A wee wander on Ben Rinnes. Slowly, slowly. “Blessed are the path makers “

Ben Rinnes ; 841 m (2,759 ft) · 512 m (1,680 ft) · Corbett, Marilyn.

Elevation: 841 m (2,759 ft)

Parent range: Grampian Mountains

I went to visit my old friend Wendy who is in a home in Elgin. She is a lovely old soul but missing company and very lonely. Despite that we have a laugh and it’s hard to leave her. The forecast looked good so I decided to try a wander up my nearest hill after my visit. The hill was my local Corbett Ben Rinnes a lovely wee Mountain with great views of the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth.

Ben Rinnes.

The drive from Elgin through whisky country was stunning. The sun was out and the distilleries in the Glen with the clear smoke going straight up on the hill. Arriving at the wee car park there were a few cars in the car park. After my wee head op I took my time coughing a bit but enjoying the sun and the views. Despite the sun I was warmly dressed. I could hear the sound of guns shooting in the other Glen’s there was a lot of noise for a short while “Sport”

I met the “Friends of Ben Rinnes” hard at work on the well worn path. I recognised one as my friend Ella from the Moray MountaineeringClub hard at work clearing the ditches for the run off water. We had a wee chat and I thanked them for their efforts. At the bottom of the hill is a wee collection box to help them with their work on the gate. You can also join there Facebook page and support them. Thank you for all you do to keep our wee hill so clean and tidy.

Friends of Ben Rinnes .

I wandered on meeting a few descending most folk had dogs a few running chasing the few white hares. Most dogs were well behaved but you can see how some go missing on the big hills. There is some great advice about taking your dog on the mountains. Especially as winter is coming.

The granite tors.

On the last pull up I headed for the stunning granite tors and then onto the summit. The views were good but there seemed a bit of cloud on the Cairngorms. There was a lot of burning going on below us the waft of burnt Heather and the smoke filling the Glen seemed to hit you now and again.

I did not hang about it was bitter on the summit and headed to pay my respects at the aircraft crash site on the dark side of the mountain. It’s not far from the summit and though there is not much wreckage left but it’s a good feature to navigate too. 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. Both the crew were killed.

Grid reference on crash on Ben Rinnes.

I sat here at the wreckage had a few moments it was cold and there was a few white hares about. It’s my Mums anniversary yesterday and I thought about her as well, what a lady she was so kind and a great mother. I was blessed in a place like that to have many good memories. My Mum loved the mountains as well and I felt her with me.

The wreckage.

It was so cold so I still had not eaten so I traversed onto the main path and met the path makers again still at it. We had another chat I left them and ate my lunch in the sun. The hill was quite now and my new boots a bit sore so I wandered down to the car. The weather was lovely. It was an easy journey back but what a lovely wander. My body is a a bit stiff and feet sore but the boots are in the boot stretcher now hopefully that will sort them.

It was great to have a wee wander after all the health problems recently. Just to be out to sit and see the mountains in a good day is better than any pills.

If you climb Ben Rinnes there is a wee collection box on the gate next to the start of the path.

The three bucketeers thanks.

About The Friends of Ben Rinnes

The Friends of Ben Rinnes is a registered charity (No SC 034370) which works to care for the paths and environment of Ben Rinnes and to promote responsible enjoyment of the hill by walkers. Its members are all volunteers who share these aims and who wish to support them.

The increasing popularity of the hill with walkers of all abilities has resulted in major erosion and widening of the existing paths, particularly on the upper slopes. Worst affected is the most popular route to the summit leading from the car park at Glack Harnes on the Edinvillie to Glen Rinnes road over Roy’s Hill and up the north eastern ridge. The resultant scarring on the summit cone is unsightly, unpleasant under foot and, worst of all, damaging to the fragile environment. Please donate if you park this will help with the upkeep of the path.

Great views

Thank you: as always comments welcome .

Posted in Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Health, Mountaineering | 5 Comments

1976 The Munro’s – 46 years on. A few thoughts.

Munros- 46 years on. Big changes but still a great way to get to know Scotland.

In my early wa liking days the Munro’s was a huge ambition. I completed them in 27 Mov 1976! It was recorded in the lists as Munro no 148 along with my pal Tom MacDonald.

We all have great memories of the Munros I will never for get the day I finished on An Sochach ( Braemar) The same day my pal Tom Mac Donald finished on the same day on Beinn a Chaorainn (Glen Eye) on 13 November 1978. The Munros have always meant a lot to me and a great way of enjoying and getting to know the Scottish hills. I have had so many great days with so many folk to mention but thank you all.

1976 my last Munro on my first round. An Sochach.

This was on the picture that my Team Leader Pete McGowan gave me and Tom all these years ago. It was also signed by the late Ben Humble of the SMC that made my day.

Petes note

“Dear Heavy

On behalf of all the members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team may I congratulate you on a really fine achievement in ascending An Socach 3097 feet in Braemar on 13 November 1976. You completed a unique double with Tom Mc Donald to join a small band of climbers who have ascended all the 280 “Munro Mountains” in Scotland.

Many thanks for your hard work with the team, for you can be rightly and justifiably proud of your efforts. Well done and best wishes for many happy and enjoyable days in the mountains.”

Another great day was when my Dog Teallach completed his Munros in 1988 on An Teallach in winter. He was a great companion and our two day ascent of the Skye ridge was incredible and remains with me for ever. He never let me down loved the mountains and was a joy to go out with. Yet I trained him hard out most weekends of the year and he became an accomplished mountain dog. If you are taking your dog out especially in winter please be aware that he/she like you has to be able to cope with the weather and terrain?

Teallach round on An Teallach

When I started my Munro mission in 1972 I was on a long journey to plan my weekend hills and had the Munro book and my own list with me everywhere I went. I was with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team at Kinloss in Morayshire. We were lucky and would train in a different area every weekend and I was keen and fit. It was a wonderful way to learn about the mountains and their secrets. There were few about and Munroists were rare. Every weekend after I got back I would mark them off in my Munro bible with a story about the weekend it was so much fun and what a way to get to know Scotland. The hills were quieter then and there were few paths away from the honey pots of the popular hills.

The week was spent at night pouring through maps and planning my next trip what a way to learn about this country. There was no quick fix like apps and the books and guides were pretty vague. The hills were a bit of exploration as it should be and all the time you were learning.

I learned to navigate and worked hard getting to hills on buses, trains and hitching. I had no car then and it was an all-consuming journey. It was a great day when Pete McGowan the RAF Kinloss Team Leader and the late Ben Humble a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue presented me with a photo on our completion of the Munros at a party at RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue.

This was the after myself and Tom MacDonald had completed our Munro’s in November 1976.  This was about a year before Ben passed away. It was a great privilege to meet Ben Humble, what a character that is his great photo of the Ben and Carn Mor Dearg that used to hang in the RAF Kinloss MRT.  

Some of the epic days are so clear even today my first attempt at the Skye ridge in one go apart from Gillean in 1973 when I nearly abseiled off the rope and Tom saved my life. I was fit but lacking in climbing skill and that nearly ended my Munro quest. Huge days of all the classic ridges, The Mamores, Fannichs, Kintail, Fisherfield, Torridon, Glencoe, Tranters Round, light and slow in running gear, the Etive hills with a Tent and so many more adding to them each year and learning so much. In winter it was hard with the simple kit. Big days in the Cairngorms in mid-winter on Beinn An Beinn A Bhuird with troops training for the Himalayas arctic or polar trips, huge cornices and dead reckoning navigation.

Gear :

The Curly Boots that were issued with froze as did the breeches ( whatever happened to them) Big rucksack’s were the norm and a rope was always carried along with fairly useless radios. We learnt to navigate with basic maps and limited area knowledge. Learning the hard way from mistakes in the winter traverses of the Cairngorms bothying, camping high, snow – holing and then at the end of the day maybe a call –out. You built up stamina and how often did it happen often coming off a 12 hour day on the hill then out on a night call – out no Health & Safety then. I have hundreds of tales about wild days on the hill, great adventures, near misses that will stay with me forever.

There were a few in the Team in those early days that mocked us Munro baggers they were the so-called climbers. At times they would walk round the summit tops to wind us up. It took a few years in the end for me to understand there was more to life than Munros and I learned whenever I could to mix the climbing and the Munros. After each weekend we would be asked at briefing what Munros, hills we had climbed and had to be able to name them all, a big day like the Kintail/Fannichs/ Beinn Dearg Range would be not easy but you learned the names and the area knowledge built up.

My early big Walks across Scotland in the 70’s and early 80’s were a huge influence and we were climbing the Munros by new routes, great knowledge was gained from these walks. We added more and more hills a bit of bravado then and had some incredible days. Many pushed the boat out sometimes nearly too far! We rarely met folk in the hills especially mid-week and we met many we knew.

I had a great dog Teallach a big soft Alsatian who completed a round and I will never forget our solo two-day traverse of the Skye ridge. We were so lucky that the Munros were a big part of our training in the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and all the classics big days were done again and again often in wild weather. Navigation and Stamina were the key skills and so many young novice troops learned on these great hill days.

Looking back what a marvellous journey from that day 46 years ago who would have believed where it would take me?

I have climbed all over the World been on some of the big mountains on so many expeditions over 40 over the years. I have been so lucky but these great peaks but these early days were the ones that mattered. From the Munros to these wild walks across Scotland the Alps, the Himalayas all opened my eyes to these wild places in my beloved Scotland.

Another round in Knoydart.

Often my solo days out on the Munros taught me so much they were an ordeal by fitness, weather and navigation at times in a bad day but you gained so much confidence in the end. They were at adventures and I still have a plan for another completion but that is another story.

So many now are on the hills running round them and ticking so fast that they see little, may use them as a training run. I hope as they get older they stop and appreciate these great hills and their history. Things never stay the same but the mountains and wild places are still a great arena for us all . Please let’s look after them and pass on our enjoyment to others.

Let’s talk about that other great adventure the Munro Tops?

The Munros are a great way to get to know Scotland and despite the heavy use on the footpaths compared with my early days it is still a fun way to get fit and see Scotland. I have enjoyed so many days and hopefully will still get another round in.

Thanks to all those who accompanied me on my travels and the great company.

If you have completed your Munro’s the Munro Society does a lot of good.

Founded in 2002 membership is open to anyone who has climbed all the Munro summits as listed in Munro’s Tables at the time of compleation – currently there are 282 mountains of Munro status with a height of 3000ft or more above sea level. Many such Munroists, who are often said to have ‘compleated’*, register their detail with the Clerk of the List. This official list is maintained by the Clerk on behalf of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and now exceeds 6,000 names. However, some of ‘compleaters’ do not register their details for a variety of reasons.

The Munro Society welcomes all Munroists who have compleated whether or not they have registered with the Clerk of the List.

The Society exists to bring together the wealth of mountain experience that members have accumulated and thus provide a forum in which to share interests and concerns as well as creating opportunities for convivial gatherings.

Posted in Articles, Books, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Well being | Leave a comment

Sandy Seabrook Lomond MRT – sad news.

My friend Bob Sharp passed me on the sad news that Sandy Seabrook Lomond MRT had passed away. Sandy was a stalwart of Mountain Rescue and will be sadly missed. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team.

Bob Sharp wrote “ To let you know that Sandy Seabrook passed away earlier today. Sandy was Team Leader of Lomond for 25 years, with a rich background in SARDA and the Devon Cave Rescue Organisation. Sandy was 85 years of age and had not been well for a long time but was still interested in MR and keen to know what was happening in the World of MR. He even acquired a Collie pup last year (but not to train!).”

Attached photo taken almost 40 years ago shows Sandy and Sir Hugh Fraser in the middle flanked on the left by team members Bill Cameron and Fergus Ewing, and on the right by team member Dick Jackson

Lomond Mrt

Sandy Seabrook RIP
As with many things in life, it often takes the initiative of a single person to kick-start an organisation or stimulate change. In the case of the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, that person was Sandy Seabrook. In the late 1960s, Sandy was an outdoor instructor at Montrose House in Balmaha. Sandy’s background in education, mountain rescue and the military was to prove an essential platform for the new team. After leaving school, Sandy spent twelve years in the British Army stationed variously in Plymouth, Catterick and Carlisle. He later trained as a primary school teacher and worked as an instructor at Garelochhead Outdoor Centre. Subsequently, he worked as a teacher at Ballikinrain ‘List D’ school near Fintry (a residential school for young people experiencing social, emotional and behavioural difficulties) and later established his own private outdoor pursuits business (‘Highland Pursuits’). When he retired as an Army Sergeant in early 1967, he moved to Scotland to take up a position as the Warden of Montrose House in Balmaha. Montrose House (then a listed period mansion building) was owned by the Glasgow Union of Boys Clubs. Along with one other instructor – Alex McFarlane – Sandy provided short courses in various outdoor pursuits for members of Glasgow Boys Clubs.
Sandy had already been involved in mountain rescue having helped establish the Devon Cave Rescue Organisation. In the mid 1960s, he worked with Hamish MacInnes and Hamish’s plans to create what was to become the Search and Rescue Dog Association. Sandy was on the first experimental course in Glencoe in 1964 and then became the first person in England to qualify in 1967 as a SAR dog handler with his German Shepherd Dog Rory.
Once the team was founded, Sandy went to extraordinary lengths to publicise the team and its capabilities through numerous talks, presentations and displays. Most important, he forged excellent relationships with the local press to ensure maximum publicity for the team’s training and rescues. Photographs of team members featured regularly in the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, Glasgow Herald and Falkirk Herald. Without his trailblazing efforts on the PR and fundraising fronts, the team would have been much the poorer and may even have died an early death.
Sandy also established a strong presence at national level and was a tough advocate for change and development on numerous matters – radio communications, the use of helicopters and insurance. In addition, he furthered the work of Ben Humble (MRCofS Statistician for several decades) through the promotion of mountain safety and delivery of courses in mountaineering.


Sandy was a people person, self-effacing and team-spirited with an unfailing enthusiasm for all things to do with mountain rescue at both local and national levels. In 2000, he was awarded the national organisation’s Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to Scottish Mountain Rescue.
Sandy was a unique spirit that we may never see the likes of again. Bob Sharp.

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Everest Classic – photo and memories of the Fox of Glencoe.

I always thought that this was an outstanding photo of Hamish McInness stretcher being used on Everest in the Western CYM. ‘The photo was taken by my pal Terry Moore in 1992 .

Everest Rescue – photo Terry Moore

Typically Terry understated the effort “ Twas a good outcome after recovering from pulmonary oedema. 1992.” Hamish was very proud of this photo what a man he was so sadly missed by many of us. How I miss the visits to his house and all the wonderful folk I met there. Yet he would pull out a photo of his adventures and the characters leaving you so humbled. The stretcher was invented by Hamish and used all over the UK and the World. The man was a genius in so many ways.

The Fox of Glencoe

written by Hamish MacInnes

The multi-award winning book The Fox of Glencoe chronicles the adventures of the legendary Hamish MacInnes and his achievements in the field of mountaineering.

Throughout this rich collection of tales, Hamish’s unorthodox character and pragmatic approach to risk and loss are conveyed with wry, elegant style, offering a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest mountaineers of our time.

Few people cram as much into a lifetime as Hamish did, and these memoirs reflect his restless curiosity and ability to marshal loyalty and support for the most outlandish schemes. The result is an eclectic array of tales that include youthful and historic first ascents; a disorganised attempt on Everest with only £40 and a borrowed tent; hunting for treasure in South America; dangling film stars from DIY contraptions off the North Face of the Eiger; hot air ballooning off Ben Nevis; and much else besides. Tenacious and inventive by nature, Hamish also committed much of his life to developing modern alpinism and promoting mountain safety and rescue. His legacy is vividly brought to life in this collection of unseen and retold stories, images and additional narratives from some of his closest friends.

A portrait of a life lived to the full, The Fox of Glencoe captures a bygone age and will strike a chord with anyone with a spirit of adventure, and who sees possibilities rather than constraints.

Winner of the 2021 TGO Book of the Year Reader Award

A great idea for a Christmas present.

Winner of the Mountain Literature Award at 2022 Banff Mountain Book Competition

My pal Davy Gunn had written a great piece in his blog about a rescue on Clachaig Gully with Hamish. Davy was a young local lad from Glencoe and it sums up Hamish and Davy so well. Please read it.

An Adventure in “The Gully” with the Fox

https://crankitupgear.blogspot.com/2022/11/an-adventure-in-gully-with-fox.html?m=1

Comment from Mark R “Brought back thoughts of that winter night of the Leuchars team party, and the following call-out. Somehow we arrived in Glencoe in the early hours, still half-cut and Hamish asking you if there were any climbers in the team, and the next minute Tomcat & me were climbing the up the Clachaig Gulley. Memories never forgotten. The next day we climbed Steal Falls.”

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

Sometimes it’s great to sit and enjoy the views ?

In these days of Strava and the internet “ I climbed that hill in 3 hrs 14 min 30’sec it’s great to sit and enjoy the views. Especially with a special companion.

Sgurr na Gobhar – Loch Mullardoch photo Davy Taylor with my dog Teallach

Càrn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch)

One of two Munros of the same name in close proximity, this Càrn nan Gobhar rises between Loch Mullardoch and Glen Strathfarrar. It is a fairly rounded peak and rather overshadowed by its more dramatic neighbour Sgùrr na Lapaich.

Some of my best days were falling asleep on the hill away from the crowds on a hot sunny day?

Sgurr Na Stri

The photo is of a classic wee hill Sgurr Na Stri on Skye. From here on a good day you have great views of the ridge, Loch Coruisk and the Islands of Rum and Eigg. Is there a finer viewpoint in Scotland?

The abseil on the Dubhs great views of the Islands

Comments welcome.

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

Is winter here ? First winter climbs over the last few days. Am I envious !

It’s great to see that the climbers are out in the Northern Corries after the first snows of winter. To climb in these short days with not much daylight means you have to be organised. The snow ploughs have been out gritting already.

Early route in the Cairngorms.

In my winter climbing days it was always a race to get the first route in. That was usually won by the late Andy Nisbet. In the days before the internet news still travelled fast. We would often hear and get a call about our climb from Andy. Telling us that it was not a new route but wanting information. He was encyclopaedic in his knowledge of Scotland and it’s climbing. What a great miss he is with his wild beard we often met and had a chat walking off after route in the Cairngorms when the weather allowed. When the first snow falls I always think of Andy. Steve and Andy were killed on Ben Hope winter climbing on 7 Feb 2019

So of it stays cold the Northern Corries will be busy. There is something about winter climbing especially on a wild day. The early start, the big bag, trying to stay warm. The Faff of your first route and then the face cleaning blizzard on the way home. Even very familiar descents at times have to be concentrated on.

Top Tip: Navigation is so important no matter how experienced you are. Check the weather forecast and when it starts the Avalanche forecast.

So if you see an old guy wandering about coughing just think that old guy used to climb some of these routes. That first climb is so important as you get to the top but it’s not over till you get back to your car. Then you have what can be an tricky drive home.

So go an enjoy, be safe and have fun.

Start of Season 2022/23 – Be Alert to Early Winter Snowpack Instabilities 

A standby avalanche forecast service will be provided mostly for the Northern Cairngorms and Lochaber regions during the months of November and early December. In collaboration with Met office meteorologists, future weather patterns will be monitored. When significant blanket snow cover is likely to be present in the mountains SAIS avalanche forecasters will carry out field observations and produce public avalanche hazard reports. Lochaber reports will be a good reference for the western highland ranges and Northern Cairngorms reports for the eastern highland ranges Daily Avalanche Information Reports for the 6 operational areas of Lochaber, Glencoe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms , Northern Cairngorms and Torridon regions will be issued from Thursday 15th Dec 2022.

Have fun !

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Ben Loyal – 764 metres and an epic rescue after a plane crash of a Handley Page Hampden.

My first impression of Ben Loyal many years ago sometimes called the “Queen of Scotland” was so impressive. It was a Misty day and the hill emerged as the hill cleared. You can see this mountain from a long way it looks surreal. This was nearly 50 years ago and still when I see it it brings back some classic days.

Ben Loyal – Ben Loyal is a wonderful mountain just south of the Kyle of Tongue. It well merits the long drive north to reach it. ( Walk Highlands ) Although it is also possible to ascend Ben Loyal from the east side above the A836, this completely lacks the drama of the classic route from the north.

Climbing and Crag features

The best of the climbing potential is to be found on the summit tors of Sgor a’ Bhatain, An Caisteal, and Sgor Chaonasaid, and also on the western cliffs of Sgor a’ Chleirich. Also worth noting is the massive boulder field by the side of Loch Fhionnaich which would seem to have endless interest and potential for the boulderer. The rock type is syenite, this is a form of granite which has no quartz present.

Ben Loyal 

This classic mountain is known as the Queen of Scottish mountains by many. It is an isolated mountain of 764 m in Sutherland, the north-western tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located south of the Kyle of Tongue and offers good views of the Kyle, Loch Loyal to the east, and Ben Hope to the west. Ben Loyal has the remains of an Hampden aircraft that crashed on the mountain in 1943. Grid Ref NC 583498 Sgor Chaonasaid at 1600 feet.

Handley Page Hampden

The aircraft is a Handley Page Hampden, Serial No: P2118 Unit Codes: Z9-D Squadron: 519sqn Crash Date: 25.08.43 Based: Wick Crew:

Pilot; Flt Lt H. Puplett DFC,

Navigator: F/O G. Richie,

Radio Operator/Air Gunner:F/O C. Faulks

Air Gunner:Sgt T Hudson-Bell

Ben Loyal

F/O Faulks was the only survivor when the aircraft flew into the side of Sgor Chaonasaid, the highest point in the Ben Loyal range. The aircraft was returning to Wick from an aborted search for missing Hampden P5334 when it flew into the hillside in a thunderstorm just before midnight on 25th August 1943. 

The rescue party arrived Ribigill a large farm house between Tongue and Ben Loyal, the rescue party were led by shepherd Mr E Campbell and Dr F Y McHendrick. The survivor was strapped to a piece of aircraft wreckage and carried him down from the mountain. after a long trip by horse and cart he was taken by RAF ambulance to Golspie’s Lawson County Hospital about forty miles away. He arrived there some 15 hours after the crash and was found to have very serious injuries including a broken right leg, a smashed up left foot and severe facial injuries and was initially not expected to live. Having spent some 18 months in hospital he rejoined his squadron taking up a ground-based role but was keen to be in the air again. He flew again before the War ended.

Ben Loyal

Shepherd Eric Campbell and Dr Fowler Yates McKendrick M.B. Ch.B were both awarded the British Empire Medal for their rescue attempt on that night (Gazetted 3rd December 1943. In all they made six trips up and down to the aircraft that night, recovering the injured man and the bodies of his comrades. Dr McHendrick was also praised for his efforts in keeping F/O Faulks alive as they removed him to safety.

The tale and others is well told in the Book Down in The Highland’s – Dave Earl & Peter Donaldson. DOWN IN THE HIGHLANDS 2 – Military Aircraft Accidents in Caithness,Sutherland & Ross & Cromarty 1943-1948

A great source of information.

That is a tale few know about ? What a film it would make.

Please treat these crash site with respect they are places where folk died and should be treated respectfully.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Cranstakie and Beinn Spionnaidh and the Mosquito crash.

Cranstakie 800 metres and Beinn Spionnaidh 772 metres. (Hill of strength)

These are Twin Corbetts rising East of the A838 road from Rhiconich to Durness. The most Northerly Corbett is Beinn Spionnaidh.

These are two Corbetts I never appreciated in my youth. There a long way North to these hills. I only heard of the crash site of the Mosquito from a story of some metal and wood found not far from the summit of Cranstakie. I took several trips to these hills and the crash site was tricky to find in poor weather. It’s a great navigation exercise to locate it and pay your respects.

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito is a British twin-engined, shoulder-winged, multirole combat aircraft, introduced during the Second World War.

Unusual in that its frame was constructed mostly of wood, it was nicknamed the “Wooden Wonder”,or “Mossie”.Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, nicknamed it “Freeman’s Folly”, alluding to Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman, who defended Geoffrey de Havilland and his design concept against orders to scrap the project.[In 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. It’s role in the war is very underestimated and the role it played I feel was very underrated. What an aircraft and they were so versatile.

