Some memories. Working with the Air Investigation Branch (AIB) The Wessex Helicopter crash on Ben More and St Abbs Head Jaguar.

1987 Feb – The Wessex Crash Ben More Crianlarich – Hamish with the AIB. Helping measure the angle of the ground.


The photo above shows a part that few realise happens when the recovery of casualties is over after an aircraft crash then the Air Investigation Branch (AIB) investigate the crash site for clues to why the aircraft crashed. The photo above was taken on this steep side of Ben More (Crainlarich) it was mid winter very icy and a slip could be serious. A walker had already fallen and been killed on the rescue that the Wessex was involved in. Over the years there were many accidents in winter on this steep slope.  In the mountains an investigation was never easy and on steep snow and ice very difficult to look after the AIB who are mainly interested in finding answers and have to be reminded of where they are at times so involved in their tasks. We usually worked one to one with them each team member responsible for their AIB personnel. At times when it was a military enquiry high ranking officers were usually involved, there was no rank on the hill first name terms and our team member’s were in charge of the safety. That took a bit of sorting at times but the old phrase ” the mountains have no respect for rank or authority” usually won the day.

The AIB  on the Wessex Crash and the Board of Enquiry located the first impact point where the blade hit the mountain on very steep grade 1/2 ground a minute mark in the snow near the top of the hill.  It was not easy to locate and I must admit I had thought they had no chance. In the end I  had huge admiration for these people and once we learned about each others skills it was a great teamwork but a hard daily task up to the crash site for several days. I have been on many of these incidents it was a hidden part of our job but one that was essential in working out why the accident had occurred for future flight safety.  One must remember that these are crash sites where someones loved one has sadly died or badly injured.

At a crash site St Abbs Head Jaguar crash.

On another incident we had a Jaguar crash into the steep loose sea cliffs at St Abbs Head. It happened when we were at RAF Leuchars and we arrived very quickly. Unfortunately the aircraft hit the cliff and an abseil down to the impact point was very dangerous. The cliff was still on fire and the ropes nearly melted! Sadly the pilot was killed but we had a hard few days with Board Of Enquiry. These are dangerous places as the  twisted aircraft metal can be very sharp and there may hidden dangers especially with a military aircraft and protective clothing is necessary.

St Abbs Head big cliffs.

On the St Abbs Head crash I was loathe to let them abseil down to  the impact point the next day but we did and proved our point.  When we arrived it was a short flight from Leuchars by helicopter we had a few epics trying to keep the Police away from the edge of the cliff that was fairly loose and one of my team young Mark was nearly arrested for telling them in his own words how dangerous the area was.  It was a tricky couple of days  off loose rock and bits of sharp aircraft bits and great learning for all that was to stand us in good stead in the years to come.

1989 st Abbs Head April abseil with AIB. Steep learning day.

In all these were tricky times over the years I was at many such incidents and how the lessons can be easily forgotten as people move on.  It is such a more difficult task for the AIB to carry out their task in a winter and mountain environment.

St Abbs Head Memorial

The incident on Skye was a hard one when the F111 crashed in winter 1982 in a remote area. I worked for a week with the Americans and it was a big trip in every day even though this is a small remote peak.  My blog has the full story.

1982 AIB F111 Skye

The USA F111 on Skye was one I have written about in other blogs a week on Skye on a remote part with the USA Airforce.  We had a few incidents in the Borders with the USA planes and our own aircraft and many light aircraft in the mountains. Nowadays there are huge environmental issues and health and safety  and if a military aircraft may have huge implications and these incidents sadly will continue no matter how much technology improves.

2001 F15 – Cairngorms.

In 2001 the USA aircraft F15 Crash in the Cairngorms was a huge incident in winter and lots of lessons were learned by all involved. Others were a light aircraft on Liathach in  2000 in Torridon founds months later. Also another a few years later up near Seanna Bhraigh in Ross – shire.

2000 Liathach Cessna found months later.

When I worked within the ARCC I spoke often with the AIB and was invited down to London to give a chat to them. I have many unique experiences of these incidents in the mountains and wild places. I spent ages on my presentation but it was decided that someone senior should present ( with very limited experience) so I never went, they will have to wait for the book.

