I just found this postcard sent from my mate Mark Sinclair ( Cheeky) . It was posted in November 1983 after an ascent of the Diamond Couloir on Mount Kenya. He climbed it with Malcolm Taylor who was a New Zealand fast jet pilot. They had just returned from out winter trip to Canada climbing many of the classic routes and were both climbing well.
The card says
“Well youngster what a story I’ve got to tell you. I lost about a stone living on boiled rice for 9 days. After that I told Malay I was heading back to civilisation for a steak. Anyway we did the Diamond Couloir, quite hard touching Scottish 5 at 17000 ft.“
The Diamond Couloir’s first ascent was claimed by Phil Snyder and Thumbi Mathenge in 1973, avoiding the steeper high section by a ramp on the left. The difficult upper section, named the ‘Headwall’, was pioneered in 1975 by Yvon Chouinard and Michael Covington, who helped to establish the Diamond Couloir as one of the world’s greatest ice climbs.
For many years, the Couloir attracted climbers from all over the world. However, over the last 15 years the line has hardly seen any ascents and the climbing community had largely written this gem off as a victim of global warming and shifting weather patterns. The top section remains intact, but the lower half is the problem due to its melting ice and dangerous rubble shoot.
Sadly Mark was killed along with his pal Neil on Lochnagar after a fall on Parallel B Gully in March 1995.
Officers in Fort William are appealing for information to help trace a woman reported missing in the Lochaber area.
Sarah Buick (24), an experienced walker from Dundee, was last known to be, as pictured, at the Summit of Ben Nevis around 5am on Tuesday, 22 June. She has not been seen or heard from since and there is growing concern for her welfare.
Sarah walked to the summit from the Lower Falls area of Glen Nevis, to the South of Ben Nevis, but may have walked to other locations after her summit of Ben Nevis, or intended to return using a similar route to descend to Glen Nevis.
She is described as being around 5ft 3ins tall, of a slim build with long brown hair. At the time she went missing she was wearing a light green jacket and carrying an orange rucksack.
Inspector Nick Hough of Fort William Police Office said: “As time goes on we are becoming increasingly concerned for Sarah. She is an experienced walker and often makes trips alone, but it is very unlike her to be out of contact with friends and family for this length of time.
“We are appealing to anyone who may have been in the Ben Nevis or Glen Nevis area over the last 36 hours and has seen anything which may help our searches to please get in touch.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting incident 2741 of 22 June.
I have just had a lovely day with my Grandkids, my stepdaughter and Dave it was a day I will never forget. They all made me so happy and showed me so much love, laughter and kindness. Its even more important these days. We had a great lunch for Father’s Day and so many laughs. I am so lucky to have them all in my life. I wrote this piece a few years ago and memories came flooding back of how incredible parents they were. My Dad was a Church of Scotland Minister and I was a wild child. Not uncommon for a ministers son.
My Dad was a minister in Ayr he was a “Fire and Brimstone minister” a tee – totaller. We had a great childhood though little money but my Dad loved sport, football and the mountains. He was a dedicated Church Of Scotland Minister unlike many Ministers of today he was always out visiting his people and my Mum brought us up all five kids. Dad had a huge faith gave a tenth of his salary to the Church Ministers were poorly paid in these days and Mum was always worried about money and being in a tied house.
I was a bit of a wild child as the Ministers son maybe it was because you got some grief which was usual for a son of the Manse! I was always playing up and getting into many scrapes. Dad was very strict and I needed it but looking back he gave me a great life. The rest of the family were well – behaved and as the youngest of the family with three sisters and one brother I was spoiled by them all and often in trouble.
Dad and Mum gave me a love of the mountains and sport and we used to go to all of the Ayr United games home and away. Dad always wore his dog collar and this often got us into the games for free. I would vanish among the crowd and Dad and Mum would be in the stand. (Mum was always worried I would get arrested) He had a booming voice which I have and it like me could be heard all around the ground and was a bit of a local character.
The Church was his life and he worked so hard we hardly saw him. He was an old-fashioned minister who visited his people and was a true hard worker and was always there when his congregation needed him. He was a very talented runner and won the Arthur’s Seat Race and several occasions a fit man playing tennis right into his later life. His best friend at University died as an alcoholic that put him against alcohol all his life.
It was in the Mountains he spent his early days in the 1930’s at Loch Eil in the West Coast as a student Minister visiting the far-flung parishes in Glendessary and about, small Churches with great people. He was looked after by the Head Keeper Cameron Of Loch Eil who carried all the heavy sacrament communion bits and pieces of gear for my Dad minister to some far-flung parishes. They would do a few Munro s after the services, he loved these days. He never forgot and always remembered Cameron and his care and loved the mountains and we had some great days out. It was in the hills that I really started to get to know my Dad and when I joined the RAF and joined the RAF Mountain Rescue he was happy.
We managed a few great days in our amazing Galloway Hills, The Merrick, Corserine and Back Hill of the Bush and of course Arran were spent so many holidays. We had so many great days on the Ridge, Goatfell, A’Chir and the other great peaks. We all went as a family and had such holidays, huge days 12 hours at times and fish and chips on the way home. These are days I will never forget. The family holidays swapping manses in the Highlands were great fun and more big days on the mountains. He would tell me tales of the hills, the murder on Goatfell in Arran and of the plane crashes in Arran and Galloway. We met Hamish MacInnes in Glencoe when we were climbing Bidean Nam Bian and got lost. Hamish was up and heard us and took us of the hill and gave us a tea in his wee house. When I told him years later I was that wee boy he remembered it all and that Dad corresponded with him and always prayed for him on his expeditions. Hamish told me many prayed for him that was one way he lived to 90.
He never wore any kit a jumper as his spare kit and old pair of shoes and trousers, he wore the dog collar at times to get us up Estate tracks.It worked as he was always allowed to park and we often got tea and scones after a day out. I had a plan to go round the big Hotels in the Highlands, with him the Clachaig in Glencoe, Kintail Lodge and Skye and do the big hills in comfort. Sadly it was not to be as my Mum died suddenly of leukaemia and Dad took it very hard. He was never the same and he collapsed in the pulpit during Easter week Services and never really recovered he was in hospital till he died. He was all there mentally but the stroke never allowed him to get out of hospital, it was a sad time for all. The last time I saw him I took my dog that he loved into the hospital he said he wanted to see Teallach and I was to get out on the hills and enjoy life. I wanted to say so much to him that day as here he was that strong man dying. I have mentioned before it took me years to grieve for both Mum and Dad. I was hardened to death with my work in Mountain Rescue only saw them once a year as I was always chasing my selfish dreams. We spoke often on the phone and if we were on a big call out he would pray for us in church we had a good back up! You are who you are and family makes you who you are, I was very lucky to have had such a Dad and Mum, special people who you have no clue at the time what you owe them.
In the end Money means little, love and care is far more precious, I was a wild teenager and yet they still loved me and did their best, I will never forget that. He gave me a strength that got me out of some situations like when I collapsed in a lay by in the annual Carrick Hill race 13 miles and over these wee hills. I was very young Mum and Dad were supporting, Mum wanted to put me in the car as I was exhausted. Dad gave me some strong words I got up and completed the race which we won. These words were always with me on my many adventures when running on empty on the mountains. On father’s day and every day give Mum and Dad your love and tell them how much you care for them.
Hopefully I have some of my Dad’s qualities that have stood me in good stead and I will never forget these early adventures in my life.
ROCKFALL WARNING: Anyone heading for the Glenshiel area this weekend or in the weeks ahead should be aware of a recent collapse of a lower section of the cliff which forms the south wall of the Forcan ridge. It was reported my Mountaineering Scotland director Alistair Todd, who said: “It won’t affect anyone planning an ascent of the Ridge, but it is a significant hazard for anyone ascending or descending either the Saddle or Sgurr na Sgine. “As a result of the collapse a 10 – 15m section of the path, which runs alongside the old boundary wall, has been obliterated by a large number of unstable large boulders. “The path can still be used, however walkers should pass through quickly to minimise the danger from further rockfall coming from above.”
The rockfall occurred at grid reference NG 9444 1298 and is shown on the map, with the green line denoting the normal walkers ascent/descent route and red arrow showing location of rockfall.
Scottish Mountain Rescue Association of Mountaineering Instructors Mountain Training
Many will notice public toilets are being closed due to lack of money as one who travels all over Scotland I have noticed this and have been thankful to find some still open, thank you Nairn. My friend on the West Coast sent me an article on toilets up North. I have already seen what happens and where folk will relieve themselves outside a shut toilet, surely not the answer?
Its a need we all have especially as we get older. Needing to visit a toilet!
I love my country but after years of Council cuts due to various political parties not raising Council taxes there are very few toilets that are run or open by the Council’s. I love the Highlands and was up in Torridon the other day. It was an early start and I was pleased to see the toilet at Kinlochewe open. It is looked after paid for by the community and rely on donations to keep it going. I always donate when I use it, I wonder how many do?
All over Scotland this is happening it’s now the accepted norm. I wonder what all those who visit these areas think? In my mind it’s a sad state of affairs and will only get worse?
What’s the solution folk complain about using the outdoors as a toilet but surely those little Communities need help and it is a basic human right to have a basic toilet facility in these places.
I am sure if some of the Executives who run these Councils on big wages took a pay cut or they looked at some of their expenses money could be found from somewhere? What is the Scottish Government policy on this they have a policy for nearly everything so why not the toilets maybe they could all agree on it. I want my Country to be place where all are welcome and a basic thing like toilets are available for all.
Yet some places are getting better I was in Glen Affric a few years ago and there was a new toilet run by the Forestry Commission and cleaned daily by a lovely lassie. It was a joy to use and the visitors were amazed. If it can be done in a remote Glen by some visionary Forestry Commission why not in the towns villages and tourists areas.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Codehelps ensure that everyone has statutory access rights to most of Scotland’s outdoors. With regards to pooping outdoors, it says “If you need to urinate, do so at least 30 metres from open water or rivers and streams. If you need to defecate, do so as far away as possible from buildings, from open water or rivers and streams, and from any farm animals. Bury faeces in a shallow hole and replace the turf.”
That makes sense, doesn’t it? So for wild peeing, don’t wee into streams. Don’t poo near anything that something might stand in, slip on or eat (urgh) your deposits. Digging a hole to go in is the best idea, if you can. Then just cover up your droppings and walk away whistling at a jobby well done.
Some even say that if you have a dog poo bag, you could poo into that, then perhaps double-bag it for everyone’s sake before disposing of it correctly. If you try this, do let us know how you get on…
“Any chance of a day out on the hill” I get these questions now and again. I have a friend who joined the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team in the 80’s as a very young lad when I was Team Leader. Brian “Tommy” Pilling like many of his era served a hard apprenticeship in the team. We had to be hard on the new members it was not an easy time big Callouts, wild weather and of course Lockerbie. The main thing was to get the troops fit! The way forward was Big hill days all the classic ridges and many Tommy became like many a great team member. He always keep going , always smiled and was a bit wild but we all were even me.
This was my first Team as Team Leader and I had plans. Looking back you have a huge bond with these young folk they gave so much as did there families.
We lost touch over the years as folks do but met up for his 50th birthday a few years ago and I had a great time with his wife Mandy on the Cairngorms.
He told me he was up West on his own and fancied a day on the hill. His family are grown up and he had some time and Mandy said go for it.
When Tommy called a few weeks ago I had not been feeling great but said I would try and see how I felt nearer the time. He would have been happy for a coffee but said he had rarely been up in Torridon. It was a place he wanted to come to. He had plans.
Looking forward at the weather it was going to get very windy in the afternoon so we met at 0730 for a day on Beinn Eighe. One of the best mountain days in the UK.
Tommy had not done Beinn Eighe before and to me it’s a wonderful mountain. The joy he enthused all day on this mountain was so invigorating. Due to the weather forecast I decided to get the ridge and it’s two Munro’s done before the weather broke later in the day. We met at the little car park at Glen Torridon and headed up Corrie Loaigh. I know this Corrie well as we used it a lot for winter training with the Torridon Mountain Rescue Team. It’s a good path and we chatted all the way up enjoying the shelter from the wind. Tommy had such enthusiasm and I felt stronger, still slow but I was enjoying his banter and his stories. He is a fierce Burnley supporter and I caught up with his stories and the update on his family. He was so proud of them all and it cheered me up.
All the way up onto the ridge the wild flowers were out. Orchids, cloudberry and so much more to see. The livid mosses so green and the wee burn so clear make this a special place. The top of the Corrie is steep and in winter care has to be taken here. We got on the ridge and Tommy put on his Balaclava and I another top as we headed to our first Munro Spidean Coire nan Clach (Peak of the Corrie of stones) it was windy so we did not hang about.
From the ridge we are in a different world looking into the gullies wild Corries and shattered pinnacles that make every view different. I was feeling good and was soon along the ridge. We met a couple enjoying there day sheltering from the wind and we had a chat.
It was then on through this incredible ridge walk. I was still feeling strong and despite the wind was warm. I had all my clothes on I was glad I had put a bit more in my bag.
I love looking in these wild Corries and we saw an Eagle! The day got better.
We took the traverse path along below the ridge. It’s now well marked we were out the wind at last.
The Celtman ultra marathon was here at the weekend this hill is part of a huge day. The path brings you out at the descent to the Beleach to Coire Mhic Fearaichar a gully that care has to be taken.
We left our bags at the beleach and headed out to our second Munro. We watched the weather and had great views of the the wonderful Cathedral that is the Triple Buttress. We ambled along getting great views seeing a magnificent panorama of mountains Lochans and wild space.
As we reached the summit the rain started and the wind got up. We headed back to the beleach and the gully descent. It’s loose in places and I always hug the right hand side. There can be stonewall from other groups but we were on our own.
I was still feeling good my pacer Poles excellent and I took care on the now wet rock. We got down just as a party we’re starting down so we were well away from the rockfall. The Celtman uses this descent on the race and they run down the gully. My day for this is over but I was moving ok.
I had a wee surprise as Tommy had wanted to visit the Lancaster Crash site so we went of and traversed in to let Tommy see the scale of the area. This crash means so much to me and I have written so many blogs on it. A few years ago we put a new slate memorial up and I wanted to see how it was faring on this remote site? It was also 70 years since the crash and in 1951 70 years on.
The weather was pretty wild now heavy rain and gusty winds . We saw a few heading down but few visit this place. How much they miss this site is such a part of the mountain.
Tommy was amazed at the amount of the wreckage and the back drop of the wet, black triple Buttress made this a somber visit. We spent time here saw the family of deer nearby and headed down into the heavy rain. I thought of my old pal Joss Gosling who was on the Call out in 1951 and recovered the crew over that awful winter. I always think of the crew who all died here.
The walk off is superb even in bad weather it got gusty and we nearly got blown over. There was still views but it was head down as the wind blew. I was still feeling good and we found some shelter and I needed some food.
We kept going and got a battering in the wind. It was really wet now but eventually we got down. Tommy was chuffed as I was it was a great day. He offered to take me for a meal and sadly o needed to get home. The drive went well and I was still feeling good.
Being out on the hills is my life. I may be slow but what a place to be how good it is for my well being. How I needed that day, thanks Tommy for a great day.
Beinn Eighe “The Triple Buttress”
Unseen from the road.
Majestic cliffs are hidden by ridges and wild corries.
A long walk in, views expand as we climb.
Liathach, brooding watches our progress from afar.
A familiar family of deer by the boulders,
They have been there for many years and are friends.What have they seen?
The views of moor and lochans,Waterfalls sparkle in the sun.
At last, the lochan.
Then Cathedral like, great cliffs glisten in the snow.
Time and weather sculptured, wreckage glints in the sun.
This is a wonderful poignant place.
This Torridonian giant
Heavy Whalley March 2011
Tommy – get these Poles out and use them. They will be worth it. Keep loving the mountains and keep looking after Mandy and your family,
I love Scotland but it’s so painful being a Scottish supporter. Yesterday we lost three one to Croatia. I thought we played okay though. Yet Croatia were a different class when it came to the crunch. It would have meant so much to out wee country especially just now.
It’s always hard being a Scotland supporter but I think we will have a good future with some of these young players.
My brother who passed away recently would have been upset as like me he was an ardent footy fan. Never mind maybe one day.
Lots of banter from my English pals all the best to you. I am off to cry now !
It’s great to see that this long awaited book is coming out. I have my copy is ordered !