The Mosquito

Cranstakie and Beinn Spionnaidh 

These two quartzite-topped Corbetts are the most northerly mountains in Britain. Together they give a rough but enjoyable hillwalk; the views are every bit as good as might be guessed from their position. Cranstackie is the most distinctive of the two peaks, whilst Beinn Spionnaidh has the most open outlook of the north coast.

Beinn Spionnaidh is the northernmost peak in Britain over 2500 feet. A whaleback ridge of quartzite scree, it offers unique views of the north coast.It’s neighbour another Corbett Cranstackie is a mountain of 801 m in Sutherland, the northwestern tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located west of Loch Eriboll and northeast of Foinaven. Like Foinaven and Beinn Spionnaidh to the northeast, its top is covered with loose, broken quartzite.

Photo taken in 2000.

On this hill is the wreckage of a de Havilland Mosquito Mk.IV DZ486 of No.618 Squadron, RAF, crashed on Cranstackie NC 350560 at 2000 feet near Durness on the 5th April 1943 while on a bombing exercise from Skitten Mosquito DZ486 – Flew into hill while on a bombing exercise .The aircraft is reported to have flown over Durness and Balnakeil before turning south and flying down the glen towards Cranstackie. 5.4.1943

Crew : F/O (124.814) Donald Louis PAVEY (pilot) RAFVR – killed 

Sgt (1220369) Bernard Walter STIMSON (obs) RAFVR – killed.

I have visited this site on 3 occasions its a grand hill and enjoyed looking for the wreckage not easy in the days before GPS. 

Crash site details – NC 350560 ROUGH GRID REF:,
I would appreciate an updated reference for the crash site and any photos.

Please remember that these hills are special in many ways.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides | Leave a comment

Stac Pollaidh another great wee mountain. Poems, climbing and superb views. Mountain in miniature.

The drive up from Ullapool on the North West Coast to Stac Pollaidh is still breath-taking despite the North Coast 500. Before this you could stop and see these wonderful peaks rising above the wild moors. Nowadays the solitude can be broken by a fleet of cars or vans on the road in peak season. The wonderful poet Norman MacCaig sums it up beautifully – why was I not taught about this man at school.

A Man in Assynt

“Glaciers, grinding West, gouged out
these valleys, rasping the brown sandstone,
and left, on the hard rock below — the
ruffled foreland —
this frieze of mountains, filed
on the blue air — Stac Pollaidh
Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,
Canisp — a frieze and
a litany”


Assynt Coigach : There are some great peaks in this wild area. Often you will meet only a few folk. I have been so lucky to walk and climb in this area for many years. In any weather it’s always worth it. I remember my first trip up to the North West I was astounded by these mountains as we arrived in Ullapool. I was a Munro bagger and saw little else but Munro’s in these early days. To see the classic shapes of the mountains all different. The light is superb ever changing no matter what time of year. Yet if you get a day in winter it’s exceptional on these hills.

Stac Pollaidh Steep (mountain by the pool 612 metres) – many do not climb the true summit but just to be on the ridge with its sandstone pinnacles and views of the sea and Myriad of Lochans. Add to that the views on a great day this hill may be small in stature but big in my heart. I have had great days here scrambling and rock climbing it’s an also a grand wander round the mountain on a good path.

Stac Pollaidh days

The true summit includes a rock move that stops a few the famous “Bad step” care needs to be taken here. There are good holds on the right hand side but remember you have to down climb this on your return. Yet this is so worthwhile and to spend a night on the summit and watch the sun set and rise is in my mind is wonderful. The Far East top is also an interesting scramble.

Climbing – early ascent by RAF Kinloss MRT of this pinnacle.

The summit crags of this distinctive and beautiful little mountain provide excellent quick-drying climbs, up to 100m in length. The pinnacles offer a good scramble with exceptional views. The sandstone can be very rounded and there is lots of grit about and like any mountain check your holds!

On the Bad Step.

I have rock climbed here on several occasions and there are plenty of routes of all grades. In a good winter a traverse of the hill is fun I also had some fun on a couple of ice routes which were interesting. I have met some famous photographers and their clients on very early starts waiting patiently for sunrise. The view of the lochans and the sea is one of the best. This is a mountain to me that keeps on giving.

Many years ago we did a training exercise on the main cliff. It was interesting with a stretcher and casualty and a few loose sandstone blocks crashing about. It was serious learning on that day. I have also done a couple of call outs here as this wee hill can bite if your not careful. Please keep to the paths as the erosion is fairly bad with the sandstone and weathering can ruin the paths if care is not taken.

Nowadays there is a lovely well pathed walk round the hill passing many of the hills features. It is well maintained and a lovely short wander on a late afternoon just before sunset. It’s a grand first mountain to introduce a “want to” be climber it is a short day but one to show them a bit of scrambling. Off course don’t forget your Fish and chips in Ullapool at the end of the day. Perfection?

Lots of great routes in this great book:

Probably the most significant guidebook to Scottish hillwalking in recent times, this handsomely illustrated book from The Scottish Mountaineering Club describes the recommended routes on The Grahams & The Donalds. The Grahams is a list of 224 Scottish hills between 2000ft (610m) and 2500ft (672m) in height and was complied by Fiona Torbet (nee Graham) and Alan Dawson in 1992. The Donalds is a list of 140 Scottish hill summits above 2000ft (610m) in the Scottish Lowlands and was compiled by Percy Donald in 1935. This is the first and only colour definitive guidebook to The Grahams & The Donalds and follows in the footsteps of the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s best selling guidebooks to The Munros and The Corbetts. There are colour location maps of each group, together with their neighbouring hills, plus 175 detailed colour route maps and over 250 detailed descriptions, including links to other hills. The guidebook is illustrated by 320 colour photographs of the hills. There are Gaelic hill name translations plus an indexed list of Grahams and Donalds in height order, together with a full standard index. Edited by Rab Anderson & Tom Prentice and written by some of the foremost authorities on the Scottish mountains.

Comments and photos welcome .

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Quinag – another classic mountain with 3 Corbett’s and some incredible climbs and memories.

Those who know their mountains will understand that Quinag is a magnificent mountain. Any mountain containing 3 Corbett’s summits is incredible. The summits Spidean Coinich, Sail Gharbh & Sail Ghorm Quinag will never let you down in my opinion. In summer it’s a cracking peak with views to the sea that are outstanding and that’s some Statement from those who know these North West mountains. The most Westerly summit has outstanding views of the lochs and sea. In winter it’s a different mountain and you will rarely see anyone else. Yet the many cliffs have some incredible climbs on the sandstone tiers.

Walk Highlands sums it up : “Quinag is a magnificent and complex mountain with three summits attaining Corbett status. The ascent of all three is one of the finest hillwalks in Scotland, with fine peaks, dramatic ridges and stunning views. If the full walk is too much, the ascent of the first peak (with a return the same way) is a short and fairly straightforward hillwalk with rewards out of all proportion to the effort involved. The mountain is under the stewardship of the John Muir Trust.

TERRAIN

Mostly good hill paths. Mountainous terrain with some very steep ground but only a minimal amount of scrambling.”

Wee Bull Turner “on Quinag. 

Near Miss on Quinag :

I always loved being up on the North West coast on the hills,climbing and away from the crowds. There is little better than introducing some “young rockstars” to real climbing away from the “climb by numbers” of the popular crags. I was at RAF Leuchars at the time and we would raid Kinloss’s area . Often we would wander on these hardly climbed cliffs. The only problem was you could get the full “mountaineering experience” of loose rock and route finding. The day this photo was taken I think we were supposed to be on a route on Quinag. What a place to be pick your line and have a look.

Pinnacle on Quinag. From old MRT calendar

We got to the top of a pinnacle when I was belaying I heard a crash then a huge rock came crashing down. The smell of the sulphur and the fear gripped me. Lucky I was on a small ledge where I had adjusted the belay a bit. As the rock passed where I had been it missed I knew I was lucky another of my 9 lives gone. Yet what a day on the sandstone what an adventure and yet it could have been all so different. Life is about adventure and those who love exploring will enjoy this place . 

From (Wee Bull ) Stephen Turner – I can still remember that moment in vivid detail, time seemed to pass at a fraction of normal speed. Me on a stance on one foot and holding on with one hand being pushed and swinging to one side as a giant boulder slid straight at me. Thinking I have killed Heavy and at the very least I’m about to have my hand crushed before I fall. I recall the smell of smoke coming from all the sparks from that boulder as it tumbled down the hill, which seemed to go on forever. Then as casual as you like Heavy appears from along the ledge he was belaying me on. Turns around and tells everybody “That’s why you always have an extendable belay”.

This large and complicated mountian has several cliffs that give worthwhile winter and summer routes. Despite its height it tends to hold snow well.

The steep north face of Sail Garbh is an impressive cliff, excellent in winter but too low to freeze frequently. The climbing is often wintrier than appears from below though.

I last climbed the 3 Corbett’s a few years ago on my own. I was met by a Broken Spectre on the ridge and fresh snow. As I came out of the mist this was my view!

Winter Quinag

On the ridge it was a cracking day very icy but felt so remote. It was such a great day to be out and I had a great look at some of the cliffs and the new winter climbs. Sadly the paths had a lot of erosion in places but the ridge was straightforward and the bitter wind made you keep going with few stops. Getting back to the car 6 hours later my face felt blasted by the wind but what a day. The views out to the sea to the West and the wild North make this an exceptional place to be.

Quinag another mountain of so many memories.

This Corrie brought back many memories but this was of a good friend who was the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team Leader Phil Jones was killed in a wind slab avalanche on February 3 1991.

Phil Jones – Assynt MRT ( photo Assynt MRT)

I was 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. 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.

I went to the funeral in Lochinver a very sad and difficult day and still miss Phil who was a great help to me in that wonderful area in the far North of Scotland. It took a long time for the Assynt Team to get over this tragedy. We climbed together and Phil was always showing us new cliffs and crags and some of the many rarely climbed classic routes in the area. It was 25 years ago since Phil died in that lovely but savage Corrie of Seanna Braigh and as the rain and mist came down on my walk out I had a wee thought for him and his family.

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.

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?

This was from my Blog 21 Aug 2011

Phil Jones photos Assynt MRT.
The late Phil Jones Team Leader of Assynt MRT – photo Assynt MRT

I went to the funeral in Lochinver a very sad and difficult day and still miss Phil who was a great help to me in that wonderful area in the far North of Scotland. It took a long time for the Assynt Team to get over this tragedy.We climbed together and Phil was always showing us new cliffs and crags and some of the many rarely climbed classic routes in the area.  It was 25 years ago since Phil died in that lovely but savage Corrie of Seanna Braigh and as the rain and mist came down on my walk out I had a wee thought for him and his family.

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.

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?

This was from my Blog 21 Aug 2011

The Assynt Mountain Rescue Team is still going strong from its forming in 1977 . Assynt Mountain Rescue works with the Police, Coastguard and other agencies in Sutherland and Caithness, volunteering to provide search and rescue support. Assynt Mountain Rescue can be on call any time, any day, and in any type of weather. All the Assynt Mountain Rescue team members are volunteers who share a love for hill walking, mountaineering, rock climbing, snow and ice-climbing, caving and generally being in the outdoors.

We rely on voluntary support and funding to provide this service. We work out of two bases – our main rescue post is at Inchnadamph, and we have a mobile unit at Thurso.

Posted in Corbetts, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

More Classic smaller mountains: Fionaven the Reay Forest North – West Sutherland.

I have promised a pal that we will climb the Corbett Fionaven she has been waiting to climb in for a while. I hope next May when I am fit enough still to climb a big mountain after my health recovers. Its up in the North West beyond Laxford Bridge on the A838. 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 it’s a wonderful day. It’s 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. It is a place a love with many great days spent her. In the early days we would add the Corbett Arkle to the day, it was rush, rush, rush in these days. How daft we were. The last tine I was on Fionaven it was a slow day but I loved looking into these wild Corries and the vast expanses of wildness.

MAP

unro, 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 is 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 an 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?

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

Northern Highlands North (SMC)

Edited by Andy Nisbet

The first of three comprehensive guides detailing the rock and ice climbs of the Northern Highlands. An indispensable guide covering the climbing north of Inverness from Beinn Dearg to the north coast and eastwards to the Wick sea cliffs. Also includes Orkney and Shetland. Covers the popular cliffs at Reiff and Ardmair.

This is an SMC climbers’ guidebook, published by Scottish Mountaineering Press.

£25.00

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? The late Blyth Wright told me of these stories many years ago.

This was from my diary “I remember having a fun day but lots of crazy route finding and near misses with loose blocks and the late 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 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.

This was a route I did a few times it was classic scramble with a big walk in.

“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.”

In winter it is an incredible place with so much to climb for the modern winter climber but remember you are a long way from home, be careful and have fun. You will be far from the winter crowds but that’s what makes this mountain classic.

https://www.smc.org.uk/publications/scrambling

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.   The views of the far North of Scotland are unique and it’s a place despite its length to savour before the big walk out. I once had a sunset as we walked of it was a magical experience.  

In April 2009 hill runner Manny Gorman set out on a continuous, unmotorised journey around the 219 Corbetts – Scottish mountains between 2500-3000 feet high – covering a staggering 2600 miles & 420,000 feet of ascent, by foot, cycle and yacht, in a record 70 days. It was just supposed to be a fun adventure holiday for him and his partner Brenda, but the wildest Scottish weather, complicated logistics, calamitous injuries and a final vicious twist in the tale ensured it was one of the toughest journeys possible within our own shores.

Posted in Books, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Another wee Classic Mountain – The Cobbler 884 metres (2,900 ft).

The Cobbler is another iconic hill. Though not a Munro its a Corbett don’t let that put this hill of your hill days. I climbed it as a very young lad (about 10 years old) with my Dad and Mum. I remember the summit scramble being so intimidating to a wee boy and being so pleased I did it.

The summit shot.

As John MacKenzie writes in “Classic Rock” this often missed by many for the bigger hills of Glencoe and Ben Nevis. It is a hill steeped in history with many famous Glasgow climbers cutting there teeth here on the schist which when wet is exciting . There are routes of all grades here and on a dry day a superb cliff.

The Cobbler – from the SMC Guidebook a classic.

The Cobbler – also known as Ben Arthur – has the most distinctive outline of any mountain in the Southern Highlands and makes a fantastic shorter hillwalk. Extremely popular, the path on the way up has been improved in recent years and once past the initial zig zags makes a pleasant ascent. This route explores both main peaks of the Cobbler before descending on a rugged path between the two. Alternatively the route can be made easier by returning the same way. Walk Highlands There are many caves and howffs that have a history of there own. Spending the night in a howff – a cave or other natural refuge – has been a magical experience for many walkers and climbers down the years.

Punsters crack.

I remember a very easy climb with Teuch Brewer that took us onto the summit ridge in June 1972. it was the South East Ridge. The lower two-thirds are mostly walking. Best started from the base of the buttress proper (some rock moves), or easy grass ledges round to the left. Then fun but avoidable moves over large boulders at a minor col. Up to a short grade 3 rock step, and walk to base of the obvious crux wall, climbed by a quality, exposed crack and ledges. Finish with airy grass ledge walking, with an optional short wall. First ascent : G Thomson & party Oct/1889. I was so pleased after that easy climb. I had just joined the Rescue team at Kinloss. Years later I was to climb here about 20 times here. A few times in the rain being really scared as my feet slipped about. I wore socks on my feet one day in the pouring rain on Recess Route . We took many of our young rock stars here the VS routes made you think.

Photo the Classic Punsters Crack.

We had some superb routes long day’s moving from route to route and even a few where we were picked up after a climb by the Wessex helicopter. Cheating !

The Cobbler and Munro’s.

Another classic day was a route on the Cobbler, Ben Narnain, and Ben Ime and Ben Vane. A lot of height as well and if you added in Spearhead Arete it was a hard day.

Photo – Wessex on the Cobbler – Our Yellow Taxi.

I hope if you climb the Cobbler you have as much fun as me. What a great hill.

Posted in Corbetts, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing | 1 Comment

There is so much love and kindness about. The world is not full of selfish uncaring people.

I have been falling apart recently a hard life in the mountains takes it’s toll. Yet I would not change a minute of my life. The latest was a cyst removed from my head in Aberdeen’s ARI. Dan Carrol took me as I could not drive after it. It was a bit deeper than I thought and is taking a few days to heal. I must admit I felt pretty rough after it. I now have to wait 6 – 8 weeks to get the results.

Recently I have gone from one medical problem to another. Each had taken a bit out of me. How I miss the hills but I will be back soon

So many have been so kind and caring. I have had soup, apple crumble and so many kind words from folk. Thank you all

This is a time of all we hear about those who make this world a dangerous place. The selfishness that abounds amongst the so called leaders? Many chase the publicity and the tribal workings of politics from all sides. I am ashamed to say we have food banks in every town and this in 2022.

It would be great if everyone worked together of all parties for the good of the country to get it back on its feet.

Yet I have seen so many kind people many with little money helping others. The kindness I have felt the last few days is wonderful. So my thoughts are don’t get down listening to the news just think what we can do for others.

Thank you all for your kindness and thoughts. I love your jokes about my head it keeps me laughing. It’s easy to get down but the love and kindness from others is heartwarming.

I am so lucky having so many good folk in my life . Please look after others we need each other more than ever. Money is not everything and you cannot take it with you. That old quotation “ there are no pockets on a shroud” is so true. Think what can we do for others. A kind word, a hug mean so much.

My head like a scorpion.

Thanks again for all your kindness, look after each other.

Posted in Friends, Health, Mountaineering, Well being | 8 Comments

Remembrance Week – A forgotten story of the Wellington crash on Geal Charn near Ben Alder.

To me this is an incredible story not well known but worthy of being acknowledged as an incredible survival story of one of the crew.

This crash site is in extremely remote country access can be wild in winter. The route to this site is up an Estate road from Dalwhinnie just of the A9 or from Corrour Station. Many nowadays Mountain bike up here. The bothy At Culra is closed due to Asbestos 2019 and during COVID . To visit in a day is a long expedition and care should be taken these are tricky mountains.

One crew member survived in mid-winter and went for help. It is a story that few have heard. Wreckage can be found on Geal-Chàrn, and then at various points downward on the slopes of Leacann na Brathan, in the vicinity of Ben Alder.

The crash : The crew, from B Flight of No.20 OTU, were on a day navigation training flight from RAF Lossiemouth on 10 /12/1942. The planned route was from base to a point some 30 miles east of Peterhead – Crieff – Friockheim, near Arbroath – Maud, near Peterhead – base.

At some point the aircraft deviated from this route and at about 15:00 while heading in an easterly to north easterly direction (some 40 miles off course) flew into Leacann na Brathan on the south eastern flank of Geal-charn which at the time was snow covered and enveloped in blizzard conditions.

The only survivor of the crash, Sgt Underwood, after checking for signs of life from his crew made his way off the mountain and arrived at Corrour Lodge in a very poor state. This journey after the trauma he had been involved in is an incredible feat of strength in full on winter. Even to modem mountaineers this is a wild area and there was a tragedy here a few years later. 

He was taken in and the next day transferred to hospital in Fort William. I cannot imagine trying to get off the mountain alone high up in winter from this area and all your crew are killed.

How Sgt Underwood managed this is a tale of survival and huge mental courage this is one of the wildest areas and remote hill country in the UK, Sadly little was known of this tale as in 1942 it was the dark days of the war and I would imagine crashes etc were fairly restricted information.

One can only think what was in his head as he headed down to Corrour and what he said to the keeper and his family who live in this remote place?

After the aircraft had failed to return from its exercise a search was organised but nothing was found before the report of the rear gunner reaching Corrour and help was received.

After the aircraft had failed to return from its exercise a search was organised but nothing was found before the report of the rear gunner reaching Corrour and help was received. 

The recovery operation eventually began in July 1943 with a camp being established some distance from the site, assistance was rendered by army personnel of the 52nd Division, Scottish Command. 

They provided 25 pack mules and a 3 ton lorry. With these most of the wreckage was removed from the site, but today a reasonable amount still remains. 

They provided 25 pack mules and a 3 ton lorry. With these most of the wreckage was removed from the site, but today a reasonable amount still remains.

It was here that much of the aircraft was brought down by mules and I am sure that is why the wreckage is there on the path? I am sure this is where the wheel came from as the road passes the point where I used to see the aircraft wheel. Please be aware this is a tricky wild remote area if you plan to visit this is where the snow holds on for a long time.

Grid Ref: 

NN 48049 73196
NN 48072 73585
NN 48223 73680

The crew :

This is dedicated to the crew and the amazing courage and determination of Sgt Underwood. If anyone can give me more information on this incident please do .

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Remembrance Week – The Beinn Eighe Lancaster. March 1951.

IN THE MEMORY OF THE CREW OF LANCASTER TX264

A painting of the Corrie in Beinn Eighe by Pat Donovan

Its 70 years since the crash of the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe. I was told of the story often and visited the site on many occasions. It is a situated in the most incredibly wild corrie on Beinn Eighe in the North West of Scotland. It was a huge learning curb for the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, that involved many changes that influenced most of Mountain Rescue in the UK. For many years I have visited the site spoke to a few of the RAF Kinloss team who were involved. I have taken relatives and family annually, filmed up on the mountain this place means a lot to me. Due to Covid I could not visit but will did after and for as long as my battered body allows.

This particular crash had a considerable influence in changes to RAF Mountain Rescue.

The crash aroused and held the attention, even curious with that desire to know the true facts, rumours do circulate by ‘word of mouth’ at happenings like this one and for some considerable time.  The lines of communication in the early fifties were still a newspaper, local or national, or the ‘Wireless’, very few people had a telephone and Television was in its infancy.  ‘News of this kind was news’, where to listen or read would create an ‘image’ in the mind.  Headlines in the ‘Press and Journal’, Aberdeen, were – “Search of hills for missing Lancaster, Missing plane sought in Sutherland, Aberdeen.  Pilot on missing plane, where the missing bomber crashed, Plane wreck not yet reached.”

It is a sad story as anything of this nature is, particularly for the members of the Rescue Teams but does indicate without doubt ‘special significance’ or ‘emphasis’ on Mountain Rescue, with the extreme difficulties, along with mistakes, these teams faced in that day and age.  A detailed description of particular places and local features from Maps had to be the main concern and fully understood.

Beinn Eighe is a name, aggregated, for Peaks similar to each other or bearing a definite relation to the one preceding it. This mountain in winter is one of Scotland’s great peaks and accessible only by mountaineers. The gully where the main wreckage is a loose tricky ascent in summer and should only be attempted by mountaineers.

The following narrative relates the events of the Beinn Eighe crash on the 14th March 1951 until the 27th August, a very harrowing rescue mission undertaken by the RAF MRS, and civil MRS, despite being called out in all weathers of extreme severity and inhospitable terrain, are all volunteers.

Kinloss MRT at the site of the accident in 1951 photo Joss Gosling.

On the 13th March 1951 at 1804hrs, Lancaster TX264 call sign ‘D’ Dog of 120 Squadron, converted for reconnaissance purposes, took off from RAF Kinloss, a ‘fog free’ climate of the Moray Coast between Lossiemouth and Nairn.  The pilot was Flt Lt Harry Reid DFC, 24 years of age, a total crew of eight with a Second Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer and four signallers.  It was a ‘Navigational Exercise’ via Cape Wrath, the very name a ‘mingled feeling of anger and disdain’ this being the extreme north-west point of the Scottish mainland and named after the Viking word ’hvraf’ meaning a turning point where the Vikings turned south to the Hebrides in the ninth century.  The cape is isolated and its heathland untamed.  Around midnight the aircrew flew over the Lighthouse.

The last position, sent by radio was at 0127hrs 60 miles north of Cape, Wrath this was the very last message from the aircraft.

At 0200hrs a boy living in Torridon, on the east end of Upper Loch Torridon, looking through his bedroom window saw a red flash in the distance, but didn’t think any more about it until he saw the headlines in a Newspaper, ‘Missing Plane Sought’ and this was two days after the aircraft went missing.  He mentioned it to the local Postmaster who immediately contacted RAF Kinloss.  Similar reports had been received.  An Airspeed Oxford was sent to search which concentrated on Beinn Eighe.  The wreck of the Lancaster was sighted on the 16th March.

