I went to a wonderful Burns night. There were song, poems and music. We were met by a piper at the door which led to the atmosphere. I was born in Ayr which is Burn’s country. Sadly my voice does not allow me to sing but it was so enjoyable. There was a Ukrainian family who were staying on the village. They came and enjoyed the night but what a sad time they are having it puts life in perspective. One of the poems is one I love. When I was down South at Innsworth for 2 years I tried to come back to Scotland monthly. I always drove through the night. I found going back heartbreaking this is why I love this song and it’s words.
My Heart’s in the Highlands..
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth ;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.
Farewell to the mountains, high-cover’d with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
Pete McGowan was an ex RAF MRT team leader. Pete was an amazing guy and he sorted out the “RAF Kinloss Team ” in the mid 70’s. What a leader and some task master, he was known throughout Mountain Rescue for his huge days all over the UK and came with a big reputation.
It was an incredible commitment to stay with the team three full weekends training a month ( friday night to late Sunday night, sometimes early Monday morning . What a leader he was and some task master, he had a huge purge when he took over the team and we were left with under 20 team member’s. I was one of the lucky ones who got kept about 20 left or were binned. He changed the team and the priority was becoming all competent mountaineers.
Pete was a huge influence on the team a true leader. He drive you on and gave you so much trust in what you did. Pete was also the Cyprus team leader when one of the young stars was killed Ian McKinnon as a block hit him on a ledge descending from Mt Kenya. To lose a young man in his prime a really effected everyone. A lot of the team wanted to go home. In my mind incredible strong leadership.
Once the enquiry was over Pete led several groups to the true summit of Kenya Neilson at 17022 feet a true mountaineers mountain. He also put up a hard grade 6 they named the route after Ian McKinnon The MacKinnon Couloir with local guide and climber Phil Snyder.
To me hearing the stories from those who were there he lead from the front. If you have any information on this climb please get in touch.
“By his outstanding qualities of leadership and organising ability he brought the Cyprus team to a high level of proficiency. In a recent training expedition to Mount Kenya during which a team member fell and was fatally injured. FS McGowan restored the morale of the team by his personal example of self discipline, courage and determination.
Ian had to be buried on the mountain as it was in such a dangerous area. This tested the team to the full in so many ways. Several expeditions have visited his grave and agree about the dangerous situation it is in.
He came to RAF Kinloss as Team leader a few years later to bring several young stars like Jim Morning and Terry Moore. This pushed our standards especially on climbing summer and winter. It had a huge effect on those who were left. I climbed a lot more and had a great day on Winter in Tower Ridge with Pete which I will never forget. He took us to great areas like the North West and we had huge days on the wild cliffs of Fionaven. Winter traverse of An Teallach including a route onto the ridge all the team were on the mountain pushing there own standards.
His techniques day were amazing as the team leader at RAF Valley he did huge lowers of the sea cliffs at Gogarth and the big cliffs in Wales. He took Mountain Rescue into another era. I learned a lot during his time as leader some of it you could use in future years. He gave responsibility to many of us and trusted our decisions. It was so hard and so committing but the learning was incredible. He had a good way of talking to you and making you feel confident. He took us all over Scotland we climbed so much and learned about the different area. This was great for area knowledge and confidence in working in wild weather wherever we were.
Before Pete arrived at Kinloss he was on a RAFMA expedition to the Himalayas to the very difficult Dhaulagiri 1V in 1974. As they set out huge blocks of ice fell from the icefall. Two Sherpas were killed and two injured sadly one died during the night the other was taken to Katmandu by rescue helicopter. A very tragic expedition which ended after the accident. It was a miracle that more were not killed. Such is the price we can play for attempting these incredible mountains.
Pete after his spell at RAF Kinloss retired in the late 70’ he built a new career as a Ranger in the Peak District. I often met him on his big walks and at Re unions. He is still on the hills with his mate Tom Taylor what a pair they are.
What a man, what wild days and no time for anything else, but we all learned so much. Especially me.
I was very fortunate to meet so many great mentors in RAF Mountain Rescue. John Hinde was one who helped me a lot and gave me so much of the history of the Mountain Rescue Service. John was a superb mountaineer. Many never knew John was a big part of the first British ascent of Denali in 1962 there is a great account in the John Hinde Diaries a blog by his daughter. A great read. He had climbed all over the world including Dhaulagiri in the Himalayas.
John was still in the RAF Kinloss Team when I joined in 1972. He took me to Skye on an early attempt at Sgurr na Gillian on Skye in winter. We aborted near the summit as John’s frostbite on his feet from Denali were causing problems and were frozen.On the descent he told us a wee part of the story Alaska was a different place then. John was a wonderful story teller and we used to be enthralled by his tales of epics from the past 40 years. He was an ex Team Leader then but so happy to pass on his knowledge to all.
John was the Scottish Mountain Rescue Stats officer for many years. His knowledge was outstanding and he gave me a huge interest in what happens. He did so much through his knowledge for Mountain Safety and through his work the Archive of these years is very well documented. He also helped build the old abseil posts into Coire Leis (Ben Nevis) now gone with the Kinloss team and Hamish after a few accidents. https://diariesofjohnhinde.wordpress.com/about/
June 2012 – Ben Nevis Abseil Posts Removed
The eight abseil posts leading down from the Carn Mor Dearg arête into Coire Leis on the north side of Ben Nevis have been removed. The majority of the poles had fallen into disrepair and were unsafe to use. The highest abseil post provided a useful navigation aid and is to be replaced by a two metre high cairn that will be constructed in the same style as the other navigation cairns which currently exist across the summit plateau. This cairn will mark the top of the obvious descent line into Coire Leis in poor visibility. The cairn will be constructed by the landowners – The John Muir Trust. The cairn is in place from the end of July 2012 and will be located at Grid Reference NN 17078 71000
Tower Ridge – After a tragic job on Ben Nevis on 1972 when 3 Navy climbers fell on Tower ridge. After we got the casualties to the CIC hut I was volunteered to climb the route with John and two others.I had never climbed the ridge before it was a scary, wet day. John did a drawing of where he thought the climbers had fallen from. I found it pretty intimidating at 20 years old but John looked after us all day, It was a day I will never forget. I was amazed looking back why John took me but I learned so much on that tragic day.
When John retired we met him all over Scotland where he worked for the,Moray Sea school and Outward Bound Locheil many folk have great stories about this new part of his life.
He introduced so many to the mountains, gave them a love of the hills and wild places. He continued doing the Stats officer for Scottish mountain Rescue. I was on the Executive for 20 years often we worked late into the night before a big meeting John would stop the flow to tell us another great story.
John was a member of the SMC and my local club the Moray Mountaineering Club (MMC) He was extremely well thought off. He was always passing on his information on the wild places to younger members especially in the MMC .
I last saw John on 2001 heading across the Cairngorm plateau with a huge bag. We had just finished a route on Hells Lum. We had a great chat and then he was off. He was in his 70’s then and made a big impression on my young group. He was full of plans and his heart burned for these mountains. There was little he did not know about these Glen’s and Bothies he stravaiged all over and is regularly talked about to this day (2023)
Lots more written by John’s Daughter Fiona through www. John Hindes Diaries great reading. There is also lots of John stories in Two star red and book on RAF Mountain Rescue in the early days by Gwen Moffat.
Any photos stories please add them all are welcome .
It’s fun looking back and seeing the old i photos of some of the characters. I was so lucky to meet so many that had an influence on my life over the years.
George lead the team through his wit and leadership. I met him as my first team leader he stuck up for me often giving my bosses a hard time for me being out on Rescues. It was great to have him as back up of things went wrong.
I was extremely lucky he took me under his wing and taught me so much early on in my mountaineering career. Often getting a hard time from some of the old and bold of that time.
He seemed to know everyone and shared with me so many aspects of life. He made big bonds with the Keepers and Ghillies in most estates. He also knew how to deal with the landowners and the big bosses in the military. He spoke openly and told the truth after a epic. George was great at letting you into the conservation with the leading lights of the day. He was a pals with Bill Brooker, Fred Harper, Eric Langmuir, Ben Humble, Hamish McInness and so many others all over Scotland. As a tee totaler he did not need alcohol and his wit was legendary. I was so proud when I was asked to be a pall bearer for him when he passed away. He had spoken privately that he had cancer to a few of us. He said when how long did he have left would he see his beloved Rangers win the European cup the Consultant said sadly not. He passed away a few weeks later.
George rarely spoke about his exploits but he was a key man during the Cairngorm tragedy in 1971 helping direct the helicopter into the plateau in appalling weather by walking in front ! He spoke to all the same way. His famous story of taking some Air Marshal out on the hill and he forgot his bag. It was full on winter. George replied” The Mountains have no respect for rank go and get your bag” you can pay for the coffee while we wait for you.
He was a brilliant speaker all off the cuff. He was an early “Billy Connelly “for quick replies and was never short of words. He was a Physical Training Instructor but smoked at lot. He became a very proficient parachute instructor but his skills were in Mountain Rescue. He became a Mountain Rescue Team Leader and was great at getting information from survivors of an accident and thought out of the box on rescues. It was the way he made folks feel comfortable that they opened up to him a rare skill.
He made pals everywhere no matter who or what they did and when he left the service he became a key man in the Pentland where he introduced many to the outdoors.
Leadership I feel is learning from folk like George. He would laugh at some of the ways we teach it now. He possessed so many skills. Communication he could talk to anyone. Humour always there too bring humour into a tale.
Learning from the past and mistakes made and being honest about it. He was despite being a small man had a strong character if you messed with him you were sorted out.
I often think of George and his stories.
We were talking about searches it was for a Ghillie who went missing. As normal the Police and local Team leader briefed us and we were given basic information. George them spoke to his workmates who said he would have a Garron with him ( a Highland pony for taking stags of the hill. George went out in a land rover and saw a Garron on its own by the track. The Ghillie was injured not far from it. George got him sorted and took him back where he recovered. His thinking was always get the story first hand many things get missed in the initial rush to search areas. A lesson I never forgot !
The Nest of Fannichs : One of two houses that stood at the head of Loch Fannaich. Cabuie Lodge was demolished, it was feared that it would be flooded when the Hydro enlarged the loch. The Nest was lost to a gas explosion and fire about 1989. It was a classic Mountain bothy in a wild area.
I had been at the bothy a few times the first supporting an early Team Leaders course in 1973 ? When I met them coming of the hill they were exhausted and they were all very fit. Another time we met Hamish Brown and his dog overnight. I also had winter climbed in the Geala Buttress and night stopped at the bothy after an epic day. There were few about in these days we had the huge cliff to ourselves and a basic guide. The scope was immense for winter climbing. It’s great to hear that this wild place with a huge walk in is getting climbed on again. (Jan 2023)
North – South walk: Where were you 46 years ago in 1976 we were young and had a plan, we used our leave (holiday time) for the full year nearly ? We lived on packet soup l, porridge and some compo rations. It was a North to South of Scotland basic kit and lots of pain. Diary extract:
Day 5 May 13 1976 – The winter is not over !
Route. Loch Droma bothy – The Fannichs Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor ,Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan, Meall Gorm, Meall A’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Na Chlach Geala Sgurr nan Each – The bothy the Nest of Fannichs.
We were glad to leave the damp wet bothy and head for another big hill day we had planned to climb as many of the Fannichs as possible. It was away early, the tea and porridge a ritual. The snow was down to the road and we had a day planned for the high peaks of the Fanniachs.
This range of peak contains 9 Munros and most lie on the A835 road to Ullapool. It is a route do lightweight and in later years I did it in its entirety on at least on 12 occasions , twice in winter a long 16 hour day!
It was a classic training day for stamina for the newer team member’s. Not today though with a big bag and poor weather we would see what happens? The main ridge is fairly continuous with outliers and the final two are separated by a big beleach of 550 metres. It was a big pull out of the bothy up the broad snowed up slopes and onto the main ridge a big pull in the winter weather. Our wet gear and feet were a worry as we were wearing the standard Curlies very basic boots and three pairs of socks to try to keep them dry and warm but no chance.
We were soon on the summit of Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich. This is a good viewpoint but not today and now in cloud onto the big summit of Sgurr Mor with its very steep ridge and in the bad weather it was not easy to find the summit cairn perched close to the edge of the cliff. We had thought of picking this up on the way back but the weather was worrying and better to get it done and if the weather improves skirt it in the way back! This is a tricky place on a winter day not the place to slip with the snow and was very icy covered with the fresh snow.
This is an impressive hill and stands proud with its summit like at times a big Alpine peak. There was little shelter so we kept moving on out to the far two Munros Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan. It sounds , simple but a long walk out into wind and wild weather. We were left with a dilemma, should we leave our bags on the beleach but the fresh snow made it an easy decision to make, No! It was then back along the ridge climbing Meal Gorm again ( does that count as another Munro) with the odd views of Loch Fannich below. We were back over Sgurr Mor the weather made any attempt at skirting it impossible and then out onto Meall A’ Chrasgaidh and back to the beleach and the Sgurr Nan Clach Geala and its huge buttress breaking through the and giving us great views.
That day we saw the mighty An Teallach and the Fisherfield wilderness more remote Munros and of course the previous days Beinn Dearg hills and then the days to come with the great glens mountains sneaking a view, The final peak of the day is Sgurr Nan Each and the wild descent to the Nest of Fannichs bothy. There was no way in the conditions we could do anymore hills 6-7 Munros was enough for today, the weather was wild and we just wanted of the hill and into the bothy. It was comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannaich ” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1989 and never replaced)
loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at last and get the fire going with the dry bogwood left by previous visitors and some dry wood by the Fannich Estate. On arrival we got changed and then the process of fire on, stove on and food on the go tea and soup were wonderful and then the evening meal.
What a classic bothy I had stayed here before and it was in an incredible situation a classic bothy . We were soon sorted and pretty tired with two hard days, we slept well as the weather again picked up and the snow turned to rain. I was always amazed as how Jim my companion coped on arrival each night he was amazing and so organised everything was packed neatly everything in its place and me and Paul lived completely the opposite and Paul was definitely worse than me.
By now our characters were showing: Jim the driving force, Paul low key head down and getting stronger very day me just chugging along. My knee was hurting every day and I was getting left a bit behind. We saw huge herds of deer every day and no one, the hills and bothies were so quite this was a specail time in our lives. Each day we got more hill aware, the showers the weather we started to know when the changes were coming in weather. We became I feel at one with our surroundings a unique period in my 60 odd years on the hill. We had a huge river to cross next day I was worried as it snowed all night.
The ruins at the Nest of Fannichs.
These were great days you met some characters in these Bothies. A few hill walkers but there was a lot of exploration going on in the early 70’s on these winter cliffs. Sitting in the bothy listening to the tales of climbers was interesting and fired my love for these places. Climbing was not so busy then there were some great characters about and I loved exploring these wild Corries and often getting in an easier route. Yet on a big new cliff like the Geala buttress was hugely exciting and testing.
Comments as always welcome as are any photos of this Lost bothy.
Hamish during and before COVID used to send me little stories of past days to me me most are in that wonderful book above. I know how much he enjoyed talking about these days. His memory had recovered and he would produce a photo from his office. He always had a unique tale that he could tell you about. It was not always about Rescues or the expeditions but the many local characters he had met over his long life.
One that stood out was a photo of Hamish in the back of a yellow Wessex SAR helicopter. He had found a place to unwind only accessible by boat near Diabeg on Loch Torridon. He had his mates Joe Brown, Mo Anthoine to w help build a bothy on some land he had received permission from the land owner to put his wee bothy up. Most items were taken in by boat but as only Hamish could do the furniture was “ taken i by a overloaded “Bumble bee” a Wessex helicopter. It’s a great tale told with others in his W the back on a rocking chair with headphones on on that crazy day. The crew helped him and other unload from the only flat piece of land nearby. His tales of getting building items from Applecross with the locals by boat and raft is a great tale on its own. I wonder if any of the SAR crew are about and remember these crazy days. Of course Hamish had a bit of an epic with planning authorities it’s all in his book and the local characters who helped him.
The story in the book is so visual and another side of Hamish that few knew. A cabin by the sea is chapter 27 of his book and explains in detail the help he had. It was an honour to be told these tales by the great man how I and so many others miss him.
Hamish had a way of getting things done,he had so many contacts and I will dig out my pieces he sent me.
I would love to hear from the helicopter crews and anyone involved in this wee tale. Just to read Hamish’s account makes me laugh. Is there a finer way to be remembered?