From Scottish Mountaineering Press “The Fox of Glencoe chronicles the adventures of the legendary Hamish MacInnes and his achievements in the field of mountaineering. It is now available for pre-order, with delivery expected by the end of July.
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.
At 368 pages long, this colour-illustrated hardback is available for £30, with the option to purchase a special slipcase edition for £40. We also have 50 numbered fine-art pencil and wash prints of Hamish, which are combined with a special edition of the book, for £50.
All profits from the Scottish Mountaineering Press go to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, a Scottish-registered charity who provide grants to support the Scottish mountains and the communities who enjoy them.”
Well done the Scottish Mountain Press Hamish I am sure would be pleased !
Since the start of the Celtman I was involved in the safety cover with Torridon MRT and helped with others and added a few points over the years. It was amazing when it started and that was an eye opening day for many.
I remember coming off the hill after midnight it was a long day escorting some very tired athletes of the hill. Lots of lessons were learned. Many things stick in my mind of these early days: the wonderful people involved. All those connected with the race the organisation and the volunteers. Those in the race always thank you on the hill from the elite runners to those doing their first race. The banter and friendship is overwhelming. Enjoy the event on Saturday, stay safe and I hope the weather is fair. Torridon MRT have always been the main safety cover on the hill and they have a unique relationship with the event organisers.
The ninth edition of the CELTMAN! Extreme Scottish Triathlon, part of the XTRI World Tour, will take place on June 12th 2021 in Wester Ross, Scotland. Centred around the stunning Torridon mountains we will take you on an adventure unlike any other. Make no mistake – when they say this race is extreme they mean it.
Swim 3.4 K in Loch Shieldaig
Since 2012 the water in Loch Shieldaig has been below the seasonal average. This appears to be an ongoing trend.
The extreme nature of the temperatures led us to shorten the swim course from 3.8K to 3.4K. Even with this shortened distance the athletes suffered badly from the cold.
In 2013 a severe storm added to the drama with strong Southerlys pushing the competitors off course.
We strongly advise cold water training for this race and to wear a heatseeker vest under your wetsuit.
Ride 200K on incredible Highland roads
The stunning CELTMAN! 200K bike route takes you along some historic single lane roads and wide open highland A roads.
Although we do not have any mountain passes to boast of the route includes 2000 metres of climbing and being coastal is affected greatly by our varied weather.
It is common to find a strong headwind on the last third of the course, just when you thought you could relax!
Run 42K over two Munros
The CELTMAN! run is unsurpassed for it’s challenging nature and beauty.
In Scotland any mountain over 3000 ft (914.4 metres) is classed as a Munro. You will attempt two of these during the race on the Beinn Eighe range.
Spidean Coire nan Clach (‘Peak of the Corrie of Stones’ in Scottish Gaelic), is the highest point on the main ridge itself. It stands at a height of 993m. You do not go to the absolute summit of this peak due to the technicality of the climb but you go as far as the trig point.
Ruadh-stac Mòr (‘Big Red Stack’ in Scottish Gaelic) is on one of the spurs off the main ridge of Beinn Eighe and stands at a height of 1,010m.
Weather permitting (it’s often cloudy) you will have the most incredible vistas.
My days of helping with the safety cover are over. Yesterday I drove over to help my friend Kalie who has a competitor staying with here.
On the way I met two young lads Ex RAF MRT who are doing the race we had a great catch up.
The area is full of competitors and supporters. It was a slow drive round. The weather looks fair and hopefully it will all go well.
This morning poor Kalie was up to do breakfast for her athletes at 0200 and by 0230 they were gone. There day is going to be busy. There is a little cloud on the hill but no dreaded midges and it’s not to warm. They will be on the swim now, then the huge 200 k bike ride and the 45 k run over the hills. There hardy.
I hope everyone is fine and has a safe race. Just to finish is some achievement. Good luck to all and two other friends Scotty Shareman and Al Swadel.
To all the Organisers, Locals, Marshall’s and Torridon MRT thanks for all your efforts. I hope the 9 th Celtman Extreme Triathlon goes well.
We were on our first winter traverse West to East of Scotland. We had done a North to South a year earlier and John Hinde one of our mentors had said “if you think your fit try one unsupported in winter” . His words still resound “December with limited daylight would test you three. We were young fit invincible and cocky. “ The Three were myself Terry Moore and Jim Morning.
The gear was simple in these days , basic maps and long days with wet gear bothy to bothy setting off and arriving in the dark. Yet we had a secret weapon the new Helly Hansen Fleeces . What an improvement they were what an investment.
We were on our last week a crazy journey that started in Skye. Blown of the Skye ridge with only 1 Munro done. Then the snows came for the rest of the three weeks. In the last week after Ben Nevis big 4 then the it was the plan to climb all the Mamores . We had been on the go for 10 days had all types of weather it was the hardest journey we had ever done. The Mamores was to be the hardest day the 11 Munro’s even then a test of all your skills. Not easy when you add on big rucksacks and 4 days food. This day in winter is so underestimated it can be Alpine but what a day.
So we set off laden with food for and kit . That day we only managed 9 Munro’s that was crazy enough. Then it was the long walk to the bothy for the night. The bothy was at Luibeilt. Yet after getting there we forded the river to the nearby Meannanach bothy. We were soaked the river was high but we had to get shelter.
We were soaked cold and hungry. We had a system every night: One would get the stove going with soup or tea and the boys would change. Then They would get sorted.
The bothy was dark as hell freezing cold and the stove was lit and the brew boiling. We had a few candles the bothy was bleak. It was freezing, damp and wee just wanted to eat and get in our sleeping bags. Over in a corner was a load of wood. Jim and Terry got the fire going and the room lit up. The wet clothes were put near the fire and then we heard a rustle. In a far corner was a man who had been there since we arrived. We never noticed him! He had a knife and was sharpening a stick. He was not happy we were burning what seemed all the wood. It was very creepy. He sat on the shadows as the firelight room with his knife. I offered him a brew but he hardly spoke. Yet he told me enough that he had been staying here for a few weeks. He seemed troubled. In these days the bothies were very quiet at these time’s of year in these days.
We were exhausted had a big day tomorrow heading for Beinn Alder 4 Munro’s so we needed sleep. I told him we would be away early and gave him some of my emergency chocolate. He was still carving with his big knife as I fell asleep. I was worried but slept okay. We were up and away by 0600 and he was still asleep.
A year later our friend from the bothy arrived at Kinloss to see us. He was having a bad time in his life was a big business man and thanked us for speaking to him during his dark period. I told him how worried I was that night. I imagined waking up or not ! I slept with my ice axe nearby !
Strange days !
I have written at length on this walk in my blogs. These were incredible days thanks Jim and Terry.
See first photo to show position of loose boulders in relation to the abseil in to the gap. Climber exiting by the severe as used on ridge traverse, belayer looks to be on the said blocks.
First photo annotated by Emily Jones who also added, ” I didn’t commit my weight to the rocks and they slid, with the scree and smaller lodging boulders falling down the slope towards the East. very scary! A lot of caution needed when navigating these boulders.”
Please share thanks to Adrian Trednall of All things Cuillin for the words.
Be safe !
Some consider this the hardest part of the Cuillin traverse, particularly in the wet. From the bottom of the gap, climb the north side via a large block and corner to a break on the left side at 30 feet. Continue straight up, passing a bulge on either side, to easier ground.
Thanks to Adrian Trednall for passing on the information
First my apologises for no blogs as I had a really upset gastric problem for nearly a week. I have no clue how I got it but am feeling a lot better now. I tried to “flush” it out but that did not work. My taste went as well and I could not get out due to the need for the loo. Without going into to much detail I never ate for 4 days living on water, bovril, lucozade and nothing else. Eventually The doctor prescribed some tablets and a week on I feel a bit better. This bug was worse than anything I have had in Pakistan India or Nepal and if there was a bug to catch I would catch it. It is amazing how weak you become so quickly. I did Covid checks and they were negative.
It was an awful week but I have on the bright side I lost a bit of weight. My pals have been all over the place this week on the hills and Glens while I have been on the loo. I am glad they are getting out and enjoying themselves. My time will come.
I knew I was not feeling great after my hill day last Friday. There was no energy and I was always feeling cold.
A sample has gone off to be checked and I kept away from folk. Most of the time anyway I was pretty weak to go outside.
Being unwell It gives you time to think and clear your head. So out of every experience comes some learning.
I will take it easy this weekend and recover properly. I am eating again and enjoying slow walks again in the sun. It’s amazing to see the flowers out and the folk enjoying the weather and the sea. Every day is a new day.
Sadly I had to pull out of taking a friend John and his son up Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis . I have been really lacking energy and very tired recently. I feel I let John and his son down as I had promised them a while ago. Yet I felt I had no power and maybe have got round the day but add in the journey down I know I had made the right decision.
Ever since my cycle in America I have been left with a hacking cough. I also had a bronchial problem . Added to that my Psoriasis had broken out again making exercise extremely painful.
My chest had been checked out and I have been told its just wear and tear after a lifetime of getting wet and cold on the mountains plus the odd avalanche ! Get on with it.
Yet I felt after all the poor weather the forecast looked good. I woke about it was a bit overcast but the weather was looking good in the West.
It was an easy decision so I decided to go for a bike ride. I have friends who live nearby Black Bridge just passed Garve. As I got to Garve the sun came out.
I had a great catch up and it was great to see them.
We had a lazy breakfast thanks to Anne and Mark . I had been up Strath Vaich often doing the Munro’s Corbett’s and Call outs. It’s wild country. I had never cycled up it and would see how it went. The sun was out no midges and you follow the road it’s stunning scenery.
My friend Mark had an appointment in Dingwall but cycled up with me up to near the Dam.
After that I went on alone. The tarmac Road to the Dam it’s a great road used by the hydro and the Estate and of course the cattle. There are lots of lambs about enjoying the sun it’s a peaceful place. The river is nearby controlled by the dam but this is a beautiful place.
After that is an Estate track with many gates but it’s a wild area. You have views of the other side of Am Faochagach a big featureless Munro usually climbed from the other side. It’s a big long mountain but from this side you cross the bridge and head up from the Estate house Strathvaich Lodge .
Mark left me at the ford in the river and then a muddy track back to the main Estate track on the other side. It was a muddy push up a wee hill.
From here the track follows Loch Vaich up the Glen. It seemed to go on for ever. Most wee hills I cycled but them it was a get of and push. The only wagon I saw was the Estate one at one of the many gates. I stopped often the views opening the vastness the hidden side of the hill and the odd deer watching. It was hard going and I nearly turned back I was running on empty. I was glad I was not on the hill and took my time. I was soon past the Loch looking at the few buildings that once folk lived in.
Here I stopped for lunch the midges came out but I enjoyed my Jam butties and a drink.
Then the track goes round to Gleann Beag I pushed my bike up
here. Then it was mainly down hill to the big bridge. I met two cyclist on the hill as I descended they were so strong and powerful
I felt a real wimp.
It was then head up the hill to the Corbett Carn Ban . I left my spare battery on my bike so got no photos as my phone died. I had wanted to see Seanna Bhraigh and it’s magnificent Corries. I have climbed camped Bothied here often it’s some place.
My Corbett was a slow process only about 3k from the track yet I was so slow. I just took my time and got there eventually lots of stops. Great views of Beinn Dearg it still has snow on it looking regal. My hill It’s a featureless hill that seemed to be never ending just one foot in front of the other. I was glad that there was no one with me to see my puny efforts . The hill was empty despite the Bank Holiday and I saw no one yet the views energised me.
Time was moving so I headed down it’s so much easier. Had a few treats like dates to renew my energy and got back to the bike and my phone charger. I cycled a bit and pushed the bike up the hill. Then it was down the track in the sun occasionally pushing stopping but though so tired it was great to be in these hills again.
I was soon following the Loch and took the higher track met two posh cars from the big house going out fishing! Then another muddy track to the tarmac road the cattle sheep and lambs sitting in the sun. I was soon back at Mark and Annes fir tea. Mark had bought a new ebike I was envious in my exhaustion.
After great hospitality I headed home.
It took a day to recover and had an easy day. Made a few decisions:
I must sell my racing bike and look for an ebike and maybe a call to the doctor to get a check up.
Please do not say it’s old age! My sister tells me that.
Note – I love being alone on the hill. I find I do not hold anyone back and leave my plans with friends so if anything happens they at least have a plan where I am .
Getting old is not easy:, years ago I would have done 5 Munro’s and that Corbett in a long day!
That’s the past. I am still loving being out on the wild places seeing the great hills at a slower speed.
Hillwalkers and climbers have been delighted to get back to Scotland’s mountains in recent weeks.
But Scotland’s weather hasn’t been playing ball with people’s dreams of returning to the heights.
While we’re on the countdown to midge season, and ticks have already been making their presence felt in the glens, cooler than average temperatures have meant many late-lying snow patches remain, some of them icy when the temperature drops.
Kev Mitchell Vice Chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue Said: “Despite the challenges the ongoing situation is putting on our volunteer team members, Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams remain ready to respond to anyone who gets into difficulty in the outdoors, wherever that may be, in any and all weathers. If you are injured or in need of help in the outdoors call 999, ask for POLICE, then MOUNTAIN RESCUE.”
Click on the link below to read the full article..
I loved the drive down Glen Etive to the end of the road surrounded by Mountains to the loch. The walk in is easy and enjoyable to the foot of these incredible slabs through the ferns. In my early climbing days it had a reputation very unique to Scotland. Over the years I was lucky to climb a good number of the routes with good pals and also introduce a few others to the “Slabs”
These are the classic Slabs to me is the Etive Slabs it’s an amazing place on Beinn Trilleachan. Many who chase the Munros and Corbett’s will have been on this hill and have seen the huge scar of the slabs on the hillside. I have been lucky to climb here often been dragged up many of the harder routes. These are big routes interesting and fairly hard, with long run outs with chance of a fall. I loved climbing here it was such a place and in the early days you met many of the climbing Gods here. If you read the guide book descriptions for the” gallus leader” you may end up with an “Etive Kiss”that is to be avoided. You would meet the woes who of climbing on the apply named Coffin stone where you gear up.Most of the routes meet up near the overlaps where though they are intimidating it can be a social place to be. Names like the moustache and the view down to the “coffin stone” where folk meet are all memories.
These huge granite slabs are incredible and push the art of padding to another level. Bill Batson on noticing he had left his rock boots. It was in the 80’s and I was glad as I thought we would have an easy day.
When Bill noticed he had no rock boots he still led Hammer 150 metre HVS in trainers. I followed and refused chalk just asking for a pull on the famous scoop. All the “names” were laughing it was that type of place then. We had a great day this was when chalk was just being used to stop the sweaty hands on a lovely warm day. Yet when you get to the belay ledges the views of Loch Etive, Cruachan and the Etive hills are magical. You gear up on the apply named “Coffin Stone “what a name for a worried leader or terrified second.
On another visit we had a grand but late day on the Swastika and did the final pitch when Pam Ayres tried to free it. It was some finish and we just got off before dark and a late night in the Onich Hotel. I will never forget Pam shouting “how do you aid” and worried about the old pegs. Yet we lived to climb another day.
I loved my days here and it’s a place you must visit. It takes a bit of getting used to but you soon get the hang of it. These are huge slabs but what a setting. If there is any wet weeps or rain the fun starts.
Looking back what days we had last time I was there with the RAF team it was a wet day with Big Mark Freestone and Rhys. Mark became the Team Leader of Lossiemouth MRT on the Classic Spartan Slab he loved it. We had a great day what a route it’s got everything. I hope he takes the teams rock stars keep coming here in the future. It’s some place.
A few years later I was back a lot older the slabs looked steeper now. We decided to climb Spartan Slab it was still damp. On the route we were attacked by wasps it was scary then it rained and we had the ultimate experience on the route with the famous crevasse where I was stung 3 times.
Read the essay by Robin Campbell on Swastika you will laugh at his descriptive words in Hard Rock. I did this climb a lot once we were nearly benighted on it after a late start. Few climb the top crack that was a bit different from the padding lower down.
Note: After the elation of climbing on Etive be careful on the descent from the top of the crag. The path has lots of loose granite that act like ball bearings. A fall here may take you over the cliff .