On the 17th March the Kinloss RAF Rescue Team arrived in the area and on the 18th approached Beinn Eighe from the North and into Coire Mhic Fhearchair from Loch Maree. Wreckage from the Lancaster was found after arriving at the foot of the Triple Buttresses and lying in the ‘corrie’. A ‘corrie’ is a semi-circular hollow or a circular space in a mountain side. This particular wreckage had fallen, the bulk of the aircraft being much higher with the crew inside. At the foot of the Western Buttress were the port wing, undercarriage, two engines and various cowlings. On the following day the starboard wing and some other parts had been blown down by the strong winds, but still no fuselage.

1951 simple gear photo Joss Gosling

The next day another party managed to climb higher and spotted the fuselage, burnt out, but couldn’t reach it.  Further attempts were abandoned for the time being.

The weather over the whole period of the search was ‘exceptionally’ severe for the time of the year. It was intensely cold with constant snow showers and high winds and temperatures well below freezing at night.

The North of Scotland is much closer, in fact ‘considerably’ closer to the Arctic Circle than North Wales. Conditions in winter can be more ‘Alpine’, they may be ‘Artic’. Between Beinn Eighe and Sail Mhor the weather was absolutely ‘atrocious’, with the wind coming over the ridge with such force it was virtually impossible to move, and the snow anything from one to four feet. The gully from the corrie was a solid sheet of ice.

It was certain that no one was alive in the wreckage, and in the opinion of the Officer in Charge of the team the wreckage was so situated it couldn’t be reached by any members of the public unless they were ‘highly experienced climbers’.

The CO at RAF Kinloss, in the meantime, had offers from the Moray Mountaineering Club, a Doctor John Brewster with this Club having considerable climbing experience in winter.  This offer and another suggestion for help from the Scottish Mountaineering Club, holding their Easter meeting at Achnashellach to the South of Beinn Eighe were both declined.

On the 24th March Dr Brewster informed the CO that men from the Moray Club were going to Beinn Eighe on their own initiative, the RAF team were ordered to return to base.  Five men from the Club arrived at Torridon and attempted to reach the aircraft but of no avail and didn’t make a further attempt.

Another attempt was made by a Royal Marine Commando, Captain Mike Banks and Angus Eskine. After a really difficult time with the weather, particularly gusts of wind that brought the human body on all fours, these two reached the main bulk of the aircraft.

Eventually all unauthorised visits were stopped and the RAF Team once again returned to Beinn Eighe and this time reached the wreckage.  It was most difficult and dangerous work recovering the bodies; three were actually in the fuselage.  The last body was not recovered until 27th August.

Rumours, idle gossip as always, flourished that the crew had survived the impact but rescue being too late.  It was obvious to the rescuers, and verified by the medical authorities that death was ‘instantaneous’ in all cases.

After the last body was recovered the team sent the large pieces of the fuselage and wing hurtling down the gulley and later came to be known as ‘Fuselage Gulley’, much of it remains to this day.

Five of the crew of Lancaster TX264 are buried in Kinloss Cemetery, set in the peaceful grounds of the ruined Abbey, they are Sgt W D Beck, Sgt J W Bell, Sgt R Clucas, Flt Sgt J Naismith and Flt Lt P Tennison, in a section reserved for many aircrew who have died flying from RAF Kinloss over the years.

EPILOGUE

On the 28th August 1985, a group of Officer Cadets led by Sergeant Jim Morning and Sgt Tom Jones were airlifted on to the summit of Beinn Eighe by a Sea King Helicopter from 202 Squadron.

One of ‘D’ Dog’s propellers was recovered and put into a lifting net and taken by the helicopter to the road, and then to RAF Kinloss.  The twisted three-blade propeller now stands outside the wooden Mountain Rescue Section building as a permanent memorial to ‘D’ Dog’s crew. This memorial has been replaced and is at RAF Lossiemouth now where the current RAF Rescue Team is operational.

The gully where the aircraft crashed is called by mountaineers Fuselage Gully and one of the propellers has to be climbed over and is used by climbers as a belay in winter.

THE CREW:- PILOT Flt Lt H S ReidSECOND PILOTSgt R ClucasNAVIGATORFg Off R StrongSIGNALLERFlt Lt P TennisonFLIGHT ENGINEERFlt Sgt G FarquharSIGNALLERSFlt Sgt J Naismith Sgt W D Beck Sgt J W Bell

The standard of a Mountain Rescue Team, of even the rescue service as a whole fluctuates considerably and, sometimes, alarmingly.  Several factors contribute to this.

For many years there was ‘National Service’ eighteen months to two years. A Man would be trained as a good mountaineer and when competent he would be lost to civilian life. Sometimes several members would be demobilised at the same time. Not only would it be imperative to find new volunteers but also men to train these novices, also the teams had to be commanded.

To say that they were sometimes led by incompetent men is unfair and misleading, but because there might be no experienced men available at one time, they were often led by Officers and NCO’s who would be incompetent to deal with emergencies, even those which might appear simple problems to the experienced mountaineer.Commando Climber by Mike Banks gives his view on the accident and the recovery.

Sometimes, and by chance, the fault might be corrected in time, for with tact a good team could teach an Officer his job (although no team will tolerate an inefficient NCO.  Either the NCO will go, or the good men and therefore, the standard of the team).  Tact was required on both sides and when life is in the balance, as it always is on rescues; feelings ran too close to the surface.  The fewer experienced mountaineers in a team, the more tolerant prevailed.  As the Service took shape and experienced men were in the majority the teams worked more smoothly, and with, as it were, less emotional involvement.

Teams at the start of 1951 were inadequately equipped and poorly trained, but where – in Wales – this knowledge was confined to the RAF, in Scotland the repercussions of the Beinn Eighe disaster were widely publicised.

About this time two Medical Officers Berkeley and Mason who had put forward suggestions for improved efficiency came to the notice of the Air Ministry. It was largely due to the efforts of these two Medical Officers that the organisation and training of the teams underwent a drastic change in the following year.

One of the team members who was on the crash and has a unique account of what happened Joss Gosling who lived in Fort William. He was only a young lad at the time and the crash affected him greatly. He took some great photos of the incident which show the simple gear that was available in 1951.

Joss was a competent mountaineer as he had climbed previously before his National Service. He had some unique photos and a diary of events of what happened. He explains how awesome it was to see the corrie for the first time and how he felt during the long days of searching and recovery. His description of the great Corrie being like a Cathedral always sticks in my mind and when the mist swirls in these great cliffs you can feel his words of that eventful time. He explained that the “ugly step” on the ridge caused problems as the kit they had was very poor but they did their best, he is a wonderful man and a great example to us all. Joss was at the crash site on the 50thanniversary in 2001 and speaks with great authority on this tragedy. The RAF Kinloss team put a small memorial on the propeller below the gully in 2001 in memory of those who died in this crash, “lest we forget”

I was very privileged to have my last weekend before I retired from the RAF in this area as a member of the RAF Kinloss mrt. This area due to its history is unique and I have spent many days enjoying these peaks. The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin became test pieces for team training first in summer then in winter conditions. Many of the classic climbs in summer and winter were climbed by team members and a few epic callouts over the years. These hills have huge corries and alpine ridges where rescues have occurred mostly not reported by the National Press.

The local Torridon Team and the RAF MR have assisted climbers and walkers over the years. I have climbed Fuselage gully on many occasions with team members during my 37 years with the Mountain Rescue Service. In early Dec 2007 with two of the young, Kinloss Team members we had a special day. This was my last day with the RAF before I retired. It is a fairly simple climb by modern standards but I broke a crampon at the beginning and it made the day very interesting as we were being chased by a big storm as we descended. One crampon on the steep descent was thought provoking and I can only think of how the team in 1951 with their simple kit coped. I was brought up to respect the history of this majestic area and its people; there was no finer place to spend my last weekend than in this special place. On my retirement I spend a two great years with the Torridon MRT as a team member. Finally retired from Mountain Rescue it is a great privilege to return to and enjoy the beauty of this mountain, its ridges, corries and wild life.

Recently in 2009 two well known climbers were avalanched whilst descending from Fuselage gully and the wreckage stopped them being seriously injured as one of the climbers hit the propeller on his way down the gully. It made big news in the Press!

The abseil from the gully – Andrew Nisbet collection

In 2011 on the 60 th Anniversary of the Crash at the exact date a group of serving RAF MRT & Torridon MRT went up to crash site. The actual weather according to Joss Gosling who was on the actual search for the aircraft was very similar. We had thigh deep snow and the journey into the corrie took over 3 hours. BBC Radio Scotland accompanied us on the day and did a programme on the incident. We had a moving ceremony at the crash site, where we left a small wreath. The Stornoway Coastguard helicopter flew over the site as the weather came in making it a very moving day.    Joss now in his 80’s was interviewed by the BBC Scotland at the Hotel where the team had camped 60 years before.

What a story to tell and it still lives on and must never be forgotten.

Beinn Eighe

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.

The long walk, views expanding as we climb.

Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer

They have been there for many years

What have they seen?

Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.

Memories!

This is a wonderful poignant place.

Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie? 

This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe.

Recently in 2013/2014 and 2016/17/18/19  a relative of the incident Geoff Strong a nephew of Fg Off Robert Strong who was killed in the crash asked to visit the crash site. He lives down South and has now three times made the pilgrimage with myself and friends to the great Corrie. This place even after all these years after the 1951 crash mean so much to many.

People ask why do I visit these places?

“Just speak to Geoff and then look in Joss eyes who was there when he tells his story of a young lad in 1951.” He never forgot what happend here, yet despite the horror they saw this place brought him back again and again to remember the crew who died.

RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue have now been disbanded and there place taken by RAF Lossiemouth MRT. The memorial has been moved from Kinloss to Lossiemouth and is looking great well done all concerned,

 I headed up again this May 2109 with Geoff and this time Heather Joss’s daughter to visit the site and may be go over the tops with Heather. Joss is now in his late 80’s and sadly gone. I took  his daughter is going up to see a place that means so much to him. It was great to see that the RAF MR were up the gully this week March 2017 and the tradition lives on as do the teams.

In May 2018 I was up again at the crash site with Geoff and Heather, Ian and Andy Joss’s family. We had a new plaque to put on the propeller below the Triple Buttress. Unfortunately the old plaque was put on in 2001 to last and it will take a bit more time to replace it with the new slate one. Joss though not well came up and stayed in a local Hotel and had a meal with us after our wet day on the hill. Though Joss was not well he enjoyed the day and at the end his eyes were sparkling and we had a lovely day thanks to all those who organised it.

Some of the story is on this classic.

Sadly in November 2018 Joss passed away in Fort William surrounded by his loving family his memory will live on every time we visit Torridon and Beinn Eighe.

We did complete the replacement of the plaque on Sat May 11 th 2019 and the family were with us and Geoff Strong. It was a special day. The plaque is now in place many thanks for all the help of Lossiemouth MRT and Geoff Strong and Joss’s family for providing the new plaque.

Joss old boots make a final journey.

I visited the site after COVID it was long over due and still moving. I think of the trauma involved in 1951 and the difficulty removing the casualties from that area. There was no counselling then and it had a big effect on there lives.

A past visit

Take care of up in this area it’s good to see this tragedy is still not forgotten.

Dedicated to the crew and The late Joss Gossling.

The Marines from 45 commando make a visit to the crash site.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Remembrance week – Ben Macdui Avro Anson air crash remembered.

“Lest we forget”

Many people visit Ben Mac Dui as the second biggest mountain in the United Kingdom it is a busy mountain. It is amazing how many visit this summit yet fail to notice a memorial marked on the map. Over 70 years ago on the 21 of August 1942 there was a plane crash on Ben MacDui .The memorial is about 500 metres from the summit, on a ridge, the view is incredible. There used to be a wooden plaque but now there is a metal one next to a small cairn and some wreckage. It is a great navigational point to find especially in winter but to me it is another very poignant place.

On the memorial are the crew names

Sgt J Llewellyn – (Pilot)

Flight Sergeant G Fillingham (Observer)

Pilot Officer W Gilmour (RCAF) Canadian Air Force. (Navigator)

Flight Sergeant Carruthers   (Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner)

Sgt J B Robertson (Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner)

This is to commemorate an aircraft crash here 70 years ago. It was an Avro Anson Mark 1 DJ106 the aircraft crash killed all five of the crew.  The aircraft and crew flew from RAF Kinloss in Morayshire in Scotland and was on a Navigational Exercise. The crash was located by the Royal Observation Corp on the 24 August and it took till the 27 August to remove all the casualties off the hill. This was in the dark days of war when Britain was fighting for its life. The Cairngorms was a huge training area, much of it sealed off and the public not admitted.  The mountains were the ideal place to test the skills needed by many different troops and Special Forces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Avro Anson was a two engine aircraft and wildly used as a training aircraft by the RAF and Commonwealth crews. Many of whom were lost in the mountains and the sea during training. This was due to the aircraft being very basic with limited navigation facilities, communication and the crew training short to support the war effort as quickly as possible. In addition the maintenance of the aircraft would have been very basic due to shortages of equipment and manpower. Crews were needed as quickly as possible for the war effort and unfortunately aircraft regularly crashed. Many crews died in the mountains after surviving a crash but dying of injuries. This was why in later in the war The RAF Mountain Rescue Service was formed.

As a member of Mountain Rescue for nearly 40 years, one can only imagine the recovery operation to recover the fatalities. This was a very remote place in 1942. Access was a long 3 -4 hour walk with basic equipment, no helicopters in these days and highland ponies may have helped with the transport of the casualties. There was no Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team in these early days.  Even in August the Cairngorm plateau can be a very in hospitable place.

Cheetah Engine in Burn

There is a lot of wreckage around the crash site even after all these years. Both of the Armstrong Sidley Cheetah engines are still there. The wreckage follows a line about 300 metres into the burn the Allt a’ Choire Mhoir where one of the engine lies. Pieces of the undercarriage some of it made of wood and sections of steel framework and lots of aluminium panels are still there. To wander round on a clear day as I did this month is a moving experience. The views of the Larig Gru and the huge corries of Coire Bhrochian and An Garbh Coire are impressive, this is a special place. The burn has several pieces of wreckage including a tyre. If you follow it further down the hill, you will see the power of nature and more wreckage. In winter the crash site can be under snow for several months and I have often used the memorial as a winter navigation training point when I was with the RAF Kinloss and Leuchars Mountain Rescue Teams. It is hard to find in a Cairngorm whiteout and the ground on the Larig Gru side is very steep. The stream and gully is usually full of snow and most of the wreckage is buried in winter.

I did a piece for the BBC IN 2012 shown on the anniversary of the crash on BBC Scotland and BBC Wales. The weather was incredible and the views amazing, what a backdrop over to Angels Peak and Devils Point. It was a truly moving day and I hope we manage to portray some of the atmosphere of this special place. Three of the crew are buried in the cemetery at RAF Kinloss Abbey and the other two were taken home to Wales and Windermere. Whenever I visit a mountain with a crash nearby I try to leave a small cross in remembrance of those who gave so much.

Even today aircraft still crash in the mountains and in 2001 two American F15 aircraft crashed about half a kilometre from the Anson on MacDui. The F15 was state of the art technology aircraft and unfortunately both crew were killed. It took 2 days to find the aircraft, even in these days of huge changes in technology and equipment. Nature has a way of showing man who is in charge!  The whole recovery took several months to clear of all the wreckage, unlike during the war when there were no resources and aircraft were left where they crashed.

Photo 2001 – F15 Crash on Ben MacDui.

The high mountains of the UK have many such aircraft crashes from the war, where few survived after a crash and one near Ben More Assynt the crew are buried at the site. We must never forget the cost to these young lives; these were young men who died on the mountains for us to have the life we have today. How many who visit Ben MacDui know of this site.

If you visit I hear that the plaque needs a clean let me know I must get over and check it out.

GRID REF OF MEMORIAL NN98601 99117 at 1256 metres. ( please check) if incorrect please contact me.

REFERENCES

Reference’s – Aircraft wrecks The Walkers Guide

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Some great tales at the RAF Scotland Mountain Rescue re – union at Newtonmore. Thank you to all the families for your support over the years.

This weekend was the Annual RAF Mountain Rescue Reunion. It was a great night and RAF Lossiemouth Team joined us after the meal. What a great bunch of people. We had a superb night hosted by the Highlander Hotel who were amazing .

A wee wander with some old pals the Wildcat walk Newtonmore.

It was great to see so many old faces and their wives plus a few of their families. We had over 110 sitting down for a meal. After a few speeches then a “Phoenix nights Raffle”for Mountain Rescue raising over £450 pounds.

The highlight was the pre dinner talks By John McFadgen on Gaelic places a great insight into our language. John is from the Isle of Colonsay and a great troop. Also Jenny Hodnett gave a great chat of a lassies perspective of joining the RAF MountainRescue team in the 90’s. These were days when the RAF accepted women and were finally allowed to join the team and Jenny explained the hurdles she had to surmount. She had promised me a copy of what she said and it will be on the blog soon.

It is sad it took so long for girls to be allowed to join and there was much said at the time. Yet what an asset lassies like Jenny has been to Mountain Rescue over the years. It was great to see that the current Lossiemouth team are still going strong and their are some great lassies in the team. It took us a long time to catch up with the civilian teams in this aspect but eventually we made it. It was lovely to get the chance to talk with them they are special people.

It is wonderful to see families coming to the re Union and how can we thank them for there support over the years. I spoke to some of the wives now in there 70,s. They had no contact with their husbands on a Callout . Most homes had no phones and updates were especially on a long Call out very hard to keep in touch. Often they found their husbands were out via the radio. The kids often hardly saw their fathers. Yet they were so well supported by their families. Nowadays things are different with mobile phones but as My great pal Willie Mc Ritchie said “ the kit on the outside may have changed but the heart and soul of the troops is still the same”

It took a while for the families to be recognised within our system thank good ness things have changed. We can like all emergency Agencies repay there contribution.

Take time to sit and stare !
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1979 RAF Valley – North Wales learning the hard way.

I was so lucky (though maybe not for my new Team leader Alistair Haveron) that I was posted to RAF Valley on North Wales as full time Deputy Team leader in late 1979.

The Valley Team

I had lots to learn and Al taught me so much. I was never easy to handle in these days and had some huge battles with authority but was always looked after by Al and the team. I was also well supported by the RAF Wessex helicopter crews and a few were on the team as Officer in charge.

It was hard at first I was the Scottish troop in a sought after job taking over from one of the most senior Mountain rescue troops Colin Pibworth. Colin had been in Mountain rescue since the 50’s. At first he never spoke to me during our hand over yet we became huge friends later on.

I had a few battles with a few of the troops at first .Yet great support from many and made lifetime pals. On my second weekend outs I did the 14/15 peaks pretty fast with Stan Owen who was a great fell runner. Who met us on the last top but Colin Pibworth a true hero in Mountain Rescue. After that we got on so well.

I climbed a lot more in Wales and was taken under the wing of my mate Jock Cameron Pete Kay and Dave Tomkins we did all the Welsh Classics and many more. Gogarth was only a few miles away and I was scared down there a few times. We also did a few lowers onto the Lifeboat interesting and so much learning. There was a lot of technical crag work learned.

Tremadoc

We had a wonderful Welsh winter on my arrival were I climbed for Two weeks out most days in Wales. The Team Leader Al sent me out I got to know the crags and mountains and most of the active climbers so well. I got many of the young troops out on the many ice falls that formed that year. Midweek it was so quiet and most of the known climbs were empty.

Most of the young guys were given a hard apprenticeship but we did some great climbing. We climbed in winter on the Devils Kitchen, The Pass and the Black Ladders great routes and met many of the stars of that era. It was amazing climbing next to Joe Brown in the Black Ladders. I found North Wales was so compact and easy access add to that we had our own SAR Wessex’s at Valley who were always about for lifts off the hill. They were Like minded folk who became such great pals. They gave so much support and advice. We even had a few pilots as officer ic great people.

I was single, learning so much and Wales had a great social scene which we became heavily involved in. Every month we travelled to new areas like the Lakes, The Peak District learning about new crags and cliffs and meeting lots of new contacts.

Gimmer crag the Lakes

We got on well with the local teams and did some epic call outs at night on the Idwal slabs. We met a lot of climbers and were there when a few fell off. It was huge learning for me bags of action and I was getting to know my patch and the locals such a key factor. I got extremely fit and was enjoying my time in Wales.

Alaister my Team Leader had to leave to run the Royal Tournament in London. I was left in charge of the team. Government cuts were in and we were issued with poor paper head torch batteries that fell apart in the wet. We had to cover them in plastic bags but they still fell apart. On a night rescue the batteries fell apart.

Creag Dubh Wall

Being a bit Naïve I sent a heavily worded signal to our Headquarters in MOD. I was then stopped from sending my signals without them going through the system. Luckily Al again saved my bacon as I was nearly posted away from Mountain Rescue.

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Helicopter Days . The early days and an interesting rescue in Wales gaining trust with the crews.

Wessex with parking ticket overnight on Ben Lui.

My first working with helicopters was in 1972. I got an afternoon of to go with a few of the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team to our local mountain Ben Rinnes. We were playing with Sarbe Beacons and testing them out. There was a helicopter homing in on it testing in these days the new technology! We had worked hard together.

Sea King early days !

Once the Sea Kings came to Lossiemouth we worked well with them and learned so much from that. When new crews arrived we often trained locally on the cliffs at Cummingston. We did lots of winching and got to know and trust the crews. There was much to learn with the Sea King it had a big downdraught but could carry so many team members on rescues. We had worked well with the Leuchars Wessex but they were based at RAF Leuchars and did lots with the local Leuchars MRT we envied there closeness. There were also lots of flights showing the new crews the area including the hit spots and Bothies.

Royal Navy Sea King on a rescue on Ben A Dothaidh.

The Royal Navy had Sea Kings at Prestwick and they were also part of the helicopter SAR cover. They were mainly used for sea incidents. Yet they like the RAF crews were a huge asset. The kit for the air crews was very poor, most had flying suits and flying boots not ideal for the mountains.

It was at RAF Valley in North Wales as the full time Mountain rescue Team Deputy Team Leader. I got to know the crews of the Wessex well. A few were active climbers. Being on the same station as the helicopter was so handy. We had daily contact with the crews and did lots of training. Wales was incredible Valley was only 30 minutes flying time from Valley. The Wessex was so impressive on the mountains and the crews knew their patch. It was amazing where they picked us up from with casualties. That’s where you learn to trust each other it was a lesson hard won.

On one busy day we had 5 call outs in winter the last for a faller high up on the hill but Pen yr Ole Wen. There was no night vision goggles then. Light was fading and we asked the helicopter if it could do one final job. The hill was covered in water ice. The winch man was dropped down, we had to look after him as he was wearing the issue flying boots.

The casualty was getting sorted when the weather changed. The helicopter had to leave to refuel and said he would be back. On refuelling the pilot was told not to go back. There was no way that was going to happen and as we were bringing the casualty and the winch man down the steep, icy hill the Wessex landed on and picked us up. It was pitch dark but the weather had cleared now.

Off course the RAF did not appreciate the disobeying of orders and the crew were sent down to Headquarters “for a debriefing”. I was called as a lowly expert and supported the crew also stating that their kit was not acceptable for the mountains. That did not go down well but I made friends for life with the crew. From then till they got gear issued we gave them kit from our Mountain Rescue Store.

No caption needed.
Posted in Bothies, Equipment, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | 4 Comments

1978 – Early days at RAF Buchan plus two big call-outs on Colonsay and Braeriach.

Few folk will know I was posted to RAF Buchan near Peterhead after getting promoted to Corporal in 1978. It was a small station but very important part of the Cold War. Even though it broke my heart to leave Kinloss and the Mountain Rescue Team I had to take the promotion there was no way to refuse. I was told do your bit and you will get back.

My job was easy at Buchan and I soon had it sorted out. The Station had no Mountaineering Club so I had a meeting and we started one. We got transport from the Station and off we went. There were only 10 interested but we got things going. We had a night climb down at Longaven 4 on a rope exciting stuff but that became a haunt of the club it was pretty serious with the sea and the cliffs. I had used the cliff before with the Kinloss Team for techniques in the past and we had our then yearly techniques weekend.

The winter was coming so I managed to get a small winter skills week to give some of the Club member’s the basics. We got my old Team Leader Pete McGowan and Tom MacDonald an old pal to come. Now Lochnagar is not an easy place to plan some winter skills and hopefully a few climbs. Yet that winter was a hard winter big snows. We had a bit of an epic with a Cornice on Raeburns Gully with our group as the Cornice was huge. It was a great few days and the club remember learned a lot. They were now ready for some big winter days. I was really pushing the club and they were keen and learnt a lot in these days taking on some epic days.

