Al Ward – RIP

From the RAF MR Facebook Page .

“It is with great sadness we have to announce the passing of another Troop, Al Ward who served with the teams at Kinloss 1959-1961, Khormaksar 1961-1963, and Kinloss 1963 -1970.

Al passed away on Saturday 19th January at home after a long illness. Funeral arrangements are not known at the moment; as they become available they will be posted to Facebook and the RAFMRA Website. R.I.P.”

Al in Skye photo from RAFMR Phil Luff

I have just been informed that Al’s funeral is at Onich Church (opposite the Onich Hotel) on Saturday 26 th Jan at 1330.

I met Al often over the years he was one of the old and bold before I joined the team. He was part of s very powerful RAF Kinloss Mountain Tescue Team in the 60 ‘s It is very sad news thinking of his wife Kate and the family. Al was one of the early Mountain Rescue troops to complete the North-South and South -North Scotland walks across Scotland . He was a big inspiration to me and many others.

A lovely man thinking of Kate and all the family and his many pals throughout his life.

Photo Al Ward on one of his Big Walks photo RAFMR Tony Bradshaw.

I hope to be at Al’s Funeral this Saturday in Onich to celebrate a life well lived. Another star has gone but he shone very brightly and gave many of us so much enthusiasm for the wild places. Few will know the feeling at the end of a big walk in Scotland in these early days.

A few words from some of Al’s friends.

Jim Craig

“Did not know Al was ill, gutted to know he has left us. Another of the old masters gone. Yet another who meant so much to me that I so regret not having said farewell to.

In my youth Al was such an inspiration his wit and sense of humour never failed to lift moral however rough and foul conditions could be. My sincere condolences to lovely Kate, wonderful lady. My thoughts with her and her family at this sad moment.”

Pete Myers

“Worra troop, and what a man… Acacia Ave, ‘Royal’ Leamington Spa was where Al originally hailed from, he was always quick to remind you that it wasn’t just Leamington Spa… It was ‘Royal’ Leamington Spa. I first met Alan when he landed back from some far flung middle east posting for his second term at Kinloss with wads of cash in his back pocket, and what did he spend it on ? an almost brand new sky blue Austin car… and he couldn’t even drive, Oh if the back seat of that vehicle could talk, eh Kate! So many lovely, lovely memories. The time we went to Skye and forgot the pump for the metal beer barrels. No problem, Al smashed a hole in the barrels with an ice axe. Sure, it was inconvenient that every time you needed a pint you needed to carefully place your glass under the hole that Al had created, tilt the barrel over and pour, woe betide anyone who spilt a drop… And the night we spent at Kintail… Lo and behold when we walked into the bar of the Kintail Hotel, it was Al that spotted These bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale, a bit of a cult beer back then, with a reputation for potency, Al ordered a bottle for even team member, announcing that it was his birthday. Worra night that was. There was a couple of large Bell tents pitched in a field just up from this broken down bothy where the Team was dossin. The tents belonged to some sort of Officers training program attached to Edinburgh University. What went on after the pub closed should surely go down as some sort of record in the annals of R.A.F. Mountain Rescue history as the only time the whole team AND the man in charge C/T John Hinde were charged.”


“Was with Al at Kinloss and khormaksar. It was Al that introduced me to MR at the innocent age of 17, which I always thanked him for as it opened up a whole new world for me. My deepest condolences to Kate and family

RIP Al you occupy some of my best memories.”

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Good days with companions on a great hill Suilven.

This photo was taken on Suilven in Assynt a few years ago with Kenny Kennworthy and Martin “Raz “Frew both were my Deputies at RAF Kinloss MRT and Martin was Deputy at RAF Leuchars. These are great guys when this photo was taken when we met on the beleach on the ridge as Kenny and John Cosgrove had kayaked in from Elphin. Myself and Raz had walked in from the normal route and had a fun day.

What a great hill and if you climb both tops it’s a classic day the lower top is interesting. However you climb it it’s a magical day out and we had another superb day.

l love this mountain

it as such a classic hill and stands “Castle” like on the open moors. It is a great Mountain in winter a classic traverse.

On another day a few years later we set out on New Year’s Day Ian “Ned “Kelly had been on night shift in the ARCC ( Rescue Centre at Kinloss at the end of a 4 day shift run) so we drove up North on so quite roads to Assynt.

The plan was to stay the night at Suileag bothy and we arrived in the dark. I had never stayed the night there before and it is in a great situation. There was a big group at the huge Canisps Lodge as we passed by on the road. It looked an incredible place to spend the New Year period. We were heading for a bothy a few miles on it was a starry night by now and bitter cold.

