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 | 2 Comments

Interesting call-out. USA USA F111 crash – Lauder. 28 July 1987 – . We had no Communications so the American Airforcec moved a satellite and gave us an early Satellite phone.

I think this was One of my first aircraft call outs as Team Leader of RAF Leuchars MRT – sadly both crew were killed. We had no communications and when the Americans investigation team arrived not long after the crash they were impressed that we had things sorted. The high ranking American officer arriving of the helicopter asked if we needed anything. I said communications were poor, this was his answer“ we will move a satellite within an hour and gave us an early satellite phone”. This was impressive. Our young officer I/c when she got into trouble for going on call out.

When we got back I sorted it out. I told the Americans and they sent a great letter thanking us for all we did and mentioned Penny our Officer so she was back in the good books. The military can be strange at times as an aircraft crash is not an easy thing to come to terms with. No matter how many you go to!

As you will see from the photo it’s a young team at Leuchars at the time l and most of these troops had seen already seen most things. We never thought that a year and a bit later we would be at the Lockerbie Disaster. Most of this team were there.

Looking back it’s amazing to see the photos, no corporate image then. Most of the team wore there own mountaineering gear. We knew the Police well as we trained with other teams in the Borders. We had a great contact in British telecom who put phones into the crash site area from any nearby telephone poles or houses. This was a great help in these days before mobile phones

The Media was present and none of us in these days had done Media courses. I remember getting told to shave next time I was on the Television.

28 July 1987

494th TFS, 48th TFW, USAF (494th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, United States Air Force)
Registration: 70-2375
MSN: E2-23/F-23
Fatalities: Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities: 0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location: near Lauder, Lothian & Borders, Scotland – United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature: Military
Departure airport: RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk (LKZ/EGUL)

Narrative:
F-111F s/n 70-2375 was engaged in a low-level training exercise. The exercise involved a simulated toss-bomb attack on a laser designated target. 

However, it seems that the pilot may have pulled up from the attack and entered cloud. This disorientated him momentarily, causing him to lose his bearings and to permit the aircraft to enter a nose-down attitude. 

Before he could recover, the F-111 had crashed into a field just outside the village off Lauder, killing both airmen and leaving a deep scar in the field. The aircraft had narrowly avoided hitting a row of cottages a quarter of a mile away. 

Crew killed were – Captain Thomas F. “Chip” Stem (pilot) and Captain Philip D. “Phil” Baldwin (WSO) RIP.

Sources:
http://web.archive.org/web/20170921070650/http://www.ejection-history.org.uk:80/Aircraft_by_Type/F_111/F-111.htm
http://www.f-111.net/t_no_F.htm
http://www.aircrashsites-scotland.co.uk/gd-f-111f_lauder.htm
http://www.f-111.net/t_no_F_files/70-2375-May-1981.jpg

This was the third F111 crash I was to go to.

Comments welcome

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Equipment, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 1 Comment

Winter Tips/ learning 2022. “Caught out in the fading light“ a slip that could have been a lot more serious on a short walk in the Cairngorms.

This will be a series of blogs on some of my adventures/ mistakes made in the mountains. Sadly no hills for a while due to Health problems and awaiting various results. Many will be glad to hear I lose my voice weekly! A not nosy “ Heavy” just now.

If you have no torch this is your view commenting off the hill in the dark. Check that torch – top tip carry a spare.

This is the time of year when many get caught out by the changes in light at the end of the day. Sadly folk forget torches and if the have them they may have been unused since last winter. Top tip – It’s always worth checking your torch and batteries. Especially in winter each time you go out and carry extra batteries.

A wee tale – About 10 years ago I was recovering from 3 bowel ops over a few years. It was an awful time and would not heal. The big thing that is often forgotten about being I’ll is it’s effect on your mental health. My saving grace was to get out despite the pain and walk every day. I would also get a wander into the hills once a month. The mountains are not far from where I live. The Cairngorms are only just over an hour away.

I could not wander far but went from the Ciste car park very slowly in Late morning. It’s a place I love a bit away from the main car park and there is a great wee cliff that overlooks Strathnethy. There is a lot a winter climbs here and in early season you can have a great day. The cliff is called Creagan Cha-no and is a lovely place to watch the winter climbers.

Creagan Coire Cha-no is an attractive little granite cliff tucked under the east flank of the Cha-no spur on Cairngorm overlooking Strath Nethy. The cliff faces east so it is best considered an early to mid season venue. It strips quickly when the sun rises high in the sky in March and April.

Cha-no is not a major crag, but it does have the distinction of being the most accessible winter cliff in the Cairngorms. It lies less than 2km away from the Coire na Ciste car park and the approach from the plateau via Recovery Gully (NJ017063) takes just over an hour. The cornice can normally be avoided on the left (looking down). The return is even quicker at about 45 minutes.

The crag

The crag is 70 metres high at its highest point, and sports 15 two-pitch routes, ranging from Grade II to VII. Most of the major features have been climbed, but there is potential for several shorter lines. With a cliff base of 950m, the routes come into condition early. Later in the season the cliff catches the sun, and some routes may bank out and have cornice difficulties. Cha-no provides a welcome alternative to the Northern Corries, with, a beautiful view and and a fun place to climb.

Even the wee walk in when your not well is hard going the snow was drifting in places blown by a silent wind. Yet just to be out there in the winter after weeks of being stuck at home is liberating. To feel the wind and cold on your body and clear your mind is better than any pills. I headed for 1028 and made my way across to the climbs. I was lucky as I met a group of three finishing their climb. Their joy was heart warming and they spoke a bit of their climb then headed off. Even though I had done little the sense of being on the hills again was wonderful.

Time is moving on it’s dark in December by 1700 and I had a hot drink some food and headed of. The wind had got a bit stronger and the snow drifting as I crossed the plateau near Coire Laogh Mhor. There had been a lot of frozen ground where the ground has a wee burn and wet ground that was frozen solid. I headed well above the Corrie rim headed into a wind.

As the snow was blowing my footsteps were covered there was no need for crampons as there was lots of deep snow. The light was failing as it does and I did not see the ice. I had my torch on but as I hit the ground it headed of on the ice. I could not believe I had slipped and was on my back the angle was not steep but the ice smooth. Add to that the wind and I was heading for the edge of Coire Laogh Mor.

The only way to stop as my axe was on my bag! Was to steer into a big granite Boulder with my hands on the ice otherwise it would have been a big fall into the corrie.

I hit the Boulder with my chest but at least I had stopped. It was some force but I was ok. I gave myself a few minutes to get my head together and picked a line of safety onto easy ground. The blow on my chest was hurting (later I found I had broken ribs) I knew the way of well but with no torch it was tricky underfoot.

I got back to the car texted I was off the hill and headed home. Even driving was hard going.

The things you do when you look back on what was a simple day.

Lessons learned:!

Always carry a spare torch (that day I did not.)

I should have had my axe out instead of my walking poles.

Get off the hill before dark and try to be on safe ground.

Never underestimate the day no matter how short.I had done that walk so many times as a introduction to winter and as a navigation exercise. Familiarity brew’s competent.

When I was young I would have stopped myself before I hit the ice. You slow down as age catches up and your reactions are never as fast.

Always tell someone where your going and message them if you change your plans.

Eyesight – I was on the waiting list for Cataracts in fading light my eyes sight was poor. In the months that followed I had to go private to get my eyes done.

Comments welcome !

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Friends, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

A breakthrough booklet in its day. Modern Snow & Ice Techniques by Bill March printed 1973 ! What route is on the front cover?

An old pal dropped some books of for me the wee booklet was one of them it brought back many memories. Some of them like the french names Piolet Canne and Piolet Ramp for using the axe are still baffling even now .

Great French names ?

When this book came out many feel it revolutionised ice climbing. Written by Bill March it was a insight into modern ice climbing in the very early 70’s. I had met Bill March at Glenmore Lodge and John Cunningham they were among the “Gods of that era”. It was amazing to see at close hand how they climbed so elegantly and how the axes, crampons and protection had improved. Looking back with todays gear in mind it was a bold step into the unknown.

The axes Of the day I found a set below Hells Lum crag in the Cairngorms.

“Crag Swag” – I found a set of these axes the Chouinard Climax and the short axe for steep ice ( Chouinard/ Frost) below Hells Lum crag. They were split new and this was in the days before UKC and folk returning gear. We used to do a wander round the Corries finding gear most of it we used as we were poorer in these days. I wonder if anyone does this now?

This was an idea in the 70’s?

These chest harness were worn by a few in the 70’s. We brought a few casualties of the cliffs in winter with chest injuries from the ice screws on the harness. Big changes from nowadays leash-less axes etc now the thing. Who remembers the various ways of attaching axes in case you dropped them!

From the introduction.

In 1973 – I was on Ben Nevis when Point and 5 and Zero Gully were soloed . To me the 70’s were when the huge change in winter climbing occurred. In 1973 things were never the same after that incredible machine Ian Nicholson climbed Zero Gully and Point 5 on Ben Nevis in three hours – and made the pub . It was startling proof that the effectiveness of the new axe and crampon techniques reducing times on the classic lines. Great days, amazing people fantastic memories. Big Ian became a friend and we met often as he was a member of Glencoe Rescue Team and when he owned the Kings House Hotel in Glencoe. Now that was a different area.

The techniques in the Bill March booklet especially the French methods of cramponing were interesting to say the least. Huge changes occurred in gear. This is one that was a forerunner.

The Scottish Mountain Heritage collection “THE TERRORDACTYL”
The ” Ice Revolution” started at the end of the 1960’s. Mountaineers had been seeking a better way of remaining in contact with steep and overhanging ice. The technique at the time was to hang on to ice pitons, driven into the ice above the leaders head, which was both dangerous and insecure.
Various ideas were tried and rejected and Yvon Chouinard, a Californian and an outstanding mountaineer developed a short, wooden shafted ice hammer with a curved pick serrated on its bottom edge (the Climax). Though the earlier Maclnnes All Metal Ice axes and ice hammers had a straight, slightly declined pick these were not sufficiently “dropped” for direct aid on vertical ice.
Hamish Maclnnes developed the “Terrordactyl” in 1970, which was a short, all metal ice tool with an aluminium alloy shaft and a high quality pressed steel head in two sections with
an adze and steeply inclined serrated pick, for climbing on neve or hard snow.
For several years both the Chouinard ice hammer and the Maclnnes “Terror” dominated the forefront of international ice Climbing. There was even a medical term called “Terror knuckle” as those like me who battered the pick in to the ice regularly got battered knuckles and bruising!
Eventually the accepted worldwide design for modern ice tools evolved as a combination of these two basic designs with the pick, steeply dropped like the “Terror” but curved upwards at the tip like a reversed Chouinard “Climax” hammer and known as the “Banana” pick.

Comments welcome as always.

Notes – I met Bill March again in winter of 1984 in Canada where he had emigrated to. We had some wild nights and great tales of winter climbing in Canmore in the Alpine Clubhouse.

It is ironic that, having survived at the sharp end of a dangerous profession for 30 years, he should have died suddenly from a cerebral aneurysm while relaxing on a canoe expedition with his students at Toby Creek in British Columbia. Bill was 49,

Bill Match climbed a lot with John Cunningham a super ice climber. The book Creagh Dubh Climber “The Life and Times of John Cunningham is a great insight into these years.

Cracking book if you can get hold of it.
Posted in Ice climbing Canada, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | 7 Comments

Book Review “Towards the Ogre “

This is a review by a friend Adrian Trednall many thanks .

Towards The Ogre

by Clive Rowland

Luck plays a part in everyone’s lives.

It was totally by chance that I received a copy of “Towards The Ogre.” I’d noted it’s forthcoming release and had made a mental note to contact Heavy ( David Whalley) who was introducing the book at it’s launch. I’d meant to ask him to get a copy for me since I knew he was going to be coming over to Skye but with a mega busy guiding schedule, I’d completely forgotten.

Almost as if my mind had been read, Heavy spontaneously sent me a copy of the book written by his great mate, Clive Rowland. The book looked every bit as good as I’d expected and when initially flicking through it, the pages opened randomly at a chapter entitled, “Complete Traverse – Red and Black Cuillin Ridge, Skye.”

Whether or not you believe in luck, Clive Rowland has led a charmed life, many of his friends and fellow climbers having run out of luck. The book largely builds up to the well known accident on the Ogre when Doug Scott broke both legs and would have faced a near impossible descent had not Clive Rowlands and Mo Anthoine been present. To further complicate the rescue, Chris Bonnington broke two ribs with subsequent complications including pneumonia.

Clive and Mo were the unsung heroes of the day and without their presence and tenacity, two of Britain’s leading climbers would almost certainly have perished. Obviously, the accidents were bad luck but it was lucky that such an experienced team of would be rescuers were on hand. Incidentally, Doug’s accident happened on the 13th and earlier in the day, Mo had asked Clive;

“Do you know what day it is?”

“Pay Day,” I replied, ironically.

“It’s the 13th.”

“You don’t believe in that crap,” I interjected, cutting him off.

“No, but I don’t usually move from the fire and the telly on the 13th.”

The book is full of fantastic tales, great quotes and stories about some of the greats in the golden age of British climbing in the alps and greater ranges. But, it’s also an autobiography of a much under rated climber, his life and loves, around which climbing was central. Many well known names make cameo appearances. Not just Scott and Bonnington but Joe Brown, Mick Burke and Lionel Terray. There’s a wonderful story about the latter involving aid climbing and a large portion of humble pie but I won’t spoil your reading by recounting it.

I haven’t met Clive but he comes across as a climbers’ climber, down to earth with a wonderful sense of humour. Perhaps he’s the antidote to some of the more well known, press beloved names, who come across as less than saintly in this warts and all history. There are a lot of narrow escapes, dark humour abounds and many of Clive’s friends and fellow climbers died in the mountains or on crags. As one protagonist says, “You’ve only done the route when you’re safely in the bar, “having survived a falling boulder on the descent from a big alpine climb.

It’s a quirky book and I mean that in a good way. Not just climbing exploits but the complexities of juggling family and work lives against a backdrop of natural highs from climbing and the corresponding lows when things go pear shaped.

Easily readable, I devoured half the book on Saturday when we stopped for a long lunch break whilst canoeing. Sitting in the sun, looking across the sea to Rum and it’s own Cuillin reminded me what a special place we live in. Chapter followed chapter, seamlessly as I was totally engrossed from the start.

Towards The Ogre is a great counterpoint to glossy, lavish productions by mammoth publishing houses and tells the often forgotten other side of the stories. There’s a fantastic selection of photos, all of historic importance and well chosen to illustrate the text. Hopefully, this book will act as an inspiration both to future climbers but also to contemporaries of Clive to put pen to paper.

A bit on 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 

This two-volume guidebook provides detailed coverage of the iconic Cuillin Ridge, a 12km traverse on the Isle of Skye. Over two volumes, this guide covers everything needed to prepare for and complete a successful traverse over this spectacular ridge. Showcasing the main traverse and the other classic scrambles in the area, both volumes feature official Harvey mapping, numbered topos and corresponding detailed route description.

The first volume provides notes on training, gear and logistics, alongside 10 classic scrambles that can be used as practice routes for the traverse of the whole ridge. This volume also includes in-depth route description and advice for completing the traverse in winter. The second volume focuses on the traverse itself and is the perfect booklet to carry while attempting to complete this renowned scramble. Across ten sections, it explains step by step how to tackle the ridge, as well as providing easier climbing alternatives (Cuillin Ridge Light) for the harder climbing sections.

The ridge can be completed in one or two days, either as TRIAD (the ridge in a day) or CREST (Cuillin Ridge Expedition Style Traverse). The first volume provides advice about which approach to choose, as well as a list of bivi sites on the Ridge for those who choose the CREST option. By also providing an appendix of further reading and useful webcams, this guide offers everything needed to get inspired and get out on the Cuillin Ridge.

This is a Classic guide wish I had it in my early days! Heavy Whalley

Posted in Articles, Books, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Well being | Leave a comment

A bit of travelling over to the West.

It’s been a busy few days over on the West visiting my friend Kalie and Islay. The weather was magnificent and we had two days of perfect weather. I got a good walk with Islay from Applecross to Sand and back. It was so hot and I forgot my shorts. Kalie was busy doing a prescription run for the locals so me and Islay enjoyed this stunning walk. Skye was looking at its best the sea calm and the constant sun made it a great 3 hour wander. We saw no one yet the road below was busy with campers,motor bikes and cyclists. Its on the route of the NC 500 so it was busy add to that perfect weather. The path crossing many dry streams and I forgot my water bottle. I returned the same way seeing Stags on the shore cooling of on the sand. I was thirsty only getting some water from a bigger burn on route.

Islay taking it all in.

I met Kalie at the Walled garden and we were heading for the Coral Beach just past Applecross. I stopped for a huge locally made ice cream. It was a cracking wander along the coast to the beach. The views, the trees especially the Aspen and the well made path were stunning. Kalie knows the history of this walk that the children used to walk to school many years ago in all weathers to Applecross. Hardy souls.

At the Coral beach.

We reached the beach it’s stunning white sand from the shells and met a lassie from Edinburgh and we had a paddle in the clear water. Who needs abroad?

One leg shorts ?

It was then a good break even better views of Skye, the ridge clear as another small group arrived as we left heading back for fish and chips in Applecross. Again the weather was stunning and we sat outside enjoying the end of the day. Can life get better than this?

Cracking weather.

It was then a drive back to Kalies and what a moon came up it was surreal. I had an early night as I am off to Ayr tomorrow early.

The moon !

What a grand day I had tried to help Kalie with painting but my skills in this area are not great. It was a busy few days but great to be over on the West seeing the Majestic Torridon hills at there best. Sadly until I get my cough sorted I have to enjoy what I can but it’s great for the mind to be nearby. I am so lucky. Thanks Kalie for a fun few days .

Skye !
Posted in Enviroment, Friends, History, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Working with Hong Kong lads – Civil Aid Service (CAS) a blast from the past.

The Civil Aid Service(CAS) is a civil organisation that assists in a variety of auxiliary emergency roles, including search and rescue operations in Hong Kong. CAS is funded by the Hong Kong Government and its members wear uniforms.

CAS was formed in 1952 and had a RAF Qualified Team Leader in charge of the Mountain Rescue till Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese.

Over the years I am sure from the 80’s we had a great time working with the Rescue Team in Hong Kong. We had some adventures. We climbed Beinn Eighe and Liathach together the lads were impressed with that day. We had a great day on the Old Man of Storr a Sea Stack at Lochinver. That was interesting on the small belays and the abseil of into the foaming sea.

