Thanks for a great night in Blairgowerie 

Last night I did a talk for The Tayside MRT at there new base in Blairgowerie! it was an interesting night and very enjoyable! I travelled down early and visited a few friends on the way sadly there was no snow on the hills! I met a friend Heather for a coffee in Blairgowerie and then on to Brian and Kathy who I was staying with in town. Brian is an old pal from my RAF days in Mountain Rescue. I also went to meet Helen MacLeod my pal Al Macleod’s Mum (Al was sadly killed on the Matterhorn) his Mum Helen still lives in Rattary. We had a great catch up about life and lots of magic memories of Big Al it was a wonderful visit and one I will cherish. Brian  took me round as he knew Al well and to see Helen and it was lovely to get the stories of Al and memories of someone so full of life. As I walked out I noticed a great photo of a young Al high on the French Spur on Everest, its a poor copy but the original is a dynamic photo of one of my best pals in his prime. I will be back at New Year to see Helen what a lovely visit.

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We had a great chat and then to Brian’s and Cathy for dinner and then went over to the Tayside Mountain Rescue Team Base in Blairgowerie! This Base is just opening and has been donated by the Order Of John a charity that has done so much for Scottish Mountain Rescue. It was a great night and there new building is impressive and it is great to see the plans that the team have for the future. I had been down to set up a few hours before and when I got back my power pack had blown out?

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Lucky I had a back up of my chat on a flash drive and the wee talk went ahead with another laptop. I spoke as I said before about many of the great characters in Mountain Rescue who had helped me and taught me so many valuable lessons in the past.  It was good to be back speaking to Mountain Rescue team member’s and I hope they enjoyed it.

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This was a letter I wrote to the Order of St John

Many, Many thanks.

Firstly please accept my sincere apologises for not writing before to thank you for all your great work for the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland over the years. I was the Chairman of the Mountain Rescue Committee in the early nineties when we were first approached by the Order of St John who wanted to assist Mountain Rescue in Scotland.

I was at that time in the RAF and serving at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. I was the Team Leader of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and was the first military member to serve as Chairman. In the RAF we are extremely well equipped and even had 5 full –time staff, our primary role is to assist in the recovery of crashed military aircraft in the mountains of the UK. The RAF Teams are well funded by the government unlike our civilian counterparts who at that time had to raise all their funding through Charity. I felt it was one of my main tasks as Chairman with my Executive Committee to try to get additional cash or sponsorship for the civilian teams.  This may sound fairly simple but to Mountain Rescue in these days this was very radical! Sponsorship financial assistance many thought would come with strings attached and many in Mountain Rescue were wary of their independence.

Mountain Rescue as you are aware is made up of civilian volunteers all who are all unpaid and to some, sponsorship was the first route to professionalism creeping into Mountain Rescue. This was a great worry to many as things were changing at this period of time Health & Safety was raising its head and litigation was a worry in the care of casualties.

I spoke to the Executive Committee and we all agreed that any help from the Order Of St John would be a huge benefit not only to Mountain Rescue in Scotland but far more importantly to the casualty. I had a meeting at RAF Kinloss with from Sir James Stirling Of Garden and explained that there may be a “hearts and mind” exercise ahead when he met some of the teams.  I was very frank but was so impressed by the attitude and desire of the Order to help. Many Sponsors would have left it there but incredibly The Order agreed to speak to a few of the “Characters in Scottish Mountain Rescue” especially those who were very wary of this new idea.  He travelled far and wide and met some of the characters who make Mountain Rescue so unique. This was not an easy task. Due to this magnificent work of the rest is history.  This was a key point in Scottish Mountain Rescues development.