Normally for a bothy especially in winter I carry in some coal but was expecting there to be some fuel there . I even told Ned there would be. How wrong was I and all we had was a fire log with us. There was no wood at all. I had a look around and found some coal or what I thought was coal in the ashes dumped near the bothy. Sadly it It was a bitter night and the coal never took . It was – 15. Ned only had a small sleeping light bag and froze. I was in my RAB from Everest so slept well.

We were off at first light in a stunning morning and had to use crampons on the grass ! It was frozen solid and had a Day never to forget.

The views all day were wild of the Lochans, sea and mountains. What a hill to be on especially at New Year.

We met a large group as we descended from the Lodge they would be late off. We had a long journey ahead it was then head of pick up the gear from the bothy and then drive back on empty roads.

A great two days in good company and superb memories that keep you going in life when things get tough.

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Sadly no hills still got that cough but enjoy them if out. Winter is back !

Winter is back with snow and cold temperatures everywhere. There is something about the winter days, the light and the clearness of a cold day is so special. I love this time of year.

I should have been out over the weekend but my bronchial cough is back and a lot worse at night. I wake regularly with fits of coughing . So no hills till it sorts out I see the Doctor on Tuesday.

The Moray Club are out on a Bus meet to Laggan but sadly I will not be with them. I am hearing that the hills are stunning and the paths icy so be careful it’s easy to slip. Crampons are an essential in winter especially if coming of in the dark or failing light. It’s worth getting out on the ice as they take a bit of getting used to . Pointless having crampons and not using them! It’s well worth practising in a safe area .

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | 1 Comment

A winters walk on Fionn Bheinn (White Hill) near Achnasheen.

To many who know the mountains especially the Munro Fionn Bheinn above Achnasheen to most it is not the most motivating of hills.

In summer it can be a short boggy wander and often climbed quickly along with other hills. Sadly it has a reputation of a boring hill by many !

Why folk ask was I on Fionn Bheinn yesterday. Sadly of the many times I have done it a few times at night with the Mountain Rescue is has been wet and with limited views. Yesterday was a chance with a reasonable weather forecast to get those missing views.

A friend is training for a trip to the Sahara and with my cough, ribs etc I needed a “easy hill” There was snow forecast so this was the plan for the day. Take it easy and get some views.

Fionn Bheinn is barely just a Munro at 933 metres and is Munro 246. The drive was interesting and we met several gritters on route the road was icy so we took our time leaving at 0730. As daybreak came the hills looked superb and Ben Wyvis and Little Wyvis were snow-covered. It was – 3 temperature but the weather looked good. It took just over two hours to park near the old garage at Achnasheen.

It’s a great drive passing so many familiar hills on route looking wintry . There were as always plenty of deer about on the flats of the river Bran. The railway follows the road and we saw the wee train heading to Kyle of Lochalsh a great railway journey.

The snow was down to the road and off the main road the road was icy.

The SMC Munro App a handy bit of technology.

We wandered down to the start of the hill and followed the signs taking you up on the open hillside.

I was amazed that on the hill in places there was a lot of snow. There is a estate road that goes up the hill and we watched an estate

tracked wagon coming down they had been away early. The tracks were nearly on to the ridge we later found out.

We wandered passed the waterfall there was ice forming and I found it hard work in the snow and eventually got into the tracks that the wagon had left.

We met “Cube Cain Alaister Cain from the Scottish Avalanche Service on his way to compile his daily report for the Torridon Area. The wee Coire is an ideal place to evaluate the conditions.

A great book Mr Cain a is a man of many talents!

We had a good chat, we have many pals from the past and he powered off he had to be back to get his report in. My pal John Armstrong who lives locally says you get some big avalanches on this slope.

Do you follow the SAIS reports and blogs? They are essential reading for winter walkers skiers and mountaineers. Well worth a read.

I could see ski tracks ahead one brave soul had taken advantage of the snow and was rewarded. We could also see there was a party of 5 behind. I was glad of the tracks of others to follow. The views opened and this hill in winter has incredible viewpoints .

How folk cannot enjoy these views of Moruisk and Slioch and so many others. We stopped and had a drink and enjoyed the no wind sun and wonderful views.

Snow getting deep.

The party behind caught up they were the first of 3 groups from Inverness Cameron Barracks taking some University Air Squadron cadets on the hill. They were all enjoying the day and they passed us making the walking easier but still hard work.

