29 July 1980 – Mick Hernon RIP Pic Badile – Stafford MRT. A plea “If your climbing abroad please have Insurance?”

I was in North Wales on 29 July 1980  I had seen plenty of tragedy in the mountains and learned much of the effect that personal loss brings when  we lost one of our own Mick Hernon in the Apls.  Mick was a great pal and on  29 July 1980 was killed whilst descending the Pic Badile after ascending the West Face. Mick was a well-loved man by the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and joined as a member of the Stafford Mountain Rescue Team. Mick was at RAF Valley in North Wales  when he was killed in the Alps and climbed with us often. I had just taken over as Full Time Deputy Team Leader at RAF Valley when we received the news. It was a tragic day for us all Mick left a  young wife and two young children who were with him in the camp site in the Alps when the news came of his accident .

Stafford MRT – Photo Eric Hollister.

This was one of my first times I had lost personally a close pal in the hills and Mick’s family were with him on a RAFMA Meet where Mick training for a magor Himalayan Expedition. It was a sad time made worse as Mick had limited Insurance for an accident in the mountains at the time and we had to pull a few strings to get Mick home.

I met Mick on my MLC ( Mountain Leadership Certificate) in Llanryst in North Wales and we partnered up. We had some fun he was an incredible mountaineer even then it was November and we had snow. I will never forget our steep ground assessment on the “Parsons Nose” complete with snow and then the camping phase and run along Crib Goch. After that we became big pals and as he progressed to one of the best climbers in Wales we met many of the top climbers of the day at the climbing Walls where Mick would at times climb with a heavy sack to improve his skills.    He came winter climbing with us in these days we got a winter in Wales and we did some of the big routes of the day then in Wales. We did some good stuff on the Black Ladders/ Ogwen and Llanberris  some of the best ice climbs at the time.  He was often at our local crag Gogarth where he and Stan Owen were on the big routes regularly after a days work. It was all go  we all climbed and he was making a big name for himself in his unassuming way. He only joined the team at Valley for a short time as he had a young family and wanted to spend his valuable time with them. Yet he was always willing to help our young budding rock stars improve. He was such a valuable asset to us and hugely helped pushed the Valley Teams standards.


The funeral at Stafford was a sad affair and one that took a long time to come to terms with for many of us that someone of Mick’s talent should get killed in the mountains  Mick at the time was an outstanding climber and was destined for greatness. We all still miss him and what a hard lesson to us all at the time and throughout life. To leave a young wife and two girls was the real tragedy and I always wondered about them as we all moved away from the South ?

The late Mick Hernon

This tragedy made me push the troops and pals to get insured when in the Alps or overseas. This is still so good advice even today and I have lost a few pals in the big mountains in the past and you must always have Insurance if it all goes wrong. My best pal Big Al MacLeod was killed on the Matterhorn North Face in the 90’s he had no Insurance and what a tragedy that was at the time. Please , please get Insurance if you are going abroad.

I know go forward to 2017 in June Mick’s daughter Marie has been in touch she read a piece I wrote in my blog a few years ago and was touched by the words and sent me a photo of her Dad. I wonder  does anyone have any photos of Mick in the Mountains? I got some lovely replies and will pass them on to Marie

Please share and get in touch with me if you can help.

In Memory of Mick Hernon.

Some words on Mick Hernon  – from pals

We heard about Mick’s demise while at a party in Seattle, prior to Valley/Leeming’s ascent of Mount Rainier. Alister received the sad news during a phone call from Tony Jones back home. Incredibly sadI remember Mick trying to customize a Maciness Massey ice hammer by attempting to convert it into a form of ice pick. Back in work shops he grinded off about two pounds of steel and shortened the shaft. A wee bit too top heavy but a good idea.. ….EHollister –

RAF Stafford MRT – photo E Hollister.

Woody Woodyart –   remember Mick very well , on his first weekend with MR , I ” took ” Mick climbing on a gritstone crag ,Robs Rocks , he just flew up every route that I was capable of leading , ended up dropping him a rope on several HVS s .
A great climber and a lovely, lovely man .
There is a Stafford team photograph 1976 with Mick on , I will post it on you .
I remember Micks wife and children, and have often thought about them .
Rest in peace Mike , a great loss .