I have just been going through some old photos and scanning some. The memories come back. Look at the blue sky on Cir Mhor and is a classic. Where is the Blue skies these days. It reminds me of the rough granite and so many superb days with so many pals. The walk in up Glen Rosa is wonderful follow the river with all the granite pools, more memories of days past. Early walks swims with my family in the 60’s. Then you see the wonderful Cir Mor a huge piece of rock. On my first time climbing here it looked so intimidating. The granite so rough and the scramble up to the big pitches. Soon you are below the overhangs and the rough granite tearing your hands. I have climbed this in all weathers when a sou’wester would have been helpful. We always climbed it in big boots and a bag in the early days and had fun in the chimney finish. This climb never let me down and add in the ferry trip, the Island feel and incredible walk back its a place I love.
Sou‘wester Slabs, featured in the Classic Rock book is a 100-m VD climb on Cir Mhor, Arran.
Featuring slab and crack climbing on superb mountain granite, it was first climbed by G H Townsend, G C Curtis, M J H Hawkins and H Hore on 03 September 1944.
Many will know and love this route its one of my favourites and in these days its great to be reminded of superb routes. There are a lot harder climbs on this cliff but this one is special. Ardverikie Wall – 550 foot/ 150 metre Hard Severe.
I love this climb it in a real situation and the views are special. Taking a bike in is worth it just for the journey out. To me it’s another great route sparse on gear at times. You rarely saw folk then now it can be busy. So get there early and go to the summit it’s a grand view.
Access is easy with a bike and worth it for the journey home mostly downhill. The crag does not look that great from the distance but it is a fun place and the route over 550 feet looks steep and intimidating. I found it so on my first visit in 1975, Tom MacDonald climbed it with me Tom laughing at my attempts. I found it bold but I am a poor climber and there was little gear then. It is described as “a thin ribbon of grey micro granite” but once on it the journey begins. In these days the route was sparsely protected and the 4- 5 pitches give classic climbing and the views outstanding of the lovely lochan na – Earba and the Ardverikie Estate. This was all made very famous by the TV series filmed here.
It is worth the short stroll to the summit (a climb should always do this?) It is a place that at times misses the rain and on the various occasions I have climbed it once or twice in big boots and then the three Munros it was a grand day. Many novice RAF MR Rock climbers cut their teeth on this crag and we had a few wobbly leads at time in the rain but what a place to be. There are plenty other routes here and recently and new routes have emerged. I also had a few fun days in winter when the big hills were out we got a couple of winter routes in many years ago. I have been so lucky to repeat it many times every time and adventure and it can be a busy crag nowadays as its in Classic Rock.
Ben Rinnes – This hill is a favourite of mine, its my nearest hill a Corbett and has been a good pal over the years. We used it often in my early days with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team for training and I remember doing a SARBE TEST in 1972 with a helicopter.
I have often introduced lots of friends and work mates to hillwalking on this mountain. The guide book tells you that if you climb it from outside Dufftown by its shortest route it takes you one hour and forty minutes to the summit. It’s a huge track well maintained and surprisingly litter free but lots of dog Poo bags about, left for the dog poo fairy, I collected them on the way off. If you want a longer day if you continue along the ridge to the Bridge of Avon and have transport there. It is a grand looking hill with great views over the Moray Firth to Ross and Cromarty and of course the Cairngorms.
The easiest way is to follow the B9009 about 5 k from Dufftown and take the minor road to Edinville. Parking can be tight with room for only about 8 cars and it can be a busy hill. t several runners and a many walkers all out on the hill. The path is good and maintained by The Friends Of Ben Rinnes a great bunch of people who look after this wee hill. The wind was pretty cold and I was glad to be wearing most of my winter kit again from the start of the walk. I met lots of folk some running some out with the family many with kids as young as 5 all having fun and very pleased despite the cold weather. It was great to see. The views are great the Cairngorms still holding snow and the Moray coast and the many windfarms that are now here. I took my time to the summit of Ben Rinnes (The Headland Hill) at 840 metres where I got some shelter. It was then an enjoyable break amongst the granite Tors that make up the summit with its trig point and viewpoint.
It is such a lovely summit with such a panorama today. Many climb the hill and leave quickly yet this hill has an interesting side.
Few know that there are the remains of a Wellington Bomber on the hill near the summit. There is little left of the aircraft but I had a rough grid reference and had visited it often ago with groups from work. I had plenty of time so off we went into the mist on a compass bearing and after about 250 metres we found some wreckage at 783 metres and spent some time looking about. I found it not even by navigating and this side of the hill is so different. There were so many hares about they looked at me and then scampered off.
A ptarmigan sat nearby and watched as I looked around he was not bothered and sadly someone had left rubbish nearby that I took home. The ground is so mossy and soft and I sat enjoying the views and the solitude occasionally hearing voices coming from the summit. The Wellington was from nearby Lossiemouth and it crashed killing both of the two crew a Sgt Grove who is buried in Evesham cemetery. The other Sgt Rennie was taken to Glasgow. The aircraft got caught in a violent snowstorm and crashed whilst on a night Exercise from RAF Lossiemouth.
This is from the Friends of Ben Rinnes Website
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. A former member of the ground crew who went to the site on the hill shortly after the crash described it as “the most complete burn-out he had ever seen”. The outline of this crash site is still clearly visible from the north side of the Ben where the ground was scarred so badly that nothing will grow there even today.
“A Wellington Bomber crash in 1943 John has dropped us an email giving his recollections of that event. John and his family lived in Edinvillie at the time of the crash; he still has relatives living in Edinvillie today.
I traversed back to the path had a short rain storm and was soon on the path back to my van. I met a few going up all enjoying this wee hill most chatted and a mountain biker speed by coming from the summit. The car park was still busy and then it was a short journey home. It was good to get out again hopefully maybe get a Munro done this week depending on the weather.
How I have missed the hills.
John writes:- It was on a Saturday night after 10 o’clock.It was snowing very heavily and myself, my brother & a friend, Geordie Davidson, were outside with our father and a neighbour when we heard the plane go over. We could tell it was in trouble by the sound of the engines. We then heard a thump so we knew it had crashed. There was not any fire, just the wreckage covered a large area. It was about 200 yrds.straight down from the top of the Ben, My brother Peter told me nothing is growing on the crash site still. There was only two killed in the crash and their remains were amongst the wreckage. Three crew bailed out, One landed on a farm in Elches and it is said he married the farmers daugher. Maybe some of the locals could verify if it is true? On our way down it was airmen that was spread out looking for the two crew because they were supposed to also bale out. We did take a few 303 bullets as a keep sake. I never saw them remove the wreckage, but I can imagine it must have been terrible hard work. I don’t think there is anything else I can tell you. Maybe you can tell me, if there was a memorial service on the Ben a few years ago for the two crew members? Keep up the good work and I will be up to Aberlour at the end of June John Murphy
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.
“Happy Anniversary to all involved. I’d not been on MR long when they got back from Everest and I went to the lecture they did at Kinloss in the mess. It was inspirational and fuelled my passion for the mountains ⛰. I remember it like it was yesterday. These seemingly professional mountaineers talking about climbing the highest mountain in the world, like it was nothing. Amazing.”
It’s 20 years on since we had our trip to China and an incredible expedition . We all knew each other well all apart from our Doctor were RAF MRT and had few problems with each other. This is unusual when your away for over 3 months. How many trips go like that ?
It was as I have written a trip of a lifetime. The photos that Nerys and Rusty put up of Everest and the team were incredible and a huge reminder of how privileged we all were?
I was only the Base Camp manager but it was incredible to be there in Tibet on such a mountain. It was a busy time and o often got away into the rarely visited places like the West ridge alone. I also got to know our Sherpa team so well we built up a trust hard earned.
On summit day when Dan and Rusty were heading for the summit we could see them on the final pyramid through the telescope . We had radios that were rarely used we left them to it. When they summited it was a quick “we are there” but then the long wait till they were safe. It was some of the hardest times watching and waiting at Base. To hear later Dan and Rusty talk of how shattered they were after there long summit day. They were together no Sherpa support and had to rely on each other. Yet both said there was little they could do if one had a problem on the mountain.
The rest of our team were going well and we had several teams behind the first summit team using the tents in a “hot bed system” Unfortunately one of the troops got sick at the high camp. It was then a great effort by all to help him off the hill. His partner Willie Mac got him down to the North Col.
At the North Col the Doc filled him with fluid and he manage to get down the fixed ropes and then walked off later.
The Sherpas took medical kit up the hill to ensure this happened. They did not want to summit but they would be there if needed and did not let us down. What a support and back up.
It was a worrying time but all the troops gladly gave up their summit attempt to ensure our sick mate was okay.
There were other summit attempts but the winter had arrived. I was up at Advanced Base with the Sherpas as a big storm hit. Everyone else was gone from the hill. Our little tents were alone on the mountain.
Ted Atkins, Jim Groak and the Doc were at the high Camp. The weather stopped them and I was so pleased to see them come down safely.
I then spent a few days alone with the Sherpas sorting out ABC and collecting 50 bags of rubbish left by other expeditions.
The troops were supposed to come up to ABC . To help clear the camp but the weather broke again I was alone with the Sherpas.
We then cleared the mountain sadly several had died that year as happens. It was an insight into another world. I saw the best and worst of the world of High Mountaineering.
Our Sherpas and team had assisted in Rescues but it seemed to me that some folk were only interested in their summit!
Yet as I walked alone ahead of the porters and the Yaks back to Base at the end (a big day of 20 plus Kilometres from 21500 to 17500) I was alone with my thoughts. The weather was wild I felt so alone and got my last views of Everest as the snow fell. I got back to Base the sanctuary bog our hut and seeing all my pals. The Sherpas and Yaks were not long behind.
We were all safe thank God all still pals, happy and could not wait to see our families again.
It must have been hard for the families who worried for us all! We only had the overland journey back to Nepal to go!
Looking back :
Ted is gone now taken by the mountains. A man whose idea it was to go as a pure MRT group he knew we would work for each other. We had the best Sherpas on the mountain who did such a job for us. They were our team mates and they kept a wary eye on us all.
I will never forget Rusty and Dan speaking from the summit and then the hours of waiting for them arriving at the high camp tents. They still had a long way to go and it was not till I met them as I was heading back up to Advanced Base Camp.
We had our big Boss with me and it was magical to meet them they looked knackered but what smiles they had.
We continued up to ABC our Big Boss had his Everest moment just getting there!
20 years on seems a lifetime to me. We are all still mates and it would be great to meet up again before we get to old. ????
Thanks to all families for your support to many to mention sadly.
In memory of Ted Atkins and Al McLeod who gave us the dream to go and see this incredible mountain.
Thanks for all your comments on boots on the hill. The main point was to remind folks that they need to check there soles to ensure the tread is still good. There were many comments that a lot of folk use approach shoes on the hill. I do at times but again it’s worth checking your soles for grip! When Approach shoes came out I used a pair on the Rum ridge they were great but I trashed them. Nowadays they are better and as I broke my ankle many years ago I prefer to protect my ankles a bit more. It’s personal preference in the end.
Running shoes. They are designed for the hill with big tread. Many are taking this up and loving the freedom they give. There are so many brands now on the market in my day your choice was limited to Walsh’s and I did some superb days on the long hill like Tranters Round when I was fit. These were wonderful days as you could go light and felt at one with the mountains. Unfortunately my running days are over and I still miss that freedom.
My friend Adrian on All things Cullin gives some great advice on footwear what to wear on the Skye Ridge. A unique test of footwear? Please have a look at “All things Cullin” on Face book
Comment : These days I don’t wear mountain boots but do wear wellies with vibram soles. When they get worn down I get them resoled here, https://lancashiresportsrepairs.co.uk/ I think it’s good value! A few folk that I trust said they often used Approach shoes on the hill any more information, advice comments would be great?
The point of my ramblings were to have a look at the soles of your boots approach shoes, running shoes. Many of us have been walking low level during the Covid restrictions. Boots approach shoes have been hammered as we walk in different places. So please have a look at your soles.
It is hard to believe its mid May with a forecast that is more like winter. I find it very cold just now many will be champing at the bit to get out. Please have a re look at the weather forecast form any of the mountain weather sites. MWIS and MET office have some great advice. This is todays for my local hills the Cairngorms with snow and whiteouts forecast. So if your venturing out just get some of that winter kit back in, it makes sense?
Low pressure rotating slowly across Britain brings a poor day to most places. Rain frequent or rarely ceasing; snow and whiteout across the Munros, focused on the Cairngorms, whilst western Scotland will be drier. Windy, gale or locally severe gale force for periods.
Headline For Cairngorms NP And Monadhliath
Windy, cold; severe gale high tops. Rain, upland snow & whiteout.
How Windy? (On The Munros)
East to northeast in the range 35 to 50mph, sometimes 60mph higher Cairngorm plateau. Wind speed table below.
Effect Of The Wind On You?
Be prepared for arduous or difficult walking conditions across the hills with significant buffeting and wind chill.
Rain and upland snow rarely ceasing
Almost constant precipitation will drive in from the northeast through the day, falling as snow above 800m, later 600m, leading to periods of sustained whiteout across the tops, extensively lying on the higher Munros. Least precipitation around Glen Garry and west of Dalwhinnie.
This is only part of the forecast so always be prepared to change your route and go lower leave the mountains for another day. If you change your plans please tell someone no matter how experienced you are where you are going.
How lucky we are to have good free weather forecast that are pretty accurate so please use them. Comments welcome.
My friend in Arran Kirsty Smith @KirstieSArran put up a great black and white photo of Cir Mhor in Arran it is so thought provoking . It brought back great memories I was only about 10 and had a day out with my Dad on our holiday in Arran. We walked into Glen Rosa a place I love and when I saw the huge Granite cliffs of Cir Mhor I was hooked. To see climbers on the cliff and speak to them was beyond my wildest dreams that folk could climb on such a cliff. I was fascinated by their gear the rope and slings. We watched for a while and scrambled up a loose gully stopping to watch them when we could. My Dad had a big voice like mine (he was a minister) and he continued speaking to them as they climbed up the slabs. I was so lucky to climb on this great cliff so varied and enjoyable over the years. It became an annual pilgrimage for me. I love Arran.
South Ridge Direct – Quite simply one of the finest climbs in the country. Not sustained but long and interesting J.F.Hamilton, D. Paterson 1941. UKC Climbing.
I did not know that 45 years later this would be my final rock climb with RAF Kinloss MRT in 2007. I had climbed the route often it was a classic to me and few will understand how I felt on that last time. The various other adventures were mainly in poor weather were always classic days.
The weather had been poor and the day previously we had helped 3 young “cocky” climbers who had an epic as it was very wet. They had come with little gear, limited clothing for this route as it was to them a easy route. there were three on one rope and when the rain came they struggled it was a full blown storm. They were frozen when we caught them up. Kenny being Kenny was persuaded to help them off. So we helped them abseil off they were not so cocky . A day wasted but not to me.
Next day my mate Kenny and me were of early they had left lots of gear on the crux. Kenny a typical Yorkshire man was after it. We had a great day and we’re up the route quickly. I loved it the rough granite that tore your hands, padding up the slabs and the huge expanse of granite slabs. It was still damp but no problem to Kenny. The views down Glen Rosa where we often swim in after a hot day long before the term “wild swimming” became so popular. We sat at the top Kenny happy with his loot and me with my memories. It’s amazing what a picture can bring back in your memory?
In 2017 I was asked to speak at the Arran mountain Festival it was a grand evening at Corrie Village Hall. I must get back and feel the Granite the crystal clear water of Glen Rosa and the midges that stopped me and Dan climbing in 2017
I am so lucky I live in Moray with so much on my doorstep. I have the sea the forest and grand walks and cycles all on my doorstep. Sadly we have to stay in Level 3 for a bit longer as does part of Glasgow as the levels have risen in our areas. We were all planning what to do with our additional freedom but it’s on hold again .
I had planned a few hills to complete my Munro’s and Corbett’s. They are now on the back boiler. I have had both jabs thank to the NHS and a wee trip to Colonsay that helped so much. I did enjoy that lovely island. I had a bit of a reaction to my psoriasis ( a long going skin complaint) from the Covid jab that will take a long time to clear. Yet when I see what happens in India and other countries I am reminded of how lucky I am.
I am also so fortunate to have good pals and family but the Covid Blues affects us all at times .
So please do not forget to speak to that pal or neighbour or send that card or letter.
I must get out for a short cycle today and what a wonderful time of year with all the plants coming out. I see new things every day in nature.
