In the old days when I started my Munros we had a Munro list on the wall at Kinloss that you could tick. Then I bought the Munro book by the SMC so basic but great, I still have my copy its a bit battered.
This digital version of the SMC’s best selling definitive hillwalkers’ guidebook provides route descriptions and maps to all of Scotland’s 282 Munros (mountains over 3000 feet), which can be purchased by area or by route. As well as being a handy pocket sized reference for use at home or on the hill, you can log your ascents electronically as you work your way to Munro completion! Since its first printed publication in 1985, all profits from this best selling guidebook have been donated to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, a charity created to promote the enjoyment, appreciation and conservation of mountains and the mountain environment.
We’ve now introduced a new feature to buy all of the content for £14.99, which is £8 cheaper than our book (you get all of the book content for that). All profits from SMC and SMT products go to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, who support projects to benefit the mountaineering community and mountains of Scotland.
There is a good review on the TGO by Alec Roddie, I like the app it handy and as my memory is fading good to see things moving on.
The SMT have now introduced a new feature to buy all of the content for £14.99, which is £8 cheaper than our book (you get all of the book content for that).
Profits from our guidebooks go to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust which is a Scottish-registered charity. Purchasing an SMC publication therefore helps the Scottish mountain environment; they have raised over 1 million pounds to help the Mountain Environment.
I wonder what Sir Hugh would say?
Well done the SMT when is the Corbett ap coming out?
The Munro’s – Thanks Sir Hugh
It was a race to finish
A list to complete
For a name in a book
Like a lover, then gone.
So many great memories
now the hills are battered
By so many feet?
Who are we to criticise
we have all used you?
For many the first is:
Like love, life changing?
So many are now enjoying
what we had when young.
Go and have fun and savour
Those Munro days in the sun.
A lot of work goes into the preparation for each night thanks to Mountain And and the clubs.
Last night was my second last talk “Step into Winter” in a busy week for Mountain Aid on Mountain Safety. I left Ayr for my trip to Dundee and it was an easy journey no rain today. Arriving early to see the venue in daylight. It was in the Methodist Church in Dundee and what an epic I had getting round the one way system in Dundee eventually I found my way in with great help from Sue and her pal who were setting up the venue.
Great work by Sue and pal preparing for the break after the chat great work.
Few realise the work that the volunteers like Sue and her pal do . They set up the hall and looked after me. It was all so helpful and appreciated and this evening we were supported by Tayside Mountain Rescue Team.
Paul Russell and James Lamont represented Tayside Mountain Rescue Team tonight at David Whalley’s Mountain Aid Winter Safety talk in Dundee tonight. Lots of cracking advice from Heavy, the “godfather” of Mountain Rescue.
Tayside Mountain Rescue Team is made up entirely of volunteers who live in the operational area. A wide variety of professions can be found in the Team. All are skilled and experienced mountaineers. Team Members are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to help anyone who is in trouble in the mountains.
We rely on public donations to fund the work that we do, if you would like to contribute, please visit our Just Giving page and follow the link:
The night went well not so big a crowd this time but great Questions and answers assisted by Tayside Mountain Rescue Team. Having a MR team there is so helpful as Ochils MRT did at a previous talk in Dunfermline.
They’d were questions like what do you carry ?
How do you call out a team ?
Call police and ask for Mountain Rescue.
When should you call out a team if your group is late off the hill?
If you are in a club or group it is worth talking about this aspect most give it a few hours if they are late. Look at experience in group weather and route etc. No team will be annoyed of you call the Police and ask for advice ?
Where can you leave your route ? Who can you leave it with ?
Sort out something before you go with someone you trust and make sure they understand your route and what your cut of times are ?
Helicopter assistance / what to do if a helicopter is called to assist you!
You will be briefed if your contactable by the Rescue Agencies.
Advice on what to carry.
When to turn back ?
Planning and practicing skills.
Beacons – on the hill the pros and cons?
Use of map and compass and back up to technology batteries etc.
Winter skills use of ice axe and boots training and advice. Avalanche awareness and various weather advice MET, MWIS .
In all a good evening then a long drive to Aberdeen for the final nights talk tonight.
Venue is the GP Hall, Central Building, Hillhead Student Village, Don St, Aberdeen, AB24 1WU. Start time 7.30pm.
Tonight the Aberdeen MRT will be there to assist it should be a good night.
This is the last in the series of 5 talks for Mountain Aid and my last one in Aberdeen. I have done two years and feel that it is good to change the speakers regularly.
This I hope keeps a freshness into the talks.
These talks are a great way of getting the safety message across a superb effort by Mountain Aid and its volunteers and the great work by local Mountaineering Clubs and Mountain Rescue Teams to promote Mountain Safety.
Thank you all for your support and I hope to see you tonight for the end of a busy 5 day tour.
I have met some great folk and enjoyed the evenings and the efforts by all. Now let’s get out on these winter hills and enjoy a great winters day.
Mountain Aid run free Course on navigation and winter skills why not look on their website for information or on their Facebook page.
The weather looks good for the weekend so get out there!
On Remembrance day , from 8-00 am, Sunday Nov 11th, the names of the 52 Burghead men who lost their lives in the First World War will be written in the sand off the Slappy in Burghead.
These names will be visible from the Station Road car park until about 11 am when the last names will be erased by the incoming tide – this is linked in withe the Pages of the Sea event taking place on Roseisle beach
RAF Leuchars MRT – 1988 – Some of my team who went to Lockerbie. Mostly young folk like many in the tragedy.