Keith Atkinson –  Great friend who introduced me to climbing. At my wedding reception he spent loads of time trying to convince my new bride to forgo my honeymoon so that I could go to the alps with him. Sadly just after the honeymoon news reached us of his untimely death. I will always remember him for his mentoring that caused my love of climbing.

Pete Weatherhill – Did a lot of training with Mick and a few epics, like trying to do Dream of White Horses and ended up on Concrete Chimney! Also did the Karrimor Mountain Marathon.

Eric Joyce – A very talented climber. Mick was my instructor on my first summer course and an inspiaration for me to push my own limits of ability. I cant remember how it came about, but we met up by chance one afternoon just before he departed to the alps. Turned out to be quite a hard bouldering session at Caley Craggs, Otley near my hometown. He was a natural gritstone climber. We arranged to get in touch when he returned from his trip. A great loss.

Thanks all any photos appreciated thanks. Heavy

Posted in Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

A visit to Aberdeen and Insch and a wee talk for the Guides with some old pals.

Yesterday was a busy day I was off to Aberdeen to see Ashleigh in her new flat in Aberdeen it was pouring when I left home. The rest of the UK had a heatwave going! The usually busy Aberdeen road was quite today and it was an easy journey especially when the sun came out. Aberdeen was sunny and I had a great few hours together some lunch and dropped of some things for Ashleigh! She fixed my computer and updated my website it was all magic to me thanks Ashleigh.

After this I was going on to Insch for a fundraiser for the Local Guides and  I stopped at Benn Achie Centre and had a short walk !  What a great facility full of interesting information about this incredible wee mountain. This is a great place to visit and was busy with fold walking cycling and enjoying the amenities. Sadly my time was precious but what a great Centre and a special hill so well looked after and a place I must revisit again!

It was then on to Insch the sun was hot and I had a great few hours with my niece Judith Graham and the family! We even had our dinner outside in the sun ! Her daughter Holly is off to Mexico with the Guides and is fundraising for the trip hence my visit to give a chat in the Community Centre! Before that Lucas her brother batters me on his football game as he is recovering from an appendix operation and his brother Gregor kept us busy with his gymnastics it was a full on 2 hours.


Judith and the other Mum had been busy baking for the lecture  teas and it was a hectic hour at the hall setting out the seats and getting ready! I was worried that the weather was so good few would come but in the end we had a great crowd and raised nearly £250 for the Guides. We had a break in between and tea and cakes.

Thanks to all for your support and keep kindness! I left just after 2200 for my journey home the sun and sky was a red orb on the hills and the roads quite again. Getting near home, the Moray Coast  and the sea the views were wonderful and I was soon home!

It had been a busy day but so enjoyable. The world is mad again with the latest terror attack in London. Yet I met so many kind folk again some old pals from Mountain Rescue who are the best of people and some great kids who are our future! You have to keep going and not let the world problems just now and drag you down!

Time with folk you love is special try and make time for each other! Thanks to my niece Judith for a great evening and all the work you all did! Family support is so important and the tea and cakes are superb I share them with Wendy today! In my mind good things happen and  Karma comes around to those who keep giving and loving!

Thanks all for your support, care and love!

So much to do , so little time!



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Fathers Day thoughts.

Father day. 2017 –  Many would not believe that I had a minister as my father a “Fire and Brimstone minister” a tee – totaller.  We had a great child hood though, 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 and the mountains. He was a dedicated Church Of Scotland Minister his life was the Church  and Mum single-handedly  brought us up all five kids in a the Manse in Ayr .

Dad and me at Galloway.

I  was the last of 5 kids and was more than a bit of a wild child as the Ministers son maybe it was because  you got some grief and folk expected more from you as  was usual 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 mountains and sport  and we used to go to all of the Ayr United 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 like me could be heard all around the ground and 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. He was a very talented runner and won the Arthur’s Seat Race on, several occasions  and Captain of the Hares and Hounds and Edinburgh University Athletics club. He was a fit man playing tennis right into his later life.

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 bits and pieces of gear for my Dad  minister to some far-flung parishes.  They would do a few Munro s after the services, he loved these days. He never forgot and always remembered Cameron and his care and loved the mountains and we had some great days out. 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 happy and that my wildness was being tamned? We managed a few great days in our amazing Galloway Hills, The Merrick, Corserine and  Back Hill of the  Bush and of course Arran were spent so many holidays.  We had so many great 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! We even met Hamish in Glencoe on the aptly named Church Door Buttress when we were having a small epic in the wet and mist.

