Day 18. May 26 – Bridge Of Orchy Railway station Benn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh to Succouth Lodge.

 It was a night of broken sleep a long at the Station, few trains pass through so no one was about when we arrived or left. I was a very basic bivouac in the station and we were off early, I find it hard to believe that we coped with such nights.

Today’s hills were straight above the Station Beinn Dorian so well-known as it sweeps up from Bridge of Orchy and with its conical shape makes it one of the better known mountains in Scotland.  The weather was fine and again great views all day.  From the station you cross under the railway line by an underpass and then up to the beleach.

A few years before.

We climbed Beinn Dorain first and then back to the beleach and onto Beinn an Dothiadh and its North East Corrie with its classic ice climbs Taxus and others. We had been in here that winter helping Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team in some climbers stuck in a gully. It was an interesting call –out at the time, getting a rope down to them over the large cornice in wild weather. I have climbed the four Munros here on many occasions since and in winter they are a hard day with a walk out from the last two. Beinn Achaladair and in summer we would add Beinn Mhanach to make it even longer. I have great memories of these hills and few call –  outs  and climbs in its big Corries. This is a big day Beinn Dorain (1076m, Munro 64) Beinn an Dothaidh (1004m, Munro 129)

 We headed back down the beleach and back to pick up our gear we had hidden near the underpass it was great to travel light over these two good Munros. From here it was along the A82  and then down the lovely quiet road following the river Orchy to a real bothy at Succoth Lodge just below Beinn A’ Chleibh and a big day on the Ben Lui hills.

The keeper had given us the use of a bothy and it was great to get sorted after yesterday’s night in the station, we were in bed early and slept the sleep of the just.

Maybe we would see our final hill Ben Lomond tomorrow?  It was only 3 days away all being well!

Distance 19 miles and ascent 3886 feet of ascent.

Munros 2 Total Munros so far 55.

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May 25 th Day 17 – North – South Scotland Blackrock Cottage Glencoe – Meall a’ Bhuiridh, , Clach Leathad, Stob A’Choire Odhair, Stob Ghabhar – Bridge of Orchy Station!

Passing the Buachille

It was hard to leave such a comfortable bothy as Blackrock Cottage in Glencoe and even worse as the day started with heavy rain. We walked up the deserted White Corries Ski lift a depressing place on a wet day yet in the winter sun a wonderful place to be. The bags were heavy and the 1976 waterproofs were very basic and we were soon soaked.  

Wet start.

The ski tows were looking bleak and with the wind and rain it was a plod going onto the hill. The industrialization of the place at the end of a busy winter season  in the rain is to me depressing but so many enjoy  the skiing in winter it is a small price to pay for the sport. The summit of Meall a’ Bhuird 3661 feet a big hill was gained and then the weather broke and the rain went off. These are big hills complex ridges and some of the peaks are remote. These are big hills and I enjoy them it is hard walking but the weather changed and we started to dry off.  I enjoyed a two-day walk with a bivouac a few years  before in the summer and these are impressive peaks I climbed them all in a wonderful weekend walk camping high during a great spell of weather. I will never forget that weekend even though we carried a Blacks Mountain Tent all the way!

 The views of Rannoch Moor and its lochans sparkling in the sun are a great sight but we got the waterproof’s off and set of along the ridge to Clach Leathad and then the big descent and pull to Stob a ‘Choire Odhair  and then out onto Stob the Ghabar at 3565 feet. This hill has a history of winter climbing with the Upper Couloir first climbed in 1897 an early foray by the pioneers of winter climbing. I had a wander and looked at the cliffs for winter adventures in the years to come. This is another great pair of hills and again the views of tomorrow’s hills at Bridge Of Orchy were excellent, we had dried off by now and had no bothy for tonight so after a good look at the winter crags we descended steeply down to Forest Lodge at Victoria Bridge.  From here it was a long road walk to Bridge of Orchy and the pub and then with no bothy we stayed at the railway station! Not the way to end a long day but it was all we could get and the photo sums it all up! We stayed here the night. We were getting our railway stations in. We did not rush out the pub but we managed to sleep on the station at least out of the rain. 

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

Distance 19 miles and 5886 feet of ascent. 4 Munros a big day. Total 53 Munros so far.

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Day 16 May 24 North – South ATC Hut Kinlochleven – Devils Staircase – Blackrock Cottage Glencoe.

West Highland Way Map

The weather got very wild with extremely high winds and the classic Aonach Eagach was in no way on the winds were in excess of 60 mph so one of the best days is Scotland was not to be that day. Instead we followed the Devils Staircase over to Glencoe soaked to the skin we spent the night in the Blackrock Cottage Glencoe. The Devil’s Staircase was initially given its name by the soldiers who were part of the road building programme of General Wade. The carrying of building materials up that stretch of the road was not popular! The name was perpetuated when some of the workers building the Blackwater Dam chose to travel to the nearest pub after their wages had been paid out. For the workers at Kinlochleven the journey to the Kingshouse Hotel proved to be more difficult than many realised. The journey back was even worse as unsteady legs meant that many were unable to manage the return trip and, on a cold winter’s night, the devil often ”claimed his own“.

There is a signpost at AltnaFeadh indicating the West Highland Way over to Kinlochleven. The path is very clear and soon rises above the plain of Rannoch Moor. The path zigzags as it climbs the steepest part at which point the views of the moor and of the mountains surrounding it are well worth taking in. The path continues down, crosses the burn using surrounding it are well worth taking in. The path continues down, crosses the burn using stepping-stones and then starts slowly upwards again. To the right the Blackwater reservoir comes into view. Built for the aluminium smelter (now closed) at Kinlochleven, the dam had a capability, when full, of running the smelter for eighty days. There are great stories about the building of this dam and its worth reading about the effort and work involved in the building of these dams and pipelines.

The path continues downwards until it reaches the dam road at the pumping station where the pipes to the smelter start the high pressure build up for the turbines in the generating station. Still very steep, the path continues down to Kinlochleven across the river, through a small section of woods to the tailrace where the water rushes out of the generating station.

Tunnel Tigers.

 It was the right decision and gave my knee a bit of a break as it was a short day carrying big rucksacks  and  5 days food. Normally this is a lovely walk but today it was wild and wet but we had some great weather so far so could not complain the hut is just at the foot of Meall a’ Bhuird, and Rannoch Moor at the entrance to Glen Coe. OS map 41, GR NN268530. 

It was great arriving on  Blackrock Cottage The cottage is about 1.5 miles south-east of the Kingshouse Hotel, and about half a mile from the A82, on the access road to White Corries ski area. The hut is owned by the Ladies Scottish Mountaineering Club and is the classic photo of Glencoe and many cards and Calendar’s what a place to stay the night and try and dry off.  

Blackrock Cottage

I was happy to have an easy day Jim and Paul were disappointed but it was the correct decision in the weather. As we came down into Glencoe the weather changed but it was late in the day. My knee was hurting would I manage to continue the Etive Hills were next on the list and we could break the record for number of hills done. We slept well and got our gear dry in this haven of a hut.

 The forecast was poor!

A wet day 10 .5 miles and height 1750 feet. No Munros

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Day 14 North – South Walk a well deserved day off in Fort William.

Day 14 May 22

 A well-deserved  day off at Fort William what a relief shower in the swimming pool   and some great food in Fort William, sort the kit and dry the boots and a trip to the launderette to wash the smelly gear, bliss. We had lots of space in the ATC Hut to sort the gear out air the sleeping bags and patch our kit. I went to the doctor he said my cartilage was knackered I should stop or have problems for life, I never told the rest and kept my silence. I also had another problem  with a spot on my bum but that needed lanced, no wonder I was feeling unwell he said.  

1976 ATC HUT Fort William North – South Walk sorting out the gear, drying the kit.

It was great to phone home and update the family, no mobile phones in these days. The RAF Kinloss MR team would arrive that night for the weekend and we planned the biggest day of the trip the entire Mamore Ridge and its 10 Munros next. My knee was pretty sore and swollen but the day off was badly needed for me. Jim and Paul were going well. We had an early night, the bothy was noisy with the troops enjoying Fort William and the Friday night dance, we had a big day planned and an early start. The weather forecast was good so we would have a good day for the adventure. I knew the ridge well and Jim was worried if I would cope.

1976 Heavy ATC Hut N – S walk

The day flew by we had a lot of packing to do sort out the food. On the hill we ate chocolate in these days Jim would eat bars of it every day on one big day he ate 10 bars. I could not eat it so if it was a long day I had some sweets. Breakfast was porridge and tea evening meal was soup packet and tinned meat and mash. Very simple no fruit or veg in these days. When we hit a shop we would grab anything we could. Food was always a subject and on our day off did we eat and would have clean and dry clothes to wear at last. Even the boots were drying out. It would be an early start for the Mamores Jim said that maybe I should get someone to come with me as I may hold Paul and him back so when the Team arrived I got two volunteers most of the team hide.

I had to sort out a plan to ensure I would be with them for the rest of the walk after the Mamores.

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Day 13 May 21 1976 – North to South Walk – Spean Bridge – Fort William Via The Big 4 (Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.)

The Big Four

Spean Bridge – Fort William Via The Big 4 (Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.)  

The Big 4

We are in  Spean Bridge was where we were let down with the bothy and could not get hold of the owner and  had to sleep in the Railway station. The trains were going through all night and a railway worker spotted us and said we could stay he opened the waiting room but said be gone by 0600, good man. It was an interesting wander early from the huge Leanachan Forest. I wonder what my Mum and  Dad would have said if they had known we slept in the Station? How we needed a wash the last on was at Strath Connon a few days ago, we look fairly battered like tramps! 

We passed the old dismantled railway in the forest and then onto the open slopes of Aonach Mor no Ski are in these days but just a huge plod up open cliffs which were to became a favourite climbing area in the years to come. It was a big day these 4 hills and a must as they are all over 4000 feet. The summit was easy to find but huge snow fields still remained and we wandered along the ridge  Aonach Beag is a better looking peak guarded by crags and a place where only a few venture to climb in winter . The North East Ridge is a great day in summer or winter but defended by the long walk in. We were going well we had a day off coming in Fort William with showers etc. From here you can see the huge North East Face of Ben Nevis and the next hill Carn Mor Dearg.

As we dropped back down to the huge beleach the views of The Grey Corries and the wild hills in a 360 degree panorama and many hills that we were to climb on our way to Ben Lomond. The weather was great and the descent to the Beleach to Carn Mor Dearg was easy on huge fingers of snow. This is a tricky area in bad weather but not today. It is very steep onto Carn Mor Dearg and the views of the huge North Face of Ben Nevis is incredible. There was still plenty of snow and after the grind up onto the ridge the summit was an airy walk. This is a favourite day The Carn Mor Dearg Arete to Ben Nevis an airy scramble in winter and a place to concentrate as the great North East Buttress and Brenva Face dominate the walk.

 I love this area and was to climb so many routes on this huge Alpine Face on winter Courses in the future. Bob Run, Cresta, Frostbite, and of course the North East Buttress great days and wonderful adventures, and rarely meet any other climbers.  The ridge drops to the beleach and the old Abseil post ( now removed) gave a steep descent into the huge Coir Leis in winter a place to take care as the snow can be alpine hard. The Abseil post were built by the RAF Kinloss Team  under John Hinde  after a spate of terrible accidents to walkers descending into the Corrie. From here it is about 1000 feet ( 300 metres) through the summit screes and boulders to the summit Here we met out first people since we started the walk on the hill.

We were very unsociable which I apologise for and had a great break  on the summit. The Mamores our next hill looked snowless and this great ridge with it summits radiating from the summits looked incredible as did Glencoe and beyond but the view to the west were wild. Jim and Paul followed me along the edge of the great cliffs, huge cornices still defended the climbs and as the weather was good we just followed the well-worn path down to the Red Burn. In these days there were many accidents on the Ben and the famous 5 finger gully took a toll every winter. Even nowadays the summit plateau should not be underestimated it is wild place in bad weather and in the years to come I was to learn that on many occasions. I tripped on the way down and wrenched my knee it was very sore and swollen and the constant descent is hard on the knees no walking poles in these days to take the brunt of the weight.

We wandered to our bothy and a day off we were staying at the ATC hut in the town and made ourselves at home and then down to the swimming pool for a shower and a swim. My knee was really swollen by now but I had a day off tomorrow so hopefully it would calm down. It was then change and out for a meal and the famous Jacobite pub with its constant bell to announce closing time. We were exhausted but would enjoy this day off and try to recover for a huge day on the Mamores the next day. I still felt rough something was not right.

Distance 16.5 miles and 7500 feet of ascent – Paul and Jim going very well magic day with light bags and the chance of a shower at the end and maybe washing our clothes.   

Today’s Munros 4 – Consolidated Munros 39

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1976 Day 12 May 20 North to South Sron A’Choire Ghairbh, Meall na Teanga – Spean Bridge and a night in the railway station.

Day 12 May 20   

The day of no bothy Green fields. We had been promised a bothy at Spean Bridge but at the last minute it had fallen through.

 Sron a ’Choire Chairbh, Meall na Teanga – Spean Bridge . We left Greenfields early it is a beautiful place at the back of the Glengarry Forest and the plan was the Corbett Ben Tee and the Loch Lochy Munros Sron A Choire Garbh and Meall Na Teanga. It is great to be out of the forest and a new way up old favourite hills. This is big country and great to see a new aspect to these popular hills, I wonder how many come this way? The normal route from the A82 from the Laggan Locks takes you through some forestry but not today we are at the other side of the hill today. There are few paths coming from this side until we reach the hills. It is a very steep but great ridge walking and I enjoyed the views along the Meal Na Teanga ridge and the wild descent to Clunes battering on the knees and all more new ground. High winds and more snow we are battered and nearly drop off at the beleach due to the weather but push on.

Meal Na Teanga.

We sign the wee book hidden under snow on the summit hidden in a tin. The ridge walk was great and these hidden Corries are full of deer and we see many hares, we have yet to meet anyone on the hill!  We are rewarded with a great view in the clearing of the big hills ahead and Loch Lochy.  We have no bothy planned today the bothy has fallen through so we will have to bivy at Spean Bridge and after a long walk and a stop at the Commando Memorial to reflect and see the day ahead on Ben Nevis and the big Four. We manage a pint and some food in the pub but cannot get a bothy for the night. In the end we sleep at the railway station at Spean Bridge and are sleepless all night bivy as the trains arrive early. The freindly guard let us have the waiting room as long as we were away by the first train. We had some food in the pub nobody spoke we must have smelled and I dropped my wallet but found it later. The night in the railway station was hard going. My knee was hurting and I felt  bit low. It was a big day planned for tomorrow.   The Anoachs, Carn mor Dearg Arete and Ben Nevis.

