Towards The Ogre. Clive Rowland book update. Book Launch 7 pm in Nairn at the Bandstand.

Latest update one for your diaries book can be pre – ordered see below.

Pre orders now available – As a Nairn Book and Arts Festival special event
’Towards The Ogre’ will be launched September 1st – 7pm in Nairn at The Bandstand with a bit of a talk and a picture show.


Clive will sign books and meet people.

Posted in Books, Himalayas/ Everest, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Squareface – Garbh Coire , Beinn a Bhuird Cairngorms. “A secluded Jewel typical of Patey’s discoveries. “ Martin Burrows Smith” Classic Rock.

I met a pal yesterday who was just back from climbing Squareface in the remote Cairngorms. It was lovely for Rachael to tell me of what a great day she had with her husband. I love hearing folk talk about places and the joy they had. It’s an impressive place whatever way you approach the climb. I really felt when Rachael spoke about “sitting on the belay and the views were incredible” . I can still see that same majestic view even years after I completed the climb. Looking back I was spoiled I did this climb so many times did I really appreciate where I was? She reminded me of the adventure to the route even by bike that makes this a hard fought route.

Route: Squareface Very difficult 330 ft An Garbh Coire Beinn A Bhuird from Classic Climbs.

First ascent T W Patey and J M Taylor July 1953.

I was lucky to have climbed in this remote Corrie on probably on a dozen occasions, twice in winter after a drop off by Sea King helicopter ( Cheating? ) For climber who loves seclusion this is the place to be. The Great remote Corrie of Garbh Mor only reveals its secrets to those who search it, two great buttresses are situated at the end of this face and this is where you will find Squareface. The book “Classic Rock” has for many opened the eyes of a few and many combine both Classic Routes on the Crag this climb and Mitre Ridge. I love Martin Burrows Smith Account in Ken Wilson’s Classic rock. I know what he means when he says” as I belayed on the summit I had an intense feeling of well being; the suns last rays glowed on the final Towers of Mitre Ridge” This is to me why we climb in a few words.

Still snow below route – KMRT

I enjoyed both routes so much I spent a lot of time on these climbs . I would often be thinking back to the first ascent on Squareface climbed by that incredible man Tom Patey & J.M. Taylor in July 1953. The army especially the Commandos trained and put up several climbs in this remote place.

This great wee route only 90 meters long ascends the steep slabby wall of the buttress. It combines continually exposed climbing and great situations. It drys quickly after rain but can be cold even in summer, but what a climb. Many leave their bags at the top and climb without! In the past I am sorry to admit we used to be allowed to drive on to the summit plateau as part of the Mountain Rescue. We did a few Rescues in this remote area with drop off by landrover up on the summit plateau. Nowadays the road has been returned to its natural state and the ground taken back by nature. No access is allowed on this sparse plateau by vehicles which is a good thing. Nowadays the big walk in can be assisted by Mountain bikes but it still is along day. A tent or use of the big boulders or the “secret howf” can make this a great weekends trip.

ON TOP

I am hoping to get in to the route one day once my chest is sorted . It will be a overnight visit to enjoy the area to often we have to flee due to time, we will wait and see what happens in a great place to be and at this time of year I was always wary if all the snow had gone from this high mountain cliff? Access could be fun if snow was hanging about below the route.

The climbing is typical of Cairngorm climbing and this route has everything. Coming out onto the sun onto the big plateau of Beinn A’ Bhuird after a climb can be incredible . Once when we did it the dog Teallach followed the rake up onto the plateau to meet us! A well known Aberdeenshire climber was soloing behind us when the rain came many years ago. He overtook us and we told him we had a land rover on the plateau I think he did not believe me at the time yet we gave him a lift back he did enjoy it. A few times had to navigate of the plateau in the wagon when the snow came!

Kinloss MRT on Squareface

You can see the route from the plateau and its wonderful to see folk on the climb it looks a lot harder than it is and the rock looks superb in any light. Please remember these are big cliffs, like the Alps loose rock is always possible as is changeable weather. Go and enjoy this an some of the other routes and if possible spend a night in this lovely place. Todays tip if cycling in get a rack and panniers its alot easier on your back.

Take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints. Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Bothies, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Out with SARDA Scotland yesterday at the Lecht

As President of SARDA Scotland I at last managed to get a day with them on a training day. They had been out training at the Lecht ski area all weekend. The heat was hard going for the dogs and the handlers so they had to be careful in the heat.

I left early in heavy mist but it cleared on the Dava Moor and headed up via Tomintoul to the Lecht. There was a big turnout and as it was the second day of training the heat was taken into consideration. The group split into 4 search areas on the hill and casualties (bodies) are out for the dogs to find. It’s a long day for the bodies all who volunteer to do this essential work. They are to be thanked for their huge efforts.

The Lecht SARDA

I have worked with SARDA for many years in Mountain Rescue and they have always impressed how they are as an organisation. For many years I watched how hard they worked on Call outs on the hills. SARDA handlers and Dogs came from all over Scotland for many of the big incidents. Most stayed overnight in basic vans and when I was in the RAF we tried to ensure that we were there if needed.

The training of a dog and handler is a long process and it was wonderful seeing how the dogs work. From the young new trainee dogs to the fully qualified ones. To watch a dog working a hillside with its handler always amazes me and to see the dogs and handlers joy at a find. The enthusiasm of all is a great thing to see and the closeness of the families and helpers involved is a great thing to see. I coughed my way up to the 4 search areas and was so impressed at the effort by all and the guidance given to the new handlers and dogs.

Despite the heat and the hard day yesterday a lot of effort was put in by all. Many had long journeys home after the weekend training and after a debriefing all headed for home. The weather was forecast was for thunder and rain but we were on our way home when it arrived. The ground needs the rain and the thunder and lightning was impressive.

It’s great to meet up with so many good folk who are helping in a very troubled world. We can be so upset with the Media just now and all the awful news about. Yet there are so many unpaid volunteers like SARDA who are there to help. It gives you faith in the so many good folk about.

SARDA Scotland (SCIO) is a Scottish charity which trains dogs and their handlers to search for missing persons.

Waiting for there Search Areas

We are part of Scottish Mountain Rescue. Our dogs and handlers support Mountain Rescue Teams in their search for missing people and the Police in searching for vulnerable missing people. The handlers are all volunteers.

We cover all of Scotland, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
We are supported by Burns Pet Nutrition and St John Scotland. We are members of Scottish Mountain Rescue.

To donate to SARDA Scotland, please visit our Just Giving page.  

You can also Support us by using Smile amazon and they will donate to us every time you buy something from Amazon

Posted in Mountaineering, SARDA, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Towards the Ogre – Clive Rowland’s

Clive Rowland one of the most unassuming mountaineers has at last publishing his book Towards the Ogre. I am sure it will be a wonderful insight into his life. Clive was a big help over the years I often bought kit from his Outdoor shops and he was always there with great advice. He is one of the few Mountaineers mountain men. I am so looking forward to his book signing in Nairn on 1 Sept at the Bandstand.

NEW BOOK!
Towards the Ogre is the new mountaineering memoir climbers and mountaineers have been waiting for.