After 2 hours we reached the ridge and got the views of Loch Fannich and the Fannich Munros. Below us was the remote Toll Mor Corrie where we came on our Big walks across Scotland. Memories came back of many years ago 1976/77 after leaving the famous “Nest of Fannichs ” bothy now long gone. I bet few climb Fionn Bheinn from the long ridge heading from the Lochan below. It is a long way across wild land.

The final ridge to the summit was busy but measy walking at last and another party from Cameron Barracks were with us. Dianne went on and I enjoyed looking into the depths of this rugged Coire and wild land and the great hills. On our walks we would climb the 7 or 9 Fannich Munros in a day nowadays 1 is hard work.

Dianne was on the summit and we met another group this time it was Simon who was guiding the Cadets. He is a friend of Rusty Bale who works in Wales but is up for the winter. The students were loving their day and it was great to see. Now we could see all the Fisherfield Hills and An Teallach what a place to be. It was encouraging to see that all the students were loving the day and moving well.

It w as then head off a great track to follow but I started coughing all the way off. It must have been the cold air but we were soon down the snow still down to the road .

Yet it was slippy and you have to take care.

Nice to meet Simon and his group enjoying a lovely day out in the winter sun.

I had to visit an old pal John Armstrong who was with SARDA for a chat he lives in Achnasheen. John was also with the Tweed Valley Team and was at Lockerbie where they and the other teams did some incredible work.. John like many in SARDA is an unassuming man like all the Dog Handlers. Great folk who I have huge respect for and we had some wild memories of epic 3- 4 day callouts all over Scotland. No wonder our bodies are battered after all those hard rescues and call outs. Would we change it I doubt it despite the toll it takes on your body.

John I cannot thank you enough for the the tea biscuits and Journals. It was great to see you again. Will catch up soon stay well.

John Armstrong one of SARDA ‘s finest and Tweed Valley MRT now like me retired. Great men, women and Dogs who are so important in SAR great folk and even greater memories.

In the end a busy day meeting so many good folk and great to see the young Cadets out in hills loving an experience of Scottish winter.

So for all you folk that are spoiled for choice every hill is an adventure some of us are luckier than others. We all get different things out of the mountains and wild places. I have learned as you get older you never take any day in the wilds for granted.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Bothies, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, SAR, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 3 Comments

Some thoughts after yesterdays blog.

Thanks for the comments on yesterdays blog.  My apologises if I missed lots out of the story and I know that all who were involved played a huge part. The Cairngorm team have regular incidents as I said and are out most winters in these wild conditions. They  Braemar, Aberdeen MRT cover a huge area and have huge respect from me  and so many others.   Our  small part was on a  huge incident in a period of sadly many in this period. It should be noted again that the RAF Teams assist in incidents all over Scotland and still do.   They have been doing this for over 70 years and it is great to see that Lossiemouth MRT are still other doing it.


I know very well from being the Statistician when I collated the Stats for Mountain Rescue all over that on big incidents involving several teams many had a view on what occurred and when. On the hill you concentrate on your part, you are given a task search an area and report back and get debriefed. Its rare if you are on the hill to get the big picture but in the end that is what the Police the Search Controllers/ Team Leaders do.    Anyway after a hard day or night you usually get of the hill. debrief and get sorted for a next day or another area to search. Its those organising the search who have the big picture and are looking for clues if no route was left by the missing party.

I write to try to pass on the lessons and learning points on these incidents and understand that it will still be hard for the family who lost 3 folk in this tragedy.

I appreciate your comments and again I am sorry if I missed certain points but as many will tell you the memory can struggle even with keeping a diary. 



Dave Cas  – Great account of a really difficult callout. I recall being on my belly with my ice axe firmly planted in to the ice, holding on as large plates of ice flew past in brutal winds. 2ba had made the call not to try and descend the goat track and we returned to via corrie Domhain and Strathnethy. Really challenging with a really sad outcome. As Mark highlights the walk out of Strathnethy was pretty awful.

Helen Howe

Well done Heavy and good effort. I remember this one well as Doctor Mayo was in one of our neighbouring teams when I was with Rossendale SART. People were so shocked by the triple fatality and especially including a young lad. I think how far I have come from back then when I was a winter novice but all the same however experienced you become there is always an element of ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’ we can all make questionable decisions in the cold and wild weather.

Andrew Greenwood – Thank you Heavy. Dr. Mayo was in my team, before I joined so never knew him. We have just held the 25th Chris Mayo memorial lecture and we keep his memory alive through that, and a memorial stone at our base in the Trough of Bowland.