Dan Bailey UKC –
A giant of the mid 20th Century of similar stature to Brown and Bonington, though arguably with a legacy more wide-reaching and diverse than either, Hamish MacInnes was a polymath who’s practical inventiveness heavily influenced the development of the modern technical ice axe, and gave the rescue world the lightweight, folding MacInnes Stretcher, iterations of which are still in production.
For many years the head of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, he is credited with kick-starting a modern rescue service in Scotland, and with setting up the Search and Rescue Dogs Association (SARDA). An interest in avalanches, then poorly understood in the UK, led to his involvement in establishing what’s now known as the Scottish Avalanche Information Service. Anyone who’s either worked in mountain rescue, or needed their services, clearly owes something to MacInnes.
The Tragsitz was used widely in the Alps and Jonnie Lees was a exponent of it. The finest achievement of Lees’s career – for which he became the only man to be awarded the George Medal for a cliff rescue – was the night rescue of Major Hugh Robertson, from a ledge on the Snowdonia cliff Craig yr Ysfa in January 1958.This was after taking a climber with serious head injuries of a crag in Wales ( Lees therefore improvised a sit-harness out of a coiled rope, the 14-stone soldier was hoisted on to his back, and the two were lowered – Robertson delirious and clawing at Lees’s face – into the vertical darkness and down to ground. The rescue, in bitter and savage conditions, undoubtedly saved Robertson’s life. Its aftermath saw considerable technical developments in mountain rescue, notably the introduction of the continental Tragsitz.
I have lots of memories of the dreaded Tragsitz. As a wee skinny lad I would have to take one of the bigger folk in the Mountain rescue team down a steep cliff. This was usually done training at Longhaven sea cliffs. My back was always sore after it and landing on ledges was awful. I felt I had limited balance and if folks were not there to help you at the bf end of a lower you both fell over. It battered your shoulders and I was so glad when we got rid of them. From then on it was a simple crag snatch for a fallen climber so much easier but still could be tricky.
The Tragsitz designed for taking casualties storm steep rock faces whilst strapped to rescuer’s back. Mainly orange waterproof material with brown nylon and faded red leather straps and metal buckles.
Do you have any stories of the Tragsitz or photos ?
Yesterday I did a wee bit of filming with Dave and Claire McLeod. The weather held for us and we got a few shots and a wee video done.The drive down was okay apart from Inverness which seems to have its own climate and heavy snow.
I went down the night before due to the weather forecast and stayed in Onich. The hills when they cleared had plenty of snow and I stopped a few times.
Yesterday we met for coffee and headed up the Glen. Dave was with his wife Claire and they make a formidable team.All went well the light changing and views of the Mamores and Waterslide ever changing.
We were above Scimitar buttress the ground frozen an a few groups of kids on Outdoor bound courses were about. Good to see them out and about. We had a good chat got the filming done before the weather broke. I have in the past done a few searches on this area and you forget how huge it is. Steep and craggy not the place to slip.
Dave did not remember but we were both spoke at the Dundee Film Festival in 2008 alongside Rheinold Messner. Thomas Humar and a few others. Hallowed company .
Dave had his drone up at the end and we heard the helicopter flying there was a few Rescues on today in Glencoe and Ben Nevis.I have some great memories of rock climbing at Polldubh in early summer before the midges come. Dave has done several extreme projects over the years he is a world class athlete with no ego.
The forecast was for wild weather so I hard back about 1400 stoping to see friend’s in Newtonmore. There was lots of snow high on the hills but the roads were clear. I did not stay long as a weather warning came in and headed home. The roads were okay but I got battered on the last few miles home. It was a long day I think Claire was worried about my cough but it was okay and great to meet them again.
It’s great to met such folk easy to chat to both with immense knowledge of scotland and the Uk. Just to get out among such god folk is a tonic and I met Donald Watt ex Team Leader of Lochaber MRT and Norah his lovely wife. Sadly I had little time to catch up but will be back . Thanks Dave and Claire for a fun morning.
From Daves website:
“ I am a professional all-round climber based in the highlands of Scotland. I’ve been climbing for 27 years and have climbed 8C boulders, 9a sport climbs, E11 trad, XII,12 mixed and 8b+ free solo. I’m best known for my first ascents of routes such as Rhapsody, the world’s first E11 trad route, Anubis VII,12 one of the world’s hardest mixed climbs and Echo Wall on Ben Nevis. As well as my FAs in Scotland, I’ve climbed numerous hard big walls around the world such as Project Fear (400m 8c) on the north face of Cima Ovest, Paciencia (900m 8a) Eiger North Face, Disco 2000 (400m 8a+, Blamman, Norway).
I’m also known for my writing on training and improvement in climbing. I hold an undergraduate degree in Sports Science and Physiology, an MSc in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Human Nutrition. I’ve been blogging and vlogging for 15 years and my two books 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes and Make or break are among the best selling titles worldwide on training and injury prevention in climbing. When I’m not climbing I spend my time studying and writing about sports science and nutrition, or with my wife Claire and daughter Freida. I occasionally make mountain films as well.
To keep up with what I’m writing or climbing, please do follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in which I discuss interesting new science in climbing, training ideas and upcoming events.”
It’s great to read of folk climbing enjoying the winter. There is lots of snow falling over the next few days. Please be careful and read the weather and Avalanche Reports.
Things have moved on over the years the weather reports and the Scottish Avalanche Service Information (SAIS). They are free to use and especially the SAIS a lot of folk worked very hard to get the service established.
Over the years I was at many tragic avalanches we knew little in those days. I worked hard to gain knowledge and support the early days of Avalanche Awareness courses at Glenmore Lodge. I had a few near misses in these days. Luck was on my side I think. In the early 80’s we had a great day on North Buttress on the Buachaille in Glencoe.
Sixth sense: on that day in Glencoe we encountered heavy snow the forecasts were not so accurate then. If I remember there was an avalanche update on a board as you set of on the hill. I never felt happy but pushed on staying roped up to the summit in deep snow: Hindsight says we should have abseiled off.
On the summit we were tired the weather was poor and on these days the descent was by Coire Tullaich. At the start of the descent was not happy there was so much wind slab about and had a bit of a battle to convince the others not to drop into the corrie. Instead I convinced them to descended along the ridge and then into Glen Etive a lot longer but in my mind safer. I had done a few searches here. It was a Sunday night we held the team up from getting home as it took a lot longer to get off the hill. At least we were down.
Better safe , than sorry : That day when we got down we were tired after two good days climbing. Then we were told we were needed to assist a local team in the North. A big drive and a night search followed. Next day we located the climber he had been avalanched and was sadly killed. It was the start of a sad few winters.
There is some great advice about reference staying safe in the winter. My advice do a Avalanche course it’s well worth the cost
A great read as well it was a great insight into Scottish Avalanche Conditions.
The role of many voluntary agencies has changed over the years. In my field in the early 70’s the majority of incidents were for mountaineers in trouble on the hills and wild places. I saw things change over the years to where nearly 40% were for looking for “ vulnerable people”
Vulnerable people – these can range from sadly the changes in society over the years. Many are for elderly folk with Alzheimer’s and other problems to sadly suicide attempts by all generations. It’s an awful time to be in need of help as the resources are so overstretched that most Health boards cannot cope. Add to that the pressures of living today in a society that seems at times to have lost its values.
I have over my time been to many incidents and helped changed the way we looked for missing folk. Its a different state of mind and many illnesses need a different approach to searching. This is where the Police, Mountain Rescue, SARDA and other Agencies like the SAR helicopters, Coastguards and lifeboats are extremely valuable.
Attitudes have changed a lot over the years and when someone goes missing in a small village or town the local involvement is massive. Many now have ageing relatives and can see how their problems can cause great worry.
In my early days as Team Leader I took my young Mountain Rescue Team members to an old folks home to see the problems they coped with. To many it was an eye opener and an insight into what used to be a hidden world. After that visit most realised that these folk could be there Mum and Dad and slowly attitudes changed.
Sadly in these troubled times suicides are I am sure on the rise? Mental Health can effect all ages and to me is a ticking time bomb as there is not the funding to deal with it. Money is tight, the NHS is struggling and mental health like most things is lacking in staff and finances.
It’s heartbreaking to recover people from Suicides. Being s mountaineer you understand the risks and but for the grace of god it could be you. Yet in my view there is nothing worse than finding a suicide victim who has taken their own lives. It is such a sad thing a cry for help that has been missed.
As I get older you see how age, health and life changing events make you see things very differently. At least folk are talking about mental health.
Teams and voluntary Agencies should not be forgotten dealing with these new incidents. Many have set up help but much needs to be done to ensure the care is there.
It’s worth mentioning that a few of my friends really strong folk have struggled with health and getting older. It’s tragic to see folk that were so strong become this shell of a person. It’s not easy to keep smiling as your health deteriorates and things look black. Yet even a short walk in the fresh air helps as does chatting to someone you trust.
Many of us spent years looking after others people we never knew on the mountains. Please look after each other. If you have contacts with Agencies that can help please add them below: As always comments welcome.
The Wellbeing Framework should be considered as a tool to use when developing local, and national, resilience and support “packages” for use across volunteer responder organisations. It aims to encourage and support a holistic approach to team member wellbeing. The Wellbeing Framework might be an opportunity to get the team thinking themselves about risk and protective factors and impacts on self, family, and employment for example. Some ideas on how to start the conversations within the team are on the supplementary sheet on this page along with thoughts on supporting potentially traumatic events. Links to some wellbeing videos are also on this page and can be used to start conversations.
Membership of a voluntary responder team should be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Indeed, it can be seen to tick all five of the commonly referred to “Five ways to Wellbeing” – Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Give, and Take Notice. But, across the world, it is recognised that within volunteer (and full time) responder organisations this wellbeing and good mental health can be challenged by some of the tasks that team members can be exposed to, and this in turn has potential impacts on family, employment, the team, and life outside of volunteering. The SMR Wellbeing Framework aims to take a holistic approach to volunteer responder wellbeing and resilience. This expands on previous initiatives, such as Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) training, which are more suited to post-event intervention/support, and for various reasons, and from experience, have not been easily adopted in volunteer organisations such as mountain rescue. Looking after wellbeing should be seen as just as important as other training that goes to help protect the physical health and safety of members. Teams should manage all activities taking account of both the risks to both physical and mental health and well being of team members.
It’s so necessary we learn from the past and look to a better future for who give so much.
I was so lucky travelling all over Scotland meeting so many characters from all Mountain Rescue Teams. It was great to meet so many characters especially as a young lad. Many like Hamish McInnes, Big Ian Nicholson, Walter and Willie Elliot from Glencoe were already well known mountaineers and characters. Yet on Call outs we all worked together. It was the same with Lochaber MRT where many ex RAF had settled down.
Our nearest teams Cairngorm, Glenmore Lodge, Braemar and Aberdeen were often calling the RAF Teams to assist on big Rescues. These were the days of the Glenmore Mafia a group of incredible mountaineers. These teams had huge characters as well but in bad weather it was strange how you rarely saw a face under the goggles and balaclavas in wild weather.
Yet it was always the locals that were key players. Estate workers, local mountaineers and the local Police made it a unique period.
Travelling about in the far North of Scotland we met so many of the local folk. From Skye, Kintail, Assynt , Torridon and Dundonnald . Areas with a small population covering huge remote mountains.
There were and still are so many characters in Mountain Rescue. Various things like the Killin Team Leader was killed when the Wessex helicopter crashed on Ben More on a Callout. That night and the day after we had a special bond with the Killin Team.
There were so many folk great memories of Braemar MRT who were so kind when I lost two great pals climbing on Lochnagar Mark and Neil. The team was so kind and caring to me and others.
You build up a trust with folks hard won at times as at you are only visitors in their area. Yet over the years we build friendships.
I had a great relationship with SARDA and seeing them work on the hill in terrible conditions mostly alone used to worry me. They were also great as the had lots of female handlers this was at a time when there were few in the teams.
Lots of teams had fathers and sons in there ranks. This was a great asset as most like Ryan and his Dad were Torridon trained. We must never forget the families who supported their loved ones. Nowadays it is often mentioned but I spoke to a few wife’s who worried as their loved ones when out on a rescue.
I was very fortunate to meet so many great mentors in RAF Mountain Rescue. John Hinde was one who helped me a lot and gave me so much of the history of our Service.
Various Team Leaders also were real characters and you learn from most of them. Also one never forgets the team members you share so much with them over the years. Many become lifetime friend’s the mountains are a great place to learn about not just mountaineering but life.
There are so many characters to mention. Folk like Peter Cliff, Donald Watt, Terry Cornfield. So many others like Team members in every team: real characters who never seek the limelight but are true unselfish folk.
Nowadays there are still many characters about in every team from Galloway to the Hebrides. They all rely on local support and fundraising not easy in these austere days.
It’s the same with the SAR helicopters there are so many characters all over UK each with a tale to tell. It’s the same with the Police who are responsible for missing mountaineers and others. They also have a long history of supporting the teams.
I cannot thank you all enough and it’s great to see the changes in Mountain Rescue today. It’s even better to see how many young folk we made a difference to over the years. Many became Team Leaders others great unassuming Team members. The mountains give you that bond that in many stays with you for life. So look after those young folk they are the leaders of tomorrow never take anything for granted.
A pal asked me recently if when I am feeling better would fancy going snow holing this winter? It brought back so many memories some good some bad of some wild nights in the Cairngorms and Ben Nevis.
In those days snow holing was a big thing. Groups would be out in the various snow hole sites in the Cairngorms.
With big bags with shovels attached heading for the familiar sites in the Cairngorms Snow holes are built in areas where snow collects and on one call – they were searched for a pal bog mine and his partner that were missing. It was a terribly hard 3 day Callout and dug down to over 3 meters to find a snow holes where we thought they were,
Sadly they were not there but had perished above the Goat Track on the plateau. It was during the great blizzards and we will never know what happened. I think they were in a snow hole and they tried to make it to safety when a huge storm came in.
Snow build up : The first thing to remember that the snow holes are built in areas where the snow builds up. It does not need much wind either to move the snow about especially on the Cairngorm plateau. The amount of snow that can move about even in a short time is considerable.
You cannot see how the winds are moving snow especially on the plateau when inside a snow hole.
Once inside your snow hole the weather and out of the wind it is easy to become complacent on the weather outside. Here are a few thoughts:
Many folk including Glenmore lodge has used snow holes since 1948 and the sites in the Cairngorm plateau for survival training courses and are often used for consistency of the drifting snow even in the leanest of winters.
It was in this wild places that I learned to snow hole. On our annual two week winter course the first night was spent on the plateau digging snow holes. To me this was a recipe for a disaster, the Plateau in winter can be so serious.
When I took over as the Senior Instructor of the winter course I would arrange that the snow -holing was done later in the course . We would do it in two groups on different days. This would manage it better to lessen the impact on the snow hole sites. It would also ensure that for a few inexperienced teams’ members who came from the then six RAF Mountain Rescue Teams that their first look at a Scottish winter was not on the first night on the hostile Cairngorm plateau.
Tales from the snow holes:
I once had a dog called Teallach, (the softest long-haired Alsatian you could ever meet) he finished his Munros in 1985 and he had only twelve left for his second time around, when he unfortunately passed away. He had a life of adventures he was with me as a pup on ever adventure in the mountains . He loved winter where he knew when the snow was coming as his coat changed.
He was pretty hard core but what a companion, he was so loyal and easy going and he never let me down. These were incredible times when I was spending at least 150 days on the hills each year and Teallach was getting out even more as he was the ideal hill companion.
I spent many years snow-holing over 30 winters mainly in the Cairngorms it was the thing to do in the 70/80/90/2000 ‘s and was still part of the syllabus of Mountain Training programmes.
As RAF Mountain Rescue we would have an annual winter course which was 14 days winter mountaineering in Scotland. It was a great experience with a unique one to one ratio of pupil and instructor. The six teams and two overseas teams at one time would send pupils and instructors and over 40 plus would attend. The experience of pupils would be varied and some of the pupils had never worn crampons or ice axes? This was their first taste of winter but we were very lucky to have all our own extremely talented instructors. The course would be based at the superb Grantown On Spey Centre home of the RAF PTI cadre who took leave and left us to their incredible facilities. Their bosses though wondered what they would come back to?
