#takithame – Rubbish left in another wonderful area.

This was from a pal Ron Walker and Fiona Chappel after a day on the hills in the wonderful Sgur Ruadh area.

This is a wonderful area with incredible scenery, great stalking paths, wild life and so many mountains, Munros and Corbetts. There is a wealth of exploration to be done and I love this area and Coire Lair is an impressive place. I searched here a few years ago for my family friends in winter who went missing and were located after a huge search by the Torridon Mountain Rescue Team. This is a wild and remote area that is well loved by many.

Photo SMC Munro Map.

This is an area of outstanding beauty usually fairy quiet and a place that is well looked after by the estate. After a great day this is what Ron and Fi came across.

“A few pics from today, our first outing outwith our local area since we’ll before March. There was some early morning drizzle as we set off to climb Sgorr Ruadh however the day turned out mainly dry with an atmospheric Munro summit scramble which was really good fun. From the summit ridge we had great views of Fuar Tholl as the clouds swirled around.

Rubbish left by path – Photo Ron Walker


However the day was somewhat spoilt on the last hour or so as we returned to the main path when we came across a large bin bag full of rubbish weighing around 7 kg. Unbelievably the rubbish had just been discarded by four wild campers (in breach of gov regulations) we’d met earlier in the day descending from the corrie.
We’d seen other walking party’s that must have just passed by the rubbish but Fi and I just couldn’t leave the bag there despite the weight!

Fi – Carrying the rubbish off photo Ron Walker


So we lugged it down between us to disposed of before carefully sanitising our hands and kit once we got back to the car 😦
#takithame

Many thanks to both of you and for the use of your words and photos.

Treat the earth and all in it with respect.

Ron Walker (MIC, IML) of Cairngorm Guides & Talisman Mountaineering, provides friendly, qualified guiding & instruction in mountain sports. Based in Aviemore amidst the beautiful scenery of the Cairngorms National Park This fascinating area provides us with a spectacular backdrop for our courses and activity holidays.

Fiona Chappell – works as a freelance Mountain Leader and Winter Mountain Leader with the bulk of my freelancing in Scotland being for Glenmore Lodge, both on skills courses and Mountain Training courses. Abroad, most of my International Mountain Leader freelance work is for Talisman Mountaineering and other expeditions as they come up.

lets look after this land – Islay and Heavy photo K. Wilkinson.
Posted in Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Loose rock on Lochnagar – Please be aware. Its an annual event on most big mountains.

As we all start venturing out please be advised that many of the mountains will have loose rock. Few have been on the big cliffs recently and loose rock is always a objective danger in Mountaineering. Glencoe has already had a problem on the Curved ridge area. I would imagine most mountain routes will need care. Treat and test every hold if climbing or scrambling.

Lose rock above Black Spout Lochnagar PHOTO Aberdeen MRT.

From Aberdeen MRT “Please be aware that there are some significantly sized boulders lying loose on the remaining snow patch at the top of Black Spout on Lochnagar. We estimate several are well over one metre across. Clearly these will dislodge as the snow melts further; be aware thaT they may travel well beyond the base of the Black Spout when they move. Please take this into consideration if you are in the area, even if you are not within Black Spout itself.”

Black Spout – Lochnagar. Loose rock. PHOTO – Aberdeen MRT

Loose rock is nothing knew sadly its an annual event after a winter and heavy rain. This was what I wrote in 2017

Most folk enjoy Scrambling and a few rock climbing it is good to be aware and reminded of the danger of loose rock on mountain cliffs. Please read this and be aware and when teaching new skills please pass on this simple advice it may save your life?

2017 – Unfortunately there has been a couple of bad accidents in the Cairngorms over the last few  weekend  some involving a pal Ron Walker who was hurt when a loose block came away. Ron has given his permission to repeat his tale and hopefully pass on some tips when rock climbing in the mountains.    It was a great effort to help Ron off the cliff by Cairngorm MRT and the Helicopter, something we should never take for granted. Next day they had another incident on the same cliff.  The mountain weather, the dry May and heavy rain in June will not have helped the natural erosion in this area so be careful out there. The picture below was one I used to advise on our training whilst with RAF Mountain Rescue where many had limited knowledge of the cliffs. It was advice that we passed on.

Fingers Ridge – Cairngorms

Fingers Ridge was my second rock climb in the Team in 1972 and I did it fairly often afterwards mainly in Summer. It is a mountain route but sadly holds onto a lot of loose rock.  Tip,Tap and Test  with your hands and feet sounds good to me.  Please share with other climber and walkers and be aware that mountain Ridges like Skye , Glencoe and the Ben may have loose rock awaiting those who are not careful!

Fingers Ridge Cairngorms.

From Mountaineering Scotland/ Glenmore Lodge. 2017

Events last weekend (2017) in Coire an’t  Sneachda in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms have highlighted the need for all hill-walkers and climbers to be vigilant when climbing on or passing below mountain crags.

Two separate teams over the weekend were injured by rock fall. On Saturday a team on a route known as Fingers Ridge had a very lucky escape when a large slab of rock gave way.  Ironically they were clearing loose rock from the route when the accident happened. (Read Ron Walker’s own account of his accident.)

And on Sunday a team were injured on Pygmy Ridge, in the same Corrie.

Walkers and climbers are familiar with the shattered, loose rock around the crags and corries of Scottish Mountains. The process of freezing and thawing through the winter season continues to dislodge and shatter rock faces, and natural erosion processes continue as they have since the mountains were created.

Shaun Roberts, Principal at Glenmore Lodge, said: “I do believe that the nature of winters over the last decade, along with the generally more intense precipitation has had an impact on Coire an t-Sneachda.

We have experienced a number of winters with very deep snow packs, including snow laying at depth on the steep broken ground of the Coire.  Over a season and under the influence of gravity this snowpack will displace, but often not dislodge blocks and boulders of significant size, leaving behind a significant challenge for the summer climber.

“And this year we enjoyed a super dry May but then received almost our monthly quota of rainfall on one day in June.

“I suspect these weather patterns are having an impact on the stability of some areas and we continue to approach climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda with a more heightened sense of the objective dangers.”

Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor with Mountaineering Scotland said: “Hillwalkers, scramblers and climbers should be extra vigilant when journeying either below or approaching scrambles and climbs – particularly if there are other parties above or there has been heavy rainfall in the previous few days.

“Specifically, hillwalkers should be particularly cautious when ascending or descending the Goat Track in Corie an’t Sneachda when there are climbers above them.”

There you are simple advice take it and pass it on even local rock climbing venues should be treated carefully especially the friable sandstone at Cummingston?

Very loose in Summer in places!

Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

A big thanks to Willie Anderson Cairngorm MRT.

From Cairngorm MRT Facebook Page

“It is with mixed emotions that we make the announcement that Willie Anderson has stepped down as Team Leader of CMRT.

A huge thanks from the team for all the years hard work both on the hill, in control and for the thousands of hours of unseen work supporting us. Willie will remain with us for a period to assist the transition of responsibility.

We also very much welcome our new leader into position. Willie is being replaced by Iain Cornfoot, a long standing team member and focal point of the organisation.

Exciting times ahead as Iain gets his teeth into the role.

Many many thanks Willie from all CMRT members”.

I am sure that all Willie’s pals in the MRT will wish Willie all the best for a quiet time with his family. I have worked with Willie for many years and always got on well, he was a good pal of the RAF MRT Teams as we often worked together on big call- outs. I also worked with Willie when I was with the ARCC when he was asking for helicopter support on Rescues. A big thanks to Willie and all the best to Ian Cornfoot.

Willie Anderson – Photo Cairngorm MRT.
Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

The hidden costs of the Voluntary Rescue Services.

A friend started a discussion on the RAF Mountain Rescue Facebook page. He mentioned with great honestly the difficult period for relationships and many families have when their loved one joins a Mountain Rescue Team. Like many voluntary Services, the RNLI, Coastguards etc the team,group becomes all consuming. Team members end up going away regularly on Training or Call – outs. Being a member of any voluntary service is hard on these we leave behind especially if you have a young family.

My Mum, Dad sisters and brother saw me once a year if they were lucky as I was away so often. I was a young lad and it became all consuming. I can never get that time back as sadly Mum and Dad are long gone. They did understand but unknown to me for many years my mother worried about me every weekend.

For many of my 40 years in Mountain Rescue I was single. Later on as a Team Leader my partner hardly saw me as did the children. It took me years to appreciate the loss to them. How many birthdays, Sports days , parents nights and big days important days did I miss with them . It definitely did effect them at the time they have told me. In addition I was away on several long expeditions many lasting months. My partner and the kids worried about me. I even found a note saying “please come back don’t die “ from the kids. It was stuffed in my boots along with a drawing . At the time I shrugged that off but now I realise a lot better.

It took years to try and change things and attitudes. In the team we had a Christmas party for the kids and then a Families weekend once a year where they joined us. Sometimes we got a call – out not what we needed. Yet It was great to see all the kids out for a weekend and I will not forget the Families weekends to Gairloch, Killin and Badaguish. At least we managed to give something back.

In these days we were away 3 full weekends a month later it was cut to 2 thank goodness. Yet it was so hard for those left behind. What a loss for those you love, yet it was who I was. I cannot imagine it now how anyone put up with this life.

There was also the danger involved in Rescue. Many of our families worried about this especially as the kids got older. In my time two Mountain Rescue Team leaders were killed Phil Jones the Team Leader of Assynt MRT and Harry Lawrie Killin MRT in the helicopter crash on Ben More. These were difficult times and effected a lot of our families. Yet we hardly spoke about it. I have heard from a wife of an ex Teamleader of one of Scotland’s biggest teams that she could hardly sleep till her husband was safely home.

The families,wives and partners gave us so much support yet their efforts took years to be recognised. It seems a lot better nowadays as attitudes change.A few years ago Killin MRT the partners and wives were recognised by being given a team lapel badge it was a small but lovely gesture. It was a lovely idea and I had the honour to present them.It is good that the team reunions for many years are now mixed function. Long gone are the all male re – unions of the past. That was not an easy change for some of the Dinosaurs but thank goodness things have moved on. So this is a big thank you to all the families who support all the voluntary Rescue services. The calls in the middle of the night, re arranging life round the teams worrying about us never take it for granted. You support was and is greatly appreciated.

Thank you all,

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

First day out since Lock down – The Corbett Carn a’ Chuillin 2677 feet/ 816 metres. A wet but so good to be out again.

It was the first day we had been allowed to travel to the hills and I did not want to be with the crowds in the honeypot areas. My pal Babs had a Corbett near Fort Augustus to climb Carn a’ Chuillin to do so despite a poor forecast we met in Fort Augustus in separate cars. We parked at the Wind farm and headed up the big road that was built to support the wind farm.

The rain started as soon as we arrived! The mist was down and the Sky threatening grey and dark! Yet here we were out on the hill.

It was great to see that the Access had been sorted for this hill. There has been Great work done by Mountaineering Scotland and the Access Officer also Highland Council. The massive road to the wind farm was busy but there was no problems this time.

Most of the vans on the road going to the wind farm waved at us. They would be heading to the Wind farm that caused a lot controversy and debate over the years.
My companion “Babs” told of a previous attempt on this hill many years ago. There was so much snow and ice they stopped at the frozen Lochan and skated on it. Sadly they did not get the hill done so today was the day. Why did we pick this hill? We knew it would not be busy so we could “socially isolate”

Space


We cut off the road after a pull up across to the hill track taking us into the hills. As normal it was still raining. I had full metal Gortex on and was so glad of it. From here the hill track was muddy as it’s now well used by cows and even so a lot better than 6 years ago on my last visit. There were so many wild flowers, orchids butterwort abound.


There are plenty of shooting butts about more than I remember the Estate will use the road access.As Hamish Brown says this used to be wild country and still is once you get away from the road. The mist came and went we stopped to check the map and have some food. You follow a burn up it has small waterfalls and gorges all the way up.
Babs has been on her bike all lock down and was going well. I was feeling ok the chest not bad but I would have to watch the dampness. At our stop Babs told me she gets her pension soon!


From the track we picked a line onto the ridge it was steep and slippy at times but I did enjoy being out the space the wind and the rain seem cleansing? There was a bull high up and he was bellowing to his girlfriends on the ridge ? Is that the way to get the girls?
We put on hats and gloves as we made our way round the outcrops and onto the main ridge. We both thought that seemed a long way in the mist.


On the summit we took a few photos but wandered along the main ridge to find some shelter. Last time here in 2014 I was in shorts and a pre 1950 pixie smock that the RAF Teams were issued with! It was by no means warm, still misty and we descended checking where we would drop off and get some shelter and a late lunch.
We found a spot I wished I had a hot flask with me. Then we descended the steep wet grass hard going at times heading back to the path. Good boots are needed here the ground is rough and very slippy.

Babs striding out to the summit,


Babs stopped for a call of nature (she drinks a lot) and I saw an Eagle above me. It made my day. There was a huge erratic boulder where we stopped again taking of my hat and gloves and picking our line to the path. It was a bit wetter and muddy and went on a bit but we were soon at The wind farm road and heading back to the cars.
It was pretty wet a change of clothes at the car then home in our separate cars.
It was great to get out have some company Babs is good fun and keeps an eye on my route. Always laughing she is good company and she got a new Corbett.
We saw no one on the the hill away from the road. It was great to see the Access sorted and a reminder how cold the hills can be just now!

I headed home listening to the football so good to be out again.
Getting home a hot both sort the wet kit out and clean the boots and gear.
I had some food and went out for a short walk I had been dry at home all day. There were breaching Wales in the sea no photos to far away but a great end to a day.


So glad I went out ! Now to re read Hamish Browns classic book about climbing the Corbett’s a must read.

A love of the Scottish hills doesn t depend on the height of any summit but on an indefinable quality which the 2500ft plus hills have in abundance, even more than the Munros perhaps. This book describes one well-known mountaineer s compact with the Corbetts, rich with anecdote, historical connections, and written with companiable enthusiasm. As with the Munros, the Corbetts will introduce the hillgoer to interesting new areas and islands such as the Galloway hills, Applecross, Ardgour and Morven, extensive wilds Beyond the Great Glen , Arran, Jura, Rum and the Outer Isles, and gems like Ben Tee, Fuar Tholl, Cul Mor and Cul Beg, Foinaven and Arkle, The Merrick and The Clisham. Hamish is the perfect host to introduce this alluring Scottish game of Climbing the Corbetts. As with Hamish s Mountain Walk and Hamish s Groats End Walk, Sandstone s superb production includes two sections of fabulous colour photographs.

“Stronlarig info – SSE has completed the construction and commissioning of the 66 turbine/228MW (megawatt) Stronelairg wind farm, near Fort Augustus. With a total investment of around £350m, Stronelairg is expected to be SSE’s final wind farm to be accredited under the Renewables Obligation.

The completion of Stronelairg takes SSE’s onshore wind farm capacity to 2,143MW, and its total renewable energy capacity (including pumped storage) to 3,955MW.”

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Where to go ?

Toilet matters – some loos may be closed what do you do on the hill?

www. Mountaineering Scotland

“Avoid causing pollution by urinating at least 30 m away from open water/rivers/streams and burying solid waste as far as possible from open water/rivers/streams and buildings. Used toilet paper should be carried out and disposed of appropriately on your return to base. Remember to pack a lightweight trowel and carry enough toilet paper (with resealable bags for when it’s been used) and some suitable hand sanitizer gel. In winter, don’t just dig a hole in the snow, because when the snow melts your solid waste will still be there, unsightly and polluting. If you cannot bury solid waste in the ground it should be carried out in a designated container and disposed of appropriately.”

On an earlier visit with the old Pixie jacket.

I am off with a pal separate cars today to Fort Augustus – Carn a’ Chuillin 816 metres. I hope the loos are open at Fort Augustus? If not ? I climbed this hill in August 2014 it was a good day.

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Posted in Corbetts, Enviroment, Equipment, Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Update from Mountaineering Scotland. 3 July 2020

Update from Mountaineering Scotland has produced amended guidelines for walkers and climbers in Scotland for the further relaxations in Phase 2 of the Scottish Government route map for easing lockdown restrictions, which came into effect on 3 July 2020.

The guidelines have been created in collaboration with the Mountain Safety Group which includes Scottish Mountain Rescue, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge, and the Association for Mountaineering Instructors, as well as through work with many other partner organisations.The purpose of this guidance is to provide a framework for hill walkers and climbers within the current Scottish Government public health advice and phase of exit from lockdown, and to highlight additional considerations to be aware of in the presence of COVID-19 when taking part in these activities.We urge everyone heading out to enjoy the outdoors to be mindful of how their individual actions reflect on the whole outdoor community. The key will be for individuals to take a sensible approach to their activities, use your judgement to manage the risks, and to consider the social responsibility we all have to each other, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of COVID-19.Guidance for hill walkers and climbersPlease read the guidance in full before planning your activities and remember to:Be prepared: Some car parks, toilets and other facilities may remain closed.Be safe: Plan ahead and stay well within your limits – whatever your activity – to avoid the need for rescue and emergency services.Be considerate: Think about how your actions might impact on others and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times.Please note that advice from the Scottish Government may differ from that for England and Wales.The latest public health information for Scotland can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Hope you all have a safe time on the hills, I am waiting for better weather.

Arran.
Posted in Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather | Leave a comment

The Big Fall – “The Hill” Creag Dubh Sept 83

The Big Fall.

We all had a weekend off for a Team wedding at Craigellachie. It was a Classic Highland wedding with lots of whisky. At this time a few of us we’re mad about climbing and had planned to climb on the Sunday after the wedding. We had our own cars we headed for Creag Dubh near Newtonmore after a wild night.

Now I have never been a climber but was getting ready for my Team Leaders course. I had done a few routes here in the past with some of the rock gods. It was also a place that sorted out a few of those in the team who thought Scottish routes were easy! The cliff had a fierce reputation as it was steep and in these days projection was never easy! It’s pretty intimidating and I found it a wild place, we called it “Creag Death“. Lots of the top climbers of the period were putting up routes here. It had gained an even fiercer reputation. In the early days Douglal Haston and friends had climbed routes here but they were not accepted by the SMC due to the names they had gave them, many with a sexual innuendo.

This is from UKC Creag Dubh Crag features

Creag Dubh is one of Scotland’s biggest and finest ‘roadside’ crag.It is worth noting that the SMC refused to publish outcrop routes until the 1970’s despite this being a major crag. The schist with horizontal strata offers some wonderfully steep routes on big holds. Many of these routes are up to 3 pitches and can be intimidating, as they are very exposed and protection may be spaced. The crag faces south and dries quickly, but weeps. Generally the rock is sound but sometimes blocky. Creag Dubh is not a good choice for the beginner as there is little below Severe. However, from VS upwards the routes are good and the choice increases with the grade. The midges can be dreadful during still days, and ticks abound in the bracken.”


Back to our tale: We had a leisurely start and headed over to Creag Dubh it was busy with Glenmore Lodge about. I think there was a assessment going on that day. I was climbing I think with Bruce West on a classic three star VS called the Brute on the Great Wall. It was a Kinloss route Terry Sullivan and N.Collngham Oct 59. It a great climb and we were on it.

The Brute the day of the Fall.

It was sunny the crag was busy my mate Jock Pirrie was climbing with a young Paul (Pam) Ayers. Both were climbing well. They were on a route called the Hill a famous now E2 first climbed by K. Spence and J.Porteous in Sept 1966.


Bruce was up the first pitch of The Brute when I was seconding. I heard a shout then a scream and watched as Pam fell from the second pitch of The Hill. He was high up and I saw some gear pull and he ended up just of the ground by a few inches.It was an horrific fall to watch. Jock had just stopped him hitting the ground by inches.
He was hanging on his harness with a face full of character. I will never forget the noise as he fell and I had witnessed many falls in the past. He was pretty shook up but still all there when lowered to the ground. There were soon other climbers around including Glenmore. Pam got lowered he looked okay but was pretty spaced out by his big fall.
He was battered but seemed okay and more worried about his bandoleer of gear he had lost as he fell. It is still I would imagine in the boulders and ferns at the bottom of the cliff? There are a few dead sheep here!

First Aid
Others had checked him but I got down and said we would look after him. I checked him over again. He climbing in shorts and his Willians Harness it had cut into his groin like a knife due the fall. Pam was pretty worried when he saw it and the shock kicked in. I was really worried to was very near the main artery so we hobbled off not easy through the boulder field into my old Simca car. I thought we could get medical help in Aviemore but we had to go to Inverness.


I drove like a loony and when we got to AE we were told to wait. Pam was struggling by now so I asked the receptionist to get a doctor . I was told to wait. I told Pam to drop his pants and he showed her the cut. The doctor was called and Pam was stitched up. He was told if the cut had been any deeper he could have died as the blood loss would have killed him. Pam was as hard as nails. He was stitched up and given the all clear to go. He had used one of his 9 lives.