 

I retired from the RAF in 2007 and for 3 years was a member of the Torridon & Kinlochewe MRT, who are in the process of building a long overdue base for the team. I am still very active as a mountaineer and it is incredible to see MR Bases all over Scotland from Skye, to Glencoe to the Borders and the Islands. The new Base in Arran looks wonderful and this is where my family started me on my “Affair” with the mountains, nearly 50 years ago. What you have achieved is incredible for the Order and a wonderful addition to Mountain Rescue. I spent nearly 40 years many as Team Leader having to talk to casualties in the back of a land rover or an old building during searches. Even worse is speaking to relatives after a fatality and to have some where warm and secure to speak and comfort them in nearly every MRT area was so needed and is a huge improvement. As important is having an area for Team Members to train and debrief after an operation and store and service equipment is a wonderful accolade to the Order. In addition the Team bases are now part of the local facilities in some areas, this gives especially the remote areas locals the opportunity to share in teams facilities. I do wish more people realise what the Order has down for Mountain Rescue and I hope the small logos on the buildings and Bases are testimony to your great achievements. The Bases and vehicles you have supported over the years had made a superb difference to Mountain. I have heard that you plan to continue this support of Mountain Rescue in Scotland in the future, long may it continue.

The Order of St John I salute you.

David “Heavy” Whalley MBE. BEM.

Burghead  December 2011.  updated Dec 2013.

I am in the process of writing a book on my life in the mountains and hope to explain the part you have played in Mountain Rescue. I also have a website and do various lectures on the mountains and try to explain to my audiences what you have done for us all. Again many, many thanks.

 

 

 

Please edit as you see fit!

Posted in Charity, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Lectures, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Heading to Bairgowerie for a talk to the Tayside MRT.

I am off on my travels to Blairgowerie to talk to the Tayside Mountain Rescue. I will visit the late Al MacLeod’s Mum my best pal who was killed on a fall on the North Face of the Materhorn it will be great to meet her again.

 

Big Al MacLeod after his successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger a great pal and superb friend.

Big Al MacLeod after his successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger a great pal and superb friend.

Al Macleod 14/7/1989

In Mountain Rescue you meet some great characters and my great friend Al McLeod was on of them. He died after a fall on the Matterhorn North Face whilst soloing. It was a tragic day when we got the news. Al was just leaving the RAF and had planned a years climbing. He was a superb mountaineer and just back from an unsuccessful attempt on Everest West Ridge, he had attempted the summit and was 1000 feet from the top after climbing the Hornbein Coulior, the weather came in and they descend. As a young man he had so much to live for, he like the rest in our prime of youth felt so at one in the mountains. He was so powerful and regularly ran back to the bothy after a huge hill day. He never showed tiredness, just power and though not a natural climber on rock he was so strong. As a winter climber he was exceptional. He loved the mountains and the wild and as a local boy from Blairgowerie he had spent his life in the hills. He was the man who looked after me after Lockerbie, he was a true friend in all aspects and I never forget him.

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On researching my talk I was amazed at the influences during my 40 years in SAR. My early Team Leaders, George Bruce, John Hinde, Pete McGowan and Ray Sefton all so different made incredible impressions on me. They had so many talents and to work with them and many others was an incredible experience and one I treasure.

Leadership is often talked about and the military try to teach it rather badly in my opinion to many of their Officer core. What I learned through the years was incredible and if you could bottle it and learn from your mistakes it would be some teaching manual, a best seller.  What the military was a bit scared of was the way we operated it was not the respect of rank but of experience and ability no matter what your rank. I learned much from the “young guns” and was glad so many developed into  strong and sound mountaineers, leaders and in many other aspects of life.

Another good thing you were only a Team Leader for a few years, I did back to back tours at RAF Leuchars and Kinloss 7 years in total with so many incredible test and learning points. In that period I dealt with the Lockerbie Disaster, The Shackleton Crash in Harris  and the Chinook crash on the Mull Of Kintyre. Add into that 25 -30 call – outs a year and many fatalities it was a testing period. In addition I lost 3 pals on the mountains. In the end I was burnt out and my family suffered. I try to talk about this as there are so many lessons to be learned for future leaders. I learned much from the civilian Team Leaders, Hamish McInnes, Peter Cliff, Graham Gibb, Terry Cornfield and Donald Watt, many became pals and were always fair to me a young keen Team Leader.