Yesterday started with a call from Jill she was worried about me
and organised a visit to the local hospital. I have been poorly for a while and was diagnosed with acute bronchitis . I was treated like Royalty by all the staff and I am now on a course of antibiotics and steroids. The doctors and nurses were superb and when they were told what I was doing in Syracuse there were a few tears. These were trauma nurses and had seen most things. It was then back to the hotel not feeling great for the memorial service .
It was a huge event, when you see 35 memorial scholars all lined up with a rose it brings home the tragedy for the University. Seeing real people in that number That was lost is so visual.
The audience also had badges for all 270 victims of the bombing. They were all remembered and worn by the audience .
There were many speeches and then each scholar said a few words about those who died. It was ended by the two Lockerbie scholars and they spoke about the 11 lost in their town. They spoke with such eloquence it was so powerful.
Our piper Donald played at the end and then we had a short break and a service in the Chapel.
Outside were seats placed where each student had sat on the fate-full night on 21 st Dec 1988. That was hugely impacting on me and each seat had their name.
The service was impressive lots of music more words and we were in the front. Our teamate Brian Asher spoke about the bond from Lockerbie and the plans for the future of the scholarship. His words were inspiring as always and we all sat together dressed up in our uniforms.
Colin the man with the dream, and vision to put this forward in his Police uniform for the last time looked proud. David in his Formal Ambulance uniform and Paul in his formal Fireman’s uniform. Brian was in his suit as rector of Lockerbie Academy and me in my kilt that belonged to my best mate who was killed-climbing 25 years ago.
We were a team and what wonderful teammates.
Outside after the service our Lockerbie Piper from the Scottish Power Band played his tune “Forward “ that he wrote as a local man for the town and the victims. It is powerful as only the pipes can be. Callum is an example of a young man from Lockerbie who will go on to great things.
It was then meet so many relatives , there were ,tears hugs and stories yet all looking forward to the future.
I spoke to so many and was so proud of what they felt towards the Mountain Rescue and SARDA for all we did.
I spoke to many of the students and loved their vision of the future what they wanted to do to change the world. These were just like my team in the RAF and others young folk many of them who inspire you in their plans and open your eyes as only young folk can.
They have the youth and wisdom to make this a better place for the future and I pray the establishment listens to them.
I have never been called “Sir”so much or thanked hugged and told to tell those at home not just the Mountain Rescue Teams the military SAR SARDA and the Army. The families the and relatives are aware of what you did. Many mentioned our families and friends who helped us yet never understood what was happening to us in the years to come with PTSD unknown then .
I presented the University with our shield and it was graciously received .
At last I was back on the bike what a start we set off from a park, dedicated to the memory of Rick Monetti, who died on Pan Am 103.
The family saw us off it was emotional and
we also passed them on route . Try keeping up with the boys going fast and crying at the same time. Not easy huge emotion comes out and the team were there looking after each other. I was so glad to get going the roads were as Brian says
“Flat roads, good surfaces
Heavy was back in the saddle
It was fast cycling and fun too
We made it to Central Park “
Here we were met by more families and two pipers from our sponsor Scottish Power. It was another wonderful
Moment in all our lives. We chatted cried a little and laughed. Oliver Mundell the local
MSP was there to meet us what a kind caring man. Sadly our hard working support team missed the final bit due to traffic.
We owe them so much .
As always Miles the mechanic was there we had 4 punctures and he is an incredible human being . He reads the roads and more importantly like after our safety. What a guy a true one in a million.
This is his field of expertise and he keeps me right and tells me when to take a break.
The team is so strong but so aware of what this journey is about. The cycling is a big part but so is the meeting of so many folk.
This journey is way out of my comfort zone but I have great warmth from my team and folk we meet. Our support team are incredible brilliant food and they all are a huge part of the team. Thank you all.
I have learned so much already felt the love of folk I never met and hope that to
All my friends in Mountain Rescue and SARDA and the military get some of the feeling for what you all did these years ago.
There is Huge hope for the future when we meet “hoops “of locals shouting when we cycle through places and time to laugh and cry together!
A family washed our clothes the other day it was a gesture I will never forget so near to the bone for me and what the ladies of Lockerbie did for them.
Everyday is a lifetimes experience cycling through New York was incredible like a film set yet we were it.
The pipers who met us were a superb finale and the Lockerbie lament was played by a Lockerbie piper written by him as a proud young man from the town. It was inspiring.Callum and Donald from the Scottish Power Pipe Band made the hairs on my neck shiver as we heard them on entering Central Park. What a feeling of what we are doing and the pipes made this journey a little easier.
My team mates are all on the same mission to reach Syracuse and end a journey of hope for the future. We want to complete this task.
Day off tomorrow but so much to do with a media call and dinner at Lubin house where we are staying. They have treated us so well.
Thank you all feeling better but drained emotionally but so full-filling in so many ways.
That is me now in Edinburgh heading to the USA for our Cycle to Syracuse. Over a year of preparation and huge effort by Colin Dorrance the man behind the idea.
It will be some experience and thanks for all the support!
I am pretty tired just after saying farewell to Ted in Arran it was an emotional weekend.
So many turned up it was amazing and makes you think. Most there had seen and done things in life and helped put so many folk over the years mainly folk they never knew in the mountains all over the world.
Colin Dorrance what a guy!
This trip to the USA is a huge honour and I will work hard to represent so many of you.
I see the weather is coming in this weekend and the first dumps of snow and the Artic blast is coming. I will miss that for the first time in over 50 years?
Have fun be safe and if on the hill or in life look after each other.
Jim Groak poem A few words of his best pal, mentor !
“The cheeky chappy with an inventive, brilliant, and fun loving mind.
Using home-engineered ice axes, wearing kit of the ‘self tailored’ kind.
Ted was never one to merely “go with the flow”,
He could climb rock or ice in most weathers, – “It will go”.