‘Still on the hill”
Good effort.

Today we say farewell to Andy Nisbet in Aberdeen it will be a celebration of Andy’s life, a life lived to the full.

Andy Nisbet RIP.

RIP – Andy we will miss you but you have left some legacy.

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A wild Call out in the Cairngorms.

When you hear that the Mountain Rescue teams are out and the weather is wild  and winds are high few understand what that means. Cairngorm MRT recently located a casualty injured on the plateau on a wild night with incredible winds and wild conditions. Nowadays we can show pictures on easy accessible phones that give an idea of what the teams are working in. They risk their lives for fellow mountaineers and appreciate that it easily be you that gets blown over or injured. It made me think.

I was out in the Cairngorms at the weekend it was a windy day but nothing like this memory. It is interesting that despite the high winds many were planning the summits. I got asked how many tops I was planning. Over the years you have huge respect for the wind after seeing 13 stone friends picked up in gusts and thrown 50 yards. In Mountain Rescue we had to train to survive in these conditions in winter with snow. Whiteouts and huge Cornices I have huge respect. Looking back there was little we could do unless we knew exactly where the casualties were. There was also a bit of ego that we never turned back, it was not what you did. I learned early on that turning back was nothing to be ashamed of. Sadly that took years to sink in.

I had just handed the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team In 1993 and had taken a few months of to give the new Team Leader time.  It also allowed me some quality time with my family to get adjusted to a normal life. It also let my friend Jim the new Team Leader to make his changes.


1993 February


The 1990’s were a hard time for Mountain Rescue. We had many difficult callouts and this was the start of a time of “The Black winters” (as Blyth Wright called them ) We had no mobile phones or GPS the kit was good but our communications could still be poor at times.

A Family “The Mayos “ Dad, his 15 year old son and their Uncle were missing in the Cairngorms.  The information was as always vague they were planning staying in the Youth Hostel in Aviemore after a day out on the hill but not arrived back. The Warden was worried but they were fairly experienced and one was a member of a Mountain Rescue Team. As is normal a decision is made and a search would start next day. Often this happens and the party turn up, otherwise the teams would be out most days and resources are few. These were the days before mobile phones and it had already been an extremely busy winter for the teams.

When they did not arrive next morning  a search was started and one was sadly located in Coire an Lochan by a winter Mountaineering group from Glenmore Lodge below the cliffs. The local team Cairngorm and Glenmore Lodge were involved and then we got called out. ( I have just been advised that Ogwen MRT from North Wales were up and assisted for the three days) it is easy to miss things like this and no slight was intended. This was to be a big search. In the Cairngorms there is a plan and Braemar. Aberdeen SARDA and the RAF Teams (then Kinloss and Leuchars can be called in )

As we got called late in the late afternoon 4 of us flew in a Seaking helicopter in a fast party to Glenmore Lodge. The rest travelled by wagons to Glenmore. The weather was awful high winds the flight in the helicopter from Kinloss was very scary 50 mph winds buffeting us. Forecasts were poor the wind heading up to 80 mph later on the evening and a big Avalanche warning. We arrived ahead of the Team at Glenmore Lodge Cairngorm Glenmore Lodge MRT were already out and they wanted the plateau and steep side of the Larig Gru  March Burn checked if possible.


It was assumed by the Search Planners thought that the two still missing including the young boy were out on the plateau and the Uncle who had been located had been blown off from the plateau. (See “Cairngorm John A life in Mountain Rescue”) John has an account of this call –out in his book.


At the time looking back I was a bit wary of the plan for us (there were only 3 of us )Our Team Leader was staying at Glenmore More Lodge getting organised and with the weather and short daylight  it would mean for us some of searching at night. The missing group had left no route but were thought to be out walking. This proved so very wrong in the end but there was limited information. When you’re on the hill the Police and Team Leaders are working hard if no route is left to compile search areas. I had two others in my party Sam and Tim very strong fit guys. Sam was incredibly powerful just completed a very hard selection course and Tim was another strong man. It was not going to be an easy time. We landed on the summit Ben Macdui it was so wild but beautiful the helicopter took a long time to drop us off and then were left. I felt alone out there I had been of the hills for two months with my family I had been working all day and now out on the summit in worsening weather.