He was told to take a few weeks of climbing. Within three weeks we climbed:
Eagles Ridge on Lochnagar, The Long Climb on Ben Nevis (when his stitches came out) another group were horrified as his wound stated to bleed near the top of the route
Tailisman and Clean Sweep in the Cairngorms.

Pam on Centurion.


We climbed a lot together and then he went off next year to attempt to climb the North Face of the Eiger with his mate Joe. Now that’s another story. Sadly Jock is no longer with us died at a young age of skin cancer. I will never forget what he said when he found that Pam was okay, he offered to help me but I said I was ok then he asked of anyone fancied finishing the route!

Typical Jock What a man.

The Late Jock Pirrie on Pabay – Photo Pete Greening.

Top Tip – If you have an accident make sure you do a thorough check we nearly missed Pam’s injury. You will be shocked as well to see a mate fall.

Guide Book

Posted in Articles, Equipment, medical, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Looking back today on the last 100 days there have been some interesting thoughts that are in my head.

Lots of emotions and thoughts over the last 100 days.


Sadness.


At first there was great sadness as my grand kids moved South. I was so used to seeing them regularly that hurt. I did fear for the future for them. I missed their cuddles more than ever but they all kept me going throughout with pictures and chats and updates. My sister was in touch daily we are very close, she lives in Ayr and chatted every day.

Health.


I must admit that I had a real worry as I had problems with my breathing past damage to my lungs. I was waiting for a scan when the lock down came. I still am but but had to work at it I made myself go out for my daily exercise that kept me sane.

.
Loneliness.


Living alone has never been a problem for me but I found it hard at times for the first time in my life. My family and so many Good pals stayed in touch and the folk in my village is so helpful. I have shops in the same street that I live and they are superb.hen we met in the street folk had time to speak (maintaining distances) yet I missed the close contact. I missed visiting pals dropping in and getting out and about.
I have an old friend in a Care home she has been on lock down even longer than us. We speak every night. She is well looked after but is on her own room, cut off her family live abroad. That is hard for her yet she is of a generation that copes. I get her some bits and pieces most weeks and drop them off. She waved from her room when I drop them off. A memory I will not forget.


Routine
It was strange but I am lucky to have a big empty beach and forest and most days was out on my bike. It was hard at first due to my breathing and I took it easy. I saw so much wild life and flowers heard so many birds and wild birds. I took some lunch and sat on the beach or the dunes and took it all in. At times I cycled along the beach listening to the waves at times the waves were full of pollen. The weather luckily mostly days was superb and as I have no garden this was my place to go. This was my space and I could see the snow on Ben Wyvis most days. On my bike trips sadly most days as things moved on I picked up rubbish, cans bottles and those awful “disposable barbecues” I even added a pannier to carry the rubbish . Many have been tidying up after the few.

The Media. News, Facebook etc.


At first I listened to it all news but in the end it was once a day. I was saddened by some of my friends attitudes but we are all different ways of coping . To many missing the hills and the wild was their main problem. Yet others were and are coping with family deaths being unable to see friends and the worry about work in the future. Worry about keeping jobs, businesses and looking after their families. Especially with those who are shielding.


It opened my eyes again to how insular we all can be?

Politics


I would hate to be a politician of any party making these decisions during this time? Yet many I hope have learned what is important in life. It’s amazing how many folk are experts with hindsight? I do not get involved in the politics at the moment to me it’s not the time. I leave it to others. There will be lots of time for this? How do we change things for a better future?


Do we need a dare I say it a “COVID tax” for all those who can pay for all the things we take for granted. The NHS and others who need better wages for those who have proved that they are essential, mostly poorly paid? Maybe even a re-evaluation off top earners wages ?


This tragedy has cost the country so much and will take years to recover from? There is lots of work to do.


In all it’s been a strange time, worrying about those wee love and care for. Yet even at my age I have learned a lot about so many things.
I have enjoyed the radio and various podcast. I have read so many books and listened to music. Had a big sort out of gear and will have a load for the charity shops.
I kept my blog going and got some good responses. Yet I could not write my book: for me it was too dark at times. I found that it was easy to get dark thoughts so maybe later. It’s so hard to explain ?


I cannot wait to get out on the hills again it’s going to be so good. I will not go to a busy area as I love the space and solitude. I long to see the wildlife the flowers and the views.
In all it’s been a life changing time something I never thought I would be involved in.
Thanks for all those who stayed in touch and I have tried to contact many who I had lost touch with. It’s going to be a long haul with ups and downs. All we can do is take care try to support our family friends and local business’s. Be careful and remember there are many still out there who are shielding and vulnerable.

Try to see each other’s views not matter how much you may disagree. Look after each other. Write that letter, build bridges and stay in touch. I wonder what the next 100 days will bring?

Hill of the Church


Thanks to all for your kind words. I have not had a drink for over 100 days!


Comments welcome

Posted in Book, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Flora, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

A great piece from a very talented lady – Lucy Wallace

I am so lucky to meet so many good folk over the years. Many are like me they love mountains and the Wild places. A few years ago I was asked to speak at the Arran Mountain Festival and the speakers before were Lucy and Kirstie who had run all the Arran hills above 700 metres. They did this to raise cash for the local Arran MRT and Mulanje ( Malawi). Both are team member’s. Their talk held in the Corrie Village Hall was superb and a hard act to follow. I loved their enthusiasm and love of Arran and its wildness.

This is what they wrote after their trip.

“Kirstie & I are bowled over by the support, good wishes & hard cash is been pouring in. There’s no denying that it was a tough day. 36km and over 3000m of ascent over 17 long hours. We couldn’t have done it without the help of many folk, inc Kirstie’s partner Mark who drove us to Pirnmill at 4am after a lifeboat callout, & Wally, who physically put us on the summit of A’chir. Our awesome colleagues in Arran MRT were also called out late that night but didn’t call us so as not to jeopardise the attempt. Thank you everyone!They raised £2,417 to support Mountain Rescue on the Isle of Arran (Scotland) and Mulanje (Malawi) To me folk like this are incredible.

Lucy is now the first woman President of Ramblers Scotland

Lucy Wallace

“Well-known blogger and mountain leader Lucy Wallace will become the first woman president of Ramblers Scotland, the walking charity announced today.

Lucy is a professional wildlife guide and outdoor instructor who holds the Winter, Summer and International Mountain Leader awards. She is an accredited Duke of Edinburgh’s Award assessor, working with schools and young people on expeditions throughout Scotland.

She will succeed countryside ranger Ben Dolphin as Ramblers Scotland’s honorary figurehead, following the organisation’s AGM in North Berwick this weekend. She follows in the footsteps of the late conservationist Dick Balharry, award-winning broadcaster Cameron McNeish and Dr Andrew Murray, who was the Scottish Government’s first Physical Activity Champion.

Lucy hopes to use her presidency to encourage even more people to appreciate Scotland’s landscapes and world-class access rights – and to enjoy the health and social benefits of adventures on foot.

Lucy, who is 45 and lives on the Isle of Arran, said: “It will be a huge honour to become Ramblers Scotland’s first female president, and I hope to be the first of many. So many women enjoy Scotland’s outdoors, yet there is a distinct lack of female voices in prominent positions.

“The number of people walking for fun is booming, and I want to use this role to encourage even more people to get outdoors and to build a stronger connection with the amazing natural environment we’re so lucky to have on our doorsteps here in Scotland. I’m also looking forward to meeting our members and joining them in the hills!”

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy was delighted to have Lucy on board but recognised the appointment of a female president was a “long overdue” step forward in the organisation’s 35-year history.

He said: “We feel truly lucky to have Lucy on board. As a passionate advocate for the outdoors and a highly experienced mountain leader, she has introduced hundreds of people to the natural world, making her the ideal person to inspire even more people to enjoy our country on foot.

“Women have played a hugely-influential role in the history of Scottish outdoor pursuits, from pioneers like Jane Inglis Clark and Nan Shepherd, to more modern heroes like Muriel Gray, Heather Morning and Hazel Strachan.

“While we are excited to welcome our first female president, we entirely recognise that this is a long overdue milestone, particularly as about two-thirds of Ramblers Scotland’s members and more than half our volunteer walk leaders are female.”
The voluntary position is elected on an annual basis, with presidents often serving for the maximum term of three years.

Lucy Wallace grew up in southern England and initially trained as an archaeologist. She moved to Scotland in 2005 with her outdoor instructor husband Wally. She has previously worked at an outdoor centre on Arran and as RSPB Scotland’s information officer for the island before setting up her own wildlife guiding and mountain leading business.”

This is Lucy article.

In typical unassuming fashion Lucy wrote this piece to me its wonderful. I hope you enjoy it.

Lucy Wallace collection.

Place to Play

Anywhere in the West Highlands, but especially the rocky peaks of the Isle of Arran, which I’m lucky enough to call my backyard.

Not a lot of people know this

I trained and worked as a palaeolithic archaeologist for a number of years before becoming a Mountain Leader.

“Rambling post alert 📣This is a piece I wrote for a writing course I’m doing….

I knew, as soon as I saw this on the horizon, that the garden was going to be important.

“Seeds. We need some seeds.”

We stood in Morrisons in Fort William, trying hard not to panic buy. There was no pasta, no paracetamol, no loo-roll, no soap and no hand-sanitiser. We were coming to the end of our planned time in the Highlands, and heading back to Arran soon. We’d realised that if we didn’t hurry up, we might no make it back at all. Staring blankly at the carousel of Mr Fothergill’s finest, I was trying hard to remember what I’d had success with before. “Gardener’s delight, they are supposed to be good, lets get those… We can’t afford to go mad, £5 worth of seeds, that’s our max”.

Lucy Wallace – collection.

In the end we spent £4 on tomatoes, beans, rocket, cavolo nero, and some perpetual spinach that would fail to come up.

When we first bought our little house, we put time and energy into a small veggie plot that was surprisingly productive. It’s a narrow strip, that slopes steeply from the wave cut platform on the shore up to a strip of woodland bordering fields on the moor above. We have a tiny square of lawn behind “first shed”, followed by the veggie patch, which nestles under a rowan tree and the “second shed”. Above shed number two, is a jungle of trees and nettles, as well as infuriatingly persistent invasive species, including Himalayan balsam and rhododendron. Amazingly, we have almost eradicated a virulent patch of knotweed.

As work and our business picked up, we became victims of our own success and before long both of us were too busy, working all over the place, to really care for the garden. The best we could do was keep on top of the invasive species. Our loss was the wildlife’s gain, and an enormous bramble patch took hold where once I’d proudly grown potatoes.

Returning home this spring, lockdown happened within days. Work evaporated. Suddenly we were as time rich as we were cash poor. But we still had to hurry- it was a race against the seasons to clear the brambles and get seedlings in the ground.

I’ve tried hard to make amends to the wildlife for the loss of the brambles. I’ve kept some along the fence line, and left stands of self seeded wild raspberries for the birds. Everything has been organic, mulched with bracken and seaweed. I’ve used home made compost that had been sitting idle for years, (not that we could afford anything else), and brewed the most offensive nettle tea fertilizer. My mum sent me heritage kale, lettuce and mangetout seeds, but I’ve stayed true to that original £4, chitted old spuds from the supermarket, and swapped spare kale and tomato seedlings locally for courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers and comfrey. My spring onions have been re-grown from kitchen scraps.

Time spent tending the patch has brought me close to my garden in new ways. The robin that follows me attentively, the blackbird that squawks angrily, the tireless wren family and the slow worm in my compost heap have all given me joy. I’ve had surprisingly few battles with slugs, probably thanks to the slow worm, but have done daily rounds to pick caterpillars off the kale and piles of crap from the neighbour’s cats out of the rocket beds.

We have now reached a peak in output for many of our crop. The mangetout plants are capsizing under the weight of their productivity. There is enough lettuce to sink a battleship full of caterpillars and so much winter kale that I have started cutting the young plants just to get a head start on it. I’m still waiting on tomatoes, pumpkins and cucumbers, but the courgettes are imminent. I’m not sure whether the dwarf beans are going to do much, but I haven’t given up. There have been little surprises, such as self seeded kale, that must have been lying in wait for a decade in the fertile garden soil, and a patch of nasturtiums, that I have not seen since 2009. A rambling rose, smothered in baby pink blooms, and badly in need of taming, has eaten the first shed whole.

Lucy Wallace Collection.

It’s been a journey of discovery, both in the physical sense, and of myself. I’ve talked to my seedlings, worried about the sickly and egged on the healthy ones. I’m absurdly proud of every bowl of veg that comes from soil to plate, it feels like a victory against the times. £4 and countless hours of labour and I feel like a miniature farmer. Out of work, and confined to barracks, I may not have been much use to anyone else of late, but I have not been idle.”

Thanks – Lucy

Lucy lives in Arran and runs – MOUNTAIN WALKS AND WILDLIFE WATCHING

Discover the breathtaking mountains, heather clad moors and rugged coastline of Arran with qualified Mountain Leaders.  Walking on Arran is the best way to experience the beauty of Arran’s scenery and magnificent wildlife.  See charismatic animals such as otters, harbour seals, golden eagles and red deer in their natural habitat.

07825 644161 info@arranwildwalks.co.uk

Lucy wrote. I’m a Mountain Leader based on Arran but work all over Scotland and sometimes, the world. When I’m not guiding in the hills I’m also a wildlife guide and run otter watching trips. I work in both the outdoor education and leisure sectors.

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Great days in Applecross.

Sword of Gideon VS 4c – Beleach Na Ba Applecross/ Cioch Nose



This is a Tom Patey classic climb Sword of Gideon. It’s a mountain route at VS and is rather unusual for Scotland as it is at an altitude of 600m but is in fact only a 5 minute walk from the road. This climb can be seen from road

Sword of Gideon.

Ray Shafron on the Sword of Gideon then it rained.



125m, 4 pitches. Park at wee parking spot just below switchbacks on road.

The first pitch is up the easy rock below the climb proper. Head left up crack/ramp at start of first pitch. Interest on first pitch dwindles after those first few moves. Quite bold at the start. 2nd (crux) pitch starts at the ledge, which can be traversed into if avoiding first pitch. Follow the crack up, then traverse left to belay stance. Fairly good gear. Committing 4a/4b move at start of 3rd pitch on good gear. Straightforward after that. 4th pitch starts at ledge, go straight up. Poss to link 3&4, but scope for good belay at top is poor. Better gear for belay at top of pitch 3.

The Bealach used to be an unforgettable drive up or cycle along one of the most dramatic roads on mainland UK, rivalling many a Swiss mountain pass and with terrific views across much of Wester Ross, the whole of Skye, the Islands of Rum and the Outer Hebrides. You will NOT forget this drive or cycle as long as you live. Sadly in my view the NC 500 has changed all that and in height of summer it is a procession of Camper vans, cars and motor cycles it am just being elitist?

It is composed of rough sandstone on the South Face that rises steeply from the road when a bit wet it can make things a bit tricky higher up. I have done the route before once in the wet and found it a bit wild and Dan and Pete had been on it as well a few times. The last time we were there we abseiled off old age and it was very wet and greasy.

The route description says:
“gives easy delightful climbing up to the Base of the steep middle section which forms a clean steep reddish wall.”

That may be true when we were younger and braver.

The first time we climbed this route and then we headed over to the Classic Cioch Nose after dropping into the Coire that was a great day.

The Cioch Nose – The climb description 450 feet, 7 pitches. First ascent Tom Patey and Chris Boonington August 1960

The first time I climbed this route was 1980 when I was up with RAF Valley MRT from North Wales. The day before we had climbed the Torridon Trilogy; Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin a big 12 hour day. We were up for a 10 day grant. It had been hot and we were tired and staying at Lochcarron in the village hall.

One of the lads who had only got the weekend off Dave Tomkins and had been with us on the Trilogy wanted an easy day. It was decided to climb the Cioch Nose at Sgurr a’ Chaorachain. It was already a classic 3 Star route.

We had a leisurely start as we were still aching from the previous day’s efforts. We parked by the main road and walked into the cliff, it was still very warm. The view of the route is with you all the way in and looks pretty wild and intimidating.

We took my dog Teallach he would wait by the crag and enjoy a leisurely day or so we thought. Even he was tired.

There was no path then to the route and we worked our way up the steep ground to the beginning of the climb.
I had been climbing a lot in Wales so this easy “Scottish Diff” would be no problem.

The guide book was a bit vaguer than the description nowadays. Right from the beginning It was an adventure on steep sandstone with some wonderful situations and great climbing.
The traverse out onto the wall on big holds is superb and what a situation. It seemed to go on for ever, it was never to hard but what a place to be. That wonderful book Classic Rock had a great description of the ascent and the old Black and white pictures in big boots and hill bags made this a real mountain adventure. The belay ledges were spacious but in these days there was a lot of loose rock about. Care was needed and still is.

It was a leisurely day climbing that chimney, the steep wall and a real adventure. We continued up the ridge and found a wee pitch above that was pretty tricky.

We were dehydrated and tired yesterday’s efforts hit us. We descended a gully still damp and loose taking care as there was plenty of loose rock.

I was contouring round the ledges to get back to where we had left the dog. We heard barking and he had shuttled of to the Loch as the midges were at him. He was also dragging my rucksack that I had left with him.

He was fine and we headed back to the land rover as we came under midge attack.

We were the first back at the village hall yet it had been a long day as another group were doing the Torridon Trilogy. (in all 12 of our team completed it that trip incredible)

Poor Dave got a few hours’ sleep and then the drive back to North Wales for work epic. No Health and Safety then.


What thoughts do I have of that day? The midges were out but we caught a breeze higher up we took our time enjoying the situations. It’s a wild place the incredible sandstone rock architecture, the big belay ledges, my companions. Many on their first visit to the West what a place to be. Always the wildness of the corries, the climb and the views were outstanding.

Dan – The move out.

This is a description

An absolute belter of a climb which is best done as part of the A’ Chioch Ridge continuation. Add a few long slings to a light rack. Park at the Bealach na Ba viewpoint and head for the obvious mast. Just short of the summit head east and take the steep path down into Ciore a’ Chaorachain. Be careful this can be slippy and a bit of loose rock. In my mind it is well worth putting on your helmet here?  

The descent.

This is from the UKC Website

“Descended into the Coire along the path and then Gain Middle Ledge by scrambling up A’ Chioch gully for 40m and then right onto a path, the start of the route is 20m past a series of low roofs and starts at an off width crack.

Pitch 1 (30m, 4a) climb the off width and then over some bulges trending left to avoid the small roof, climb a fine corner to a ledge and a choice of belays. Pitch 2 (20m, 4a) thrutch up the awkward corner at the far end of the ledge.

Exit right and climb easier ground to reach a thread belay on the one of the best ledges you’ll find in Scotland. Pitch 3 (40m, 4a) traverse right for 3m, enjoying an intermediate amount of exposure, and then up, past a peg runner, climb a series of horizontal breaks trending slightly left towards a chimney.

Climb and exit this on the right onto another large ledge with an excellent thread belay.

 Pitch 4 (30m) go to the far end of the ledge (CN scratched on the rock) and climb a superb, but short-lived layback. Go right around the bulge and take the easiest line up to a chossy ledge and boulder belay. Pitch 5 (20m) scramble easily up and left over blocks to the false summit to a choice of huge belays.

Head towards the formidable-looking ridge continuation by dropping down the neck and taking the surprisingly easy to follow path up huge blocks towards the well-defined crack in the steepest section of the ridge. Avoid going left past the large gully. Pitch 6 (30m) climb the slab about 10m to the left of the large crack with an awkward move at half-height, to a comfortable thread belay. Pitch 7 (30m) climb up, trending right to easy ground and a choice of solid belays. Delightful scrambling over/around several false summits gets you back to the mast”. To me this is the best approach to me.

Over the years I have done this climb many times. Mostly this was with young team members on their first big mountain route. In these days it was not busy.

I often met Martin Moran the local guide who became a great pal. He was the most unassuming man always helping folk out on the route if they needed guidance. He is now sadly gone in an avalanche in India. Martin was also on the Torridon Mountain Rescue Team and ran a few exercises with the whole team on the route. It was interesting times as the team abseiled down via the various ledges.

This place will always have great memories to me of Martin and great days with so many others. Yet to see Teallach my dog in the Loch surrounded by midges and the remains of my hill bag will always be with me.

The last time I was here I was still recovering from an operation and left Dan and another pal below the start. I felt awful but enjoyed being in this wild place. A huge herd of deer were moving down the Corrie. I watched them and the boys climb the route wishing I was there and then wandered up the nearby Corbett Sgurr a Chaorachainn. Yet I was happy to be out and Dan has promised that at the end of the “Lock Down” we will be back.

Big bag and boots!

In winter this is a different place but that’s another tale for a different day. I will leave you of the views, The Sandstone towers, the islands and the wild panorama of the Western Highlands.

As Donald Bennet says in his great essay in Classic rock “after the climb the temptation is to find a sheltered spot amongst the rocks and gaze westwards. It’s easy to be lazy after such a great climb”  So true, so true.