I managed to plan to meet Kinloss MRT one weekend that they were at Breamar and the Sea Kings helicopters had arrived at Lossiemouth. They were wanting to practice troop deployment and we got dropped off on the summit of Ben A Bhuird along with the Kinloss Team. We dropped into the Corrie and 5 of us did a big winter grade 3. It ended up a long day with a huge cornice it took me ages to get over. We did not know that the glens were so full of unconsolidated snow that it was a long walk out. The snow was so deep and it was -10 freezing cold we got back to Invercauld at 0200 really struggling. We were lucky the weather was good with no wind yet one of my group got frost nip. We did nothing next day we were exhausted but what a day. Ray Sefton was the Team Leader of Kinloss at the time and was worried about us we had no contact with them at that time. I learnt a lot that day after breaking the snow on the 4 hour walk off. I had a great two years but it was costly getting out with the team and getting back for work. The Club was great but very hard work but we introduced a few to the mountains and had some great days. Some of the days are listed below.

I managed to plan to meet Kinloss MRT one weekend that they were at Breamar and the Sea Kings helicopters had arrived at Lossiemouth. They were wanting to practice troop deployment and we got dropped off on the summit of Ben A Bhuird along with the Kinloss Team. We dropped into the Corrie and 5 of us did a big winter grade 3. It ended up a long day with a huge cornice it took me ages to get over. We did not know that the glens were so full of unconsolidated snow that it was a long walk out. The snow was so deep and it was -10 freezing cold we got back to Invercauld at 0200 really struggling. We were lucky the weather was good with no wind yet one of my group got frost nip. We did nothing next day we were exhausted but what a day. Ray Sefton was the Team Leader of Kinloss at the time and was worried about us we had no contact with them at that time. I learnt a lot that day after breaking the snow on the 4 hour walk off. I had a great two years but it was costly getting out with the team and getting back for work. The Club was great but very hard work but we introduced a few to the mountains and had some great days. Some of the days are listed below.

We regularly went to Glencoe and Ben Nevis doing some climbing and long hill days, the club was going well. The other weekends were spent with Kinloss but I found the travelling back to Kinloss hard going. I was out with the team when the Great Blizzards of 1978 struck we were at Fort William. I ended up being away for 7 days helping with the helicopters at Inverness with the team. All the roads were shut and I was dropped back at RAF Buchan at the end by Sea King helicopter. My Boss the plonker from (PSF)met me and told me I was in trouble and was in front of the Station Commander next day at 0900. My Boss Danny told me not to worry as I had told him what was going on and Ray Sefton had sent a signal explaining where I was. Yet here I was getting ready for to see the Station Commander.

After that the Flt Lt hated me even more and when I applied to go back to a Mountain Rescue Station he stopped it, so I decided to leave the RAF. I told my Dad that I was leaving the RAF and he spoke to George Younger who was my MP in Ayr at the time. Next thing I knew I was posted full – time as Deputy Team Leader at RAF Valley MRT in North Wales much to my amazement. Sir George Younger was my Dads MP (friends in high places). Poor Eric Hughes my Officer on the team told me this story and how he had to write a paper on me for George Younger. My Dad never told me what he had done.

Looking back what would have happend if I had a snag on some of these wild days. I learnt so much in these days and looking back we pushed the boat out a bit but we were young and invincible.

Braeriach Avalanche

Two Call-outs stand out in this period are for a French Atlantic that crashed of the Isle of Colonsay . All the crew got out safely. We stayed in caves as we swept the beaches for Confidential documents. It was like seen from “Whisky Galore”

Braeraich Avalanche – 25 / 27 Dec 1978 – 2 walkers avalanched in Coire Bogha Cloiche a tricky evacuation in wild conditions. A sad period over Christmas.

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1977 – Off to RAF Buchan – 1978 The Great Blizzards.

Just as I was getting back into the mountains and I was enjoying life at RAF Kinloss. I had just returned from Iran on a big expedition, another steep learning club. Photo below.

Then out of the blue I was posted to RAF Buchan in late November 1977 on promotion in my trade Buchan is near Peterhead. I helped form a Mountaineering club and we had some great days. I still travelled back to Kinloss 2 weekends a month at my own expense to be with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. I was told if I did two years at Buchan I could go back to Mountain Rescue. At that time I did not drive and Buchan was a hard place to get to. It was a bus to Aberdeen train to Forres and bus to Kinloss, it would take 4 – 5 hours if it all went well.

The great Blizzards of January 1978. January – February

I was on the hill in the Mamores near Fort William as Ray Sefton the Team Leader let me come out with the Team even though I was posted away. Ray had not long taken over the team from Pete McGowan. I managed to get away by train on Friday afternoon and get to Kinloss always having to leave for the Aberdeen train first thing on a Monday morning. I was keen and it cost but I wanted to stay with the Mountain Rescue. I had just completed a huge West to East Of Scotland and was very fit and had that youthful feeling of invincibility on the hills.

Weather forecasts were  basic in these days and  yet there was a forecast of a big storm coming in but we still set off for An Gearanach in the Mamores a grand but tricky hill in winter. It was snowing very heavily when we left and the wind got up as we made our way up to the very corniced ridge and despite a white out made the summit. These were the conditions we trained for “The only all weather SAR” was the buzzword. Then all hell broke lose and it was a fight for life too get off the hill quickly descending down very steep terrain. The hills were alive with avalanches and the wind was crazy! We were very lucky to get down into the Glen when the whole side of the hill avalanched and swept down right by us.   We were lucky and several other parties all had near misses several were avalanched and even the drive out of Glen Nevis was incredible. as we fought with chains to get back to base. The radios were alive with epics going on all over and we were needed.

By now Ray Sefton who was the team Leader was at the Police station and cars  and people were stuck all over Scotland. Once he had collected his team and we were all accounted for. We were sent to the Rannoch Moor with Glencoe MRT  and rescued over 50 motorists many children and old people with no kit. Cars were buried and we had to dig them out using the big 4 tonners as refuges to transport the people to the land-rovers and safety. We had stoves on in the wagons trying to heat up the people. This was in the days before the roads had gates on them to stop motorists driving into danger.  It could and should have been a disaster but for the efforts of the Police and teams.

The next day we nearly lost a helicopter near Tulloch the Rescue Control Centre had lost communications with the aircraft. This caused incredible worry as all the helicopters were very busy on rescues all over Scotland and the weather was still wild. It  was very worrying as we were set off to find it and help the crew. We managed to drive past Roybridge and then set off in waist deep snow in places We had permission to use any houses for shelter if needed as there were a few holiday homes just passed Tulloch. It was crazy we kept swapping leads due to the depth of snow and after 2 hours we heard the noise of the helicopter and it had a wee snag and was sorted and gave us a lift back. We were so glad to see them.  We then spent 5 days attached to a fleet of helicopters based at Inverness were we were used to assist the helicopters on a stormbound Scotland. We dug lorries from the A9 under 20 feet of snow and even went to the aid of a train that was stuck up North. We fed sheep and helped remote crofters and pregnant Mums it was an incredible time for us all. It was a great learning curb how Ray Sefton handled the situation.

What a cool man and always looking to the next problem. We were so well treated and  made many few friends at Raigmore hospital in Inverness with the nurses, causing Ray a bit of a problem as the team dispensed to parties in the Nurses home. That is another story!  When it all ended I was dropped off by helicopter at RAF Buchan and was  given a bollocking by some officer who was supposed to be my Boss  for being Absent Without Leave (AWOL). Ray Sefton sorted it out and went from ” Zero to Hero” next day! It was not a rare occasion to get hassle after a call out by these so called idiots in charge of you!

In the end there were at least 50 stuck on Rannoch Moor, 25 stranded between Cluanie and Invergarry, 15 missing Fortwilliam. Climbers missing in Laggan area, a Wessex down missing for 3 hours! a busy time. Plus the missing train up North. It was in the days of limited paperwork and it was classed a one call-out.

Sadly getting back to Mountain Rescue as promised I found this was not going to happen as I was only a small gog in a big wheel. I decided after lots of thoughts to put my notice in and leave the RAF. I was travelling every week at my own expense to Kinloss and was lucky I had a good Boss who let me go. Yet my main Boss the officer who never knew me made it so hard for me I had enough of him. He worked in the Headquarters and was such a plonker.

I had phoned home and told my Mum and Dad I had enough. They tried to talk me out of it. I think they were dreading my return to Ayr. My mind was made up and I had to get out.

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1977 – The Call-outs keep coming : Liathach, Loch Avon, Ben Nevis and Ben Dorian. A winter traverse West to East of Scotland

I remember some of these incidents wee. The incident on Liathach in Torridon was when a young ATC cadet fell from the Pinnacles. He was a young ATC guest who was put with the team. Liathach was snow covered and he fell a long way into the remote Coire Caime. The team leader Pete Mc Gowan went straight after him. He was badly injured and in a very remote area. It took hours to get a stretcher in the weather was too poor for helicopter assistance. Troops were recalled by radios of their hills and after doing were a long day it was a hard trudge into the Coire with the a stretcher and first aid gear. It was a long call out, poor communications did not help and what a hard carry out with the stretcher. It was 16 hours to get him of the hill he had some bad injuries to head and neck.

The West – East of Scotland Skye to Mount Keen 1977.

Photo call at start of walk !

1976 The West to East winter Traverse through my notes from what seems another era I looked at my preparations and worries to get ready for a big undertaking then our winter walk in October / November in 1977. These were days of simple gear, no mobiles GPS and the maps I am sure were still inch to the mile?

The idea of a walk across Scotland from West to East in late October/ November with hindsight was crazy, with no support a pretty serious undertaking. My pal Jim Morning and myself had just completed a huge North to South Of Scotland Walk in 1976 in May and along with Paul Burns we had pushed the boat out in the way of hills done. We thought we were ready for an unsupported winter traverse. After speaking to a few people most said go in late March/April making use of the long daylight and reasonable conditions. I never for a moment thought we would plan it for November. This is usually a wild month with various problems. The daylight is very short and the weather can be very unsettled and on this trip it was wild nearly every day. This ended up as a story of “A walk nearly a walk to die for.”

End of walk on Mount Keen knackered.

At the time I was a member of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team a young party leader who had just completed his Munros in 1976. The Team was myself Heavy Whalley, Jim Morning (JM) and Terry Moore (TM) this was the first expedition in to attempt a Traverse of Scotland mountains West to East in November. Jim and Terry were just posted in from Stafford and Valley in North Wales , both were incredibly fit and extremely strong mountaineers . This walk was the based on an idea by the late John Hinde, one of the founder fathers of the Big Walks.

1977 Call outs

We completed it despite the incredibly bad weather. At times fighting for our lives and being told to stop the walk due to weather. This was huge learning for the three of us and we learned so much.

The missing civilian helicopter on Loch Avon. This was another epic when a helicopter filming in the Cairngorms went missing and the crew was rescued. Our team leader walking in front Ray Sefton guiding the helicopter in on a foul day.

On the Ben Dorian Callout I met Ian Nicholson from the Glencoe team when we rescued a few climbers from a gully. That was another hard job and the Sea King helicopter came in again in poor conditions and helped greatly.

Casualties brought off by helicopter on a wild day.
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Thank you “Neil Reid Bothy Gangrel” and Mountaineering Scotland who has just retired.

Neil leaving Mountaineering Scotland. Photo mountaineering Scotland.

Many mountain folk will know this unassuming man Neil Reid. Over the years he has been a key Ambassador for Mountaineering Scotland as Editor of there magazine. I first met him due to a few contacts on the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) His love of the Cairngorms is legendary as is his knowledge especially of Corrour and Bob Scots. He and his bothy pals carry out the awful task at times on toilet waste at Corrour. What a man !

Neil has just retired from Mountaineering Scotland as the Communications officer. The write up below is from Mountaineering Scotlands website.

Neil, who edited the Scottish Mountaineer magazine, has been walking and climbing in the Scottish hills for over 50 years. A member of the Braes o’ Fife Mountaineering Club since the 1980s, he has served a term as President. With the Braes o’ Fife he started rock and ice climbing and has put up new routes in Rum and in the Cairngorms.

Neil is actively involved in bothy maintenance with both the MBA and Bob Scott’s Bothy Association. He has helped with the renovations of Corrour Bothy, the Hutchison Hut, the Fords of Avon Refuge and other bothies. He is maintenance organiser for Corrour Bothy and an MBA trustee. He also writes the cairngormwanderer blog.

Professionally, he has been involved in the communications industry for more than 35 years, working in local newspapers and, latterly, in print and web-based corporate communications.

“A really nice farewell from my colleagues at Mountaineering Scotland. This really has been the best ever job and it’s been a real privilege to edit Scottish Mountaineer for the last nine years. Even better – having worked with my successor, Fiona, for the last four weeks, I’m confident she’ll do a great job too, so I don’t need to feel bad about leaving. 🙂
Off to spend more time with my family now… and the Cairngorms.”

In life I have been lucky to meet folk like Neil he is a star and an incredible font of knowledge on many subjects. I wish him a long and healthy retirement and thank him for his wonderful achievements through the years. It is great that now he can get more family time and on the hills more often.

Neil I will catch up with you one day but on behalf of many thank you for all your help to me and others.

Folk like Neil are rare they do do much for others and look after our wonderful country. In these dark days where so many are selfish it’s great to see folk like Neil are still doing there bit for others.

Thank you Neil.

Neil’s blog is a great insight into the Cairngorms. @Cairngormwanderer blog

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1976 was a busy year for Kinloss MRT and me.Completion of the Munro’s first round. First visit to the Alps.

1976 Kinloss Stats.

This was a busy period 3 call-outs stand out. The incident in May on Abrahams Route on Sgurr Alaister was another big lower. Yet we had learned from the one the year before and this time we had helicopter assistance what a difference that makes. As always especially on Skye the danger of loose rocks is so relevant. Over the years I was to climb this route a long 1000 foot climb not hard in grass as a difficult climb but it’s position above the Great Stone Shute makes it interesting. As in any long route be careful with route finding ?

There was also a big search for 2 climbers on the Glen Doll area a sad event both were located dead after a few days search. It has been the location of another tragedy.

The Black Cloud a sombre read.

The 1958 Tragedy – Glen Doll and Jock’s Road were in the headlines again in early 1959, when five members of the Glasgow-based Universal Hiking Club perished in appalling weather conditions on the plateau near Tom Bhuidhe. Although this group was experienced and well-equipped, they apparently set out rather late in the day to make the traverse, and in the darkness were overwhelmed by the sheer ferocity of the wind-chill and consequent hypothermia. Over the next few weeks, their bodies were found partially or completely buried in the snow, spaced out on a compass bearing heading for the descent into Glen Doll and safety. A tragic incident. Well written about over the years. These incidents got me researching into accidents and how to prevent them.

Cape Wrath – Also a big search for a bird watcher up the far North at Cape Wrath was a difficult area to search. The remoteness meant we had to get ferried across and sadly we did not locate the missing bird watcher. A big logistical incident and the huge cliffs made the searching fairly serious. I was to go back years later to work with the Coastguard and Lifeboat on these cliffs.

The Cruachan incident we were called out from Torridon as I was attempting the Big 3 on Torridon we had completed, Beinn Eighe and Liathach when we were called of the hill. It was then a long 6 hour drive through the night to the base at Dalmally stayed ng st the auction yard. It was an exhausting few days sadly the casualty was not located on the search but found years later on the back end of the mountain.

As you can see the team were involved in Call outs on Ben Nevis, Glencoe, Skye, Arran and Ben Cruachan.

There was an increasing number of climbing incidents in winter Winter climbing was becoming more popular due to improved Guide books and big changes in equipment. We were often involved in assisting.climbers as we were climbing a lot more often now. It was a start of many in the RAF Rescue improving their winter and summer climbing levels. Gear was changing all the time and with it came much more climbers on the cliffs. We knew many of this era and a few became great friend’s over the years.

In 1976 I completed my Munro’s

We all have great memories of the Munros I will never for get the day I finished and my pal Tom Mac Donald finished on the same day on Beinn a Chaorainn (Glen Eye) on 13 November 1976. The Munros have always meant a lot to me and a great way of enjoying and getting to know the Scottish hills. I have had so many great days with so many folk to mention but thank you all.

1976 My last Munro .

This was on the picture that my Team Leader Pete McGowan gave me and Tom all these years ago. It was also signed by the late Ben Humble of the SMC that made my day.

“Dear Heavy

On behalf of all the members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team may I congratulate you on a really fine achievement in ascending An Socach 3097 feet in Braemar on 13 November 1976.  You completed a unique double with Tom Mc Donald to join a small band of climbers who have ascended all the 280 “Munro Mountains” in Scotland.

Many thanks for your hard work with the team, for you can be rightly and justifiably proud of your efforts. Well done and best wishes for many happy and enjoyable days in the mountains.” Pete NcGowan I doubt he knows what that wee presentation did for me it was very humbling.

My area knowledge was improving of the climbing areas and we were getting to know this areas that were opening up like the North West these were interesting times.

It became so important to get to know Scotland as we were called in by many local teams to assist especially on big searches. My boss at work was great at letting me go as he knew I would work harder than others when needed. You were learning all the time new life skills from the team that you would never forget.

The mountaineering took over my life and I went on a first trip with Tom MacDonald my pal. We learned some good skills on the bigger mountains. Summoning Mt Blanc before it got busy. Again we met many of the new wave of climbers who were pushing climbing in the Alps. There were many accidents to one as we were on the Forbes Arête where three climbers fell together on the arête. That was an awful day and hard to keep your head when you have to get off the mountain safely. You learn so quickly and I found I was dealing with tragedies like they were normal occurrences.Which of course they were not.

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1976 – Things move on: Becoming a Party leader and planning a Big Walk – North to South Scotland.

I had been back in the team for a year now was fully trained and hoping for my party leader. This had been a long journey for me it took me for what seemed years to prove myself. I had often taken parties on the hill in summer, winter and call outs I felt I had proved myself. Pete McGowan made me a Party leader and it was a great day for me. In these days there was no presentation just a low-key mention at the Monday briefing. It was a huge day for me. It meant I could do what I wanted on the hills for myself, I could finish my Munro’s and climb a lot more. I had a great day on the Skye ridge top to top 12 hours I was learning.

The RAF Mountain Rescue Badge

I wanted to go to the Alps that year but my mate Jim Morning had asked me about doing a Big Walk across Scotland.

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 the 270 miles with no support all travel on foot. The plans was to 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 and GPS and lightweight gear were a long way away off.

One night no bothy staying at Bridge of Orchy station.

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 was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan.All military authorization for expeditions in these days had to have 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.

Extract from The Big Walk North To South – May 1976 David Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning and Paul Burns. Heavy Whalley – Jim Morning (JM Paul Burns(PB) This was the first expedition in the RAF to be led by SAC’s VERY JUNIOR RANKS and no officer. The expedition had lots of support by Pete McGowan (Team Leader) who stuck his neck out to let us do the Traverse.

Three young lads on the walk

It was my first big walk and a huge learning curb for me many that was to be invaluable in many call -outs in the future. I learned so much about the mountains and different ways up and down them and it was great having Paul and Jim on the trip. We never fell out all the way and at times we were pretty tired and running on empty. There were no bothies on a couple of occasions due to being let down by our organisation and that was hard after a big hill days. The hospitality of the keepers and their families were wonderful and the kindness was unequal especially at Scardroy Lodge where I was ill, this was true Highland Hospitality at its best and will never be forgotten.

Long days

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

These nights were the highlights of a great trip a fire going, the company of Jim and Paul, the gear steaming nearby and that first cup of tea I will remember these days forever.

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

This was a record for the RAF Trips at the time and we were pretty pleased! Yet a lot of the fun was planning it. Getting all the maps on the floor in the briefing room and drawing a route. It was so exciting looking forward to seeing new Glens, cliffs and new ways up the hills. Sitting at times watching the herds of deer and wild life all around. Watching the weather and being at one a unique experience that only comes when you spend time in the mountains. Only then in my mind do you become as one in the mountains.

My advice for anyone is to get away on an unsupported walk it’s a unique experience even today. You will not regret it.

Just remember “The Mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego!”

Posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, Health, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

1975 Sept – A big lower in Skye on Sgurr MhicConnich

In the RAF Kinloss MRT wE had practiced for big stretcher lowers during our training crag day. Yet apart from a lower with Lochaber MRT in Zero gully on Ben Nevis my knowledge was pretty scant. On the Ben even in the 70’s there were ropes under the summit shelter so you did not have to carry them to far.

It’s a lot different on other cliffs if no helicopter is available you have to get all the gear up the hill. If you think a climbing bag with two of you carrying basic rock gear for a big route is heavy ? Then things are a lot harder if your doing a lower on a remote cliff on Skye is a lot worse.

What do you take with you ? It would be an all night rescue it was raining. You have to carry a stretcher casualty bag and 500 ft ropes plus crag gear and your own personal gear for a long job. Lighting was basic in the 70’s basic head torches and we still relied on pyrotechnics. We had about 15 troops out on Skye and the same for Skye it was a long trudge back up to the cliff. Our base At Glenbrittle more or less is sea level. There were no mobile phones then but we had spoken to one of the climbers friends who said his mate was in a bad way. He had fallen from the climb above roughly Collies ledge. This is what mountain rescue is about and you have to put your tiredness and fears behind you and mind in neutral and go.

We got the call as we were back at McRaes barn in Glenbrittle having dinner. The police said a climber had fallen on a route West Buttress of Sgurr Mhicconich its a 300 metres climb just off the Great Stone Shoot. I had climbed it before and we had a fun day on the route. It’s not hard but a long route involving some loose rock.

Skye is never easy ground to lower someone the rock can be loose, add in wet rock and darkness it’s easy for things to go wrong. Belays have to be good with the weight of a stretcher patient and guide. Most lowers were done in that era single 500 ft ropes. They were so heavy to carry up the hill. As was the split stretcher it was tricky to climb with big and awkward. Add in darkness and a big cliff with an injured casualty above. You get to the casualty treat them as kindly aehs possible as the situation slows check, check and safety is paramount. Everything is double checked belays and ropes uncoiled and sure there running safely. Then load the stretcher all in the dark and rain. It’s teamwork at its best and can so easily go wrong.

It was a tricky lower down to the screes rocks fell as we took the stretcher down.There was a smell of cordite as the rocks went down the cliff. It was about 700 feet so we must have added a rope to get to the screes. The casualty had been on the cliff for over 6 hours immobile and we still had to carry him off. Head torches as I said and battery life were pretty poor in those days as was communications. I am sure we used flares to illuminate the cliff.

West Buttress

I was so glad to get of the cliff and get the casualty of the hill. You learn so much from each Rescue a few I was to use again in Skye and other places over the next 25 years. I was so pleased we had got the casualty of the hill and sitting in the tent having that first cup of tea your on a high and despite being exhausted sleep never came easy to me.

It’s important that you send a fast party up to the casualty to give first aid. Then the rest follow keeping everyone together: it’s pointless to get up to the casualty with only half a stretcher. ( The stretchers were split so that the weight could be shared by two team members.) The casualty bag ( a big sleeping bag with zips) must be with it as it is so important. Most casualties are suffering from exposure and their injuries.

The lower was very scary we only need a few to lower and got the rest out of the team out of the way. Loose rocks were coming down no matter how careful you are a stretcher on a big cliff with a guide and casualty is a huge responsibility. Pete MacGowan our Team leader was in his element he had done many lowers in Wales and his experience was invaluable that night . Getting the casualty off the hill is only part of the journey we had a long carry off. Exhausting work even finding the path out is not a simple task.

Seeing day break after a long night on the go is incredible you feel alive , yet few know what you were up to that night. There was little media interest in what was going on unlike today.

In the end you worked with other teams got to trust each other and learn from each incident. Money was tight for the civilian teams and a big rescue would damage stretchers and mean ropes would have to be scrapped after such an incident. Much of our own personal gear could be battered after such a job. Kit could be lost in the dark but you have to ensure your ready for the next incident. Every day is a learning day on the mountains.

Top tip: would you be able to cope with waiting with an injured mate for help after an accident? It even today can be a long wait. Always carry some spare kit.

Top tip: after this call out I always carried a spare torch it made life so much easier, especially today when torches are so much lighter. 