The Seaking could not get away quick enough they had been out most of the day and needed a break. On the way in he said over the radio you’re on your own now after we drop you off. The wind was gaining in strength they would not be back tonight! The Cairngorms is a wild place in a full winter add in at night and it can so easily go wrong  for anyone. All we could as a small group do was have a look at the likely places we were asked like the Tailors  burn area if we could . We headed of after a quick brief into the wind at first we tried to search our side of the huge Larig Gru myself and Sam sweeping across the steep ground with limited run out if we fell. There were steep runnels of hard snow and ice and with the wind not the place to fall. We were looking for slide marks where someone could have fallen or be injured. Tim was on the top scanning with Binoculars and our safety man we had two radios. The weather was okay for a while but steadier on the plateau but it was too dangerous where we were and we came back onto the plateau.

We swept across the plateau as best we could with 3 of us the wind got far worse and with the snow we were soon on a full Cairngorm whiteout. The weather was getting worse it was goggles on and navigate now. Searching was out the game now it was get off the hill. By now it was 1900 and we got to the summit of Coire an Lochan. I called Glenmore Lodge and gave an update on the weather. We could hear the crashing of the wind hitting the Coire. I was expecting praying to go down the West Ridge but was asked if I could check the Coire tops especially Lochan above the easier routes . I asked the other two and said If we did this we were committed to at least the Goat Track  above Sneachda for descent. We agreed not that we could achieve much but there was a 15 year old missing and that influenced us . Looking back with hindsight these were the wrong decisions I made and I seemed more worried about not losing face with the Control than my party safety?

Cornice on Lochan – Big Cliffs

We roped up the visibility was non-existent I knew the gullies well but it was so hard to find them. It was by now pitch dark the snow was driving at us and it was time to get out of here. It was really tricky we could not speak to each other I was in front in a blizzard on a bearing heading to the Goat Track. Sam was checking me at the back with a bearing and Tim was on his own world in the middle he was tired we all were.  This is a spooky place in the dark with no light apart from a head torch no visibility just snow driving, no steps to follow and the noise of the in against your hood and clothing. I always carry two head torches and when my batteries failed I had one ready to go in my pocket. Changing batteries in that would have been hard. There is no shelter just keep going looking at your timing and concentrate. It’s so hard and physical with the snow drifts and you are wearing crampons as well.

At one point we nearly overdid it and nearly walked over the cliffs and the huge cornices we communicated by tugs on the rope. Sam kept me right but I was tire both physically and mentally The wind was howling spindrift and snow everywhere now but eventually we there. I was exhausted there was no way I could show it Tim was hard to judge but Sam was immense, we shared the navigation. In these conditions in my mind it is impossible to look after your party and I can see how things go wrong.


At last we reached the Goat Track the wind howled and crashed around us but it had been downhill at least. There was no way we could have descended the Goat Track today it was full of snow and dangerous. It is only on a normal day an easy hour from here to the car park. We huddled behind a rock and I repeated on the radio that the winds were severe and we were struggling. It was now about 2200 we were the only hill party out. Again I advise that the weather was extreme and do not send anyone else out tonight. This was where my pal Paul Rodgers and his partner Bill had died in a blizzard in 1984 they were accomplished mountaineers this place is always special to me.


I could hear earlier that RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team were on their way and had arrived at the Lodge on the radios( we have our own frequency ) From here it’s uphill we were crawling now still roped up and had to keep going. There was no stopping keep going it was full survival mode. Wearing glasses makes things even worse but I had invested in prescription Goggle’s thank god. Even though this was familiar ground we took bearings short ones all the time aware of the cliffs.  There is a pull up to the top of the Corrie that was so hard work, it took ages we crawled up this in parts the wind was crazy. I thought maybe we should try to seek shelter somewhere but the snow was deep so we kept going.  Every metre was hard going we tried to acknowledge very bit of familiar ground we could. It was now about 2330 and at last we were at spot height 1141 we grabbed a minute I went round the cairn and got blown luckily we still roped up.

Even up here so close to home it’s still easy to go wrong but we got down out of the wind and on the home ground.  Yet even here I have been to several accidents keep thinking check the bearing and going. On the easier ground at last we took the rope of and headed down. It was so iced up Sam took it all in his stride and pushed on. The wind with the height was dropping and we moved on soon to hear on the radio that Tim has fallen behind and his torch was not working. We soon located him thank God. That was another lesson never switch off until your home.


It was well after midnight when we got back to Glenmore Lodge Jim was waiting for us and drove us back to the bothy where we were staying the night. The team were fast asleep and unaware of our fight for life, It was hard to sleep and we were up at 0600 for a first light search. My gear was still wet. RAF Leuchars had a hard night they spent most of the night getting back to Glenmore via Strathnethy an awful night for all concerned.

Looking back it was one of the hardest days I had ever been out. We were lucky it could have so easily gone wrong. The Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team had gone out that night and ended up on top of the Goat Track on the plateau after midnight. They had an epic and their only way off was down by Strath Nethy due to the winds. My friend is writing about this as he was with the Leuchars team, these epics are part of each incident and I feel it’s good to look back on and pass a few thoughts on. In these days we thought we were invincible, we certainly were not. All my way that night as the weather hit us I was thinking of Paul Rodgers and his partner who died years earlier in a hurricane in 1984  They were found just above the Goat Track. That could have been us?

Looking back when you’re on a big call out all you think about is your team and your part in it and the result. This call out had over 100 searchers 5 teams and dogs out for three days. You do not want to let anyone down and sometimes push on when in reality you should back off. In these days we did think we were invincible and our fitness and strength got us out of trouble.

Sadly there was no good result on this call – out.   This was day 1 of a huge search and tragedy.

The next day the weather was excellent I was exhausted and now part of a big group that searched the plateau.  We came down and helped after the son was located below Y Gully that day. We assisted Cairngorm MRT in carrying him off.

Hard Ground

The other missing person the Uncle was located on day 3 in the huge boulder field in Corrie an Lochan in huge search by us all nearly 70 of us.It was a great spot in tricky area of huge snow covered boulders a small bit of his clothing covered in the snow.

1993 – Callout

It was a tragic few days and shows the power of nature and what can happen so easily. When someone so young is missing you pull out all the stops and this is what we did, sadly it was not to be. I remember that when we carried the casualty of there were many out in the Corrie heading out life goes on. The loss to the family would be a tragedy as it was to us all involved.

Now that I am a lot older I do not miss these hard days I miss the companionship of great people in the teams and SARDA. To find folk alive is incredible and I still hear from many we have rescued in the past. Mountain Rescue, SARDA and the SAR Helicopters do a great job, often they push on and get incredible results at great risk.

Now for me on a wild day it’s good to say, “been there done that” and stay low and enjoy the wild places at a lot slower pace.

Lots of lessons there for us all.

In the end them people lost their lives one was a 15 year old it’s always awful . Yet this was only my little part of what happened many others have their own stories and I would love to hear them otherwise they will be lost forever. Every call out is different to the many Agencies involved and it is through team work by all involved that a result is achieved. There are no egos on the hills .

Every Agency the Police Mountain Rescue Teams Search Dogs And helicopters and all the others who support us play their part. I have a final thanks to the Glenmore Lodge staff who looked after us. This was well before Cairngorm MRT got there much needed Team Headquarters.

I thank you all.

Sadly this was an awful period for the next few years. We as a team were involved in many rescues all over Scotland sadly many fatalities. I still think that it is worth going over what this era was like and how far things have come. Yet we still have accidents and tragedies.

comments welcome

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Windy day in the Cairngorms – a reminder of the power of Nature.y

Yesterday was our annual Winter Skills day out with the Moray Mountaineering  Club. It was the monthly Bus meet and the bus was pretty full as we left picking up folk in Elgin, Forres, Nairn, Inverness. We dropped folk of a various points with three hardy souls walking the 50 miles back to Forres.  Sadly the weather was against us as we arrived in the Cairngorm Car Park. The bus was getting buffeted in the car park. This was as accepted as we expected this according to our weather forecast, there was little snow but with the high winds we decided to do a bit of navigation.

We had planned winter skills but reappraised the plan to doing some navigation and see how the weather was. Ray Harron and myself had 7 keen to learn mountaineers despite the weather.  We had a chat about the plan to walk to the West Ridge of Lochan and see how strong the wind was. We had a few minutes looking at the route and explaining the day in the comfort of the bus. We had a chat about the weather forecast and explaining the avalanche forecast usually so important. Mountaineering is all about planning the day and being brave enough to come home if the weather is against you.

From Lennie

“After checking Met Office data for yesterday, summit gusts of 104 mph at lunch time, at corrie floor level i would estimate winds around 50-60 mph !

Good advice you gave !”

The wind was gusting and we were sheltered at first as we wandered along the lower path. We saw a black grouse by the path but I was to slow to get a photo.  Crossing the lower burn had to be watched with the wind, we took it easy. The forecast was gusting at times 50 -60 mph and care had to be taken. It takes a bit of explaining about what the wind can do and there were the odd patches of hard ice about.

I was with Maggie, Eleanor and Susan and we had a few stops looking at the map and getting our bearings, it was getting hard to talk at times.   The wind was gusting and I explained to be careful taking it easy on the path as the higher we got and into the open ground the wind began to trouble us with buffeting . The wind was getting stronger but it is hard to explain about the power of the wind. The only way to appreciate it to go out and see what a strong wind is like?

Explaining wind speeds 20-30

Unlikely to affect your balance, but be aware that this is the wind speed that will create the severest wind chill.* A temperature of 0 degrees will be equivalent to -10 degrees. Add a windproof outer layer. Secure map and compass. Goggles will be very useful in winter conditions.


Starts to affect the balance of a fit/strong adult. You may find that your foot does not quite land where you had planned it to. May be wise to avoid exposed ridge lines, rough underfoot terrain and keep away from exposed edges. Risk of frost nip** on exposed flesh if the temp is below zero.

I dropped behind as the girls they taking me to checkpoints, the next one was at the burn below the West Ridge. There was a bit of solid ice and one of the girls stood on it and tumbled over in a big gust. She was like a rag doll but was not hurt. It was a big reminder to the power of the wind. We were all okay but a we had a break the wind was getting stronger and showing the power of nature. We were just only at over 700 metres but that was enough. The wind was getting stronger and the gusts made it an easy decision as Ray and his party who were just above us came down. We would walk off .

Wind speed forecast in mph – Effects on you


Walking will be VERY challenging and exhausting. Keep a wide stance, perhaps linking in arms with a weaker member of the party. Move between gusts and brace yourself when a gust arrives. Get off the hill by the easiest and safest route staying well away from ridge crests and corrie rims.


Attempting to walk in 60-70 mph winds is dangerous, and there is a high risk of being blown over and suffering injury. Stay away from difficult underfoot conditions or exposed edges and get off the hill as soon as possible.

We still got battered on the way down and we soon back at the bus but had a coffee in the cafe and a bit of map work.  I met Andy Lawson in his camper van and the Bus driver was very helpful thank you as we all came back early. The others who had decided to go into  the Corries were soon back the wind had battered them too. A few walked down to Glenmore to meet the group heading to Ryvoan and one even got to the summit of Meall a Bhachaille at 801 metres, he struggled to the summit!  We collected the rest all had fun and the sun was out as it does and the wind dropping.


We had a stop at the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore and headed home. A good day despite the weather and a reminder of the power on nature. Thanks to all and especially the Bus driver and Gordon for organising the bus a thankless task.

The Moray Mountaineering Club is running a Mountain Safety chat in Elgin on 26 th Feb at 1930. It should be a good night all welcome!


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Moray Club Bus Meet to a windy Cairngorms.

Sadly the weather forecast is not great and I am away early to get the Bus for our monthly Bus meet to the Cairngorms. It was planned as a winter skills day for those who wanted it but that may change as the snow is rapidly leaving due to the big thaw. Anyway I need a walk and a buffeting by the wind, its been a tricky few weeks and will be good to get out. I lost a friend Andy Nisbet an incredible mountaineer this was a place he loved and it will be maybe a place for a few thoughts for Andy today. We met so often on the crags over the years and he always had time to chat, Andy loved this area and left some mark on it and Scotland with his many climbs here.  I will never be able to walk or climb here wihout a few thoughts for Andy.

How many would love to have the Cairngorms on their doorstep? I do but think we may have to concentrate on navigation today for those who want to learn?

I have just had my Paramo jacket repaired the zip went after more 12 years hard work by Scottish Mountain Gear, its been repaired and back well worth the cost. A great service and a good price I hope to get some more time now out the jacket.

My stepdaughter Yvette is of to Kilimanjaro today and I wish her well. Slowly slowly is the key.   She has always loved the mountains and I hope she has a magical time, stay safe and enjoy Yvette.

Cairngorm Weather today

Southerly, 35 to 50mph, perhaps locally 60mph near/north of major ridges.
Above the summits; lowering after dark toward 1000m.
3 to 5C, dropping from west toward or more likely after sunset.
Glimpses of sun, most frequent north of the Cairngorms.
Visibility fairly good, but a general slight haze.
40% in south, 70% in north.
Banks of cloud shrouding higher areas at times, most persistently across southern
Cairngorms NP, where may linger above 700-900m much of day. North Cairngorms,
breaks more frequent to higher tops.
Some low cloud, breaks north
Patches of drizzly rain, mostly around Ben Alder and Glen Garry. Elsewhere, amounting
to very little much of day; mostly just a few spots occasionally in the wind.
A little rain mostly west
Frequent buffeting, in places.