History / The first day started with a few lectures, kit check and then off we went with huge bags to do winter skills then walk up on to the Cairngorm plateau to the snow hole sites. It may sounds easy but it is not, big bags are hard work and the arctic plateau in February is not the place to make mistakes.
We always did a bit on basic skills with the ice axe and crampons and headed up to get sorted and pick a good site. If we were lucky we may find a snow hole already dug.
I had a secret weapon my dog Teallach who joined in the fun but was aware all the time where we were. The troops always enjoyed the experience but that was because most had no clue of the dangers.
The snow hole sites are usually the lee slopes high up and sheltered and can be very busy in winter. After the usual hard work and a hole can be built in 2 hours. It is hard work and you have to make sure all your kit is well-marked and away from all the snow you are moving. A ski pole or avalanche probe was ideal for this.
Big shovels and decent saws can make the job easier. If organised you can soon you can be sorted and have a great night. We usually went out for a night navigating exercise on the plateau a very interesting adventure and a key skill. Over the years we worked out that good insulation was the key to a comfortable night.
Top tip: We always marked our snow hole with an avalanche pole or ski pole at night with a light stick and joined each hole together with ropes. I once was making a brew when crashing through my roof came a well-known instructor much to our amusement. His name is withheld for my book!
A candle and a spacious area to live in makes living and cooking easier and is also a guide to how much air is available for breathing.
My dog Teallach was even better than a canary in a mine as soon as the entrance started to block he was out clearing the entrance.
Top tip: You have to keep checking that you have fresh air in the snow hole at all times. I have so many stories of epics it is no wonder I never slept in a snow hole I was always prepared for the unexpected.
Movement of wind blown snow: During the night on many occasions the wind would move the snow and we would have to get out and dig ourselves out!
Keep an eye on each other: One night on the Cairngorm Plateau after the usual few drams in our snow hole, we all drifted back to our own holes. Just as we were falling asleep, I heard a noise outside and thinking that it was a raid on our whisky store, sent Teallach out to chase them off. Even though Teallach was a big softy, in the dark and around the snow hole, he must have looked fearsome. Imagine my consternation the about an hour later, when I went out and found two climbers curled up and shivering. They had left their sacks below Hells Lum Crag and the weather had changed drastically and could not find them. They had staggered back onto the plateau and were in a bad way. They had seen our light from the snow hole in a break in the weather and they thought they were safe. They made their way to safety only to be met by a huge dog, who would not let them in the snow hole. I brought them in, gave them a brew and walked them off in the morning, meeting Cairngorm MRT, who was coming to look for our “lost” friends. (Another confession) I was reminded of this story by a photo I put up on social media.
Be aware of what is happening outside! You can be unaware of the weather outside and it is not easy when in the shelter of the snow hole to make your inexperienced friends aware of how wild things can get.The wind changes all the time and the entrance can get easily blocked. Get ready inside the snow hole if its blowing heavily as when you get out life can get difficult!
Points – Check the weather forecast and be aware that snow will move during the night in the form of spindrift and can easily block an entrance.
Put all Gear not being used in a safe place away from where you are digging, mark it as it could be covered by snow fairly quickly.
Wear as little as possible when digging it is hard work.
Try to keep dry as possible. Use good shovels and kit.
Check that there is enough snow to dig a snow-hole if planning to stay a night! Use an avalanche probe to check depth and mark roof! The bigger the better, if in a big group link snow holes.
Make the ceilings as smooth as possible to stop drips. A gortex Bivy bag will keep you dry inside your sleeping bag and good sleeping insulation is very important!
Keep air circulating:
Remember when cooking you need air make sure the snow hole is well ventilated at all times! Link snow holes by a rope that way you will ensure that if you have to move out quickly you can reach the other snow holes.
When inside the snow hole it is easy to forget where you are remember the wind and temperature are static inside and a big storm could be brewing outside. If going out especially in the night tell someone and wear your kit.
Nearly a disaster :One of ours a young lad went out in inner boots and could not get back in another went out in bare feet and fell down the slope . THE SNOW HAD FROZEN AND WAS TOO STEEP TO GET IN WITHOUT BOOTS AND AN AXE!
Only the dogs barking woke us,they was lucky. He was an officer so maybe that possibly explains it.
It is worth carrying a pee bottle to save you going out at night! Always tell someone you are going out, if you have to!
Leave nothing outside apart from Skis bring everything in and be ready to move in the event of a problem!
Have all your kit really handy right beside you.
What do you do if you need the loo, you do it and carry it out see the Mountaineering Scotland’s advice on this!
YOU MUST REMEMBER THAT WHEN YOU LEAVE THE SITE YOU MUST LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS! Even your POO must be taken out.
There are many more tips. Read Martin Moran’s wonderful Scotland’s winter mountains a classic.
Finally – in a trip to Edinburgh about 6 years ago with 4 well qualified mountaineers one a guide they all said that they all had some incredible serious nights snow holing in the Cairngorms.
Finally be ready for what the weather is doing outside. Get prepared for the worse weather.
Most of the bivouacs in my early days in these days the bivouac gear was basic. Orange polythene bags were the standard. This was the early 80’s a few on call-outs. My worst one was on Skye in 1982 on the USA F111. I have written about this in previous blogs. On my Big walks when we had to find a bothy we stayed in the platform at Bridge of Orchy station.
All this was good training for what was to come. We got issued with Gortex bivouac bags they were a great improvement from the unbreathable polythene bags. They were a great asset not just for us but casualties.
I located this photo below from my old pictures it was on my first trip to the Himalayas in 1990. It was to Kusung Kanguru 6,367 m (20,889 ft). It was a huge learning curb. We were supposed to move upandstay thenight and the other two were going to descend. Anyway we had to bivyoutsidethatnight it was a Balticand we learned a lot. This wad especiallytrue for Willie Mac who had an epic Bivy on Diran Peak ( PakistanViewed from the Hunza Valley, Diran is a gentle pyramid and is considered to be the second easiest 7000m peak in the Karakoram after Spantik, although it has a reputation for avalanches. The Karakoram Highway runs up the Hunza Valley and gives easy access to the mountain. This 7,266-metre (23,839 ft) pyramid shaped mountain lies to the east of Rakaposhi
The summit boys bivouacking at 20000 feet on Diran at 20000 feet after there tents were taking out by a big avalanche. Summit group Dan, Vanders, Guy (RIP) Davy , Willie.
Over the years we used bothy bags and tents on overnight crash guards a big improvement from these early days. The tent was a great improvement if we were there for a few nights especially on aircraft crashes.
We all take the work of the SAR helicopters, most who have flown in wild weather have their own tales. I have had my share sadly I was there when the Wessex crashed on Ben More Crianlarich killing the Team Leader of the Killin MRT Harry Laurie. A terrible day.
A few years later when I was Team Leader at RAF Kinloss that a Sea King Helicopter had crashed on Creag Mheagaidh with Lochaber MRT on board. It was a scary few hours of worry and fear. Thank goodness due to some incredible flying no one was badly injured. Like many tales few ever come out but this is a part of the tale through some of those involved.
I read this on Lochaber MRT Facebook. It is from various folk. One from the archives this is from an excerpt from the Series and book “Rescue” by Paul Beaver and Paul Berriff. They were working on a series that year 1989 on Rescues in Scotland.
“Around mid-morning on Thursday 28 January 1989, Sea King helicopter call sign Sierra Kilo 138 took off from Lossiemouth. On board were four air crew, two film crew and members of 202 Squadron’s ground crew. They were to spend the forthcoming weekend on ‘detachment’ in Fort William, some 90 miles south of Lossiemouth. Often the second stand-by Lossiemouth helicopter will visit a ‘high casualty risk’ area for a few days to familiarize crew with the terrain, local mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews. Thursday afternoon and Friday were spent flying around Ben Nevis, the Cuillins on Skye and carrying out winching practice on Loch Linnhe, Fort William.
On Saturday morning 138 flew senior members of the Lochaber MRT on a recce around the proposed site of new ski slopes to the north of Ben Nevis. At 12.30 138 landed at Corpach near Fort William to drop off the MRT, and to collect a stretcher and other Lochaber team members for a training sortie to Creag Meagaidh.
Thirty minutes later helicopter 138 was lying wrecked at the base of the mountain.
The helicopter had been making an approach to a mountain rescue post at the base of Creag Meagaidh when a mechanical problem caused a failure in one of the two engines. Sierra Kilo 138 was at a height of 80 feet and turning to approach the rescue post when pilot Steve Hodgson called over the intercom ‘engine out we’re going down’.
Skilfully he brought the aircraft down on boggy ground, softening the impact. The helicopter skidded for 500 yards, nosedived into a ditch then turned over on to its starboard side. The main rotor blades snapped and splintered while the two sponsons were torn from the fuselage. Inside the aircraft some of the passengers were thrown around but the well-made fuselage protected everyone on board from otherwise certain death.
As soon as the aircraft had stopped moving everyone scrambled out. Two personal locator distress beacons were activated on the life-jackets of the crew and Paul Berriff, the producer/camera-man, put out a mayday call on a handheld VHF marine radio. While the aircraft had been descending to the ground, Paul ‘Gramps’ Challice had also sent out a mayday transmission on the HF radio, but owing to the mountainous terrain no-one received either of the may-dav calls. A passing climber, who luckily saw the crash, ran three miles to a telephone and dialled 999. Because of a snow warning the survivors decided to walk down the mountain footpath towards the main Spean Bridge to Newtonmore road, just in case the pending weather conditions made it impossible for other rescue helicopters to reach the crash scene.
At the time of the crash, Rescue 134, the Wessex rescue helicopter from 22 sauadron RAF Leuchars, was on the ground at Glen-more Lodge rescue post 20 miles away in the Cairngorms, while at Lossiemouth the first stand-by Sea King, Rescue 137, was undergoing engine maintenance. Within a few minutes of the call being received at Lossiemouth duty pilot John Prince had checked the newly serviced engine and got airborne. Rescue 134 was already on its way from the Cairngorms.
No-one knew at this stage whether or not there were casualties. Twenty anxious minutes went by before Rescue 134 arrived on scene.”
“The slope was too steep to land the Wessex where we needed to pick up. So to save winching we balanced the main wheel on that boulder to make it an easy step up for the survivors !
The ‘Staying Alive Party’ that night was great. There was a female wing commander admin RAF officer there with the Leuchars team, accessing whether females could join the RAF MRT’s. It was an interesting night for her when the troops, both military and civilian started comparing previous ‘hill damage’ scars on their bodies, including stripping off in the bar !
So glad everybody survived that SK 138 crash. A great example of the skill of the Lossie pilots dealing with the sudden engine failure in difficult terrain and the solid build of the Sea King.
Flying a ‘yellow cab’ up to another ‘yellow cab’ that looked like a smashed scrapyard wreck, not knowing if there were any survivors or who we would find or whether some massive mountain downdraught had hit the helicopter was an interesting flight, to say the least.”
George Phillips – pilot of Wessex SAR helicopter.
Many of us may have a Helicopter story to tell as always comments welcome.
I thought this would be of interest to many of the older generation in Mountain Rescue. Jimmy Ness was a true mountaineers mountain man. Over many years I met him and he would tell me of epic call outs in the 40’s and 50’s on Ben Nevis. He would speak of these early days long carry offs and use of the bogey to get casualties of the hill. I met him often a few years ago at Hamish’s house as Hamish was recovering from illness. I would be honoured to listen to them chat about these early days, the characters, the tales and wish I had recorded them. Mountain Rescue was very basic then local mountaineers, estate workers and many others helping those in trouble in the mountains. Another sad loss but go and climb some of Jimmy”s routes you will not be disappointed. My thoughts are with Jimmy’s family, friends and Lochaber MRT ,
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.
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.” These words meant so much at the time and still do.
At the end of 2022 there were 7383 Munroists on the Scottish Mountaineering Club ‘List of Compleators’.
Of those 7383 people:
9.4% have also completed the Munro Tops
10.5% have completed the Corbetts
9.2% have completed the Furths (3000ft hills in Wales, Ireland and England)
3.3% have completed the Grahams
3.8% have completed the Donalds
1% have completed a Full House (Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Furths, Grahams and Donalds).
Anecdotally, it is believed that approximately 15% of Munro completers choose not to register their completion with the SMC.
There is no Munroist No. 284 on the list, this number is dedicated to ‘The Unknown Munroist’, all those people who choose not to register.
Munroist No. 5639 is N. O Body, allocated when a double registration was removed.
The male/female split on the list is 79%/20% with 1% unknown.
361 of the listed completers are multiple Munroists:
254 people have completed 2️⃣ rounds
64 have completed 3️⃣ rounds
19 have completed 4️⃣ rounds
9 have completed 5️⃣ rounds
5 have completed 6️⃣ rounds
3 have completed 7️⃣ rounds
1 person has completed 8️⃣ rounds
4 have completed 🔟 rounds
1 person has completed 1️⃣2️⃣ rounds
1 person has completed 1️⃣6️⃣ rounds
– In 1901 Rev A. E Robertson became the first person to complete the Munros.
– In 1923 Rev R. Burn became the first person to complete the Munros and Munro Tops.
– Paddy Hirst (No.10) was the first female completer in 1947.
– Steve Fallon (No. 1045) is the current record holder with 16 completions and he is well on his way to 17.
– Hazel Strachan (No. 3438) is the female record holder with 12 completions.
– Stewart Logan (No.327) has completed 10 rounds of Munros and 10 rounds of Munro Tops. A total of 5100 summits over 3000ft (allowing for reclassifications). He has also completed a Full House.
– Richard Wood (No. 88) has climbed over 8300 Munros and 3650 Corbetts.
– Bert Barnett (No. 3112) has completed 5 rounds of Munros, 3 rounds of Munro Tops, 3 rounds of Furths, 4 rounds of Corbetts, 3 rounds of Grahams and 3 rounds of Donalds. A total of 4150 summits.
– In 2020 Donnie Campbell completed the fastest Munro round in 31 days, 23 hours.
– 15 dogs are known to have completed a round of Munros. Thank you Anne
Membership is open to all those 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 7000 plus 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..
Heavy Whalley – Jan 2022 Munro no 148!in November 1976! What’s your best day out on these great hills?
The weather has improved from the wet and windy weather on the drive over. We had a couple of lovely low level walls round the Coast surrounded by Loch Torridon . Ben Alligin was looking spectacular snow covered and looking superb. The mountains and the sea are a spectacular combination.
The wind was cold when you were out but the roads cleared of ice later in day. We are taking it easy and getting looked after ( thanks Kalie) It was a low key night there was a Ceildh inApplecross but we had a low key night no alcohol The sky was clear all the planets and stars out and a half moon in the sky made the evening special. It was cold outside and clear everything was re frozen again. The West on weather like this is wonderful those who go high on the mountains today will have a spectacular day.
Scotland is a special place especially on a great day like this. I never take it for granted despite not being on the high tops even low level is a wonder every time I go out.
Sadly I have just heard of an avalanche on Ben Nevis with sadly one fatality and a big carry off by the Lochaber MRT. Never easy a tragedy at this time of year for the families involved and the Lochaber Team. Please be careful on the hills watch the weather and the Avalanche forecast daily and prior to your day out.
I hope you all have a Happy and Healthy New Year. Thanks for all your lovely message’s especially about the wee blog, . Look after each other and be happy it’s the way forward.
It’s been a hard year for many but the great thing is there are so many great folk out there. Who would believe we would have a war in Ukraine, food banks and the political unrest in the Uk.
Yet I am blessed with so many good friend’s. Also my Stepdaughter Yvette, Big Dave, Lexi and Ellie Skye bring so much joy to my life now they live closer. The girls brighten my life and they all give me such love, I am blessed.
My body is feeling it’s age and the battering of years on the hills. Many on Rescues when sensible folk are not on the hill. Folk laugh as my voice box is pretty damage. Years of abuse many say verbal. My voice has always been a huge part of my character and takes a bit of care looking after it. Bouts of coughing don’t help in these post COVID Days. Yet I am so lucky when I was I’ll I got soup and meals left by local folk and so much kindness’s.
I had a few hills days the highlight was my 65 year quest of the Corbett’s. What a day that was surrounded by great folk on the hills that I love. That was a great day and a superb meal after thank you all. I am glad we had great weather, good company and a grand hill.
These days with good friend’s are to be treasured and do not come that often. It so worth making the effort to see folk whenever you can.
I have had a few adventures with Kalie my friend on the West Coast. We visited St Kilda this year what a trip. It was an adventure in so many ways and a wonderful place to be. Kalie is so kind and keeps me right in between helping so many others. It gives you great faith in people.
