/ NEWS: A Tribute to Con Higgins RIP
Yes Alan, this is very sad news. Con Higgins, or 'Higgy Rockdust' as some called him, was like a local climbing guru when I moved to Fort William in the early 1970s. He was a huge influence and was also the key figure in opening up Ladhar Bheinn for winter climbing. He didn't believe in shouting about his exploits and let his routes speak for themselves. He encouraged me to visit Ladhar Bheinn in winter and drew me a thumbnail sketch of the lines in Coire Dhorrcail without telling me that he'd been responsible for many of them. As a result I enjoyed one of the best winter outings of my life when I repeated his direct line on Spider Buttress called 'Tir na Og'. Land of the Young indeed...
A lovely eulogy to a legendary figure. R.I.P.
thank you for a fitting tribute to Wee Con.
I can say he was personally an inspiration to my own endeavours on the Ben and beyond.
First time I met him was in October 1975 outside the Kingie, just after closing time. He pinned me to the bonnet of his Morris Minor and told me to STFU! Lesson No.1.
Next time I met him was at the CIC Winter 1976. I saw this dapper figure changing into lambswool underwear and immaculate Chouinard overgaiters. Myself being a young up and coming young tyro took the chance to quiz Wee Con about the existence of Grade VI’s on the Ben. The quick retort was, “The only thing in Scotland that’s Grade VI is the weather!” Lesson No.2.
Con had a habit of speaking about his Creag Dhu club members by spitting their respective surnames out through gritted teeth; Cunningham, Smith, MCLean, Nicholson, Carrington, Muir, Docherty, Paul. He seemed to hold a special level of bitter resentment towards his fellow Creag Dhu members. Example was Wee Con carrying a decade long sulk over Muir’s and Paul’s (Norrie and Arthur) ascent of Silver Tear. Or was it just an example of Wee Con’s deep and enduring passion for the Wild North West of Scotland?
Despite Con’s reservedness, he hosted a team of ten Creag Dhu members over a four week trip through Wyoming and Idaho. One night the team dossed out in a meadow, tarps erected, fire lit and the dark rum bottles cracked open. Next morning into the melee marched a female Park Ranger.
”Gee, you guys have ruined my wilderness experience! I have to tell you have broken two National Park regulations, both of which are Federal Offences!”
Much grumbling ensued from the team and eventually Wee Con, our host agreed to be nominated to shoulder the cost of the fines.
As soon as the Park Ranger was out of earshot, Wee Con muttered through gritted teeth, “Pine Cone Cop.”
Con, you have provided us all with a great legacy of climbs. For those of us lucky enough to have been graced by your company, you have provided us with an endless list of one-liners to put the world in its place. Con, thank you.
I also knew Con in Fort William in the 1970s and over the years did many memorable bothy / hill trips with him, even up until a few years ago when his health began to fail. He was good company and always had plenty to talk about - his love of the remoter hills, the wildlife, far flung corners of the globe or something he'd read. When Con was living in Wilson, Wyoming our paths crossed again and we shared some great hikes in the Tetons, often followed by a 'wee refreshment' in the Stagecoach bar. When he returned to live back in Scotland Con was not an easy person to get in touch with. He refused to have anything to do with emails and mobiles so it was a case of corresponding by letter which usually resulted in him going down the road to make a call from a payphone to arrange the next bothy trip. A legend and a true friend of almost 40 years I will miss you, Con.
In the early 1970's my mate and his cousin (about 14) were going disconsolately down Glen Rosa on Arran after getting their rope jammed on Easter Route and having to leave it there. They met a couple of guys coming up who asked them what was wrong. One said something like "don't worry, son, we'll get your rope and leave it under that boulder." When they went back the rope was under the boulder. That man was Con Higgins. He made a huge impression on my mate. RIP.
A tale to gladden your heart. Can understand it making a huge impression on your mate. Such actions make all the difference and are rarely forgotten.
Was lucky enough to work and climb with Con on Ben Nevis. He walked up the crux pitch of Minus Two as though it wasn’t there and pointed out a million different undocumented traverse lines on Orion Face to gain access to any part of the face he wanted as if it was his back yard. An amazing talent and a force to be reckoned with!
In reference to his stature he once said “I might not be so tall standing up, but I am taller lying down!”
RIP wee man.
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