I would hate to be a politician just now whatever your views and however you vote. Sometimes the hate i hear is terrible for their decisions. So many keyboard warriors with expert views, hindsight and constant criticism. I try to put it aside and do what I think is right.
Hopefully the latest rise in Covid cases will be controlled and we can get on with our lives. I think of those who are struggling financially for such a long time. So no matter how down you get there is much to be thankful for.
Take care and try to enjoy yourself try to think of others and stay in touch with those you love .
What’s your favourite picture or photo? Mine is not easy to choose. When I left for RAF Leuchars the girls in my office gave me the picture below done by a local artist. It was of my dog Teallach who was my constant companion for over 12 years.
It’s a classic as the troops were always dressing him up and he just sat there. What a character he was.
I have always taken photos many were on slides. It was a lot harder to take them on a camera as phones on cameras make life so simple. Yet it’s the odd shot you get in a storm or a wild day that to me take you back to that days memories.
It’s not easy taking photos in wild conditions but sometimes it’s worth the effort.
How many cameras have I gone through ? Lots but it’s worth it to me. As the memory fades these photos give my fading memory a jolt!
I have just bought another wee camera as well. It is a LUMIX it does the job how long will it last I have no clue. Pointless having a camera that you are scared to use due to the weather.
Top tips – take plenty of photos easy now with technology. Make sure you back up saved photos.
Name and date each one as your memory fades this is great.
I have read a lot recently and my heart bleeds for the many who have died of Covid in India, Nepal and Pakistan. Yet it is amazing that there are still many expeditions out climbing the big peaks! Is this morally right?
Life is hard in these places and I was always privileged to climb on all of these countries. I made many pals with the locals the porters Sherpas and Sirdars we always left as friends they made our trips so successful. Yet much needed Oxygen is out in the mountains while local folk are dying through the lack of it in hospitals that are pushed to their limits. Most have seen the photos of what had happened and only recently have I seen a few articles on this subject in the mountaineering press.
There are many who run trips will say that they are bringing much needed money to these areas economy by still running expeditions. They say they are environmentally friendly in their glossy brochures. Yet it mind many Mountaineers are so selfish and they should be thinking of those who are needing help in these countries.
Most dream of a trip to these places and I met so many great folk on my trips. I always have helped them when ever I could and looked after them as they did me. In 2001 no one else was on Everest all the trips had gone after a big storm and I was left with our 5 Sherpas and Mingma our Sirdar at Advanced Base Camp in Tibet . They asked for a day to clear the mountain high up. They brought down over 50 empty oxygen bottles that they re sold in tents and gear in Katmandu. I helped them carry them down from the North Col.
They offered me a cut which I refused and were saddened by the gear left after storms hit the mountain. We cleared up ABC paid for extra Yaks to carry the rubbish out, it was a mess despite environment bonds. I got to know them well and how well they looked after me. There was no one else about even at Base camp apart from us and the Yak men and families. The monks came from the Ronbuk Monastery and helped clean up Base Camp with us.
We spoke with the Sherpas about each other’s lives at night in the wee cook shack and I was in awe of these folk. As the oldest on the trip and the Base Camp manager we got to know each other so well. They gave me huge respect as I did for them. I feel for them all now as family means to them and how we can learn from them. This is why so many can risk their lives for us and others.
Covid had hit many Base Camps and yet things carry on. I know the effort, money and dreams of going to these places. But after years of helping others in the mountains I worry about our selfishness and egos at times like these. Comments welcome as always. I have donated to a charity to help in a small way and pray that my friends from many years are okay.
Thinking of you all!
Comments welcome !
Mick Holmes ” No. It’s a slap in the face to all those needing oxygen to live to use it for ambition and ego. You want to help out a struggling economy, you don’t have to climb Everest for that. There’s something wrong somewhere.”
In my early days on Mountain Rescue there was little awareness of the effect on mental health. It was a taboo subject which I hope I fought to raise the profile. It was hard going in the 80’s and I got lots of criticism for speaking out especially in the military and even within the Mountain Rescue Community. Things are a lot better now but there is still a stigma about speaking about your mental Health. Please look after your friends and family and use all the additional help that is available nowadays.
It’s Mental Health Awareness week please if struggling speak to someone we are all here for you. It’s okay to talk about it please do .
As I travelled to the Islands last weekend I saw Ben Nevis looking superb and covered in snow. It came as a reminder that the winter is still with us . I still carried my ice axe late into May as we often had rescues in Corries full of snow. The axe was also handy on steep wet grass. So as we all go out again many for the first time please be careful.
To many the gradual release from some of the Covid regulations means the hills will be busy. Please be careful as there is still snow about and tricky conditions. My pal Neil Reid posted this wee story!
“Crampons or no crampons on Beinn an Lochain
It was a benign winter’s day in mid-January 2001. I was in my mid-twenties and, having left the car at Butterbridge, I started the climb, excited about the solo prospect of conquering the two hills on opposite sides of Glen Kinglas; Beinn an Lochain and Stob Coire Creagach.
Heading up Beinn an Lochain’s steep northeast ridge, the snow level was reached at around 400 metres, with thinly dusted rocky outcrops alternating with knee-deep drifts punctuated by well- established boot holes.
My rucksack’s contents were packed from experience, with more than a nod to Langmuir’s Mountaincraft and Leadership book, and my ice axe was a particularly useful third point of contact on the ascent.
At around 600 metres, a short icy stretch was negotiated by kicking steps, before the sections of alternating drifts and dustings took me to the summit.
The views from the summit were spectacular, as they are from each of the Arrochar Alps, and I enjoyed 10 minutes of solitude and contemplation before the descent to Butterbridge for lunch. After passing a couple just below the summit I reached the icy stretch and spoke to a chap who had just reached the top of the slope by means of kicking steps. I remember vividly him asking me if the top was icy and I informed him that this was really the only icy section on the climb.
I turned around and started descending the icy slope, digging my heels into the ice, when both feet gave way and I started sliding.
The slope in question is around 50 metres in length, lies roughly at an angle of 45 degrees, and ends in a vertical drop of 50 metres on to an area of boulders, plucked from the cliff face.
I still remember the whine of my jacket on the ice increasing in pitch as my speed picked up, and it was my good fortune that the wrist loop on the ice axe held while the training from the Winter Skills course at Glenmore Lodge kicked in, and I was able to arrest myself using the axe with less than 10 metres to spare.
I got to my feet and looked up the slope to see the chap I had spoken to seconds earlier wave before heading upwards – perhaps he thought I had been practising!
The descent was completed without further incident and a refreshing lunch enjoyed before I started the climb on the north side of the glen. It wasn’t until around a third of the way up Stob Coire Creagach that the shock of the near miss finally hit home.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the choice I made that day not to wear crampons for the short icy section, and how different the outcome would have been had I not taken the training course in winter skills.
I’m fortunate that I can pass this experience on to my kids and if there’s a lesson to be learned! “
Though this was written in early winter please think when crossing hard snow and ice ( neve ) There are often about even at this time of year.
“Still, the last sad memory hovers round, and sometimes drifts across like floating mist, cutting off sunshine and chilling the remembrance of happier times. There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell; and with these in mind I say: Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
I listen to the news that so many folk want to go abroad for a holiday yet in Scotland there is so much to see. How many miss out ? I was very lucky to get a break with my friend Kalie and her sister. I was on the Isle of Colonsay and one of the places we wanted to visit was the Whale sculpture near Kiloran Bay. Kalie had been before and we had a cracking walk along the beach and then along the track to the sculpture. This is from a piece on the web explaining who built it and why !
“A fascinating, huge sculpture of a whale, formed from beach stones found on the raised beach, on a flat piece of ground by Port an Obain, just north of Kiloran Bay. The sculpture is the work of artist Julian Meredith, and visitors are encouraged to add a stone to the sculpture and fill in any empty areas of the whale outline.
The whale stretches 525 feet from nose to tail. Though it is easily visible at ground level, by far the best way to appreciate the enormous sculpture is to ascend one of the hills that surround this sheltered bay.
The sheer scale of the sculpture is stunning; when you stand at one end the other end seems to stretch out forever away from you.
Finding the sculpture is easy. Just take the Balnahard road from Kiloran beach and keep going over the long, slow rise. When you start to descend the far side you will see the whale sculpture spread out on the low ground ahead. “
It was an incredible amount of effort to make this a work of love. I am sure the effort was incredible and to see it close up was a joy. On the way we saw some wild goats they were massive on the crags and cliffs. There are huge cliffs and howffs about and I am sure it was near here that we bivied in a cave on a huge search. The flowers are coming out in the machair and on the beach were the remains of a huge whale it had been there and the bones were bleached by the sun￼
I went for a wander round the cliffs it was incredible and the sun came out along with a breeze. It was then back for a brew then the last ferry home via Oban. I got home at 0130 but what a great part of Scotland.
Those who know their mountains will understand that Quinag is a magnificent mountain. Any mountain containing 3 Corbett’s summits is incredible. The summits Spidean Coinich, Sail Gharbh & Sail Ghorm Quinag will never let you down in my opinion. In summer it’s a cracking peak with views to the sea that are outstanding and that’s some Statement from those who know these North West mountains. The most Westerly summit has outstanding views of the lochs and sea. In winter it’s a different mountain and you will rarely see anyone else. Yet the many cliffs have some incredible climbs on the sandstone tiers.
Walk Highlands sums it up : “Quinag is a magnificent and complex mountain with three summits attaining Corbett status. The ascent of all three is one of the finest hillwalks in Scotland, with fine peaks, dramatic ridges and stunning views. If the full walk is too much, the ascent of the first peak (with a return the same way) is a short and fairly straightforward hillwalk with rewards out of all proportion to the effort involved. The mountain is under the stewardship of the John Muir Trust.
Mostly good hill paths. Mountainous terrain with some very steep ground but only a minimal amount of scrambling.”
Near Miss on Quinag :
I always loved being up on the North West coast on the hills,climbing and away from the crowds. There is little better than introducing some “young rockstars” to real climbing away from the “climb by numbers” of the popular crags. I was at RAF Leuchars at the time and we would raid Kinloss’s area . Often we would wander on these hardly climbed cliffs. The only problem was you could get the full “mountaineering experience” of loose rock and route finding. The day this photo was taken I think we were supposed to be on a route on Quinag. What a place to be pick your line and have a look.
We got to the top of a pinnacle when I was belaying I heard a crash then a huge rock came crashing down. The smell of the sulphur and the fear gripped me. Lucky I was on a small ledge where I had adjusted the belay a bit. As the rock passed where I had been it missed I knew I was lucky another of my 9 lives gone. Yet what a day on the sandstone what an adventure and yet it could have been all so different. Life is about adventure and those who love exploring will enjoy this place .
From Stephen Turner – I can still remember that moment in vivid detail, time seemed to pass at a fraction of normal speed. Me on a stance on one foot and holding on with one hand being pushed and swinging to one side as a giant boulder slid straight at me. Thinking I have killed Heavy and at the very least I’m about to have my hand crushed before I fall. I recall the smell of smoke coming from all the sparks from that boulder as it tumbled down the hill, which seemed to go on forever. Then as casual as you like Heavy appears from along the ledge he was belaying me on. Turns around and tells everybody “That’s why you always have an extendable belay”.
This large and complicated mountian has several cliffs that give worthwhile winter and summer routes. Despite its height it tends to hold snow well.
The steep north face of Sail Garbh is an impressive cliff, excellent in winter but too low to freeze frequently. The climbing is often wintrier than appears from below though.
I last climbed the 3 Corbett’s a few years ago on my own. I was met by a Broken Spectre on the ridge and fresh snow. As I came out of the mist this was my view!
The ridge was a cracking day very icy but felt so remote. It was such a great day. The paths had a lot of erosion in places but the ridge was straightforward and the bitter wind made you keep going with few stops. Getting back to the car 6 hours later my face felt blasted by the wind but what a day.
I was posted to Masirah after a tour at RAF Kinloss. I was devastated at the time as I was really happy at Kinloss with the Mountain Rescue Team and it was the beginning of another winter. Masirah was a staging post for aircraft mainly for refuelling. The camp was about 600 strong all male a very strange environment at that time. I flew out just as the Cyprus war was starting in July 74. We should have night stopped on the Island but the did a “hot refuel” our plane the old Britannia that refuelled and had to leave with a fighter escort out of Cyprus. It was a scary time and you felt so vulnerable in the Britannia the passenger jet.
Arriving in Masirah you felt the oppressive heat even at night. They thought I was someone else and I had to play in the 5 a side match that night. I was very fit then and did not let them down. The whole station was there in the 5 a side court the football was live for those working over the radio. I played for Masirah against Gan and Cyprus I was a full back. Though I saw myself I could handle myself on the pitch and feared no one. The crowd in the Stadium made by Workshops was a hostile place. Playing in my specs and being so small I was always given a hard time by the crowd. I loved the 5 a side and the many other sports we played there like hockey. 11 a side football was played on an ash pitch that hurt if you tackled. Because you were pure white no sun you were called a “Moony” which meant you were new to the Island. Masirah is just off Oman in the Arabian Gulf is the Island Of Masirah it is a small Island about as big as Arran in Scotland and is where I was posted to in 1974 for 9 months during my service in the RAF. It also had a Desert Rescue Team and the photo above is a camp site in the desert, where we slept out under the stars at night, an incredible time in my life. The only cover we had was old parachutes that gave you much needed shade.
We never used sunscreen and had no clue the damage we were doing to our skin. We had various Base Camps around the island it was great to get away. We had a fire each night and a lacon of beer. The late Jim Craig was the Team Leader a great troop and we got on well and he quickly made me a party leader. Jim was already a legend before my time at Kinloss and he looked after me he tried to nickname me “Foddy” but it never stuck. It was pretty serious out most of the day in such heat. We often trained at night the views of the stars were incredible as were the shooting stars . At that time we were taught to navigate by the stars .
We trained every weekend on the small hills all under I think they were about 1000 feet but tough rocky, scrambly hills where the big problem was the heat at times regularly over 120 degrees. You could lose over a stone in weight due to dehydration over the weekend so you had to take care with water intake. It was some life! I worked in the Ration Supply depot in the Cold Store (the Freezers a haven to be in) Work was hard as every month supplies came by ship and when the ships were in you were out on the pontoons unloading the food for the station, really hard graft as much in these days was done manually. When the meat came off frozen usually in the night it was all hands to the pumps as you had to get it all sorted and in the Freezers before the sun came up, hard physical work. We worked 24 hours with no breaks it was all manually handled and done mostly at night when it was cooler. After the meat and frozen was off it was all the dry good for 3 months for 500 – 600 people. The sugar and flour was in 112 lbs bags about 50 kilos I only weighed just over 75 kilos so it was some training? The photo above shows a thin author with the half-gallon of water we carried on the hills , magic small hills very like Skye in Scotland with incredible wild life about.
The Sport on the Station was wonderful and we employed many of the local Arabs to help on the Station. I had a team of locals working with me and we had some incredible days and got on very well. As a young man it was my first time working with a group under me and we got on well. After work it was sport when the sun went down, football, hockey and lots of incredible fun in the sun. I also went shark fishing many times with my Foreman “Abbs” in a small boat for Barracuda sharks for the station, that was exciting and fairly serious in those non – Health and Safety days. I learnt a lot about people and cultures on that tour which stood me in great stead for the future on many expeditions, great days. We also went to Dubia every week on a meat and fresh fruit and veg run. It was a great day out but again hard work while everyone else had a day in Dubia and I went round the markets buying fresh food with Abbs. This was at the time that planes were getting hijacked me and Abbs were the only ones allowed out of the airport it was a scary experience as the local guards were very trigger happy. We also practised deployment with the Andover aircraft that was stationed there and it was always a laugh getting the wagons on with the big wide sand wheels. The reason the team was there was for aircraft crashes in the desert as the Island was a staging post for the RAF at the time. • The Island is famous for the Turtles that breed thousands come ashore on the beaches and lay their eggs! It is a wonderful sight and the locals take a few of them for food in these days! Masirah Island is home to four distinct species of sea turtle. Oman has recognised the importance of preserving these beautiful creatures, as it is home to a large portion of their nesting grounds. On Masirah Island you can find the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the olive ridley turtle and the loggerhead turtle. • All four species nest and their eggs hatch at different times throughout the year. I was very lucky to visit the shanty town with Abbs where the locals lived many in houses built from fuel drums recycled from the RAF base during the war. Little was wasted and everything was re used even in 1974. They treated me so well I learned so much from them especially during Ramadan. Abbs taught me a lot about his religion and was a wonderful person. Family was so important to them and though they had little they shared everything. The station had a swimming pool that was so well used especially when the stewardess arrived overnight on the Island. They caused quite a stir.