I got a few great day outs One on the Fannichs in my own before winter 3 Munro’s that took me all day but what joy to be out. A wet day on the Strathfarrar hills and of course my local hill Ben Rinnes. I did enjoy Sitting on the top of Sgurr Mor in the Fannichs that was brilliant, the whole of the Highland’s in full view. Sadly health has put a stop to things just now but I will be back.
At the end of the year in the dark month of Dec we had a 3 day trip into Coruisk. This was in memory of the USA F111 that crashed on Sgur Na Stri. It was a hard slog into the bothy. I was not at my best but so wonderful to be on such a great place with good pals. It was exhausting but so worth it. Loch Coruisk has an enchanting beauty about it as does Skye. Wild, rugged beauty hills that can bite if your not careful. Yet so uplifting to be there with no one else about was incredible. Watching the light hitting the snow-capped ridge is natures way of telling you this place is special. It was a journey I will never forget despite visiting Skye so often in the past. Thank you Adrian, Simon, Kalie, Wendy, Dave and Islay.
Christmas was being looked after by Yvette, Dave and the girls,along with Dave’s Mum and Dad. We had a great time the girls made it so much fun. New Year is heading West to see Kalie. The weather was awful on the way through. Much of the roads were flooded and it was pouring with driving wind. As I passed though I saw folk heading up Liathach and Beinn Eighe. They would get a full on winter experience,
I arrived safe despite the flooding on the roads and today there is a good covering of snow low down, I will take it easy build my strength for 2023 and hopefully get out and about a bit more.
I lost a great pal who shared so many adventures with me this year. Tom MacDonald we shared some scrapes together over nearly 50 years. Others like Jimmy Clethero taken to soon a great companion , team leader missed by family and friends. It’s easy to get down but life goes on that’s what folk expect.
Live every day, see natures pictures and look after those you love.
There was a piece on Facebook with a picture of Inverailort castle in poor repair. The military had a long history of use during the war. I am sure it was featured on the television on Secret Scotland ? The RAF got to use the house as. Base after a tragic crash of a Shackleton aircraft that crashed on the 21 st Dec 1967. It was a tragedy that tested the team to the full.
John Hinde who was the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team leader at the time wrote a very detailed account of the tragedy “I sent Gordon Ballantyne and Dave Ward with two others up to the crash, which was still burning, and we set up base in the ballroom of Inverailort Castle where we were very hospitably received by the lady of the castle, Mrs L P Cameron-Head” From John Hindes Dairies well worth a read.
Older team members have memories of that tragic day. Yet they have fond memories of staying at Inverailort with its Officers toilet and old military signs remnants from the past military use.
We used the Castle a lot over the years and MRS Cameron Head was great company. We would get some incredible stories of the past. Dougie Crawford “ When in RAF mountain rescue, we used to sleep on the floor of the main hall, whilst there on exercise. There was a huge painting of one of the 17th century Cameron above the fire, who’s intense eyes used to follow you around the room….so sad to see it in this state.”
It’s a strange world where a beautiful house like this falls into disrepair. Hopefully this wee piece may bring some stories to the fore before they are lost for ever,.
I got asked on a few occasions when asked what was the Corporate issue to the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams. This was from a few filmmakers who were reacting a few Call-outs. They were amazed that most folk wore their own gear.
Ron Hill tracksters we’re very popular in the 80’s & 90’s. The troops were in these days very individual this was shown in many ways especially hill gear. On formal inspections we wore the big boots, breeches and jumpers with red socks. It was to keep the powers that be happy. I remember on an inspection at RAF Leuchars in Fife we got a call out and it was a job in the far North to Ben Hope. Immediately the inspection gear was ditched and our own gear used.
Nowadays it’s all great gear that we fought for over the years. Slowly improving things for the better. The gear is far superior now as is the equipment but when I look back how different it was.
Just a short Blog to wish you all a Happy Christmas. In the past I have been on the Hills but not this Year until after my medical issues are sorted out. Have a great time all a photos are of past times on the hill with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue now Lossiemouth MRT and I hope all the teams and rescue agencies have a peaceful period. I hope you have a quite and safe Festive Period. It was at Christmas when the Team Leader would cook for the Team the food was excellent.
Yet we often got a great day on the hill on Christmas Day. I remember a great day on Tryfan with ice on the descent route which we climbed then on to Idwal and some more ice routes . Great hill days in Scotland with no crowds. Tower Ridge rushing to get back for Christmas dinner. Ascents of Ben Nevis by 2 Gully, Ledge route, Gardh Gully and the Carn Mor Dearg arête. Early starts: no one about and the climbs and hills to ourselves.
In later years we went to Fort William and Newtonmore over the festive times. We had a few call outs sadly some nasty but we were about to assist the local teams if needed. Over the years we helped assist in searches for “ vulnerable people”. The festive season can be a hard time for many especially in these dark days.
Our families definitely missed out when we were away and we always tried to fill the Christmas period with single team members. Yet it forgotten by many what our families did for us. These were the days before mobile phones and communications were poor. Thank you all for your support.
My thoughts are with all those away from home and those who are working. Whatever your doing it is appreciated and if you can amongst all the joy think of others. Make that call pop round and visit. You will make someone’s day.
I was sent this photo showing a model of the 4 tonner wagon we used to travel in the early days out with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams. My earliest reflection was arriving in a wintry February night at Kinloss to go out for my first weekend in the team. We headed to Kintail in these days it was about a two and a half hour journey.
All the new troops were told to get into the back of the four tonner and travel on top of the lot bags and team gear. I was wearing jeans and a jumper not prepared for travelling in a canvas topped wagon. I watched as the wiser folk grab key positions and they had their sleeping bags a few had beer and most of the rest smoked. I was right at the back it was freezing. By Inverness I was frozen when someone passed me a sleeping bag. Life was good again we arrived at about 2100 in pitch dark next to the Kintail Hotel in a wee barn. The wagon was unloaded kitchen set up and sleeping spaces sorted. There was no heat in the bothy and Tilly lamps for light. We cooked on a petrol cooker called the “Bomb” Then it was over to the pub for some heat and a beer. On they way home on Sunday I was better prepared with hill gear. My gear was still wet from two days on the hill but soon inside my sleeping bag I woke up at Kinloss three hours later. We used to have a petrol trailer towed on the back as there were few garages up North and no fuel cards on these days.
My memory is also of crazy drives in the middle of the night after a big day on the hill in Torridon. Beinn Eighe and Liathach in winter. It’s was a long drive to Ben Cruachan were we had a few hours in the Police Cells prior to a first light search. Keeping Jim awake was a nightmare no elf and safety in these days.
During the great blizzards of 1978 we helped the Glencoe MRT with over 150 stuck in cars on Rannoch Moor. We got many out of there cars and had a bomb in the back of the 4 tonners heating and giving folk hot drinks. They were life savers over the next few days.
Over the years there are so many tales of these wagons and how they caused the Motor Transport Officer nightmare with incidents with deer, sheep and even a cow. He said have you killed all the sheep and deer in Scotland. They were a common sight over Scotland and lots of recoveries made over the years. If you have a any stories please send me them or photos. Comments as always welcome.
Have a great Christmas period and a thought for those working on Chrismas day.
One Man’s Legacy – Tom Patey has always been a hero of mine. I was brought into mountaineering with folk who knew and climbed with him. The stories of his climbs and escapades are incredible. During my mountaineering career I was so pleased to have climbed many of his routes. Most are classic. I will leave Adrian to review this wonderful addition to any Mountaineering Library. Enjoy:
A Biography By Mike Dixon
This is a book that I have been looking forward to reading ever since I knew it was being written. Postal strikes and an impassable road into Glen Brittle where we live, meant the book’s delivery was long delayed. Stuck at the end of a steep and winding road that hadn’t been ploughed or gritted, it was frustrating to see posts on social media as the book was delivered to customers across the country.
Suffice it to say, the wait was well worthwhile and the book exceeded all expectations. Tom Patey may have met an untimely end at the early age of 39 but he left behind a massive legacy which until now hasn’t been fully documented. Sure, there was “One Man’s Mountains”, a collection of Patey’s writings collected together and published after his death but it has taken over half a century before a biography has been written.
Not just any biography, but the template for how biographies should be. Patey’s character is complemented by the extensive research and interviews, superb writing and a fascinating collection of photos. No stuffy work of academia, this is a gripping read and once opened, it’s hard to put down.
A larger than life character, any biography of Tom was going to be on the big side if it was to do justice to a man whose attitude to life meant “packing as much as possible into 24 hours….Ordinary mortals look on reverentially and perhaps enviously at individuals who can burn the candle at both ends and still excel in various spheres; we wonder what drives them…in their often shorter than average life spans, they manage to compress more than the accumulated lives of several individuals.”
The result is that after many years of research, the author has produced not a hagiography but a warts and all biography that tells it exactly how it was. Things kick off well with a superb cover shot by John Cleare of Tom, his beloved mountains and the omnipresent cigarette. The design is more than skin deep; remove the dustwrapper and the book is elegantly finished with just Tom and his ciggy, the SMP logo being the only nod to conventionality; no title, no author details.
Enter the book and you’re greeted by a forward penned by none other than Mick Fowler, another climber who squeezes the max into 24 hours and has a history of new routing in Scotland’s north west. That Mick characterises Patey as “Hero Thomas” alongside “hero Christian (Bonnington) and “hero Joseph” (Brown) amongst others speaks volumes
The author was allowed access to the seemingly huge archive of Patey documentation gathered by Tom’s eldest son, Ian. This has provided a visual extravaganza not just of photos of Patey from an early age (as a one year old at Neuburgh beach), through many of his hill and mountain exploits as well annotated photos of climbs, sketches and the odd cartoon. The archive photos are supplemented by many from the collection of John Cleare and more modern photos by the likes of Mick Fowler and Robert Durran to illustrate some of the areas where Patey was active.
Early explorations and bothy tales make for a good introduction to Patey and you’ll meet “The Horrible Hielanders.” Patey was inspired by Malcolm Smith and Bill Brooker, “real mountaineers” who lived by an ethos he was to adopt, namely, Adventure, unconventionality, exuberance – they were the very elements missing from our scholarly conception of mountaineering which had led us with mathematical precision up and down the weary list of Munro’s Tables.”
Naturally, the focus of the book is on Patey and his climbing and how it dominated so much of his life, maybe not quite from cradle but certainly to grave. A different era is adroitly captured with words and photos. Cigarettes are omnipresent and it’s amazing how Patey was so superbly mountain fit. John Cleare’s cover shot of a ciggy smoking Tom sets the tone. Classic tales of Tom getting his nicotine fix before or during a ground breaking climb abound. When Patey was en route to climb Deep Cut Chimney on Hell’s Lum, he insisted he and Dave Holroyd stop at Jean’s Hut for a fag. Then Patey, “insisted on a having a second fag as the wind and heavy snow would make smoking impossible when they crossed the plateau.”
His insatiable appetite for climbing was fuelled by nicotine and alcohol and tales of such sustenance are legion. Whilst in the marines, his rushed breakfast often seemed to consist of a dram or a nip of brandy.
A maverick in all things, Tom’s medical career was no exception. In the Royal Marines doing his National Service, Patey needed to examine a patient complaining of abdominal pain. The dining room table in their hut doubled for the examination but what was unusual was how Tom carried on smoking as he conducted his work. “Occasionally flicking ash in the patient’s belly button, in which he would slot the filter end of the fag when requiring both hands free.”
Patey’s first patients once qualified as a doctor, were two climbers on (or rather, off) the Aiguille du Plan who had fallen then “careered head first over a 100m ice wall and continued for a further 1000m before plunging into a crevasse.” Much of Patey’s climbing career was delicately balanced with that of a doctor whether during his time in the marines or later as a GP across Scotland. Somehow he combined the role of GP, a seeming pillar of the establishment with his maverick climbing lifestyle.
Quite naturally, Patey’s climbs feature large in the book. From his early Scottish exploits to the greater ranges and outcrop climbs down south whilst doing national service. Personally, having lived in the south west, some of the outcrop and sea cliff climbs were of particular interest. Prime amongst these must be his first ascent of Wrecker’s Slab. This is a huge (for the south west) slab climb with a reputation for looseness and summed up Patey and the teams’ skill. Zeke Deacon “had not got far up the first pitch when he realised some of the holds slid out like cupboard drawers, which he replaced for the next person.”
Never the most graceful rock climber, Patey came into his own on mixed terrain and all things wintry and he left an enduring legacy of winter routes which many climbers will either have done or set their sights on. The book is filled with cutting edge routes, many of a truly exploratory bent often with well known climbers of the era. Hamish MacInnes, Bonington, Joe Brown et al feature in the book but Tom is very much the main course.
It’s a tale of climbing but one tinged by black humour and ribaldry, singing and dancing, a life lived to the max. Perhaps it was inevitable that Tom was headed for his day of destiny at The Maiden where an abseiling accident claimed his life. Despite being a superb climber, Patey seems to have had a reputation for eschewing ropes and technicalities, preferring to solo close to his limits. Rope handling was never his forte and it seems that he abseiled using a single snap link karabiner.
Tom Patey left behind a massive legacy and not just of climbs but also a plethora of tales, some encapsulated in his own writings and songs but many more deeply engrained in climbing folklore. This book captures Tom’s life and character to a tee. It is a warts and all book so expect to read about Tom the sinner as much as the saint….but then you knew that anyway.
Scottish Mountaineering Press are truly on a roll and this is a fitting last book for 2023. Watch this space but, I’d be surprised if this doesn’t feature in next year’s awards, maybe at Banff, perhaps the Boardman Tasker.
As always, please buy direct from SMP to help ensure future books;
Many thanks to Robert Michael Lovell for arranging swiftly the dispatch of the book (even if circumstances delayed it’s arrival).
It’s been a difficult year for me a lot of medical problems and very hard at times controlling the “Black Dog”is always there.
Today is a huge day in my life it is the Anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster in 1988. I was the Team Leader of the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team. It was my first stint as Team Leader and I had a great young team. We were involved in so many Call outs all over Scotland. There was a good blend of experience and youth. We coped with so much and I was extremely proud of them all. Yet that night thing changed and it has had a huge effect on my life and those I love.
I was there at Lockerbie with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and many other Agencies! It took a huge toll on many of us and still does. What we saw and did was a like a memory from hell and something I never want to be involved in anything like that again. It was a scene of a battlefield with such trauma in a small Scottish town your mind could never take it in. Add to that so near Christmas and we could do little but locate the fatalities and map the wreckage. It was a scene of crime children were involved and we could not move anyone. Team members put their own spare clothes over the bodies to give them some decency.
There is much more to the story that I have written about bee were there for 3 days then returned to Leuchars. The local Mountain Rescue teams, SARDA and the Army and others were there for a lot longer. They suffered more.
PTSD was not accepted in 1988 and I had a huge fight with my superiors to accept we were struggling. It took years to be accepted took its toll on me and others as I tried to get the authorities to accept PTSD .
As the years go by it seems for me personally a little better but sadly another one of my friends who was with me at the time is not well . Many have struggled a few have not but we were all in a new environment despite most being extremely hardened SAR folk.
These were to me and many others a few days of hell and others just recently been effected by PTSD! It like many others has take years over 30 to manifest itself in him! This is a common occurrence most years I get the similar calls.
Please – This is the time to keep an eye on those who were involved ! Few have got away unscarred and many just need a hug or a bit of family love at this time! Or even time out.
As always the 21st Of December is a hard day for those involved in the UK’s worst terrorist murders and shame on the UK that no one has been held responsible for it! This I find a disgrace and I doubt the truth will come out when most of us are long gone.
In 1988 I asked for assistance with our mental health . To even ask at the time was not accepted by the powers that be. In these days you were in the military and told to “man up”.
We did get some help and the tale is told in other Blogs. Professor Gordon Turnbull was then a young medical officer in the RAF and formed a small team to try and help us. His book Trauma explains part of the story. These were difficult times for me as the help I got and my team was limited.
It was even worse for my friends in the Civilian Mountain Rescue Teams, SARDA and other agencies like the Army and Police. Dark days indeed.
There was little help for them and their families. To them many had no clue what was happening to their loved ones.
