Smith Island (South Shetland Islands) Antarctica – reminisce.

I am down in Wales and we had a visit after the golf yesterday from an old pal Steve Heaney Horrible Heaney. He was away with Tom Jones in 1991 to a 3 month expedition to Smith Island.

In 1977, the 79-year-old legendary mountaineer, WWII veteran and yachtsman, Bill Tilman was lost at sea along with seven others. The converted Dutch barge, En Avant, and her crew was lost somewhere between Rio and the Falklands en route to Mount Foster on Smith Island to the north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Smith Island Re Union Tom Jones and Steve Heaney.

Smith Island

Topographic map of Livingston Island and Smith Island.

Smith Island is located in Antarctica

Smith Island
Smith Island
Location Antarctica
Coordinates 63°00′S 62°30′W
Archipelago South Shetland Islands
Area 148 km2 (57 sq mi)
Length 20 mi (30 km)
Width 5 mi (8 km)
Highest elevation 2,105 m (6,906 ft)
Highest point Mount Foster
Administered under the Antarctic Treaty System
Population 0

Tom and Steve were on a 3 month expedition on this remote Island the plan was to climb Mount Foster at that time unclimbed. They had some great tales of wild weather living in a snow cave and fighting the elements. Tents were damaged and they had a few epics including nearly summiting on Mountain Foster and a wild descent. It was some night of reminisce. The highest peak, Mt. Foster (2,105m), was climbed for the first time in 1996 after years of effort by various teams. It had become famous for its huge vertical relief and terrible weather.

Smith Island is 20 miles (32 km) long and 5 miles (8.0 kilometres) wide, lying 45 miles (72 km) west of Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands of the British Antarctic Territory. Surface area 148 square kilometres (57 sq mi).[1]

The discovery of the South Shetland Islands was first reported in 1819 by Capt. William Smith, for whom the island is named. This island was known to both American and British sealers as early as 1820, and the name Smith has been well established in international usage for over 100 years, although in Russian literature it is often referred to as Borodino Island, sometimes marked as Borodino (Smith) Island.

The island hosts no research stations or camps, and is seldom visited by scientists or mountaineers. Its interior is entirely occupied by Imeon Range rising to 2,105 m (6,906 ft) (Mount Foster). The first detailed topographic mapping of the island was made by the Antarctic Place-names Commission and the Military Geographic Service of the Bulgarian Army and published in 2009[1] in both English and Bulgarian.

As for the golf it was a fine day plus some rain and a visit again by Al Haveron we played at Rhuddlan and we are all still pals.

2017 golf gang

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Day 2 Golf in Wales-well done on the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award -Daedalus Explorers Scouts.

We had a great day yesterday at  Denbigh in Wales playing golf with pals for a week. We had a great day in the sun near the Vale of Clyyd . We brought another ex mountaineer Alaister Haveron to join us and a great fun day and good to catch up. Al lives locally and looked after me for many years in Mountain Rescue at Kinloss in Scotland and I was his full -time Deputy Team Leader in North Wales. He looked after me well so it was great to catch up.

1980 RAF Valley MRT


We are staying in Llanludno and the weather has been great. The rest went out to hear the male voice choir, a bit of a local music for the night.

I did a wee chat to a few venture Scouts at Kinloss who were doing their Bronze Award and this is what I got yesterday. “Duke Of Edinburgh Award – this is the team you met just after their Bronze expedition. Your talk inspired them to push themselves and this weekend they completed their Gold. Hope you will join us for their presentation later this year.”

Daedalus Explorers home from Gold Exped safe and sound


What a great end to a day and superb to see that these young folk have done so well. So what an achievement and it will be a great honour to be there for their presentation.

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Well done Mark Beaumont what an achievement,averaging 240 miles a day for 79 days.

I have been following the incredible efforts of British cyclist Mark Beaumont has smashed the record for cycling around the globe by reaching the finish line one day ahead of schedule.The cyclist set off from France in July on a mission to bike around the world in 80 days and he arrived back in Paris on Monday evening on day 79 of the journey.

Even better Mark is a Scot has set a new Guinness World Records title, knocking 44 days off the current record of 123 days. He was on his bike for more than 16 hours a day and only slept for five hours each night.

Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel Around The World In Eighty Days, he began his journey in Paris on 2 July and cycled through Europe, Russia, Mongolia and China.  He then cycled across Australia, up through New Zealand and across North America before the final “sprint finish” thorough Portugal, Spain and France.