Stoer

Up on the Ben they had great days on Tower Ridge and of Course Glencoe where they May Hamish McInnes who gave them a copy of his International Rescue Book. They were impressed by the rock climbing and the crag days we arranged for them . When I was the Team Leader at RAF Leuchars we had some great days and also the troops enjoyed showing them the odd wild night in Dundee at “Fat Sams” nightclub. I bit bigger than a night in Elgin! We met on the annual Summer Course where they came to Wales to rock climb. As always they were great troops and sadly I never got over to Hong Kong to visit them but I heard the tales of how great there hospitality was.

CAS Visit

My pal John Chapman “Found this while trawling the Newspaper archives”

Dundee Courier – Saturday 20 August 1988

Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Hong Kong lads to the rescue ANY CLIMBERS or walkers who might have the misfortune to come to grief on the Cuillins in Skye at the weekend could be in for a shock when they see their rescuers. Members of Hong Kong’s mountain rescue unit will be in the area as part of their activities during a trip to Scotland. Francis Lo (33) and Tim Leung (30) are visiting R.A.F. Leuchars. This weekend the pair are training and on stand-by with the Leuchars mountain rescue team. with Skye as the location.

I think it was in 1963 when the CAS was formed to replace the RAF Team the powers that be were asked to provide training. Among the first Team Leaders was Steve Reeves and Jack Baines. RAF Training continued for many years in Wales, Scotland with Teams and National Centres like Plas – y – Brenin. (Steve Reeves was the author of A guide to Rock climbing in Hong Kong).

On September 1 1962 Typhoon Wanda hit Hong King Island when some of the team were training they quickly struck camp and for safety’s sake moved into a empty stone hut. When the radio operator lost contact with them at base and the weather abated other members found their 5 colleagues dead in the wreckage of the hut that had collapsed at the height of the Typhoon. A tragic event.

Comments and photos welcome.

Reference Whensover – 50 years of the RAF Mountain Rescue 1943 -1993 Frank Card.

Thanks to Dan Carrol for the photos and John Chapman.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Political?, Well being | 2 Comments

A Mountaineers view of the Falklands in Winter.

MOUNTAINEER’S VIEW OF THE FALKLANDS

By

David “Heavy” Whalley, MBE

I was privileged to spend two tours in the Falklands when I was in the RAF. It is a wonderful place for wildlife and mountains. Most of the popular peaks are less than 1000 feet and were the scene of bloody battles during the 1982 conflict. They are still littered with the military remains of this awful war. Minefields, too many to clear, abound, giving a new meaning to the phrase “objective dangers.”  However, they tend to be well marked and fenced off. 

The war was incredible. I knew a few who fought here. It was a feat to fight it, a “close run thing.” When you visit the graves of the Argentine’s forces you find a particularly sombre place. There is always a breeze. With rosaries blowing in the wind, it’s chilling. 

After the war the British military built a road from the camp at Mount Pleasant Airfield, where a garrison of two thousand personnel are based. The road is thirty-four miles to the capital at Port Stanley. This is the only road, which for some reason has a monsoon ditch four to five feet deep and three feet wide on either side. The engineers got the rainfall figures completely wrong; hence the ditch regularly has crashed and overturned Land Rovers in it. This makes it an interesting drive to Stanley and back in winter. The road is often closed for military vehicles due to high winds and can regularly resemble driving up a frozen glacier in a blizzard. The winds can come from nowhere and blow a wagon off the road with ease.

 

Mount Harriet. The Falklands in winter, from a slab on Mt. Harriet, the scene of a bloody battle in the 1982 war. Stanley Road in the back ground

The Falklands have a distinctive weather system and can experience all four seasons in one day.  One must expect the unexpected, especially when walking or climbing alone. The weather, which is dictated by the polar regions to the south, can give exceptional climbing conditions very quickly. A climbing partner may be difficult to find. When winter comes few ventureout of the military complex in search of excitement. Most of thecomplex is built like a space station, with corridors linking all the domestic accommodation. This is due to the regular high wind, when all but essential personnel are confined to base. Some people detached there may not leave the complex during their 4-month tour. In addition, the military mind does not accept the concept of solo mountaineering. But that’s not new.

Mount Harriet, which overlooks the Stanley road, has a slab with the only previously climbed winter route, Grotto, a three star Grade 4. This is an excellent, sustained and demanding route (for the grade) requiring torquing and hooking. The only problem was that the only kit we had were my ice tools, crampons and winter boots. My partner, Graham Stamp (Stampy) had come to the Falklands planning to rock climb, buthad got the seasons wrong (the southern hemisphere abstraction!) and we had an epic “swapping boots and kit in the middle of a blizzard.” I failed on the crux. Stampy, after donning my kit, sailed up the route. He had previously lost a crampon on the North Face of the Eiger and completed that route with little problem. A “useful” troop. The weather that day was straight out of Patagonia, and one of the coldest days I have ever been on the hill. It was nearly as bad as the Cairngorms. Eventually I scraped my way up the route and we made our way off the crag. The walk down is only 20 minutes to the road, where we were met by the local Police, who were very interested in what we were up to. But a dram from my rucksack ensured we were not in any trouble. All was kept quiet because didn’t have permission to climb.

A route on Harriet.

After our wee epic, Stampy was posted back to the UK, and I had no other partner. I asked several friends to come out but very few were interested in winter climbing. During a tour in the Falklands you only get one day off a week and it was essential for my sanity, to get out of camp and on the hills.

Nevertheless, despite such difficulties, I managed to get access to an old military vehicle, complete with snow chains,and set off before first light for some fun. I had no climbing partner but one of my friends on one of the satellite radar sites had volunteered to be my safety cover. If the worst occurred, I had friends from mountain rescue days on the 78 Squadron Sea King Helicopter Flight, who had promised to come and look for me if I did not return by next morning!

It was an epic drive, which took over 2 hours, some of it done with no lights as the road was officially closed (a wee bribe to the police checkpoint and they let me go). I was more nervous of crashing the boss’s Land Rover than the intended climb. 

I had spotted some good lines on a mountain called Two Sisters; a 5 km walk-in over rough ground. I had even had a short break from the rescue teams, the first for 27 years, as I needed to sort my head out and reappraise my reasons for mountaineering. 

The long cliff is over 200 feet high and set in splendid isolation. By now it was daylight and the views in the unpolluted air were magnificent; similar to the West Coast of Scotland, with the mountains rising from the sea. I was missing Scotland. Conditions were thin but the crack line had lots of vegetation and was frozen solid; perfect placements, a good Grade 2/3. This had been my first winter lead since I had lost two friends in a Lochnagar ice–climbing accident. 

Days like this are very rare; you have to grasp the opportunities when they arise. Every placement was perfect, and I soon climbed the route and was onto the ridge to the summit. Each summit in the Falklands has a memorial to those who died in the war, a reminder to all and a time for reflection. I had a quick break as it was only midday and I had plenty of time left, so I moved on to Mount Tumbledown. It meant a longer day but the weather was so special, I had to make the most of it. 

All these small mountains where the battles were fought are so impressive. As I walked along the main ridge, it was hard to believe what had happened here, in such a peaceful and tranquil place. Many of the intricate bunkers and Sangars were built into the rocks and are still clearly evident and even the hidden ones are visible to a mountaineer’s eye. 

During the 1982 conflict there was to be no British retreat from Mount Tumbledown. I had read at great length various accounts of the war and had a deep understanding of what had happened on this small hill. The Scots Guards fought a long and bloody battle for Mount Tumbledown and one could not fail to experience evocative thoughts by actually being there. The ground underfoot was awful, broken by gullies, cliffs, and peat hags. It would have been difficult enough to search for the enemy. I tried to imagine how it would have been to have to fight for every few more feet of barren rock and slough. By this time light snow was falling again and drifting around the rocks but the weather was holding well enough and I felt that there was some time left to fit in another climb. 

With little time to dawdle, I followed another excellent line on the North Face. It was another short route Grade 2/3, around 150 feet long. As I climbed again to the summit, the winter sun had dropped and I could see Stanley in the distance. The sunset was amazing. As a mark of respect and as a thank you, I made time to clean the memorial plate on the summit cross. This waserected to commemorate those who had fallen. It was very hard to move away from this place and I spent a considerable time here. 

I kept my crampons on for the descent, but there was no need for a head-torch, as the moon was sparkling. As the ground levelled, I came across the remains of a Argentinean field kitchen with lots of equipment left from the war. It was hard to imagine how the troops had lived and died in this place and how the British soldiers felt as they waited in the waterfilled scrapes for the Argentinean counter-attack that never came.  There was also a little cave built up into a shelter where the troops had eaten, again still strewn with kit.  

Feeling very alone on that cold winter night, I thought of those that had fought and died for this place and the futility of war. I had a 2-hour walk out across the moor; time to think on what had been an eventful day on these marvellous little mountains. Safely back at my wagon I was pleased that it started first time. Then the usual epic drive back to base and to the “real world.”


Author’s note 

Thirty years after the war, I found this wee article that I had written in 2000. It brings back many memories of the Falklands and thoughts of the futility of war. During my two tours in the Falklands, I managed to climb or walk every weekend. Both tours were during the Falkland’s winter and I climbed twelve winter routes. I introduced other members of the detachment to the joys of hillwalking and scrambling. There is now a guidebook with over 300 rock routes, but for some reason the winter climbs are not mentioned. The Falkland Islands are an amazing place. The wildlife is incredible and the land away from the battlefields unspoiled. The locals are very friendly if you spend time away from the camp. I recommend it.

Posted in Articles, Falklands Islands, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 5 Comments

Last night “Towards The Ogre” book launch Clive Rowland and “The Bandstand Blether Session” in Nairn.

We had a great night at Clive’s book launch and sold out his book on the night. I was asked to Speak through Cameron McNeishes forward at the launch.

Clive was busy signing his book and the poor soul never got off his seat for a few hours . It was a wonderful to see so many there to support him. As I have said often the book is a hopefully a new slant on mountaineering by a bold bunch of climbers from all over UK. In his time Clive has climbed with many famous climbers but still is that unassuming man we all love.

A busy night for Clive .

The tales in the book from his early days down South to trips to Scotland the Alps and then the greater ranges are an incredible read. In the book you meet many of the characters of these Golden Years of Alpinism. The piece I found about Tom Patey’s death on the Maidens was a tragic tale that Clive was there on that sad day after the first ascent. Like many hard climbers Clive lost a lot of mates in accidents in the mountains.

An honour to be with Clive on his big night!

Of course the tale on the Ogre is the one that is exceptional. Being involved in Mountain Rescue I can only just imagine what Clive and his great pal Mo Anthoine did saving Doug Scott and Chris Bonningtons life. It is great to see this side of one of the epic Rescue tale of their efforts was not lost. mmmemories thmists of time.

The book has so many stories all with Clive’s Yorkshire humour in it. I laughed at times as I read it yet what a story.

Clive sums his life up “ I feel very lucky and fortunate to have met so many remarkable people throughout my life”

Joe Brown said to him “We had fun didn’t we Clive”

Clive “yes we did maybe some of the summits were not reached but the shared endeavour and camaraderie made it all worth while “

Thanks to Fiona Clive’s wife for all her hard work. The Team at McRays Press and of course the Bandstand in Nairn for hosting the event and there wonderful hospitality. Of course to Clive for getting the book completed and got all he had done for so many in his own quiet day.

Will add link later where you can order the book from McKays Press.

This is the link :

https://towards-the-ogre.company.site/

Posted in Books, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

“Towards The Ogre” book launch – Clive Rowland at the Bandstand Nairn starts at 7 pm 1 Sept.

Tonight I will be helping a great pal Clive Rowland in his book launch at the Nairn Book Festival. I have the honour to do a short introduction for Clive. I have been so lucky to know Clive for many years and he has helped so many including myself and others. It’s wonderful that he is at last telling the tale of his life one the most incredible Rescue’s at altitude ever.

Towards the Ogre.

Clive’s is to me and many the “Mountaineers mountaineer “ His book is a wonderful insight into the world of extreme climbing at altitude and his pathway to these incredible mountains. His early days wild first ascents in the Alps were at the time a fantastic achievement. Clive has climbed with many of the world best mountaineers yet always there to give advice and help young climbers . Yet his journey is told with humour and honesty and This as Cameron MacNeish says in his forward was the true “Golden Age” of Mountaineering.

This book is a “whose who” of great climbers sadly many are gone. Many of his friends have been asking Clive to write a book. As it is now completed I am sure it will be a classic not just for his family and friends but for readers all over the world.

Posted in Book, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Interesting belays? Always back them up!

On Wreckers Slab a Patey route

This belay was on Wreckers Slab (description below) There was a few original pegs from the first ascent which I clipped for the photo of course it was backed up.

Description
One of the longest, most alluring and serious VS climbs in the West Country, Wrecker’s Slab is nevertheless the most attempted of its genre on the coast. The huge, slim slab rising from the beach on the far right-hand side of the cliff has very little in the way of technical difficulty but should not be underestimated as the rock is poor, protection spaced and the situations very serious. Start at the base of the slab just right of the overhangs.

1) 4a, 35m. Make a couple of tricky moves to easier ground and work out leftwards along an easy-angled section of slab to the arete. Climb a loose corner groove just right of the arete to a good peg and then move up and right on more loose rock to a footledge stance and peg belays plus good nut belays 5m above.
2) 4b, 45m. Climb directly to the overlaps and pull through them onto the slab above. Climb the slab to a belay at a pillar on a grass terrace.
3) 4a, 45m. Climb up past the pillar to the easy-angled upper wall and follow this on its left side to the top of the slab and belay. A short scramble along a ridge is needed to finish. © Rockfax

UKC Logbook Description
An amazing cliff, one of the best adventureous routes in the country. Make it a must to climb, what a fantastic day out. Oh and make sure you don’t throw all the hand holds down to your belayer.

Death belay – Route: Cioch Grooves (HVS 5a) Climbers: Colin Binks. UKClimbing guide to Sron na Ciche crag (Isle of Skye)

The photo above was on Cioch Grooved on Skye. This was after my mate Al McLeod had taken a fall on the pitch below. I had backed up a poor belay with three nuts one pulled as did some of his gear as Al flew through the air. Our belay held and Al went straight back up and climbed the pitch. As we got to the top I saw this below if you look closely the sling is round a big Boulder but not completely. I did tell the climber as he was unaware and thanked me. A scary watch.

Should you advise if you see a poor belay ? Comments welcome !

Posted in Equipment, Ice climbing Canada, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering | 2 Comments

Liathach by-pass path ? A past Rescue on Liathach.

I have climbed this Jewel of Torridon often but sadly not recently. I have had so many adventures winter climbing and introducing young Mountain Rescue Troops to this mountaineers , mountain. It has two Munro’s and 4 Munro tops. To me it is easily is one of the finest mountains in Scotland. I had a few friends running it last week when it was wet. They know the mountain well but had not been on the path that bypasses the pinnacles. One said it was very eroded and is always wet and caee is needed. As walk Highland states a slip can be fatal. It’s worth reminding folk of this. The pinnacles do require require scrambling ability and are a safer way to go. Over the years I helped a few on the Pinnacle’s who needed a safety rope. In winter I saw a lone Walker trying to traverse below the Pinnacles he had no axe or crampons. I had gone up a gully so I had two axes and gave him one. It was a scary experience but I got him off the hill safely. He was a lucky man.

Liathach

Liathach is rated by many mountaineers and hillwalkers as Scotland’s finest mountain, challenged only by An Teallach and the Cuillin of Skye. Its traverse is an expedition that will be remembered forever.

From “Well-trodden but very steep terrain throughout. There is mild rock scrambling en-route to the ridge, and some awkward bouldery terrain along it. The Am Fasarinen pinnacles involve some trickier scrambling, and the alternative bypass path is very exposed. The descent from Mullach an Rathain is also very steep. If unsure, hire a guide.”

The traverse path – photo Al Swadel

Worth noting if bypassing the scrambling !

“The sight ahead should set the pulses racing, as the next section of the ridge is riven into the famous Am Fasarinen pinnacles. If all these are traversed along the crest there is a conseridable amount of exposed scrambling to negotiate.

The path photo Munro Moonwalker.

Alternatively there is a path which traverses along natural shelves below the pinnacles on the south side to avoid the scrambling, but it is sensationally exposed, particularly at a couple of spots where it also tends to be wet.

Photo Ilona Turnbull of the ground at the path.

A slip here could be fatal, the path is fairly eroded in places and cuts across some steep ground. I have done a few searches in the gullies and below the path that at times I was pretty scared to be there. It seems to be getting worse as it erodes and I my mind and others “This is a case of sticking to the ridge crest” I cannot emphasise that if on the path you must be careful.

The traverse path – photo Al Swadel.

I loved exploring the Corries and sadly did for several fallen climbers over the years. In my first year in the Mountain Team at RAF Kinloss a young member of the Air Training core fell of the pinnacles into the corrie. This was the late 70’s it was winter and the team Leader Pete McGowan got down to him by descending a steep gully. There were no mobile phones then. What involved was a 12 hour rescue by ourselves to get the young lad off the hill. Those who were there will never forget Pete’s bravery at descending after the young lad. He kept him alive till we got down to help, Getting a stretcher into that Coire was not easy the weather turned nasty but we got him off in the wee small hours. He did make a full recovery. After that I tried to make sure I knew safe descents into these huge Corries and a route out carrying a stretcher. This is from that report.

At 1230 on the 8 Jan 1977 whilst training with RAF Kinloss MRT a 16-year-old cadet fell from the Am Fasarinen  pinnacles on the Liathach ridge NG 25/925576. He was located by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader 800 feet lower down on the North side of the mountain in Corrie Na Caime. This was about 1230 that day with head, face and arm injuries.

This wild side of Liathach and an awful place to fall and a huge carry off in poor weather.

This wild side of Liathach and an awful place to fall and a huge carry off in poor weather.In these days the radios were poor and the Storno VHF radios in the poor weather low cloud snow and rain were not effective. It took several hours to gain communications. (There were no Mobile phones in these day and the radios were basic) A helicopter managed to drop a stretcher with two men but due to the impending darkness and air turbulence on the East side of the peak.  ( there was no night vision goggles in 1977 and the helicopter was immense in getting the two troops and stretcher in to an area nearby.

The stretcher reached the casualty at 2100 and after a 5 mile carry off in extremely difficult terrain in darkness the casualty reached the car park and ambulance at 0430! From here he was taken to Inverness Hospital. (The accident happened at 1230 one can only imagine the time spent waiting and he could not be moved due to his injuries) When I became a Team leader I had to argue that the winter hills on such Mountains was not the thing to do.

These are still a huge areas despite modern technology. In the Corries you have poor communications and in the winter climbing there still gives you a sense of exploring. The Big walk in from sea level add to a day as does the tricky terrain to get off a route safely. Yet I have incredible memories of the sandstone pinnacles, the big ice routes and the adventures on this great peak.

Any photos would be appreciated I seem to have lost many of mine.

Comments as always welcome .