Author Clive Rowland takes readers on an unforgettable journey, starting with his early days exploring the Peak District right through his incredible mountaineering career, which few can match.

Clive’s greatest climb is probably the 1977 expedition to summit Baintha Brakk (The Ogre). It is exceptional in its combination of altitude and steepness, and at 23,901 ft. one of the hardest peaks in the world to climb. Clive is perhaps best-known for the rescue of Doug Scott and Chris Bonington following an accident on their descent.

Their tale of survival at high altitude ranks among the great stories of ‘against the odds’ rescue missions. This book will take you right to the very heart of this daring and perilous journey back to safety.

Clive was active during what is now considered to be the Golden Age of British Mountaineering (from the 1960s to the 1990s) and climbed extensively in the Alps, Chamonix and the Himalayas.

This fascinating and beautifully illustrated book will appeal to anyone who has climbed, wants to climb or those fascinated by the pioneers of mountaineering.

Packed with fascinating insights, technical details, stunning photographs and Clive’s famous Yorkshire humour, Toward the Ogre is set out to become a classic.

You can order the book using this link :

https://towards-the-ogre.company.site/

Posted in Books, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Primrose Bay near Hopeman. A place of great beauty. Climbing and Aid climbing here in 1972 with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team.

The Moray coast is a special place and it’s great to revisit wonderful places. The Moray Way after Hopeman has some incredible coves and beaches to visit. Primrose Bay is one you follow the Moray Way past Hopeman and the Golf Course. You descend down to one of the loveliest Coves around. It has a lovely beach and wonderful sandstone cliffs. It is the ideal place for a picnic and to watch the famous Dolphins.

Primrose Bay be careful on descent of taking the path on the Quarry side.

When I joined Kinloss Mountain Rescue I climbed at bit at locally at Primrose Bay near Hopeman. I played and climbed here as a wee boy, where the caves and cliffs were our learning playground. Looking back I see this place great place with a climbers eye and Many years ago so much fun here. We practiced aid climbing here on pre placed bolts some that you can see the remains off. Nowadays it has great bouldering on the sandstone with no one about. I am lucky it is great to have such a place on the doorstep just a bit away from the crowds at Cummingston. Aid Climbing :Aid climbing is a style of climbing in which standing on or pulling oneself up via devices

Very old bolts !

I visited yesterday and we never saw any Dolphins. When it’s wet you can sit the cave between the showers listening to the noise of the stones speaking in ongoing tide. It is a grand place to be in a wild day with the waves crashing off the cliffs, outstanding views across to the Moray Firth in the distance. Yesterday there was an oil rig being towed across the Firth heading out to sea by a small tug, the Moray Firth is a busy place to be.

Stunning wall and a lovely lassie

From UKC “The sandstone ranges from damp, to dry but explosively soft, to pristine and permanently dry. Aid climbing stopped here in the early 70’s when it was realised what damage it was causing to the rock.

Beach level is varied which impacts the landings in the stacks areas. As usual please refrain from climbing on wet sandstone as it is prone to breaking.

As you descend to the bay, the stacks are on the left end of the beach and the throughhole cave, etc are at the right end.

There is one traditional climb on the cliff an E3 but we used to climb a few easy routes on the slab above the cave. This is where I did early rock climbing leads and abseils above the slab. It is fairly overgrown now.

Sandstone cliffs

The late John Hinde took us there on our first outing in 1972 along with my pal Tom MacDonalds who sadly is also not with us now.

Yet I have great memories of this area rock climbing swimming and to pop down two days ago was wonderful. It was so warm and sunny and no one about.

Posted in Mountaineering | 5 Comments

Every picture tells a story ? Favourite book – Cold Climbs.

Name this cliff .

It’s great to have a look at old photos. The one above must be early 60’s winter climbing. I used to look at it and be in awe of the guys. The gear is so basic but it opened a new world to me.

Lakes Red Tarn area – Red Tarn is a small lake in the eastern region of the English Lake District, in the county of Cumbria. It is high up on the eastern flank of Helvellyn, beneath Striding Edge and Catstye Cam. Red Tarn was formed when the glacier that carved out the eastern side of Helvellyn had melted.

We used to go monthly to the Lakes from North Wales when I was stationed at Valley in Anglesey. These were great trips it was always busy and we climbed on many of the great cliffs. We had a great day in the Red Tarn area when we introduced a few of the younger team members to winter climbing. The dog is ahead with my mate Jock soling great fun days late 70,s I think ?

Coming of the Ben mid 70’s (75- 76 )

John Cosgrove and Dave Wood coming of Ben Nevis in winter after a route. Both are wearing a wooly jumper that I read about in the Classic Ice climbing “Cold Climbs” note the classic gear. Dachstein Boots and wooly breeks.

Cold climbs

Cold Climbs became a huge favourite book of mine. I bought it and we took a copy to Canada when we went ice climbing in the early 80’s. The photos and climbers essays on routes plus the historical facts made climb many routes. Tone this book is a superb insight into the climbing up to that era. Photos that standout Tom Patey wearing simple gear and a wooly jumper looking exhausted. I think this book took many on a journey all over the UK chasing their dreams. What a classic in my view?

Marines in Triple Buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair Beinn Eighe

I received this photo a few years ago from the Marines who ran over the summits and had a wee service on Remberance Day. It was lovely to see as the Sgt Major had read my blog on the the Lancaster Crash in 1951.

Getting sorted for the fight home on Lochnagar.

This photo of myself and Bill Batson completing a route on Lochnagar. Though an easy climb Central Buttress. We had a couple of new troops with us when the weather hit us. It was hard work getting off the hill. Yet I was with Bill and Ned Kelly you could not get better companions. We all took turns on navigation. It was a hard day but they young ones came back with a idea of what winter can be like.

Lochnagar was a favourite mountain of mine I climbed here often especially when I was posted to RAF Buchan near Peterhead. Once we ran a winter course here and that was hard going. The Cornice was huge on Raeburns gully and we had to throw a rope to get our pals off. The weather was wild and it was getting dark. They could not get the ropes off they were frozen solid and they still were as we got back to our transport.

I had some serious lesson taught to me here. The weather forecast in these days was not very accurate. We often got hit by storms coming from the bitter East winds. Cornices could be huge and on Rescues the weather and wind in the Corrie could throw a helicopter about. This mountain was a haunt on Tom Patey and some of his mates from Aberdeen of his exploits here are legendary

I lost two great pals who fell on Parallel B gully in winter March 1995. It was a tragic time that took me years to get over. It was nearly 10 years that I climbed in winter on Lochnagar again. What a mountain what memories.

Teallach a great companion – hard as nails !

Of all the companions on the mountains my dog Teallach was outstanding . I have a book of tales about him. What a dog on the hills.

Comments as always welcome

Posted in Articles, Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

The Classic ridges of Ben Nevis: Castle Ridge, Tower Ridge, Observatory Ridge and North East Buttress.

My Mountaineering Club – The Moray Mountaineers has a meet at the CIC Hut for the weekend. Sadly I won’t be there as I have a wedding this weekend. It was great to chat about routes and add a bit of advice. They will hopefully have a great night. Looking at the forecast it’s not great but I am sure they will enjoy.