During the trip, Mark was also awarded the Guinness World Records title for the most miles cycled in a month, from Paris to Perth in Australia, verified at 7,031 miles (11,315km). In order to complete the epic 18,000-mile challenge, Mark needed to cycle on average 240 miles a day.Mark began long-distance cycling at the age of 12 when he rode 145 miles across Scotland. He was supported by a team including a mechanic, nutritionist, physiotherapist and manager.The adventurer is raising funds for Orkidstudio, which works to benefit communities worldwide through innovative architecture and construction. Well worth supporting his charity. Now there is a candidate for Sportsperson of the year and what a team he had supporting him.

I am in North Wales with some pals in North Wales Llanludno golfing for a few days what a magic place and we played North Wales Golf Club yesterday in good weather. We were joined by Al Haveron for the day and had a great laugh and a few stories at night.  The weather looks good today before it breaks and it is great to be back in Wales.  We had 4 swans fly over us on the green yesterday what a noise the wings made and how graceful were there, it is a stunning place with the hills and the sea and sound company.

Enjoying North Wales Golf with Laurry, Tom Jones and Stu Culthard.

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What a day misty Glencoe and Rannoch Moor spell – bounding beauty then drive to Wales.

I was away early the mist was down and Glencoe was stunning they big Skyline Race was starting at 0700 and what a day they would have as the last cloud cleared of the high tops. What an incredible even this race is and what a day they would have.

The hills as the day awakes in Glencoe

The supporters were about and as the race crosses both sides of Glencoe I saw the preparations near the Anoach Eag where they drop down to the road and then up again onto the tops. These are true elite runners and I had 3 pals running!. I was jealous to spend such a day driving but what views I had of Glencoe and especially  Rannoch Moor in the mist and low clouds was spell binding it was like out of a film set.

Misty Rannoch Moor as the sun rises what a day.

It was then on to Crainlarich for breakfast with my old pal Elma and what porridge she made it was superb and not “ping porridge”  from the micro wave and the way to start to day. We had a quick chat and then off to pick up Ian my pal and travel to North Wales for a few days golf. The weather was amazing  and the roads fine a bit of rain but once of the motorway and arriving in Wales we had the best weather possible.

What a day

We arrived in Llandudno in good time and got sorted, what a stunning place. It has been nearly 30 odd years since I have been here when I was stationed in North Wales at RAF Valley with the Mountain Rescue.  The boys arrived by 1700 and we went out for dinner and then had a wander along the promenade. It was so warm and busy and another world for me with lots of folk about. The weather looks great and we are off golfing today.

A enjoyed a good night and looking forward to the trip.

Well done all on the Skyline Race magic effort.


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Heading South – To the land of Wales.

Left in the rain yesterday for my golf/climb/visit the Grandkids trip! The hills looked wet and misty and popped into Fortwilliam to see a young Joss Gosling a veteran RAF Mountain Rescuer. He was on the team on the Beinn Eighe crash on the Recovery party and at 89 we had a great catch up!

He had a superb view of Ben Nevis and it was clearing in the mist as I left in the afternoon. Why a disaster Fort William is with traffic just now and the A82 so busy! There are so many cyclists it is scary and even the short time I was on the road so many impatient drivers! Sadly what can you do it is the main road and is not in my opinion fit for purpose! There will sadly be tragedies on this road! I had nearly a head on with an impatient driver!

I stayed at Sues in Onich had a great meal in the Four Seasons Restaurant last night and a catch up with Sues Mum and Dad Val and Paddy. Paddy looked after us for years in the bunkhouse and a friend to many of the climbers of another era! Some man, The rain had stopped no midges and it was a stunning night with great views of Ardgour! We managed a short wander up to the Waterfalls and it was superb end to a day!

I am heading for Crianlarich this morning to pick up Ian an old pal and take him to the golf in Wales. There will be some tales on the way down as he is a pal from the Killin MRT and an ex Policeman . I will have breakfast with Elma the lassie who had looked after us in The RAF Mountain Rescue for many years and another catch up.

Good to see so many pals and worth stopping in. All the best to Mark Hartree and Al Swadel on the Glencoe Skyeline Race the weather looks good but be careful! The ground is very wet underfoot!

