Achnacarry and Loch Arkaig a kind keeper can you help identify this photo?

Maybe Achnacarry Glendessary can you identify the keeper?

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?

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.

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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

The Mountain Bothies Association MBA.

At the weekend a lot of us enjoy a break out of the wind and rain in a Mountain Bothy we were up in the far North at Lochiveraon at the West end of loch a’ Bhraoin. It was great to get out of the weather and the bothy was spotless no litter or rubbish left. A few of the newer member of the club asked about the bothies and it is worth looking on their website for some information.

1973 Galloway Heavy Back Hill bothy great memories.

I was privileged to speak at the Mountain Bothies Association  AGM on their 50 th Anniversary in 2015 and the bothies have always been a big part of my life. I spent a lot of time as a very young lad in Galloway where Back Hill of the Bush my first bothy became a place I loved as a young lad when out on the hills. I will never forget my first night about 13 years old spending a magic night in the bothy. We got a fire going after a wet snowy walk in and some great person had left us some dry fire wood and the wood smoke on my clothes smell and memories remains with me to this day . Sadly Back Hill of the Bush is gone it was vandalised and the forestry I am sure had to shut it and this is so sad that idiots do this to a bothy and the landowners have no option but to close them.

Back-hill-o-bush-winter MBA Photo

Many times I spent time in them on the Big walks I used them walking through Scotland and we stayed in them often with the RAF Rescue Teams and spent many nights introducing so many new comers to the outdoors to the bothy life. After a long day a fire a meal and a dram are special in a bothy.  If someone goes missing one of the first checks is the bothies and how many have been saved by a night in a bothy? So many tales to tell of the epic days in the Cairngorms and arriving in the bothy after a wild day.



The bothies are tolerated only by great work by the MBA and the many landowners and there has to be mutual respect by all sides to see the MBA continue their great work. This is why I am a member it is only a few pounds annually but all helps as they are maintained by volunteers who do  great work. So next time you stop out of the weather or overnight spare a thought for the MBA or even better send them a donation, do we not owe them that?

Join the MBA.


Founded in 1965, the Mountain Bothies Association exists to maintain remote buildings for which the owner has little or no use, yet remain important to walkers and others who make use of the shelter that they provide. We only own one of these buildings – Over Phawhope bothy. The remainder are maintained with the agreement and encouragement of the owners. All maintenance work is financed from our own resources, mainly membership subscriptions supplemented by generous donations from benefactors, some of whom wish to commemorate a relative or friend who was a hill  walker or climber.

The maintenance work along with the bulk of administration is carried out by volunteers. Each bothy in the care of the Association has one or more Maintenance Organisers who are responsible for arranging routine maintenance. You will find more information about the bothies that we maintain and about what we do elsewhere on this site. If you are not already a member, why not join us and help to preserve these unique shelters?

Shenaval-Beinn-a-Chaliaim-jly-Corbett or Munro?

What is your favourite bothy one of mine is Shenavall,

The journey to Shenavall.

Cars fly by as you cross the road, to another world. Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

The track wynds through the trees, the river breaks the silence,

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

Midges and clegs abound here but not today, too cold, its winter.

Cross the river, is that bridge in the wrong place? Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top, the wee cairn, stop, no rush, drink it all in.

An Teallach. snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

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

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

Memories – the wilderness Beinn Tarsuin

Youthful  memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress? Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Deer rattle the door

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer, they are still there;

Shenevall. It never changes, only the seasons.

Tea in hand – One of my favourite bothies.

Fire on, primeval, tea in hand, alone with thoughts.

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.


Thanks to the MBA!   Heavy Feb 2015 For Yvette.

Posted in Book, Bothies, Corbetts, Equipment, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Four seasons in one day at Loch a Bhraoin the Fannichs. 


The Bus and the weather on the apply named road of Destitution !

The plan was a day out with the Moray Mountaineering Club Bus Meet to the Fannichs yesterday. The forecast was wild on the tops so I planned an easy day on the lower Grahams! Weather permitting! The photo below shows the sunny spells we had where the great peaks looked incredible in between showers. The rain started with black clouds and o views as we headed North West in the bus, the further West we went the darker the skies got and there were a few changes of plan on the bus for what to do today.