Posted in Books, Corbetts, Enviroment, Friends, Gear, Health, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Hillwalkers and climbers across Scotland have been delighted at news that the ‘stay local’ travel restriction for leisure and recreation is to be lifted from 3rd July.

Back into the hills.

Mountaineering Scotland has welcomed the lifting of the restriction, announced by the First Minister today.

Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Officer of the organisation which represents almost 15,000 walkers and climbers, and acts as a voice for the sector in Scotland, said: “Today’s announcement, and the plans to bring forward a relaxation in travel for leisure is a positive step and one that will be welcomed by our members and outdoor enthusiasts across Scotland. 

“We hope that more people will now be able to enjoy a return to the hills and mountains but continue to play their part and stay safe as they have done over the last few months.” 

The organisation has reminded people that this is not yet a return to normal, and that distancing and hygiene guidelines must still be observed. 

“We all need to remain COVID aware. Think where you are going and consider avoiding places you know are likely to be busy and be sensitive to the concerns of rural communities. The sacrifices we have all been making have helped us get this far in a return to the hills, but the virus is still out there so we would encourage anyone heading to the hills to do so with this in mind and to act responsibly.”

Mountaineering Scotland will be looking in more detail at the First Minister’s statement and updating the guidance for hill walkers and climbers on their website, with a reminder that the lifting of the limit will not take effect until 3rd July.

Mountaineering Scotland’s guidance for hill-walkers and climbers can be found at www.mountaineering.scot/coronavirus/

What’s your plans?

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Update – Sculpture of Collie & Mackenzie. Skye

It’s taken 17years, but final preparations are underway at Sligachan for the sculpture of Collie & Mackenzie.
The unveiling date was scheduled for September and after a lot of uncertainty with the onset of the pandemic,we are pleased to say that we are back on course to place the sculpture near the old bridge at Sligachan.
Thanks to everyone who has stuck with us through thick and thin. It’s been quite a journey which wouldn’t have been possible without your help and support.
It won’t be long now until both men are placed on site looking towards the Cuillin.
Watch this space……….

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Save our National Trust Rangers.

NTS cares for some of the most spectacular mountains in Scotland, including 46 Munros. From the Horns of Alligin to Ben Macdui, from the Five Sisters of Kintail to the Aonach Eagach, these are places to stir your soul and challenge you physically. They are unique habitats – Ben Lawers is home to rare arctic-alpine plants; in Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve’s Loch Skeen live vendace, one of the UK’s rarest fish. Meanwhile, Mar Lodge has 4 of the 5 highest mountains in the UK.


How can just 1 person or less look after any of these places? Help us to stop the NTS becoming an absentee landowner and sign our petition https://bit.ly/2B0sHJm


John Muir Trust, Scottish climbing and mountaineering, Scottish Mountaineering Club; Mountain Bothies Association, Rewilding Scotland; Reforesting Scotland; UKHillwalking.com

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Skye – A few memories.

Skye

In my early days as of now the mountains of Skye was a mystical place. I had joined the Kinloss MRT in 1972 and in these days it was a good 5 hour journey from our Base in Morayshire. There was no bridge then and the Ferry across was still exciting. I remember being told as a young loon you could get duty free on the Ferry! Skye was spoken about with huge respect and I could not wait to go there.

I am sure my first visit was in 1972 in Easter we had a extended Grant. We were there for I think 10 days. We stayed in Mr MacRaes barn in Glenbrittle so handy for the hills. Mr Mac Rae was a long term friend of the team. The ridge was full of snow and hills and summits were hard won. What an introduction the Skye ridge in winter. Early on we failed just below the summit of Sgurr Na Gillian with the late John Hinde. It was full on winter and an eye opener for me. We were late back and John was just back from Denali and had frost bite. It was some introduction. There were few on the ridge in winter in these days.

I was after Munro’s in these days and myself and my mate Tom MacDonald managed to get most done on that trip . I remember being very scared as we tried to find our way along the ridge. There was limited knowledge especially on winter by some of the young team party leaders. Seemingly I woke up in Mac Rea’s barn at Glen Brittle after a dream that I had of a nightmare on the ridge. It was a week of snow ridges and very tricky conditions, long walk – ins and walk outs. I learned so much. There was no let-up most days you start from see level, the hills are punishing and you have stay alert all day.

Next year I had a summer attempt at the ridge and bailed out after Am Basteir exhausted mentally by the day, the concentration and early start at night wore me down. My mate Tom Mac saved my life as I nearly abseiled of the gear loop on my harness on an abseil on the Drums. It was a lucky escape. Our leader “Kas Taylor “a great rock climber was away in his own world and had left us. He always picked his own line up the rock and loved the adventure. Whereas not being the greatest climber I always took the line of least resistance. Tom to his credit gave up his day and came off with me to ensure I was okay a thing I will never forget. That walk out was hard going but it had been a good first attempt. My fingers were raw with the rough Gabbro and I had learned so much.

Kings Chimney

Over the years I got to know the ridge fairly well. I managed several traverses some many in the classic one day trips. It was always the 12 hour top to top time add in the walk in and out it was always a hard day. Often with new team member’s it was over 2 days for many and another with my dog Teallach. Few understand how exhausting physically and mentally it can be leading a party in poor weather when the ridge is wet and slippy. A few times I was in support of mates supporting them with water drop off’s and bringing bivy gear down, hard work at times. There also what seemed endless waits to pick – up them at the end or if they aborted the ridge.

I was in Skye a lot on the ridge fairly often as I climbed over the years. Also the call outs with the local Skye team opened the eyes to the ridge in poor weather. It is the wildest place to be in bad weather and the Skye Team are some folk. I met many of these people some became good pals and we had some laughs with Gerry Ackroyd who was a local guide and Team Leader. He took no prisoners on the hill but we got to know each other well after a big lower from the In Pin on a wet dark night. I also knew Pete Thomas another guide before Gerry and also the Team Leader sadly gone but there knowledge of the ridge was exceptional. The mountains are Alpine and great care is needed. It was incredible to see so where folk can end up and have epics. I always advise wearing a helmet as there can be a lot of loose rock especially if there are parties above.

There were bits of information on the old guides and even a runners guide that we used a lot to show you the “tricks and cheats” on the ridge. This was Andy Hyslops Rockfax guide written in 2002.

There were also a few Skye scrambles guides over the years that many of us used. Skye is a place that few in my mind can say they know well. There have been a few updated guides but most are great but not ideal for taking on the hill. I would photo stat the bits I needed in the pass and they were handy for the newer leaders in the team especially on Rescues.

I was sent a new guide to the Ridge Skye Cuillin Ridge Traverse and it looks superb. Over the last few months during the lock down I have had good look at it. First impressions it’s clear and concise I wish I had this in my early days.

There are so many classic days in Skye:

The Complete ridge traverse is the one that should be on everyone’s list.

Blaven and the Clach Glas Traverse. The Clach Glas traverse is superb and sadly missed by many. The Dubh Ridge – we always in the past did this via the main ridge a swim in the loch and then this classic scramble.

The Cioch Slab/ Cioch Grooves, Direct route ( had rock fall a few years ago ) Cioch West and Arrow route, Collies route to the Cioch a must for all to this incredible summit.

The Cioch Upper Buttres – the Classic Integrity, Trophy Crack and the Crack Of Doom (what a name)

Western Buttress – Mallory Slab and Grove a 1000 feet severe,Diamond Slab and others on this big face.

Sgurr Sgumain Sunset Slab

The Dubhs Ridge

The Dubhs

There are so many others now the great Sea Cliffs and outcrops now mainly in the SMC Guide Book. When the ridge is out there is great exploring to do and these guides let you know where to go. There are so many wonderful places to go and adventures to have. The Island is well placed now with local guides like Mike Lates, Jonah Jones, Adrian Trendall and others. They will give you a great day out in a place that many who go will always come back.

Coire’ A’ Ghrunnda – White Slab Direct.

W.H. Murray “Apart from the initial trouble in climbing on to the ridge, one may proceed unroped up broad acres of boiler plated slabs, whose rock is the roughest gabbro in all the Cuilins. In other words, it is so rough and reliable that only the grossest negligence could bring a man to harm.”

Top tips – Wear a helmet when scrambling, be aware of loose rock and enjoy this special places.

heavywhalleyr

In my early days as of now the mountains of Skye was a mystical place. I had joined the Kinloss MRT in 1972 and in these days it was a good 5 hour journey from our Base in Morayshire. There was no bridge then and the Ferry across was still exciting. I remember being told as a young loon you could get duty free on the Ferry! Skye was spoken about with huge respect and I could not wait to go there.

A very young Heavy and Tom with bobble hat, Paddy and Dave Foy. – Sgur Na Gillean Peak of the young men.

I am sure my first visit was in 1972 in Easter we had a extended Grant. We were there for I think 10 days. We stayed in Mr MacRaes barn in Glenbrittle so handy for the hills. Mr Mac Rae was a long term friend of…

View original post 1,369 more words

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Glencoe – Curved Ridge Rockfall – Buachaille Etive Mòr

CURVED RIDGE UPDATE.

Curved ridge is the most popular scramble in Glencoe

Curved Ridge.

From Mountaineering Scotland

Following a conversation with Andy Nelson the Glencoe MRT leader I can confirm the following: Recent rockfall is evident on the approach slopes and initial rock steps BEFORE the main ridge itself. Once established on the ridge conditions remain unchanged.

The usual judgement and caution that would be appropriate for journeying on a mountain scramble remains the same. ‘Football’ to ‘Fridge’ size blocks of new rockfall are located near/on the approach slopes/scree/minor rock steps on the approach to the route as far down as below The Waterslide.

(Please be aware that as things ease few have been on the mountains since the winter, as is normal there will be loose rock about after winter thaws and freezes. Be careful please.) Heavy

References Mountaineering Scotland/ Glencoe MRT

Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland Andrew Dempster.

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Fathers Day thought 2020.

My Dad he loved his tennis playing right up to the end.

I feel this is especially relevant today?

 Many would not believe that I had a minister as my father was a “Fire and Brimstone minister” a Tee – totaller. I looking back had a great child hood though, though we had very little money in a big manse in Ayr, (he tithed his small salary to the Lord) Yet he was a good Dad loved sport, football (Ayr United) and the mountains. He was a dedicated Church Of Scotland Minister his life was the Church and Mum more or less single handily brought us up all five kids in the Manse in Ayr.

Me and Dad

I was the last of 5 kids the youngest and was more than a bit of a “wild child “as the Ministers son. I feel maybe it was because you got a lot of grief and most folk expected more from you as was the normal kid for a son of the Manse!  I was always playing up a bit rebellious and getting into many scrapes. Dad was very strict and I needed it but looking back he gave me a great start to life though like many I never appreciated it at the time. The rest of the family were well – behaved and as the youngest of the family with three sisters and one brother I was spoiled and often in trouble.

Dad and Mum gave me a love of the wild places, the mountains and sport and we used to go to all of the Ayr United football team games home and away. Dad always wore his dog collar and this often got us into the games for free. I would vanish among the crowd and Dad and Mum would be in the stand. (Mum was always worried I would get arrested) He had a booming voice and it looks like I inherited it and his voice could be heard all around the ground where he was a bit of a local character.

The Church was his life and he worked so hard we hardly saw him. He was an old-fashioned minister who visited his people and was a true hard worker and was always there when you needed him. I see few ministers like that now he knew and loved his people, especially his old folk and would visit them in hospital wherever they were.

In his day he was a very talented runner and won the Arthur’s Seat Race on, several occasions and as Captain of the Hares and Hounds the Edinburgh University Athletics club. His best pal died as an alcoholic very young this gave him his extreme views  on drink. He was a fit man playing tennis right into his later life.

Dad in his church

It was in the Mountains  he spent his early days in the 1930’s at Loch Arkaig in the West Coast as a student Minister visiting the far-flung parishes in Glendessary and about, small Churches with great people. He was looked after by the Head Keeper Cameron Of Loch Eil who carried all the heavy  Sacrament communion  cups and bits and pieces of the sacraments for my Dad  minister to some far-flung parishes.  They would do a few Munros after the services. He loved these days and spoke about them often.

He never forgot and always remembered Cameron and his care and loved the mountains and wild areas. We were often sent venison through the post I remember the venison what a treat. It would arrive in a bloody parcel Mum used to dread it I wonder what the postman thought then?

Galloway Hills

My Dad and I had some great days out. We were in Glencoe when I was very young with Mum and Dad. We were on Bidean Nam Bian and came off the wrong way near Church Door Buttress. The famous climber Hamish MacInnes was in the Corrie it was wet and misty and heard us and our epic. He helped us down my Dad knew who he was this was the mid 60’s and walked us off. Hamish remembers it as Dad told him he was a Minister. Hamish laughs always when we speak about this day. My Dad got a few sermons out of that day.

It was in the hills that I really started to get to know my Dad and when I joined the RAF and joined the RAF Mountain Rescue he was very happy maybe he felt my wildness was being tamed? He helped give me an endurance and though never a great athlete he would always day do your best. I remember as a very young boy about 11 or 12 on the Annual Ayr Advertiser Walk 9 ( about 14 miles over the local Carrick Hills) I collapsed in a lay bye that was a drink and food stop. I said I was finished my Mum wanted to put me in the car but Dad would not let me. I finished the race but learned from that and when the chips were down in the mountains to keep me alive.  

We managed a few great days in our amazing Galloway Hills, The Merrick, Corserine and  Back Hill of the  Bush and of course Arran where we spent so many great holidays.

We had so many wonderful days on the Arran Ridge, Goatfell, A’Chir and the other great peaks. We all went as a family and had such holidays, huge days 12 hours at times and fish and chips on the way home. These are days I will never forget.  The family holidays swapping manses in the Highlands were great fun and more big days on the mountains.

He never wore any kit a jumper as his spare kit and old pair of shoes and trousers, he wore the dog collar at times to get up restricted tracks!  After we lost Mum of leukaemia Dad never got over it.  We had a plan to go round the big Hotels in the Highlands, the Clachaig in Glencoe, Kintail Lodge and the Clachaig on Skye and do the big hills in comfort. Sadly it was not to be what a shame as for once we had a bit of money but Mum died suddenly of leukaemia and Dad took it very hard. He was never the same and he collapsed in the pulpit during Easter week Services and never really recovered he was in hospital till he died. He was all there mentally but the stroke never allowed him to get out of hospital, it was a sad time for all. I came home as often as I could but never really grieved for my Mum or Dad till many years later. I am sure it was as I would see so many fatalities over the years I was struggling at the time.   

You are who you are and your family makes you who you are.

I was very lucky to have had such a Dad and Mum, special people who you have no clue at the time what you owe them. Money means little, love and care is far more precious, I was a wild teenager and yet they still loved me and did their best, I will never forget that. They were always there to advise and keep you right never easy especially throughout my youth.

I do not get to my home town often but when I do there are still many who remember my Dad. I always get the stories of how he looked after his flock. They also remind me of how wild I was that is 60 years later. 

On Father’s day and every day please give Mum and Dad your love and tell them how much you care for them.

Thanks Dad for a great start so sad that we never got the holiday we planned.

Yet every time I am out in the wild places you and Mum are with me. I thank you for the great start and only recently through the media folk still tell me what a great minister you were to your congregation. There are few like you nowadays!

Thinking of you today and always!

1956 Family photo. The wee one is me with my Grandpa, he was a star.
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“Tranters Round” The Longest Day copied from notes left by the Late Jim Green Kinloss Mountain Rescue.

The Late Jim Green Mountain Gangrel.

This is an article by an old pal sadly gone Jim Green. Its about a route that at the time was and in my mind still is a classic. Tranters Round. In these days of Ultra running the Ramsay Round and records being smashed this is a day many mortals can aspire to.

These are Jim’s words

Phil Tranter.

“The heart of the Central Highlands of Scotland is a vast upland wilderness; its interior is remote and difficult to access. It is bounded to the North by Glean Spean to the East by the A9 and the Pass of Drumochter, south by Rannoch moor and West by the great Glen. In its South – West Corner in the district of Lochaber are two great hill ranges, the Mamores to the South and running parallel to the North are the Grey Corries which lead on to the Aonachs, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis. The late Phillip Tranter, a noted Scottish mountaineer of the day done, first completed a traverse of these hills in June 1964. It is a classic long distance walk and is seldom repeated, it covers over 36 miles and 20,000 feet of ascent 18/19 Munros depending on what book you read. The undertaking is only feasible in mid June when, if the weather is fine, there is no real darkness at night. The Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team were based at Fort William the weekend of the 22/23 June, Davie Walker and myself decided to have a crack at it.

The intention was to start and finish at mid-day so that the rest period at the middle of the walk would coincide with the greatest period of darkness. This happy arrangement meant that we were spared the usual mind numbing dawn start that a big days entails and that the evenings social activities need not be curtailed. In the event, impatience drove us out the bothy at 1030 and after a good greasy breakfast we were dropped off at Glen Nevis. The weather was dreary and overcast with a forecast of rain and strong winds (not ideal). The ascent of the first hill, Mullach Nan Coirean via the forestry commission jungle at its foot, and entered the cloud at 2000 feet, we were to remain in it for most of the trip. The Mamores usually have a lot of wildlife but we were destined to see very little, just the occasional high attitude frog. There was no delay at the summit and we pressed on to Stob Ban the light coloured peak due to the quartz-capped summit, which can make the mountain, looked snow covered. There were a large party of soldiers on the summit, all looked like they did not wish to be there, again we did not delay.

A Party with two leaders is usually leaderless and today was no exception. After about 10 minutes of descent we broke cloud and spotted in the distance the small village of Kinlochleven that had apparently changed its location. The compass came out and remained out the rest of the trip, Dave was conned into the navigation good experience for him! At the next beleach we had a drink, left the sacs and went for the outrider Sgurr a’ Mhain.  This peak dominates the Mamore ridge and has a fine view of Glen Nevis. The glen is popular with tourists and its river the scene of an annual raft race, which is both spectacular and amusing.

We retraced our footsteps back to the main ridge and quickly took in the next two hills, Sgorr an Iubhair and Am Bodach, (The Old Man), a few Muros done and I was feeling like one! The next peak was another outrider, An Gearanach (The complainer) it is approached by a narrow and shattered rock ridge. A few weeks later a couple of the Team were involved here with a fatal accident in this area. Back on the main ridge things were going well and we moved on to the last four of the Mamores.

This group is different in character to the rest of the range, wilder separated by lower passes, steeper ascents. We now embarked on the remotest part of the journey.  The first two hills, Na Gruagaichean and Binnein Mor were seen off easily enough and we had a break below Binnein Beag by the lochan.  This can be a lovely spot on a good day; today it was bleak, grey and windswept, spray being blown off the lochans surface. There is a good stalkers path leading to the foot of Sgurr Eilde Mor but its slopes are steep, rubble strewn and exhausting.  The Mamores complete, we spoke on the radio to one of our parties who were having a wee epic on the Ben, on a wet and greasy Observatory ridge. We offered them our condolences and set off down the long gentle pleasant ridge that leads to the Alt Coire Rath, halting for a food break, chocolate (we ate 12 bars each on the day) The river can cause problems in really wet weather but today was mere boulder hop. Only a few weeks previously a well-known Leuchars troop was thwarted a on his attempt on the same route. He beat an ignominious retreat back to Glen Nevis below the very same hills he had sought to traverse. That taught him to come playing in our area!

We were now concerned with the rapidly diminishing daylight it was about 10 pm, so we started moving up Stob Ban by a sloping traverse and ascent, arriving on the summit in total darkness at midnight. Head torches were useless and only gave a confused glare in the swirling mist. To crack this big day within 24 hours we needed reasonable visibility we knew we had problems. The descent down the boulder field was a tricky dodgy business and we kept close together due to the rocks we were dislodging. Progress was now slow and a rather futile bivouac was inevitable. We stumbled on a bit more, found a small burn and got out the poly bags. We carried no sleeping bags as weight was at a premium. The stove was soon on and we settled down to a few brews. The purr of the stove and the rain pattering on our bags let us doze fitfully and we rose at the first signs of dawn about five. Stiff and damp we were now into the Grey Corries and its outriders, so named because of their rocky nature and light grey appearance. Visibility was down to few yards and the wind was now against us. I annoyed Davie with my running commentary on what views are possible from these mountains. This part of the day is just a blur but we were back on schedule and we could still pull it off within 24 hours.

The final group was ahead of us, usually referred to as the “big four” on account of their height. Aonach Beag can be an awkward hill approaching from this side.   Local knowledge was not used and for some reason we decided to miss the normal detour to the South and up a prominent gully on the face. The gully was steep, loose, mossy and wet, the exposure considerable. In the end we the gamble paid of and we reached the summit plateau, very weary. Aonach Mor was our next objective, the 24-hour target was now beyond us and we slowed the pace and we found its summit after a second sweep, large cornices were still evident.

