In November 2006 former Lairig Club member Graeme Cooper and fresher, Richard Hardy set out to attempt a winter climb in Coire an t'Sneachda in the Northern Cairngorms. Conditions took a turn for the worse in the early afternoon and they were last seen abseiling off their route as a storm picked up. After a long struggle out of the coire in gale force winds and waist deep snow the pair finally succumbed to the cold in some of the worst conditions mountain rescue personnel had ever experienced.
Graeme's family have donated the 'Cooper Memorial Quaich' to the club and it is presented to the winner of an annual hillrace held by the Lairig. There is also a prize awarded to the first fresher to cross the finishing line. The race is intended to reflect Cooper's spirit and anyone who has experienced the notorious 'sting in the tail' of the race will agree that he will be having a laugh at us all!
Results from the most recent Graeme Cooper Memorial Hillrace, held on 29th April 2012 can be found here.
The next hillrace will take place in April 2013
Many thanks to UKClimbing.com for its help in advertising this event.
"When you hear about all the drink and drug-related deaths among young people, what these two men were doing was quite commendable. They were pitching themselves against nature and the elements, doing something that was physically and mentally challenging. We should be proud of them."
Tim Walker (Principal of Glenmore Lodge)
A Tribute by Steve Addy
I met Graeme Cooper or 'Cooper' as we generally referred to him, through the Lairig club back during our first year at Aberdeen University in 2001. As both of us were studying geography, the degree that the undecided choose who also invariably have an interest in the outdoors, we were both attracted to the Lairig Club to experience weekends away that would satisfy our craving for being out in the hills amongst like minded souls. Both of us during our first year were committed Munro baggers and by the end of the season we had ticked off a few in a variety of areas and weather conditions. On one memorable Munro bagging foray, Cooper and I after ascending the Buachaille in Glen Coe, exhilaratingly bumslid down a snow filled coire virtually all the way back down to the car park. This was probably swiftly followed by an afternoon session in the Kingshouse Hotel where Cooper showed off his talent for drinking vast quantities of whatever was on offer.
Cooper during his first year like so many Lairig freshers before and since, took up rock climbing which lured him out to the local Aberdeenshire cliffs and further afield to the French Alps. By the beginning of 2nd year I was still a boring and committed Munro bagger and couldn't see the attraction of hanging around on the scarily steep cliff faces that most hardcore Lairig members practised on. However eventually after much pestering during Geography lectures, Cooper persuaded me to give 'real climbing' a go on the sandy cliffs of Cummingston on the Moray coast. At first I wasn't convinced by the climbing malarkey but after several trips that winter season to experience the local unrivalled delights of Black Rock Gulch and Deceptive Wall, often in dreich weather, I was hooked. That year we also did our first winter climbs in the Cairngorms often made possible by borrowing his parents' trusty Knight Rider style, black Ford Orion.
By the start of 3rd year Cooper was very much a hardcore member of the club and his friendly, outgoing demeanour attracted many a keen fresher to the club during nights down at the Northern. In many ways Cooper was a great ambassador for the club who made freshers feel welcome in the club and selflessly took many newcomers out to the hills either climbing or walking. For Cooper heading out to the hills and bothies to experience a good time amongst good folk was perhaps more important than becoming obsessed with the esoteric, sometimes geeky sport of climbing.
Cooper's greatest forte was his banter, when on form he was hilarious and great fun to be with. One of his other great talents was his ability to snore like a tractor on bothy weekends or randomly shout nonsense in his sleep (for example: 'Do you boys rub yourself?' or 'I must be a beast of some kind!') thus preventing anyone from sleeping. When asked about such sleep talk the day after, Cooper would always vehemently deny such odd behaviour. Such nonsensical phrases or 'Cooperisms' have often been fondly repeated during conversations since.
Cooper could be an incredibly stubborn and proud individual which meant he become the victim of much mick taking. On one trip to the Ben in winter, Cooper and his two partners whom were new to winter climbing, somehow took a wrong turn on Ledge Route a relatively modest grade II route on the North face. Their overdue appearance back at the bothy led to much speculation that he had somehow led the party off route onto something hard. When Cooper finally crashed through the bothy door late that night, sure enough came the angry proclamation 'That was at least grade 5 ground on Ledge Route !' This led to much hilarity that night as we took the Mick out of Cooper but in typical style he always gave as good as he got.For a couple of years our paths drifted somewhat but when we finally met up again Cooper was on typically outrageous form as usual. I remember with fondness on one of the last trips away with Cooper, five of us squeezed into this time a tiny Ford Fiesta and headed to Glen Etive. Despite the typical west coast weather that characterised the weekend and the subsequent lack of climbing, a great time was had by all thanks to the Cooper banter. It is fair to say that Cooper was very much an integral part of the Lairig club scene and his endless supply of banter and his easy going attitude will be sorely missed.