Goatfell 1957

We had a plan to go round the big Hotels in the Highlands, the Clachaig in Glencoe, Kintail Lodge and Skye and do the big hills is comfort. Sadly it was not to be 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.

You are who you are and 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.

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

Thanks Dad.



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A wander along the great cliffs above Loch Avon in the Cairngorms.

Yesterday though I felt rough with a cold I needed some fresh air and some time in the mountains, I have not been out for a while. I tried to get some company but Bernie had flowers to water and anyway I only wanted a short walk and to be on my own was ideal, It had been a difficult week with John Coull’s funeral and feeling very rough from a bad cold. I had pulled out of helping with the Celtman Triathlon  in Torridon as I doubt I would have lasted the possible 12 hour day plus drive in poor weather on the West. It would be a short wander on familiar ground the Cairngorms. I wanted to see how the Corries were after the dry May and wet June.

Heading up to the plateau from the Goat Track. The cliffs above were the scene of several Rescues by Cairngorm Mountain Rescue last weekend.

It was as always a lovely drive over to the Cairngorms and after the Dava Moor I could see the Cairngorms looking good but clouds on the tops. After Grantown on Spey I always take the back road and saw a few very young deer on the way coming out of the forestry and there was a lot of tree felling on and the smell of freshly cut wood was in the air. It was windy the forecast had said that and yet the sun was out and I was so looking forward to a wander among these lovely hills.

The big cliffs of the Corrie.

The car park is not a place I like and I parked in the lower car park away from the crowds it was still early about 0930 and I was soon sorted and walking along into the Coire. Immediately you leave the car the smell of the wild flowers hit you and the path was very quiet with only two groups one rock climbers racing past. Years ago my mate Tom Mac showed me over 30 different wild flowers and grasses in this area and this is a place you can spend time even a short distance from the car park.  I ambled on coughing a bit and getting looks that said ” should you be there” I was soon among the boulders and moraine past the lochs and passing a few Ptarmigan scuttling about. The river was crossed several times on the walk in and the clarity of the water and the colour of the mosses things you take for granted in the mountains were old pals. I reached the bottom of the Goat Track  after the path follows the big boulders and then a you can have a scramble/wander up onto the plateau. From here I saw two pairs of climbers high on the crag they were on the “magic crack” and looked tiny on the black cliff, it was windy  but they would be sheltered on the climb. The sky was dark and I got a little shower of rain but the wind was warm.

High on the Goat Track lots of loose and weathered rock.

I passed the scene of last weeks incidents where Cairngorm MRT were involved in two Rescues one on Fingers ridge where loose rock injured a pal and a great effort by the team got all the climbers of safe after a difficult rescue in poor weather.

I love the shapes of the rocks sculptured by the weather and time

I was soon up on the plateau and the cloud came in and I wandered over to Ben MacDui in the clouds and then back via the snow fields and Loch Avon away from MacDui where I only saw one other pair of walkers. So many miss this great viewpoint of Loch Avon away from the main path and the crowds.

Loch Avon and the big cliffs.

I wandered along to the main snowfield that are left looking for the elusive photo but not today and had lunch out of the wind. I spotted climbers on Hells Lum and Shelterstone two pairs alone on these big cliffs. I had some great adventures on these cliffs rock climbing in the past and hoped the weather would hold for them, these are big cliffs. They looked wild today and the climbers like stick men in the vast expanse of rock.

Misty at times !

It was enjoyable to sit and enjoy the views the light ever-changing with the wildness of Loch Avon and the big cliffs. This to me is a place to sit and enjoy while the world continues to rush past.

Two climbers on Hells Lum Crag look closely.

I contoured round the cliffs and saw two others near the river we acknowledged each other and when I got back it was someone I wanted to meet for a long time as they recognised my Yellow jacket. I love the top of Hells Lum Crag with the huge gash that in winter fills with ice today it was wet and loose  and I spent time here trying to pick out the climbers. In winter this is some place and I have had a few great days here in Summer and winter with so many pals. In winter in can be a fight back over the plateau in bad weather or on a call -out.

