The Island of Barra – Call – out 1984

Barra is the most southerly of the inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides.

Long famed for its beauty – boasting beaches, hills, machair and moor all in a small island – Barra is a special place to visit, especially if you arrive by plane.

The airport is one of the most unusual in the world, with flights landing on the beach at Cockle Strand in between tides. At high tide the runway disappears beneath the waves. Barra is also accessible by ferry, which departs from Oban and arrives at the main settlement, Castlebay. Not the way we arrived.

A Call – out in an Island can be tricky and I have have done a few. In 1984 a Cessna light aircraft crashed in the Isle Of Barra and we were flown into help. We out that weekend and were on the hill down at Cairndow near Arrochar. The weather was not great so instead of climbing on the Cobbler we decided a day of Ben Lomond, Beinn an Lochan (when it was still a Munro and Beinn Bhuide. It involved lots of travelling including a boat over to Loch Lomond but lots of height and 3 Munros. We had done two Ben Lomond and Beinn An Lochan and stopped at the Base Camp Cairndow for some soup the HF radio was busy and this was again before mobile phones. The HF radio was used to call us out and allowed us to track if there were helicopters in the area. I asked the cook what was going on as this radio was busy as were the Military helicopters in the UK. Our Cook (we all took turns in these days) said it was an incident at Barrow in Furness (He had his music playing a bit loud)we listened and it was a plane missing in Barra.

We were not far away from the Island and contacted our Control at Pitreavie and we soon had a Navy helicopter from Prestwick outside and 8 of us flew off. Now a few troops were not so happy that my Dog Teallach was going but next minute he was on the aircraft. Now the Navy are a wee bit different with animals but I was up front speaking to the crew and I was okay. The mist was well down and we had to go out to see and then had to sneak in to the beach in heavy mist on Barra where we met some locals who took us to the crash site.

It was some great flying by the Navy that day. It was a busy few hours with 2 fatalities and one alive and then we were told to have a crash guard overnight and the troops were in the local Hotel at Castle Bay who looked after us so well. Fatalities cannot be moved until the Procurator Fiscal and AIB are happy and have gathered there evidence that is so important for Flight Safety. This is where Teallach my Dog came into his own who did the biggest stint crash guard but was rewarded with a huge meal made by the Hotel.  Next day he was in a room with me and well looked after for a few days. It was an amazing trip and we made some great friends with the locals.

Dangerous places aircraft crashes

We had no transport but some Nuns looked after us and even drove us around in there pick up crazy days. These aircraft crashes were what we were there for are our primary role as RAF Mountain Rescue. These could be tricky and dangerous places. We worked always with the Air Investigation Board (AIB) and got to know them well. Though not a difficult crash site it was remote and easily controlled. Little media or onlookers the Island folk were superb. I will be honest I did not like them, the smell of fuel and often the carnage and the twisted wreckage and I was always on guard. You had to make folk aware these were dangerous places and not to be taken lightly.

The Castle Bay Hotel that looked after us – Teallach at front.

I did revisit Barra with 22 Sqn when they were training in the area and staying at Connel/ I had a few hours enjoying the Island. I must get back as it is a wonderful place and take my bike this time.

From Keith Bryer – This occurred on 16 June 1984. The aircraft was a Piper PA-28R Cherokee Arrow G-AZSE. The accident investigation concluded that the pilot had disregarded the weather conditions and used incorrect overshoot procedure.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

An Teallach Memories – Please keep off the hills just now.

Teallach’s last Munro – An Teallach.

Its so easy to take photos now, I am glad over the years I took plenty I use to carry two cameras now its so easy with your phone and the digital era. I am so glad as there are so many I have found recency that stir the memories. This was a great day where we carried some dog food up onto both summits of An Teallach and my dog Teallach had a meal on his last summit. That day we climbed both summits Sgur Fiona and Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill a marvellous mountain. He had don the ridge before but we missed the tops as I wanted to do them separately and finish them on such a great summit but the weather was not good sadly at the time.

The journey to Sheneval

Cars fly by as you cross the road, to another world,

Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

The track wynds through the trees,

the river breaks the silence,

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

Midges and clegs abound here but not today,

 too cold, its winter.

Cross the river, is that bridge in the wrong place?

 Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top,

the wee cairn, stop, no rush, drink it all in.

An Teallach. Snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

Every corrie on that great hill has a particular thought. Memories

Fisherfield, these great hills, the light changing, to the West

 Youthful  memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress?

Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer,

they are still there; Sheneval.

It never changes, only the seasons.

The Bothy

Fire on, primeval.

Tea in hand,

alone with thoughts.

Tea in hand

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.

Memories ­­

Thanks to the MBA!

An Teallach wreath with the grand views of Fisherfield and a favourite Corbett Beinn Dearg Mor.

The Photo above was taken as I was on the main ridge and came across these flowers on the hill. It was a shock to see them as there had been a bad accident a few weeks before and had been left by a loved one in memory. The ridge on An Teallach is one that you have to concentrate in places and seeing these flowers makes you take even more care but I did stop and take a photo, the views are special like the hill. As we enter the third week of “Lock down” how we look back on great days.

This was taken on another Completion of my tops in 2001 – An Teallach – Glas Mheall Mor summit 30
979m – just after coming back from Everest.

The photo above was a wonderful day on the full traverse of the An Teallach and all the Munro tops a big day that few do. So many must miss the views from these summits as they only take in the Munros yet the tops add to an incredible day, its so well worth the effort. Pick a long day and savour it.

The troops enjoying the ridge a superb day. It was great to be with them as they took newer members along the ridge and I got some great photos.

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Tent Bound – week 2 “Lock in” How Expeditions and tent life helped?

Emerging from some bad weather. Himalayas 1990 – Kusum Kanguru an impressive peak in the Himalayas.

During these recent times I think that some of the long Expeditions I have been so lucky to be on help get you through hard times. Sometimes we never made the tent and had to bivy outside it was so cold as others were in it . As you can see from my face on the photo below. It was all part of a learning curb and living in a small space with another is not easy, especially if its me. You do learn a lot.

You can be sitting out weather for a few days and living in a tent often alone can be hard going. Life revolves round sleeping, reading, brews and eating. Patience is a virtue.

Can you imagine sharing a tent with me but my mate poor Willie Mac has done that on several Expeditions poor soul. This is us on Diran Pakistan waiting for the weather. Diran is a mountain in the Karakoram range.

Diran Pakistan – Base Camp at night – Photo Davy Taylor.

This 7,266-metre (23,839 ft) pyramid shaped mountain lies to the east of  Rakaposhi (7,788m).

1993 Diran Expedition Pakistan relaxing in the tent waiting for the Avalanches to stop. It was a wild mountain watching the Avalanches pour down the North Face.

On Everest we took a tent each to sleep in what a great idea as we bought another Expeditions tents that they had left the year before. I went out early and with Willie Mac and our Sirdar we got them serviceable and it was magical for the 3 months we were in Tibet, we also had a secret weapon the Shed.

Everest view from Tibet Base Camp.

My view from Advanced Base Camp at 21300 feet of the wonderful pinnacles on Everest. What a view at 21300 feet of the Pinnacles where Boardman and Tasker were last seen.

Alaska after the storm we were lucky – Digging out all night for 2 nights. A huge fear was the stove and cooking boiling water and ensuring you did not burn the tent down which would have been fatal.

You learn from each trip and when you spend a long time in a tent you learn a lot about yourself. I kept a diary on each trip but had camped for many years and love it. Nights in Scotland all over the country but Skye without the midges is wonderful so many memories and lessons that taught you so much.

Skye camp site The Sligachan.

On Everest we had a Shed was that cheating ?

Everest Base Camp “The Shed” at the end of our trip we were the only ones left.

I have lots of memories whats yours?

Posted in Alaska, Articles, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Himalayas/ Everest, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

The Alternative Climbing Wall!

I have never been in love with climbing Walls. Mainly as I was never a great climber and spent much of my youth loading wagons with rations and was usually exhausted after work. On my early days at RAF Valley in the late 70s we visited the local wall in Llangefni once a week it was full of all the stars of the era. My mate the late Mick Heron climbed with a bag of bricks in his bag training bonkers. He was a very talented climber and even the locals were impressed. I was that bad a climber but I still went regularly mainly for the social but always liked climbing in the mountains. We had plenty of great wee cliffs at Valley on the camp and of course Gogarth and Holyhead Mountain (hump) nearby and the great cliffs of Wales. We met some great characters at the Wall folk like Paul Williams the Welsh Guru who became a good pal and a few others. It was a Whose who of the climbing at that time.

My mate Pete Greening sent me this “

Best climbing wall…ever!

Located on Dhahran airbase, Saudi Arabia, during the 1991 Gulf War. Using the reinforced concrete blast walls (designed to protect our aircraft from explosions) as the wall, holes were drilled, and holds screwed on (we took them out with us, on the off-chance we’d find something suitable to screw them onto).

For the frustrated and bored climber (in my experience, war was 95% boredom, 5% panic), this facility provided a good means to keep sane and try and stay in climbing shape.

No one had any climbing shoes, or chalk, just our combat boots. At that time of year, temperatures didn’t stray much above 32°, so not too hot. Unlike modern climbing walls/gyms, there was no safety matting….just solid concrete to fall on. This concentrated the mind quite a bit…that, and the constant threat of air raids and Scud missile attacks (we had many!)…so grade wise, I’m guessing it was about V2 for the full traverse, with about E6/7 worth of danger. The youth of today don’t know how lucky they have it!

P.S. Patriot missile launches are AWESOME!!!! Although it would have been nice to have been told that they had sited a Patriot Battery directly behind us before the first air raid! 😱😱😱💩💩💩💩💩

Photo Pete Greening Collection

P.P.S. an F-15 Strike Eagle starting up sounds exactly like an air raid siren….even more 💩💩💩💩 came out!

Photo Pete Greening Collection.

P.P.P.S. The NIAD chemical weapons detector warning sound is exactly the same it makes for having a flat battery!!! They never told us that in training ⚠️

Pete Greening Photo Collection.

Thanks Pete for that, we had a real Wall in the Falklands but I spent most of my time outside.

Falklands photos please

Nic Sharpe bouldering Falklands – Photo Eric Joyce
Posted in Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Great names for routes ?

What is your favourite name of a climbing route and what does the name mean ?

Skye has so many great names – Integrity on Sron na Ciche, Trophy Crack and Satans Slit. The Prow on Blaven and Stairway to heaven. “Spantastic” at Flodigarry and the marvellously named Kilt Rock

Spantastic at Flodigary Skye.

Some routes like “The Orion Face” on Ben Nevis are classic. What does Epsilon (Epsilon Chimney)mean ? (The 5 star in a constellation)

How did The Bullroar get it’s name?

The Bat on Carn Dearg has a great tale of its first ascent and the falls taken. There are so many here the guide book made me look at the dictionary when I first read it.

The Bat – Ben Nevis

The Cairngorms have routes like the “Chancer” a very bold route on ice in its day. As is “Hidden Chimney” in the Northern Corries for years a hidden gem.

Hidden Chimney

Savage Slit that line on Corrie an Lochan could there be any other name than this for that route? Clean Sweep” on Hells Lum is another so aptly manned climb. But can you beat Scorpion on Shelterstone for the sting in its tail?

Savage Slit

Creag Dubh (Called Creag Death) by some at Newtonmore had some incredibly rude names climbed by Haston and pals and many others. It has a history of some incredible climbs.

Glencoe has superb names – Ravens Gully on BEM and Rannoch Wall is full of superb names Agag’s Grove is another. On Bidian Church Door Buttress ” Crypt route” a classic caving /climbing adventure and a fun route! The Big Top, Trapeze and Yo -Yo on Aonach Dubh

Punsters Crack the Cobbler

“Punsters crack” on the Cobbler a great Scottish name. Typical West Coast humour.

Of course on Arran “Labyrinth” a classic chimney with a route description that is incredible! There is also “Blank and Blankist” over on Goat fell which describe the lonely journey to the belays.

Arran Labyrinth.

The famous Etive Slabs – “Spartan Slab” for the first time on Etive is a classic introduction. The Pause, the Long Reach and many others. You gear up on the coffin stone!

Etive the right way round?.

I have missed so many climbs routes Lochnagar , Creag an Dubh Loch, Torridon the far North and various cliffs all over Scotland what is yours?

  • Some Comments
  • Lorriane – Always wanted to name one. ‘Who turned up the gravity?’ but never got there….. my favourite existing one is still dream of white horses for name, situation and climb.

Andrew Woolston Loss of great route names in Scotland, I like the bat for such an amazing route and story. Swastika for the aptly names amount of horizontal traverses. Hamish ted’s at Dunkeld is a great name, can you ask cubby about the first ascent, I’d read somewhere that he done it on trad and gave it about E7 6b! Had it already been named before this.

Neil Reid There’s a high up gully on the north-east corner of Beinn Bhrotain in the Cairngorms. I always wanted to climb it and call it North-East Passage (perhaps inspired by an Aberdonian friend who has a tee-shirt with the North Face logo on it, but changed so that it says North-East).
Also, one of my actual new routes on Rum was named Rum Doodle because… well how could I not pay a wee tribute to WE Bowman?

Sophie Grace If that’s Glen Etive in the picture at the top of the thread, isn’t the picture mirror-imaged?

David Whalley Sophie Grace will sort it !!

Liz Gleave My first ever rock route was called Snotty Nose!! And memorable for that reason. My favourite route name is Applecake Arête in Lofoten. Not good enough to ever name a route myself though…

David Whalley Liz Gleave you will call it Dave’s dream !!

Graham Hassall I did two new routes with Owain, my ten year old last year which we called Owain Glyndwr and Owain ‘n’ Glynn’s Door 😀

Chris Townsend Cook’s Tour on Pavey Ark in the Lake District. It wanders all over the place!

Chris Townsend David Whalley in my rock climbing days it was a favourite and about my level.


David Kennedy I did a new route on Skye 18 years ago,called it after my new daughter – Murrins tickley rib. It was reported in Climber magazine, not sure if its in the guide books.

Gordon Binnie Love route names, some favourites are Wreckers Slab in Cornwall, Raspberry Ripple and Vein Rouge on the Etive Slabs (very thin climbing with 1 microwire in 60m pitch) Jack the Ripper on Stac Pollaidh and Stone Throwers Buttress on Ben Cruachan.
Hope your well Heavy.

Stephen Atkins Always a fan of ‘Autobahnsfart’ at Polldubh. That and ‘Mental Lentils’ in the Vivian. The best of all, IMHO, ‘Cockadoodlemoobaaquack’ at Creag Dubh.

Gordon Binnie Stephen Atkins Autobahnsfart is a great route. Had forgotten a about that one.

Jonah Jones Crocodile snogging

Tarquin Shipley North Ridge is my favourite. Says exactly what it is.

David Whalley Tarquin Shipley God “Tarps” show some imagination !

Tarquin Shipley David Whalley Not one for irony are you…

Pete Greening Although it won’t sit well with many folk, but the names of climbs by John Redhead are genius, in my opinion. A hard rock climber, mostly active in North Wales, he’s renowned for bold, futuristic climbs and even bolder route names…..Dissolutioned Screw Machine, Shaft of the Dead Man, Womb Bits, The Dwarf in the Toilet, Menstrual Gossip, Birth Trauma, The Tormented Ejaculation…. You get the picture. But it isn’t just about getting dodgy route names in a guidebook. Behind each ascent of a new climb, there is a story. You’ll have to read Jones & Millburn’s Welsh Rock, and Redhead’s …and one for the crow… to get the full storie

Andrew Woolston Pete Greening one for the crow is excellent, as is his scripts in extreme rock.

Pete Greening Andrew Woolston

Pete Kay It’s the Sloth for me, my most reversed route ever. And Polar Circus for 12 hours of tip toeing up 2300 feet of ice.

David Whalley Pete Kay your my hero and Barbarian !

Pete Kay The route that hasn’t fallen down yet.😈

Douglas Crawford Pigmys gulley Strathfarrar……impossible for anyone who’s a good climber over 5ft 6……first noisy ascent witnessed by 202……nobody around competent enough to ask for a tight rope…terrifying.

David Whalley Was that our day out ?

Douglas Crawford David Whalley your level instruction ….matched by my words of fear….not the most silent ascent of a frozen burn…🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  • News paper taxis on Skye. But only when done with the Bat.

Nick Sharpe Ardnfreaky, great play on a location name👍. Easy to guess the location? 2nd/3rd Ascent😉

Sean Richardson I remember doing Savage Slit with Andy Fowler and the Hammer with Fletch back in my Leuchars days, Glen Etive is a great place to climb and I really miss it.

Pete Greening My ice route in Cornwall (yes, Cornwall!) Was named because it was thin, brittle and doesn’t form often. When it does, it’s not for very long – “Smear Today, Gone Tomorrow”. Got an email from Heather Morning not long after…”Hey Pete, good to see you’re still at it. Great name!” What better accolade can you get?

Peter White I recall being at Creag Dubh one freezing day with, (watching), the crazy crew when Cubby completed some desperate new route followed by Callum Henderson. Later back at the hoose, there was a big discussion on the name. ‘Blazing Saddles’ happened to be on TV, I’m pretty sure big Callum and Cubby looked at each other as Gene Wilder spoke that line, “it’s colder than a hookers heart”, and so it was!

Posted in Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Rum , Atlantic Corrie, Manx Shearwaters and a Call -out.

1997  – Another  Rum Callout . 

8 Jun 97Isle of RumAfter a long day on the hill just as we were leaving Skye. Injured bird watcher .). Technical carry out of casualty with head injuries and dislocated shoulder.  Hellish walk in with all the gear after helicopter drop off by Bristows Stornoway SAR Helicopter at sea – level due to weather. Locals were of great assistance. From the RAF Kinloss Call -outs.  

The Mountain Rescue Weekend Training Exercise was planned for Skye, even though the weather was poor we had a good weekend on the wet rock in Corrie Lagan. Skye is hard work with sea level approaches making every summit or climb hard won. The drive from Kinloss can take up to 5 hours so Sunday is a short day and I was away early with Martin as he wanted to tick Cioch Direct a classic route on Sgur Na Ciche.  It was a quick climb up early and back for a meal about 1600 for a meal then the long drive home. As we were leaving the bothy in Broadford the village Hall to RAF Kinloss a message came in to assist in a callout to the Island of Rum.  This is a fairly remote area which was owned by the Nature Conservancy, access was by ferry and boat and in our case by Helicopter from Stornoway.  The island of Rum has a population of less than one -hundred and a road which is one mile long!  The hills are very rough with only a few paths and the terrain involves serious, remote, mountains although they are less than 3000 feet. It is a place to see nature in the wild and the annual nesting of the Manx Shearwaters is an incredible sight. It attracts lovers of the wild birdwatchers and the traverse of the Rum Ridge is a great day. Most climber’s goal is to traverse this ridge, which is one of Scotland’s finest rock-scrambling routes. There is also some great rock climbs that few have climbed on and lots to do in the future.