Al Barnard “Interesting call out there with Big Kev Hewkin and Daz Steatham. A guy had fallen to the south side 20m down. Facial and hand injuries, but most concerning was the fractured femur.
The casualty, a doctor, was as hard as nails. Remained conscious throughout. Splinted and packaged, secured on tenuous anchors, he was then extracted (which was exciting) by the winchman, Trev Preece with the aid of his J knife. Safely on to R137s wire and swiftly away to hospital. Later that evening, back in uniform, I got a b@#$¥$king from some SNCO Aclown in Forres Tesco for not wearing socks, which had got lost in the locker room scrum!”

Liathach – Photo Ilona Turnbull

Special thanks to Munro Moonwalker and Ilona Turnbull for the photos .

Posted in Articles, Books, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering | 6 Comments

A last walk with Tom MacDonald RIP.

I had a kind day yesterday as I was helping my old pals sister with his ashes. She had decided to leave them amongst the hills crags and flowers he loved. Tom MAcDonald had joined the RAF Kinloss MRT with me on 1972 he was already a strong hill man at 17 and taught me so much. Later on he became a great climber but his love of botany took him into a world of wild Corries all over Scotland doing surveys on rare plants.

Toms sister Janice and Kalie who along with her sister winter Wendy climbed with Tom when he was guiding on the Ben.

We stayed overnight in Killin at the Coorie Hotel dog friendly and superb. I picked Kalie up from Inverness and we left the madness of the A9 for the Queens view and stunning Perthshire a wonderful journey . Everything is so green and the weather stunning. We stopped at Kenmore then on to Killin. A place I have great memories of in my spell at RAF Leuchars MRT. We had a wander in Killin after booking in then a super meal.

At the Falls at Killin.

I called an old pal Billy Stitt who was the ex Team leader of the Killin Team and he met us after the meal. We had a great catch Billy is such a kind man and we have a huge bond after the Helicopter crash on Ben More many years ago. That is a sad tale where the then Killin Team Leader was killed and Billy and the rest of the Killin team were heroes that night. We met Janice at the Car park next day for Ben Lawyers it was wet and midgy. I carried Toms ashes up the hill they were heavy and we had a laugh as he was always stronger than me. This is where Toms Dad dropped us early 41 years before when we did the Lawyers Munro’s and Meal na Tarmagan we ran round them all the years ago.

It would be a slow day of changeable weather I have never seen so many flowers about. Tom would have been in his element using the Latin names and giving us such detailed explanations. Alice Janice’s dog are Blaeberries all day! We smelt the Heather when the sun came out and even lost the midges as we gained height. Kalie and Janice chatted I kept low key worried that my voice would go.

Stunning flowers all day.

We decided to take the skulkers path up to the Beleach which gains height slowly. The cloud was down a mizzle of rain was down and the grasses had beads of raindrops on the add to that the cobwebs it was a lovely sight. Janice was stoic and kept going and we got to about 900 metres.

She told us that Tom loved this place for the views of Glen Lyon and the Corries around. This was the place Tom would want there was no one about the clouds were down and the wee cliffs dripping wet and yet so many misses and plants.

A wee break

We stopped here found some flowers a solitary harebell was the place among the rocks to put Toms ashes. From here he could see the place he loved Perthshire and it’s mountains wild animals and flora. We said a few words then built a small cairn by the cliff. I have put a grid reference for these pals who may want to pay their respects in the future. The clouds cleared we could see Glen Lyon then slowly the mist came back.

The grid reference for where we stopped.

We had lunch the rain came in we told a few stories and the rain got heavy. Hat, gloves and over trousers were now on as we walked down into the wind.

Kalie and Wendy

After half an hour the rain was gone and back in the sun. We met Kalies sister Wendy who arrived up as we descended. We all had a good catch up.

On the way back.

We were soon down at the car and I had to head home with Islay as Kalie was heading of to Glasgow. I stopped to see Elma in Crianlarich looking well and Sue in Onich. The A82 was so busy with another bad crash at Glencoe. The helicopter was at the scene and traffic very slow. It was a long drive home.

Kalie and Janice.

I forgot to mention that on the way off we met Helen from National Trust Scotland repairing the path. She knew Tom and Janice recognised her we had a chat and that was a fitting end of the day.

Posted in Friends, Health, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Towards the Ogre update – Thursday 1st Sept at the Bandstand Nairn at 1900.

Exciting news for the mountaineering and climbing community as a brand-new book is launched.

Details below and attached.

THE EVENT

Towards the Ogre by Clive Rowland

Book Launch

Thursday 1st September 2022 at 7pm

Bandstand Bar & Restaurant, The Bandstand Hotel, Crescent Road, Nairn IV12 4NB

Tickets are free.

THE DETAILS

Respected mountaineer, Clive Rowland penned this 365-page book packed with mountaineering tales, technical details and incredible rescue missions.

A Yorkshire lad, Clive Rowland worked in the steel industry, for the construction business as well as conquering some of the world’s highest and toughest climbs.
A family man, he is somewhat of a legend with the Scottish Mountaineering Community as Custodian of the Raeburn Hut and opening the first ountaineering specialist outdoor sho in the Highlands at Academy Street, Inverness.
His early talent for climbing was clear to see when, at 20 years of age, he became the youngest Briton (at the time) to climb Walker Spur and the Bonatti Pillar.
The years during which Clive climbed in the Alps, Chamonix and the Himalayas are often referred to as the Golden Age of British Mountaineering.
With a foreword by Cameron McNeish, who presented the revered BBC2 TV series The Edge – 100 Years of Scottish Mountaineering, Clive creates the sense of awe, wonder and excitement that surrounds the world of mountain climbing.

The launch will include an introduction from David Whalley MBE,BEM, a rolling slide presentation, a chance to purchase signed copies of the book and meet Clive.

Mr Rowland said: “I would encourage anyone to take to the hills, either walking or climbing, as it is a wonderful release from the tensions of modern life. However, they must learn the appropriate skills. We have such a beautiful country throughout Britain.

Beautifully illustrated, and independently published, both paperback and hardback copies of the book will be on sale following a talk by the Mountaineers’Mountaineer, as Clive is often referred to.

In his foreword for the book, Cameron McNeish said: “Clive would probably have never admitted to the life-saving role they performed, but many years ago Doug Scott told me if hadn’t been for the pair he and Chris would likely have perished on the mountain.”

From his Yorkshire roots to his ascent of some of the most technically challenging peaks in the world, Clive reveals his role, along with fellow mountaineer Mo Anthoine, in the rescue of Doug Scott and Chris Bonington on Baintha Brakk, otherwise known as The Ogre, in the Karakoram, Pakistan.

There follows an epic tale of survival which will rank among the great stories of ‘against the odds’ rescue missions.

This is just one of many stories Clive reveals during the Golden Age of British Mountaineering in his fascinating book which is published this September.

THE BOOK BLURB

Towards the Ogre is the new mountaineering memoir climbers and mountaineers have been waiting for.

Author Clive Rowland takes readers on an unforgettable journey, starting with his early days exploring the Peak District right through his incredible mountaineering career, which few can match.

Clive’s greatest climb is probably the 1977 expedition to summit Baintha Brakk (The Ogre). It is exceptional in its combination of altitude and steepness, and at 23,901 ft. one of the hardest peaks in the world to climb. Clive is perhaps best-known for the rescue of Doug Scott and Chris Bonington following an accident on their descent.

Their tale of survival at high altitude ranks among the great stories of ‘against the odds’ rescue missions. This book will take you right to the very heart of this daring and perilous journey back to safety.

Clive was active during what is now considered to be the Golden Age of British Mountaineering (from the 1960s to the 1990s) and climbed extensively in the Alps, Chamonix and the Himalayas.

This beautifully illustrated book will appeal to anyone who has climbed, wants to climb or those fascinated by the pioneers of mountaineering.

Packed with fascinating insights, technical details, stunning photographs and Clive’s famous Yorkshire humour, Towards the Ogre is set out to become a classic.

Press Kit; Media Release; Cut Out Images with Captions

BOOK PRICES

£20 paperback ISBN: 9-7-817391090-1-1

£30 hardback ISBN: 9-7-817391090-0-4

Mike Springall

McRay Press

E:mike@mcraypress.co.uk

W: https://towards-the-ogre.company.site/

LAUNCH EVENT: https://fb.me/e/7heXYC1ia/

Posted in Book, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Memories of Tom Mac Mountain man and botanist!

Remains of the old Forest at Loch Ericht

A few years ago Tom MacDonald invited me on a botanising trip from Rannoch to Ben Alder. The estate wanted a check on the plants high up in the remote Corries of Garbh Choire Mor and Beag on Ben Alder. They organised a lift and Tom invited me to go. That was a great day Tom was like a deer on the hill he took me places that I never knew existed ! We were on very steep ground and worked our way up to the ridge scary stuff. Tom was as always full of knowledge and so steady on his feet. What a day we had and of course we ticked both Munro’s.

Ben Alder.

On the way back we chatted about past great hill days. Tom was always a far better mountaineer than me but as he was brought up in hill country Aberfeldy he had a head start. We chased Munro’s in our youth we had no car but did some great days huge walk-ins and out, great Bothies. Learning to climb on Arran great granite routes and many undiscovered crags. Meeting up again in Wales huge rivalries between St Athan and Valley MRT and combining to climb grand routes on the hill and Welsh rock and ice.

1972 Early days on Skye

When I did my resettlement from the RAF I managed to get Tom and his pal to take me botanising in the Cairngorms. What a couple of days we had I learned so much as did my pal Kenny Kennworthy. My knowledge of the grasses and plants is very limited yet we learned so much.

On another adventure on Braeriach . Tom in his element just about to drop into the Corrie.

Myself and Tom completed our Munro’s on separate hills at Ballater on the same day on separate hills. We were Munro numbers 148 & 149 in 1976 that gave us a unique weekend. Later on we climbed in the Alps and Canada in winter Tom always looking after me.

1976 Our last Munro day

I miss Tom sometimes we fell out but that’s what folks do. Looking back it’s hard to stay friends over the years but I am glad we met and shared so many adventures from the Munros, rock climbing, winter Mountaineering and fun abroad on various peaks. Miss you mate.

Skye 1972 and 2009.

In memory of Tom MacDonald.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Route of the North To South Walk 1976.

This walk was unsupported we carried everything we needed and used food dumps preplaced.

THE WALK

1976 North – South Scotland Walk

1. Ben Hope the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland – Corbett Ben Hee – Merkland Lodge

2. Conival and Ben More Assynt – Ben Mor Lodge

3. Walk to Seana Bhraigh – Loch Coire Mhor – Corriemulnzie Bothy

4.  Seana Bhraigh, Eididh na Clach Geala, Meal nan Ceapraichean, Cona Mheall, Beinn Dearg. – Loch Droma

5.     Loch Droma – Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor, Meal Gorm, An Coileachan, Meall a’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each. The Nest of Fannich a bothy now gone sadly burnt down.

6. Nest of Fannichs  Fionn Bheinn – Glen Carron Scardroy Lodge.  

BIG BAGS

7. Day off ill at Scradroy

8. Scardroy – Strathfarrar Munros –   Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais, Sgurr Fhuar – Chuill, Carn nan Gobhar, Sgurr na Ruaidhe –  Broullin Lodge

9.  Broullin Lodge Strathfarrar  –  Sgurr Na Lapaich  Carn Nan Gobhar – Mullardoch House Glen Cannich

10.Mullardoch House – Toll Creagach, Tom a’ Chonich, Cairn Eighe, Cairn Eighe, An Socath   Five of the Affric Munros – Glen Affric Youth Hostel

11. Glen Affric Youth Hostel –  Mullach Froach choire, A’ Chraileag, Sgurr nan Conbhairean – Greenfields

12.Greenfields –  Sron A’Choire Chairb, Meall na Teanga – Spean Bridge .Bivy at Spean Bridge Station

13. Spean Bridge station – Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.  Fort William ATC Hut

1976 May North South – Jim and Heavy Bridge Of Orchy Station,

14 Day off – Fort William much needed shower at railway Station then home

15, Fort William – Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Ban, Sgur a Mhain, Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Na Gruagaichean, Binnein Mor, Binnein Beag, Sgurr Eilde Mor – ATC Hut Kinlochleven

1976 Jim moving fast on the Mamores

16. ATC Hut Kinlochleven – Devils Staircase – Blackrock Cottage weather awful.

17.    Blackrock Cottage Glencoe – Meall a’ Bhuiridh, , Clach Leathad, Stob A’Choire Odhair, Stob Ghabhar – Bridge of Orchy Station! Bivy

18. Bridge Of Orchy Railway station  Benn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh to Succouth Lodge

19. Succoth Lodge   Beinn a’Chleibh (916m, Munro 280) Ben Lui (1130m, Munro 27) Ben Oss (1029m, Munro 101) Beinn Dubhchraig  (978m, Munro 175)

20. Ochills Hut  An Caisteal 995 metres, Beinn A’ Chroin 942 metres, Beinn Chabhair 993 metres and Beinn A’ Choin 770 metres – Inversnaid School.

21. Inversnaid school – Ben Lomond  – then the long journey home

It was an incredible night in the small school at Inversnaid where we were staying by kind permission of one of the locals. We were really tired may be we have misjudged the second last day but these hills were so hard, pathless and hard work, lots of unseen contours and rough walking took their toll. We found it hard to believe that this was the end of a superb walk across Scotland. In addition we were also very tired and were very glad we only had a short walk today to the summit of Ben Lomond and then hopefully a lift home to a hot bath and good food from the RAF Kinloss Team . We did not hang about in the morning the boots were soaked but it was the last day so I put my spare dry socks and broke a ritual. We had to be way early from our lovely bothy and were not sure what time our lift was from Ben Lomond but we had to be out the school before Inversnaid I find it really amazing that we just shook hands and headed off down the tourist path alone in our thoughts.  On the last mile we met our lift heading up the hill to meet us, some members of the RAF Kinloss Team. They were a bit late and then it was a few congratulations and a long 5 hour drive in a land rover where we slept most of the way, we were exhausted now the walk was over. The land rover stank after half an hour we needed a wash badly and we were just wanting to get home.. The troops to be fair had no clue what we had done and until you do such a feat it is another world in you are in. It was sort out the kit most went in the bin and then was back to work next day and that was my holidays for the year over. A bit of a downer at the end! 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. 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 or buy the book below.

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! Every day we felt part of the mountains reading the weather as it arrived.

The Mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego!

Special thanks to Jim Morning and Paul Burns and all the others who supported us.

Posted in Articles, Books, Bothies, Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, Health, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Latest Scottish Rock Climbs Guide out now . Just got it looks superb.

The latest guide, Scottish Rock Climbs, has landed! Now available to order direct from our website: https://bit.ly/scottishrockclimbs

This new Wired guide comprises of 1760 routes across Scotland, offering a wealth of inspiration for experienced climbers and a fantastic introduction for those just starting to explore Scottish rock. Preordered already? Expect delivery within the week ✨

Posted in Books, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing | Leave a comment

An Lurg near Bynack Mor and the Wellington crash on 14 August 1944

I 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 ago it was one of the most heartfelt trips I have ever been involved in. To me these are tales that we need to remember for all the young lives lost in defence of our country.

The Wellington.

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 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.

The wreckage

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.

•  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.

Phils Dads medals

Back on the main path we stopped and enjoyed the sun Phil showed us his Dad’s medals still in the box and as they were the day they were sent to the family. He also had his Dad’s pilot certification from his pilot training in the USA all as pristine as the day they were issued.  We also saw his Dad”s service knife that Phil had treasured all his life with the date 1940 stamped on it. All day we were getting to know Phil’s father and the difficult time the family had after the war, after a break we then headed of along the path back to the cars at Glenmore in the sun.

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.

At the crash site.

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.

The knife

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 also always think of those who brought the bodies of the hill. The keepers, locals and servicemen who would have tp cope with the carnage they found.

Lest we forget.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Mountaineering, Well being | 10 Comments

A bit of background to the Big Walks.

I was so lucky to have been told of Big Walks across Scotland in the past I listened intently when I met a few who had done them. There had been various long Walks the RAF Mountain Rescue have a history of Big Walks in Scotland. The most popular was the North to South from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond, later on there came the West to East from Skye to Mt Keen. Key figures like John Hinde and Pete McGowan were great enthusiasts for them and they were even used as the final training for Team Leaders on their assessment course.

Hamish Browns wonderful book “Hamish’s Mountain Walk”

Long Hard days.

“In the 60,s the RAF Rescue Teams made several North – South and East – West expedition’s over numerous Munros.  I met John Hinde, whose accounts had stirred up readers: he was not the first in either direction.”  

Hamish Mountain Walk a superb book,

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 were 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: basic weather reports, no Mobile phones  or  GPS and lightweight gear were a long way away ahead.

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 McGowan.

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.

In the end the Totals were 62 Munros climbed 334 miles and 104464 feet of ascent. This was the first traverse of Scotland that all participants completed the same identical totals.  My efforts were a lot slower than the others, but this Traverse had a great influence on my mountaineering. It was also a record-breaking traverse by 14 Munros. Not bad for 3 “Bairns” with limited experience. The kit was very basic most days we were wet and cold, yet we had a tremendous experience.

Munros    

  • 1976 Summer  North – South 64 Munros
  • 1977  Winter West  – East  52 Munros
  • 1980  Summer  South  North 72 Munros
  • 1984 – Summer East  – West  May 80 Munro    

I learned so much during our first walk, we climbed 62 Munros and did some huge days. The walk is from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond and we stayed in bothies, with keepers, village halls, even a school room and two train stations! 

We left food prepositioned with keepers and friends. The complete Munros in the Mamores a 12 hour 10 Munro day, the Fannichs and many other big days an incredible first walk. I leant so much about the Scottish mountains during this period and as just having completed my Munros, I was supposed to know where I was as all times an impossible task. In these days it was an incredible journey and the hospitality we received from Keepers and their families was incredible. We were usually met by a huge dram and then tea and cakes and many times a meal by the wife’s who felt sorry for us, what friendship.

I doubt that I would ever feel that fit again after 3 weeks solid on the hill in all weathers. You I feel read the mountains, can sense the weather coming in and become part of the mountain. You were in these days a long way from communications and you become such a tight group.

The walks took a lot of planning we spent ages drawing the route on the many maps we used. We often climbed the hills and descended down unknown glens to us. I saw so much of nature on the hill and in the sky, saw huge herds of deer and few of the hills had paths unlike nowadays. There were few guide books to advise and we rarely met anyone in the bothies or on the hills.

There were different days but so worthwhile I would love to hear your stories of any Big Walks.     

Posted in Books, Bothies, Mountain rescue, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Towards The Ogre. Clive Rowland book update. Book Launch 7 pm in Nairn at the Bandstand.

Latest update one for your diaries book can be pre – ordered see below.