Top tip: we had big group shelters in the mid 70’s they were invaluable on that night. Bothy bags are back in vogue and in my mind worth there weight in gold.

Bothy bag
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Summary of my first three years incidents with RAF Kinloss MRT.

1972 RAF Kinloss MRT call-outs

Above is the call outs attended by the Kinloss team in 1972. All apart from 1 we’re for missing walkers or climbers. The other was an aircraft crash near Kintail. As the reader can see they incidents were all over the North of Scotland . This is why we trained in different areas to get the area knowledge especially if the big cliffs. The best way to get this was to climb routes on them . The tragic incident in Sept 1972 on Tower Ridge was a sad event and one I will never forget.

1973 RAF Kinloss Call outs

In 1973 we had a big Aircraft search on Ben Mor ( Crianlarich ) for a missing Viscount aircraft. There were also a couple of incidents on Ben Nevis and two more up North. It was all part of assisting the local Mountain Rescue Teams.

1974 Kinloss MRT Stats.

1974 was my first big lower on Ben Nevis in Zero gully it was amazing being a small part of a big lower. I think it was all done on a single rope lower with very basic equipment. I was in awe of Lochaber MRT and the bravery of those going over the edge on such a huge cliff. I had a huge amount to learn and over the next few years we did a few lowers in Skye and in the North West. I was learn how hard it was to carry in gear like ropes stretcher and casualty bag. Add to that your personal gear you all have to do your bit. No wonder my back is knackered.

It should be noted that we rarely spoke about incidents especially the fatalities. We all coped on our own way. We have hopefully come a long way since the It was great that even as a young lad you got to know many of the other teams and their characters. Many are still friends to this day.

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Sad day on Ben Nevis

It was as normal an early morning callout, a party of four had got lost on the descent of the Ben in very poor conditions on the 10th of March 1974. It was the usual 3 hour drive to Fort William arriving at 0230 and then a few hours’ sleep for a search at first light on the Ben. On arriving at the Police Station we were told to grab some sleep most slept in the wagons I was lucky and a few of us kipped in the cells.

The walkers had been trying to walk of the Ben and had got the bearing wrong and headed for Coire Eoghainn a very steep Coire on the Glen Nevis side of the mountain. One of the climbers had fallen and the other had tried to help and fallen as well, the other two members of the party had managed to make their way of the hill and raise the alarm. Lochaber Mrt had been out most of the night bringing of  one of the climbers off and it is a long way down in poor weather. I remember we found the casualty fairly easily as there was a trail of kit in the corrie. He was in a very difficult location, on a small ledge, very icy with lots of loose rock and ice, unfortunately he had been killed in the fall.

A few of us climbed up to him, I remember this well as the crampons many of us wore were causing problems. These were not the new adjustable ones but ones that had to be heat treated to the boots, which were okay on flat ice or snow but very poor on steep ground as this was. I managed to get up to assist and we lowered the team Leader Steve Reeves on a single 500 foot rope with the casualty not an easy job, that picture stayed in my mind for a long time. The belays were not that good but the job had to be done. Then we abseiled down to the rest of the team, this was my first big serious abseil. We met the team with the stretcher and casualty bag and then there was still a long and difficult descent down to the Waterside a descent to Glen Nevis with a loaded stretcher, this took most of the day.

Everyone took there turn carrying the stretcher on the rough ground whenever possible we used the skis attached to the base of the stretcher to make it a bit easy. It was incredibly hard work and as a 9 stone weakling I was given no quarter when my turn to carry came.  Many of the team crampons failed and after that we were issued with adjustable crampons after this incident. It was incredible to think at times how poor our kit was and I  decided to buy as much of my own equipment to make my life easier on the hill after this incident. After handing over the casualty to the Police in Fort William. Some of the family had gathered in the Police station and then a few of us gave statements to the Police. We then drove straight back to Kinloss after a quick meal with the Police, I was freezing as my kit started thawing out on the way back. Hard days but so much to learn, I slept that night, little did I know that 4 days later I would be back on the Ben to another fatality.

THE CORRIE

On the 15 March 1974  we were called out again in the middle of the night. It takes a lot out of you to be out all night and the Team were still recovering from the last incident. We had a party at Kinloss that night as one of the team was leaving when we were called out at 0200. Four walkers had wandered into 5 finger gully on the descent from Ben Nevis. One had fallen and two of the others went after her and ended up falling over 1000 feet into the gully. Kinloss went straight on to the hill and I was given a Tilly Lamp to use in the gully as that was one form of lighting we used. I met up with the Lochaber team who were with the casualties and Wullie Anderson one of Lochaber MRT threw the Lamp away as it was a waste of time and in the way. It was a tragic callout as it was the wife of  one of the survivors who  was in a bad way asking how his wife was. Lochaber were trying to resuscitate and I was helping treat him, he was asking how she was. Unfortunately she passed away soon after we got there. It was an awful experience for me and even though we managed to get the other two off the hill safely it was a sad time for both teams. Five Finger Gully is a terrible place to be in you have to watch all the time, it is loose and dangerous place and I vowed to get to know it this gully as well as I could.

I was sure to be back helping our friends in Lochaber Mrt regularly. It was amazing how Lochaber coped, they had done several more callouts that week and were always up to the task, many of them with sad results. They were a team of experienced rescuers who had so much experience of this incredible mountain, I was now recognised by many of them and would try to learn from them when working with them.    Weekend Exercise were incredible a different area every weekend, chosen by the Team Leader to get as much Area knowledge as possible. This was wonderful as a budding mountaineer and it allowed you to get lots of new Munros and climbs in, weekdays were spent planning hill and climbs. The weekend started on a Friday night straight after work, we would leave at 1800, usually a 2-3 hour drive to a base camp which in these days would be a village hall, if lucky or in tents even in winter, hardy stuff. The halls were great with the basics, no showers but kitchen and toilets.  We all slept on the floor on mats and each took a turn at cooking an awful job.  It also let you meet a lot of the local characters as the dances were held in the halls and we had many a great night at Ceildhs all over Scotland. Village halls would get a small income from the RAF which was very handy for the halls upkeep, we also had the use of them on callouts. The driving was not with events and as we had been working all day we were usually very tired on the way out. The best place to be was in the back of the Three Ton Lorry, in a sleeping bag and get a few hours’ sleep on the way to base and even better on the way home, there could be as many as 8 in the back and what a great way to travel. One time I woke up with the roof tilt gone and cover in wood when we had a near miss with a wood lorry, it was a great starry night so the view was special, it only snowed in the last few miles to camp. This was the first of many near misses.

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Hard times in the early years. Aircraft crash at Dornie and learning the hard way. Dealing with Trauma in the early days.

After the call out on Ben Nevis I was put on shift for the whole weekend and no break at all. Then ten days later the team was called out to an aircraft crash near Dornie at Kintail. This is what the team was about and we were alerted just after lunch on the 12 Sept 1972.  Information in these days was very scant; no mobile phones all updates were given on the move by High Frequency communications in our converted land rover Control wagon. It was a blue light drive terrifying to Dornie where we were met by the Police. A Harriers GR1  XV 799 had crashed, killing the pilot.

A  Royal Navy helicopter were called and took the casualty away from the scene but we had to do crash guard and search the area. This was my first aircraft crash, I could not believe that there was so little left of a huge aircraft, just a smouldering hole in the ground. It was a horrible job that i was to do on many occasions the smells of an aircraft crash stay with you as does picking up human remains.

When an aircraft hits the ground at 300 – 400 mph there can be little left but pieces of jagged metal, spread over a wide area. In addition many of  these sites are very dangerous and only a few of the team were used to search the area. They located several items including a phial of morphine from a first aid kit on the aircraft. The team stayed until the Navy Salvage team arrived and handed over. In the meantime the area was secured with the help of the Police and sketch maps and photos were taken to assist the Board Of Enquiry. As the area was fairly low down the team were released back from the incident and drove back to Kinloss, where I was in for trouble!

My boss told me on my return next day that I was to be disciplined for disobeying an order and going on the callout. I tried to explain that it was a Military aircraft and that was our job. The pilot killed was RAF, who we had been told was going to be the new Station Commander at Lossiemouth. He was having none of it, I was in trouble!

This is where George my team leader came into his own and was down at my Bosses office and sorted it. George was magnificent; he pulled no punches and put his career on the line for me. My Boss was not happy but all the charges were dropped, though he told me my card was marked. He did manage to stop my promotion to Senior Air craftsman for 6 months which cost me a lot of cash. I was told that my “head was  in the clouds” when he wrote my annual assessment. I thought that quote was a badge of honour to me and said nothing and accepted what he said. I worked with two civilian ladies in the Office they took me under their wing and I became a bit of a celebrity on my section, such is life.

They loved the stories of the weekends and the motherly instincts came in looking after me and repairing my battered mountain kit.  Maybe my career was over in the RAF, I would do my job as best I could but I wanted to get out on the mountains as much as possible, before I left in 4 years’ time!

Looking back some of these were very traumatic times for me. In these days we never spoke about it though I had a few nightmares. Also my skin broke out in a red rash; it got worse and was bleeding whilst on the hill. It spread all over my body it was so embarrassing I had to cover it up all the time.

The RAF doctors diagnosed it as Psoriasis and it got that bad I was taken into hospital in Inverness. I was covered in tar products and bandages it was a traumatic time. I had never had this or any experience of it and it was a problem that would continue all my life. Serious trauma definitely brought it on; it took over 30 years to work that out.

George Bruce the Team Leader left in June 1973 it was a sad day he went to run the Outdoor Activities Centre at Grantown On Spey and the team was taken over by Steve Reeves. I stayed in touch with George all through my life, he was always there if I needed him and visited me at Kinloss fairly often, I learned from how he treated folk especially the keepers and Police. How he stuck up for his team when needed and could sort you out with a few cutting words.

George and Heavy at the old accommodation.

Steve was different type of leader and just back from Hong Kong as the Team leader there. It is never easy taking over from such a leader such as George but slowly Steve made his influence felt on the team. This was not easy and a few of the senior members made life difficult for him. Steve had a different approach from George but did well in the end, it is very difficult to control a team made up of 90% volunteers as I was to learn. Steve taught me in the end that fitness was only part of the game and you had to look after the guys with you, not be first to the top I learned this  lesson when he failed me as a Party Leader in the team for running off on the hill. A hard lesson well learnt, this put me back for a while but I was young and cocky!

Different leaders teach you so many things.

Learning every weekend.
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Early Callouts in 1972 – The harsh reality of Mountain Rescues.

At this time the call outs were fairly simple including a search for missing boy near Kinloss at Randolph’s Leap a popular walk near a steep gorge. We found him safe and well after a night search. The other was for a local 15 year old near Bonar Bridge who turned up safe as we arrived to search. This was my first time I saw the joy of the parents when we found him, they feared the worse, it was magic to be able to help. The euphoria was soon crushed. My boss was not happy that I had gone on these searches and informed me to call him first before going out on any searches. This was not always practical as most searches were out of work hours.

 I had to agree and just hope I could contact him. Searches in these days for local people were quite unusual as most of our incidents were for mountaineers. It was great to be able to help in the local area and I was amazed how well the team were treated by the local police and people. This was all part of the training and many great contacts were made on call outs with the locals. These were to be invaluable in later years as my career developed.

September 1972 Tower Ridge – 3 fatalities.

Lochaber & RAF Kinloss MRT Team recovered 5 casualties. RAF Kinloss members climbed the ridge after incident.

In September of 1972 we were called out to search for three missing Naval climbers on Ben Nevis. All mountain Rescue call outs are controlled by the Police and the local Lochaber Team who covered the area asked for the Kinloss Teams assistance. My boss was not happy when I phoned him at 0300 in the morning to ask to go but as RAF teams have a responsibility for military personnel as well as aircraft he had no option.

When he reused me George my team Leader phoned him and told him I was needed.   We arrived at Fort William and were all taken up to the CIC Hut a mountaineer’s hut which is situated about 2000 Feet on near the North Face we got a lift  in the Police snow track wagon. There were over 40 rescuers out on the search. The climbers had set out to climb the classic Tower Ridge and not returned. They had been staying at the hut working on the radio that was used for rescued.

As we were splitting into search parties at the hut we were told that they had been spotted below Tower Ridge on the East side. As a new member you were given the stretcher to carry and we went up to below the base of Douglas boulder where the climbers sadly were. I had already been to a fatality at Kintail a hillwalker a few months before but this was different.

The three climbers were all roped together and had fallen from the ridge and they must have died instantly. The teams sorted out the casualties and again part of a new team member’s job was dealing with them and getting them on the stretchers not an easy task for a young lad. One of the climbers had a small dog which was also killed in the fall, I was pretty upset. We took them back to the hut where the Police transported them back down the hill. Most of the two teams knew each other as several of the local Lochaber team were retired RAF team members who had married and settled in the area. I was amazed how all the guys just got on with the task in hand and treated them carefully and respectfully as the situation allowed.

The casualty I helped deal with was only a young lad and I thought how difficult it must be for the family to identify him at the Police station. I never called my family and told them what was going on like many I think they had no clue of what was occurring. There was no talking about dealing with trauma and a bit of we never speak about these things.

CIC Hut Summer

Everything seemed abnormally normal as we walked off; black humour was evident as these unfortunately were a thing you had to deal with in Mountain Rescue. These mountains can be very cruel if you make a mistake.

Most of the team went back to Fort William but John Hinde wanted to investigate what happened and asked if anyone would come with him up Tower Ridge. John was very interested in accident prevention and became the Scottish Mountain Rescue Statistician when he retired.

As all the casualties were military John felt he had to have a look and see what happened. This may seem very morbid to the layman, but he was interested if there had been a failure of equipment higher up that could have resulted in such a tragedy.

Tower Ridge

For some reason I went with him and two other team members.  It was a surreal day as here I was one hour after 3 people had fallen climbing the same route. Tower ridge is one of the longest ridges in the UK even in summer it can be an interesting day. John took me up the East gully and on to ridge and found roughly where they had fallen from; we belayed him down the ridge while he looked about for clues. It looked to John as a simple slip whilst moving together on the initial easy part of the ridge.

I remembered John’s words from Skye and took my time, making sure that every foothold and handhold was secure. The rock was greasy, wet and very cold and I found it a real challenge, the concentrating all day and trying to keep the rope work good. It took us four hours to climb the ridge, most of it with the mists coming and going. We climbed the famous Tower Gap and this involves a down climb with huge drops on all sides, I found it imposing but managed it. I was told that this was where many epics occur in the winter, in the wind, snow and dark, it scared the daylights out of me. I never believed that I would climb this route in winter on many occasions’ years later.

After this it was a simple scramble to the summit, John an expert in mountain accidents explained that there had been many epics on this last bit of the ridge and told us to take care. He was explaining where to belay and lower ropes on previous rescues. He was a fountain of knowledge and I tried to take it all in, from the top we then on to the summit. Even there the information kept flowing as he showed landmarks on the summit plateau, where he explained the difficulty of navigating in this featureless area.

What a day, that was all the time I was concentrating and taking as much care as possible. It was a long descent from the tourist path each with their own thoughts back to the team wagon and then back to Kinloss a 3 hour trip still in our wet clothes.

It had been a long day and we did not get back to Kinloss till late and back to work next day. This was my first big Rescue on Ben Nevis a mountain I was to grow to love over the next forty years.

The next day my boss at work was not happy or interested what had happened or what I had been involved in. There was no thought of me or my well-being. I was told that I had better not go on any other call outs in future even though he had agreed that I could. There was no point in arguing I was only a lowly airman in the RAF I had to keep my head down and get on with it, many of the team members had the same problems. I had not long to wait till my next brush with authority!

A BREAK IN A SEARCH AT LOCH ARKAIG.
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A first trip to Skye what an eye opener.

After being accepted by the team I was so lucky to get a long trip to Skye. In these days there was no bridge and it was a ferry it was a long 4-5 hour journey. By now I was really interested in the Munros and heard that at this time there were just over 100 folk had completed them all. Three team members were on that list and they were team legends. It was explained that if you completed the Munros you knew Scotland fairly well and would be a fairly component mountaineer. I set this as my objective and decided to go after them every weekend possible, I purchased a Munros book and began keeping a list of hills completed and a diary. On the few weekends off I was off with my mate Tom to climb or walk. We had some eventful weekends; with no transport it made life hard.

One of our first was off to climb the Glendessary Munros and the bus dropped us at the monument at Spean Bridge where we hoped to hitch, no chance and we walked all the way to Glendessary. This was an area of great memories to me as my father had been a student missionary for the area in the early 1930’s; he carried out services in this remote area aided by the local Head Keeper Mr Cameron. Those took in big hill days after the church service and my Dad as very fit runner was always speaking of this great man who escorted him into these remote areas.

As we approached the Glen after what seemed a 20 mile walk with huge bags, we were met by the local keeper. He told us that they were stalking and it would be inadvisable to go on the hill for the next few days. We were told not to go on the hill, we were devastated and camped for the night and headed back walking the same way back in the morning with no lifts!

No mountains that weekend just sore feet. Nowadays things are different and freedom of access is a great piece of legislation but we must work with those who work the land to make sure that all parties involved respect each other.  Other weekends were great and I found I was hardly at home, we managed a few weekend at Aberfeldy and did some great days getting lots of Munros in Tom my friends Dad dropping us off in the early hours and us hitching back.

This was a great time to learn as we were on our own and learning the hard way. It was a great apprenticeship for both of us and we were getting some great hill days in.   In the end the only way you learn for yourself is in the end to out and practice the skills you have learned for real. The mountains take no prisoners.

The team were given and extended Easter as a thank you for their efforts after the Cairngorm disaster were acknowledged. Four Team members were given awards for the efforts including the Team Leader George Bruce. They never spoke about what happened until many years later as this was the way in these days but some of the team were affected by this for many years. I cannot imagine what it would be like dealing with the deaths of 5 children in the hills. It was decided to go to Skye which is the Mecca for mountaineers in the UK. These are mountains of Alpine proportions which with snow are incredibly difficult.

McRaes Barn Glenbrittle.

A ten day’s training break in Skye with the team was hard to get work to give me time off. I worked for 14 days solid over two weekends and built up the time and was allowed to go. The team stayed at McRae’s barn in Glenbrittle near the base of the Skye ridge, we cooked in the farm garage amongst all the machinery and nowadays it would be and Food and Health & Safety nightmare. To me it was heaven, the owner was a mountaineering legend Mr McRae he had helped mountaineers for many years in the Cullin.

The team had been a huge part of rescues over many years and had helped the local team on many occasions over the years. I had heard the stories of the rescues over the years on Skye and never to underestimate it. The local people new the team well and we were always welcomed, we knew many of the characters, from the ferry men to the local postman.

My first day out in Skye was with John Hinde another ex-team leader who had just come back from Mount Mc Kinley in Alaska. John was an incredible man and outstanding mountaineer, he was a fount of all knowledge on the mountains and it was a great privileged to go on the hill with him. He was suffering from frostbite in his feet and hands after this expedition. He took me and another new team member Tom Mac Donald, who was back from his trial with the team. Tom was very fit and had climbed before, he knew so much about the hills and after this day we became lifelong friends. John had chosen the last mountain on the ridge to climb as our first hill as we were “Skye virgins”. On Skye most of the mountains start from sea -level and are incredibly rough rock Gabbro which is so rough it really sorts out your hands at the end of a day’s climbing. The ridge was covered in snow which would make this a serious day on Sgurr Na Gillian appropriately translated as “the Peak of the Young Men”.  We were to age on that day. It snowed heavily and John decided that we would go up the West ridge instead of Pinnacle Ridge which was a climb and fairly serious in winter.  It all went well; the scramble up the corrie in fairly deep snow was tricky in the mist. John seemed to know where he was at all times hardly looking at the map; he told us stories all the way up to the base of a chimney. From here we scrambled up the chimney which I found desperate and was glad that John roped us up. As I had not climbed much my rope work and knots were slow and I was soon told by John to get a grip as this was a serious climb. I vowed to ensure that I knew what I was doing next time out! John had to clear most of the holds all the way up, the snow was wet and loose and his hands were very cold even though he changed his gloves three times. His feet were by now frozen and John even changed his socks on the ridge. There was no shelter on what was now serious storm, John offered us to go back but we wanted the summit and a new Munro, so we pressed on. He explained how we must watch every step and climb with care; route finding was not easy in the mist and snow. We were about 100 feet from the summit when John decided to turn back, we were both glad!

That day I learned some vital lessons, to become more efficient on the hill and it is not getting to the top that counts but coming home safe and well. John worked his frozen socks off to get us of safely and the responsibility of leadership was not lost on us. It was a long walk back to the Sligachan Hotel were we got back just before dark, exhausted but elated. This is a Hotel with amazing climbing history full of pictures of the great of Scottish mountaineering looking down on us. You just drank in the history as you sat by the fire awaiting transport back to base at Glen brittle. We felt great to be back safe and we had another 8 days on these wonderful mountains.  

 When we arrived back to the Base camp we were told that we were the only party to get that high that day, so we did not feel too bad but still a bit disappointed  that we had not got to the top. Over the next few days we had great time on the ridge and managed most of the Munros in full on winter conditions. I found it fairly stressful and seemingly woke up with nightmares one night that I had fallen off the ridge. On the last day we were going up one of the easier Munros Bruach Na Frithe when near the top one of the lads slipped on the steep snow and nearly went a long way over a cliff. He was very lucky as if he had not stopped he would have been severely injured or worse, again it was a lesson again to take ones time and be definite with your feet on icy ground. It was very hard putting on wet clothes most days and the boots were always wet and how not matter how tired you were after the hill you had to sort your gear out in case of a callout. These were all good skills to learn for the future. Myself and Tom ended up being taken out most days with the very experienced team members and learned so much in that training exercise  in Skye. A lot of the team were just walkers and found the ridge in winter conditions very serious and left us to it. Though out of my depth at times I felt that I could cope and would have to if I wanted to be a strong member of the team, Tom now my best mate thought the same. The views from the ridge were incredible, Skye surrounded by sea was amazing and the views down to Loch Coruisk and the Islands were incredible. I was so lucky to see all this and sit on the tops when we had a minute and try to take it all in. The team seemed to know so many secrets of the ridge. They knew where the easier lines up the mountains. I was told to learn all these tricks as the next time I came it could be at night in a callout! I could not imagine this ridge in the dark or a wild night. On my last day of the grant we went back in a big party to climb the easiest peak Bruach Na Frithe by the South ridge. It was a special day and the walk in from Coir’ a ‘ Tairneilear is special, snow still made the day interesting and the final scramble to the summit was thought provoking. As we neared the summit one of the guys slipped on the snow covered rock and slithered over a small buttress, I watched it happen. The drop below was incredible and I was sure he was going to be severely hurt.

Somehow he managed to stop himself, how lucky. It really shook us all up, we laughed about it at the time but it was a lesson to me of how easy it was to have an accident. Easy peaks in Skye no chance all take no prisoners and you have to alert at all times, another great lesson.  I vowed to climb all the Skye peaks in one day as this is one of the finest mountaineering days in Britain, to do this it was not just fitness but a good degree of climbing ability. Most of the ridge is climbed unroped an incredible objective for me at this time.

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Living with joining the Team. Training and lots of learning.

I was not long back from my epic on Lancet Edge and getting back to work was hard going and very physical. I hardly told my Mum and Dad what I was doing as I did not want to worry them. My aim was to get trained as a Team member even then it was a long process.

My job still involved lots of lifting rations into storage; there were no lifting devices it was all done by hand. Every day we delivered to the Messes and huge wagons would come in from the contractors we would move them into our store, it sometimes took all day. By next day I could hardly move and after being checked again by the doctor, he gave me a few days off, which I did not take and just went back to work. I had bruised my ribs as well as my back which took ages to heal; he also confirmed that I had swallowed a lot of snow as I was coughing a lot. I dare not risk any problems with the team as my work were not happy with me being on it already.

There would be many problems ahead with work I felt, but I tried so hard always offering and working late and doing extra work when people went sick to help me with getting out with the team. My work was so worried about me getting time off for call outs during the week. In fact there were very few most of the 10 -15 incidents were at weekends in my own time or at Christmas and New Year when the team was out training. Anyway I was told I had to learn my job first, which I felt was no problem as to me a monkey could do it, it was a “game” and I had to play it and keep them happy. It was hard to accept but it was to be with me for most of my early RAF Career as work and Mountain Rescue collided.

