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Mountain rescue legend lifts lid on 37 years saving lives in the Highlands in autobiography

George Bruce was a member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue team for 37 years.
George Bruce was a member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue team for 37 years.

Mountaineering veteran George Bruce is no stranger to heights after scaling some of the world’s most spectacular peaks.

Decades on from his glory days, the 79-year-old has opened up about life as member of one of the Highlands’ busiest mountain rescue teams in his new autobiography.

During his 37 years of service with Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, Mr Bruce took part in hundreds call-outs on Ben Nevis, rescuing climbers, walkers and even animals from danger.

His book, entitled My Love Affair with the Hills and 37 Years in Mountain Rescue, showcases his love for the great outdoors through first-hand accounts of harrowing rescues on Britain’s tallest mountain.

He recalled his very first call-out in the Highlands, searching for a missing youngster.

Mr Bruce said: “The very first rescue I was ever on, I had only been climbing a little while, and a young boy had gone missing up the back of Ben Nevis at the waterslide.

“We searched all night and the following morning we found him. He had fallen quite a bit, he got separated from his uncle and just slipped and fell. His watch was smashed.

“It did bring home the dangers of mountaineering quite strongly as I had a couple of kids myself at that time.”

Mr Bruce also spoke about one of his toughest missions, recovering the bodies of climbers from his hometown of Aberdeen.

He added: “There were pretty strong mountaineers from Aberdeen up here climbing on the Italian Climb and they were avalanched.

“We were up there that night searching, a lot of top grade mountaineers were involved in the search.

“We spotted a tiny wee bit of rope and we had to dig down to find three bodies. That stuck in your mind for a long time.”

The 79-year-old has written an autobiography titled My Love Affair with the Hills and 37 Years in Mountain Rescue reminiscing about his most memorable escapades and rescues.

His autobiography was created from a series of old scrapbooks, featuring newspaper clippings, pictures and diaries.

In his 164-page life story, the experienced mountaineer recalls a series of devastating and life-affirming rescues including saving the lives of two “Ice Maidens” trapped in a snow hole in 1995 following a two-day search.

The mountaineer said despite the trials and tribulations, he loved being able to help those in need.

“It doesn’t feel like an achievement; it was just great fun at the time,” he said.

“Even in the rescues, though they were hard and most of them were at night, they were enjoyable in a way because you were helping other people.”

Mr Bruce said that some of the toughest expeditions he took part in involved experienced climbers.

“Incidents involving climbers can be pretty horrific,” the 79-year-old said.

“We were taking a group of people down off Ben Nevis and this girl was on the path but it was a shallow trench.

“It was later in the day and she was tired. The back of her legs hit the edge of the path and she started tumbling.

“I made a grab for her but the next thing she was flying through the air and down into the burn below.

“She ended up with a ruptured spleen and broken ribs but she survived. You don’t often see accidents happen but that’s one that has stuck in my mind.”

Throughout his life, the Aberdeen-born mountaineer has ventured to the far corners of the world scaling the Alps, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Machu Picchu in Peru.

He is now working to complete the UK’s Marilyn mountains having successfully completed the Welsh 3000s challenge – scaling all 15 peaks – the Munros, the Corbett mountains and the Grahams.

Mr Bruce said: “I count myself very lucky.

“I have experienced some beautiful sights. Just being out in the hills, you get peace and quiet and relief to think.

“If you have any worries on your mind all you need to worry about it breathing; get some air into your lungs and when you go back you are quite relaxed.

“It’s a hobby for a lifetime. I would suggest anyone has a go at it.”

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