Distance 19 miles and 5000 feet of ascent. Munro Total 2 Consolidated Munros  35

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1976 – The North To South Walk Day 11 May 19 – The big Hills of Kintail and a drop of by Sea king of boots and food.

Day 11 May 19 – The big Hills of Kintail

Munro Mullach Froach choire 1102metres

A’ Chraileag 1120 metres

Sgurr nan Conbhairean 1109 metres

Carn Ghulsaid 957 metres.

 It was a great start from Altbeithe Youth Hostel and another big day ahead it was another good day with no wind and great weather we crossed the river and said good bye to the amazing Aultbeithe Youth Hostel. We passed some of the wreckage of the Wellington Crash near the beleach. They all got out alive after parachuting out when they had an engine failure in the early days of the war.

After that  It is a long pull up the North West Ridge to the first Munro Mullach Froach choire 1102 another massive hill with its huge wild corries and even more herds of deer. This is another remote Munro and one that many chase in winter the scramble along the summit ridge can be interesting scramble along the rock towers and intimidating in a wind, you are a long way out from here if anything happens. The one inch to the mile hardly shows the ground that you crass very different from today.  I had been on these hills before in a wild winter’s day and had used a rope on the tricky wind and cornices, not today just bits of neve in places and great walking.  

The ridge along to the next Munro A’ Chraileag 1120 metres and then along a broad ridge with huge open Corries to Sgurr nan Conbhairean 1109 metres and then Carn Ghulsaid 957 metres.  Great views and we were half way into our walk and going well, my knee was stiffening up on the descents it felt like cartilage but just kept going a bit behind the boys but no problem in such weather.  Then it started to rain and we got wet and had  a long road walk along the road to Greenfields near Loch Garry.  As we hit the main Kintail Road we were feeling a bit low when a Yellow Sea King circled overhead and stops by the road and out jumps Mick Anderson the winchman with some food and Pauls boots for us, they are soon gone and we are so pleased.

The Late Mick Anderson and his famous Pipe.

Paul had new boots as well we headed on to Greenfields how he had coped I will never know. We also had trouble finding the bothy as we had never been there before far less in the dark. This is an new area for me and it will be a huge day again tomorrow.

 These hills and the road walks are very hard, body aching, gear very wet, great to have dry gear on after a day being wet. This is the best part of the day along with the soup and tea; I crave for bread, Looking at the map and reading my battered book before I fall asleep. This was a big day and again we see no one but lots of Deer and many are now down very low and many are now down very low a sign of wild weather coming. I hate the roads not easy on my knee; we wear our RAF sandshoes on the road and look like tramps now with our stubbly beards. The Great Glens were over. The Great Glens were over .Its amazing to see the effect of the Hydro in these Glens all built after the 50’s  that must have been some project and visionary at the time?  

Distance 22 Ascent 6800 ft   Munros for the day 4  total 33 Munros. 

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Day 1 May 18 – Affric 5 Munros and then a night in the Youth Hostel.

Day 10 May 18 – Mullurdoch bothy – and Five of the Affric Munros.

An Socach (921m, Munro 270)
Mam Sodhail (1181m, Munro 14)
Carn Eighe (1183m, Munro 12)
Tom a’Choinnich (1112m, Munro 41)
Toll Creagach (1054m, Munro 77)

The great things about the walk are you start the hills from a different way than normal few will climb Toll Creagach from Glen Cannich. We had a problem at the Dam but sorted that out eventually and then a great long ridge from the Loch all the way up to the summit. Our journey today was all on the high tops of the Affric hills all the way to the remote Aultbeithe Youth Hostel. Today we would miss the great Affric Forest but we would be high all day and get a few mountains in. From the summit of Toll Creagach it is a broad ridge along to the bealeach Toll Easa used in past days as a route between Affric Lodge and the now submerged Benula Lodge under the waters of loch Mullardoch, all part of the Hydro System. The ascent of Tom A Chonich by the south East Ridge from the beleach is a good scramble still snow-covered and not the place to slip.    

Descending Tom a’ Chonnich

These are big mountains in a wild environment, from the summit of Tom a’ Chonich follows a grand ridge and there is a delightful section where the crest becomes narrow and broken into some shattered pinnacle’s that today needed an ice axe to assist the journey. The great dome of Cairn Eighe lay ahead a huge hill of over 3800 feet. The outlier Beinn Fhionnlaidh looked feasible but not today, we headed on to Mam Sodhail and its massive summit cairn. How many miss the chance when in this area to get the illusive summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh and a few Munro rounds are never completed because of this? Our last Munro of the day An Socath was a long ridge walk at the end of the journey and from here a huge drop into Glen Affric down the stalkers path. It was a long walk to the Aultbeithe Youth Hostel a great place to stay for the night and I felt that last pull up to An Socath. I twisted my knee on the way off descending into the Glen and limped along the track to the Youth Hostel. It had been a great day in some amazing mountains; I never tire of this place and a night in Glen Affric Youth Hostel to look forward to.

Affric Youth Hostel.

We had the place to ourselves, no one had been there since February and there were a few spare tins we ate well that night and had a great fire. Stags were down at the bothy, in the evening and watched me as I enjoyed a great sunset over the Kintail and Affric hills, what a day, what a walk. I was feeling a lot better the knee was twinging but had a great sleep in a comfortable Hostel; this was the way to live.  Another great day in the famous Glens Of Scotland big hard hills but what views the day’s distance was 16 miles and 6600 feet of ascent it seemed far longer. Pauls boots held up he is some guy and Jim just powers on, powerful people. I am feeling stronger got over the bug and now enjoying these wild areas.

A few years later!

We are half way through our walk and going well, we carry little excess in gear just a change of clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food a stove and fuel, we have few comforts. The weather has been pretty good but there are still patches of hard snow in places and the ice axe is a great companion. The rivers have been tricky with the melt water from the snow and we have to take care, boots of but our feet are always wet.  I feel now as I was to on many other long walks and expeditions that I am part of this environment. We all feel the same; we are at one with the mountains, picking lines up these great hills where there are few paths. We pick up animal tracks mainly deer and move well despite the big bags of about 30 lb. All day we see amazing things the wild animals and the summer plants coming through. The extra daylight in May means we have plenty of time on the hill and the constant views of the hills and our route give you   a buzz when times are hard.

I now know the feeling of being at one with the hills; we have seen no one apart from the Keepers and enjoy the solitude and our own company. I have to protect my knee yet we are all in our own worlds and getting on fine. We hope to pick up a new pair of boots for Paul after Kintail the keeper at Cannich called Kinloss for us so they hopefully will arrive? There was a food cache left at the Youth Hostel that will see us to Fort William.

A former stalking bothy on the Affric Estate, this friendly eco-hostel offers a warm welcome and an unforgettable experience in one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland. Nowadays it has a wind turbine and solar panels provide warm water and electricity, while the comfortable common room and kitchen are heated by wood and coal fires. It was a lot more basic but warm and dry a wee had beds.

Distance 18 miles Ascent 6060 feet Munros 5 Total 29

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1976 – Day 9 -17 May Mullardoch Munros , a burnt boot and then a dropped boot,

Strathfarra –   Broullin Lodge bothy  –  Carn nan Gobhar (993m, Munro 151)
Sgurr na Lapaich (1150m, Munro 24)  Mullardoch House Glen Cannich. I was feeling a lot stronger still not 100% and we had a good night in the bothy. Paul had somehow burnt his boot in the fire an old Reaburn we had he had put his boots into the old oven and not noticed. One boot was in a mess and had a hole in the toe. Poor Paul but he was a bit embarrassed but said he would cope. We followed the hydro track up to the power station passed the old woods and an area I love it is called Strathfarrar Forest with pine and birch trees and is a stunning area that few see. These are usually down as 4 Munros a big day in a remote area but this area I call the Great Glens is stunning and the weather was magnificent. These Glens are so special and so few know them and at the end of winter stunning.  The boys were ahead and going well. It was a great walk and despite the heavy bags. We were soon of the track and the long wonderful ridge up to Sgurr Nan Lapaich.  This is the most prominent with its well-defined summit makes it an easily identifiable  peak in the range The views were outstanding, we were still in our trainers/ RAF sandshoes and when Paul went to change near the top he had dropped his boots!   He went back and found them about 4 miles away where we crossed the river, and then he caught us up we had a few hours on the top waiting for Paul.

BROULIN LODGE – before it was renovated.

It was just what I needed AND THE PRESSURE WAS OFF ME A BIT. We rested even Jim whie Paul ran back to find his boot.We decided to do only other Munro that day Carn Nan Gobhar.  The other two peaks are highly sought by Munro baggers An Riabachan with its fine craggy Coire and the lower extension An Socach. They are wild peaks but not for today.  Nowadays many take the boat in from Loch Mullardoch but it is still a day to remember, there is climbing in the remote Corrie and I climbed a few lines with the team in years to come.  

Lots of potential here for new routes taken a few years ago we got in by boat.

I am sure we put a new route up one winter. We were all together now and then down the very steep ground to the Loch Mullardoch, hard going it was not a hard day but what I needed. The road from the Loch took us to the Lodge at Mullardoch and another bothy for the night. The weather was good all day but poor Jim was upset we had only got two Munros in.

A few years later with Teallach.

Distance 15.5 miles and 4500 feet of ascent. 2 Munros Total 22 Munros

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1976 – Day 8. May 16 – The Strathfarrar Four

I had to have a rest day we were a group of 3 on a big walk North – South across Scotland. I had caught a bug and rested at Strathconnon for a day. We were heading for some big hills it was make or break time for me.

The Strathfarrar hills!

Sgurr Fuar-thuill (1049m, Munro 82)
Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais (1083m, Munro 60)
Carn nan Gobhar (992m, Munro 153)
Sgurr na Ruaidhe (993m, Munro 150)

It was going to be a hard day for me as there was a long walk in to the mountains that we had planned to do they were the four Munros of the Strathfarrar Hills. Normally they are climbed from Glen Strathfarrar where access is limited by a locked Hydro gate but this is another wonderful Glen  and to climb these mountains from StrathConnon would not be easy, especially feeling not 100%  the plan was to climb  all 4. You normally have to seek permission to drive along a private road through a beautiful secluded glen with abundant wildlife, lots of deer leads to the foot of the Strathfarrar Munros. There are 4 Munros in the range – Sgurr Fuar-thuill, Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais, Carn nan Gobhar and Sgurr na Ruaidhe – and combined with neighbouring minor summits, form a continuous chain making for a fine day’s mountain hiking.

Nearby are other fine hills worth climbing, including the rugged Corbett peaks of Sgorr na Diollaid and Beinn a’Bha’ach Ard. We had big bags that we had restocked with  4 days food but I just took it easy and followed the stalking  paths for nearly three hours up and down this remote area meeting lots deer in the hills, what a wild area this is.  The usual wild river crossings were interesting but we were getting good at them by now, boots off and get in there. There is some incredible winter climbing here and over the years we found a few gems.

1976 RIVER CROSSING N – S Boots Off.

I was still very weak still I kept going and it was a long day and once on the ridge the wind came up. Paul and Jim waited on each summit and I just kept going, it is a great area but limited shelter and eventually we were on the last Munro. We walked into a bitter wind Paul and Jim were way ahead and the wind took any energy left out of me. It was a bitter cold on the top and I could see the road below Paul and Jim headed down and I took it easy on the way down. I was running on empty when I got into the old bothy near Broulin Lodge and had an early night really exhausted after a huge day. Tomorrow would be more of the same we were now in the “Great Glens”  all the mountain Summits are hard work, big hills and big days. I felt that I could cope again.  I was amazed looking back at the basic gear we had, the famous Curlies boots, breeches, canvas gaiters what happened to them and the tartan shirt, ventile jacket and polar fleece the new secret weapon.  Wet gear most days but we thought we were so well equipped for the mountains.  I still feel the pain of putting on the wet gear every day!  It would be another big day tomorrow would I cope?

1976 walk big bags Struggling.

A hard day for me distance 17 miles and 5547 feet. 4 Munros and a grand total of 20 Munros

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1976 North – South Walk – Day 7. May 15 Heading for the Glens eventually.

My self and Jim Morning. Big Bags.

It was decided that I would need a day off at Scardroy and was looked after by the keeper’s wife John and Blanche Meldrum and given drinks and lots of care. I thought for me the walk was over. I started to get better , I slept and slept and after eating some soup and food that was brought later in the afternoon I felt very weak but on the mend. We were given a great meal that night and I decided to carry on and see how it would go. I will never forget the kindness shown to me at Scardroy . Later on my mother phoned them when I told them of the kindness I had been given and thanked them for all their help. I was pretty weak when I went to bed but I prayed I would be able to cope with the big hill day?

I struggled here.

Jim and Paul were fine but had said they would make the decision if I was too slow, I remember these words even to this day. It would be the end of my Walk.  I was to go back to Scardroy  and thank them after the walk and drop a few gifts and a bottle but it was little recompense for such great Highland Hospitality. This Glen was to be revisited on several call outs in the years to come both for aircraft incidents. One in 1982 for an USA F111 that crashed a few miles from Scardroy and both crew got out alive, the other was for a missing Cessna aircraft that was found on Liathach.

That night I slept well but still felt very weak, Jim and Paul were champing at the bit to go. I did not want to let them down. There would be hard days ahead I hoped I would cope?

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Plotting A Route Back To The Hills. Some thoughts.

Mountaineering organisations are working together towards a return to hill walking and climbing in Scotland.

As we approach the end of week seven of lockdown, mountaineering organisations in Scotland are asking the hill walking and climbing community to ‘hold the line’ and to avoid travel and stay local for their daily exercise in accordance with the current Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance.

Despite an easing of restrictions in England this week, the advice for people in Scotland remains the same – stay home and only go out for essential work, food or health reasons – although people in Scotland may now go outside to exercise twice daily.

Walkers and climbers are keen to get back out to the hills and crags, and Mountaineering Scotland – the organisation representing hill walkers, climbers and ski tourers in Scotland – is leading discussions with partners in the Mountain Safety Group on how to deliver a phased return to the hills and mountains.

This group of key mountain safety organisations, including Mountaineering Scotland, Scottish Mountain Rescue, Police Scotland, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge and the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, has developed proposals this week which are being submitted to the Scottish Government outlining how mountaineering activities such as hill walking, climbing and bouldering can be re-introduced.

Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue said: “It is good to be working as part of the Mountain Safety Group, to ensure we can get people back out into the outdoors undertaking their preferred activities as soon as there is a safe and responsible way to do so within the Scottish Government guidelines. We hope to see everyone out there soon, but preferably not on a rescue!”

George McEwan the Chief Officer of Mountain Training Scotland added: “Prior to lockdown, our leaders, instructors, coaches and guides supported active public participation (both voluntarily and professionally) in walking, climbing and mountaineering, which does so much to support improved health and well-being. As we look forward to reactivation, we are supporting the work of Mountaineering Scotland and the rest of the Mountain Safety Group, to facilitate a phased return to the outdoors which is both safe and socially responsible.”