To reach the next beleach we had to revert to dead reckoning mode, we could not afford any costly mistakes. Here we met our first other hill walkers of the day, they were heading for Carn Mor Dearg via a different ridge.   Dave soon outpaced me on the ascent and I left in my own silent world, found the ascent purgatorial. We were pleased, however, to be up well before the other party was a bit of a physiological bonus. Again there were no views, the connecting ridge to the Ben is rocky and narrow and we passed the Abseil posts that the Kinloss Team had erected in the early Sixties. The ascent to the summit was wearisome and unending but the summit finally hove into sight, full of tourists. We found a quiet corner to rest.

On the way down we paid dearly for choosing lightweight boots our feet were a mess and progress painful. We abandoned the Tourists route on the way down for a grassy ridge and the descent took 3 painful hours, the ascent is usually quicker! A land rover was waiting for us at the Youth Hostel and we reached the road 28 hours after leaving it. The sun came out. Back at Base camp Dave wasted no time briefing the Duty Cook, “ All right I suppose” We drank a few brews and limped away in search of sleeping bags and were snoring in seconds. It had been a long day.”

A brief article on a great Scottish day, by one of our finest troops the late Jim Green. Jim was a true hill “gangrel” and a real character that loved the mountains. Jim loved his fags and his beer and was a superb hill man. I wonder how many fags he smoked on that day!!! His companion was another real hard man Davie Walker, Ex Valley, Kinloss and Leeming, a powerful combination on the hill and socially!

I was the Leuchars troop who had failed previously; such was the rivalry that was between teams in those days.

Footnote:

I had tried the round with Keith Powell and had got stopped by no light and the river in spate due to awful weather. I went again this time alone with my dog Teallach in 1986. We went very lightweight with no bivy kit and managed the day I used my running shoes “Walshes” The Mamores went in 7 hours, no problem, and weather good I felt very strong. The descent of the last Mamore was difficult as the cloud came in and I did not take a break till Stob Ban. The dog wanted to walk off down the glen, he wanted home. I was on the other Stob Ban in 10 hours, The Grey Corries and outriders in 6 hours, (long drag and very hard for me from here to the end) the Big 4 to Youth Hostel 7 hours 30 minutes. There was no one to  meet me and I crashed in the car with a smelly dog for several hours. It was a great day we stopped often watched the hills change in the light and it was one of these days where you wish it would never end. I was strong then but my dog even stronger he waited for me kept me on route and I am sure he was having fun. In these days of Old Age it and “Lock Down” its great to look back and see others in my Mountaineering Club acheive this great day. Rachel and Graham on his day off from his Munros in 100 days did Tranters a few years ago.  I envy them as my pals who do the Ramsay Round in incredible times.

Times are a changing but how I long for these days again maybe a couple of Munros in a day now if I get the chance.

Refereneces https://www.gofar.org.uk/tranters-round

 Books The Big Rounds David Lintren

 The Mountains are Calling Jonny Muir

The route has now been done many times over the years by several troops in the RAF teams that I know off, Ray Shaferon, Rushie, Steve Price and Jenny Hodnett. Many have done it longer, slower and some have added in the Easins! I hope they are still going for it.

The next Year I did the North and South Clunnie Kintail in 20 hours no bivy, honour regained I was now a Kinloss Troop again. Memories! The only way is to go out and try, and if you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.

At the end of Tranters

Off course nowadays there are so many other big hill days about but the longest day was always the best if the weather was good. It is hard to think that we had to carry all the gear as well in these days. Nowadays this route is often done and the routes they get bigger over the years.

Good Training days for it.

A tired Teallach

The Mamores, The Fannichs, The North and South Clunnie, The Shenevall 5/6 and An Teallach, Beinn Dearg 6, Both sides of Glencoe, The Skye ridge, the Cairngorm summits, so many others it’s all there but enjoy it these are days you will never forget.

Heavy Whalley

Ramsay’s Round.
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Gear, bothies – on a walk East – West 1982? Angels Ridge – Angels peak.

The wild Cairngorms. East – West 1982.

I was just posted back from the flatlands of the South from Innsworth near Gloucetser when this walk was taking place. I was posted back to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. I managed to come out a few times with the Stafford boys who took Teallach along. He was the only one who could navigate back then. I have just been looking at these old photos the gear in the early 80’s was basic. Breeks, fleeces a new magic piece of clothing. The Karrimor Outward bound rucksacs, gaiters Rugby shirts, big heavy boots, wooden ice axes. Roll mats and Dogs without hill coats the classic green cup hanging outside the bag. Poor “Rosco” hands on knee looks tired and that is only the beginning of the day. Jim standing up and getting ready to go, on wards and upwards!

Ossian Bothy Youth Hostel ?.

Classic Youth Hostel – This is another one from that walk – Jim Morning and Bob Foreman in short shorts, this time in trainers ready for a big day ahead. Jim pushing the pace. Jim was the Team Leader at Stafford MRT at the time a machine as were Bob and Rosco.

Garbh Coire bothy early 80’s Teallach having a yawn with Peter Ross (Rosco) on the walk on a stunning day..

The Refuge is situated in one of the more remote climbing areas in the Cairngorms. Although usage has been light compared to other shelters in the area, it has played a significant role in the development of both rock and ice climbing in the area and is an important part of Cairngorm mountaineering heritage. It was originally built by Aberdeen University Lairig Club approximately 50 years ago.  The refuge is stone covered with a steel frame. It was in a poor state of repair and without some attention would have undoubtedly deteriorate further. There has been strong feeling amongst local walkers and climbers that it should be retained as a shelter, particularly for heritage reasons, but also because it may save lives in an emergency.The building’s owner, the National Trust for Scotland (Mar Lodge Estate), has agreed that we the MBA should assume responsibility for its ongoing maintenance. There was no rebuild as such with the original structure being retained and a new weatherproof covering being fitted. The bothy was sorted out by the MBA recently. Well done all.

Angels Ridge

I cannot mention this area and forget the wonderful An Garbh Coire where the 1000 feet/ 300 metres scramble up the North East ridge of Angles peak. From the bothy its a steep climb up to the lochan. This wee climb is a lot more serious in winter if you take in the waterfall on the way up to Loch Uaine at 900 metres, From here its a scramble to the summit first on big granite boulders and then the last 100 metres on the airy ridge. The views are spectacular all around and spend time on this ridge its easy and not a place to to rush. I wonder if I will get back this year. I love this place for its remoteness and the adventures I had had here. Plus a few call – outs, where you feel its a remote space.

The classic pose on the ridge with ice still in the loch below, magical.

References – Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland – Andrew Dempster.

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Pyrotechnics – Ground illuminating Flares – who remembers them and the Para Flares (rockets) that could light up a Coire.

Ground illumination Flare 0n Creag Mheaghaidh call out.

I wrote a piece the other day of a Call – out at night on Skye and got a message from a pal about seeing the flares light up the Coire as we struggled with the stretcher and the steep ground. It reminded me how great to see them, the flares were heart warming and that we had help and could for a few minutes see our route down. It also reminded me how much we used Pyrotechnics in these days.

When I was with the RAF MRT being the military we had always carried a couple of metal boxes full of flares and parachute flares like rockets for use on call – outs. They travelled with us very weekend in our big 4 tonner wagons.They had proved vital over many years . These were well used before radios were reliable teams were often called back to base by the use of flares The famous book 2 Star Red by Gwen Moffat is where that title for the book came from.

Two Star Red

Nowadays the lighting, very powerful torches on the hill is so much better now. The helicopters also have Night Vision Goggles (NVG) what a change from these early years.

Pyrotechnics are and can be dangerous. We had to train annually with them on our Base and that ended up with a few epics. They were dangerous items in the wrong hands. Once the airfield was shut, aircraft diverted at Kinloss when a rocket we fired on a training season started a wild fire on the airfield. The Armourers on station or in the team who looked after the pyrotechnics got the blame. They were in charge.

Pyrotechnics

We had to be extremely careful all the time. We also carried smoke grenades to mark our location with the helicopter and advise them of wind for landing. There was another time when training with them the Station Commander arrived as his car had driven into the thick orange smoke. He was not impressed. His car was covered in Orange smoke and my career gone again.

Smokes – Photo Dan Carrol

On Station and Call – outs we always told the Police and Coastguards that we were training with Pyrotechnics as they would get a few calls from the public. Occasionally many years ago a few Highland villages would if Nov 5 th fell at a weekend would do a demonstration with Pyrotechnics that were going out of date. To me they were a great addition especially on a windless night in a remote Corrie. When used properly at night it was like daylight when they were sent off correctly. As the light drifted down from the flare once the smoke cleared it was surreal. You had to get the wind right or your rocket could head of into the next glen or Corrie. They were brilliant at keeping you on the right route off the hill or showing you the nature of the ground you were on The Ground illuminating flares were superb at lightning a path or way off the hill with a stretcher for the few minutes they burned. They were so bright and showed route if placed correctly. Then as they burnt out it was dark again, they also gave many a casualty hope that we were in the area. Help was coming.

Para Flare Dan Carrol photo

It could be surreal in a big Corrie like on the Ben when you found out exactly where you were? Yet comforting if more folk were coming to help you with a steep carry off on dangerous terrain. We used them often especially in my early years in Skye, Ben Nevis, Glencoe, Creag Meaghaidh,the Cairngorms and North Wales. The big lowers on the Idwal slabs in Wales at night lighted up by flares and smoke will always remain with me. As will the wild corries and seeing where you were long before GPS. Then there was the mini – flares but that is another tale.

Sometimes very scary.

Steep Ground – Photo Dan Carrol.

Any memories ?

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Epic off the In Pin on Skye – 1982

Kinloss MRT STATS 26/09/82Isle of Skye Inaccessible Pinnacle 32’/44220Fallen climber aged 65 with back injuries and fractured pelvis when belay failed. 

1000 ft lower on single 500 foot ropes at night and long carry off to Glen brittle.  8.5hrs.

All night carry off very wet
with Skye MRT.

It had been another great weekend on Skye I had just arrived back from a tour in Wales as Deputy Team Leader and then a year at Innsworth in Gloucester. I had managed to get back to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire and was enjoying being home. When you go away coming home is so specail. I had a great weekend rock climbing in Coire Lagan both days, these would be the last days before winter. I was tired as we were having tea at Glen brittle staying at the Classic MacRaes barn. It was a long 4- 5 hour drive home to RAF Kinloss in Moray. There was no bridge to Skye then it was a ferry and then a long drive home. As we sat down to eat we got a message via the local Police that a climber had fallen on the In Pin on Sgurr Dearg we were needed. A Sea King was on the way and would pick us up from the refuelling site at Glen Brittle. It had been raining as we descended or climbs that afternoon and the mist had come in. I doubted if the chopper could get us far maybe into the coire? The gear was split up between us our bags were heavy and bulky not ideal for the ridge.

The helicopter arrived and we were told Gerry Ackroyd the Skye Team Leader was heading off alone ( he was also a guide on Skye and had a fearsome reputation already). We would meet him on the In Pin. The helicopter could only take 5 we had a stretcher, casualty bag, medical gear, radios, climbing gear and one 500 foot rope. I thought this may be an epic so had taken plenty of gear . The chopper came in but the weather was awful the wind had got up and with the mist down they dropped us low in the Coire Lagan below the “Heart lochan”. As the helicopter left you do feel alone, or was that just me? The helicopter had done a great job saved us a long walk but I for one was glad to be off it. I am not a great flyer even in good conditions. It was now up to us and Gerry.

The Heart Lochan

Terry Moore who was the Deputy Team Leader we had decided that he would go ahead from the helicopter to get up to meet Gerry on the ridge as we had no communications at all. My job was to get the rest of us up to the In Pin. I had been here many times but by now it was dark and wet and the screes with the heavy weight and darkness were purgatorial. It is easy to lose someone in the dark and the last thing we needed was to only arrive with one part of the stretcher (it is split and carried usually by two folk.) We made progress and were well aware that the injured climber would be struggling. These were the days before mobile phones and he had been alone below the In Pin as his partner went for help. The route is easy in daylight but now was wet and very slippy we slipped often but I was so glad as we were off the An Stac Scree and working our way up the An Stac by pass to the In Pin. We were soon on the ramp and had to be careful as the loose rocks crashed down into the Coire.

On a perfect day – The In Pin Skye – the climber landed just below the climber in red and the descent was down the ramp to the right.

We had been told the helicopter could not help us the weather was to bad there was no Night Vision on board in these days. We knew more of the Skye Team and our team were walking in that would take time, we would be on our own for most of the night. When we arrived below the In Pin Gerry and Terry were with the casualty he was in a bad way,we suspected a back and pelvis injury. He was very cold as were Gerry and Terry. There was a little shelter as we were directly under the descent abseil of the In Pin. The casualty was so lucky he had not rolled off over the crags. He was 65 and we had to get him off the hill as quick and as safely as possible. I had been up the In Pin fairly often in all weathers but that night was different with the rain and the wind it was not the place to be. Everything was done as fast and as safely as possible.

It was decided that Terry and Gerry would guide the stretcher down the others would leave me and Jon Beattie to lower the stretcher then climb down. They would sort out the next belays and try to keep out of the rock fall. It all sounds easy but on a loose cliff. In the dark and wet it was not easy. We were so aware of loose rock and in the dark, we sorted a belay and stated the lower. It all went well but the smell of rocks crashing was awful. Through the gloom we heard the shout that they were safe and we scrambled down, trying to be careful as possible. In these days the torches were not great very hard to pick the line down and it was not a straight lower but had to be done. We had one single 500 ft rope and were aware of it being hit by rocks. It was the same again for another few 100 feet a bit awkward but then the hard work on the screes. We met the rest of the Skye Team and Kinloss boys lower down in the Corrie.

This was brought to my attention and I remember it now. ” Also remember the awesome sight of the pyrotechnics lighting up the whole corrie. Biggest Roman candles I’ve ever seen, lasting a couple of minutes if memory serves? What were thy called? Ground illuminators, or something like that?” Peter Mitchell

Ally – FGI’s, Flare Ground Illuminating. They meant we we could see a lot better and we had help, how could I forget that. (Heavy)

There were over 20 of us now and it was still exhausting work all the way to Glen Brittle. It had been a long weekend and hard going the lower and climb down was mentally exhausting as well. It poured on the way off. We were soaked and the effort to carry our casualty was hard going. Even trying to follow the route down a path in daylight in the mist is hard enough but at night never easy. Gerry ( the Skye Team Leader) knew the way well and kept us right, he was just what we needed. He even cracked the odd joke that kept us going. He had been guiding all weekend so he was tired as well yet he never showed it.

Eventuality as daylight was coming in the light improved but it was still muddy on the path in these days in places. I remember at the end of the night missing the wee bridge at the campsite in the dark and I was straight in the river. It was early morning when we got off the hill exhausted. The Adrenalin was still going as we went back to the Barn in Glen Brittle and slept after some food and a gear sort out. We were soaked again and slept for a few hours then a big drive back to Kinloss later on in the day.

The casualty recovered, he was a lucky guy but what a great call -out lots of learning for all and a life saved. That was the start of a few epic call -outs in Skye and meeting the one and only Gerry Akroyd who was to remain the Skye Team Leader for many years.

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Looking after the planet? Tak it hame

I am out in my local area every day during the lock down and enjoying the beach and my local forest, there are so many bike trails and walks enjoyed by all. Why are some of the folk throwing away cans, bottles and sports gels? The beach also has most days especially at weekend the so called “Disposable Barbecue” dumped. There are a few tables at Roseille my local picnic area and some are burnt with Barbecues used on them, despite there being a metal plate on a few of the tables.

I have put my panniers on my bike and bring back rubbish every day. To get to these places just now you have to walk or cycle so why not bring all your rubbish home. As for those who dump sports gels and high energy drink bottles shame on you.

Only after the last tree has been cut down,

Only after the Last River has been poisoned.

Only after the Last Fish has been caught,

Only then will you find,

That money cannot be eaten.

Cree Indian Prophecy.

Hopeman Beach.

Dog Poo is another favourite to dump but that is another story for another time. If you have a dog take the poo to the nearest dog bin. The tree fairy will not collect it for you.

This has been up for many years. Very visionary and in the forest.

So if you go out and about and you can please pick up what rubbish you can and teach others to do the same.

In the Mountains and wild places things are also not good.

This is from Mountaineering Scotland.

Litter in the Mountains

Tak It Hame is our campaign that says what it means: encouraging the mountaineering community, and others, to remove litter and plastic from our hills and crags.  

The campaign was all set to relaunch this spring BUT with the arrival of the Coronavirus restriction, things haven’t gone to plan! So instead, we’re asking you to TakItHame while you are on your daily exercise around your local area instead. Of course, the first consideration at this time is to stay safe and observe the social distancing and hand hygiene rules. 

Only do what you assess is safe and feel comfortable doing – do not put yourself or others at risk. Use a litter picker if you have one, or gloves (disposable or otherwise); use hand sanitizer and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.   

There are three key things to remember: 

  1.  Don’t pick up anything that might put you at risk, like sharp objects, tissues or dog waste. 
  2.  Dispose of litter at home by sorting into your recycling or landfill bins, depending on what it is you have picked up, wash the bag thoroughly and use again. 
  3.  Take a photo of what you have collected and share on social media, using the hashtag #TakItHame, and tag Mountaineering Scotland on FacebookTwitter and Instagram so we can see what you have been doing

We encourage everyone taking to the hills and climbing the crags to do a little on every trip, individually, or as part of a group or club outing.  And to show others too: tell the world that we can all do something.  Many of us already do, but the litter still accumulates. We need more people to do the same.  

This message applies locally as well as up the hills, so you can make your own local area a nicer, cleaner place too.

The message is: can you bring back more than you took out?

So what can we, every one of us, do?

  • Firstly, we can think about the choices we make when buying, consuming and disposing of food and drink items that we take along with us.  We know the story: reduce packaging, reuse bags and bottles, recycle all that can be recycled.
  • Secondly, we can step up to the ongoing challenge of cleaning up the hillside of lost or discarded items. Not just the items we bring in with us, but the things that lie there, trampled into the soil, blown into bushes or lodged in cracks.

http://www.mountaineering.scot/conservation/campaigns/tak-it-hame

Plastics in the sea.
Posted in Enviroment, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being, Wildlife | 5 Comments

Early Social Distancing – Strathfarrar, An Teallach memories.

When I was at RAF Leuchars as the Mountain Rescue Team Leader I used to raid the far North of Scotland (that was RAF Kinloss MRT Area) We had many great weekend. Sadly it took a bit of convincing the young team member’s that maybe Dundonnel our base for AnTeallach would not have the socialising of the Dundee night Clubs or even Aviemore or the Newtonmore Triangle. It was the same in the Fort and Glencoe some of theyoung team members would vanish and find a party, it was a tradition. So when the team was taken to the wilds of Strathfarra or Affric for a weekend many of the young troops were amazed that there was not even a pub. We would take our own drink if the midges allowed.

“What do you think Mark” – No disco he said. Mark met his wife at Newtonmore at New Year, notice I am wearing my running shoes “Walshes”, Mark is in big boots.

My plan was to get some big days in for them and get them to know these great areas. Maybe they would be to tired to socialise? No chance with these folk, they could find a party anywhere. Just like in my days when the call of the Ceilidh would be too much and many would involve a long walk back to our Base Camp. The photo below was on a great day on An Teallach with a few of the young fit guys. I was so pleased to be up on the ridge on such a day and asked what they thought. I got a hard time as there was no possibly no social in the area as the pub was low key. Then they discovered Ullapool after a hard day on the hill the hardened few would get a driver and off they went. I needed to know where they were in case of a call out. Once in Appin they got stuck at a party and had to wait for the tide to turn! These were the days before mobile phones.

Yet some of the remote areas had the best socials, fun nights with the locals at Lochinver and Kinlochbervie had some great nights. As did Kintail with the walk back from the Ceilidh at Glenelg a fair 2 hour walk back, just in time for breakfast and a day on the hill. In my early days we would get to the pub for last orders at the Sligachan Hotel after a long drive from Glen Brittle. We would meet locals and we were off to a dance or party in Portree or Broadford. On the way to the hill next day we would sometimes pick up the odd local heading home from a wild Skye night.

Early Social distancing?

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Interesting day on the Prow – Blaven Skye, fancy dress and a call – out.

I was out for another weekends training at Kintail on the West Coast with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team from RAF Leuchars in Fife. The weather was great so we planned to get a climb in Skye just over the water it was the mid 80’s. There was no bridge there I was trying to get as much climbing in as possible before my RAF Team Leaders Course and was enjoying it. It had been a good summer and we had got a lot of rock climbs in all over Scotland!

At the times we were chasing some Classic climbs and The Great Prow was in the famous book Hard Rock by Ken Wilson. It was one of the easiest of the routes in the book and many who know these things could not believe it was Skye’s only route in it.  I had  walked in before but the route was wet so we did a long climb on the Buttress which was as they say “character building.”