If one could really carry experience, Ted needed a hold- all.
Antarctica, Eiger North Face, Everest, and from Scotland to Nepal.
With terrier tenacity, expertise, agility, and shear gall,
In all four seasons wearing either stickies, or big boots and all.
Ted was a ‘one in a million character’ I’m sure you’ll agree.
The tough exterior concealed a soft centre, that most did’nt see.
As a self taught oxygen delivery engineer, Ted designed and ran “Top Out”
With expeds and business ventures around the world, Ted quickly gained clout.
When Shona and Ted became proud Mum and Dad,
Lewis had a better education than most kids ever had.
Living in an Italian paradise, the Dolomites as they’re back yard,
Skiing and climbing in the Alps, Lewis also learnt to play hard.
Ted was always busy with Top Out, and making new records,sky diving,
People sought his expertise, the military, and even Hollywood came calling.
Ted was taken from us, all too soon, but while enjoying the hill,
He has gone, leaving a gap that no one can fill.
I will always think of Ted as a friend, confident, and instructor,
Ted was our leader, but we will always remember him as “our mucker”.
Ted had a great send off they came from all over the world and I hope Shona Lewis and family got some solace from a special day.
We put out the prayer flags in the Church Hall they had come from the North Colon Everest that I brought down in 2001. The hall had slides and photos and a wonderful amount of food all prepared by the kind folk of Arran.
It was a moving service with Ted’s son Lewis speaking as well as myself and Jim
Groak. Shona’s Dad the minister officiated and the church was packed.
Lots of folk worked so hard to ensure the day went well To many to name.
Yet Terry Moore and a few others deserve special thanks. The RAF Leeming Mountain Rescue Team were there and that was grand with the vechile outside the Church .
It was a moving day huge amount of pals about so many to catch up with.
There was a party in the Ormidale with a ceildh band at the end of the day. I had an early night but walked back to the sounds of the music in the background.
Emotion had been kept in check all day it had to be for me but that was a long walk in the dark to my accommodation and lots of time to think.
The Celebration of life is a great thing and only to often we get together at events like this. I try to see as many folk as I can in our busy lives. It’s never easy making time.
As in life we come in with nothing and leave nothing. What we achieve is what is left in the memories we leave behind. Ted left so many and those who gathered to be with Shona,Lewis and the family have a legacy of stories that keep coming of Ted’s life.Things we will never forget.
These are great folk many who have achieved much in their lives yet they have a bond that few can understand. The ladies who made the food said they knew that we were a group so full of life even us oldies. We all have a bond in the mountains in the Skies and wild places. We all worked together there are few egos as a team in whatever our speciality but there is a bond there that never leaves us.
I am glad I am a small part of such folk and hope that my Grandchildren meet them and be inspired to be like Ted ( apart from the hats) To get out into the World and meet folk who will inspire you to great things.
You do need to be a superstar just be part of a team working together trying to “look after”each other despite how hard it gets.
After I spoke at the funeral there were so many looking out for me a few words a cuddle from the girls as it was hard. I am so lucky to have so many from all over who keep an eye on me and others.
I am sure pretty exhausted and have my big Cycle to Syracuse coming up leaving Tuesday for the USA.
It’s time to recharge and I just got on the ferry in Arran . I needed to get back early only the last car on. I am now in Ayr with my sisters getting sorted, the next adventure starts soon.
I will do my best as this means so much to so many of those who did so much in December 1988 at Lockerbie.
Yesterday was a bit full on I am down South at last getting some time with the girls at last. I had promised that I would do a chat with “Heart” radio and a photo for Times newspaper after our Cycle to Syracuse trip to the USA last month. This was the Commemoration of 30 years on the 21st of December of the Lockerbie Tragedy. I travelled by train this time and got my sleeper seat upgraded to a Sleeper due the carriage being u/s no power. I also shared with Alex who was up at Helmsdale and his sister a Black cab driver saved me the crazy rush hour tube trip to Paddington where I got my train to Twyford and Yvette picked me up. The journey went so well. We collected the girls from school that afternoon and it was lovely just seeing them and the huge cuddles I got. I am one lucky man.
It was lovely to get wakened by the girls early next day before school and be with them I miss them so much and had not seen them since March. We had some fun they have to find “Buddy ” the elf every day and that was fun and they are at the stage where life is so much fun.
Buddy a busy Elf xxx
The house is lovely with the trees and lights and the World of young girls at Christmas is fun. How I missed them both and they were so pleased that I am down to be with them for a few days. It is special time with special folk.
I spent the morning with the Media its hard going over the same story but you have to set the scene of what happened 30 years ago. I hope that the good of the Anniversary comes out the great team we had the vision of Colin Dorrance who set it all up and the incredible support. I tried to explain what a Lockerbie means to me the local people who looked after us and the kindness shown . The trip to the USA the relatives we met and the outpouring of kindness we were given. We met so many relatives of those who died in that week I have so many memories of these folk that helped heal some of the horrors we all saw in the Rescue Teams and other Agencies. There is some good has come out and the relationship of the University and legacy of the two scholarships annually for Lockerbie Academy students is one of them. The interviews will be on nearer the Anniversary on the 21 st of December.
After this it’s hard to go back to normality but once we picked up the girls from school life becomes normal again and the mind clears. It was a lovely day to be out and to see the Red kites again in the sky is b
Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.
The long walk, views expanding as we climb.
Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?
As usual we meet a family of deer
They have been there for many years
What have they seen?
Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.
Wreckage, glinting in the sun.
This is a wonderful poignant place.
Only too those who look and see.
How mighty is this corrie?
This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe.