These were incredible days and I learned a lot it was the hardest work I ever did heavy manual work in extreme heat! The hills though small were incredible and I learned to cope and look after myself in a wild extreme climate! I was so pleased when I heard I was posted back to Kinloss. I learned a lot on that tour and could not wait to get back to the Scottish hills. It would still be winter.
You learned lots that stood you in good stead about climbing in oppressive heat and looking after yourself, I wish I had known about sun screen then?
Dedicated to Jim Craig Ex Team Leader Masirah Desert Rescue.
Thanks for all the comments on the blog on Kinloss. When I look back on my first years at Kinloss with the MRT. It was some period in my life. What an introduction to so many great folks. Within the first few weekends I had lots of adventures including being avalanched on Lancet Edge near Ben Alder. I have written about this at length on previous blogs. The team had its own block transport and lived in an old 2 world war hut full of character. Looking back I think my trade did help? Food: Being a Caterer was to me another reason I got to join the team I could get extra rations and we all had to cook and took turns it was a nightmare on the petrol cookers and in tents. We were also given a chocolate allowance (scran) for the hill. If you mucked up you were on the river☺️.Training: This was great, long hills days, this gave me a love for big hill days and planning for them there were few books guides about in 1972. Navigation & Fitness were the key then the main other skill. There were lots of good mentors and the odd one who you did huge walks with. You had to learn all the knots and how the stretchers were tied on. I used to go to the loo with a bit of rope to practice. There was so many new things to learn it was all consuming but it kept you on your toes! Area Knowledge: As we covered the whole of the North of Scotland we used different Base camps every week. You learned the areas by going out all the time getting to know the hills and the landowners. We always asked permission to go on the hill this was well before freedom of access. I was shown the big cliffs easy ways off in bad weather and often where the new routes could be found along with Bothies whose location was often not well known. Fitness: I was chasing Munro’s so very happy to get the big days done. Like the Mamores, Fannichs etc lots of looking at maps. Then we had a briefing every Monday where you were asked what hills you did . Never easy if it was a long day with 7 or 9 Munro’s! The Briefings covered a different subject every week and the team had a huge Library gifted by ex team member’s and the old Albums going back to the early days full of history.
Technical training: in these early days was limited to the Sea cliffs at Peterhead where we did big abseils, tragsitzs and Gorge life outs. It was all new to me the knots and the skills needed. There were simple things to learn like carrying a stretcher back roping and lowering. First Aid : Once a year we had our Annual First Aid course on the station. It was a lot more basic in these days as was the gear. Communications : We carried a basic radio for each party on the hill and you were taught all the bits and pieces for good communications at the time. There were no mobile phones. Pyrotechnics : Again we were taught to carry them and use safely. Smokes for the helicopter and flares that illuminates the Corries on a big search and Ground illuminators that helped locate the best ways of the hill in the dark. Social: We met lots of great folk from other teams. Molly Porter from Cairngorm, Fred Harper from Glenmore Lodge Hamish in Glencoe to name a few Lochaber and Glencoe.
Kintail, Skye, Torridon regularly called us to assist on big call outs. The section was always full of visitors we had Ben Humble regularly and he was well looked after by the team. I met many team members and you got to know them. Many became friends. Many were superb mountaineers like Big Ian Nicholson and the Glencoe Mafia. Many we met on the hill like Glenmore Lodge who were full of star climbers. Winter skills: Ice axe breaking was taught every weekend in winter and you had to show you had madtered this key skill. As was walking in crampons on steep ground and on icy paths. Maybe it’s my memory but the winters were very hard and our kit was not great. We were limited to our gear and often wet when on Call outs. Even though I spent every penny on my own gear my wages allowed I could afford only limited things like boots that fitted and crampons. Bill Marshall from Aberdeen would visit regularly who owned a shop in Aberdeen. He would let us pay at the end of the month.
Wages were poor in the RAF and we could borrow cash from the subs that we a;; paid when we ran out of cash. Climbing was only done by a few at that time in the team and my first route was with Kas Taylor on Creag Dubh at Newtonmore it snowed and scared me. The next weekend I was on Savage Slit on the Cairngorms. Leading after my partner had a wobble. I had limited knowledge climbed in a waist belt with the Tarbuck knot. After a fall at Grantown where I smashed my chin and an epic again with Kas in Skye in the rain when he slid a long way descending on slabs in the rain. He also took me and Tom MacDonald round the Skye ridge and I managed them all bar Sgurr na Gillean. I was that tired I nearly abseiled of my gear loop on my Willians Harness . Lucky my mate Tom noticed and saved my life. I was exhausted and not thinking straight. Yet you learn from these things.
There were big winter walks on Ben A’ Bhuird in crazy weather with another mentor Teuch Brewer who was training for an artic expedition. All the time learning and pushing your fitness and navigation walking through the night in winter on these huge mountains definitely switched you on. I did a few winter climbs and was getting experience when I bought my own boots ice axe and crampons I felt much more competent. Call outs: in these early years I did many big Call outs all over Scotland. I saw at first hand what a small mistake or a long fall can do and no matter who you are “nature rules”There was limited training for these incidents and the trauma and how to deal with a tragic death in the mountains. The days of PTSD were unknown then . Often the new troops were left to it as the only way to learn it was hard going at times. A death in the mountains is not an easy thing to cope with but that was the job and you did it. As is a long carry off helicopters were not that often used then and much was done by the teams. I found aircraft crashes pretty hard going ad well and again an aircraft hitting the mountains at 400 mph is a traumatic experience. Everyone copes differently with tragedy I have always taken them hard and would continue for all my years in Mountain Rescue.
We had our own social scene our own table on the Mess and our own bar for leaving parties. We were a wild bunch always up to something on the station. Yet George out Team Leader looked after us and the Disco night on a Sunday as we returned from a weekend was wild. It was straight in to the party of we were late without a shower. Crazy days. I loved my first tour learned so much got two great winters in and a few classic routes and many huge walks. Yet despite such a apprenticeship I had much to learn. It did come at a cost my family hardly saw me as the mountains look over my life. My career struggled as my Boss was so anti MR despite me trying so hard he even held my promotion back for 6 months. Yet it was so worth it in the end.
I was just becoming a trained member of the team when I was posted to Masirah in the Persian Gulf. That is another story. So many to thanks you learned quickly to stand up for yourself but many became lifetime friends looking back we were all very insular but that was what helped make us a team. Many of our families missed out many worried about us yet we were in our own world maybe selfish but hindsight is great and you learn from your mistakes.
Nearly 10 years ago I wrote this “The mountaineering press tells us that the Abseil posts from Carn Mor Dearg into Coire Leis have been 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 expected to be in place by the end of July 2014 and will be located at Grid Reference NN 17078 71000
The marker ‘flag’ and pole at the top of No. 4 Gully (a popular grade 1 descent route in winter) has been removed and is also going to be replaced with a two metre high navigation cairn. This work is also expected to be completed by the end of July 2014. This is an extract from the John Muir Trust website and various other places.
2014 – ‘The Coire Leis abseil posts were originally installed in the 1960s by members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. The majority of them had long since fallen into disrepair and were unsafe to use. Some were right over on their sides’ says Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor of the MCofS. ‘I was up with a small team of RAF folk yesterday to finish the job. We carried the posts and other debris down to the CIC hut, from where they were airlifted out.
The Trust and MCofS relies on the help of volunteers to undertake this sort of work. A window of good weather at the end of May allowed MCofS to mobilise a group of volunteers and some members of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team to remove the Coire Leis post. The Number 4 Gully marker was removed at the same time.
The Coire Leis post will be replaced by a 2-metre high cairn, while the Number 4 Gully Marker will be re-instated as a 1.5 metre cairn with ‘No.4’ incised on the cap stone. This will make the marker stable and less prone to vandalism and maintenance in the future. Work will begin to build the cairns as soon as possible over the next couple of months.
The original abseil posts were put up in 1964 by RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue after several bad accidents in the area but as the report above states had fallen into disrepair. Accidents in this area were fairly common especially descending from the summit to the Carn Mor Dearg arete in the early 50′ and 60’s. In 1954 there was a terrible accident when 5 walkers from Royal Naval Station Fulmar (Lossiemouth) fell/ glissaded over the North East Buttress on 19 December 1954, all were killed and it was a tragic recovery by the locals and RAF Kinloss MR. Just after this accident local Mountaineer and Rescuer Doctor Donald Duff arranged for some poles to placed on the descent to assist mountaineers on finding the descent to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. This was in the days of basic maps, no Gps and basic equipment. It is very hard when you are at the sharp end of tragedies on the mountains, any ideas or views to try to stop such accidents are all worth looking at. It was quiet good that the RAF Kinloss Team assisted in clearing up the site last week. John Hinde and Hamish MacInnes told me the tales of carry gallons of water from the Corrie to mix the cement high on the ridge.
“Liaison with Leuchars helicopter and Hamish MacInnes and some of his Glencoe rescue team. Lochaber and TA also helped. We had some people staying in the CIC Hut who went early on to the Carn Mor Dearg arete and radioed weather conditions for the helicopter. In all we flew three loads of cement, sand, water and the aluminium alloy abseil posts to within 500 vertical feet of the arete, on south side, and eight members of the team including me. The weather was good and we spent the rest of the afternoon sweating as we carried most of the loads up to a cache on the arete. The 8 men were flown up in two flights independently of the loads.
Descent by SSE Ridge of Ben Nevis to col of Meall Cumhann and then to the car park. We have arranged with Hamish to get the posts fixed on Sun 5 July.
Sun 5 July 64
Clear calm weather in hot sunshine on the Carn Mor Dearg arete of Ben Nevis. 15 of the team with Hamish MacInnes and Dave Crabbe of Dundee. We completed the carrying of all the materials for the abseil posts which we almost finished on 21 June. There were only six drums of water left to carry up from 3,100 ft. We mixed cement and sited all seven posts and completed the job by cementing them in place, firmly we hope. They may last for years but we shall have to check during the winter to make sure they still protrude far enough from the snow slopes. It should be quite easy to extend them. We went up and down from the Glen Nevis car park by the waterfalls of the Allt Coire Eoghainn.”
I wrote this at the time: “Whatever your views on the removal and the addition of the abseil posts and other cairns, that are in the mountains, views can be very varied, whether for or against. I at times worry about the elitism of some mountaineers and their views at times towards these. I for one have been glad to see them and other landmarks like the cairn on 1141 on the Cairngorm plateau on a wild day have been a lifesaver for me and great to see on a few climbs and rescues. This that is only my point of view. I am sure there are a few others who feel the same also but some that feel that they are that good they never need any assistance or help?”
Please note the abseil post are not longer there !
I had previously been in Colonsay in 1978. It was for a French military Atlantic aircraft that had ditched on the sea. It was part of a big NATO exercise at the time.
14 September 1978 – A Dutch surveillance Breguet crashed in the Iries sea west of Scotland after the explosion of the right RollsRoyce engine
Everyone was okay but we were asked to search the coast for “sensitive stuff” It was one of these. Call outs I will never forget. I love the Islands so many have been fleeting visits so I am trying to spend a bit more time on them.
From today’s advice “Colonsay is the jewel of the Hebrides, is about 10 miles long and 2 miles wide with 135 friendly inhabitants, and little more than 2 hours from Oban by our modern and very comfortable ferry. Our outstanding natural scenery is rivalled only by the wealth and diversity of our flora and fauna, and our archaeological sites are of international importance. Local activities include agriculture, oyster-farming, arts, crafts, honey production, a brewery, accommodation for visitors, lobster-fishing, publishing and even a substantial bird sanctuary. The island plays host to a variety of festivals throughout the year celebrating our music, culture, literature and natural assets. Please explore and enjoy our community website – and, when you get an opportunity, come and join us in Colonsay.”
1978 Sept 17 – Isle of Colonsay and Oransay A / Dutch Military Atlantic aircraft crashed in the sea and stayed afloat for a while just off the Islands. Some of the wreckage washed ashore and all the crew survived. When we arrived by Wessex helicopter we had no communications and searched most of the day and I sure we lived in a Cave one night and much of the wreckage washed ashore vanished in true Island Fashion. It was very like the film “Whisky Galore” It was very difficult trying to get some of the sensitive items from the locals! They had a few dinghies, life jackets and other bits and pieces! A bit of barter and trading was called for was called for? We just made the pub it shut at 2200 then but managed a few beers but no food? I wonder if anyone has any photos. https://colonsay.org.uk/
From my pal Nick Sharpe a Guide in Canada “RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team also deployed to the west coast of Jura and did the same thing. “Spent a night in a huge cave sleeping on a soft bed of goat droppings!“
This weekend I am visiting Colonsay again we had a superb ferry from Oban on a lovely day. The drive down was incredible and my friend Kalie picked me up from Onich. The hills were full of snow especially Ben Nevis.The drive to Oban was magical the sea and Ardgour looking superb.
Oban was busy yet the road was quiet and the new ferry terminal so clean and tidy. Yet parking near the ferry can be difficult. The ferry was immaculate and the 2 hour journey seeing Mull on a stunning evening was good. We arrived on time and our accommodation is right by the Hotel. We had a meal then headed to Kiloran beach it was amazing.
We hoped to see a sunset and we were not let down. It was incredible the beach looked red in the setting sun there was no one there and Islay the Collie was in her element.
It was so warm and lovely to be here we are so lucky to be here for a few days.
Comment Don Shanks – “If I remember right we were shocked that we didn,t get a lock-in…however we managed to cadge a lift back to our billet in a cowshed on the back of a council lorry..happy days”
Info – The Scottish Islands – Hamish Haswell – Smith.
The RAF Mountain Rescue was formed during the Second World War to rescue aircrew from crashed aircraft in the mountains of the UK. To this day the 3 RAF Teams that still survive are still called to carry out some difficult recoveries of aircraft both Service and civilian in the mountains. This is the sad story of this incident and the part played by the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. It should be noted that many of the RAF Kinloss Team were stationed at RAF Lossiemouth during when the team was located at Kinloss.
30 April 1990 Isle of Harris
It was a beautiful day at RAF Kinloss which is situated on the Moray Coast in the North East coast of Scotland. Unusually a lot of the Mountain Rescue Team had gathered in the crew room. It was just before lunch time when I was told on the phone by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) and there was a Shackelton aircraft missing from RAF Lossiemouth. It had been on a Training sortie from Lossiemouth and was last seen near Benbeculla, near the Isle of Harris on the West Coast of Scotland. I was told a helicopter from Lossiemouth a Sea King would be at Kinloss in 10 minutes and would take 10 of my team to the area. This is called a “fast party” a quick fast response to any incident. I was the Mountain Rescue Team Leader on this incident.
Ten minutes to sort your kit and go!
In these circumstances 10 minutes is not long to prepare and the teams have a long established protocols to ensure we have the correct equipment to carry out any rescue. We managed to get to the aircraft pan ready for the Seaking Helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth which landed rotors running and we were off! In an aircraft crash information is coming in all the time, from the ARCC. As The Team Leader I was getting constant updates from the aircrew and passing the information on to the team members in the back of the noisy helicopter not easy.
In any incident the helicopter flies flat out on a Rescue especially, when it is an aircraft from their station at Lossiemouth, nothing was spared. I was up with the pilots and getting all the updates on my earpiece. There are so many things going on in your head as the Team Leader and you are very busy. The flight to Harris was about 60 minutes and as we neared the last known position we were picking up the aircraft beacons in the helicopter which meant the aircraft in trouble and had crashed. Due to the remoteness of the area I spoke to my control the ARCC and asked for the rest of the RAF Kinloss team to be sent immediately to assist.
As we neared the crash site the noise from the beacons was intense and we feared the worst. The crash had occurred near the village of Northton on a small hill called Moadal about 800 Feet above the sea. The only cloud in the whole of Scotland was over the crash site and the helicopter dropped us as near as they could to the incident. It was like the scene from a battlefield, a tangled mess of a once proud aircraft and the casualties, all fatal scattered around, memories that still haunt me to this day. At times like these even in the middle of such carnage the Mountain Rescue Team has a job to do and we are all as professional, most of us had seen these sights before. A few shocked locals had managed to get to the crash and were relieved to see us and leave the horror of such a place. There was very little chance of any survivors.
