A wonderful painting of Beinn Eighe and the story behind it for RAF MRT.

he Tripple Buttress Beinn Eighe from a painting by Pat O Donovan

The Triple Buttress Beinn Eighe in Torridon from a painting by Pat O Donovan.

The photo above is of a wonderful painting by Pat O Donovan who was a member of RAF Mountain Rescue and I am sure painted this for the RAF Kinloss Team for one of their anniversaries. I have a bit of memory fade for me. It is a wonderful painting of a hugely poignant place for the team.     If anyone has any info on the painting and Pat who painted it please get in touch I have my contacts working on it.

The story of the crash is below





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



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


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



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Mike Banks Book tells a bit of the tale

Mike Banks Book tells a bit of the tale

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


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


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


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


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

The RAF Team in 1951 photo Joss Gosling

The RAF Team in 1951 photo Joss Gosling at the crash site look at the gear,

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


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




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

The wreckage in the Gully

The wreckage in the Gully

One of ‘D’ Dog’s propellers was recovered and put into a lifting net and taken by the helicopter to the road, and then to RAF Kinloss.  The twisted three-blade propeller now stands outside the wooden Mountain Rescue Section building as a permanent memorial to ‘D’ Dog’s crew. The gully where the aircraft crashed is called by mountaineers Fuselage Gully and one of the propellers has to be climbed over and is used by climbers as a belay in winter.








Flt Lt H S Reid

SIGNALLER Flt Lt P Tennison
SIGNALLERS Flt Sgt J Naismith
  Sgt W D Beck
  Sgt J W Bell


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


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


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


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


Teams at the start of 1951 were inadequately equipped and poorly trained, but where – in Wales – this knowledge was confined to the RAF, in Scotland the repercussions of the Beinn Eighe disaster were widely publicised.  About this time two Medical Officers Berkeley and Mason who had put forward suggestions for improved efficiency came to the notice of the Air Ministry.  It was largely due to the efforts of these two Medical Officers that the organisation and training of the teams underwent a drastic change in the following year.


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

I was very privileged to have my last weekend before I retired from the RAF in this area as a member of the RAF Kinloss mrt.  This area due to its history is unique and I have spent many days enjoying these peaks. The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin became test pieces for team training first in summer then in winter conditions. Many of the classic climbs in summer and winter were climbed by team members and a few epic callouts over the years. These hills have huge corries and alpine ridges where rescues have occurred mostly not reported by the National Press. The local Torridon Team and the RAF MR have assisted climbers and walkers over the years.  I have climbed Fuselage gully on many occasions with team members during my 37 years with the Mountain Rescue Service. In early Dec 2007 with two of the young, Kinloss Team members we had a special day. This was my last day with the RAF before I retired. It is a fairly simple climb by modern standards but I broke a crampon at the beginning and it made the day very interesting as we were being chased by a big storm as we descended. One crampon on the steep descent was thought provoking and I can only think of how the team in 1951 with their simple kit coped. I was brought up to respect the history of this majestic area and its people; there was no finer place to spend my last weekend than in this special place. On my retirement I spend a two great years with the Torridon MRT as a team member. Finally retired from Mountain Rescue it is a great privilege to return to and enjoy the beauty of this mountain, its ridges, corries and wild life.

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

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

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

Beinn Eighe

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.

The long walk, views expanding as we climb.


Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer

They have been there for many years

What have they seen?

2001 Joss

2001 Joss

Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.



This is a wonderful poignant place.

Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie?


This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe.

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

People ask why do I visit these places ?

Just speak to Geoff and then look in Joss eyes who was there when he tells his story of a young lad in 1951.

“Lest We Forget”

Heavy Whalley Oct 2016

Sadly the RAF Kinloss Team has now been disbanded and the Memorial is now at RAF Lossiemouth with the Mountain Rescue Team, the story lives on and I would love a photo of it?


The old memorial at RAF Kinloos

The old memorial at RAF Kinloos

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Thanks for all the comments on PTSD and Mental illness ! 

Thank you for the supportive comments on yesterday’s blog. I did it as a former colleague contacted me as he realised that after over 20 years he was suffering from PTSD.

It was good to see the response and I was very pleased to hear that Scottish Mountain Rescue have ran several TRIM Courses to help the teams. Sadly it has taken so long but at least we have started and hopefully the professional Agencies, Police, Ambulance, Fire and other services are now at least aware but we have a long way to go?