This poem is dedicated to the crew of LANCASTER GR3 TX264 and my special pal Joss Gosling who was a member of the RAF Kinloss MRT who recovered the casualties from the crash high on Beinn Eighe in winter of 1951.
Joss passed away in November 2018 a man who was such an influence on me telling me the tales of this tragic event and the early days of Mountain Rescue.
Christmas Eve 1978 – We had just got back from the epic night on Ben Starav in Glen Etive when one of our hill parties had bivouacked overnight it had been a long 24 hours It as mentioned been a sleepless night for most of us and we got back to Tyndrum and had breakfast when the village Policeman arrived at the door. There were no mobile phones in these days and it was usually a local Bobbie who came and got you. There was a huge call out going on in the Cairngorms two walkers were missing from a walk on Braeriach on Christmas eve, they were missing overnight and we were needed. Cairngorm and SARDA were out searching and needed assistance Leuchars were at Braemar and the new Seaking helicopter went to pick up 13 of the Team and flew them to Glenmore after winching 4 of them into a wild Garbh Coire to carry out a search. This is fairly remote area and wild place to be. Our Team Leader who lives in Aviemore Ray Sunshine Sefton was off for the holiday break and came straight over to Glenmore Lodge. The rest of the team was briefed and were flown into the other Corries, on Braeriach the weather was wild.
By late afternoon one of the walkers was found avalanched an incredible find by Cairngorm MRT and SARDA unfortunately he was dead and the other found after a probe search about 15 feet. This was a double tragedy at Christmas. More team member’s were flown in along with Ray Sefton to assist the Cairngorm Team and it was hard work in the dark. It was according to the team great flying in cruelly wild conditions. It was now very dangerous conditions and after 300 feet of lowering the correct decision was to leave the casualties and return in the morning. They had a long walk out in deep snow to Glen Feshie and transport for a bumpy drive down the glen/ It had been a wild day the team had still to get the remaining vehicles to Aviemore and set up a Base Camp.
It was a Combined RAF Mountain Rescue Team that left early next morning after a long drive up Glen Einich, the weather was too wild for the helicopters. We were all still soaked the gear and had little time to dry and I remember as we climbed up to the Coire Bogha- cloiche our gear froze on us. Ray Sefton our Team Leader found the spot where the casualties were and lowered a few of us into the gully and recovered our sad burdens. It was scary in there the snow was heavy and we were threatened from the severe avalanche threat. This is never easy but at least we had found them and they would be recovered to their families, what a sad end to a day’s winter mountaineering.
You just get on with what you have to do and do your best in the conditions; you switch off and do it. Everything was hard to do with the wind and spindrift It was great navigation by Ray to take us exactly to where they lay the spot in a typically wild day Cairngorm day. It took a long time to get the bodies down on the stretchers on the steep ground and into the Glen. It seemed an endless walk out to the land rovers in the sleet and rain with two heavy stretchers. The Einech track was endless as we drove out a thaw was now on and the river crossings were wild and extremely interesting.There were over 25 of us and we were exhausted on the way out all feeling the efforts of a sad few days. We handed over the bodies to the Police in Aviemore for the awful job of reuniting them with their grief stricken families. We were soon back trying to dry our kit and getting ready for the next epic in a long Christmas New Year period.
It was a hugely complex incident with the Sea king being used in real wild winter conditions. The dropping Team member’s in these wild Braeriach Corries like the Garbh Corrie was different. This was a bit different from the normal searches in the Northern Corries and I vowed to get to know these rarely visited places and get the vital area knowledge that was so necessary in winter. To be dropped in these complex places in winter with a young group of team member was a huge responsibly and a big learning curb. It was also a huge introduction to the possibilities of the new Sea King helicopter in winter to drop search parties in these remote Corries. It took time to get used to the increased down draft by this powerful helicopter and how incredible the crews were in these conditions, anything it seemed was now possible. We take it all for granted nowadays but many lessons were learned during these incidents. These were the early days of the Sea King and the crews, incredible people, amazing machines.
Finally a huge lesson on the safety of the Team and your hill party is always paramount at all times.It is hard to remember that in the heat and adrenaline of a big call out. Many will be amazed that the casualties were left overnight bit this had to be done and when we relocated them there was more avalanche debris all over. In the dark and in an unfamiliar Corrie in a wild storm is not the place to be moving slowly. There was nothing else at that time could be done for them and we had to leave them for our own safety. Decision like that are hard bur correct great decisions by Molly Porter who I am sure were the Cairngorm Team Leader at the time and our own Ray Sefton.
Be aware that after the stormy weather we have just had there may be areas of slab and snow about. Add to this a descent in the dark in unfamiliar terrain or in wild weather and you can have a problem. Its soon time for the Avalanche forecast to start use it its free it was not available in 1978 !
It’s amazing how quickly you forget things No matter how experienced you think you are.
2028 Reiff North West Scotland
We did a few rock climbs the other day at Reiff in a cold day in the North West. I had not climbed for ages and it was good to get checked out. It’s so easy to tie a knot wrong or twist your harness or buckle it up wrong. It’s easy to get distracted even when the leader of a group and forget to buckle up. close a screw gate or even worse finish a knot.
Tree roots abseil, old tat ?
Always check the belays are good no matter who has used them. I have seen them all done. In winter it is even easier to make mistakes on a wild day.
Check the belay ensure it is safe no matter who did it.
Abseil device are backed up with prussik loops?
Double check everything – no mistakes allowed.
Check each other all the time?
We did a few rock climbs the other day at Reiff in a cold day in the North West. I had not climbed for ages and it was good to get checked out. It’s so easy to tie a knot wrong or twist your harness or buckle it up wrong.
Helmet on wrong way round how stupid !