Most walkers want to ascend the main peaks on this ridge, including the Norse named Corbetts of Askival and Ainshval, great hills and an incredible ridge walk as good as anything in the UK. The views of Skye and the Islands are incredible it is an unique place. The Mountain Rescue team had in the past had a few epic callouts in Rum, I had carried out a couple of these, involving long carry – offs in difficult terrain.. The team had only recently visited the Island to train with the local Coastguards and gain some area knowledge, hopefully this would help us!  Bristows Helicopter arrived within 10 minutes and a party of nine were sent to assess the situation. High winds and severe turbulence would only allow the helicopter to drop our hill party at Kinloch near the Castle which was four miles away from the incident and unfortunately at sea – level.

As the casualty a birdwatcher looking at the famous Shearwaters had fallen at approximately midday and was just off the main ridge at two-thousand feet, we sent a few of the young stars off as the fast party, led by Kenny Kennworthy who had recently been involved in the team leaders course in North Wales and was needing   a bit of real action.  Don’t ask Kenny about this Course as he had a bad time playing Callouts, after running real ones for many years.) This party carried all the First Aid Equipment, casualty bag, including Entonox, Oxygen, ropes and all the rest and there was little room for anything else. A few of the locals were about an hour ahead carrying a stretcher and rope , this group was made up of keepers, foresters, coastguards etc. They made great progress and were invaluable with their area knowledge the mountain, even leaving guides on the way into the casualty to assist the team. Fortunately the weather had improved by the time our first -aid party reached the casualty, who was suffering from shock, a deep head wound and a shoulder injury. His girlfriend had looked after him and administered basic First aid, kept him warm, whilst her father had gone for help and had come back up the hill to help the team! This is not bad for a gentleman of over sixty. They had done everything correctly and hopefully the casualty would soon be recovering in Hospital.

Due to the steepness of the ground it was decided to lower the casualty 500 feet, carrying him to an area where he could be evacuated by the helicopter. It takes a lot more than twelve people to carry a stretcher especially in such a remote area. The weather was changing and we requested the rest of the team to be flown in to assist in the carry-off. Another ten troops and the locals made all the difference and soon the casualty was at a suitable site for helicopter evacuation.

Atlantic Corrie Rum

The wild Atlantic Corrie is an incredible place and a place few visit, I went back a few times and it is so wild, pretty unique in Scotland. Bristows landed on, uplifted the casualty and was soon off to Fort William Hospital.

Atlantic Corrie
1957 – Early plans for assistance to Rum

All that was left was a walk back to the Castle and hopefully a lift back to Skye with Bristows, otherwise it would be a long swim. Time was moving on and when we were back at the Castle it was nearly midnight. Bristows had managed to drop off some of the team and the rest were told to wait until the helicopter had refuelled. The midges were out in force and we had to find shelter as the helicopter would be away for over a couple of hours.

Early training Exercise to Rum – 1962

The locals were over the moon with our help and wanted to give us a small drink in appreciation. Mountain Rescue will never turn down a offer of a dram and we had a wee drink with the locals before the helicopter came back for us at 02.00. The local Post Office was the bar but that is another story.  It was a quick trip back to Skye and a few hours sleep before returning to Kinloss in the morning.

This was a great call -out with an excellent result and good liaison between all concerned. It makes all the hassle of being in a team even after twenty odd years, worthwhile. In the past call -outs in these remote areas have, and still are fairly serious but it was great to see the locals and the injured hill party trying to help themselves, this does not always happen.  These call – outs are vital to give the team real training in remote areas to ensure we can react to any aircraft or mountaineering incident, An aircraft incident in this area and it will happen one day but at least the remoteness will keep the hassle factor down. Nowadays things are very different but incidents in places like Rum can still prove difficult but Lochaber and Skye Mountain Rescue and the locals are well prepared. It is still worth remembering in these remoter areas to remember that you should always be as self-sufficient to cope with most situations when walking or climbing in these areas. Comments welcome.

Rum an incredible place.

1957 Rum – Callout plans – Looking through my research of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Team I found some correspondence for assisting in a rescue if needed on the wonderful Island of Rum. The island was a Nature Reserve and climbers and walkers were starting to come to the Island. The warden was worried about an accident happening and had contacted the RAF Team at Kinloss to see if they could assist (remember this was 1957). It was around this time that Rum was purchased was purchased by the Nature Conservancy Council. It is nowadays a busy place especially when all the birdwatchers are about and there have been a few accidents in the past. The reply was that the RAF team could be used by the Police to assist in any rescues as long as the Team was not needed for RAF operations. The Police said they could commission a boat to take the team 15 troops from Mallaig and one ton of equipment. From here the island boat would transport the team to the Island harbour. The ferry in these days only operated on Wednesdays and Saturday. The plan was to have the boat stay off the Island until the Rescue was completed. The Team did go over and had a magic time what a place to climb and walk or even just enjoy the wildness. The early days of Rescue now a lot easier a phone call and a helicopter comes if the weather is okay failing that there will be support from the Skye/ Lochaber Team. The locals still help where they can I have done 3 great rescues in the past on this incredible Island my blog dated 4 th Aug 2013 for details. There is so much potential on the Island for walking and climbing and I love the place – must get back before I get to too old.

Rum is the largest of the Small Isles, and the fifteenth largest Scottish island, but is inhabited by only about thirty or so people, all of whom live in the village of Kinloch on the east coast. The island has been inhabited since the 8th millennium BC and provides some of the earliest known evidence of human occupation in Scotland.  From the 12th to 13th centuries on, the island was held by various clans including the MacLeans of Coll. The population grew to over 400 by the late 18th century but was cleared of its indigenous population between 1826 and 1828. The island then became a sporting estate, the exotic Kinloch Castle being constructed by the Bulloughs in 1900.

Alongside the wonders of the natural environment, Rum’s community is undergoing a period of change. 2009 and 2010 saw the phased transfer of land and assets in and around Kinloch Village from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to Isle of Rum Community Trust ownership. This is giving the community and individuals control over their own destinies and creating unique, exciting opportunities for locals and people who would like to come and live here.

So if you come to Rum for a day, a week or forever, there’s always great places to visit.

Have a look on the Rum website! It is well worth the visit!

How many Shearwaters – visit Rum? – Around a third of the entire world population of these splendid seabirds make their home on the Rum Cuillin every summer. There are so many birds (around 100,000 pairs) that their droppings have fertilised the hills and produced rich grasslands (‘shearwater greens’). Shearwaters are expertly kitted out for life at sea but they are wide open to attack on land. These specialized seabirds therefore only dare to be above ground at the colony on dark nights.

Visiting the colony – The noise, smell and activity as tens of thousands of Manx Shearwaters make their night-time return to the high Cuillin is an amazing seabird experience. However, you should note that the colony is remote, high on the mountain, and will involve crossing difficult, wet and uneven ground in darkness. Please seek advice from a member of staff at the Reserve Office, or look on the notice boards to see when a staff-led trip is planned.

Great memories – with Kate who worked on the Island and did the complete ridge with us on another trip.

We went back next year and donated a stretcher and some gear to the local folk but that is another tale.

Posted in Corbetts, Islands, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Fionaven – A mountain of huge corries a long ridge.wild views and “Its climbs have a mysterious reputation.”

I have promised a pal that we will climb the Corbett Fionaven she has been waiting to climb in for a while. I hope I am fit enough still to climb a big mountain after we are allowed backed in the hills. April 2020. I love this mountain been very lucky to climb it about 10 times. It is spectacular and can be seen for miles the shattered quartzite makes the hill look white and in winter its a wonderful day. Its a long day and if you combine a climb with the ridge and its tops you will find it hard going. I love the names of this hill Gannu Mor, Lord Reay’s seat, A’ Cheir Gorm, Creag Urbhard. Loch Dionard and Strath Dionard

Almost a Munro, Foinaven is – regardless of status – a truly magnificent mountain. A complex massive of narrow, shattered quartzite ridges, Foinaven gives a memorable expedition. To me it can be a great long hill day and the very fit can add it along with Arkle. It was always another special hill way before some of my team mates pals had backed it in the Grand National at odds of 100/1 in 1967.

Fionaven falls twelve feet short of the required 3,000ft for Munro status – and all the better for it! It is a long and complex hill with many hidden secrets in winter a fine traverse. The views are superlative and it’s a massive amount of rock and shattered Corrie’s that with the view to the sea and the huge moors this is the wild North. It now has a Estate road that takes you in to Strath Dionard and Loch Doinard that you can cycle in. In the very early days there was no such access. There was a no bikes sign but as the track I was told the road was partly funded by SNH I wonder if it’s still inforce or even legal?

Any update would be welcome?

Foinaven is a range in itself, offering an abundance of wild and characterful terrain to explore. That said, the track down Strath Dionard has somewhat tamed that wild feeling “Despite the track the mountain’s location at the extremity of the northern mainland will hopefully ensure its quiet demeanour remains intact. The scale and complexity of some of the cliffs only becomes apparent once you are stood beneath them. There is a lifetimes worth of exploring to do here – assuming you are not easily spooked by loose or unstable rock!” SMC Guide

This was a place I loved the old classic Corriemulzie Mountaineering Club Guide of 1966  a rock and Ice Guide to Easter Ross, this guide that I still have gave me some great ideas of climbing in this area.  Some of the great names put up routes here, Lovat, Weir, Clough Sullivan, Park, Tranter and Rowe.   It had a history in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, we had to visit this wild place.

I climbed here a lot in the mid 70’s we had a long day on the routes South Ridge Right Hand section it was a modest 300 metre VDIFF it was long loose and tricky route finding. The RAF Kinloss Team had put up a few routes in the past and we followed a tradition from the 50’s. It was the Team Leaders Pete McGowan last weekend we climbed another route and got back about 0100. I remembered the walk out in bright Moonlight and seeing the fish in the river by torchlight. It was an introduction to big loose mountain routes and a huge experience for me. Next day we were up Ben Kilbrek no stopping us then. I am sure there was a big accident where two climbers were killed here in the 60’s  and that put a few off climbing here?

1973 Northern Highlands Guide

This was from my diary “I remember having a fun day but lots of crazy route finding and near misses with loose blocks and Jim Green missing me with a huge one that crashed down beside me. The smell of cordite stays with you as the rocks smash down the cliff. The climbing gear in these days was limited, protection basic and we had big bags and big boots it was a scary day but what a place to be. It was along climb 1000 foot but so many variations were possible and our route finding was basic. Thinking back it was a massive learning curb and a big serious place to be, Jim must have smoked 50 fags on that route.

The walk out was long and seemed to go on for ever as we then did the traverse of the mountain.

Another was in the early 80’s – I was just back from North Wales at Valley and back in Scotland. We had very big bags and a wild VS route agead with a very young Pam Ayres of about 1000 feet loose in places and we had a shower of rain making the rock very slippy. On the summit we sunbathed and I fell asleep. When I woke Pam had the rope and the rock gear in his bag he did not realise we still had the ridge and a long walk out ahead. Another time (We even took a boat into the loch by Sea king for the Estate many years ago and after we put it into the loch climbed all day. Was that cheating? ) We did many more routes over the years and never saw anyone on the cliffs. The winter potential was incredible and we climbed an ice fall with the late Mark Sinclair in the early 80,s. I know that the late Andy Nisbet and others did some wild climbing here on the main cliff. I took a few of the young rock jocks in to the cliffs and they learned about loose rock and mountain routes.

From the SMC Guide Highland Scrambles

This was a route I did a few times it was classic.

“Almost at the top of the country now, and we visit the beautiful Foinaven. Wild, rugged & remote (once you’ve left the NC500 superhighway), what more could you ask for? Our last route on the mainland is Ganu Mor Slabs (Grade 3 ***).

A huge plate of immaculate gneiss perched above one of the roughest and wildest corries in the country. Serious and committing but never technically hard, with views over hundreds of square miles of empty Sutherland. When combined with the (almost as good) North Face of Cnoc Duail and the Lower Coire Duail Slabs it makes a superb scrambling day.”

To me it was a classic scramble that I was glad I had a rope with me at times.

Sadly I cannot find any photos on the cliff but I will spend some time going through my old slides they must be there.   

Posted in Books, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Climbing Pubs – Another Era ?

My first insight into a pub for climbers was in my first weekend at Kintail at the Kintail Lodge Hotel where I sat in awe with my shandy as the Mountain Rescue Team and the locals sang lots of folk songs and there was great craic. Over the years the Pubs became a place for us to get some heat from the tents or the village halls with limited heating we were staying in. You met many of the local characters and other climbers, most of us could write a book on the nights as we travelled over Scotland every weekend, meeting so many folk. We had the odd bit of trouble usually over the local lassies but that was quickly sorted out and the pubs and ceilidhs were good fun. The team knew many of the local characters and we brought some money into the local area through the pub and dances. We met many keepers great contacts and a dram could open a locked gate to the hills. We also met some other climbers the climbing community was a small one in these days. We all have memories of these days, how the pubs have changed nowadays but I will always be thankful for the help they gave us. This was especially true after a big call out when we arrived off the hill in time for last orders. It was a place to unwind and we were looked after.

I will never forget the soup and sandwiches or the very salty chips in the Braeraich Hotel in Newtonmore to make you drink more. Long gone are the Police coming into the Pub and telling us we had a Call -out always a nightmare involving a night drive to another area to help another team. The local teams went home on the long call outs we were stuck away from our families sometimes for several days once 10 days as we moved form Call – out to Call – out. It took a toll on our families these were the days before mobile phones and advice on PTSD. Things have moved on nowadays and for the better but I still have great memories of these pubs and Hotels. The characters and locals who helped us over the years. You know who you are here is a few places. Please feel free to comment and add. your tales.

Lock Ins – a few places that looked after us.

Cubby – Such as the infamous Clachaig lock – ins! Problem with the Kingie was that they lasted about three days. It was dubbed the Kingshouse triangle by the young lads (as seen from the Buachaille), as folk literary disappeared!

Imp in Fort William, Jacobite and the famous bell?

Phil Morrison – The PUFFER AGROUND with Libby and Graham who closed their Restaurant and opened it to the Kinloss Team over Christmas 1975.

John Hubbarb – Brodick Arms on Arran, Easter Grant, I asked when do you close, barmaid said October 

Ian Mathison at Kintail Lodge was the man for after hours.

Angus Jack – Aultguish, followed by a traverse of the fireplace.

Pete Kay – Sligacan  Skye  6 in the morning after a night stretcher carry from the Bastier tooth 71 ish

Portnalong – Great music and craic.

Andy Craig – Ogilvie Arms Glen Clova – lock in, stovies, singing and back to the village hall without falling into the burn off the single plank bridge.

John Thompson – Don’t forget the cook shack combo around the bomb.

Dave Gerrard –  Fort William, 70,s Imperial, Fairly late, in walks PC Angus McLean “Are you boys for staying all night” ? Silence “Cause if you are I’ll be joining you.”

Graham Golding – Fife Arms at Braemar. Definitely wouldn’t happen now.

Ballahullish local pub and the Onich Hotel full of lovely lassies..

Newtonmore – Braeraich Hotel – free chips with lots of salt to entice you to drink!

Roybridge Hotel – wild nights “the battle of Royfridge” very good after call outs.

Scouse Atkins – Cairndow and Lochinver I am still recovering to this day/

Rum – Post Office after a call out, no money with us and got drink on tick !

Eigg – party after Call – out

Islay party after a Call – See Don Shanks Comment they shut at 2200 ON THE DOT.

St Kilda – Puffin Inn.

Wales –

P. Winn  – Padarn lake me and weasel Kennedy listening in to Joe brown and Don Whillans

Douglas Hotel Bethesda – they charged you in old money, looked after us

Cobbies – Capel – wild nights after Call -outs

 England – Davie Walker –  Tweedies Grasmere. Well  fed after many call-outs at any hour of the night.

Jon Kerr – Great Strickland Arms near Penrith and Gosforth West Cumbria

Roger Jon – Great Strickland was always colder inside than out… even in the depths of winter

Alaska – Talketna – when does pub close – winter was the answer.

Dougie Crawford – Self medicating for PTSD….not the best strategy, but all we had at the time….memories for life. So true!

After a night in the Corrie Hotel – Police said that there were some tramps sleeping outside the village hall !

I may have missed many but any tales are welcome.

Don Shanks – One place we Didn,t get a lock in was the Scalisaig hotel on Colonsay on the Atlantique call-out, miserable sod closed at 10 and we hitched a ride on the back of the council lorry to the cowshed billet we were staying 

Stay well stay safe.

Posted in Bothies, Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

One week in Of Lock – In .

The world has changed priorities have as well as we enter the second week of Lock down. I like many call it a “Lock in” Memories of Highland Bars staying open after a long Call out. These were great days and some wild nights unwinding after a long Call out.

The great Fisher field wilderness.

I am lucky as I live on my own but miss my friends and family. I am speaking a lot more on the phone or by FaceTime/ Skype. I have heard from many friends who you lose touch with. We have time now.

I have many friends in the village and the shops in the area are doing superb as are all those who supply them. This new lifestyle is now showing us who is important and I hope there is a change in priorities and wages after this is all over.

Destitution Wall on Beinn Dearg.

I am enjoying my local walks /cycle in the forest and beach. I rarely see anyone so it’s easy to self isolate. It’s wonderful to be out on the fresh air. Spring is on the air and the beach is busy with birds as the tide changes. I watched a Curlew yesterday it was stunning with its huge beak at the shore edge. Little things are so great to see . The smells of the forest of cut wood are another as I pass where trees were cut down before the virus. It lingers and is a smell that always reminds me of Arran. Coming of Goatfell and passing the saw mill at the end of the day with my Mum and Dad. Funny how things come back in the memory.

I only listen to the news once a day that helps I feel. I listen to the radio podcasts and have brought my CD player down into my sitting room.Music can give you so many pleasures. I am lucky we have shops in my village that look after us all. As does the folk that live in the village there is a lot of kindness about.

Every day I call my friend Wendy who is in lock down in Sheltered accommodation. It’s a worrying time for her as she finds it hard to come to terms with the Virus. It’s important to stay in touch with those who are lonely. She celebrated her 85 birthday recently. I am thinking og so many involved in the NHS what a time they are having we must never forget what they are doing for us all and fight to keep this wonderful asset. I hope all those that moan about taxes have a look and see what we need to help make things work.

Take care, thinking of you all, stay safe and inside we can all do our bit to keep the virus away and get the care for those that need it.

Posted in Friends, Health, Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Kevin Woods – Winter Munro’s completed. A superb effort/

Well done Kevin Woods on his completion of his winter Munro Round, its been some effort through winter by Kevin. He is only the third person to complete this huge effort. Martin Moran and Steve Perry were the forerunners. I have been following Kevin’s journey through the winter his updates are exceptional and a huge amount of wisdom can be gleaned from his journey about winter mountaineering and safe travel. I am so glad that Kevin is safe and hope he can write about his wonderful journey. It was a winter of storms, heavy snow and unique conditions the journey was a hard one that tested Kevin to the full. Due to the Virus there was no one to meet him at the end but maybe once things get back to normal he may have a party with his family and friends.

Stay well Kevin you deserve your rest.

This is from Kevin’s Face book page which he allowed me to share via my wee blog.

“Rocking it out at home in Glasgow here, with Mr Drum and sheep on the moon.

Last week, I pulled back from social media as it didn’t seem correct under the building circumstances. I was also really close to the end: foot to the floor through the northern ranges and I finished my Winter Munros.