The climb – “The Prow” from Hard Rock – very Severe 380 feet East Face of Blaven first ascent 1968.

 This was to be the day to get the route climbed as we had two good climbers with us Dave Tomkins also a photographer and Stampy who would climb the North Face of the Eiger. We also had a young troop Ross with us for an “experience day” he had just done the RAF MR First aid Course. We had most things covered.

The Friday night in these days at Kintail is always a great night and we stayed in the village hall opposite the pub. They had a fancy dress night in the hall and there were lots of hats and masks left when we arrived along with the debris of the usual party that we tidied up in the hall. Anyway in the morning we had an early start and the troops had some of the masks on as we headed for Skye!

Batman Mask

In these days there was no bridge it did not open till 1995 . It was the ferry we went across in complete with masks if I remember mine was a batman mask . The ferryman was laughing as was the garage at Broadford on Skye then it was round to Blaven the mountain our route was on. It’s a great drive iconic with the first views of the iconic mountain always makes me smile. The classic Glach Ghlas Traverse is an outstanding day and how many miss this wonderful scramble and climb and in winter a route to task most of us. Not today we had planned the climb we were after.

The weather was great but the walk up to crag is and I quote “Purgatorial” according to the SMC guide. It is up steep screes to the cliff the Prow is situated. A far better way is to descend “Scuppers Gully” by another route but not today.  the walk in is from sea level up to 2200 feet and about a mile and a half a lot on scree.

I had also been up here in winter and the scope for winter climbing is superb and the walk up easier. Anyway we made it to the base of the crag the weather was great and we were enjoying the day. The cliff is imposing and the Great Prow an outstanding feature but there are some hard routes round here with few that let mere mortals like me climb on it.

Two other climbers arrived that is unusual as this part of Skye is usually quite! They were two top Scottish climbers doing a much harder route on a cliff that gets few ascents! We had a good chat and off we went. They must have thought we were mad. Climbing was pretty friendly in these days and we were fairly well known as we climbed on most cliffs at the time. It was a great community and most folk knew each other. There are some incredible climbs on this face including at its time one of Skye’s finest Stairway to Heaven 120 metre E5 three star route. We left the boys to their climb and God knows what they thought but they never knew who we were as we kept it low key many days were spent as the odd climber fell at our feet or on the same cliff. Low profile it was not to be.

The climb – “The Prow” from Hard Rock – very Severe 380 feet 105 metres East Face of Blaven first ascent 1968.

The Prow.

As always I was a bit worried but the route was fine with some great belays and 4 pitches one was very loose, the top one but we had fun, what situations and great company and I climbed in my mask. We were soon on the top the views of the ridge are stunning and then we started to descend Scuppers Gully back to the bags that we left below the route. On the way down we heard shouting, not the usual but that call that means trouble. On arriving we found one of the climbers on the deck looking pretty rough, he had fallen off or a hold had come of and hit the screes. He was in a bit of shock and we soon sorted it out and had an arm injury. Poor Ross was thrown into the casualty care while we thought about the evacuation. Now it is not far from the road but its awful ground. This was 1984 and no mobile phones so it would have been a long time to get the stretcher and enough man power to get him off. It does not seem a bad injury but he had also hit his head on the scree was very dazed so it was worrying. So we had put on our serious faces and get on with it.

On the belay.

From the SMC Journal 1985 – June 8 th 1984 –  Climber 21 (m) on the Jib  130  metre three star E1 –  East Face of Bla Bheinn fell 20 feet arm injury , shock/ Rescue by RAF MRT and RAF Leuchars helicopter  28 man hours.

The Wessex helicopter was training in the area and was planning coming to see us and by magic I tried a call on our radio. There was no way we should have got any answer but  we did. We got contact and the helicopter was going to refuel and would be straight over. Now the cliff is steep and overhanging in places and soon the winch – man was dropped of with us on a long wire, we had a bit of work sorting out the casualty. More importantly we had the helicopter Neil Robinson stretcher basic but meant we can now move the casualty. There was no way the helicopter could winch here so we moved him to the screes an epic on the loose ground.  We struggled and heaved with him but managed to get into a possible winching position. It was then a pick up by the helicopter not easy with the closeness of the cliff and the turbulence but as always they were great. It was soon over  and we were left to walk down of the hill with his mate. Our casualty was off to hospital and recovered well climbing again within a few months.    It was a good job and could have been a lot different as rarely are there other climbers on the crag in those days.

It was back for “tea and medals” and then I noticed that for most of the time I had my mask on and I got some wind ups from the helicopter crew for that, what did the casualty and his mate think, we will never know but they were glad to see us.

Crazy days,but as I sit here with my memories  and look back a great outcome thanks Dave, Stampy and Ross. Now where is that mask now I could use it?

References – Hard Rock – Ken Wilson

Skye the Cuillin SMC Guide.

Posted in Articles, Books, Bothies, Friends, Gear, Islands, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

First time on Tower Ridge. Sept 1972

Over 47 Years ago I first climbed Tower Ridge for the first time it was Sept 1972.

Tower Ridge

I was a young lad in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in Morayshire I was a very young 19 year old. We had driven through the night and were up at the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis to search for 3 missing Naval Climbers who had not returned from a day out on one of Scotland’s finest ridges. The RAF mountain Rescue have a remit for the SAR of military personnel and these were days before mobile phones and great communications.   Any big searches in these days Lochaber Mountain Rescue called in assistance of the RAF as at times they still do nowadays. I was only in the Kinloss Team for under a year at the time and the drive through the night to assist was exciting in these days. I was to have many epics on this road on the years to come.  As we arrived at the Police station in the early hours we had a brew and a briefing .

The Police and Lochaber in these days had access to a snow-track  vehicle and the path to the CIC Hut in these days could be  swamp but we managed to get 50 searchers to the hut at first light. The three climbers from HMS Cochrane  (Roysth) had left the CIC hut where they were staying to climb Tower Ridge by the Douglas Boulder. I later found out they were doing some work on a Ariel on the Ben.

RAF Kinloss Stats 01/09/72Ben Nevis Tower Ridge3 Royal Navy climbers, fell from Tower ridge – 3 fatal. John Hinde, Heavy, Bugsy climbed the ridge after call out.  

They were found below the ridge by the Lochaber Team if I remember rightly in the basin near Gardh Gully and we all helped to evacuate them to the CIC Hut below the North Face. There were no helicopters these days and even though its a short carry it was hard work. Unfortunately all were killed and still roped together after a fall from the ridge, lying in the scree. It was a hard introduction to the world of mountain Rescue for a young lad.   As always it is a real tragedy and it took all of us to move them. In these days young members were expected to assist in everything and I helped load a young lad onto the stretcher. Lochaber MRT as now was full of incredible characters and a few were ex RAF who had settled in the area mainly due to falling for a local lassie. They were a hard bunch but looked after you as did many of our team.

It  was on one of my first tragedy’s on the Ben a place I was to see on many more occasions. Once we had handed the stretchers over to the snow-track  at the CIC Hut John Hinde was asked by the Police to investigate what may have happened. John Hinde was even in these days a legend in mountain rescue and I was asked (no one else fancied it) if I would climb Tower Ridge with John and  Michael Rabbit’s  (Bugs) both were very experienced mountaineers.

It’s hard to think back but it was a wet day I had never climbed Tower Ridge before and we more or less climbed up West Gully not the usual way up to the famous Tower ridge. It was wet and greasy and always in my young mind was that 3 climbers had been killed on this climb.

Tower Ridge 2000 feet Difficult climb first ascent 1892 in descent! This is the classic route on the cliff unique for its time as it was first descended. These days it is still the most popular climb on the mountain. It has cruxes in the Great Tower and Tower Gap in the wind and rain it can be exciting. Never to be underestimated in my view?

As W.H.Murray states ” Tower Ridge is the pre -eminent example of a mainly moderate route that must be classic by virtue of its big cliff environment, its own great length, its clean sound rock and the grand scale of its architecture. Whatever more ambitious plans one has on Ben Nevis, Tower Ridge is the first essential climb for the man or women) who wants to know the mountain”

We scrambled up unroped the gully was loose and wet John was wandering all over to where he thought was the accident site was. He was looking for signs of the accident . This is where all three had fallen from roped together. He surmised that they were moving together when someone had slipped. The weather had been fine though yet the rock was greasy and wet you needed to take care.

I had just climbed Savage Slit in the Cairngorms the week before and felt I was ready for such a long climb. John Hinde was a leading light in mountain Rescue at the time and very interested in mountain safety. He always analysed accidents that he went too. He worked very closely with Ben Humble the SMC Mountain Rescue Statistician of the time and later became the statistician after Ben passed away. It was a long day and John had seen that two of the casualties were wearing normal military boots and this may have not helped as they can be slippy on damp rock. We will never know what exactly happened but I was a very careful young lad moving along the ridge.

In the Gap!

On every bit even the easy parts I took my time and was a bit in awe a the famous Tower gap as the mist came down. Lots of the climb we moved together most of the time along the ridge John showing the key belays and guarding me on the tricky bits. The Eastern Traverse just a path in summer and the Chock stone then up onto the Great Tower and how tricky it could be here in winter. I learnt a lot that day from two incredible mentors and how easy it is to have a slip or trip. I took extra care all the way as one would expect after such an introduction to such a special place. I had no sleep and it was a long day for a young lad yet I kept going and even was given the rope to carry off only after we had climbed to the summit.

”Look well to each step” is so great a quote and so apt even today. We were many hours behind the team which left straight after the casualties were handed over to the police. There was little chat as we headed back to Torlundy to our land rover.

Cic Hut Summer

The rope and lagged behind a bit in my own world after a difficult day. There was no food just a 3 hour drive back my gear basic in these days was wet but I was soon asleep in the back of the vehicle. We arrived back  at Kinloss late in the evening, really tired and when we arrived back at work next day. It had been some day and there was little chat about what had happend these were the days when few spoke about these things,they were buried in the mind. That is how we dealt with trauma then unlike know. After that call -out I developed Psoriasis which was to be with me all my life. I am sure the trauma of these early call – outs had something to do with this awful skin disease.

On my return next day at work I was asked by Boss if I had enjoyed my day off?

He said that I was working the weekend to make up my time off?

Despite this tragic event for many years I was to climb Tower Ridge with new Team Members enjoying giving many an introduction to this incredible mountain. I have climbed it over 20 times in summer yet still manage to wandered off route on a lovely summers day! Follow the crampon marks is the tip. I have managed the classic 4 ridges in summer in a long day and about 10 winter ascents of Tower Ridge and that is a different proposition. I have waited near the gap for many of the young troops on there first mountain lead and as the wind howls through the gap its imposing. Its as they say only a diff but on a bad day looks horrific. On a few rescues in the past we have climbed down to the gap from the summit ridge. I have so many memories of this climb.

Yet what a climb what joy you have what views and what a place to be. Another great climb to savour but never take it for granted or those you climb with.

References – Classic Rock Ken Wilson

Ben Nevis Rock and ice climbs. SMC Publications

Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland – Andrew Dempster.

In the Shadow of Ben Nevis – Ian Sykes an insight into the Ben and this era.

Ben Nevis “Britain’s Highest Mountain”. Ken Crocket/ Simon Richardson all you need to know about this wonderful mountain.

Posted in Articles, Books, Health, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 5 Comments

Looking back on a strange few months.

It’s been a long time since I was on the hills but though I miss them so much my bike has been such a great pal over the last few months. I have mentioned before that when the tides allow a cycle along my local beach. It is great to see the waves and be so close to the water. The water last week was full of pollen and it looked luminous as the waves broke. Every day is different.

Pollen in the sea.

Most days though my cycle is through the forest there are few folk about and it’s got some great tracks. The wildlife is incredible the birds even a woodpecker in the early days with its constant drumming. I see roe deer watching in the forest and there is even a bird hide to visit. I rarely rush taking it all in enjoying the smells of the trees and the cut wood waiting to be moved on. There is little rubbish about but most days I will pick up the odd plastic bottle a sad part of modern life. I have a rubbish bag with me and have picked up several Disposable foil Barbecues from the beach left by idiots. Why oh why? The trees in the forest are magnificent and after the rain the smell they produce is incredible. As is the “broom” or gorse it is so yellow just now and full of smells it’s wonderful. I have done the odd short videos for the girls to help with there home schooling.

I thought I would get my book sorted but my head was not there. There were to many other things going on in my head but it gives you plenty of time to think. Most will be honest to say there have been ups and downs some days. Motivation could be low but getting out in the fresh air gets you motivated no matter what the weather as is keeping active. The mind clears and the physical exercise even at my pace clears the mind and the body.

So every day I have cycled or walked locally been so lucky with the weather up here and the area we live in. I have not had even one drink during these days since the shutdown in March. I have tried to keep the blog going and I am amazed by the responses I get. Unfortunately some folk get so wound up it’s difficult not to react. Maybe they have to much time on their hands.

My mountain bike is just a normal mountain bike second hand it is not the fat tyres one. It does the job though and I enjoy it. Sadly I will be hoping to sell my road bike it’s in great condition. It is a Specialised and I love it but I am still not right with my breathing as awaiting a scan in hospital. Hopefully once things calm down I will get my appointment back from hospital.

My bike

I have missed my family they are all getting older and live a long way off. My Grandkids are down South and though we chat regularly it is hard going. My pals have been great but not seeing folk is hard as is the lack of physical contact with those you hold dear. Yet I am so lucky that so far the Covid 19 has not hit any close to me. So many others have not been so lucky. My village is great and has been superb in the crisis there is so much care, kindness and love. This is why I cannot listen to those who moan about minor things when there is such tragedy about. I think we have all learned a lot over the last few months and there may be more to come.

What will the new normal be like. I have no clue but just to be close to those I love and give them a hug will be good enough for me.

Stay well, stay safe and look after those you love.

Posted in Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Flora, Friends, Health, Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Ardverikie Wall – 550 foot/ 150 metre Hard Severe. The South Face of Binnein Shuas.

Many will know and love this route its one of my favourites and in these days its great to be reminded of superb routes. There are a lot harder climbs on this cliff but this one is special. Ardverikie Wall – 550 foot/ 150 metre Hard Severe.

First ascent D.F.Lang and G.N. Hunter.

The Classic Ardverikie Wall

It was a neglected cliff for many years tucked in behind the Laggan road and missed by many until climbed in June 1967. It is said that the famous Tom Patey visited the crag in bad weather and unlike him missed its potential yet he had done a route here earlier . The first ascent was by a real character Doug Lang and Graham Hunter who during and incredible summer in 1967 where they climbed themselves to a standstill before publishing the climbs in the SMC Journal. Binnein Shuas is a lovely hill well worth a trip on its own though only 746 metres. The rock type is a mixture of pegamite and mica shist. This gives an unusual feel to the rock  “requiring a different style of climbing”.

Ardverikie Wall 2007

Access is easy with a bike and worth it for the journey home mostly downhill. The crag does not look that great from the distance but it is a fun place and the route over 550 feet looks steep and intimidating. I found it so on my first visit in 1975, Tom MacDonald climbed it with me Tom laughing at my attempts. I found it bold but I am a poor climber and there was little gear then. It is described as “a thin ribbon of grey micro granite” but once on it the journey begins. In these days the route was sparsely protected and the 4- 5 pitches give classic climbing and the views outstanding of the lovely lochan  na – Earba and the Ardverikie Estate. This was all made very famous by the TV series filmed here.

It is worth the short stroll to the summit (a climb should always do this?) It is a place that at times misses the rain and on the various occasions I have climbed it once or twice in big boots and then the three Munros it was a grand day. Many novice RAF MR Rock climbers cut their teeth on this crag and we had a few wobbly leads at time in the rain but what a place to be. There are plenty other routes here and recently and new routes have emerged. I also had a few fun days in winter when the big hills were out we got a couple of winter routes in many years ago. I have been so lucky to repeat it many times every time and adventure and it can be a busy crag nowadays as its in Classic Rock.

Ardverikie Wall – photo Pete Greening big boots !

I would have loved to have repeated  thIs route again with Doug Lang who I met through the SMC he was a real character  (who put the climb up in 1967 ) Sadly Doug was killed in an Avalanche in Glen Clova in 2011 he was 70 years old and was still very active and climbing well.

Doug had a mountaineering career spanning six decades and was one of Scotland’s foremost mountaineers.

Doug had been at the forefront of Scottish mountaineering for over 50 years. He is most well-known for the development of Binnein Shuas with Graeme Hunter in the late 1960s, and the first ascent of Ardverikie Wall – one of Scotland’s most loved mountain rock climbs. Doug was at the cutting edge of Scottish rock climbing during that period with first ascents of Falseface and Sword of Damocles on Creag an Dubh Loch.

Dan Carrol on Ardverikie Wall

As soon as we are allowed I hope to revisit this cliff and route and climb one of the best routes in Scotland and have a “dram” for Doug. I hope there are no midges. There are a couple of other routes for the middle grade climber Kubla Khan Hard Severe and Hairline Grooves severe. There are many more for the bold climbers and it is surprising the number of quality routes on this carg that was walked by so many climbers.

Classic Rock

The book Classic Rock has a great piece on the route and well worth a read.

The SMC Highland Outcrops South is a great guide for this cliff.

Posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Covid 19 Advice for walkers and climbers.Some personal thoughts.

Please see below the latest advice for climbers and walkers. It is hard staying local I can see the big hills and I am lucky having a beach and forest to enjoy on my doorstep. Many are not so lucky.

Every day I see Ben Wyvis shedding it’s snow and long for the mountains. It’s hard at times and of course Governments have to make huge decisions ( which I do not envy) no matter their politics. Yet with over 40000 dead in the UK we have to do what we can and what is advised. More have died in this virus than were killed in wars we were involved in since the Korean War. It’s so easy to criticise with hindsight. Folk have died alone a few have had the chance to attend funerals.

I speak every day to an old lady in her mid 80,s who is confined in her room in a Care home. She is not allowed visitors and her wee room is her lonely world. This is life for her and has been for over 3 months. It is a hard time for many and I feel for them. I know many involved in the front line all over the UK who work in the medical world doing what they can to keep us safe.

Many mountaineers are heeding the advice and staying local but sadly a few are not. Please think when you go out and be careful. Follow the guidelines and remember that there are many vulnerable folk really frightened by this virus. I saw that the Police fined a pair who called out the Mountain Rescue team from Killin who travelled from the Central Belt to the mountains. We must remember it’s the Police who have the responsibility for Rescue in the UK. I have had a few comments on this but as someone much wiser than me said it is a Police Matter. There are also a few that worry that this may effect Mountaineers as the usual call may arise to fine or bring in Insurance for the hills. This is not what this is about its about trying to ensure that the advice we are given for this unique period is taken seriously. I for one have always defended the right to go out on the mountains and against Insurance for the mountains and wild places in the UK. Everyone has their views.

I see many out in my local area on bikes like me. Families where few wear helmets and are so unaware of the danger of head injury especially if not wearing a helmet. Please be careful enjoy the fresh air but I know several folk who have been hurt on bikes. One of my pals is a now paraplegic after getting hit by a car many years ago.

My daily cycle

I have been lucky I have good pals and family who keep in touch. I live on my own which I enjoy but miss company. I miss like many my Grandkids their cuddles and love and giving folk a hug. Yet I have nothing to complain about.

I have no clue what will happen in the World beyond Covid 19 how will the economy recover. Will we appreciate what folk in essential services have done and pay them properly. Or will it all be forgotten in the recovery?

Will some folk still try to avoid paying tax yet still want a Health Service and all the other benefits that are payed for by the tax payer? Will the big companies still avoid tax as they always try?

My local shops and folk have been superb there has been much good come out. I have good neighbours and a wee village that cares in many ways for the old and vulnerable.It’s been hard at times but we in my view still have to listen to what we are advised and behave accordingly. I have never been one to follow rules even after 37 years in the military yet we must be sensible and look after the vulnerable.

I watch like many what is happening in America just now. It’s tragic and a powder keg all race related . I have many friends over there and great memories. I have seen how some folk are treated and was appalled. I got involved in my tour of the USA in 2008 in many discussions on politics and could not believe the hatred of Obama and his politics by some. He was standing for President yet digging deep it was his colour not the politics that were a huge factor.

Yet there are so many great Americans who I met who were not like that. I was over again on my Cycle to Syracuse 30 th Anniversary in 2018 and was told about the problems then by many. I feel for them just now and wish a better world for all. Yet it will come at a cost.

These are strange times I have rambled a bit but my mind is racing. I just hope that in the future we learn from many of these hard times.

So please if going out have a thought for others. Have fun enjoy yourself but be careful and think how your actions may effect others.

Comments welcome

Mountaineering Scotland has produced guidelines for walkers and climbers in Scotland for Phase 1 of the Scottish Government route map for easing lockdown restrictions, which came into effect on 29 May 2020.

The guidelines have been created in collaboration with the Mountain Safety Group which includes Scottish Mountain Rescue, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge, and the Association for Mountaineering Instructors, as well as through work with many other partner organisations.

