Tributes paid to 'gargantuan and inspiring' mountaineers who died on Ben Hope

Andy Nisbet and Steve Perry were regular climbing partners - Universal News And Sport (Europe)
Andy Nisbet and Steve Perry were regular climbing partners - Universal News And Sport (Europe)

Two experienced climbers who died when they fell hundreds of feet on Scotland’s most northerly Munro have been described as “gargantuan and inspiring” figures in Scottish mountaineering.

Friends said Andy Nisbet, 65, was one of Scotland’s greatest winter climbers, having forged almost 1,000 new routes, while Steve Perry, 47, was a well known climber, mountain biker and hill walker.

Concerns were raised for the pair on Tuesday afternoon after they fell on Ben Hope in Sutherland.

They were regular climbing partners and are thought to have finished their ascent on the 3,041ft mountain when they fell on the upper slopes while roped together.

A two day operation, involving nearly 50 mountain rescue team members and two Coastguard helicopters, ended with the recovery of their bodies on Wednesday.

David Whalley, a former RAF mountain rescue team leader, said Mr Nisbet was “the most active, prolific mountaineer that Scotland has ever produced”.

The pair were climbing on remote Ben Hope, in the north of Scotland - Credit: Ian Sarjeant
The pair were climbing on remote Ben Hope, in the north of Scotland Credit: Ian Sarjeant

He added: ”He has climbed over 1,000-plus new winter routes all over Scotland, his enthusiasm was dynamic.

"Never in the history of Scottish mountaineering has anyone been so prolific or enthusiastic and introduced so many to the mountains especially in winter.”

Mr Nisbet's appearance and climbing style were said to have earned him the nicknames "Honey Monster" and "The Droid”.

climber - Credit: Universal News and Sport
Andy Nisbet was a renowned Scottish climber Credit: Universal News and Sport

Sue Agnew, leader of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team, which was joined on the rescue operation by Dundonnell and Lossiemouth MRTs, said many of those involved knew the men.

According to the Maritime Coastguard Agency, initial reports suggested the climbers had fallen between 600 to 1,000ft.

Mr Nisbet, from Aberdeen, and Mr Perry, from Inverness, were both members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC).

A spokesman said Mr Nisbet, a former president of the SMC, had a vast knowledge of Scotland's mountains and his successful partnership with Mr Perry had resulted in a number of first ascents on Ben Hope in recent years.

He added: ”Steve Perry was also a well-known mountaineer, who had completed an on-foot round of the Munros in the winter of 2005-06 and was a keen climber in both summer and winter, who listed new routing in winter Scotland as one of his favourite climbing experiences. Their deaths are a huge loss to the mountaineering community.”

steven perry - Credit: Universal News and Sport
Steve Perry died with his climbing partner on Ben Hope Credit: Universal News and Sport

Mr Nisbet was previously honoured at Fort William Mountain Festival, receiving the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture in 2014, and has written numerous guidebooks.

The festival said at the time: “Over the decades Andy has gone to incredible lengths to bring climbers a highly accurate and detailed record of the tens of thousands of climbs across Scotland in the SMC’s climber’s guidebook series.

"Andy’s life’s passion has been exploring and opening hundreds of new routes on Scotland’s mountains and sharing his unparalleled knowledge of the Scottish cliffs in his guidebooks.

"With almost 1,000 new winter routes to his name he has made far more first ascents in winter than any other Scottish climber.”

Cameron McNeish, the presenter and mountaineer, said he was devastated by the news, adding: "Both were gargantuan and inspiring figures in Scotland's mountaineering scene. A massive loss to us all."