This pic sums up more recent times and the foreseeable future: lots of tea and computer time. Although I was quiet to the end, I’d still like to say a big thanks and gratitude to the many that did help me out through the winter.

Truly mental times. Looking forward to being back on the hills one day when it’s over. But much enjoying the family and home time again”

Again a superb effort Kevin and some amazing help by your family, many pals in support all unsung heroes, I look forward to your book.

Posted in mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

First Impressions.

A skinny wee lad.

This is my attempt to write about my life involved with the RAF Mountain rescue mainly in Scotland. A few have managed before me, some have done a fantastic job of it and some have not!  I feel this is a unique insight into my life within SAR in the UK and RAF Mountain Rescue Service for 40 years.

Where the civilian teams have a local area they know well, the RAF Teams (who are there primary for the recovery of aircraft that crash in the mountains) come in and assist them all over Scotland. This makes it an incredibly difficult job as the calls for assistance are usually in the worst of weather where local area knowledge is invaluable. A unique training was needed to ensure that we were up to the task.  This is the story of the training, the rescues all over Scotland, the effect it had on me, my family and friends.

I found some of the incidents especially the tragedies very hard to write about. This is why this book is so long overdue; I had great problems going over it all in my mind. Yet I owe it to all those involved to try to tell my story.

I hope the other side of Mountain Rescue comes through in this book, the joy of finding someone and saving a life is incredible and after all these years, it still heartens me. I have been heavily involved with many of the families of survivors and especially of those who were killed and still have contact with many to this day. I regularly hear from a family member who wishes to know what may have happened after an accident. The grieving process can take so much time to impact; some take 20 – 40 years to contact.

Mountaineers are in the main very selfish who are driven by their sport at whatever level they achieve, it is like a drug and close relatives and partners, wife’s and husbands sometimes cannot understand what makes us chase these wonderful places.

I hope to help explain why we do it. In these days of changing attitudes, it is still wonderful to know that mountaineers will still go out to assist there fellow man or women who are in trouble, hopefully that will never change. There is defiantly a story here so I am going to try and tell it as best I can. This book is dedicated to my friends and family in Mountain Rescue and the other Agencies past and present. Also to our families who bear the brunt of our addiction and passion and affair with the mountains.

Please be aware many mountain tragedies are brutal I have seen more than most of all over this incredible country it has made a huge impact on me and I will try to tell the story as honestly as I can. There is no way I can mention everyone involved but I hope that this book is the start of some of the journey I have been on and its effect on me and who I love.

I join the RAF

David “Heavy”Whalley Burghead Moray

After leaving school there were limited jobs in my own town and I was pretty wild and decided to join the RAF. I had a great upbringing one of 5 kids my father was a minister and I was very close to my Mum. I was hard work being young and a Ministers son and a rebel. It was the best thing I could do at the time. After joining the RAF and training as a Clerk Caterer?  I was posted to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire, Scotland in October 1971 a new world awaited me.  When the postings came out no one wanted Scotland I did as this was where the Mountain Rescue Team was.  That had been my plan as I had seen the wagons in Glencoe as a young lad as my Dad and Mum took me on the hills. It was some journey to Kinloss, which seemed the end of the world in the train and took hours. I was immediately taken by the area and was put straight on duty that weekend working with In Flight catering, rationing the Nimrod aircraft. I was given a quick brief and left to it, this was after a game of cards where I lost all my weeks’ pay.

I never did that again. The job was okay but not my trade really as very little paperwork and I was put on shifts straight away, this meant I got lots of time off and made the most of it. It was awful work a lot involved making sandwiches for the aircrew of the Nimrod aircraft, little thanks and at times treated like dirt by some. A few were good guys and they were looked after, the old adage if you treat people decently they will look after you. Some of the aircrew thought they were the “chosen ones” and should be treated differently, especially some of the officers who mainly lived in a medieval class system that should have been sorted out years ago.

In Catering you saw this system at its worst with the way they were treated in their messes like some top class London club with all the perks, it was awful. I wanted to join the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and went down to the section to meet them on my day off. I was at this time a small 5 feet five, very skinny about 7-8 stones, young lad. They took one look at me and told me to get lost. I was heartbroken but amazed how non – military they were, there seemed no rank but they all looked hard as nails. I later found out that I did not meet the Team Leader but some of the young full time Mountain Rescue staff who worked there.

I vowed to join the team somehow. They team had just completed a huge callout in November the Cairngorm Tragedy where they were heavily involved in the recovery of 6 fatalities 5 that were children from the Cairngorm Plateau. This was Scotland’s worst mountain disaster. Naturally the team were very shaken by this tragedy and were fairly close like a family group and they did not want any other new members at this time. 40 years later I was to interview the young survivor of the tragedy.

None of this stopped me wanting to join and when I met the team leader when he came in to collect the team rations for the weekend exercise I spoke to him. Flight Sergeant George Bruce BEM was the team Leader. George was a small, laugh a minute man, he was as  hard as nails, a Physical  Training Instructor a Scotsman from Edinburgh, a  teetotaller who spoke and led the team like the famous Bill Shankly the Liverpool Manager and a humour like Billy Connelly what an incredible combination.

George Bruce my first Teamleader.

George immediately took to me and said come out this weekend we are going to Kintail on the West Coast and we will see what you are like. He had a charm and an amazing personality and when he spoke he was so authoritative, the team were all in awe of him, I was over the moon.   He was also a fanatic Rangers man and loved the West Coast banter on football and religion which was lost on many of the team. He was also a very proud Scotsman and this is also another great bonus to me. 

The RAF Mountain Rescue was founded during the Second World War to rescue aircrew that crashed in the mountains. In these days teams were very basic and proved their worth saving many aircrews from the mountains. It was decided after the war to keep the teams and they were six teams in the UK when I joined in 1972. The majority of incidents teams were used for were for civilian climbers. The RAF Teams at one point were the backbone and founding members of the Mountain Rescue Service within UK. They had a team Leader and 4 full – time personnel, a wireless operator, store man, a motor transport driver and deputy team leader. These were made up of any trade within the RAF and the Team Leader was usually a Sergeant or Flight Sergeant. The rest of the team was made up volunteers from any trade or any rank within the RAF, who in those days had to train with the team three weekends out of every 4 and be on callout apart from leave 24/7.

There was no pay or time off for team members. To join you had to do a three weekend trial or you could be posted to a RAF MR team for 21 days to see if you were up to the job.  The majority lasted one day on the hill and decided it was not for them, it was an all-encompassing trial, not only fitness was essential but you also had to show a drive and determination to keep going and also fit in with the team personnel on the hill and socially. This was all after a full weeks work.

2004 Many Years later with George Bruce at the Old RAF Kinloss Block.

I was kitted out with all the gear from an Aladdin’s Cave of a store. It’s to a young climber with no gear was incredible. Yet little fitted as I was the smallest in the team all the gear was for bigger team members.  It swamped me but I was so proud of my gear. I was now ready for my first weekend.  What would that be like?

Posted in Equipment, Mountain rescue, People | 2 Comments

Difficult Times Ahead

Well what can I say it going to be a hard time ahead and I am thinking of family and friends. With the lockdown comes a huge change in life for us all. I have had so many calls from family and friends and I thank you all.

Let’s keep an eye on each other and look after those we can help.

I will continue with the Blog as best I can maybe I will try to get on with the book.

Please stay away from folk heed the advice given and think of those a lot worse than many of us. Think of those risking their lives in many so Agencies for us.Many folk are struggling to come to terms with life just now. Who knows what the future will bring?

I am sure we will get through it. The Blog will continue.

I am so glad where I live there are so many folk looking out for each other. Possessions and “stuff” mean nothing compared with Health and kind folk. Look after each other and stay in touch.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

A different Mothers Day.

Mothers Day

What would my Mum be thinking of today as we are in the midst of this virus? She would definitely be upset with the way some folk who do not listen to current advice from those in the know. The selfishness of a few is hard to understand and those who stock pile needlessly has always been around I am glad she is no longer with us to see what is happening. Yet she would be there with her words of wisdom for us all. She would find it hard that the family could not visit but we should look after our Mums’s very day not just on Mothers Day.

I always think about my Mum even more so just now. A few days ago was the day of Women who Inspire my Mum is without doubt the lady I was always inspired by.  It has been many years since I lost my Mother, she died of Leukaemia an awful disease which she kept away from most of the family, and she did not want to worry us. That was typical of her and off her generation. It was only at the end I was told she was very ill.  I was at RAF Valley in North Wales in a job as full time Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader and was living with my partner and her young daughter. As we are at that time in life I was caught up with my career, my life and very driven. I had always phoned Mum every week but she never told me she was ill until the last few days of her life when I was summoned home.    I was shocked when I was called home as she was dying and to see her so frail and yet so strong in mind and still very beautiful. She wanted my brother home immediately from Bermuda and he just made it. She died three days later. Though in great pain she never complained and just wanted her family around. She was the kindness person I have ever met and I did not know how much she worried about me on the Mountains and Rescues.

My life in Mountain Rescue has led me to see many tragedies close up and I think I never really felt the effect of this great loss at the time as I was hardened by what I had seen in the mountains. It is a terrible thing to admit that I seemed to cut myself off at the time from the hurt and pain of her death. Even when I had to go back home straight after the funeral to North Wales and my partner Vicky tried to console me I was very hard to deal with, it was my way, to man up and not show the hurt I felt. I did get a few days to talk to my Mum at the end, we had a few chats even though she was very ill and I told her about my life in Wales, my new love and plans. She said as long as I was happy so was she. Mum was the finest person I have ever met, she was so caring. She gave me along with my Dad a great chance in life and my love for the outdoors. She was the one who dealt with the five children a huge Manse the poor wages and a big house to heat and look after. The love we had been incredible and the adventures we had were life enduring. Long days on the hills, in Arran, Galloway and the Highlands a love of sport and she was an avid Ayr United fan both home and away! She loved the tennis and how she would have loved to see Andy Murray. She would have been so proud of Andy Murray and his brother in the tennis world and I believe she watches them in heaven.  She did not have long with the grandchildren but they were her joy, how she would love to see how they have all done in life.  Money was always tight in a big family she would give away her last penny.

My Dad was a minister old style he visited his people the needy, the sick and the dying every night, we rarely saw him. Mum brought us all up and the work she did for the Church was incredible.  At the end Mum was very upset that she felt that she could leave us nothing in the way of material possessions but she gave us all so many life skills I can never repay her. These last few days were very special and I will never forget carrying her to the bathroom and helping her near the end. She was so frail but so clear in what she said to me. To her I was the “wild child” of the family but she looked after me and was always there for me, it is such a loss in my life I feel it and still miss her and my Dad.  It was such a pity as we all progressed in life we could have made life much better for them but it was not to be but what a legacy they gave us all.  Nowadays I worry as all many children are interested in is the financial legacy they may inherit and Mum and Dad are packed off to an Old Folk’s home.

She was such a beautiful person in every aspect who loved us all yet had time to guide and be there for us. I shared so many secrets with her over my life and she was always there to listen when I needed! How she would have loved to see her grandchildren and their kids now. I would have loved her to have met all the great Grandchildren and Lexi and Ellie Skye and shared their lives! I also got the love flowers and got that from my Mum so every few weeks I buy some or pick them and they always remind me of her. I have her deep love of the wild places and still feel her with me when out and about, what would she have made of today’s world, I wonder.

Mum xxxx

Please give your Mum and Dad a hug or a visit when we can we all owe them so much they make us who we are, we do not need Mother’s day or a commercial event to remind us.

Today is a special day but our parents are special always, never put off for another day what you can do today in showing your appreciation for them, they are not here forever! Treat every day as Mother’s Day and tell them you love them. This year we cannot visit our Mums yet we must speak to them and use technology to be with them those of us who are lucky enough to have Mothers that are still with us.  I was at a funeral recently where a son had fallen out with his mother and he had not spoken to her for over a year she died suddenly. He never had the chance to tell her like I did how much he loved her. Never let pride get in the way of true love and respect, life is too short.

As I write I am so glad to have such a lovely Mother and feel very proud of her and wish she was still with me. When I am in trouble she is always there for me. How she would have loved to see how we all are, I am sure she does.

Thanks Mum you will always be in my thoughts and my love for you will always remain with me till my last breath xxx

Posted in Family, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

How do we cope with the Coronavirus information. Advice on hill-walking, mountaineering, skiing and climbing.

I am asked if I am going out on the hills with the Coronavirus ongoing?

I have not been on the hills since January as I have a ongoing problem with my chest. It’s getting better and I feel a bit stronger how I miss the big mountains. I am still getting out on local walks, golfing and cycling. I am following all the Guidelines. Social distances being a key point. As I am often out alone its easy to do. Its a great time to be outside as the Spring is coming with all the plants coming through daily. The birds are nesting and we have the warming of the sun on our backs. We need exercise and the fresh air and if you are careful you can still do it.

I am very careful with hygiene as we are told to be. Washing hands regularly and being as careful as I can. As I live on my own things are a lot easier I can do most things and look after myself. I am keeping a distance from folk but still speaking as you need company and to be able to chat. It’s so important for us all. My Grand kids have moved to Inverness and we are taking it carefully with them.

There are plenty of walks/cycles in my area with the beach, the forests and the sea nearby. I am very lucky. I have so many places I can wander about. I hope to still get out on the hills and I will heed the advice of the Mountain Rescue Teams and Emergency Services of being careful go to area I know and be as safe as possible as they are all stretched.

I will travel alone in my car it’s not Environmentally friendly but it is necessary at this time. To me and many for my well being I need to be out in the fresh air. The Scottish Mountaineering Club have closed all their huts and my club the Moray Club and many others have cancelled all meets.

Most climbing Walls are shut as is Glenmore Lodge. In the Outdoor world the Instructors and affiliated Industries will be having a hard time. Many are sole traders and struggling with no or limited work. As will the Accommodation and local pubs and eating places. Most of these area are remote and will struggle. Yet as a friend wrote who is out alone in the mountains said that he receives lots of social media on both sides but the majority say is its good to see something positive on their media feeds. It cheers them up and offers a bit of a distraction. Mental awareness is so important and what a time of year to be out and see nature spring to life? Comments welcome, he follows all the advice.

I cannot visit an old lady who is 85 years old. She lives in a home and they are restricting there visitors. I took her lots of things she loves so she will be okay but she is very lonely and finds it hard to understand what is happening. She like many with hearing and eyesight problems are very worried. We can still communicate by phone it’s a lonely world for many. We must look after these folk they are very vulnerable and anxious and I speak to her every day along with others.

There is a lot of advice out there this is from the Mountaineering Scotland website.

Some great advice as usual from Mountaineering Scotland.

Advice on hill-walking, mountaineering, skiing and climbing

As the coronavirus pandemic is having increasing impact on our lives and lifestyles, some are wondering what the effects will be on hillwalking, mountaineering and outdoor climbing.

The first thing to note is that, although some indoor climbing walls are closing we still have access to the hills and outdoor crags.

Outdoor recreation has substantial benefits to both physical and mental health, which may be all the more valuable given the other restrictions being placed on society, and outdoor activities such as hill-walking, mountaineering, climbing and ski-mountaineering can be enjoyed while maintaining social distancing.

However there are a number of considerations that should be weighed up before taking any decisions.

Against the benefit of taking cash to rural economies there is the risk of bringing infection into a rural community with limited medical resources. There’s also the possibility of having an accident either while travelling to the hills or once there. As well as using up pressured NHS resources, those dealing with accidents are put at increased risk of infection.

And Scottish Mountain Rescue has   Scottish Mountain Rescue has put out a statement urging people to stick to “familiar and safe areas”:

“Being in the outdoors has many benefits and we are usually very happy to encourage individuals to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Scotland. However, during this ongoing situation we ask you not to take any unnecessary risk when enjoying the outdoors. Perhaps go on adventures you are familiar and safe with and while doing so, keep social distancing in mind.”

The organisation, which represents 24 rescue teams, said it was reviewing action plans to ensure it can provide a continuous service, and has asked people caught up in a rescue incident to let police know if they suspect they have coronavirus.

For anyone considering going to the hills or crags we would recommend the following points:

  • Follow the most current NHS advice regarding health and distancing.
  • Consider your means of travel and distance – close to home is best and, despite the environmental impact, it’s better to be in personal cars than public transport at the moment. 
  • Have a think if considering using huts or bunkhouses and check out our article here.
  • Stick to familiar areas and low-risk activities.
  • Reduce your risk. Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services.
  • Do not assume that Mountain Rescue will be available. There is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for rescue in some areas as this develops – including along the coast that depends on lifeboat and volunteer coastguards.

As the majority of indoor climbing venues across the UK have closed, many indoor climbers may be considering climbing on outdoor crags. For them we offer the following additional advice:

  • Have you climbed outdoors before? We would always recommend that if you are going climbing outdoors for the first time that you go with someone who has the experience and also has access to suitable equipment for all involved.
  • Is it likely to be busy? Popular crags or boulder venues might be busy with like-minded people. Being in this environment might go against government advice on health and distancing.
  • Keep those hands clean. Consider how you will keep your hands before and after climbing. Maybe take bottled water, some hand wash and a towel with you.

Official advice

Advice from the Scottish Government can be found here.

For UK-wide information about Coronavirus, visit the website.

The government has also published an action plan.

This is from the SAIS website “During the current Covid-19 situation we would encourage all those going outdoors to be mindful of unintended consequences of their actions and the potential impact on medical and rescue personnel. Consider your objectives carefully in relation to current conditions and BE SAFE!”

Lochaber MRT

“Although the Lochaber hills are looking beautiful and inviting at present, we as a team would not be responsible if we failed to point out that, at this time of national emergency, our ability to respond to incidents may be curtailed by circumstances created by #Covid19.

Hillgoers should consider what extra pressures a single accident may put upon already stretched local hospital services. Normal service in terms of recovery and transfer cannot be guaranteed.

As much as it pains us, as hillgoers ourselves, the best thing folk could do is stay at home at this time. Support your local community. Please do not put extra stress on our small and already fragile healthcare infrastructure.

The hills will still be here next winter and hopefully later in the summer adventure can be had.
Stay safe.”


Secretary LMRT & local Consultant Physician

Posted in Books, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Plants, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

All SMC Huts to close ! Till Virus is over. Some memories of the CIC Hut.

To all users of the CIC

SMC Huts Closed 18th March 2020

Due to the spread of Covid 19 the SMC has decided to close all of its huts forthwith. If you have an outstanding booking please contact the custodian through whom it was made. If you have a further query you can contact the Secretary

CIC Hut – SMC Photo

It is with regret that we have taken the decision to close all SMC huts forthwith and they will remain closed until we are advised under government guidelines that it is safe to reopen them.

If you have specific questions about individual huts do not hesitate to contact the custodians (their email addresses are on the SMC website), but please bear in mind that they will be very busy for the next few days cancelling bookings and organising any refunds that might be required.

Robin Clothier
CIC Custodian

Early 70′ s after a call out for two of our own who got off safely from Observatory Ridge. The snow came down so heavy they bivied and abseiled off in the morning.