Great feedback on yesterday’s blog on loose rock and there is plenty about so be careful! These are big hills and there to enjoy! I envy you on the hill today as I drive South !

Looking forward to seeing Glencoe as the sun comes out!

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Highland Scrambles South, back on the shelves! Think – Tip,tap Test!

From the Scottish Mountain Trust – As some of you will know, following a couple of incidents in the Cairngorms, we took the step of temporarily stopping distribution of Highland Scrambles South. We’re pleased to tell you that the book is back in the warehouse and will be hitting the shelves soon. If you own the guide already, you’ll also be please to hear that nothing has fundamentally changed. If you don’t own the guide yet then grab a copy as soon as you can, there’s loads to go at! Check out the latest copy of Scottish Mountaineer for some more information about the publication.


Other than modifications to the prominence of safety advice and cosmetic changes (like making it easier to distinguish between climbs and scrambles, for example), here are the notable updates to routes and descriptions –

1. There is a specific reference to the stability of the routes in Coire an t’Sneachda, which were badly affected this last winter
2. The approach description to Lurchers has been updated to note that, until well acquanted with the crag, it is wise to approach from the Larig Ghru; and that it is a crag suited to experienced mountaineers
3. We’ve noted a loose block on the descent route from the Crowberry Tower on Buachaille Etive Mòr
4. Advice on possible bird restrictions for Barkeval, Rum and Mullwharchar, Galloway – check online with Mountaineering Scotland before your visit!

Attached to this post is a fabulous sketch of the Crowberry Tower by Jamie Hageman which now features in the book. Also attached is an updated diagram for the South-East face of Stob Dearg, Buachaille Etive Mòr, which just missed the print run.

Safe and happy scrambling everyone – here’s hoping for some crisp clear autumn days in the hills before winter arrives!…/scrambling/highlands-south

Shaun Roberts, Principal at Glenmore Lodge, said:

“I do believe that the nature of winters over the last decade, along with the generally more intense precipitation has had an impact on Coire an t-Sneachda.”

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

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

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

Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Adviser with Mountaineering Scotland, added:

“Hillwalkers, scramblers and climbers should be extra vigilant when journeying either below or approaching scrambles and climbs – particularly if there are other parties above or there has been heavy rainfall in the previous few days.”

“Specifically, hillwalkers should be particularly cautious when ascending or descending the Goat Track in Corie an t-Sneachda when there are climbers above them.”

Be aware and be careful.” tip, tap test”, when climbing its a good practice.

I wrote this in 2014  –  Rockfall in the Scottish Mountains a reminder!

The recent winter with its big snowfalls and the very heavy rain of a few weeks ago may have led to an accident where a climber was sadly killed in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms. My thoughts are with the climbers family and friends and the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and the Royal Naval Helicopter involved in the recovery.  There was also a huge rockfall a few weeks ago after the heavy rain which took out some of the path “the Goat Track”which many use to gain access to the Cairngorm Plateau. A few warnings were put out and advising climbers of the recent rockfall. The area is still unstable and it is worth staying clear of. Rockfall in this area is not unusual and even in a light winter there have been several accidents in the past when the cliff is not completely frozen and it is well-known for loose rock by climbers.  This accident happened in summer as there are a few  rock climbs that are easily accessible from the road which attract climbers. My guide-book still has a warning on the cliff diagram warning of loose rock and it was all part of a regular brief to my Mountain Rescue Team members when training in this area.

We often climbed in this Corrie as it was a busy place in winter and allowed younger Team member’s to get some area knowledge before the rescues in winter and  popular scrambles /climb was Pygmy ridge or Fingers Ridge and over to Afterthought Arete at Loch Avon. There are many other scrambles in Lurchers crag and other areas  be aware these are mountain routes.  Care must be taken in these areas and these mountains cliffs are always changing. This is true of all the mountain cliffs, from Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Skye, Lochnagar, The North West and many more so please be aware. Objective dangers are relevant in Scotland, safe climbing.

Tip, Tap,Test and wear a helmet is better than a hole in your head?

There is no excuse nowadays they are light and comfortable and put it on early and take it off late!

Worth reading our wee adventure on the Dubhs in Skye. We had helmets and never put them on a pal was hit by a stone from above !
He was very lucky! Have fun and enjoy the hills safely! 

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The Milton Mountaineers and getting older on the hills?