A few years ago met a old mate Dougie who now works with the SAR helicopter at Bristows in Inverness as an engineer. We had a coffee in town and he was talking about his days on the RAF Kinloss MRT in the early 80’s when he was a talented mountaineer and is now getting back into the mountains after working abroad for many years.

We were speaking about Ben Nevis and some great days with his mate Tom MacDonald and the classic hill day the 4 great ridges on the Ben. It was a special day that many in the team had done over the years but Tom and Dougie did it fairly fast after a wild night in Glencoe. It was great to hear the stories but my view the way to do these ridges is one at a time and savour them as the solo climbers and others rush by.

The Classic Tower Ridge with the helicopter in the background.

My first days rock climbing on Ben Nevis was the call – out in September 1972 on Tower Ridge when three Naval climbers who were staying in the CIC hut fell from Tower Ridge. It was a terrible tragedy we helped recovering the casualties with Lochaber MRT after an early morning drive to Fort William with no sleep.

It was a huge eyeopener to me as a young guy and showed me how this mountain can be such a place for me of sorrow and joy over the years. I was with the late John Hinde who followed the line from where they fell from. It was wet and slippy and a bit different from my previous climbs at Cummingston and other small crags! I was aware of the seriousness of this incredible climb that had everything I wanted out of the mountains. I remember the huge drops, the loose rock and the tower gap! I was a tired laddie at the end of the day. John was so wise and worked out where the accident had happened when all three were moving roped together with no protection!

The team were always working in new challenges. The Classic was the 4 Ridges in a day maybe 5 if you add Ledge Route are done anyway you want.

That first Callout in 1972 was a huge reminder to me in future years that if roped be ready for a slip and always protect the climb if possible! That day Tower Ridge was wet and Misty that added to the mystery of the mountains North face. Despite the tragedy all these years ago I wanted to come back and climb other routes.

When I climbed all 4 in a day it took 12 hours to climb them with Big Al MacLeod (RIP) We did Observatory Ridge down Tower Ridge then North East Buttress and down Castle Ridge. That for me it was a magic day and I used the rope fairly often much to Al’s laughter being a poor climber. I did it again once more staying at the CIC hut and adding Ledge Route learning so much about this great hill. Over the years I was to climb Tower Ridge often I have great memories of Al waiting and nearly falling asleep on the Great Tower.

On a wet day Tower ridge can be interesting.

To me Observatory Ridge is always a challenge and to me the trickiest. It has a serious start and is a long route taking you some wild scenery. Observatory Ridge as all the ridges even in summer can cause real interest they are long Alpine in length. Yet they can be a real fun and just to do one now at my age will sort me out. You never know what the Ben will give you as at times even in summer they can hold snow and verglas after a chilly night.

The photo above is The steep chimney on Castle Ridge in early winter end of Sept-  always a bit of interest here! We abseiled this on one of my descents.

On the ridges It was always a day of introduction to this incredible mountain I loved doing one of the ridges with a new troop and then the walk onto the summit and round the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. One of the troops many years ago fell of on Castle Ridge at the steep chimney ! It was on Willie Mac’s first day out and I held him luckily. Willie gave up smoking after that and he became the man in charge of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams.

North East Buttress a lovely way to the summit.

North East Buttress is a special way to the summit and after the initial slabs the ridge is grand and what views the fun starts at the man/ woman trap near the top and then the 40 foot corner high up and this can be a lonely place in poor weather. It’s good to add Raeburns Arête as a start.

it is always damp and wet the climb 40 foot corner gives you a wee bit of fun after the man trap.

There are so many stories of these great classic ridge on the Ben and how serious they can be. They are Alpine at times and I wish so many of the rock athletes who go craging would enjoy these magnificent places. I have been with the stars on the small crags and climbing walls then in the Tower Gap in a wind and rain it all seems so serious from an indoor wall. These routes are great adventures and as the snow leaves these great cliffs it is time get out there and enjoy some of the best climbing in the Uk. It would be great if my club had a meet at the Ben on day and get the climbers out onto the big cliffs?

Raeburns Arete A great way to extend the day on North East Buttress.

Many will find these climbs so easy but still exciting others will be rushing. My advice is to savour them and sit and enjoy this place with it’s great cliffs and look about and see the scope of this great mountains. Be careful of loose rock and changing weather and think that Tower Ridge was first done in descent. .As Team Leader of both Kinloss and Leuchars MRT I used to let my new rock leaders loose on the Ben. They cut there teeth in the poor weather or in late summer and learned so much, never underestimate this place. It was great to see them on their return or on the top of the Ben after an ascent of one of the great ridges. It was also a great way to learn about the mountain and learn valuable local knowledge.

Over the years in summer and winter I must have climbed over 100 routes many again again. Every time I see the huge North Face on Ben Nevis it never seems to fail to impress me.

So what are you up to this summer my advice is to get up these ridges get to know the Ben and then you can get on to the bigger climbs but that is another story.

B1954 Ben Nevis Diagram

1954 Ben Nevis Diagram

There are some great books on the Ben well worth a read. This is the best what a read of the great climbs and the people who made them.

Comments as always welcome !

Posted in Mountaineering | 2 Comments

Comments on my blog on boots .

I got some great comments on Summer walking boots nowadays I use Running shoes and as long as your careful they are great. I will have to get new ones as the soles are battered well worth looking at your boot soles been on the hill with a few folk with comfy boots but no grip on sole.

A bit muddy but still a great hill shoe in the right conditions. As the season change I go back to boots especially on the winter.

S Atkins “ Turned up for my trial with my prized Daisy Roots hiking boots. Swiftly told they were shite, and replaced with standard issue Dollies. Certainly explained my terrible hill performance, both on trial and for at least three years afterwards.”

P.Rosher – Ex Brit-Army hand-me-downs.

K Ash – “DMS boots, pre-para, Yorkshire 3 Peaks 1979, beasted by PTI’s who changed for a fresh one after each hill!! Worst boots in the World lol.”

G Dolby – Hawkins Helvellyn. There were reasonably comfortable once you got the broken in, but by that time, they did not have much sole left. Then after they were resoled, they were even less watertight!

Jim Fraser – “In about 1965, on holiday in the lake district, my Dad took us all into Fisher’s and very extravagantly kitted the whole family out with good quality leather boots and Ventile smocks. (Wainright advice was over-riding the bank manager’s advice!) Chris Nixon reckoned it would have been his dad, Keswick MRT legend Mike Nixon, who would have sold them to us. My mother was still using her boots on the hill 25 years later. Anyway, off we went up Skiddaw and a number of other lakeland fells as shown in Dad’s copy of Wainrights guide. So in spite of being from Inverness, my first big hill was Skiddaw. Revisited it in 2010: texted my brother, “Top of Skiddaw 45 years on. Still misty.” 🙄

Phil M – Scarpa’s, can’t remember the model. Bought them in Ambleside 1972..