The water on its way down the cliffs a classic view and a special place.

The mist came back in and it was then back along onto the plateau seeing a few hares and more Ptarmigan. Then on to  the tops meet some folk all rushing home while I wandered round looking into the corrie and enjoying the views. It was great to be out I was tired and had forgotten sunscreen and a hat and my face was red but despite the coughing and the slow speed it was a great day.

Fingers Ridge.

I was soon on the last top 1141 seeing a few folk and then down into the “Industrial waste land” that is the Summer Ski area, what a tip in summer? Then back to the car as the clouds came in on the tops.

It was then head home stop for ice cream in Grantown On Spey and met Babs and the big man I was walking like the tin man. I was soon home for a bath some tea and then sort out the gear and an early night.

I got a message from pals later that there was a big call out on the cliffs near where I was on Shelterstone, it was a technical Rescue on the cliff by  Cairngorm, Braemar, Aberdeen MRT and the SAR Helicopter. Well done all another life saved by the teams and Rescue Agencies, never take them for granted or their safety?

Well done all.






Posted in Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

A special tribute/ celebration of JC life.

Yesterday was a special celebration of a good mans life! John Coull’s funeral service was a great tribute to John.

Family and friends came from far and wide and there was a guard of honour when John arrived. It was unique as John had wanted a Guard of Honour for the hearse with the troops with ice axes. This was so powerful to be part of all those characters young and old paying their respects in an unique way to a giant in our Mountain Rescue Family.

The Church was packed and the Eulogies were great, well done all. John had asked for bright clothes , tartan and folk to be happy despite the sad loss. The minister was excellent and got the mood of the Service perfect . There was so much love and care in the church he. even said he wished he had a photo of us all dressed in bright colours and tartan. John’s brother ended the eulogies with some magic stories of his big brother and added to Alister Haveron and Bill Skelson it was a fitting epitaph for a life well lived.

It all went well there were tears and laughs and I left them all for the wake in Elgin just as the SAR helicopter flew over! What a magic ending.

This was a poignant  farewell  for all thanks to the John’s son and the family and friends for making it a wonderful and fitting tribute and send off!

Thanks to all who came from all over UK and to those who sent their love and thoughts from near and far thank you all.

RIP Capt Coull – photo Dan

making it a special day for the family – a special celebration of a good life!

Look after those you love and care for there is much love still in the World.


This poem sums John’s life up!

Sea Fever –  John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.


Posted in Enviroment, Family, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Sailing trips, SAR, Views Mountaineering | 2 Comments

A talk in Inch Community Centre on the 19th June at 2000 all welcome donations for Inch Guides.

Monday 19 June at 2000 hours at Insch Community Centre all  welcome I am doing a wee talk for the Guides all welcome all proceeds go to the Guides.

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A few thoughts on a difficult day.

Today I will go today  to a funeral of a good pal John Coull who died of Cancer last week. It’s to be a celebration of John’s life and there are many pals coming from all over the UK to be part of it, we are to wear bright clothes, tartan if possible and I am sure there will be some tears and yet many laughs as we remember John as  the day goes on. John knew he was very ill but tried to lived his life to the full and we can take some joy in that.

The World is crazy just now with the tragedies in London and bad news round every corner, yet we must take faith from the amount of good people about. My heart goes out to John’s family and friends.

In London this week I fell for those in the Emergency Services  in  London  will have a terrible job to carry out over the next few weeks and my thoughts are with them. One good thing is that at least now Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is accepted as real and now after so many years accepted by the Establishment. It was good to hear the Firemen’s leader Dany Cotton, the service’s first female Fire Commissioner  saying we will have to look after our people for what they have been through. We have moved forward from my teams experiences at Lockerbie and the fight we had to get PTSD this accepted by the establishment, especially those in charge.. Words are easy to say but the Fire Service, ambulance and Police and the families need help and care in the hard years to come. Its time for the politicians to work together and forget their tribal allegiances and work for the benefit of those who need it.

There in my mind  huge problems in the UK just now so much as society struggles with those who have so much and those who have not.

The World comes across as a trouble place yet there are  so many good people are about and I pray that good can overcome greed before it is to late.

It will be  a difficult day for many today but far worse for those in London, my thoughts are with them.

Posted in Friends, Views Political? | 2 Comments