It’s so easy especially on an abseil after a long day to miss something important.
We have all done it but no matter who you are with check each other. The “buddy buddy checks” are so important.
It is even more important in winter to check each other’s crampons are on right. It’s easy with cold hands to not have them on properly even with quick modern bindings. Check and check again.
I make no excuse for putting this article up again this incident was to me life changing and after I returned from America from the commemoration for the 30 th Anniversary of Lockerbie I spoke to a few folk about it. I visited the Arlington Military Cemetery and was reminded of this incident. Over the years of my involvement was for several USA Air Force crashes. This is the story of a sad event in Skye in December 7 th 1982.
“At about 8 pm on the night of 7 December 1982 after descending to about 1000ft over Loch Scavaig, an F-111F aircraft struck the southern face of the 1620 foot peak Sgurr na Stri, on the Isle of Skye The unarmed aircraft, serial number 70-2377, was on a regular training mission from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.
* The Strathaird estate was at the time owned by Ian Anderson otherwise more famous as the lead singer and flautist of the rock group Jethro Tull.”
1982 f111 crash Skye Sgurr Na Stri
In was December the 7 th 1982 I was stationed at RAF Kinloss in the Morayshire Coast in Scotland. The Falklands war had just finished but RAF Kinloss where I worked was still working 12 hour shifts. I had done the early shift from 0600 -1800 in In Flight rationing the Nimrod planes; it had been a busy day. I went back to the Mountain Rescue Section where I was a part-time member and was sorting my equipment of for a weekend’s winter training with the Mountain Rescue team. As I finished the phone rang it was the Rescue Centre at RAF Pitreavie saying that an American F111 Fighter aircraft from RAF Lakenheath with two crew had crashed in the Isle of Skye. They thought that it was on the main ridge and another aircraft in the two man formation was flying over the area.
Skye in Scotland is a mountaineer’s and climber’s paradise, in winter it becomes Alpine with ascents of the easiest peaks not for the inexperienced. The time was just after 2000 hours it was a wild winter night, pitch dark and with snow at sea level. I was told to get a fast hill party together in 15 minutes and get to the aircraft pan as a Sea King helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth was on its way to take us to Skye. There were 6 of us I was the party leader Allan Tait. Joe Mitchell, Keith Powell (RIP) Chris Langley, Paul Whittaker and my dog Teallach were the fast party by helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth . There was little time to get kit sorted and I took as much climbing gear and rope as we could carry. The Skye ridge in a December night was not the place to be but this was payback time for us this is what we trained for. The forecast as I said was awful and there was a good chance of the aircraft not getting us to the crash position due to the weather. It would be a long hard night ahead. The position we were given at first was right on the main ridge between Sgurr Greta and Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh a nightmare scenario in winter and at night.
This was 1982 before modern phones and communications and the kit we had was still basic, our bivouacs kit was still a big orange polythene bag, which was next to useless in wet weather. We carried hill radios that were efficient, line of sight but heavy and suffered in the cold and wet. The helicopter was at Lossiemouth a few minutes away flying with 15 minutes and in the darkened aircraft. I was told to go to the front for a brief and stayed there most of the trip out to Skye. The snow was falling very heavily and the crew would have to use all their cunning and experience to get to the incident. This was also in the days before night vision equipment and the modern GPS, It is hard to believe we flew low near the roads to get updates on our navigation. I do not enjoy flying at the best of times and this was a worrying trip. My 5 team companions were in the back oblivious to what was happening. When a military aircraft goes in all the efforts are made by all concerned and the rest of the team would follow by road a journey as bad for them in roads plastered with snow and ice and taking up to 6 hours! We would be on our own for at least 12 hours. My head was on fire with plans but we had to get there first and I was helping picking out snowy land marks on the way. At Achnasheen about half way there after about 35 minutes we had to land down on the road as the weather was awful. We were soon off again and all the time getting updated on the situation and a new fix for the crash site. It was now near Loch Coruisk a remote part of the ridge with no road access. There was another aircraft an F111 over the site that was now pitch dark covered by snow and cloud. The local Skye Mountain Rescue team were trying to get to Egol and help us with their local knowledge; this would be invaluable in these hills. As we neared Egol (This is a village on the shores of Loch Scavaig towards the end of the Strathaird peninsula in the Isle of Skye.) I moved to help the winchman by going on the harness near the aircraft door. The weather was still wild and snow was blowing everywhere as we were dropping down to pick up the Skye Mountain Rescue party. The winch man saw Hydro electric wires nearby and we had to rise steeply to miss them, we were very lucky. The aircraft pulled away and I was told we had one chance of a drop off as the aircraft had a problem now due to the power used. We flew out to sea and I had a quick look at the map, winching was not possible so picked a spot at sea level I knew well Camasunary Mountain Bothy near a hill called Sgurr na Stri. This was near where the aircraft last known position was it the place to start our search. We could not wait to get out of the helicopter and my party inside had a good idea how near we had been to a disaster.
A few months previously we had been to another F111 that crashed in Strathcarron we had been involved and the crew were okay they had ejected in the capsule that was unique to this aircraft and both were taken to hospital in nearby Inverness. We were sure that the crew of two would be waiting for our arrival somewhere on the mountain. We were on our own as the helicopter flew off, leaving us alone in the dark, with the smell of fire and aviation fuel about. Out of the bothy door came three figures
They were at the bothy and they also had night to remember, they had just had a wet day on the nearby Munro Blaven. Paul Rosher, John Foggin and Paul Robson had the fire on in the bothy and the dinner was getting cooked. In Paul’s own words “Everything happened so fast, a bright red light lit up the whole bay, we could see right across it. Everything started shaking, door windows and table objects on the table. Then there was a shockwave, not a sound but a physical pressure that moved from right to left and when it did the fire went out, the air was briefly sucked out of the room. Kit was flying through the air and part of the ceiling fell on Paul, who ran into the white light covered in plaster. I remember thinking that a nuclear war had started after all it was very much still the cold war years and the Holy Loch did harbour nuclear submarines.