No mentioned are of course Lockerbie, the Mull of Kintyre Chinook,the Harris Shackleton and many more huge incidents on their own.

A short insight into a few incidents and some great people.

AAIB has its origins in the Accidents Investigation Branch of the Royal Flying Corps, founded in 1915. We’re now an independent unit within the Department for Transport.

The Chief Inspector of Air Accidents reports directly to the Secretary of State for Transport on air safety matters.

There are 6 teams of inspectors, each led by a principal inspector. The teams are made up of operations inspectors, engineering inspectors and flight data recorder inspectors.


Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Political? | Leave a comment

Creag Mhor a grand hill in the heart of the Cairngorms ! A day of bikes,sunshine, scenery, scramble great views and new walking stick .

My friend Bab’s was after a day on the hill and a new Corbett if possible the forecast was incredible with even  advice on the effect of the sun and sunburn! The East was best so we headed forour local Cairngorms. We had planned to take the mountain bikes to save a bit of time on the walk in! The hill Babs wanted to climb was behind the Munro Bynack More and involves a fair walk in 12 kilometres  from Glenmore Lodge. It would be a fun day hopefully in the sun.

Getting the bike ready I found that I had lost my padlock key and had to cut the lock before I went to collect Babs ! Not the thing I needed as we had an early start as I imagined the hills would be busy with such a great forecast! It was a easy drive over the Dava Moor with the Cairngorms looking at there best with a bit of snow and a blue sky day ahead!  I love that view of the huge Cairngorm peaks standing proud.

The parking at Glenmore Lodge is tight but we arrived early and there was plenty of room! We were soon off up the forestry road past the Green lochan and though the pass of Ryvoan heading for the Bynack Mor track. We were leaving the bikes above the river. I struggled a bit at the start with an upset stomach but took it easy it was already hot and had plenty of drinks with me. I travelled as light as possible as I have to nowadays.

I had done this Corbett before in 1997 with the neighbouring Munro Bynack More making it a long walk out via The Fords of Avon and Strath Nethy! These were big hill days showing the troops the big walk outs after or during call -outs.  I sadly had limited memories apart from the long walk back .
The track is now excellent and follows the Bynack More path up to the main ridge then drops down into the huge Glen. The path has been improved and is in great condition and seems well used by walkers and mountain bikers. Thanks again to the path builders.

From the ridge line where the track bifurcates our path follows a grand line below Bynack Mor which dominated the views. The Larig an  Laoigh is a big Glen and a wild place in winter of huge heather clad moors and such space. Today it was exceptional and apart from one lassie heading for the Munro we saw few people. They would all be on the popular big hills of the Cairngorms, chasing snow patches or Munros. It was very dry and warm and I walked in a tee shirt for most of the day! It was so good to see the sun and feel it’s warmth, spring is sprung?

These were great views all day we stopped every hour  to enjoy them this was not a day to rush but to be enjoyed and I was glad Bab’s had the same thoughts! We sat several times looking a the peaks naming those huge Cairngorm summits taking it all in. So many memories.

The Barns of Bynack big granite tors.

The birds were about but we never saw them we heard grouse and saw plenty Tarmachan feathers on the heather. All day as we passed the high moorland we heard a bird that sounded like a bicycle squeak in the heather, it was with us for some time? Any ideas what it was?

As you pass the Barns of Bynack these big Cairngorm granite Tors tower above you and  look incredible and I must visit them again the light was hitting them as we wandered on! The snow was still lingering on the big hills some of the gullies were still full of snow and shinning in the sun and vanishing as we watched in the heat.

the last of the ice on the way up.

From here is is a gentle pull of about 150 metres up to the granite tors of our Corbett. There was still some ice about as we headed of the path and climbed the granite tor on the ridge. It was easy walking with a stop for more drink and take in the views we could see the Shelterstone cliff popping it head out as we gained height.

The magic Cairngorm granite, warm rock and a bit of snow.

There was a bit of snow on an outcrop just below the main ridge but the rock was warm and dry and I had a little fun on the last scramble up onto the ridge. I saw someone else in the snowfield below a tiny figure and our first other person since the path on Bynack Mor. I loved the warm rock and the warm Cairngorm granite how I miss the climbing.

