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Sunday, 28 December 2014

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Well-known Cumbrian walker killed after slipping on wet rock

One of Cumbria’s most experienced fell walkers died after slipping on a wet rock while walking on the Isle of Skye, an inquest heard.

John Hamer photo
John Hamer

John Hamer, 66, was coming off one of the peaks in the Cuillin range and was nearly at the bottom when he fell on September 24 last year.

He died instantly from head and chest injuries.

The alarm was raised when he failed to return to the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut, where he, his wife Betty and the rest of their party who were on an annual walking meet, were staying.

A search involving three helicopters, three mountain rescue teams and two teams of search dogs was launched, but it was two days before Mr Hamer’s body was found.

When police examined his rucksack they found he had “absolutely everything” required in the way of safety equipment, and “nothing had been overlooked”.

The inquest in Cocker- mouth heard that Mr Hamer, who lived in Hayton, near Brampton, and retired about seven years ago from his job as a planning officer with Carlisle City Council, had walked extensively in the UK and had completed the ascent of all the Scottish Monros and Corbetts – including the Cuillins, which he had visited before. He had also walked and climbed in the Alps, the Himalayas and the Atlas Mountains.

The inquest yesterday heard that on the day he died, with the forecast promising fine weather, he and five others set off to climb Sgurr Dubh Mor.

Three of the party turned back after reaching a smaller summit, but Mr Hamer and the two others – Frank Procter and Nick Seryeis – continued. Mr Procter said the weather began to deteriorate, with mist cutting visibility to 20m in places.

He said Mr Hamer was “a bit faster, and a bit ahead” when they lost sight of him, probably because he went one side of a ridge and they went the other.

The two men tried to find Mr Hamer, and when they could not assumed he had “gone to finish the last bit”.

The inquest heard that Mr Hamer’s body was found on the lower north-east slopes.

He had apparently become disorientated near the peak – possibly because the magnetic properties of the rock make compasses give false readings. But he had managed to find his way off the mountain, come out of the mist and was heading towards a path which he would have seen as “an escape route” – albeit a very long one – back to the hut where he was staying. But as he neared the bottom he lost his footing on wet rocks and fell to his death.

North and West Cumbria Coroner David Roberts recorded a verdict of accidental death, saying: “The draw of the mountains is a great thing and at least John died in somewhere he loved, doing something he enjoyed very much.”

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