NEAF Report A – 28 Jul 71 (Iran)

This form was kindly provided to the MRA by Fiona Wild, daughter of John Hinde, from John’s MRS archive.

This Rep A was created in Word by Brian Canfer from an original pdf.



Nature of Incident MRT Member suffering from cerebral oedema at 13,000 ft during high altitude training.Team Alerted 281300 C/D Jul
Location of Incident   Altitude 13,000 ft on Alam Chal glacier, Iran. 
Weather Conditions During carry, darkness, Light rain, new snowfall.Casualty Evacuated  Military Officers Hospital Tehran by helicopter by 1400C/D 29Jul71
No. of Casualties         One Stretcher        One                Walking Nil Dead               NilComposition of Party  11NEAF MRT, 7 Imperial Iranian Army Special Forces. 2 civilians
Vehicle Mileages NilSub Units Involved Nil
 Return to Base

Comments on Equipment A separate report is submitted on the treatment of the patient with breathing oxygen. No stretcher was available and it is suggested that a lightweight stretcher should be carried by mule transport for all future high altitude exercises.

See narrative for comments on Improvised stretcher.

Narrative:-  See attached [1]


..abandoning the Alam Kuh project at Shakake Alum Kuh they descended various slopes  to the south of the main ridge and eventually reached the far side of the col where Gerrard had been left.  Rather than regain the col by slopes of boulders and scree in darkness most of them bivouacked at the bottom.  However, one man returned to Sarchal with the story of what had happened:  Ali Tehranazid crossed the col in darkness, climbed down the snow couloir alone and crossed the glacier, returning to Sarchal at 2230 hours.

Wednesday 28 Jul 1971

The weather had deteriorated and a cloud settled around Alam Kuh for most of the day.  Jorgensen and the 4 Imperial Iranian Army (Captains Moradi and Jaferzdh with Mohsen Hazavi and Mahmoud Shafii) from their cold bivouac without bivouac equipment returned over the col and reached Sarchal Hut at 0930 hours.

Le Marie and Rogers climbed to Sarchal from the nomad camp reaching the hut at 1545 hours. Chaplain, Hinde and Tomlinson climbed the peak of Siyah Gook (14, 715’) from Sarchal, leaving the hut at 0940 hours and returning in just over 5 ½ hours.  This easy peak is 3,000’ above the hut and to the west of it on the main ridge running south from Takhte Solaiman.  There were good views down to the glaciers and of clouds swirling about the great north face of Alum Kuh.  Sarchal hut was in thick cloud when they returned to it.

Meanwhile an emergency had arisen because MacRae had collapsed near the bivouac site.  MacRae, Murphy and Daniel had gone to the Siyah Sang snow couloir at 0900 leaving Smith at the bivouac site.  MacRae had been on top form in the couloir and also during the descent down to the bivouac site.  They had not gone beyond the col because the weather had not been promising: alternate snow and hail, with some cold wind at the top, and wet scree slopes above the snow couloir.  MacRae had led the way cramponing up the couloir, and even singing on the way down.  After the descent, Daniel had got soaked on the glacier when a snow bridge collapsed and so he returned quickly to Sarchal alone to get dried.  Murphy and MacRae rejoined Smith at the bivouac site, but MacRae collapsed so Murphy went quickly to Sarchal Hut to get help.  The following persons from the hut responded immediately and went to the Alam Chal Glacier with two emergency bottles of oxygen and the breathing frame: Daniel, Wilson, Jorgensen, Gerrard, Mansoor Vaziri, and Mohammed Hodaryari.  Murphy also returned to the patient.  Safar, the Rudbarak guide also.  MacRae was obviously not suffering from exposure as he was quite warm.  He was placed in a sleeping bag and treated with oxygen at the rate of 10 litres/min.  A Pigott stretcher was constructed from nylon rope with a base of two man-pack carrier frames lashed together with ice axe strengtheners.  Mac Rae was carried down a few hundred feet and placed in shelter in the lee of a huge boulder.