Now I was accepted with the team I was told I had to move into the Mountain Rescue Block. This was our own Block on the Operation side of the camp. We were exempt some of the inspections as we ran a duty crew each night which we did as a means of calling the team at night. It was all by phone in these days and the Rescue Coordination Centre called us out. The block was a special place full of tradition and unique in many ways. Very few people visited without an invitation and it was full of fun. It had a crew room where we all watched the television and had the occasional party. It also had a very simple drying room which was so important for drying your kit after the weekend and a washing machine, we had everything.

We also had individual rooms which was unheard of at this time as all the rest were in 6 man rooms on the main camp. The senior members had brewed beer hidden in the loft and there were constant visits from some of the girls on the camp, which was not supposed to happen in the military. There was even a big sign saying that “no females were allowed” which was ignored.  It was a great social place and there were all ranks in it, and no rank was used in the block. I was just amazed by all this.  

I was always up for any learning we had a briefing on every Monday night where we were asked questions about the weekend Exercise, where we went and what hills climbs we did. This built up local knowledge of the hills and also made you take an interest in where you were going. We also had a lecture on a different subject every week, from navigation, rope work, equipment first aid and the many skills needed to be a competent mountaineer. This was incredible way to learn and though usually exhausted after the weekend you were thirsty for the knowledge. It was all held in our briefing room which had so many photos in it. The pride of place was a Ben Humble photo of the North Face of Ben Nevis in winter. What a background and you had to learn allthe routes and where they were.

The local sea cliffs at Cummingston were used during the week and we would cycle or run to the cliffs and had a few epics on the brittle sandstone. I was always with my mate Tom MacDonald he was already a talented climber. When we were lucky enough to get a wagon we would go to Inverness Duncheltaig or Huntley’s Cave near Grantown On Spey. It was at Huntley’s Cave where I had my first fall and hit the deck when I fell off. I was sent up Double Overhang a fairly serious route at the time. I remember being knocked out and sick after I came to, I managed to walk off myself with blood everywhere from my face which was cut below my chin.

The troops stopped at the pub at Dunphail where the owner offered me first aid as whisky! I was then taken to the Medical Centre at RAF Kinloss. The doctor offered one of the lads if he wanted to stitch me up, it would be good practice, luckily he was only joking, they kept me in overnight, my Boss was not impressed.  This affected my rock climbing for a while and still does, it was a hard lesson learned, do not fall!  It did not stop me though and we went out for the odd night ascent after work of a mountain nearby regularly we went to the Cairngorms and my first ascent of the great climb in Cairngorm was Savage Slit at night, tremendous learning on a big serious cliff and straight back to work.

We were always back at first light for work, what a buzz from the nights adventures with if we were lucky a few hours’ sleep. I was slowly improving all the time. We had visits from team members from the other teams who were allowed to stay on in the block on their way to climbing in Scotland. It was great meeting all these characters. Never did I hear them talk about the tragedies they had come across on the hills, this was a different era where nobody spoke.

Huntys Cave near Granton on Spey Photo T Moore

There was always something going on, the kettle was always on and all the time. In addition the team had a fantastic Library with some of the greatest mountaineering books, given by team members for all to enjoy. I read every one; I was becoming a mountain fanatic.

I was really interested in the Munros and heard that at this time there were just over 100 had completed them. Three team members had completed and were legends, It was explained that if you completed the Munros you knew Scotland fairly well and would be a fairly component mountaineer. I set this as my objective and decided to go after them every weekend possible. Travelling to a new area each weekend was ideal and meant you could get so many Munros done. I purchased a Munros book and began keeping a list of hills completed and a diary. On the few weekends off I was off with my mate to climb or walk. We had some eventful weekends; with no transport it made life hard. I was saving to buy good gear and Bill Marshall who owned a Mountaineering shop and would come down from Aberdeen and sell us kit. He would let us have it and pay at the end of the month.

Every 6 months we would do some technical work with stretchers, abseiling, prusiking and tragsits. You had to do everything it was a new world to me at the time and pretty scary on one rope on a steep cliff.

Longhaven cliffs near Perhead the Tragsitz in action – Paddy with no helmet.

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

1972 – My last weekend of my trial – Avalanche Sgur Lurtharn Aonach Beag near Ben Alder that we were lucky to survive.

This as I stated was the last weekend of the trial and I was to go out with George Bruce the Team leader and 2 other team members. George had planned a winter scramble or climb up a magnificent ridge called Lancet Edge near Culra bothy right in the heart of the Alder Estate.

Lancet Edge

It was a wonderful drive across the moor, full of snow and a drive across the icy river Pattock by land rover. We passed the Garrons (highland ponies) there were stags and hinds everywhere, many following the wagon thinking that they may have been getting fed. I thought to myself people would pay a fortune to be in this landscape and it was all for free, wonderful. The Estate feeds the deer especially in a hard winter and this was one? The views of the mountains was incredible, snow everywhere and blue sky, these are huge remote mountains with the magnificent Ben Alder dwarfing its lofty neighbours with its sprawling ridges and huge corries. We stopped at the Culra bothy an open shelter used by climbers and left the wagon there. It is a very basic building with a fire, stone floor, sleeping space and freezing cold.  I had spent many a night in bothies like these in Galloway whilst training for the Duke of Edinburgh award but this was a different league.

Our objective was Lancet Edge which was opposite Ben Alder this was a ridge on the huge 1028 Sgur Lurtharn, it looked so Alpine and impressive. A thin icy ridge running up to a snowy plateau to my inexperienced mountaineering mind I wondered how we would get up that ridge. We had with us a very experienced climber who had worked at Glenmore Lodge as a civilian Instructor who was one of George’s friends Davy Sharp. Davy I found out on the walk up across the moor was just recovering from a serious avalanche accident in the Lake District the previous winter. George was great form in the walk. He was telling stories, talking about the area and setting an enjoyable pace, not the usual rush to the top. He was teaching and laughing all the time and in the hour on the walk in we learned many new skills. I was shown how to use my axe and crampons on some ice on a small buttress and how to ice axe brake properly on some steep snow, we then set of kicking steps up the slope leading to ridge. As is the normal procedure we all took our place in front kicking in the snow was hard work. As we got higher, the snow became deeper and was lying in places in drifts on top of steep frozen grass. I know now that this is not a good combination. We traversed round some steep buttress and marvelled at the views which opened out as we got higher. Just below the top of the ridge I was just behind George when I heard a crack and then we were tumbling down the hill, I remember going over a crag and then tumbling and crashing over rocks. It all went quiet when we eventually stopped and I was partially buried by snow and could hardly move my legs. George was next to me and helped me get out; I had swallowed lots of fine particles snow and was coughing fairly badly. I could hear Dave groaning and George was helping him out as the snow had by now frozen, he was like us all very badly shaken and bruised.ered but the adrenalin kicked in and helped Dave up. George got on the radio and asked for assistance from other team hill parties as we feared that Dave would not be able to walk off. We gathered our equipment that was scattered all over and started back, helping with Dave’s bag. George though shaken was completely in control and explained that we had been avalanched and in his usual sense of humour said this was very rare in Scotland and a great honour to be avalanched in such experienced company!

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What a man he was, his humour was just what we needed and I was to learn so much from this great man, throughout my Mountain Rescue Career and throughout life.   We managed to get back to the wagon by now Dave could hardly walk and was taken to hospital for a check-up. George reckoned that we had fallen over 600 feet some of it over a steep cliff, we were very lucky that no one was killed. I had used up one of my mountaineering lives!

When we got back to the Base Camp at Ben Alder we spoke to the keeper George who in his own measured way said “aye I thought the hill was pretty dangerous after the heavy snow and that wind” You were very lucky and offered us a dram. Later I stiffened up and bruising came out on my back and legs but next day I was back on the hill. I was the only one out of the avalanche who went out next day.  As George said when you fall of you have to get back on straight away.

Next day I had a wonderful day on Ben Alder climbing it by an amazing ridge the Short Leachas a great winter scramble, what a day.  The plateau to the summit was incredible with huge cornices by now the weather had changed and it was difficult navigation to the summit. I marvelled at the team navigating in a full white out, over this complex plateau, with its huge cornices overhanging the cliffs. Near the summit we heard a huge crash as a cornice tumbled down into the corrie. I was really tired on the way off which was complex as the wind was in our faces and the slopes very steep, this was serious mountaineering. Getting back to the land rover I was exhausted but again happy and the river crossing in the wagon was serious as there was a big thaw on.

When we arrived back at the Lodge Mr Oswald the keeper said that we were lucky to get the land rover over the river as it could have been there for the whole winter! 

This is roughly where we were avalanched

George had a wee word as we packed up he said, you have passed your trail wee man, you are now a Novice team member. He said that you showed them but do not let it go to your head, it is a long way to go and you are just starting, take no hassle from anyone, stand up for yourself and learn every time you go on the hill.

My mountaineering apprenticeship had started what a three weekends I had had. What adventures already? I had so much to learn, I could not wait for the next weekend.

I had to visit the Medical Centre as my body was fairly bruised after the avalanche. I had huge bruises on my body.  I had a sore chest and was coughing a lot and got x-rayed. I was told that I had swallowed a lot snow and will have damage that may be permanent later on in night. As a young man I never thought about this but developed a cough which has stayed with me to this day.

My job still involved lots of lifting rations into storage; there were no lifting devices it was all done by hand. Every day we delivered to the Messes and huge wagons would come in from the contractors we would move them into our store, it sometimes took all day. By next day I could hardly move and after being checked again by the doctor, he gave me a few days off, which I did not take and just went back to work. I had bruised my ribs as well as my back which took ages to heal; he also confirmed that I had swallowed a lot of snow as I was coughing a lot. I dare not risk any problems with the team as my work were not happy with me being on it already.

There would be many problems ahead with work I felt, but I tried so hard always offering and working late and doing extra work when people went sick to help me with getting out with the team. My work was so worried about me getting time off for call outs during the week. In fact there were very few most of the 10 -15 incidents were at weekends in my own time or at Christmas and New Year when the team was out training. Anyway I was told I had to learn my job first, which I felt was no problem as to me a monkey could do it, it was a “game” and I had to play it and keep them happy. It was hard to accept but it was to be with me for most of my early RAF Career as work and Mountain Rescue collided.

Now I was accepted with the team I was told I had to move into the Mountain Rescue Block. This was our own Block on the Operation side of the camp. We were exempt some of the inspections as we ran a duty crew each night which we did as a means of calling the team at night. It was all by phone in these days and the Rescue Coordination Centre called us out. The block was a special place full of tradition and unique in many ways. Very few people visited without an invitation and it was full of fun. It had a crew room where we all watched the television and had the occasional party. It also had a very simple drying room which was so important for drying your kit after the weekend and a washing machine, we had to clean our gear.

Trial passed – the journey had just started.

There was no Avalanche service in 1972 it was a common thought by a few that avalanches did not happen in Scotland

Posted in Avalanche info, Bothies, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

1972 – Joining the RAF Kinloss MRT.

After doing my basic and trade training at Hereford I wanted a posting back to Scotland. I was so pleased that I got posted to Morayshire in the North of Scotland. 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 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 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. Over the years he was a great mentor, friend sadly he is no longer with us. I held a cord at his funeral which was a huge honour for me,

George Bruce RIP.

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.

I was kitted out with all the gear from an Aladdin’s Cave of a store. It was to a young climber with no gear 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. 

The team left at 1800 every Friday night each weekend to train at a different base camp in the mountains of Scotland. This was to ensure we had area knowledge of the entire mountain areas in the event of an aircraft crash. The time given to the team was huge and if you were married or in a relationship it was extremely hard to get the commitment right and many relationships fell by the wayside. We returned most Sunday night after a hard weekend usually about 2100 depending on weather and call outs, not an easy task for anyone or those with families.

I was ready for the challenge despite the horror stories of the “Trial”

Posted in Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 8 Comments

Getting the kids outdoors.

How different a world is it now from when I was a kid. I was so lucky being brought up to love the hills in Arran, Galloway and beyond. We had no gear, no money but I was enthralled of the stories of the lonely Bothies and those who lived in these wild places. My Mum and Dad loved the hills so all 5 kids were taken on each trip.

Arran late 50’s on the summit of Goatfell.

Later on Dad would tell us the tales lijebthe Murder on Goatfell and we would visit the crash sites of planes from the war that crashed on Arran and Galloway. There were tales of the local shepherds who in a big winter would see few folk. I loved these tales and the seed was sown in me and my late brother. He loved the hills and the Bothies so much and though he lived abroad his joy was on his return we would climb a few hills and stay in a bothy. I remember seeing the real wild life on the hill my first herd of deer on the hill moving effortlessly over ground we stumbled on. There was the odd Eagle above and fox prints in the snow on the ridges. Most hills had few paths and there were a few books that you could read about the mountains.

It’s great to see that my Grandkids Lexi and Ellie Skye love being outside and Ellie did her first Corbett last weekend. I was so pleased for her. In the meantime the day before Lexi walked 10 miles with her school in Inverness with the rest of the classes. How many kids don’t get the chance they are stuck in a world of mobile phones, “pea pods” a Grandpa name for IPads that an old pal told me to call them. Yet give kids a chance to see the wilds stop and show them a burn a beach or a wild animal and they love it.

It’s great to see that the kids get to spend time outdoors even at school. I wonder if the financial pressures will effect this way of learning? To me outside learning is for all no matter who you are. My local charity Outfit Moray do so much for the kids of all ages and backgrounds. To me they are essential for well being and health.

So let’s keep getting the kids out hopefully my knackered body will let us climb another hill during the school holidays with the girls. I hope they take it easy on me.

Ellie Skye “The joy of the hills” photo: Y Kershaw.

There is so much beauty in the world please take time to show the young folk about it. But please remember it’s there day not yours. Always be ready to turn back and have that wee reward for keeping moral high. My dad would produce the biggest bar of Cadburys chocolate and we would all get out share.

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Friends, Health, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Great advice on preparing for the winter from Adrian Trednall (All things Cuillin)

My good friend Adrian Trednall wrote this and gave me permission to use it on my blog. It’s a great piece with good advice for all. To me Skye is the hardest area of the UK especially in winter. The local Skye MRT are a bunch of unsung heroes. In my years in Mountain Rescue I was involved in some wild rescues and recoveries. Adrian’s advice is superb so please read it and if possible share it. No matter how experienced we are we learn every winter. Thank you Adrian for Permission to use your article.

Wet ‘N Dry: Preparations For Winter

Many people just think of winter as snow covered mountains and hills, but it’s worth getting ready before the arrival of the white stuff. Already days are significantly drawing in and the forecast is pretty poor for the week ahead with high winds, lots of rain and low temperatures.

In the Cuillin, we’re more likely to get wet weather due to the location and the maritime climate. By all means hope for those glorious days of cold crispness, blue skies and arcing corniced ridges but reality may intervene. Lots of the weather between now and next summer will be wet and windy but, for those with a bit of luck and the ability to head to the hills at short notice, then winter offers a host of delights.

  1. Plan Accordingly

Short days, long nights and the potential for bad weather and conditions should all be taken into account when planning your days out. Check a variety of weather forecasts. I find the most accurate for the Cuillin to be the Met Office’s Mountain Forecast for the Highlands;

Wet wild weather photo Adrian Trednall

Other useful forecasts include MWIS;

Yr;

Mountain Forecast;

Plan according to the experience and fitness levels of the whole group taking into account especially the least strong members. Make objectives realistically achievable and have a fallback plan/s in case weather conditions are worse than expected or the original plan proves overly ambitious. Make sure there are enough daylight hours to easily achieve your plan. Consider starting in the dark (but make sure you’ll have enough headtorch/batteries should your day also finish in the dark.

  1. Go Well Equipped

Winter presents a harsh environment so is no time to be testing brand new gear on big adventures. Use stuff that’s tried and tested, kit that you’re familiar with.

Make sure your kit is up to scratch. Wash and reproof waterproofs, check zips work properly. With more technical gear like crampons and ice axes, check they are fit for purpose

With ever shorter days, a head torch is an essential and allows a little leeway should you finish later than expected. Take spare batteries, or, better still, a complete spare torch and batteries.

As always, take a map and know how to use it. Don’t just rely on electronic devices which can fail.

Consider switching your phone off or turn it to airplane mode to reduce battery consumption. If there’s some sort of emergency then you want juice left in your phone to call the emergency services, contacts, friends and relatives who maybe worried etc.

Hats and gloves are easily lost so take multiple spares since there’s not much more debilitating than icy cold extremities, hands and fingers will become clumsy and painful as the cold bites.

Take lots of layers so it’s easy to regulate your core temperature. You don’t want to arrive on a summit soaked in sweat then to rapidly chill out as lower temperatures and winds bite. Unless it’s dry and cold then synthetic insulation will be better than down. It may weigh slightly more but will remain effective even if it gets damp or wet whereas down will just clump up into a non insulative mass.

Think about taking a bothy bag or bivi bag as a shelter just in case you get benighted. A simple shelter from the wind and rain will make a huge difference and needn’t weigh too much considering it’s potential life saving benefits.

Consider taking a warm “belay” type jacket as an extra layer to keep warm in case of an accident or benightment.

I’ll often take a thermos of a hot drink of choice (coffee!) or a small gas stove. The latter has the advantage of being not just much lighter and bulkier but can allow you to prepare multiple hot drinks and/or food should you choose, or need to.

With the cold and/or wet, you’ll be burning loads of calories so make sure to bring plenty of food to refuel with especially stuff that’s easy to munch on the hoof and that go in your pockets.

Classic Skye a two day winter Traverse photo Adrian Trednall

I always use poles in the hills and they’re a real bonus especially for my knees and ankles but also a general aid to balance and it means you’re using arms and not just leg muscles. They are even more useful in winter where slippery conditions and snow make the going harder. But, know when poles are not sufficient and on terrain where there would be potentially serious consequences to a slip or trip then an ice axe should be deployed.

Ice axes and crampons always appeal to gear heads. Nice shiny bits of kit and kit which can save your life but it’s imperative you know how and when to use them properly so if you don’t, then get some training. At the start of each winter it’s useful to practice winter skills so they become habitual. Just find a safe patch of snow with a gentle run out and no obvious hazards and practice walking in crampons and breaking using your ice axe.

Be aware of avalanche risks and how to avoid them. Check forecasts and advice at;

https://www.sais.gov.uk/

Even if you don’t wear a helmet in summer, consider it in winter with snow and ice, wet rock and generally more scope for slipperiness as well as the chance of falling rocks and ice.

  1. Be Self Sufficient

Winter conditions mean you may well be more on your own in the hills. Not only will there be less people in the Cuillin but should you have an accident, then it may well take a long time for SMRT to reach you and even longer to carry out injured people especially if bad weather limits helicopter operations. Take note of the recent SMRT rescue of an injured climber hurt on the abseil at the top of the Dubh Slabs; the descent with casualty took 7.5 hours and team members were in the hills for 16 hours. That’s a long time to be out in the hills even if not injured so go equipped to be as self sufficient as possible.

Be prepared for any eventuality you can think of and be able to look after yourself, your friends. Winter is obviously a much more serious time of year where short hours of daylight, potentially poor weather and treacherous conditions underfoot all add up.

The BMC has a fantastic range of resources available online so check out the following link for a vast amount of info;

  1. Enjoy.

Remember that you’re meant to be enjoying yourself rather than undergoing some kind of SAS selection process so choose what you do and when you do it very carefully. Whilst the harshest conditions might provide lessons learnt, the best memories will be from those cold, crisp days with amazing views and great company.

If the brown stuff hits the fan then here’s what to do;

Make sure that you and the rest of the group are as safe as possible given the situation. Stay calm and consider whether you can resolve the situation or if outside assistance is required. If help is necessary then don’t delay calling it since even in optimal conditions it will take a fair time for help to arrive.

Dial 999, (or 112), ask for the “Police”, then “Mountain Rescue.”

Have information ready to give to the operator especially where you are and a grid reference but also useful will be the nature of the emergency, how many in your group, how well (or not) you are equipped. Tell the operator the phone numbers of anyone in your group so that if your battery runs out they can still be in contact with your party.

Follow any advice given by the operator or MRT.

Make yourself and the casualty (if there is one) as comfortable as possible, hunker down and wait. If you have a bivi bag or bothy then use them, put on any spare clothing. Hot drinks and hot food will be both a physical and mental booster so use your stove or flask if you have them.

Do anything you can to facilitate the rescue team locating you especially at night or in poor visbility. Poles sticking up, especially in snowy conditions, may well help especially if something bright can be attached, perhaps an item of kit or clothing. Flashing lights, whistles etc will help attract teams into your location.

Be prepared for winter and enjoy it whatever the weather brings. Fingers crossed it will be a good winter with stunning conditions.

Links :

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/winter-climbing-and-walking-skills

https://www.mwis.org.uk/forecasts/scottish/the-northwest-highlands

https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/

Adrian Trendall

  • Adrian’s passion for climbing started in the mid 1980’s with rock climbing and winter climbing courses at Glenmore Lodge. He then climbed all over the UK from the Old Man of Hoy in the North to the Sennen in the South. He has climbed extensively in North Wales and Pembrokshire as a climbing guide as well as for pleasure. Adrian has also climbed some of the classics routes in Chamonix (Frendo Spur, Papillon’s Arete, North Face of the Tour Ronde, North Face of the Grande Jorasses, Traverse of the Drus to name a few) and also in Yosemite ( Half Dome, Salathe Wall, The Nose of El Capitan and Salathe, Lost Arrow Spire), Smith Rock in Origon, Owens River Gorge in California.
  • Adrian has mountain leading and climbing qualifications and spent 12 years (until 2011) working for Ogwen Cottage in Snowdonia as a climbing instructor, walking guide and outdoor instructor for Birmingham city council – outdoor education unit. He worked extensively with children from disadvantaged backgrounds but also with adults multi-pitch climbing, instructing on SPA and ML qualifications and Team Building courses for private organisations. Before working at Ogwen he worked as on Dartmoor guiding walking groups on organised walking tours over the moors.
  • Since 2011 until June 2017 he has been freelance from the edge of Dartmoor with frequent long stay visits to Skye for climbing/scrambling ridge traverses, photography, research and writing. He currently putting the finishing touches to a guide for the legendary Cuillin Ridge Traverse. Adrian is passionate about the Cuillin Hills, from the early history, climbing, events as well as the flora and fauna. He is a gentle natured person who has a wealth of experience guiding people in the mountains professionally 
A great guide – a superb Christmas present.
Posted in Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

1970 ‘s – First time winter Tower Ridge. A great learning about winter climbing. An early call out after in 5 Finger gully.

Tower ridge in black and white.

“We are going to climb Tower ridge today“ it’s an early start so get sorted. I was told myself and Tom would be climbing together. We had both joined the RAF team at Kinloss the year before. Tom was a steady wee climber and this would be a test of our ability. Even in these days Tower Ridge had a big reputation. It was grade 3 but long. We were just young loons .

“Tower Ridge 800 metres . Almost certainly the finest winter climb in the UK available to weekend warriors, and certainly the longest. Tower ridge continues to fascinate and compel, with a magnificent mix of wall, ridge, and traverse lines taking the boldest classic alpine route almost to the very summit of Britain’s highest mountain. The two crux pitches, the eastern traverse and the Tower Gap are formidable obstacles in any conditions, and many a party has been benighted attempting to solve their mysteries. On a ridge like this, route finding should be obvious, but in poor weather it can be a nightmare. Worth remembering is the Tower Ridge Rulebook (Cold Climbs) quote “Go up to the Great Tower until it gets really steep before traversing left” – not knowing this has led to many epics. “UKC climbing

First ascent J.N.Collie, G.A.Solly, J.Collier 30/Mar/1894.

Our leader that day was the team Leader he said little and we battered up to the bog that was the path to the CIC hut. Nowadays you could wander up in trainers. I had only done Tower in Summer before and that was after a call out when 3 climbers were killed. We were told that to make a day of it we would climb the Douglas Boulder.

That would certainly add to the day. The title Boulder is a understatement. The Douglas Boulder, a 200m high semi-cone separated from the ridge proper by gullies on the east and west sides meeting at the Douglas Gap. If climbed from the lowest point by Direct Route (Very Difficult) this offers the most challenging climbing on the ridge. Many parties avoid it, usually by scrambling up East gully (Easy). South-West Ridge (Moderate) to the immediate left of West Gully (Easy) is the easiest face route up the Boulder.