Pre orders now available – As a Nairn Book and Arts Festival special event
’Towards The Ogre’ will be launched September 1st – 7pm in Nairn at The Bandstand with a bit of a talk and a picture show.


Clive will sign books and meet people.

Posted in Books, Himalayas/ Everest, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Squareface – Garbh Coire , Beinn a Bhuird Cairngorms. “A secluded Jewel typical of Patey’s discoveries. “ Martin Burrows Smith” Classic Rock.

I met a pal yesterday who was just back from climbing Squareface in the remote Cairngorms. It was lovely for Rachael to tell me of what a great day she had with her husband. I love hearing folk talk about places and the joy they had. It’s an impressive place whatever way you approach the climb. I really felt when Rachael spoke about “sitting on the belay and the views were incredible” . I can still see that same majestic view even years after I completed the climb. Looking back I was spoiled I did this climb so many times did I really appreciate where I was? She reminded me of the adventure to the route even by bike that makes this a hard fought route.

Route: Squareface Very difficult 330 ft An Garbh Coire Beinn A Bhuird from Classic Climbs.

First ascent T W Patey and J M Taylor July 1953.

I was lucky to have climbed in this remote Corrie on probably on a dozen occasions, twice in winter after a drop off by Sea King helicopter ( Cheating? ) For climber who loves seclusion this is the place to be. The Great remote Corrie of Garbh Mor only reveals its secrets to those who search it, two great buttresses are situated at the end of this face and this is where you will find Squareface. The book “Classic Rock” has for many opened the eyes of a few and many combine both Classic Routes on the Crag this climb and Mitre Ridge. I love Martin Burrows Smith Account in Ken Wilson’s Classic rock. I know what he means when he says” as I belayed on the summit I had an intense feeling of well being; the suns last rays glowed on the final Towers of Mitre Ridge” This is to me why we climb in a few words.

Still snow below route – KMRT

I enjoyed both routes so much I spent a lot of time on these climbs . I would often be thinking back to the first ascent on Squareface climbed by that incredible man Tom Patey & J.M. Taylor in July 1953. The army especially the Commandos trained and put up several climbs in this remote place.

This great wee route only 90 meters long ascends the steep slabby wall of the buttress. It combines continually exposed climbing and great situations. It drys quickly after rain but can be cold even in summer, but what a climb. Many leave their bags at the top and climb without! In the past I am sorry to admit we used to be allowed to drive on to the summit plateau as part of the Mountain Rescue. We did a few Rescues in this remote area with drop off by landrover up on the summit plateau. Nowadays the road has been returned to its natural state and the ground taken back by nature. No access is allowed on this sparse plateau by vehicles which is a good thing. Nowadays the big walk in can be assisted by Mountain bikes but it still is along day. A tent or use of the big boulders or the “secret howf” can make this a great weekends trip.

ON TOP

I am hoping to get in to the route one day once my chest is sorted . It will be a overnight visit to enjoy the area to often we have to flee due to time, we will wait and see what happens in a great place to be and at this time of year I was always wary if all the snow had gone from this high mountain cliff? Access could be fun if snow was hanging about below the route.

The climbing is typical of Cairngorm climbing and this route has everything. Coming out onto the sun onto the big plateau of Beinn A’ Bhuird after a climb can be incredible . Once when we did it the dog Teallach followed the rake up onto the plateau to meet us! A well known Aberdeenshire climber was soloing behind us when the rain came many years ago. He overtook us and we told him we had a land rover on the plateau I think he did not believe me at the time yet we gave him a lift back he did enjoy it. A few times had to navigate of the plateau in the wagon when the snow came!

Kinloss MRT on Squareface

You can see the route from the plateau and its wonderful to see folk on the climb it looks a lot harder than it is and the rock looks superb in any light. Please remember these are big cliffs, like the Alps loose rock is always possible as is changeable weather. Go and enjoy this an some of the other routes and if possible spend a night in this lovely place. Todays tip if cycling in get a rack and panniers its alot easier on your back.

Take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints. Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Bothies, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Out with SARDA Scotland yesterday at the Lecht

As President of SARDA Scotland I at last managed to get a day with them on a training day. They had been out training at the Lecht ski area all weekend. The heat was hard going for the dogs and the handlers so they had to be careful in the heat.

I left early in heavy mist but it cleared on the Dava Moor and headed up via Tomintoul to the Lecht. There was a big turnout and as it was the second day of training the heat was taken into consideration. The group split into 4 search areas on the hill and casualties (bodies) are out for the dogs to find. It’s a long day for the bodies all who volunteer to do this essential work. They are to be thanked for their huge efforts.

The Lecht SARDA

I have worked with SARDA for many years in Mountain Rescue and they have always impressed how they are as an organisation. For many years I watched how hard they worked on Call outs on the hills. SARDA handlers and Dogs came from all over Scotland for many of the big incidents. Most stayed overnight in basic vans and when I was in the RAF we tried to ensure that we were there if needed.

The training of a dog and handler is a long process and it was wonderful seeing how the dogs work. From the young new trainee dogs to the fully qualified ones. To watch a dog working a hillside with its handler always amazes me and to see the dogs and handlers joy at a find. The enthusiasm of all is a great thing to see and the closeness of the families and helpers involved is a great thing to see. I coughed my way up to the 4 search areas and was so impressed at the effort by all and the guidance given to the new handlers and dogs.

Despite the heat and the hard day yesterday a lot of effort was put in by all. Many had long journeys home after the weekend training and after a debriefing all headed for home. The weather was forecast was for thunder and rain but we were on our way home when it arrived. The ground needs the rain and the thunder and lightning was impressive.

It’s great to meet up with so many good folk who are helping in a very troubled world. We can be so upset with the Media just now and all the awful news about. Yet there are so many unpaid volunteers like SARDA who are there to help. It gives you faith in the so many good folk about.

SARDA Scotland (SCIO) is a Scottish charity which trains dogs and their handlers to search for missing persons.

Waiting for there Search Areas

We are part of Scottish Mountain Rescue. Our dogs and handlers support Mountain Rescue Teams in their search for missing people and the Police in searching for vulnerable missing people. The handlers are all volunteers.

We cover all of Scotland, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
We are supported by Burns Pet Nutrition and St John Scotland. We are members of Scottish Mountain Rescue.

To donate to SARDA Scotland, please visit our Just Giving page.  

You can also Support us by using Smile amazon and they will donate to us every time you buy something from Amazon

Posted in Mountaineering, SARDA, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Towards the Ogre – Clive Rowland’s

Clive Rowland one of the most unassuming mountaineers has at last publishing his book Towards the Ogre. I am sure it will be a wonderful insight into his life. Clive was a big help over the years I often bought kit from his Outdoor shops and he was always there with great advice. He is one of the few Mountaineers mountain men. I am so looking forward to his book signing in Nairn on 1 Sept at the Bandstand.

NEW BOOK!
Towards the Ogre is the new mountaineering memoir climbers and mountaineers have been waiting for.

Author Clive Rowland takes readers on an unforgettable journey, starting with his early days exploring the Peak District right through his incredible mountaineering career, which few can match.

Clive’s greatest climb is probably the 1977 expedition to summit Baintha Brakk (The Ogre). It is exceptional in its combination of altitude and steepness, and at 23,901 ft. one of the hardest peaks in the world to climb. Clive is perhaps best-known for the rescue of Doug Scott and Chris Bonington following an accident on their descent.

Their tale of survival at high altitude ranks among the great stories of ‘against the odds’ rescue missions. This book will take you right to the very heart of this daring and perilous journey back to safety.

Clive was active during what is now considered to be the Golden Age of British Mountaineering (from the 1960s to the 1990s) and climbed extensively in the Alps, Chamonix and the Himalayas.

This fascinating and beautifully illustrated book will appeal to anyone who has climbed, wants to climb or those fascinated by the pioneers of mountaineering.

Packed with fascinating insights, technical details, stunning photographs and Clive’s famous Yorkshire humour, Toward the Ogre is set out to become a classic.

You can order the book using this link :

https://towards-the-ogre.company.site/

Posted in Books, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Primrose Bay near Hopeman. A place of great beauty. Climbing and Aid climbing here in 1972 with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team.

The Moray coast is a special place and it’s great to revisit wonderful places. The Moray Way after Hopeman has some incredible coves and beaches to visit. Primrose Bay is one you follow the Moray Way past Hopeman and the Golf Course. You descend down to one of the loveliest Coves around. It has a lovely beach and wonderful sandstone cliffs. It is the ideal place for a picnic and to watch the famous Dolphins.

Primrose Bay be careful on descent of taking the path on the Quarry side.

When I joined Kinloss Mountain Rescue I climbed at bit at locally at Primrose Bay near Hopeman. I played and climbed here as a wee boy, where the caves and cliffs were our learning playground. Looking back I see this place great place with a climbers eye and Many years ago so much fun here. We practiced aid climbing here on pre placed bolts some that you can see the remains off. Nowadays it has great bouldering on the sandstone with no one about. I am lucky it is great to have such a place on the doorstep just a bit away from the crowds at Cummingston. Aid Climbing :Aid climbing is a style of climbing in which standing on or pulling oneself up via devices

Very old bolts !

I visited yesterday and we never saw any Dolphins. When it’s wet you can sit the cave between the showers listening to the noise of the stones speaking in ongoing tide. It is a grand place to be in a wild day with the waves crashing off the cliffs, outstanding views across to the Moray Firth in the distance. Yesterday there was an oil rig being towed across the Firth heading out to sea by a small tug, the Moray Firth is a busy place to be.

Stunning wall and a lovely lassie

From UKC “The sandstone ranges from damp, to dry but explosively soft, to pristine and permanently dry. Aid climbing stopped here in the early 70’s when it was realised what damage it was causing to the rock.

Beach level is varied which impacts the landings in the stacks areas. As usual please refrain from climbing on wet sandstone as it is prone to breaking.

As you descend to the bay, the stacks are on the left end of the beach and the throughhole cave, etc are at the right end.

There is one traditional climb on the cliff an E3 but we used to climb a few easy routes on the slab above the cave. This is where I did early rock climbing leads and abseils above the slab. It is fairly overgrown now.

Sandstone cliffs

The late John Hinde took us there on our first outing in 1972 along with my pal Tom MacDonalds who sadly is also not with us now.

Yet I have great memories of this area rock climbing swimming and to pop down two days ago was wonderful. It was so warm and sunny and no one about.

Posted in Mountaineering | 5 Comments

Every picture tells a story ? Favourite book – Cold Climbs.

Name this cliff .

It’s great to have a look at old photos. The one above must be early 60’s winter climbing. I used to look at it and be in awe of the guys. The gear is so basic but it opened a new world to me.

Lakes Red Tarn area – Red Tarn is a small lake in the eastern region of the English Lake District, in the county of Cumbria. It is high up on the eastern flank of Helvellyn, beneath Striding Edge and Catstye Cam. Red Tarn was formed when the glacier that carved out the eastern side of Helvellyn had melted.

We used to go monthly to the Lakes from North Wales when I was stationed at Valley in Anglesey. These were great trips it was always busy and we climbed on many of the great cliffs. We had a great day in the Red Tarn area when we introduced a few of the younger team members to winter climbing. The dog is ahead with my mate Jock soling great fun days late 70,s I think ?

Coming of the Ben mid 70’s (75- 76 )

John Cosgrove and Dave Wood coming of Ben Nevis in winter after a route. Both are wearing a wooly jumper that I read about in the Classic Ice climbing “Cold Climbs” note the classic gear. Dachstein Boots and wooly breeks.

Cold climbs

Cold Climbs became a huge favourite book of mine. I bought it and we took a copy to Canada when we went ice climbing in the early 80’s. The photos and climbers essays on routes plus the historical facts made climb many routes. Tone this book is a superb insight into the climbing up to that era. Photos that standout Tom Patey wearing simple gear and a wooly jumper looking exhausted. I think this book took many on a journey all over the UK chasing their dreams. What a classic in my view?

Marines in Triple Buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair Beinn Eighe

I received this photo a few years ago from the Marines who ran over the summits and had a wee service on Remberance Day. It was lovely to see as the Sgt Major had read my blog on the the Lancaster Crash in 1951.

Getting sorted for the fight home on Lochnagar.

This photo of myself and Bill Batson completing a route on Lochnagar. Though an easy climb Central Buttress. We had a couple of new troops with us when the weather hit us. It was hard work getting off the hill. Yet I was with Bill and Ned Kelly you could not get better companions. We all took turns on navigation. It was a hard day but they young ones came back with a idea of what winter can be like.

Lochnagar was a favourite mountain of mine I climbed here often especially when I was posted to RAF Buchan near Peterhead. Once we ran a winter course here and that was hard going. The Cornice was huge on Raeburns gully and we had to throw a rope to get our pals off. The weather was wild and it was getting dark. They could not get the ropes off they were frozen solid and they still were as we got back to our transport.

I had some serious lesson taught to me here. The weather forecast in these days was not very accurate. We often got hit by storms coming from the bitter East winds. Cornices could be huge and on Rescues the weather and wind in the Corrie could throw a helicopter about. This mountain was a haunt on Tom Patey and some of his mates from Aberdeen of his exploits here are legendary

I lost two great pals who fell on Parallel B gully in winter March 1995. It was a tragic time that took me years to get over. It was nearly 10 years that I climbed in winter on Lochnagar again. What a mountain what memories.

Teallach a great companion – hard as nails !

Of all the companions on the mountains my dog Teallach was outstanding . I have a book of tales about him. What a dog on the hills.

Comments as always welcome

Posted in Articles, Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

The Classic ridges of Ben Nevis: Castle Ridge, Tower Ridge, Observatory Ridge and North East Buttress.

My Mountaineering Club – The Moray Mountaineers has a meet at the CIC Hut for the weekend. Sadly I won’t be there as I have a wedding this weekend. It was great to chat about routes and add a bit of advice. They will hopefully have a great night. Looking at the forecast it’s not great but I am sure they will enjoy.

A few years ago met a old mate Dougie who now works with the SAR helicopter at Bristows in Inverness as an engineer. We had a coffee in town and he was talking about his days on the RAF Kinloss MRT in the early 80’s when he was a talented mountaineer and is now getting back into the mountains after working abroad for many years.

We were speaking about Ben Nevis and some great days with his mate Tom MacDonald and the classic hill day the 4 great ridges on the Ben. It was a special day that many in the team had done over the years but Tom and Dougie did it fairly fast after a wild night in Glencoe. It was great to hear the stories but my view the way to do these ridges is one at a time and savour them as the solo climbers and others rush by.

The Classic Tower Ridge with the helicopter in the background.

My first days rock climbing on Ben Nevis was the call – out in September 1972 on Tower Ridge when three Naval climbers who were staying in the CIC hut fell from Tower Ridge. It was a terrible tragedy we helped recovering the casualties with Lochaber MRT after an early morning drive to Fort William with no sleep.

It was a huge eyeopener to me as a young guy and showed me how this mountain can be such a place for me of sorrow and joy over the years. I was with the late John Hinde who followed the line from where they fell from. It was wet and slippy and a bit different from my previous climbs at Cummingston and other small crags! I was aware of the seriousness of this incredible climb that had everything I wanted out of the mountains. I remember the huge drops, the loose rock and the tower gap! I was a tired laddie at the end of the day. John was so wise and worked out where the accident had happened when all three were moving roped together with no protection!

The team were always working in new challenges. The Classic was the 4 Ridges in a day maybe 5 if you add Ledge Route are done anyway you want.

That first Callout in 1972 was a huge reminder to me in future years that if roped be ready for a slip and always protect the climb if possible! That day Tower Ridge was wet and Misty that added to the mystery of the mountains North face. Despite the tragedy all these years ago I wanted to come back and climb other routes.

When I climbed all 4 in a day it took 12 hours to climb them with Big Al MacLeod (RIP) We did Observatory Ridge down Tower Ridge then North East Buttress and down Castle Ridge. That for me it was a magic day and I used the rope fairly often much to Al’s laughter being a poor climber. I did it again once more staying at the CIC hut and adding Ledge Route learning so much about this great hill. Over the years I was to climb Tower Ridge often I have great memories of Al waiting and nearly falling asleep on the Great Tower.

On a wet day Tower ridge can be interesting.

To me Observatory Ridge is always a challenge and to me the trickiest. It has a serious start and is a long route taking you some wild scenery. Observatory Ridge as all the ridges even in summer can cause real interest they are long Alpine in length. Yet they can be a real fun and just to do one now at my age will sort me out. You never know what the Ben will give you as at times even in summer they can hold snow and verglas after a chilly night.

The photo above is The steep chimney on Castle Ridge in early winter end of Sept-  always a bit of interest here! We abseiled this on one of my descents.

On the ridges It was always a day of introduction to this incredible mountain I loved doing one of the ridges with a new troop and then the walk onto the summit and round the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. One of the troops many years ago fell of on Castle Ridge at the steep chimney ! It was on Willie Mac’s first day out and I held him luckily. Willie gave up smoking after that and he became the man in charge of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams.

North East Buttress a lovely way to the summit.

North East Buttress is a special way to the summit and after the initial slabs the ridge is grand and what views the fun starts at the man/ woman trap near the top and then the 40 foot corner high up and this can be a lonely place in poor weather. It’s good to add Raeburns Arête as a start.

it is always damp and wet the climb 40 foot corner gives you a wee bit of fun after the man trap.

There are so many stories of these great classic ridge on the Ben and how serious they can be. They are Alpine at times and I wish so many of the rock athletes who go craging would enjoy these magnificent places. I have been with the stars on the small crags and climbing walls then in the Tower Gap in a wind and rain it all seems so serious from an indoor wall. These routes are great adventures and as the snow leaves these great cliffs it is time get out there and enjoy some of the best climbing in the Uk. It would be great if my club had a meet at the Ben on day and get the climbers out onto the big cliffs?

Raeburns Arete A great way to extend the day on North East Buttress.

Many will find these climbs so easy but still exciting others will be rushing. My advice is to savour them and sit and enjoy this place with it’s great cliffs and look about and see the scope of this great mountains. Be careful of loose rock and changing weather and think that Tower Ridge was first done in descent. .As Team Leader of both Kinloss and Leuchars MRT I used to let my new rock leaders loose on the Ben. They cut there teeth in the poor weather or in late summer and learned so much, never underestimate this place. It was great to see them on their return or on the top of the Ben after an ascent of one of the great ridges. It was also a great way to learn about the mountain and learn valuable local knowledge.

Over the years in summer and winter I must have climbed over 100 routes many again again. Every time I see the huge North Face on Ben Nevis it never seems to fail to impress me.

So what are you up to this summer my advice is to get up these ridges get to know the Ben and then you can get on to the bigger climbs but that is another story.

B1954 Ben Nevis Diagram

1954 Ben Nevis Diagram

There are some great books on the Ben well worth a read. This is the best what a read of the great climbs and the people who made them.

Comments as always welcome !