In 2018 I took part in a cycle to Syracuse in the USA . This was where over a week we met many of the relatives of the Students who were killed in the crash. It was a physical and physiological journey for me. Yet I got great comfort from the families who I met. It was also comforting to speak to many and tell them what we all did. I explained to them how many of those involved were very young and how it effected them. In the end it was a journey I needed to do. Thanks to Colin, Brian, Paul and Dave for there support.
I thought back then at Lockerbie I was at my “invincible phase”in 1988 I had a strong young team and many years of Mountain Rescue. I had dealt with so many tragedies in the mountains and plane crashes. Nothing in my experience was like Lockerbie. It changed my life and I still live with it.
A few tips on looking after those involved:
Keep an eye on those who were involved. They need you now even more.
They deserve it and they gave so much!
With thoughts for :
The People of Lockerbie
Those on the Flight.
The Police, Fire and Ambulance Services
Mountain Rescue RAF and civilian Teams.
SARDA – U.K. Wide
The Military especially the Army
The Volunteer Services and all those other incredible Agencies involved WRVS etc.
Over the years I have been privileged to talk to many about my insights and hope to be able to speak about what many of these unsung heroes did during these dark days in 1988. It was not easy doing it but it’s as they say #goodtotalk
These were the only chance to tell the tale of the efforts of so many and how it still effects them . As the years go on there are there are few who know about in what happened in Lockerbie Scotland or the UK about Lockerbie!
From A pal:
“It’s strange how much it has affected us. I was asked about Lockerbie just the other day and could feel the emotions welling inside of me. It’s been 4 years since I was struck with PTSD from this event and despite all the help I am now realising I will never be cured, none of us will. We just find ways to deal with it.”
“Hi Heavy, tomorrow will be a difficult day for many people, touched by the Lockerbie disaster on the 21st of December 1988. Small comfort, I know but MR are that happy few that have shared the misery and in doing so shored up the spirits of those profoundly affected by much of what we have seen. Together tomorrow, in spirit if nothing else. Memories of times shared with people we trust.
This is why every year I write about it. None of you are forgotten.
Stay safe and well it’s good to talk. If you need help seek it and remember “ we all did our best”
As always I am thinking of you all and despite not being able to get out in the wild as much I am surrounded by so much love.
Today with the tragedy in Ukraine, the mess the world is in yet there are so many wonderful people who give so much and rarely hit the headlines.
We all keep going make that phone call, write that letter and give folk all the love we can.
Thinking of you all at this time never forget “ we did our best despite no lives to save”
Thinking of all the kind folk of Lockerbie who opened their hearts to us, gave us so much kindness that I will never forget.
God Bless you all
Heavy 21 Dec 2022
Comments and places to seek help welcomed they will be added into this blog.
I was sent this tale of two rescue along time ago : I have split it into two parts today is the Ben Nevis Rescue – thanks to Tom for allowing me to publish these two rescues it is a good account. Thank you Tom McLellan
Ben Nevis – Saturday, 29th July 1972
It invariably intrigues me how the recollections of two or more people, involved in the same event, will differ in terms of the ‘facts’ that are so-called ‘remembered’. ( I was the Mountain Rescue Statistician for years every team had a bit of a different tale to tell. Heavy
This is compounded when contemporary published headlines of an incident also differ from those individuals’ recollections.So it was with the rescue of one ‘Iain MacGregor’ from Ben Nevis on Saturday, 29th July 1972.
The report in the “Sunday Post” of 30th July 1972, headlined with ‘DAREDEVIL RESCUE ON BEN NEVIS’ as shown in the photograph of the paper cuttings, stated that ‘an injured climber was airlifted from 3,000 feet up on Ben Nevis last night by an RAF Leuchars helicopter’ – the ‘last night’ probably referring to when the newspaper picked up the story.
1 / 2 / 3
The Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) Journal, No 163-Vol 30-May1973 record of Scottish Mountaineering Accidents compiled by Ben Humble, states that the incident took place on Monday, 24th July, which clearly was not the case.
SMC Journal Extract 4
Thus the story of the event is in itself interesting and well worth recording, even 50 years later.
We, that is Tom McLellan, Gordon McLellan, Iain MacGregor and Alasdair Campbell, all set off up the Allt a’ Mhuilinn to rock climb on the Ben. I may have had a key to the Forestry Commission gate, as I worked in ‘the forestry’ at the time, thereby avoiding the pain of having to trudge all the way up the glen and through the ‘bog’ just above the golf club.
I can’t recall if we had routes already planned but my brother Gordon and myself ended up on the Long Climb (Severe) and Iain and Alasdair on Slav Route (Severe). We had of course first to overcome the snow slope and bergschrund crevasse at the base of the cliff, which in those days could be much more significant than today.
The approximate lines of the two climbs are shown below.
Photo 5 Photo 6
The Orion Face on Ben Nevis. The snow slope below Zero Gully
The line of the Long Climb shown in Red
was the route taken by Ewan Lyons
Once on our respective routes things were progressing well and I was nearing the top of the first pitch to the Long Climb when I heard the rattling of metal on rock and a shout from Alasdair that Iain had fallen, although there was neither sight nor sound from Iain. I could see Alasdair at the belay stance atop the first pitch of Slave Route but had no sight of Iain, who had obviously disappeared into the crevasse of the bergschrund. Fortunately Alasdair was clearly holding Iain tight on the rope and could do no more to expedite a recovery. So it was clear that I had to reverse the first pitch that I had just climbed, belayed by my brother and traverse across to where Ian had pitched up, so-to-speak. I remember Alasdair repeatedly shouting to Iain without reply, so it was with some trepidation as to what I would behold that I approached the crevasse. Looking down I could see Iain in a foetal position some 15 to 20 feet below. I finally managed to lower myself down to him and as I did so he came round from semi-consciousness after the fall.
Photo 7 Photo 8
The photograph on the left shows the bergschrund crevasse into which Iain fell at the foot ofZero Gully and the photograph on the right shows the bergschrund below the neighbouring Point 5 Gully with Iain Cameron giving scale to the depth that bergschrunds can reach in this area.
Photographs courtesy of Iain Cameron
It was all too apparent that he had tumbled a long way; at least 100 feet from the second pitch of the route. Iain remembers very little other than seeing his piton runner (yes, in those days pitons were not considered infra dig to use as a runner !) pulling out as he flew past ! Fortunately he was wearing a climbing helmet which sustained significant damage during the fall and clearly saved him from undoubtedly serious, nay fatal, head injuries (interestingly Iain carried on climbing to a high standard and despite the experience of this fall and his helmet saving him from serious injury, he subsequently stopped wearing one – most notably on Carnivore (Extreme) where he took a big pendulum, just scliffing the ground ! ).
Somehow or other, between myself, Iain and help from above, we managed to get him out from within the bergschrund crevasse and onto the actual snow slope. The next ‘challenge’ was to lower Iain down the snow. As it was not clear just what the full extent of his injuries were, it would only be when we reached solid ground that we could carry out a full assessment. So my brother and I lowered Iain down the snow slope, with Alasdair proceeding downwards unroped. We of course, due to the season, did not have any ice axes or crampons and unfortunately Alasdair lost grip as he was descending the snow and slid some way down onto the lower part of the bergschrund and the rocks below. This somewhat compounded his already fragile state although fortunately without any physical fractures.
Eventually we all made it to the foot of the snow slope and onto a small knoll. It was time to assess Iain’s injuries. He was in fact making a good recovery and my first impressions were that, with a bit of assistance, he could manage to hobble down the hill, at least to the Charles Inglis Clark (C.I.C.) Memorial Hut. In those bygone days one essentially undertook to rescue oneself (and companions!). On enquiring as to how he was he said he felt ‘OK’ with just a pain in a leg – he then stood up and promptly keeled over as he put weight on his leg, so it was clear he was not going to be able to hobble down.
Alternatively, I had read somewhere, if you packed clothes at the bottom of a rucksack and the casualty put their legs through the straps, you could use this method to get the person onto your back, in order to carry them down. Iain, however, made it amply clear that my first proposal for a full self-rescue was ‘not on’ and as for the second – nice in theory but not in practice, even with my trusty Tiso Sack suitably filled — I could not lift Iain’s 6 feet+ off the ground.
This illustration shows an example of the self-rescue technique, in this case using rope.
So it was to ‘Plan C’ that we resorted – I had remembered there was a MacInnes Stretcher in the CIC hut, with a wheel. There were bound to be other climbers at the hut and with at least one other person to help, we could thereby ‘wheelbarrow’ Iain down the hill. I therefore set off with my brother down to the CIC hut. When we arrived we found that, not only was there nobody there, the pneumatic tyre on the wheel was flat – so that was that – the self rescue game was a bogey !
Glenelg MRT using a MacInnes MK2 stretcher with wheel
Photograph from A History of Scottish Mountain Rescue and with kind permission of the Glenelg MRT
The names and occupations of the Glenelg MRT members provided by Johnny and Margaret Cameron, Glenelg.The team members names and occupations are from top left at front of stretcher, going clockwise :-Charlie MacDonald-local electrician / Johnny Cameron-Forestry Commission (FC) / Ian MacDonald (goaty) FC / Iain Campbell-Eileanrach Estate / Allan Macaskill-FC / Hugh Iain Maclure- FC / Willie Mackenzie-Postman for Glenelg & Arnisdale / Dr Catherine MacInnes / Duncan Cameron, The Barracks-FC / Allan Morrison-FC
In a 1967 accident report on Ben Nevis it was recorded that a ‘MacInnes stretcher No 3, with wheel, on trial – highly successful, enabling faster evacuation with fewer carriers.
The photograph of the Glenelg MRT shows the type of stretcher that was held at the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis, but as previously noted, the tyre on the wheel had a puncture. I think at least a minimum of four people are required and preferably six, to safely evacuate a casualty with this type of stretcher but unfortunately there were no other climbers at the CIC Hut on the 29th July 1972.
The only option left was to resort to ‘Plan X’, to make a call on the emergency telephone landline from the CIC hut to the Police Station in Fort William in order to call out the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (MRT). In making the call my brother recalls that I specifically and emphatically advised that a helicopter rescue was not necessary and that we just needed some help to get the casualty down from the hill.
The Lochaber MRT was already in attendance at a hill race up the Tourist Path on the Ben that day and very quickly a member of the team, I guess being one of their fittest or nearest MRT members, appeared on the track from the Half Way Lochan accompanied by his Alsatian rescue dog, meeting us at the CIC hut. We quickly scrambled back up to Iain with the MRT member, who quickly diagnosed a broken leg and strapped both of Ian’s legs together before we placed him in a bright orange emergency bag brought by the MRT member. We then awaited the arrival of the of the main team for the carry out. Shortly thereafter other members of the MRT gathered at the CIC hut and made their way up to us including, as I recall, a rather hefty chap who had obviously been given the kudos of carrying the MacInnes Stretcher, with tyre inflated !
We could only sit and watch them ascend the somewhat steep terrain, immediately below our tiny perch. It was at that point that we first heard what I now know is the tell-tale, thumping throb of a helicopter in the hills. We then spotted the distinctive yellow of an RAF Wessex helicopter as it entered the corrie, low down in the Allt a’ Mhuilinn. Rapidly it reached the CIC hut and circled, simultaneously dropping an orange smoke flare. Having gone round once, with the crew observing the trail of smoke, it then immediately proceeded in a half circle approach to where we were huddled on the knoll. As I recall, there was no radio communication between the helicopter and our small party but we all knew instinctively that the pilot, having spotted our bright colours, was going to come in directly to pick up the casualty. Thus we arranged ourselves around the casualty bag, which had loops on the side to allow it to be slid sideways. We lay as low to the ground as possible as the helicopter swung in, with the side door open and the winchman gesticulating that we must crouch down low and be ready immediately to slide the casualty through the door. With a deafening roar from the engines of the machine, the pilot put the port wheel on the ground adjacent to where we were lying, the chopper blades menacingly whizzing around just above our heads. Somehow we all knew exactly when to slide Iain forward, in his emergency bag, through the gaping door of the helicopter. He was in, to be followed immediately by Alasdair, who was quite shaken up by Iain’s fall and his own involuntary slide down the snow slope. Then the helicopter was off – one moment there, clattering and blasting grit around us and then next – rapidly disappearing down the Allt a’ Mhuilinn.
I can yet see myself, observing the remainder of the MRT slogging their way up to us, especially the hefty chap with the stretcher and maybe half-imagining him stalled there in dumfounded disbelief, shaking his fist at the pilot and shouting “he was mine !”.
Undoubtedly, however, the appearance of the helicopter came as a complete surprise to everyone and possibly to the relief of most of the members of the MRT.
Iain was very quickly whisked down to the car park at Corpach Sawmill – as the Sunday Post reported ‘The ‘copter did it in seven minutes’. Iain recounts that the most uncomfortable part of whole journey was from Corpach to the hospital in what he recalls was a very old ambulance on very rough and potholed roads !
Photos 11 / 12 / 13
The Wessex returned to the CIC hut to pick up the Lochaber MRT and fortuitously my brother and I were also offered a swift lift back down the Allt a’ Mhuilinn to Fort William. As we lifted off and banked around the Ben’s north face, the side door remained wide open with the winchman perched on the rim, nonchalantly swinging his legs to and froe. Even as we flew out, a steady stream of ‘rescuers’ could be seen trekking up the glen, apparently in the now vain hope of rescuing yet another victim of the hills.
Once in hospital Iain’s boots were removed and immediately his left ankle ballooned, which also required his socks and breeches to be cut away before treatment could proceed. He will never forget the excruciating pain overnight. The next morning the doctor appeared, accompanied by a gang of medical students. On looking at Iain’s notes the doctor turned to the students, enthusiastically describing the break in Iain’s ankle as being a calcaneus fracture and then asked them as to the origin of this type of fracture – silence !
Iain presumed that that was the end of their careers as doctors !!
Their mentor then proceeded to describe to them how; ‘Calcaneus fractures typically occur as a consequence of axial load. In the civilian population, this is most often because of motor vehicle accidents or falls from height. However, calcaneus fractures secondary to underfoot blasts became a significant source of morbidity and mortality in World War II. First described in the aftermath of large-scale naval battles between metal-deck ships, this “deck-slap” phenomenon is associated with high rates of concomitant injuries, infection and amputation’ !
Fortunately under the expert care of the hospital in Fort William, Iain was able to go home within a couple of days and no amputations were required !!
The Ben Nevis incident illustrates aspects of mountain rescue that do not prevail today, as in the tail end of the era when ‘self-rescue’ was more prevalent and at that time was seen by some to be ‘perhaps, more innocent days’, as noted by Bob Sharp in his book Mountain Rescue.
Indeed, as recounted in a History of Scottish Mountain Rescue, ‘In 1934 a bunch of Glasgow men were up for the Fair Holidays when one slipped down No. 3 Gully, breaking a leg in the process. It took two days for his friends to evacuate him – first to the CIC Hut and later Fort William’. If our attempted ‘self-rescue’ on the Ben with the wheeled stretcher had been successful, I would certainly have hoped that we could have completed it before dark !
Apart from the ‘embarrassment’ of having to be rescued, there was no opportunity to simply grab the mobile and call out the rescue team (assuming a signal) or use the what3words app for one’s location, as happens today – you had to work out how to go about getting off the hill or seek assistance to do so.
As previously noted, in making the telephone call from the CIC Hut to the police, I specifically said that we just needed some help to get Iain down off the hill and that a helicopter rescue was not necessary – so I must have been aware that helicopters were being used for mountain rescue. Nevertheless, I think it was quite a surprise to everyone when the helicopter appeared that day.
Helicopters had been used previously for search and rescue on the Ben. The helicopter, however, that came to rescue Ian lifted him straight off the mountainside at 3,000 feet in an impressive piece of flying and I think this may well have been the first direct rescue of an injured climber by helicopter on Ben Nevis.
Compiled from my own recollection of events and those of Gordon McLellan and Iain MacGregor. I have unfortunately lost contact with Alasdair Campbell.I would like to thank my climbing companions for trawling through their memories of these ‘adventures 50 years ago and for their help in the preparation of this article. I would also like to thank the many people who have allowed me to use their photographs to illustrate this article and who have provided input in many other ways.
Photographs are by the author unless acknowledged.
I never thought I would have reached this age after a crazy life dominated by the mountains for over 60 years. Life has been full and I have had so many adventures.
From early days on Arran and the Galloway hills and bothying in Back Hill of Bush. Then joining the RAF and being with some of the best of the best The RAF Mountain Rescue Teams.