I have had a few calls from pals asking how I am? I am fine but always a bit unsettled writing and speaking about PTSD and my life involved so many incidents but I was lucky I was surrounded by good people and that is huge.

As for mental illness I get so upset when people do not realise someone they care for is struggling ! 

We must not ignore the signs in all of us but ask the difficult questions to those we love! Everyone needs someone and that means even the toughest can succumb!

I have just been for a great walk along the wonderful local beach and just missed the Dolphins a free display. That is my way of coping and I enjoy the solitude of walking alone at times and yet company is great but I talk too much!

Now it’s time to watch the football today a thing I missed when I was out every weekend on the mountains with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team. 

Have a good day and keep your eye on each other!  

From a friend “There is a brilliant therapy called EMDR which I use with people with people with multiple trauma. It is exceptionally powerful at reducing the distress associated with traumatic experiences. The brain doesn’t process the trauma memories in the same way as other auto biological memories. It is this fragmentation which means the memories or feelings will pop in to either your mind or make you feel as though you reliving the event. EMDR helps create a cohesive memory of the event.”

Posted in Articles, Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, mrdical, PTSD | Leave a comment

Great bothies and Memories.

My old mate Mark Cheeky Simclair RIP and Ray Shaferon at Sheneval bothy with a grand fire on

My old mate Mark Cheeky Sinclair RIP and Ray Sharon at Sheneval bothy with a grand fire on.

It’s great when you find an old photo that sirs the memories like the one above of wonderful bothy days and night with great pals. Mark in the photo is no longer with us killed on Lochnagar many years ago with another top pal Neil Main after a climbing accident, a sad time in my life in March 1995. The photo above sums Mark up full of fine and lived to climb. He loved Alaska and a few days before he was killed he gave me a huge photo of Denali Inspired by Bradford Washburn  whose photos of Alaska of that wonderful peak are breathtaking. Mark and Neil he had climbed in that wild area and loved it, what a pair they were. Mark and Neil would love the book I am reading just now.



The Bond

The Bond.

The Bond

“Man, the only – only – good thing about that climb was that you were tied on to the other end of the rope.’ Simon McCartney was a cocky young British alpinist climbing many of the hardest routes in the Alps during the late seventies, but it was a chance meeting in Chamonix in 1977 with Californian ‘Stonemaster’ Jack Roberts that would dramatically change both their lives – and almost end Simon’s. Inspired by a Bradford Washburn photograph published in Mountain magazine, their first objective was the 5,500-foot north face of Mount Huntington, one of the most dangerous walls in the Alaska Range. The result was a route so hard and serious that for decades nobody believed they had climbed it – it is still un – repeated to this day. Then, raising the bar even higher, they made the first ascent of the south-west face of Denali, a climb that would prove almost fatal for Simon, and one which would break the bond between him and climbing, separating the two young climbers for over three decades. But the bond between Simon and Jack couldn’t remain dormant forever.A lifetime later, a chance re-connection with Jack gave Simon the chance to bury the ghosts of what happened high on Denali, when he had faced almost certain death.”


alaska-tent-clear-after-storm- we had some wild storms on our trip that we interesting but nothing like the tale in the Bond.

I have had great days on a big mountains and Alaska was special my thoughts of Neil and Mark how they would have loved to be climbing today with all the new and improved gear. So as the winter draws in take care in all you do and enjoy the mountains in winter at their finest.



Posted in Alaska, Books, Bothies, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Looking after each other and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental Illness! 

Many will know that I suffered from PTSD after Lockerbie in 1988 and at times it still effects me! I have written about it many times in my Blog and regularly hear from so many who suffer from it. It is sad to see that such a tragedy like Lockerbie that effected nearly 70% of my team of 36 many only realising this recently over the last 10 years! So many families have had to deal with this and the strains on the families and loved ones ares huge. I know this from my time in the dark room! I also was heavily involved in the Shackelton Crash in Harrris in 1990 where 9 souls  died and the Chinook Crash on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994 where there were 29 fatalities. I was unfortunate to be on scene very fast on all these tragedies, so I sadly speak with vast experience on this subject. I also feel that this is so different from a war scenario where you expect to see death and trauma. On all occasions we were not expecting to experience anything so traumatic.

Any comments ?

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

I am proud that in these dark days in 1988 we help raise the huge problems in the military with so many suffering from PTSD. This was not easy as the military and all the emergency services still did not acknowledge PTSD. We have come a long way since these days! I was slated at the time by the establishment for asking for help by those who should know better! Yet it was worth the effort, heartbreak and problems over many years I feel!

