If you’re between the ages of 40, and, oh, say, 80, there’s a great chance that if someone asks you what your favorite color is, the line: “Blue, no YELLOWWWWWWWWW!” will flit through your mind. It’s of course from the Bridge of Death scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” That scene was filmed in Glencoe, Scotland, and some of the setup and was done by a man named Hamish MacInness, a mountaineer that Python co-founder Michael Palin met in Glencoe while scouting for the film. MacInness selected the location for the gorge that’s in the film, and helped coordinate safety as actors were flung to their (on screen of course) deaths in the scene.
MacInness, a decorated mountaineer and rescue expert, became friends with Palin during the filming. As Palin’s career evolved into a sort of travel host, traipsing around the globe for the camera, he increasingly relied on MacInness’s expertise about some of the world’s highest places.
“I was in the workshop back home and I got a call and [Palin] had a satellite phone and he was in the Himalayas and he asked me how far is it to Concordia – that’s a plateau right on K2 – and I said well it’s not that far,” MacInness said of one of his “guiding” experiences for Palin.
“I rang Hamish from the heart of the Karakorum mountains: ‘I can see K2 how do I get there?’” Palin added to a reporter at Irish News.
MacInness passed away last week at the age of 90. We’ll be covering his life in a future Historical Badass column, but for now, we wanted to share this wonderful interview with Palin about MacInness.
The program begins with another great interview, with Scottish SAR veteran Willie Anderson, who, decades ago, left his job as a teacher to join a SAR team in the very rugged and often brutal Cairngorm mountains in Scotland.
“I wasn’t a mountaineer,” Anderson said of his experience when he first joined. “I didn’t have the greatest of gear, it was old boots and old mitts. I think I was the worst mountaineer in the team at the time. I might have even been the worst in Scotland.”
Combined, this interview is a lovely peek into the window of Scottish outdoor culture, and a moving look at the importance of MacInness to mountain rescues everywhere.
MacInness is legendary for his work, The Mountain Rescue Handbook, considered “the Bible” of mountain rescue books. Available here.