Posted in Mountaineering | 2 Comments

Comments on my blog on boots .

I got some great comments on Summer walking boots nowadays I use Running shoes and as long as your careful they are great. I will have to get new ones as the soles are battered well worth looking at your boot soles been on the hill with a few folk with comfy boots but no grip on sole.

A bit muddy but still a great hill shoe in the right conditions. As the season change I go back to boots especially on the winter.

S Atkins “ Turned up for my trial with my prized Daisy Roots hiking boots. Swiftly told they were shite, and replaced with standard issue Dollies. Certainly explained my terrible hill performance, both on trial and for at least three years afterwards.”

P.Rosher – Ex Brit-Army hand-me-downs.

K Ash – “DMS boots, pre-para, Yorkshire 3 Peaks 1979, beasted by PTI’s who changed for a fresh one after each hill!! Worst boots in the World lol.”

G Dolby – Hawkins Helvellyn. There were reasonably comfortable once you got the broken in, but by that time, they did not have much sole left. Then after they were resoled, they were even less watertight!

Jim Fraser – “In about 1965, on holiday in the lake district, my Dad took us all into Fisher’s and very extravagantly kitted the whole family out with good quality leather boots and Ventile smocks. (Wainright advice was over-riding the bank manager’s advice!) Chris Nixon reckoned it would have been his dad, Keswick MRT legend Mike Nixon, who would have sold them to us. My mother was still using her boots on the hill 25 years later. Anyway, off we went up Skiddaw and a number of other lakeland fells as shown in Dad’s copy of Wainrights guide. So in spite of being from Inverness, my first big hill was Skiddaw. Revisited it in 2010: texted my brother, “Top of Skiddaw 45 years on. Still misty.” 🙄

Phil M – Scarpa’s, can’t remember the model. Bought them in Ambleside 1972..

Jim Higgins – Well, how modern boots really spoil the hill goer. My first hillwalk was done in a pair of sandals like your own. The ones with caramac soles ha ha. It was on a school nature trip in 1971, primary 6 to be exact and my mother sent me to Arran like little lord pontelroy. The sandals never made it home, the sole fell off. I soon graduated to a pair of TUF boots which I wore as part of my uniform with the Air Cadets (327 Squadron Kilmarnock) I wore them all over the north Ayrshire moors and on the Arran Mountains and Galloway hills. I had to clean them and re-bull them after every trip to get ready for my cadet nights. My next real boots were bought from peters stores in Kilmarnock for £2 in a sale. They had vibram cleats and I felt like Doug Scott. I have had numerous boots over the years all being in use at some point. From Karrimor KSB for lightweight summer use to Zamberlain for 3 season. My Asolo full shank boots are less used as I am reluctant to go out in winter after major heart surgery. I am now browsing the catalogues for new knees ha ha. The heart tells me I am 20 the knees 120. My advice for boots is the best you can afford from a qualified fitter in a reputable mountaineering store. Until you know exactly what you need with experience. Many days well be spared in absolute agony if you look after your feet. You cant walk on your hands, although I came down from SC gully on my belly after breaking an ankle and splitting my coxixx (tail bone) that was not fun.

S McPhail

“Welly boots and cagool that folded into it’s own pouch, by the early 1980s I had moved into the luxury of brown leather boots from Graham Tiso’s in Stirling”

Andy Beaton

James Boylan. An Irish company I think. Bought from Clive Rowlands shop on Academy street, Inverness. 1982 I think., before he relocated to Bridge street.

D Walker – Surplus “new” Dr Martin’s with ring and hook fastening. Looked like mountaineering boots but not. 1264 Sqn Windermere Air Training Corps. Years later I came to realise that we came off the lakeland fells with mild exposure after most of our trips. Very Happy Days and a memorable introduction to mountaineering.

Pete Caulton -“Millets sooper cheap. All the Stafford troops called them “tesco tearaways”. 😂 soon invested in Dolomites Hindu Kush. Best boots ever.”

Steve Price – “Scarpa Bronzo’s … too heavy … too stiff but still managed to walk the Pennine Way in them”

Drew Aitken “Tackety boots. Hobnail in Sassunachland.”

I temper the lightweight KS B 2 fantastic on hill on the early 80’s . I did some great days on them.

Some great info on boots.

Comments as always welcome !

Posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

A Long overdue day on the Fannichs. Loch Droma Meall a Ghrasgaidh , Sgurr Mor and Beinn Liath Mor Fannich

Loch Droma early morning light.

Though still being driven mad by my cough I decided to go to the Fannichs and see what would happen. I have lost most of the summer due to a hacking cough that I am awaiting seeing a consultant for. The body is working at about 50% but I had to get out for my mental health. I am better on my own as If I feel unwell I can go slower or come back.

My hills

I decided to go from Loch Droma and follow the pipeline track and onto the first Munro as the track gives you easy walking to the dam. I passed the we bothy by the track.

The wee howf

I had forgotten how bad the 4 by 4 track is eroded and very boggy taking you past Loch Mheagaidh and onto the steep crags of Meal A Chradaidh. What a mess and I fell in a bog on route it was awful.

The eroded track what a mess done by Estate 4 by 4 tracked vechiles. What a mess !

I met a father and daughter going fishing in the Loch. The fish were rising so I hope they had some success. I wanted to get the track walk out of the way. There was a breeze keeping the midges and flies away. I passed so many wild flowers bog Asphel, orchids and the Heather in bloom it was perfect weather for walking.

Some interesting ground .

I picked a scramble up to the summit taking care even more so as I was on my own. I passed on my route to two friends and would Text them each summit.

In the steep ground .

I was slow it had taken me 3 and a half hours to get to the summit but what views today. I could see An Teallach and all the Torridon hills and far North Stac Pollaidh and the Beinn Dearg hills. How I longed to be here.

An Teallach and Destitution road.

. It was a bit colder now and I put on long trousers and a jacket and could see all the great hills of the Fannichs.

The Geala buttress a place I climbed many years ago from a long gone bothy the Nest of Fannichs. What wild cliffs very neglected nowadays see the tiny spot of snow still there?

I spoke to my old pal now gone Blyth Wright about climbing in this Coire. He climbed here with some of his pals Phil Tranter and Ian Rowe who climbed Gamma gully in 1965 a big undertaking at the time.

The cliffs of Sgurr Nan Clach Geala from Cold climbs .

From here the bulk of Sgurr Mor dominates what a mountain. It is the highest of the 10 Munro’s of the Fannichs at 1100 metres it can be seen for miles. It has a few winter climbs on it one I did many years ago scared me as the belays were terrible made worse by an epic walk of in a white out.

Once your on the main ridge it’s superb walking you keep height but it’s still a pull up to Sgurr Mor. I had wanted to add Edin na Clach Geala but not today I was going slowly but enjoying the day. I met two runners enjoying the ridge they were looking good. Oh to be young again!

A wee rest what views!

I love the views from Sgurr Mor and it’s great to have time to enjoy them. How I missed being on these hills. Every hill means so much to me. As you get older you appreciate them more and more.

After I drank and ate I met this man running the hills we had a great chat nice to meet you Rob. We shared some great stories about these hills.

I followed the ridge looking at the cliffs on Sgurr Mor and on to my last Munro Beinn Liath Mor Fannich. The weather was still good but I could see rain coming. I was feeling okay coughing on the pull ups but it was worth the effort. Another stop at the summit more food and drink then text I was on my way off.

On last hill

The descent was hard work not much of a path dropping down to the track and then the rain came . I kept going felt the odd cleg but the wind came back and I was soon back at my wee van. Trainers off dry shoes on and rehydrate. A few texts to say I was off the hill. The trout were jumping in Loch Droma as I walked off.

The hydro pipeline.

I have pals nearby and stopped to see them at Black Bridge. I had some wonderful lentil soup and tea and headed home. I had a bath put muddy kit in washing machine and had an early night. Thanks Anne and Mark your soup was 5 star can I have the recipe please?

The body was knackered but what do yo expect at my age. Sorry for not asking pals to come with me but it’s better to be on my own just now. It poured all the way home but I was happy I had my fix of the mountains. The Fannichs are grand hills so many great memories of taking new young troops on the 10 Munro’s in the past. Some epic climbs in summer and winter and crossing these hills on my Big Walks. In winter they can be Alpine and a winter traverse was a lifetime dream and I found it so hard when I was fit. My dog Teallach loved these hills the views are exceptional. We are lucky that to me they are only a short journey from home.

Grand views all day.

Top tip – you could take a mountain bike up the track to the dam it would save a bit of time .

If walking alone let folk know of your intentions and what to do if you don’t return!!

I will retire my running shoes now soles getting worn. It was breezy on top make sure you have gear for the day. Rehydrate on way home and we’ll worth changing footwear !

Comments welcome.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Glen Nevis River Race for Lochaber MRT any memories?

Fun in the river Nevis .

The river race was held in the River Nevis on the 70’s as a fundraiser for the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team. I was a young member and attended it often participating in it once. The kit was simple and the water freezing. It was a busy day with lots watching even divers in the deep pool by the bridge in Glen Nevis. The kit was simple few had wet suits at the beginning and you got battered in the river especially if it had little water. Here are a few comments from pals.

Some Comments: Douglas Crawford “1983…airbed from woolies….lasted five mins…skinned to hell…before I took the queen’s shilling.”

John Cosgrove “Geordie Jewitt had this great idea of making and using shortened lilos, which resulted in worse leg injuries. I have no idea how no one was killed!”

Alan Dickson “Did it with geordie and he borrowed the liferafts out of a nimrod. Chief wasnt happy to get them back in shreds”

A Dickson “I did the ben race the week before then did the first river race. No wet suits just Jean’s and rugger shirts. We won the team prize 6 x bottles of whisky. 4 x squaddys thought they could do it like a channel swim. PT kit and loads of lard. The team took them all to belford hospital with hypothermia”

Debs Wright “Remember John Noakes from Blue Peter did it in the 70’s? My dad did dive cover that year.”

Steve Price “I’m still the reigning veteran champion …. they have’t run it since 😆”

Yvette Kershaw “I’ve all my dad’s certificates from this and the years either side. He kept them all in a folder which auntie Marion gave me. Right back to DofE and gliding etc.”

Mary Cosgrove “It was 1976 when John and Jim did it – unfortunately there was a heatwave and water levels in the River Nevis were really low leading to some nasty bruises.”

River Race photo Andy Craig

Anymore memories please comment. It was all for a good cause.

Posted in Charity, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

1980 – The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin.

When you read of modern achievements like Tranters Round in 9 hours most of the days we did long ago do not seem relevant. Yet they were in my view. I have always loved Torridon the rock the nearness to the sea and the vastness of the area makes my heart still skip a beat. These big days are long gone but I am over the West often and see these majestic hills in all seasons. They change every visit with the wonderful light that is on the West hitting the buttress’s and sandstone pillars on the ridges. There are also huge Corrie’s on all the hills that are rarely ventured into they have so many routes in them some awaiting an ascent.

Just heading for the Black Carls on Beinn Eighe

Never one for doing things easy we tried the Trilogy in winter first getting called of descending Liathach as the light was failing for a call out on Cruachan . I will never forget that night drive to the Police Station and a few hours sleep in the cells. We tried it again with a visiting Hong Kong Civil Aid Team but again sadly came of after Liathach.

Torridon Hills from SMC District Guides North West Highlands.

I was posted to RAF Valley in North Wales and we arrived up for 10 days in Scotland to be split in Torridon and Fort William. It was a long drive up and I remember arriving in Scotland and the weather was magic. I had sowed the seeds of a big day and as Kinloss had not done the 3 in a day we went for it.

It was an early start we left from the old village hall at 0500 and we’re on the Beinn Eighe ridge by 0700. We raced along the Black Carls and onto the first Munro . Spidean Coire Clach 993 Metres. It was a warm day and I had my dog with me the views were stunning. It was ridge walking at its best a bit of scrambling on the Black Carls then magnificent ridge walking.

Beinn Eighe at its best. The Black Carls


Ruadh-stac Mor (1010m, Munro 120) is the Second Munro on the peak I knew the route well and we were soon out and heading back to descend into Coire Dubh Mor by the steep screes. In these days you could run down them. We hammered down it and had a drink at the burn and some food then headed up onto our next peak Liathach.

Beinn Eighe

It’s so steep from the Glen floor and through a huge Boulder field then onto the ridge and the first top. The dog was ahead picking a line as we weaved through the steep grass and buttresses. The route from Coire Dubh Mhor is hard work but you pass two munro tops on route. Steve Fallon writes this about Liathach “Liathach is considered by many mountaineers as one of the greatest mountains in Scotland. It is rivalled by only An Teallach and the Skye Cuillin. Liathach has two munros, Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m) and Mullach an Rathain (1023m). These are connected by an 8km ridge (crossing eight separate tops in total). The Am Fasarinen pinnacles is Liathach’s most identifiable features. It is a notorious section of scrambling, located approximately halfway along this ridgeline. A true classic, Liathach fully deserves its reputation as one of Scotland’s best mountains.” I agree with every word he says .

Liathach

From the last Munro we descended into the Glen. It was hard work no path and water was short. There was no time to hang around we followed the dog through the sandstone terraces he was in his element. There is a worry when you hit the path it’s so easy to descend to the car park. Yet Beinn Alligin and the Horn’s beckoned. From the main path and you start the horns it clears your mind and you gain extra strength engrossed in the scrambling.

Beinn Alligin

I love this mountain it’s a joy to be on the views you get looking back and West make it special. Despite the drop in Height from the corrie floor it’s a great day. That day I felt we could do anything and we pushed on a bit dehydrated but still going strong. From the last Munro Tom Na Gruagaich the descent is easy on a clear day and we romped down the hill. Rehydrating at the river and feeling so pleased. Teallach was ahead all day what a dog but even he felt tired at the end. The Land Rover was waiting for us and we were soon heading back to the bothy at Kinlochewe. We met a group on Alligin and they asked where we had been we said the “Torridon Trilogy” unashamedly and they did not believe us.

Over the next few days 3 other parties completed our day from Valley and we sent a card to the team at Kinloss – “Torridon Trilogy done it “. Others have added more hills to the day and run it in times that make you amazed. We took just under 12 hours including walking from Kinlochewe. We travelled light but had the Team radios with us. I think I wore Karrimor lightweight boots and carried 2 water bottles and food for me and the dog.

Dave Tomkins took the photos to remind us of a great day and the other two stars had a day to remember. The quote “The mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego” They were that day I have to say. What a day in winter a classic .

A month ago I struggled up Beinn Alligin with ongoing chest problems but it was a slow but wonderful day how things change but you still get the love of the mountains !

Summit of Beinn Alligin on a slow but great day .

I would love to hear there comments 40 years later?

Looking towards Beinn Eighe and Liathach. Photo D Tomkins.
Posted in Articles, Books, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

What were your first boots for the hill ?

The famous gear Curly boots were the standard issues of RAF MR. Mine were two sizes bigger from a 7 – 9 and I wore in winter 3 pairs of socks.Curlies were incredible and what I wore for several years. Above is the Curlies boot a really light and comfortable boot in summer but very cold in winter. I wore an extra 2 sizes in winter with 3 pairs of socks. I still have cold feet thinking about them. They were wonderful for big long walking days, like the Mamores, Fannichs ridges, so comfortable and light. Crampons were heated and bent to the boots for winter in workshops and we climbed in them, things like Tower Ridge, Red Gully and various other climbs. We used them to rock climb as well and you were not allowed rock boots until you climbed at least very difficult climbs in Curlies! After two winters I bought my own boots well worth the cost and also a lot of my own gear, from jackets, crampons and clothing, I spent a lot of my wages on this great sport. Yet I kept my Curlies and did my first traverse of Scotland in May 1976 wearing them, they were soaked most days like us and the cold feet in the morning still gives me the shivers. No decent insoles and the odd nail came through but on a good summers day they were a grand pair of boots and I wore many pairs out.

My brother and sister in the footwear of the late 50’s

I could never afford boots when I started walking I used my shoes or sandals for many years. What a change it was to be given a pair of boots when I joined the the RAF Mountain Rescue. The stores was a Alladins cave of equipment all of it made for the MOD. Sadly they were not waterproof, froze up in winter and then I wore 2 pairs of Socks to keep my feet warm. There was no chance of drying them out after being on the hill on a wet day. Many Call outs were done with soaking feet. As soon as could afford a better pair of boots I did.

Curly’s

Later pairs of Curly’s where made of compressed cardboard and were useless. In the end the MOD bought some other boots like Dolomites that crippled my feet.

Nowadays we are spoiled for footwear I use running trainers nowadays on the hill in summer and good winter boots so lightweight and robust now.

Tips : Look after your feet visit a Chropodist regularly, keep your nails short and invest in good socks and looking after your feet.

John Hindes boots

This fabulous pair of boots belonged to John Hinde who, amongst many other things, spent many years in RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, several of which were as a team leader.
Made by John White’s, the Northampton boot and shoe makers, these boots were standard issue to RAF Mountain Rescue teams in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the nails in the soles fashioned to a specific RAF pattern.
Interestingly, we have another pair of RAF boots in the collection that have a different nailing pattern!
Vibram/Commando soled boots made from rubber became the norm in the world of mountaineering boots from the 1960’s, rendering this type of boots to history books and heritage collections- we are delighted to have them.

We are so lucky what was your first boots?

Posted in Articles, Equipment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | 4 Comments

New record for Tranters Round 8 hours 52 min by Finlay Wild. Amazing ! 18 Munro’s and a Munro top.

Finlay Wild has set a new Tranter’s Round record. 8 hrs 52 off the previous record held by, you guessed it, Finlay Wild.

The hills:

Mullach Nan Coirean
Stob Ban
Sgurr A Mhaim
Am Bodach
Stob Coire a`Chairn
An Gearanach
Na Gruagaichean
Binnein Mor
Binnein Beag
Sgurr Eilde Mor
Stob Ban
Stob Choire Claurigh
Stob Coire an Laoigh
Sgurr Choinnich Mhor
Aonach Beag
Aonach Mor
Carn Mor Dearg
Ben Nevis
Achriabhach Glen Nevis

Tranters Round

What is the Tranter’s Round?

Tranter’s Round is named after Philip Tranter, who first completed it in 1964. It is acclaimed as Scotland’s original 24-hour challenge, before being extended by Charlie Ramsay in 1978 to become the Ramsay Round. 

The Tranter Round extends to around 58km (36 miles) and has more than 6100m (20,000ft) of ascent taking in 18 Munros (and a Munro Top, Sgurr an Lubhair), including all of the Mamores, the Grey Corries, the Aonachs and then Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis, which is Britain’s highest mountain. The start and finish are at Glen Nevis.

To be able to achieve a feat like this is like being an Olympic athlete. The hill running world has many incredible folk both men and women. i have been lucky to meet many. There is little publicity given or wanted by hill runners but to be able to run across such an area so fast and seemingly effortlessly makes mere mortals who love the mountains appreciate this bold venture.

