Nathan hits heights in new film about Glencoe climbing great

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A Lochaber conservation officer is to set make his silver screen debut next month after playing the role of a young Hamish MacInnes and re-enacting his first ever climb in a new film about the Glencoe mountaineering legend.

John Muir Trust Glen Nevis conservation officer Nathan Berrie said he is looking forward to seeing his cameo in the final edit of Final Ascent, a feature-length film about the life of the internationally renowned climber and founder of Glencoe Mountain Rescue, for the first time at its UK premiere next month.

Despite having never acted or been involved in film production before, Nathan, who grew up in Lochaber and now lives in Corpach, was invited to play the role of a young MacInnes in the new film after a ‘serendipitous’ meeting with the mountaineering legend and film director Robbie Fraser, who were in the early stages of filming and production.

‘After talking and sharing stories, he mentioned that he was hoping to find someone to re-enact Hamish’s first rock climb,’ Nathan said. ‘He told us he needed someone who was tall, skinny, with short hair and with a basic understanding of rock climbing and asked if I was interested.’

Nathan Berrie, left, and Paul Moores had to wear 1940s clothing as part of the reenactment. NO F08 Final Ascent MacInnes 01

Despite some initial hesitation, Nathan said it was simply an offer he couldn’t refuse and it has been an honour to play such an iconic figure in mountaineering.

‘It was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to, especially being suitable for the role and being capable of being able to do the climb. He’s had quite an adventurous live so getting to portray him in the film is pretty cool.’

Nathan was under the watchful eye of co-star and climbing safety expert Paul Moores, who played the part of MacInnes’s climbing mentor Bill Hargreaves on his inaugural climb more than 70 years ago.

Nathan on the summit of the Cobbler. NO F08 Final Ascent MacInnes 05

Despite being dressed in 1940s period clothing and baseball trainers to match what MacInnes and Hargreaves climbed in, Nathan said the climb was relatively straightforward.

‘It was a really standard climb and the route is normally used as a warm-up in that area,’ he explained. ‘I felt confident and it wasn’t a difficult climb and the fact we used hemp rope meant we had a modern harness hidden underneath my jeans.

‘The production side of it was actually very stressful and it’s not something I’d be looking to get into more. If they asked me again to do it, of course I’d consider it, but it’s not something I’ll be looking to do.’

Hamish MacInnes. NO F08 Final Ascent MacInnes 08

The legend of Hamish MacInnes began early. At 16 he climbed the Matterhorn and just several years later, in 1953, he attempted Everest with his friend Johnny Cunningham, and almost stole the peak before Hillary and Tenzing – one of the many feats which earned him world fame.

As inventor of the all-metal ice axe, author of the International Mountain Rescue Handbook and founder of Glencoe Mountain Rescue, he has been responsible for saving hundreds of lives, if not thousands.

Michael Palin, left, features in the film, with director Robbie Fraser, centre, and Hamish MacInnes. NO F08 Final Ascent MacInnes 04

But at the age of 84, his accomplishments could not save him from being institutionalised against his will, suffering from delirium. After a spell in psychogeriatric detainment in hospital, he emerged to find his memory gone. The film tells the story of his MacInnes’s life by mirroring his greatest challenge: to recover his memories and rescue himself.

Having already had its world premiere at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival in December, Final Ascent will make its UK premier on March 3.

The UK premiere takes place at the Glasgow Film Festival on March 3 and will feature a Q&A with Hamish and Michael Palin, who also appears in the film.