A short scramble in the sun

The figure I saw was Ian from Glasgow he was bagging some Corbetts and we had a grand chat. He spoke of wet heavy snow on the Grey Corries and a great week in the sun.  The big hills Beinn An and Ben a Bhuird were looking superb in the sun with the snow and huge plateaus and cliffs making this some place to view these hills.

New Corbett for Bab’s

It was then a wander along to the main summit again some lovely Cairngorm granite on the summit and exceptional views. Bab’s went ahead and loved the thought of a new hill and i just wandered behind loving this place. On the summit we met Ian again and took the odd photo and sat in the sun.   There were a few potholes in the granite stunning work of nature beautiful natural circles with some ice in them. Nature is amazing!

The big hills were looking stunning the snow and sun making this a day to remember.  I could have slept here it was so warm and wonderfully peaceful.

It ended up a long break a place to linger and enjoy. Ian was off before us and we headed back the 12 kilometre walk ahead. It was enjoyable even the wee pulls up to the Bynack ridge and the path was so good, there has been some work here by the path builders! How far do they walk in or do they camp in here? It must be a camp I fear, imagine the midges in the height of summer?

Proper bikers!

On the way back we met a young couple off to Findhouran Bothy for the night on their bikes loving the weather and we had a chat. It was then a few stops to fill up the water bottles and replenish the fluid intake. It is a vast wild area and what a place to be especially on a day like this, yet there was still little wild life about.

Time to stop and stare.

We stopped at my favourite viewpoint as we headed off the Bynack ridge a big pink granite boulder. This was where after visiting the nearby Wellington Crash site on An Lurg  that crashed during the war in 1944,

Wellington crash An Lurg Poppy visit!

I visit this site often. Recently I was with the son of one of the crew who was born 6 weeks after his father was killed. On this spot he produced several medals that were his Dad’s it was a day I never forget.

The wildness of this high heather moorland and the sad remains of the Wellington.

It was his first visit to the crash site on An Lurg a vast plateau that we had visited and for a 70 year old he and his sons made it some day. The views down Strath Nethy and of Cairngorm are always wonderful here.

As we wandered off two Black grouse came out of the heather and we met another cyclist pushing his bike up the hill. It was then down to the river by the site of the old Bynack stables Bothy where we met a couple who had a great day on the Munro. They were sitting taking it all in by the river what a location. No one wanted to push on but time was moving and at my age you get stiff sorting so after a good chat and then headed off for the bikes.

It was a great cycle back a lot easier than on the way in for me! There were so many out walking in the early evening from Glenmore enjoying the last heat of an incredible day.We sorted out the gear and headed home pretty tired. Again it was a superb drive home with the hills looking great and the back roads via Nethy Bridge busy!

Clear crystal water and grand views.

I dropped Bab’s off at home and had a brew with her and Mike  her husband he had kindly made me a walking stick with the words of “Will you go lassie go” on it what a surprise.
Oh the summertime is coming

And the trees are sweetly blooming

And the wild mountain thyme

Grows around the blooming heather

Will ye go, Lassie go?

And we’ll all go together

To pluck wild mountain thyme

All around the blooming heather

Will ye go, Lassie go?

I will build my love a tower

Near yon’ pure crystal fountain

And on it I will build

All the flowers of the mountain

Will ye go, Lassie go?

And we’ll all go together

To pluck wild mountain thyme

All around the blooming heather

Will ye go, Lassie go?
What a way to end the day it was soon home and get the bikes off I got donated a bike from Bab’ s for Outfit Moray a charity that I am helping! I was very tired but happy a grand day after last weeks soaking in the Fannichs !  I was stiff all day on Sunday but it was so well worth it. These mountains are magnificent and the Cairngorms so unique it is such an area to cherish give me strength to keep on walking and enjoying this place. After a week of sadness in London what a way to clear the head and get back to real basics.

Now for some rock climbing maybe or a new Corbett !

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Bothies, Corbetts, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Poems, Weather, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Mothers Day – Give your Mum a huge hug today.

