Everest next for the climber who fell 1,000 feet – and survived

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The Independent Online

“This is going to hurt,” thought Adam Potter, as he fell off the side of a Scottish mountain on Saturday afternoon.

The climber, who dumbfounded rescuers by being both alive and able to stand up after falling 1,000 feet off the Highlands peak, told yesterday of the moment he realised that it was rather a long way down the mountainside.

Mr Potter was standing next to his girlfriend when he slipped and fell over a sheer precipice close to the peak of Sgurr Choinnich Mor, near Ben Nevis. He tried desperately to slow his fall, grasping at the snow and ice with his hands, and kicking out his feet as he tumbled down, but without any effect.

The Royal Navy Search and Rescue team sent to recover his body were astonished to instead find him standing up at the bottom – albeit shakily – and consulting his map, trying to work out how to get back to his car. Mr Potter was airlifted to hospital, where he was found to have three fractured vertebrate, a “fat lip” and multiple bruises, as well as having lost “several layers of skin” from his face after tumbling down ice fields and plunging over at least three 100ft sheer cliffs.

He survived the drop because he bounced off slopes so steep that they slowed him, rather than brought his fall to an abrupt and fatal halt. The snow is thought to have helped cushion his landings, and he said yesterday that his backpack “probably saved me” by absorbing the worst of many impacts. Speaking from his hospital bed yesterday, he said: “I was doing all sorts of rolling and sliding, some on my back, some on my front. I was tumbling for some bits and at other times I was just in the air,” he recalled.

“When you are in a situation like that you don’t really think about fear. You just try to deal with it and slow yourself down.” At one point he was close to bringing his slide across ice under control but even as he dared to hope he might be able to stop he realised a sheer 100-foot drop was just ahead.

He said: “When I went over a cliff I thought, ‘This is a big one. This is going to hurt.’” He laughed off his “bit of a tumble” but did concede: “I feel extremely, extremely lucky to have survived.” The climb with four friends, including his girlfriend Kate Berry, was a training exercise for a trip to Mount Everest. Mr Potter, who lives in Glasgow, said last night that during the fall he had found time to worry about missing out on the Himalayas:

“I was thinking about my trip I’m about to go on in two months to climb Everest. I was thinking it would put a stop to that.” Ms Berry was understandably horrified when her boyfriend disappeared over the edge: “It was really an emotional experience for me. It was pretty hard. He was standing next to me and he rolled and rolled downhill. I heard him screaming as he fell. I didn’t expect to see him standing. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see him again. “I was so relieved and happy when I saw he was still alive. I was able to see him in hospital and it was so lovely to hold him in my arms and give him a hug. He’s had a second chance of life.”

Lieutenant Tim Barker, one of the rescue team based at HMS Gannet in Prestwick, Ayrshire, said that when the call came through to find a fallen climber the crew was convinced they were going to pick up a dead body and were amazed to find him with little more than “whiplash and shock”. He said of Mr Potter’s helicopter airlift to hospital: “He was completely overjoyed. He was smiling a lot, as you can imagine,” and added: “It’s one of the closest near-death experiences I’ve ever heard of, that’s for sure.”