I am sure Paul (who was one of the boys in the bothy when the aircraft crashed) he does not remember but I am positive that the three of them came out of the Camasunary Bothy with their hands up in the air and covered in white dust from the roof. They had an epic time after the F111 aircraft hit the mountain behind the hut.
Sgurr na Stri though only a small hill, was on fire, the explosion, the shock wave and the blast had nearly destroyed the bothy and they like us were fairly shocked. I asked Paul if he knew whereabouts of the crash was as by now the aircraft that was circling the crash site had gone. It was snowing heavy the cloud was down and it was as dark as hell. The hill is defended by a big river and a very steep South Face, typical Skye, with gullies and steep cliffs. Worse now as even the shoreline was covered in wet snow.
Paul said he knew the hill well, I had never climbed it but it was only small by Skye standards, or so we thought! We had some additional lighting with us, state of the art Sharks eyes which though heavy and needed 6 bicycle type batteries helped illuminates the ground. We took Paul with us and asked the others in the bothy to wait until more troops arrived. The first obstacle was the river but there was a rickety bridge which we crossed with trepidation, but we were high on adrenaline and were soon across, my dog swimming the fast flowing river. It was bitter cold and the smell of aviation fuel and burning was unmistakable.
I am asked what do you do at times like this, it all seems to work well and we tried to split up to search a bigger area but the group was too hard to control in the dark. The ground was wild like a Glencoe corrie steep and slippy in the wet snow, route finding was tricky as small buttress’s appeared in the dark. A slip would have been serious but my dog Teallach has a great hill sense and always picked the best line. We very quickly came across small pieces of wreckage sharp pieces of aircraft metal lying in the ground the light from our torches and lights glinting in the gloom. You have to be aware of the dangers even after a crash, fire, sharp metal and explosives even if the aircraft was unarmed as this one was. You also have so many chemicals goodness knows what you are breathing and nowadays you would enter a crash site in full protective gear, this was 1982. It was time for Paul to go down as we were nearing the impact point and I feared what we may find. There was also still a good chance that we may find the escape capsule and the crew and that may be on more dangerous ground, we would need all our small team to assist. It was better we carried on alone and Paul was taken down though he wanted to stay but we had no choice Allan Tait (Gus) escorted him down. It is also very wise not to put people in such close to proximity to what we were about to find. By now we were finding large bits of aircraft but no sign of the capsule, it was passed midnight we stopped for a break, it was now very wet snow falling, and we were soaked and needed to gather our thoughts. Everyone was cold and tired I had a fine bunch of troops and we agreed to search and spread out, it was not long before we found pieces of the cockpit and sadly the crew. It was fairly easy to decide that no one had survived the crash. In moments like this life stands still. We were working in hope that we would find two people, I was sure they would have ejected, it hit me hard, though you cannot show it at the time. Two unknown men to us American Aircrew with families, children and lives just like us had died where we now stood. It is impossible to explain our feelings at the time. Due to the sensitivity of this crash and where we were it was now about 0300 and we decided to bivouac at the scene until the reinforcements from RAF Kinloss arrived. We had no radio Communications all night and I tried every hour to get through transmitting what we had found, there was no answer, even Gus at the bothy could not hear us, we were alone. It was a hellish night, and looking back after 40 years in Mountain Rescue it was one of my worst nights ever on the mountains. In the end we rested and bedded down we were soaked and wet all night with the fresh snow and rain making the ground slushy and wet. I could see the two young ones suffering so by 0500 we were all up waiting for daybreak; it was a very cold night. By 0800 the weather had cleared and we heard the team on the radio, they had an epic drive 6 hours and stayed the night at Jethro Tull Ian Andersons Farm(the musicians farm) and set out at first light. They managed to drive in to near Camusunary a crazy road and eventually reached us by midday. We showed them around the crash site which was all over the area where we had bivouacked. We could not get back down quick enough and were soon back at Base Camp in Skye by mid-afternoon. We had been on the go that day for over 24 hours. Gus had a good night in the bothy and the Paul and the boys were amazed when Gus produced a bag of hidden food from a wall near the bothy. He had hid it a few weeks earlier for a walk across Scotland in the summer; they ate like kings unlike us. We were exhausted but still high on adrenaline and after some food sleep took over.
Over the next few days the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue and the USAF recovered the two casualties a grim task after some USAF Investigating officers allowed them to be taken from the crash site. I then spent a week working with the Investigation Team on the mountain walking in every day for a week with them looking after them on this amazing little hill. We started in the dark and walked out in the dark it is short days in December, it was a difficult time for all. I learned so much from this incident and met some incredible people. I learned so much about communications, leadership and fought for decent kit for the team. After this so many lessons were learned that stood me in great stead for other big call outs like Lockerbie. Paul who I met on the hill that night is now a great friend, living in Skye and a member of the Skye Mountain Rescue Team. The others in the team remain friends for life and Keith who was a power that night on the hill is no longer with us.
Return to Camusunary – 2012
“In the storm lashed car we hide from the weather, we have to leave it warmth.
The simple track to Camusunary, effortlessly works its way, heads down in the sleet and snow
Taking a route over swollen streams and sticky bog.
Blavens Southern ridge climbs, long, fingered snow-covered winds its way to the heights.
Cresting the beleach. we see the meadow, the beach and there “Falkland like” the bothy Camusunary!