I did a small bit of hill running many years ago and traveling light over the mountains is an incredible feeling. You feel so different travelling light across the great ridges of Scotland.These days are long gone but see the odd runner on the hill still warms my heart. Findlays family must be so proud of his achievements.

What more can you say but well done Finlay what a man.

Further reading –

Posted in Books, Enviroment, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Looking back on the loss of two great Mountain Rescue teams RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars.

RAF Kinloss MRT leaving Doo 26 July 2012 .

I was very lucky to serve with Two great mountain Rescue Teams as a team member and a Team Leader at RAF Kinloss and Leuchars. Sadly both are gone now disbanded in 2012 and 2013 and a new Team formed at RAF Lossiemouth which is still going strong. (2022)

RAF Mountain Rescue was formed during the war to assist with crashed military aircraft and the team over the years have been involved in many such incidents. This is the hard part of RAF Mountain Rescue and a bit few know about. The current team is still involved in this task as recent events show. It is not just the recovery of aircrew but also assisting the Air Investigation Board with safety and assistance on mountain and remote aircraft sites – a job they have done superbly. There is an incredible amount of knowledge still within this task and it is good news that the RAF still have a team in Scotland at RAF Lossiemouth.

Summit of Everest 2001 Dan and Rusty.

Both RAF Kinloss and Leuchars Mountain Rescue teams have a huge history as RAF Mountain Rescue did in the early years. Many of the early Call outs RAF Teams, civilian volunteers all played their part. Many of the stories are untold. In these early days there was poor communication on the hill with searchers and gear at the best was basic. Many incidents involved huge carry off by basic stretcher, basic medical skills and of course no helicopters till the mid 60’. Most teams were made up of National servicemen who spent under 2 years on a team. Teams would get called out involving long drives and the families left at home were rarely updated where they had gone to or how long they may be away. They dealt with many tragedies and there was no well being support you just got on with the job. With National Service a few top climbers joined the teams and helped push standards. Of course there was huge learning from incidents like the Lancaster Crash on Beinn Eighe in 1951, Yet we learned from these and involved better training and equipment for teams. There were in these days no Bridges at Inverness, Skye, Glencoe or up the far North travel was slow on poor single track roads. How things have changed. There was no such thing as PTSD in these early days or “well being “ how things change slowly over the years?

Regularly the Two RAF teams would supply over 50 searchers/ rescuers on these huge Callouts. Lochaber, Glencoe and Cairngorms were the usual venues in the wildest of weathers and a lot of young troops were thrown in the cauldron of a wild Scottish winter with little experience. Meeting some of the great characters of SARDA who always impressed me with their efforts often working alone in wild weather.

It was a very testing time especially for many of the young leaders thrown into the cauldron under the watchful eye of some of Mountain Rescue finest. Many things were learned in the heat of a call-out and great advice given by legends like Hamish from Glencoe, Donald Watt Terry Cornfield and the Lochaber boys and Peter Cliff and John Allan from Cairngorms. Every area had its characters like Gerry Ackroyd from Skye and so many others. Of course there was the Glenmore Mafia as well superb mountaineers who we often worked with on the Rescue’s. Many of the Police were also heavily involved in Mountain Rescue it was a wild mix of personalities and views.

Killin had a special place on our team at Leuchars as we were there when the Essex crashed on Ben More. Sadly Team Leader Harry Lawrie was killed that night and two others badly injured. It was a tragic night but the bravery of Killin MR that night will always be with me and others

The RAF teams had to learn about all the areas that we covered and to do this we trained every weekend all over Scotland building up a knowledge of the high priority areas. It is testimony to our training that we had few accidents as you had to train for the wildest of weather as safely as possible. Fitness and navigation were a key and a trial within the team would be a fairly hard apprenticeship lasting several years. It was very hard and many fell by the wayside but those who stuck with it had the time of their lives.

Once the mountain bug hit it became all consuming and the Team became a unique life. It caused huge problems with relationships andat times without a doubt families suffered. These were in the days when we did three weekends away every month travelling all over Scotland on weekend Exercises. Add to that 20 – 30 Callouts a year, courses winter, summer, rescue, first aid the commitments were huge. I worked out for nearly nearly 20 years I was out on the mountains 120 – 150 days a year that does not include Expeditions.

Great days every new recruit to the team had to do a big hill day like the complete Mamores, the Fannichs or North and South Clunnie or other big days. Time did not matter just to show a will to hang in much needed in a Mountain Rescue life and Callouts. many happened after a big day on the hill in the wee small hours – they called it character building before the days of Health & Safety and driving hours!

Some of the movers over the years

Lots of time was spent driving at least 3 hours each way regularly more getting to all these magnificent places and gaining unique area knowledge. Great friendships were struck with many keeper, pubs village halls and many romances with the locals all over Scotland. There was the odd hostility with the local team as too many we were always changing personnel but with it came a great energy especially with newer members. At times you had to put the odd star in there place but this happens in any life and Mountain Rescue has its share of egos.

Looking back we traveled all over Scotland so much what was good and what and how various teams did their business, we were always being tested and managed not to let many down. The RAF teams were very fit and though at times lacked in local knowledge and experience many a local Mountain Rescue star got a shock. The odd statement of” give me your fastest troops” for a fast party was a red rag to bull and the troops loved it. The years of the Cold War in the military meant we kept many powerful mountaineers in the RAF many at the top of their game and a few went on to climb some of the worlds great peaks and climbs.

I was privileged to serve with RAF Leuchars and Kinloss Mrt as a team member, Team Leader and then back to Team member for over 30 years. I saw many changes, highs and lows, good days, bad days and sad days but what memories. For all the training we did we had few accidents (thank God) We trained so hard as we too for the job we did it was always difficult explains this to the powers that ruled us.

The training did shape so many lives and out of it can some exceptional people, many who the RAF were lost causes. You could write a book about this alone in the end you had people within the team at all levels who put together became a powerful team.

The word “Team Leader/ Team Building “is now a modern term for Leadership the RAF Mrt had been using the word and the ethos for over 70 years. The great thing was that despite us being in the military on the hill rank played no part at all. It was mountaineering ability and that wonderful phrase ” the mountains have no respect for rank ” is so perfect for putting a young officer or senior officer in their place.

Wessex crash Ben More

RAF Leuchars MRT closed in 2013 it had a great area and the local Glen Clova is a regular fun spot for the team, but they trained all over Scotland and still do. The Leuchars team was regularly in Glen Coe and worked so much with that legend in Mountain Rescue Hamish MacInnes, who was a great friend of the team over the years.

I was lucky as with a few others we collated all the RAF Kinloss incidents going back from 1944 sadly none of the other teams have this history. What a loss . So I look back on those who gave so much for these forgotten teams and thank them and their families for all the support over the years.

It great still to see the RAF Lossiemouth Team out and about all over Scotland. Doing the sane job as we did all these years ago and giving something back to the local community.

There were so many epic callouts to mention! What was yours?

The final words of my pal Willie MacRitchie Team Leader he sums it up so well.

“The troops never change
The equipment and gear does
The management does
The rules do.
But the hearts are still the same.
Big, caring and proud of their heritage”

RAF Kinloss no more

RAF Leuchars no more.

There is an annual Reunion at Newtonmore every November where many meet. Please get in touch if you can and maybe come along message me for details.

Thanks to all

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

“Blessed are those who repair” Potholes and eroded paths.

I have just been over in the West and despite the rain and midges it was magic I am so lucky to live in Scotland. After a great walk with the dogs we had a swim in Loch Torridon. Next day we went to see Rhythm and Reel in Applecross hall. It was a fundraiser for the upkeep of the hall. I was drinking but what a great night.

Flo in the background in the sea.

I was lucky that when I was younger we had it seemed like the whole of Scotland to ourselves. Of course it’s different now and many enjoy the wild places than ever before.

Every village had a public toilet unlike nowadays run by the Council nowadays many are shut due to lack of cash and small local communities have to take another responsibility on. It’s a changing world.

Damage to an old pathway by mountain bikes.

Guide books, blogs and a changing attitude make it so popular to be out and about. It’s been wet on the West the old tracks are vulnerable to heavy traffic and a lot of damage is done. Is there a solution? Many do there best to repair the damage but it costs time and money especially in the remote areas. It would be great seeing the bike, gear manufacture putting something back into these areas.?

It’s the same in the mountains the increase in the use of the mountains is a great think but spare a thought for those who repair the paths. Many of the paths in the West are old stalkers paths heavy footfall damages them.

My local hill Ben Rinnes has a group that looks after the hill and a wee donation box at the start. This is for the upkeep of our path and seems to work.

Many groups help in their local hills and the John Muir Trust, Scottish Mountain Trust help with various projects as do many other local folk.

Many of the Highland roads are in poor repair despite the increase in use again money is tight so be careful in your car, motorcycle or bike big potholes are about,

Deep Pothoke on the Coast road of the NC 500

So spare a thought for these places enjoy the wild and let’s try to leave something for future generations.

It was great to see that the Machair near the sea at Applecross is looking great the flowers are back since the area employed a ranger. The wild flowers are back and it looks great. Please help the local communities by using their facilities / campsites and giving something back to the area.

Islay and Flo photo Kalie.

As always comments are welcome but please be aware of other folks views and keep it civil.

Wild camping take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints.
Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Local area and events to see, Media, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Plants, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 3 Comments

New Bristows Helicopter contract means a base at Fort William from April – September 12 hrs a day.

The following is from the Scottish Mountain Rescue Facebook page:

“Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) welcomes the announcement by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that the contract for the UK Second-Generation Search and Rescue Aviation programme – known as UKSAR2G – has been awarded to Bristow Group.

Scottish Mountain Rescue, on behalf of the teams it represents, looks forward to continued joint working with Bristow Helicopters Ltd, who are the existing provider of rotary search and rescue aircraft in Scotland.

Also welcome is the announcement that seasonal search and rescue (SAR) helicopter bases will be opened in Carlisle and Fort William. This additional capability will increase the operational capacity of the search and rescue service provided by the MCA in the North West and South of Scotland and will relieve some of the pressures on the existing Prestwick base, which is the UK’s busiest in terms of SAR helicopter operations.

Damon Powell, SMR Chair said “Scottish Mountain Rescue are delighted that the significant engagement we have had with both MCA and Bristow Helicopters Ltd over the lifecycle of the existing SAR-H contract has led to these very positive enhancements in this new second generation contract. These positive changes to SAR aviation capability will be a significant benefit to those undertaking outdoor activities in Scotland.”

I am sure that will be a great addition to SAR in Scotland and to all the folk in the area.

Comments welcome. Jim Fraser “Fort William is part of the poorest-served area on the 2013 Bristow surge map and that is one of the shortcomings of the current SAR network (based on the 2011 10-base solution) that I have been highlighting for years. Much fuss is being made of the part-time Fort William facility but actually, across Scotland, the biggest change is the part-time Carlisle facility which takes huge workload pressure off Rescue 199 with a subsequent step up in availability across a large swathe of southern Scotland.A facility equating to about half of normal Bristow SAR base is expected to be built at Carr’s Corner. This is currently still nearly four years away. Night cover will still be principally from Inverness.How far this goes towards solving the question of HLS for other public safety helicopters at Fort William remains to be seen!Don’t annoy Bristow ops staff about any of this yet because they have yet to get the full brief from the bid team and senior management. It is an important part of a fair bid process that these functions have separation within the incumbent contractors organisation.”

Photo credit Assynt MRT
Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Well being | 10 Comments

Would you advise wearing a helmet when scrambling?

When I was with the RAF Mountain Rescue looking back I am sure when we went scrambling we wore helmets. This was as we had you carry them anyway on case we were airlifted to a Rescue. On many searches it was wise if there was a chance of a fall on steep ground we wore helmets. In places like Skye due to loose rock to me they were essential.

After getting down

Nowadays I still wear a helmet if out on a scramble. A few years ago I was with pals on the Dubhs Ridge in Skye during a heatwave.

“It was a perfect day in Skye one in a million and the forecast was exceptional. We had set of early about 0500 and enjoyed the first bit of the day. We were already hot and had a great break after completing the first part of the route.. It is easy to sit and admire the views especially when it is so hot, my water was down to 1 litre and we had a long way to go. I grabbed a drink and headed up. The two boys ahead were about 40 feet above us when I heard a shout of below and a rock flashed by me and hit another of the party on the head, it was a scary moment. Within seconds he had a huge bump like an egg on his head and was shaken but fully conscious. I got down and was very worried when I saw the damage. There was no other option but to get down as quickly as possible and luckily there was a steep grass ramp taking us into the Corrie. I had been done it before so in good weather it was fine.

The Dubhs

The other two wanted to come down with us but we thought that we three could cope. We were in a remote area and no communications were possible apart from the emergency text service ) We were pretty experienced so managed the situation, you can take little chance with a head injury. We monitored him all the way down and stopped at the streams to keep the bandage wet and the swelling down. It took 3 hours to get off and we were glad to see the Loch Coruisk. Our patient was feeling okay (as hard as nails) and soon was down in the river cooling off. He went for a check up later and was a bit of a celebrity on the boat back. How stupid were we that day not wearing helmets after 40 years in the mountains we had made a silly mistake. Looking back we were extremely lucky.

Another lesson taught to us all it could have been so much worse. What are your thoughts?

A great guide to the ridge

Some comments more welcome :

Years ago when I was younger probably not but now I do quite often things dislodged from above so a helmet is sensible maybe age and experience helps. Kirsty

Bruce – Personally yes, especially so when in a group, or if it’s busy – a couple of weeks ago I made my group wear helmets on the scrambling section of Mt Olympus, basically in case some ‘Malaka’ (as they call them in Greece) knocked something down on top of us.

Glen – Depends although mostly yes. Maybe not on Crib Goch or CMD arete, maybe yes on Fiacaill Ridge, Aonach Eagach. Definitely on Curved Ridge, Castle Ridge, Pinnacle Ridge. I also work on scrambling routes and always helmets in that case inc. An Teallach, Liathach…Just my tuppence worth.

Maybe a sign of age (or maybe experience) but these days, find the helmet is on early and off late. Recently been in Colorado and helmets are totally normalised for scrambling (more to do with rockfall than falling off granted). Graham K

Posted in Islands, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

A few Great words – sayings from the mystic world of RAF Mountain Rescue.

Drooge- a really slow tired person on the hill. Hence you were a drooge. – Has Oldham, Tom Taylor and Al Haveron.

Scran – Scran · Naval slang for food originating from a dish used to stop scurvey – Sultanas Currants Raisans And Nuts. Used by RAF MR as a term for food mainly chocolate.

“That day was character building” end of a long day. Anon

“Bomb” to run up the hill very fast “ hence the quote I was bombed into the deck” It has a double meaning:

Bomb – the early Hydro burner used for cooking it used petrol and was very dangerous in a tent.

“Pecking order” – “There’s a pecking order and you don’t have a beak” Keeping the new troops in order.

“It’s dark should we not be off the hill” answer get your torch out your out all night.

“Just follow Teallach he knows where he is going” said during a Callout in a white out on the Cairngorm plateau.

“ See that hill in the distance, it’s no where near our last hill of the day” Anon

Route finding – “straight on up English” Anon

“There’s no belay here just climb through and don’t fall off “ Mark Sinclair on Hadrians Wall.

“You could take your granny up here” I think said to team members when a bit scared on a climb. – Pete McGowan

“Moving together if you get it wrong is dying together”

One of the young troops to Dave Cuthbertson “have you done much climbing” “ a little said Cubby”

“I am not going any further you got me here get me down” a troop scared on the Rock in Glen Clova.

Poley poley – Pole Pole (pronounced poley poley): You will hear this about 200 times a day on your Kilimanjaro climb. It means ‘slowly-slowly’ and this is the best piece of advice you can get when climbing Kili – or any hill.

“There’s no rank on the hill “- told to many officers of various ranks. “The mountains have no respect for rank “ The late George Bruce to a Senior officer who forgot his rucksack and was told to go back and get it.

“To rest is not to conquer but to rest is nice” stolen and adapted from a famous quote.

Never trust an RAF aircrew Navigator. They get you lost.

“The old Albatross snag” one of the great words from Kas Taylor ex Team Leader if a problem occurred.

“The mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego “ a classic even more so now in the days of Strava and the media.

On a career write up. “This man head is always in the clouds. If he put a quarter of his effort into his primary task that he does in the mountains he could be a very fine tradesman “ my first write up by a plonker

“The old ploy” covers many facets of mountaineering.

Comments and other words as always welcome.

Pete’s Granny

A few more H. Ville – as an adjunct at the end of a word. Coined by someone on an early trip to the Alps who noticed that every French town had “ville” at the end. Need not apply to a place e.g. honking becomes honksville (unpleasant). Racing snake – a very fit troop, often can’t navigate… PL just points them in the right direction and lets them off the leash. Taxi/chopper – helicopter of course, but for some reason the press don’t like the word “chopper” so call it a “copter” (weird). Chopping wood – a troop having a weekend back at base to spend time with the wife, fiancee, girlfriend, WRAF from the Medical Centre (i.e. using his copter). Plating – the act of not going on the hill in poor weather. A plater can often be found buying new kit in Nevisport or eating cakes and drinking coffee in a cafe. Social member – a troop who’s hours are usually between 2000 and 0400. Good at ad hoc curries, talks loudly in the early hours… as opposed to other types of troop such as, the selfish climber and the bagger. Bagger – a former stamp collector who now collects Munro’s… graduates to become a corbeteer. Corbeteer – a bagger with a fat belly. Snooked troop – tired troop or a troop who has had an accident on the hill. Loon – Scottish troop, often a youngster. Cat 5 – code for a deceased person found on the hill. Originates from an old engineering category for scrap. Compromised and banned by the suits. Suits – boss men who visit once a year, usually to be found in Southshire. Southshire – anywhere south of Hadrian’s Wall. Stake out – not a police undercover operation, but the worst punishment ever. A bit like being hung, drawn and quartered in the Middle Ages, without the evisceration. Banned by the suits. Nigel Kennworthy.

Mark H –

Glitch: minor upset to a plan

Ricky, dinky do from Jonny the Wop: OK

Bit of a snag: plans are falling apart

Up up, always up: Ben Starav

Better dead than chicken: if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

You don’t have to get to the top to reach your summit.

Cruised it: effortlessly passing a crux.

Posted in Friends, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Bird Flu – very sad to see.

Sadly the effects of Bird Flu are all over the place, my local beaches sadly have many birds washed up. I was walking a few weeks ago when I met a dog owner whose dog was carrying a Dead Sea bird in its mouth. She had no clue about Bird flu and went on her way with the dog still carrying the bird!

Recently was in Saint Kilda and the Ranger told me how it was rife among the sea birds. It’s tragic to see so many birds effected.