A bit wet in the walk in.

In the end most of the group stayed on the bus till the last stop and five others managed a varying of tops in interesting weather. We got of the bus on the “Road of Destitution” at the big lay-by near the end to Fannichs! This is the third time I had been here this winter! I had a managed a few summits in the past and it was a big crowd that gathered to walk to the Bothy and assess the day!

Still happy – Just

They did well in the conditions that were pretty wild in between showers and winter squalls. Winter is still with us on the hills and it was pretty chilly as we left the bus as the rain started again and once we left the shelter of the bus it was full waterproofs on.

Wet walking at times

I was happy not to be on the summits as the winds forecast were big 50 mph on the tops! The walk in to the Bothy is easy about an hour and a bit but the small burns were pretty full on even at this level. The squalls came in every half hour heavy rain, hail and bitter wind. Then the sun would come out and the tops would clear.
We met 3 folk leaving from the Bothy hoods up and we just said hullo they had a wet day and were heading home.

Our walk up the Loch and then up the glen for a bit. We were hoping to get views of the great Munros of Fisherfield –  Ruadh Stac Mor (919m, Munro 273)
A’Mhaighdean (967m, Munro 188)
Beinn Tarsuinn (937m, Munro 239)
Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (1018m, M115)
Sgurr Ban (989m, Munro 157)

The Bothy was a great place to get out the weather and what a bonus thanks to the MBA. Maybe the club may donate to the MBA as we regularly use them to shelter and stop in! I am a member and well worth supporting the Mountain Bothy Association(MBA) We decided to have a wander on but the river was wild and few fancied trying to cross it today.

In the bothy – worthy of a donation from all those who use these great shelters?

We wander up the Glen hoping to get views of the great Fisherfield Hills and the slabs but the path was awful, so flooded by the river and muddy and then the storm came in again (on the video) we decided to return to the Bothy and then at the Bothy it cleared again! Then  in came the showers and it was head down back to the bus!

We had another stop at the bothy the sun was out again but darl crowds were brewing so we had a stop, a sun bathe and then off again.

The bothy!

It was then a wander back.

It was a short 4 hour walk but that was enough soon the crazy three Irish returned from Meall a ‘ Chrasgadh hard-won Munro in big winds.  We were all soaked but got changed dry gear essential on a Bus meet. It was then a tourist visit to Corrieshalloch Gorge at Breamore junction! A spot I know well from my Rescue days and a wee epic in the 70’ s chasing ice with the late Mark “Cheeky Sinclair” involving an abseil in to the gorge while chasing ice climbs! Today it was a great place to visit.

Corrieshalloch Gorge.

We then picked up Stuart at Loch Droma he had climbed the Corbett Ben Enaiglair and walked to Loch Droma where we picked him up.

Loch Droma bothy now no longer is use a few nights spent here in the big walks.

I stayed at the small Bothy on several occasions once for a Christmas period from Valley in North Wales. I also stayed here in my walks after some huge days so that wee hut is etched in my memory!

It was then off for a cup of tea and a beer at the Inchbae Lodge Inn where 20 walkers were welcomed by Richard and Sarah Eaton a friendly place that welcomes all! Thanks for your hospitality!

The bus then head home for an earlier than usual arrival but all fairly happy of a day in the vagaries of a March day.
My gear is soaked and drying out now and a reminder to take plenty of dry clothes for the bus! Ray has only so many spare pairs of socks to loan the damsels in distress!

Ray the sock man.

Yes it was fun, honest.



We did catch a view of one of my favourite hills. Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (1018m, M115) with its huge slabs a day to remember in the past and Sgurr Ban (989m, Munro 157)

Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (1018m, M115)
Sgurr Ban (989m, Munro 157)


Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Weather | Leave a comment

Off to the North West

Heading to the North West the Fannichs with the Moray Mountaineering Bus meet. Weather not great so will sort out what we are doing when we arrive!