Here I was mentored by so many who turned that wee boy into a mountaineer. I saw trauma and helped save lives in these days little was said. Yet we did what we had to do it was pay back for travelling all over Scotland and learning from so many locals and characters.
I travelled all over the world going to so many places mountaineering: Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan, The Alps, Canada In winter USA Alaska and so many others. I met so many of the World’s top mountaineers. Mountain folks are great people who would give you whatever they have they are great people Yet Scotland became the place I love more than anywhere.
Friendships were made that last a lifetime, friends lost far to young chasing their dreams. For a while tragedy was so constant. Yet to help bring folk of the hill alive is a feeling unsurpassed. To see young men and women turn into adults become better than you is so rewarding.
The mountains become all consuming families sit and worry and we can become so selfish in our relationships. You make mistakes but sadly that’s part of life. Folk forgive you sometimes but your friends stay loyal. The older you get you look back and say how lucky was I?
Friendships in the mountains last for ever. I have so many pals from the Rescue Teams & SARDA and their families they are special people who give so much especially in these awful times. Few seek the limelight and as in other voluntary services they do it to help there fellow man and woman.
We follow so many greats from the past some are household names in Mountaineering. Yet many were and still are involved in Rescue. To work with such people is an honour and when you look back and there were so many.
I was lucky that on my 40 years we never lost any of our team on rescues. Thinking of where we went all over Scotland did big Rescues with the civilian teams someone was watching us from above ? The use of Helicopters and there incredible crews were a superb asset. As were the local Police, Coastguards, SARDA and others made great thing’s possible.
After a big incident like Lockerbie I saw such tragedy yet the local folk as always looked after us despite their loss. This happened often this wee country is at its best when things like these happen. It’s the same on the hill keepers and locals will always help in so many ways.
I do not go on the hill as much my body is battered yet like many others I help relatives cope with their grief. It takes some folk many years to come to terms and part of the job is helping those who have lost so much.
I have been lucky and it’s great to meet the young folk in the teams. They have the same values as we did with a lot better gear now and equipment. The future is so bright now but never forget what the teams, SARDA and there families give. For many years the families were hardly mentioned. Nowadays we are getting it right.
If I could offer any advice it would be look after your family’s and those you love never take them for granted. If you a half of what I have had out of the wild places you will be a lucky person like me.
We have been lucky with the winter weather over the years it’s been mild with the odd winter weather. This last week has brought the mountains into winter conditions. I think the most key skill you can learn is navigation.
I often get told we can follow a path in a hard winter paths are gone. Footsteps on ridges can lead to the tops of gully’s and are quickly covered in drifting snow.
Modern technology is superb GPS etc but I still have a map and compass at hand. Phones do not like the cold weather and will quickly lose power. Always carry a spare battery handy and keep it warm.
A follower: Please don’t just follow take an active part in the navigation. The pressure on a leader navigating all day is immense, df to that breaking snow it’s extremely hard going share the effort. Goggles are essential gear for winter mountaineering.
Timings – in bad weather keep your navigational legs short. Always check with another party member the bearing and work out timings. You learn from practice and varying conditions of snow, wind what your carrying and poor light how things change.
Plan your day – look at routes in advance cans be prepared to change your plans. Look at weather and avalanche forecasts not just on the day of your journey. Build up a picture of what’s happening. Leave a plan with someone you trust!
Eat and drink before you go porridge and fruit is a great start for a day out.
Have easy food handy in your pockets when the weather comes in and you don’t have to keep stopping to eat and drink. A hot flask is ideal . What’s your favourite hill food?
Planning your trip in winter is a great think to do. Forget the timings in your summer based guides as in winter with changing conditions things change. Sometimes in deep snow you may do 1 k an hour.
Remember: Plan your route, tell someone your plans , eat well and take into account the weather and avalanche conditions.
Finally drive safe if away early most of the roads may still be very icy take care.
Todays Winter tip. Always carry at least two pairs of gloves. The old Dachstein gloves are still a great back up, I used to put my spare under my jacket when ice climbing got hit on shoulder by ice a few times gloves softened the blow.
I have watched gloves dropped easily done taken by the wind and then if you have no spare in winter very quickly you cannot use your hands. This means even simple things like using your axe, compass or phone is at times impossible. Carry a spare !
Many thanks for all the positive thoughts on our trip to Skye. I am still tired despite it being two days since I was there. It did make me think as I spent so much time on the hill. It’s amazing what goes through your mind looking back. I had such great guys with me: Gus,Paul, Chris, Joe and Keith sadly not with us RIP.
My hill party that night were incredible all went beyond the normal in their efforts. The wee mountain was a dangerous place with fresh snow steep cliffs and wreckage that was so sharp all over the place. Add to that smell of fuel and burning also the trauma we saw when we located the crew. Yet we had no time to think as we had a job to do. In my life I was involved in many incidents yet this crash in Skye tested me in so many ways. It made me want to become a team leader in RAF Mountain Rescue something I never thought I would achieve.
People ask how you cope but I am so lucky to have met so many good folk over the years. Even after an event when you help the families come to terms many take years to do this. The job to me and many others is not just on the day of the incident but I know most teams do this to help families start “closure” on their loss. This is from a previous post where Sara M. Zak and her brother Steven Pitt son and daughter of 1/Lt Steven John Pitt who visited the crash site with myself in a hot day in 2019, After the trip Sara wrote these words.
“There were light moments when my brother and I joked about how Dad would like it if we had a beer and listened to Fleetwood Mac or Cat Stevens. The physical effort of climbing was intense, much more than I thought it would be but Adrian, Heavy and my brother, Steve, all had great patience with me. I was so glad for the physical struggle….it made the pain of the crash more bearable.
This experience has given me a bit more clarity, a bit of peace. I finally feel as if I have really visited my Dad; the gravestone in East Aurora, N.Y. was never his place for me. Skye is his home; I feel most at peace here. Part of that due to the wild beauty, part of it is the actual crash site but, I think, part of it is the love and concern shown by Adrian, Bridgette, Heavy, Anne (from Misty Isle Boat Trips) and every other kind person we met on Skye. I feel as if we have a family here. I can’t say a word of gratitude to describe the healing they’ve provided.
One final note….the grandeur of Skye’s mountains, the hard, jagged rock contrasted with the lush scenery. The imposing mountainscapes remind me of my smallness and humanness. They allow me to find peace with my circumstances. I feel surrounded by a nature that will go on once I’m gone but my moment on Sgurr na Stri will always be there. The crash and all those it effected can be cradled and wrapped up in the mountain; we can be a part of the story of Sgurr na Stri even when the story is long forgotten.” Sara “
A huge thanks to Adrian for all his help and the use of his photos. Also Simon for his incredible effort on the photo he was inspirational.
In memory of Maj Burnley Ruidiger and 1/Lt Steve Pitt
I have been struggling with health issues but I so wanted to be near the crash site on Sgurr Na Stri above Loch Coruisk. I had promised the relatives if I was able I would go. Packing the bag for 3 days was a nightmare as I am cold all the time so I took lots of warm gear my bag was huge. I was with Kalie and two friends plus Adrain a local Guide and “Simon”a photographer living in Skye.His tale will be told later but what a lovely man.
Adrain and myself had taken two relatives Sarah and Steven the Son and daughter of Lt Pitt one of the crew who died .
I went with them up to the crash site a few years ago in a long summers day. It was a hugely moving day and so poignant in many ways.It was one of my hardest call-outs ever as it was full winter conditions when we located the aircraft remains of the aircrew just below the summit of Sgurr na Stri. We were mot relieved due to weather condition till mid morning next day. It was a wild night of survival and trauma and as a young leader tested me to the full. I learned so much that night that allowed me to pass on to others over the years.
The days are short in December and the forecast snow down to sea level. It was a long walk in with huge bags and I struggled but we got there. We managed to pay our respects to the crew the wreckage was buried in the snow and the traverse into the site across a ramp was a no go. An big avalanche had come from above and debris was about 100 metres long. The conditions were identical to 40 years ago even worse as it was in the dark when we located the crew.
It was a long walk in add the big bags and being unfit took it out of me. Yet despite my speed it was mind clearing. I did enjoy it the company was great the hut superb. Many thanks to The Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland for the use of the hut. I look back thinking how did I get up that hill 40 year ago at night in similar conditions. The snow was deadly the danger ever present that of loose rocks sharp wreckage and the trauma of what we saw. We were exhausted and soaked in our bivy bag with no support till next day. Sadly there was little we could do it there were no mobile communications in 1982.
Life has moved on since 1982 but this hill holds some memories for me. It is emotional to revisit such a place and I had said to the family I would. Rarely have I seen Skye seeing so beautiful and wild. We did some work with Simon but that’s a tale for later and Simons to tell. We saw Skye at its best over the last few days. It was wild and evocative for us all especially me. Yet despite the big bags long walk in and out so worthwhile.
Life can be so hard yet after my trip to Skye I felt we had done something for the crew and their families. We had a hard slog back yesterday with the tinkle of ice under our feet the big bags and the odd winter shower blowing through. Cold hands and the joys of winter. We saw 3 Eagles and as they soared above us I thought paid the crew. The steep descent and the river crossing the light ever-changing. The West Coast at its best. Skye ridge covered in snow and we saw no one till the last day.
Then it was collect my car the temperature was -3 yet the roads were clear. The hills looked superb and the deer were down. I was tired and stopped to see my Granddaughter’s in Inverness. As I arrived Santa arrived in a sleigh via the Rotary club it was wonderful. I got big hugs from the girls and emotions came out later. How lucky am I and to see the girls looking forward to Christmas was wonderful. I stayed the night and left in the morning feeling better.
Thinking of my great pals that night Joe, Gus, Keith RIP, Paul.
Following on from the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s best-sellers, The Munros and The Corbetts, this definitive guidebook recommends the best journeys on the next principal listings of Scottish hills.
Written and compiled by some of the foremost authorities on the Scottish mountains and brought to life with maps and vivid colour photographs, this richly illustrated guide details more than 250 routes, including, where appropriate, logical combinations with neighbouring hills.
Whether you’re looking to climb all the summits on Scotland’s principal lists or just want some great days off the beaten tracks, The Grahams & The Donalds is a book no hillwalker should be without.
This book is available for pre-order with delivery to the warehouse expected at the end of November. Shipping will begin as soon as it arrives.
I found this an exceptional book. It took me back to the “ Golden Years” of Alpine and Himalayan Mountaineers. The death toll of these climbers pushing their ambitions and the complexity of their lives is an eye opener. He also deals with the effects of injury and depression rarely spoken about in elite sporting circles.
The author Brian Hall writes with a wonderful honesty of this period. The effect on the families left behind as the pursuit of mountaineering excellence drives the characters on. There are a few thoughts from some families of their loss after an accident. This is powerful in its own right.
He also speaks about the effects of depression, alcohol and drug abuse a deadly combination for many at the time. Yet this period opened the Himalayas to new challenges big changes in tactics to “light and fast” explaining that the less time you spend in the danger zone the safer it is. The author comments on the sad era we have now of commercial expeditions taking many who can pay for the experience and the mess it leaves on these incredible places.
To get into the mindset and read Brian Halls thoughts is an incredible insight. You must read this book there are many life lessons for even Armchair mountaineers.
A great read
It goes into great detail of these crazy days when they were pushing the limits at the time. It’s a whose who of climbers and a few that we know little about. These were wild times of climbing hard, partying and being singularly minded in pursuit of climbing at extreme levels. It is amazing how the author explains the different characters. Their flaws strengths and how he and others cope with death on the mountain. Also how injury and depression add the loss of friends from cancer effects us all.
These points are rarely discussed but in between every adventure success and failure there is a price paid. There are very moving tales each one is different but it helps explain the mind of a extreme mountaineer.
The book takes you all over the world from Everest, South America, The Alps in summer and winter the Uk and winter climbing in Scotland. Each route has a story sadly a few in tragedy and the Books Title “ Climbing to Extinction is so sadly apt.
Over the years I have also lost many friend’s in the mountains. Mostly young Mick on the Pic Badile, Big Al soling the Matterhorn North Face. Paul in the Cairngorms, Mark and Neil on Lochnagar, Martin in India, Andy on Ben Hope and Ted in the Dolomites. To name a few. I have also had to break the news to loved ones on occasions get their bodies home. I had to take time out from rescues after it all caught up with me but the lure of the mountains always brought me back.
We are selfish people mountaineers I was driven for 30 years I was away on expeditions. I met many of the world class mountaineers on my travels. I felt you could always tell many by their eyes they were pushing and seeking their inner souls on some high mountain. Few held on to relationships I was one of them. I have been told “I was married to the mountains”and that hurt. It can be a lonely place when you come home and no one is there for you.
I am sure things have changed a bit the new generations are doing the impossible already yet the risks are still high in the big mountains. Is it worth it? It’s a personal choice yet it doesn’t just effect you alone,
I first met Willie when I was a young lad on a Callout in 1972 to Knoydart. He lived in Arnisdale a beautiful remote spot on the West Coast. He took us over in his boat to Barrisdale and then said to stop for a drink when we got back. He was a character even then “a man of many “hats”police, Postman and , Mountain Rescue Team Leader” I am sure there was no electric in his wee house at that time. We had tea and whisky ( a keepers dram) We met all the family and gave them our emergency chocolate. I sat and took it all in as the tales came out. Though wet and cold we soon warmed up. It is a night that has stayed with me for 50 years. The Glenelg Team had not formed then but Willie and many of the locals had been assisting mountaineers for years.
On my first weekend looking after the team in 1974 as a young party leader 3 of the team had an epic in Knoydart. It was winter and they bivied after getting caught out in darkness. It ended up one sliding down the slope in the night. It all ended up well luckily and we brought them back in Willie’s boat no Callout report was raised. It cost us a rope to help pay for his time. I was worried sick Willie took it all in as if these things happened every day.
Over the years we met often and I dropped in often always getting great hospitality. We would drop of the odd rope for the team and his boats. Plus the odd sweets and bottle of whisky. He never changed being the Postie, Polis and Mountain Rescue Team Leader and member. The house was always busy as he was and he would give you of his time.
Willie was what Mountain Rescue is to me: real local characters who give so much. They never seek the limelight or are rarely acknowledged they never criticise walkers and climbers. There local knowledge is incredible he like others new his patch. Glenelg is a very small team that covers a wild area I worked with them often.
Last year we met him driving up the road and turning round and back in his car. My friend Kalie recognised him it was a stunning day. He still had that great glint in his eye and we had a few words and then he turned and went back home. It was a grand day and with the backdrop of Beinn Sgreathail the hill above Willie’s house and to meet WIllie was surreal. Memories came flooding back.
Willie like many had a huge influence on me as a young man and as a Team leader. He was an incredible man who touched so many’s lives. They don’t make them like Willie nowadays but thanks for all the tips and kindness shown to so many. His family followed him in the team over the years I often asked how he was doing and to pass on my regards.
My thoughts are with Willie’s family, friends and the Glenelg team.
Thank you Glenelg MRT for that classic photo and telling me the sad news. I will be on Skye when Willies Funeral is on . I will have a dram and a bit of time for thoughts about him and his life.
WILLIAM CAMPBELL MACKENZIE ARNISDALE
22.11.1930 – 25.11.2022
Peacefully on Friday, 25 November 2022 at Castlehill Care Home, Inverness, William Campbell MacKenzie, aged 92 years, Corran, Arnisdale.
Local postman for 42 years, long- time Special Constable and Glenel Mountain Rescue Team Leader. Beloved husband of the late Christina, loving father of Billy, Shona, David, Alan and Roddy. Dearest father-in-law, brother-in-law, loving grandfather, uncle and a good friend of many.
Funeral Service on Wednesday, 7th December at 12 noon in Glenel Church thereafter to Glenel Burial Ground. Family flowers only please. Donations for Alzheimer Scotland and Crossroads may be given at the service.
Arrangements by D. N. Munro, Funeral Director, Glenshiel, 01599 511312
RST ESTABLISHED OVER 40 YEARS AGO (1973)
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The Glenelg Mountain Rescue Team
The Glenelg Mountain Rescue Association was originally established in 1973 by the late Dr Catherine MacInnes (the then local G.P.) to cover the Parish of Glenelg. It completed its registration as a charity in 1974. (Scottish charity registration number – SCO 07565)
The Parish takes in the Glenelg peninsula jutting into Loch Duich, then heads east as far as the south side of the Saddle, taking in Arnisdale, and stretching as far south as Loch Morar, taking in Kinlochourn, Barrisdale and Knoydart, an area of approximately 550 square kilometers. Some of the Knoydart peninsula is also covered by our colleagues in the Lochaber MRT because it is such a remote and complex piece of ground. See map
The team was originally made up of shepherds, stalkers, forestry workers, a doctor and people who generally worked outdoors. This is still true but with a mix of mountaineers, roped access workers, boat masters and many other professions. There are normally 20 to 30 members on the team which is a very large percentage of the community considering the Parish has a population of less than 300.