Mountaineering Scotland has also taken on board feedback from its members and discussions with organisations across the Scottish outdoor sector, including sportscotland, outdoor sport governing bodies and the national parks, so that everyone can enjoy Scotland’s outdoors in a way that
considers the safety of individuals as well as rural communities. Further work is ongoing to produce a position statement and more detailed supporting guidance.

“These are unprecedented times” said Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland “and I’d like to thank Mountaineering Scotland members for keeping to the current guidelines. We know it’s been a challenge but it’s great to see the mountaineering community pulling together in this way. We want to see an immediate return to hill walking, climbing and other outdoor activities as lockdown starts to ease, and have been encouraged by the way the outdoor sector in Scotland is working together to make this happen in a safe and responsible way.”

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1976 – Day 6. May 14 North – South Walk.Nest of Fannichs – Fionn Bheinn (933m Munro 246) – Scardroy Strathcarron.

Fionn Bheinn – many years later 2019.

From the Guidebook – “Fionn Bheinn is often the forgotten hill of the area, its wide grassy (and wet) slopes contributing to its neglect. This isn’t a hill to leave for a claggy day however, as the summit is a superb viewpoint.”

There was a food supply drop off for us left at Achnasheen later on in the day so we had lighter bags for the first part of the day. On leaving of the bothy the Nest was not easy wet clothes on and huge rivers to cross that were pretty swollen by the rain and snow. These rivers were endless and we got soaked as we headed round Loch Fannich and into the back of Fionn Bheinn our only hill for the day.

Hard going from the bothy to the road.

Again we saw huge herds of deer on the hill but we were yet to meet anyone on the hills after 6 days. This hill is described as an uninspiring hill in many guides but from the Fannich side it is a wild place and we enjoyed once we got there the lovely North Corrie of the hill the Toll Coire was impressive. I was struggling at the top maybe it was the hard going over the last few days. There was a bitter wind and we kept going with Paul and Jim pulling away ahead and me looking into the wild corries before we descended to the endless boggy slopes.

From here it was down onto the road at Achnasheen and I felt awful. I told the other two to keep going and I would catch up on the way to Scardroy Lodge in Strathconnon. I had a bug and went downhill very quickly and the easy pull over to Scardroy left me wasted it was less than 5 miles and 500 feet but what a mess I was in when I arrived. The final pull to the beleach was hard going and Jim and Paul were long gone. Eventually I arrived the keeper and his wife were with Jim and Paul and had a meal and a dram for us I went straight to bed feeling awful and really worried about tomorrow! I could not get well my gear was at least getting dried and the keeper’s wife I am sure were John and Blanche Meldrum who looking after me. Jim and Paul were going well and we had a food drop off ready for us at the bothy, I could not enjoy it and the few luxuries and was soon asleep.

I am sure this is the lodge from an old photo I was glad to be here.

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

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1976 – North to South Walk Day 5 The Fannichs and a night in the Nest of Fannichs.

The route – Loch Droma bothy – Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor ,Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan, Meall Gorm, Meall A’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Na Chlach Geala, Sgurr nan Each – The bothy the Nest of Fannichs.

This is the story of my first Walk from North – South of Scotland in May 1976 it was an adventure and no day was ever the same. The gear was simple the maps basic but what a trip 1976 May – RAF Kinloss MRT – North to South Traverse of the Highlands.

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps  and there were limited communications Mobile phones were a long way away 

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF)This trip was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan. He  gained  authorization for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF MR Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Myself and Jim on the Fannichs big bags.

We were glad to leave the damp wet bothy our wet gear and head for another big hill day we had planned to climb as many of the Fannichs as possible. The snow was down to the road and we had a day planned for the high peaks of the Fannichs. This range of peak contains 9 Munros and most lie on the A835 road to Ullapool. It is a route do o lightweight and in later years I did it in its entirety on at least on 12 occasions , twice in winter a long 16 hour day!. Not today though with a big bag and poor weather we would see what happens?

The main ridge is fairly continuous with outliers and the final two are separated by a big beleach of 550 metres. It was a big pull out of the bothy up the broad snowed up slopes and onto the main ridge a big pull in the winter weather. Our wet gear and feet were a worry as we were wearing the standard Curlies very basic boots and three pairs of socks to try to keep them dry and warm but no chance. We were soon on the summit of Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich. This is a good viewpoint but not today and now in cloud onto the big summit of Sgurr Mor with its very steep ridge and in the bad weather it was not easy to find the summit cairn perched close to the edge of the cliff.  We had thought of picking this up on the way back but the weather was worrying and better to get it done and if the weather improves skirt it in the way back!  This is a tricky place on a winter day not the place to slip with the snow very icy covered with fresh snow.

Sgurr Mor – Pete Greening – Big Cornices.

This is an impressive hill and stands proud with its summit like at times a big Alpine peak. There was little shelter so we kept moving on out to the far two Munros Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan. It sounds simple but a long walk out into wind and wild weather was hard. We were left with a dilemma, should we leave our bags on the beleach but the fresh snow made it an easy decision to make, No! It was then back along the ridge climbing Meal Gorm again ( does that count as another Munro) with the odd views of Loch Fannich below. We were back over Sgurr Mor the weather made any attempt at skirting it impossible and then out onto Meall A’ Chrasgaidh and back to the beleach and the Sgurr Nan Clach Geala and its huge buttress breaking through the and giving us great views. That day we saw the mighty An Teallach and the Fisherfield wilderness more remote Munros and of course the previous days Beinn Dearg hills and then the days to come with the great glens mountains sneaking a view. The final peak of the day is Sgurr Nan Each and the wild descent to the Nest of Fannichs bothy. There was no way in the conditions we could do anymore hills 6-7 Munros was enough for today, the weather was wild and we just wanted of the hill and into the bothy.

It was comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) If anyone has a photo of this bothy I would love a copy.

I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at last and get the fire going with the dry bogwood left by previous visitors and some dry wood by the Fannich Estate.  On arrival we got changed and then the process of fire on, stove on and food on the go tea and soup were wonderful and then the evening meal. We were soon sorted and pretty tired with two hard days, we slept well as the weather again picked up and the snow turned to rain. I was always amazed as how Jim coped on arrival each night he was amazing and so organised everything was packed neatly everything in its place and me and Paul lived completely the opposite and Paul was definitely worse than me. It was then the usual make some soup eat our meal and get to bed. My worries were crossing the river the next day heading for Fionn Bheinn and Strathcarron.

The ruined Nest of Fannichs – Photo

Distance for the day 21 miles and 7547 feet of ascent. 7 Munros in total and Grand Total 0f 15 Munros so far.

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1976 – Day 4 May 12 – Seana Bhraigh, Eididh nan Clach Geala, Meal nan Ceapraichean, Cona Mheal and Beinn Dearg.

The Great Cliffs of Seana Bhraigh

The night was spent in the bothy at Loch Coire Mhor below the great cliffs of Seana 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.

Seana Bhraigh

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. What a place to be so early in the morning. We had planned 5 Munros that day it was a big day and with poor weather would be hard work.

Seana Bhraigh (926m, Munro 262)
Eididh na Clach Geala (927m, Munro 257)
Meall nan Ceapraichean (977m, Munro 177)
Beinn Dearg (1084m, Munro 57)
Cona’ Mheall (978m, Munro 176)

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 (Beinn Dearg) and I was to snow- hole on the beleach years later after a wonderful climb in this remote Corrie.

The remote Coire Ghranda

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 that day were 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 the second Munro of the day Eididh nan Clach Geala . From here more tricky navigation to Meall nan Ceapraichean and out to Cona ‘ Mheall and then in white out up to Beinn Dearg our last Munro of the day.

The Famine Wall that goes onto the summit plateau of Beinn Dearg but not to the top!

It was very tricky finding the top as the “Famine Wall” stops short of the summit and 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. Our gear in these days was very poor the jackets and trousers were wet all day, this was years before gortex and walking into the wind you felt the strength pouring out of you. Our food for the day was chocolate, we had 4 bars a day. I could not manage more than one and gave mine to Jim Morning who just ate everything. Breakfast was always porridge and a brew then off, I lost weight from day 1.

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 a few years before 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 no footprints until Beinn Dearg this is a lonely area  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. You could not get the gear dry so it would be wet in the morning and we had a huge day the Fannichs next.

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! That was a hard day. Jim was as always pushing it all day and Paul getting fitter each day, I felt my knee on every descent from a football injury but said nothing.

The Famine Wall on another day.

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

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The North to South 11 May 1976 Ben More Lodge – Loch Coire Mhor Bothy.

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.

Curlies the issue boots.

On our feet we had the famous Curlies a very basic boot issued to the RAF Teams and on the road we wore RAF issue “sand shoes” a very simple early trainer mainly for use in the bothies at night but were good for road walking.    

Magoos Bothy with the wee bothy at the back.

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.

Seana Bhraigh.

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. Note as of 11 May 2020

Mark Maguire.

COVID- 19: Bothy Closed

Owner: Corriemulzie Estate

During the stalking season, September 1st to October 20th, please keep to the main estate tracks.

Access: Coiremor bothy is the eastern end of the building, with Magoo’s bothy (non-MBA) occupying the western end. This bothy was built by his friends in commemoration of Mark ‘Magoo’ Maguire who was killed in peacekeeping duties in Kosovo in 2001. I have just had a call from the Stone mason who worked on it in 2002 he is a real character. I may get some tales of it renovation in 2002.

Many years later this Corrie brought back many memories but this was of a good friend who was the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team Leader Phil Jones was killed in a wind slab avalanche on February 3 1991. I was at just coming home from running the annual winter course for the RAF mountain rescue Teams when the news was broken by the BBC. They just said that a MRT team leader had been killed, no name was given and it was an awful time for our families. When the news broke that it was Phil it was a terrible tragedy as I knew Phil and the Assynt team well and cannot imagine that happening during a training exercise in such a remote area.

Phil Jones Photo Assynt MRT.

I went to the funeral in Lochinver a very sad and difficult day and still miss Phil who was a great help to me in that wonderful area in the far North of Scotland. It took a long time for the Assynt Team to get over this tragedy.We climbed together and Phil was always showing us new cliffs and crags and some of the many rarely climbed classic routes in the area. It was 29 years ago since Phil died in that lovely but savage Corrie of Seanna Braigh and as the rain and mist came down on my walk out I had a wee thought for him and his family.

Yet it is an amazing place with so many varying memories, the peace and quiet was incredible and the hills so green and the heather coming into bloom made this a great walk out even in the torrential rain.

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

Can anyone give me a Grid Reference of it please?

This was from my Blog 21 Aug 2011

<img src="data:image/svg+xml;charset=utf-8,

The bothy is used by the estate especially in the fishing and deer stalking seasons but access is allowable so long as recognized tracks are followed.
To access the bothy, it is necessary to ford the River Mulzie at NH 292 906. If the river is in spate, a bridge can be used about 1km north of the ford at NH 298 922 although it is rough ground from the bridge back up to the path.

Derivation: Coiremor is simply the big corrie

We had a big day planned 5 Munros in a wild area and the weather were changing. The fun would start.

Today’s distance 21 Miles and 1400 feet.

No Munros – Grand Total 3

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Latest update from Scottish Mountain Rescue Questions and Answers. Please read.

🔹Questions & Answers🔹


Firstly we would like to continue to thank everyone for staying stay, local and for keeping our rescue teams quiet. It means more to us than you can know.

Only by acting as a community can we get ourselves back to a position where we can enjoy the hills together and we are very much missing the hills as much as everyone else.

After todays announcements we wanted to clarify the situation in Scotland. Which is no change apart from you can now exercise in the same way as before more than once per day.

Can we drive to the hills for our exercise?

The Scottish Government advice is clear, essential travel only, no driving for your exercise. Please note, the Prime Ministers announcement tonight on travelling to exercise applies to England only.

What if I live local to a hill, can I go up then?

Slightly more complicated but essentially no, not up a larger hill, the advice is to stick to paths and tracks low down.

There will always be grey areas, but please do not try to interpret the advice in such a way as to enable you to continue with your hobby at the moment. Don’t look for loopholes, think more of the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve as a community.

I’ve never needed to be rescued in years of being in the hills?

No one sets off for a day in the hills expecting to be rescued. However experienced and knowledgeable you may feel you are most rescues are the result of simple slips and trips.

I am as likely to get injured at home doing DIY than in the hills?

Possibly, but the consequences of an injury are significantly greater in the hills. It’s a question of resources required. Mountain rescues are resource intensive.

If you are injured at home either you can transport yourself for treatment or if more serious you will be attended by 2 fully equipped ambulance crew in one vehicle.

It only takes one slip, trip or fall and our teams services will be required. That means 10, 20, 30 team members (depending on the incident) coming
to help, a helicopter crew coming to assist, an ambulance on standby, Police coordinating and before you know it you have brought up to 50 or more people out.

Even if teams have sufficient PPE, it is not designed for use in the outdoor environment and when undertaking hard physical activity. So you, the MR team and their household when they return home are at greater risk.

So ask yourself two questions about your activity and where you undertake it:

  1. Have I increased my level of risk unnecessarily?
  2. What are the consequences of a rescue from this location?

When this is all over we are very much looking forward to seeing you back in the hills.

Stay Safe, Stay Local, Stay Well



📷 The Scottish Government

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1976 North to South Walk of Scotland day 2: Conival and Ben More Assynt. Into the wilds.

This is the story of my first Walk from North – South of Scotland in May 1976 it was an adventure and no day was ever the same. The gear was simple the maps basic but what a trip

1976 May – RAF Kinloss MRT – North to South Traverse of the Highlands. The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps and  there were limited communications Mobile phones and GPS  were a long way away off. Our gear was very basic in these days and the hills were extremely quite with few paths away from the honey pot areas.

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.  It was hard in this era gaining authorisation for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Day 2 May 10 th 1976

This 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 0800 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.

Into the wilds

After we left the track it seemed 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 Beinn Loyal and Fionaven and with the sea were incredible. In future years how I was to love this place and spend a lot of time here on the nearby Aeroplane Flats where an Anson 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.

Scrambling on the ridge .

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 their 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 Keeper had phoned 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. The weather was great again a bit overcast but clear and limited wind. This can be a tricky area to navigate in and one mistake here can take you into wild country.

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

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.

Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

1976 Walk North to South of Scotland.

The Broch at the roadside.

This is the story of my first Walk from North – South of Scotland in May 1976 it was an adventure and no day was ever the same. The gear was simple the maps basic but what a trip

1976 May – RAF Kinloss MRT – North to South Traverse of the Highlands.

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps  and there were limited communications Mobile phones and GPS 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. It was hard in this era gaining authorization for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

From the SMC Munro app. Superb information.

Day 1 Sunday 9 th May

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.