Jim Higgins – Well, how modern boots really spoil the hill goer. My first hillwalk was done in a pair of sandals like your own. The ones with caramac soles ha ha. It was on a school nature trip in 1971, primary 6 to be exact and my mother sent me to Arran like little lord pontelroy. The sandals never made it home, the sole fell off. I soon graduated to a pair of TUF boots which I wore as part of my uniform with the Air Cadets (327 Squadron Kilmarnock) I wore them all over the north Ayrshire moors and on the Arran Mountains and Galloway hills. I had to clean them and re-bull them after every trip to get ready for my cadet nights. My next real boots were bought from peters stores in Kilmarnock for £2 in a sale. They had vibram cleats and I felt like Doug Scott. I have had numerous boots over the years all being in use at some point. From Karrimor KSB for lightweight summer use to Zamberlain for 3 season. My Asolo full shank boots are less used as I am reluctant to go out in winter after major heart surgery. I am now browsing the catalogues for new knees ha ha. The heart tells me I am 20 the knees 120. My advice for boots is the best you can afford from a qualified fitter in a reputable mountaineering store. Until you know exactly what you need with experience. Many days well be spared in absolute agony if you look after your feet. You cant walk on your hands, although I came down from SC gully on my belly after breaking an ankle and splitting my coxixx (tail bone) that was not fun.

S McPhail

“Welly boots and cagool that folded into it’s own pouch, by the early 1980s I had moved into the luxury of brown leather boots from Graham Tiso’s in Stirling”

Andy Beaton

James Boylan. An Irish company I think. Bought from Clive Rowlands shop on Academy street, Inverness. 1982 I think., before he relocated to Bridge street.

D Walker – Surplus “new” Dr Martin’s with ring and hook fastening. Looked like mountaineering boots but not. 1264 Sqn Windermere Air Training Corps. Years later I came to realise that we came off the lakeland fells with mild exposure after most of our trips. Very Happy Days and a memorable introduction to mountaineering.

Pete Caulton -“Millets sooper cheap. All the Stafford troops called them “tesco tearaways”. 😂 soon invested in Dolomites Hindu Kush. Best boots ever.”

Steve Price – “Scarpa Bronzo’s … too heavy … too stiff but still managed to walk the Pennine Way in them”

Drew Aitken “Tackety boots. Hobnail in Sassunachland.”

I temper the lightweight KS B 2 fantastic on hill on the early 80’s . I did some great days on them.

Some great info on boots.

Comments as always welcome !

Posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

A Long overdue day on the Fannichs. Loch Droma Meall a Ghrasgaidh , Sgurr Mor and Beinn Liath Mor Fannich

Loch Droma early morning light.

Though still being driven mad by my cough I decided to go to the Fannichs and see what would happen. I have lost most of the summer due to a hacking cough that I am awaiting seeing a consultant for. The body is working at about 50% but I had to get out for my mental health. I am better on my own as If I feel unwell I can go slower or come back.

My hills

I decided to go from Loch Droma and follow the pipeline track and onto the first Munro as the track gives you easy walking to the dam. I passed the we bothy by the track.

The wee howf

I had forgotten how bad the 4 by 4 track is eroded and very boggy taking you past Loch Mheagaidh and onto the steep crags of Meal A Chradaidh. What a mess and I fell in a bog on route it was awful.

The eroded track what a mess done by Estate 4 by 4 tracked vechiles. What a mess !

I met a father and daughter going fishing in the Loch. The fish were rising so I hope they had some success. I wanted to get the track walk out of the way. There was a breeze keeping the midges and flies away. I passed so many wild flowers bog Asphel, orchids and the Heather in bloom it was perfect weather for walking.

Some interesting ground .

I picked a scramble up to the summit taking care even more so as I was on my own. I passed on my route to two friends and would Text them each summit.

In the steep ground .

I was slow it had taken me 3 and a half hours to get to the summit but what views today. I could see An Teallach and all the Torridon hills and far North Stac Pollaidh and the Beinn Dearg hills. How I longed to be here.

An Teallach and Destitution road.

. It was a bit colder now and I put on long trousers and a jacket and could see all the great hills of the Fannichs.

The Geala buttress a place I climbed many years ago from a long gone bothy the Nest of Fannichs. What wild cliffs very neglected nowadays see the tiny spot of snow still there?

I spoke to my old pal now gone Blyth Wright about climbing in this Coire. He climbed here with some of his pals Phil Tranter and Ian Rowe who climbed Gamma gully in 1965 a big undertaking at the time.

The cliffs of Sgurr Nan Clach Geala from Cold climbs .

From here the bulk of Sgurr Mor dominates what a mountain. It is the highest of the 10 Munro’s of the Fannichs at 1100 metres it can be seen for miles. It has a few winter climbs on it one I did many years ago scared me as the belays were terrible made worse by an epic walk of in a white out.

Once your on the main ridge it’s superb walking you keep height but it’s still a pull up to Sgurr Mor. I had wanted to add Edin na Clach Geala but not today I was going slowly but enjoying the day. I met two runners enjoying the ridge they were looking good. Oh to be young again!

A wee rest what views!

I love the views from Sgurr Mor and it’s great to have time to enjoy them. How I missed being on these hills. Every hill means so much to me. As you get older you appreciate them more and more.

After I drank and ate I met this man running the hills we had a great chat nice to meet you Rob. We shared some great stories about these hills.

I followed the ridge looking at the cliffs on Sgurr Mor and on to my last Munro Beinn Liath Mor Fannich. The weather was still good but I could see rain coming. I was feeling okay coughing on the pull ups but it was worth the effort. Another stop at the summit more food and drink then text I was on my way off.

On last hill

The descent was hard work not much of a path dropping down to the track and then the rain came . I kept going felt the odd cleg but the wind came back and I was soon back at my wee van. Trainers off dry shoes on and rehydrate. A few texts to say I was off the hill. The trout were jumping in Loch Droma as I walked off.

The hydro pipeline.

I have pals nearby and stopped to see them at Black Bridge. I had some wonderful lentil soup and tea and headed home. I had a bath put muddy kit in washing machine and had an early night. Thanks Anne and Mark your soup was 5 star can I have the recipe please?

The body was knackered but what do yo expect at my age. Sorry for not asking pals to come with me but it’s better to be on my own just now. It poured all the way home but I was happy I had my fix of the mountains. The Fannichs are grand hills so many great memories of taking new young troops on the 10 Munro’s in the past. Some epic climbs in summer and winter and crossing these hills on my Big Walks. In winter they can be Alpine and a winter traverse was a lifetime dream and I found it so hard when I was fit. My dog Teallach loved these hills the views are exceptional. We are lucky that to me they are only a short journey from home.

Grand views all day.

Top tip – you could take a mountain bike up the track to the dam it would save a bit of time .

If walking alone let folk know of your intentions and what to do if you don’t return!!

I will retire my running shoes now soles getting worn. It was breezy on top make sure you have gear for the day. Rehydrate on way home and we’ll worth changing footwear !

Comments welcome.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Glen Nevis River Race for Lochaber MRT any memories?

Fun in the river Nevis .

The river race was held in the River Nevis on the 70’s as a fundraiser for the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team. I was a young member and attended it often participating in it once. The kit was simple and the water freezing. It was a busy day with lots watching even divers in the deep pool by the bridge in Glen Nevis. The kit was simple few had wet suits at the beginning and you got battered in the river especially if it had little water. Here are a few comments from pals.