Our first task is to ensure that all the casualties are accounted for and then to secure the crash site. All the fatalities have to be left in place as there will be a Crash Investigation Team on scene as soon as possible. Our next task is to secure the site which was still on fire and ensure there were no classified materials about.
It was grim work but most of my team on the helicopter were though very young were veterans of such scenes, I had been heavily involved with the Lockerbie Disaster, we did what we had to do. Once things were organised at the scene I walked back down to the road about half a mile from the scene. It was surreal already the locals had put a small caravan in a lay-by and the ladies had a welcome cup of tea for us. They were wonderful people with typical Highland hospitality and care, which my team would need later on. They were incredible to my team and helped in the difficult days that we had ahead.
The cloud had cleared and this was one of the most sad but beautiful places in Scotland. The local Police were on scene along with the Coastguards and the site was secured awaiting the Board of Enquiry, no casualties could be moved until the Police and the Procurator Fiscal arrived. My team guarded the scene and took photos and mapped the site out, standard procedures for an aircraft incident. The aircraft was guarded through the night and all night the local people were so helpful to us all.
The majority of the team who were still at Kinloss were flown to Stornoway by a Jetstream aircraft and by Hercules aircraft complete with our Mountain Rescue vehicles, they were all on scene by 1600, an amazing piece of organisation. In the end I had 27 Team members, the 4 Tonner vehicles’ arrived by Ferry the same day! That is a story in its on right.
Once the site had been visited later on by the Board of Enquiry the team receives permission to remove all the casualties from the scene, a hard and difficult task. These are words that do not express what horror there is in such a place, yet all the team worked hard 10 fatalities was a hard job to do and move away from the scene. These were in the early days of PTSD and few in power will ever realise the effect a tragedy like this has on those who carried out this task.
After 3 days on scene we handed over the crash site to RAF Lossiemouth crash guard who were there for several weeks working with the investigation board. Most of the team and vehicles’ flew out that day from Harris in a Hercules aircraft ahead of all the casualties who were in another aircraft. We flew into Lossiemouth and drove through the camp for the short journey to Kinloss. The whole camp at Lossiemouth lined up as we drove through a very moving experience, waiting for their fallen comrades.It was an experience I will never forget and then we had to go home to our families. Few spoke of what they had seen and done. It was our job.
A few years later I revisited the crash site in Harris. The drive down was in driving rain but as we got nearer to Tarbet the weather cleared to bright sunshine and the hills had a smattering of snow. As we got nearer to the site the sun, blue seas, surf and clear sandy beaches made this a sad but beautiful place to be. Though the hill is only small by mountaineering standards, it’s fairly steep as it starts from sea-level. Memories came flashing back of the accident and even the superb beauty of this special place made it a difficult wee walk. Nature has as usual sorted things out and the scars on the hill are covered by heather and peat, occasional bits of wire and small pieces of metal remain of a fairly large aircraft. The memorial on the top commemorates the crew of the Shackelton “Dylan” and details of the aircraft with the words”We Will Never Forget” inscribed on a memorial on the summit. It faces West the inscription is getting the worse of the weather and may need replaced within the next few years. I have been back fairly often it is another part of my life that few understand. The views from the hill are very healing with the wildness of the area that makes this place so special and a place we should never forget.
This is what i wrote on a previous visit. “On the summit the views were immense, unsurpassed with unique Island scenery of wild open beaches, mountains and the sea and the fresh snow enhancing everything. After spending some time on the top, with the wind it was fairly cold, we left that beautiful, though sad place, with a wee prayer for the crew and wondering how many people know of this place?”
I will never forget what happened that day and how tragic the crash site was even to hardened mountain rescue men. The RAF Mountain Rescue Team carries out a complex job at times but I am proud of what my team did over these few days. I will never forget the wonderful help we received from the locals, the Police, Coastguards local Doctor and these magnificent people from North Harris who treated us so well over a terribly difficult 3 days.
Thanks to all, from all of us.
It should be noted that the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team has been at least two other Shackelton Crashes in their role in RAF Mountain Rescue. The first was on the 21 December 1967 when a Shackelton crashed at Locailort near Fortwilliam killing all 13 of the crew. The team were involved in the recovery all over the Festive period until the 8 January. I met the son of the navigator of this aircraft who came to visit RAF Kinloss in 2007, 40 years after his father died, a very moving day for me. I took him and his wife around the Rescue Centre the ARCC where I was on shift. From here we went to the Mountain Rescue Section at Kinloss and tried to answer all his questions, which he wanted answers for many years. In addition the team were also involved in the Shackelton Crash at the south end of the Mull of Kintyre killing all 11 of the crew on the 19 April 1968, the RAF Kinloss team were there till the 23 April. All these terrible incidents make a huge impression on the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and the team members and are never forgotten by those who were involved.
“Lest We Forget”
David Heavy Whalley MBE BEM
In memory of Shackleton crew Dylan who perished in the crash.
Wing Commander Stephen Roncoroni
Wing Commander Chas Wrighton
Flying Officer Colin Burns
Squadron Leader Jerry Lane
Flight Lieutenant Al Campbell
Flight Lieutenant Keith Forbes
Master Air Electronics Operator Roger Scutt
Flight Sergeant Rick Ricketts
Sergeant Graham Miller
Corporal Stuart Bolton
These events are life changing not just for the crews families but for those involved in the recovery a grim task. Yet last year 2020 I was lucky to visit the crash site as my friend had booked a small bothy about a mile from the crash site. This was unknown to her at the time. We had a walk up to the crash scene and saw the Memorial was in good condition. Thank you whoever did that.
I met a few locals involved and their memories were still clear from that tragic day over 30 years ago. I also know a few of those from Lossiemouth many were on the Crash Guard who built the memorial on the hill. 2021 Last week I was invited to a “Zoom re dedication service” at RAF Lossiemouth it was very moving. These places are a huge part of my life and as long as I can I will continue visit them.
I was over in the West and my friend and I took her dog for a walk near Sheildaig. Despite the fire risk and two signs some stupid folk had a fire in the forest. Crazy as this must have been done in the weekend despite massive Fire risk warnings. There is even High Fire Risk signs where they were.
That was not the worst thing a bit further on there was lots of clean wipes/ paper and human feaces there was 4 separate piles strewn with about . Yet there is a toilet about half a mile away in the village. How do we stop this and why oh why do folk do this! It was disgusting and I know the problem as I have had a bowel problem in recent years. Yet these folk must have been staying here right by the main road.
This is an area where the local village folk walk and especially children play. The toilets in the village are run by them it seems Highland Council cannot afford to pay for them. So a small like Sheildaig had to take the maintenance on and the cleaning of the toilet. This happens all over the country. This too me is even worse how do we educate folk? This is happening all over the Country. Yet folk still leave such a mess. It’s right beside the NC 500 but sadly despite all the efforts by so many some folk still poo in the woods.
We reported this to the locals and sadly someone will have to clean this mess up.
Yes, it happens to us all, getting caught short away from toilet facilities. But please read the following advice from Mountaineering Scotland.
Below is some common sense advice to minimise the environmental and visual impact of your emergency poo.
Find an area well away from water courses, paths, summit areas and places where others might shelter (eg in the lee of large boulders, behind buildings etc).
Look for a depression in the ground or a place that is easy to dig out, with some nearby damp moss or other natural material to use as toilet paper.
Further excavate the depression in the ground by scraping and kicking with your foot or use a stick/walking pole or similar object. If deep soft moss is present, you can often create a good result simply by using your hands to lift it aside. Any loose stones can also be moved by hand to deepen the depression.
Now use the depression to do your poo. Damp moss makes the ideal substitute for toilet paper, indeed many find it even better than toilet paper.
Place the used moss on top of the poo, which helps to start covering it up.
If you have used toilet paper, wipes or tissues, you should take them with you in a plastic bag or container rather than burying them.
Cover the poo with the material you initially dug out of the depression. Add to this by kicking and scraping more material from around the depression to create a thick layer of organic material over the waste. Ideally use soil, moss, dead wet leaves, etc, whatever is available. This will make it odour proof and help it to decompose.
On top of this place stones, rocks or large branches so that dogs and other animals cannot get access and dig up the waste.
Clean your hands with hand sanitiser or by washing thoroughly.
For more detailed information on toileting outdoors, read our Where to go leaflet.
It looks like we are going to get some rain this week the ground needs it. Everything is so dry but it’s been a lovely few days in the sun after a long winter. ☀️ As I said there are a lot of sheep ticks about so be aware. I went with Kalie on one of her adventures on the Coast near her house. The sea was magical and clear. That stunning colour that makes you think your abroad.
We passed old herring buildings by a bay and had some great scrambling along the cliffs following ledges and big boulders, the weather was superb and we investigated some nooks and crannys.
We saw an otter slip by into the sea and the protection of the kelp. Kalies dog Islay noticed it first then as I stepped over a big Boulder it swam out to the sea under my foot . A magical site.
We passed the big sandstone slabs further round the Coast they were stunning to walk up in the sun. Lots of small cliffs with unclimbed short climbs and Goes by the sea . This really is a paradise.
It was so lovely sitting in the sun enjoying the views of Skye, Rhona Torridon and Applecross so many other hills. All from a different aspect you think you know Scotland yet you only touch the surface. I have sailed round here which is another adventure and have great memories of Rhona and Skye.
It was then a wander onto the wee beach the tide was out and the views of Skye and Rhona wonderful memories .
We passed a big nest under an overhang I thought it was an Eagle but it was a Raven it was huge. We moved away and saw chicks in it.
Common Ravens build their nests on cliffs, in trees, and on structures such as power-line towers, telephone poles, billboards, and bridges. Cliff nests are usually under a rock overhang. Tree nests tend to be in a crotch high in the tree, but below the canopy and typically farther down in a tree than a crow’s nest would be.
Males bring some sticks to the nest, but most of the building is done by females. Ravens break off sticks around 3 feet long and up to an inch thick from live plants to make up the nest base, or scavenge sticks from old nests. These sticks, and sometimes bones or wire as well, are piled on the nest platform or wedged into a tree crotch, then woven together into a basket. The female then makes a cup from small branches and twigs. The cup bottom is sometimes lined with mud, sheep’s wool, fur, bark strips, grasses, and sometimes trash. The whole process takes around 9 days, resulting in an often uneven nest that can be 5 feet across and 2 feet high. The inner cup is 9-12 inches across and 5-6 inches deep. Nests are often reused, although not necessarily by the same birds, from year to year.
It was then walk back to the road probably the last day it will be quiet. Today things open up and many more folk and cars vans etc will be about. This is the route from Applecross to Sheildiagh on the North Coast 500. A very busy tourist location on single track roads. There are lots of lambs about so please drive carefully and be respectful to other drivers. Use passing places and take all rubbish with you please.
Today’s tip watch out for the newly born lambs in the road ! Drive slowly and carefully!
Hello Everybody, Just a wee reminder that is the season for ground nesting birds. Please be aware of keeping dogs under control on moorlands such as Dava Moor. See below from my friend !
Ground nesting birds
Just saying as I got approached by the Land Manager.
From the Outdoor Access Code:
Ground nesting birds: During the breeding season (usually April-July) keep your dog on a short lead or close at heel in areas such as moorland, forests, grasslands, loch shores and the sea shore to avoid disturbing birds that nest on or near the ground.
It was very hot yesterday on the hills you have to be careful in the sun. I learned the hard way in the 70’ after 9 months Desert Rescue in Masirah in the Persian Gulf. This was the early 70,s so we were not so aware of sun damage. All we carried was water radio and fruit !
Use sunscreen and top up during the day. Sun damage is with you for ever on your skin and can lead to-serious problems later in life!
Wear a hat and sunglasses drink a lot of fluid and top up on the hill. I wear a bandana which I wet when I can to keep my neck cool. A long sleeve top is worth carrying it to stop sunburn. Keep drinking a little and often. I tend to have plenty of fluid before I go at breakfast. Due to the sheep ticks I would be careful if wearing shorts. Check yourself and of on the hill your dog. My friends dog had 6 sheep ticks on her. Lyme disease is very serious. There is also a big fire risk please be careful.
On the way home I have plenty of fluid in a cold box and rehydrate. I also wear open sandles or crocs with socks of to let my feet breathe . A good tip?
Be careful the sun is here maybe just for a few days but we need to be ready. Walk slower take your time and sit and watch nature. The flowers are out there is much to see.
I like to get away early before it gets to hot ! A good tip.
Enjoy the great weather your comments are welcome.
I was away early yesterday from my home on the East heading for the West coast. The forecast was superb and being a Friday the hills should be quite. It was a lovely drive over no rush and we met in the Beinn Alligin car park. It was one of these stunning days a little hazy but perfect walking and no midges. The carpark was empty but everything was bone dry there was a big Fire Risk on the hills so please be very careful.
Over the years I have done many hard hill days here. The walk in and out especially after some big days or epic callouts do not let you take the beauty in of this path that you can follow to Beinn Alligin or Beinn Dearg or through the Glen to Liathach or Beinn Eighe. Today was perfect walking I could have done with lighter trousers but just incredible. The path follows the river it’s superb in places with pools and gorges and the first bit of the path takes you through wonderful woodland. The trees the mosses and the river plus so many beautiful boulders make this a lovely wander on its own. The birds were singing and the sun was out and today no midges. This was a close to heaven for us as it gets.
Kalie my friend and Islay her lovely Collie were my company for what turned out to be a grand walk. The river is so close by and the views of that superb mountain Beinn Alligin open up as you walk. The stunning Corbett Beinn Dearg watches you all the way. This is a huge unsung Corbett that I love. It’s a complicated mountain and one of Scotland’s finest with a huge pull onto its main ridge and a scramble summit. It’s a steep descent any way you go. Well worth a visit?
There are two great bridges crossing the river lifesavers in poor weather when the river is wild and the path is superb.
The views of Liathach are stunning still holding snow the huge Coire na Caim and the pinnacles in full view.
We passed the path up to the Horns of Alligin another wonderful day but I wanted to have a look at the North West face of Nan Rathan
(the backside of the Horns of Alligin) I had been here on a few call outs in winter and never really seen this wild place.
This face opens up and there is so much scope for a winter climber. The path continues it was not marked on the map but takes you on past a great wilderness.
It’s a huge area and though it was warm we stopped and enjoyed the day. Islay still has her winter coat so she was a bit warm so we sat down often and enjoyed every minute. Islay cooling off.
The cliff was looking incredible there are a few lines but the scope for more and some serious scrambling about. Well worth a visit and great to be here on such a great day.
We continued on and to the approach of the Corbett Beinn Dearg.
Up on this wild place there is a series of small Lochans and the huge bulk of another Corbett in the distance Bosbheinn. This area is full of great hills. There was a bit of wind cooling and we just enjoyed the views. Yet it was the huge bulk of Beinn Dearg that looked so good today with a chunk in its armour on the steep slopes.
We had some lunch then headed down the weather was still perfect and I had been drinking a lot and taking it slowly. You have to be careful in the sun. It was a great wander back down we met no one on the hill. It will be so different tomorrow .
This was a piece written after I was recovering from several operations in 2015 a few years ago. I was with a good pal Tom MacDonald who was up visiting its well worth revisiting the piece I wrote.
I had always wanted to visit this place in the Cairngorms on the summer. It was an aircraft crash site just of the beleach between Sron Na Larig and Braeriach. I had managed a short day along the Northern Corries on Sunday and felt pretty rough so I was a bit wary how I would be but the weather was forecast so good I had to give it a go. I was feeling better but did not want to rush any recovery, it would be a slow day.
Tom is not an early riser but I managed to get away by 0800 the sun was out and what a drive we had. The familiar Dava Moor and the views of the Cairngorms were special, the clarity was incredible and you could even see the Tors on Ben Avon. The only problem I had was the brightness of the sun it was so strong whilst driving I must put in my sun glasses. I always use the back road to Nethy Bridge another stunning drive we are so lucky. We had looked at what way to go into Braeriach and the option we chose was from Rothiemurcus as I did not fancy the short climb back up to the Chalamain Gap and the Sugar Bowl ( it was the right one in my mind) From Rothiemurcus Lodge you leave the shelter of the trees.
The path up into the Larig Gru was so dry and we had a chat about days past chasing Tom along this path in winter when doing these big hills and with no car the long walk back to Aviemore. The views all the way are great and the cliffs of Lurchers Crag ( Creag an Leth – choin ) dominate as does the huge cleft of the Larig Gru. This was a favourite winter climbing arena for me. It was hot and a bit of a wind blew and we made good time with Tom a well-known botanist advising me of my shortcomings in this field.