CIC – Hut Memories. The hut is a place I knew well and the scene of many dramas on the mountains. The photo above is of a wee epic we had with our own troops. I had done Tower Ridge with Pete and Tom McGowan my first time in winter. Pete collected so many climbers who were having epics in the heavy snow it took us hours to get off the hill. Then we discovered that two of our own had a problem and after 3 hours sleep we were back up to the hut. I was given a bag of pullies to carry instead of a rope. I did not check it as I was exhausted. Lucky the boys got off. The wee shed by the front door had a stretcher, avalanche probes and shovels inside plus a radio direct to Fort William Police. It was well used by many.

With Mick Tighe at the hut.

The path up to the hut was awful in the early days it was a bog that caught many out but it was worth it as on reaching the hut it was a place of historic climbing folklore and famous climbers were always about when conditions were great. We had done many rescues with Lochaber and huge searches and was often glad of the shelter and respite in the hut. We brought many casualties into it and always got help from the occupants. In the days before Health and Safety we would get a helicopter on training and try to tidy up the poos left behind the hut after the snow left. Nowadays there is a toilet inside. As I started to climb a lot we used the hut more and more and got to know the Custodians who at times ruled the hut with an iron fist. Robin the current custodian is a great man and no one knows the Ben better than him. The custodians in these early days had to at “times defend the hut” Getting in was like Fort Knox. We helped with the Gas replenishment and often trained with the new pilots at landing near the hut. That was scary at times due to the winds that could come from no where.

The Ben

How many times have I walked that path?

Through forestry and muddy track.

Bag bulging, sweat is pouring,

Then the great cliffs mourning.

Watching In the mist clouds,

 Emerge, along with memories.

Many happy, many sad.

Long carries in the dead of night,

With unknown people.

Each glad to be alive,

All helped by fellow climbers.

In the gloom, avalanches crash,

We struggle over frozen burn and icy rock.

Yet there  is a special joy

Getting someone off alive

 Off that hill that does at times kill.

Not just the tourist, but many, with great skill.

Why do we climb?

If you ask you do not know?

This “Ben”, this mountain,

 The  ridges,

Its names full of history and mystery.

Clears in the mist.

This mountain means so much,

Too me and many friends.

It will never change.

Then , as now

Its ever-changing snow and ice.

Are friends? As are the familiar names,

Of cliff, buttress and  where we play our games?

Tales of great climbs,

Great days and nights on this hill.

These are special to those who

Know the secret of this magic place.

Below the great cliffs

The hut nestles

Long nights with heroes and egos

History and mystery

This is why we go and always will. 

On this great hill

Thank you Ben Nevis for a lifetime of Memories!

Arguably the only alpine-style mountain hut in the UK, the C.I.C. hut provides shelter from some extremely harsh weather.

The hut was erected in 1928/9 by Dr and Mrs Inglis Clark in memory of their son Charles Inglis Clark who was killed in action in the 1914-1918 War. The original building was extensively refurbished and extended between 2008 and 2012.

The approach to the hut -obviously- involves travel in mountainous terrain. Users of the hut, especially in Winter, should ensure they are suitably equiped and skilled for the conditions.

The most direct approach to the hut is from the Foresty Commission Scotland’s North Face car park near Torlundy. Follow the way-marked North Face Trail then continue, approximately south-eastward, briefly on a track and then onto a good path that roughly shadows the Allt a’Mhuillin.

There are a few power socket outlets in the hut that can be used for mobile phone chargers and other low power appliances. Mobile (though not necessarily 3G) reception for all major networks can be found on the downhill (north-west) side of the hut.

The hut is in high demand throughout the winter season, bookings should be made well in advance to secure bunks.

Latest reports from the CIC hut can be found on its Facebook page:

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Poems, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Sgurr Na Ciche – Memories. A hill not to be rushed and enjoyed, a long way from home.

Kevin Woods on his Winter Munros has just climbed another superb day again. He was away in the wilds of the West Coast near Loch Arkaig on Sgurr Na Ciche and neighbouring Munros. Yesterday he climbed 5 Munros, well done him and you can follow his days on #Kevin woods winter 282 he is doing a winter ascent of the Munroes.

I have had so many superb days on these hills, its a tricky complex area hard going remote and needs good navigation. My Dad introduced me to this area and told me many of the tales. In 1936 he was a student Minister in this area living in Achnacarry. He was well looked after by the Head Keeper and never forgot his kindness and often spoke about him and his family. He took the services for the remote crofts and the head keeper carried the robes and Dad’s stuff. Ministers even young ones were treated well in these days. For years we received venison in the post a bloody parcel that my Dad loved but my Mum was horrified by.

Great wild hills.

He did two summers here from University and made a great pal from the head keeper It was a wild place then and the first time I saw it was in our first car a Morris Minor in 1965/66 and that road to Loch Arkaig was wild and I was sick. My Dad told me many tales of this area and what it meant to him. We managed a day out over the classic 3 Munros when I was very young 12 or 13 it was such a day. The view from Sgurr Na Ciche and Loch Nevis was wonderful. It is a special place and to sail up loch Nevis is even better as the area is surrounded by wonderful mountains not all Munros. Winter in here is an expedition, wild and unforgiving yet I have never been disappointed. I spent a hard weekend here walking in on a Friday night and climbing the Corbett Sgurr na h – Aide a wild day with really tricky climbing in deep snow. This was with the legend John Hinde I was very young 18 and it was hard going the descent in the dark back to the bothy was exciting. Then next day we came over the Ciche and the other two Munros. I have seen such wild life here, from Sea Eagles to lots of stags and to sit on the summit and not rush is so specail. If you go do not rush them these hills are like a good dram to be savoured. I confess to have slept on this summit on a hot day.

1978 – Last Munro for Terry and Jim.

I still look back at some wild days reaching the bothy at Sourlies and some fun nights. On our winter Courses when the weather was poor and conditions were bad we had bothying trips taking in these great peaks. These days tested us to the full, big bags and in winter they could become Alpine. Especially Sgurr Na Ciche “the peak of the breast” a familiar sight to many who love the hills. Its a shapely mountain.

Sourlies – with Teallach

In these days we had American PJ’s with us they were (big strong and full of muscles and some full of bull shite ) They were with us for several years, training with us, they were all amazed by these hills and the remoteness. We had a bit of an epic one year and had to evacuate one off the hill in wild weather. It was march or die time, he slipped on the ice on Sgurr Na Ciche hurting his leg, but that’s another story. so many young Team member’s have great memories of this area big days, big hills, big plans.

Brilliant Day with Gail.

I have so many memories of great days, epic navigation, steep descents, crazy river crossings and then the walk out or drive out all hard days. When I read Kevin’s’ account yesterday and the speed he travels at, how he uses the weather window to plan his days its wonderful reading.

Winter Ascent.

These days the road is still a bit tight up to Loch Arkaig and the bike can be taken from the road end, its worth it at the end of the day. Once in the early 70’s Tom MacDonald and me we walked in from the Commando Memorial near Spean bridge. we were not drivers then and travelled by bus. To be met at the road end by a keeper who was stalking and said there was no chance of us getting on the hill. We were allowed to camp at the loch end. then go back next day no hills but sore feet. We were naive then now we have the information available when to keep away from the hills and we can still visit but we have to work together.

Freedom of Access was not law then, never take it for granted! If you have not climbed these hills you must and then climb the Corbetts they are harder.

Its great to look back and see these hills and I cannot wait to go on the hills I am feeling better but the World is scary place just now but all we can do is enjoy what we have. I am lucky I am live in such a special place. Take care all.

The Keeper who looked after my Dad see below Donald Cameron and family.

2020 March – Achnacarry Photo

Does anyone have any information on the above photo? I am sure it was from when my Dad was a student minister at Achnacarry in the late 1930’s. He was often out giving communion to the various outlying remote settlements in the area. I was brought up on the many tales of the keeper who carried the communion cups and wine and was looking after my Dad on these trips. They often went over the hills and the tops and that made a huge impression on my Dad who was super fit and at Edinburgh University and captain of the Harriers. He spoke about visits to the big house and the Cameron’s of Locheil and their work during the war.  I was very young about 12 when we got our first car I remember the wild drive up to Achnacarry, Loch Arkaig and Glendessary to see this magical place. I was sick most of the way yet I never forgot that road or the hills and they remain majestic to me. I was often up in this area and it became somewhere else I bonded with.  I am sure we met the keeper and his family but my memory fails me.

I was just a wee laddie. My Dad often spoke about with great warmth for the way he was looked after by the keeper and the locals.  

His mode of transport was a bike and he cycled back to Spean Bridge at times after some of the services.  I am trying to chase this up so if anyone can help that would be great My Dad was called Bill Whalley. He and Mum gave me a huge love and respect for the mountains and the people who work in them.  I always had this vision of him and the keeper bagging a Munro or a big hill on the way home.

He often spoke about this part of his life in his sermons. I wish I had listened a bit more in these days!

From my sister Eleanor who replied

From my sister  ” this old photo around 1935-6,Dad was student minister missionary at Achnacary, friends with Donald Cameron head keeper on estate .Used to send Dad venison by post ,very bloody Mum had fun cooking it.xx

Dad stayed with family for two summers we think he always spoke about them so well.”

  1. Janice Cameron says: May 9, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Hello! This is a photo of my grandparents, aunt and uncle. Donald was indeed a gamekeeper at Achnacarry. Lovely to see the photo as we have very few of them

May 9, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Janice that is great my Dad spoke so much about Donald and how he looked after him as a student minister! He carried his communion cups round the hills to the remote churches.What year do you reckon that was 1936?
Donald used to send us venison through the mail and I am sure I visited them in the mid 60’s .Reply

  1. Janice Cameron says:

May 9, 2018 at 6:44 pm

I think it was 1935 as my Dad is not in the photo and he was born in May of that year. We have many very fond memories of our grandfather, he was quite a character. I would love to hear any of your stories; can I contact you off line?

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Great things happen when Men, Women and Mountains meet.

Brent and Dianne A Happy Day.

Yesterday I was at a lovely wedding for Brent and Dianne. They met at the Moray Mountaineering Club Weekend Meet in Glen Clova. It was great to see them so happy and we all had a wonderful day.

Great things happen when Men/Women and Mountains Meet.

Its great to see a Happy occasion in the midst of this worry that’s around this time. As I am classed as one of the nearly vulnerable classed in this Coronavirus with my chest etc. Who would have thought that. Look after each other and take care.

Posted in Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

“Daz Boat” Memories of hill days and the boat. “Lifes about moments” JC

Sometimes when you look back and think how lucky I was. A few of my mates loved sailing and the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team had a boat and we used it in the lochs on call -outs and on sea stacks. We even did a few trips to Rum. It went with us everywhere and was a wonderful addition to the team. We called it “Daz Boat” It made some long days easier and going up the Highland Lochs on NVG’s at night was superb. We used it a lot on the West Coast a lot on Skye into Coruisk, Knoydart, Kintail and way up North.

Captain Coull – thanks JC

I was always very wary of water but enjoyed the lifts and fun on the boat. The boat was the idea of the late John Coull who had the vision to organise it and the training. He was way ahead with his ideas especially the uses of GPS for navigation, Night Vision Goggles and we had many adventures with it. I was very aware of the dangers of the sea but the training the boys got from the Navy was wonderful.

Daz Boat in action.

Instead of a long walk out of Loch Mullardoch the boat would come in and get you. We even gave Andy Nisbett a lift and saved him a long walk. We had to be very careful as the boat could fly along and we had all the gear. In Knoydart we took unusual ways up the hills and it made the hill days a bit more interesting and exciting.

The early boat trips.

Of course when you look back you are amazed what we got up to but we did use it on several call outs and even the keepers were amazed as we set of in the dark with the NVG’s on. Of course boats had been used before but we thought we were the first.

1944 – Daz Boat Kinloss MRT.

One trip to Rum done at night stands out with a huge electric storm at Elgol in Skye as we waited for it to abate. We headed out to Rum and saw the Minky Whales out at sea. That was an incredible sight to see. We spent two days of Rum with drop offs at the bothy in the boat for our superb ridge walk.

Heading to Skye.

Of course few will realise that RAF Mountain Rescue held the record for the highest boat in the world on our Everest 2001 expedition to Tibet. Just below ABC the glacier lake forms late in the season The late Ted Atkins and Jim Groak launched their boat at over 20000 feet.

2001 Everest Tibet.

Great memories.

  • Kev – I remember a less successful trip out in it on Loch Mullardoch. We were going to climb the munros on the N side of the loch so we got the boat to take us right out to the western end. It was mid-winter and the weather was typical wet, sleat and winds. Just as we arrived at the drop off point there was a clunk from the outboard and JC announced that we had lost forward drive, meaning we could only go in reverse! This wasn’t a good situation considering our location and the weather so we cancelled our hill day and decided to stay together with the boat as we made our way back to the dam in reverse gear. I can’t remember details but it took ages as we crawled back, any attempt to go faster forcing water over the stern meaning a session of baling to keep us afloat. It all ended up good though, JC stayed cool as usual and a few wet and cold troops had a story to embellish in the pub that night
  • Douglas Crawford This training got me an excellent few weeks working as a safety boat for posh folks yacht clubs when I went back to university….”lifes about moments”.JC a true adventurer and gent.
Posted in Equipment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

International Women’s Day. Lassies I admire !

International Women’s Day

I was very lucky to have been brought up with some many friends telling me the tales of past Mountaineers and other incredible people. In these days there were few women mountaineers. I have always loved books especially mountaineering books and as my Blog stated the other day and stirred a bit of interest with many stating what their favourites were. It made an interesting discussion and I updated my blog with the comments.

Few even nowadays will know the tale of Gwen Moffat – She was the first female British Mountain Guide in 1953 and an incredible climber in her day . Her book “Space between my feet” is an tale of a single Mum in these early days after the war. These were the days well before “Women’s Lib” and this book is the tale of these hard times where attitudes were a lot different. I advise everyone to get a copy and read this story. She also wrote a great book ” Two Star Red” about the early days of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service.

Book Review by I. Robertson – Gwen Moffat was Britain’s first female mountain guide. Moreover, in the austere world of post-war Britain where women were expected to stay home and get married, Gwen’s Bohemian attitude was very much against the norm – in fact she was 20 years ahead of her time.”

Her autobiography “Space Below My Feet” was out of print for many years and it was long over-due being republished.

Like so many people later, Gwen just lived for climbing. The book is fascinating, not only for the tales of climbing and mountains, but also just how different her lifestyle was for the times. Dossing in climbing barns and sleeping under hedges was not lady-like behaviour in 1947! – Highly recommended. I still am amazed at her attitude as the Mountaineering World was pretty slow to appreciate the role of women in the mountains in the 50’s and later on. Even in my time 90’s when we got women in Mountain Rescue in the RAF it was a tricky time and yet many of the girls showed us all how to do it!

How Gwen did this in these early days I have no clue, she is an inspiration to us all and how few know her story. It is a story worthy of passing on and admiring her achievements throughout her life. Get that book “Space between my Feet and enjoy it”. I have copies ready for my


Gwen also wrote another book I love Two Star Red that is a book I always wanted and was lucky to get a copy many years ago.

I have had it for over 30 years and it is signed by so many in RAF Mountain Rescue. I was an honour to have met Gwen at the 60 th Anniversary RAF MRT party and she signed my copy. She was looking great and very fit, we had girls in RAF Mountain Rescue then and I have a great photo of them meeting.  Many of the greats of RAF MR have signed this including Johnnie Lees , John Hinde, George Bruce, Ray Sefton, Taff Tunah, and so many others. I take it to re unions and have so many comments and signatures from troops.

Two Star Red by Gwen Moffat is a book about the early days of the RAF Mountain Rescue and gives an  insight into mountaineering and mountain rescue in the 50’s and 60’s. Gwen married Johnnie Lees and was one of the first women guides, she has had an incredible life and is a fairly well-known author. Her other books describe how hard it was to be a single woman climber with a young child in these years. How things have changed, thank goodness. You can pick up some of Gwen’s books on Amazon she is still an incredible lady.

This is from an article a few years ago about her.

” When I look back now on my climbing times, it seems like a different life. You lose flexibility, and

once your physical strength goes, so too does your confidence, and that’s it.

Nowadays I’ll look at pictures of some of the things I did, the crux of some route on Ben Nevis, and suddenly I’ll think, did I do that? Was that really me? “

I was very lucky to meet Gwen at a big Reunion many years ago and today I received and email from her it made my day, what a lady!

The BMC Commissioned a film about her life


In 2015 Jen Randall and Claire Carter made a film, Operation Moffat, based on Moffat’s autobiographical book Space below my Feet. The film was premiered on the Banff Mountain Film Festival UK tour and has won 7 international film awards. A brilliant insight into an k there are so many incredible lassies role models for the future.

Mine are :

My Mum

My sisters

My Stepdaughter Yvette

Jenny Graham World round the World record holder cycling.

Di Gilbert Mountaineer

Heather Morning Mountaineer

Molly Porter Ex Cairngorm MRT Team Leader in the 70’s

All these and many more are incredible folk. I hope I can get my Grand daughters to meet some of them and learn about life from their lives.

Posted in Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

What was your first Guide book? Routes on Ben Nevis and an early Avalanche in 1953. Be careful this weekend as the weather turns.

I love Guide books when we climbed at lot we would read them avidly. We learned so much from them and at one time we could recite the routes at length and even added Quiz’s to name the routes who climbed them etc. That way we got to know the routes and climbs all over Scotland. As a team we were in a different area every weekend we were so lucky to climb on most areas.

Ben Nevis Guide and Glencoe.

Over the years the guide books have changed so much. They had list of the first ascents and in the early days of RAF Kinloss MRT the team had a few incredible mountaineers. Many were National Service like Ian Clough, Terry Sullivan and Jonnie Lees. There were so many others we pushed the standards in the 50 and 60’s. There are Kinloss routes on Ben Nevis, Glencoe, Skye up North and many were not recorded. It was not the way they did it on these days. Many tales were passed on of wooden wedges made in workshops used on Beinn Eighe. Loose climbs on Fionaven and early climbs on the Costal cliffs.

We would be lured to many of these places and so pleased about following in the footsteps of some of these early greats. We had a few epics of our own.

The early Guide books were very basic in route descriptions that was the way it was then. So we tried to climb as many as we could that Team members were involved in. There were so many on the Ben a few in winter that I set out to climb. Nordwand was one of these climbs on the North Face of Castle Ridge. Most walk by this face and few climbed on it. There were a few Clough routes and we climbed most of them. We got to know this area well.

North Wall of Castle Ridge.

On the Brenva Face there were many other routes that we loved when the Big routes were busy Cresta, Route Magor, Salom, Frostbite, Bob Run always gave us fun . We had a film of the second ascent of Cresta that Hamish did for MOD with the team its a classic.

1957 – High on Observatory Ridge RAF Kinlos MRT archives.

All this was training for Call – outs and nearly 70 years ago the RAF Kinloss Team and the local Lochaber climbers were looking for two climbers missing in the Ben. They were using probes homemade from Gas piping made in workshops. Today Lochaber are out looking for a missing climber who was Avalanches.