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Andy Nisbet’s Funeral Arrangements . Wednesday 20 Th Feb at 1315 at Aberdeen Crematorium West Chapel.

Liz Wallace, Andy’s sister has written:

Andy Nisbet – photo Ron Walker.

My brother Andy’s funeral will be at Aberdeen Crematorium West Chapel (AB15 8PT) on Wednesday 20th February at 1.15pm and afterwards at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Aberdeen Treetops (AB15 7AQ ). All welcome.
Please dress informally – Andy didn’t have anything black so wouldn’t have wanted you to wear that either, if he’d had his say.
No flowers please – donations to Assynt and Dundonell Mountain Rescue Teams as they were the ones who came to Andy and Steve’s rescue when they fell.
There will be a collection at the Crematorium and there’s also an on line JustGiving page.
Please pass this on to his friends so we can celebrate his life with you all.
There is an added link to Martin Moran’s heartfelt tribute to Andy  
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Thoughts on a personal Mountain Tragedy and a huge thanks to all who risk their lives for us.

I was asked to reblog this


These words from my nephew on the search for his Uncles.

“God bless all those in the search, human and canine alike.”

After over 40 years involved in Mountain Rescue every mountain accident is a tragedy. Over the years my involvement has led to the loss of 10 friends over the years. No one knows more than me the work of all the Agencies who work so hard on every incident in the mountains. The Police, Mountain Rescue Teams, SARDA the helicopters and the local support they receive from Estates and local folk. The ethos of giving your time to search for people you have never met in the depth of the winter is hard for many to accept. In this world that few do anything for nothing I am always amazed by these good folk who are rarely in the news or media for their unselfish actions. Most teams…

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Avalanche at Kintail on the Saddle possibly late 80’s looking for information.

I am doing some research into an avalanche that involved the Moray Mountaineering club on a bus meet to Kintail. A hill party were Avalanched on the Saddle at Kintail I think the dates were late 80′,s early 90’s.

Can any one help with more details?

I know a bit as one of the club  has told me about it. Can someone enlightened me further of what and where it happened. The club member’s were dug out by their companions? The bus stopped at A and E in  Raigmore Inverness, they were very lucky?

I think they were descending from the summit of the Saddle when they got hit. These were the days before mobile phones, GPS and Beacons. I knew that at least one of the club went for help it would take time to get off the hill and raise help.

In the must read  Avalanche book A Chance in a million there is an entry in Avalanches in Scotland.

a Chance in a Million

“1986 March 3 – The Saddle Glen Sheil Forcan Ridge Party of 3 avalanched 130 metres while descending the West facing slope 30 – 35 degrees. One back injury other two okay, walked off.

Another part dislodged an other avalanche on other side of ridge , same aspect, about same time, but not carried down.”

Even today with all the technology what would you do? Help is still a long way away and the best chance is what you do on scene,


If out in winter do you talk brief each other if you get avalanched?

Have you ever attended and Avalanche Course

the saddle aval

“The people on scene are a buried person’s best chance of survival.” a proven fact!”


Top Tips – Past and Present Weather Conditions

Listen to weather brief past and present.
Avalanche Forecasts.
Radio Scotland MW 810, Mountain weather forecast every day! TV daily.
Previous History – Experience
Read about walks/routes/check web sites.
Web Forums. Blogs, Local Knowledge.

Phone App a great asset.

If out in winter have a plan if it all goes wrong?
Preparation, Preparation.


The Scottish Avalanche Information Service is a wonderful Asset it now covers :


aval maps for more information

History of the Service

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) brings you daily forecasts of the avalanche hazard  for the 5 most popular areas of Scotland during the most popular period of the winter season.

History of the Web Site:

The Scottish Avalanche Project began in 1988 as an avalanche forecasting service funded by the Scottish Sports Council and operating in 2 areas, Glencoe and the North Cairngorms. This ran for 2 winters, with the addition in 1989-90 of Lochaber and a weekend pilot scheme on Lochnagar.  After this the Project was permanently adopted by the Scottish Sports Council and became the Scottish Avalanche Information Service.

The website was continued and with the addition of South Cairngorms and Creag Meagaidh in winter 1996-97 and the re-naming of the Scottish Sports Council, the operation became the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service.  The website has grown to become the main source of dissemination of the Snow and Avalanche Reports, with over 3,000 visits on a busy winter’s day.

SAIS Blogs – Latest Updates

Areas with a Forecast

Northern Cairngorms
Southern Cairngorms
Creag Meagaidh

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