Doctor tells how she walked off mountain after breaking back in 12 places


A DOCTOR who broke her back in 12 places in a mountain fall walked off the hill, was driven 70 miles home and fed the dog – before going to A&E.

Ashley Simpson also fractured several ribs after slipping on Ben Lawers in the Higlands and only cheated death by hitting a boulder which stopped her fall.

But the 27-year-old from Edinburgh had no idea just how badly injured she was and even smiled for a picture taken by her boyfriend as she lay in the snow.


Ashley suffered a terrifying 25 metre fall
Ashley after suffering the terrifying 25 metre fall on Ben Lawers


Helped by her boyfriend, she then walked for more than two hours back to their car.

It was only when Ashley walked into A&E at her own hospital in Edinburgh – seven hours after falling – that colleagues realised how badly she was hurt.

A shocked Ashley immediately had her clothes cut off and her neck placed in a brace. She spent eight days in hospital following the accident in March and has only just returned to part-time work.

The junior doctor at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and her social worker boyfriend, Robbie McNally, 32, had decided to climb all of Scotland’s 282 Munros and were only on their second peak, accompanied by their dog, Red, when disaster struck.

Ashley said: “We were 15 minutes into our walk back down from the summit when I slipped on some hidden ice and my feet went from under me.

“Once I was sliding, I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t get my feet to dig in and even my poles wouldn’t help. I picked up momentum so fast.

“I slid past Robbie who was five feet in front and he thought I was joking but I was out of control. The snow then stopped and I fell for what must have been 25 metres at a 45 degree angle. It was only a boulder that stopped me from falling any further.”


Ashley pictured seven hours after the fall in the hospital
Ashley pictured seven hours after the fall in the hospital


Incredibly, Ashley managed a weak smile for a picture taken as she lay on the ground after falling. Robbie, who broke his back in a motorbike crash 12 years, thought the image might help her get over it.

She added: “It turns out I had 12 fractures in my spine and lots of broken ribs but I didn’t realise at the time. I didn’t want mountain rescue to come and then leave Robbie and the dog alone.

“I just wanted off the mountain. I managed to stand up. Most people wouldn’t have been able to move but the adrenaline helped me walk the two and a half hours back to the car.

“Robbie then drove home to Edinburgh and we fed the dog. When I got undressed I could see proper black bruising which means it was [blood] coming from the bones so I knew I needed checked out.

“I was going to have a bath but then realised how embarrassing it would be if I got stuck and couldn’t move.”

Ashley said her colleagues at A&E at first didn’t realise how badly she was hurt because was walking “and didn’t arrive in a helicopter”.

She said: “Eventually I was taken into a room and had my clothes cut off and placed in a neck brace. They were concerned that one of the fractures was pressing on my spinal cord.
“I ended up in hospital for eight days and had to have five people log roll me off the bed because I couldn’t move myself.”

Hospital staff had said she would be back to normal activities in four weeks but she has only recently got back to work on reduced hours and thinks it’ll be closer to a year before she’s fully fit again.

She said: “About six weeks after it, I realised I could have died.

“I’m 27 and it’s really affected my life. It’s like grieving for the active person I used to be.”