So many memories of that wild night in 82 thirty years to the day″
The families of the crew have been in touch over the years and sent some wonderful words thanking us for our efforts and happy we made a trip in 2012 on the 30 th anniversary in memory of their loved ones. For Gus, Paul and myself it was some trip.
I was back again in May 2017 staying in the bothy at Loch Coruisk with my local Mountaineering Club and visited the crash site for 2 days. There is still so much wreckage about and some even 2 kilometres from the impact site. It is a wonderful poignant place but is full of memories for me and those families involved that we could do little for. I still hear from some relatives every year, through my blog which is heart-warming and few knew of our story. In 1982 I was 30 and in my prime as a mountaineer but that night tasked us all to the full, looking back what a sad event and one I will never forget. There is a small plaque at Elgol with a view to Sgur Na Stri with a view to the incredible mountain and lots of memories.
In memory of the crew
The pilot in the left hand seat of the aircraft was Major (Lt Col. Selectee) Burnley L. (“Bob”) Rudiger Jr., aged 37, from Norfolk, Virginia. Major Rudiger was survived by a wife and two children who were then resident at Risby, Suffolk.
The weapons system operator in the right seat was 1st Lt. Steven J. Pitt, 28, from East Aurora, New York. Lt. Pitt was survived by a wife and two children, then resident at Icklingham, Suffolk.
This year I have been busy with the Lockerbie 30 th Remembrance. If I am fit enough I will revisit this place in winter next year. It is still tricky to get to in winter and gives the best view of Skye. There is so much wreckage about and it is a tricky crash site to get to.To sit on the summit and sea this majestic place. It is also a place where two men died and must never be forgotten.
I am lucky friends on Skye regularly visit this place and send me photos as you age this wonderful area never disappoints.
Thinking of all the relatives in the USA at what always is a difficult time.
Heavy Whalley 7 Dec 2018.
There is some information in this book by David Earl well worth a read.
Lost to the Isles – interesting book with piece in to about the F111 Crash on Skye,
Firstly thanks for the many kind words I received from so many on the documentary “The unheard voices “ that was on Channel 5 last night. I heard from a lot of folk and I was glad that many learned a bit more of the story.
The documentary was not what I was expecting and I feel concentrated too much on the night and events leading up to it. I was hoping that maybe some of the good things that have happened in the last 30 years may have been covered but sadly I felt they were not.
I spoke to the film crew in Lockerbie in the summer and I thought that they were also following our Cycle to Syracuse. This was in memory of the 35 Students from Syracuse University who died in the crash and also for all the victims. I have written in detail about our journey which was the incredible vision of Colin Dorrance who was a young policeman in Lockerbie at the time of the event.
We had a lot of media attention and they filmed a fair bit over the period. Our journey brought a lot of comfort to the many relatives we met especially in the USA . Sadly there was none of this and the incredible stories of the relatives we met.
I am often asked why do I speak to the media when I find it difficult . I do it to mention all the Mountain Rescue teams , Search Dogs , handlers and the army who were involved. The Army who did a huge amount of the body recovery and clean up. There’s a unheard story that needs telling? I also try to get the message about the effect it had on many of us and still does. PTSD was unheard of and we did our bit at the time to make more of the establishment acknowledge it. This is still an ongoing struggle for many including myself.
Meeting some of the families they made a huge impression on me and the team .
A huge story missed was of the Ladies of Lockerbie one who was with us who like many did so much for us all during the tragedy and afterwards. Sadly this was not shown they have a story to tell. These folk hardly talk about what they did and saw but they all left a huge impression on me for the rest of my life. I had the honour to meet one lady in the USA where she was visiting the relatives for whom she and many others from the town have done so much. The ladies also looked after all the Agencies involved despite what had happened the destruction in the town and losing 11 local people. They fed us and looked after just unsung folks who mean so much.
These ladies also washed the clothes that were found in the search area so that when they were repatriated they were clean for the grieving families. The relatives have never forgotten these ladies and for the past 30 years the care and kindness of the local people when they visited to honour their loved ones. These are the stories of the bond the love that has transcended the tragedy.
I have about 20 comments from various members of the Rescue Teams that I will collate and pass on to the ladies. Words will never be enough but to hear the comments of many who were so young at the time is heart warming and are another untold story. If anyone else would like to add more I will hold back for another two weeks ?
As part of the journey before we left we had visited many of the schools in the area and I think over 1300 plus kids learned about the Tragedy and also the link with Syracuse University and the scholarship. I did only one day but we visited three school all primary and what an experience it was for us all. Many of the kids families had been involved and their knowledge of 30 years ago was incredible. Grannies and grandpa’s Aunts and Uncles had spoken about it and we spoke about what happened and afterwards they a;; cycled or walked to get us the 3000 miles plus over the Atlantic. It was a wonderful experience and left a great legacy for the kids.
Our Cycle took us to Syracuse University where 35 students died on the plane . The University also gives two scholarships annually to Lockerbie Academy Students and there has been 58 students have benefited from this and hopefully many more will do in the future. There is a huge bond with the University and the town that we were privileged to be part off during their week of Commemoration.
We met so many families on our trip and were looked after so well. We met many on the road and were with several families even staying with one overnight and others made us meals after a long day on the bikes. We met one lady who said we had brought her daughter home. She was over 80 had visited Lockerbie for many years but felt the journey was too much now . This was such a wonderful meeting and what a lady there was no hate just thanks for our trip. It was one the highlights of the journey we had. We also met one young lady and her Dad who had lost 4 in their family including an unborn child. It was early in the trip and it was hard to leave them and continue on our cycle. These were incredible events for us all. I wanted to tell them what my friends and other agencies had done during the tragedy and the families were very interested in their story. They found it hard to understand that most of the Rescue teams and dogs were unpaid volunteers some were there for weeks. At the end their was limited support for them both if needed mentally and Psychologically?
