 60, of Carbost, Skye, died after falling on 3,167ft Sgurr na Banachdich in the Cuillin range on Skye on December 27, 2012.
Mr Paterson who traded under the name, Skyehi Mountain Guides, had 20 years’ experience of climbing, was a member of Skye Mountain Rescue Team for two years and was a mountain guide since 2006.
He was guiding teacher Ildiko Kerek, of Bristol, who was inexperienced and unhappy with the situation, before Mr Paterson fell.
Sheriff Pyle’s findings come after a two-day inquiry at Portree Sheriff Court in November.
Evidence was heard that Mr Paterson promised Ms Kerek “a nice day’s walk which would not be challenging for her”, and gave her an ice axe despite being told she had never used one before.
Sheriff Pyle said: “The slope which Mr Paterson and Ms Kerek were climbing when the accident happened was a technical climbing route which was grade 4 in winter conditions.
“The route was wholly unsuitable for a novice climber like Ms Kerek.”
Sheriff Pyle added that it was important that lessons were learned for the future to prevent similar incidents.
He said the rocks had been slippery due to snow and ice. It was snowing heavily when the pair reached the snow line and Ms Kerek had been unable to eat her sandwiches because they were frozen solid.
Ms Kerek then complained that it was too steep and difficult for her, saying she wanted to go back down. As she started to do so, Mr Paterson slipped and fell.
The sheriff said that, although she was “very frightened”, Ms Kerek managed to make her way down the hill to raise the alarm, but could not tell rescuers Mr Paterson’s location. His body was found two days later.
Sheriff Pyle recorded there were no reasonable precautions that could have prevented the accident from happening.
But he recommended that the Scottish Government and relevant stakeholders should find a way to ensure mountain guides in Scotland are properly qualified and equipped to provide a commercial mountain guiding service for adults.
Mr Paterson’s widow, Annie, could not be contacted for comment last night.