It has been many years since I lost my Mother, she died of Leukaemia an awful disease in 1980 which she kept away from most of the family, as she did not want to worry us. That was typical of her and off her generation. It was only at the end I was told she was very ill.  I was at RAF Valley in North Wales in a job as full time Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader and was living with my partner and her young daughter. As we are at that time in life I was caught up with my career, my life and very driven. I had always phoned Mum every week but she never told me she was ill until the last few days of her life when I was summoned home.    I was shocked to see her so frail and yet so strong in mind and still very beautiful. She wanted my brother home immediately from Bermuda and he just made it. She died three days later. Though in great pain she never complained and just wanted her family around.

Mum – Loch Ossian

My life in Mountain Rescue has led me to see many tragedies close up and I think I never really felt the effect of this great loss at the time as I was hardened by what I had seen in the mountains. It is a terrible thing to admit that I seemed to cut myself off at the time from the hurt and pain of her death. Even when I had to go back home straight after the funeral to North Wales and my partner Vicky tried to console me I was very hard to deal with, it was my way, to man up and not show the hurt I felt. I did get a few days to talk to my Mum at the end, we had a few chats even though she was very ill and I told her about my life in Wales, my new love and plans. She said as long as I was happy so was she. Mum was the finest person I have ever met, she was so caring. She gave me along with my Dad a great chance in life and my love for the outdoors. She was the one who dealt with the five children a huge Manse the poor wages and a big house to heat and look after. The love we had been incredible and the adventures we had were life enduring. Long days on the hills, in Arran, Galloway and the Highlands a love of sport and she was an avid Ayr United fan both home and away! She loved the tennis and how she would have loved to see Andy Murray. She did not have long with the grandchildren but they were her joy, how she would love to see how they have all done in life.  Money was always tight in a big family she would give away her last penny.

My Dad was a minister was his pride and joy and he visited his people the sick and the dying every night, we rarely saw him. Mum brought us all up and the work she did for the Church was incredible.  At the end Mum was very upset that she felt that she  could leave us nothing in the way of material possessions but she gave us all so many life skills I can never repay her. These last few days were very special and I will never forget carrying her to the bathroom and helping her near the end. She was so frail but so clear in what she said to me. To her I was the “wild child” of the family but she looked after me and was always there for me, it is such a loss in my life I feel it and still miss her and my Dad.  It was such a pity as we all progressed in life we could have made life much better for them but it was not to be but what a legacy they gave us all.  Nowadays I worry as all many children are interested in is the financial legacy they may inherit and Mum and Dad are packed off to an Old Folk’s home.

Today is a special day but our parents are special always, never put off for another day what you can do today in showing your appreciation for them, they are not here forever! Treat every day as Mother’s Day and tell them you love them. I was at a funeral recently where a son had fallen out with his mother and he had not spoken to her for over a year she died suddenly. He never had the chance to tell her like I did how much he loved her.

Never let pride get in the way of true love and respect, life is too short.

My lovely Mum xxx

She was such a beautiful person in every aspect who loved us all yet had time to guide and be there for us. I shared so many secrets with her over my life and she was always there to listen when I needed! How she would have loved to see her grandchildren and their kids now. I would have loved her to have met all the great Grandchildren and Lexi and Ellie Skye and shared their lives! I also got the love flowers and got that from my Mum so every few weeks I buy some or pick them and they always remind me of her. I have her deep love of the wild places and still feel her with me when out and about, what would she have made of today’s world, I wonder?

As I write I am so glad to have such a lovely Mother and feel very proud of her and wish she was still with me. When I am in trouble she is always there for me. How she would have loved to see how we all are, I am sure she does. Thanks xxx

I am re-blogging this since last year I still feel the same even more so as I get older and see every day what our parents did for us.


Posted in Family | 2 Comments

Off to the Hills – beware of sunburn in the Cairngorms. Heading out to the Corbett Creag Mhor .

You do not often get a forecast like this – EFFECT OF WIND ON YOU? –  Small.

HOW WET? – No rain

CLOUD ON THE HILLS? – Not expected


SUNSHINE AND AIR CLARITY? – Bright sun (beware sunburn). Superb visibility.