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

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

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

We have a duty to each other to look after those we love and care for and If we see friends struggle we must to speak to them and get them help! This is not easy and hard to do and many suffer in silence. It’s to late at a funeral to be sad over the loss of a troubled pal a trusted friend yet we missed the signs! We get so close on Rescues or the companionship of the rope on a climb or on a long expedition, yet how often have we missed our pal in trouble but what do we say and how do we say it?
Life in a Rescue Agency  gives you many challenges, many of us who read this blog may have spent so much time looking for people and trying to help those we do not even know on the mountains and wild places  who are in trouble. Yet at times we miss those who we think are the toughest of men and women who suffer in silence until it’s too late? Our own people.

As I write this it is great to see the Scottish Mountain Rescue is running a TRIM course at Glenmore Lodge this weekend! This helps highlight the problems of PTSD for future generations who hopefully have learned from our mistakes in the past!

Things are getting better slowly.

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

Things are getting better slowly.

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


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

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

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

A look at this book on PTSD.

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

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

Take care and let’s look after each other!

Comments welcome.

Since this was written I have over 10 folks contact me thanks its appreciated and hopefully some will find help.

One reply

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

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

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


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

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Charity, Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, PTSD, Recomended books and Guides, SAR, Views Mountaineering, Views political | 6 Comments

Sunshine in the Cairngorms in more ways than one?

Yesterday was a special day in the Cairngorms not just because of the weather or because of the chance of wonderful day on the hills. I was with a pal Susan who a year ago this month was diagnosed with Cancer and she has had one hell of a year with Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy treatment. Sue has always been a fighter and with great help from the NHS and her family,kids and close friends she has fought a long battle and has come out the other side.  She and Mikey her son wanted a day on the hills to celebrate her recovery maybe climb a Munro and enjoy the great weather. Most of us have been close to this terrible disease and it was wonderful to see Sue looking so well enjoy every minute of a great day. I spent some time with Sue through her treatment and she will hate me for saying this but what a fighter she was all the way, there was no way she was going to lose this battle. She was an inspiration to us all and it is great to see her looking so happy  after such an incredible year. I have lost many pals to Cancer through my life and as life goes on it now a part of life and its was great to see how Sue has come through and the vast changes and success of the treatment.

The Classic bunkhouse at Carrbridge.

The Classic bunkhouse at Carrbridge with Sue and Mikey.

We spent the night with old pals Alyson, Tom and Chris Jones at their classic Bunkhouse in  Carrbridge to get the best out of the shorter daylight of October. I had played golf earlier on and we planned to meet about  tea time in a busy Aviemore meeting an old pal Bill Rose and family who were in holiday in the village. Aviemore was so busy and everywhere was booked up with so many enjoying the great weather and the school holidays.  Eventually we managed to get a meal  and then headed up to Carrbridge to the Bunkhouse. What a place this is and I have so many memories of this classic bunkhouse. It was the place of our last meet before our Everest trip in 2001.

We had a great time with pals Tom, Alyson and Chris  apart from managing to watch Celtic getting beat  I left Alyson, Sue , Tom, Chris and Mikey after the game as we had an early start in the morning. Someone had to get up The bunkhouse was warm and cozy as Tom had the fire on for us and a great place to be. Next morning amazingly we were away by 0830 and off to the” Active Cafe” for breakfast and then on to the lower Car Park on Cairngorm.

Clouds and windfarms

Clouds and wind farms.

I loved the walk from here its never busy and away from the industrial site that is the Ski area and the hordes of  people that is the main car park and railway. I used to wander around here when I was recovering from my illness and knew the area so well, every time I went out I got higher and the effects on the mind and body when ill can not be understated. Sue  I hoped would enjoy the walk onto the main ridge overlooking Strath Nethy it a great place to be . It is so good even when unwell to get out into the mountains as we both understand it does so much for the mind and body when fighting illness. We soon rose above a sea of clouds but we could still see the wind farms when we parked at just over 500 metres and we were soon off on the hill. The path is muddy for the first 10 minutes and then as you gain height on the ridge it becomes dry and is a  great way up. Mikey was getting some navigation lessons whether he wanted them or not and we were going well loving the view with the clouds below us in the glens. It was warm and sunny and not a normal October where winter is usually making it presence. All the snow was gone from quick blast on Monday just a little bit a smattering on the higher hills it was more like summers day but what a great day to be out.