Ben Hope.

In 1976 it 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? 2020 this mountain means even more to me since I lost a great pal Andy Nisbet on winter climbing accident here a years ago  

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 a Corbett 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 and a Corbett climbed an easy day 1.

Posted in Corbetts, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Cameron’s Barn. Ben Nevis

Camerons Barn. KMRT Archives.

When I joined the RAF Kinloss Team there were so many places the team used as Base Camps all over Scotland. Most I used they ranged from some incredible Bothies, huts, halls, Castles, Lodges to barns. These places had huge history and one I never used was the famous Cameron’s Barn in Glen Nevis. I would love to know more about it. As it was a place with a huge history for the RAF Teams I am sure they ran early winter courses from here in the late 50’s.

A great insight into Ian Sykes life .

Ian Sykes (Spike) who was a RAF Kinloss MRT member and a sound climber mentions Cameron’s Barn in his great book on Ben Nevis. Well worth a read. I would love to know where exactly Cameron’s barn was or is and a photo of the outside. It held many memories for a lot of the “old and bold” lots of Rescues and adventures took place here!

Can you help supply any photos or tales.

Ray Sefton

“Camerons Barn was located about 200 yards from the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel. For many years there has been a restaurant at that location. In the 1950s we had very few bothies for bases and in Fort William we would camp at Achintee, which over the Christmas period could be up to 10 days. Getting the Barn from Mr Cameron was a real bonus.

Mr Cameron owned most of Glen Nevis and was mainly a farmer who developed the campsites in the Glen later. I believe his family may still own the land.”

Posted in Books, Bothies, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering | 2 Comments


Mosquito Photo of Ben Nevis – KMRT Archives.

I was looking for a photo of the old shelter on Carn Dearg not the Ben Nevis summit shelter.  The shelter on Ben Nevis’ neighbouring summit, Carn Dearg, was removed in 2004 as ‘the shelter is often buried in snow in winter and is frequently difficult to locate and enter; valuable time and energy may be spent looking for it in circumstances where it would be better to descend to safety.’

I think you will find the shelters were put up by the People newspaper after that call out in December 1956. The same shelters were put up on the summit of Ben Nevis and another in Coire Leis at the same time. I am sure I saw a photo of the People newspaper at the old shelter? 

There is a tragic tale why the shelter was built.

 On the 28 December 1956.

25-28/12/56Ben Nevis Carn Dearg   41/157722 41/159727 Last fatalityRAF Kinloss and Police plus local mountaineers –  Search for 4 missing climbers.  3 found on second day at top of the Castle Gully’s.  Casualty 4 was found below 2 days later.  All sadly fatal.  Bodies were lowered off the steep ground.   

The 3 metal shelters were built after this call out.  They were removed in 2004. I can remember trying to find the shelters on Carn Dearg and Coire Leis on call outs. They were regularly buried in snow. The only one to remain on the Ben is the summit shelter.

Anyone got any photos of these old shelter?    
The Coire Leis shelter was in Corrie which collected huge amounts of snow in a hard winter.

The summit still has a shelter!
Posted in Articles, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Secrets of Ben Nevis. The Ben Nevis Bogie – In a time well before helicopters!

My friend Ray Sefton ex Team Leader RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars MRT sent me this information on the Bogie on Ben Nevis. These were the early days of Rescue when locals, climbers and the Police were involved. A lot of the incidents all over Scotland were carried out by the RAF MRT’S who were the primary for Aircraft Crashes. Its a quick look into another world and thanks to Ray for his words.

“The Bogie was part of a narrow gauge railway that ran between Loch Laggan, Loch Treig and the British Aluminium Works in Fort William.

In the 1950s, when the hills were not busy, the RAF had the only Mountain Rescue Teams in Scotland.  The RAF would not allow helicopters to be used on civilian mountain rescues.  We did some very long carry outs, made more difficult if there was more than one casualty.

In Fort William there was a bonus because we were often helped by Lochaber. Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland (JMCS) and sometimes Hamish MacInnes and his friends.  We most times had a policeman join us, often in his uniform.  However, when the ground got too difficult the team leader would send him down.

In these days there was no Torlundy track.  The walk in to the North Face or the CIC Hut started from the Distillery.  Frequently we were called out from the Jacobite Pub just before the 9pm closing time.  When a torch went out it sometimes meant that the troop was throwing up.

The Bogie was always positioned where the railway crossed the Allt a’ Mhuilinn.  It could only be used if a local trained Policeman was available to operate the bogie.  The stretcher was loaded and as many troops as possible jumped on, to save a walk.  On the bends occasionally some troops would fall off, but fortunately were never injured. 

Health and Safety was not a problem.

In the early 1960s the RAF changed its policy on the use of helicopters in civilian mountain rescues and allowed there use.  The railway was dismantled a long time ago. “

Thank You Ray and also for Digitising all the photos from the RAF Kinloss archives so that some of these tales from the past will never be lost. I have a unique history with all the call -outs of RAF Kinloss MRT since they started in 1944 and moved to RAF Lossiemouth in July 2012. The team is still doing great work working when requested with the local Teams. Things have moved on since these early day.

Lochaber MRT are Scotland’s busiest team and have been around now for over 50 years. lots of changes since then but still the same folk working to help others.

What area does LMRT cover?The Area We Cover
We are based in Fort William, close to the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK (1344m/4409ft).

In general we cover the area of Lochaber district which takes in the small isles of the Inner Hebrides such as Rum, Muck and Canna out to the West with Knoydart, the only real wilderness area in Britain, forming our North West boundary.

From Knoydart our boundary goes east as far as the National Trust land of Creag Meagaidh midway between Fort William and Aviemore. To the South of Creag Meagaidh we take in much of Rannoch Moor, including all of Corrour estate and up to the western flanks of Ben Alder.

The Southern Border of our area is mainly delineated by the main ridge line of the Mamore hills with Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain, almost in the centre of our area.

A few comments:

A lot of this line wasnt dismantled until the late 70s…I remember seeing the engines running above leanachan…the engine shed was by the bridge that crossed the cour burn…… Dougie Crawford

David Whalley I used to ramble all over the bridges…often on a way back from getting lost on the Aonachs…no map, no compass, forestry waterproofs, rubber dunlop boots and ex army wool trousers…innocence and good luck were all the equipment required!!!😂😂

Cubby – From memory one had to cross it on the approach to the north face of the Ben.

Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Tragedy and how it effects the community.

I have been writing about the Shackelton Crash in Harris and received so many kind comments from the families who lost loved ones. There has been superb comments from others who were involved with the Rescue Agencies. Many are heartfelt but I also have some incredible thoughts by the community who lived nearby. Once the casualties are recovered and the Enquiry finished the local folk have to carry on with life. This was true on the Shackleton crash in 1990. The aircraft crashed on a small hill called Maodal not far of the main road. It was near a small village of Northton who were incredibly involved in the sad events. It is rare to get feedback by the local folk who were exceptional in all they did. They helped us the Mountain Rescue team from RAF Kinloss that I was the team leader. This is part of their story that was printed in their local newsletter. It gives several accounts of what the local folk dealt with on that fateful day. I have been given the honour to share their accounts through my blog. It made me think of every time we arrived at a tragic crash how the local folk responded to the team and how they helped us all. This was especially true at the Shackleton Crash.

This is from the local newsletter that I was able to use and I wrote a piece for and was planning to go to Harris to see them on the 30 th Anniversary. It is incredible to get the names of the folk who helped after all these years as at the time you are so involved in the task in hand.

The Harris Community Newsletter thank you for allowing me to use your articles.

An event like this, quite out of the blue, is not something one can easily forget. Such a tragic event brings out the best in people and in less than a day I’d had a great lesson in public spiritlness and generosity. As I write, I cast my mind back to Heavy Whalley and his mountain rescue team, all volunteers ready to put aside their daily routine to do a demanding, stomach-churning job, at a moment’s notice. And I think of Tina Macleod, the Reverend Stewart and their many fellow villagers also ready to help out a group of strangers doing a difficult job. Every 5 years since the accident, I have made my own ‘pilgrimage’ to the Isle of Harris to commemorate, in my own way, the event of 30th April 1990. And it is always a pleasure to meet up with and to talk to the local folk. It is sad that we’re unable to meet this 30th of April, especially when so many people were keen to travel to Harris to commemorate the 30th Anniversary. But times are hard, with this very unexpected pandemic putting a stop to normal movement. As it states on the bronze plaque, built into a granite cairn placed at the site near the summit of Maodal– ‘we will never forget’. I hope that as soon as the current COVID-19 crisis passes, we will reinvigorate our visit. ‘ As I am sure most of you will remember there were a number of locals up on the hillside on that fateful day, here is what some of them had to say

I am sure a number of our readers will know that members of RAF Waddington Squadron 8 were planning on coming up to Harris to mark the 30 year anniversary of the Shackleton crash, given the current coronavirus pandemic and the UK lock down these plans had to be postponed. It was hoped to have a short memorial service followed by tea coffee, cake etc afterwards. All these plans are not cancelled just postponed until later in the year, once we get the go ahead and plans are finalised we will have all the information available in a De tha Dol (local news letter)nearer the time.

Wing Commander Vicky Williams OC8 Squadron sent over this brief statement, ‘On the morning of the 30th April 1990, a Shackleton, callsign Gambia 08, struck ground at Maodal on the Isle of Harris, with the tragic loss of all 10 on board. To mark the 30th anniversary of the accident, personnel from RAF Waddington (the current home of 8 Squadron) had planned to travel to Harris and hold a Memorial Service. This visit would not only allow current Squadron personnel to pay their respects to the men who lost their lives that day, but to also re-connect with the local community who were also deeply affected by this tragedy. Although 30 years has passed, during the planning of this visit, it has become hugely apparent that the memories of that day are still vivid, particularly amongst the first locals on the scene. 8 Squadron will always have an affiliation to all those from Northton, Harris and the surrounding area, inexplicably linked by this tragic accident. And as it states on the bronze plaque, built into a granite cairn placed at the site near the summit of Maodal– ‘we will never forget’. I hope that as soon as the current COVID-19 crisis passes, we will reinvigorate our visit. ‘ As I am sure most of you will remember there were a number of locals up on the hillside on that fateful day, here is what some of them had to say.

HM Coastguard Leverburgh CRC:

On reaching the crash site my immediate task was to establish a radio link between Stornoway MRSC; the Coastguard helicopter; the RAF; and the Police, until an RAF Nimrod eventually arrived on scene to coordinate the whole operation. The CRC members carried out a search of the whole site and generally helped in the various tasks required. Afterwards, I received a personal letter from the Chief Coastguard, Commander Derek Ancona, as follows: “I am writing to offer my congratulations to you and the members of Leverburgh CRC for your part in the incident on 30 April 1990 involving a crashed Shackleton at Maodal, Isle of Harris.” He then goes on to describe the work we carried out that day, and concludes with: “I would wish to take this opportunity to commend the members of the Leverburgh Company for a job well done in the highest traditions of the Service.”

John MacAulay, Coastguard:

I remember I got the call around 12-ish & was told it was a light aircraft on the beach in Northton, unknown to us that it was an RAF plane, we geared up & headed down to the beach, once there we were wondering what was happening until we were told to head up the side of the hill & not 2 touch any papers that were all over the hillside, when we reached half way up we knew that something was seriously wrong after seeing bits of plane all over the place! It’s a sight that is burned into my memory which I will never forget & hope never to see again, the utter destruction ahead of us was horrendous & no words could express how we were feeling at seeing this, I think the silence said it all at the time, as an auxiliary coastguard at the time my colleagues & I tried to do the best job that we could do for the 10 men that perished in such a tragic accident.

Alice MacLennan, Coastguard:

30th April 1990 was a calm sunny day. That Monday morning I driving the minibus, collecting the children and taking them to school at Seilebost. As we were nearing Horgabost we spotted a plane flying west above the Sound of Taransay. I pulled into a lay-by and we watched it, identified it as a Shackleton and speculated where it was going. Later that morning, PC George Smith phoned the house to say that a loud explosion was heard in the Northton area, urgently requesting my assistance. The police car picked me up from the house. The Maodal was covered in a blanket of cloud and thick black smoke was leaking out from under it. As PC G Smith, PC A Henderson and I climbed up the Moadal, the mist gradually lifted. After an hour it was established that that nine casualties had been accounted for. Willie Maclean and I were asked to walk round the back of the hill to look for a missing casualty. After a while a helicopter appeared and signalled for us to go back as they had found the tenth person, by that time the RAF personnel had arrived at the scene and took overall command.

We assisted them to secure the site and for next few day access to the site was closely monitored by Police Officers until all wreckage had been removed. Later that same afternoon, when I collected the children to take them home from school they were all very quiet and asking if it was the plane they had seen that morning that had crashed.

Angus John MacVicar, Scarist : I was travelling back from Tarbert when I heard about the crash, on arrival back at Leverburgh Flora M. MacLeod, Leverburgh and myself took an urn, tea, coffee etc up to Scarista to provide refreshments to those coming down off the hill. We supplied the ones who were on watch through the night with sandwiches and hot drinks all of which was supplied by local shops. I travelled to Lossiemouth to the service along with others from Harris, we were made to feel very welcome while we were there.

Tina MacLeod, Rodel:. Around noon on Monday 30th April 1990 I received a message on my pager – it was before the days of mobile phones – that a plane had crashed near Northton. There were no further details available and so I had no idea what I would be facing. I had just paid for petrol at John Mackay’s in Horgabost when I got the message. I arrived at the scene to find the top of Maodal shrouded in mist. Our local Ambulanceman, the late Domhnall Mhor from Northton, was at the roadside. In addition an off duty Police officer from Tarbert along with the GP Trainee from the Tarbert surgery – they had been playing golf at Scarista. We ascended the hill from the Scarista side and soon came across pieces of aircraft debris scattered over the hillside ranging from large pieces of metal – propellers and pieces of engine – to pots of coffee and biscuits from the galley. There was an over powering smell of fuel all around. I then started to come across the remains of the crew of the aircraft. I had to formally confirm, with the police officers on the hillside, that all ten crew had lost their lives following the sudden impact of the plane against the hill. I was subsequently taken off the hill by the coastguard helicopter which had arrived on the scene.

We woke the following morning to a calm, sunny Spring day and the enormity of what had happened the previous day began to sink in. It was certainly not something I thought I would have had to deal with when I started work as the local GP only six months before. There was considerable activity at the crash scene over the coming days and the local community gave much practical support and help to the team carrying out the investigation. A service was held in the Free Church at which the late Rev Kenneth Stewart preached most earnestly on the shortest verse in the Bible – John 11 v35, “Jesus wept”. The church was full to overflowing with members of the local community along with many of the RAF personnel – the fact that many of them were young and so of a similar age to those lost in the tragedy added to the solemnity of the act of worship.