HOW COLD? (AT 900M) -5 to 7C.

FREEZING LEVEL – Above the summits, but terrain at least partially frozen from valleys up in morning after a frost.

Taking the bike – after a bit of a faff sorting the bike rack out.

Bike on ready to go.

Sunburn we will see?

Creag Mhor is an unassuming hill in a remote Cairngorms location, topped by a granite tor. It rises to the northeast of the Fords of Avon and is usually climbed using the Lairig an Laoigh.


Posted in Corbetts, Mountain Biking, Weather | Leave a comment

Fun day in the Roseille forest with Burghead primary school and Outfitmoray! Moray Mountaineering Club AGM a slide show -Hills on Horseback / General Wades Roads: 

Yesterday it was a busy morning helping Outfitmoray a local charity that I am the patron of with their Active Schools day at my local Burghead primary school.
Outfit Moray Outdoor Adventure Activities Charity Lossiemouth

Changing Lives Through Learning and Adventure Outdoors

Outfit Moray is an award-winning charity and social enterprise delivering outdoor learning, adventure and nature exploration programmes which transform lives.

Founded in 2003, we have worked with over 14,000 children and young people; building confidence, self-esteem and resilience, providing positive role models and encouraging the acquisition of life skills and new experiences through challenge and positive risk taking.

We are a visionary, ambitious and passionate organisation committed to making a difference to the lives of others and particularly those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Our unique approach to learning, education, training and development applies to all that we do, whether working one-to-one with children referred to us, running holiday and respite weeks for vulnerable children, outdoor learning and adventure programmes with schools, or activity sessions to improve health and well-being in adults.

We take a holistic approach to our work; founded on the principles of charity, care and compassion, building trust, valuing courage, patience and integrity, developing social skills and team work, respect for human dignity and taking a selfless approach to the needs of others. It is our aim to encourage positive growth: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, to provide hope for a better future, to improve happiness, health and well-being and to create a sense of life purpose.

Outfit Moray provides a supportive structure for a number of charitable and socially enterprising projects to flourish in line with our Vision and Mission, and in particular Earthtime and Bike Revolution. We apply our core values to these projects and actively promote them as part of our work in caring for others and our planet.

Outfit Moray strives to be carbon neutral, to reduce waste and to encourage recycling and upcycling. We are signatories to Scotland’s Climate Change Pledge.

The Den !!!

I met Martin from Outfitmoray in Burghead and along with 7 of the kids we had fun on our local forest at Roseille building a den from dead wood! We split into two teams and it was a great laugh with lots of learning and new skills learned!

We then all had a hot chocolate as a reward cooked on the Kelly kettle and then back to school it was a busy few hours but enjoyed by all! The kids were having fun and hopefully picked up a few skills on the way! It was great to see them out in the fresh air and I was tired after a few hours old age!

The Kelly kettle what a great bit of kit!

  • BOIL WATER ULTRA-FAST in the outdoors with the famous Kelly Kettle®. Use the fire-base of the Kettle as a simple Wood CAMPING STOVE.
  • NO Batteries, NO Gas – FREE FUEL! Simply use a handful of sticks, Pine cones, Birch bark, dry grass…even dry animal dung! This kettle boils in just 3 – 5 minutes. Enjoy hot water for tea, coffee, rehydrating food, bathing, cooking, etc…..irrespective of weather conditions or your location. Just look at our Pictures! Boil water & cook at the same time when fishing & hunting, Car Camping, trekking, backpacking, Scouts, power cuts, working in the outdoors or simply having a fun family picnic.
  • This Aluminium ‘Trekker’ 0.6ltrs (now with upgraded Steel fire-base) is currently the smallest and lightest kettle in the range. Fire-base and drawstring carry bag are included as standard. Diameter: 14cm Height: 27cm (Packed) Weight: 0.54kg Capacity: 0.6ltr
  • Kelly Kettles are available in various sizes in Stainless Steel or Aluminium. Add our various high quality accessories to complete the Kelly Kettle camping range. No open fire (the fire is contained within the kettle & fire base)! Carbon neutral green camping. No travel restrictions (planes etc.)
  • Extremely popular camping equipment for Wilderness Survival, Emergency Preparedness or Disaster Kit. Lightweight, compact and durable, the Kelly Kettle® works in extreme storm or hurricane conditions. 2yr anti-leak warranty with excellent customer service.