Ben Nevis Op 3/53

Posted in Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Moor Burn

Rusty Bale

I was looking at the hills today as I drove down to see a pal in Aviemore. It was a wonderful view. The Cairngorms were stunning with the snow plastered and the ice shinning in the Larig Gru. I was meeting Rusty Bale who was up from Wales to instruct the RAF Mountain Rescue Winter Course. Rusty was a young Team member when I was the Team leader. A sound mountaineer and good pal. We must have trained him well?

2001 Rusty on Everest

We were on Everest together and he and Dan summited. Its great to see him doing well and living in Wales with Nerys and his young family. He runs well worth a look.

Snowdonia Walking and Climbing is run by RichardRustyBale. Winter Mountaineering & Climbing Instructor (WMCI), qualified to instruct all aspects of mountaineering and a full member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI).

It was great to see him again and catch up , we had a chat and Rusty was on a well earned day off and I am still off the hill with my chest see a Consultant tomorrow. The view from the cafe was wonderful, I should have been there. He has had a great weeks climbing lucky man.

On the way back I caught up with a few pals and came via Lochindorb and they were burning the Heather. There were several hill fires going and with smoke it always looks strange. Is it a good or bad thing to do.

Lochindorb – a fresh water loch on my way home. A lovely place to be nearby is the Dava Way.

The Dava Way is a 38-kilometre long-distance path that mostly follows the route of the former Highland Railway between Grantown and Forres. The railway line, built as a route between Inverness and Perth, opened in 1863 and closed in 1965. The route was reopened as a long distance path in 2005. It is listed as one of Scotland’s Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and links directly to two further Great Trails: the Moray Coast Trail and the Speyside Way. It is currently the shortest of the Great Trails, but can be combined with sections of the Moray Coast Trail and Speyside Way to form a 153-kilometre circular route known as the Moray Way. About 3,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 400 complete the entire route.

Posted in Enviroment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

More information from the Scottish Avalanche information Service.

This is very rare for the SAIS to issue a statement like this. Please read and take heed.

terrain trap is a sharply concave part of the run out such as a gully, an abrupt transition or a crevasse where avalanche debris will pile up deeply. Since shovelling takes such a long time, deep burials have a very low chance of survival

SAIS  –  These are locations in the hills and mountains where the consequences of even a small avalanche can be amplified by the terrain a victim may be carried into. Narrow gullies and valleys, boulder fields, small buttresses and cliffs are places that limit your survival chances greatly if you are carried into or over them. Likewise when travelling above buttresses or boulder fields or through narrow valleys and below small banks be aware of the consequences of avalanches occurring from above, whether natural or triggered by human activity.

Big Avalanche Glencoe !

Please be careful if out and about Kevin Woods is climbing all the Munros this winter he does an update on Facebook. His journey this winter is a insight into Scottish winter with all its weather and incredible days. Even some of the so called easy mountains in winter have taxed Kevin and he writes honestly about safe travel. It is so important that all winter mountaineers are aware of the dangers in winter and how to make the mountains as safe as possible.

Big hills An Foachagach on a fine winters day yet the snow was hard going,

Posted in Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 9 Comments

A no brainer £50 off Paramo with their recycle offer. High Avalanche risk in Lochaber. Be careful.

I bought the very early Paramo many years ago and only heard of this offer recently that if you recycle an old paramo through Paramo or a retailer and buy another Paramo item you will get £50 off.

My old Paramo jacket on Beinn Eighe over 12 years of wear,

I have also used my Paramo trousers for many years and they were so hard wearing and great value over the years. I recycled them and got £50 off a new pair. I have just done the same with my jacket I bought in 2008 it served me well.

If you no longer need your Paramo, its worn out they will take it back! Páramo is always looking for the path of least environmental impact. The Páramo Recycling Scheme is a way of providing a safe route for disposal of unwanted garments. Páramo will take back any product (except underwear), and either find it a new home, or recycle it into new fabric. As a reward for your effort in getting old gear back to Paramo, if you bring your unwanted garment and buy a new Paramo we will give you £50 off your new jacket (excludes all offers/sale items).

For further info click on the link to Paramo

New one less £50 for my recycled jacket..

To me it’s a great way of saving money and recycling !

I am hoping to get back on the hill soon. It’s been a long winter but chest is improving.

At least my bottle of gin got drunk at the CIC hut on Ben Nevis on the winter International climbing meet. Thanks to the custodian Robin Clothier . He used it to make some mulled wine.

My Gin made it ! Photo Robin Clothier CIC Hut custodian.

The Climbing meet is going great and lots of all thebig routes getting climbed but there’s lots of snow about so be careful please. Lots of advice about routes band approaches to climbs. As always great advice on the SAIS website . They give a HIGH RISK for Lochaber today.

Avalanche Hazard Forecast Lochaber

FOR PERIOD 18:00 Thu 27/02/2020 TO 18:00 Fri 28/02/2020 View the avalanche hazard scale


Forecast Snow Stability & Avalanche Hazard

The changing wind direction will start to redistribute some of the existing windslabonto other aspects. New snow instabilities will also develop. Unstable snow will initially be on North, North-East and East aspects but will form on West and North-West aspects above 800m during Friday. Avalanches will occur in these locations. Exposed old snow will be frozen and stable. Some erosion will occur on South-East aspects later on Friday. The avalanche hazard will be High

Forecast Weather Influences

Snow showers will continue above 400m through out the period. Moderate to Strong summit winds will start from the South-West and gradually back to an Easterly direction by Friday evening


Unstable snow forming on many aspects during the period.

Posted in Avalanche info, Enviroment, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Lots of great climbing going on just now. Still be aware of the dangers after heavy snow and wind.

The old Guide of Ben Nevis was pretty clear of the danger areas.

Its great to see so many out and about this winter and some great routes being climbed after a slow start to Winter.

I found a lot of information was hard won in the winter mountains. Many areas are still tricky despite all the knowledge around. Nowadays there is little excuse not to be aware and after being to some of the biggest Avalanches and being Avalanched twice in 40 years and getting away with it you learn to respect the danger areas. Always respect the weather and the conditions and read the weather and daily avalanche reports. This is important not just climbing but winter mountaineering. Kevin Woods is well into his winter attempt to climb all the Munros in 3 months, he has lots of snippets in his catch up on Facebook and #winter282. It is also well worth doing and Avalanche Course and learning about safe travel in the mountains.

1976 Avalanche on Ben Nevis – look how low it was!

Worth being aware that you have to stay “Avalanche aware” even lower down the mountain. Especially convex slopes where snow has been dumped.

Stay safe and enjoy the conditions.

Posted in Avalanche info, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Can you help.

From the Scottish Mountain Trust

“One of our authors, Bob Barton, has been talking to the mountaineering community to support a new book on avalanche avoidance. He estimates that the insights we will be providing are based on around 6,000 years of practical experience in the hills! The new book will be aimed at hill walkers, climbers, back country skiers and borders in Scotland, and we need your help…

We are seeking photographs of avalanche incidents, occurrences or related conditions, ideally in digital format, and a bit of background information. Sequences of images would be of particular interest. If you have anything at all, we’d be very pleased to see it for potential inclusion in the book, just send us a message or comment here and we’ll get in touch. Thanks so much!

All profits from the SMC and SMT books go to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, which invests in the Scottish mountains and the communities that enjoy them.”

Mountaineering Scotland

Posted in Avalanche info, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Well done the Skye Sculpture Group

I wrote this two years ago about the planned Sculpture on Skye.

“I love Skye after over 40 years of adventures on this magical Island . I love its history and it people and have so many incredible days on these hills and all over the Island. I was involved with the Mountain Rescue for many years supporting the local Skye Team on many rescues and learned much from Pete Thomas and Gerry Ackroyd and many of the locals that make up incredible team. I would meet many of the guides working the mountains on a regulate basis. To me this was the most difficult place on a rescue in the UK.

There are no mountains like them in the UK and I learned so many lessons on these great mountains. I was always in awe of those who opened up these hills for us to share, what experiences they must have had in the very early days of mountaineering.

I was on the way back from Skye after a wet weekend on Saturday and I was asked to stop in at Sconser and meet Morag and Hector who along with others are trying to hard to get a Sculpture Commisioned of two of my heroes of Skye John MAcKenzie and Norman Collie. John MacKenzie is a special man Skye born and bred as it says below a hero of a time when Skye was remote as the Alps and many of the hills were not climbed. many of the local schools are involved and huge effort has been put in by so many locals over the years and I feel this needs supporting . These two men from the Golden age need recognition  by future generations and what a finer way to celebrate than this Sculpture.

This is from the Skye Sculpture Group. They have all work so hard to get a sculpture of the early pioneers of Skye acknowledged. It will be sited with a view of the Cuillin.

“We made it! After sixteen years our funding target has finally been reached! The sculpture will be made! Huge thanks to everyone who has believed in us and supported us throughout our long fundraising campaign!

Great memories.

Born in 1856, John MacKenzie, of Sconser on the Isle of Skye loved to explore from an early age, first climbing Sgurr nan Gillean aged just ten. He went on to be the first ever native Scot to work as a professional guide and was hugely significant in early ascents of the Cuillin.

Professor Norman Collie, a renowned climber, was a frequent visitor to Sligachan. He and John Mackenzie became firm friends and working together they established routes across the Cuillin range which have become recognised as so familiar today.

The Collie MacKenzie Heritage Group are commemorating the achievements of both men with a bronze sculpture of both figures to be erected at Sligachan on Skye in 2020. Our aim is to gain public appreciation of their pioneering climbs of the Cuillin and to celebrate their connection with the place, and their appreciation of the significance of the landscape within Gaelic culture.

The Collie MacKenzie Heritage Group works closely with the Sligachan Hotel. Both men based themselves at this historic hotel when planning their pioneering climbs. Sligachan and the hotel will play host to the unveiling of the sculpture which is planned for Autumn 2020. “

I am so please that they have achieved it what a lovely tale on a wild weekend.

Posted in History, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

That ongoing problem erosion at Cummingston sea cliffs.

Sadly the erosion at my local crag Cummingston Sea cliffs is getting worse look back on my blogs and see how many times I have written about it. This is not just a climbing cliff but also a well loved place for locals with the caves I took my Grand kids recently and the path was in a poor state.

2020 Feb erosion on path at Cummingston – getting worse.

Many groups now use the cliff and I am sure there was a survey done on it a while ago. I would love to see a copy of it. Can anyone help. I now have an idea what was in it.

I will contact Mountaineering Scotland and ask if they can help. But surely those who use it a lot should form a working group and try to sort out a plan for the future. I will be monitoring who is using it the cliff as I am down fairly often. Comments welcome.

There is Cummingston voluntary Access Group that set up some years ago that did a lot of good work in the past.

I have contacted Mountaineering Scotland the Access officer and will see what happens?

I also got information that there was a survey done many years ago. I will try to find out what happened. There was no funding it seems?

I have been updated The other issue is the Moray Council’s stewardship of it. It is also overseen by SNH as it’s a SSSI due to the dinosaur footprints nearby. So any improvements have to be approved. Thanks to Pete Hill for all his hard work. We will see if anything can be done after the winter.

Posted in Enviroment, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing | Leave a comment

Seana Bhraigh Munro 254 – 927 metres/3041 feet. A hill not to rush. In memory of Phil James Assynt MRT Team Leader killed in an avalanche on Seana Bhraigh

Seana Bhraigh past visits.

As most will know Seana Bhraigh is a long way from anywhere. Some guidebooks say it is one of the remotest Munros about. The hill is approached by Loch Coire Mhoir is reached by most by a private track up Strath Mulnzie, where a mountain bike is extremely useful. There are other ways in but to me this is the best. If your walking the route is well described in various guidebooks and can be an easy ascent but a long way from anywhere. I used to love doing a circuit and including the Corbett Carn Ban. In bad weather this is extremely tricky navigation but on a long summers day its a classic.

Goats near the summit.

The wildlife round this area is amazing and Oykel Bridge is a big fishing river. On the hill usually near the summit sometimes you may spot Goats near the summit and the odd Eagle soaring. This is a wonderful place and the views from the track as you walk/cycle in with the ridge and the blunt peak of An Sgurr make it a very special place.

To me it’s not a place to rush how many on their Munro chase miss this wonderful Corrie and all its secrets. To sit on the summit and spend time is an incredible experience and well worth the effort. On this hill the views North South East and West are wonderful and I have so many memories of this wild area and my companions over the years.

From the Munro SMC Munro app.

I love this Mountain is still remote as it was on my first visit in 1972 and on several long days with the Beinn Dearg Hills many may think it’s a flat boring hill. When you do the 5 Munros from Inverael it’s a long hard day they used to call it “character building”. Coming back along that plateau in snow or poor weather is hard going. I also did it several times on my Walks across Scotland.

On these walks we stayed in the bothy in the Corrie that makes it such a great memory a night in the bothy in a specail place. It had a history of exploration in the winter as I became immersed in the winter climbing history in Scotland. These were some hardy folk.

Seana Bhraigh is glacially carved with a huge beautiful northern corrie with some scrambling required to reach its eastern top Creag an Duine. In winter it is a special place it has two bothies right next to each other. One by the MBA and the other the Magoos Bothy.

from the SMC winter guide

This place has so many memories a remote mountain yet a huge part of my life. I stayed here on many nights with team member’ after long days. Among these memories are of a great pal the Team Leader of Assynt MRT Phil Jones was killed here in an avalanche in Feb 1991 it seems so many years ago.

I spent many nights in my youth in the big walks in 1976 on my N- S traverse of Scotland; these were huge days when we were fit. The MBA Bothy was a great place to be and the situation incredible with the classic ridge and scramble just outside the door. This mountain is a great winter wander along a remote ridge well worth the walk in. It was also a great place to spend the night and with the new bothy and a fire. It’s well worth taking some coal or wood. The wander round the Corrie rim in good weather is wonderful it’s a huge classic Corrie and if you see the Goats it’s a marvellous sight.

The great Corrie

Its hard to believe I also ran a winter course in 1980 with Valley MRT and we climbed a few routes in winter a couple of of new routes over 5 days with my great friend Mark Sinclair (RIP). These routes were never reported in the Guides and I hope to go back again in winter to have a look. It is an incredibly wild place and one of great beauty yet those who approach the hill from the other side see little of these huge Corries.

It is in my memory a wild plateau with tricky navigation especially in winter but what a hill.

Phil Tranter.

 Many may have heard of Philip Tranter who wrote the first guide to this area in 1966 was a hero of mine and I tried to climb many of his routes and his hill days Tranters Round is one. He died in 1968 on his way back from the Alps in a motor bike crash. Scotland lost one of its finest mountaineers he was so young and so dynamic. My good pal Blyth Wright was part of the exploration and this area is steeped in the history of exploration and huge hill days. The club was called the Corriemulzie Club.

This Corrie always brought back many memories.

I was at just coming home from running the annual winter course for the RAF mountain rescue Teams when the news was broken by the BBC. They just said that a MRT team leader had been killed, no name was given and it was an awful time for our families.

Phil Jones RIP.

 When the news broke that it was Phil it was a terrible tragedy as I knew Phil and the Assynt team well and cannot imagine that happening during a training exercise in such a remote area. An amazing place with so many varying memories, the peace and quiet was incredible and the hills so green and the heather coming into bloom made this a great walk out even in the torrential rain. We had climbed together and got to know each other well Assynt MRT are a great team and we helped out with bits and pieces when we could. Phil was a huge part of the community and I still miss him to this day.

There was a small cairn on I am sure Quinag just of one  of the beleachs/ tops with a great view of the wild Assynt that Phil loved and I visited it not long after the funeral.

Can anyone give me a Grid Reference of it please?

I really enjoyed the An Sgurr scramble and in winter is a grand expedition, how many have climbed it as it looks Alpine from the bothy.

Info – During the stalking season, September 1st to October 20th, please keep to the main estate tracks.
Coiremor is the eastern end of the building, with Magoo’s bothy (non-MBA) occupying the western end. It is used by the estate especially in the fishing and deer stalking seasons but access is allowable so long as recognized tracks are followed

View from the bothy window.

To access the bothy, it is necessary to ford the River Mulzie at NH 292 906.  If the river is in spate a bridge can be used about 1km north of the ford at NH 298 922 although it is rough ground from the bridge back up to the path. Corriemulzie Estate. We got stuck here once due to being unable to cross the river.

Next time I go I will hopefully have an e bike to make up for my age I am looking forward to it once I feel a bit stronger.

A great photo courtesy of Angus Jack this week showing the An Sgurr ridge and the vast Corrie. Thanks Angus.

Information – Highland Scrambles North Scottish Mountaineering Scramblers Guide

Northern Highland North Scottish Mountaineering Club Guide.

In memory of Phil Jones Assynt MRT.

About Assynt Mountain Rescue Team

The primary role of the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team is the provision of search and rescue in mountainous, or inhospitable terrain in North and NW Scotland, for any person who may be injured, or otherwise in need of assistance. The Team are all volunteers from a variety of backgrounds.

Assynt Mountain Rescue Team Registered charity number SC049089

Update from a pal Feb 2020.

“Cycled in from Oykell bridge, good 4wd track all the way to the bothy, only problem was the river crossing. Could have taken the van a few km further up the track.” thanks Angus .

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Enviroment, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Running on empty. 1976 North to South of Scotland.

I have just read Kevin Woods update on his winter traverse of the Munros. The weather is wild and yet Kevin is still pushing on. He is up North and had an early start on Saturday on Conival and Ben More Assynt. He was on the first summit at sunrise chasing the weather. Yesterday he was on Ben Hope our most Northerly Munro where we lost Andy and Steve last year in a climbing accident. Kevin writes about his feelings on the summit in his latest update. He then headed for Ben Klibreck and was as he says “running on empty” and descended at 500 feet. It was a great decision and its easy to get into a situation when tired. Kevin will recover of that I have no doubt. I hope he gets some good weather and he is going so well. His updates are a great insight into the winter mountains and coping with the conditions.

It reminds me when I read these updates of my early days on the hills. We did some great walks mostly unsupported traverses of Scotland. We carried our gear and were resupplied every week. It was hard going and I was running on empty at the end of the first week. See below a flavour of these days

Day 6. May 14 1977

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. We were self contained carrried all our own food and got resupplied when we could.

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. For most of the trip we were carrying fairly heavy hill bags and walking in between the hills. 

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 Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

1976 North – South Route

We had started on Ben Hope

19/5/76Ben Hope – Ben Hee – Merkland Lodge Good day, excellent weather, Long walk after Ben More then pull up Ben Hee- are we carrying too much? Keeper at Merkland Lodge  gave us all a dram (huge) great Highland hospitality. 1 Munro
210/5/76Ben More Assynt – Conival – Ben More Lodge. Steady day interesting way off the hill superb winter potential in big Corrie to Ben More Lodge . 2 Munro
311/5/76Ben More Lodge – Loch Coire Mhor Bothy Monster road walk, blisters – great bothy in the heart of Tranter country, what a corrie, must climb here in winter.
412/5/76Seanna Bhraigh- Eididh nan Clach Geala- Meal nan Ceapraichean- Cona Mheall-Beinn Dearg- Loch Droma. Very long day, tricky navigation and lots of views in between the weather, bothy very poor, owner miserable, booze everywhere in bothy at Loch Droma. 5 Munros
513/5/76Loch Droma – Fannichs – Beinn Liath Mhor Fannich- Sgurr Mor- Meall Gorm- Meal A Chrasgaidh-Sgurr na Clach Geala-Sgurr nan Each- The Nest (Cartilage not good) Struggled today, they both left me very physical day. Very Heavy Hill bags from Hell.   7 Munros.