I was never a team leader again but stayed as a Team Member and watched the changes develop. I was the Chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue during this period and helped get Goverment financial assistance for the civilian Teams and from the Order Of St John which has been incredible for the Teams.

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The RAF Mountain Rescue has changed three Teams now but still the same people a lot more admin as only the military can produce by as a good pal said. Willie Mac Ritchie the ex Team Leader at RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth stated.

“The kit on the outside and the equipment may have changed.
Underneath the heart and soul of the teams remains the same”

How right he is and long may it continue.

Ray Sefton and Hamish MacInnes.

Ray Sefton and Hamish MacInnes.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Avalanche info, Equipment, Family, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, History, Ice climbing Canada, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/ sMT, Views Mountaineering, Views political, Weather | Leave a comment

Stats in Mountain Rescue Why Bother? Please read.

The letter below was published in the Scottish Mountaineer and made me think again about Stats and there use in Mountain Rescue.

I would appreciate any comments.

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For many years the Scottish Mountaineering Club annually published a lengthy list of brief Accident Reports. These reports simply detailed the date and location of each mountain accident, gave the ages and gender of those involved, said how many man-hours were involved for the relevant mountain rescue team and finally said how the incident was resolved. No names were published. To give two examples:

 

‘February 24 – Ben Nevis (near CIC Hut). A lone walker was walking in the area of the CIC Hut

    when an avalanche carried him about a hundred metres. He suffered limb injuries and was

    carried first by stretcher then airlifted to Hospital in Fort William. Glencoe MRT, R177 (the helicopter).

    94 hrs.’

 

 ‘January 2 – Signal Point, nr Clachaig Inn (NN122566). A female walker (62yrs) slipped and fractured her

    ankle. The team carried her out to a waiting ambulance. Glencoe MRT. 13 hrs.’

 

Much to the regret of SMC members and the wider Scottish mountaineering community, since 2012 the SMC Journal has not been sent these most valuable reports. Through a fog of obfuscation we seem to have learned that Police Scotland (or at any rate someone in your organisation) has decided that these reports cannot be published because, so it seems, it is thought that the reports contravene the provisions of the Data Protection Act. This seems to be a sad mistake. So far as we can see, the reports barely breach the Act at all: no names are published and if it was felt that publishing either the gender or the age of the victim might allow identification this could easily be avoided. One would simply say “Two people…two climbers…two individuals…etc.” I believe that the present sorry situation rests on a simple misunderstanding of what the reports need involve. All that needs to be retained is the place, the time of year, the cause of the accident and the number of hours which the rescue team had to put in to resolve the situation. My Deputy Editor stands ready to alter any reports received so that no names, ages or genders are mentioned.

 

Little accident reports like this are most helpful to hillwalkers and climbers. They identify accident blackspots; they put flesh and bones on mere statistics; they are a vivid and engaging historical record of what went wrong for some individuals in Scotland’s mountains and a humble memorial of all the time and effort which needs to be put in by the rescue services to put things right (if they can be put right). If you have read of accidents taking place because of unstable snow conditions in Coire na Tulaich on the Buachaille in Glencoe you might think twice before descending that way in a thaw. Not publishing these reports because of some ill-informed fears about “confidentiality” is a mistake, and, in the view of those who understand Scottish mountaineering, actually compromises safety.

I do not know who it is who is obstructing the publication of these reports. I am not even a hundred percent certain that it is someone in Police Scotland, but if it is (as I am lead to believe) I do wish that he or she would consider carefully what I have said and enter into a meaningful dialogue about the issue. I am quite confident that with a little goodwill and commonsense the matter could easily be resolved.

Peter Biggar.

This is my article a few years ago

I have decided to write about something that few people will be aware of and

their relevance to Mountain Safety and nowadays to Mountain Rescue Funding. I

have been fortunate as for many years I was involved in meeting two of the main

protagonist of the Scottish Mountain Rescue Stats Ben Humble and John Hinde.