Many who love the mountains and wild places  go for the views a times  we cannot believe that what we have seen and enjoyed and that we should never  take any of it for granted. As we get older a few of us suffer from an ageing and a gradual loss of sharp eyesight and many of us now wear glasses. Imagine being blind or partially sighted and coping with a day on the hills like the group The Milton Mountaineers.

1988 On Ben Nevis with the RAF teams..

The Milton Mountaineers is a charity group of blind and partially sighted hill walkers and sighted friends/relations who meet in different parts of the UK to climb hills or mountains in the area.

Membership is free, but participants pay for their own travel to the venue and for accommodation. The charity subsidises one trip a year by paying for the services of a walks leader if necessary, transport to and from each day’s walk and drinks at the last evening meal.

Participants should be fit and active enough in order to walk for up to around 6 hours a day for 3 days or more in hilly and sometimes rough terrain.

Contact the organiser to obtain joining information.

Over the years I was involved with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams in Wales at RAF Valley and with RAF Kinloss & RAF Leuchars MRT in Scotland helping the Milton Mountaineers up various hills.  These were from the Carnedds in Wales to Ben Lawyers and Ben Nevis.

1980 North Wales with the Valley MRT.

These were very hard undertakings and we learned lots from each other. It was especially interesting to see how the young boys and girls in the team coped with long days some over 8 -12 hours of guiding up a mountain a partly sighted person or blind. The communication skills of having to build a trust in each other and explaining the ground and what we can see during the day.  These were huge learning curbs for all but what benefits to us all helping each other and learning how difficult and how lucky we are to be fit and sighted. It was a slow process getting the right blend with each companion and guide and amazing how the trust builds as the day goes on. These were huge learning days for us all.

It was always harder coming down when all were a bit tired and yet we coped with it and how exhausted we were at the end, both mentally and physically. In my mind these were as hard as any call -outs but what a great result in the faces of those who took part and how humble we felt after such days.

These were great days with great people.

It makes a lot of folk more aware of the limitation’s of poor or no eyesight and though in no way comparable many older mountaineers are now learning to cope with walking/ climbing with glasses.


At the Clachaig after my Mountain Safety Chat as I was packing up a gentleman came over with  his wife and asked me how I cope with Glasses on the hill. It is a question that I am getting asked more and more.  One thing about getting old it happens to us all. It is so funny to watch these heroes trying to cope with glasses it is like their invincibility has been tested and found wanting! Various friends asked me for the first time in 40 years how I cope especially when winter climbing in wild weather, heavy rain, mist and blizzard conditions? No one was interested before and I struggled for my whole life with very poor vision.

2001 specs in the hills

My answer “when it gets that bad I would rather not see where I am”

Many of us older mountaineers now wear glasses  I have worn them since 4 years old! I have tested the awful National Health Specs to destruction over the years. As I young lad I broke so many pairs I was constantly in the opticians it was my second home!  I wore specs even when playing football which I loved and was sure I invented a band round the legs to keep them on! I smashed so many pairs but you just have to get on with it and they have been a huge hindrance all my life.

I used string as well to keep them attached but they still got smashed regularly and also they were held up by Elastoplast and more sellotape. I tried all types but still manage to break even the un – breakable and have had too always carry a spare pair everywhere. I tried contact lenses but no joy my eyes just did not cope so for 60 years I have worn glasses. On the hill I had a few pairs of prescription lenses made for my goggles over the years they were not cheap at all the last pair cost £300. I always carry a spare pair on the hill a top tip.


At last I now I get some compassion into my short- sightedness after so many years.   

Misting up and in the rain and snow tricky.

A few tips

There is no such thing as knowing the mountains like “the back of your hand” in a full winter storm you need everything going for you to get back safely. Navigation is essential even in these days of modern technology. With poorer eyesight with age it gets harder add in darkness and using a head torch it get tricky  .

Make sure you carry your specs, they are no use in the car or at home. Some of us are so vain and will not wear them forget that and carry and wear them.

A bigger scale map  – It is worth blowing up the scale of the map for tricky area’s if you have the technology to do this, makes it far easier to see with poor eyesight.

In heavy snow/ rain it is not easy with glasses on so get used to it!

Carry a spare pair of glasses with you.

If struggling ask for help get your mates to check your bearings etc. Now you may have some compassion to those who struggle with poor eyesight on the hill?


Comments welcome


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