The hills were a wonderful golden brown and the deer grass blowing in the warm wind here and there was the odd flower still enjoying the sun. The words of the song “Golden Brown” were in my mind. I was enjoying it so well
We met a pair out for a short walk before heading back to Oxford after a week on the hills. I had flashbacks of when I was down South at Innsworth near Gloucester for two years in 2002 and how I missed these hills, now it is all there on my doorstep, living the dream! I felt okay maybe it was the company and we soon crossed the river and pulled up to the site of the Old Sinclair Hut now gone. What a place this was a cold place to be and in a strange place. Yet we used it often as a break in searches in the past.
The views from here are amazing the Larig Gru path goes through the boulders and off up to the Pools Of Dee. We had time for a cup of tea and a few stories it was a place I could have spent the day. The cliffs in winter Of Lurchers Crag have been a great place for me and in the days when I ran the RAF Winter Course many years ago we had some great days away from the crowds. It still can be a wild place in a bad day.
From the site of the old bothy the Sinclair Hut it is a steady pull up onto Stron Na Larig with its great gullies and ribs that crash down into the Larig Gru. There is a good path but Tom is like me and we wandered along the edge of the cliffs marvelling at the wildness of this place with it shattered ridges and gullies. So many on that great rush for summits and ticks in a book are head down and miss this, all they see is the path and how many have commented on my love of the wild cliffs. Every corner each spur changes and every aspect is different. Tom has been on botanical research here and showed me some of the places he has been, brave man. These gullies and ridges offer sport in the winter for those who fancy a day away from the crowds, it can be an Alpine arena on a winter’s day.
It was a bit longer than I expected up onto Stron na Larig at 1180 metres but though slow I was loving it and those dark days of being ill were hopefully in the past. I had always missed this wreckage of an aircraft on this hill and I wanted to see what I had missed. There are two crashes very near each other unfortunately this one:
RAF Bristol 142M Blenheim IV / Z7356 all the crew were killed.
“This Bristol Blenheim was being flown by 526 Squadron RAF. At the time of the accident, it was returning from RAF Digby(JSSO Digby) in England to its home base close to Inverness. However, it flew into cloud not far from Aviemore and crashed at the southern flank of Sròn na Lairige (Braeriach) in the Cairngorms, just short of its final destination.
The remains of the aircraft was destroyed in the resulting fire. All on board perished in this accident. Those who died in this accident were:
We had a rough idea where the wreckage was and wandered about at a grid reference we had, it was out. Tom pulled out his binos and we saw wreckage and wandered down.
We had an incredible wander about and there is wreckage all over much close to the path but few see it. There was little wild life about a couple of Ptarmigan and a hare amongst the boulders darted out as we approached.
I wanted to locate the two propellers and they were a bit away on some steeper ground and we were lucky it was dry as this could be a slippy area in the wet and care should be taken. I was carrying as I had left my bag on the beleach and was carrying my I Pad for photos ( daft) We found the propellers and they are in some situation with a backdrop of the Larig Gru, Ben MacDui and Carn a Mhain in the distance.
Care should be taken.
This is as all these crash sites are to me moving places. There are a few in the Cairngorms on the opposite side of the Larig Gru is the site of the Anson Crash near Ben MacDui as we stopped and photographed this place.
As always my thoughts with all these young men who died in the war and the terrible losses to their families, that have never been forgotten. 6 died in this place and after a lifetime of Mountain Rescue it must have been an awful task getting them off these wild remote hills. Please do not take or remove any wreckage these are poignant places and treat them with respect.
We spent a while and enjoyed the peace of this place it was interesting ground to be on and I promised a winter visit. Time was moving on and the summit was not to far away but I decided that we had a long way back and the summit could wait for another day.
We still wandered back along the cliffs Tom wandering among the ridges and I enjoying the sun and the views. The shattered ridges and gullies were looked at and we sat and enjoyed the view. Lurchers Crag on the opposite side of the Larig Gru was looking superb as the light played and showed the great gullies in detail of the crag.
We were soon back at the site of the Sinclair Hut, I could have stayed here it was so hot and scenic but after another break we wandered back in the sun. Tom was looking for plants and me in my own world. I felt good a bit sore but what a difference for Sunday maybe I was really coming out of dark place and into the sun again?
Thanks Tom for a great day, it was so special to be out and enjoying this place. I cannot wait for my next wander on Saturday with a relative of another crash in the Cairngorms on An Lurg it will be a moving day and the weather looks good.
Thanks to Danny Daniels and Ray Sefton for the assistance and Tom for the company .
When I was at school many years ago I was never taught about John Muir and the effect he had on the environment. Why ? I have no clue. Things are better now and John Muir is celebrated in the USA and his birthplace in Dunbar Scotland.
I was so lucky to visit the USA on a lecture tour just after I retired in 2008 for 3 months. Six weeks was spent in Yosemite with the local YOSAR search team and some nights I went to the little theatre and listened to the tales of John Muir in a series of various plays. To here the stories in this incredible place with its wild life, huge trees and waterfalls was something I will never forget.
It was surreal and gave me a great insight into this great man. John Muir was played by Lee Stetson we became friends and chatted after each event.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.” John Muir
It took me many years to understand that the mountains and wild places need looking after. Many years before I stopped racing round the hills and looking at where I was. I wrote this:
“As I stopped the wind was wisping across the loch and the spray was soaking me at times. It was surreal with the changing light at times surreal yet magical as well. The tree roots are amazing down by the loch worn,bent, open to the elements and yet the trees were huge towering above and swaying in the wind. Trees the things we take for granted and for years I never appreciated them.
I only discovered John Muir about 20 years ago and on a trip to Yosemite I was amazed how much the Americans hold him in respect. Seeing the great trees in the park was humbling and you can see why he fought so hard to save them from being cut down.”
In the Yosemite theatre I watched a few plays on John Muir and his work and it was incredible being in the park where he walked and got so much inspiration. Lee Stetson who plays John Muir was wonderful and I watched every show he did in my 6 weeks visit.
John Muir all these years ago took on the establishment and the industrialisation of many special places in the USA. I love these tales and when I watch my grand kids climbing trees I think of him. What would he make of the Wind – Farms all over Scotland, the rubbish in the seas and wild places and the Freedom of Access we have in Scotland nowadays? This freedom of access is under pressure daily we need to ensure that this right to roam is never lost?
John Muir is now respected in his own land and the young folk are taught about his great work at school. His views and writing through education and work of the John Muir Trust. https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/
The John Muir Trust is a conservation charity dedicated to protecting and enhancing wild places in the UK John Muir
John Muir (1838 – 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. One of the best-known hiking trails in the U.S., the 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier.
A true Renaissance man, Muir was: inventor, mountaineer, explorer, botanist, geologist, nature-writer and environmental campaigner; many would add: Christian-mystic, visionary and wilderness-sage. His writings are the fountain-head from which the American conservation movement erupted, setting the agenda, the ethos and the argument for the creation of a vast National Park system. Muir did more than simply describe the grizzly bears, the giant redwoods and luminous landscapes of California’s High Sierra; as the founder of the Sierra Club, his endless campaigns saved them for all posterity. This new selection includes Muir’s finest autobiographical books: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth and My First Summer in the Sierra along with the best of his climbing and conservation essays from: The Mountains of California, Our National Parks, The Yosemite and Steep Trails. It offers a rounded portrait of Muir as a giant of American letters; of a visionary, whose passionate defence of ‘everything that is Wild’, still reverberates through today’s environmental movement, inspiring new generations of activists and all who love the natural world. In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. He is today referred to as the “Father of the National Parks” and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life. Muir’s biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become “one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity,” both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. “Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world,” writes Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified “the archetype of our oneness with the earth”. Muir was extremely fond of Henry David Thoreau and was probably influenced more by him than even Ralph Waldo Emerson. Muir often referred to himself as a “disciple” of Thoreau. He was also heavily influenced by fellow naturalist John Burroughs. During his lifetime John Muir published over 300 articles and 12 books. He co-founded the Sierra Club, which helped establish a number of national parks after he died and today has over 1.3 million members. Author Gretel Ehrlich states that as a “dreamer and activist, his eloquent words changed the way Americans saw their mountains, forests, seashores, and deserts.” He not only led the efforts to protect forest areas and have some designated as national parks, but his writings gave readers a conception of the relationship between “human culture and wild nature as one of humility and respect for all life,” writes author Thurman Wilkins. His philosophy exalted wild nature over human culture and civilization. Turner describes him as “a man who in his singular way rediscovered America. . . . an American pioneer, an American hero.” Wilkins adds that a primary aim of Muir’s nature philosophy was to challenge mankind’s “enormous conceit,” and in so doing, he moved beyond the Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau to a “biocentric perspective on the world.” John Muir what a man please spread the word! He was a man who loved nature and fought for it taking on politicians and Industry we need men and women like John Muir nowadays. Never take what we have for granted there are many who will sadly take it all away bit by bit.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” …
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” …
“The mountains are calling and I must go.” …
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
So when my grandkids climb trees I tell them of John Muir climbing to the top of one to feel the effects of the wind in a storm. What a man what a legacy to leave
Wild places are special and need protecting. In becoming a member of the John Muir Trust, you’ll be part of an organisation with a UK-wide reach that is educating people about nature, taking care of wild land, and influencing decision makers.
Whichever type of membership you pick, your support will help protect the wild places in our care, campaign on the urgent issues facing wild land and connect more people with nature.
So every time you see kids climbing trees tell them about John Muir climbing that tree in a Gale to feel the force of nature.
They love that tale ! Look after our Freedom to roam it was hard fought for and should never be taken for granted.
Some of my Mountaineering club were are away doing some of the great peaks in the Cairngorms . It’s great to see and I heard they had a great time. These peaks mean so much to me I have had so many classic days here. They climbed the great slabs by a scramble route onto Devils Point good on them. I found them pretty tricky one day when I did that route. What a day they had.
Cairngorms – The Big Seven. The Cairngorms Cairn Gorm – Ben Macdui – Carn a’Mhaim – The drop into the Lairig Gru is when the mind games start. The Devil’s Point – Cairn Toul – Sgor an Lochain Uaine (The Angel’s Peak) – Braeriach – then the trudge home to the Sugar Bowl. You can do them anyway I prefer completing on Cairngorm.
My memory went back into these great days on these hills many were often climbed in summer and winter. In my early days the Cairngorm 4 was a big day – Brairiach ,Cairntoul, Ben MacDui and Cairngorm was the classic a big day especially in winter. The descent into the Larig gru then the pull up to Ben Mac Dui from the Larig Gru to MacDui can be so hard going. Over the years we would add Devils Point Carn a ‘ Mhain to the Cairngorm 4 it became the Cairngorm 7 the updating of Angel’s Peak as a Munro . One day just after I broke my ankle and had it pinned and plated it would be about 1987 I did this big day with a boot and a trainer as my foot was still giving me problems my ankle would swell during the day. One of the teams wife Myrtle Sefton had wanted to do this day for a long time so Myrtle came with us. Myrtle was a lover of the Cairngorms since she and her family had spent many summers watching birds and camping on the Ben MacDui plateau. Myrtle was only a young lass then yet her knowledge of this area is huge as of the wild life.
When doing these days it was always a good tip for an early start. We were away by 0500 it was raining and the weather was poor. We had some thoughts of aborting on the first summit Braeraich. It was hard going in the gloom. There are usually time for a visit to the two aircraft crashes on this mountain but not today it was navigation and we were on a time scale. Blenheim Z7356 on Braeriach sadly ,killing all the crew and the Oxford HM724 which is near the main path.
The Blenheim crashed nearby but much of the wreckage is in the Corrie and worth a visit when the snow goes. I have written about these crashes in previous blogs. There are many other ways on to these great peaks the way I have done often was by Angels ridge that takes you into the wild corries these are huge and there is often a good snow cover late into the summer. There are some serious winter climbs as well when I was younger you will rarely see anyone else.
The North East ridge is a lovely day out the views to be savoured. On the way in you pass the wild Pools of Dee and the An Garbh Choire and Corrie Bhrochain. If you want a bit of solitude this is the place to be. I often searched here in my Mountain Rescue days and its a wild place and I had some scary helicopter flights here and huge walk outs dragging a stretcher into the Larig Gru.
Yet we went on the cloud was down it rained and we had to navigate all the way to Devils Point. The plateau along from Braeriach can be tricky navigation and care has to be taken. We were all in our own thoughts as we descended to the Corrour bothy from Devils point for a break. We met a few walkers as we had our lunch or early breakfast. They were fairly surprised that we had come across the 3 Munro’s (now 4) with the update of Angels peak to Munro status. that early. We were wet and a bit down I said that Myrtle was our Mum and was pushing us to do a big day. To be honest we did not fancy that walk back down the Larig Gru. so of we went. Those who have been here no how you feel. It was a hard pull up to the beleach to Cairn a Mhain. In the past I have climbed the slabs on to the ridge but not this day. The weather was clearing and drying us out. The summit is a great view point then the trudge back and up to Mac Dui! There was little time to stop time was marching on and Cairngorm was in view. It was the first time for years that I had not stopped at the wee memorial just off the summit( how many miss that?)
The walk back to Cairngorm seemed to go on and on even Myrtle said so her long legs charging across the plateau. It was hard to imagine how hard a day you can have here in winter. The final pull up to Cairngorm so often just a wander hurt us all. Soon we were at the weather station and the summit and then down to the car park saying little but pretty pleased with our day. It was great to do that day with Myrtle and she looked after me over the years as her husband Ray was my team leader and mentor. My ankle was like an elephants foot at the end of the day but I could now go and get my RAF medical to saw I was still medically fit. It took another year to get the plate and pin out and the ankle has been great a bit arthritic but done a few miles.
Hopefully I have left you with a few ideas, please do not just run round these hills savour them, take lots of photos and you will have memories that will last for your life.
Classic Reading : Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland – Andrew Dempster
Aircraft wrecks The Walkers Guide
The Cairngorms – SMC Publications.
The Munros – SMC Publication.
Comments as always welcome
“ I remember you putting three of us out on a night time traverse of the big 6. You also wanted an ascent of Savage Slit (I think that was just to put more weight in the sack). We started from Cairngorm and another party went from the other side. We exchanged climbing kit in the larig. Long night🤣” Good training!
As we all get set for a return to the hills, let’s all make sure we have the very best day. Three words – consideration, planning and flexibility – will see us through a lot. Parking will be a choke point in many more popular locations, and we need to remember that there’s still a lot of snow high up, but if we treat each other and the hills with respect, we can make it a really memorable return. Enjoy yourselves out there! 😃
At last we are allowed to get out on the hills away from my local are . Myself and my old mate Dan took advantage of that to climb in the Cairngorms. I was aware that it’s still winter high up and the Northern Corries provide a great array of great winter climbs. This is partly due to the easy access to the Northern Corries by the ski road. The road is now open after the restrictions were removed. We decided to leave early as the gullies are still in the shade. I heard that the many of the climbs were still there so myself and my pal Dan wanted a look.
The weather was wonderful and it was a special drive to the mountains. The trees and the sunshine on the way plus the views of many favourite hills still snow covered made the early start something special.
The car park was empty and we wandered slowly into the Corrie. It was so quite we could here the birds singing as we walked it was surreal.
I have not been on the hills since last February so it was a slow walk in. We sorted the world out on the way in. My mate Dan is great company and so good to be out with him again he is the most dependable companion in the mountains.
The walk in slowly we took about an hour and we sorted the gear out and put on crampons helmet and harness. Even that was slow as I had bit done it for a long time.
The route we wanted to climb was the Runnel a 3 pitch grade 2 winter gully. It’s an old favourite of mine. It was first climbed in Easter 1946 by an Edinburgh University Mountaineering club. The Runnel – “the Central and best defined of the three gullies from the top of the snow bay. It gives straightforward climbing to near the top where there is a fine icy chimney which leads to the final slopes. There are grooves either side of the chimney which can also be climbed especially when traffic jams develop below the chimney pitch “ The Cairngorm guide SMC climbers guide.
It was a climb that we had done many times in the past often in wild weather that is the Cairngorms. It looked like it would be a joy today.
Yet this time the weather was superb as were the conditions. The snow was sparkling like diamonds in the early morning light. The Coire was so quiet compared with past visits.