Hi Heavy, it’s so sad. Here’s the advice from RSPB Scotland: “Firstly, do not touch any sick or dead birds. If you find any dead waterfowl (swans, ducks, geese), any gulls, seabirds, birds of prey or five or more of any other species in one place please report them to Defra on 03459 335577 or in Northern Ireland to DAERA on 0300 200 7840.”

Charlie MacLeod – It’s so sad at the moment…counted 60. + dead on the beach here recently…can’t take the dogs anywhere near a beach at present. Seeing multiple dead or dying birds every time we are out on the cliffs as well…it is a disaster here!!!

Apart from that there’s little that we as individuals can do. I would strongly recommend keeping dogs away from beaches where they are washing up as there have been reports of this disease jumping across species to foxes and seals. A risk to dogs and humans cannot be ruled out. Lucy Wallace

Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred

Posted in Articles, Islands, Local area and events to see, People, Wildlife | Leave a comment

New Guide book Highland Scrambles North. Another gem from the Scottish Mountain Trust.

It’s great to see another superb guide out. For years when I was starting climbing/ scrambling you had to trawl through the SMC District Guides to find so many different ways and scrambles up the Hills. This was especially true as not many went to the North apart from a few diehard mountaineers. Nowadays it’s all there for you to enjoy and on many of these climbs will have had few ascents. A few of our older team members new some of these hidden gems.

Highland Scrambles North.

There are so many classic photos but one that caught my eye was on the Island of Rum. What a route and the description of the climb is just wonderful. 🥲 The Narnia Arête “One of the best easy climbs on the country, sustained and exposed but on amazing holds” Another description Harker described the rock (peridotite as “perhaps the best rock for climbing in the world.

Highland Scrambles North has landed and is now available to order direct from our site! ✨

With 200 routes (including more than a few shiny brand new ones to explore), high-resolution photo diagrams and beautifully rendered maps for greater clarity and accessibility, this updated guide will have you discovering every nook and cranny of the northern Highlands this summer.

The book is suitable for avid hillwalkers and climbers alike with journeys ranging from straightforward ridges to technical, committing adventures.

I wish I was 20 years younger but would so love to climb some of these routes. Look at the areas covered. Some of the finest mountains in Scotland.

Scottish Mountaineering Trust

We are a Scottish charity that provides grants to projects and organisations that promote public recreation, knowledge and safe enjoyment of the mountains, especially in the mountains of Scotland. Any profit from these guide books is well used by the Scottish Mountain Trust of which I was a trustee many years ago.

The Scottish Mountain Trust supports:

  • Publication of guides to, and information about the Scottish mountains
  • Footpath construction and maintenance
  • Land purchases that ensure public access
  • Mountaineering education and training, especially that aimed at young people
  • Mountain rescue teams and organisations, for equipment and facilities
  • Renovation of club huts available to the wider mountaineering community
  • Expeditions with educational or scientific objectives aligned with those of the Trust

Our work is financed by donations from individuals and organisations who share our values, and from the publication of guidebooks for the Scottish Mountaineering Club and other books connected with the Scottish Hills.

SMT Diamond Grant 

A 60th birthday present – £100,000 to help people enjoy the Scottish mountains

For its 60th birthday next year, the Scottish Mountaineering Trust is offering a ‘Diamond Grant‘ of up to £100,000, to a project that helps more people to experience and enjoy the mountains, especially in Scotland.

Chairman Simon Richardson explained: ‘We want the Diamond award to be not just a grant, but also a legacy, giving enduring benefits to the people who enjoy our mountain. We’re hoping to hear from projects that are really distinctive, that break fresh ground.’

‘ The Diamond Grant is , we believe, the biggest single grant ever made by a charity to Scottish mountaineering and we’re looking for something really special. We’re open to all ideas.’

Those interested in applying for the grant can find more information and the Application form Apply for the DIAMOND grant

Posted in Books, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Skye classics – White Slab Direct Coire A Ghrunda a forgotten route?

I was asked for some advice on routes to do in Skye. To me there are so many but one day that sticks in my mind is this classic. Myself and wee Jock Cameron were over on Skye for a bit of climbing, we did the long walk into Coire a Ghrunda and then dropped into the sun after climbing White Slab . I still wonder how Teallach followed us down. The sun was now on Stron na Ciche.

Jock a Glaswegian hated walking and moaned the whole way in but once at the cliff had his fag he became a new man, I love the walk into the Coire and the huge Broiler plate slabs that make the place seem primeval. Yet you can lose your way coming off in a wild day in the mist and rain. There was plenty of water and we drank a lot on the way up with the view of Rum on this far side of the Cuillin.

“You know Alf, going to the right place at the right time, with the right people are all that really matters.
What one does is purely incidental.”

Colin Kirkus to Alf Bridge on the summit of Sgurr Alasdair.

South Crag, Sron Na Ciche, Coir’ A’ Gr

White Slab Direct 180 metres Severe. Three stars .

Myself and Teallach at White Slab.

180m, 6 pitches. Easy start, then slightly tricky traverse across short slab; then easy upwards to base of white slab. Up middle of White Slab, then rightwards out to arete -exposed with little protection. Easy finish up chimney.

Jock on White Slab

My dog Teallach sunbathed and followed us at times on the day. I was amazed to see him on the top of White Slab. Jock was a grand wee climber we had so many great climbs together. Every day was fun that day that was, he smoked all the time, I remember of the crux he left a light fag on the key hold laughing at me. I wonder where he is now? Look at the weather early May no midges no crowds and incredible memories. I wonder how many climb in this corrie nowadays ?

From the ridge we descended down to the Cioch but that’s another story.

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Skye – The Classic Dubhs ridge one of Scotlands finest days.

Said Maylard to Solly one day in Glenbrittle,

All serious climbing, I vote is a bore,

Just for once, I Dubh Beag you’ll agree to do little,

And, as less we can’t do, let’s go straight to Dubh Mhor,

So now when they seek but a days relaxation,

With no thought in the world but of viewing the views,

And regarding the mountains in mute adoration,

They call it not climbing but “Doing The Dubhs”

To me it’s one of the best mountaineering days in Scotland is the “Dubhs Ridge” in Skye. I am very lucky to have done this route on several occasions over 15 times. It is on most mountaineers tick list and a must do I feel.

This route starts at the shore of Loch Coruisk and follows the East Ridge of Sgurr Dubh Beag from sea level for nearly 3000 feet up boiler-plated slabs to the summit, where an exciting abseil down West face leads to the main ridge and one of the finest hills in Scotland, Sgurr Dubh Mor.

Brilliant friction on the slabs

Many years ago i had been in the Falklands for four months, I was happy to find on my first weekend back RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team were on Skye for the August Grant. 

Our new Team Leader Dan had just returned from Pakistan and the successful ascent of Gasherbrum 1 an 8000 metre peak.  He wanted everyone on the ridge and long days were the order!  You can’t argue with a Himalayan Hero! 

My fitness was not so good so I grabbed one of the new troops, to carry a rope, and set off to “Do The Dubhs”

The tradition in the team ensures you start from the Youth Hostel at Glenbrittle to the summit of Sgurr Na Bannadich then you drop down the Coruisk side off the ridge to sea-level. Then it’s compulsory to have  a swim in the Loch and up to the Dubhs, a long 10-12 hours just what you need. 

The team had a joint exercise with RAF Stafford and the Giant “Big Kev” who was with them wanted to come with us. 

Now he is HUGE!!  Eight feet tall and size 15 feet!!  His stride is massive and he was in those days very, very fit. 

He was instructed not to rush in front and to take it easy.

Well the day began well, even the long drag up the main ridge and on to Beallach Na Bannadich was easy, with Bob talking the whole way.  We did it in under two hours, the weather was magnificent.

Then we dropped down into the magnificent Coruisk, and we only saw one other party, Scotland at it’s best. 

The descent to Couruisk is fairly easy and we were soon at the Loch, again tradition states you must swim in the Loch, so in we went, what a great day!  Crystal clear water and not too cold, Bob told us he was an ex-channel swimmer and we spent nearly one hour enjoying the sun, and listening to Bob.

The weather forecast had promised thunder for late evening so reluctantly we wandered on. 

From the Loch can see the Ridge which starts more or less straight from the Loch, it is a marvellous sight and our new man Bob was suitably impressed, despite being back to sea-level. 

Now Bob amongst other things is a photographer by trade, and as he was in the most impressive part of Scotland, you would have expected him to bring a camera, but he didn’t!

Lucky I did.  You can follow any line up the slabs and the “Giant” who is now a recently qualified Team Leader and just been on a rock climbing course started up the steepest part with limited holds, even for him it was hard, and he was soon following the “old man” up an easier line.

The Guide book

States:

“apart from the initial trouble in climbing a ridge, one may proceed unroped up broad acres of boiler-plated slabs, whose rock is the roughest gabbro in all the Cullin

Scrambling, (easy rock-climbing without a rope), I stressed where it’s easier to die, and to satisfy our Lords and masters team members must wear a helmet. 

As the great WH Murray stated “apart from the initial trouble in climbing a ridge, one may proceed unroped up broad acres of boiler-plated slabs, whose rock is the roughest gabbro in all the Cullin.”  In other words, it is so rough and reliable that only the grossest negligence could bring a man to harm.  (Don’t tell the troops that). 

Bob was impressed and soon was enjoying the rock, under the Eagle eyes of the Giant, who now realises the paperwork involved in a troop falling off!  The “Old Man” was taking the photos which could be used in the event of an enquiry.  Giant was revelling in his new responsibility and the rock was warm and dries the views magnificent.  Our men Bob was going well but slowing down and he had stopped talking!, which made a pleasant change.  We had a few stops on the way and all to soon reached the top of Sgurr Dubh Beag, ready for the abseil.  Our man Bob was trying to get his training book signed up, but due to the storm clouds above poor Bob, did not get set up to abseil. 

Abb from Dubhs.

Lucky for him as the rope got stuck on a loose flake on the way down and it took loads of cursing and blood to free.  Our Bob was impressed when his turn to abseil came and saw blood everywhere, but he did cope.

Descent a bit tricky from the Abb

A big peel of thunder rang out and the hairs on our heads started sticking up, time to go!  If you have read where not to be when thunder and lightning are about, this is it.  Keep calm and get off as quick as possible, now the descent from this hill is not recommended. 

A descent in the late forties described it as one of the most serious mountaineering descents in Scotland! Not advised even for a man of Giants ability.

The Giant wanted us to wait for the storm to pass, which I vetoed as it was like being next to a lightening conductor!  He was sent off ahead to find the way off and to conduct “any lightening”. Bob said little, by now it was pouring with rain and rivers were running down the slabs making life worse, but the giant did his stuff and one wee abseil and two hours later we were running down the slabs making life worse, two hours later we were on the ground.  The radio was dead as all the troops had fled the hill at the first peel of thunder and we were on our own for miles away from anywhere.  Being old I remembered doing a similar walk out over twenty years before and it was hell. 

How do we tell Bob that the only way back is round by Coruisk to Glenbrittle a walk to remember?  It does not look that bad on the map but there is no path for eight kilometres.  We stumbled up and down heather and ferns and fell over holes for hour and hours.  I was on my last legs at this point, but being led by the Giant, my hero. 

Eventually we hit a good path and passed Corrie A Grunda and followed the mud into Glen Brittle, it was 23.30, the troops were waiting and they had a good laugh at the state of us, a good meal and a joint decision to hand in our kit, but why make them happy! Bob had told us he was a marathon runner but that was his hardest day ever.

A month later we were back in action, carrying a civilian walker, who had spent two nights on the ridge with a broken ankle near Dubh Ridge off the hill. 

Thank god for those heroes of the Sea King of 202 Sqn who saved a massive walk-out?  The weather was awful and we could have had to walk out by Coruisk.

A few years ago  I was back and we never wore our helmets ( it was so hot) a rock hit one of our party and how he was not killed I will never know. That’s a tale I told on my blog.

Always wear a helmet on Skye, we were lucky and nearly  spoiled one of the best days of my life.

There is no fool, like an old fool!!

That day one person was killed on the hills by lightening, nature takes no prisoners so be aware if lightening forecast do not be on a tight sharp ridge!

Summary –Staying safe

• Stay off ridges & summits, and away from single trees.

• Walls can be protective but keep more than 1m away.

• All metal objects (karabiners, crampons, ice-axe, ski poles, etc) should be stored safely.

• Move quickly away from wire ropes & iron ladders.

• Lightning currents can travel along wet ropes.

• Crouch immediately if there is a sensation of hair “standing on end”.

• Crackling noises or a visible glow indicate imminent lightning strike.

• Airborne helicopters can be struck.

Prevention of problems

• Check weather forecast.

• Seek shelter as soon as hear thunder. Don’t wait until you see the lightning.

• Lightning can travel 10 miles in front of storm clouds. 10% strikes occur when blue sky is visible.

• A storm can travel at 25 mph.

• Most common time for injuries are before the storm or at the apparent end of the storm.

• 30-30 rule

• Danger of being struck is when flash to thunder time less than 30 seconds (approximately 10 km away).

• Don’t climb for 30 minutes after last thunder & seeing last lightning.NO PLACE OUTSIDE IS SAFE DURING LIGHTNING –AVOID THESE:

• Small, open huts, caves & overhangs (increase risk from side flashes).

• Sheltering under small outcrop or overhang may increase risk of injury, as lightning that has hit a hill literally “drips” onto the person with the rain as it arcs over the ground.

• Water or wet stream beds.

• Near the tallest structure in the area e.g. single tree.

• Tents not protective (metal tent poles act as lightning rods).

• Stay away from high ground (ridges and summits).

• Power lines

• Ski lifts

• Metal objects

• Stay safe!

SKYE – We who have been go again, and again advise you to go, you will not be disappointed.

A great guide book.

My friend Adrain Trednall a local guide has a written a wonderful insight to the ridge and it’s secrets. How I could have done with this in the 70’s.

Many now go into the Dubhs by boat from Elgol it makes life a lot easier. You can also try to book the Couruisk Hut run by the JMCS I have spent nights here.

Elgol Boat what a view.

Coruisk despite its popularity is a wonderful place. It’s so atmospheric with the water dark black ridges and ever changing weather. To me it’s a primeval place of wild beauty. There is no where else in any weather to see this place when the rain pours down the cliffs and crags. On a sunny day after a swim in the Loch then climbing on the hot slabs it is unique and a big part of my life.

It was made famous by Danny MacAskill and his video on the ridge made it world famous.

Comments welcome .

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

Hillwalking in the heat! Some tips.

Over the years I was very lucky to learn about walking in the heat during my time in Desert Rescue in Masirah in the Persian Gulf. Nothing can compare with the Temperatures out there are incredible and it took a lot to learn to walk or work in that heat. I was off loading planes and ships out in the open and it took some getting used to. We knew very little about heat stroke or exhaustion but carried lots of water on the hill and fruit in tins !

Masirah how not to dress / see water container.

Average Weather at Masirah

The hot season lasts for 2.3 months, from 17 April to 26 June, with an average daily high temperature above 33°C. The hottest day of the year is 13 May, with an average high of 35°C and low of 27°C

The cool season lasts for 2.6 months, from 8 December to 26 February, with an average daily high temperature below 28°C. The coldest day of the year is 16 January, with an average low of 20°C and high of 26°C.

At the end of the weekend with the desert rescue you could lose a lot of weight and looking back it was a huge learning curb.

Some tips that worked for me:

Drink plenty of fluid before you go! We had a saying drink like a camel.

Wear a head covering hat etc and I always covered my neck with a “bandana” that I would wet whenever possible.

Go slower, drink a little and often and in your water use an additive electrolytes to replace salts etc lost by sweating.

Check the colour of your urine when you can. The darker the more dehydrated you are.

Wear comfortable clothing carry long sleeved shirt trousers and have your breaks when possible in the shade. Also if there’s a breeze on the summit use it to cool down.

Top up your fluid from the rivers and burns whenever possible.

Use sun screen often and replace on the hill it’s easy to sweat of!

Skin cancer is serious and I wish we knew had known about it when I was working in the early 70’s. I have lost several pals due to skin cancer.

Sunglasses are essential look after your eyeless

When travelling back home in car rehydrate and replace lost fluid. Keep an eye on folk in your group for heat exhaustion/heatstroke it can be a killer, there is little water high up just now so ensure you carry enough.

Comments welcome :

Paul / “It’s easy to get caught out despite being supposedly experienced. I very nearly crossed the boundary the other day. The walk in was hot and I struggled to get enough fluid onboard. Limited water above 450m meant that I pushed a bit too much to get the day done which pushed me closer to heat stroke. I knew it was happening but foolishly felt it was still in my control”

Paul “the days when I’d carry 2 or 3 litres of water are long gone. I carry a litre now and rely on the hill to provide. I’ll be more careful in future. Arran looks fab, I’ll have to revisit some day” David Whalley of course. Us sensible people are also dafties. I’ve never done the central knoydart hills and I think I underestimated how much the walk-in takes out of you. 7 miles and 600m ascent. Even experienced you get to a point where luck is not on your side but I tried to rationalise my day even when I knew I’d maybe pushed it a bit far. I think the big point is, when you’re initially dehydrated, water is your primary concern so you forget to eat and get energy onboard which compounds the problem. You can also make nav judgements and errors because of this. Luckily I wasn’t at that point. It was still hard to force food and drink down me when I had the opportunity though. We are strange beasts.

Robin / Ogwen Valley MRT have just been to a heat stroke on Carneddau Dafydd. Man doing the 14/15 peaks, low on water …I got close in the desert a few years ago. The answer was to have a good dose of electrolytes first thing and that helped in 40c plus temperatures.

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1976 North to South a look back in time. Ben Hope to Ben Lomond a walk on the wild side at times.

I have not got out much this winter but this is a look back when I did.

Where were you 42 years ago in 1976 we had a plan, we used our leave for the full year nearly ? We lived on packet soup, porridge and some compo rations.

1976 North – South getting tired

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

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.

A long drive up to Tongue in the far North of Scotland the night before it took 4 hours and then we were dropped off at Ben Hope the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland. The ascent was from North of the Broch of Dun Dornagil.

In 1976 the Ben Hope path was not as it is today a big path but an easy ascent by small waterfall and then along the fine ridge with its big cliffs to the West. It has great viewpoints and its splendid isolation makes it a lovely peak to climb. Today was not for hanging around as one does the weather was fine and though we carried 4 days food in our sacks we still carried all the up and down?  The views are great the magic Ben Loyal looks and is a great day out and the landscape is wild in every aspect, the views to the sea and the huge moors make this a place to stop and drink it all in.  In these days we must have been daft and it was rush, rush rush.  I was lucky enough to enjoy this peak on many occasions and even to run up this peak several times along with other peaks all in one day. I also climbed this peak by various ways including by a gully in winter on the big cliffs and great ways up but not easy access  a bit of a walk in and the a grand but serious scramble from the North a long walk in that gives a different aspect to this fine peak. You can miss the scramble by a gully but it is still a grand outing and worthy of an ascent? There was I notes much winter climbing potential here!

