It was one of the most daring rescues of last year – with an 87-year-old man perilously perched on some of Britain’s highest sea cliffs just 200 feet above the waves.
Now coastguard heroes have been nominated for an award to recognise their skill and bravery in saving the elderly adventurer’s life on the UK’s remotest islands.
Coastguards abseiled down the cliffs to reach the walker who had fallen at Mullach Sgar – which is 722ft high – on the remote island chain of St Kilda in June.
He had come ashore alone from a tourist boat and had planned to camp overnight. But his slide to almost certain death was halted by a ledge.
The dramatic rescue saw coastguard teams ferried to the far flung archipelago, 40 miles west of the main Outer Hebrides.
A rescue helicopter could not initially reach the man for fear of the engine draft blowing him over the edge.
So coastguards carried out a spectacular rope rescue.
Stornoway, South Lochs, Bragar, Tarbert and Scalpay Coastguard rescue teams were despatched and the HM Coastguard helicopter from Stornoway put on standby to move out.
“On scene, it became very clear, very quickly that while the man was still alive, his position was precarious, to say the least. If he moved, there was a 200 foot drop awaiting him,” said a spokeswoman for the Maritime Coastguard Agency.
“Those on scene saw that sending in the helicopter could prove fatal to him – the down draft could blow him over the edge. There were no safe helicopter options.
“Rope technician Nathan Harris had been sent down because it was clear the man had slipped further. His position was becoming increasingly more precarious.
“As Nathan arrived, two things were apparent – the first was that the injured man’s legs were dangling dangerously over the edge of the precipice above the 200-foot drop and the second was that the man was too exhausted and hurt to be able to do much to help those helping him.”
Station officer Willie Campbell was sent down with a stretcher to work alongside Mr Harris to bring the man back up. Working together, the two men made the man safe on the stretcher and he was gently raised to the top. It took some time. He was finally back at the top just before 4.50pm.
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He was taken on board the helicopter and taken to Western Isles Hospital. The man has recovered well and is apparently planning his next adventure.
Coastal Operations Area Commander Murdo Macaulay has nominated all those involved for a special award.
He said:”We often talk about the professionalism of our teams in difficult spots. This was one of those occasions where this coupled with decision making in life or death situations undoubtedly saved this man’s life.”