Great path above the clouds.

Great path above the clouds.

From here it is easy access onto the plateau above Coire Laogh Mor, normally a place of many Ptarmigan and mountain hares but not till later did we see them. It is great walking and you seem to gain height effortlessly, the ground is lovely and soft and the deer grass and vegetation at this time of year make is like a carpet. The views are ever-expanding and soon we were overlooking Strath Nethy and the Munros and beyond. We had another stop on spot height 1028 and spotted the bothy at El Alamein. It was so clear and warm and all the big hills were clear and Mikey was keeping us right with the map. It was hot and we were drinking a lot but we good sit on the tops in no wind and the sun.

Above Strath Nethy.

Above Strath Nethy.

We saw no one and only a few ptarmigan on the ridge up to 1151 and past the Marquis Well snow-less from my last visit only a month before. From here you are near the Ptarmigan Restaurant and the people and we followed the path to the summit and the others enjoying the . It was great to see so many out though and Sue and Mikey were loving their day. We had lunch lots of photos and a bit of time on the the summit. It was still very warm , no wind and great views. Mikey asked me to show him where we were on the summit (he had become the teacher!) It was hard to believe that Sue had gone through a hellish year and yet here she was on the summit of her first hill and going well, we were all very pleased for her.

The wee wander

The wee wander

Times like these are specail and hard to write about but it proves that though life can be so hard but the power of the human spirit, determination and proper care can help you achieve so much? Thank God for the NHS and those who help us in our times of need.


I had left my car in the top car park and my keys in Sues car at the lower one, (idiot) so I headed of back with Mikey  to get the keys and Sue was happy and wandered down the main path to the car. On the way off it was sad  as what a mess is near the cafe with bulldozer and its an Industrial site with little care for an environment that can be so fragile and sad to see in my mind. We were soon past it and onto the open hill where we saw a huge hare and had a great wander down cutting back  to the car and then drove up and met Sue in the top car park. We had been on the hill for just 4 hours but what a day we had,great views, weather, and no wind so unlike Cairngorm at this time of year. It was then we went down to the cafe at Rothiemurcus and met Ray Sefton another pal and had a coffee and a bite to eat and a catch up.


Time was moving so we headed off Mikey and Sue back home to Onich and me back to the Moray Coast.

A great day and a definitely one to remember. Health is wealth never forget that.



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Looking forward to a walk with friends today!

Going for a wander today with a pal in the Cairngorms forecast is good and they just want a short walk.

Looking forward to these hills before the big snows come along with all the people? The photo above is in full winter in the Cairngorms !

It’s a great time of year with the trees changing and the light as always so important and highlighting the wonderful colours!

I  am so lucky !  I remember that Teallach my old dog always changed his coat into a darker brown for the first snow . He was so in tune with the mountains it was a great guide when to start carrying a bit more gear as it’s getting colder on the tops?

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A fall of snow on the Cairngorms – a few points of enjoying the winter.




I heard yesterday that snow fell on the Cairngorms and maybe this is the start of a long winter. I am off on Thursday to the Cairngorms so I will see for myself. The forecast is very good but just above freezing on the tops. Many come the first snow saw that it is it but winter is a magical time and I advise you to get out with someone and experience winter walking its a new world in which no matter what we do we learn so much each year no matter how experienced we think we are. First thing check that Mountain forecast?

Check your winter gear if your gloves are knackered get rid!

Check your winter gear if your gloves are knackered get rid!

It is worth looking out the winter gear I think, I have checked the torch, batteries, put in my bigger gloves ( plus a spare) lose a glove and you have problems and  I am now taking my wee duvet jacket and a flask. As always I love the first fall of snow and the blast of the wind on your face and a reminder that winter is coming or here.

Map and compass and the ability to use them, get out with a pal and learn now.

Map and compass and the ability to use them, get out with a pal and learn now.

I got into a discussion the other day about all carrying a map and compass on the hill and an ability to use them. A few thought that was too much and some just follow a leader for the day. I would advise that having a map and learning how to use it and a compass on the hill are essential.  Come the winter, the paths are gone and footsteps followed may take you into climbing ground or over cornices. Get a map and compass to go with your shiny new £300 jacket and boots! Get out with someone experienced or go on a course many are subsidised and if in a club are worth attending. Get out in your local area and practice in a safe place, try it in the dark and see how tricky and slow you become.

Practice is the way forward.


Comments welcome?


Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments