Stag Rocks – “Final Selection” a three star classic diff a day with pals. The St Valery Refuge a Cairngorm lost shelter.

I had wanted to do this short climb for many years; sadly for some reason when I climbed at bit I had missed it always climbing the nearby Afterthought Arete and a few others climbs many years ago. We had spoken to several pals about this climb and though a short Diff of 60 meters it has 3 stars in the Guide. Pete and Dan were keen and Pete had done it beforeand raved about it. All we needed was some good weather. The situation high above Loch Avon is wonderful and all the pictures I had seen made it look impressive. It’s a steep slab on Cairngorm Granite on big holds and last year we had a good look at it after a day on Afterthought Arete.

The views of Loch Avon the great glaciated slabs, the waterfall and Hells Lum Crag was looking very wet and the nearby hills these big Munro’s make this special. It is a place to cherish and we all have so many memories of these cliffs.

Walking to the cliff with Ben MacDui in the background.

Two years later we set out in a not to great forecast with this summer’s usual rain forecast and not to warm temperatures. They were forecasting frost that night on the plateau. We set off a bit later with Dan driving and managed to meet pals in Boat of Garten where we stopped for a brew caught up with Fiona and Mick Morris and Mull the black lab then headed off. It was late about 1130 when we got to the Cairngorm Car Park. It was busy so we paided our dues and headed of up the hill. Pete and Dan chatting on the way up to spot height 1141 me coughing as this bronchitis is still with me especially when going uphill.

It was a lovely day a few midges in the car park but once onto the plateau we headed round and a breeze we lost them heading for Stag rocks. It’s a bonnie place and off the path hard to believe you are up in an artic environment. We were soon at the top of the cliff and the guide says you can descend the gully but to me it looked wet and loose. We headed for the top of our route had some lunch and then abseiled down into gully.

On the way down I spotted an abseil on the West side that would have been a bit easier. Our double ropes got us down and it’s amazing how out of practice you are if you have not climbed or abseiled for a while.

The Abseil in.

Down in the Gully below out route the midges were out in the Gully Dan had his Midgy net me and Pete suffered. We had left ours with the bags. The first short step onto the route was wet and slippy but after that it was superb climbing.

The damp start with the route above.

Dan ran out the rope to a huge belay and Just when he was on the main slab a jet flew past at our eye level what a noise it was. In the Gully it was at our height and scared me and Pete. The Corrie rebounded with the noise echoing round then his mate flew by at first we thought it was thunder. I forget what a noise they make. This was “Thunder in the Glens “ Which is on in Aviemore this weekend.

The only folk we saw opposite us.

Then we saw another pair of climbers on a route opposite the only folk we saw all day. Dan was soon belayed and we followed. I took lots of photos once away from the midges and it is a superb line. There was great gear but in places the rounded Cairngorm granite makes you think at times.

Dan up there.

Once on the belay we were away from the midges In the breeze and enjoyed the views. We could now see even more the sandy beach at Loch Avon looked magical and then we had a we shower of rain that lasted a few minutes.

The final scramble.

We were soon on the last short climb of our and back at the bags. We had a break put the gear away and sat for a few minutes. It’s a place to sit and enjoy. We then set off back not far from our route heading back is the plaque to the St Valery bothy on the small granite boulder. I have memories of the wee bothy that used to be here and the granite plaque could do with a clean. I must come back and do that one day.

It’s a place I have used to take folk navigating and can be interesting finding it. Then we headed back me a bit behind then another short shower came in but went very quickly. We saw the Reindeer at the shoulder of Cairngorm.

The Yellow man on the route.

It also got me remembering the St Valery bothy that was on the cliffs above Stag Rocks above Loch Avon. The bothy was built-in 1962 and was used mainly by climbers on the nearby Loch Avon Cliffs. It was a small bothy very like El Alamein made of local stone and turf with a few pieces of framework to build the basic structure.

It was taken down after the Cairngorm Disaster in 1971 and was a real difficult time with various organisation’s who were for keeping the high Cairngorm bothys and others who wanted them taken down including Mountain Rescue Teams, the Police and the public.

It was a huge time of upset for many; It was not sorted out till 1975 when the Curran and the St Valery were taken down after a huge discussion and several years of difficult negotiations by all concerned.

  John Duff the Ex – Team Leader of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team tells his account in a wonderful book ” A Bobby On Ben MacDui” This book tells  much of the politics of this sad period after the tragedy.

St Valery Refuge now gone.

The St Valery Refuge was above the Stag Rocks Grid reference NJ 002023. There are many tales of epics on Rescues trying to find the hut which in wild weather was never easy. On a great day it was a marvellous location but it was incredibly exposed and very near the cliff edge in the days before GPS and other navigational aids.

St Valery granite in need of a clean.

In 1971 Bill March & Chris Norris were to search the St Valery Refuge on night of the Cairngorm Disaster and though great mountaineers failed to find it spending the night at the Shelterstone with Alan Fyfe and Reg Popham who were searching another area. This is how difficult an area it was in and so tricky to find. I was on one search A few years later just before the bothy was knocked down. We were told that there was no room for us on a wild night by some ensconced famous climbers. It was not at all a diplomatic discussion that occurred. Yet we soon got in and shivered the night away. I remember nearly being blown away as we left in the morning, the wind was incredible.

The bothy was very near the cliff edge and in a wind and whiteout it could be a wild place to be.

St Valery bothy was removed with help from the Royal Navy, Police and Mountaineering Council Of Scotland in 1975 and still those who used it or were involved in the debate have differing views. The engraved stone with the name was still there as the only remaining piece of the remains of the bothy left. Aug 2019.

Any stories and photos would be greatly appreciated.

Pete and Dan

We were soon heading home another shower and then back to 1141 that place that means so much. How many times have I been glad to see it.

Here we had a wee stop then head down the ridge through the Ski Centre back to the crowds. It was great to get back to the car, the midges met us again and then the drive home. There were superb rainbows just near the Dava Moor and I was back just before 1900 pretty tired but what a fun day. We had missed the heavy rain and it was warm and so good to be away from the crowds. Thanks to Dan and Pete and of course the Cairngorms for an amazing wee climb in an incredible situation.

At 1141

The older you get the more you appreciate this place and places like it. How had I missed this wee gem for all those years but how good to go and climb again even on an easy route on amazing rock.

Today’s tip – always check each other before you abseil or climb it easy to make a mistake no matter how experienced you think you are.      

 Stag Rock – Crag features

This is the large collection of cliffs on the north side of Loch Avon between Coire Raibert and Coire Domhain. The cliffs face south and can be a real suntrap allowing for rock routes to be done both early and late in the year. This does pose obvious problems for some of the winter routes but there are some good lines which have a very different feel to the nearby norrie (Northern Corries.)

Approach notes

Approach to the crag is usually via the Goat Track or 1141. Descent to the base can be done via Coire Domhain, Y gully, Diagonal Gully or Coire Raibert. There is an abseil  point into Diagonal gully a little way down from the plateau on the gully’s west side which gives access to the routes around Final Selection.

2019 Aug – We abseiled in from the other side down the route as I did not fancy the wet loose gully.

Posted in Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Moonwalker 2020 Calendar all profits to Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Moonwalker 2020 calendar is now available!

Still only £5 each and ALL profits go to Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Last year raised nearly £600 – buy now at

Its a great Calendar. Get it now for all those who live abroad and miss our great hills.

Posted in Articles, Charity, Munros | Leave a comment

Corbett’s for Courses thanks to all.

From the Corbett to Courses Facebook page

“Hi all

Big thank you for all your fund raising efforts.

The preliminary total figure for Corbetts for Courses is £1052.07 which will pay for 26 places on navigation and winter skills courses.

If anyone still wishes to make a donation you can do so through our Paypal GIving Fund page at [](

If you donate £25 or more you are welcome to claim a free Mountain Aid buff, email us at with your details.”

There are still a few to climb so have look and let’s get them finished.

If you managed to climb a few if you can donate it’s a great cause.

Posted in Articles, Charity, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Corbett’s for Courses. Mountain Aid can you help ?

This is the latest from

Karlin Herwig on Facebook for Mountain Aid .

Corbetts for Courses

Mountain Aid: the hill walkers’ charity, is excited to announce our May 2019 fundraising initiative Corbetts for Courses.

For a day Mountain Aid want to encourage hill-goers to become Corbett Connoisseurs and raise valuable funds to ensure Mountain Aid can continue to offer free skills training and safety lectures.

To get involved:

  • Join the Mountain Aid CorbettsForCourses Facebook group (or use the contact form below)
  • Choose a Corbett (there’s 222 of them)
  • Post your chosen Corbett to the Facebook group (or contact us)
  • Climb your Corbett during May – July and share your summit photo to the group (or email it to us and we will post it for you)
  • Make a donation to Mountain Aid (£10 is suggested but please give what you can).

With your help we hope to put someone on the summit of every Corbett during the month of May.

Of course, the same Corbett can be climbed by several people and you can choose/climb as many Corbetts as you wish.

Check out our news page for regular updates of which Corbetts have been claimed and / or climbed.

Update 28th May 2019:  at the request of our supporters and corbett fans the duration of the event has been extended until the end of July 2019!

Contact Us

Please complete the form to contact us about Corbetts for Courses. It would be helpful if you tell us which corbett you might be interested in.

Please note that as we are run entirely by volunteers and do not have any paid staff, that there may be a delay of a couple of days before we are able to respond. Thank you for your patience.

And here’s the map. Blue circles are free, brown triangles are planned (you know who you are – just one week left to go!) and yellow stars are completed.

Hi all,

Thought it might be useful to post the full list this time, including free, planned and completed hills. We’ve got one more week before the end of the three-months period; how many more can we get done????

• A’Chaoirnich [Maol Creag an Loch] NN7352480711 Free

• Ainshval NM3784194333 Free

• Am Bathach NH0733514340 Completed

• An Cliseam [Clisham] NB1548407302 Completed

• An Dun NN7173580507 Free

• An Ruadh-stac NG9214548064 Completed

• An Sidhean NH1710345392 Free

• An Stac NM7628579280 Completed

• Aonach Buidhe NH0576132465 Free

• Aonach Shasuinn NH1732218022 Completed

• Arkle NC3027546180 Planned

• Askival NM3931095223 Completed

• Auchnafree Hill NN8086230811 Completed

• Bac an Eich NH2221548950 Planned

• Baosbheinn NG8703165420 Free

• Beinn a’Bha’ach Ard [Beinn a’Bhathaich Ard] NH3605943484 Free

• Beinn a’Bhuiridh NN0942428362 Completed

• Beinn a’Chaisgein Mor NG9825178554 Completed

• Beinn a’Chaisteil NN3471936404 Completed

• Beinn a’Chaisteil NH3699680112 Free

• Beinn a’Chlaidheimh NH0613577581 Completed

• Beinn a’Choin NN3542613028 Completed

• Beinn a’Chrulaiste NN2462756682 Completed

• Beinn a’Chuallaich NN6845861775 Free

• Beinn Airigh Charr NG9303076184 Free

• Beinn an Eoin NG9051164634 Free

• Beinn an Lochain NN2180307893 Completed

• Beinn an Oir NR4980674947 Completed

• Beinn Bhan NN1406085714 Completed

• Beinn Bhan NG8036145039 Free

• Beinn Bheula NS1547998326 Free

• Beinn Bhreac NN8683882077 Free

• Beinn Bhreac-liath NN3027733917 Completed

• Beinn Bhuidhe NM8217696727 Completed

• Beinn Chaorach NN3588632825 Completed

• Beinn Chuirn NN2803029235 Completed

• Beinn Damh NG8926250201 Completed

• Beinn Dearg NN6086849755 Completed

• Beinn Dearg NG8953060820 Free

• Beinn Dearg Bheag NH0199581134 Completed

• Beinn Dearg Mor NH0321779939 Completed

• Beinn Dronaig NH0370738184 Free

• Beinn Each NN6016515806 Completed

• Beinn Enaiglair NH2250080525 Completed

• Beinn Iaruinn NN2969990046 Free

• Beinn Lair NG9815873278 Completed

• Beinn Leoid NC3202729490 Free

• Beinn Liath Mhor a’Ghiubhais Li [Beinn

• Liath Mhor a’Ghiuthais] NH2808371315 Free

• Druim nan Cnamh [Beinn Loinne] NH1307807694 Free

• Beinn Luibhean NN2428107920 Completed

• Beinn Maol Chaluim NN1349452585 Completed

• Beinn Mheadhonach NN8800575900 Free

• Beinn Mhic Cedidh NM8282978819 Free

• Beinn Mhic Chasgaig NN2214750228 Completed

• Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh NN2087135013 Completed

• Beinn Mholach NN5875065490 Completed

• Beinn na Caillich NG7959306698 Completed

• Beinn na h-Eaglaise NG8543312007 Free

• Beinn na h-Uamha NM9171566424 Completed

• Beinn nam Fuaran NN3611138193 Completed

• Beinn nan Caorach NG8715212123 Free

• Beinn nan Imirean NN4192830949 Completed

• Beinn nan Oighreag NN5416741200 Free

• Beinn Odhar NN3373533884 Completed

• Beinn Odhar Bheag NM8465477873 Free

• Beinn Pharlagain [Ben Pharlagain – Meall na Meoig] NN4481764210 Planned

• Beinn Resipol NM7664265464 Completed

• Beinn Spionnaidh NC3619557297 Free

• Beinn Tarsuinn NR9601541275 Completed

• Beinn Tharsuinn NH0551843351 Free

• Beinn Trilleachan NN0864643900 Completed Beinn Udlaidh NN2806133134 Completed

• Ben Aden [Beinn an Aodainn] NM8993998626 Completed

• Ben Donich NN2183804307 Completed

• Ben Gulabin NO1004172214 Completed

• Ben Hee NC4265533942 Free

• Ben Ledi NN5623609777 Completed

• Ben Loyal – An Caisteal NC5781148861 Free

• Ben Rinnes NJ2549935447 Completed

• Ben Tee NN2406497202 Free

• Ben Tirran NO3734274615 Completed

• Ben Vrackie NN9508063243 Completed

• Ben Vuirich NN9972570009 Free

• Benvane NN5351613728 Completed

• Bidein a’Chabair NM8890393060 Completed

• Braigh nan Uamhachan NM9753286667 Free

• Breabag NC2867215739 Completed

• Broad Law NT1464223538 Completed

• Brown Cow Hill NJ2210504455 Completed

• Buidhe Bheinn NG9633409056 Completed

• Cairnsmore of Carsphairn NX5946497995 Completed

• Caisteal Abhail NR9690744324 Completed

• Cam Chreag NN5368049126 Completed

• Cam Chreag NN3755034670 Completed

• Canisp NC2028918732 Completed

• Carn a’Choire Ghairbh NH1368518878 Free

• Carn a’Chuilinn NH4167303403 Completed

• Carn an Fhreiceadain NH7256107134 Completed

• Carn Ban NH3384987583 Free

• Carn Chuinneag NH4836083334 Completed

• Carn Dearg NN3499696628 Free

• Carn Dearg NN3572294884 Free

• Carn Dearg NN3450488700 Completed

• Carn Dearg Mor NN8232591187 Completed

• Carn Ealasaid NJ2276911776 Completed

• Carn Liath NO1648997623 Free

• Carn Mor NM9030590943 Completed

• Carn Mor (Glenlivet) NJ2657618346 Planned

• Carn na Drochaide NO1273893845 Free

• Carn na Nathrach NM8862869883 Completed

• Carn na Saobhaidhe NH5989614408 Free

• Cir Mhor NR9727843111 Completed

• Cnoc Coinnich NN2335100755 Free

• Conachcraig NO2794986521 Completed

• Corryhabbie Hill NJ2809328869 Completed

• Corserine NX4978087068 Free

• Cramalt Craig (deleted corbett) NT1684524740 Completed

• Cranstackie NC3506155604 Free

• Creach Bheinn NN0237442240 Completed

• Creach Bheinn NM8706057648 Completed

• Creag Mac Ranaich NN5456425567 Completed

• Creag Mhor NJ0574604781 Free

• Creag nan Gabhar NO1546484112 Completed

• Creag Rainich NH0960075155 Free

• Creag Uchdag NN7082832324 Completed

• Creagan na Beinne NN7444136853 Completed

• Cruach Innse NN2799176373 Completed

• Cul Beag NC1403508834 Free

• Cul Mor NC1620311919 Completed

• Culardoch NO1935098826 Free

• Dun da Ghaoithe NM6724736218 Completed

• Faochaig NH0218431717 Free

• Farragon Hill NN8403355305 Planned

• Foinaven [Foinne Bhein] – Ganu Mor NC3152050697 Planned

• Fraoch Bheinn NM9860894041 Completed

• Fraochaidh NN0290451712 Completed

• Fuar Bheinn NM8534356342 Completed

• Fuar Tholl NG9754448948 Free

• Gairbeinn NN4605098527 Free

• Garbh Bheinn NM9043362214 Completed

• Garbh Bheinn NN1692660096 Completed

• Garbh-bheinn NG5312523246 Completed

• Geal Charn NJ0905112699 Completed

• Geal Charn NN1561894267 Completed

• Geal-charn Mor NH8363612330 Completed

• Glamaig – Sgurr Mhairi NG5136130005 Completed

• Glas Bheinn NN2589664116 Free Glas Bheinn NC2548626501 Free

• Goatfell [Goat Fell] NR9913941540 Completed

• Hart Fell NT1136513575 Free

• Leathad an Taobhain NN8217485829 Completed

• Leum Uilleim NN3307164141 Completed

• Little Wyvis NH4296064480 Completed

• Mam na Gualainn NN1150762548 Free

• Meall a’Bhuachaille NH9908611544 Planned

• Meall a’Ghiubhais [Meall a’Ghiuthais] NG9760663421 Completed

• Meall an Fhudair NN2706819244 Completed

• Meall an t-Seallaidh NN5421023408 Completed Meall a’Phubuill NN0293885419 Completed

• Meall Buidhe NN4268844962 Completed

• Meall Dubh NH2453407847 Free

• Meall Horn NC3526144921 Free

• Meall Lighiche NN0947852835 Completed

• Meall na Fearna NN6507818687 Completed

• Meall na h-Aisre NH5152800046 Free

• Meall na h-Eilde NN1854994632 Completed

• Meall na Leitreach NN6405970288 Completed

• Meall nam Maigheach NN5860143587 Completed

• Meall nan Subh NN4607739750 Completed

• Meall Tairneachan NN8074554376 Completed

• Meallach Mhor NN7766190877 Free

• Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill NC3572039150 Free

• Meallan nan Uan NH2637254472 Free

• Merrick NX4275685549 Completed

• Monamenach NO1760070670 Completed

• Morrone NO1321088650 Completed

• Morven NJ3768103996 Completed

• Mount Battock NO5496484470 Completed

• Quinag – Sail Gharbh NC2093829210 Planned

• Quinag – Sail Gorm [Sail Ghorm] NC1983730426 Planned

• Quinag – Spidean Coinich NC2060227746 Planned

• Rois-Bheinn NM7560277838 Completed

• Ruadh-stac Beag NG9727661340 Completed

• Sail Mhor NH0329588706 Free

• Sgor Mor NO1150082500 Completed

• Sgorr Craobh a’Chaorainn NM8955375795 Free

• Sgorr na Diollaid NH2817836262 Completed

• Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine NG9690953149 Free

• Sguman Coinntich NG9770030360 Completed

• Sgurr a’Chaorachain NG7966241752 Completed

• Sgurr a’Choire-bheithe NG8959401597 Completed

• Sgurr a’Mhuilinn NH2646655747 Free

• Sgurr an Airgid NG9404522715 Free

• Sgurr an Fhuarain NM9874097981 Completed

• Sgurr an Utha NM8850283974 Completed

• Sgurr Coire Choinnichean NG7907501078 Completed

• Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh NM9479994668 Free

• Sgurr Dhomhnuill NM8895467888 Completed

• Sgurr Dubh NG9790955791 Free

• Sgurr Gaorsaic NH0358821875 Completed

• Sgurr Ghiubhsachain NM8756075128 Free

• Sgurr Innse NN2902474823 Completed

• Sgurr Mhic Bharraich NG9176717364 Free

• Sgurr Mhurlagain NN0125994469 Free

• Sgurr na Ba Glaise NM7701677754 Completed

• Sgurr na Feartaig NH0551445398 Completed

• Sgurr nan Ceannaichean NH0872448063 Free

• Sgurr nan Eugallt NG9271404866 Free

• Shalloch on Minnoch NX4076290564 Free

• Sron a’Choire Chnapanich [Sron a’Choire Chnapanaich] NN4560445301 Free

• Druim Tarsuinn [Stob a’Bhealach an Sgriodain] NM8746572742 Free

• Stob a’Choin NN4172215975 Completed

• Stob an Aonaich Mhoir NN5374869424 Planned

• Stob Coire a’Chearcaill NN0168772682 Completed

• Stob Coire Creagach [Binnein an Fhidhleir] NN2306310918 Completed

• Stob Dubh NN1663848831 Completed

• Beinn Stacach [Ceann na Baintighearna] [Stob Fear-tomhais] [Beinn Stacath] NN4743216323 Free

• Streap NM9466086376 Free

• The Brack NN2456503061 Completed

• The Cobbler [Ben Arthur] NN2595205822 Completed

• The Fara NN5982684264 Free

• The Sow of Atholl [Meall an Dobharchain] NN6251974120 Completed

• White Coomb NT1632015095 Completed

Can you help see the Corbett’s for Courses Facebook Mountain Aid.

Posted in Articles, Charity, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

All you cycling fans these are well worth a listen – podcasts from the Adventure Syndicate.

I got this from the incredible Jenny Graham (Round the solo cyclist World record holder)

“Yo yo yo!!! We have new RTW podcasts out 🥳🥳🥳 could do with folk leaving reviews on itunes to help get it up the charts.

If you have a spare minute

Heres the link…

Thaaaaaaanks 😍🤩🥰🤟

Posted in Cycling, Friends, Gear, Mountain Biking, Well being | Leave a comment

Over in Skye it’s hot.

Well what weather to visit Skye. It was so hot and clear blue skies all the way. I went by Applecross to visit a pal had a great lunch fresh smoked salmon and passed the Torridon and Applecross hills looking incredible.

The mighty Liathach – Torridon

The roads were so busy everyone it seems has a camper-van and on the tight roads it was scary at times. Add to that the convoy of posh cars tearing up the road all on a mission?

I was glad to get to Skye in one piece.

photo – My mate Islay xx

I met so many who had been on the ridge I knew it would be warm and many were finding it hard going due to the heat.


I am staying in Broadford and away early tomorrow. It’s another hot day planned so I need to be careful with the sun.

The usual tips apply

Drink carry plenty of water. A lot more than usual. I try to drink as much as I can before I go get hydrated.

Use sunscreen and cover up. Use a hat !

It’s so easy to damage your skin by to much sun. Many of us are suffering from this due to not looking after yourself with sunscreen.

Heat exhaustion is not funny so be careful enjoy the weather but take it easy

I find early starts help as you are up high when the sun is at its hottest hopefully with a breeze.

It’s great to enjoy some good weather at last.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Enviroment, Friends, Gear, Health, Hill running and huge days!, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Fraochaidh a grand Corbett with great company superb views and lots of clegs.

I needed a hill day as I have been down visiting my sick sister. It’s never easy seeing someone you love ill and trying to help. It makes you appreciate life and your health so much.

My pal Terry Moore from the days when I was fit was up to climb some Corbett’s.Terry is an exceptional Mountaineer we did a West to East in winter in 1977 when I was fit we had been pals for many years.

We could maybe meet and he was happy to meet me early in Ballahullish Near Glencoe I left Ayr at 0530 it would be a long day.

The traffic was easy the Loch Lomond road quite and every lay-by had vans parked.The forecast was good but warm before a storm and heavy rain came in.

Ben Lomond early morning.

We met at the jetty in Ballahullish and I wanted to climb the Corbett Fraochaidh at the back of Beinn A Bheither. I thought I had not done this before. Terry was okay with this despite climbing this Corbett on a sailing trip in May.

My plan was to go in from Duror and according to the Guide Steve Fallon his advice is always good.

“Fraochaidh in Appin (Corbett) – Steven Fallon

Routes up the Corbett Fraochaidh in Appin. Fraochaidh is fine hill with a long summit crest situated in Appin. … Approaches to Fraochaidh can be made from Ballachuilish to the north-east, Loch Creran to the south and Duror to the north-west.”

Terry just before we climbed the hill !

We followed the the cycle track from Duror and then onto the hill by the forestry track for about 3 ks. It’s then up the hill where the trees have been felled. I found this hard going Terry who guided for Big trips in the Himalayas took it all in his stride.

Rough ground through forestry.

I was finding it hard going the clegs were awful following me and attracted to the yellow top I was wearing. Yet it was great to clear the mind and Terry kept the chat up and with a few stops to look at the incredible views.

Terry in Guide mode.

All the big hills were in view all day old favourites and memories came back.We were soon on the ridge in the breeze and away from the Clegs. The views got better.

We were soon on the top on the way up I recognised certain features. I had been on the summit before. My memory must be hopeless as the last time was Dec 2016 from Ballahullish how could I forget that. Terry was in disbelief of my incompetence also I had done it many years before from the Beinn A Bheither a huge drop .

Summit again !!!

We had some lunch it all came back to me and then headed back . Terry had another Hill to do Beinn Trilleachan in Glen Etive.

The descent was hard going but then back into the clegs and back to the van.

Terry headed of to Glen Etive I had a 3 hour trip home. It was a great day,grand hill and enjoyable day.

Thanks Terry sorry for you doing another Corbett again yet it’s a great hill recommended.

Today’s tip yellow tops attract clegs.

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Equipment, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

A cycle after a busy day. Bruce’s well in Prestwick looking tired and neglected.

I managed a cycle yesterday from Prestwick into Ayr along the cycle track. It was not far about 10 Miles’s round trip. It takes you along the beach past the golf course and near the Port of Ayr. This is an heavily industrial area sadly lots of litter and rubbish about. There was a bit of a wind as well but it was a good break.

The weather varied from dark skies to a warm day and I caught the odd shower. I saw this on a Board at Prestwick.

“When the spirits are low

When the day appears dark

When the work becomes monotonous

When hope seems hardly worth having

Just Mount a bicycle and go out

For a spin down the road

Without a thought on anything

But the ride your taking”

One of the places I passed was Bruce’s well a Historical point of interest looking pretty neglected in Prestwick with rubbish and the rusty railings making it look very neglected. Sad to see! Maybe someone will do something about it as it’s a Council sign that describes this Historical well.

“One of the “claims to fame” is the Bruces Well as Robert the Bruce visited Prestwick and rested on the site of a hospital and the walls of the old hospital are still there today.”

It was a good hour out and I needed that maybe I will get time to get out today.

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Looking after our own.

I am down in Ayr as I have family member who is very ill. I am so glad that I can help in a limited way by doing simple things for them.

We are lucky as we have a strong family where everyone helps when they can. Health is what we all take for granted yet as we get older it can cause problems.

It’s easy when we are young and fit to forget those struggling but it is also part of life getting especially getting older

I am so lucky to be surrounded by good family and friends many are not. I hear of lots of folk struggling with health and well being issues. I try to help when I can but sometimes try to hard.

Many of us spent so much time in the mountains looking for folk we never knew. Risking our lives at times for others. Yet when family and friends are struggling some of us are “too busy to help”

Sadly some say that “I do not do hospitals” when folk are ill. I find this is an awful way of not coping with life.

Yet you can help by being there and doing practical simple things.

Every day as you get older you learn from life, There can a lot of practical help you can give and even sharing life’s worries with a friend or family member can be eye opening.

As my pal John often says ” None-of is are getting out of this alive” so let’s enjoy what we have.

Every day spent with those you love and care for is so precious. Make that phone call, make that visit if you have fallen out with someone get in touch. Please enjoy every minute of every day that we have .

We watched Andy Murray yesterday on his come back at the Doubles tennis. That made today very special for us both .

Thanks Andy .

Today give a hug or call to those you love .

Comments as always welcome.

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It was early away about 0100 yesterday for the 2 and a half hour drive to

Sheildaig on the West Coast. What a stunning village that takes the Celtman into its heart as does the whole area.

The weather was dry on the way over with no magical sunset as I drove the light came through. The hills still looked dark but the heavy rain of the last few days had stopped.

The wild life was waking up with deer crossing the empty roads there were some big deer involved so I took it easy. The hills were clear and only a little wind.

I was going to watch a pal Mark Hartree who was competing on this magical race .

Mark is a long standing pal who was with me in my Mountain Rescue days. He and another pal accompanied Scouse Atkins me on my Cycle from Lockerbie to Edinburgh in storm Calumn. It was payback for me to come and cheer him despite the 0100 start .

Mark one of the stalwarts of MRT

I had also Helped marshall in 6 of the previous Celtman with Torridon MRT so I had never seen the start at 0500 in the village I was not disappointed.

The eighth edition of the CELTMAN! Extreme Scottish Triathlon, part of the Xtri World Tour, will take place on June 15th 2019 in Wester Ross, Scotland.
Centred around the stunning Torridon mountains we will take you on an adventure unlike any other.

Make no mistake – when we say this race is extreme we mean it. Read the race information carefully before entering as you may have to endure cold water, strong winds, driving rain and difficult conditions on the mountain with low visibility.

Photo Ryan

Please download the Race Manual for more details.

I arrived as the competitors were getting buses from the start of the race. The village of Shieldaig was mobbed with over 200 competitors support crews and supporters. It’s an incredible place to be with all the competitors. I saw many familiar faces and the Adventure Show was filming. The swim today looked okay with the water pretty still. The midges were out though and the first swimmers would be back in one hour.

I had time to get a bacon roll and tea from the Sheildaig Coastal Rowing Club it was so busy and they had been up very early preparing the food. They were doing a great trade for all the support crews and it was out of the midges. Where else would you get food at 0500.

From my mate Pete

“David Whalley great to see you as well mate. I thought the flowers for me 😂. The lady’s who did that breakfast were amazing. If you know any of them could you please say a big thank you from me.

Definitely need to catch up soon.”well done all.

Out of the water tired and cold only 209 k to go.

SWIM 3.4K in cold, deep and  jellyfish infested Atlantic waters

I found it incredible watching as the first swimmers come into view. The burning lights the smoke and the drums on the shore make it a special atmosphere.

They are supported by kayakers and boats as Safety is essential. I have done this part in the Safety boat in the past it’s a huge responsibility ensuring all 200 make it safely in the 3 – 2 k of open water.

When you see the main swimmers come in it’s like a shoal of fish in the distance. It must be hard work with cold water tides and the jelly fish.

Watching them come ashore is amazing they give everything and now have a quick change in the open then the 202 k cycle. All these competitors are incredible athletes.

Mark getting ready after swim for the cycke.

The cycle is massive and I followed them through most of it through impressive scenery. The route is through exceptional country every lay-bye is full of support vechiles.

I know it well Kinlochewe , Gairloch Poolewe, Dundonnell – Braemore and on. Today there was a head wind but I could not believe the effort needed to complete this part of this gruelling event.

Mark was going well with his wife Fi and Jim West Mike Lynch two Carnethy runners in support.

We stopped often as he pushed on. He was like the others pushing on despite the head wind. We stopped and cheered as he and others speed on it was impressive to watch .

Fiona in support !

BIKE 202K on incredible scenic (and often very windy) Highland roads

I left them just before Garve it was 1300 and heavy rain falling Mark still had about 50 k to go then the hill run. I was pretty tired just watching and for the first I would not be on the hills. I felt guilty but I have to take it easy just now. My thoughts were with them all.

RUN 42K through an ancient drover’s pass and over the Beinn Eighe mountain range.
I had a mate who will be piping on the summit for the runners now that would be heartwarming for the competitors.
Also the Torridon Team doing the Safety cover on the mountain. They would have a long day.
ASCEND over 4000 Metres during this epic day
PUSH YOURSELF 100% and win the coveted Blue T-shirt.

At the end there is a meal at the Village Hall it will be a long day and what effort by all.

I stopped at my pals at Black Bridge for tea and a sandwich we had a catch up and then I headed home.

I got home and went to bed. Mark and many others would still be out .

The Celtman is a great event true sport at the extreme. It was wonderful to watch.The local support is immense and it was a incredible day. I met again so many inspirational people as always.

Your all heroes.

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When I joined Mountain Rescue in the 70’s the Mountaineering World was life was dominated by males. I was amazed to meet Molly Porter a strong powerful leader and Mountaineer who then was the leader of the Cairngorm MRT. Coming from a military background mainly male I was amazed yet over the years I have thank goodness been educated and things have changed rapidly.

Molly Porter leader of the Cairngorm MRT Team .

I read a great book just before that it became one of my favourite called “Space below my feet” written by the Climber and Mountain Guide Gwen Moffat.

An inspired read .

A classic mountaineering memoir by one of the UK’s foremost female climbers.

In 1945, when Gwen Moffat was in her twenties, she deserted from her post as a driver and dispatch rider in the Army and went to live rough in Wales and Cornwall, climbing and living on practically nothing. She hitch-hiked her way around, travelling from Skye to Chamonix and many places in between, with all her possessions on her back, although these amounted to little more than a rope and a sleeping bag.

When the money ran out, she worked as a forester, went winkle-picking on the Isle of Skye, acted as the helmsman of a schooner and did a stint as an artist’s model. And always there were the mountains, drawing her away from a ‘proper’ job.

Throughout this unique story, there are acutely observed accounts of mountaineering exploits as Moffat tackles the toughest climbs and goes on to become Britain’s leading female climber – and the first woman to qualify as a mountain guide.

Book Description

A classic mountaineering memoir by one of the UK’s foremost female climbers.

Gwen Moffat was the first woman to qualify as a mountain guide in the UK and is one of the greatest female climbers this country has ever produced.

She is also a prolific writer and novelist, with more than 30 books to her name.

I was inspired to read this and it’s a “must read” it explains Gwen life in the 50’s. These were hard times for girls especially with a young daughter.

Climbing then was “beardy men “and though women climbed and many were great Mountaineers about little was known about them.

I was so pleased to meet Gwen at a RAF MRT reunion where she met many of the girls that had joined Mountain Rescue. She is still around and was the inspiration for many and recently the BMC did a film on her life. What a star.

Yesterday I heard the great news that Jenny Graham our local hero from Inverness. She had just been awarded her Guinness record for her incredible Round the World unsupported cycle.

In this incredible feat she achieved an amazing World record. She was unsupported and I followed her daily on line.

To do this was some journey. It is wonderful to see a lassie like Jenny become such a star. I heard her speak recently about her trip and it was one of the most incredible talks I have ever heard.

The audience were spellbound as was I. She is a great example how with exceptional determination and fitness she smashed the World record by 3 weeks.

Its OFFICIAL 🥳 I’m #guinnessworldrecord holder 🏅💯✔ The fastest woman to cycle around the world – all 18,000miles of it! Fellow Scot and male record holder Mark Beaumont came along to celebrate the occasion this morning 🚴‍♀️🌎🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

During the ride I kept audio diaries and with the help of our storyboard consultant & Shand Cycles we’ve made them into an eight-part podcast series…

Look here 👀👀

Endura APIDURA #leighdaycycling Pennie Latin @unitasglobal John Hampshire #cyclinguk #bikeweekUK #gwrday

I would advise you to listen to the podcasts they are magical and as always Jenny is humble and inspiring. I cannot wait to get my young granddaughters to meet her

Another star is Di Gilbert – Mountaineer

There are certain achievements that we all hear about and think ’Wow’. At only 31 years of age, Di Gilbert, has spent most of her life enjoying the great outdoors. She is one of a select in-demand guides and climbing instructors, who travel the globe, teaching people how to climb safely and leading teams of enthusiasts to the tops of some of the most treacherous mountains in the world. Oh yes, she just became only the second Scottish women in history to climb Mount Everest.

Gary Fisher, Inside Aberdeenshire

Di Gilbert works full time as an Independent Mountaineering Instructor, based in the Cairngorm National Park. She has never had a proper job and it is unlikely that this will change now.

Di has stood on the bottom of the world without falling off, she has stood on top of the world without suffering from vertigo, she has climbed the world’s 7 summits and completed all 282 Munros. In 2016, Di was Expedition Leader with the Adventure Peaks K2 Expedition – the first British Expedition to K2 in 12 years – but success was not to be when an avalanche completely destroyed Camp 3 ending the season sooner than expected.  

Di holds the MIC qualification, the American Avalanche Association Level 2 and both Snowsport Scotland Alpine and Mountain Ski Leader Awards.

She has represented Great Britain in the International Ski Mountaineering Federation’s World Championships and is a Director of Skimo Scotland, the home of ski mountaineering racing in Scotland.

It took Di, 6,773 days or 18 years, 6 months and 18 days to complete her Munros – somewhat longer and possibly harder than it took her to summit the world’s 7 summits. 

Di also spent 4 Antarctic seasons based at Patriot Hills, initially as a Guide, before reached the dizzy heights of Field Operations Manager with Antarctic Expeditions & Logistics before finally hanging up her pink sorrel boots and carhartts for the final time in 2007. 

In 2015, Di was inducted into the University of Strathclyde’s Sports Hall of Fame and awarded an Honorary Full Sporting Blue for showing an outstanding high level of sporting achievement.

Di has finally admitted to bagging the Corbetts and is hoping that it will take less time to complete the Munros.

Having said that she would never go back to Everest, she has finally decided that it would be good to go back and will by leading the 2019 Adventure Peaks Everest Expedition.

Update Di is back and summitted from the North side Everest thats amazing Di climbed it Everest twice. She is a great lass another lovely person and a talented Mountaineer. Like Jenny she is another amazing lassie who is just as happy in the Worlds big mountains or at home climbing and skiing in Scotland . It’s amazing how many talented Di is from the local area and is another magical personality. I meet Di on the hills or through really good pals. She is all go and such a fun person. She loves her Scottish Mountains and with her pals is at home here. She works with so many passing on her hard won skills. If you meet anyone who has been out on the hills with her they will have had a great day.

Di Everest Certificate from the Chinese .

It took years to get lassies in the RAF Mountain Rescue yet all over the Civilian Mountain Rescue we had lassies in every team.

I admit I was a bit of a Dinosaur in these early days yet I was quickly changed and what a difference they made to our teams.

I was honoured to introduce two of the girls to Gwenn MOFFAT and always buy a copy of her book for budding female Mountaineers. I was not the only one to be a dinosaur as my Mountaineering Club The Scottish Mountaineering Club took years to accept female members into the SMC. It’s amazing to write this in this day and age.

We now have so many iconic ladies in all sports and in life my friend Heather Morning another incredible Mountaineer and Mountain Safety Officer was a breath of fresh air in the Mountain Safety world . She is another inspiration on the hills a true lover of the mountains and always there to spread the Mountaineering message.

For many years we have had amazing female Search and Rescue Dog handlers. There were so many to mention but each one was special to me.

Often they worked alone and were always incredible folk as they are in SARDA all over the UK. Many have been pals for over 30 years and it’s amazing to see how hard they worked to be accepted in a man’s world.

It’s wonderful how all this has changed all for the better and how Mountaineering has changed. So many girls are out on the mountains and wild places together enjoying it.

What a change in my 50 years on the hills. I gave a talk at the Clachaig Inn a few years ago the audience was 50/50 men and women. What a change from “Beardy men and Tartan shirts. ”

We have another female team leader currently at Assynt MRT Sue Agnew who along with many others is the mainstay of Mountain Rescue Teams.

How times have moved on.

I watched the Scottish Ladies football team a few nights ago. I loved the game they played against England it was all heart and lots of skill. They played the game with an honest and sporting approach. It was refreshing to see what an example they set.

I am a convert and how amazing it was to watch this and enjoy the sport again.

The men can learn from this !

I have missed so many others out I am sorry it’s great that there are so many iconic ladies out there. I am honoured to have met so many.

My Mum played a huge part in my life and would love to see how the World has changed especially for lassies.

My two granddaughters did their first races this week at aged 5 and 9. They constantly tell me about Girl power. Their Mum is a powerhouse and they are lucky to have met so many inspiring folk already.

I cannot wait to introduce them to some of these great incredible people and hope that their enthusiasm for sport and the wild places and life in general stays with them throughout life. What a start you have.

Thank you ladies for all the inspiration.

I could have written on so many more please forgive me for missing you out.

Comments welcome .

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We await more news as the Indian Airforce helicopter managed to fly into where the Avalanche was seen on Nanda Devi.

According to the latest news sadly 5 bodies have been reported as being seen. We await further news. Nanda Devi was believed to have been hit by multiple avalanches.

It is a terrible time for all the families involved so please, please be careful what you read or write in any forums that are talking about this tragedy.

Some folk are so disrespectful with there comments and views. It’s the last thing the families need.

My thoughts are with the families.

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This is the second part of the above incident.

When you arrive at such a scene of incredible trauma and destruction it is amazing how you cope. This was the job the RAF Mountain Rescue train for an unfortunately this is what were paid to do. Our task is to rescue and recover civilian and military aircraft crews and passengers. Six of us in were in the fast party that had arrived by Sea King helicopter had huge experience in aircraft crash sites. After the initial survey round the very dangerous crash site and with all the 29 on board accounted for  we have to ensure that all the evidence at the crash site is not touched or moved. This means that all the casualties stay in place and await the Police and Air Investigation Board arrive. (AIB) The local Police, Coastguard / Fire and Ambulance were already on scene and were glad of our experience.

We had to explain how dangerous the crash site was with fire, smoke, trauma and other items like sharp wreckage making it very easy to explain and keep the site safe and secure. This is never easy to do as there always seem especially in those days of we must have a look.

Jim the Team Leader was busy speaking to our powers that be by phone and we found out that the rest of the Team from RAF Leuchars and RAF Kinloss were coming by road a long 3- 4 hour journey for Leuchars and longer from Kinloss. The Mull road is very tight single lane for the last 12 k and proved tricky for the emergency services. That was handy as the media were kept away. When we arrived we had already worked out we would be on our own for a while. By now after a couple of hours the top brass from the Police and Fire had arrived and set up Operation Controls etc.

My task was to brief them and also keep the integrity of the Crash site. It is also so important despite who ever arrives few will have seen such a tragedy.  I can only remind people that this is place of death, destruction and danger and in my experience need to keep those who see this horror at a minimum.

I had a few heavy discussions on this point as there is “a must see what has happened attitude” by some that many lived to regret.

In the end they were all advised and we did keep the site as safe as possible. The fire service was there for most of the night as the peat and smoke keep burning. The wreck  smouldered for days. It was surreal. It is amazing the things you remember and we needed a drink it was hard to get some as the area was contaminated by fuel. We were hot and tired by the time some of the team arrived to help us we were on our own for over 6  hours.  Its amazing that somehow the WRVS or locals arrived and they were the angels looking after us and giving some normality.

We took round a few of the key players showed them the crash site and had a well – earned break.  If you can have such a thing. Then a local minster arrived and wanted to visit the site and say a few words.  It was late and dark by now making this a place of great sadness. The mist was still coming and going and the place smelt of fuel and danger.

It was tricky as the casualties were still in place as the Police and AIB investigation would be done mostly done next day . It was with a group of us that the minster said a few words and left he was visibly shaken by what he had seen. We had covered the casualties when our kit arrived up and it was a long night.

The site is fairly remote so access was controlled by the Police along the single track road. The weather had cleared and a few Military and other experts arrived but work on the site would not start till the next day.

Next day the main investigation started they would be there for weeks and we left them to it after showing them around the scene. They have a difficult job to do but they have to do it. After they were finished the initial work the casualties were all removed a harrowing task done by our pals from RAF Leuchars MRT and a few others.  This was down with great dignity and reverence.

“This is a part that few realise is never easy but has to be done with reverence and great care. Every one of those poor souls killed is a tragic life a family has lost a loved one and devastation for all concerned. Some of us knew some of the crew”

Even next day smoke was still about, the air stank of aircraft fuel and burnt heather and of course all the wreckage was still in place. We left the Crash guard of military personnel to look after the site and headed back to RAF Machrihanish for the night. Our clothes stank of fuel and burning that shower was great as was a bed for the night and good food. People ask how do you cope, you are in the zone and do what you have to.

We had a meal we were starving and then all managed to have a night together both teams and a few drinks to unwind. We were now a bit better prepared for such tragedy after Lockerbie in 1988 and the Harris Crash in 1990  and it was good for the teams to unwind together.

Next day we drove back to our camps. It was a long drive in great weather through familiar scenery Glencoe and our familiar stomping grounds back to our home at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. It was a quite trip home for the teams and back to family, friends and work. Sadly few who would have little idea of what we has seen and done on the Mull Of Kintyre. Some of the team got asked if the enjoyed their days off by the odd Boss.  They hadh no clue what they had seen or done. In the military you normally have to accept this but I always when I found out even at my level put them right no matter what rank they were.

I have written this piece just to tell a small piece of the work of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and other emergency services. Many can forget that this was a terrible tragedy and 29 souls lost their lives. Families were and still are devastated by the loss and it took over 20 years for me to visit the site to pay my respects.

This like other incidents and sadly I have been to many have affected me and others. I have learned to cope but the memories will be with me for life. We have moved on since 1994 learned so much but what a group of people I was with.

Many helped me at the time but in these days few knew I was struggling. “Big boys and girls did not talk then”.Yet you try to do your job and you do. It’s the month’s years later when it all comes back. Little things trigger it and its part of my life.

There was a small private ceremony this weekend at the Mull I doubt if any of the Rescue Teams will be present. I visited the Mull a few years ago for the first time. It was a powerful visit for me and helped me. The site has no wreckage it’s all gone but yet I see at times I saw the fires and the sadness of that day. Today and as always my thoughts are with the families and relatives of those who died.

These are some comments I received after I wrote about this before and I thank you for them, they help a lot.

“My husband was on board, one of the crew. It must have been terrible, but oddly I am reading this intently and looking forward to the next instalment. I am amazed at how this accident has touched so many and take great comfort in knowing that I am not alone in remembering that day.

Comment “20 years!! I was part of the Campbeltown lifeboat crew (RNLI) that was requested to go down to “The Mull” and form a search party. The lifeboat “Walter and Margaret Couper” had been launched on an earlier shout as the coastguard assumed the chinook was in the sea below, how wrong we’re they? We returned to station and got sent down to search the area.
A local doctor even stopped our land rover en route and suggested that anyone with a weak mind should return to Campbeltown with him as it wasn’t pleasant, I wish I had.
What a sad, eerie, haunting scene.”
I’ll never forget it, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families on this anniversary x DCI can remember it so well, I was and still am in the lifeboat in Campbeltown we missed the boat that night and we carried on in cars to the Mull of Kintyre to see if we could help and we had seen everything not a nice thing to see but it was our job”

Heavy Whalley June 2019

This piece is dedicated to crew and passengers of Helicopter ZD576 on the Mull of Kintyre.

I did a piece for Natural Geographic a few years ago as part of their “Seconds to Disaster film” the money I was paid went to Mountain Rescue. It shows the initial part we played and is worth a look.


Comment from Mark

“Brutally sad days spent seeing and doing things you shouldn’t have to so.

Thanks to the people of Cambletown who helped with the stress counselling.”

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An official statement from the Moran Family:

We are deeply saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalaya.

As a family, we share the same emotions that all next of kin are experiencing in not knowing the whereabouts or wellbeing of those closest to us.

We are grateful to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation who are coordinating search and rescue efforts on the ground and in the air under extremely difficult conditions in a very remote area of the Himalaya.

The climbing group had set out to attempt an unclimbed, unnamed summit, Peak 6477m, and the last contact intimated that all was well and a summit bid would be made from a camp at around 5400m.

It is not entirely clear what happened from this point onwards or indeed the timeline of events. We do know that a British Mountain Guide who was in the area leading a trekking group, as part of the same expedition, was informed that the climbing group had not returned to basecamp as expected. He immediately went on the mountain to search for the missing climbers. There was clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain and it seemed to be on or very near the route that would be taken by the climbing group. The Mountain Guide gave instructions to base camp to alert rescue authorities. The alarm was raised early on Friday morning 31st May.

Today we have been informed by the Indian Mountaineering Federation that an air search by helicopter has revealed the scale of the avalanche but no sign of the climbers, their equipment nor their tents.

We are pressing for the search area to be widened and continued until such time as firm evidence is found to ascertain the wellbeing or otherwise of all those in the climbing group.

We are grateful for all the support that has been offered to us and we will be sure to release any information as and when we receive it. In the meantime please respect the privacy that the next of kin of the climbers need as they seek solace at this harrowing time.

The Moran Family

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I met a pal yesterday from my days at RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team who was celebrating his 50 th birthday Tommy Pilling.

He joined the RAF Leuchars MRT as a young lad in 1988. Now Tommy like me when he joined looked about 12 yet he proved he was made of the right stuff.

Tommy was new to the Scottish hills but loved them and was typical of those young folk who joined the RAF Mountain Rescue Team .

As in my early days if they stayed in the team they gave you everything and it was a huge honour to work with them. It was in the main a young team at RAF Leuchars in Fife but what a strong team they became.

They were my first team as Team Leader and they never let me down. It would be great to meet Tommy again after all these years.

I had left early mainly to see a wonderful memorial to my mate Tom Jones who passed away last year. On the way I saw red squirrels, young deer and buzzards the rain of the last few days had stopped at last the land and forests were looking so green.

Carrbridge was busy even early in the morning . I located the carving It is an incredible piece next to the village hall in Carrbridge.

This is where Tom lived and became a big part of the local community with his family.

I enjoyed seeing it spending time and met some folk from Caithness we had a bleather about Tom.

To me this carving was a wonderful tribute to a special pal. Tom was one of the inspirations for the wood carving festival held every year in the village. It is now the biggest in the Uk and Tom loved it, the area and its people.

Tom worked for many years as an Outdoor Activities instructor at nearby Grantown on Spey and abroad. The carving is from a tree that was being cut down and the local Community decided that they would carve it as a tribute to Tom, it is a powerful piece to a man we all miss.

The family love it and in the early morning sun it was a powerful and moving place to be. The birds were singing it was the right place to be.

Tommy and me on Cairngorm yesterday.

I arrived at Cairngorm car park early to meet Tommy and Mandy. She had sorted a weekend away to Aviemore for them from Huddersfield and they invited me to have a day on the hill.

Tommy had wanted Mandy to climb her first Munro Cairngorm.

Cairngorm with Mandy and Tommy

They had a good day on Meall a’ Buachaile the day before so we met at the car park. It was a great walk up to Cairngorm in good weather.

It was perfect walking weather and we chatted all the way. Mandy enjoyed it and I then took them round the plateau away from the crowds.

We were soon of the path and into the space that makes this place unique. I told Mandy that these were places we had searched in wild days on call outs. It can be an awful place at night in winter in bad weather. Today out of the wind it was benign and beautiful. There were still snow patches about .

The my and Mandy at Cistercian’s Meradith

Tommy told me that I took him out on the 4 Cairngorm tops on his first day on the team in 1988. He was so happy he completed it and he hung in on a big day in the hills. After that he never looked back in the team got fit and loved the mountains after that. We spoke about the Alps a Rescue on Mt Blanc of two skiers in a crevasse the Pyrenees all a blur in these days as we went from one story to another.

We wandered round old haunts enjoyed the views the wild life and no folk about. We visited the old snow hole sights looked down to Loch Avon marvelled at the space and wonderful rock formations. The huge cliffs and skies today darkened but we stayed away from the rain and were sheltered from the wind.

Great views

It was a lovely day we chatted and I told Mandy about a few of our adventures with Tommy in our days with the team.

These were sometimes hard days big searches call outs and of course Lockerbie. Tommy like others had only been with the team for a few months but like the rest was a stalwart despite his youth.

He told me about an epic on the climb “Savage Slit” in late December with Mark Richford with the team. This was the Christmas period a few days after Lockerbie.

He remembers it as a hard day running on empty coming across the plateau. This was after a hard day on the route in poor weather. He spoke of taking ages to get the gear out of the cracks, freezing hands and running on empty.

On the same day I went out to Macdui and Derry Cairngorm with my dog running alone to clear my head. I had a radio with me and spoke to Tommy who was having “fun”on the climb. I was in my own world that day trying to make sense of the tragedy of Lockerbie. It all came back when we spoke and I was then fit and in my prime.

It was great to hear him chat and speak about this wild day, one he and I would never forget.

It’s amazing looking back the effect the Mountain Rescue had on these young folk. They put so much into it and we ended up being a real family. They became like my sons and daughters and what a bond we still have.

Before Tommy and Mandy arrived I met the RAF Lossiemouth MRT in the car park out for a day on the hills. I had a catch up with Mark the Team Leader it’s great to see the teams still out doing it.

“The mountains give you this unique bond and it remains with you for life.”

We headed back down Mandy had loved the day and enjoyed seeing a little part of this incredible place and it’s wildness and space.

We then went for a coffee at Rothiemurcus and I said goodbye heading home what a day. On the way home I stopped to see Toms wife Alyson and Chris in Carrbridge. We had a great catch up and I wanted to say how much I loved seeing the Carving. There were so many stories of that unique man Tom Jones. We had a laugh and a cry but it was so needed. Then I headed home to see the football.

Sadly I heard on the hill that a pal is missing in the Himalayas Martin Moran. Martin is a good pal I have known for many years. I served with him on the Torridon Team. He is a Mountain Guide and another incredible man.

I pray he and his group are okay. Martin is a good pal and we often bump into each other on the hill. I have known him for many years since he was the first to climb all the Munros in winter on one trip.

BBC news

A group of eight climbers has gone missing while climbing India’s second highest mountain.

The team, which included four people from the UK, started to climb the 7,816-metre Nanda Devi East peak in the Himalayas on 13 May.

When they didn’t return to the base camp as planned, a search and rescue team was sent to try to find them.

However, a local official has warned that heavy rains and snowfall are affecting the search.

“We have activated resources to trace the climbers after they failed to return to the base camp, but bad weather is hindering the operation,” Vijay Kumar Jogdande, a magistrate in Pithoragarh district, told AFP news agency.

An Indian Air Force helicopter is also expected to be used on Sunday morning.

As well as the four climbers from Britain, the team also included two Americans, an Australian and an Indian.

They were being led by the experienced British mountain guide Martin Moran, whose Scotland-based company has run many expeditions in the Indian Himalayas.

Photos posted to Mr Moran’s Facebook page the day before the start of the climb showed the group “starting their journey into the hills at Neem Kharoli Baba temple, Bhowali”.

A later post on 22 May, posted from their second base camp at 4,870 metres, suggested that the group would attempt to summit a never-before-climbed peak on the mountain.

There have been conflicting reports about when exactly the group was scheduled to return. However, according to local media, they were due to reach the Nanda Devi base camp on Friday 31 May, and the nearby village of Munsiyari on 1 June.

A spokesperson for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “We are in contact with the Indian authorities following reports that a number of British nationals are missing in the Indian Himalayas. We will do all we can to assist any British people who need our help”

These mountains can bring you such joy but also great sadness .

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First day cover from my days as Team Leader.

It’s hard to believe when I found this First Day cover on a tidy up that the military had all these assets available The Nimrod, The SAR helicopters and 6 RAF Mountain Rescue Teams.

Nothing stays the same and things move on few would believe that out of these three we now only have the RAF MRT at Lossiemouth, Leeming and Valley in North Wales.

The teams are still doing a superb job. Sadly the Co – Ordination the military helicopters have now been privatised and the new civilian helicopters aircraft are are a great asset.

The RAF Hercules does have a SAR capability and the new Maritime aircraft will big help for the future.

It’s amazing how time flies and how much things have changed but great to see the teams and SAR moving on from the early days.

Great memories thanks all.

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It was pouring when we got up and it was a planned Moray Mountaineering bus meet to Glen Feshie. The club organised about 10 bus meets every year. Gordon the great “Bus monitor” organises it a thankless task. We managed to nearly fill our small bus due to his efforts.

Gordon and Graham two club stalwarts .

It’s hard seeing the rain battering down as we picked up the bus at Forres just after 0715 . Then it travels to Nairn and Inverness picking up more members on route . Then down the A9 watching the burns pouring of the hill and then the tight we road to the car park.

Wild river in the Feshie hills

After the heavy rain the rivers can be very dangerous care has to be taken. As always a large group went to climb one of the nearby Munro depending on the rivers others had a walk to the wonderful bothy at Ruigh Aiteachan that has been refurbished. It’s a busy area for Duke of Edinburgh Groups as it was today.

Photo Gordon MMC

The two Munros in Glen Feshie group couldn’t be more different – Sgor Gaoith is craggy on its east side with long drops. There was early climbing in this area and Alpine length routes in winter that few climb nowadays. Mullach Clach a’Bhlair is the highest point on a vast plateau south-west of Braeriach and Cairn Toul. It has an estate road that takes you onto a wild plateau in bad weather that can be tricky in high winds and navigating.

Heather, juniper and forests cover the lower slopes, with good tracks and paths to access. Higher up, ground is pretty flat and can be very diffcult to navigate on in mist. One of our groups headed for Mullach Clach a’Bhlair : ‘summit of the stone of the plain’. Once you cross the rivers a road takes you onto the summit plateau.

From Steve Fallon website.

Video of the wild river.

I had decided to go for a wander down the Glen and maybe visit a small Glen I had never visited before . We watched the other group on the other side of the river cross and start up the hill.

The Munro baggers a happy bunch in search of their summit. A bit of rain never stops them.

Another group decided to climb a nearby Corbett. Carn Dearg Mor. They left us as we continued up to our Glen.

Though not a particularly distinguished summit,the Corbett Carn Dearg Mor has a great position on the west side of Glen Feshie which makes it a good viewpoint.

Landrover tracks aid access via the Slochd Mor to the south, whilst an alternative route is along the north ridge. I had fine this hill a while ago with some DofE groups so I wanted something new.

We crossed the river by the bridge and headed up the tarmac road( wish I had my bike) It was raining heavy at times and we took a break out of the weather in the wonderful trees. The sun keeps coming out and I even took my jacket off that was soaked. We could see the others heading up the track on to the Munro.

This is a wonderful place with the trees and erosion by the vast amount of water and the erosion of the river banks. There is a great attempt to re wild this estate by the current owner and I think he is doing so well. It’s great to see the estate looking so well.

Big Glen Big space !

The Bridge has been gone for many years that takes you over to the bothy. I hope one day it will be replaced but it will be a costly business .

The missing bridge ! ted bothy. TERRAIN Rough path up east side of glen with burn crossings; tarmac on west side. Please note: Carnachuin Bridge was swept away in 2009; a replacement may be built in future. At present it is only possible to walk up the east side of the Feshie to the bothy as an out and back route. Do not attempt to cross the Feshie at the bridge site.

Break in the forest and the sun is out.

It was great to get off the tarmac road and then head up the remote Glen Slochd Beag. It was a fun wander up a old stalkers path to see the waterfall near the beleach. This is rough ground so wild yet so wonderful with the waterfalls falling down the hillside. I was in no rush stopping and seeing the view. The flowers are out and the dreaded midges hiding. Colours changed greys became blue skies and then the rain came sweeping in. It was ever changing.

The wild Glen and it’s heathery steep hillsides.

The rain came down even more then stoped and we sat and enjoyed the view then the sun came out.

The waterfalls were still pouring down and there is scope for winter climbing here. I thought if Andy Nisbet was alive I would have sent him photos he would most likely have climbed them.

It’s a wild place with steep craggy hillsides lots of thick Heather and scree and so much space.

The high moorland above would be heavy walking today off the paths. In winter this is a wild place as I know from previous visits.

The waterfall with the rain sweeping in.

Time was moving on I headed down, the sun came out and shed some clothes and had a drink. I was soon down at the tarmac road and then back to meet other who had visited the 5 star bothy.

I always think of the young keeper we met on our winter traverse in 78 at Linn of Dee. We had just come off Ben Dearg a 13 hr day in deep snow. We got feed by the keeper and his wife and then stayed with a young keeper in the bothy down the road. We had and epic from Beinn Alder to Gaick and over the remote Munro’s in that Dec Walk when we were crazy and so driven.

1977 the West to East winter Traverse of Scotland.

This was when the A9 was closed due to snow. Exhausted we stayed the night with him at Linn of Dee and continued to finish the hardest 3 weeks of my life on Mount Keen after another big day on Lochnagar Munro’s and then at last Mount Keen.

A few months later we were called out on a search and sadly it was the young keeper who had died on that track in a big storm of Hypothermia . He was such a lovely young guy and I spoke to him about the hills when we had met him. Despite being exhausted I we shared a dram and I said we would met up. It sadly did not happen.

This is from the SMC Journal Mountain Accidents 1978. A great help when researching mountain accidents.

Jan 11/1/78 – A Ghillie was found dead from exposure at the Landseer Falls. Poorly equipped for the extreme weather conditions. He had set off to walk from Linn of Dee to Glen Feshie Lodge to visit a friend.

From my diary “Feshie bothy – Carn an Fhidleir-An Sgarsach-Linn Of Dee, Jim and Terry had not done these Munros so it was an incredible day. The snow was so deep we all broke Step all day changing leads in the white room all day. I was at the end of my powers after such a hard few days. It was relentless.

We nearly walked over Cornice,a  huge day at the end we were completely exhausted tricky navigation, all the time whiteout all day on the tops. JM fell in river and was very nearly exposure case, had to stop at Linn of Dee at Keepers house to exhausted to continue to Braemar.

Hardest day yet ” we were navigating to stay alive” no paths and awful ground really struggling. The toil of 20 days on the hill was telling we were on our knees at the end.

Met young keeper in bothy we were staying at who was killed the next winter 1978 in Glen Feshie in a blizzard, very sad story.” He was following our route to Feshie and got caught in a big storm.

Distance 35 kilometer’s and 1323 metres in very deep snow.

“A Life changing few days.”

Photo Gordon MMC

We had a breather they crossed the river easily and met so many enjoying the bothy.

Heading of to the sun.

We had a pleasant walk back the river had gone down and the sun was out. It’s hard to believe how wild a place this can be.

Everyone was pleased with there day the weather and rivers were kind to us and it was a happy bus that headed into Aviemore for a drink.

Many were taking about their next plans for hills and trips. It’s great to see such enthusiasm and thanks to Club for keeping the tradition of the Bus going.

It’s never easy when the rain is battering at the windows and the roads are awash. Yet it was a great day.

Thanks Gordon and the MMC for a interesting day.

please if you can and in the Moray Club support the Bus .

Sometimes Its not easy getting out of bed early at weekend when the weather is poor but it is always a lot better than you think.

Top tip/ Ella book on the bus !!!!

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Three more climbers have died on Mount Everest, taking the death toll to seven in a week – more than the total for the whole of last year.

“The three died of exhaustion while descending on Thursday.

It comes amid traffic jams near the summit as record numbers make the ascent, despite calls to limit the number of climbing permits.

Nepal has issued 381 permits at $11,000 (£8,600) each for the spring climbing season at the world’s highest peak.

Two Indian climbers – Kalpana Das, 52, and Nihal Bagwan, 27 – died while scaling back down the mountain on Thursday.

Three more climbers have died on Mount Everest, taking the death toll to seven in a week – more than the total for the whole of last year.

.” BBC News

Again tragedy has struck the mountain and when you see the photos of the queues on the ridge it makes me shudder. 

The BBC article tries to  explain why some of the accidents happen. Yet at these great heights even the best get caught out and if you add too many on the same route/ rope and so many varying  degrees of experience and competence it can be a disaster waiting to happen.

I was lucky to part of an unguided team that went from Tibet in 2001.

The ascent from the North Tibet is in my mind a lot safer as there is no ice fall to go through. Yet there were tragedies when we were on the hill.

We were all great pals and knew each other for many years and our limitations and strengths. 

On our trip there were a sadly few deaths on the mountain and they all happened high up.

I could see then how some people treat this incredible mountain it is a huge peak with lots of problems.

I was lucky to be with a strong team of pals and 6 great Sherpa’s. We assisted on several Rescues as did our Sherpa’s and others .

My job was the Base Camp Manager and I had a lot  on but we assisted with the Rescues when we could and I was lucky that there were other extremely strong teams on the mountain who saved lives very high up.

One team led by Eric Simenson –   The 2001 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition which conducted the world’s highest archaeology project and culminated with the accomplishment of the highest mountaineering rescue in history. They had some of the most accomplished high altitude climbers on their trip and helped save lives. They did several Rescues above 8000 metres which were incredible well worth reading about these Rescues.  There are a limited few who can cope with this at the extreme altitudes.


There were also a few operators working on very tight budgets and limited experience.

We regularly helped where we could but in the end we had only enough spare equipment I. E Oxygen if we had a snag to our own team.

As we had a Doctor/ Climber Brian Kirkpatrick he was a busy man all the time  and a great Doctor and mountaineer.

At the end of the expedition our boys we were the only ones left on the mountain as three of our team tried again to get the summit after Dan and Rusty’s ascent.

All the other teams had left after a big storm, the place was deserted. I had a worrying few days at ABC the weather was so bad we feared for our team. I doubt if anything could have been done if they had a problem.

I was so glad when we heard they were coming down and watching the descent down the North Col alone on that huge face was scary.

When they came down it was only me at Advanced Base Camp at 21300 feet. The rest of the team were a day away at Base most were totally exhausted from the Expedition.

The North Col.

The next day I went to the North Col over 7000 metres to help the Sherpa’s clear the hill.

I would be the only non Sherpa up there it was an incredible experience and made my trip.  Going up that tattered fixed rope on that mountain was an experience that few ever get and to be there without the crowds was my summit.

That was one of the most incredible places to be alone as the Sherpa’s cleared the hill. Everyone was gone yet we were still there.

The true heroes of Everest. Our great team of Sherpas.

Yet Everest is a wonderful place I went into the West ridge alone twice earlier on and  found the old camps that the 1930 expeditions used and met only two Americans who were trying the North Face. They were alone and the scale of the of this face is incredible.

This huge Face is another side of the Mountain that few see. On the normal route it is hidden from view and you can see why the original expeditions went this way thinking this was the key to climbing the route.

The Huge North Face

This was what this mountain meant to me and many other its so big and wonderful and yet so peaceful.

I had no thought of the summit just to be there was my summit.  Everest away from the crowds is magical it was superb, now it seems even an ascent from Tibet to be a different place. The huge interest in climbing the worlds highest mountain by so many who have the cash!

At the end of the trip we cleaned up the Advanced Base Camp while the rest of the team down nearly 4000 feet below at Base Camp.

After a few days I left early at first light and walked down ahead alone to Base Camp it was along  6 hour trip.  I was now well acclimatised after 3 months in this place.  It snowed and the weather was poor, yet you felt really strange on a trail of new snow cover with no one about.

Now and then the North Ridge and the summits would clear and you could see the pinnacles it was a marvellous sight.

I could drink this place in for the last time and though not getting high on the mountain it had been some trip.

Approach to the North Col

Few will ever experience what I felt that day even those who summit . This to me was Everest and its sad to see what is happening on the mountain and how many lives are lost.

Many are chasing a dream a tick list and few would make anywhere near this place without the huge support of the Guides and Sherpa’s.

Yet it will continue to pull people their dreams and many more will lose their lives for what.

Sadly things will have to be sorted by the Nepal and Tibetan authorities  the numbers cut down. I wonder if things will change and what would the effect be on the economies of these Countries.

Yet those who will continue to chase the mad rush for this the ultimate summit will they accept this, I wonder?

I have just heard that two more have died one from Ireland and the other from the UK.

As ever my thoughts are with the families and those on the hill.

Sad times indeed.





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What a day two Corbett’s in Ardgour – Fuar Bheinn and Cruach Bheinn and a visit to the Voodoo Crash site on Meal Odhar.

From the Corbett’s and other Scottish Hills,

Hamish Brown describes Ardgour as “There is a feel of an Island to Ardgour it is nearly surrounded by water and reached as like or not by ferry.” His book “Climbing the Corbetts” holds a wealth of knowledge and is one of my best loved books. I re read it again and again.

Loch Linne

It was a magical long day for me away early from the bunkhouse at Strontian these These Ardgour Corbett’s are hard work . Its even an interesting drive to the hills  the road is just above the sea in places with cliffs above. I had once tried to do all the Ardgour Corbett’s over the weekend as training for Tranter’s round it was epic to me these were the harder day.  Memory fades The first hill Fuar Bheinn is over some hard ground no path such great hills but to get there you start more or less from sea level. Lucky the ferns are not high yet. but it was a big pull up onto the ridge and then it’s good walking.

I had parked the van at Kingairloch and headed up. There was a cuckoo as my early morning call and lots of flowers the bluebells still hanging on it was beautiful but the ground was so dry I was glad I had lots of fluid with me.

Top Tip

“I like to get away early before the sun is out it’s a lot cooler”

From here the first top of the day it was a big drop down to the beleach and I lost most of my height then a plod up the first Corbett of the day Fuar Bheinn. It’s not high 766 metres but a great view point.

Great deep clefts abound

All day the views were outstanding and with a breeze great walking . There is no rush “the Retirement watch has no hands”.

How I had missed this after various illness it was a day to savour. I drunk a little and often then continued along to the bigger Corbett Creach Bhein at 853 metres it is a magical hill. It has big cliffs and gully’s. It was living up to its name mountain of spoil. There was an Eagle soaring above as I wandered to the summit soaring in the thermals,what a place to be.

Colby Camp

There is the remains of a Colby camp here just off the summit this must have been a huge undertaking when Scotland was being mapped. They made this their camp it’s big ! I cannot imagine the effort to move all these stones.

Colby Camp – The monument comprises the remains of a campsite, constructed by soldiers of the Ordnance Survey early in the 19th century as part of the first triangulation of Scotland. It is situated near the summit of Creach Bheinn at around 850m OD in open rocky grassland.

The camp is located in a shallow saddle about NNE of the triangulation station, the two joined by a well-laid footpath. The main structure of the monument is a large windbreak wall about 2.5m high protecting the W side of the camp. A small dry-stone structure around 3.5m square lies on the N side of the camp and represents the only formerly roofed building at the site. This served the joint functions of guard and cook-house. The remainder of the structures at the site consist of a further dry-stone wall on the E side, now ruinous, and four low stone circles representing the footings for tents. Three of the ‘tent circles’ lie close to the S of the stone building, while a further circle lies closer to the triangulation station. The last may have been the officer’s accommodation. Also included in the scheduling are the substantial remains of a circular stone-built platform on which the survey instruments were mounted. This lies to the SSE of the camp and is now surmounted by a concrete pillar of standard mid-twentieth century type.

Such camps are often known as Colby Camps, named after the officer commanding the Ordnance Survey at the time. The nature of the instruments of the period, the need for very precise measurements and the exigencies of Scottish mountain weather frequently necessitated lengthy stays at high altitude (in one extreme case, three months) to complete the measurements required. This survey programme laid the backbone of the mapping system that served Britain until recent advances in satellite and electronic distance measurement.

The area to be scheduled has a figure of eight plan, formed by the junction of two circles, one 100m in diameter and the second 70m in diameter. Within the larger, northern part are the stone building, windbreak walls and three of the stone tent circles.

Within the southern part of the area are the triangulation station and the fourth stone tent circle. Both areas include all of the features described plus the original footpath and an area around them in which evidence relating to their construction and occupation is likely to survive.

Wild Goats watching

It’s impressive as were the two goats on the ridge connecting to Moal Odhar. This ridge is cracking and I was going not bad I was wearing my running shoes they were ideal for the dry ground.

Heading out to Meall Odhar

This is an incredible place with the massive Corrie’s and these huge hills.

Heading up to my last hill I saw some wreckage from the USA Voodoo aircraft that crashed in May 1964. It took ages to find the aircraft unfortunately the pilot was killed. Most of the main wreckage is on the wild Corrie most of it is still there. I did not have time today but this is a hill I will come back to.

The search was hampered due to the weather and the secrecy of the aircraft this was the height of the Cold War. There are a few tales from this call out.

The Voodoo


The Mountain Rescue Teams were out for over a week in awful weather. I will do a full account in my blog again soon.

Wreckage from crash on summit.

There is a lot of wreckage about near the summit most is now in the far Corrie some still hangs on the cliffs. It’s a Somber place .

Wreckage on the hill

I headed of to finish the horseshoe back to the road and met a group heading up in the sun. The walk off is a great series of small hills with views to the sea.

I was tired but so happy that I was feeling okay. It was a long day 10 hours I spent lots of time looking about and then a walk back to the car in baking heat.

There was no rush nowadays and I should have fallen asleep on the hill. I was on my own a day it was a day to sit and enjoy this special day. I have not enjoyed a day like this for a while.

Great end of day walk to the sea.

Back to the bunkhouse and a treat in the restaurant to a three course meal and lots of fluid. I needed that and an early night my feet are sore I need some new running shoes for the hill. Any thoughts?

Midges are out in force now at the bothy but I am tired but very pleased.

Thanks to Kalie and Terry for being my safety persons I love being the hills on my own. I get time to think .

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week thinking of all those out there.

Great day – what will tomorrow bring.

Ardour Corbett’s and a few more from Hamish Browns great book “Climbing the Corbett’s.”

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I had written in depth about the Shackleton Crash it reminds you of difficult times. It was good to go out and walk round the Hopeman Golf Course yesterday it was a stunning day.

It clears the head.

The birds were singing especially the yellow hammers their chorus was incredible. They seem to love the golf course and the bright yellow Gorse and there chatter is full on.

They are a huge attraction to me and many others what a stunning bird and sound they make .

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) Yellowhammers are resident all year round, except in north and northwest parts of Scotland (Highlands of Scotland and certain lowland areas i.e. Inner Hebrides and Orkneys), where they are summer visitors only.

it was great to be out and though not playing just to be out in the fresh air was superb. I had not seen the local

Moray Dolphins this year and just of the 15 th green I saw the tell tale splash in the sea.

The Dolphins were close to the shore and in full view heading along the coast. It was incredible and I watched them for a while.

Is there anything better to see ? We all watched no matter how often we see them it was so exciting to see.

I never tire of seeing them, they bring such a warming to your heart.

There is the Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay well worth a visit.

Welcome to the Scottish Dolphin Centre

Visit the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre for the chance to see the amazing bottlenose dolphins of the Moray Firth. Enjoy beautiful walks along the tumultuous River Spey, spot a seal or osprey, and discover Spey Bay’s fishing heritage during a tour of the historic Icehouse. Entry to the centre is FREE.

Go and visit and if you see the Dolphins there are not many things that are better.

Check up on Friday for my eyes great to be out though!

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This photo was taken yesterday – The Shackleton Memorial on Modal Harris photo taken by D McLeish taken on the 29 th Anniversary 30/4/19.

This was from a friend who ran the Crash Guard team after we left Harris we handed the site over to them and the Crash and Smash.

“Dear me Heavy is it 29 years !! I spent the best part of 3 weeks out there as Crash Guard Cdr as you know . I knew the crew too. Andy Watkins and Phil Casley built the memorial for me .

We hid the spark plug in the peat from the AAB , I was threatened with court martial by the AAB but the Stn Cdr backed us.

Tough one .

I sent the team into Stornaway to let their hair down and the police put them up in the cells, leaving the doors open and giving then bacon rolls !

And We got a ride on a C130 two days later not fair . Yes they also sent out a team of Psychiatrists to assess us after 10 days Heavy , more or less one of the first test cases in the field post Lockerbie , to say we were not that amused is an understatement .

Andy and I ran them up the hill …Andy carried a bag of cement up! I pulled in a piper and we had a memorial service once we cleared the site . ”

My reply

Thank you that is interesting as we were offered nothing in the way of Counciling and we located and moved all the casualties of the hill. That was not easy even for my seasoned troops.

That was not a task for anyone to do . I had asked for help during Lockerbie for the troops and at the time many thought I was mad especially those in charge . This was only 3 years after that and Kinloss MRT were not there so had not been subject to the horrors.

Sadly I was proved in many cases and we did need help. It took years for the military and the Emergency Services to appreciate this. It also took years for many of the team to come to terms with that as well.

Thanks for that part of the story I will add it to my piece today if that’s ok?

It’s amazing to read the responses and most will be glad to know the Memorial is looking good thanks to Dianne for visiting it yesterday.,

This is from Davy Walker

“you’ll be glad to hear that Lossie refurbished the memorial @7 years ago. I hope it’s still fairing well. We took some of the crews relations to the site and l was able to brief them on the crash etc. Very sad experience all those years ago.”

There is lots of information on this book on the crashes in the Islands including the Shackleton.

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Shackelton AEW MK2 WR965. 30th 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 where I was the Team Leader on the 30 th April 1990.

This article is in memory of the crew of the Shackleton.

Wing Commander Stephen Roncoroni

Wing Cdr 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

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 lunch time when I was told on the phone by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) and 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.

10 Minute’s is not long to get ready for a pick up by helicopter and to collect your thoughts”

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 Sea king 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.

“I was up front with the crew on headphones the radio full of information”

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 from the helicopter 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 Modal 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, sadly 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. All 10 were dead. 10 Families lives wrecked, 10 folk not coming home that day.

Wreckage scattered everywhere.

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  Investigation Team on scene as soon as possible. The Police were there but due to the remoteness this would be an easy site to control and we needed to ensure that is was secure and this was done with great tact and diplomacy. Our next task is to secure the site which was still on fire in places 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 so kind to my team and helped in the difficult days that we had ahead.

The cloud had cleared and this was one of the most sad but beautiful places in Scotland.  The local Police, firemen  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  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 HS 125 jet  aircraft and by Hercules aircraft complete with our Mountain Rescue vehicles, they were all on scene by 1600, an amazing piece of organisation.

I never found out who was on in the ARCC  at Pitreavie in Fife who organised this out when I asked for help”.

In the end I had 27 Team members, the 4 Tonner vehicles’ arrived by Ferry the same day! In the end all were needed to move the 10 casualties form the hill. Within 24 hours the Board of Enquiry have to be briefed and taken up the hill along with the Police and not an easy task.  Once the site had been visited later on by the Board of Enquiry the team then receives permission to remove all the casualties from the scene, a hard and difficult task.

Few will understand but this is our job and we did it with great respect for the crew as we could

It’s hard to believe that I fought with the authorities for a while to ensure the team stayed in a Hotel at Tarbet during the grim task. We had to guard the site and after moving the casualties we needed to get simple things like showers and cleaned up. We needed that and it gave those who were not on shift a break away from the hill and the trauma.

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 out 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 RAF Lossiemouth lined up as we drove through a very moving experience, waiting for their fallen comrades. It was then back to normal, most of the team straight back to work we had been away for 4 days.”

“Sadly some Bosses were annoyed that the part time team member’s  had been away from work for so long how little they knew what my team had done”.

I went back to my home and my partner and the kids as did most of the team, few would understand what we did but we did our job as always and rarely spoke about it in these days.


“It was a moving experience for us all and one I will never forget”      I had a great team seasoned after years of Rescues all over Scotland yet this was an event few will forget, These were the early days before PTSD was acknowledged. After Lockerbie is was a reminder to me and I had a lot more knowledge hard won to look after my team who as always were superb.    

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 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.  I think this has been done.


On the summit the views were immense, unsurpassed with unique Island scenery of 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 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”.


Footnote; It should be noted that the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team has been at least two other Shackleton Crashes in their role in RAF Mountain Rescue. The first was on the 21 December 1967 when a Shackleton crashed at Lochailort 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 Shackleton 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. Sadly this was our job.”        


“Lest We Forget”


David Heavy Whalley MBE BEM.  30 April 2019

Lost to the Isles 1945 -1990 gives a good account of this and other aircraft crashes.

This is the final book

in the series as the Second World War enters its final stages in 1945. Though sadly not before further losses occurred around the Scottish Islands. In this Fourth volume there are 35 accounts of accidents and incidents.17 occurring prior to VJ Day, with a further 18 post war taking us from WW2 turboprops to the Cold War Gas Turbines of the supersonic jet age.

The work is dedicated to all those who lost their lives and to those who survived against incredible odds.

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It was another early start yesterday and my second eye op in Glasgow at the Eye Clinic. After a thorough check in my eye that was in good order that was done yesterday All was fine. The next operation went well and I was out in the morning with my now customary patch over my eye. The operation is incredible technology so efficient and I must have signed about 100 signatures explaining I know the risks.

The world is so worried about being sued. Imagine on a Rescue if we had to sign for every dangerous situation ? Or in Mountaineering ? What has happened in this world?

I had a good wander round Glasgow again and a lazy afternoon. The eyes were a bit sore but hopefully I will get the all clear today.

It seems to have gone well and just the ritual of eye drops 4 times a day to sort.

I had to have my eyes done as the Cataracts were getting worse and impending on my hills and life. Sadly the NHS cannot keep up with the operations and it would have meant another winter of worsening eyesight. I get great joy reading and writing but reading was out (using audible books) and writing getting harder to type.

I had a big fall last winter in failing light coming of the Cairngorms and that was my “eye opener ”

Cycling was also out as well and night driving not on. Hopefully all this will all be available again once my eyes settle.

Living on your own is not easy as I had to leave lights on as my sight got worse at night. It was all minor stuff but can get you down and you have to remain cheerful while others are out in the wild.

I was lucky that I could do something it cost a lot but there are so many who struggle and cannot afford to go Private. The world can be an unfair place at times yet the NHS does so much great work for so many. Yet it could do so much more if it had the resources.

It’s sad to see Glasgow with so many beggars in the street society can be so cruel. We seem to have gone backwards despite our modern society and the improvements in living standards in so many ways.

I have been offered so much help from so many and if I get the all clear will get a lift from Aviemore of the bus. I love Glasgow it’s busy and friendly but like all cities to busy for me everyone is on their phones rushing about city life I suppose. I cannot wait to get home and out on the hills and walk along the Coast and the sea .

I am so lucky to be reasonably fit sadly I have a few pals with Cancer just now. They both mean so much to me. My little problem is nothing yet they both show great courage and it’s a reminder how important health and good friends and family support are.

“Health is wealth” and so is the courage to face illness and get well. I learn every day and I am thankful for such incredible folk in my life.

Take care and again thanks to all.

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It was a long warm 4 hour drive yesterday to my home town of Ayr to speak

at a fundraiser for Galloway MRT. My grand kids were heading home to England on the same day so I am glad my mind was on the drive as I miss them so much. The roads were clear the sun was out and the hills still had plenty of snow high up in the gully’s.

I was soon in Ayr and had great help setting up for my chat in the town Hall in my home town of Ayr. It is a wonderful place to speak and I cannot thank the staff enough for making me welcome and the assistance of Lynne,Bert and others involved

from Galloway MRT. It was then over to my sisters for tea an hours break and my nephew then drove me back into Ayr early to meet the Provost and Lord Lieutenant it was kind of them to come and get a bit more information on Mountain Rescue.

We had a good crowd in the hall and the night started with Galloway MRT who cover Ayrshire speaking about what they do and their team.

The kids had given me a cold And a sore throat but I managed to chat and we split the night into two halves with a raffle for the team funds.

I managed to keep my voice going and I hope I spoke enough about what the Mountain Rescue Teams do and the time they and their families give up for others. Behind every team member is a family.

The Galloway Team were at Lockerbie in 1988 along with many other Mountain Rescue teams and SARDA. I spoke about the trauma of this and other events and it’s effect on me, my family and some of my friends over the years. It’s good to see how things have changed and what a great job the Mountain Rescue Teams do. Not just in the mountains but as part of flood relief, big snows and searching for vulnerable people, This is all done as unpaid volunteers and it was good to highlight it to the audience.

Ayr is where I was born started on the hills and where my Mum and Dad brought me up. It was a great honour to speak in my home town and pass on a small bit of what Mountain Rescue means to me. I dedicated the chat to my Mum and Dad and my family my nephews were there and it was an incredible night. I spoke about looking after the environment and my Cycle to Syracuse last year on the 30 th Anniversary of Lockerbie. The team I went with and meeting the families of those who died. The great folk of Lockerbie and surrounding area who did so much for us all. These are the true heroes who never get spoken about the Mums, Grannies who fed us and gave us great kindness that I will never forget. The efforts of the Mountain Rescue Teams the Police and all the other Agencies involved. I was emotional as I spoke about the relatives who said we brought their kids home at last with our cycle.

Bouldering with my grandkids and their Dad.

It was a great night for me full on from 0600 to after 2200. My nephew drove me back and we got the final 15 minutes of the football a real cliff hanger. It was good to unwind good to meet so many kind folk and good to be able to publicise a bit of the great work of the Galloway MRT.

Boys Brigade camp 1966 !

The early days on the hills and the Boys Brigade meant a lot to me I was given the route we did in 1967 and two old photos last night. They made my day thank you very much. These early Walks gave me a love of the hills that stay with me for life.

Spot me ? Dad with shirt off.

As you get older you look back a lot on the past and how it shapes you. The media is full of sadness and bad news yet as always there are so many good things happening. Galloway are out today looking for a missing person there always there to help and it was great to meet the team and the Police who attended the talk.

Today I head back via Glencoe to see a few pals. I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by some great good folk all my life.

As I was packing up I got a old route I did in 1967 as a member of the Boys Brigade Duke of Edinburgh Award from one of the boys who lead it. All those years ago in the Galloway hills an epic 50 miles in 3 days.

That made my night, thank you all.

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My granddaughters are up from down South they are only young yet so wise already about the environment. They are aged 5 and 8.

They are staying locally at Hopeman and living next to the beach. They were telling me about how we have damaged the seas with plastics and how bad we treat the planet. They are pretty wise already about looking after the environment.

They are so interested in the environment and ask so many questions about the rocks and the planet it was great talking to them.

I wish those in charge would listen to them.

Sadly the world is dominate by wealth and the big company’s are in control. They already know we exploit the natural resources and have done over the years. There is so much damage done maybe the next generations can make a difference before it’s to late.

Out of the words of babes.

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I have been invited to speak in Ayr Town Hall next Wednesday. I am speaking in tandem with a Galloway MRT a team this will mean a lot to me as over the years especially at Lockerbie where I worked with them.

It’s a great honour to speak with them in my home town of Ayr. I hope that they get a good crowd as all the money on the night will go to the Galloway Team.

The Ayr Advertiser Walk many years ago

I was brought up in the town and very lucky we had the beach nearby and plenty of space to grow up. I got my love of the hills from my family in Galloway,Arran and with the Boys Brigade on expeditions. I loved the area and it’s people so it will be good to be back.

It was a love of these wild places that gave me a lifetime on the mountains all over the world.

Early days with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team.

I had a great time in Ayr and owe my family and pals a lot. I was a bit wild then and was lucky to join the RAF and have a good life with the Mountain Rescue for 40 years. I hope I can share some of my tales in my home town.

So if you live near Ayr it would be great to see you on Wed 17 April at the town hall. Tickets will be available at the door.

I hope to be able to pass on my love of these places some of the folk I have met along the way. Also the many adventures on the mountains and over 1000 rescues.

It should be a good night.

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Last night I had a visit from an old pal Terry Moore I had known Terry since 1975 when I was in RAF Mountain Rescue.

Terry ended up a good pal and also a fine Mountaineer. Yesterday he met up with another pal who lives in my village Dougie Borthwick. Dougie was also on the team and ended up after only a few years in the team in the Himalayas together where with two others they climbed in 1984:Manaslu North

Manaslu North. Our Joint British Services expedition had 12 members under my leadership. We had 170 porters for the 15-day march to the traditional Manaslu east-face Base Camp. We established Base Camp, Camp I, Camp II, Snow Cave and Camp III at 12,600, 16,100, 18,200, 20,200 and 22,200 feet on April 12, 17, 22, 26 and 29 respectively on the eastern side of Manaslu North. The first summit bid was made on May 1 by me and three others after the weather had turned foul overnight. We set out at four A.M. but were caught and partially buried by a large avalanche, which wiped out the trail and marker poles behind us. We withdrew. Another full-scale assault started on May 4, despite snow so deep that the top of the tents at Camp III were two feet below the surface. After climbing to the north col of the main peak, Pat Parsons, Charles Hattersley, Terry Moore and Doug Borthwick reached the summit (7157 meters, 23,481 feet) on May 10 at 12:10 via the kilometer-long, technically difficult south ridge. We believe this to be the second ascent of the peak and a new route. When they got back to Camp III, they discovered it had been swept away by an avalanche. They finally found shelter at the Snow Cave after 20 hours on the move. Three peaks between 18,000 and 20,000 feet were climbed after the main assault.

Douglas Keelan, Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Marines

Terry and Dougie 35 years on!

They also told a tale of an winter ascent of  Clach Glas on Blaven in winter 1982 after the F111 crash on Skye.

They were dropped of on our day off working with the USA Air Accident Team by a USA Jolly Green Giant helicopter on their day off. The ridge was in true winter conditions and a magical adventure by all accounts.

Lucky guys.

I was looking for a photo of their day on the ridge and will add it if I can locate it?

My mate Dougie has come up with the photo!


Photo – Clach Glas Ridge Blaven Skye – Dougie Borthwick
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It’s been a long time since I have been out on the hill. This was long overdue but due to

Bronchitis I had to take a few months off add to that a fall where I hurt my ribs I have been missing the mountains so much . I love the Torridon hills but wanted to have a good look at Beinn Liath Mhor on a good day. This hill means a lot to me as this was where the Gibson brothers went missing last year. It was an awful time for the family the brothers my sisters nephews and were Uncles of my nephew and niece.

I searched the big Corrie three times on my own in winter last year it was a wild hard time and it took 6 weeks sadly to locate the last brother.

SMC Munro App

I cannot thank the Torridon, Dundonnell SARDA, Lossiemouth Mrt and other Agencies during the long 3 week search . There was also the incredible help from the SAR helicopter in the search. They never gave up and we so appreciated their efforts. It gives you huge respect for the good on people.

These were awful times for the family but yesterday had such a great forecast I would go and try a day on the hill.

This time I would take time to look around. Most of the snow should be gone by now!

I tried to get some folks to come with me but most were busy. I was glad my pal Kallie and her Collie Islay fancied and day on the hill. They would come and we decided to meet on the day the clocks went forward. We met at the crowded wee car park near Achnashellach Station. We met at 0900 the weather was stunning. There was such a warmth despite some fresh snow on the tops. It was – 2 on the drive to the hills but what a day it was to be.

The walk in is superb you cross the railway line and follow the forestry track to the incredible stalkers path. Many trees have been cleared here and the views of Fuar Tholl are stunning what a Mountain. This mountain has an incredible history with Hamish McInnes, Martin Boysen and others explored these incredible cliffs. It’s worth reading of some of the early days here especially in winter.

There is still some snow in the gullies that with the shadows outline the cliffs. The stalkers path is so well built we owe the locals who built them so much . They have always been great paths and are wonderful to walk on we must look after them.

You seem to gain height effortlessly and the glory of Coire Lair opens up the higher you go. There are lovely broiler plated Slabs of sandstone to walk on in places it’s a geologists heaven here. It was so warm and perfect weather for walking. This would be a special day for us.

We took it easy but I wished I had brought sun screen I could feel the sun on my face. There was such a heat from the sun today after the winter and it made you feel so well. We were soon at the Cairn where the paths split and our first top looked steep.

We had some drink and a bit to eat and marvelled at this place.

Islay waiting patiently for us as she did all day.

photo – Islay waiting patiently for us as she did all day!

It’s so good to be out and with no rush just looking at that huge bulk of Fuar Tholl despite being a Corbett it dominates the walk in. I love this Mountain it has given me so much joy walking scrambling and winter climbing in my early days.

Local Guide Martin Moran is a man I have so much respect for uses this Mountain a lot and it is a hill few know. Many are to busy chasing the Munro’s. Go climb it !

photo – The only folk we met enjoying a special day.

From here it was head up onto the ridge. We met a party of 3 out for a week on the hills. They caught up and we had a chat it’s great that folk take time to enjoy the hill.

Off they went while we took it easy. The ground is rough and steep with lots of Quartzite and so many different colours lichen on the rocks. There seems a lot more than normal blues, white and green on the rocks. I searched around here as well last winter there was curtains of ice hanging from the cliffs. The snow then was rock hard and I traversed around the ledges it is no place to fall.

The first top was a slog it was hard work but we took it steady.

The top is scree covered and it has a big Cairn we stopped took the photos the Panorama is wonderful. The Fannichs, the Torridon giants the lochs and our local Munros.

photo / Kallie and Islay

The Ridge to the summit is 2 kilometres long in winter a wild place with no shelter. Today it seemed just a long way for one who has not been on the hill much.

There was only a little snow that Islay enjoyed on the ridge I was drinking a lot as it was still warm.

From here is the big Corrie where the Gibson brothers had their tragic accident. I had been here alone looking for them last winter. It was bitter cold then the snow was rock hard and had descended into the Corrie it looked so benign now with lots of quartzite scree and no snow. Yet in winter this place was and felt so remote.

The big Corrie

I had gone on my own and spent some time here it’s a powerful place to be.

Soon Kallie was with me and the ridge walk was stunning, narrow in a few places and changed to Sandstone from quartzite at times. I could see where you could slip easily here on a wild day.

I was feeling it after not being out for a while but it was such a day and we had so much to look at we took it easy.

The ridge opened up again there was a bit of up and down the views of Sgur Rhuadh were wonderful with its great cliff and gullies. I climbed here as well. This was in the past a few times on the Academy Ridge in winter and summer and the big easy Gully.

We were soon on the last bit of the ridge it kept on going and the views down to the sea and the lochs were incredible.

Kallie on the summit

We had a long break one hill was enough today I have to pace my recovery. We could have descended the screes but headed on to the beleach where you have to be careful of the descent to the small cliffs that are just before the belach.

It was a stony descent down more scree then some lovely Slabs but we were soon down at the beleach through the cliffs and could see our path into Coire Lair.

We sat on the Slabs and had the last of my drink then headed down after drinking in the views . I could have stayed longer it was so warm and breathtaking. One hill was enough today I have to be careful.

The path out was great a bit cut up by the passage of mountain bikes there is lot of mountain biking going on now. You pass such scenery and a massive herd of deer further down . Islay sat and watched them I refilled my water from the wonderful bubbling river. It was glorious water fresh and cool.

We were soon down it was a lovely walk out in the sun. We did not rush both felt tired even Islay nearly fell asleep when we stopped. Kallie is very fit and looked fine all day they were great company.

I enjoy the hills on my own but today was lovely and to be out with Kallie a well behaved dog was magic.

we arrived at the car changed our boots and headed of home. It had been a great day and special company thank you Islay and Kallie.

How I had missed the hills! The space the beauty the wild life and the summits.

Just to be out was wonderful and the 2 hour drive back was fine.

Today I feel it but I was so lucky to be out again in these wonderful hills.

The recovery has started!

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‘It’s been a long time since I visit Culbin Forest I had a great few hours on my bike I had forgotten how great a facility it is . There is a good car park with toilets and it’s £1.50 for 3 hours parking. I never mind paying for facilities like a loo etc.

It was very quiet midweek and I saw only a couple of folk. I am trying to get back out on the bike again after a pretty miserable winter with bronchitis.

Hill 99 a great view point.

There’s a fascinating network of tracks to explore and the level ground makes it easy.

Hill 99 is the only waymarked trail, but you can use the Culbin map and numbered posts at path junctions to explore this unique, diverse and ever-changing coastal forest. Don’t miss the panoramic views from the top of the amazing Hill 99 tower.’

There are great views and the hills are all shown on wood on the Tower.

Scotland’s Sahara From the notice board in the car park.

The land had been reclaimed by the forestry and it’s a great story as in the past this area was known as Scotland’s Sahara where the the sand dunes were huge.

It’s an amazing place and once you get out onto the marshlands it’s incredible. The tide was out but the Glider poles were prominent in the estuary. There were few birds about must have got there at the wrong time. Yet it is a place of great space very little rubbish about and I had lunch here.

Poles in the sea Evidence of Culbin’s wartime role There is little visible evidence of wartime Culbin today, although the beach sometimes reveals pieces of rusting shrapnel.  Many people do not recognise the most enduring feature of the wartime landscape here.  Look out over the Gut and you will see it is dotted with regular lines of poles.  These were deliberately erected to avoid enemy gliders from Norway landing here.  Fears of espionage and invasion were very real in those times.

I enjoyed the break here the grandkids would love it with the Forest and the water.

What a place for brunch

It’s an easy place to get to just outside Forres and once I get fitter I will cycle here as there is much to see. I am looking forward to seeing the birds and wild life.

A carpet of lichens

A carpet of Lichens

I enjoyed it was a lovely few hours out and I was reminded of this place by a BBC podcast on the Culbin Forest.

It is well worth a listen. Various local experts take you round this place and tell the amazing stories of the Sand dunes, the afforestation, the people, wartime use and the wildlife.


I enjoyed the trees the silence and then seeing the sea. The views from the Tower and the hills standing out the cover of trees and with the sun it was wonderful. I will be back this is another superb facility in my piece of heaven called Morayshire.

Living the dream.

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Yesterday I had to get out and had a short wander along the local Dava Way.

There is a bit of work going on with a new pipeline going in from a local distillery. The path is in great condition and lots of work going into it by the distillery.

It’s a magic place following the old railway line and sheltered in places as yesterday there was a bit of wind.

I hardly visit here and have missed out on my local area but this is a lovely walk and the volunteers who look after it do so well. Thank you all.

New footpath not far off completed! Just closed till path completed Health and Safety?

We had a great 2 hours enjoying the sun and it was lovely to get out again. I will cycle this route this summer I promised myself last year that I would do it.

Imagine when there was a railway here and how wonderful that would be today. Yet we have a great route the Dava Way how lucky are we.

The Dava Way 

The Dava Way path links the historic towns of Forres and Grantown-on-Spey. Almost all of the route follows the old Highland Railway line and is off road and safe from traffic. Along its length it passes through a pleasant mix of farmland, woodland and moorland. The Dava Way is a great off road cycling route. The surface is firm for most of the route but it is often rough and front suspension is definitely recommended.

Route Details

  • Distance: 24 Miles
  • Time needed: 4-6 hours
  • Classification: Medium
  • Type: Traffic-free, gravel surface
  • Access: Nearest stations at Forres and and Broomhill (about 4 miles south west of Grantown)

Route Description 

This is a pleasant and easy route. The surface of the path is generally compacted railway track-bed material, rough and rutted in places, and is good for walking and off road cycling.

Depending on the weather, stretches may be very wet. There are 16 opening gates along the route with 2 kissing gates as you approach Grantown and low steps at the track end at Grantown with a steeper flight at Squirrel Neuk Bridge. Further detail on the route can be found at

It offers a variety of landscape, flora and fauna along with natural and railway heritage. It is about 40km to Grantown-on-Spey from the centre of Forres. Starting your journey from Forres; the Dava Way begins at Mannachie Avenue some 2km from the town centre. A network of sign-posted paths through the various woodlands surrounding Forres, from Grant Park and the Sanqhuar Pond all lead to the old railway and the start of the Dava Way.

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The Munro Legacy in the K.A.Bell Library in Perth till 18 March.

Thanks to the Munro Society Anne Butler for this update.

The Munro Legacy Exhibition opened yesterday.

Ex President Stewart Logan was interviewed by STV News and there was an excellent turnout from interested visitors.

The exhibition is at the A. K Bell Library in Perth until 18th March.

More news

Liz Smith MSP is leading a members debate at 1700 on Wednesday 13th March 2019 in the Scottish Parliament to mark the centenary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro. Liz is a Munroist and a member of The Munro Society. This debate is open to the public who can obtain passes at the main desk in the Parliament prior to the debate. Liz’s motion reads: Motion S5M-15678: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 01/02/2019. Centenary of the Death of Sir Hugh Munro. “That the Parliament recognises that March 2019 marks the centenary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro; acknowledges that he was a founder member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, eventually becoming the club’s president; understands that Sir Hugh was the first person to publish a list of all of the mountains in Scotland with a height exceeding 3,000 feet in the club’s journal in 1891, which are now known as Munros; notes that it remains a popular hobby among hillwalkers to aim to climb every Munro in Scotland, and recognises that over 6,000 individuals have achieved this feat to date.” Supported by: Richard Lyle, Bob Doris, John Mason, Alexander Stewart, Kenneth Gibson, Maurice Corry, Stewart Stevenson, Liam Kerr, Bill Kidd, Murdo Fraser, Bill Bowman, Jeremy Balfour, Miles Briggs, Jamie Greene, John Scott, Annie Wells, Rhoda Grant, Tavish Scott, Gordon Lindhurst, Clare Adamson, Alexander Burnett, Angela Constance, Fulton MacGregor, Maurice Golden, Donald Cameron, Maureen Watt.

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Updating your skills for the older mountaineer?

I was asked by an older pal  the other day “are there any courses that can update your winter skills if you have never previously  attended an official winter skills course”. I have been asked this a few times by folk in their 40’s, 50’s and above who have returned to mountaineering after the family have grown up. A few find that things have changed a bit and want to brush up on their skills.I know you can hire an instructor/ guide for a bespoke course. I wonder if anyone else has used this type of course, do Mountaineering Scotland do training or updates for this group?

If you look at the accidents recently there seem to be a lot in the 50 and over age group hill walking?

white out gorms

Things like Avalanche training, the use of GPS etc have advanced so much as are the incredible advances in weather and avalanche forecasting. There are so many great instructors out there and I am sure a few may want a bit of a refresher?

Things I was asked : refresher navigation ,use of GPS and Technology

Winter Skills, climbing skills, belaying etc

2015 Feb emergency kit

Any thoughts?

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Friends, Gear, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | 3 Comments

The Baden Powell Award a special heart warming night in Beith.

Yesterday was a special day for my nephews daughter Beth she was awarded the Baden Powell Award for Guides In Beith surrounded by her family and friends. I was honoured to be asked to present this to her and speak to the Guides and their families.

My family have always been great supporters of the Guides with my sisters all being in them. My mother who was President of the women’s Guild used to help them with their badges I remember that as a young lad!

My sisters Jenifer (sadly gone ) Rosemary and Eleanor in their Guide uniforms.

I drove down yesterday a 5 hour in Summer weather to Ayr my home town to spend a few hours with my family. I had a catch up with my sisters then had a superb tea before heading to Beith where the presentation was to be awarded .

I managed a short walk along the beach as well then a quick change and we were off.

Ayr Beach no views of Arran today summer warmth despite it being late February.

It was a fun evening the Beith Guides are a great group and a credit to their families and leaders. It is amazing to see and hear about the effort involved in gains the highest award in Guiding and it was a lovely night.

Myself and Beth well done xxx

The Baden-Powell Challenge Award really is a challenge

You will need to complete ten clauses (tasks) that will get you to try new things and push your boundaries – it’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

It can take 12 to 18 months to complete the Baden-Powell Award, but your amazing, all-round efforts will be recognised. Plus you’ll have lots of adventures on the way. You might:

  • organise an international evening
  • run a sports or cooking competition
  • go on a residential trip somewhere new – like a hostel or on a narrowboat
  • learn first aid
  • or do something to help the environment.

The more creative you get with your clauses, the more of an adventure it will be.

Most exciting of all, at the end you’ll get to go on your Baden-Powell Adventure – a special residential event just for Guides who are about to complete the Award.

What you need to do

The Baden-Powell Challenge is divided into five zones, each containing lots of different clauses. You should do one clause from each zone, then five more from any of the zones – ten clauses in total. Up to two of them can relate to Country/Region or Girlguiding initiatives.

To finish the Award you need to take part in a Baden-Powell Adventure. These are usually residential events organised by your County or Country/Region for all Guides in the area who are doing the Baden-Powell Challenge.






Beth did so well in her long journey to achieving this award and tested herself at times well out of her comfort zone. Beth is very unassuming and a lovely person to be with I was as the family were of her achievements.

After the presentation I was asked to give a wee chat.

I spoke to the girls and mentioned a wee bit about working in a team and also about special folk I had met in my life. People like Jenny Graham the round the World cyclist , Di Gilbert and Heather Morning mountaineers and special folk you are lucky to meet on the hills. The lassies in the Mountain Rescue Teams and SARDA who have made so many changes into Mountaineering and sport and life since my early days in what was mainly a mans world.

We spoke about the environment and looking after it and hopefully doing a better job than we have.

I mentioned our Cycle to Syracuse in the USA where we met so many great people and the team I went with. That in life you may see bad things but there are so many good folk about that never get spoken about. Its also good to be able to talk about things that upset you and always speak to someone you trust.

The girls were great two new girl guides did their promises and it was amazing to see the enthusiasm of them all.

I was given a donation for Assynt Mountain Rescue which was extremely kind and left feeling it was well worth the long drive.

The World is full of some many good folk who try to give the Youth of today a start in life. It was great to be surrounded by young folk and maybe pass a little on to them about life and how they can make things better.

Guiding can be fun.

Well done Beth and the support she has had from Sally and Scott and the Grandparents family and leaders . It was a special night.

Thanks to all the parents who came and support their kids and of course a big well done to Beth and all her leaders Audrey and the other volunteers in the Guides.

Presenting the cheque from the Guides to Assynt Mountain Rescue Team . Thank you .

Posted in Articles, Charity, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Lectures, Local area and events to see, People, Views Political?, Weather | Leave a comment

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.”

Posted in Articles, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, People | 4 Comments

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

1960 United States Martin Mercator Crash on Karfanfil Dag in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey.

 Continued from yesterdays blog

The next day the weather was poor and it took 5 hours to reach the wreck the snow was waist deep in places. At the crash site the temperatures were very low -27  and the bodies of the crew were frozen, they located three more bodies and said a prayer at the main wreckage site, it must have been another awful scene for the Rescue Team.

Only one American reached the site that day. They team were too exhausted to carry the casualties off the hill as the weather got worse and some were already starting to see the first signs of frostbite.

This was very different weather as many of the team had never worked in such conditions and few only in Cyprus.

Again for the third night more snow fell and the RAF Team using the heavy Thomas Stretcher only managed to bring another body down, again it took 5 hours to reach the site.

Two Star Red a great read very hard to get nowadays. Two Star Red a great read very hard to get nowadays.

On the 24 th the weather cleared and the American’s offered many of the villagers money to assist, the team brought down another body and thought that was the end of their efforts.

Unfortunately for some of the team the Americans requested longer assistance from the team. Luckily the weather held allowing a helicopter to take three of the US Naval Investigation Team to an altitude of 6800 feet.

From here it was only one and a half hours to the crash site. Emmerson and Murphy were investigating the point of impact on the cliff by climbing a crack from below they were roped and the route seemed moderately difficult.

The Nose section of the plane was hanging by cables and the aircraft guns were impaled in the crack like pins. It must have been a scary experience as there were several tons of aircraft hanging from this.

It was decided to leave things be and future snow may add to the weight and in time bring it all crashing down. Six of the team stayed on and assisted the US Investigation Team while the rest flew back to Cyprus.

The events of the next few days must have been harrowing for all concerned but as always the job was done. From this date the Cyprus Team held annual expeditions in Turkey and did many climbs in the area over the years gaining vital area knowledge and new skills.

They mapped many areas and still to this day have English names in the Taurus mountains.

Mountain Rescue in Cyprus had dealt with two tragic air crashes that had changed the team for good, huge lessons were learned and the team training improved. This was a very important part of RAF Mountain Rescue History. Those involved should be very proud of their efforts.

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Tales from the back of a 4 tonner. Crazy drives to the hills and call – outs.

Many years ago before Health and Safety was born in the RAF Mountain Rescue we travelled to our weekend Base Camps in a convoy of military wagons. Young men and women in powerful wagons with limited training in these days was a tricky combination. Its a lot different now. At this had been the way it was since just after the War. When I joined the RAF MR in the early 70’s we had a big convoy on the quiet Highland roads. The convoy consisted of a couple of land-rovers a control vechile (Sigs truck) and two four tonners one that pulled a trailer full of fuel. (I shudder when I think about a trailer full of fuel being towed !)

The fuel was carried as at that time there were limited garages up North and if we got call outs in the middle of the night to travel to we could refuel. This was before 24 hour garages and Agency cards.

Whilst most civilian teams have limited drives to their hills the RAF Teams have to travel fair distances even today to get to the hills. Its even harder as after a big search many drives back are over 3 hours often in the dark. Health and Safety and vehicle hours for drivers make things a lot better. In the old days it was not always the case. When I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue Team at Kinloss things were very basic. The important team members travelled in the land-rovers and many of the others in the back of the 4 toner that carried all out gear. It would be loaded then we would lie on our kit and most fell asleep until we arrived at our Base for the weekend usually a Highland village hall several hours later. The other 4 tonner carried cooking equipment, food and tents so we could be self sufficient if needed.

Teallach in the back of the 4 tonner.

There could be up to 6 – 8 in the back Of the wagon and these were the days when the average run to Skye would take 4 hours plus. There was no bridge at Inverness or Skye these were long journeys after a week of work. Weekends would be all over Scotland and after a hard days work we would leave at 1800 from Kinloss in Morayshire to our venue for the weekend. After a long week it was great as the youngsters like me slept in the back whilst the others drove the wagons. We would wake up in the dark at some village hall and in the summer see all the hills from the back of the wagon.It was a unique view. Often we drove up to remote Glens like Ben Alder Lodge, Strathfarrar, and Glen Affric with rough Estate roads and simple bridges. In winter in the dark on snowed up roads these were exciting days.

The early 4 tonners had a canvas tilt that was usually open as we flashed through Scotland. I remember before we got the metal covered wagons a wood lorry hit us on the A9 we were covered in branches and wood no one was hurt though. We had used one of our 9 lives. Another when the fuel trailer overturned up North another life gone. Often we would get a faulty exhaust and the smell in the back was not good. Yet it was a comfortable way to travel and once ensconced in your sleeping bag it was easy.

There were the blast up the road for callouts the Lagan road to Fort William or the Loch Ness road the infamous A82, the A9 and various single track roads up North and Skye. Our own Dava Moor at the end of a journey or to the East and Braemar was always very exciting with the narrow bridges.

Of course there were the old ferry’s to Skye and Ballahullish and others places that would be run especially for us on a call out.

I remember the huge drives after long hill-days to help on Call – outs from Base Camps like Torridon to Ben Cruachan. This was after climbing Beinn Eighe and Liathach in winter. I was called of the hill for a bowl of soup and driving through the night after a 10 hour winter day. Spending a couple of hours in the Police station cells for a sleep then straight on the hill. Trying to keep the driver Jim Morning awake as he drove the 4 tonner scary.

There were many massive drives in winter down the A9 with a snow plough escort ( no snow gates then) We had many epic drives and a few crashes amazed no one was hurt. Yet we made most of the journeys without incident, I fell asleep once as a passenger in the land rover and woke up in the crashed land rover on Loch Ness. The driver had fallen asleep as well. I never slept again whilst shotgunning a wagon. The land rover was written of and the military and an enquiry and we were both fined for falling asleep!

Yet we helped many folk on these quiet roads many were thankful to see us as they had driven of the road on a tight Highland road. We pulled many cars out of ditches helped in many crashes some hard ones to deal with, These were the days of no phones and help with navigation such as GPS. Our wagons were flown into Harris for and aircraft crash and as we got to know the roads a bit better we learned quickly. The 4 tonners became a life line on the blizzards of 78 when we rescued over 100 folk from Glencoe to the Cairngorms. Wagons were stuck all over and most folk were not prepared for the weather. We dug out cars and took many to the safety of our wagons to warm up and be taken to safety.

Daz Boat and Teallach on its travels.

We got a boat for Call -outs Daz Boat and it was towed by a trailer this was great in the summer but not ideal for the winter on the roads. The wagons got stretchers on the roof and more and more kit inside so each wagon was self sufficient. Crag bag, Casualty bag, ropes, shovels, probes etc. It took a bit to get the weight correct. The troops went on “Blue light driving Courses” which in my mind made many even worse drivers and we rarely had to use the lights. They also did “off the Road driving” a good skill after some of my attempts in the past.

When will I ever learn?

Nowadays things are much better the teams have great wagons but I hear through the grapevine that they still have a few problems especially on a winter Highland road in the dark. Its always worth taking it easy and getting there safe and sound. As a Team Leader I was always worried about the driving every weekend and bumping a wagon. As the Motor Transport Officer once said to many years before why the wagon was bumped. The young airman replied ” A cow ran out on the road it was unavoidable and we ended in the ditch”. The reply from the Officer “was have you run out of sheep to hit?” He had heard the tales all before.


Off the road at Torridon – the recovery wagon driver said ” This has happend before over the years”

Always take it easy when driving especially in bad weather – worth noting that in my view that driving was more dangerous than the hills.

Posted in Articles, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering | 2 Comments

A Birthday Walk with two pals and we met some incredible folk.

Loch An Eilean

Yesterday it was a pals birthday and she fancied a walk there was a wee hill that she fancied doing so Bab’s (the birthday girl)her pal Ella and me met at 0745 for a short drive to Loch an Eilein near Aviemore.

Bonnie views.

I have not been out for a while since I lost my sister and have spent some time with my niece her daughter and kids who were staying at Hopeman. It was great to get out even for a short wander with good company.

Creag Dubh and the Argyll Stone .

The lassies are great company and after you lose someone you love it’s good to talk about it which we did. We were soon at the car park cost £4.50 to park not bad and the character who collects the cash is some guy. We were soon sorted out and as it was early we were soon off. This is a busy place at the weekend with so many out enjoying the lovely walking, cycling and kayaking. Just as we left the car park we met Ray Sefton – “Sunshine” – a true man full of Cairngorm knowledge.

We met my old RAF Mountain Rescue Teamleader who is still working for the Estate a fountain of knowledge. Made our day.

We set of along the great path the weather forecast was not great with heavy showers but we were out in the fresh air. We had. Great chat on the path and Ray had told us that other paths especially in Glen Feshie had been battered by the weather. All the rain had eroded lots of the rivers and fords were hard to cross in-certain places on the Rothiemurcus Estate. The views of the loch as the weather constantly changed were enjoyable. The incredible trees and local history are well worth a visit kids love this area and later on there were so many families out.

At the Drakes bothy.

Just before the bothy the rain came down and the midges were out in force. We had only seen one mountain biker on our wander. We retreated to the wee bothy and had lunch meeting a lassie who was travelling round the Cairngorm bothies. She was having a hard time with the rain and crossing the rivers.

Break time.

From here the least said the better it was heavy rain we lost the path and ended up in awful ground and heavy rain. Enough said Ella sorted it out and despite her attempts to keep morale up we had enough. We decided to call it a day and headed back. The hill would have to wait for another day.

Lochaber MRT hero.

We met some real characters on the way back there were by now lots of folk about. We met a group of Ex Lochaber Mountain Rescue on bikes with Sue.

Big Kev!

It was magic to catch up and seeing them looking so well and fit.

Forest bothy

There were pack-rafts out in the loch and after another break it was back to the packed car park. It was then to Rothiemurcus for tea and scones and met Sunshine and another mate who helps with the Boat at Elgol in Skye. Back into Aviemore and a quick look at all the gear in the climbing shops. Gosh it’s getting dear.

Not a long day but enjoyable wander with Bab’s and Ella and of course the black Lab what a lovely dog on the walk so well behaved. It was home after that via the chippy. Thanks to Ella for driving and Bab’s for the invite. Now to start the long road to fitness?

Today’s tip – keep your compass away from the phone !

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Gear, Health, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

All the Munro’s in one trip.


My pal Graham and his wonderful dog Penny went out to climb the Munro’s in 100 days . I was just recovering from some big health problems and only managed to meet them on two hills. He has let me produce this piece on his trip it’s incredible.

If you climb the Munro’s this is well worth a read.

“When I read the book Hamish’s Mountain Walk way back more than 20 years ago I was already a keen walker and it inspired me enough to think I would like to do that some day. I picked up and read a copy of the new
2010 updated version last year and that was it the seed was sown , with me retiring in December 2014 there was no point in putting it off ,life’s to short no point saying in 10 years time if only I tried back then, you can’t buy back time.

Penny On Skye Sgurr Na Gillian

I was 56 years old , fit enough and strong minded enough to give it a go .
From January this year I slowly worked away at my route plans which were always going to be flexible , I wasn’t going anywhere I hadn’t been before , just some different combinations and approaches to the summits.

I felt comfortable with my 100 day plan and had built in a few spare days which I didn’t need in the end. I was never going to go down the purest route with no mechanical aids I wanted to enjoy the experience not for it to be a misery and as the weather turned out it’s just as well I didn’t . I picked a starting date of the 1st May to take advantage of the long days and the alleged good weather!!!. SOME STATISTICS

The Ben after Tranters Round
Summit of the last Munro

I walked for 79 days of the 100.

I used a garmin 920 xt GPS watch for the stats below

Total mileage was 1317 of which I walked 1176 and biked 141.

Total ascent was 145186 metres

A average of 1837 metres per day of walking

I used walking poles every day
apart from Ben Wyvis I forgot them.

Most Munros in a day 18 ( tranter round with Rachael)

There was 9 days doing a single Munro.

Biggest ascent in a day 6210m
( tranter round with Rachael)

Longest day 25hrs 15mins
( tranter round with Rachael )

Shortest day 2hrs 15mins
Sgurr a Mhaoraich .

I got a view from 196 summits of the 282 70%

I did 7 Corbetts and 1 Graham while doing the round .

I was on my own for 53 of the days and had company on 26 days

I spent 55 nights in my camper van .

I had 8 nights in bothies

1 at the secret howff ( Glen Slugain)

2 at the Tarf hotel bothy
1at the Hutchieson hut
1at the corrour bothy
1 at Culra bothy
1at Sourlies bothy
1 at Shenavall bothy

I had 1 night in my tent at Altnour lodge Glen Ey.

Best spell of weather was 9th – 12 June while in the Cairngorms

The wildest day was on Mount Keen in high winds.

The wettest day was on the traverse from the Saddle and along the south Glensheil ridge.

Most memorable moment was the sunrise hitting Ben Nevis at 4am while summiting Carn Mor Dearg on the Tranter round.

Most challenging days were descending
Cruach Ardrain and coming across steep frozen solid snow fields and ascending Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaichs steep cliffs when I was lifting Penny up at full stretch and she fell backwards and I caught her .

The toughest day I had was going from Sourlies bothy back to the Quoich Dam via Larven when I had miss judged the days distance but was commited to carry on .

Apart from the bothy trips all I carried was a 5 litre bumbag
which weight about 5lbs when full

My daily hill food was a soreen loaf about 1lb dates and
1 litre on diluting juice ( + snacks for Penny ) .

As the days went on I seemed to manage with less and less food on the hill but certainly made up for it when I got back to the van. AND FINALY

To Penny my ever faithful hound
and companion for the whole
adventure she really is a

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The Munros – What is your memory?

My Last Munro first time An Sochach with Pete McGowna, Les Boswell and Mark.

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

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

“Dear Heavy

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

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

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

Teallach last Munro – An Teallach.

There is a great article about taking your Dog on the hills on the Mountaineering Scotland website. Well worth it if you want to introduce your dog to the mountains.

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

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

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

This was the after myself and Tom MacDonald had completed our Munro’s in November 1976.  This was about a year before Ben passed away. It was a great privilege to meet Ben Humble, what a character that is his great photo of the Ben and Carn Mor Dearg that used to hang in the RAF Kinloss MRT.  Some of the epic days are so clear even today my first attempt at the Skye ridge in one go apart from Gillean in 1973 when I nearly abseiled off the rope and Tom saved my life. I was fit but lacking in climbing skill and that nearly ended my Munro quest. Huge days of all the classic ridges, The Mamores, Fannichs, Kintail, Fisherfield, Torridon, Glencoe, Tranters Round, light and slow in running gear, the Etive hills with a  Tent and so many more adding to them each year and learning so much. In winter it was hard with the simple kit. Big days in the Cairngorms in mid-winter on Beinn An Beinn A Bhuird  with troops training for the Himalayas arctic or polar trips, huge cornices and dead reckoning navigation.

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

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


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

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

Looking back what a marvellous journey from that day 47 years ago who would have believed where it would take me? I have climbed all over the World been on some of the big mountains on so many expeditions over 40 over the years. I have been so lucky but these great peaks but these early days were the ones that mattered. From the Munros to these wild walks across Scotland the Alps, the Himalayas all opened my eyes to these wild places in my beloved Scotland.

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

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

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

Now that is another story. I must finish my Corbetts.

My old Munro Tables – Pretty battered.

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

Ladhar Bheinn – Last Munro on Round 7.

The Munro Society.

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

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

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

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

Some books that made the journey a joy. These books and many others are a wonderful insight into this magical journey.

Hamish Brown was the first walker and climber to complete the Munros in a single round. By his own rules he did it self-powered except where ferries were required and with the aid of his trusty fold away bike. The year was 1974, and the roads of Scotland carried only a fraction of the traffic they do today, windmill farms were unheard of, crafting was more vibrant than it is today, and a strong Scottish mountaineering tradition was already established. Four years later Hamish s Mountain Walk appeared and was an immediate success, inspiring not only climbers but also readers fascinated by the history, geology, plant life and lore of one of Europe s most remote and unspoiled regions. Many walkers and authors would follow in Hamish Brown s boot prints, but none could bring the freshness and few could touch the depth of knowledge and experience. Now the book returns, re-imagined in modern fonts, with a new introduction and appendix and with two brilliant full colour plate sections provided by the author from his photography over four decades. This new volume is destined to further inspire and guide new generations of hillwalkers about the Scottish hills in this new era.

In 1985 mountain guide Martin Moran achieved the first completion of all 277 Munros* in a single winter with the support and companionship of his wife Joy. Their success was a feat of dedicated mountaineering and effective teamwork through the storms, snows and avalanches of an epic winter season in the Scottish Highlands. Martin s account of the winter journey became a classic mountain narrative, combining his passionate enthusiasm for the mountains with humorous insights into a marriage put to the test through three months of living in a camper van. It was described as the best guidebook to the Munros by mountain writer Jim Perrin. The book inspired many other climbers and runners to pick up the gauntlet in pursuit of new feats of endurance on Scotland s hills, and is now reissued with full colour photographs plus an introductory update by the author on how the Munros in Winter changed his life.

The Munros

It was a race to finish
A list to complete
For a name in a book

Like a lover, then gone.

So many great memories
now the hills are battered
By so many feet?

Who are we to criticise
we have all used you?

For many the first is

like love, life changing?

So many are now enjoying
what we had when young.

For years we took you for granted

So many are now enjoying,
what we had when young.

Go and have fun and savour
Those Munro days in the sun.

Great days to savour those Munro Days in the sun. The Cannich four from Strathfarrar looking at Carn nan Gobhar “a demanding day” – Steve Fallon website.

I do not know how many Last Munro trips I have been on but this was a great day in 1978 when Jim Morning and Terry Moore completed on the classic Sgurr na Ciche, Garbh Cioch Mor, Sgurr nan Coireachan great long day. Memories.


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Jim Craig BEM RIP

Jim Craig BEM RIP – It is with great sadness that I pass on Alaister Haverons words that Jim Craig has passed away. I first met Jim in Desert Rescue in Masirah in the Persian Gulf 1973/74 he was the Team Leader where he made me a Party Leader. He nicknamed me wee Foddy, I was a skinny we guy but he sorted me out at work and got me out every weekend with the team.  He gave me my first real responsibility on the hill as a Party Leader and was a powerful man. In these days he was in his prime and had been part of an incredible group at RAF Kinloss in the early 60’s. He held the coveted Mountain Instructors Certificate MIC and was a superb climber. We met many times over the years on Courses when he ran a big Hotel in North Wales.

He was one of the stars that I looked up to but I am glad he is not suffering anymore. He send me a lovely letter a few years ago and was so glad how things were going for me and he enjoyed the blogs. That meant a lot to me. My thoughts are with June and the family. The book he wrote The Path to Whensoever is a grand read and describes the life of a team member the trials and tribulations written with passion and heart. It well worth getting hold off.

“It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that Jim passed away during the night (13th Aug) after a long and determined fight.


Kinloss 63-66

Leeming 68-70

St Athan 70-73

Masirah 73-74

Leuchars 74-76

Stafford TL 76-79

Kinloss  TL 79-80


His wife June would appreciate any photos of James during his time in MR, I am more than happy to co-ordinate and put them on a memory stick for her.

The funeral will be he held in St Joesph’s Catholic Church, Colwyn Bay, followed by cremation. Date and time to follow.

We visited Jim yesterday and are glad that one extremely brave troop is now at peace and out of pain.

Please pass on to other troops that are not on FACE BOOK

The Path to Whensoever


Several books have been written and indeed published on the subject and history of the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service. What has, so far, not been written or published is a ‘Troops’ story, the grueling and ever arduous journey each one of hundreds of like-minded young men  and women endured on the ‘Path to Whensoever’.
The manuscript is the story of my personal journey along that incredible path.
It concentrates on the process and development of a complete novice into a ‘Troop’, that is a mountaineer, within the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service, who has gained the mental resolve, knowledge, skill and physical stamina that enables him to search for hours on end in the most severe weather and mountain environment.
A mountaineer within the system who has met the criteria required of the motto of the official Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Crest, WHENSOEVER.
Although the manuscript concentrates on my personal journey to attain the standards demanded of the service motto, a small variety of call-out incidents are described as seen through the eyes of the subjects, hopefully to allay the, at times, unjustified denigration of victims by an uninformed press.
A really great read on Kindle


The FOD Man was put on the roof of the Station Headquarters by the troops. Jim and Terry were summoned to take it off.


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Scotland: An Academic and Personal Journey.

Many thanks to Steven for letting me re blog this wonderful staory. Scotland: An Academic and Personal Journey

In late June, I participated in “The Problem of Piracy” conference ( at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. One of the great privileges of being an academic is the ability to travel, meet other scholars working in your field, and exchange ideas. This conference, organized by Dr. David Wilson, Dr. John Coakley, and Nathan Kwan, examined piracy from antiquity to the present. The opportunity to participate in this conference thrilled me because my dissertation, publications (articles and book reviews), and research interests deal heavily with the pirates, sailors, privateers, and smugglers during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was also the first time in my career, as far as I am aware, that an institution has hosted a conference entirely dedicated to pirates and piracy. On a more personal front, the location of the conference struck me as especially fortuitous. Travelling to Scotland had been a life goal because my father, Lt. Steven J. Pitt, died in the Isle of Skye during a training mission when his F111 crashed into the mountain of Sgurr na Stri on December 7, 1982 – four months before I was born. The crash site was just a five-hour drive from Glasgow (more like eight or nine hours after stopping to behold the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and the ruins of castles along the way). After receiving word from David that my proposal had been accepted, I knew that part of my trip to Scotland would entail visiting Skye and climbing Sgurr na Stri to the crash site.
F111s in flight from Lakenheath in
England where my Dad was stationed
As I prepared my presentation, entitled “Boston, Pirates, and Reciprocal Revenge during the Early Eighteenth Century,” I thought about how I would carry out my journey up Sgurr na Stri. Initially, I envisioned a very somber, solitary hike up the mountain – a personal pilgrimage and tribute of sorts with a life goal accomplished but with little joy or sharing. I would have slipped into Skye, stayed a couple of nights, climbed the mountain, and no one would have been the wiser. I could have lived with that experience but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. I decided to invite my older sister, Sara, who was six at the time of the crash. Several years earlier, Sara had invited me to go on a similar journey. I declined because our family had just moved from Maine to New York and we were in the process of buying a house. It now felt right to have her join me on the climb up Sgurr na Stri. I knew that inviting my sister would change the nature of the trip I had planned, but I could not have envisioned by just how much.
Sara already had a contact up in Skye, a very gifted artist named David Deamer, who informed her about the All Things Cuillin ( Facebook group, which in turn put her in contact with Adrian Trendall. Adrian is a talented photographer and mountain guide who had been to my Dad’s crash site before. He, along with the wonderful Bridgette Blackmore, also run the Boat House in Sconser where Sara and I stayed during our visit to Skye. David “Heavy” Whalley, the man who led the RAF’s initial rescue attempt in extremely dangerous weather conditions, also reached out to Sara via the Facebook group and generously offered to join us on our journey. I was relatively unaware of all these arrangements taking place and relationships being formed but I am extremely grateful to everyone involved, especially Sara because I would not have reached out to anyone. Through Sara, I learned how much people in Skye remembered and cared about my father’s crash. This tragic event connected us.
I arrived in Glasgow for my conference on June 23. Over the next three days, our cohort of rabble-rousing pirate experts exchanged ideas and debated “The Problem of Piracy.” I learned a great deal from all the panel sessions I attended and the two keynote speakers, Dr. Claire Jowitt (University of East Anglia) and Dr. David Starkey (University of Hull). Our Pedagogical Roundtable, led by Dr. Jessica Hower (Southwestern University), generated a great discussion and great ideas for educating students about pirates and piracy and will prove extremely beneficial when I teach HIST451: Piracy during the Age of Sail again.
In Glasgow, I stayed at the Merchant City Inn, an eighteenth century building where tobacco merchants trading with the Americas met to conduct business.

I also enjoyed the comradery and conversations outside of panel sessions where I openly discussed my plans to visit my Dad’s crash site with many colleagues. I appreciated the warmth and encouragement I received in return. In talking about my forthcoming trip to Skye with colleagues, I realized that I had suppressed discussing my Dad and his death for much of my life. He had been my hero as a young child but, even as I learned more about my father and his life, a stony silence set in during adulthood. This insight helped explain why my first inclination was a secret, solo mission up Sgurr na Stri.

One of our many stops in the Glen Coe region.
Along with beautiful vistas, we stopped to see the ruins of
Sara arrived in Glasgow on June 26, the last day of my conference. The next day we drove up to the Isle of Skye. As I previously noted, on the way we passed through the Scottish Highlands and the beautiful region around Glen Coe. It was hard not to stop every mile to walk around and take pictures of the vividly green scenery and lakes that reflected mountains like mirrors. The journey was not without its perils. Narrow roads, curbs, aggressive drivers, sheep and elderly people crossings, and driving on the opposite side of the road kept me on high alert (primarily in the passenger seat), but we safely arrived at the Boat House in Sconser around dinner. There we met Adrian and Bridgette in-person. Their genuineness and kindness immediately shone through. I connected easily with Adrian as we share a similar sense of humor and Bridgette over our mutual interest in birds, nature photography, and environmental concerns. Sara and I knew we had placed our trust correctly.
The next morning, we prepared for our climb up Sgurr na Stri. Skye can have volatile weather, but the forecast smiled upon us, holding clear skies, sunshine, and a steady upper 70° day. The good weather meant that our ferry from Elgol would be able to carry us to Loch Coruisk, a perfect starting point for our climb. In poor weather, the ferry does not run and the only way up Sgurr na Stri is a very long hike. David Whalley warmly and respectfully greeted us when we arrived in Elgol. I could tell that it meant the world to David that we invited him to join us and, upon meeting him, the feeling was mutual. Throughout the day, David would share the experience of the RAF Mountain Rescue team’s attempted rescue of my father and the pilot, Major Burnley L. Rudiger Jr. and the impact of the tragedy on his life. David clearly prioritized remembrance of the fallen and peace for the family members and relatives left behind. His presence was a constant comfort through a difficult but poignant day. He is a remarkable person.
My first look at Sgurr na Stri from Elgol.
Our party assembled, we went down to the harbor to meet with Anne Mackinnon who, along with Seamus Mackinnon, run the Misty Isle Boat Trips to Loch Coruisk ( Anne remembered the night of our father’s crash well and she made special arrangements for us, not least making sure there was a boat for us after our long hike (we ended up a little behind schedule). Once again, the kindness of everyone we met on Skye astounded me and Sara, but the Mackinnon’s went above and beyond. We then boarded the Misty Isle,captained by Sandy Mackinnon, Anne’s son. As we crossed over to the loch, Sandy regaled us with stories, but I was especially interested in how his family helped hide Bonnie Prince Charlie from the Hanoverians in the 1740s and suffered punishment from the Crown because of it. The historian in me wondered if this family history has been fully explored and documented. As we got closer to Sgurr na Stri with its foreboding split and devastating history, Sandy’s stories, along with the company of Sara, David, and Adrian, helped distract from my uncertainty about what I expected or wanted from this experience.
Our view of Loch na Cuilce as we climbed Sgurr na Stri.
When we docked at Loch Coruisk, Adrian considerately allowed the other passengers to depart so we would have some privacy on our ascent. Sandy treated us to coffee, tea, and Misty Isle’s lovely shortbread cookies as we lingered. We then departed on our way up Sgurr na Stri. Initially, the climb was gradual, and we marveled at the beauty of the surrounding Cuillins and Loch Coruisk but it didn’t take long for it to become steep. Adrian picked the best path forward, but we had to be careful of some slick rocks and wet, sinking grass. I thoroughly enjoyed the movement up Sgurr na Stri, using my hands and feet to find the securest placement – it was exhilarating, and it kept me focused as we moved towards the crash site. About an hour into the hike, Adrian warned us that we would soon approach pieces of my Dad’s F111. Adrian had sent Sara some images of the crash site before our trip, but I was ignorant of what to expect. I mistakenly thought I overheard Adrian say there wasn’t much left of the crash so when we came to the first piece – a relatively sizable hunk of rusted metal – I thought this might be our big find. Me and Sara stopped here and sat near this first piece. We considered our Dad’s life and what he might have wanted us to take from this trip. From all the stories we had heard about our Dad, he lived life to the fullest, in part, because a drunk driver killed his own father when he was twelve. Sara thought he would have wanted us to enjoy a few beers and listen to some good music – an excellent plan for a future visit up Sgurr na Stri. We also spoke with regret that our sibling, Jen, who had been two at the time of my Dad’s crash, had been unable to join us.
As we continued our ascent, it became clear to me that there was much more to the crash site than I had anticipated. I began to find pieces, some of them hidden away, half-buried in dirt or covered by rocks. I began actively searching for each fragment of aircraft. I couldn’t help but think that if only I found them all, I could piece my father and his life back together and fulfill my childhood dream meeting him at least once. For a short time, the task gave me a profound sense of purpose. Reality, and the futility of my quest, hit me hard as we approached the main crash site. Twisted metal, tires, and pieces of the cockpit littered the ground all around us and it became difficult to move without stepping on pieces. The sheer volume forced me to abandon my irrational mission and with it my sense of purpose.
Lt. Steven J. Pitt
We soon arrived at the site where the impact of the F111 had left the mountain face gouged and disfigured – the place where we had lost our father. The sadness of the site left me burying emotions and detached. I am thankful that David began talking to me about the rescue attempt. He pointed out where the helicopter had dropped off the team and how they climbed Sgurr na Stri in rough, winter conditions. The physical and emotional hardships he experienced that night in December 1982 gave him the capacity to share our grief in a way I could not have anticipated. After talking with David, I walked over to a ledge and looked out over the ocean and at the surrounding mountains. The majestic beauty gave me a deep sense of peace, despite the heartbreak behind me. My Dad could not have asked for a better burial ground.
The incredible vista from my Dad’s crash site.
In retrospect, it’s hard for me to envision a different story other than the one I laid out above, or the powerful narratives of Adrian, Sara, and David about our trip, but I could have easily ended up alone on Sgurr na Stri. I had been written out of the published and online accounts of my father’s death, mostly because of our family’s recalcitrant silence about the crash. If I had chosen my first path, I would have remained the unknown son, no new relationships would have formed, and a tragedy would have remained just that – a tragedy. Instead, me and Sara have wonderful memories filled with the kindness, joy, and warmth of Adrian, Bridgette, David, Anne and Seamus, my colleagues in Glasgow, and virtually everyone else we met on our journey. Sgurr na Stri and its visceral beauty will always be the place my father died, the place where I forever lost the opportunity to meet or know my father and vice versa, but now it is also a place of happiness, a place I could seek solace in the future, and a place I want my three children to experience and love.
For Adrian and David’s excellent narratives and more pictures of our trip see (Adrian expected sources from me, the historian, but I doubt he expected to be one):

Me and Adrian just before we tried to pirate the ferryboat behind us. The pirate pajama pants, however, gave the game away and the vessel fled.


In addition to Adrian, Bridgette, David, Anne, and everyone we met in Skye, I would like to thank St. Bonaventure University and my colleagues in the History Department for their encouragement and support.


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