It continues “and a short descent of the same ridge and thence into West Gully is the easiest route down into the Douglas Gap from the top.

Eater Traverse that era

Looking back the Boulder was harder than the ridge. There was little protection it took a long time to get to the start of ridge including a tricky down climb. Once on the main ridge we made good time. Catching most parties and overtaking them. We were fit and daft but it was such a wonderful place to be. In the end we had 6 folk following us. It was a great day out our gear was basic but we climbed well and with a mate like Tom we felt good. I was always wary of the Eastern traverse as many years before there had been big rescues here. It was very built up with snow and I felt I was walking in the air. In summer it’s a path not today. I found the wee wall onto the Tower scary plastered in snow clearing icy holds. Then we hit the weather out sheltered ridge was a knife edge arête to the famous gap.

Tower Gap om a lovely day

By the time we reached the Gap I lead across and it was getting dark now. We had a Congo of climbers behind us. The wind was up and myself and Tom brought so many up over the Gap. It was so windy I remember being frozen and had to help strap on a crampon for someone . It was cold and so awkward to do but the snow was frozen solid. Time was was moving and once they were above the Gap we battered on to the plateau. Now it was pitch dark and grabbing my first food for hours I was pretty wasted. One of the group had lost his glove in the gap he was lucky I had spare Dachstein gloves with me but it took ages to get them on him. At the end of the day I never saw them again.

Then became the survival descent off the ridge. In a blizzard and struggling I was glad Tom was navigating. He was so strong relaxed and after a fag he was right as rain. There was no huge cairns in these days on the plateau or Zig zags no Gps etc. it was late when we got down about midnight . We gave our new friends a lift to Fort William. They vanished into the night with most of our gear. We left the belays for them and any runners we found.

What a day that was we hardly ate wanted a drink and I was soon fast asleep in the hut on the Fort my gear strewn about. My breeks were frozen as were my socks with balls of ice melting on the floor. At 0500 we were awakened by the local police. Lochaber MRT wanted assistance for a couple of missing climbers.

Wet clothing was put on gear back in bag and a long day ahead in the bowels of 5 finger Gully. It was a place in these days many ended up in. Sadly one was a fatality and was a long day. I still do not know where as a young lad I got my reserves from that day. The Lochaber lads were great and with their area knowledge it made life a lot easier. Yet what a pull up into the gully with a wet river crossing to start with. There was no helicopter support that day the weather was awful. We took the casualty down the gully slipping and sliding using one rope and a lot of man power. It went on for ages but you kept it going as Lochaber were there. I was always looked after as we switched folk to carry. A big arm would come out and say take a break wee man you have done your bit. In there own way they looked after you and despite the sad job they were great company. Was I glad to get down onto the road that day.

After the call out it was a long journey home arriving late at night. A quick wash and shave then bed. Then into work. I fell asleep on some flour bags in the ration store where I worked and was caught by my boss who made me work next weekend. He was a twat hated I was away most weekends in my spare time but like a rash he was soon gone.

You don’t half learn from these days. I never did Tower via the Boulder in winter again always the ridge only. I carried food in my pockets and had a map with bearings ready to come of the Ben it’s a wild mountain at times.

Sadly my mate Tom is no longer with us as are a few others. Lochaber MRT are losing some of their “Golden Oldies” tough folk yet with hearts of gold.

Lochaber are out most weekends and still are amazing folk. It’s a long time since I visited there “Gang hut” in their new base and marvellous to see things move on.

I must have done Tower Ridge countless times in winter. Taking many young team members on their first winter adventure on the Ben. Yet in all conditions it’s a grand day out and what an introduction to Ben Nevis.

This wee blog is dedicated to my mate Tom MacDonald and Lochaber MRT “ Golden oldies “and the current Teams.

Comments and photos as always welcome.

I wrote a piece on another winter ascent in 1977 that is also worth a read in the blog. Tom MAcDonald was with me again but that’s another story .

Posted in Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | 4 Comments

An Appreciation of Village Halls. Cooking for 15 – 25 hungry team members.

An Appreciation of Village Halls.

Onich Hall right next to the A82z

My first weekend was in 1972 arriving in the dark at the bothy at Kintail. It was Baltic in the bothy limited heating on a meter that we paid for ourselves. As the light came through in the bay was a Sailing ship in full sail with the snow covered mountains and the sea behind. It was something I will never forget.

I wrote a while ago about Mountain Rescue cooking and the nightmare it caused for many of the troops in the team. We all had to take turns cooking for a day when we were accepted in the team. Cooking for 15 in my time 25 was never easy there were calls home and sometimes parents arrived to help. Soup had to be ready by 1200 in case of a Callout and sometimes we would get involved in a rescue whilst out arriving very late. It was the cooks job to ensure the food was not burnt.

That reminded me that in the various village halls often the Caretaker would look after us. There were so many characters about then but one that always kept us in line was Nan Simpson. Nan was the caretaker at Roybridge Village Hall.

Nan At her leaving do in Roybridge.

She always had a bowl of soup for us when we arrived and as her house was attached to the Hall she would also sort us out if we got too noisy. She was a lovely lady never complained when we got called out in the middle of the night or came back late from a Call out. She saved many a cook. There was always soup for us on arriving. She would invite you into her house and share a dram with you after a sad call out. She loved many of the teams wilder characters like Al MacLeod, Jim Green and others.

When Nan passed away we sent a wagon with myself the late Kerr MacIntosh and Scooter Beresford to attend her funeral. It was the least we could do for looking after us all.

Every time I pass the hall going West I think of Nan and the many others who looked after us. Great memories.

Off course many of the village halls we used in the early days were glad that we paid a fee for there use.

This income I know did help keep the halls going and were invaluable to us. Occasionally we helped put in showers with help from MOD and the halls were used for many things like Sunday services and we had to move things about.

Newtonmore washing facilities

Some halls used: Lochinver, Achilitbuie, Kintail, Portnalong, Broadford on Skye. Torridon, Kinlochewe, Lochcarron, Spean Bridge, Roybridge, Glencoe, Crainlarich, Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum, Cairndow, Corrie and Lochranza in Arran. Killin, Braemar, Ballater, Aviemore, Carrbridge,Boat of Garten. Laggan, Onich, Newtonmore, Aviemore and many more.

Some sadly gone now like Kintail. Then we used Bunkhouses and instead of sleeping on the floor on mats we had beds, kitchens and showers. Things had moved on.

Every team had its own village halls in there area and many friends were made when the halls were busy with various groups using them.

The local kids would arrive and “help” the cook pealing potatoes etc in reward for chocolate!

I always remember cleaning up when we left and forgetting our buckets and mops. Most halls ended up with MOD mops and buckets plus pots and pans left after a weekend.

We often on arrival had to clean up the hall after a Ceilidh. Cans etc but it was also part fun! We may find the odd local still celebrating. We were away Christmas and New Year and would have our Christmas dinner after a hill day cooked by the Team Leader.

The Bothies were a huge part of Mountain Rescue Heritage. As were the folks we met and worked with.

Sometimes we were there for a few days on Callouts. We would be left home baking and soup. We all worked round local meetings: crèches even church services.

We all have a story and if you were there and have one please leave a comment and photos are welcome.

These are from a past blog:

Darren – I think the teams use of halls probably worked as a very good indirect government subsidy for them, either making them viable or helping them afford improvements. Any kitchen enhancements that avoided the need to use the mk5 were a bonus!

Stuart McIntyre i know a few halls said they weren’t insured for gas appliances, can’t think why!

Jason – Darren Summerson when I was WOp I used to tell halls to up their prices and use the dosh to install coolers etc. Kept the teams popular with the community.

Steve Blythe – Friday night arrivals- unloading after a long drive (after a long week at work) setting kit up, getting a brew on, sorting your bed space (scrambling for the best spot) then sitting at the big table in the middle with a massive pot of tea and guide books and maps everywhere planning the weekend. Great times and great memories.

Richard P – Utter luxury! I only remember straw filled bothy’s.

Mick T / Great memories of the McLaren Hall, Killin!

Andy Young / Portinscale did very well from us, and we benefited with a shower and decent kitchen. Mind you the farmers arms next door did fairly well also!

Stuart V / Remember Great Strickland ?

Roger John – Stuart Vyner always colder inside than out – even when it was snowing!

Andy Young – Roger John and if it wasn’t freezing the condensation dripped everywhere.

Andy Craig – That sounds like Onich as well!

Andy Craig yep much the same as oink

Ian Whiting / Talking of Great Strickland, I remember the cup of tea I made after the pub… it had frozen by morning! I went outside in the snow to warm-up!

Coxy – My first christmas away from home Dec. 1987 was spent with Leuchars MRT in Newtonmore village hall and new year spent in Ballachulish village hall. Partying in the Kings house to bring in the New year . To date still the best christmas / new year I ever spent.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

A great night with the Grampian Club in Dundee.

Last night I managed to fulfil a commitment to speak at there first Club dinner since COVID. I was very worried as my voice is struggling due to a problem with my voice box.

I was looking after my grandkid’s in Inverness overnight. My grandaughter Lexi completing her 10 Mile walk with the school. The whole off Inverness Royal Academy took part it was great to see. Modern Technology meant Lexi knew where I was and I saw them cheering my wee van on their last 2 miles. I have them a peep on the horn as did all the cars following me. It was lovely to see so many young folk out in the fresh air.

I left Inverness the next day after the school drop. The weather was awful high winds and constant rain. The A9 was blocked due to a fatal crash near Slochd. So add to that the heavy rain it was a slow drive to Dundee.

My talk was held at The Best Western Invercarse Hotel. I was speaking at their annual dinner of the Grampian Club the first one since COVID. The hotel and staff were superb and I set up in the Ballroom where the dinner was to be held. The Hotel Staff were so helpful in every way and I cannot thank them enough.

I was extremely worried about my voice and it just about held out. The audience were very kind and it was great to speak to them. It was my first talk since COVID but I did struggle but enjoyed it. You get a feeling that people are so pleased to be out and meeting again. I think the audience enjoyed it and I got good feedback. A special thanks to the lovely lady who brought the slides up when I had technology snags, your an Angel.

The set up

It’s great to chat and look back on experiences in the past. I found the club a superb audience and so kind and helpful. Great friendships are made on the hills and was special to see old friendships re kindled after COVID. I loved hearing there tales over the meal so many memories of great days and future plans. So many characters most clubs have them and their untapped tales of the mountains and wild places would make several books.

It was great that many folk spoke about the “Right to roam”and how lucky we are and the envy of so many countries for what we have. We all need to protect this for future generations and bring to the attention of any loss of this wonderful right by the stealth of selfish landowners.

I spoke about the teams all over Scotland of SARDA and the wonderful free service we have. How SAR works the many agencies that help. Also the dedication of team members and the pressures on the family when we are away. They are the heroes and heroines who sit and wait for our safe return. The joy of finding someone alive after an accident and bringing them back to their family.

I finished with a safety reminder for winter.

Tell someone you Trust where your going. Ensure you have read the weather and avalanche forecast. Have a map compass plus your digital devices phone etc and spare charger. Carry a bothy bag, bivy bag spare kit. Practice winter skills annually use of ice axe, crampons. Try not to be a follower learn to navigate. A whistle is so worth carrying a simple cheap method of getting help. Carry a spare pair of gloves

ThInk Winter
Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Health, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 8 Comments

Remembrance Week – An Lurg near Bynack Mor and the Wellington crash in 14 August 1944. A past visit with the family.

A few years Avon just had an email about this sad incident from the son of the pilot of this crash. We visited the crash site a few years later ot was one of the most heartfelt trips I have ever Done

The Cairngorms are a wonderful place and apart from the well tramped Munros and superb climbs there are places of great wildness and the area is full of tales and secrets. During the war there was a huge military presence and also a lot of training taking place. It is also a place where sadly many aircraft crashed in these high lonely mountains many far away from help. There were few survivors. This is one of the stories that was nearly lost in time.

A few years ago (2016) I had the great privilege to take Phil Paterson and his sons to the crash site of a Wellington aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth in the Cairngorms. This was where his father and the crew of this aircraft lost their lives 71 years ago. Flying Officer P. L.B.Paterson Phil’s Father aged 23 was one of the crew and Phil was born in 1944 sadly 6 weeks after his Dad was died, sadly he never met his father.

This was the family’s first visit to this tragic place and he was accompanied by his two sons John and Julian. The crash site is deep in the heart of the Cairngorms and just off the Munro Bynack Mor it is a long walk up to the plateau where the crash site lies a 2 – 3 hour journey to the area and a big day for a 71-year-old regardless of weather.

One of Phil’s sons had read my blog last year on my visit to the site and got in touch and we planned this visit over the next few months. The family knew little of the crash and where it was an asked if I would assist them to this place that means so much too them.

We met in Aviemore at 0800 it was another early start for me and Phil and the boys had driven up from the South late Friday night. I had some help from pals Pete, Yeni and Bernie for the day and the weather had been great this week and was still holding up. We met at the Cairngorm Hotel and after a quick chat set off for Glenmore and the start of our trip. The midges met us at Glenmore but it is a great path all the way past the beautiful Green Loch to the old site of Bynack Stables where we met Yeni’s nephew Greg a giant of a man with a group of young people out for over a week in the Cairngorms. What weather they have had and what an adventure over the last few days and more to come. It was a small tented village with great views down Strath Nethy.

The path leaves the site of the Old Stables and we had a break here all were going will the weather was good and a breeze kept the midges away. From here it is a plod up onto the ridge but we stopped to get views of the wild Strath Nethy and the Cairngorms we were now heading into the remote Cairngorms. There were a few mountain Bikers about and I met another old friend Robin Clothier biking to Braemar!

The path is superb it is being maintained by these incredible path workers who were working ahead of us and we were soon on the ridge between our destination An Lurg and Bynack Mor. From here it is hard work across an open moor unpathed covered in huge peat hags, deer grass and bog this is a pathless wild place. On the journey Phil had been telling us about his father and the family and how often with his Mum he had visited Elgin where his Dad is buried. We were getting to know a small bit of the story of Phil’s Dad short life from his pilot training in America learning to fly and his arrival at RAF Lossiemouth in these dark War days as a qualified pilot.

This last kilometre is hard ground and the route is never easy poor Pete and old pal got his foot stuck in a bog and had to be helped out. We were each in our own thoughts and this is a featureless plateau, route finding is not easy and you do not see the crash site the last-minute. In past visits we had gathered some of the wreckage that was scattered around and made a small memorial cairn and this is what we first saw. It to me is beautiful with some of the stainless steel and twisted metal glinting in the sun I was amazed it was still standing. This area is artic in winter with regular winds of 100 mph plus and huge dumps of snow, the wind batters this place with such force at all times of the year. Today it was peaceful a slight breeze and the tops mainly clear, this is wild land. We left Phil and the boys to have some privacy and to have a look round, this was to be a special hour in a place of wild and tragic beauty.

This was their time and we left them as a family, they produced 6 crosses with the details of all the crew on them and placed them by the cairn it was a moving moment for us all. Phil’s wife had put on each cross the details of each crew member it was a lovely thought and very humbling. No matter how many times I visit these places they are to me special humbling and moving places but today was very even more so with a family there? We must never forget how these young men died for our freedom in this lonely place.

The crew:

•  P/O Philip Lionel Bennett Paterson (23), Pilot, RAFVR. (Buried Elgin New Cemetery, Morayshire.)

•  P/O Denis Henderson Rankin (24), W/Op. / Air Gnr., RAFVR. (Buried Carnmoney Cemetery East, Belfast.)

• Sgt James Michael Downey (21), Flt Engr., RAFVR. (Buried Leytonstone (St Patrick’s) Roman Catholic Cemetery.)

• Sgt Harold Tudhunter (22), Navigator, RAFVR. (Buried Whitehaven Cemetery, Cumbria.)

•  Sgt Stephen Fraser (21), W/Op / Air Gnr., RAFVR. (Buried Lossiemouth Burial Ground, Morayshire.)

• Sgt Robert Arthur George Bailey (19), Air Gnr., RAFVR. (Buried Bungay Cemetery, Suffolk.)

After a while we had a break and some food, Phil produced some lovely cake that his wife had made and we short work of it. We all felt it right to have a few minutes silence before we left and it was a moving period and with a backdrop of the wild Cairngorms. Phil said a few words and it was a peaceful scene and one I will never forget.  As we finished the sun came out and the new SAR helicopter flew by overhead it was a powerful sight for us all we could hear it approach from deep in the Cairngorms. It was soon time to head back and try to keep out of the Peat hags, everyone was going well but there was little chat each deep in thought and the family happy they had been to such a place that meant so much to them.

Flying Officer Paterson’s Medals – The War Medal and the Defence Medal, Phil his son pulled them out at the end of the day on the Cairngorms. This was a moving tribute at the end of a wonderful day and an insight into one of those who did so much for us all.

To me this was a special day; some people ask why do I visit these tragic places?  This story to me sums it up.  It was wonderful that Phil at 71 had managed a visit to where his Dad was and his pals had lost their lives and with his two sons it was an incredible effort by them to get to this place.  What a day it had been and it was so emotional at times for us all especially for the family and a huge insight to the tragic loss during the war that so many families accepted as part of life.

We must never forget what these people did for us and that each of these Mountain Crash sites has a unique story and a huge effect on the families even 71 years after the crash.

Thanks to Phil and the boys for sharing this day with us all. I hope you take some of the peace and beauty of these wild Cairngorms Mountains with you on your journey home today. Soon the snow will sweep over this place and the winter will be with us, few know of this other side of the secret Cairngorms that means so much still to those who gave so much.

Thanks to all for helping make this a day to remember for the family and the huge sacrifice of those who lost their lives for our freedom. I wonder what they would make of this crazy world we live in?

Phil’s Comments after that wonderful day

“Dear Heavy,
Thank you for everything you did for us on Saturday. It was a both a pilgrimage and an adventure for me, John and Julian to visit my Dad’s crash site. It was a pleasure to meet you and your friends Pete, Yeni and Bernie and to be on the mountain with you and enjoy the camaraderie of a group of mountain rescue men. The visit to the crash site was an experience to be remembered and valued forever. We wouldn’t have known quite where in the Cairngorms the crash site was if John hadn’t seen your blog and we would never have found it or got to it without your guidance. Thankfully we were all fit enough to get there and back – although my legs ache now!

We were certainly blessed with the weather – perfect conditions for the walk and fantastic views from the paths and from the top. The quiet and solitude on the mountains and the desolation of the crash site was something not experienced in our everyday lives. When we first heard the helicopter but couldn’t see it the engine noise was atmospheric. When we heard it again and it came into view it was like a fly-past in honour of the fallen crew. I was pleased to be able to leave the six poppy crosses with the wreckage as tributes to my Dad and the other five men who were killed there in the course of their wartime service.

The vision of the site will stick in my mind, filling in a hole in my family’s history, and I am sure my sons will remember the day for the rest of their lives.

Thanks again for taking us on the visit and for making it such a good day all round.

Phil Paterson”

Every now and again I hear from Phil he has met a few friends through the blog. I feel in my mind it is worth the effort to remind folk of those who gave so much and those they left behind. I wonder what they would make of the World today.

This is why I visit and will continue to do as long as I am fit enough. Thanks to Phil and family for the use of their photos and a special insight into their family.I

Lest we forget.

Sadly this year I have been recovering from various medical problems again the latest is a wee op on my head. As soon as feel strong enough I will visit this site again and pay my respects.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Family, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, PTSD, Well being | 10 Comments

Tomorrow I hope to visit them Maurader aircraft Crash Accident Site near Achnasheen It was on the 3 rd June 1943 – Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) Hill of the beard.

Tomorrow I hope at long last to be visiting this crash site near Achnasheen. I have not been before and as I am staying nearby at the Jacobite hut I will leave early and hopefully the weather will be kind . Many will know that I am interested in aircraft crash sites in the mountains, this is one site I have not visited yet Maurader aircraft Crash Accident Site: it crashed on the 3 rd June 1943 – Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft)

Beinn na Feusaige shows a steep slope to the north of Loch Sgamhain in Glen Carron but is really just an eastern extension of Càrn Breac. Walk Highlands

This crash site is on the hill of Beinn na Feusaige on the road to Achnasheen SW of the A890. A while ago I was sent a letter from a father who lives locally and his young girls are trying to raise some money for a small memorial near the crash site. It is lovely to see that these two young girls are interested in the mountains and want to have the site remembered where the American crew sadly died.

USAAF Martin B-26C Marauder 41-34707 was on a transit flight from the USA via Meeks Field (Keflavík, Iceland) to Prestwick in Scotland. This was a recognised aircraft ferry route, which should have taken the Marauder over Stornoway in the Western Isles. However, for some reason, the aircraft was flying too far East of the prescribed course, and therefore over high ground on the Scottish mainland.

As the Marauder continued on its course through mist and rain, it struck the side of Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) in Glen Carron, near Achnasheen [map] on the NW mainland of Scotland.

ttp://www.aircrashsites-scotland.co.uk/marauder_beinn-na-feusaige.htm

The crash site photo Andy Lawson

Accident Site: Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) [map]

Sadly all the airmen died in this accident. The crashed aircraft was destroyed by an ensuing fire.

  • 1st Lt Merritt E Young (26) (O-662715), Pilot, USAAF.
    (Buried, Payne, Paulding County, Ohio, USA.)
  • 2nd Lt Robert A Anderson (O-729949), Bomb Aimer, USAAF.
    (Buried, Madingley Cemetery, Cambridge, UK.)
  • Staff Sgt Vincenzo (Vincent) Bravo (24) (11021367), Flt Engr., USAAF.
    (Buried, Medfield, Massachusetts, USA.)
  • Staff Sgt Marshall R Miller (38111816), Radio Op., USAAF.
    (Buried, Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, Texas, USA.)
  • Master Sgt Lewis M Cross (14069227), Gnr., USAAF.
    (Buried, Madingley Cemetery, Cambridge, UK.)

Aircraft Type Designation: 179 / B-26 (Medium bomber) 

Aircraft Type Nickname: Widow Maker (due to high casualty rate in early models).

This aircraft was designed for the USAAF as a medium bomber. It first flew with that Air Force in 1942 in the SW Pacific. However, early models earned a reputation for difficult handling and landing characteristics. Later, the B-26 Marauder operated with the Ninth Air Force from bases in the UK.

Depending on the variant, the aircraft could be fitted with two 1,400kW (1,900hp) or two 1491kW (2,000hp) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp R-2800-43 radial engines.

The Marauder had a maximum speed of 460kmh (287mph) at 1,500m (5,000ft), and a service ceiling of 6,400m (21,000ft). Armament consisted of two 0.50 gun in the nose, and also in the waist, dorsal and tail turrets. It had a maximum bomb load of 1,814.37kgs (4,000lbs).

3 Jun 1943 – Accident Site: Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) [map] m

(Glen Carron) Nearest main road: A890

Comments – J Henderson – ” have been to this crash site on my first visit to this hill, but could not find it on a second visit. I think it is SW of the summit and not particularly large. It is a long scorched scar on the hill side with a small amount of metal debris.”

This book aims to give readers access to the tangible remains of hundreds of historic aircraft that still lie at crash sites on the moors and mountains of the British Isles, all of which can be visited. It covers almost 500 selected sites, with emphasis given to those on open access land and including; accurate verified grid references, up-to-date site descriptions and recent photographs. Arranged geographically, the areas covered include:

South-west Moors – 15 entries. ~ Wales – 93 entries. ~ Peak District – 82 entries.
Pennines – 76 Entries. ~ Lake District – 32 entries. ~ North Yorkshire Moors – 23 entries.
Isle of Man – 18 entries. ~ Scotland: Lowlands – 47 entries. ~ Highlands and Islands – 85 entries. ~ Ireland – 19 entries.

Representing the main upland areas of the British Isles, each of these sections is introduced with a brief narrative describing its geographical characteristics and aviation background, discussing the factors and trends lying behind the concentration of losses within each area and noting any especially significant incidents. Individual site entries include precise location details including, where required, additional references for scattered major items of wreckage and any relevant notes to aid finding or interpreting the crash site, together with details of the aircraft, names and fates of those onboard and the circumstances of the loss.