Early start long day but need a wander! 

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Enviroment, Friends, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Weather, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Alex Jock Pirrie – 10 years anniversary

My pal Pete Greening wrote this I had to republish as it was a great tribute to Alec  “Jock” Pirrie.

2000 Jock Pirrie on Pabbay out there as always.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of my great friend, Alex ‘Jock’ Pirrie. Jock was one of life’s great characters and it has been a privilege to have known him and to call him my friend. I was lucky enough to climb and surf with him on many occasions, most notably on a week long trip to the hebridean island of Pabbay, and on a trip to the Cirque of the Unclimbables, Canada, in ’97, where his friendship, humour and drive was paramount to our successful ascent of the Lotus Flower Tower.

Yesterday, a heavy swell broke on the shores of Cornwall and a handful of Jock’s friends met to surf in celebration of the Big Man. We aren’t as young and fit as we used to be 10 years ago, so one of us sat out (due to recovering from breaking their tibula and fibula), another got washed back to shore on the initial paddle out and took 45 minutes to eventually make it out back, while I mistimed a duck-dive of a set wave, got sucked over the falls, then got held under while being keelhauled up the beach. How Jock would have laughed at our antics, while he would have sensibly sat on the shore, supping an early morning beer.

His big pal, John Hubbard, summed up him perfectly when he delivered the eulogy at Jock’s funeral:

Back in 83, when we had to make a 200 foot abseil to get off Ben Nevis I should have known that being a friend of Jock was gonna be demanding. We both cheated death on that day. I got a fright but to Jock it was just a normal day. As a climber he is a legend. From Cummingston to Canada, from Norway to Pabbay, from Anglesey to Arrochar.

But he was a pretty decent basketball player too, until he played against his brother. A biathlete for the RAF, a triathlete just for fun, a great golfer and one time Junior Convener at Hopeman. He was an excellent swimmer, nordic skier, snowboarder, and all round mountain man. And when he’d finished risking his own skin, he’d be saving someone else’s when on the Mountain Rescue Teams of Valley and Kinloss.

A fit guy was our Jock – to the amazement of Hopeman football team one summer evening 2 years ago when we were playing at Rothes. Jock arrived on his bike, stayed to watch the second half and still beat us back home.

Here was a man whose lust for life took him to the four corners of the world. He got more than enough working trips to satisfy any normal person, but was forever planning expeditions and holidays. He came home with football shirts for my Nathan from dozens of obscure places, Laura has necklaces from half the tribes in Africa and Indonesia and our house has the best collection of souvenirs on the planet. He looked after my family so well I sometimes wondered just whose wife and kids they were.

Jock was the most generous and caring man I ever met – surfers hate missing waves but he spent countless hours teaching me to stand on a board, and then just gave me the board and the wetsuit for free.

For years he has been a regular supporter of Oxfam and similar Third World agencies. Even up to Christmas Jock was working away on his English teaching course so that when he left the RAF he and the new Mrs Pirrie could spend part of their time abroad in the service of others. Oh, and he’d catch the odd wave into the bargain and probably give his t-shirt to the locals too.

I can’t remember a time when he didn’t call the bar when he walked into the Braemou inn. Jock lived life to the max – I pleaded with him to slow down because, once in our 40s we couldn’t drink so much Guinness anymore – but he had only one speed, full speed, and we didn’t make it to last orders very often.

He did slow down a bit though, after his bike accident – yet another near death experience. But he came through it and was proud of his scar, which he often passed off as a shark bite – a real conversation piece in impressionable company. He almost had to learn to surf again because the muscle memory in his leg was gone – just another challenge which he met by getting a bigger board and was soon getting just as many waves as before – and always more than me.
But just to give himself an extra little target he also took up scuba diving – and within a year got his instructors certificate.

I know that he felt cheated though – whilst I was happy that he wasn’t fit to serve in some of the worlds war zones, he felt he was letting his boys down.

