Alps survivor pays tribute to friend

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Robbie, 19, fell to his death while climbing in the Alps

THE climbing partner of a Scot who fell to his death in the French Alps has paid tribute to his

“inspirational’ friend.

Harry Holmes, 19, survived the climbing accident that claimed the life of Robbie Cammack.

Scot Robbie, 19, fell to his death last week after he and Harry were stranded for two days at 10,000ft on the Frendo Spur on the north face of Aiguille du Midi.

A storm prevented rescue helicopters from reaching the pair.

Speaking for the first time since the accident, Harry, a geology student at Edinburgh University, said conditions worsened on the mountain fairly quickly and they decided to retreat. It was Harry’s first experience of the Alps although Robbie had climbed there before.

He said:

“We got to a point where it was better to stay where we were rather than try to keep going down.

“We flattened down the snow to make a ledge. It was just big enough for the two of us to sit but not much more. “

The pair had sleeping bags and covers to protect them from the elements. They also secured themselves to the rock face using belays.

He said they kept awake and alert by chatting and singing to themselves.

“At one stage we even had a chat about economics,’ said Harry.

“We both knew that the best thing we could do was to keep our heads and wait for the rescue to come and get us.

He added:

“I don’t want to talk about what happened to Robbie until I’ve had a chance to tell his family what happened.

“I just think it was the wrong route at the wrong time.

“After he went I was just in a state of shock. What had happened was too big to think about. I just tried to keep awake.”

The first sign of rescue, he said, was the light of a helicopter, followed some time later by the sound of the blades.

Robbie climbing in Skye

He said:

“There was just a sense of overwhelming relief. But there is a feeling of guilt at surviving.

“I’ve been really lucky. I only had mild hypothermia and I am feeling fine now.”

Harry said, like most climbers, he took on the challenges simply because the mountain

“is there.”

“Every time I get scared I wonder why I’m not at home on my computer. But when you get back it’s the whole experience.

“I don’t like rollercoasters but when I’m climbing I can control things. “

He added: “Robbie had a love for life. Everyone he met, he made an impact on their lives.

“He was really an inspirational guy.

He was really brave, he liked to challenge himself. He wasn’t stupid about things but he would give anything a go.”

Robbie’s grieving father today criticised French authorities over the

“shocking’ way he was informed about his son’s tragic death in the Alps.

Adrian Cammack said he received a call from Chamonix mountain rescue and was told at first his son had been taken off the mountain.

But, as joy began to surge through his body, Adrian was told his son had fallen 400 metres and was dead.

His family waited for days at their home in Craigellachie, Moray, for news, watching as the drama unfolded on a mountain webcam.

Adrian, 52, a former hospital doctor, said news finally came through on Friday morning when a member of the rescue team telephoned.

He said:

“My wife picked up the call and we were told they had been taken off the mountain. We were about to jump for joy but were then told:

“He has fallen 400 metres and he is dead. “

“The rescue team have been very professional but it was a very shocking and distressing way to be told.

“There should maybe be a team set up at the British Consulate to let people know these things. “

Adrian said he had watched the tragedy unfold via a webcam of the Aiguille du Midi which showed the bad weather rolling in.

“After we were told I couldn’t bring myself to look at the camera. I heard that is was beautiful day there on Friday morning. “

Robbie, a medicine student at Edinburgh University, slipped from a belay holding him in place, according to reports from France

He had just completed his second year of studies and was a member of the university’s mountaineering club.

Adrian added:

“He was just a fun loving guy.

“He loved life and brought a laugh and inspiration to so many people.

“He came hillwalking with me when he was younger and only really got into climbing when he went to University. “

“I’ve had a look at the route they took and it was a long and demanding one.

“We still don’t really know what happened. “

The teenager had planned to spend the summer mountain biking in France, travelling through Peru and snowboarding in Argentina.

He set off for Aiguille du Midi with Harry last Tuesday but called mountain rescue the next evening to say they were lost at an altitude of about 10,000 feet.

A search team was dispatched on foot after a helicopter could not reach them but they also had to turn back because of the storm.

A helicopter was only able to take off on Thursday when the weather conditions eased.

By the time the rescue team reached the scene Mr Cammack had already plunged to his death.

His body was found at the bottom on a ravine on Friday.

Chamoix mountain rescue said the circumstances surrounding Mr Cammack’s fall are still unclear.

A spokesman for Chamoix mountain rescue said:

“They had good sleeping bags and cold weather gear and the temperature wasn’t too low. “

The former Speyside High School pupil had represented his country in Switzerland and Italy as the Scottish under-16 hill-running champion.

He was the Dux pupil at his school after receiving six A grade highers in fifth year which led to an unconditional offer to his top choice university.

He was also a skilled musician learning the fiddle and studying advanced piano.

“In the past year, he was having great fun popping up at parties with his Scottish accordion,’ said Adrian.

“He loved his homeland and culture. A lot of people who met him said he had a beguiling Scottishness. “

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