Skill fade – putting on and wearing crampons after nearly two years felt strange and I took my time to get used to them again. There is the usual steep apron to the climb that hurt my calves in days past this would have been a romp. We roped up early on the climb the belays and protection was superb. We soon got into a rhythm and just marvelled at our surrounds. There was no wind at all it was clear and the snow was perfect. The Cairngorm granite was looking superb on the cliff as the shadows moved round the cliff. There were a few cracks in the frozen snow where you could rest I needed that.
As the sun hit the cliff further round a few bits of ice and rock came down the gully walls. It’s a thing you must be aware of in late winter. Falling ice and Rock make this wee gully seem Alpine today. Sadly this has caused a few accidents in the past so we ensured that the belays were as safe as they could be. Also well out of the line if fire as we could.
We were soon at the final chimney it was lovely wee pitch the cracks were dry and there was good ice and snow and a wee cornice then you were out of the sun and into the sun on the plateau.
There were a few skiers about on the plateau and a fair covering of snow still. The views of Ben MacDui and the other Cairngorm mountains were sparkling.
We had some food and a drink and what a place to sit and enjoy the view. It was so warm we took lots of layers off and wandered back slowly.
In the past I have done several routes in a day here but today and due to my age and fitness that short climb was enough. Yet to be out and enjoy a cracking wee climb on a special day with a great friend was a magic time for me.
It’s a great joy to be out and with the mountains opening up be careful. Many of us may have lost fitness and a bit of skill fade. Be safe try to enjoy your day, spend time looking at views the birds and animals. Enjoy the freedom we have back and please look after the land and take only footprints and leave nothing but footprints!
I got back was pretty tired sorted my kit out and had a bath and a wee kip. I woke up to cramps in my legs a sure reminder to get hill fit. Yet I have been walking or cycling nearly every day. My days of climbing are drawing down but how special was that wee climb. So much to do so little time. Coming out of the climb over the cornice and into the sun drenched plateau was wonderful.
Thanks Dan !
The Northern Corries are a great place to be they can be busy so worthwhile going very early. I cannot repeat please be aware of the sun hitting the cliff and ice and rock falling if climbing late in season.
Today’s tip – my gloves got wet today tried these ones will stick to my proper winter gloves if I get a chance to climb again!
I had sadly forgot that when this Call out was on going the Hillborough Tragedy occurred on the 15 April 1989 when 96 fans were killed watching a football match. My head must have been so full at the time with the Call out I had forgotten this. It’s amazing that my memory blanked that out. I was pretty worried that some of my Mountain Rescue Team could have been injured as the main wreckage was on a steep loose sea cliff. After the Jaguar hit the cliff at over 500 mph it dislodged so much nd loose rock. The cliff was still on fire and we were under severe pressure to examine the cliff and recover any remains. A tragic but difficult task. As I said the cliff smouldered for a few days and nearly set the ropes on fire. I was under pressure from above to get the AIB to the crash site ASAP and it’s hard to tell senior officers that had arrived that this would have to be handled carefully. There was so much happening.
Some of my team were Liverpool fans and heard the Hillsborough Disaster unfurl on the wee radio we had at the Control wagon.
Comment from Scouse Atkins -“ A memorable callout for many reasons but I’ll never forget listening to the Hillsborough tragedy unfolding, via a tiny AM radio. Just horrible. “
Andy “It was bizarre mate. Just a total feeling of helplessness. Weirdly, myself and Willie Mac went to Anfield the week before for a match, during a climbing trip down south. Mad to think of that now. Hope all’s well fella.”
Andy Craig / “That’s another abiding memory Scouse, of you sitting off to one side clutching the wee radio”. ☹️
A few of the team were given a flight in a Puma.
Andy Craig – “Another shot of the Puma. A number of us were taken for a flight that turned out to be an aerobatic display, low level runs and so on. Heavy on the ground was so concerned about his Troops on board he had words with the pilot on landing!”
I did Andy “
Andy Craig I did give him a bollocking – my words from my diary “ I spent My life keeping my troops alive not for you to kill them all” The Wessex boys told him he was lucky I did not punch him!”
Mark Hartree “Some exciting but sad times. Telling one of the rescue hels to keep away from the cliff as debris was being blown off into us below.
Cordoning the largest of the remains and shoo-ing away birdlife.
Coming back up with the AIB guy from the impact site to hear our ropes had been melting in the smouldering peat.
Nobby Vanderbergs flying antics in the Puma”
Thanks for all the comments and photos Andy Craig. Hard times on that cliff.
The Search and Rescue Dog Association has always meant a lot to me. For years we met them on the huge call outs all over Scotland They would drive often long distances to be with us for a first light search. In these days they often worked alone. I always tried to look after them when I became a Team Leader many stayed in our Bothies and ate food with us. Even 30 / 4O years ago there were several female handlers unusual for the time it was a different world then. They were all excellent people great characters often putting their lives at risk in sometimes awful conditions. It great to see that Moria had been recognised by Scottish Mountain Rescue for her service to SARDA and Arrochar MRT. She has also been a big part of the Mountain Rescue executive for many years.
Well done Moria. I know this award by your friends will be appreciated. Stay safe and thank you.
The following is from the Scottish MRT website.
⭐️Distinguished Service Award – Moira Weatherstone⭐
“We have recently presented Moira with a DSA for her contribution to Mountain Rescue in Scotland.
Moira joined Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team back in 1990, and during her time on the team she has been their training coordinator for 2 years and Treasurer for 11 years, as well as an active rescuer.
In 1992 Moira also joined Search & Rescue Dog Association (Scotland) and has had a succession of search dogs, Crioch, Skye and currently Kim. Within SARDA, in addition to being an active search and rescue dog handler, she has held the position of Secretary for five years and has also been an Assessor/Trainer for several years, assisting new handlers and their dogs to reach qualified standard.
And as if Moira didn’t already have enough to do, she has spent almost 10 years volunteering as Treasurer for Scottish Mountain Rescue, where she still holds this role. During her tenure she has been instrumental in guiding changes across the board in many aspects of running the organisation. She also works as an instructor on SMR national Search Management Training Course.
We couldn’t possibly put into words the contribution Moira has volunteered to Mountain Rescue in Scotland over the last 30 years, her dedication and support has been outstanding.
Moira, from all of us at Scottish Mountain Rescue, we THANK YOU”😀
Today I am away early to meet my pal Tommy who was a young lad in the Leuchars Team. His family have grown up and he is back on the mountains he loves. We had a great day on Beinn Eighe , Slioch and Beinn Alligin. So I will meet him tomorrow for another great mountain. An Teallach.
Is there a finer mountain in Scotland than An Teallach? To see it’s jagged profile in the distance makes any mountaineer want to reach its summits. This to me is best seen from “Destitution Road” the A832 which has a sad history built during a time of famine.
During the 1840s there was great poverty in the Highlands. The failure of the potato crop in 1846 meant starvation for the people. The Central Board for the Destitute Highlands was set up and paid for various improvement projects. The ‘destitution roads’, such as this lonely road across the moor, were built by labourers in return for food. A day’s work involved eight hours of labour, six days a week. Oatmeal rations for the workers were set at 680g for men, 340g per woman and 230g per child.
The guide books tell you that An Teallach is a complex mountain massif, with ten distinct summits over 3,000 feet (914.4 m). From 1891 to 1981, only the highest of these, Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill, had the status of a Munro – a separate mountain over 3,000 feet. In 1981 the SMC granted Munro status to Sgurr Fiona
Thus was due to its topographic prominence (150 m) and distinct nature.] The complete list of Munros and Tops (subsidiary summits appearing on Munros is now as follows:]
• Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill 1062 m (3484 ft)
• Glas Mheall Mòr 979 m (3212 ft)
• Glas Mheall Liath 960 m (3150 ft)
• Sgùrr Fiona 1060 m (3478 ft)
• Corrag Bhuidhe 1040 m (3412 ft)
• Lord Berkeley’s Seat 1030 m (3379 ft)
• Sgurr Creag an Eich 1017 m (3337 ft)
• Stob Cadha Gobhlach 960 m (3150 ft)
• Sàil Liath 954 m (3130 ft)
• Corrag Bhuidhe Buttress 945 m (3100 ft) – deleted from Munro’s Tables in 1997
.To many it is in most peoples top 5 it is a hill I love and I been privileged to climb it over 50 times. I have climbed the ridge several times in winter adding in a few of the Classic Gullies and what an adventure this mountain is. I have also added it to the Fisherfield 5/6 Munros in one huge summers day, it is a place I love and always try to visit.
To me many just grab the two Munros on the ridge how much do they miss as it can be so wild looking at the main ridge. It can be such a great adventure with so many ways to these summits.
This mountain has so many tops plus the two Munros and many secrets hidden in the big Corries, it is a mountain to explore and the best way to do it is along summer day and take in all the Munro tops as well.
It is then you see the views of the Fisherfield wilderness and these great wild hills are always a place to stop and savour. You see the vastness of this area and despite the times we live in still so special.
I always advise to when you climb An Teallach climb all the ridges and tops and then you will appreciate this mountain fully. Climb it from the Corrie Hallie path then you see the mountain in its majesty.
I love the area so well it is famous for wild life especially the Goats that you may meet and smell before you see them on the ridge as they come wandering by. They make you feel so insecure of your abilty to climb especially if you meet them on the ridge on a ledge. They also hang about by the main road and be careful as you drive to hill, they may be about in a big group.
It is also the gateway to a great wilderness and of course the famous Mountain Bothy at Shenaval a place to spend a night after a great day out. An ascent from the bothy is another special way up.
The hidden Corries are wonderful and all sides of the mountain have huge Corries and ridges away from the crowds that offer incredible ridges on to the summits.
When I was ill a few years ago as I was slowly recovering I wandered into these places and was as always in awe of the cliffs and the grandeur of these wild places. It was so refreshing to be in such a place and just to look at wonderful
That day these Corries was well worth the slog from the road. As an added bonus it was winter. I was exhausted at the time but to be alone in this vastness again.
• Climb all these tops and tell me how I’m incredible this mountain is. The views will be spectacular as will the scenery of this wild place. Get to summit in the summer and if lucky watch the sunset set over the hills.
In the RAF Mountain Team nowadays we wear a helmet when scrambling and I think it is a good idea as you never know what can happen.
It can be an especially busy a mountain on a summer day which in winter can become a huge expedition under heavy snow.
Never take this mountain lightly is can be a serious proposition and the navigation can be tricky and if you get it wrong at the least you may have a long walk out.
The pinnacles are great fun and the sandstone so rounded at times and weathered takes care. This is especially true when as it can be have the sandy gravel on the ledges, take care with your feet and test the holds.
The exposure will keep you aware but newer walkers may find this intimidating so it is well worth while using the easier parts of the ridge to gain experience and familiarity with the rock and terrain.
Is this the mountain to rush ? I would save it for a good day it will be so worth it.
The famous Climber Tom Patey carried out a massive call – out on his own. The story is of a huge fall on An Teallach and the survivors attempt to save them.
RAF Kinloss MRT 18-19/04/66
Two climbers killed on Sgurr Fiona. This incident was recently reconstructed and filmed for television. Hamish McIness film “Duel with An Teallach” Tom Patey was awarded a medal for his part. Well worth a watch lots of lessons from this sad event.
I hope as Tommy says “
My face is sore with smiling all day on the hills.
Yesterday was an early start up at 0400 as I was meeting an old pal Tommy Pilling who was up staying at Gairloch for a week. Tommy was in days of yore a typical of a young troop in Mountain Rescue he was from Burnley and 17 when he joined the team. He was a like most of them a real character. He worked so hard on his fitness never gave up on the hill and we had some great hill days or “death marches” as they were called.
His wife Mandy got in touch a few years ago and we had a day in the Cairngorms. He had time now the family had grown up and he was out in the hills again. We already had a great day on Beinn Eighe on Tuesday that Tommy loved even though we were soaked at the end of the day. He loved these mountains and I left him with plans for Slioch and Beinn Allgin which he did.
The forecast was good for the day and we were to meet at the Car park near the Hotel. Even early in the morning most lay-byes were full with vans and cars at 0600. I had planned to do the full ridge and had a short rope and a bit of gear with me. Tommy was on time and we were away by 1930. He was pretty exhausted and decided just to do the two Munro’s.
He had a hard week but had enjoyed every minute of it. His smile was still there as was his enthusiasm. Despite the England v Scotland result! An Teallach was the plan .
I enjoy a slow pace with time to look around we soon left the Main road and followed the dry path through various outcrops. The views of the hills opened out with Beinn Dearg and it’s Munro’s standing out. The light was grey but we could see some dark clouds brewing. It’s a pull up onto the ridge but Tommy was still chatting plans for the future in winter. Tommy had a pie he was hungry and sat and enjoyed the views. He was enjoying using his “pacer Poles” and found them so helpful.
From here it was follow the ridge crest to the first Munro looking into the wild Corries
There was still snow lying in the gullies some evidence of recent rockfall and the beautiful sandstone ridge ahead. We now had a great view of the complete ridge it never ceases to make my heart beat fast. These wild Corries have given me so many adventures and battles over the years especially in winter where a traverse of the ridge after a winter gully tested your metal.
We were soon on the first top taking photos the weather was changing and we headed down to the Beleach for a few classic photos. Then the rain came.
It got very wet we were soaked and not what we needed but it was heads down and head up the last Munro. Sadly most of the views were going but we were happy to be out on the hill.
Tommy was glad to be on the top we met a group from Stirling but did not hang around due to the weather.
I had time as Tommy picked his way down to think of Sarah who died recently. We had a wonderful day doing all the tops and the ridge. She came out to my last top while the others waited. I told her it was my 3 completion on the tops. She was so enthusiastic “best day ever” was her quote. In the mist and rain I could remember that day with the sun on our backs heading back to our group. These memories stay with you.
You have to take care on the way back and the sandstone can be slippy. I had my hood up and Tommy was taking it easy following my line back over the first Munro.
I was soaked then the weather cleared and we stopped and took it all in. We saw two Goats and a young kid in the Glen.
It was hard going on the way of we met a couple of folk deciding whether to go on or not? The usual questions is the path easy to find etc ? It’s not the mountain to be if you loose the paths!
It seemed a lot longer on the way back the path was muddy with the rain but it was good to be out. Tommy was loving the day but his holiday was over. He had a great few days and would have an early night and head home.
I did not hang about when we got down. Changed my soaking gear and said goodbye to Tommy. I had a 2 hour drive back the roads were busy as were the lay byes. I was pretty tired when I got back had a bath and watched the footy and fell asleep.
Thanks Tommy for 2 great days it was magic to be out . The body is slower but you were great company see you this winter all being well. Safe journey home.
“ what a fantastic week my cheeks are hurting ive smiled that much.” Tommy Pilling June 21
It was magic to be over the West and catch up with a few pals. I met David Glebe who was supporting Chris Watson in the Celtman race. Swim 3. 4 k cycle 200 k and run over 45k and Beinn Eighe!
Davids Words :
“Brilliant weekend seeing Chris Watson PB by over an hour to take 8th in a strong field at the Celtman. Great also to catch up with Alan Swadel, Michael and David Whalley, if all too briefly.
I’ll leave Michael Martin to post some photos worth looking at, but a few from my day!
Well done again Chris”
Also Scott Sharman our SAR winchy raced as well supported on the hill by Al Swadel another great effort. Well done Scotty.
The Celtman is an incredible event and everyone who enters is a hero or heroine in my words. Also the incredible support of all is overwhelming.
I saw a poor soul who pulled out and was getting sorted at Sheildaig. He could hardly walk and I felt for him, all that training and dreams shattered for the day.
The race ended with everyone safe and the Marshalls and Torridon MRT all safely off the hills. It was great to see bits of the race, hear a few tales and marvel at the records broken. Yet to me everyone is a winner who took part! My friend Kalie was up at 0200 to sort out breakfast for two lads who were competing in the event We did not see them back till 2100 – 19 hours later.
One can only take it all in slowly and admire them all.
From the organisers “This year has seen our course records smashed to bits!
First place male is Ewan Brown in 10:56:37, knocking a massive 43 minutes off Harry Wiltshire’s previous record of 11:39:48.
First place female is Eilidh Prise in 13:08:26, followed up just 11 seconds later by Mirjam Allik! The previous record was held by Bonnie van Wilgenburg at 13:13:06.”