Like the other 25 voluntary teams in Scotland, Glenelg MRT gives free service to the members of the public whom request their assistance. All Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams receive grant aid from the Scottish Government and assistance from major sponsors like the Order of St John. We also rely on charitable donations and bequests from members of the public as well as local and national businesses, in order that we may continue to deliver the service we provide.
I went to visit my old friend Wendy who is in a home in Elgin. She is a lovely old soul but missing company and very lonely. Despite that we have a laugh and it’s hard to leave her. The forecast looked good so I decided to try a wander up my nearest hill after my visit. The hill was my local Corbett Ben Rinnes a lovely wee Mountain with great views of the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth.
The drive from Elgin through whisky country was stunning. The sun was out and the distilleries in the Glen with the clear smoke going straight up on the hill. Arriving at the wee car park there were a few cars in the car park. After my wee head op I took my time coughing a bit but enjoying the sun and the views. Despite the sun I was warmly dressed. I could hear the sound of guns shooting in the other Glen’s there was a lot of noise for a short while “Sport”
I met the “Friends of Ben Rinnes” hard at work on the well worn path. I recognised one as my friend Ella from the Moray MountaineeringClub hard at work clearing the ditches for the run off water. We had a wee chat and I thanked them for their efforts. At the bottom of the hill is a wee collection box to help them with their work on the gate. You can also join there Facebook page and support them. Thank you for all you do to keep our wee hill so clean and tidy.
I wandered on meeting a few descending most folk had dogs a few running chasing the few white hares. Most dogs were well behaved but you can see how some go missing on the big hills. There is some great advice about taking your dog on the mountains. Especially as winter is coming.
On the last pull up I headed for the stunning granite tors and then onto the summit. The views were good but there seemed a bit of cloud on the Cairngorms. There was a lot of burning going on below us the waft of burnt Heather and the smoke filling the Glen seemed to hit you now and again.
I did not hang about it was bitter on the summit and headed to pay my respects at the aircraft crash site on the dark side of the mountain. It’s not far from the summit and though there is not much wreckage left but it’s a good feature to navigate too. Ben Rinnes was the scene of a terrible plane crash on 14th November 1943. A Wellington Bomber HF746 of No20 Operational Training Unit, based at Lossiemouth, crashed into Ben Rinnes whilst on a navigational exercise. Both the crew were killed.
I sat here at the wreckage had a few moments it was cold and there was a few white hares about. It’s my Mums anniversary yesterday and I thought about her as well, what a lady she was so kind and a great mother. I was blessed in a place like that to have many good memories. My Mum loved the mountains as well and I felt her with me.
It was so cold so I still had not eaten so I traversed onto the main path and met the path makers again still at it. We had another chat I left them and ate my lunch in the sun. The hill was quite now and my new boots a bit sore so I wandered down to the car. The weather was lovely. It was an easy journey back but what a lovely wander. My body is a a bit stiff and feet sore but the boots are in the boot stretcher now hopefully that will sort them.
It was great to have a wee wander after all the health problems recently. Just to be out to sit and see the mountains in a good day is better than any pills.
If you climb Ben Rinnes there is a wee collection box on the gate next to the start of the path.
About The Friends of Ben Rinnes
The Friends of Ben Rinnes is a registered charity (No SC 034370) which works to care for the paths and environment of Ben Rinnes and to promote responsible enjoyment of the hill by walkers. Its members are all volunteers who share these aims and who wish to support them.
The increasing popularity of the hill with walkers of all abilities has resulted in major erosion and widening of the existing paths, particularly on the upper slopes. Worst affected is the most popular route to the summit leading from the car park at Glack Harnes on the Edinvillie to Glen Rinnes road over Roy’s Hill and up the north eastern ridge. The resultant scarring on the summit cone is unsightly, unpleasant under foot and, worst of all, damaging to the fragile environment. Please donate if you park this will help with the upkeep of the path.
Munros- 46 years on. Big changes but still a great way to get to know Scotland.
In my early wa liking days the Munro’s was a huge ambition. I completed them in 27 Mov 1976! It was recorded in the lists as Munro no 148 along with my pal Tom MacDonald.
We all have great memories of the Munros I will never for get the day I finished on An Sochach ( Braemar) The same day my pal Tom Mac Donald finished on the same day on Beinn a Chaorainn (Glen Eye) on 13 November 1978. 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.
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?
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 breeches ( 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 solo 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 46 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 still 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 . Please let’s look after them and pass on our enjoyment to others.
Let’s talk about that other great adventure the Munro Tops?
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.
Thanks to all those who accompanied me on my travels and the great company.
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.
My friend Bob Sharp passed me on the sad news that Sandy Seabrook Lomond MRT had passed away. Sandy was a stalwart of Mountain Rescue and will be sadly missed. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team.
Bob Sharp wrote “ To let you know that Sandy Seabrook passed away earlier today. Sandy was Team Leader of Lomond for 25 years, with a rich background in SARDA and the Devon Cave Rescue Organisation. Sandy was 85 years of age and had not been well for a long time but was still interested in MR and keen to know what was happening in the World of MR. He even acquired a Collie pup last year (but not to train!).”
Attached photo taken almost 40 years ago shows Sandy and Sir Hugh Fraser in the middle flanked on the left by team members Bill Cameron and Fergus Ewing, and on the right by team member Dick Jackson
Sandy Seabrook RIP As with many things in life, it often takes the initiative of a single person to kick-start an organisation or stimulate change. In the case of the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, that person was Sandy Seabrook. In the late 1960s, Sandy was an outdoor instructor at Montrose House in Balmaha. Sandy’s background in education, mountain rescue and the military was to prove an essential platform for the new team. After leaving school, Sandy spent twelve years in the British Army stationed variously in Plymouth, Catterick and Carlisle. He later trained as a primary school teacher and worked as an instructor at Garelochhead Outdoor Centre. Subsequently, he worked as a teacher at Ballikinrain ‘List D’ school near Fintry (a residential school for young people experiencing social, emotional and behavioural difficulties) and later established his own private outdoor pursuits business (‘Highland Pursuits’). When he retired as an Army Sergeant in early 1967, he moved to Scotland to take up a position as the Warden of Montrose House in Balmaha. Montrose House (then a listed period mansion building) was owned by the Glasgow Union of Boys Clubs. Along with one other instructor – Alex McFarlane – Sandy provided short courses in various outdoor pursuits for members of Glasgow Boys Clubs. Sandy had already been involved in mountain rescue having helped establish the Devon Cave Rescue Organisation. In the mid 1960s, he worked with Hamish MacInnes and Hamish’s plans to create what was to become the Search and Rescue Dog Association. Sandy was on the first experimental course in Glencoe in 1964 and then became the first person in England to qualify in 1967 as a SAR dog handler with his German Shepherd Dog Rory. Once the team was founded, Sandy went to extraordinary lengths to publicise the team and its capabilities through numerous talks, presentations and displays. Most important, he forged excellent relationships with the local press to ensure maximum publicity for the team’s training and rescues. Photographs of team members featured regularly in the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, Glasgow Herald and Falkirk Herald. Without his trailblazing efforts on the PR and fundraising fronts, the team would have been much the poorer and may even have died an early death. Sandy also established a strong presence at national level and was a tough advocate for change and development on numerous matters – radio communications, the use of helicopters and insurance. In addition, he furthered the work of Ben Humble (MRCofS Statistician for several decades) through the promotion of mountain safety and delivery of courses in mountaineering.
Sandy was a people person, self-effacing and team-spirited with an unfailing enthusiasm for all things to do with mountain rescue at both local and national levels. In 2000, he was awarded the national organisation’s Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to Scottish Mountain Rescue. Sandy was a unique spirit that we may never see the likes of again. Bob Sharp.
I always thought that this was an outstanding photo of Hamish McInness stretcher being used on Everest in the Western CYM. ‘The photo was taken by my pal Terry Moore in 1992 .
Typically Terry understated the effort “ Twas a good outcome after recovering from pulmonary oedema. 1992.” Hamish was very proud of this photo what a man he was so sadly missed by many of us. How I miss the visits to his house and all the wonderful folk I met there. Yet he would pull out a photo of his adventures and the characters leaving you so humbled. The stretcher was invented by Hamish and used all over the UK and the World. The man was a genius in so many ways.
The multi-award winning book The Fox of Glencoe chronicles the adventures of the legendary Hamish MacInnes and his achievements in the field of mountaineering.
Throughout this rich collection of tales, Hamish’s unorthodox character and pragmatic approach to risk and loss are conveyed with wry, elegant style, offering a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest mountaineers of our time.
Few people cram as much into a lifetime as Hamish did, and these memoirs reflect his restless curiosity and ability to marshal loyalty and support for the most outlandish schemes. The result is an eclectic array of tales that include youthful and historic first ascents; a disorganised attempt on Everest with only £40 and a borrowed tent; hunting for treasure in South America; dangling film stars from DIY contraptions off the North Face of the Eiger; hot air ballooning off Ben Nevis; and much else besides. Tenacious and inventive by nature, Hamish also committed much of his life to developing modern alpinism and promoting mountain safety and rescue. His legacy is vividly brought to life in this collection of unseen and retold stories, images and additional narratives from some of his closest friends.
A portrait of a life lived to the full, The Fox of Glencoe captures a bygone age and will strike a chord with anyone with a spirit of adventure, and who sees possibilities rather than constraints.
Comment from Mark R “Brought back thoughts of that winter night of the Leuchars team party, and the following call-out. Somehow we arrived in Glencoe in the early hours, still half-cut and Hamish asking you if there were any climbers in the team, and the next minute Tomcat & me were climbing the up the Clachaig Gulley. Memories never forgotten. The next day we climbed Steal Falls.”
It’s always a tricky day for me as it is the anniversary of my Mum’s passing she died in 1980. I still miss her every day she was a all Mum’s area a special lady. As the youngest of 5 children I was spoiled in every way, always in a scrape or trouble and being a Ministers son a bit of a rebel. Today I struggled up a wee hill Ben Rinnes and thought of my wonderful Mum.
Mum was always there for me and we had a great bond through her love and care! She loved her family, their kids, the church, the mountains, football the tennis and dedicated her life to her family her grandchildren and the church. Money was tight but we never wanted for love and she brought us all up almost single handed as Dad pursued his life as a minister.
During my wild years she saw something in me and as I grew up we got a lot closer! When I went and joined the RAF she loved that I was in Mountain Rescue and though she worried about me as only Mum’s can do! We spoke every week on the phone as most of my leave was spent chasing mountains I was a rare visitor! I can never get these times back and like many regret my selfishness. How many feel the same?
When mum got ill with Leukemia she never told me till a few days before she passed away and I was summoned home. Yet we has spoken every week, she hid it as did the family. She did not want me worried as I was in a relationship and now in North Wales as full – time Mountain Rescue my life was so busy. I rushed home and was shocked poor Mum was so frail and yet every week on the phone she never said a thing or complained and just listened to me and gave me advice. Poor Mum was in terrible pain for a long time but never moaned, she was incredible during these last few months. We were told to get my brother back from Bermuda and she died shortly after he arrived home. We got some special time two days together near the end and she was so upset she told me that she had little to leave us a monetary sense. Yet she had given us a lifetime of love and care and that is what matters. In this modern life I despair at times when I families ripped apart after a loved ones death over money and possessions. To me love, care and kindness is the greatest gift ever that parents can bestow on their kids.
The next few short days were awful and I think I was programmed to seeing so many tragedies in the mountains that it took me years to realise what had happened. Even at the funeral I was like a robot and had to rush back to work next day to North Wales. How I miss her and wish I could have done more for her and when in trouble or down she is stillalways still there for me!
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. She would have been so proud of Andy Murray and his brother in the tennis world and I believe she watches them in heaven.
Please give your Mum and Dad a hug or a visit we all owe them so much they make us who we are.
Mum I miss you as we all do thanks for being there for me!
I am off to get some flowers for the house and for my good friend Wendy, she reminds me so much of my Mum in every way.
Mum told me just before she passed away that she worried so much for me and the team when we were on Callouts. If I was helped by a keeper or person on my big walks Mum would write and thank them. She told me that she could sadly leave us nothing financial. She gave her whole life to us and the Church and I was so lucky to have her in my life. I hope I manage to have a few attributes that my mother gave me.
The forecasts is today the weather will get pretty wintry again. As it’s the Easter holiday and things are starting to open up a bit please be aware.
It is fairly common for spells of wild weather to hit us so keep watching that weather forecast. There are so many weather sites there is no excuse not to be aware. It’s not always been this way as the forecasts were a lot more sketchy in the past.
The Met office and MWIS are very good sites as is the Scottish Avalanche Information Service sites. Information is free so please check what’s happening on the mountains?
From Walk Highlands
“ A challenging expedition to climb two of the remotest Munros. The fine, pointed summit of Bidein a’Choire Sheasgaich would be more celebrated were it not hidden deep in the wilds of Monar, whilst neighbouring Lurg Mhòr is even more inaccessible. The walk can be broken up by an overnight stay in the bothy or wild camping.
I cannot wait for things to open up as I have 2 remote Munro’s left to do. I better get them done as time is getting on as is my body. It’s a long walk or cycle on from Craig but it will be so worth the effort.
A long but good approach track leads to Bendronaig Lodge – this has been widened and smoothed for hydro works and could be done by mountain bike, though the first ascent is long and steep. Beyond there is a stalkers path to Loch Calavie and along the ridge between the peaks, but the rest of the route is very rough and pathless. A serious expedition, far from help, requiring experience of wild country”
These are superb mountains and having done them on several other Munro rounds they are still serious wild mountains.
On my second round of the Munro’s we climbed them from Strathfarrar on a bitterly cold weekend. It was -15 on the hills. This was on the mid 70’s nearly 50 years ago.
We walked in after work on the Friday and had a long wander along the Loch Monar and a very cold open bivy. From here we climbed the rarely ascended the East ridge to the Munro top Meall Mor to the summit of Lurg Mor. The ridge was snow covered and looked daunting but was fine it’s a grand walk to the other Munro Bidein a’ Coire Sheasgaich. This was often called “Cheese cake” by the young troops. Then things went wrong one of the young lads was struggling it was big day for us all and myself and Jim Morning had to drag him off the hill. The weather was extreme but we were fit and strong and got him into the Glen and then had another bivy Pait Lodge. There was no one there but there was a sign in the window allowing access if needed round the back I doubt this happens nowadays ? We met another party in the lodge that were caught in the weather. We learned lots that day there were no mobile phones or chance of rescue.
Most other ascents went fine one great day was with two young troops “Just” William, Tommy Pilling and my dog Teallach we had a bivy that day planned in winter but then the kit was so much better this was the mid 80’s.
I told them the story of the past epic. They both loved that few days and it was so good to introduce them to these wild hills. Both became sound mountaineers.
I had planned to complete these hills again with some pals via a rock climb aptly named : Munroist Reward but I got ill for a few years and I think that is now long gone. The route is so aptly named. I have seen this climb when I was looking in the Corrie.
Munroist Reward – 300 ft Vs 4c
90m, 2 pitches. The left edge of the main slabs by a series of overlaps.
R Everett, D Gaffney 23/Jul/1988.
Has anyone climbed this route ? I bet it has few ascents ?
The Bothies are out of use just now due to Covid but there are some great places to stay in the area. Of course a tent makes these days a bit better but please whatever you do : Respect the land, take all your rubbish with you and treasure every day in the wild. Be safe and have fun these are hills to savour .
In winter it is important you eat well and on the hill recently I was asked about food for the hill. In winter with the effect of the weather, the wind and a bit bigger bag, maybe deep snow the old saying ” I mile in winter = 2″ so lots more energy is expended. Add deep snow and a head wind and few places to stop, at times you eat on the move. To those who have never experienced the winter proper here are a few tips.