Any comments on the Kelly Kettle – my Grand-kids will love it and my “Den Building skills”

It was then a quick snooze (old age) and get ready for the Moray Mountaineering club AGM at the Glen Moray Visitor Centre in Elgin! We had a lively debate and then a great slide show by Simon on the hills on horseback. It was a wonderful insight into the old drove roads and General Wades huge influence in Scotland! What a wonderful chat! Thanks Simon and the Glen Moray Distillery for their sponsorship.


We had a sell off of old gear and I managed to raise over £100 for Torridon MRT from some of the kit I sold at the end of the night – so hopefully those who took some gear will donate to this great team who are building a Base in Torridon at long last!

They need to raise £50000 to meet their costs, they currently use a cupboard at the Youth Hostel!

In all a great day thanks to Outfitmoray for all they do for local children! Also the Moray Mountaineering Club who are always looking for new members! Most of the members are walkers so do not let the name scare you! Many of us are willing to teach you the basics of hill walking safely and the mountains and wild places are a great place to be and the company is great!

Have a look on the website !

The Moray Mountaineering Club was established in 1931 with the declared aim ‘to encourage mountaineering and serve as a bond of union amongst lovers of the Scottish hills’. Membership is centered on the Elgin and Forres areas but enthusiasts from Keith, Fochabers, Inverness and further afield attend meets.

Club activities include monthly ‘bus’ and ‘weekend’ meets, regular rock climbing sessions and social functions.  A nominated committee member manages each activity.  The main interest centres on summer and winter hill walking, but there are also rock-climbers, winter mountaineers and ski tourers.

A small elected Committee manages the club on behalf of the membership, with decisions being ratified at the Annual General Meeting in March or April each year. There is a small annual membership fee, which provides individual third-party liability insurance through the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the quarterly “Scottish Mountaineer” magazine, a monthly club newsletter, occasional training sessions and discounts at some outdoor retailers.

Your responsibilities

Members of the Committee are generally happy to share their knowledge and skills with less experienced members and guests.  However, please be aware that committee members are not necessarily experienced and are unlikely to possess any formal mountaineering qualifications.  Ultimately you must take responsibility for your own decisions.

The Moray Mountaineering Club supports the UIAA participation statement, which states, Climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement”

The weather looks good this weekend so I hope to get out.

Posted in Equipment, Friends, Gear, Lectures, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Achnacarry and Loch Arkaig a kind keeper can you help identify this photo? Donald Cameron Keeper at Achnacarry.

Maybe Achnacarry Glendessary can you identify the keeper?   From my sister “this photo around 1935-6,Dad was student minister missionary at Achnacary, friends with Donald Cameron head keeper on estate .Used to send Dad venison by post ,very bloody Mum had fun cooking it.xx

Does anyone have any information on the above photo. I am sure it was from when my Dad was a student minister at Achnacarry in the late 1930’s. He was often out giving communion to the various  outlying remote settlements in the area. I was brought up on the many tales of the keeper who carried the communion cups and wine and was looking after my Dad on these trips. They often went over the hills and the tops and that made a huge impression on my Dad who was super fit and at Edinburgh University and captain of the Harriers. He spoke about visits to the big house and the Cameron’s of Locheil and there work during the war.  I was very young  about 13 when we got our first car I remember the wild drive up to Achnacarry, Loch Arkaig and Glendessary to see this magical place. I was sick most of the way yet I never forgot that road or the hills and they remain majestic to me. I was often up in this area and it became somewhere else I bonded with.  I am sure we met the keeper and his family but my memory fails me, I was just a wee laddie. My Dad often spoke about with great warmth for the way he was looked after by the keeper and the locals.  His mode of transport was a bike and he cycled back to Spean Bridge at times after some of the services.  I am trying to chase this up so if anyone can help that would be great My Dad was called Bill Whalley. He and Mum gave me a huge love and respect for the mountains and the people who work in them.  I always had this vision of him and the keeper bagging a Munro or a big hill on the way home.