The purpose of this guidance is to provide a framework for hill walkers and climbers within the current Scottish Government public health advice and phase of exit from lockdown, and to highlight additional considerations to be aware of in the presence of COVID-19 when taking part in these activities. 

It must be stressed that an easing of lockdown at Phase 1 does not mean a return to normal,and we urge everyone heading out to enjoy the outdoors to be mindful of how their individual actions reflect on the whole outdoor community. The key will be for individuals to take a sensible approach to their activities, use your judgement to manage the risks, and to consider the social responsibility we all have to each other, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of COVID -19.

Please read the guidance in full before planning your activities and remember to:

  • Stay local: Limit your travel to around 5 miles for recreation and follow the current public health advice for Scotland to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Be prepared: Car parks, toilets and other facilities remain closed.
  • Be safe: Plan ahead and stay well within your limits – whatever your activity – to avoid the need for rescue and emergency services.
  • Be considerate: Think about how your actions might impact on others and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times.

If you are thinking of hill walking or climbing in your local area, please take some time beforehand to read our guidance for Phase 1, plan your activity, make sure you are fully prepared and think about how you can keep yourself and other safe.

https://www.mountaineering.scot/coronavirus

Please act with consideration for others, and keep hold of your litter to #TakItHame. It’s not difficult, just requires a bit of thought and common sense! Please share.

Stay Local – Be Prepared – Be Safe – Be Considerate

Scottish Mountain Rescue Glenmore Lodge Mountain Training Scotland Mountain Training Association of Mountaineering Instructors Sportscotland Walkhighlands

Firstly, thank you very much to @Mountain_Scot for bringing this statement together.

Hill walkers and climbers have been reassured that they should not be penalised if they have to call on the services of a mountain rescue team.

Posted in Cycle to Syracuse Training, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, medical, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being | 1 Comment

Sky Dance Fighting for the Wild in the Scottish Highlands – book review

Recently I was recommended this book by some good pals. Sky Dance Fighting for the wild in the Scottish Highlands. By J.D. Burns.

I was told it was a good read set in Scotland it deals with land ownership , access to the hills, a local fictional climbing club, bothies, the persecution of birds of prey and introduction of extinct wild animals to the wilds like the Lynx.

At times it’s very tongue in cheek but I enjoyed it. The conflicting views of each party are interesting and current. Many are rarely discussed in a book about Mountaineering.

There is also the politics of a local Mountaineering Club, a missing club member after Munro party in a bothy and a few epics that most clubs may have with members. The individual descriptions of those in the club are so real especially of the two main characters

It is well written by a man who loves his mountains and though fiction has a few interesting discussions. These are mainly in my opinion more balanced from the view of the those who use the land not those who own it. If you want a good read I think you will enjoy it. Especially in these difficult times when the mountains access is restricted due to Corvus 19.

Just remember it’s fiction yet some of the club members are characters, friends we have all met?

Well worth a read.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Book, Bothies, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being | 4 Comments

Hot rock Clean Sweep Hells Lum Crag.

It’s baking hot and I was on my local beach on my bike I was reminded of some great days in the sun. My thoughts went to a classic Climb in the Cairngorms. Clean Sweep is the climb on Hells Lum Crag.   Allen Fyffe that  great man writes about the Classic Clean Sweep a superb rock climb in the Cairngorms in Classic Rock.  He says “make sure its dry and wear your rock boots”.

Clean Sweep.

The  route; Clean Sweep (VS 4c) is a classic rock tick and is probably the most popular summer rock route on the crag if not the whole valley. Clean Sweep Very Severe 500 feet  first ascent Robin Smith and Graham Tiso  September 1961. Robin Smith was 23 years old when he climbed this route he was one of Scotland’s outstanding climbers with a string of impressive first ascents. He graded is a cheeky severe it’s now a classic VS 4c.

Dan – on the snow in rock boots.

“Sometimes a wave of snow laps the lower rocks until early summer! It can be wet in places from melt water as late as June? “The line according to Allen Fyffe is “superb, logical whole not a collection of bits. It starts up a green pillar, then by slabs and corners, it reaches a the foot of tapered pink corner above and right of Hellfire Corner. This corner fades out into cracks , followed by a rounded pillar of steeper grey rock.”

I have just been looking at some old photos and some great climbs that really stick in your mind one is The Clean Sweep on Hells Lum, what a name what a crag what a place to climb. There are fewer spectacular places in Scotland and at one time these mountain crags were busy places. I was lucky enough to climb Clean Sweep 4 times in all ascents a very different day evolved.

The first time  in the mid 80’s  was with Big Al MacLeod RIP) who died sadly on the North Face of the Matterhorn. We had a plan to climb the classic Talisman Creagan A’ Choire Etchacan, Clean Sweep on Hells Lum and Savage Slit in Corrie an Lochan in a day. I was working towards the Team Leaders Course and had to work on my climbing and this was the plan get the routes in and get fit.  Even thinking about it now makes me worried but Big Al was a machine, my mate and we took a day off , travelled as light as possible and had a long day 12 hours with the routes a mere blast as we were chasing the weather. Al was from Blairgowerie and a keeper before he joined the RAF, he was so fit on the hills. I was  given little time to be scared or look about but with the great man you had limited time to appreciate fear and failure. Al found loads of gear on the route left from winter and had to dump them at the top of the crag, we could not carry all the swag. We never found it again so someone did well.   He even carried the rope over to the last route Savage Slit in Coire an Lochan as I tried to keep him in sight.  I promised to come back and enjoy these routes and I was so lucky to have done.

Crack for thin fingers.

The next time was with another character Blair Rodgers, I had a pins and plate in my ankle after a football injury where I smashed my ankle badly. I was due to go abroad for 6 months and then take over the RAF Leuchars Team but was now medically down graded. The plaster was off in 6 weeks and then it was lots of work to get fit as the RAF give you little time and I would lose the offer of Team Leader if not fit. I trained hard and used to walk in the sea like an injured racehorse most days as the salt water was supposed to be good for horses with injuries so maybe it would work for me. It did!  As soon as the plaster was off it was off to Arran and some climbing on Cir Mhor with a boot and a rock boot due to the swelling? Then about a month later in October Blair wanted to get Clean Sweep done before the winter so we took a couple of days off and walked into Shelterstone the plan was to bivy with the dog. I limped all the way in very slowly. We got there in good time the weather was changing and Blair wanted to get the route done so we ended up climbing it me again with a boot and a rock boot, then it snowed and we managed it but what an epic. Blair pulled of some wild leads and the top was scary on the grass and fresh snow and water. The dog met us at the top of the crag he was some machine and Blair went back for the bag we left at the bottom? I staggered back ahead and we had a wild night in the Shelterstone and a big walk out in a snow plastered Cairngorm. I got a few looks coming across the plateau with a boot and now a trainer in the snow. Crazy days but amazingly the ankle sorted and only gets sore with age as the body begins to feel the effects of the years of adventures. I was ready to pass my medical and the doctor just could not believe what I was up to?

How daft were we?

The next trip was with Dan Carrol a great pal and Kev Hewkin in the 2000? It was a belter of a day and I wanted to get the route done again. It was so hot and we wandered down from the Plateau and drop down by Coire Dohmain it took the full two hours in the sun. There was a “wave” of snow barring us from the route. Dan a man from the greater ranges was sent ahead to get to the rock and we followed on a tight ropes.

Now I had climbed the route before with a good and a bad leg so today in the sun it would be easy? In addition I had delegated that I was the photographer as the eldest in the party. A great day followed with the odd streak of wet rock and lots of sunbathing in the heat it must have been in about 25 degrees and it was baking. The belays were fun the stops long and the views immense what a place, what a situation and great company.  The crag was dryish but you still had the odd streaks of wet that kept Dan entertained and while Kev belayed I as always too the odd photo. The rock is magic it was clean and there were still a few old pegs about from another era. It has so many types of climbing slabs, the crack for thin fingers and mountain route finding. To sit on a belay here and survey Loch Avon and the other cliffs is magical You forget how magic this place is and just read the guide book to get the names there is some devilment about them. The views were stunning cleft of Loch Avon and the Shelterstone crag looking magnificent it was one of the best days ever and even a big danger of sunstroke. Normally in winter this can be a wild cliff and I have more memories of these days.

The pitches were superb and Dan made it all look so easy. The history of the Cairngorms and the climbing is all around and it was a day to savour and one I will never forget.It was then a slow wander back we were pretty dehydrated but coped and along the tops it was a day to remember. We were blessed. I long to get back here and have spent a few trips recently walking round the crags away from the crowd looking down the Satanic Cleft of Hells Lum and the other routes and seeing very few climbing on this magnificent crag.

Sadly now I think on the mountain Crags where have all the climbers gone? They may have had enough of our weather and miss the warmth of a climbing a wall, but look what they are missing? I hope some maybe looking at the rock guides and books will go and climb on these great cliffs and share their experiences with others?

Thanks to Dan Carroll, Kev Hewkin, Blair Rodgers, the late Al MacLeod and just noted an ascent in 1984 with maybe Dougie Borthwick in my guide book.  4 trips onto Clean Sweep yet there are so many other grand days out.

Go you will not be disappointed!

I wonder if Peter White (Chalky) remembers our wee epic in the rain on this crag?

An illustrated history from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust of the first 100 years of mountaineering in The Cairngorms – one of the most popular and most famous climbing areas in the UK. Following on from the successful and much lauded Ben Nevis – Britain’s Highest Mountain, this is the second important book from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust to document the history of Scottish mountaineering. “The Cairngorms – 100 Years of Mountaineering” is a comprehensive history which details climbing and mountaineering in the Cairngorms from 1893 to 1993, with a postscript highlighting some of the main developments since then. It is a tale of human endeavour played out among the remote corries and cliffs of Britain’s premier mountain range. The book recounts the pioneering activities of climbers drawn to the high hills of The Cairngorms from all over the country and describes the continuing development of summer and winter climbing on the famous granite cliffs located there, as well as on other lesser known cliffs. This title presents full history of the first 100 years of climbing in Britain’s most important mountain range. It is written by the foremost expert on climbing in The Cairngorm Mountains it is heavily illustrated with 300 photographs, many of which are of historical importance. It is a book which will appeal to all who have climbed, or aspire to climb in one of Britain’s most popular climbing areas. It is a companion to Ben Nevis – Britain’s Highest Mountain.

Posted in Books, Enviroment, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Weather | Leave a comment

The North to South walk Day 1976 May 29 Day 21 – The Last Day “A dream come true” Ben Lomond

It was an incredible night in the small school at Inversnaid where we were staying by kind permission of one of the locals. We were really tired may be we have misjudged the second last day but these hills were so hard, pathless and hard work, lots of unseen contours and rough walking took their toll. We found it hard to believe that this was the end of a superb walk across Scotland. In addition we were also very tired and were very glad we only had a short walk today to the summit of Ben Lomond and then hopefully a lift home to a hot bath and good food from the RAF Kinloss Team. We did not hang about in the morning the boots were soaked but it was the last day so I put my spare dry socks and broke a ritual. We had to be way early from our lovely bothy and were not sure what time our lift was from Ben Lomond but we had to be out the school before Inversnaid I find it really amazing that we just shook hands and headed off down the tourist path alone in our thoughts.  On the last mile we met our lift heading up the hill to meet us, some members of the RAF Kinloss Team.

They were a bit late and then it was a few congratulations and long 5 hour drive in a land rover where we slept most of the way, we were exhausted now the walk was over. The land rover stank after half an hour we needed a wash badly and we just wanted to get home.

 The troops to be fair had no clue what we had done and until you do such a feat it is another world in you are in. It was sort out the kit most went in the bin and then was back to work next day and that was my holidays for the year over. A bit of a downer at the end! It was my first big walk and a huge learning curb for me many that was to be invaluable in many call -outs in the future. I learned so much about the mountains and different ways up and down them and it was great having Paul and Jim on the trip. We never fell out all the way and at times we were pretty tired and running on empty. There were no bothies on a couple of occasions due to being let down by our organisation and that was hard after a big hill days. The hospitality of the keepers and their families were wonderful and the kindness was unequal especially at Scardroy Lodge where I was ill, this was true Highland Hospitality at its best and will never be forgotten.

The gear was basic as were the food caches every 3 /4 days with food and our boots were a pair of curlies that leaked every day. We had some incredible days saw so much and learnt so much about this great country and the hospitality we had been given was incredible. Why not go and do a short trip across this great land, you will see a lot more people and there will be more paths but the hills will always be the same.  I have been a member of the Mountain Bothy Association ( MBA) for many years and appreciate what they do to keep these remote shelters going in 2014 so that others may enjoy what we did all these years ago. Why not join them or send them a donation or buy the book below.

Paul. Heavy and Jim

These nights were the highlights of a great trip a fire going, the company of Jim and Paul, the gear steaming nearby and that first cup of tea I will remember these days forever. We were following a history of RAF Mrt for doing these classic walks and I was lucky to do another 3. I learned so much from each one. The next was to be a winter walk that was nearly a walk to far. Hamish Brown had not long finished his incredible Munro journey and his book has become a classic. What a trip and again thanks to all who made it possible and to Jim and Paul for looking after me.

Ben Lomond.

The total for our trip was 62 Munros 334 miles and 104464 feet of ascent.

This was a record for the RAF Trips at the time and we were pretty pleased!

Posted in Equipment, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Day 20 May – Crianlarich Ochills Hut An Caisteal 995 metres, Beinn A’ Chroin 942 metres, Beinn Chabhair 993 metres and Beinn A’ Choin 770 metres

It was a magic night in the Ochils hut Inverardran Cottage at Crainlarich there were some great photos in there of the late Ian Clough who was killed in Annapurna at the end of a very successful Annapurna expedition in the early 1970’s. Ian was a past member of the RAF Kinloss MRT and was an outstanding mountaineer and person. It was sad to read about him and how he died clearing up the mountain at the end of the trip when he was hit by a serac.

Inverardran Cottage is the whitewashed building situated at the east end of Crianlarich, next to the Ben More Restaurant. (O. S. sheet 50, Grid Ref 392250) on the north side of the A85. The cottage has its own extensive parking area behind the building. It is within easy walking distance of Crianlarich railway station.

The Ochils hut. Crainlarich

Address: Inverardran Cottage,Crianlarich,FK20 8Q

The hut had several photos of him climbing in Scotland and abroad, many I had not seen before. The start of the day was an enjoyable walk down the road to the start of our first hills An Caisteal (996) meters the railway is crossed and then up the aptly named twisting hill and the ridge with its rocky summit. These are fairly rough hills no problem in good weather like today but in mist bad weather or winter they are tricky.

The maps were fairly basic in 1976 and the crags had to be avoided at all costs we had enjoyed a few days on these great hills so the memory was still fresh as I had done the 7 Munros in the area in the past in one big day. It was steady along to Beinn A’ Chroin and then a big descent Beinn Chabhair another tricky peak with lots of unmarked crags in the way. In later years I was to be involved in some wild call –outs in this area with my great friends in the Killin Mountain Rescue Team. Few of these call outs reached the press and we had a great understanding and friendship with the local Killin Team.

 It was a tragedy in later years when the Wessex helicopter crashed on Ben More killing their Team Leader Harry Lawrie in a tragic night. These were tragic bonds made in years to come that would stand us in great stead and I learned so much from these tough hills and its people. We were heading for Inversnaid the North side of Ben Lomond and Jim wanted to climb this illusive Corbett Beinn a’ Choin only 770 metres but defended by glen, hills and crags.  The map did not tell the full story at all.  We dropped down into Glen Gyle and then an assortment of small hills with wild navigation and pure hard work that went on and on for over 3 hours.  I would not advise to climb this hill from this side and I still remember this day as one of never-ending false summits. It was not over even at the summit as we had to drop down into the banks of Loch Lomond by some steep crags, trees and tricky ground to the West Highland Way. It was the worst ground I had been on since the start of the walk. I was truly exhausted and my battered body learned so much that day. As we staggered along the road we still had no bothy at Inversnaid as we had again been let down. I was dreading a bivy so we had a plan.

The Hotel was shut so I asked about at one of the few houses( I always get that task and we were allowed to stay in the primary school class room for the night, as long as we were away early it was Saturday but our guardian angel had done enough for us.

If we had the strength we would have continued on to Ben Lomond but our lift home was not due till the morning. Anyway I was so glad we had stopped. It was a strange night in the primary school and a weird last night of the walk. It was only a short day to finish a huge walk across Scotland. We were nearly there, again we saw no one at all on the hill it would be very different tomorrow.

Distance 22 miles and 6750 feet of ascent the hardest day of the walk! 3 Munros and 1 Corbett Total Munros 61

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1976 Day 19. May 27 – Succouth Lodge Beinn a’Chleibh (916m, Munro 280) Ben Lui (1130m, Munro 27) Ben Oss (1029m, Munro 101) Beinn Dubhchraig (978m, Munro 175)

Succouth Lodge is set in among the trees and a fantastic location and a different way to approach these Four Munros. My father had climbed these Munros in 1938 and loved them and when I first climbed them in 1972 I was not disappointed, it was winter day and long way for a young lad. This was another special day and a high walk in summer weather with Ben Lui with its huge Corrie and the famous Central Gully a splendid expedition in winter. This mountain is a classic on its own and always gives a great day. In winter it is exceptional, the shape of the corrie make it a classic and many easy routes abound for a winter climber to learn their craft and I was to climb here on many occasions in the future. At times a huge Cornice can be tricky and even on the summit in a winter day care should be taken. This corrie also has the remains Lockheed Hudson Mk.III T9432 / ZS-B of No.233 Sqn RAF, crashed on Ben Lui near Tyndrum in Central Scotland during the evening of the 15th April 1941. The aircraft struck close to the summit of the snow-covered mountain in poor weather and fell onto the south-eastern flank of the mountain, ending up close to the 3000ft line. It was wreckage I used often with RAF Team Members to search for, it is in on steep ground and a care should be taken if looking for it. It is best to pick some good dry weather if you visit. Today it was a lovely ridge walk and from Ben Lui we saw Ben Lomond in the distance and what a great sight, we were nearly there and had a spring in our steps as we charged across to Beinn Oss and Beinn Dubchraig.

Even Jim gets tired!

The weather was great and we really enjoyed the day, we were moving well, the weather was fine and we were very fit. As we descended we were each in our own thoughts. I was to be involved in many call – outs on these hills on 27 November 1979 a Jaguar aircraft crashed in this area it took 3 days to find and a huge searchers involving many teams.

I was flown in from North Wales where I was part of the RAF Valley MRT and we assisted the RAF Teams and the local Killin, Lomond and SARDA on this huge search. We passed Connish Farm and the old Gold Mine and the Corbett Beinn Chuirn with its classic ice climb Eas Annie. This is another classic in the area and it forms right by the entrance to the Gold mine a wild setting. The end of the walk was near and an easy walk into Crainlarich and a night in the Ochil’s Climbing Club Bothy was a great end to the day. We stopped at the shop for some bacon and rolls for breakfast this was luxury after a superb hill day and 4 more Munros !  

The hut was empty and we were on our own in the hut and enjoyed the space and the comfort and I fell asleep after tea reading all the climbing magazines in the hut a great day again, only two more days to go. We met no one on the hills again on these past two days! I wonder how many you would meet now! I took the opportunity to use the phone box when passing through in Crainlarich and called home to Mum and Dad, they were glad we were still alive and had been praying for us every day! We were being watched from above! It was great to talk to Dad about his day in 1938 on these great hills and how he always enjoyed them.

Distance 19 miles  Height 5850 feet of ascent. 4 Munros

Posted in Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Day 18. May 26 – Bridge Of Orchy Railway station Benn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh to Succouth Lodge.

 It was a night of broken sleep a long at the Station, few trains pass through so no one was about when we arrived or left. I was a very basic bivouac in the station and we were off early, I find it hard to believe that we coped with such nights.

Today’s hills were straight above the Station Beinn Dorian so well-known as it sweeps up from Bridge of Orchy and with its conical shape makes it one of the better known mountains in Scotland.  The weather was fine and again great views all day.  From the station you cross under the railway line by an underpass and then up to the beleach.

A few years before.

We climbed Beinn Dorain first and then back to the beleach and onto Beinn an Dothiadh and its North East Corrie with its classic ice climbs Taxus and others. We had been in here that winter helping Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team in some climbers stuck in a gully. It was an interesting call –out at the time, getting a rope down to them over the large cornice in wild weather. I have climbed the four Munros here on many occasions since and in winter they are a hard day with a walk out from the last two. Beinn Achaladair and in summer we would add Beinn Mhanach to make it even longer. I have great memories of these hills and few call –  outs  and climbs in its big Corries. This is a big day Beinn Dorain (1076m, Munro 64) Beinn an Dothaidh (1004m, Munro 129)

 We headed back down the beleach and back to pick up our gear we had hidden near the underpass it was great to travel light over these two good Munros. From here it was along the A82  and then down the lovely quiet road following the river Orchy to a real bothy at Succoth Lodge just below Beinn A’ Chleibh and a big day on the Ben Lui hills.