A great part of a hill day is stopping for a break and having a drink and some food! This is especially true in winter when often it is difficult to have a break and replenish the energy reserves. A little and often is the answer and in winter I on a wild winters day I carry some food handy in the pockets, like jelly babies or a cereal bar. I find that the modern gels and power bars are costly and awful but understand they work for some. Yet I do carry 2 as a backup which I have used.
If I can the day before I go out I try to eat a pasta based meal the night before. Many forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I enjoy my porridge what a great starter slow burning food with a banana and honey. I always carry a hot flask in winter this year its Mint tea and honey, superb and well worth the weight. It is also hard to get the liquid in winter and many carry various high tech drinks and gels but I am old school and drink water or a bottle of hot juice. I also ensure I replenish my fluid loss in the car on the way home and before I go out drink like a camel?
On the hill I will have a few sandwiches, jam or honey, oatcakes and cheese, sweets like jelly babies, cereal bars and fruit. The other day we had homemade cake and it was crazy that on our Big Walks in the 70’s one man “Big Jim” could eat so much chocolate on a big hill day of 11 Munros it makes me ill to think how many bars he could eat? See if you can guess?
The famous Eric Langmuir book Mountain Leadership had a piece on calories used on the hill. Someone has my copy do you have an idea how many calories a hill day can use? 4000 – 6000 calories.
“The number of calories burned hiking depends in part on your body weight. In general, a 160-lb person burns between 430 and 440 calories per hour of hiking. A 200-lb person burns approximately 550 calories per hour of hiking. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn in an hour of hiking.
Backpacker Magazine suggests a calorie estimate based on body weight and the general intensity of the day’s activity. For a strenuous day of backpacking with a “heavy” pack (no weight range specified), they suggest 25 to 30 calories per pound of body weight. Using my 185-pound self as a proxy, that’s 4,625 to 5,550 calories.
As you’ll notice, estimates vary pretty markedly. For the criteria I used (185-pound person backpacking for eight hours with a moderate to heavy load), estimates range from roughly 4,600 calories to more than 6,300 calories.”
Anyway over the years I have got far more interested in hill food and most of the expeditions I was lucky to be on I planned the food like on Everest in 2001 in Tibet. This was a three month trip where the food was vital part of a successful expedition. After all few know that was in the RAF as a Caterer for 37 years!
I wrote a longer piece on my Blog on 2 Feb 2017 it may be worth a read?
Custard doughnuts from Morrison’s when needing a wee sugar boost ,also great incentive for getting my daughter to the top lol.
Partial to a wee bit of sushi.
Pork pie and jelly babies back in the good old sugar days.
Flapjacks and chocolate.
Cheese bars and pepperoni. And occasionally peanut m&ms if i need a sugar hit- they are like rocket fuel!
Tesco Genoa cake!
Pete Greening – A few years ago, one winter, Heavy made me undergo a form of starvation, sold to the unsuspecting masses as the 5+2 Diet. A month or two into it and a friend of mine (winter Mountaineering novice) asked if I would accompany them on a walk up Braeriach, starting from the Sugar Bowl…..a big day! My only food would be a few carrots! My friend did look at them quizzically and questioned my food choice, as surely a few carrots wouldn’t be enough to sustain such a high calorific activity. All went well. It was a great day. The summits were in cloud, which required good nav to stay away from the corniced edges. Suffice to say, we summited, then retraced our steps, down the hill, across the Lairig Ghru and back towards the car park. I had felt good all day. Had managed to keep my charge safe and even teach them a few skills on the way. The carrots had filled my (now tiny) stomach and the car almost in sight. Walking down the wee path that skirts the reindeer fields, I felt the last dregs of energy leave my body (a bit like how a rechargeable battery just stops working) and began to lose control of my legs. They didn’t seem to do as I wanted, and after a few more paces, I couldn’t seem to lift one over a small rock on the path. The toe of my boot caught the rock, forcing me off balance, I stumbled and fell like a sack of spuds, into a heap on the floor. My friend was shocked and aghast. They thought I’d had a heart attack, or something. They had been following behind me and had witnessed the whole thing. Apparently I had begun to stagger all over the path before hitting the ground. And when they got to me, to help me up, I was slurring my words.
After some reassurance (both ways), I was given some chocolate, helped to me feet and made the final 300 metres to the car.
1. Despite the obvious weight loss advantages, winter hill days require huge amounts of calorific energy.
2. Carrots, although healthy, do not provide enough of that energy.
3. Haribo, nuts and chocolate are a much better alternative.
4. Never agree to join Heavy on some hair-brained diet regime.
No real regrets. It was a great day out, in good company. I actually lost quite a bit of weight that season, as did Heavy. The only thing that annoyed me was I put a couple of holes in the knee of my Mountain Equipment G2 mountain pants (expensive mountain wear) when I hit the dirt. (I did advise him not diet Heavy )
Tunnock’s caramel wafer. Get better the colder they are and you can easily unwrap them with dachsteins on!
Cuppa soup in a flask. Oh and Cheddar cheese biscuits!
I also like the primula squeeze cheese which got me thro a very long hill race section once lol and the puréed pouches of baby food – fruit is excellent and no mess with good sugar boost.
Porridge with Nutella and a black coffee to start day, cheese sandwiches for the hill and snacks for the day include oat and cereal bars and a bag of harribos. Fluid is water and a flask of black coffee.
Strawberry jam sarnies
I like to take peanut butter sandwiches as in the summer they don’t go off if I end up being out for a whole day in the heat. I make my own so know all the ingredients are natural. Good source of minerals and vitamins, carbs and fats, made with a touch of honey. Bananas are another must for me too. Always carry water in winter and water filter at all times. Usually a flask of hot sweet coffee too in winter. Homemade shortbread or tablet when out in the hills or long distance walks
Lemon and ginger tea. Even if it loses some of its temperature it still has an incredible warming effect due to the ginger
I also carry my porridge in flapjack form on the hill.. Christmas Cake and cheese together also great energy
I always take a flask for a hot drink but for cold drink a tip is to fill your water bottle with boiling water in the morning. By the time you start drinking it it will have cooled down but not hitting your tummy with ice cold water. Helps me drink enough
Not a great eater when walking, take SIS energy gels and bars with me .
Shortbread, some crispy cereal bars and water. Maybe a bag of Sports Mixture for a sugar rush if required.
Kendal mint cake, sardines and chocolate when i first joined RAF MR. Bloody gawping or what!
Bowl of pasta before I leave the car park. I’m partial to a ploughman sandwich and revels mixed in with mixed nuts
I remember being so hungry on the walk out from A Mhaighean to Sheneval with the late JC and Sean Unwin that I offered Sean a lot of violence if he didn’t give me one of the mars bars he told me he was carrying….never felt so weak in my life…lesson learned.
I used to keep a packet of jelly in the bottom of my hill bag.
A few trialist at Leuchars were grateful of it on more than one occasion.
Only ever used my flask for hot water and carried tea, cup-a-soup and hot choc sachet for variety. Geo Bars, home-made flapjack for snacks and emergency Mars Bars hidden deep in the sack.
Brunch bars and tablet.
Please add any ideas.
I carried a half pound block of marzipan as an emergency ration. I liked marzipan, but was not tempted to eat it short of an emergency. I gave up on Kendal Mint Cake after a bar dissolved in the pocket of my Blacks smock on a very wet day on Dartmoor.
MG “ I got back off an epic 2 day bothy trip on a winter course back in the day, Dave heavy met me with a steaming cup of bachelors cup of soup. Dave said these are great, bean hooked on “cup a soups” ever since.”
Cold sausage sarny, laced in broon sauce, with a hot chocolate to wash it doon!
B Rose “Hip flask with rusty nail”
Mini pork pies and Peanut M & M,s
Manny Gorman “Peanut butter and jam rolls”
John Easton” I don’t know if they are still available, but there was always a block of dried dates in the top of my sac. Palatable, energy filled and the dogs loved them.”
Ham, cheese and jam sarnies………followed by a crunchie !!
Like many Agencies the Mountain Rescue Teams & SARDA are always available 24 hours a day 365 days of the year. Holidays are the same often we assisted the local Teams if they got a big Call – out. Christmas & New year are at times busy and can be a sad period when dealing with a big accident. Often if we needed extra assistance many of those off for the holiday period would tur
I located a photo the other day of a wild call out on the Cairngorms in the Christmas period in the Braeriach area in 1978. I was out with the RAF Kinloss Team at Tyndrum we were staying in the staff quarters for the Christmas period as normal. We had to have a team available over the festive period. By now I was a fairly experienced party leader. We had a small team out about 12 – 14 of us. We arrived late on the 23 December this was a big winter and we were looking forward to great days. I took a few troops up Central Gully on Ben Lui and then the 4 Munros a hard physical day even then. Another party went climbing in Glencoe and the rest to the Etive Hills Ben Starav was the plan. We always left a troop to cook as our contact with the Rescue Centre then at Pitreavie and the Police. These were simple days as we had no mobile phones, GPS a basic weather forecast based mainly for aircraft and no avalanche service. Kit was simple and always wet for any Call Outs but we were young and loved it. I had a long day but such fun and the cook was a bit worse for wear ( he had a drink) We had an unwritten rule that no one drunk till we were all off the hill. I was not impressed we were hungry and little had been done. The other party arrived back from Glencoe they had a great day doing some great climbing. The cook was very lippy and when our party from the Etive hills had not come back by 1800 I went with another party to see if we could get communications. As I said the communication were poor and we drove down Glen Etive to try and get contact. Later on we got a garbled message that one of the party was tired snow conditions were poor and they were bivying. It is dark by 1600 in mid December and they were okay we would see them in the morning. We had stopped at the last house in the Glen in these days they had I am sure no electricity even then. I have forgotten their names but they were good friends of the team and had given us lots of tea. We left the kids with all our chocolate and would be back at first light. It was snowing heavy again when we got back to our Base by midnight. The cook was in another world nothing was done and I hate to say we had an argument and he ended up with a black eye. Something I was not proud off. Any trouble within the team like that you were in serious trouble with the Team Leader who was not out but would here about it. Anyway we headed to bed for a few hours then headed back to Glen Etive there was even more snow. We were heading up to the hill to help if needed but we saw them at first light . When they arrived we were glad to see them they were cold and hungry but all fine. We stopped in the wee bothy said thanks again and took some treats for their help. In the party was the man in charge and after a brew I updated him on my cook incident. I feared for the worst. Then I was saved by the bell as we got called for a call – out in the Cairngorms.
It was a first light search the drive to Aviemore was not easy. Cairngorm MRT. It had been a wild search in poor conditions. They had located the casualties the night before but it was to late to recover them and we were asked to help. It sounds simple but the weather was wild. We drove into Glen Ennich and set off the weather got worse as you can see from the photo. I was more worried that our Team leader was there and I thought after my problem at Christmas my days with the team were numbered. He just said we will talk later. He and a few troops had been out with Cairngorm the day before the weather was not good. Communications in these days were awful it was a hard winter.
We had a lot of troops and headed for the location carrying two stetchers. RAF Leuchars were there as were our other team member’s who were at home for Christmas, SARDA and the new Sea King helicopters. The casualties were in the gully and we lowered a volunteer ( the Team Leader down) and then we lowered two stretchers down. Looking back the conditions were wild and there was a big chance of Avalanche to us all. There was no Avalanche forecast then .We did the long carry off to our vehicle’s in the Glen it was a somber group that arrived at the land-rovers. It was hard to believe at the time it was the festive season and two families had lost there loved ones. We were soaked, cold and hungry but glad to get off the hill. The drive out the Glen was long we had the two casualties with us never an easy journey.
We got back to our Base and after things were sorted out with the Team leader I was told to behave or else my days in Mountain Rescue were over . Thanks Ray .
Another lesson learned by me. Over the years I was to do many sad incidents over the festive season they were never easy. Always in my thoughts were the families they left behind we also located a lot of injured climbers as this period was a busy one on the hills. I had been to a few avalanches earlier but this was the shape of things to come sadly.
Looking back the descent in poor weather from Braeriach to Glen Feshie in the wrong weather is tricky and can be avalanche prone. I went back several times with Team members and up onto the hill this was in summer and winter. It was surprising how benign this slope can feel but add dumps of snow you can see how easy it is to go off route. Add in darkness and deteriorating conditions its a tricky place as these hills are. Even nowadays with GPS better mapping the Scottish Avalanche Information Service which now gives a good guide in 5 area forecasts along with a lot the more accurate weather forecasts these are tools we must use. Never take all these additions for granted. You still need to make decisions on your route dependant on the conditions you meet. There are rarely no paths in winter!
“I remember it. I was navigating for a SARDA handler an dog. We bivvied on the back of Braeriach when we ran out of daylight. I think Sunshine the (team leader ) was a bit worried as we had no comms.”
Bill Batson RAF MR Team leader.
Nick Sharpe Now a Mountain Guide in Canada
“Quite the job, and my first real experience of climbers succumbing to the white death of an avalanche.”
It’s so easy now to pick up a climbing guide or a Munros / Corbett book and plan your day. You can even get waypoints and all the latest information on your hill day or climb. The internet is full of blogs, advice about hill days. It’s great to see how things have moved on GPS and maps on phones etc have made life A lot easier.
I wonder how many still get the maps out and ponder over them looking at their planned route? To me I got to understand the maps and their make up. Years ago the Bothies most of the remoter ones had secret locations now you can find them through the internet and books. The early 1 inch to mile lacked a lot of detail, crags were hard to see yet to me they were a pathway to a new world. The one inch to the mile (1:63,360) range of maps started being replaced with the 1:50000 range in 1969. The metrication of Admiralty Charts began in 1967 as part of a modernisation programme.
I have great memories of my early days of hill bashing. There were hardly any guides to the hills and a lot fewer paths. The SMC had their District Guides full of detail and hidden information about climbing routes many in new areas. Giving little away but for those that looked so many hidden gems.
On my first Big Walk in 1976 the North – South we poured over our route in the Briefing Room at Kinloss in the Mountain Rescue Section. It had a huge space we moved the chairs and got all the maps out. The planning was fun and we wanted no support apart from food drop offs in a few areas. Ages was spent on fabloning maps to waterproof them for these trips.
We were young and invincible or so we thought. We sent food parcels to keepers and Bothies that the team used. How we got to know Scotland planning that trip. I had completed my Munro’s just before (Number 146)!but the planning was a thing we did every weekend as we moved all over Scotland chasing summits. I never believed that one day I would visit all these places that as a young 12 year old were way out out of my imagination.
I developed a plan, bought my maps and asked others for good ways up hills. All this practice definitely gave you skills to work out your day especially when the weather comes in unexpectedly? It was so handy in big searches in the Mountain Rescue for many years all over Scotland. When we returned from a weekend we would have a briefing and asked what hills we climbed and routes we did. You learned so much from this. A lot of folk have no clue what climb they have been on or what route climbed. It all helped you add to your area knowledge and understanding of the geography of this lovely country.
Introducing new folk on the hill in my option most are fit enough but getting to grips with navigation was and is a key skill. We would plan the day in early days using using only the maps inch to the mile then for times and distance. Add in wind and weather what your carrying, group size etc and things can change drastically. It to me is still a skill worth using.
I started reading maps about Galloway and I loved reading the hill and area names. “The awful hand” Nick of the Dungeon and the Silver Flow in Galloway always entranced my imagination. Tales of the bogs taking forestry vechiles due the nature of the ground all added to my. love of the area. The more I walked and climbed all over Scotland the more interesting names, tales I came across were enlightening.
Later I got to love the classic Gaelic names in my early days many were Anglified before the rise of use of the Gaelic Language. This is a blog on its own and so pleasing to see the re-emergence of the Gaelic culture and language.
What map has the most Munro’s on it?
There are specialised maps for many areas: Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Skye, Torridon and others.
The last two days have seen the team search for the missing person Harvey Christian who failed to return from Ben Nevis on Friday 27th January.
With extremely challenging weather conditions which did not allow helicopter assistance.
However support did come from Glencoe MRT, SARDA, Police Highland and West MRT teams. Also with today’s brief improvement in weather helicopters from both Prestwick and Stornaway assisted in the search at different points in the day.
Unfortunately we have been unable to locate Harvey at this time. The search will continue when weather allows.
If anyone has any info please contact Police Scotland. If you look at Lochaber MRT on Facebook you will see what serious ground the teams and SARDA are on. I have searched in the past many times theses wild unforgiving places. Stay safe all and my thoughts are with Harvey’s family an awful time for them.
For all those taking part on this search take care. My thoughts are with you all.