Hinde, Chaplain and Tomlinson returned to the hut at 1515 and got news of the incident from the Iranian officers.  LeMarie and the M.O. came back at 1545 – so all 5 went to the location of the patient carrying the only other available oxygen cylinder and a lighted Tilley lamp.  The M.O. (Sqn Ldr Rogers) diagnosed cerebral oedema and the treatment required was more oxygen with rapid evacuation to lower altitudes without further exertion by the patient, together with injections of two drugs: hydrocortisone and lasex.  Murphy again went down to Sarchal with a request to the Iranian officers for more manpower to help us carry MacRae down, and for an immediate radio call to Tehran asking for a helicopter to evacuate the patient to hospital.


An arduous and time-consuming stretcher carry ensued.  The lack of a rigid, or semi-rigid stretcher was soon apparent and MacRae with his boots, sleeping bag and clothing must have weighed about two hundred pounds.  On the face of it there were 13 people available for carrying, but some were exhausted, there was a lot of gear to be carried, lights to be held and a track to be found.  The two remaining hours of daylight were soon used up on the difficult glacier crossing: this must be one of the roughest places in the world – a glacier almost entirely covered in great granite blocks of moraine, some of the blocks poised most insecurely, and every hundred yards or so a great glacial trough perhaps 30 or 40 feet deep would require to be crossed.

Mansoor Vaziri worked very well on the front of the stretcher.  The improvised Pigott stretcher soon disintegrated and a Wastl Mariner rope-basket was used instead.  The carriers were soon reduced to dragging the patient across the rocks and at least two sleeping bags were worn out.  At one stage there was a danger of suffocating MacRae with Goose down from the bags.  One difficulty was to support the patients head from the rear to prevent it being bumped.  The tube of the oxygen apparatus was too short to allow the patient to be fed with oxygen while being carried so oxygen was supplied at the frequent rest stops.  Fortunately MacRae was conscious most of the time and he was able to urinate without catheterisation.  He was thirsty but was only allowed to wet his lips.  Most of the rescuers were very thirsty because few water bottles had been carried- it was assumed that the glacial runnels would all be flowing, which they did not. However the thirst problem was alleviated after midnight because it started to rain and there was even a little snow.  The distance for the patient to be moved was less than two miles down a vertical height of about 1,300 feet but the total time was about 12 hours.  As the carriers became more exhausted various other carrying methods were attempted: e.g. two-man chair, pig-a-back with a split rope coil. Fireman’s lift- but no one was strong enough to achieve more than a few yards because the ground was so rough.  The rope basket had to be retied frequently.  The Tilley lamp was a boon, and despite being dropped twice, worked throughout.

Sometime after midnight when the carry had slowed to almost a stop the remainder of the Iranian Special Forces arrived, and they had with them a stretcher improvised from canvas and 6 ft steel tube poles (part of their radio aerial equipment).  This stretcher was a vast improvement on the rope stretchers and with the increased manpower the carry speeded up again so that MacRae was carried to Sarchal at 0300 on 29 Jul 71 despite further rain.

Thursday 29 Jul 71

Hinde returned to the boulder shelter at first light to try to retrieve a partially used oxygen cylinder.  He could not find it so Murphy and Gerrard went up from Sarchal and recovered it.  Meanwhile news was radioed to Sarchal that a rescue helicopter had flown to Pitsera Boulder (8,700’ i.e. 4,000ft below the hut) and was waiting there for the weather to clear.  Our Iranian friends at Sarchal were in contact with the helicopter by radio.  Ironically the place where MacRae had collapsed was clear of cloud, but there was some wind up there, and it was not known if the helicopter would have been able to recover him from 1.300 feet higher than Sarchal.  The cloud cleared for a time at about 1100 hours and the large UH-! Helicopter landed on the Sarchal “meadow” right beside the glacier at about 11, 500 feet.  The pilot of the helicopter was Major Afsahi with Captain Ozertosh on board with a well equipped team of Iranian mountain rescuers.  A stretcher had been brought up to Sarchal from Pitsera Boulder by a shepherd.  MacRae was loaded on board with the M.O. and flown to hospital in Tehran.

End of extract BJC. NB Danny Daniel has supplied numerous photos from this Exped and they can be viewed at

[1] The attachment is pages 5 and 6 of “REPORT ON EXERCISE HARDHAT II ALUM KUH – IRAN – 23 JUL TO 6 AUG 71”- the full report is on the MRA website.

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