Product information

Publisher‎Pen & Sword Aviation; First Edition First Printing (16 July 2009)Language‎EnglishHardcover‎352 pagesISBN-10‎1844159108ISBN-13‎978-1844159109Dimensions‎15.88 x 2.54 x 23.5 cmBest Sellers Rank1,035,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)1,734 in Military Vehicles2,224 in Military Aircraft2,339 in Hiking & Walking HolidaysCustomer Reviews4.5 out of 5 stars 57Reviews

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Well being | Leave a comment

In memory of my Mum.

It’s always a tricky day for me as it is the anniversary of my Mum’s passing she died in 1980. I still miss her every day she was a all Mum’s area a special lady. As the youngest of 5 children I was spoiled in every way, always in a scrape or trouble and being a Ministers son a bit of a rebel. Today I struggled up a wee hill Ben Rinnes and thought of my wonderful Mum.

My beautiful Mum – thank you xxx

Mum was always there for me and we had a great bond through her love and care! She loved her family, their kids, the church,  the mountains, football the tennis and dedicated her life to her family her grandchildren and the church. Money was tight but we never wanted for love and she brought us all up almost single handed as Dad pursued his life as a minister.

During my wild years she saw something in me and as I grew up we got a lot closer! When I went and joined the RAF she loved that I was in Mountain Rescue and though she worried about me as only Mum’s can do! We spoke every week on the phone as most of my leave was spent chasing mountains I was a rare visitor! I can never get these times back and like many regret my selfishness. How many feel the same?

When mum got ill with Leukemia she never told me till a few days before she passed away and I was summoned home. Yet we has spoken every week, she hid it as did the family. She did not want me worried as I was in a relationship and now in North Wales as full – time Mountain Rescue my life was so busy. I rushed home and was shocked poor Mum was so frail and yet every week on the phone she never said a thing or complained and just listened to me and gave me advice. Poor Mum was in terrible pain for a long time but never moaned, she was incredible during these last few months. We were told to get my brother back from Bermuda and she died shortly after he arrived home. We got some special time two days together near the end and she was so upset she told me that she had little to leave us a monetary sense. Yet she had given us a lifetime of love and care and that is what matters. In this modern life I despair at times when I families ripped apart after a loved ones death over money and possessions. To me love, care and kindness is the greatest gift ever that parents can bestow on their kids.

The next few short days were awful and I think I was programmed to seeing so many tragedies in the mountains that it took me years to realise what had happened. Even at the funeral I was like a robot and had to rush back to work next day to North Wales. How I miss her and wish I could have done more for her and when in trouble or down she is stillalways still there for me!

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. She would have been so proud of Andy Murray and his brother in the tennis world and I believe she watches them in heaven.

Please give your Mum and Dad a hug or a visit we all owe them so much they make us who we are.

Mum I miss you as we all do thanks for being there for me!

I am off to get some flowers for the house and for my good friend Wendy, she reminds me so much of my Mum in every way.

Mum told me just before she passed away that she worried so much for me and the team when we were on Callouts. If I was helped by a keeper or person on my big walks Mum would write and thank them. She told me that she could sadly leave us nothing financial. She gave her whole life to us and the Church and I was so lucky to have her in my life. I hope I manage to have a few attributes that my mother gave me.

Posted in Articles, Family, Health, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 2 Comments

The Anson Crash – Aeroplane Flats near Conival – Assynt

The Memorial to the Anson a very place. Britain’s highest War Grave.

This paragraph below was written by a relative of the crew of an Anson aircraft that crashed in the far North of Scotland.

The original memorial built in the dark days of the war.

“Sgt Harry Tompsett with Sgt’s Jack Emery and Charles Mitchel at 19 OTU RAF Kinloss Scotland in 1941. All were killed on 13th April 1941 when Avro Anson N9857 flew into severe weather condition over NW Scotland. With icing and the loss of an engine the aircraft lost height and crashed in a blizzard on Ben More Assynt. Reported missing they were found by a shepherd on 25th May 1941 as the snow gave way. Killed in the crash was Flying officer James Steyn pilot from Johannesburg S. Africa who had recently been awarded the DFC for bringing a badly damaged bomber back from a raid in Europe. Flight Sgt Brendon Kenny, Sgt Instructor, who parachuted from a burning bomber over France in 1940, evaded capture and aided by the French Resistance returned to the UK and last but not least Pilot Officer Bill Drew. All were buried where they fell on top of the mountain and where they lie today marked by a memorial placed by the War Graves Commission in the highest UK War grave.” Bernie Thompset.

Lest we forget Photo Bernie Thompset.

I have written in the past about my many visits to the Anson crash in Assynt. The old memorial was not in a great state and thanks to lots of effort there is a new memorial in place. Many were involved Assynt MRT, Commonwealth Graves Commission the local Air Training Cadets, The RAF Lossiemouth MRT and the many others involved including the RAF Engineers and the Chinook crew. We met so many on the journey to many to name. Thank you all and to Bernie for allowing me to quote his words.

The old memorial

The crash site in Assynt is an wonderful place to visit and a place of incredible solitude. When you read the full story one cannot help think of what happened on that winter night. The shepherd who found the crew 6 weeks later is an untold story as it was when the family visited a few weeks later and the kindness shown to them in the dark days of the war. These are stories that deserve telling and despite the tragedy of the loss of the crew and many others that were lost at the prime of their lives. “Lest we forget”

It’s been a while since I visited but it would be lovely if someone could check the memorial and give the memorial a wee clean.

The crew :

F/O James Henry Steyn (23), DFC, RAF, South Africa.
P/O William Edward Drew (28), RAF
Sgt Charles McPherson Mitchell (31), RAFVR
Flt Sgt Thomas Brendon Kenny (20), RAF
Sgt Jack Emery (20), RAFVR
Sgt Harold Arthur Tompsett (20), RAFVR

As always Comments welcome.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

A podcast, for mental health.

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” ― Leonard Cohen

A few years ago I was asked to do a podcast for Basic Scotland.

https://basics-scotland.org.ukWeb result with site linksBASICS Scotland

BASICS Scotland (British Association of Immediate Care) is a charity based in Perthshire. We specialise in promoting the provision of high quality pre-hospital emergency care to health professionals in Scotland.

It was as always fairly hard mentally talking about things that are buried deep in the mind. Yet I feel its worth doing as I have always been proactive in passing on my thoughts and the mistakes I made over the years in dealing with traumatic situations. Hopefully we can pass on lessons learned to future generations through folk talking openly about their experiences.

I tried to go for a cycle later to clear my head but got caught in a heavy rain shower. I find that getting out and exercising clears my head. When the weather cleared later in the day I go out again on my bike and enjoyed a stunning evening cycling along the coast. Its so good to be able to get out and about.

A yacht along the coast in the lovely sunset.

When the podcast is live I will add a link on this blog. Here are some words I wrote in the past that may help folk understand.

Many will know that I suffered from PTSD after Lockerbie in 1988 and at times it still affects me! I have written about it many times in my Blog and regularly hear from so many who suffer from it. It is sad to see that such a tragedy like Lockerbie that affected a huge number of my team over the years.  A few only realising this recently over the last 10 years! So many families have had to deal with this and the strains on the families and loved ones are huge. I know this from my time in the dark room! I also was heavily involved in the Shackleton Crash in Harrris in 1990 where 9 souls died and the Chinook Crash on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994 where there were 29 fatalities. I was unfortunate to be on scene very fast on all these tragedies, so I sadly speak with vast experience on this subject. I also feel that this is so different from a war scenario where you expect to see death and trauma. On all occasions we were not expecting to experience anything so traumatic.

PTSD is one of the mental illnesses most associated with military service but there are a range of other more common mental illnesses which might affect Service and ex-Service personnel. These include depression, feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and substance misuse, most commonly alcohol misuse. Yet many of my friends in the Rescue Agencies have been in touch and said they were having problems as well. This was not just a military problem.

I am proud that in these dark days in 1988 we help raise the huge problems in the military with so many suffering from PTSD. This was not easy as the military and all the emergency services still did not acknowledge PTSD. We have come a long way since these days! I was slated at the time by the establishment for asking for help by those who should know better! Sadly many in the military, Mountain Rescue said I was wrong and to man – up. Our families and loved ones could not understand what we had been through.  Yet despite it was worth the effort, heartbreak and problems over many years I feel!

Sadly I still hear from those who served with me in Mountain Rescue and other Agencies and yet only recently after all these years have suffered for years on their own. Many are servicemen and despite the great work of Help for Heroes & Combat Stress it is still not easy for those needing help to get it? Is this just my dealings with a struggling resources?

Trying to get the correct help is difficult and trying to get help through a hugely overworked NHS can be extremely hard. Mental Health is hugely under-sourced  due to the huge need of those who want help. At one point I waited for 9 months to get an appointment with a Psychiatrist a  few years ago. I was lucky and I coped and am much better but what an awful journey! On my leaving medical with the RAF in 2007 I was asked how could I have PTSD as I was a Caterer by trade? I walked off in disgust this was not what I needed.

It is sad to see that mental illness is the biggest killer of males in Scotland of a certain age. Maybe it is because we Scots especially the males find it hard to talk about our demons!

We have a duty to each other to look after those we love and care for and If we see friends struggle we must to speak to them and get them help! This is not easy and hard to do and many suffer in silence. It’s to late at a funeral to be sad over the loss of a troubled pal a trusted friend yet we missed the signs! We get so close on Rescues or the companionship of the rope on a climb or on a long expedition, yet how often have we missed our pal in trouble but what do we say and how do we say it?


Life in a Rescue Agency  gives you many challenges, many of us who read this blog may have spent so much time looking for people and trying to help those we do not even know on the mountains and wild places  who are in trouble. Yet at times we miss those who we think are the toughest of men and women who suffer in silence until it’s too late? As I write this it is great to see the Scottish Mountain Rescue is running a TRIM course at Glenmore Lodge this weekend! This helps highlight the problems of PTSD for future generations who hopefully have learned from our mistakes in the past!

Things are getting better slowly.

If you have problems go to your local doctor or for the Military ” Combat Stress and “Help for Hero’s “and there to help as are many other Agencies for my many civilian friends. I would appreciate please could you send me details of any other organisations as I often get asked for advice. There is lots of information on line!

PTSD – that has been left untreated for a number of years or decades will require more intensive treatment. There are still positive health outcomes for sufferers, and the potential for a life beyond symptoms, but seeking suitable, timely treatment is key to maximising the chances of recovery. If PTSD is diagnosed early and the sufferer receives the right treatment in the right environment, rates of recovery are very positive. Veterans can live normal fulfilling lives, able to work with the condition and generally become symptom free for long periods.

There is a risk of delayed-onset of PTSD, where symptoms do not occur for years or decades after the traumatic event. Veterans who present with delayed-onset PTSD have often been exposed to the effects of multiple traumas over a longer period of time. This suggests that those who serve multiple tours are more at risk of developing PTSD several years after leaving the Military.

This does not just effect the military many Rescue Agencies have similar problems!

A look at this book on PTSD.

I have now read the above book by Professor Gordon Turnbull a RAF psychiatrist, now a World authority on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who assisted the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams after the Lockerbie disaster in December 1988. I must admit I was pretty shocked when I read in a paper this book had been published.

I was mentioned right at the beginning of the book and the paper as I had requested psychiatrist assistance for the RAF Teams after Lockerbie. The RAF and civilian mountain Rescue Teams where heavily involved in Lockerbie and though my experience was pretty varied at this time after 20 years of Mountain Rescue, this was a very different and traumatic experience. Gordon writes the story pretty well, but I feel if he had spoken to those involved a bit more he may have got a better overall view of how it affected many of the people who were there to this day. At the time I was criticised by some senior team members, as they felt help was not needed. Most who criticised were not there and this was a unique event, which was way out of anything I had experienced. Gordon gives credit the RAF MR for the way they dealt with the aftermath but he gives the St Athan Mountain Rescue team a hard time on how they dealt with his team during the debriefing after Lockerbie. I feel if he had spoken to those involved he may have understood why a bit better. You must remember they were there at Lockerbie and saw things that one will never forget. In all I am glad that the book has been written and would advise those involved in Rescue to have a read. A few of those in my team, still struggle with the aftermath of Lockerbie including myself. I am glad that PTSD is now recognised and hope this helps the Rescue Agencies, civilian teams and Dog handlers, some who still suffer badly from the effects of Lockerbie.

We have learned so much from these early days when as very young man or women we were thrown in to the situation recovering broken bodies from the hills. It was the way it was done then thank God things have moved on and we look after the young member’s a lot better. We now try to keep the trauma to a minimum of those who have to deal with it at the coal face, yet it still has to be done but the lessons and protocols are now in place.

Many who read this spent most of their lives looking after or for those in trouble on the hills and wild places. We I feel must look after those who were part of our Rescue Agencies even years after they have left. Keep your eyes on your pals and hopefully they will look after you and yours.

Take care and let’s look after each other!

Comments welcome.

Since this was written I have over 10 folks contact me thanks its appreciated and hopefully some will find help. I did a trip to America as part of the Cycle Ride to Syracuse in memory of those who died at Lockerbie a few years ago. It was hard for me and the small team to meet so many relatives, I found this extremely cathartic and it was incredible meeting so many folk and telling our small part in the tragedy. I also regularly meet folk of whom I was part of the recovery of their loved ones in the mountains. Again this is hard to do but does help me cope.   We all cope differently.

One reply

“As always your frank and honest writing about PTSD and it’s effects on military personnel, rescue and emergency services can only help those struggling with their lives. Lives in the aftermath of trauma, lives dedicated to the service of others and lives that have been involved in heroic actions.

Help is out there and that help can transform lives and reduce or negate the effects of PTSD. All GP’s should be able to refer to CBT and EMDR practitioners available on the NHS and these techniques really do work when practiced by empathetic and caring practitioners.

I would urge any of your readers to never give up on seeking help and to be brave in being part of a movement to remove the stigma of mental health in those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others. It is only right that you should receive the help that you need to heal the psychological wounds which left unresolved will determine your quality of life for the rest of your life.”

Another

yet it’s the elephant in the room….any psychologist will tell you that those most vociferous in denial are often those worst affected…authorities both civil and military are only now beginning to recognise it…..as for “treatment”, it’s a matter of trust…in both organisations it doesn’t really exist as people affected have an innate fear of it affecting their careers…..being more subjective about it, i am glad i have paid privately to address it, worth every penny and although there’s no miracle cures, it’s a sure way to at least begin to function and rationalise….good article though, and cuts through the macho nonsense.”

Top Tips – It’s okay to talk

Who looks after the leader?

Who helps the families of those involved?  Take care out there.

Some information https://www.outpostcharity.org

Outpost Charity has been dedicated to providing support for Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families since 2014.

Today we continue providing emotional, social and practical support focusing on the Veterans Camp and the provision of household necessities goods and/or services.

Our aim is to provide relief from suffering and hardship for men or women who are or have at any time served with any branch of the British Armed Forces.

Our registered charity number: SC044790

Comment – Great contribution to raising awareness about mental health and lowering people’s reluctance to talking about their darker times. Sadly, in my dabbles and research about young people, I’ve seen how some people’s traumatic family experiences is effecting their present lives. I’m also more aware now of people beyond the military – nurses, social workers, police, care workers and more, who do crazy stuff on our behalf and then lie awake in the night reliving the experience.

Heavy Whalley Aug 2020

Posted in Cycling, Friends, Health, medical, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 8 Comments

A Past wonderful walk to a wintry Ben Macdui – and the Anson Aircraft Crash.

I watched the MWIS ( Mountain Weather Information Service) and Sunday the winds seemed to have eased so it was a reasonable start from home and I picked up Bernie from Forres. It was a crisp morning and for some reason I went by the Carrbridge Road and after a short distance I stopped and realized the road was covered in Black ice it   is not gritted overnight. I took it very easy, the fields were frosty and the Cairngorms looked stunning in the morning light. On arriving at the Cairngorm Car park it was fairly quite with a load of young climbers ready to go with axes and all the gear. My plan was to go up the West Ridge of Lochan and round the Northern Corries always a wonderful airy walk getting views of these impressive corries and their climbs. The path was icy in places with the rocks even low down covered in a thin veneer of ice (verglas)  this was especially prevalent when crossing the burns.  It  was cold but the sun was out and a young lovely lassie ran passed us effortlessly heading for the high tops, how I envied her fitness. It had been 13 days since my two operations and yet for me I was moving well and enjoying this great place. The burns were sparking and the ground with a heavy frost was sparkling in the sun, it was a bitter wind that took no prisoners.

The great cliffs of Corrie an Lochan with the Great Slab!

The great cliffs of Corrie an Lochan with the Great Slab.

The path is excellent apart from the ice and we soon decided to head out to Ben Macdui. This part of the walk takes you across the high and exposed plateau and then descends to Lochan Buidhe the only land mark in this featureless wild expanse of stony tundra. In winter and in a high wind this is a wild place but today it was stunning, there was only myself and Bernie enjoying the wildness.

The only land mark is the famous Lochan Buidhe this lies at the lowest point of the plateau at 1125 meters it is the highest point of water in the UK! It is 2 long kilometres from here to the summit much of it stony slippy rocks and here the mist came in. The ground was very frozen now and the odd patches of snow rock hard, it was bitter cold and I put another jacket on and a better hat the ears were frozen, The summit has lots of cairns and shelters  from various adventures in the past by mountaineers soldiers, gemstone hunters and bird watchers! We reached the summit and hoped the weather would clear but it was not to be. It was very cold and we were joined by a solo walker from Salisbury after the Munro.

Heading out to the Memorial to the Anson Crash on Ben Macdui.

Heading out to the Memorial to the Anson Crash on Ben Macdui.

It was very cold had a quick drink and then in the mist and I took a bearing to head out to the Anson Crash Memorail on the way we saw another figure and it was a good friend Ray Harron who joined us in the mist to the crash site. We found the Memorial: how few visit this place and miss a special part of the mountain where 5 young men lost there lives in August 1942.

The Memorial!

The Memorial!

It was important for me to be here as I always try to visit these mountain sites and especially near Remembrance Day “Lest we forget”

The location of the Memorial why not visit and pay your respects!

The location of the Memorial why not visit and pay your respects!

I was in Hospital and I missed my annual trip a few weeks ago  so this was very important to me to be here.It is terrible that we are still losing young men and woman in wars: how far have we come since these dark days of 1942. There is wreckage right into the burn and this part of this wild remote place was very special today. I did a program a few years ago for the BBC on this site and it is on their website.

At the Memorial - Photo Ray Harron.

At the Memorial – Photo Ray Harron.

We had a look about it is an artic environment and there is wreckage all over, today it was bitter cold and I took my gloves of to take some photos within a minute I had frozen hands ( hot aches)  and my camera battery died in the cold, I was lucky that Ray had his camera and we got some shots. The backdrop of  the Larig Gru, Cairntoul and Angels Peak in the cloud make this a wild place to be.

Ben Macdui Avro Anson air crash remembered 70 years on

Plaque to those who died in the Avro Anson crash
A memorial to the five dead men has been built close to the top of the summit

The five men killed in a WWII training flight crash on a north-east mountain are being remembered 70 years on.

Much of the wreckage from the Avro Anson air crash, which happened on 21 August 1942, remains on Ben MacDui in the Cairngorms.

There are hundreds of similar sites across Scotland, due to the high number of aircrew who trained for WWII.  All on board the training flight from RAF Kinloss died, including the pilot, Sgt John Llewelyn. The 24-year-old from Carmarthenshire, already an established pilot, was being trained as a fighter pilot. Due to the war, only the bodies were recovered and much of the debris from the crash remains intact on the mountain.

‘Young lads’

David Whalley, a rescue specialist, said: “There are two Cheetah engines still up here, it was a very powerful aircraft. Much of the wreckage of an Avro Anson is still on Ben Macdui

“It is amazing that this stuff is still here, incredible in these elements.”There are literally hundreds of aircraft scattered all over Scotland, they lost so many crew and these were just young lads who had joined the airforce to go to war and had to learn to fly quickly.”

A memorial to the five dead men has been built close to the top of the summit.

The Engine Cheetta at the site!

The Engine Cheeta at the site! The clouds cleared and the hills made a superb back ground.

It was a great walk back a bit sore but the sun came out and a bit of a wind as we headed for the Northern Corries. On the way we saw the Royal Navy Sea King heading home after training with the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team  in the Corrie. We passed lots of ptarmigan all in white on the slopes ready for the winter, still lots about and the odd walker as we headed to the Goat Track.  On the ridge we met another friend  Pete Amphlet at the Goat Track descent  and he had also been out on Macdui we left him to descend the Goat Track and a promise to be careful as there has been severe rockfall in this area. It was a great walk along the cliff edge looking at all the familiar climbs before the winter snows come.

Looking into the Corries - photo Ray Harron

Looking into the Corries – photo Ray Harron

We were soon on the spot height 1141 and then down into the Ski area and back to the car. I felt tired just under 19 kilometers not bad 13 days after my operations and great medicine. I was bit sore as we stopped for a tea then home . The gritters were out as we headed home and drop of Bernie. Then a bath and relax, a bit sore today but great to be in the big mountains again. Winter is about, watch the roads for ice and maybe time for axes and crampons  and a bit more warm gear!

No more messages please about taking it easy, at my age every day is to be used! I am taking it easy?

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Gear, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Sgurr Na Stri Skye only 494 metres it’s tiny but packs a punch! What a viewpoint one of the best and a sad night in 1982.

This was a mountain I hate to say I had never climbed. I was always to busy when on Skye climbing, traversing the ridge and rock climbing. My first ascent was one of the most wildest call-outs I can recall. It was early December 1982 a wild winters night. I had just completed a 12 hour shift rations the planes at RAF Kinloss. The station was still on a war footing after the Falklands War. The Nimrod plane was doing huge flights to the South Atlantic it was very busy period.

Sgurr na Stri

The story has been written about in my blog in the past. It was a very hard call out in awful weather. Landing at Achnasheen to wait till another snow storm broke through. Then the helicopter nearly hit electricity wires trying to pick up the Skye Team. The engine was knackered but the pilot managed to drop us at Camusunary bothy. We were all glad to get off.

The river At Camusunary the bridge is long gone.

We met a good pal staying in the bothy with his mates Paul Rosher who thought a nuclear war had started. We crossed the river it was wild and straight up the hill. It was full of snow very tricky ground little buttresses and the rock ver loose after the crash. All the way up there was small pieces of wreckage and still burning in places. We followed my dog there was little searching done. This aircraft had a canopy that ejected the crew. We were praying this had occurred. Sadly it was not to be. We found the main wreckage near the summit. Sadly there was no lives to save. We had to stay with the crash site till about 1100 next day when we were replaced. It was an awful night before we had good bivy bags. We had no comms till the morning I wandered about all night trying to get contact with the dog as the troops tried to sleep. Having to wake them up as they were frozen. That’s was the best daylight I have ever seen as the sky lightened and the islands came into view. I have gone into that incident in other blogs in far more details. I spent a week with the USA investigation team chasing the short daylight locating wreckage.

Routes – unlike many of the high Cuillin, Sgurr na Stri is not technically difficult, making it a popular objective for walkers. That is not to say it is without challenge, nothing this good comes easy in life. Walking routes to Sgurr na Stri are long, either starting from Sligachan and following the river or starting from Elgol and traversing the coast to Camasunary Bay. There is the famous Bad Step to negotiate. The good news is that both approaches are magnificent. In summer there are a few boats that do the trip from Elgol.

A visit on the 30 th Anniversary in 2012.

The pilot in the left hand seat of the aircraft was Major (Lt Col. Selectee) Burnley L. (“Bob”) Rudiger Jr., aged 37, from Norfolk, Virginia. Major Rudiger was survived by a wife and two children who were then resident at Risby, Suffolk.

The plaque at Elgol

The weapons system operator in the right seat was 1st Lt. Steven J. Pitt, 28, from East Aurora, New York. Lt. Pitt was survived by a wife and two children, then resident at Icklingham, Suffolk.

You * The Strathaird estate was at the time owned by Ian Anderson otherwise more famous as the lead singer and flautist of the rock group Jethro Tull.”

F111

Diminutive Sgùrr Na Strì may be reach 494 metres in height, but it’s proof that – when it comes to mountains – size doesn’t matter. Reaching it requires a long and quite rugged walk, but the rewards are immense. Many walkers reckon that the view from the summit – over Loch Coruisk, the Cuillin and the sea – is the finest in all Britain.

The view

There are some rock climbs on the cliff and a couple of scrambled. They can add to a great day.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, PTSD, Weather, Well being | 1 Comment