He often spoke about this part of his life in his sermons. I wish I had listened a bit more in these days!

My Dad in Ayr – still miss him.

He had huge respect for this special place area and the people many who went to war or trained the Commandos in this area.

Can anyone help? –   From my sister  ” this old photo around 1935-6,Dad was student minister missionary at Achnacary, friends with Donald Cameron head keeper on estate .Used to send Dad venison by post ,very bloody Mum had fun cooking it.xx Dad stayed with family for two summers we think he always spoke about them so well.

Sadly I wonder what he would have made of the tragedy in London yesterday? My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones and those who gave their lives to protect our way of life.

Posted in Family, Friends | Leave a comment

Am  I a wind coward or just getting old?

I always look at the weather forecast and the wind speeds, the forecast is a guide so when I arrive in an area I keep my options open. I spent 40 years many times out in weather where only the mad would venture or Rescue Teams had to go. I have crawled across the plateau on Cairngorm roped up for over an hour trying to get off the hill after an unsuccessful winter search at night. We were not searching but surviving and I spent many years giving new team members the experience of extreme winds as this is what they may have to be out in on a rescue.  These were never easy and at first you think you are invincible and then you  learn from  your epics. I have watched a team-mate on Beinn Alligin again on a search get out of helicopter On the ridge and thrown in the air 30 feet and be lucky not to be blown over the edge. These and many other adventures make me wary of the wind. My mate a few years ago was going out for a look the winds were forecast to be high and he was picked up by a gust and smashed into a rock in Coire an Sneachda in the Cairngorms. He is a big strong lad and yet he smashed his ankle badly and could not walk out, it was a bit of an epic getting him off the hill. 

A quote from Pete 

“The result of being disrespectful to the wind (and weather forecast). 2 months in plaster!”

He is a hugely experienced mountaineer and had climbed some of the world;s big Alpine routes plus several Himalayan summits yet a Scottish wind a gust in the wrong place gave him one of his hardest days.  He was also off work for several months and that did not help. Thanks Pete for letting me use your photo – and words !

Wintry search in the Cairngorms not a bad wind but look at the dog!

As a young troop just 8 stone it was a fight to stay up in a bad wind and I learnt fast, small steps, use poles and crampons on icy ground, keep low as possible and  learn from every adventure. Yes I have a fear of the wind after a few of my own epics being blown of  a ridge and over a cornice in the past. At over 60 I feel I do not need to batter my body any more and enjoy my hill days. Even more important I do not wish anyone else coming out in these conditions for me and risking their lives or that of a helicopter? I have had many scary rides in a helicopter in big winds going in for an injured climber sometimes at great risk to all concerned?  So my days are over of fighting the big wind but I can still get caught out by a quick change in weather and the secret is to get down as quick as possible and into shelter. The forecasts are a lot better from my early days and can still be wrong but if we see the crowds and the spin drift on the tops wisping away this means high winds will be on the summits.

Wind coward – Yes I am  – Any comments?


The wind on the hilltops tends to be stronger than at ground level, and you should allow for this when planning your walk.

Wind speed at the top of a mountain can be two to three times greater than the valley, i.e. two to three times the wind speed quoted on lowland weather forecasts, e.g. the MWIS /BBC ETC .


Vulnerable Areas

Mountain summits, ridges & cols/beleachs tend to have strong winds, as it’s here that the fast rising air is funnelled.

  • 30 – 40 Mph blowing you about on the hill. Very hard going
  • 50 Mph + really difficult.
  • 60 Mph + wild, existing – chance of getting blown off!
  • How would YOU COPE WITH SOMEONE IN YOUR PARTY GETTING BLOWN over AND INJURED? The helicopter would struggle to get to you, it would be a Mountain Rescue Team that would try to assist?

Yesterday the Lochaber Team and the RAF Lossiemouth Team were out on Ben Nevis and located a hypodermic walker a great result well done all.  It is still winter on the hills be aware many are getting impatient but good weather may be on the way soon.


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