Some Comments: Douglas Crawford “1983…airbed from woolies….lasted five mins…skinned to hell…before I took the queen’s shilling.”

John Cosgrove “Geordie Jewitt had this great idea of making and using shortened lilos, which resulted in worse leg injuries. I have no idea how no one was killed!”

Alan Dickson “Did it with geordie and he borrowed the liferafts out of a nimrod. Chief wasnt happy to get them back in shreds”

A Dickson “I did the ben race the week before then did the first river race. No wet suits just Jean’s and rugger shirts. We won the team prize 6 x bottles of whisky. 4 x squaddys thought they could do it like a channel swim. PT kit and loads of lard. The team took them all to belford hospital with hypothermia”

Debs Wright “Remember John Noakes from Blue Peter did it in the 70’s? My dad did dive cover that year.”

Steve Price “I’m still the reigning veteran champion …. they have’t run it since 😆”

Yvette Kershaw “I’ve all my dad’s certificates from this and the years either side. He kept them all in a folder which auntie Marion gave me. Right back to DofE and gliding etc.”

Mary Cosgrove “It was 1976 when John and Jim did it – unfortunately there was a heatwave and water levels in the River Nevis were really low leading to some nasty bruises.”

River Race photo Andy Craig

Anymore memories please comment. It was all for a good cause.

Posted in Charity, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

1980 – The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin.

When you read of modern achievements like Tranters Round in 9 hours most of the days we did long ago do not seem relevant. Yet they were in my view. I have always loved Torridon the rock the nearness to the sea and the vastness of the area makes my heart still skip a beat. These big days are long gone but I am over the West often and see these majestic hills in all seasons. They change every visit with the wonderful light that is on the West hitting the buttress’s and sandstone pillars on the ridges. There are also huge Corrie’s on all the hills that are rarely ventured into they have so many routes in them some awaiting an ascent.

Just heading for the Black Carls on Beinn Eighe

Never one for doing things easy we tried the Trilogy in winter first getting called of descending Liathach as the light was failing for a call out on Cruachan . I will never forget that night drive to the Police Station and a few hours sleep in the cells. We tried it again with a visiting Hong Kong Civil Aid Team but again sadly came of after Liathach.

Torridon Hills from SMC District Guides North West Highlands.

I was posted to RAF Valley in North Wales and we arrived up for 10 days in Scotland to be split in Torridon and Fort William. It was a long drive up and I remember arriving in Scotland and the weather was magic. I had sowed the seeds of a big day and as Kinloss had not done the 3 in a day we went for it.

It was an early start we left from the old village hall at 0500 and we’re on the Beinn Eighe ridge by 0700. We raced along the Black Carls and onto the first Munro . Spidean Coire Clach 993 Metres. It was a warm day and I had my dog with me the views were stunning. It was ridge walking at its best a bit of scrambling on the Black Carls then magnificent ridge walking.

Beinn Eighe at its best. The Black Carls


Ruadh-stac Mor (1010m, Munro 120) is the Second Munro on the peak I knew the route well and we were soon out and heading back to descend into Coire Dubh Mor by the steep screes. In these days you could run down them. We hammered down it and had a drink at the burn and some food then headed up onto our next peak Liathach.

Beinn Eighe

It’s so steep from the Glen floor and through a huge Boulder field then onto the ridge and the first top. The dog was ahead picking a line as we weaved through the steep grass and buttresses. The route from Coire Dubh Mhor is hard work but you pass two munro tops on route. Steve Fallon writes this about Liathach “Liathach is considered by many mountaineers as one of the greatest mountains in Scotland. It is rivalled by only An Teallach and the Skye Cuillin. Liathach has two munros, Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m) and Mullach an Rathain (1023m). These are connected by an 8km ridge (crossing eight separate tops in total). The Am Fasarinen pinnacles is Liathach’s most identifiable features. It is a notorious section of scrambling, located approximately halfway along this ridgeline. A true classic, Liathach fully deserves its reputation as one of Scotland’s best mountains.” I agree with every word he says .

Liathach

From the last Munro we descended into the Glen. It was hard work no path and water was short. There was no time to hang around we followed the dog through the sandstone terraces he was in his element. There is a worry when you hit the path it’s so easy to descend to the car park. Yet Beinn Alligin and the Horn’s beckoned. From the main path and you start the horns it clears your mind and you gain extra strength engrossed in the scrambling.

Beinn Alligin

I love this mountain it’s a joy to be on the views you get looking back and West make it special. Despite the drop in Height from the corrie floor it’s a great day. That day I felt we could do anything and we pushed on a bit dehydrated but still going strong. From the last Munro Tom Na Gruagaich the descent is easy on a clear day and we romped down the hill. Rehydrating at the river and feeling so pleased. Teallach was ahead all day what a dog but even he felt tired at the end. The Land Rover was waiting for us and we were soon heading back to the bothy at Kinlochewe. We met a group on Alligin and they asked where we had been we said the “Torridon Trilogy” unashamedly and they did not believe us.

Over the next few days 3 other parties completed our day from Valley and we sent a card to the team at Kinloss – “Torridon Trilogy done it “. Others have added more hills to the day and run it in times that make you amazed. We took just under 12 hours including walking from Kinlochewe. We travelled light but had the Team radios with us. I think I wore Karrimor lightweight boots and carried 2 water bottles and food for me and the dog.

Dave Tomkins took the photos to remind us of a great day and the other two stars had a day to remember. The quote “The mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego” They were that day I have to say. What a day in winter a classic .

A month ago I struggled up Beinn Alligin with ongoing chest problems but it was a slow but wonderful day how things change but you still get the love of the mountains !

Summit of Beinn Alligin on a slow but great day .

I would love to hear there comments 40 years later?

Looking towards Beinn Eighe and Liathach. Photo D Tomkins.
Posted in Articles, Books, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

What were your first boots for the hill ?

The famous gear Curly boots were the standard issues of RAF MR. Mine were two sizes bigger from a 7 – 9 and I wore in winter 3 pairs of socks.Curlies were incredible and what I wore for several years. Above is the Curlies boot a really light and comfortable boot in summer but very cold in winter. I wore an extra 2 sizes in winter with 3 pairs of socks. I still have cold feet thinking about them. They were wonderful for big long walking days, like the Mamores, Fannichs ridges, so comfortable and light. Crampons were heated and bent to the boots for winter in workshops and we climbed in them, things like Tower Ridge, Red Gully and various other climbs. We used them to rock climb as well and you were not allowed rock boots until you climbed at least very difficult climbs in Curlies! After two winters I bought my own boots well worth the cost and also a lot of my own gear, from jackets, crampons and clothing, I spent a lot of my wages on this great sport. Yet I kept my Curlies and did my first traverse of Scotland in May 1976 wearing them, they were soaked most days like us and the cold feet in the morning still gives me the shivers. No decent insoles and the odd nail came through but on a good summers day they were a grand pair of boots and I wore many pairs out.