1976 Day 6 May 14

Nest of Fannichs Bothy is sadly no longer there Fionn Bheinn to Scardroy Lodge.

The leaving of the bothy 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. 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. We followed the back ridge looking into the Corrie where there were so many deer.

From here it was down onto the road at Achnasheen and from here 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 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! The keeper was a lovely man and his wife was so good to me, I must have looked awful.


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

Day 7. May 15

It was a forced Day off at Scardroy looked after by the keeper’s wife and given drinks and lots of care, I thought for me the walk was over. I started to get better and after eating some soup that was brought later in the afternoon I felt 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 and unfortunately lost the name of the Keeper and his wife. Can anyone help? 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?

Jim and Paul were fine but said they would make the decision if I was too slow, I remember these words even to this day. I recovered and managed next day slowly in a cold wild windy day. 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. My Mum even wrote and thanked them as they let us all use the phone this was 1976 no mobile phones then. 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.

How not to pack your bag. Big bags big days.

Next day I had recovered and I struggled along for the next 3 days on all the Munros in Strathfarra ,Cannich and Affric these were huge days.

Interesting looking back on these days. All the best Kevin I am sure you will recharge the batteries and look forward to your updates.

Posted in Bothies, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 3 Comments

Apologies for having to cancel a few talks recently I am trying to get health sorted out.

This week I should have been down South doing a talk for the Mayo family and the Bowland Pennine MRT but unfortunately I have not been feeling great for a while.

One of the problems was I lost my voice this has been ongoing and I had a hacking cough, this led to months of very limited sleep, waking and choking at times a bit scary when you live alone. I picked up bronchitis,nearly pneumonia on my Cycle to Syracuse in the USA in 2018. I was getting soaked most days after already having a bad cough on the big training trip to Edinburgh during “Storm Calumn”. I have not been right since then it’s been an ongoing problem. Whenever I tried to get out and exercise I coughed as soon as I put in any effort. So I have had to put my talk off and have decided to cut back on them until I get fully fit. So I had to cancel my talk and I fell terrible to let folk down as it would have been a hard night being with the family for the talk. The Mayo family lost their father, young son aged 15 and an uncle in the Cairngorms in a tragedy in February 1993. I had just handed over as the Team Leader of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team but was out in the search as a team member. It was one of the hardest call – outs in my life and I have written about our part in several blogs on the tragedy. John Allen in “Cairngorm John” relates the incident through the eyes of the Cairngorm Team. It was a tragic few days in a period of wild weather and many incidents occurred in these dark days. As you can see from our Incidents that year we were all over Scotland there were some great success’s but sadly a lot of fatalities, that year there were 20 we were involved in.

My cough over the years has got worse since I was avalanched years ago 1972 on Lancet Edge and damaged my lungs with snow inhalation. We were all lucky but I got an X ray after I returned to Kinloss and the Doctor said I may have problems in later years. He was right but as a young 19 year old you do not bother with the future, your invincible or so you think. Also the many years in the mountains in bad weather have taken there toll and I have a hacking cough most of the time. In the early days wearing damp, wet kit on call outs and my big walks, where there was no way to get kit dry did not help. You learn and things improve over the years but sometimes its to late.

Also “passive smoking” has played its part sharing offices with so many smokers in the military days. In bad weather on the hills communication can be hard and I had a “strong voice” which many know and heard years of overuse in wild weather have not helped. I was also told it can be a sign of stress as I am continuing to try to write my book but its so hard as so many incidents are dark times, so many memories are still today. I have also lost a few pals recently and friends are getting old a few are ill and a lot of folk want a piece of me. That is a great honour that folk confide in you but it can get hard. It all adds up and I am trying to adjust things to make life a bit easier. You cannot help how you feel or how you cope and how you are made up its in your DNA. I keep getting asked about my book as I feel it may give an insight into Mountain Rescue during these years from all over Scotland? Maybe I need a ghost writer, so many memories but also so many lessons?

Anyway just now I am slowly getting better, sleep is easier and the cough has improved I am seeing another consultant next month. so fingers crossed.

This had been ongoing for me in my life in Mountain Rescue since 1972 and looking back took a toll on me and those I love. We were often going from incident to incident sometimes without a break. Then we had at times a long drive home to our families, there was little time to think. There was little social media in these days unlike now and few knew apart from those inside Mountain Rescue and their long suffering families knew what was happening.

1993 RAF Kinloss MRT Stats.

5/1/93Glencoe – Stob Coire Nan Lochan 41/150550 Fatality 2 fallen Climbers one killed, Boomerang Gully- other injured. 202 Sqn evacuated one, other recovered by Glencoe.
5/1/93Glencoe – Stob Coire Nam Beith 41/1335592 Missing climbers located uninjured, very cold after spending night on summit, evacuated by 202Sqn.
25/1/93Glencoe – Buachaille Etive Mor 41/184544Fatality – Fallen climber died of injuries. Evacuated by team
29/1/93Torridon – Liathach 25/937585Fatality – Walker fell into Corrie 800 ft, Night evacuation by KMRT
2/2/93Ben Nevis – Tower Ridge 41/166718Fallen Climber – Tower Ridge, team members at CIC Hut, evacuated casualty with suspected broken ankle.
6/2/93Glencoe – Buachaille Etive Mor Coire Tullaich 41/217544Fallen climber.  Search for climber with broken arm.  Located by Glencoe.
12/2/93Geal Charn – Loch Ericht 42/6057852 Missing persons located safe and well, after being benighted.
19 – 21/2/93Cairngorms – Northern Corries3 Fatalities, Family of 3 climbing left – hand branch Y gully. One found on route at belay, others in boulder field in Coire Lochan.
1/3/93Ben Nevis 41/169717Fallen Climber Hadrian’s Wall, hanging in inverted position.  22 Sqn Leuchars lowered him to CIC Hut and evacuated..
17/3/93Mull 49/610250Missing walker found safe and well after being found on hill. Team taken to Mull by lifeboat
24/2/93Skye Sgurr Na Gillean 32/4752538 Missing walkers found and winched by 202 Sqn from the bad step on the Western Ridge.
28/3/93Loch Awe 50/021190Missing person, nothing found.
6/4/93Kildmorie Forest 26/459810DOE, 11 missing teenagers all turned up safe and well.
6/4/93Glen Callater Braemar 44/222799 (Crow Craggies)6 missing scouts plus leader evacuated by 202Sqn. Leader had twisted his knee.
12/4/93Glen Rosa Arran 69/980430Exhausted walker assisted by KMRT, walked off and taken to hospital
16/4/93Knoydart Loch Quioch 33/887009Night search taken by keeper in boat and Tracked wagon for 4 missing DOE walkers found safe and well.
19/5/93Glencoe Buachaille Etive More- Curved Ridge area 41/224545Fatality – Missing Walker located on steep ground evacuated by 202 Sqn.
27 /5/93Glen Loch 43/988734Aircraft Crash. 9 fatalities. Hercules crash. Team involved with Crash guard and recovery
29/5/93Glen Nevis – Secretaries Buttress 41/149687Fallen climber Polldubh over 100 ft, back and head injuries.
2/6/93Fannichs – Loch Broom 20/178837Missing person located safe and well by DMRT, team rtb.
4/7/93Skye – Coire A Ghrunda 32/434199Collapsed walker – heart attack – 202Sqn transported to Raigmore Hospital
14 –16/7/93Daviot Inverness 27/721395Missing person- extensive search failed to find MIP.
22/7/93Carnmore – Letterewe 19/9577593 Elderly walkers were found safe and well on the summit of A Maighdean, airlifted by 202Sqn
23/7/93Glen Affric – Altbeith YH 25/079201Overdue walker found safe and well after spending night in tent.
9/8/93      Loch Morar 40/7899142 overdue German walkers – Found safe and well by 202 Sqn.
21/8/93Ben Nevis Tourist Path 41/151715Team evacuated an injured walker with ankle injuries
1/10/93DalwhinnieSuspect missing aircraft – false alarm
4/12/93 – 7/12/93Kintail/Glen Affric 33/920217Massive search for a missing walker. She was found several years later murdered in the Kintail area.
13/12/93Northern Cairngorms 36/0020431 Fatality, found on Plateau attempts made to resuscitate.
14/ – 16/12/93Glencoe – Stob Coire Nam Beith 41/1395522 Fatalities – Pathfinders located in avalanche after several days search. Found by KMRT 18 foot – prob.

I also got close to many families after a tragic incident that happens and many are still in touch, it who I am as a person and cannot change that. Yet it was an incredible time in our lives, we all cope differently as a few have said its amazing that your still here. I am getting out we had a 10 mile cycle with my Stepdaughter along the canal at Inverness. For once the wind was gone and Yvette was patient we then went straight and picked up the girls from school. There was no rush but I need that feeling of being out again. I appreciate its not easy and patience is not my forte but I look forward to my next summit view once the weather and my health improves?

So this is the reason I have been off the hills this winter and I hope folk understand. I am sure it will all come good and there is plenty of life in the old dog yet?

Posted in Articles, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 4 Comments

The Old Man of Stoer – a few comments/ memories.

The Old Man Of Stoer is a classic climb on the North West Coast the Stoer peninsula North 0f Lochinver. to mountaineers and climbers it is a classic sea stack made immortal by the late Tom Patey in his wonderful Classic of Scottish mountaineering One Man’s Mountains. It was first climbed by a strong team in 1967 and they borrowed a ladder from a local hotelier to get across to the stack. This was much to the amusement of the locals especially the Peat cutters.

A Classic.

Crag features

The classic and popular sea stack (not to be confused with the Old Man of Storr on Skye!)

Approach notes

Tidal and wind affected. Park near the lighthouse and walk along the cliff-tops. Scramble down to the platform opposite the base of the stack.

A Tyrolean traverse is required to access the stack. If one is not in place then a swimmer (preferably a volunteer) is needed in the party.

A wild crossing.

The original route VS 5a – 60 metre /200 feet.

First ascent : It was first climbed in 1966 by Brian Henderson, Paul Nunn, Tom Patey, and Brian Robertson.

The Old Man Of Storr Monday 28 July 1968 – This an extract from the RAF Kinloss Diary of the day!

A party from RAF Kinloss of Gonk Ballantyne, Yeni Harman & George Bruce set out to climb the Old Man Of Stoer, they borrowed a ladder from the Ullapool Youth Hostel to get across to the Stac without getting wet.

They reached the bottom of the climb at 1700, left the ladder in place ready for withdrawal. Bruce decided against climbing, due to steepness, hardness and being incredibly frightened.  Ballantyne and Harman completed the climb having difficulty in places finding the route and being spat on by nesting birds on the ledges. They eventually abseiled off at 2300. The sea by this time was fully in and the ladder was by now 6 feet under water. They decided not to swim back due to man –eating seals who were waiting patiently for the wrong decisions to be made. They spent the night testing Mr Harmans’s new space blanket and a fairly comfortable bivouac. They awoke at 0300 and found that the tide had ebbed enough to allow a crossing using the ladder.

Although only graded Hard Severe the exposure was frightening , the abseil off even worse, not recommended for anyone with a weak heart. The route was climbed in big boots! George Bruce – RIP

I have been lucky enough to have climbed it 3 times and had an epic on another occasion with 3 members of the Hong Kong Rescue Team!  The language problems and my ability left us on the crux with language difficulties and teaching abseiling without a safety rope. My mate Dougie mentions it later on and he was supposed to leave the gear for me. It has always been incredible place to be and I have many great memories of this special sea stack just along the coast from Lochinver in the far North of Scotland. It is a great walk to the Sea Stack along the coast and the Stack has an interesting descent down the steep cliffs and then a swim across to the stack which stands imposingly. I have never been a great rock climber and had a few near epics in the past with 45 metre ropes that left you short on the wild abseil. Also the sea, the rock add the birds and exposure and my fear level rises considerably. Clothes were ruined as the birds spat at you and we used to climb in overalls. You can get round the first pitch when the tide is low and that used to wind up the troops as they struggled on the first pitch.

Happy troops MRT Archives.

My dog loved the days here and always spent the day in the water when the weather allowed swimming with the seals round the Stack!  On another occasion the Stack was covered in foam  to half way up the stack and yet one wild day a pal Jim Morning swam across in a sea of foam while we sat and cried on the cliffs. Even Jim had to abort after the first pitch he was covered in foam, I must find these photos. What a place, what vision Tom Patey had in 1966, read the first ascent account.

This week is not a day for climbing the Sea Stacks this day there was a bit of foam in the channel! Brave boy swam it to put up the rope across. Old Man of Stoer mid 80’s

Some pals comments :Big Kev – It was a bit frothy when I did it too. Not sure who put the rope over, think it might have been in situ , think the photo is by Dan

You can only truly say you’ve done that swim if it was in the nuddy.  Scouse.

Dave Tomkins  / we timed it right and walked across fixed the rope for the trip back!

Dougie Crawford – Climbed it with the now famous Rusty Bale in a sunny day….Kenny Kenworthy and another I cant remember….so busy taking in the views, sunbathing etc, …didn’t realise I’d been abandoned to dismantle the belay and swim back until the sound of my 3 “friends” pissing themselves laughing behind me on the rope caught my attention…still one of the most memorable days…

Dougie Borthwick 

Early 80’s & Kas wanted a pic of the team on the summit, inclusive 3 Hong Kong rescue chaps, then he went off route, traversing around to north side, to tick a new variation, at which point the team below then  ‘untied’ leaving the 3 Chinese stranded on the ledge. I remember (1) following Kas but with a 500’ rope-bag (for abseil) on my back & then having to use the wee eyelet of the old peg above the roof, to pull up on & (2) there was NO way I was swimming – Dougie I was there you left me with them!

Wrote Patey: “To my mind the magic of a great route does not lie in its technical difficulty or even the excellence of its rock but in something less readily definable—atmosphere.” Go and have fun and watch the descent down to the sea from the main cliff.

Rude ascent.

Posted in Articles, Books, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Weather | 1 Comment

What was your first Ice Axe?

I put a photo on twitter asking what was your first ice axe? I did not get an ice axe till I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue Team at Kinloss in 1972. Many made their own axes or bought ex War department ones and to some the slaters hammer became a modified gully axe. There were failures with poor metal on the pick breaking and early wooden shafts breaking. In the RAF workshops many ideas were looked at and prototypes made.

Lots to chose from all gone now!
Hummingbird and the Terror.
Name them ?

Mine was a MacIness Massey one of the heaviest axes ever produced. Hamish made them for MOD as they were indestructible. It was all metal and a beast. What a weight. He told me he bought his first sports car with the contract from MOD!

Hamish with his old Massey recently.

From the Scottish Mountain Heritage website.

“The metal shafted axe was a major step forward in axe-evolution. Early Alpinistes had little more than long poles with metal tips for grip, and to probe crevasses; as the conquests got steeper an adze was incorporated for cutting steps and later on came the pick. Refinements such as teeth to hold the axe in the steep ice came much later, and as late as 1950 Geoffrey Winthrop Young tells us “Notches on the underside of the head of the axe, often seen in shop axes, are very objectionable.” _

The MacInnes Massey All Metal Ice Axe was a major milestone in the history of mountaineering. The following is an extract from a magazine article written by Mick Tighe back in the 1980’s, which will hopefully ‘set the scene’
“April 9th – P.Knap (29), Birmingham, A.Beanland (31,__ Bradford, and M.Morgan (26), Oldbury, left Glen Nevis Camp to climb on Ben and failed to return that night. Rescuers did not know where to look. H.MacInnes was out searching next night. Bodies found at 1pm on 11th April, roped together at foot of Zero Gully”.
This stark and rather chilling account is extracted from the official Scottish Mountain Rescue Accident Reports for 1959, and unusually has a foot-note. “Leader fell from 3rd pitch and dragged others down. Both their axes snapped off and stumps were still embedded in the snow”. For Hamish MacInnes, who had been involved in the rescue, this accident had a fairly profound effect. It was customary at that time to belay by driving the axe into the snow and taking turns around it with the rope. The deaths on Zero Gully proved this method to be woefully inadequate, as the then universal wooden shafted axes simply broke. A metal/alloy shafted axe was the answer so Hamish went to work.
Benjamin and Steven Massey of Openshaw near Manchester drop forged the heads, and

10/04/58Ben Nevis 41/1687153 missing climbers found at the foot of Zero Gully.  Fatal.  (Tech). Belay failed,ice axe, recovery party included Hamish MacInness, Tom Patey KMRT and locals. From Kinloss MRT STATS AR

Hamish set up the assembly line in his old Glencoe shed. Bugs McKeith and Kenny Spence used the prototype on an ascent of the Eiger’s North Pillar, and Britain’s first non wood axe, the MacInnes Massey, was born.
One soon fell into the hands of the legendary Glasgow based Creag Dubh Mountaineering Club, who quickly dubbed the rather heavy hammer version ‘the Message’ as it battered the commonly used soft steel pitons of the era so badly, that in Glasgow parlance “they got the message”.

A cut down North Wall
hammer. There were a few still at RAF Kinloss when I started.

Many of the huge improvements made in these early day led to what we have today. Modern axes designed specifically for climbing and what a huge difference they made.

Of course it was a long journey to what we have today so many axes, so many stories.Whats yours?

I bought the early Chounaird Zeros what great axes they served me well. I loved the “thud” in the ice when they were placed well.

My much loved Zeros – sold on to a Museum.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Moray Mountaineering Club Journal Vol 1 no 2. A classic.

1936 MMC Journal

In the old days the MMC used to produce a Annual Journal . This was an amazing read like the one I have been given. It was written after a visit by mountaineer Noel Odell to speak to Moray Mountaineering Club.

Noel Odell was the last person to see Mallory on Irvine on Everest before they disappeared in June 1924.

“On 8 June, expedition member Noel Odell was moving up behind the pair in a “support role”. Around 26,000 ft (7,925 m), he spotted the two climbing a prominent rock step, either the First or Second Step, about 13:00, although Odell might, conceivably, have been viewing the higher, then-unknown, “Third Step”.[27] Odell later reported:

At 12.50, just after I had emerged from a state of jubilation at finding the first definite fossils on Everest, there was a sudden clearing of the atmosphere, and the entire summit ridge and final peak of Everest were unveiled. My eyes became fixed on one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow crest beneath a rock step in the ridge; the black spot moved. Another black spot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the other on the crest. The first then approached the great rock step and shortly emerged at the top; the second did likewise. Then the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud once more.”

Odell spoke to the club at a lecture and later climbed Braeraich with the President and other members.

I would love to read any other Journals who in the club holds them just now. They are on the website and a few including this copy has been copied and put on the websIte for the Moray Mountain club.

This journal was dropped of today by a kind member of the Inverness Mountaineering Club. There is a so much info on these early days: what great days rock climbing on Beinn Tarsuinn in Fisherfield – a train meet to the hill to Garve,Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis our local climbs in Coire Ant Sneachda including early ascents of Alladins Buttress and Aladdin’s Corridor “now called Aladdin’s Couloir.

