Michael Palin credits ‘inspirational’ mountaineer for famed Bridge of Death

Sir Michael Palin has paid tribute to an “inspirational” mountaineering pioneer as the pair star in a new film.

The actor met Hamish MacInnes while searching for filming locations in Scotland for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

A former mountain rescue head, Mr MacInnes, 88, has scaled peaks worldwide and invented life-saving equipment, including a mountain rescue stretcher used globally.

The Scottish mountaineer helped set up a rope bridge in Glencoe for the Monty Python team, which became the famed Bridge of Death in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Now, a very different film has brought the long-term friends together again – documentary Final Ascent, which charts Mr MacInnes piecing his life back together from his own books and films after being sectioned in 2014 with delirium related to dementia.

Glasgow Film Festival
Final Ascent UK premiere (left to right) director Robbie Fraser, Hamish MacInnes and Sir Michael Palin (Eoin Carey/GFF/PA)

Speaking at the film’s UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, Sir Michael said: “I’ve had a good working life with Hamish, he’s inspirational really.

“He’s unlike anyone else I know and he has qualities unlike anybody else I know.

“After his illness a few years back it’s so great to see him not just back on form but better than ever, almost.”

He added: “In Glencoe, Hamish was helping us with certain structural problems like who would build the Bridge of Death over this terrifying gorge.

“Hamish found the place, built the bridge and ended up throwing the bodies of people who into the Gorge of Eternal Peril – he was the head of mountain rescue and he was throwing bodies into a gorge.

“This was before CGI and special effects and we had the real thing thanks to Hamish.”

Hamish MacInnes, Sir Michael Palin and Robbie Fraser have joined us on the red carpet at #GFF19 for the UK premiere of Final Ascent! #ThePerfectMovieMixpic.twitter.com/1MOQWnKM7w

— Glasgow Film Fest (@glasgowfilmfest) March 3, 2019

“Thankfully the ropes didn’t break,” Mr MacInnes joked.

He revealed how Sir Michael, 75, relied on his mountaineering expertise – even calling from the Himalayas for directions.

Mr MacInnes said: “I was in the workshop back home and I got a call and he 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.

“He got up there with a film crew and got the most amazing footage.”

Sir Michael added: “I rang Hamish from the heart of the Karakorum mountains: ‘I can see K2 how do I get there?'”

Director Robbie Fraser, from Glasgow, said Mr MacInnes has “probably saved thousands of lives” through his rescues, equipment innovations and writing the mountain rescue “bible”, the International Mountain Rescue Handbook.