The surgery was presented with a crest from VIII Squadron and the sight, on a clear day, of the cairn erected by Neil Campbell on the summit of Maodal acts as a further reminder of the tragic event that occurred 30 years ago this month. Dr A. Naylor.

In memory of Shackleton crew Dylan who perished in the crash.

Wing Commander Stephen Roncoroni

Wing Commander Chas Wrighton

Flying Officer Colin Burns

Squadron Leader Jerry Lane

Flight Lieutenant Al Campbell

Flight Lieutenant Keith Forbes

 Master Air Electronics Operator Roger Scutt

 Flight Sergeant Rick Ricketts

Sergeant Graham Miller

Corporal Stuart Bolton

Thank you all for your input, I hope to see you all when things open up again. David Whalley.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, People, PTSD | 6 Comments

The Shackleton Crash Isle of Harris.

I wondered if I should write this blog today but felt I had to. It’s a hard time for everyone especially for family and friends of the crew. Also it’s week 4 of the virus and huge changes in the lives of everyone.

Today the 30 th April I should be in the Isle of Harris at a Ceremony in memory of the Shackleton aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth that crashed on 30/4/1990. I was invited by the locals community who have organised the Service.

This was well planned before the outbreak hit. I had been corresponding with locals on the Island and the local news letter have produced a tribute to the crew . They contacted me for my part in the tragic day. I was the leader of the RAF Kinloss MRT at the token and the incredible response of the local Community.

Sadly I will not manage to come over and was hoping to meet and thank so many who helped us on that tragic day 30 years ago.

The Shackelton Crash Harris AEW MK2 WR965. 30 April 1990 Grid reference NF 996914

 The RAF Mountain Rescue was formed during the Second World War to rescue aircrew from crashed aircraft in the mountains of the UK. To this day the 3 RAF Teams that still survive are still called to carry out some difficult recoveries of aircraft both Service and civilian in the mountains.

This is the sad story of this incident and the part played by the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. 30 April 1990 Isle of Harris

It was a beautiful day at RAF Kinloss which is situated on the North East coast of Scotland. Unusually a lot of the Mountain Rescue Team had gathered in the crew room. It was just before lunch time when I was told on the phone by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) that there was a Shackleton aircraft missing from RAF Lossiemouth. It had been on a Training sortie from Lossiemouth and was last seen near Benbeculla, near the Isle of Harris on the West Coast of Scotland. I was told a helicopter from Lossiemouth a Sea King would be at Kinloss in 10 minutes and would take 10 of my team to the area. This is called a “fast party” a quick fast response to any incident. It’s not long to sort out your life I was the Mountain Rescue Team Leader on this incident.

In these circumstances 10 minutes is not long to prepare and the teams have a long established protocols to ensure we have the correct equipment to carry out any rescue. We managed to get to the aircraft pan ready for the Seaking Helicopter which landed rotors running and we were off!

In an aircraft crash information is coming in all the time, from the ARCC. As The Team Leader I was getting constant updates from the aircrew and passing the information on to the team members in the back of the noisy helicopter not easy.

In any incident the helicopter flies flat out on a Rescue especially, when it is an aircraft from their station at Lossiemouth, nothing was spared. I was up with the pilots and getting all the updates on my earpiece. There are so many things going on in your head as the Team Leader and you are very busy. The flight to Harris was about 60 minutes and as we neared the last known position we were picking up the aircraft beacons in the helicopter which meant the aircraft in trouble and had crashed. Due to the remoteness of the area I spoke to my control the ARCC and asked for the rest of the RAF Kinloss team to be sent immediately to assist.

As we neared the crash site the noise from the beacons was intense and we feared the worst. The crash had occurred near the village of Northton on a small hill called Maodal about 800 Feet above the sea. The only cloud in the whole of Scotland was over the crash site and the helicopter dropped us as near as they could to the incident. It was like the scene from a battlefield, a tangled mess of a once proud aircraft and the casualties, all fatal scattered around, memories that still haunt me to this day.

At times like these even in the middle of such carnage the Mountain Rescue Team has a job to do and we are all as professional, most of us had seen these sights before. A few shocked locals had managed to get to the crash and were relieved to see us and leave the horror of such a place. There was very little chance of any survivors.

Our first task is to ensure that all the casualties are accounted for and then to secure the crash site. All the fatalities have to be left in place as there will be a Police and Crash Investigation Team on scene as soon as possible. Our next task is to secure the site which was still on fire and ensure there were no classified materials about.

It was grim work but most of my team on the helicopter were veterans of such scenes, I had been heavily involved with the Lockerbie Disaster, we did what we had to do.

Once things were organised at the scene I walked back down to the road about half a mile from the scene. It was surreal already the locals had put a small caravan in a lay-by and the ladies had a welcome cup of tea for us. They were wonderful people with typical Highland hospitality and care, which my team would need later on. They were incredible to my team and helped in the difficult days that we had ahead. They produced food and treated us so well this became our Control point for the next few day’s.

The cloud had cleared and we saws this was one of the most sad but beautiful places in Scotland. The local Police were on scene along with the Coastguards and the site was secured awaiting the Board of Enquiry, no casualties could be moved until the Police and the Procurator Fiscal arrived. My team guarded the scene and took photos and mapped the site out, standard procedures for an aircraft incident. The aircraft was guarded through the night and all night the local people were so helpful to us all.

The majority of the team who were still at Kinloss were flown to Stornoway by a Jetstream aircraft and by Hercules aircraft complete with our Mountain Rescue vehicles, they were all on scene by 1600, an amazing piece of organisation. Many thanks to the ARCC who organised this.

In the end I had 27 Team members, the 4 Tonner vehicles’ arrived by Ferry the same day!

Once the site had been visited later on by the Board of Enquiry the team received permission to remove all the casualties from the scene, a hard and difficult task. These are words that do not express what horror there is in such a place, yet all the team worked hard. Moving the 10 fatalities with respect was a hard job to do and move them away from the scene.

These were in the early days of PTSD and few in power will ever realise the effect a tragedy like this has on those who carried out this task.

After 3 days on scene we handed over the crash site to RAF Lossiemouth crash guard who were there for several weeks working with the investigation board.

Most of the team and vehicles’ flew back that day from Harris in a Hercules aircraft ahead of all the casualties who were in another aircraft.

We flew into Lossiemouth and drove through the camp for the short journey to Kinloss. The whole camp at Lossiemouth lined up as we drove through a very moving experience, waiting for their fallen comrades. It was an experience I will never forget and then we had to go home to our families. Few spoke of what they had seen and done. It was our job.

A few years later I revisited the crash site in Harris. The drive down was in driving rain but as we got nearer to Tarbet the weather cleared to bright sunshine and the hills had a smattering of snow. As we got nearer to the site the sun, blue seas, surf and clear sandy beaches made this a sad but beautiful place to be. Though the hill is only small by mountaineering standards, it’s fairly steep as it starts from sea-level. Memories came flashing back of the accident and even the superb beauty of this special place made it a difficult wee walk.

Nature has as usual sorted things out and the scars on the hill are covered by heather and peat, occasional bits of wire and small pieces of metal are all that remain of a fairly large aircraft.

The memorial on the top commemorates the crew of the Shackelton “Dylan” and details of the aircraft with the words”We Will Never Forget” inscribed on a memorial on the summit. It faces West the inscription is getting the worse of the weather and may need replaced within the next few years. The memorial inscription is on a plaque and the weather had battered it. It needs some tender loving care. I would replace it with one like we put on the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe. It’s made of slate but will withstand the weather.

I have been back fairly often it is another part of my life that few understand. The views from the hill are very healing with the wildness of the area that makes this place so special and a place we should never forget.

This is what I wrote on my last visit. “On the summit the views were immense, unsurpassed with unique Island scenery of wild open beaches, mountains and the sea and the fresh snow enhancing everything.  After spending some time on the top, with the wind it was fairly cold, we left that beautiful, though sad place, with a wee prayer for the crew and wondering how many people know of this place?”

I will never forget what happened that day and how tragic the crash site was even to hardened mountain rescue men. The RAF Mountain Rescue Team carries out a complex job at times but I am proud of what my team did over these few days. I will never forget the wonderful help we received from the Police, Coastguards local Doctor and these magnificent people from North Harris who treated us so well over a terribly difficult 3 days.

Thanks to all, from all of us.


It should be noted that the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team has been at least two other Shackelton Crashes in their role in RAF Mountain Rescue. The first was on the 21 December 1967 when a Shackelton crashed at Locailort near Fortwilliam killing all 13 of the crew. The team were involved in the recovery all over the Festive period until the 8 January. I met the son of the navigator of this aircraft who came to visit RAF Kinloss in 2007, 40 years after his father died, a very moving day for me. I took him and his wife around the Rescue Centre the ARCC where I was on shift. From here we went to the Mountain Rescue Section at Kinloss and tried to answer all his questions, which he wanted answers for many years. In addition the team were also involved in the Shackelton Crash at the south end of the Mull of Kintyre killing all 11 of the crew on the 19 April 1968, the RAF Kinloss team were there till the 23 April. All these terrible incidents make a huge impression on the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and the team members and are never forgotten by those who were involved.

The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team is bo longer there. It was moved to RAF Lossiemouth a few years ago. The team is still big part of the community and the men and women who make it up are still incredible people.

“Lest We Forget”    

David Heavy Whalley MBE BEM

In memory of Shackleton crew Dylan who perished in the crash.

Wing Commander Stephen Roncoroni

Wing Commander Chas Wrighton

Flying Officer Colin Burns

Squadron Leader Jerry Lane

Flight Lieutenant Al Campbell

Flight Lieutenant Keith Forbes

 Master Air Electronics Operator Roger Scutt

 Flight Sergeant Rick Ricketts

Sergeant Graham Miller

Corporal Stuart Bolton

This is from Harris today “Thought you might like to see this. Mark Morrison from Leverburgh went to the bottom of the Modal this morning to play the pipes to pay his respects to those who died 30 years ago today on the Shackleton crash.

The War Memorial flag was lowered to half mast this morning also.”

Kind regards

Effie MacLeod

What a wonderful tribute thank you all.


“ I remember being up on night guard with Graham Clethero (Jimmy) and Ian Meradith . There was a display of the Northern lights, quite a surreal night. A few of us had been flown over to Stornoway on the Air officer commanding’s jet stream 31 aircraft after he diverted to Kinloss to get troops out to the scene. A sad sad time.”

John Chapman “Definitely etched on my memory, sad and hard day.”

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Health, Islands, Mountaineering, Well being | 24 Comments

It’s the little things that matter. A memory of the Island of Eigg 2016.

Most days I catch up with my Grandchildren (they are down South) how I miss them. These are strange times we are in. Thank goodness for modern technology where we can keep in touch. It’s the same with my sister in Ayr as we always text or speak daily.

I have an elderly friend a lady I phone every day she is isolated in a room in a care home locally. Her family live abroad and we have a daily chat. She is well looked after but very lonely at times like many others but coping. I managed to drop of some little luxuries to make her life a bit better and cheer her up. It must be hard for her but she copes.

I have also been in touch with a lot of pals I have not heard from for ages. Its good to catch up. The weather makes things a lot easier I get out on my mountain bike in my local forest where I see few folk. I also have a huge beach so I am so privileged to live here. My neighbours are good and we check on each other daily.

I enjoy my daily cycle the weather has been so good. I do not rush and enjoy things I never noticed before. Most days I hear a woodpecker in the forest or watch the birds diving in the sea. The other day I missed the Dolphins in Hopeman harbour a unique experience.

Please stay in touch with the elderly and lonely. Make that call or send a card to someone we love or miss. It’s amazing how much it will mean to them.

Every day I can see Ben Wyvis across the Moray Firth its shedding its snow and Morven snow less but what a prominent peak in this good weather. It’s hard to see them daily but how I miss the hills but I know I will be back on them one day.

Today’s memory: I was on a Moray Mountaineering Club Weekend to Eigg. I nearly did not go it was an early start for the ferry and there had been a lot of snow. I doubt I will ever get a trip like this when on the 29 April 2016 the Island of Eigg was covered in snow when we arrived. We climbed the Sgurr in snow after we sorted out the bothy it was an incredible day. I am so glad I went.

Climb to the top of the incredible and unique Sgurr of Eigg for truly fantastic views over the other Small Isles and across to Skye and Ardnamurchan. The route is fairly straightforward given the formidable appearance of the Sgurr, but it does involve a steep climb and very simply rocky scrambling along the ridge – care is needed.


Eigg is one of the Small Isles, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. It lies to the south of the Isle of Skye and to the north of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Eigg is 9 kilometres long from north to south, and 5 km east to west. With an area of 12 sq mi, it is the second largest of the Small Isles after Rùm.

Posted in Articles, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Islands, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Thinking Time. Looking back / The Monach Isles.

On the way back from a trip to the St Kilda we visited the Monach Isles

I was on our way home after an incredible 5 day trip to St Kilda.

The Cuma /

We were on the MV Cuma and had incredible weather and were so well looked after by Murdo and the crew. Fully recommended.

One of the joys of a sailing break in the Outer Hebrides is being able to visit uninhabited outlying islands such as the Monach Isles (Heisker) – a National Nature Reserve.

Scottish Islands – Hamish Haskell – Smith a great insight into the Islands.

This low lying group of islands with undisturbed machair, rare carpet flowers and a large breeding grey seal population…

The Monach Isles superb weather.

I thought that St Kilda was a wonderful place especially in the weather we had. Yet to visit the Monach Isles was incredible. The wildlife huge wild sheep and the lighthouse made this a great visit.

Our skipper had us up very early leaving from St Kilda as the weather was breaking later in the day and we spent a few hours on the Island before heading for home.

Then the weather broke as we headed home and the storm came early. I will not forget it was wild a few hours after this photo was taken. It made you feel how fragile you are as we made it safely back to our harbour.

This is from my diary “The Cuma anchored off the Monachs We were heading to the Monach Islands about 4 hours away and the sea was calm we watched St Kilda vanish into the distance. The Monarchs are a group of 5 small Islands which lie about 5 miles West of North Uist and Benbecula. They are uninhabited for most of the time. Three of the islands are connected at low tide. At one time all 5 Islands were connected but in the 16 century an enormous tidal wave swept away the sandbanks! We landed by the lighthouse and had a wander the along the white shell sand beaches were wonderful .There was a wreck of a ship nearby a rusting hulk torn apart by the wild storms and also huge Island sheep still with their winter coat. The great sand dunes and am hair make this a wild place. We met some kayakers in this paradise and then wandered about taking the rib to another island. Here it was more of the same nobody about and we crossed the island to more beaches that you dream about – white sands and more seals and birds. There were thousands of Orchids deep blue and very small light blue butterfly and so much white beaches with no one about. It was time for a paddle in the sea then back on board the Cuma for our evening meal. The forecast is for poor weather tonight so we are sailing back to Loch Roag tonight. The view from the boat was magnificent. We sailed way leaving this special place to the seals birds and wild life! Eating our meal to this vista of the white sands of the Monach Islands it was hard to believe a big storm was due that night.”