The first ascent of the winter climb The Vent in Coire an Lochan – A Traverse of the full An Teallach ridge many local wanders, climbing our local Corbett’s including a midnight ascent of Ben Rinnes on the longest day and of course Cummingston and Covesea climbing.

There was so much exploratory climbing going on. There is an article on Photography,hill mammals, poetry and these great words:


This wretched club

It is a pest

It lures me from my Sunday Rest.

To flounder over bogs and heather

And climb high hills in any weather

To rise at all unearthly hours.

And show my best resistance powers.

By scrambling over rock and boulder.

To some elusive spur or shoulder

With promise of a view

A view alas, which oft as nought

Resolves itself into a blot.

Of mist and rain:

I have just found out that this Journal and others is on the MMC website. Many thanks for the great work by Andy Lawson and Dan Moysey.

Posted in Articles, History, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 1 Comment

It’s a good feeling giving “stuff away” Be aware of the Avalanche Forecast/ weather forecast and be careful in your route choice.

Yesterday I had a call asking for some information on climbing guides. It was from one of the leading lights in our Mountaineering Club. He is a top guy who is pushing his mountaineering and does a lot to help the newer members. Over my climbing days I have bought so many climbing guides once they were used most weeks now a lot less.

I asked him to come over and he left with a load of climbing guides and a pair of snowshoes. He looked fairly happy. These Guides meant a lot to me. It’s sad to think of all the fun you have from these guides and the folk you climbed with. Yet it’s great to think they will be used and enjoyed by others.

I am still struggling with my chest problem and the hills are out again for me just now. Yet just to have a chat with a keen mountaineer again and listen to his future plans was great. How many of us have “stuff” gathering dust that others could use? I am going to have a good look.

I still watch the Climbing media and see what folk are up to. It was interesting to see the West Coast had a High Avalanche Forecast yesterday. Please take this into consideration when planning to climb. It has been a fickle winter but do not fall into the trap. Being around when Avalanches are happening naturally is usually a sign to go home. “No mountain or climb is worth dying for”. Careful planning can allow you to climb but if in doubt think safe. I sadly spent so many winter digging out so many unfortunate folk in most of the Mountain Areas in Scotland during my days in the RAF Mountain Rescue.

Today’s tip. Be aware of the Avalanche danger just now read the Avalanche Reports/ Weather reports daily.

Part of my chest problems are due to a big Avalanche in 1972 on Lancet Edge near Ben Alder when I was partly buried and swallowed lots of spin-drift. In these days we had little information on Avalanches now we have no excuses.

Comments welcome as always.

Posted in Avalanche info, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being

Details of Kerr McIntosh funeral . RIP Kerr.

From the family :We are so sad to announce our beautiful dad Kerr McIntosh passed away peacefully on Sunday 19th Jan. A true gentleman and our hero until the end, the best dad and grandad anyone could wish for, he will leave a massive gap in so many peoples lives.

For any one wishing to attend the funeral it will be held at St Michaels Church, RAF Cranwell, Monday 3rd Feb at 1400, wake to be held at The Barge and Bottle, Sleaford at 1530, everybody welcome x Jenny Jane James.

Posted in Family, Friends, People, Well being | Leave a comment

Ben Rinnes my local hill – with some old pals a visit to the aircraft crash site. A birthday cake.

It is grand to have a wee Corbett on the doorstep and Ben Rinnes at 814 metres is the nearest hill to my house in Burghead it is also the North East most Northerly Corbett. An isolated hill near Dufftown whisky country it has great views of the Moray Firth and the Cairngorms which looked a bit windy today. The views and the weather was good and the hill though a short walk was a fun few hours out. The Friends of Ben Rinnes they do a great job. They help look after this hill and the path. There has been great work done on the hill. At the top steepens and to me there is always a a cold wind near the summit tors. Today it got colder near the top but there was no snow the path is excellent and we were followed by two Ptarmigan. They were completely white and with no snow at all it was great to see them, They looked so vulnerable.


Key information

The ptarmigan is a gamebird, slightly larger than a grey partridge. In summer, it is a mixture of grey, brown and black above with white bellies and wings. In winter, it becomes totally white except for its tail and eye-patch, which remain black.

It breeds in the highest mountains of the Highlands of Scotland on the Arctic like landscape there. Birds are residents, seldom moving far from breeding sites. In severe cold weather, birds may move from the highest ground to the edge of forests.

What they eat:

Shoots, leaves, leaf buds, berries and insects

I was still coughing and struggling but to be we some good company great pals most over 65 it was a great wee day.

It was not to busy there were a lot of dogs on the hill. I was to find out about that latter in the day,

Newly Painted Trig point – looks great.

The trig point has been repainted well done all and is looking resplendent.

We met David from Lossiemouth on the way up celebrating his birthday on the summit. We had a grand chat .

David and his cake

What a nice man , we even tried to light his candle on the cake when we stopped for lunch just below the summit tors in some shelter. Happy birthday David. Three of us today had been in RAF Mountain Rescue for many years Dave Foy, Derek Harman and myself it was good to be out and Derek is recovering well from heart problems a fit man. Our other companions Babs our Nanny and George had to put up with out tales, my coughing and struggle but it was so good to be out.

RAF Kinloss MRT Skye 1973 myself and Dave Foy .At MacRaes Barn Glen brittle. Dave is no 16 !

From the summit we wanted to find the site of an aircraft that crashed killing both crew. The story is a tragic one but 3 baled out as far as I know. I did not have the grid references with me but we spotted some small pieces not far down from the summit.

Ben Rinnes was the scene of a terrible plane crash on 14th November 1943.
A Wellington Bomber HF746 of No20 Operational Training Unit, based at Lossiemouth, crashed into Ben Rinnes whilst on a navigational exercise.

A former member of the ground crew who went to the site on the hill shortly after the crash described it as “the most complete burn-out he had ever seen”.
The outline of this crash site is still clearly visible from the north side of the Ben where the ground was scarred so badly that nothing will grow there even today. We found the crash it was hard to located as this side of the hill is covered in heather’s and mosses. The ground is very spongy yet we located the small pieces of wreckage and put them together most were covered by the mosses. Here we saw a lot of White hares they are out of the ind and feasting on the vegetation. What a beautiful animal they are.

These are my old grid references of the wreckage if any one wants to check them

Rinnes W1 – NJ 25627/35634 – 783 Metres

Derrick leaving the crash site

Rinnes W2  – NJ  2562335664 –  774 Metres

Rinnes W3 –  NJ 2563435696 – 761 Metres

Rinnes W4 – NJ 2565035718 – 747 Metres

Rinnes W5 – NJ 25695 –  694 Metres

From here we contoured back on to the main path by the lonely tree that is wind battered and met up with Dave the Birthday boy on the main path. On the way down I collected so many dog poo bags dumped by the path and at the car even more. I will go back today to bring them back as most were broken and in a mess and I was given a lift to the hill. What a sad thing to do dump your dog poo bags. Beware where you park your car there is so much poo two of us got it on our boots. I will take a shovel and get rid of it today.

On a brighter note we had a grand cake and coffee in Dufftown to end the day then home. Thanks for the day out folks sorry I was slow but it was so worthwhile.

Off to collect the poo later this morning!

I left a donation to the Friends of Ben Rinnes thanks for all you do.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Plants, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 4 Comments

Banff Mountain Film Festival Inverness – a great night. Great motivation on the final film about and 82 year old to life – “No Problem a great Mantra”

Last night I went to the Banff Mountain Film Festival at Eden Court Inverness. Banff in Canada is a place I know well from my many visits in the 80’s, 90, and onwards ice climbing. What a country Canada is and it’s amazing a small town like Banff has such a great Film and book festival.

As always the films were inspiring I enjoyed every one a few brought laughter some tears as well. It was so well done to a packed Eden Court in Inverness and just what I needed. Just watching all those great people do amazing things was a night of superb entertainment. It was a mixture of old and young having adventures in the mountains the river, the Artic, Mountain Biking, running and some crazy animations. I loved it.

I was taken by two pals thanks to Debbie and Kim my chaperones. It was a great night and once my Grandkids are a bit older they will love it and hopefully be motivated to love these wild places and the characters that make them special.

It’s good to see how things are changing and that folk really do love the planet and a trying to make it a better environment before it’s too late.

This is the introduction to last nights show.

“We Joined the world’s top adventure film-makers and explorers as they push themselves to the limits in the most remote and stunning corners of the globe. Witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography – all on the big screen!

Age Rating – 12A
Films start at 7:30pm

This event has allocated seating. Please bring along your ticket for the evening, either as a printed version or e-ticket accessible through the Eventbrite App on your smart phone or tablet.

For concession tickets, please bring proof of your concession eligibility along on the evening. Concession tickets are available for full time students, under 16s, pensioners, senior card holders and the unemployed.”

I really loved it met lots of old pals and though I coughed through it I loved it. Sorry.

If the Mountain Festival is near you go and see it be inspired. The final short film was about an incredible Frenchman in the USA aged 82 who attitude to whatever life threw at him health wise and other problems with ageing. His Mantra was “No Problem”

Posted in Cycling, Enviroment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Films, Friends, Health, Lectures, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Music & Cinema, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Ben Lui – The Helicopter used as a belay to lower the stretcher, then stuck overnight on the ridge and given a Parking Ticket.

Ben Lui at 3707 feet is a superb mountain in the southern Highlands of Scotland, at the head of Glen Fyne. It has five well-defined ridges radiating out from the summit. Four corries lie between the ridges; including Coire Gaothaich which lies on the northeast side of the mountain.

Ben Lui from a painting by my mate Terry Moore.
  • W.H. Murray in his classic books Mountaineering and Undiscovered Scotland is a great read and there is a lovely piece on the Central Gully on Ben Lui.

Ben Lui has the classic shape of a fine mountain when viewed from Tyndrum. The two summits are linked by the short ridge running South. Ben Lui was the fore front in the birth of Scottish Winter climbing due to its easy access from Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Coire Goathach provides the finest Winter Climbing on Ben Lui, Central Gully being the classic Scottish Winter gully.

Approach notes

Start at the carpark at Dalrigh (344 290) follow the private track from there to Cononish Farm, if your lucky you may get a lift off the farmer. However it is a nice walk in with spectacular views into Coire Gaothach of Ben Lui permitting the cloudlevel is high. It is possible to cycle in as well. A path then starts from Cononish and heads West for 2km to the foot of Coire Gaothach. At this stage you will see the full face of Ben Lui with all relevant routes leading to the summit. Climb directly into the corrie using a path on the northwest side of the burn to the foot of Central Gully, the classic Scottish Winter climb on Ben Lui.

To me Ben Lui is a marvellous mountain in winter it is imposing. It has many fun classic lines on it and we explored it over the years. A classic way up is by the mountains Central Gully as W.H.Murray wrote about this and its beauty of this way up the mountain. It was one of the first gullies climbed in the early days of mountaineering.

It is a simple Gully of Alpine proportions and brings you right up near the summit. It was often climbed by the RAF MRT days along with the 4 Munros

The climber is on Ben Lui !

In April 1991 a climber fell high on the West side of Central Gully. Killin MRT the local team were called out to assist, this is there area and they know the mountain well. The team can get access to Connish farm near the Gold mine and from here its a walk along the Glen and then up into the gully. This was a place they knew well as there have been many incidents in winter on this mountain. It can be avalanche prone and care has to be taken. The team asked for assistance and a RAF Wessex helicopter from Leuchars which was sent. As the helicopter was arriving it landed on the ridge and then the weather came in after recovering the casualty. The aircraft had now iced up and the engines could not be restarted. The weather had worsened and the aircraft batteries were now flat. This was the days before Night Vision Goggle (NVG). What happend next is an interesting tale.

Note the ropes and the other Wessex arriving!

Killin MRT now had a problem the helicopter and casualty were marooned on the ridge and had to recover the crew and the casualty the weather was getting worse. On arrival at the helicopter the decision was made to lower the stretcher with the casualty down the gully and take the 3 aircrew off the hill. That must have been an epic as the crew were wearing flying boots in these days. The belay was the helicopter and Killin did a great job getting all done safely and what a epic that would be in the dark. What was to be done with the helicopter.

I bet there were a few happy folk when the aircraft took off next day!

The RAF MRT were summoned to guard the helicopter which was on the ridge drapped in ropes. To their amazement on arriving the helicopter was fine but had a parking ticket attached by the local Bobby the late Tom Gibbon on the windscreen.

The Cartoon by the late Tom Gibbon then the local Policeman at Lochearnhead sadly no longer with us.

The Wessex ground crew got the helicopter running and was flown off the mountain next day. I bet there were a few worried folk on that flight out?

A local Killin Team Member Trevor Hipkin wrote a lovely book called Taking the brighter path in 2012 and describes this incident in more detail. He mentions the RAF regiment that was the RAF Leuchars MRT. Well worth a read.

This wee piece is dedicated to Killin MRT, 22 Sqn and my pals Tom Gibbon and Ian Ramsay the local police sadly no longer with us.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Kerr McIntosh

I am the bearer of more sad news. “The Kerr” –  Kerr McIntosh has passed away. He was my officer in charge at RAF Kinloss. In these days being an officer in charge of a RAF Mountain Rescue Team was not an easy task. It was one that few volunteered for and Kerr McIntosh was one of the few who did. He was ideal as he was a mountaineer and as man there have been few like him. 

I first met him I think in the very early 70’s he was the same rank as me then a lowly SAC at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. We had a great time then we were daft, young and had no responsibilities we used to get into all sorts of trouble. We ran about with the same crowd and lived life to the full.

I was in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team then and did not meet Kerr again till many years later it was just as I had moved as Team Leader at RAF Kinloss in late 1989. Kerr had by then become an officer but was still a great pal. He had joined the team as a troop and then as Officer i/c in these days we had a say in who would be our officer on the team.

On the hill he was a normal troop but outside on the camp an officer that was a hard line to keep everyone happy including his bosses. He should have been in the diplomatic core. Kerr was great friend I had calmed down (not) we had some incredible characters on the team. Kerr knew everyone he was one of them; it was a difficult team to manage, yet these were good folk. On the hill was one of the team he loved the hills, the troops and they loved him. This is not easy to achieve that balance, few did. He was part of their escapades, their climbing, socially yet he looked after them and their families if any got into trouble or needed advice. Respect in a mountain Rescue Team is earned not by rank but by what you do on the team in the mountains and how you treat the folk. Here he excelled. Yet he did lots for the team personally always helping the families and troops with the problems that can happen in service life. Everyone mattered, no problem was too trivial and he helped so many, this was a part of Kerr that few knew.

On several occasions he put his career on hold for us supporting me on several occasions as I upset the world. These were crazy days as we went from call out to call out across Scotland. For many of the team they would get a hard time for being way from their Line managers  on their primary jobs and even more important their families. Kerr would sort out with the Bosses, chat to the wife’s and girlfriends and tell them what the team were doing. Once we were away without a break for 8 days dealing with so many tragedies.  He helped make the station appreciate what we were about.

To me as the Team Leader he was a great friend  he helped me a lot in a hard ob and kept me right at times with my battles with those in authority. He advised me when to wind it in and when to go for it.  He also worked in Personal Services Flight mixing with Station hierarchy and here he helped and solved problems for the team. He also fought to get the simple things that folk take for granted. These were like good Base Camps with basic things like showers and an electricity allowance to dry gear. Simple things, he had a way of getting things done.

On the Shackleton Crash in Harris in 1990 we moved into an Hotel after the hard task of removing the fatalities from the crash site. We needed that time to shower and clean our gear especially after a traumatic experience. Kerr sorted it out and what a difference that made for all involved. That became policy whenever possible after a bad air crash and it was accepted that the team would be put in decent accommodation. This was long overdue.

He loved the climbing the walking the adventures with the troops, the nights in the pubs with the locals. We had some bold climbers about and Kerr would get out with them and he loved the hills. He would come back wide eyed and he told me these were the best years of his life. He went to the Alps had his eyes opened even further and enjoyed getting away and pushing himself. He loved winter climbing and he and a few of the like his pal Martin Mc Dermott pushed the climbing and gave me a few more grey hairs. I would wait for them coming of a route to ensure they were heading home. He did a new winter line in one of the remote Corries and the troops called it Redcoats Weep. He was so proud of it and the name.

Kerr wide eyed on a thin Castle ridge crux. Ben Nevis. His face always showed his feelings!

Socially he was some man his Highland accent was well received all over Scotland and he was at times the life and soul of many Highland nights. As a local from the Black Isle he had lots of contacts in the area and the twang of a local. This was also so handy all over Scotland as he knew so many contacts. We got to know locals well and Kerr would be there if we attended a funeral of a Hall keeper or local that had helped us. These were the things that few noticed.

As time moved on in the military we went separate ways. Kerr ended up at Cranwell training officer recruits. He would laugh at me saying training future “Redcoats” I am sure he did a good job and talked sense to the new recruits from his vast experience. He was a people person in every way and I am sure he passed on his gems of dealing with the troops that made the Service work. He said that the tour at Kinloss gave him huge life experiences that he never forgot.

We met a few years ago as I was coming of the Cairngorms alone he was the same. He told me he was not well but said it was great to be back out on the hills. We had a good craic and then promised to stay in touch. Kerr though outgoing was a private man and this is how he dealt with his illness, just him and his family. That was a few years ago.

Sadly I heard that Kerr had passed away yesterday after a long illness. My thoughts are as always with his wife Cathy his daughters Jenny and Susie and all the family and his many friends. I will pass on funeral details when I get them.

There are not many like “The Kerr” A good Officer, man and friend of many.

“Kerr one of the troops”

Heavy Whalley 21 Jan 2020

Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 8 Comments

Not a Lot Of People Know this ?

Not a lot of people know?

These notice boards have been in my local forest for many years. They were so ahead of there time. I was told the local Community Council put them up what a great idea and so forwarding thinking.

It reads : That litter can last a long time in the environment.

Cigarette ends 1 – 5 years.

Aluminium cans – 500 years.

Glass bottles – 1000 years.

Plastic Bags – 10 to 20 years.

Plastic Containers – 30 years.

Orange or Banana peels – 2 years.

Plastic 6 can holders – 100 years.

Styrofoam will last indefinitely.

Now that you know please take your litter home.

Scotland is Beautiful lets keep it that way.

Great thoughts !

Posted in Enviroment, Local area and events to see, Views Political?, Well being | Leave a comment

Compensation payments to Wind Farms?

Last night there was an interesting piece on BBC Scotland. I have been interested in the Wind farm and renewables debate it’s a very debatable subject for many and interesting to see the reaction by many of both sides of the discussion.

Comment W.W. W

It’s because of the way power is contracted to the grid, and not unique to wind, The companies have to provide a certain capacity, or they don’t get paid (or get fined). But if the grid decide they don’t need that much power, they need to cut production.

The companies have invested in capacity to produce, so if they are told to stop producing, they are compensated for it. Otherwise they have to invest all their money for when we need it, but could be told to turn everything off and not get paid.

Not all that different from booking a hotel and having a cancellation fee/non-returnable deposit: the hotel had the room for you, couldn’t sell the capacity to anyone else, so you still have to pay even though you don’t use it.