They compiled the Stats for the Scottish Mountain Rescue Committee; Ben was a

renowned mountaineer and had a great interest in mountain safety. When Ben

died he left a great legacy through the Scottish Mountaineering Club Annual

Journal where the Stats were put in since the early 40’s. Ben wrote and worked

tirelessly and his article “A survey of Mountain Accidents In Scotland 1925 – 45″

was a breakthrough at the time. After this Ben compiled a yearly listing of

Mountain Accidents in the Journals. It was when Ben passed away John Hinde

took over and did another outstanding job for many years; they left a unique

history and so much information for future generations especially in the aspects

of Mountain safety.

Nowadays Mountain Rescue Teams are extremely busy and after a call out the

last thing they need is to afterwards is to compile the call –out report. Yet they

are so important especially nowadays. I took over the Statistician job for several

years and had various problems keeping up with the reports. There were in these

days 400 call –outs many involving several teams. The paperwork involved was

very hard work and at times it was a constant battle to keep up to date. It

became nearly a full time job and kept me very busy in any spare time I had.

I did a talk a few years when I was the Scottish Mountain Rescue Statistician it

was to try to get the teams to realise how important they are. None of us like

paperwork but it is so essential especially when trying to raise funding from

Government Sources. I found this out the hard way in the late 80’s when they

were going to cut the RAF Teams or even get rid of them. It was a real panic but I

was the only Team with a history going back to 1944 and could prove to the

“Bean Counters” that 10% of our incidents were for military aircraft and military

personnel. That Bean Counter was put back in his box for a few more years. It

was also very relevant in the early days of trying for funding from the Scottish

Government when I was Chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue. We had to

explain to the First Minister that Teams put in a huge amount of hours in on

training, courses and looking after equipment apart from attending incidents.

These are a few points from my talk!

 

Information

The information gained from a few years incidents can be so helpful to teams. It

can help show the areas in which Team Training should go. If your Team mainly

does Lowland Urban searches should you spend do much time and money on

expensive equipment on Technical gear? Maybe look more into Search planning

and training? Or if you carry out a lot searches in areas of swift water should the

training be increased in this area? Agree fully on this one. A rich profile of what a

team does and where it does it can help inform not only training (what and

where) but also what kinds of equipment to purchase. It’s all about matching

what the team does in theory to what it actually does in practice. I suspect that

in many cases this is not the case.

Also, an accurate and up-to-date picture about what happens across Scotland

can help advise the Press, Government and safety organisations such as the

MCofS on what aspects to focus on, and also avoid these organisations passing on year after year inaccurate myths (e.g. all mountaineers are ill equipped and

Inexperienced numpties hell bent on jumping off cliffs!)

 

Searches

Team areas will have accident hot spots that are current today it may be

worth having a look back and see if any changes are relevant? Casualties

do get found in areas that were hot spots in the past. At times many of the

current team may have limited knowledge of this historical fact as elder

Team member’s leave and their knowledge could be lost forever? Agree

fully. A recent Professor of IT is quoted as saying “ “The experiences of our

past are still the best road map to our future”. You are correct that hot

spots of the past disappear and new ones appear. Its only we you carry out

an objective analysis that trends like this appear. This can help a present

team to find out more about the new hot spots (where are they, how do you

gain access, what are the technical challenges, and so on). Far better to be

Pre-warned than be caught out on a rescue!

Medical – Look at the injuries your team deals with make priorities in these areas that are

you need to. If you deal with 80% ankle lower limbs make sure all can treat and

the equipment is suitable. How many stretcher carries do you do how often do

you practice? It is easy to get side tracked? Fully agree. No point in spending

£1000s on fancy kit to deal with a broken femur when your team has never ever

had such an injury! Also, if a team mainly deals with searches with no injured

people then why train numerous members to become EMTs etc, when the money

and time would be better spent on training up people to become better at

searching and search management.

 

Funding – The government are interested in Stats – man/ women hours so important. What

about the hours on training and sorting gear and exercises they are never

submitted in the figures only call out hours. What about travel to and from a call out,

sorting out gear, standby hours etc. “Bean Counters” only want numbers but

that is how it works . It is really worth working out how many hours the team

spends training/ courses and kit maintenance? It will amaze you! When you add

up all the hours carried out by every team across a full year it sums to around

40,000 hours (give or take). This translates into many, many full time police

Officers, which goes to show not only what a comprehensive job we do, but also

and how much money is saved to the public purse.