The keeper had given us the use of a bothy and it was great to get sorted after yesterday’s night in the station, we were in bed early and slept the sleep of the just.

Maybe we would see our final hill Ben Lomond tomorrow?  It was only 3 days away all being well!

Distance 19 miles and ascent 3886 feet of ascent.

Munros 2 Total Munros so far 55.

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May 25 th Day 17 – North – South Scotland Blackrock Cottage Glencoe – Meall a’ Bhuiridh, , Clach Leathad, Stob A’Choire Odhair, Stob Ghabhar – Bridge of Orchy Station!

Passing the Buachille

It was hard to leave such a comfortable bothy as Blackrock Cottage in Glencoe and even worse as the day started with heavy rain. We walked up the deserted White Corries Ski lift a depressing place on a wet day yet in the winter sun a wonderful place to be. The bags were heavy and the 1976 waterproofs were very basic and we were soon soaked.  

Wet start.

The ski tows were looking bleak and with the wind and rain it was a plod going onto the hill. The industrialization of the place at the end of a busy winter season  in the rain is to me depressing but so many enjoy  the skiing in winter it is a small price to pay for the sport. The summit of Meall a’ Bhuird 3661 feet a big hill was gained and then the weather broke and the rain went off. These are big hills complex ridges and some of the peaks are remote. These are big hills and I enjoy them it is hard walking but the weather changed and we started to dry off.  I enjoyed a two-day walk with a bivouac a few years  before in the summer and these are impressive peaks I climbed them all in a wonderful weekend walk camping high during a great spell of weather. I will never forget that weekend even though we carried a Blacks Mountain Tent all the way!

 The views of Rannoch Moor and its lochans sparkling in the sun are a great sight but we got the waterproof’s off and set of along the ridge to Clach Leathad and then the big descent and pull to Stob a ‘Choire Odhair  and then out onto Stob the Ghabar at 3565 feet. This hill has a history of winter climbing with the Upper Couloir first climbed in 1897 an early foray by the pioneers of winter climbing. I had a wander and looked at the cliffs for winter adventures in the years to come. This is another great pair of hills and again the views of tomorrow’s hills at Bridge Of Orchy were excellent, we had dried off by now and had no bothy for tonight so after a good look at the winter crags we descended steeply down to Forest Lodge at Victoria Bridge.  From here it was a long road walk to Bridge of Orchy and the pub and then with no bothy we stayed at the railway station! Not the way to end a long day but it was all we could get and the photo sums it all up! We stayed here the night. We were getting our railway stations in. We did not rush out the pub but we managed to sleep on the station at least out of the rain. 

1976 May North South – Jim and Heavy Bridge Of Orchy Station, cooking!

Distance 19 miles and 5886 feet of ascent. 4 Munros a big day. Total 53 Munros so far.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Day 16 May 24 North – South ATC Hut Kinlochleven – Devils Staircase – Blackrock Cottage Glencoe.

West Highland Way Map

The weather got very wild with extremely high winds and the classic Aonach Eagach was in no way on the winds were in excess of 60 mph so one of the best days is Scotland was not to be that day. Instead we followed the Devils Staircase over to Glencoe soaked to the skin we spent the night in the Blackrock Cottage Glencoe. The Devil’s Staircase was initially given its name by the soldiers who were part of the road building programme of General Wade. The carrying of building materials up that stretch of the road was not popular! The name was perpetuated when some of the workers building the Blackwater Dam chose to travel to the nearest pub after their wages had been paid out. For the workers at Kinlochleven the journey to the Kingshouse Hotel proved to be more difficult than many realised. The journey back was even worse as unsteady legs meant that many were unable to manage the return trip and, on a cold winter’s night, the devil often ”claimed his own“.

There is a signpost at AltnaFeadh indicating the West Highland Way over to Kinlochleven. The path is very clear and soon rises above the plain of Rannoch Moor. The path zigzags as it climbs the steepest part at which point the views of the moor and of the mountains surrounding it are well worth taking in. The path continues down, crosses the burn using surrounding it are well worth taking in. The path continues down, crosses the burn using stepping-stones and then starts slowly upwards again. To the right the Blackwater reservoir comes into view. Built for the aluminium smelter (now closed) at Kinlochleven, the dam had a capability, when full, of running the smelter for eighty days. There are great stories about the building of this dam and its worth reading about the effort and work involved in the building of these dams and pipelines.

The path continues downwards until it reaches the dam road at the pumping station where the pipes to the smelter start the high pressure build up for the turbines in the generating station. Still very steep, the path continues down to Kinlochleven across the river, through a small section of woods to the tailrace where the water rushes out of the generating station.

Tunnel Tigers.

 It was the right decision and gave my knee a bit of a break as it was a short day carrying big rucksacks  and  5 days food. Normally this is a lovely walk but today it was wild and wet but we had some great weather so far so could not complain the hut is just at the foot of Meall a’ Bhuird, and Rannoch Moor at the entrance to Glen Coe. OS map 41, GR NN268530. 

It was great arriving on  Blackrock Cottage The cottage is about 1.5 miles south-east of the Kingshouse Hotel, and about half a mile from the A82, on the access road to White Corries ski area. The hut is owned by the Ladies Scottish Mountaineering Club and is the classic photo of Glencoe and many cards and Calendar’s what a place to stay the night and try and dry off.  

Blackrock Cottage

I was happy to have an easy day Jim and Paul were disappointed but it was the correct decision in the weather. As we came down into Glencoe the weather changed but it was late in the day. My knee was hurting would I manage to continue the Etive Hills were next on the list and we could break the record for number of hills done. We slept well and got our gear dry in this haven of a hut.

 The forecast was poor!

A wet day 10 .5 miles and height 1750 feet. No Munros

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Day 14 North – South Walk a well deserved day off in Fort William.

Day 14 May 22

 A well-deserved  day off at Fort William what a relief shower in the swimming pool   and some great food in Fort William, sort the kit and dry the boots and a trip to the launderette to wash the smelly gear, bliss. We had lots of space in the ATC Hut to sort the gear out air the sleeping bags and patch our kit. I went to the doctor he said my cartilage was knackered I should stop or have problems for life, I never told the rest and kept my silence. I also had another problem  with a spot on my bum but that needed lanced, no wonder I was feeling unwell he said.  

1976 ATC HUT Fort William North – South Walk sorting out the gear, drying the kit.

It was great to phone home and update the family, no mobile phones in these days. The RAF Kinloss MR team would arrive that night for the weekend and we planned the biggest day of the trip the entire Mamore Ridge and its 10 Munros next. My knee was pretty sore and swollen but the day off was badly needed for me. Jim and Paul were going well. We had an early night, the bothy was noisy with the troops enjoying Fort William and the Friday night dance, we had a big day planned and an early start. The weather forecast was good so we would have a good day for the adventure. I knew the ridge well and Jim was worried if I would cope.

1976 Heavy ATC Hut N – S walk

The day flew by we had a lot of packing to do sort out the food. On the hill we ate chocolate in these days Jim would eat bars of it every day on one big day he ate 10 bars. I could not eat it so if it was a long day I had some sweets. Breakfast was porridge and tea evening meal was soup packet and tinned meat and mash. Very simple no fruit or veg in these days. When we hit a shop we would grab anything we could. Food was always a subject and on our day off did we eat and would have clean and dry clothes to wear at last. Even the boots were drying out. It would be an early start for the Mamores Jim said that maybe I should get someone to come with me as I may hold Paul and him back so when the Team arrived I got two volunteers most of the team hide.

I had to sort out a plan to ensure I would be with them for the rest of the walk after the Mamores.

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Day 13 May 21 1976 – North to South Walk – Spean Bridge – Fort William Via The Big 4 (Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.)

The Big Four

Spean Bridge – Fort William Via The Big 4 (Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.)  

The Big 4

We are in  Spean Bridge was where we were let down with the bothy and could not get hold of the owner and  had to sleep in the Railway station. The trains were going through all night and a railway worker spotted us and said we could stay he opened the waiting room but said be gone by 0600, good man. It was an interesting wander early from the huge Leanachan Forest. I wonder what my Mum and  Dad would have said if they had known we slept in the Station? How we needed a wash the last on was at Strath Connon a few days ago, we look fairly battered like tramps! 

We passed the old dismantled railway in the forest and then onto the open slopes of Aonach Mor no Ski are in these days but just a huge plod up open cliffs which were to became a favourite climbing area in the years to come. It was a big day these 4 hills and a must as they are all over 4000 feet. The summit was easy to find but huge snow fields still remained and we wandered along the ridge  Aonach Beag is a better looking peak guarded by crags and a place where only a few venture to climb in winter . The North East Ridge is a great day in summer or winter but defended by the long walk in. We were going well we had a day off coming in Fort William with showers etc. From here you can see the huge North East Face of Ben Nevis and the next hill Carn Mor Dearg.

As we dropped back down to the huge beleach the views of The Grey Corries and the wild hills in a 360 degree panorama and many hills that we were to climb on our way to Ben Lomond. The weather was great and the descent to the Beleach to Carn Mor Dearg was easy on huge fingers of snow. This is a tricky area in bad weather but not today. It is very steep onto Carn Mor Dearg and the views of the huge North Face of Ben Nevis is incredible. There was still plenty of snow and after the grind up onto the ridge the summit was an airy walk. This is a favourite day The Carn Mor Dearg Arete to Ben Nevis an airy scramble in winter and a place to concentrate as the great North East Buttress and Brenva Face dominate the walk.

 I love this area and was to climb so many routes on this huge Alpine Face on winter Courses in the future. Bob Run, Cresta, Frostbite, and of course the North East Buttress great days and wonderful adventures, and rarely meet any other climbers.  The ridge drops to the beleach and the old Abseil post ( now removed) gave a steep descent into the huge Coir Leis in winter a place to take care as the snow can be alpine hard. The Abseil post were built by the RAF Kinloss Team  under John Hinde  after a spate of terrible accidents to walkers descending into the Corrie. From here it is about 1000 feet ( 300 metres) through the summit screes and boulders to the summit Here we met out first people since we started the walk on the hill.

We were very unsociable which I apologise for and had a great break  on the summit. The Mamores our next hill looked snowless and this great ridge with it summits radiating from the summits looked incredible as did Glencoe and beyond but the view to the west were wild. Jim and Paul followed me along the edge of the great cliffs, huge cornices still defended the climbs and as the weather was good we just followed the well-worn path down to the Red Burn. In these days there were many accidents on the Ben and the famous 5 finger gully took a toll every winter. Even nowadays the summit plateau should not be underestimated it is wild place in bad weather and in the years to come I was to learn that on many occasions. I tripped on the way down and wrenched my knee it was very sore and swollen and the constant descent is hard on the knees no walking poles in these days to take the brunt of the weight.

We wandered to our bothy and a day off we were staying at the ATC hut in the town and made ourselves at home and then down to the swimming pool for a shower and a swim. My knee was really swollen by now but I had a day off tomorrow so hopefully it would calm down. It was then change and out for a meal and the famous Jacobite pub with its constant bell to announce closing time. We were exhausted but would enjoy this day off and try to recover for a huge day on the Mamores the next day. I still felt rough something was not right.

Distance 16.5 miles and 7500 feet of ascent – Paul and Jim going very well magic day with light bags and the chance of a shower at the end and maybe washing our clothes.   

Today’s Munros 4 – Consolidated Munros 39

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1976 Day 12 May 20 North to South Sron A’Choire Ghairbh, Meall na Teanga – Spean Bridge and a night in the railway station.

Day 12 May 20   

The day of no bothy Green fields. We had been promised a bothy at Spean Bridge but at the last minute it had fallen through.

 Sron a ’Choire Chairbh, Meall na Teanga – Spean Bridge . We left Greenfields early it is a beautiful place at the back of the Glengarry Forest and the plan was the Corbett Ben Tee and the Loch Lochy Munros Sron A Choire Garbh and Meall Na Teanga. It is great to be out of the forest and a new way up old favourite hills. This is big country and great to see a new aspect to these popular hills, I wonder how many come this way? The normal route from the A82 from the Laggan Locks takes you through some forestry but not today we are at the other side of the hill today. There are few paths coming from this side until we reach the hills. It is a very steep but great ridge walking and I enjoyed the views along the Meal Na Teanga ridge and the wild descent to Clunes battering on the knees and all more new ground. High winds and more snow we are battered and nearly drop off at the beleach due to the weather but push on.

Meal Na Teanga.

We sign the wee book hidden under snow on the summit hidden in a tin. The ridge walk was great and these hidden Corries are full of deer and we see many hares, we have yet to meet anyone on the hill!  We are rewarded with a great view in the clearing of the big hills ahead and Loch Lochy.  We have no bothy planned today the bothy has fallen through so we will have to bivy at Spean Bridge and after a long walk and a stop at the Commando Memorial to reflect and see the day ahead on Ben Nevis and the big Four. We manage a pint and some food in the pub but cannot get a bothy for the night. In the end we sleep at the railway station at Spean Bridge and are sleepless all night bivy as the trains arrive early. The freindly guard let us have the waiting room as long as we were away by the first train. We had some food in the pub nobody spoke we must have smelled and I dropped my wallet but found it later. The night in the railway station was hard going. My knee was hurting and I felt  bit low. It was a big day planned for tomorrow.   The Anoachs, Carn mor Dearg Arete and Ben Nevis.

Distance 19 miles and 5000 feet of ascent. Munro Total 2 Consolidated Munros  35

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1976 – The North To South Walk Day 11 May 19 – The big Hills of Kintail and a drop of by Sea king of boots and food.

Day 11 May 19 – The big Hills of Kintail

Munro Mullach Froach choire 1102metres

A’ Chraileag 1120 metres

Sgurr nan Conbhairean 1109 metres

Carn Ghulsaid 957 metres.

 It was a great start from Altbeithe Youth Hostel and another big day ahead it was another good day with no wind and great weather we crossed the river and said good bye to the amazing Aultbeithe Youth Hostel. We passed some of the wreckage of the Wellington Crash near the beleach. They all got out alive after parachuting out when they had an engine failure in the early days of the war.

After that  It is a long pull up the North West Ridge to the first Munro Mullach Froach choire 1102 another massive hill with its huge wild corries and even more herds of deer. This is another remote Munro and one that many chase in winter the scramble along the summit ridge can be interesting scramble along the rock towers and intimidating in a wind, you are a long way out from here if anything happens. The one inch to the mile hardly shows the ground that you crass very different from today.  I had been on these hills before in a wild winter’s day and had used a rope on the tricky wind and cornices, not today just bits of neve in places and great walking.  

The ridge along to the next Munro A’ Chraileag 1120 metres and then along a broad ridge with huge open Corries to Sgurr nan Conbhairean 1109 metres and then Carn Ghulsaid 957 metres.  Great views and we were half way into our walk and going well, my knee was stiffening up on the descents it felt like cartilage but just kept going a bit behind the boys but no problem in such weather.  Then it started to rain and we got wet and had  a long road walk along the road to Greenfields near Loch Garry.  As we hit the main Kintail Road we were feeling a bit low when a Yellow Sea King circled overhead and stops by the road and out jumps Mick Anderson the winchman with some food and Pauls boots for us, they are soon gone and we are so pleased.

The Late Mick Anderson and his famous Pipe.

Paul had new boots as well we headed on to Greenfields how he had coped I will never know. We also had trouble finding the bothy as we had never been there before far less in the dark. This is an new area for me and it will be a huge day again tomorrow.

 These hills and the road walks are very hard, body aching, gear very wet, great to have dry gear on after a day being wet. This is the best part of the day along with the soup and tea; I crave for bread, Looking at the map and reading my battered book before I fall asleep. This was a big day and again we see no one but lots of Deer and many are now down very low and many are now down very low a sign of wild weather coming. I hate the roads not easy on my knee; we wear our RAF sandshoes on the road and look like tramps now with our stubbly beards. The Great Glens were over. The Great Glens were over .Its amazing to see the effect of the Hydro in these Glens all built after the 50’s  that must have been some project and visionary at the time?  

Distance 22 Ascent 6800 ft   Munros for the day 4  total 33 Munros. 

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Day 1 May 18 – Affric 5 Munros and then a night in the Youth Hostel.

Day 10 May 18 – Mullurdoch bothy – and Five of the Affric Munros.

An Socach (921m, Munro 270)
Mam Sodhail (1181m, Munro 14)
Carn Eighe (1183m, Munro 12)
Tom a’Choinnich (1112m, Munro 41)
Toll Creagach (1054m, Munro 77)

The great things about the walk are you start the hills from a different way than normal few will climb Toll Creagach from Glen Cannich. We had a problem at the Dam but sorted that out eventually and then a great long ridge from the Loch all the way up to the summit. Our journey today was all on the high tops of the Affric hills all the way to the remote Aultbeithe Youth Hostel. Today we would miss the great Affric Forest but we would be high all day and get a few mountains in. From the summit of Toll Creagach it is a broad ridge along to the bealeach Toll Easa used in past days as a route between Affric Lodge and the now submerged Benula Lodge under the waters of loch Mullardoch, all part of the Hydro System. The ascent of Tom A Chonich by the south East Ridge from the beleach is a good scramble still snow-covered and not the place to slip.    

Descending Tom a’ Chonnich

These are big mountains in a wild environment, from the summit of Tom a’ Chonich follows a grand ridge and there is a delightful section where the crest becomes narrow and broken into some shattered pinnacle’s that today needed an ice axe to assist the journey. The great dome of Cairn Eighe lay ahead a huge hill of over 3800 feet. The outlier Beinn Fhionnlaidh looked feasible but not today, we headed on to Mam Sodhail and its massive summit cairn. How many miss the chance when in this area to get the illusive summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh and a few Munro rounds are never completed because of this? Our last Munro of the day An Socath was a long ridge walk at the end of the journey and from here a huge drop into Glen Affric down the stalkers path. It was a long walk to the Aultbeithe Youth Hostel a great place to stay for the night and I felt that last pull up to An Socath. I twisted my knee on the way off descending into the Glen and limped along the track to the Youth Hostel. It had been a great day in some amazing mountains; I never tire of this place and a night in Glen Affric Youth Hostel to look forward to.

Affric Youth Hostel.

We had the place to ourselves, no one had been there since February and there were a few spare tins we ate well that night and had a great fire. Stags were down at the bothy, in the evening and watched me as I enjoyed a great sunset over the Kintail and Affric hills, what a day, what a walk. I was feeling a lot better the knee was twinging but had a great sleep in a comfortable Hostel; this was the way to live.  Another great day in the famous Glens Of Scotland big hard hills but what views the day’s distance was 16 miles and 6600 feet of ascent it seemed far longer. Pauls boots held up he is some guy and Jim just powers on, powerful people. I am feeling stronger got over the bug and now enjoying these wild areas.

A few years later!

We are half way through our walk and going well, we carry little excess in gear just a change of clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food a stove and fuel, we have few comforts. The weather has been pretty good but there are still patches of hard snow in places and the ice axe is a great companion. The rivers have been tricky with the melt water from the snow and we have to take care, boots of but our feet are always wet.  I feel now as I was to on many other long walks and expeditions that I am part of this environment. We all feel the same; we are at one with the mountains, picking lines up these great hills where there are few paths. We pick up animal tracks mainly deer and move well despite the big bags of about 30 lb. All day we see amazing things the wild animals and the summer plants coming through. The extra daylight in May means we have plenty of time on the hill and the constant views of the hills and our route give you   a buzz when times are hard.

I now know the feeling of being at one with the hills; we have seen no one apart from the Keepers and enjoy the solitude and our own company. I have to protect my knee yet we are all in our own worlds and getting on fine. We hope to pick up a new pair of boots for Paul after Kintail the keeper at Cannich called Kinloss for us so they hopefully will arrive? There was a food cache left at the Youth Hostel that will see us to Fort William.

A former stalking bothy on the Affric Estate, this friendly eco-hostel offers a warm welcome and an unforgettable experience in one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland. Nowadays it has a wind turbine and solar panels provide warm water and electricity, while the comfortable common room and kitchen are heated by wood and coal fires. It was a lot more basic but warm and dry a wee had beds.

Distance 18 miles Ascent 6060 feet Munros 5 Total 29

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1976 – Day 9 -17 May Mullardoch Munros , a burnt boot and then a dropped boot,

Strathfarra –   Broullin Lodge bothy  –  Carn nan Gobhar (993m, Munro 151)
Sgurr na Lapaich (1150m, Munro 24)  Mullardoch House Glen Cannich. I was feeling a lot stronger still not 100% and we had a good night in the bothy. Paul had somehow burnt his boot in the fire an old Reaburn we had he had put his boots into the old oven and not noticed. One boot was in a mess and had a hole in the toe. Poor Paul but he was a bit embarrassed but said he would cope. We followed the hydro track up to the power station passed the old woods and an area I love it is called Strathfarrar Forest with pine and birch trees and is a stunning area that few see. These are usually down as 4 Munros a big day in a remote area but this area I call the Great Glens is stunning and the weather was magnificent. These Glens are so special and so few know them and at the end of winter stunning.  The boys were ahead and going well. It was a great walk and despite the heavy bags. We were soon of the track and the long wonderful ridge up to Sgurr Nan Lapaich.  This is the most prominent with its well-defined summit makes it an easily identifiable  peak in the range The views were outstanding, we were still in our trainers/ RAF sandshoes and when Paul went to change near the top he had dropped his boots!   He went back and found them about 4 miles away where we crossed the river, and then he caught us up we had a few hours on the top waiting for Paul.