We had no idea what we were taking on this was our first walk, we were very fit and wanted no support on the walk. We had set up food caches in lodges and bothies and were carrying very basic gear as this was 1976. The maps were inch to the mile and pretty basic in these days. From here we were heading to Merkland Lodge via the Corbett Ben Hee ( the fairy hill) After  Ben More it was along the road and along the Estate Road past some incredible places and names Gobernuisgach Lodge and then on to Beleach Nam Meirleach the robbers path and onto Ben Hee an amazing hill with some big cliffs worth having a look at. This would be great mountain bike ground today as the road cuts across some wild places. It was rough walking I bet there is a good path now but we were soon on the top and the weather was fine it was then down to the Lodge at West Merkland to see the keeper who met us with a big dram and a great bothy an enjoyable day and despite the hill bag weight about 40 lbs it was not too bad. We were all going fine and had and enjoyed a great introduction. We took our time it was about 8 hours there was no rush! Tomorrow was another day.

The day’s distance was 21 miles and 5437 feet of ascent,  1 Munro climbed

Day 2 May 10 th 1976

It was all a huge adventure for us; we had never appreciated the distances into the mountain or the unusual aspects that we would have to climb the hills. We left Merkland  Lodge by 0700 there was plenty of day light it was May and wandered down the A838 past Loch Merkland and down a few miles to the top of Loch Shin and then follow a hydro road into the wilds. All the time we could see Conival and the huge massive of Ben More Assynt in the distance. After we left the track it seined endless we hit the purgatory sloped for about two hours to eventually reach the Summit ridge of Ben More Assynt. It was a great day and the views of the moonscape Assynt of the great hills and the sea were incredible, how I was to love this place and spend a lot of time here on the nearby Aeroplane Flats where a plane and crew had crashed in 1941 and are buried on site, what a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives for us and how many visit this remote grave?  It was along the narrow ridge of broken Quartzite blocks (interesting in winter) to the days second Munro Conival . From here we could make out our route and our next objective Seanna Bhraigh and the Loch Coire Mor bothy. We were heading for Ben More Lodge hidden in the back of Loch Ailish for the night and had a great scramble down the short ridge to Dubh Loch a place of remoteness and beauty. On the way we spotted several gullies still holding lots of snow on the other side of the Coire and the possibility of good gullies still holding lots of snow on the other side of the Coire and the possibility of good climbing in a scenic area. I was taking note for future trips to this area and wonder how many visit this coire and see its hidden beauty. There were vast herds of deer moving around and so much other wild life, spring was in the air and the winter was leaving but the hills would still hold their winter coats for a few more weeks.   It was a wet glen walk as the hills were shedding there snow in the May sun but we were soon on the track and then the Estate road to Ben More Lodge and again great hospitality from the keeper who was glad to see us after a long winter. He asked us where the deer were and we were rewarded by a huge dram again as the Keepers phone from Merkland had said we enjoyed a dram after the hill. It was incredible hospitality again and we were soon in the bothy sorting out our meal and then an early night.

Today’s distance was only 17 miles and 4478 feet of ascent. Total Munros 2

Grand Total 3 Munros

Looking back much was on tracks and hard ground onto the hill, we were feeling great and this walk was going well.

Day 3 May 11 – Ben More Lodge – Loch Coire Mhor bothy

This was the only day planned to purely road walk and it was along trail down to Oykel Bridge and then follows the forestry and estate road into Corriemulzie Lodge huge open moorland. In these days there were few cars and we had an easy walk to the hotel and very upmarket place for the famous fishing on the river Okyel.

From here it was head down and into the wilds the weather was again special and after Corriemunzie Lodge the track along Strath Mulzie and into Loch Corrie Mor and our bothy for the night below the impressive Luchd Coire and the ridge leading to Creag Duine looking so impressive. The view changes as you get closer and the 5 kilometres of cliffs are rarely seen by the Munro baggers from the West. I love this place and its history the Coire Mor bothy and the Corriemunzie Club for many years climbed these huge cliffs in winter and many are rarely visited or climbed. This is a true remote place and to see it at the end of winter with the great rim of cliffs above a featureless plateau is so impressive.

I had our first food cache hidden here and it was in good nick and we soon had a wee fire and a meal and then enjoyed the ambience of this place. All the greats of this club had spent many nights in this tiny bothy and though Spartan I revealed in its history and even had a simple guide of the time to pick out the lines on the cliffs. I would visit this again and run a winter 4 day trip a few years later. I was outside enjoying the view until late, more herds of deer were around we had seen no one on the hill after three days and tomorrow we would hit the big hills right outside our door. We had a big day planned 5 Munros in a wild area and the weather were changing.

Today’s distance 21 Miles and 1400 feet.

No Munros – Grand Total 3

1976 Copy of N – South walk Strath Okyel Jim Heavy – pain was yet to come!

Day 4 May 12

The night was spent in the bothy at Loch Coire Mhor below the great cliffs of Seanna Bhraigh a wild place. This was day 4 of a walk from the North of Scotland from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond in the South by three young members of the RAF Kinloss MRT. We were staying in bothies where possible and carried our gear and food with us using pre placed food caches every 3- 4 days. It was a trip into the wild with basic maps one inch to the mile and simple hill kit. It was May 1976.

It is a great way to start a day right in amongst the hills and the bothy at Loch Coire Mhoir is the place to be. Outside is the incredible ridge of An Sgurr onto the steep narrow Creag an Duine Ridge interesting way up onto the summit plateau of the huge Luchd Corrie and the summit of Seanna Bhraigh.

This is where the famous Corriemulizie Club mainly from St Andrews University who produced a guide to the area in 1966.  I was to lead a trip for 5 days in 1981 to climb here an amazing trip but that was in the future. It is still an area rarely visited and I enjoyed the wildness of these huge cliffs.  From here the weather changed and it snowed and it is a long way to the next Munro Eididh nan Clach Geala this is really remote and challenging area where navigation has to be on the ball.  There are some secret cliffs in this area and many I have still not visited. I was so looking forward to seeing the remote Coire Ghranda and I was to snow- hole on the beleach years later after a wonderful climb in this remote Corrie.

The main cliff of Beinn Dearg and the normal approach up Gleann na Squaib most go for the classic Emerald Gully a real tick in the old days but in later years I was to have some wild days on Penguin Gully and other climbs of a modest standard nowadays. These   were climbed by such great talents of Scottish Winter climbing like Tom Patey, Bill Murray and Norman Tennant some of the greatest climbers of the pre and post war eras . The hills are hard work and in the weather we had tricky there were few paths and by now the snow had covered them one we went to Meall nan Ceapraichean and out to Cona ‘ Mheall and then in white out up to Beinn Dearg our last Munro of the day. It was very tricky finding the top as there was still plenty of snow about and big cliffs to be aware off.   From here it was a tricky descent still lots of snow very hard in places. It was very steep and into a very wet glen walk to Loch Droma bothy a very simple broken down hut by the A 835, where we managed to get a small fire going and our wet clothes off. We soon ate and were in our beds early everything was soaked and we were off to the big hills of the Fannichs tomorrow another huge day, with wet gear.    I went up to the house to mention we had arrived but no joy, so we just got on with our night meeting no one again. We had spent a whole day of the hill helping making the track up to the house for the Very Senior retired RAF Officer the year before who owned the house. I remember it well and spoke my mind about it at the time but was only a young lad.  It was a tricky day with long spells of hard navigation this was not a place to underestimate in bad weather and we were walking into a wind from the summit plateau only getting a break in snow covered peat hags, We saw few footprints until Beinn Dearg this is a lonely place to be and never easy in bad weather.  It was a wild night in the bothy and the snow and rain fell most of the night, it was damp and wet and I could not wait for morning to come. The Deer were down at the wee bothy all night and on the road after the salt and shelter it was a night to be in!

Distance 16 miles and Height 6599 feet. 5 Munros – Grand Total – 8 Munros

1976 walk Heavy Jim Tired – there was a lot more to come!
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A past visit / One incredible day on Garbh Bheinn in a heatwave to Ardgour visiting Alan Grouts (RIP) Memorial.k

I try to publish this piece every year. It is about the tragic loss of a young man whilst out training with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. Alan was killed in 1956 and I can only imagine as a Team Leader of then Trauma involved. When I joined the team I was told a bit of the story. In these days we went every anniversary to the remote spot where the team had built a memorial. It is off the path in a wonderful location with great views of Garbh Beinne in Ardgour.

It had been my plan for many years to revisit Ardgour and visit the memorial to a young RAF Kinloss Team member Alan Grout who was killed whilst rock climbing on these cliffs. The story is vague as it happend 60 years ago but young Alan was a new team member at the time in 1956 and it seems that he climbed above the leaders belay and took a big fall.

In 1956 there was little gear, no harness,no helmets and protection was very basic. The story is told in Frank Cards book “Whensover ” He took a big fall according to the book falling 50 – 70 feet and the pendulum meant he sadly hit the rock !  He was killed instantly ! The photo below shows gear of the same era on Waterfall Buttress near Slioch and a new severe climbed by the RAF Mountain Rescue Team.  The team was climbing all over Scotland in these early days many were new climbs for the time.

1956 on Waterfall Buttress 1952 on Waterfall Buttress on a new route Dan Stewart Tuti  100 metre severe – Beinn A Mhuinidh near Kinlochewe. photo J Lees

Whatever happend to Alan it would be a tragedy and the RAF Kinloss Team in 1957 built a memorial to Alan in this wild corrie, nowadays Memorials are scorned  quite rightly on the hills but  it was the thing to do in that era.

For years when I was in the team at RAF Kinloss we visited this wild place and climbed many of the routes in this incredible corrie.  It became a place of pilgrimage for many and one to show even the best young climber that mistakes can be made  and at times they can be so costly.

Few who arrive here are not impressed with the situation. There are so many climbs about all defended by a usually wet long walk in.

The Great Ridge dominates the corrie and is the classic as is Pinnacle Ridge, Great Gully and many more incredible rock climbs. There are acres of cliffs and gullies and this is wild Corrie and one of the finest in Scotland for rock scenery.

The long walk in and it was so warm The long walk in and it was so warm that day.

I was going to go myself into Garbh Bheinn no one else was available but felt I had to go and visit the Memorial. I had been there on the 50 th Anniversary in 2006 with Jimmy Coates another Team member .

The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team is now sadly  gone but there is still a RAF team at Lossiemouth and I managed to get my old mate Dan Carrol to come with me. Dan was a former RAF Kinloss/ Leuchars and St Athan Team Leader and I was glad of  such great the company. We had talked about it in the past and as I have a small operation on Thursday the only day we were free was Monday and he wanted to come.

It was a long 3 hour drive across to Ardgour and the short Ferry crossing from the Corran Ferry was incredible it was a blue sky day, hot even at 0600 in the morning and there was a wind so no midges. This wee ferry takes you into another land Ardgour is some place that few realise missing this area out for the big hills of Glencoe and Ben Nevis.

Views that were specail. Views that were special.

Argour is such a wonderful place and the ferry makes it special and the views of these hills are superb. These are really rough wild mountains, there are few paths and the hills are covered in rock and steep ground and days on these hills are precious and few venture in. We parked at the old road and the very wet and boggy  path takes you into Coire an lubhair it was hard going and so warm today. This is some walk in and I found it really hard going, we had taken some rock climbing gear with us which did not help as we maybe fancied a climb after our visit to the memorial. The memorial used to be marked on the map but we had to use our battered memories to remember where it was. Off the path it was hard going no path and real rough ground but we found it and what a situation it is in. It is on the top of a small buttress and looking spectacular in the sun.

Dan at the memorial. Dan at the memorial.

Dan was well ahead by now  but I stopped to take photos and the memorial  on the top of the small crag that glistened in the sun. It has a wonderful backdrop of huge cliffs and buttress it was a long 2 hour walk in the heat. The memorial was in great condition for 60 years old and we had a great break here. It was strange but we thought of what may have happened here. The accident must have been awful for all concerned, no phones in these days and someone had the awful task of going for help, then the long evacuation by your pals so many sad questions.  

After this notifying the poor family and the loss of a young life so many years ago. This was a tragedy that would effect many for the rest of their lives a tragedy.  I suppose as Team Leaders it had always been in our thoughts how would we have dealt with and accident like this to our team and we had a few near misses in our 30 odd years. We spent some special time here and decided that time was moving on we wandered up into the corrie. We had not enough time to climb and it was a day to relax and enjoy this stunning place and we were left to each other thoughts as we wandered around. 1956 was along way back but what a sad time that day all those years ago must have been. I wonder if there is anyone with information on the accident as I can find little around. Can you help and the piece in “Whensover” is vague?

2000 Al Grout mem

I have always wonder why was the memorial is in this place well off the path and rarely visited?

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I was feeling a bit rough the sun and my neck injury hurting and sore so it was the right move to enjoy this place and not climb. We would have had a rush and long day that I would have struggled with. Dan as always was fine about it.  There was no one around just so many memories of  many ascents of this fine cliff and opening new team member’s eyes to this wild place. There were some good  past winter ascents, grand climbs a few epics and always the pilgrimage to the Memorial and the thoughts of why we climb. It is also at times the consequence of a mistake and the long-term effect on the family and those involved?

The Great Ridge another day? The Great Ridge another day?

Dan took the rock gear off me( he is still a bairn in age) and we had a long wander back stopping and drinking,lots from the river. It was great cooling down and enjoying the views and I had feeling a bit dizzy at times until I drunk more fluid and then it was okay. It was the effect of the sun was battering down all morning it must have been about 25 degrees. Time was moving on and we were soon back at the car and then the Ferry back to the mainland.

Dan heading off in the sun! Dan heading off in the sun!

It was so warm the sea so flat calm and a quick visit to see Hamish and later Sue at Onich and coffee at Crafts and Things in the Coe and then the long drive home. It was great weather the hills were sparkling  and what an incredible day we had. No summits but a lot of reflection, thanks Dan for the company and understanding on this special place and looking after me on a wonderful day.

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The Memorial is at NM 9097962798 and worth a look it is some wild place. The cliffs above are surrounded by climbs it’s a wonderful spot.

If you visit please send me a photo of the memorial.

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When your young your think invincible ? Or are you?

Sorry for the lack of blogs I have not been feeling great.

Recently I have been off the hill for a few months. I have had a constant cough for years but it was getting very bad over the last year. I was very worried as waking up every two hours meant I had little sleep. Anyway I had to see a Consultant who said I had a damaged “voice box” Constantly out on bad weather looking after groups on training and Call outs had taken its toll. “No jokes about me talking so much” Hopefully things will improve and I can get out on the hills again.

In my early days I lived for the mountains and mountain Rescue. These were the best years of my life. For over 30 years I was averaging 150 days on the hills. A lot of call / outs in wild weather. It would often mean driving back soaked sometimes 2- 3 hours in damp kit. Not good for the body. We learned sense as we got older and often stayed overnight in village halls. It was great to dry off and if we had helped recover a fatal casualty we could unwind before we went home. It took years to do this as most of the team were under pressure to get back to work. Some bosses were not understanding.

Backhill of Bush Galloway.

It’s amazing how your body gets battered over the years. Yet I would not change anything. We carried so much gear on Rescues at times there was only a few of us charging into remote Corries carry : A stretcher, ropes, first aid kit, Casualty bag, crag kit, torches plus all your own kit. Add winter kit crampons, ice axe etc. These were the days before lightweight gear and few helicopters. Yet at nearly 70 I am so lucky to be still about.

So if you see me out soon on the hill you may hear my cough first.

Posted in Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

A few thoughts on working with the Media over the years in Mountain Rescue.

How things have changed from my early days when we rarely spoke to the media. It was a different era then. Most Mountain Rescue teams and SARDA did the job and that was that. Nowadays news is instant and you are only a few minutes away from putting the news out on so many platforms.

One can only imagine in the past when there was no communications with teams . How did the families of the Mountain Rescue Teams cope? They’ve saw their loved ones go out in the middle of the night. Sometimes not hearing from them till they returned.

When I joined in 1971 there were a few tales of press trying to get photos of fatalities as they were taking off the hill. Teams like todays were very respectful of the casualties and waiting friends and families. As most team members were mountaineers or lovers of the mountains. If it was a bad accident there was little said. Many thought “there by the grace of God” it could have been one of us. Often it was someone we knew personally that made things hard.

There were few teams had Mountain Rescue bases in these days. Control wagons and cars were where we took casualties to if we could not get a helicopter due to weather or darkness. There were no night vision goggles till much later. It was very basic.

Often the Media were there in the wee small hours a few were after sensation especially during big winter incidents. Many had no knowledge of mountaineering and there were debates about Insurance etc on the media. Avalanches as nowadays seemed to be hugely news worthy.

Things changed for me in 1988 when Lockerbie happened. The worlds media arrived and Satellite television gave instant news as it happened. The worlds Media on scene were there very quickly it was overwhelming and no one was prepared for it. I found myself talking to the Worlds press live. All I could say was we were all doing our best and getting great support locally from all the Agencies and from the local folk despite the tragedy that engulfed them.

When we arrived back I was briefed that I was scruffy on the television! Anyway after that a few of us got Media training that helped so much. The media wanted words from those who were there not someone who had little knowledge of what was going on.

As I said many in the team shunned any publicity. Yet forvthose who waited at home had little clue what we were doing, It should be noted that a lot of our bosses at work thought the troops were on a skive at times.

In the Two RAF teams in Scotland at the time we were all over Scotland helping the local teams. Often away for days with only a local call box for the team to phone home. Many of the incidents we dealt with were tragic and these were the days before the effects of Trauma were accepted.

I decided to push the teams Public Relations and built up many trusted contacts in the years that followed. I was always aware that any search was a huge joint effort by all Agencies involved and when we saved a life it was joyous.

I made a point of never blaming those involved in an incident.Most had learned from the experience. I looked at every mountain accident we were involved in over the years and how we could learn from them.

Off course there were times we got it wrong but we learned quickly it was a new and ever changing world as it is now.

Yet even recently some great rescues go under the radar. There was a big incident in Skye in a remote area that few know about. A life was saved and the team and other locals all helped it hardly made the papers. Teams do not want praise but I feel many need a bit of acknowledgement at times.

With winter approaching there sadly will be some big rescues and tragedies. The Mountain Rescue Teams and SARDA will deal with them in their own way. Things have moved on all teams have bases where relatives and friends can be briefed a far cry from a cold wagon on a winters night.

Despite the mess the World is in in Uk we have so many volunteer agencies that help every day. We rarely hear the stories but there all out there still.

Thank you all.

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