 

Safety/Research – The common causes of accidents in your area maybe worth alerting climbers and walkers to current trends in your area. Is safety not a Mountain Rescue Concern?

The SMR/MRS is the organisation in the BEST POSSIBLE position to advise

everyone – Press, Government, Course Providers, Governing bodies, etc, what

goes wrong. It has a moral obligation to publish its annual statistics far and wide

and in a timely manner – not two years late! Also, as a government funded

Organisation, should it have a legal responsibility to do this too? Some  of he recent accidents on Ben Nevis (winter 2015) have been in the same area and involve walkers ? Why is this trend happening?

 

Historical – So many casualties will come back many years later to find out what happened

to them or a loved one. It is good to have some back ground on the incident and

what happened. Many things re –occur on a regular cycle. You and I can recount

numerous instances where family members have come back to us for

information about someone in the family who died (a grid reference, more detail,

who assisted etc.) and SMR has a moral responsibility to help these people by

providing relevant information.

 

Stats are so important –

The world has changed nowadays with the Data Protection Act and personal

privacy, with new regulations to ensure that this is adhered to. We do not need to

name any casualties but age and other factors are very relevant. With one Police

Force I was assured that we would have current and accurate stats that we can

use for the next generations to learn from, I wonder how far we are from this now

the Single Police force is up and running. I feel we owe it to John Hinde, Ben

Humble and all the other Statistics Officers who maintained and published

accurate and up-to-date records to tackle this problem before it is too late.

Is it only me that sees this as a problem?

 

Any comments welcome?

Worth noting

Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW) is very open about what it does and you can download annual figures from as far back as 1980 right through to 2013.

Go to – http://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/information-centre/incident-statistics

 

Irish MR is not quite as up to date but still open about publishing its annual stats.  Go to –

http://www.mountainrescue.ie/TeamInformation

 

Do we seem to be lagging behind?

Thanks to Bob Sharp for his input and Ben Humble and John Hinde for the inspiration!

 

 

Past Comments –  A comment 0f Congratulations on a very forceful and heartfelt defence of management information in mountain rescue.

All the points you make are valid, both north and south of the border as well as across the Irish Sea. For the last two decades I have been trying to instil these same points into the English and Welsh MRTs. I believe progress has been made but I am still not satisfied that the MREW figures are complete. For what it is worth, my sympathy goes out to all the statisticians who have followed John Hinde; not only a difficult act to follow but one made harder by poor co-operation from teams.

The production of management information is vital for the development of mountain safety and rescue. This point is well-made by Heavy. All the aspects covered by the article are essential if mountain rescue is to develop in a way that reflects changes in society. Without this steady flow of information, it is likely that lessons will be overlooked, will not be learned or quickly be forgotten.

Please consider publishing your article further afield. It might even blow some of the blinkers away.

Ged Feeney
Statistics Officer – Mountain Rescue (England & Wales)

 

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Posted in Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SAR, Views Mountaineering | 2 Comments

A frozen walk along the beach – A Kintail Tragedy 30 years ago.

It was a lovely but bitter cold day and there was a heavy frost yesterday it was minus 6 recorded locally. The car was covered in ice and took time to scrape the windows for one of the first times this winter. I am working on a lecture to Tayside Mountain Rescue on Friday in Blairgowerie so it will be a busy week ahead. I hope to visit a few old friends on route. I needed a break late morning and I went for a wander along the beach at Rosielle and even the shoreline was icy!  It was a lovely walk but bitter cold with a bank of fog out at sea that stopped the flights from Inverness. My friend Natacha joined me she was a bit rough from the cold but enjoyed the walk and we ended up talking politics in these mad uncertain times. It was then to the Bothy for a warm up and some soup tea and cake!


The ice forming on the sea a cold but lovely day.