A great book!
Posted in Books, Enviroment, Friends, People, Plants, Recomended books and Guides, Sailing trips, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment


I was speaking yesterday to a pal (from a safe distance) he is a keen mountaineer and misses the hills like me so much. Yet we both adhere to what the government says about staying away from the places we love. Its a small loss in a World were folk are losing their lives, families are broken, life has changed. The NHS are doing so much work as are many others and folks are losing their livelihood. To think about the restrictions on me and others to me is selfish. I have beaches and forests on my doorstep and lots of folk looking after each other in my little village. Yet its to me good for the soul to dream about when we can get out again and be all out together?

The NHS and other agencies will need time to recover as will so many folk who are working flat out to save lives. It will take time but we all have to do our part to help and keeping away from the hills is a small part of it, so please follow the advice given by the government and various organisations.

It did not stop me dreaming last of leaving early for the hills, driving through Inverness as the day breaks and heading for the hills I love. I could see the journey so vividly, passing through a quiet Inverness the Beinn Dearg hills. Stopping at the Aultguish past the great Dam to get a photo of the wilderness and drinking it in. Hills and places I love The Fannichs, The Road of Destitution and walking into a special place that I love. The smell of the trees, the river and the gradual pull into a wildness that is unsurpassed. Yet it was all a dream brought on by my chat yesterday.

We live in tricky times but we must adhere to what we are asked to save lives and help those who are looking after us.

PLEASE NOTE – COVID-19All MBA maintained bothies are CLOSED to visitors until further notice.

All work parties are cancelled.

The journey to Shenevall

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

Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

The track wynds through the trees,

The river breaks the silence,

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

Midges and clegs abound here but not today,

 too cold, its winter.

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

 Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top,

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

An Teallach. Snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

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

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

 Youthful  memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress?

Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer:

They are still there; Sheneval.

It never changes, only the seasons.

Fire on, primeval.

Tea in hand:

Fire on Tea in hand.

Alone with thoughts.

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.

Memories ­­

Thanks to the MBA!

The light will shine again.

Staying of the hills – Scottish Mountain Rescue

Questions and Answers🔹

Firstly we would like to thank everyone for staying local or at home and for keeping our rescue teams quiet.

Over the last couple of weeks we have received a large amount of messages and comments with questions regarding what individuals can and cannot do in the current lockdown period, so we thought we would answer some of these recurring questions, to provide some clarity.

Can we drive to the hills for our exercise?

There is some confusion in England and Wales but the advice from the Scottish Government is clear, essential travel only, no driving for your exercise.

What if I live local to a hill can I go up then?

Slightly more complicated but essentially no, not up a larger hill, the advice is to stick to paths and tracks low down.
There will always be grey areas, but please do not try to interpret the advice in such a way as to enable you to continue with your hobby at the moment. Don’t look for loopholes, think more of the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve as a community.

I’ve never needed to be rescued in years of being in the hills?

No one sets off for a day in the hills expecting to be rescued. However experienced and knowledgeable you may feel you are, there are always others with greater knowledge and experience and they are staying off the hills, many at the cost of their livelihood. Most rescues are the result of simple slips and trips.

I am as likely to get injured at home doing DIY than in the hills?

Yes, but the consequences of an injury are significantly greater in the hills. It’s a question of resources required. Mountain rescues are resource intensive.

If you are injured at home either you can transport yourself for treatment or if more serious you will be attended by 2 fully equipped ambulance crew in one vehicle.

It only takes one slip, trip or fall and our teams services will be required. That means 10, 20, 30 team members (depending on the incident) coming to help, a helicopter crew coming to assist, an ambulance on standby, Police coordinating and before you know it you have brought up to 50 or more people out all because individuals could simply not stay at home or stay local.

Even if teams have sufficient PPE, it is not designed for use in the outdoor environment and when undertaking hard physical activity. So you, the MR team and their household when they return home are at greater risk.

So ask yourself two questions about your activity and where you undertake it:

  1. Have I increased my level of risk unnecessarily?
  2. What are the consequences of a rescue from this location?

When this is all over we are very much looking forward to seeing you back in the hills.

Stay Safe, Stay Local, Stay Well

ScottishMR #VolunteeringToSaveLives

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Poems, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

From Scottish Mountain Rescue – please heed this advice !

🔹Questions and Answers🔹

Firstly we would like to thank everyone for staying local or at home and for keeping our rescue teams quiet.

Over the last couple of weeks we have received a large amount of messages and comments with questions regarding what individuals can and cannot do in the current lockdown period, so we thought we would answer some of these recurring questions, to provide some clarity.

Can we drive to the hills for our exercise?

There is some confusion in England and Wales but the advice from the Scottish Government is clear, essential travel only, no driving for your exercise.

What if I live local to a hill can I go up then?

Slightly more complicated but essentially no, not up a larger hill, the advice is to stick to paths and tracks low down.
There will always be grey areas, but please do not try to interpret the advice in such a way as to enable you to continue with your hobby at the moment. Don’t look for loopholes, think more of the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve as a community.

I’ve never needed to be rescued in years of being in the hills?

No one sets off for a day in the hills expecting to be rescued. However experienced and knowledgeable you may feel you are, there are always others with greater knowledge and experience and they are staying off the hills, many at the cost of their livelihood. Most rescues are the result of simple slips and trips.

I am as likely to get injured at home doing DIY than in the hills?

Yes, but the consequences of an injury are significantly greater in the hills. It’s a question of resources required. Mountain rescues are resource intensive.

If you are injured at home either you can transport yourself for treatment or if more serious you will be attended by 2 fully equipped ambulance crew in one vehicle.

It only takes one slip, trip or fall and our teams services will be required. That means 10, 20, 30 team members (depending on the incident) coming to help, a helicopter crew coming to assist, an ambulance on standby, Police coordinating and before you know it you have brought up to 50 or more people out all because individuals could simply not stay at home or stay local.

Even if teams have sufficient PPE, it is not designed for use in the outdoor environment and when undertaking hard physical activity. So you, the MR team and their household when they return home are at greater risk.

So ask yourself two questions about your activity and where you undertake it:

  1. Have I increased my level of risk unnecessarily?
  2. What are the consequences of a rescue from this location?

When this is all over we are very much looking forward to seeing you back in the hills.

Stay Safe, Stay Local, Stay Well

ScottishMR #VolunteeringToSaveLives

Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Mountain Art Paintings and drawings – a few thoughts.

I always loved paintings and drawings of Mountains. I was cleaning up some of my books when out fell a card of a painting by Jean Thomas from Skye. Jean was a talented artist and I over the years bought many of her paintings and prints. Jean runs the Lochharport Gallery. She also painted birds and is such a talent, I often took the troops in at the end of a hill day to her gallery. Her husband was Pete Thomas an early guide on Skye who was also the Team Leader of Skye Mountain Rescue Team, I got to know him well. Pete also ran a bunkhouse that we used as a Base Camp with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams on our weekend exercises. He also gave me the use of their flat for me my partner and the kids for a short holiday many years ago. We had a great time seeing the otters and coastline of Skye it was a wonderful few days. Sadly Pete passed away in 2002 when I was posted down South and missed his funeral on his gravestone it states “In loving memory Pete Thomas 1938 – 2002 Mountain Guide”.

Skye Pinnacle Ridge Sgur Na Gillian – Jean Thomas.

We had some money bequeathed to us (1994 ish?) from a Dr Don Bennet who had died and who had been an ex Deputy OIC of KMRT in the ‘50s. This was about £1100 in total (money instead of flowers at the funeral). KMRT must have made an impression on him and I’m guessing that he’d been on National Service and joined the team. I don’t even think that Sunshine (Ray Sefton) remembered his name (he did) (worth a try), but one of the really old ones might, so it’s worth asking some of them at the reunion. I can’t remember his name, but there is a little brass plaque on the painting (I think), so his name might be on there or on the back perhaps. I hope that the painting is at Lossiemouth).

Beinn Eighe – Painting by Pat Donvan

The story of this painting. It was Commissioned for the 50 th Anniversary of the RAF Kinloss MRT IN 1994. Its classic as this is where the Lancaster Crashed in 1951 on the Triple Buttress of Beinn Eighe. That incident was a major influence on RAF Mountain Rescue that changed the training of all the RAF teams in the UK.

“Pat Donvan did the painting after I sent him a number of colour photographs of Being Eighe, some of the mountain and some of a stretcher party walking off which may have been taken in the Cairngorms.  He cleverly put the photos together to produce the painting.  I said that the most important thing was to make sure that you were at the front of the stretcher party directing proceedings!  

That’s all I know, but I’ll let you know if anything else comes to mind.”

Nigel Kenworthy 

The classic drawing by Bugs Mc Keith of Canada Ice.

There are many other Mountain Artists Ginger Cain and his wonderful drawings and paintings from all over the World of so many Mountains.

Of course there is my pal Terry Moore who has given me several paintings they all mean so much to me.

Call – out Terry Moore

What is yours ?

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

Ben Klibreck and the Vampire Jet Crash.

Ben Klibreck -is a mountain I have done on many occasions. Usually I climbed this in bad weather combining this with the most Northerly Munro Ben Hope. Ben Klibreck always caught the weather being a fairly isolated open mountain. The normal route to the summit can be hard going in wet weather.

From “Walk Highlands” Ben Klibreck is a huge, isolated massif rising high at the heart of the vast, empty moorlands that comprise the central part of Sutherland. This route avoids the worst of the bogs by making an enjoyable approach along the ridge, through there are still a couple of wet sections. The fabulous summit views are of a remarkably empty land.” You pass the Crask Inn a place I have great memories of and park on the lonely A836.

In winter it can be bleak but on a hot summer day it’s a special mountain with the seas an open moors sparkling Lochans in sun. I love the views of the lonely Ben Loyal in the distance. This is wild land

Ben Klibreck

In the past I have extended a day on Ben Kilbreck it by going to an aircraft crash site on the South East Spur of Meall Ailein and to a monument to the crew of a Vampire Trainer aircraft from Royal Naval Station Lossiemouth that crashed in 17 March 1955 sadly killing both crew.

The Memorial to the crew who died here.

The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team were involved in the recovery and located the crash in a wild March day all those years ago. The weather was wild and after a 6 hours search the aircraft was located. It is a remote site and a very impressive memorial set on the ridge with great views this wild part of Scotland. It is worth extending the day and going out to visit this site that few see.

The Crash site and memorial.

The monument is marked on the map and pieces of the aircraft can be found a grid reference Sheet 16/6182316 and NC 619305. Its a lonely place but well worth the walk out onto the ridge.

Old Press Cutting . Note spelling
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountaineering, Munros | 2 Comments

Week 4 – “Don’t count the days make the days count.”

I hope all are well and coping with the “Lock down”. I am lucky having a beach and a forest on my doorstep. I manage my Exercise daily out on my bike or walking. It’s never busy and we are blessed with a great path that follows the Moray Way along the coast. Every day I count my blessings living here in Morayshire and think of those not so fortunate.

Primrose Bay.

It’s great to see the daily changes in nature. The flowers coming out just now it’s the Primroses that give colour on the cliffs. The Cormorants diving for fish is incredible to watch and it’s special to see. We have time to watch nature now and it’s special. We are blessed with the weather just now it’s a cold wind at times but to get some sun at last is wonderful.

It’s great to speak to friends and family on the phone or by media but hard as the Grandchildren are so far away. We have so many to thank from all over the country who are looking after us.

It’s giving me time to think and get in touch with old pals. Even those we may have lost touch or even fallen out with?

I am listening to much more podcasts, only listen to news once a day and reading a bit more than usual.

So take care, stay safe and stay in touch.

Posted in Books, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, Local area and events to see, People, Views Political?, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Stay safe – Stay local – Stay well.

It’s been 26 days since the last mountain call out. That’s the longest time between call outs Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams have seen since the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.

We can do this.

Stay Safe, Stay Local, Stay Well

dontbetempted #thehillswillstillbethere

From Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Scottish Mountain Rescue represents 24 volunteer Mountain Rescue Teams (including two Search and Rescue Dog Associations (SARDA), Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation and the Search And Rescue Aerial Association – Scotland (SARAA – Scotland) with over 850 volunteers. We also represent an additional three Police teams and one RAF team.

Scottish Mountain Rescue, founded in 1965 as The MRCofS, is the representative and co-ordinating body for member Mountain Rescue Teams in Scotland. The organisation, an independently registered charity is administered by a volunteer Executive Committee, supported by three members of staff.

We facilitate the provision of a civilian mountain rescue service in Scotland and liaise closely with the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and Fire and Rescue Services, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Scottish Ambulance Service, and other partner agencies involved in Land based search and Rescue. Scottish Mountain Rescue has charitable status and is funded largely through voluntary contributions (registered Scottish Charity – number SC045003).

I like so many others are missing the hills but so lucky where I live to have the sea and the forest. There is much to see the birds are out and the gannets were fishing in the sea yesterday. They were diving into the sea and finding fish that were just off the shore. It was spectacular as were the Primroses that are just coming out on the cliffs. We live in tricky times but always thinking of those who live in the cities with limited space.

Primroses are a stunning plant at this time of year.

What have you noticed on your daily exercise ?

Today’s tip – Getting a lot of use from my binoculars on my walks a superb bit of kit well worth carrying.

Stay safe and stay well.

Posted in Enviroment, Flora, Mountaineering, Plants, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Sad News Joe Brown has passed away.

There is much in the media about the passing of Joe Brown. Joe was an incredible mountaineer. adventurer,fisherman and man of many talents. I was lucky to meet him on several occasions.

When I was in Wales at RAF Valley Mountain Rescue we bought lots from Joe’s Climbing shops in Capel Curig and Llanberris I also met Joe on a few routes. I met him and the late Mo Antonine on a route in the Devils Kitchen in winter. Myself and Jock Cameron were climbing some great routes it was around Christmas we had an early start and they were ahead in the Gully. It must have been about 1980. Looking back it was a great winter in Wales. My dog met us at the top of the route Joe was impressed. We met them again in the Black Ladders a few days later, they remembered the dog.

We wandered off together and I said I knew Hamish from Glencoe who was a long time pal of his. He was such a good guy and to speak and meet him was inspirational. He did so much for mountaineering yet was a superstar of his era and yet such a normal man. I asked him about a big rescue on Ben Nevis in 1954 when a climber fell of Tower Ridge on the traverse in winter. Don Willians and Joe were on the Ben at the time and recovered the climber after an epic. Joe abseiled down and freed the iced rope. I think it was on Echo Wall ? These were in the days of 120 foot ropes and simple gear it was a really brave attempt to save a life.