My brother and sister in the footwear of the late 50’s

I could never afford boots when I started walking I used my shoes or sandals for many years. What a change it was to be given a pair of boots when I joined the the RAF Mountain Rescue. The stores was a Alladins cave of equipment all of it made for the MOD. Sadly they were not waterproof, froze up in winter and then I wore 2 pairs of Socks to keep my feet warm. There was no chance of drying them out after being on the hill on a wet day. Many Call outs were done with soaking feet. As soon as could afford a better pair of boots I did.

Curly’s

Later pairs of Curly’s where made of compressed cardboard and were useless. In the end the MOD bought some other boots like Dolomites that crippled my feet.

Nowadays we are spoiled for footwear I use running trainers nowadays on the hill in summer and good winter boots so lightweight and robust now.

Tips : Look after your feet visit a Chropodist regularly, keep your nails short and invest in good socks and looking after your feet.

John Hindes boots

This fabulous pair of boots belonged to John Hinde who, amongst many other things, spent many years in RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, several of which were as a team leader.
Made by John White’s, the Northampton boot and shoe makers, these boots were standard issue to RAF Mountain Rescue teams in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the nails in the soles fashioned to a specific RAF pattern.
Interestingly, we have another pair of RAF boots in the collection that have a different nailing pattern!
Vibram/Commando soled boots made from rubber became the norm in the world of mountaineering boots from the 1960’s, rendering this type of boots to history books and heritage collections- we are delighted to have them.

We are so lucky what was your first boots?

Posted in Articles, Equipment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | 4 Comments

New record for Tranters Round 8 hours 52 min by Finlay Wild. Amazing ! 18 Munro’s and a Munro top.

Finlay Wild has set a new Tranter’s Round record. 8 hrs 52 off the previous record held by, you guessed it, Finlay Wild.

The hills:

Mullach Nan Coirean
Stob Ban
Sgurr A Mhaim
Am Bodach
Stob Coire a`Chairn
An Gearanach
Na Gruagaichean
Binnein Mor
Binnein Beag
Sgurr Eilde Mor
Stob Ban
Stob Choire Claurigh
Stob Coire an Laoigh
Sgurr Choinnich Mhor
Aonach Beag
Aonach Mor
Carn Mor Dearg
Ben Nevis
Achriabhach Glen Nevis

Tranters Round

What is the Tranter’s Round?

Tranter’s Round is named after Philip Tranter, who first completed it in 1964. It is acclaimed as Scotland’s original 24-hour challenge, before being extended by Charlie Ramsay in 1978 to become the Ramsay Round. 

The Tranter Round extends to around 58km (36 miles) and has more than 6100m (20,000ft) of ascent taking in 18 Munros (and a Munro Top, Sgurr an Lubhair), including all of the Mamores, the Grey Corries, the Aonachs and then Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis, which is Britain’s highest mountain. The start and finish are at Glen Nevis.

To be able to achieve a feat like this is like being an Olympic athlete. The hill running world has many incredible folk both men and women. i have been lucky to meet many. There is little publicity given or wanted by hill runners but to be able to run across such an area so fast and seemingly effortlessly makes mere mortals who love the mountains appreciate this bold venture.

I did a small bit of hill running many years ago and traveling light over the mountains is an incredible feeling. You feel so different travelling light across the great ridges of Scotland.These days are long gone but see the odd runner on the hill still warms my heart. Findlays family must be so proud of his achievements.

What more can you say but well done Finlay what a man.

Further reading –

Posted in Books, Enviroment, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Looking back on the loss of two great Mountain Rescue teams RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars.

RAF Kinloss MRT leaving Doo 26 July 2012 .

I was very lucky to serve with Two great mountain Rescue Teams as a team member and a Team Leader at RAF Kinloss and Leuchars. Sadly both are gone now disbanded in 2012 and 2013 and a new Team formed at RAF Lossiemouth which is still going strong. (2022)

RAF Mountain Rescue was formed during the war to assist with crashed military aircraft and the team over the years have been involved in many such incidents. This is the hard part of RAF Mountain Rescue and a bit few know about. The current team is still involved in this task as recent events show. It is not just the recovery of aircrew but also assisting the Air Investigation Board with safety and assistance on mountain and remote aircraft sites – a job they have done superbly. There is an incredible amount of knowledge still within this task and it is good news that the RAF still have a team in Scotland at RAF Lossiemouth.

Summit of Everest 2001 Dan and Rusty.

Both RAF Kinloss and Leuchars Mountain Rescue teams have a huge history as RAF Mountain Rescue did in the early years. Many of the early Call outs RAF Teams, civilian volunteers all played their part. Many of the stories are untold. In these early days there was poor communication on the hill with searchers and gear at the best was basic. Many incidents involved huge carry off by basic stretcher, basic medical skills and of course no helicopters till the mid 60’. Most teams were made up of National servicemen who spent under 2 years on a team. Teams would get called out involving long drives and the families left at home were rarely updated where they had gone to or how long they may be away. They dealt with many tragedies and there was no well being support you just got on with the job. With National Service a few top climbers joined the teams and helped push standards. Of course there was huge learning from incidents like the Lancaster Crash on Beinn Eighe in 1951, Yet we learned from these and involved better training and equipment for teams. There were in these days no Bridges at Inverness, Skye, Glencoe or up the far North travel was slow on poor single track roads. How things have changed. There was no such thing as PTSD in these early days or “well being “ how things change slowly over the years?

Regularly the Two RAF teams would supply over 50 searchers/ rescuers on these huge Callouts. Lochaber, Glencoe and Cairngorms were the usual venues in the wildest of weathers and a lot of young troops were thrown in the cauldron of a wild Scottish winter with little experience. Meeting some of the great characters of SARDA who always impressed me with their efforts often working alone in wild weather.

It was a very testing time especially for many of the young leaders thrown into the cauldron under the watchful eye of some of Mountain Rescue finest. Many things were learned in the heat of a call-out and great advice given by legends like Hamish from Glencoe, Donald Watt Terry Cornfield and the Lochaber boys and Peter Cliff and John Allan from Cairngorms. Every area had its characters like Gerry Ackroyd from Skye and so many others. Of course there was the Glenmore Mafia as well superb mountaineers who we often worked with on the Rescue’s. Many of the Police were also heavily involved in Mountain Rescue it was a wild mix of personalities and views.

Killin had a special place on our team at Leuchars as we were there when the Essex crashed on Ben More. Sadly Team Leader Harry Lawrie was killed that night and two others badly injured. It was a tragic night but the bravery of Killin MR that night will always be with me and others

The RAF teams had to learn about all the areas that we covered and to do this we trained every weekend all over Scotland building up a knowledge of the high priority areas. It is testimony to our training that we had few accidents as you had to train for the wildest of weather as safely as possible. Fitness and navigation were a key and a trial within the team would be a fairly hard apprenticeship lasting several years. It was very hard and many fell by the wayside but those who stuck with it had the time of their lives.

Once the mountain bug hit it became all consuming and the Team became a unique life. It caused huge problems with relationships andat times without a doubt families suffered. These were in the days when we did three weekends away every month travelling all over Scotland on weekend Exercises. Add to that 20 – 30 Callouts a year, courses winter, summer, rescue, first aid the commitments were huge. I worked out for nearly nearly 20 years I was out on the mountains 120 – 150 days a year that does not include Expeditions.