  1.  I was researching  for my chat in Blairgowerie I came across this sad tale of a tragedy at Kintail 30 years ago. I was in the RAF Mountain Rescue at this time and it was a sad day as it involved local people.

SMC Journal 1987 Scottish Mountain Accidents

1986 December 4 – 6 th – Exhaustion, hypothermia tragedy. Three young  people left Kintail Lodge Hotel in late afternoon to walk to Glenelg (Moyle) via path and Loch Coire nan Crogachan (1500 feet)

1986-dec-call-out-kintail

They went to high and were benighted. Male (20) ill – clad died at 2000 feet on the first night. Girl (18) also ill-clad collapsed next morning when descending with girl 20 slightly better dressed. 18-year-old died later.  20-year-old went down to raise alarm. Kintail, Glenelg, Skye, Kinloss, SARDA and RAF Sea King Helicopter.

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The RAF Sea king helicopter.

A tragic day for the local area and a warning for those who venture onto the hills at this time of year when daylight is short and the proper clothing and navigational skills are needed.

From a good pal Don Shanks

“Reference the Kintail job  a sad outcome they had not meant to stray off the main path but accidentally took the spur path which took them off route and although we flew the survivor she didn’t. recognise the area from the air but the dog man pointed us to the summit to where we recovered the  lad.
Don ”

Sadly most years at this festive time people forget we are in mid winter and its easy to go wrong, simple paths even at low altitudes may be snow-covered and not easy to follow.

Take care and be careful.

Posted in Enviroment, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Views Political? | 3 Comments

 A great book Climbing the Corbetts Hamish Brown, to read again and again.

Climbing the Corbetts – Scotland’s 2500ft Summits

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I had a great weekend and travelled home yesterday as the hills on the West were still looking good and as I passed the Ben it had fresh snow on the hills. I was very sore from my walk on Saturday so it was an easy drive home. The temperature dropped to – 4 at the Cairngorms and the trees were frosted giving the hills a great Christmas feel about them. My neck is very sore after carrying my hill bag and as I have a busy week ahead it was the right thing to do. It is hard to miss out on another day the hills but you have to listen to your body at my age. I had a great day out on Saturday so it was worth the effort and I enjoyed the company and seeing a few pals who live locally. I was out with the Moray Club and it was a superb weekend in great company.

I enjoy reading about the mountains and always read about the hills before I go as no matter how much I think I know these hills you only touch the surface. A great source of information and inspiration is Hamish Brown’s and I love delving into his book Climbing the Corbetts as I did yesterday.

These wild hills give so many different views of our big peaks and take you into some wild land.

These wild hills give so many different views of our big peaks and take you into some of the different parts of Scotland.

Hamish Brown is  some man in 1974 he completed the Munros in one round and his book on his journey is a great one.

On 4 April 1974 he set off on his trip to complete all the Munro mountains in one trip. He completed the journey on 24 July, a journey of 112 days during which time he covered 1,639 miles, climbed 289 peaks and wore out three pairs of boots. He only used the Skye and Mull ferries and a bicycle as transport.

His 1974 journey was documented in the book Hamish’s Mountain Walk and this made him a household name among the walking fraternity, the book won an award from the Scottish Arts Council. He followed his Munros walk with the longest trip over the English, Irish and Welsh peaks, told in the book Hamish’s Groats End Walk. Brown also thought up the Ultimate Challenge (now called the TGO Challenge, after The Great Outdoors Magazine, not to be confused with the Australian series, which sponsors and organises the event), a fortnight-long endurance walk from coast-to-coast across Scotland – the book Scotland Coast To Coast is an account of a typical Challenge walk. Great Walking Adventure covered some of his more distant treks to Corsica, Norway, the Andes, Atlas

I love that book and his Climbing the Corbetts. There are so many gems in it and his descriptions are wonderful and I love reading each tale before I go out on each adventure and even better when I return his knowledge of our Scottish mountains is exceptional.