Sadly the climber was dead but the RAF Team from Kinloss the SMC and other climbers were involved in the recovery and the officer in charge I was told had no clue who Joe and Don were at the time. I think he offered them help. He laughed that I knew that tale.

There will be a lot of tales told about Joe his climbs his life by so many others. His book “The Hard years” is superb its a must read it’s still inspirational.

Joe Brown is one of the greatest names in British climbing. This book not only describes his many notable climbs, but reveals a most engaging personality with a highly interesting approach to his craft.

He was born in a Manchester slum, the youngest of seven children; his father died before he was a year old. The characteristics he showed as a child – a quite extraordinary self-reliance and an unexpected love of the countryside – are reflected throughout his life-story. THE HARD YEARS is also the story of Joe Brown’s climbs up some of the toughest mountains in the world.

From Scottish Mountain Rescue

Sad news in sad times, Joe Brown, died last night aged 89.
He was an amazing mountaineer and inspirational rock climber to all, with notable ascents in the Alps and greater ranges together with a list of new rock routes second to none.

Rest easy Joe and thank you for your legacy.

Our thoughts are with Joes family and friends.

Posted in Books, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Suilven – a dropped rope and an epic day.

We had some great summers of climbing way back in the 80’s and were at Lochinver for the weekend, whilst a few went to the Old Man of Stoer myself and Joe Mo had decided to climb on Suiliven. We were a bit cocky, Joe was a bold climber heading of to attempt the North Face of the Eiger next year with another young guy in the team Paul Ayres. I was enjoying climbing with them and hopefully instilling the sense to keep things safe. Suiliven in one of the most impressive mountains in Scotland its a bold peak. It is also one of the most beautiful peaks in the North West yet it only has a few rock and ice climbs on it.

In these days there were only 3 rock climbs on the Caisteal Liath Face on the North West of the mountain. On looking at the guide ( it was basic them) we had planned to climb Rose route a 600 foot Severe at the time. The guide book was vague, mentioning it was sandstone with vegetation, greasy in the wet, with bits of vegetation with superb views of the open moorland towards the sea. It is a place to be and few climb here. Joe was keen and so off we went.

Teallach and the missing rope, still missing nearly 40 years on it was the Purple one.

We left fairly early with the usual gear, two ropes etc, we also took my dog Teallach who would wait as we climbed and then we would abseil back down to him well that was the plan. The walk in along the track is on the normal way into the mountain. You pass Glencanisp Lodge where we spoke to the keeper, he said few climbed on these cliffs. Then it was head down across the moor heavy going with a myriad of lochans but always with the bulk of Suilven in view. We were fit but it was hard going Teallach was in ever lochan as it was a hot morning. As we neared the cliff we worked out the route (always worth doing ) then headed up the steep ground to gear up.

It was then we noticed that Joe had dropped one of the ropes. We had stopped once to take some clothes off as the sun went off. Joe said he knew where it would be and then headed back to try and find it. Teallach went with him and I sat and fell asleep. It was a good three hour walk in but we had stopped about half way. Joe was fit and sure he would locate it. When I awoke Joe and Teallach were back but with no rope the moor merged into one and every lochan looks the same. I was fed up and ready to go back but Joe wanted to climb the route. So with one 45 metre rope we set off. Teallach was fine sitting out of the way and was soon asleep. There was no diagram of the route but there was supposed to be a cairn at the bottom but we never saw it. Anyway that is what I was there for as my route finding was needed. Joe just climbed what was in front of him?

The crux if I remember right was early on and the route finding tricky, we got the odd bit of gear and had to work at the belays. Few had climbed here we saw little signs of traffic. the climb was first put up in 1957 by A. Smart and A. Mitchell. The climb description was not as good as today guides but in the end we got up the 600 feet. The wind had picked up and it started to rain on the last two pitches. It was here we dropped the camera and watched it crash down the cliff and the dog running after it.

The plan was to abseil off the route but only having one rope we headed up to the summit and I was worried about the dog? I should have known better as we came down the ridge we met Teallach coming up. He had followed the ridge round and then up the normal way. I was glad I did not have an epic to find him but I knew he was clever dog. We wandered off and had to explain to the Team Leader about the rope. I wonder if it was ever found by some wandering climber or walker but its so far out of the normal route I doubt it.


Suiliven by the normal walking route is a great day out the last time I climbed it was just after New Years Day. We stayed the night in the wee bothy Suileag.

The Bothy

It was a bitter night but we had a wonderful day on Suiliven the main summit is a great walk in winter you pass through the gap in the famine wall after the steep climb to the bealach then along the ridge to the summit. There are three summits in total on the mountain Caisteal Liath 2399 ft the main one, Meal Mheadhonach 2300 ft and Meal Bheag 2000 ft. Care is needed on the ascent of Meal Bheag where an exposed corner is turned on the North side by a series of ledges. The situation is slightly exposed but affords no difficulty in winter it can be interesting.

Nowadays a few kayak in from Elphin via the Loch Veyatie I have not done this but met pals on the beleach who set out from Elphin as we left, its a wonderful way in to the mountain. Maybe one day?

You cannot have a bad day on this mountain its not to be rushed and though only 2300ft it is a mountain of majesty.

This is my special place
My retreat from a mad world.
From the bothy Suilven stands Castle like
Summit guarded by loch and bog.
The mighty West buttress,
Steep, sandstone, scary.
Moving fast,Not savouring,
The peace and beauty, I came for.
I race to the top,
Summit reached,
Time to think,
Why all the haste? 

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments

The Final Ascent – The Legend of Hamish MacInnes


I am lucky to have known Hamish for many years last saw him on the weekend before the lock-down, He is still some man, when he got ill a few years back we all feared the worse but in typical Hamish fashion he came back. I had been privileged to stay in touch when he was very ill and it was a great to see his recovery. This film tells some of the tale of what he says was his hardest journey. It upset me to watch some of it but shows how you can come back from such a journey. I will watch it again as its on BBC Scotland on the 21 st April at 1000 pm. Watch it gain a small insight into Hamish’s life, what a man,

The Final Ascent: The Legend of Hamish MacInnes will be broadcast on Tuesday 21st April on BBC Scotland at 10.00pm.



Posted in Films, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 5 Comments

Memories of Buchan Mountaineering Club

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

Royal Air Force station Buchan or more simply RAF Buchan is a former Royal Air Force station-near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. It has been there since 1952, although the domestic site in Boddam is now closed. Until 2005 it was also home of one of the two Control and Reporting Centres for the United Kingdom in the form of twin double storey underground bunkers (R3A). As such it was responsible for coordinating all aspects of air defence as part of The United Kingdom Air Surveillance and Control System (UK ASACS). We had lots of Exercises “Tacevals” this was the Cold War where we played war and most went to the bunker at the end it was awful. My job was to get the rations underground so we survived or a few did while the World had Armageddon. What crazy days these were.

I had just completed a Winter West to East of Scotland in November the previous year and was devastated to be posted away from the Mountain Rescue at Kinloss. I was very fit and strong and would miss the hill. In these days I still did not drive but arranged with my new boss a Warrant Officer Chef Danny he was good to me and let me still go out with the Kinloss MRT Team twice a month. In charge was a an Officer from Personal Services Flight (PSF) a real plonker who hated my attitude and being in Mountain Rescue. Yet my Boss stood up for me he was a good man and looked after me and I looked after him. To get to Kinloss it was a bus to Aberdeen then a train to Forres and taxi to Kinloss all at my expense. At least I was getting out with my mates.

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

Our first mountain trip was to Lochnagar our nearest Munro. The station had a bothy that it looked after mainly used by skiers at Glenshee near Crathie that it looked after for the Miltary Outdoor Activities, sadly it was burnt down a few years later it was a magic place. The first trip out was to our local Munro Lochnagar and it all went well. Then came another weekend on the Glenshee hills. After that we planned a weekend trip to the Cairngorms and climbing Ben Avon and Beinn a’ Bhuird big Munros and a long day. It was still summer and what a summer we had.

We ended up planning some great trips all over the North Of Scotland we had some cracking weekends. The Aultguish Inn with the Fannichs and Beinn Dearg became favourite. Long days and great nights we formed a great wee group and did some really long days. The were a steady group limited hill knowledge, but soon got fit and we had fun. Rod Stoddart, who was at Buchan joined us and became a lifetime friend and joined Mountain Rescue and SARDA serving for many years. We had superb weekends in the North West with An Teallach and the Sheneval 5/6 with long drives back to Buchan getting back in the middle of the night.

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

After this we planned the Four thousand footers 4 in the Cairngorms:

Braeriach, Cairn Toul, (Sgor an Lochaine Uaine), Ben MacDui, Cairngorm. The next day the 4 in Ben Nevis area: Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg, Ben Nevis. This was before metric system came in and the Mountains were in Feet. It was a hard weekend though with little sleep and we got back to Buchan again in the wee small hours. A classic two days they all completed it was a great effort the wee club was going well.

Ben Nevis1344m
Ben Macdui1309m
Cairn Toul1291m
Sgor an Lochain Uaine1258m
Cairn Gorm1245m
Aonach Beag (Nevis Range)1234m
Aonach Mor1221m
Carn Mor Dearg1220m

Carn Dearg.

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

The Mamore Ridge, The Fannichs, Beinn Dearg Ullapool 5, The North and South Clunnie Kintail, The Affric Munros, Strathfarra Munros, Knoydart, Glendessary and of course our local hills at Lochnagar and Glenshee the odd bivy on the summits and climbs like Curved ridge, Agag’s Groove, Tower Ridge and so many other fun day.

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

I am sitting outside the Station Commanders Office and in my best uniform when in he walks. “What are you doing here” he says? I told him Flt Lt “Plonker” told me you wanted to see me. He went way called me into the office and said a big thank you for all your efforts. I told him that I thought I was getting a bollocking but he laughed and said he would sort it out and he did.

After that the Flt Lt hated me even more and when I applied to go back to a Mountain Rescue Station he stopped it, so I decided to leave the RAF. I told my Dad that I was leaving the RAF and he spoke to George Younger who was my MP in Ayr at the time. Next thing I knew I was posted full – time as Deputy Team Leader at RAF Valley MRT in North Wales much to my amazement. Sir George Younger was also Secretary of State for Defence Ministry of Defence 9 January 1986 – 23 July 1989 friends in high places. Poor Eric Hughes my Officer on the team told me this story and how he had to write a paper on me for George Younger. My Dad never told me what he had done.

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

Memories from Buchan Mountaineering Club.

Posted in Bothies, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Willie Mac – Local boy retires a big thanks from RAF MR and your old mates.

I met Willie Mac as a young lad from Harris who joined the RAF Leuchars MRT, he was enticed to join by Stampy a tiger in his day. He worked in Workshops and had not long joined the RAF. In these days he had a cheeky smile, smoked and spoke the native tongue Gaelic. He immediately hit it off with the troops even though he had never made a cup of coffee before. He soon got fit as he was always working in his croft with the sheep before he left his home. In these early days I introduced him to Ben Nevis via Castle Ridge where one of the troops slipped as we were unroped at the time but I held him. Willie and I was amazed that I held him and after the ridge we went on the the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. That was the only time I ever saw Willie struggle on the hill. He had hat perfect lanky gait like a keeper and became a sound all rounder in the hills. After that he became one of our best mountaineers in RAF Mountain Rescue. Always dependable in any situation and on the big Mountains he was superb at Altitude. He was on the second summit attempt on Everest when one of the boys took ill from the high camp at over 8000 metres.

Willie in action as always there for a mate above the North Col on Everest with his ill mate who he brought down from the High camp at 8000 metres.

They had no Sherpa support but Willie got him down to the North Col alone and that was his summit attempt gone. He was always like this and looked after his friends so well and that was the difference between our trip and others.

Willie has written a great piece on RAF Mountain Rescue during his time where he has just retired as Warrant Officer Mountain Rescue at Valley in North Wales. He has plans to go back up North home to Lewis. He is one of the best people persons I have ever met and looked after his team mates so well over the years. Its not easy in the Military but the troops came first and he stuck up for them at all levels.

Typical Willie he did not want a party or any big send off when he left, he just wanted to drift away but they had to let that happen. I cannot thank you enough for what you have achieved from that young lad at Leuchars in 1984 . Poor Willie shared my tent on many adventures throughout the World, he drew the straw! The week we spent in Kathmandu ahead of our trip to Tibet in 2001 will remain with me forever. The “meeting” with the Russians that nearly killed me, Willie was there. He looked after me on many occasions on our first trip to the Himalayas in 1990 and was always there for me and others despite nearly killing me with a fixed rope that we were moving. He nearly did not make our trip to Everest as he had a big Avalanche on the Annapurna trip a few weeks before that he walked away from.

Willie walked away from this !

I hope you enjoy your retirement not being at everyone’s beck and call 24/7 but hopefully you will stay in touch ( please) Its incredible to see what you achieved over the years but how great a companion you are on the hills and in life. He never liked getting his photo taken but I managed to get a few!

The Early days Big boots climbing.

Take care Willie

Now and Then: 1984 to 2018 Have things really


Willie MacRitchie: 1984 – trialist at RAF Leuchars MRT 2018 –


So, there I was beavering away in my wee office trying desperately to project the

image of someone who might actually know what they were doing when a

cheeky face pops around the corner and states that ‘they’ had all agreed that

because I was of a certain age and MRS experience I would write a Now and Then

article for the On The Hill 75th Anniversary edition.

Well, having got over the shock of realising I was now officially seen as an ‘old

git’ and the fact that the PS still attracts a wonderful bunch of rouges and

mavericks I smiled to myself and said why not!

A little background: I followed the path that many others walked looking for

that wee something different that mainstream RAF life could not provide. I got

posted to RAF Leuchars in Jan 84 and never had gave the MRT a moment’s

thought until a certain Graham ‘Stampy’ Stamp turned up a few months later.

Stampy, a gifted mountaineer and all round good guy as a fellow GEF ‘newbie’

got chatting about what I did on a weekend, lager and crisps was the answer.

Stampy then regals me with tales of adventure, camaraderie (didn’t even know

what that even meant then), socialising beyond my dreams, and most

importantly it would put me on the good side of our Chf Tech!! Why should that

matter you say… the previous week I had a bollocking to end all bollocking from

my Chief a certain mad Irishman by the name of Alister Haveron. Even now,

many years later I still vividly remember my knees shaking uncontrollably as a

verbal wall of what is now affectionally called ‘mentoring’ was delivered with a

fair bit of venom with every third word being ‘feck’ or something sounding very

similar! Of course, Alister was already a MR legend then and would go on to even

greater exploits with the MRS.