Great days every new recruit to the team had to do a big hill day like the complete Mamores, the Fannichs or North and South Clunnie or other big days. Time did not matter just to show a will to hang in much needed in a Mountain Rescue life and Callouts. many happened after a big day on the hill in the wee small hours – they called it character building before the days of Health & Safety and driving hours!

Some of the movers over the years

Lots of time was spent driving at least 3 hours each way regularly more getting to all these magnificent places and gaining unique area knowledge. Great friendships were struck with many keeper, pubs village halls and many romances with the locals all over Scotland. There was the odd hostility with the local team as too many we were always changing personnel but with it came a great energy especially with newer members. At times you had to put the odd star in there place but this happens in any life and Mountain Rescue has its share of egos.

Looking back we traveled all over Scotland so much what was good and what and how various teams did their business, we were always being tested and managed not to let many down. The RAF teams were very fit and though at times lacked in local knowledge and experience many a local Mountain Rescue star got a shock. The odd statement of” give me your fastest troops” for a fast party was a red rag to bull and the troops loved it. The years of the Cold War in the military meant we kept many powerful mountaineers in the RAF many at the top of their game and a few went on to climb some of the worlds great peaks and climbs.

I was privileged to serve with RAF Leuchars and Kinloss Mrt as a team member, Team Leader and then back to Team member for over 30 years. I saw many changes, highs and lows, good days, bad days and sad days but what memories. For all the training we did we had few accidents (thank God) We trained so hard as we too for the job we did it was always difficult explains this to the powers that ruled us.

The training did shape so many lives and out of it can some exceptional people, many who the RAF were lost causes. You could write a book about this alone in the end you had people within the team at all levels who put together became a powerful team.

The word “Team Leader/ Team Building “is now a modern term for Leadership the RAF Mrt had been using the word and the ethos for over 70 years. The great thing was that despite us being in the military on the hill rank played no part at all. It was mountaineering ability and that wonderful phrase ” the mountains have no respect for rank ” is so perfect for putting a young officer or senior officer in their place.

Wessex crash Ben More

RAF Leuchars MRT closed in 2013 it had a great area and the local Glen Clova is a regular fun spot for the team, but they trained all over Scotland and still do. The Leuchars team was regularly in Glen Coe and worked so much with that legend in Mountain Rescue Hamish MacInnes, who was a great friend of the team over the years.

I was lucky as with a few others we collated all the RAF Kinloss incidents going back from 1944 sadly none of the other teams have this history. What a loss . So I look back on those who gave so much for these forgotten teams and thank them and their families for all the support over the years.

It great still to see the RAF Lossiemouth Team out and about all over Scotland. Doing the sane job as we did all these years ago and giving something back to the local community.

There were so many epic callouts to mention! What was yours?

The final words of my pal Willie MacRitchie Team Leader he sums it up so well.

“The troops never change
The equipment and gear does
The management does
The rules do.
But the hearts are still the same.
Big, caring and proud of their heritage”

RAF Kinloss no more

RAF Leuchars no more.

There is an annual Reunion at Newtonmore every November where many meet. Please get in touch if you can and maybe come along message me for details.

Thanks to all

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

“Blessed are those who repair” Potholes and eroded paths.

I have just been over in the West and despite the rain and midges it was magic I am so lucky to live in Scotland. After a great walk with the dogs we had a swim in Loch Torridon. Next day we went to see Rhythm and Reel in Applecross hall. It was a fundraiser for the upkeep of the hall. I was drinking but what a great night.

Flo in the background in the sea.

I was lucky that when I was younger we had it seemed like the whole of Scotland to ourselves. Of course it’s different now and many enjoy the wild places than ever before.

Every village had a public toilet unlike nowadays run by the Council nowadays many are shut due to lack of cash and small local communities have to take another responsibility on. It’s a changing world.

Damage to an old pathway by mountain bikes.

Guide books, blogs and a changing attitude make it so popular to be out and about. It’s been wet on the West the old tracks are vulnerable to heavy traffic and a lot of damage is done. Is there a solution? Many do there best to repair the damage but it costs time and money especially in the remote areas. It would be great seeing the bike, gear manufacture putting something back into these areas.?

It’s the same in the mountains the increase in the use of the mountains is a great think but spare a thought for those who repair the paths. Many of the paths in the West are old stalkers paths heavy footfall damages them.

My local hill Ben Rinnes has a group that looks after the hill and a wee donation box at the start. This is for the upkeep of our path and seems to work.

Many groups help in their local hills and the John Muir Trust, Scottish Mountain Trust help with various projects as do many other local folk.

Many of the Highland roads are in poor repair despite the increase in use again money is tight so be careful in your car, motorcycle or bike big potholes are about,

Deep Pothoke on the Coast road of the NC 500

So spare a thought for these places enjoy the wild and let’s try to leave something for future generations.

It was great to see that the Machair near the sea at Applecross is looking great the flowers are back since the area employed a ranger. The wild flowers are back and it looks great. Please help the local communities by using their facilities / campsites and giving something back to the area.

Islay and Flo photo Kalie.

As always comments are welcome but please be aware of other folks views and keep it civil.

Wild camping take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints.
Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Local area and events to see, Media, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Plants, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 3 Comments

New Bristows Helicopter contract means a base at Fort William from April – September 12 hrs a day.

The following is from the Scottish Mountain Rescue Facebook page:

“Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) welcomes the announcement by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that the contract for the UK Second-Generation Search and Rescue Aviation programme – known as UKSAR2G – has been awarded to Bristow Group.

Scottish Mountain Rescue, on behalf of the teams it represents, looks forward to continued joint working with Bristow Helicopters Ltd, who are the existing provider of rotary search and rescue aircraft in Scotland.

Also welcome is the announcement that seasonal search and rescue (SAR) helicopter bases will be opened in Carlisle and Fort William. This additional capability will increase the operational capacity of the search and rescue service provided by the MCA in the North West and South of Scotland and will relieve some of the pressures on the existing Prestwick base, which is the UK’s busiest in terms of SAR helicopter operations.

Damon Powell, SMR Chair said “Scottish Mountain Rescue are delighted that the significant engagement we have had with both MCA and Bristow Helicopters Ltd over the lifecycle of the existing SAR-H contract has led to these very positive enhancements in this new second generation contract. These positive changes to SAR aviation capability will be a significant benefit to those undertaking outdoor activities in Scotland.”

I am sure that will be a great addition to SAR in Scotland and to all the folk in the area.

Comments welcome. Jim Fraser “Fort William is part of the poorest-served area on the 2013 Bristow surge map and that is one of the shortcomings of the current SAR network (based on the 2011 10-base solution) that I have been highlighting for years. Much fuss is being made of the part-time Fort William facility but actually, across Scotland, the biggest change is the part-time Carlisle facility which takes huge workload pressure off Rescue 199 with a subsequent step up in availability across a large swathe of southern Scotland.A facility equating to about half of normal Bristow SAR base is expected to be built at Carr’s Corner. This is currently still nearly four years away. Night cover will still be principally from Inverness.How far this goes towards solving the question of HLS for other public safety helicopters at Fort William remains to be seen!Don’t annoy Bristow ops staff about any of this yet because they have yet to get the full brief from the bid team and senior management. It is an important part of a fair bid process that these functions have separation within the incumbent contractors organisation.”