If the UK only had precisely enough capacity to meet needs, there would be no flexibility for production to raise if consumption rose, nor any resilience for when something went wrong.

The more peculiar bit is that because the renewable producers are easier to turn off, they are cheaper to have turned off vs a bigger power station. This is where I think it’s more contentious, because effectively we have incentivised not using the most environmentally friendly sources of electricity.

I fully understand that we need move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. To me it’s sad that very few in power looked into the future of Energy use and other ways planned for our future!

I know little about it but it is also incredible that the land owners get so much to rent their land for the wind farms. Also so much is made abroad including turbines also so much investment also from abroad the profits are mainly paid for out of our Electricity bills.

Why did we not try to have a Green Bond issued to build Wind farms. Many will say it was to risky but it looks like the companies who own them cannot lose with the compensation payments?

In my view I feel that should be classified as an energy producers’ risk and not compensated at all.

I have some interesting comments on the subject please feel welcome to add disagree with them?

W.W.W – Put it the other way: if someone wanted to convince you to put a lot of money into a project, which might take years to pay back its investment, let alone make profits, you might go for it as a long-term thing. If they told you that you had to go ahead and put your money in, but they might not pay you as much as you had costed your whole plan on, because periodically they could decide not to use your very expensive equipment, you might not invest at all. Or you might demand a higher price for the energy to mitigate the risk of being told to turn off against your will.

Via electricity bills, we will pay these costs irrespective: if they didn’t come as a payback for generation capacity being turned off, we would pay higher price per kWh. In a nationalised system, the cost of running all the generation capacity might even out across all locations and types, but the cost of paying for redundancy would still be there, only more opaque.

Steve – Equally as interesting is how much landowners get paid for having a wind farm on their land – they don’t have to actually do anything apart from giving their permission – the power generator does everything else 😳

Chris – It’s better than burning fossil fuels, and probably won’t settle down until it’s all renewable energy. A small price to pay in the long run?

Angus – Smart meters should allow consumers to be alerted and given the opportunity to use that electricity for free instead of paying the companies, could be used for storage heating etc.

Dave – Angus, the future, for example you plug your car in to charge with a requirement for it to be charged fully by 08:00. When that charging takes placed would be controlled by demand v’s generation. Some way of that level of integration yet though.

Paul – Unfortunately the floodgates were opened by the Scottish government, encouraging foreign business to take advantage of the uk energy market. You’ll understand why they love us when we pay higher rates for each kw generated than any other country. As an example the farm I used to work on was Norwegian but the background funding was Chinese. The operators are also quite happy to reduce generation and increase maintenance opportunities, particularly when the energy prices are low. Other consideration are that the farms in moray and Aberdeenshire will only cater for reasonably local use. The uk national grid doesn’t stretch to Scotland and isn’t particularly suited to imbalanced power inputs like wind farms. Not yet anyway. Plus, take a look at the proposed power links to France, Norway etc

Paul – This isn’t unique to wind, all generation essentially receives non generation payments, other wise nobody could develop anything with any certainty of a return. There are many issues but this probably isn’t the one to worry about!

Posted in Enviroment, Views Political?, Well being | Leave a comment

Some Great comments about the power of the Wind from yesterdays Blog. “Mountain Mishaps” we can all learn from them.

Thank you for the many comments on my piece on the power of the wind in the Mountains. Nowadays forecasts are very accurate and we have far more information on the weather and what to expect. Many of us still get caught out and unless you have experienced a strong wind most folk have no clue. Many think a 35 knot wind is far stronger than it is so it can be hard to gauge wind speeds. If it is blowing me and I cannot speak to folk with me its about 50 – 60 knots. That means to me get out of here time. Gusts are the ones that get you and if you are near a cornice or steep ground its easy to get blown over. I am very aware of the power of the wind often I thought we we invincible we are not. No matter how fit you are it only takes a gust to smash you into rocks or worse. Please be aware of the weather and plan your day accordingly. Many thanks for the honesty of a few pals who have allowed me to re quote them. We need honesty to pass on these messages. Be safe and enjoy the mountains.

Power of the Wind – “The RAF Wessex helicopter moving backwards, hovering over the tourist path on the Ben during the annual hill race, trying to pick up a casualty. Even though we were moving backwards the forward air speed indicator was showing 70 knots. (around 80 mph).
I think the Oban Times (or Press and Journal) later reported the unexpected sudden weather change for that race as ‘the worst hill storm in living history’ !

1988, I think. Wessex Pilot George Phillips

George it was 1988 just checked !

03/09/88Ben Nevis15 race casualties.  A real epic. Weather 40 knots – 10 wind-chill, driving rain, epic flying by RAF Wessex we ran out of stretchers and gear.
1988 Ben Nevis Race

There were 15 casualties.

A mountaineers Tale – A similar thing happened on my Winter ML this time to my assessor who disappeared over the cliffs trying to catch his rucksack with radio, fortunately several minutes later he reappeared and uttered these immortal words nose to nose and eye to eye ” Ron, you are not on assessment now, I don’t care how you do it, just get us back to the snow-hole….” we crawled trying not to get blown over the edge, lost all the maps bar the one that Jim in the Lodge stores had told me to stuff down my front just in case! Compasses broke, gloves disappeared, goggles froze up and no communication for two days. When we eventually got down we learned that the Lodge had been evacuated and roads closed due to snow and winds of 130mph on the plateau!

Winds make me nervous, very nervous, not sure why!!!! it’s hard to explain to a lot of the youngsters and young instructors brought up with mobile phones, social media, more reliable weather and avalanche reports along with HASAW what it was actually like just a few decades ago!

Ron Walker Mountain Guide.

Photo – The result of being picked up by a gust of wind (recorded travelling at 130mph) and being carried through the air for 25 metres, before being slammed into a pile of boulder P. Greening

The result of the wind smashing you into rocks – Photo P.G

There are three good things that you get out of the mountains. You meet people, you meet battle and beauty. The people are true, the battles are the only ones worth fighting and the beauty is life itself.

I miss the mountains for sure…but never saw one that was worth dying for….. BEST ADVICE

Jan 2020 Dougie Crawford

Please if you have a tale that you wish to share about a Mountaineering Mishap then please get in touch we can all learn from mistakes.

Thanks all for your comments and also I am fine a few thought it was my ankle that was battered. It was a mate a few years ago.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 1 Comment

Big Ian Ramsay – Family man – Our friendly Polis, Killin MRT and friend of many.

Yesterday was a long day and I was up at 0500 for the funeral of my good pal Ian Ramsay. Ian was the local Policeman at Crainlarich who I got to know over many years. I was asked by the family to speak at the funeral in Killin I was offered a lift with Don Shanks a good pal from my days in the RAF MRT. Don was the Leuchars Team Leader we also took down Tom Taylor another old RAF MRT Leader. The forecast was awful with a big storm on its way that is why we left early. The journey down was fine but the road from the A9 to Killin was pretty wild. There was lots of flooding but we arrived in good time. We met so many old pals, Ian’s MRT Killin another 2 RAF ex team leaders and troops and another 3 from the helicopter world. There were so many there Police, MRT, SARDA, Fire and all the locals. I was told Bridge of Orchy, Crianlarich and Killin were Ghost towns so many arrived to say farewell to Ian.

I met so many keepers and old faces you meet on Rescues. Ian was a loved man. I get asked to do a wee piece at a few funerals its never easy, I nearly broke down on a few occasions. Ian would have laughed at me but there were so many folk who loved the man. His family were wonderful and even at the grave when the weather was wild there was so much love. We could see the hills breaking through an occasional glimpse, with some snow and the rivers full. The Killin Hotel was packed for a cup of tea and some food but we could not stay long the forecast was getting worse. The drive back just before the winds came was good we made good time . Don’s wife Nina had a meal for us in Forres, that was a lovely end to the day. Its hard going home after such a day but there is something special about this Mountain Rescue family. The wives and children give up so much yet they see so much as Ian’s family have done. They give so much to us all we are all so lucky. Things have moved on since my days in Mountain Rescue and its great to see the help we are given by our families and friends is now being acknowledged. Ian always was well aware of this and how important in life were his family, the good local people and the love and care of those less fortunate in society is.

Thank you Ian for keeping me right.

Big Ian Ramsay – Our friendly Policeman, Killin MRT and friend of many.

In many years of Mountain Rescue you meet so many characters. I was so lucky to meet Ian on many occasions as he was the Village “Polis” in Crainlarich.  In my early days of RAF Mountain Rescue he would call us out as his house was across the road from the village Hall. In these days it would be strange to find a huge big Bobby waking you up to go on a Rescue.  These were the days before mobile phones and we used the local Police to call us out.

Ian Ramsay

Ian was a member of the local Killin MRT and always there on a call – out. We got to know the Police well all over Scotland in these days. There was a great bond between us and the local bobby like Ian would ease things with a few of the Senior Police Officers who found it hard to leave it to those who knew.  Many call this period as the “Golden Years of SAR” and the local Police man who knew his patch and its people was so important. As young guys we would have the odd misdemeanour on our travels on the roads and occasionally with the locals and Ian would help us out. He would also give us “advice” if we missed behaved. He would often pop in for a brew to our bothies. This to many of the young  RAF team who came from the cities they could not understand what a bond we had until they learned very quickly.

One winter night on Ben More in 1987 Ian and his Boss Sgt Harry Lawrie who was also the Team Leader of Killin MRT were involved in a tragic helicopter crash that killed Harry. Ian was very badly injured as was the wince man Mick Anderson. It was a miracle that the rest survived. Ian and Mick were saved that night by the actions of the Killin Team. I was there as we saw the incident happen as we were heading back to RAF Leuchars  and we were asked to help. It was an awful night and it was touch and go for Ian and Mick both were in hospital with life threatening injuries for many months.

After that night and over the years I became great friends with the Killin Team and Ian became a lifelong friend. Ian bore the scars of that night all his life and later on was involved in a serious car crash that gave him a lot of more medical problems.

Ian never moaned though his body was battered and was always one I could talk to. Over the years when I became a Team Leader at RAF Leuchars Ian looked after us and kept my young Team in order. He knew what was happening in his area. We had access to the hill tracks he knew the keepers and Estates and also there was little he did not know about the hills and the characters.

Though a quiet man we would sometimes be regaled with his stories of the “Fly boys” from the cities he caught on the A82 speeding or doing other things. Also he had a firm hand if anyone was misbehaving on his patch. It was traditional policing and Ian was the master. Yet he looked after the young, the vulnerable and elderly in the area and was much loved.

Over the years I was asked to play golf with him, though I am no golfer we had some laughs. It ended up with Ian coming on our Annual Golf Trip for a five day trip all over the UK. It was in essence an Mountain Rescue Trip and Ian loved it, he loved the craic I got to know Ian well as we drove up in my car; he used to be terrified with my driving. He told us some tales over a dram about his community characters and his Mountain Rescue work. How he often had the hard job of telling a relative of the bad news after a hill accident, road crash or sudden death. He as he did things with a kindness and care that was needed.  

Ian’s will not mind me saying his body took a battering over the years and despite being in great pain he never moaned. He also never blamed anyone for his accident he met the pilot and crew of the helicopter that he crashed in a difficult journey for all but it all helped with the healing.

His family were his life as was his lovely house overlooking Ben More in Crainlarich. He was dedicated to his wife Irene daughter and son Graham. When his granddaughters arrived that made his day we exchanged stories and he was so happy.  I was shocked when his health deteriorated so quickly. I was so honoured we spoke a few days before he passed away he was so strong and it was a hard conversation.  It is so hard for all that he is no longer with us. He was to me and others a traditional Policeman “the best of the best”,

Ian was one of a unique kind of person; he spent his life looking after others and gave so much to us all. He smiled through all his pain, told awful jokes but was one of the best men I have ever met. I have met so many folk who made a big influence in my life one was Ian he had a huge part of that. He lived his life and showed so much kindness and care throughout for so many.

My thoughts are with all the family and friends we have lost a warrior an unassuming man one of great humility and humour. He dedicated his life to helping others in the Police, in his community and in the Mountains and his family and friends.

Ian in Uniform.

Thank you to me and many others you will always be the Big Man with a big heart and a true pal throughout the years. We shared a lot of good times and also a lot of hard times but we had a true friendship that I and many others will never forget.

My thoughts are with Irene, Graham, Fiona her partner Kris the Granddaughter’s Laura and Eva and all Ian’s relatives and many friends.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Today I say farewell to a great pal – Ian Ramsay local Policeman, Mountain Rescuer and friend of many. Loved by his family a freinds and the local Community.

I am up at 0500 as I have a sad journey to Killin to say farewell to an old pal Ian Ramsay, Ian was one of many Policemen I knew all over the Highlands its his funeral today in Killin at 1100. I got to know Ian through my Mountain Rescue Career and sometimes folk forget that the Police have responsibility for Mountain Rescue in the UK. They rely on the local Mountain Rescue Teams to cover such wide responsibilities in the mountains and wild places.

Ian on the left with his pal Bill Rose Killin MRT.

Over the years there has been great trust achieved by the Police and local Mountain Rescue teams. Most of this was the work of local bobbies like Ian Ramsay and so many others like him. They are the unsung heroes all over Scotland. I have been asked to say a few words about my pal Ian at the funeral. This to me is a great honour as so many of Ian’s family and friends will be there.

I hope I do him and the family proud. I will be publishing my words on my pal tomorrow for those who cannot make the funeral.

Posted in Family, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Know when to turn back on the hills especially in the wind and in winter !

During your journey keep 4 important factors in mind.

I often get asked about the hills in winter and this winter at present has been mixed. It is so important not to judge your winter hill days by the Summer associated times in many guide books and web sites. Every day is different and winter can quickly return. A great idea is to plan your day get your map out and look at your route plan it. Work out what is your formula for every kilometre travelled and what time to climb each contour. There are many variants but it all depends on who is with you and your and there physical shape. Navigating in a white out takes great accuracy and time and even this weekend folk were saying high up the Goggles were essential. Here are a few thoughts.

To me one of the big stoppers on the hills is wind and trying to explain what a 80 – 100 mph wind can do you no matter who or how hard experienced you are. Two things to bare in mind I have seen big men blown over by the wind. Some of the most scariest things I have been involved in is in high winds. The other point if you are pushing the boundaries and you have gone out in extremely high winds if you have a problem who will come and get you? The helicopter sadly will not be able to get you it will be up to the Rescue Teams. They will come out and do there best. I know several folk who have been hurt on Rescues some pretty badly in high winds. Looking back on a few incidents on Rescues I would not do that again when we were out there in extreme conditions. We were extremely lucky.

During your journey keep 4 important factors in mind. The human element, the conditions,the terrain and the timing.

At a turning point, analysing these 4 factors will help you decide whether to continue or not.

For example in what kind of physical condition are you and your party.

Are the conditions and weather good?

Is the terrain acceptable?

Do you still have enough time?

Plan your route and remember guide book times are for Summer conditions.

Check weather and avalanche conditions. Think how many kilometres will you climb in an hour in deep snow? How many metres of ascent in an hour ?

Todays weather for Cairngorms winds – Southwesterly 50-70mph; risk 80mph with gusts 90-100mph Cairngorm plateau, particularly middle of day. Speeds easing marginally into afternoon, rarely less than 40-50mph.

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

Clavie night – great weather and an incredible tradition. A few tales of a dog and a phone down the loo!

Last night my wee village was busy I had a few pals overs as it was Clavie Night.

It’s a great night we had fun the weather was perfect with a full moon the village was mobbed.

Photo Al Swadel

As usual my wee house was busy with a few visitors and a dog. Sadly the dog left me a message in my wee office ! Enough said. You know who you are Coll! I blame the owners he also kept me awake and I had to dog sit him during the wee small hours.

We also had a visit from Drummond who arrived on his bike scaring us at the door.

The Drummond.

The we had another visitor who at the end of the evening she left and called in the morning she was missing her phone. Funny enough the loo stopped flushing and the rest was a reminder of my days on Everest clearing poo as my job as Bass Camp Manager. My Rescue skills recovered the phone and Dia —- was informed next day. My bill is in the post.

In all an interesting but smelly night. Great to see old pals and have a laugh. The Clavie of 2020 will go down in my memory forever. Will the phone or my carpets recover? Going for a nap now.

Did Drummond get home?

The Clavie – what is it all about ?

Thousands are attracted to the Broch for the annual event, which sees a tar-soaked barrel set alight and paraded around the streets to ward off evil spirits for the year ahead.The flaming spectacle of January 11 is led by Clavie King Dan Ralph and the local men who make up the Clavie Crew.

At exactly 6pm a burning peat will be used to light the Clavie before it is heaved onto the shoulders of crew members and marched around the town. Smouldering staves are handed out to householders and local publicans along the way and tradition has it that possession of a piece of the burning Clavie brings good luck during the coming year.

The Clavie’s final resting place is atop the altar of the old Pictish fort at Doorie Hill, where the fire is fuelled sending burning embers into the night.Mr Ralph said everything is now ready for the January 11 celebration.

“The barrel is actually made and the Clavie will be put together on Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, it will be lit at the Old Manse Dyke on Granary Street at 6pm and we’ll be off.”Condemned in the eighteenth century as “an abominable heathenish practice”, Brochers continue to observe the ritual every January 11.

The Ritual

The event takes place on the night of January 11 (the original Hogmanay before the calendar changed in 1660). The “Clavie” is a half barrel filled with wood shavings and tar. In the past, it would have been a herring barrel. Today, iron-hooped whisky barrels daubed with creosote are used. The barrel is nailed onto a carrying post – the same nail is ritually used every year – which is hoisted onto the shoulders of a local villager.

The clavie is then lit, traditionally by a peat from the hearth of an old Burghead Provost and from there carried by the elected Clavie King Each of the ten or so men (traditionally fishermen) take it in turn to carry the burning clavie clockwise around the streets of Burghead, occasionally stopping at the houses of former eminent citizens to present a smouldering faggot of the clavie in the doorway to bring the household good luck for the year ahead.

The men proceed to the stone altar of an old fort on the ancient Doorie Hill, the clavie is set down here and more fuel is added until the hillside is ablaze with a beacon of fire.

Al Swadel Photo

When the Clavie falls to the ground, it is the official start of the Burghead New Year. The flaming embers are snatched up by onlookers and used to kindle a special New Year fire at home, kept for luck or are even sent to relations or friends who have moved away from Burghead.


As well as drawing comparisons with the Celtic festival of Samhain, various theories link its origins to the Picts (there was once a Pictish fort at Burghead) and the Romans. The word Clavie may have originated from the Latin Clavus meaning “nail” and it is speculated that the fort at Doorie Hill may have been an ancient Roman altar. However, contrary views suggest that there is not enough evidence to prove that the Romans came this far North. The festival also has many similarities with ancient Norse culture.

Whatever the origins, the practice of Clavie burning probably took place at many villages in the North East centuries ago, but was not always tolerated by the powers-that-be. It was condemned by the strict presbyterian establishment as “superstitious, idolatrous and sinfule, an abominable heathenish practice”. In 1704 a law was passed against Clavies. But the ritual practice of Clavie burning still continues each January 11th…


Posted in Family, Friends, Local area and events to see, Well being | Leave a comment