“A love of the Scottish hills doesn’t depend on the height of any summit but on an indefinable quality which the 2500ft plus hills have in abundance, perhaps even more than the Munros. This book describes one well-known mountaineer’s compact with the Corbetts, rich with anecdote, historical connections, and written with companionable enthusiasm. As with the Munros, the Corbetts will introduce the hill-goer to interesting new areas and islands – such as the Galloway hills, Applecross, Ardgour and Morven, extensive wilds ‘Beyond the Great Glen’, Arran, Jura, Rum and the Outer Isles, and gems like Ben Tee, Fuar Tholl, Cul Mor and Cul Beg, Foinaven and Arkle, The Merrick and The Clisham. Hamish is the perfect host to introduce this alluring Scottish game of Climbing the Corbetts. As with Hamish’s Mountain Walk and Hamish’s Groats End Walk, Climbing the Corbetts includes two sections of fabulous colour photographs.

I would recommend that these books should be in every Mountain walkers library.

Posted in Books, Corbetts, Enviroment, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Froachaidh 879 metres “The heathery hill” and one of many tops!

On the way

On the way off into the sun.

I was out with the Moray Mountaineering Club (MMC) staying at the superb Alec MacIntyre hut near Onich for the weekend. It is situated just off the busy A82  and I drove down late morning. The drive down was magic and I left early on Friday as I had a few things to do. I caught up with various friends and had a couple of hours with Hamish in Glencoe. He was on great form and I was amazed at his plans for “projects ongoing”what a man. The hills were loking pretty sparse with little snow and looked frosted on the higher hills in Glencoe. The weather was still superb and forecast great cold but clear with little wind.  On arriving at the hut  I was given was given a thorough brief by the custodian as I was one of the first to arrive. As the night drew on the members arrived after work the last one from Ireland at 0200 and as always it was a steady night.
There a keen bunch the MMC!
The first part of the walk through the Glen.

The first part of the walk through the Glen.

Plans were made and everyone was away early incredibly there were about 16 member’s out. The routes planned were   Curved Ridge, Bidean, The Mamores, Creise and the Etive hills and several Corbetts. I had a plan to get an elusive Corbett done, a few had done it before Fraochaidh a big Corbett hidden behind the Ballachulish Horseshoe Beinn a’ Bheitheir. It is defended by a big walk in over three tops and I had no takers as those who had done it before were saying it could be a long day and put of the rest. So it was a day out on my own.
fraochaig
I was gone by 0745 after getting out of the tight car park at the hut and parked near the school in Ballachulish at East Larroch from here it is a Glen walk for me of an hour until you cross the river. I was involved with a helicopter that crashed in the Glen many years ago before Christmas . It was in Glen a Hullish on the 8/12/1994 and sadly both crew were killed.
Over these tops.

Over these tops. Thank goodness the weather was clear.

All the way up the Glen the massive Ballachulish horseshoe  towers above it to me is another neglected hill in my option! Hamish Brown says of it in his wonderful book Climbing the Corbett’s says of this hill ” in winter it has the curvaceous purity of Marlyin Munro” I passed the lovely “schoolhouse ridge” a great way up and a good scramble in winter. My mate Chalky used to live here in the village so we had some fun on the ridge in the past and a big gully if I remember. Memories flood back in the walk in and I found a key on the path. It says on the back Outward Bound Trust any takers?
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I had been on this way before but I had forgotten  what a wild area it is. I lost the path after crossing the river in the thick grass and heather not easy and then up to right of way to Glen Creran and the first top at 628 metres  following faint path by the deer fence.
Great views of the big hills.

Great views of the big hills.

I now had great views all round and my hill was still not in view but all the major hills were Ben Nevis and the Mamores dominates as does Bidean Nam Bian a massive mountain and of course the Aonach Eag and the other hills. Time was moving on and the day was perfect but a bitter wind I was so glad as this was a clear day in deep snow and poor visibility it would not be fun.
At last the summit beckons.

At last the summit beckons.

At last I had views of my hill and it was along to 718 metres then following old metal fence posts the ridge narrows and becomes rockier and the wild corries and the Glen heavily forested are all over. Maybe as Hamish Brown says this should be the walk of the forestry or hill of the trees. The final climb of 20o metres had bits of hard snow and was steep the time was moving on and I eventually reached the summit. The views of Ardgour and the sea are massive but I was tired there was no way I was going back the same way as it would be dark in 3 hours. I decided to drop off the ridge along to Duror and hopefully  get a bus from the main road back to Ballachulish.
A bit of sun on the way off.

A bit of sun on the way off.

The descent was lovely the fading sun lighting up the hills and the views to sea impressive. The worst bit is about 20 minutes of felled trees “pathless purgatory” and then you are on the forestry road and easy walking to Duror. I tried to hitch and had no idea of bus times from Oban so I called a friend ” Sue” who dropped everything and picked up a cold old guy from Duror! Poor Sue was working on  a big dinner for the Cioch club dinner in the Inchree Restaurant that night and my little sad request knocked her back in time. We had a hairy drive to my car while she rushed back to finish the dinner menu!
Thanks Sue owe you one xxxx
The way off to the right of the lochan and down to the forestry,

The way off to the right of the lochan and down to the forestry,

It was then get back to the hut and warm up shower  and lots of tea and the others all started arriving after great days on the hill! I was exhausted it was a long 7 hours and hard ground but a great hill that can be done much easier from the forestry road at Duror and save the tortuous walk in but then I would not have had the great views!
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I retired early the fiddle was out in the hut but my body said no and it will be an easy day today as I have a busy week ahead. It was well worth getting away early as we all did.
Today’s tip worth getting away early and do not forget the torch, Heather Morning was on the radio saying that you should carry two torches ?
Ever tried putting batteries in the dark on your torch ?
The wonderful Beinn a Bheitheir - see Hamish Browns comments on this hill in winter .

The wonderful Beinn a Bheitheir – see Hamish Browns comments on this hill in winter .

 

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Off to Glencoe – The Alex MacIntyre Memorial Hut

 

Last night myself and Jack went over to Rachel a Shane’s its been a long time since I ate so well, Today I am off on the Moray Mountaineering Club weekend meet in Onich near Glencoe. I will do some visiting in the way, it is very mild now and a lot of the snow is gone so maybe I will get a new Corbett in, we will see.

 

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In the autumn of 1982, at the age of 28, MacIntyre was killed by a single stone while setting up a new route on Annapurna‘s South Face.[9] In light of his contribution to British climbing, particularly advances in the ‘light and fast’ style of alpinism, the ‘Alex MacIntyre Memorial Hut’ was set up in the West Highlands where it is managed by the British Mountaineering Council and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

The Alex MacIntyre Memorial Hut is located between Glencoe and Fort William, at North Ballachulish, in the Western Highlands. It is ideally located for walkers and climbers wishing to explore Ben Nevis and Glencoe.

This National Hut is jointly owned by the BMC and the MCofS, and is run by a management committee of volunteers which reports to both councils.

The hut can accommodate sixteen people in five different bedrooms. Facilities include a well-equipped kitchen, drying room and car park. The hut is open to Club and Individual members of the BMC/MCofS.

One day as a tiger .

One day as a tiger .

One Day As A Tiger, John Porter’s revelatory and poignant memoir of his friend Alex MacIntyre, shows mountaineering at its extraordinary best and tragic worst and draws an unforgettable picture of a dazzling, argumentative and exuberant legend.

The wall was the ambition, the style became the obsession.’ In the autumn of 1982, a single stone fell from high on the south face of Annapurna and struck Alex MacIntyre on the head, killing him instantly and robbing the climbing world of one of its greatest talents.

Although only twenty-eight years old, Alex was already one of the leading figures of British mountaineering’s most successful era. His ascents included hard new routes on Himalayan giants like Dhaulagiri and Changabang and a glittering record of firsts in the Alps and Andes. Yet how Alex climbed was as important as what he climbed. He was a mountaineering prophet, sharing with a handful of contemporaries including his climbing partner Voytek Kurtyka the vision of a purer form of alpinism on the world’s highest peaks.

 

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