BROULIN LODGE – before it was renovated.

It was just what I needed AND THE PRESSURE WAS OFF ME A BIT. We rested even Jim whie Paul ran back to find his boot.We decided to do only other Munro that day Carn Nan Gobhar.  The other two peaks are highly sought by Munro baggers An Riabachan with its fine craggy Coire and the lower extension An Socach. They are wild peaks but not for today.  Nowadays many take the boat in from Loch Mullardoch but it is still a day to remember, there is climbing in the remote Corrie and I climbed a few lines with the team in years to come.  

Lots of potential here for new routes taken a few years ago we got in by boat.

I am sure we put a new route up one winter. We were all together now and then down the very steep ground to the Loch Mullardoch, hard going it was not a hard day but what I needed. The road from the Loch took us to the Lodge at Mullardoch and another bothy for the night. The weather was good all day but poor Jim was upset we had only got two Munros in.

A few years later with Teallach.

Distance 15.5 miles and 4500 feet of ascent. 2 Munros Total 22 Munros

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1976 – Day 8. May 16 – The Strathfarrar Four

I had to have a rest day we were a group of 3 on a big walk North – South across Scotland. I had caught a bug and rested at Strathconnon for a day. We were heading for some big hills it was make or break time for me.

The Strathfarrar hills!

Sgurr Fuar-thuill (1049m, Munro 82)
Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais (1083m, Munro 60)
Carn nan Gobhar (992m, Munro 153)
Sgurr na Ruaidhe (993m, Munro 150)

It was going to be a hard day for me as there was a long walk in to the mountains that we had planned to do they were the four Munros of the Strathfarrar Hills. Normally they are climbed from Glen Strathfarrar where access is limited by a locked Hydro gate but this is another wonderful Glen  and to climb these mountains from StrathConnon would not be easy, especially feeling not 100%  the plan was to climb  all 4. You normally have to seek permission to drive along a private road through a beautiful secluded glen with abundant wildlife, lots of deer leads to the foot of the Strathfarrar Munros. There are 4 Munros in the range – Sgurr Fuar-thuill, Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais, Carn nan Gobhar and Sgurr na Ruaidhe – and combined with neighbouring minor summits, form a continuous chain making for a fine day’s mountain hiking.

Nearby are other fine hills worth climbing, including the rugged Corbett peaks of Sgorr na Diollaid and Beinn a’Bha’ach Ard. We had big bags that we had restocked with  4 days food but I just took it easy and followed the stalking  paths for nearly three hours up and down this remote area meeting lots deer in the hills, what a wild area this is.  The usual wild river crossings were interesting but we were getting good at them by now, boots off and get in there. There is some incredible winter climbing here and over the years we found a few gems.

1976 RIVER CROSSING N – S Boots Off.

I was still very weak still I kept going and it was a long day and once on the ridge the wind came up. Paul and Jim waited on each summit and I just kept going, it is a great area but limited shelter and eventually we were on the last Munro. We walked into a bitter wind Paul and Jim were way ahead and the wind took any energy left out of me. It was a bitter cold on the top and I could see the road below Paul and Jim headed down and I took it easy on the way down. I was running on empty when I got into the old bothy near Broulin Lodge and had an early night really exhausted after a huge day. Tomorrow would be more of the same we were now in the “Great Glens”  all the mountain Summits are hard work, big hills and big days. I felt that I could cope again.  I was amazed looking back at the basic gear we had, the famous Curlies boots, breeches, canvas gaiters what happened to them and the tartan shirt, ventile jacket and polar fleece the new secret weapon.  Wet gear most days but we thought we were so well equipped for the mountains.  I still feel the pain of putting on the wet gear every day!  It would be another big day tomorrow would I cope?

1976 walk big bags Struggling.

A hard day for me distance 17 miles and 5547 feet. 4 Munros and a grand total of 20 Munros

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1976 North – South Walk – Day 7. May 15 Heading for the Glens eventually.

My self and Jim Morning. Big Bags.

It was decided that I would need a day off at Scardroy and was looked after by the keeper’s wife John and Blanche Meldrum and given drinks and lots of care. I thought for me the walk was over. I started to get better , I slept and slept and after eating some soup and food that was brought later in the afternoon I felt very weak but on the mend. We were given a great meal that night and I decided to carry on and see how it would go. I will never forget the kindness shown to me at Scardroy . Later on my mother phoned them when I told them of the kindness I had been given and thanked them for all their help. I was pretty weak when I went to bed but I prayed I would be able to cope with the big hill day?

I struggled here.

Jim and Paul were fine but had said they would make the decision if I was too slow, I remember these words even to this day. It would be the end of my Walk.  I was to go back to Scardroy  and thank them after the walk and drop a few gifts and a bottle but it was little recompense for such great Highland Hospitality. This Glen was to be revisited on several call outs in the years to come both for aircraft incidents. One in 1982 for an USA F111 that crashed a few miles from Scardroy and both crew got out alive, the other was for a missing Cessna aircraft that was found on Liathach.

That night I slept well but still felt very weak, Jim and Paul were champing at the bit to go. I did not want to let them down. There would be hard days ahead I hoped I would cope?

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Plotting A Route Back To The Hills. Some thoughts.

Mountaineering organisations are working together towards a return to hill walking and climbing in Scotland.

As we approach the end of week seven of lockdown, mountaineering organisations in Scotland are asking the hill walking and climbing community to ‘hold the line’ and to avoid travel and stay local for their daily exercise in accordance with the current Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance.

Despite an easing of restrictions in England this week, the advice for people in Scotland remains the same – stay home and only go out for essential work, food or health reasons – although people in Scotland may now go outside to exercise twice daily.

Walkers and climbers are keen to get back out to the hills and crags, and Mountaineering Scotland – the organisation representing hill walkers, climbers and ski tourers in Scotland – is leading discussions with partners in the Mountain Safety Group on how to deliver a phased return to the hills and mountains.

This group of key mountain safety organisations, including Mountaineering Scotland, Scottish Mountain Rescue, Police Scotland, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge and the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, has developed proposals this week which are being submitted to the Scottish Government outlining how mountaineering activities such as hill walking, climbing and bouldering can be re-introduced.

Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue said: “It is good to be working as part of the Mountain Safety Group, to ensure we can get people back out into the outdoors undertaking their preferred activities as soon as there is a safe and responsible way to do so within the Scottish Government guidelines. We hope to see everyone out there soon, but preferably not on a rescue!”

George McEwan the Chief Officer of Mountain Training Scotland added: “Prior to lockdown, our leaders, instructors, coaches and guides supported active public participation (both voluntarily and professionally) in walking, climbing and mountaineering, which does so much to support improved health and well-being. As we look forward to reactivation, we are supporting the work of Mountaineering Scotland and the rest of the Mountain Safety Group, to facilitate a phased return to the outdoors which is both safe and socially responsible.”

Mountaineering Scotland has also taken on board feedback from its members and discussions with organisations across the Scottish outdoor sector, including sportscotland, outdoor sport governing bodies and the national parks, so that everyone can enjoy Scotland’s outdoors in a way that
considers the safety of individuals as well as rural communities. Further work is ongoing to produce a position statement and more detailed supporting guidance.

“These are unprecedented times” said Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland “and I’d like to thank Mountaineering Scotland members for keeping to the current guidelines. We know it’s been a challenge but it’s great to see the mountaineering community pulling together in this way. We want to see an immediate return to hill walking, climbing and other outdoor activities as lockdown starts to ease, and have been encouraged by the way the outdoor sector in Scotland is working together to make this happen in a safe and responsible way.”

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1976 – Day 6. May 14 North – South Walk.Nest of Fannichs – Fionn Bheinn (933m Munro 246) – Scardroy Strathcarron.

Fionn Bheinn – many years later 2019.

From the Guidebook – “Fionn Bheinn is often the forgotten hill of the area, its wide grassy (and wet) slopes contributing to its neglect. This isn’t a hill to leave for a claggy day however, as the summit is a superb viewpoint.”

There was a food supply drop off for us left at Achnasheen later on in the day so we had lighter bags for the first part of the day. On leaving of the bothy the Nest was not easy wet clothes on and huge rivers to cross that were pretty swollen by the rain and snow. These rivers were endless and we got soaked as we headed round Loch Fannich and into the back of Fionn Bheinn our only hill for the day.

Hard going from the bothy to the road.

Again we saw huge herds of deer on the hill but we were yet to meet anyone on the hills after 6 days. This hill is described as an uninspiring hill in many guides but from the Fannich side it is a wild place and we enjoyed once we got there the lovely North Corrie of the hill the Toll Coire was impressive. I was struggling at the top maybe it was the hard going over the last few days. There was a bitter wind and we kept going with Paul and Jim pulling away ahead and me looking into the wild corries before we descended to the endless boggy slopes.

From here it was down onto the road at Achnasheen and I felt awful. I told the other two to keep going and I would catch up on the way to Scardroy Lodge in Strathconnon. I had a bug and went downhill very quickly and the easy pull over to Scardroy left me wasted it was less than 5 miles and 500 feet but what a mess I was in when I arrived. The final pull to the beleach was hard going and Jim and Paul were long gone. Eventually I arrived the keeper and his wife were with Jim and Paul and had a meal and a dram for us I went straight to bed feeling awful and really worried about tomorrow! I could not get well my gear was at least getting dried and the keeper’s wife I am sure were John and Blanche Meldrum who looking after me. Jim and Paul were going well and we had a food drop off ready for us at the bothy, I could not enjoy it and the few luxuries and was soon asleep.

I am sure this is the lodge from an old photo I was glad to be here.

Distance 21 miles and 7547. Total 1 Munro Grand total 16 Munros .

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1976 – North to South Walk Day 5 The Fannichs and a night in the Nest of Fannichs.

The route – Loch Droma bothy – Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor ,Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan, Meall Gorm, Meall A’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Na Chlach Geala, Sgurr nan Each – The bothy the Nest of Fannichs.

This is the story of my first Walk from North – South of Scotland in May 1976 it was an adventure and no day was ever the same. The gear was simple the maps basic but what a trip 1976 May – RAF Kinloss MRT – North to South Traverse of the Highlands.

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps  and there were limited communications Mobile phones were a long way away 

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF)This trip was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan. He  gained  authorization for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF MR Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Myself and Jim on the Fannichs big bags.

We were glad to leave the damp wet bothy our wet gear and head for another big hill day we had planned to climb as many of the Fannichs as possible. The snow was down to the road and we had a day planned for the high peaks of the Fannichs. This range of peak contains 9 Munros and most lie on the A835 road to Ullapool. It is a route do o lightweight and in later years I did it in its entirety on at least on 12 occasions , twice in winter a long 16 hour day!. Not today though with a big bag and poor weather we would see what happens?

The main ridge is fairly continuous with outliers and the final two are separated by a big beleach of 550 metres. It was a big pull out of the bothy up the broad snowed up slopes and onto the main ridge a big pull in the winter weather. Our wet gear and feet were a worry as we were wearing the standard Curlies very basic boots and three pairs of socks to try to keep them dry and warm but no chance. We were soon on the summit of Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich. This is a good viewpoint but not today and now in cloud onto the big summit of Sgurr Mor with its very steep ridge and in the bad weather it was not easy to find the summit cairn perched close to the edge of the cliff.  We had thought of picking this up on the way back but the weather was worrying and better to get it done and if the weather improves skirt it in the way back!  This is a tricky place on a winter day not the place to slip with the snow very icy covered with fresh snow.

Sgurr Mor – Pete Greening – Big Cornices.

This is an impressive hill and stands proud with its summit like at times a big Alpine peak. There was little shelter so we kept moving on out to the far two Munros Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan. It sounds simple but a long walk out into wind and wild weather was hard. We were left with a dilemma, should we leave our bags on the beleach but the fresh snow made it an easy decision to make, No! It was then back along the ridge climbing Meal Gorm again ( does that count as another Munro) with the odd views of Loch Fannich below. We were back over Sgurr Mor the weather made any attempt at skirting it impossible and then out onto Meall A’ Chrasgaidh and back to the beleach and the Sgurr Nan Clach Geala and its huge buttress breaking through the and giving us great views. That day we saw the mighty An Teallach and the Fisherfield wilderness more remote Munros and of course the previous days Beinn Dearg hills and then the days to come with the great glens mountains sneaking a view. The final peak of the day is Sgurr Nan Each and the wild descent to the Nest of Fannichs bothy. There was no way in the conditions we could do anymore hills 6-7 Munros was enough for today, the weather was wild and we just wanted of the hill and into the bothy.

It was comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) If anyone has a photo of this bothy I would love a copy.

I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at last and get the fire going with the dry bogwood left by previous visitors and some dry wood by the Fannich Estate.  On arrival we got changed and then the process of fire on, stove on and food on the go tea and soup were wonderful and then the evening meal. We were soon sorted and pretty tired with two hard days, we slept well as the weather again picked up and the snow turned to rain. I was always amazed as how Jim coped on arrival each night he was amazing and so organised everything was packed neatly everything in its place and me and Paul lived completely the opposite and Paul was definitely worse than me. It was then the usual make some soup eat our meal and get to bed. My worries were crossing the river the next day heading for Fionn Bheinn and Strathcarron.

The ruined Nest of Fannichs – Photo

Distance for the day 21 miles and 7547 feet of ascent. 7 Munros in total and Grand Total 0f 15 Munros so far.

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Skye – A few memories.

In my early days as of now the mountains of Skye was a mystical place. I had joined the Kinloss MRT in 1972 and in these days it was a good 5 hour journey from our Base in Morayshire. There was no bridge then and the Ferry across was still exciting. I remember being told as a young loon you could get duty free on the Ferry! Skye was spoken about with huge respect and I could not wait to go there.

A very young Heavy and Tom with bobble hat, Paddy and Dave Foy. – Sgur Na Gillean Peak of the young men.

I am sure my first visit was in 1972 in Easter we had a extended Grant. We were there for I think 10 days. We stayed in Mr MacRaes barn in Glenbrittle so handy for the hills. Mr Mac Rae was a long term friend of the team. The ridge was full of snow and hills and summits were hard won. What an introduction the Skye ridge in winter. Early on we failed just below the summit of Sgurr Na Gillian with the late John Hinde. It was full on winter and an eye opener for me. We were late back and John was just back from Denali and had frost bite. It was some introduction. There were few on the ridge in winter in these days.

1972 MacRaes Barn.

I was after Munro’s in these days and myself and my mate Tom MacDonald managed to get most done on that trip . I remember being very scared as we tried to find our way along the ridge. There was limited knowledge especially on winter by some of the young team party leaders. Seemingly I woke up in MacRea’s barn at Glen Brittle after a dream that I had of a nightmare on the ridge. It was a week of snow ridges and very tricky conditions, long walk – ins and walk outs. I learned so much. There was no let up most days you start from see level, the hills are punishing and you have stay alert all day.

1954 Ridge times – Finlay Wild has the fastest known time for the Cuillin Ridge traverse on the Isle of Skye, completing the crossing in 2:59:22 in 2013 incredible effort.

Next year I had a summer attempt at the ridge and bailed out after Am Basteir exhausted mentally by the day, the concentration and early start at night wore me down. My mate Tom Mac saved my life as I nearly abseiled of the gear loop on my harness on an abseil on the Drums. It was a lucky escape. Our leader “Kas Taylor “a great rock climber was away in his own world and had left us. He always picked his own line up the rock and loved the adventure. Whereas not being the greatest climber I always took the line of least resistance. Tom to his credit gave up his day and came off with me to ensure I was okay a thing I will never forget. That walk out was hard going but it had been a good first attempt. My fingers were raw with the rough Gabbro and I had learned so much.

Over the years I got to know the ridge fairly well. I managed several traverses some many in the classic one day trips. It was always the 12 hour top to top time add in the walk in and out it was always a hard day. Often with new team member’s it was over 2 days for many and another with my dog Teallach. Few understand how exhausting physically and mentally it can be leading a party in poor weather when the ridge is wet and slippy. A few times I was in support of mates supporting them with water drop off’s and bringing bivy gear down, hard work at times. Also what seemed endless waits to pick – up them at the end or if they aborted the ridge.

Always wear a helmet my mate hit by a falling rock on the Dubhs. He was lucky!

I was in Skye a lot on the ridge fairly often as I climbed over the years. Also the call outs with the local Skye team opened the eyes to the ridge in poor weather. It is the wildest place to be in bad weather and the Skye Team are some folk. I met many of these people some became good pals and we had some laughs with Gerry Ackroyd who was a local guide and Team Leader. He took no prisoners on the hill but we got to know each other well after a big lower from the In Pin on a wet dark night. I also knew Pete Thomas another guide before Gerry and also the Team Leader sadly gone but there knowledge of the ridge was exceptional. The mountains are Alpine and great care is needed. It was incredible to see so where folk can end up and have epics. I always advise wearing a helmet as there can be a lot of loose rock especially if there are parties above.

There were bits of information on the old guides and even a runners guide that we used a lot to show you the “tricks and cheats” on the ridge. This was Andy Hyslops Rockfax guide written in 2002.

There were also a few Skye scrambles guides over the years that many of us used. Skye is a place that few in my mind can say they know well. There have been a few updated guides but most are great but not ideal for taking on the hill. I would photo stat the bits I needed in the pass and they were handy for the newer leaders in the team especially on Rescues.

I was sent a new guide to the Ridge Skye Cuillin Ridge Traverse and it looks superb. over the last few months during the lock down I have had good look at it. First impressions its clear and concise I wish I had this in my early days.

Skye Cullin Ridge Traverse

There are so many classic days in Skye:

The ridge traverse is the one that should be on everyone’s list.

Blaven and the Clach Glas Traverse. The Clach Glas traverse is superb and missed by many.

The Dubh Ridge – we always in the past did this via the main ridge a swim in the loch and then this classic scramble. A great way in is by boat from Elgol worth it for the trip alone.

The Dubhs

“Said Maylard to Solly one day in Glenbrittle,

All serious climbing, I vote is a bore,

Just for once, I Dubh Beag you’ll agree to do little,

And, as less we can’t do, let’s go straight to Dubh Mhor,

So now when they seek but a day’s relaxation,

With no thought in the world but of viewing the views,

And regarding the mountains in mute adoration,

They call it not climbing but “Doing The Dubhs”

Pinnacle Ridge – Sgur Na Gillean

The In Pin on Sgur Dearg was usually done by Window Buttress on the way up or one of the other routes.in Coire Banachdich.

Kings Chimney – Sgurr Mhic Coinnich – a classic sitaution

Coire Lagan – Eastern Buttress Sron Na Ciche – an old haunt with Kinloss Gully. Vulcan Wall. Shangri La

Cioch West, Cioch Gully, Little Gully

1954 on the Cioch

The Cioch Slab/ Cioch Grooves, Direct route ( had rock fall a few years ago ) Cioch West and Arrow route, Collies route to the Cioch a must for all to this incredible summit.

The Cioch Upper Buttres – the Classic Integrity, Trophy Crack and the Crack Of Doom (what a name)

Western Buttress – Mallory Slab and Grove a 1000 feet severe,Diamond Slab and others on this big face. It was always a route cliff to climb on before an Alps trip.

Sgurr Sgumain Sunset Slab

Coire’ A’ Ghrunnda – White Slab Direct.

Sgurr Na Stri a gem a must visit.

A wet day on the Cioch. Still fun.

There are so many others now the great Sea Cliffs and outcrops now mainly in the SMC Guide Book. When the ridge is out there is great exploring to do and these guides let you know where to go. There are so many wonderful places to go and adventures to have. The Island is well placed now with local guides like Mike Lates, Jonah Jones, Adrian Trendal and others. They will give you a great day out in a place that many who go will always come back.

W.H. Murray “Apart from the initial trouble in climbing on to the ridge, one may proceed unroped up broad acres of boiler plated slabs, whose rock is the roughest gabbro in all the Cuilins. In other words , it is so rough and reliable that only the grossest negligence could bring a man to harm.”

Top tips – Wear a helmet when scrambling, beware of loose rock these mountains are Alpine.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Islands, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Knoydart Rescue – July 1981

Some memories and photos from Alex Gillespie On a Skye Trek with John Hinde and Outward Bound Loch Eil we became involved in the rescue of a young …

Knoydart Rescue – July 1981
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