These were some of the stories that means so much to me and so many others.
It was also sad to see the terrible footage again of the parent who had been told about the crash and her despair at the airport after hearing of losing a loved one.
Yet 30 year on there is a lot happening Lockerbie has moved on it and it’s people will never forget but what they did and do is still incredible. The town is an incredible place they live in the future and it was such an honour to be with the team and share some of the stories. I met and made many new friends and many of my pals have said this has helped them chase some demons.
I wrote a piece on this blog about a 70 mile training cycle with the team and found it hard cycling round places that meant so much to me. I had a great response from local folk many who spoke about it openly for the first time.
Lockerbie is a place that will always be in my thoughts especially on the 30 th Anniversary and I hope many of the good stories come out.
At Syracuse University with Paul and David.
I was chased by the media for a comments this week and had to turn so many down I live 250 miles from Lockerbie and feel I have done what I can.
I am honouring a few that I said I would do but have to be careful as its easy to fall into a dark place but I have great friends and family to talk to. I am lucky so if your struggling talk to someone.
I hope this makes sense to those who chose to read it and to all my friends who were involved will be aware that many more folk are aware of what you all did.
These words below are so powerful to me . When you meet relatives even 30 years on we are all connected . These were incredible days and I met so many of the “unheard voices “who were despite a tragedy few can understand how they live in hope for a better world .
Thanks to the whole team for the chance to meet so many and bring so much positive thoughts back.
Too the folk of Lockerbie thank you all I will be thinking of you all on the 21 st. December.
Its worth noting that two of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams Stafford and Leeming involved in Lockerbie were at the air crash at Kegworth on the 8 th Jan 1989 there were 47 killed but this time lives were saved a huge difference. The teams expertise was used to assist in getting the casualties out of the aircraft 79 alive.
My mate Al who works off shore had fancied a day on the hill he had not climbed Stac Pollaidh not far from Ullapool. It is a lovely wee hill with stunning rock formations and never ending views of these hills and hundreds of lochans.
We both wanted an early start and I was up at 0530 to meet Al at 0630 in Nairn. It was a lovely morning cold but dry when I picked up Al and we set of for the 2 hour drive North past Ullapool to our hill. It started to rain very heavy at Ullapool yet the small town looked stunning with the Christmas lights on even some on the boats in the harbour. It was still dark but the rain was heavy and as we headed North the road so quiet at this time of year. The rain was so heavy we arrived at the little car park at Stac Pollaidh it was getting light and the cloud was down. This wee hill is gem but it should be enjoyed on a good day so it was an easy decision to head to the coast where we could see the weather was a bit better. When you live up here and you have time you can pick your days.
About 20 minutes away is the Coast and the cliffs of Reiff where we had climbed many times. We had some kit and thought a walk here would be great the view of the Summer Islands and the sea are always special. We had some kit and took a rope and though it was wet to start with we had a great few hours climbing in big boots in December. We climbed nothing hard just 4 routes but had a great laugh. Al is so much fun and it was the place to be and despite the weather we have a fun day climbing. It is hard to describe this place but the peace and beauty of this is incredible.
Every few minutes the light changed, squalls come in the waves crash in and the sunlight on the waves makes this unique. It was just what we both needed.
The Reiff cliffs are made of clean, rough, hard sea-washed sandstone, more akin to very featured grit than the softer sandstone varieties found south of the border. Ranging from bouldering to around 20 metres in height, the cliffs are a mixture of non-tidal and tidal with most featuring flat wave-cut platforms at the base and walk-down access routes. Whilst the most accessible crags are a few hundred yards from the road-head, as a general rule the climbing gets better the further you go, with the excellent venues on the northern tip of the peninsula requiring around an hour of often boggy (wellies useful!) walking from the car.
The climbing is mostly steep and well protected- with sustained technical and pumpy climbing generally being the name of the game.
there really is enough for several visits for climbers of any standard, with superb routes at all grades.
The rock is generally fast drying though, as with all sea-cliffs can be a bit greasy in the morning and some lines suffer from seepage. The low-lying coastal landscape often escapes the attention of the rainclouds that can thwart activities inland so it can be worth risking a mediocre forecast, though beware of stormy seas. Being right next to the sea and with cliffs facing south, west and north, sun, shade and a refreshing dip can be sought at will and climbing on the south facing cliffs is often possible in the winter months.
All the climbing is protected by traditional gear, with small wires and cams proving particularly useful, and while the routes are short, due to the horizontal break nature of the rock, half ropes (or one half rope folded) are a good idea. While there are the possibility for numerous entertaining sea level traverses, deep water soloing options are limited. However, for those keen to explore, the ‘Baby Taipan Wall’ on the north side of the Rubha Mor
It was then head back by now the weather had cleared and there was fresh snow on the hills. We had some soup and tea in Ullapool and them headed home visiting a pal on the way.
Thanks for all the messages I have received lately but it’s great to get out and enjoy the peace and the wild places. I never tire of it.
The Fannichs hills were snow-covered now and my phone was red-hot with messages as tonight there is a documentary on Lockerbie on Channel 5 and the Press were after comments.
It was not the day for this my head was clear and after such a lovely day I did not want to revisit this part of my life, not today.
It will be a hard watch to-night and you always wonder what they will put on and what they will cut out. It is 30 years this month and so much has happened since. On my trip to the USA I met so many relatives who were positive after such tragedy. I hope this program is ?
I hope the program shows some of this and what so many volunteers did and what the folk of Lockerbie did for us during that terrible time ?