So off we go to the MRT Section to see the TL Don Shanks and chat about the

possibility of doing a trial. I haven’t even got to the door when this ruddy great

Alsatian comes running out all teeth and barking only to be swiftly followed by a

small fellow who is even louder than the dog! So that was the day I happened on

Dave ‘Heavy’ Whalley and Teallach; little did I know how much this big wee man

would influence my MR career. My adventures with Heavy are a story to be told

on another day.

I went out on my first weekend with Leuchars MRT in May 84 and as I sit here in

May 18 I am still a member of the RAF MRS and have seen a fair bit of now and


Where to start: Might as well begin with ‘trialists’. That first weekend the team

deployed to Fort William, staying at Achintee. I turned up at the MR Section full

of apprehension and not really having a clue about I was letting myself in for to

be met with a total indifference from the ‘troops’ I was a quiet lad anyway but

watching the banter and warm fellowship whist getting the cold shoulder was

pretty intimidating. As the deployment brief finished Don revealed his master

plan, Joe Wiggins was from Islay and as I was from Lewis Joe was tasked with

looking after me! We climbed into the back of the LWB Ambulance and off we

went, I don’t think we had even passed Hendies pub in Leuchars village before

Joe pulled out a hip flask and took a good slug before passing it over and

‘advising’ I have a swig to help me along. Myself and Joe have shared a fair few

memorable ‘swigs’ and adventures since that fateful day! In those days there

was over 100,000 people in the RAF, the MRS was probably at its highpoint, 6

MRTs fully manned with waiting lists, gods walking the earth in the guise of RAF

MR troops, still at the forefront of MR across the UK. Trialists were nothing, ten-apenny,

unproven fodder needing to reach the standards expected without any

real guidance, not to be spoken to, no sympathy to be given. Passing your trial

was a massive event and you gained immediate respect from the ‘troops’; they

had all travelled the same path and knew the pain you had endured Present day

is so different, less than 30,000 people in the RAF, 3 MRTs who face severe

manning issues daily, trialists few and far between. Potential trialists are

proactively engaged with from the moment any interest is shown, ‘troops’

embrace them and impart knowledge and enthusiasm from the start, trialists are

now a very valuable commodity. The standards expected from a trialist has not

been lowered but there is a level of pragmatism applied that some would find

different. If a trialists passes then they pass and crack on but if a trialist is a bit

short on fitness, determination could be better, needs to be a better team player

etc. in the ‘old’ days they would have failed but we do not have the luxury of

waiting lists and we must decide if we are willing to invest in recovering/improve

any weakness, a catch 22 question as we are constantly in stretch meeting

training targets. What we will not forfeit is the fact that we are a team and

anyone who is not a team player fails.

Bothies: That first weekend we went to Achintee and stayed in the ATC / Scouts

huts. These were old wooden huts not in the best of conditions but deemed

more than suitable for RAF MR troops! No showers, probably 1 or 2 toilets

between 20-25 troops with military issue toilet paper that spread more than

wiped, heating probably not, sleeping on bare wooden / concrete floors, the old

Mk5 cooker and ‘bomb’ to cook on. My last weekend out we stayed at the

Boulder Adventure Centre in Llanberis, a fantastic venue, carpets and central

heating, bunkbeds with linen and duvets provided, showers for all, modern clean

toilets with soft toilet paper and a fitted kitchen to die for. The modern MR troop

now benefits from all the work put in by their predecessors to ensure they

deservedly get equal treatment when deployed. Many a time I would look on

disbelievingly as organisations like JARTS would turn up and book themselves

into a swanky hotel while the MRT was in a pokey village hall or staying in tents!

Onich Village Hall – horrible cold dank place Boulder Llanberis – all the

mod cons

Vehicles: SWB and LWB Landrovers, RL or was it RJ / MK 4 Tonners, that was

state of the art transport when I first joined. As I think back I cringe slightly as I

remember getting Police escorts (3 litre Rovers) for the convoy and then

hammering along at nearly 42 mph (downhill) in the trucks with a pathetic single

blue light whirling away on the roof and a siren that sort off did a ‘nee-naw’ but

mostly just a ‘nee’, I can’t help but smile reminiscing about those middle of the

night trips! Today we have uber modern Isuzu 4×4 pickups and Mercedes

Sprinters as load carriers and the C3 (Control). The blue light suite on these

things is unbelievable and sirens that regress you to become a child all over

again. The communications package in the C3 is fantastic, VHF/UHF/HF, mobile

and satellite phones, Airwave, laptops with Wi-Fi, the old PRC 320 Clansman has

long gone. But, all these modern gizmos come with a price and the vehicles are

constantly in and out of the garages trying to find the elusive ‘gremlins’ that stop

them dead in their tracks. Each team still has a L/R for towing as the Isuzu’s

don’t have a tow hitch and the consensus is that the L/R is still the best option

for any serious off-roading.

L/R Control Mercedes C3 (Control)

Communications: Oh, the memories of the VHF ‘brick’! A FM VHF radio encased

in a heavy bulky waterproof casing that nobody wanted to carry. Parties could go

out into the hills and the next time you heard from them was as they walked

back into the bothy; many a restless hour was spent by a TL waiting to hear what

had become of their troops! If you wanted to speak to the civilian teams you had

to carry an AM VHF variant, so 2 ‘bricks’. On some jobs you were sent off to do a

‘link’ carrying a VHF ‘brick’, a big box of an AM VHF and the Clansman plus all

the ‘link kit’… nobody readily volunteered to be ‘link’. Today we have compact

VHF radios that are preloaded with all the MRT frequencies and have a scanning

facility. Mobile phones which when you have a signal are priceless and Airwave.

In the old days HF was the most reliable form of comms we had (we still use it)

but today it is Airwave that we rely on the most. You can rely on having Airwave

comms in all but the most remote parts of the UK, it is used by all the emergency

services and disaster co-ordination organisations. It is rare now for a TL not to

be able to contact all MRT parties, not unheard off but there are far fewer

restless hours.

Clothing Equipment: A massive subject and this is where things have really

changed and I will only cover a few things. In the eighties we got issued a pair of

‘Dollies’ which you used all year round. Today you get boots for summer, boots

for winter, rock climbing boots, boots with gaiters fitted, gortex boots pretty

much any type of boot on the market! I remember us all getting a fad for KSB’s

and saving our pennies and buying them ourselves. ¾ length hairy and Rohan

breeches, long red socks, white thermal tops that stretched to twice their size, a

blue cotton type shirt, green issue Army style jumper and council worker type

waterproofs. It didn’t take you long to invest in Ron Hill tracksters and a Helly

Hansen short zip top, this became the default ‘uniform’ of the MR troop for any

time of the year!!! I can remember the buzz at Leuchars when we got issued this

fancy new thing called gortex. It was from Snowdon Mouldings and wonderful,

Slioch remained a mainstay for many years and we now use Mountain Equipment

gortex. The development with mountain clothing and equipment has been

phenomenal and is ever evolving. Simple things like the range of base layers to

suit your activity is baffling, GPS watches, centralised maps, gloves that the

manufacturers nearly guarantee will do any climb for you! High profile

equipment failures and shortfalls highlighted in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts

has made the MOD very aware of their responsibility to provide sufficient

equipment ‘fit-for-purpose’ and the MRS has access to whatever on the market

we think best suits our needs. A long way from the days when troops had to put

up with old kit that had been bulk bought and would not be replaced until the

depots had been emptied!

Modern gortex, boots and gloves. ¾ trousers, green jumpers, ‘dollies’

Women: Remember the days when the thought of women on the team was

considered sacrilege? A battle was fought in the eighties to see if women should

be allowed to join the MRS, was it won or lost! Viewpoints differed, feelings ran

high, open letters were printed, warring parties postured and delivered

prophecies of doom and triumph. The reviewing team, a doughty female Wg

Cdr, a cute female Sqn Ldr and there was another but my memory fails me,

would spend the weekend with Leu MRT at Corpach. The Corpach Village Hall

was not the best of bothies and the Wg Cdr took one look and promptly took her

team off stay in a hotel in Fort William! They returned early on Sat morning to

see the team have breakfast and depart for the hill, there were a few comments

on communal living arrangements and facilities having to improve. I was away

up on a wet Tower Ridge when we got a call to say a Sea King had crashed on

Creag Meagaidh, with it being our 202 sqn mates we flew off the hill and back to

the bothy. The usual organised mayhem was happening with troops streaming in

stripping off wet clothing and put on dry kit, there was plenty of flesh to be seen

all over the place. The Wg Cdr was mortified and stormed off, the Sqn Ldr was

later heard to say that she thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle but also understood

that it was not for show but necessary. Funny how they seen things so

differently, whatever they thought the decision was made that women could join

the MRS. A bit more pandemonium followed, threats of resignation,

exclamations of the imminent demise of the MRS! Well we are still here, nobody

questions the notion of a woman wanting to join the MRS. I personally don’t

recall having any strong views either way about women on the team but I do

know that the early pioneers were determined and talented ladies. They

challenged a male dominated environment and succeeded, often against some

open hostility. I find it amusing to reflect on all the commotion that went on

when we see how much women have and continue to add to the MRS.

Helicopters: The relationship with the RAF SAR helicopters (affectionally know

as our yellow taxi’s) was special and endured until they day they flew their last

sortie. For me it all started at Leuchars where 22 Sqn was also based with the

Wessex helicopter. The crossover of banter, knowledge, training and socialising

was wonderful. The OIC MRT was generally from 22 Sqn to we always had strong

ties which only improved with having the fabulous MACR Mick Anderson on the

team. I like to think we complemented each other, MRS with its loveable rouges

and eccentricities and the SAR gang also slightly ‘different’ from the usual flying

crowd. It was a sad day to see the ‘yellow budgie’ grounded but not all is lost as

great relationships have been formed with the MCA crews, some who can boast

of very strong links to previous lives flying around in ‘yellow taxi’s’.

SAR Wessex in action. With our Sea King ‘yellow

taxi’ mates

Corporate image: This always makes me smile as I regularly get moaned at

about having to wear the ‘corporate image’ gear. These days it is all about

promoting the MRS/RAF/MOD, the days of sitting back happy in the knowledge

the MRS will never be cut is long gone. We must fight for our existence. I come

from an era of modesty, we did not openly flaunt our successes, he did blow our

own trumpet, we simply knew we did a good job and that was enough for us. We

now have a duty to ensure that we are seen to be doing a good job and the

higher management are fully aware. Simply having an RAF MRS badge on your

gortex jacket is a powerful advert when pictures of MRT Ops appear on national

or local news. They are an excellent reminder that we are still here and still

doing it on behalf of the RAF/MOD. As I look back I can’t help but smile, people

moan about the fact we never used to have to do this but is this true? The MRS

has a colour code for its ‘jumper’ and each MRT had its own colour code,

Leuchars had a black jumper with a single light blue band. When you look back

at old team photos these jumpers were always on display, was this a form of

corporate image? Even wearing the old green Army style jumpers could fall into

this bracket. But I also fondly reminisce about the array of colours and garments

that the troops would adorn themselves with. At times you would have thought

it was an ensemble from a circus but that’s what happens when you collect all

the waifs and strays nobody else wants!

Modern day corporate image. Jacobs coat of many colours.

Now and Then

I could go on and on about changes that have happened, every memory brings a smile. I think that is the important part, the MRS has allowed

me to enjoy a wonderful life with memories scattered with gold dust. Of course

the present day MRS is very different to the one I joined in 1984 but importantly,

“The kit on the outside and the equipment may

have changed but underneath the heart and soul

of the troops remains the same”

Building the Shed on Everest – Tibet!

Willie MacRitchie

Posted in Bothies, Enviroment, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Gear, Himalayas/ Everest, History, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 3 Comments

The Island of Barra – Call – out 1984

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

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

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

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

We were not far away from the Island and contacted our Control at Pitreavie and we soon had a Navy helicopter from Prestwick outside and 8 of us flew off. Now a few troops were not so happy that my Dog Teallach was going but next minute he was on the aircraft. Now the Navy are a wee bit different with animals but I was up front speaking to the crew and I was okay. The mist was well down and we had to go out to see and then had to sneak in to the beach in heavy mist on Barra where we met some locals who took us to the crash site. It was a scary flight in it was such thick mist and the crew did so well to get us to the beach. If you have the headphones on you can hear the crew working hard to get you there so well done the Navy. I was so glad to land on flat ground that day.

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

Dangerous places aircraft crashes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teallach’s last Munro – An Teallach.

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

The journey to Sheneval

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

Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

The track wynds through the trees,

the river breaks the silence,

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

Midges and clegs abound here but not today,

 too cold, its winter.

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

 Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top,

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

An Teallach. Snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

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

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

 Youthful  memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress?

Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer,

they are still there; Sheneval.

It never changes, only the seasons.

The Bothy

Fire on, primeval.

Tea in hand,

alone with thoughts.

Tea in hand

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.

Memories ­­

Thanks to the MBA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everest view from Tibet Base Camp.

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

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

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

Skye camp site The Sligachan.

On Everest we had a Shed was that cheating ?

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

I have lots of memories whats yours?

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

The Alternative Climbing Wall!

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

My mate Pete Greening sent me this “

Best climbing wall…ever!

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

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

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

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

Photo Pete Greening Collection

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

Photo Pete Greening Collection.

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

Pete Greening Photo Collection.

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

Falklands photos please

Nic Sharpe bouldering Falklands – Photo Eric Joyce
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Great names for routes ?

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

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

Spantastic at Flodigary Skye.

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

How did The Bullroar get it’s name?

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

The Bat – Ben Nevis

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

Hidden Chimney

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

Savage Slit

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

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

Punsters Crack the Cobbler

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

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

Arran Labyrinth.

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

Etive the right way round?.

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

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

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

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

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

David Whalley Sophie Grace will sort it !!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Jonah Jones Crocodile snogging

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

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

Tarquin Shipley David Whalley Not one for irony are you…

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

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

Pete Greening Andrew Woolston

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

David Whalley Pete Kay your my hero and Barbarian !

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

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

David Whalley Was that our day out ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1997  – Another  Rum Callout . 

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Corrie Rum

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

Atlantic Corrie
1957 – Early plans for assistance to Rum

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

Early training Exercise to Rum – 1962

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

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

Rum an incredible place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any update would be welcome?

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

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

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

1973 Northern Highlands Guide

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

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

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

From the SMC Guide Highland Scrambles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climbing Pubs – Another Era ?

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

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

Lock Ins – a few places that looked after us.

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

Imp in Fort William, Jacobite and the famous bell?

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

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

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

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

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

Portnalong – Great music and craic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eigg – party after Call – out

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

St Kilda – Puffin Inn.

Wales –

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

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

Cobbies – Capel – wild nights after Call -outs

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

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

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

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

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

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

I may have missed many but any tales are welcome.

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

Stay well stay safe.

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

One week in Of Lock – In .

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

The great Fisher field wilderness.

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

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

Destitution Wall on Beinn Dearg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay well Kevin you deserve your rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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