His childlike glee was infectious when, after watching a cup game at Hampden, we walked back through the Glasgow streets he grew up in, and he remembered every detail like it was yesterday – especially his home at number 32 Daisy Street – and on the way we had a pint in every pub. The cheek of it – an Englishman and a Blue Nose and every bar full of shamrocks and Celtic fans. But he loved his football, an avid Rangers fan, Scotland fan, Elgin City and Hopeman FC – and ya don’t hear those 4 teams often in the same breath.

Surfing was his great love though, in France, Spain, South Africa, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Hopeman’s West Beach. How pleased was he that he got mistaken for Colin McPhillips in Biarritz, and how important was Bonga’s handshake when recovering from the accident.
How ironic too, that in a fishing village – when the weather gets too rough and the fishermen tie their boats up, Jock waxes up his 9 footer and jumps off the pier.
But there was no better feeling than that of being called onto a double overhead wave, holding a high line, and looking back to see my best pal smiling up at me from 6ft below on the same wave – special, special times that I will never forget.

He was a hard man – balls of steel – if you’ll pardon the expression – dignified to the end, uncomplaining mental toughness whilst he endured pain for all of us. The end was peaceful though, by his new wife’s side week after their wedding.

Family and friends of Jock Pirrie across the world: we’ve lost a big, big person – I’m just so glad that I knew him and could call him my mate.

Jock, my life is better for having known you and I am honoured and humbled saluting you now.

Surfers say “Leave only footprints and take only memories”.
Buddy, bro, best mate, you left a massive footprint and enough memories to fill ten volumes – I’m missing you already and I look forward to seeing you waiting for me out in the glassy swells beyond this rough white water that is our turbulent lives. But not yet a while.

Friends, the Hawaiians have a word which is special because it has so many meanings :
• Welcome
• Love
• Peace
• Friendship
• Happiness
• And farewell :

Aloha…………………Jock Pirrie.

By Pete Greening his mate. Thanks again.


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Torridon Mountain Rescue Team needs your support – Please watch this video and if you can give a little..

When I left the RAF MRT I was lucky enough to work with the Torridon and Kinlochewe Team for a few years. Old age and illness made me retire at 60 after 40 years with the Mountain Rescue. Torridon and Kinlochewe MRT is everything I love about Mountain Rescue. This is a sparse area for population but has many of the UK finest Mountains in their area.

The team  cover a large area extending from Achnasheen, in the east, to Applecross, in the west, and from Kinlochewe, in the north, to Lochcarron, in the south. The area includes 17 Munros, including the iconic “Torridon triptych”: Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe, Scotland’s first National Nature Reserve. Thet are richly endowed with some of Britain’s most magnificent mountain landscapes, including the trio of Munros around Coire Lair, the remote quartet in the West Monar Forrest, embracing Loch Monar, the massive cliffs of Beinn Bhan, barring entry to the Applecross peninsula, and, most celebrated of all, the Triple Buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair, behind Beinn Eighe.

These mountains draw climbers and walkers throughout the year. They offer some of Scotland’s most spectacular walking routes and some of our longest and most testing rock and ice climbing routes. Given the terrain it is not surprising that the rescue situations we are faced with can be amongst the most technically demanding to be encountered in Scotland.

The team is made up of a variety of people, crofters, fishermen, doctors. teachers, professional mountaineers, foresters and deals with some wild and varied mountains and wild land. Money is very hard and despite the wonderful work of the Order Of St John, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government the Team needs a new building. At present they work out of cupboard and have done for many years in the local Youth Hostel. They hope to build a new Centre this year 2017 and have to raise £50000 towards it, can you help.

From their Facebook page

“In 2017, Torridon Mountain Rescue Team is building a new base in Torridon village with support from St John Scotland. But to complete and equip the new base, we need £50,000. Please give generously. Text TMRT33£5 to 70070 to donate £5 or visit to find other ways of supporting us.”

Thank you. Please share and if you can give a little it all helps.

Torridon Mountain Rescue Team needs your support – watch their video and share this please, it could be you that needs their assistance one day.

What a great video, what great hills and what great people. In 2015 they dealt with 6 fatalities and many other incidents they rarely chase publicity. Now they need help please share as they deserve support.


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