Photo credit Assynt MRT
Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Well being | 10 Comments

Would you advise wearing a helmet when scrambling?

When I was with the RAF Mountain Rescue looking back I am sure when we went scrambling we wore helmets. This was as we had you carry them anyway on case we were airlifted to a Rescue. On many searches it was wise if there was a chance of a fall on steep ground we wore helmets. In places like Skye due to loose rock to me they were essential.

After getting down

Nowadays I still wear a helmet if out on a scramble. A few years ago I was with pals on the Dubhs Ridge in Skye during a heatwave.

“It was a perfect day in Skye one in a million and the forecast was exceptional. We had set of early about 0500 and enjoyed the first bit of the day. We were already hot and had a great break after completing the first part of the route.. It is easy to sit and admire the views especially when it is so hot, my water was down to 1 litre and we had a long way to go. I grabbed a drink and headed up. The two boys ahead were about 40 feet above us when I heard a shout of below and a rock flashed by me and hit another of the party on the head, it was a scary moment. Within seconds he had a huge bump like an egg on his head and was shaken but fully conscious. I got down and was very worried when I saw the damage. There was no other option but to get down as quickly as possible and luckily there was a steep grass ramp taking us into the Corrie. I had been done it before so in good weather it was fine.

The Dubhs

The other two wanted to come down with us but we thought that we three could cope. We were in a remote area and no communications were possible apart from the emergency text service ) We were pretty experienced so managed the situation, you can take little chance with a head injury. We monitored him all the way down and stopped at the streams to keep the bandage wet and the swelling down. It took 3 hours to get off and we were glad to see the Loch Coruisk. Our patient was feeling okay (as hard as nails) and soon was down in the river cooling off. He went for a check up later and was a bit of a celebrity on the boat back. How stupid were we that day not wearing helmets after 40 years in the mountains we had made a silly mistake. Looking back we were extremely lucky.

Another lesson taught to us all it could have been so much worse. What are your thoughts?

A great guide to the ridge

Some comments more welcome :

Years ago when I was younger probably not but now I do quite often things dislodged from above so a helmet is sensible maybe age and experience helps. Kirsty

Bruce – Personally yes, especially so when in a group, or if it’s busy – a couple of weeks ago I made my group wear helmets on the scrambling section of Mt Olympus, basically in case some ‘Malaka’ (as they call them in Greece) knocked something down on top of us.

Glen – Depends although mostly yes. Maybe not on Crib Goch or CMD arete, maybe yes on Fiacaill Ridge, Aonach Eagach. Definitely on Curved Ridge, Castle Ridge, Pinnacle Ridge. I also work on scrambling routes and always helmets in that case inc. An Teallach, Liathach…Just my tuppence worth.

Maybe a sign of age (or maybe experience) but these days, find the helmet is on early and off late. Recently been in Colorado and helmets are totally normalised for scrambling (more to do with rockfall than falling off granted). Graham K

Posted in Islands, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

A few Great words – sayings from the mystic world of RAF Mountain Rescue.

Drooge- a really slow tired person on the hill. Hence you were a drooge. – Has Oldham, Tom Taylor and Al Haveron.

Scran – Scran · Naval slang for food originating from a dish used to stop scurvey – Sultanas Currants Raisans And Nuts. Used by RAF MR as a term for food mainly chocolate.

“That day was character building” end of a long day. Anon

“Bomb” to run up the hill very fast “ hence the quote I was bombed into the deck” It has a double meaning:

Bomb – the early Hydro burner used for cooking it used petrol and was very dangerous in a tent.

“Pecking order” – “There’s a pecking order and you don’t have a beak” Keeping the new troops in order.

“It’s dark should we not be off the hill” answer get your torch out your out all night.

“Just follow Teallach he knows where he is going” said during a Callout in a white out on the Cairngorm plateau.

“ See that hill in the distance, it’s no where near our last hill of the day” Anon

Route finding – “straight on up English” Anon

“There’s no belay here just climb through and don’t fall off “ Mark Sinclair on Hadrians Wall.

“You could take your granny up here” I think said to team members when a bit scared on a climb. – Pete McGowan

“Moving together if you get it wrong is dying together”

One of the young troops to Dave Cuthbertson “have you done much climbing” “ a little said Cubby”

“I am not going any further you got me here get me down” a troop scared on the Rock in Glen Clova.

Poley poley – Pole Pole (pronounced poley poley): You will hear this about 200 times a day on your Kilimanjaro climb. It means ‘slowly-slowly’ and this is the best piece of advice you can get when climbing Kili – or any hill.

“There’s no rank on the hill “- told to many officers of various ranks. “The mountains have no respect for rank “ The late George Bruce to a Senior officer who forgot his rucksack and was told to go back and get it.

“To rest is not to conquer but to rest is nice” stolen and adapted from a famous quote.

Never trust an RAF aircrew Navigator. They get you lost.

“The old Albatross snag” one of the great words from Kas Taylor ex Team Leader if a problem occurred.

“The mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego “ a classic even more so now in the days of Strava and the media.

On a career write up. “This man head is always in the clouds. If he put a quarter of his effort into his primary task that he does in the mountains he could be a very fine tradesman “ my first write up by a plonker

“The old ploy” covers many facets of mountaineering.

Comments and other words as always welcome.

Pete’s Granny
Posted in Friends, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Bird Flu – very sad to see.

Sadly the effects of Bird Flu are all over the place, my local beaches sadly have many birds washed up. I was walking a few weeks ago when I met a dog owner whose dog was carrying a Dead Sea bird in its mouth. She had no clue about Bird flu and went on her way with the dog still carrying the bird!

Recently was in Saint Kilda and the Ranger told me how it was rife among the sea birds. It’s tragic to see so many birds effected.

Hi Heavy, it’s so sad. Here’s the advice from RSPB Scotland: “Firstly, do not touch any sick or dead birds. If you find any dead waterfowl (swans, ducks, geese), any gulls, seabirds, birds of prey or five or more of any other species in one place please report them to Defra on 03459 335577 or in Northern Ireland to DAERA on 0300 200 7840.”

Charlie MacLeod – It’s so sad at the moment…counted 60. + dead on the beach here recently…can’t take the dogs anywhere near a beach at present. Seeing multiple dead or dying birds every time we are out on the cliffs as well…it is a disaster here!!!

Apart from that there’s little that we as individuals can do. I would strongly recommend keeping dogs away from beaches where they are washing up as there have been reports of this disease jumping across species to foxes and seals. A risk to dogs and humans cannot be ruled out. Lucy Wallace

Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred

Posted in Articles, Islands, Local area and events to see, People, Wildlife | Leave a comment

New Guide book Highland Scrambles North. Another gem from the Scottish Mountain Trust.

It’s great to see another superb guide out. For years when I was starting climbing/ scrambling you had to trawl through the SMC District Guides to find so many different ways and scrambles up the Hills. This was especially true as not many went to the North apart from a few diehard mountaineers. Nowadays it’s all there for you to enjoy and on many of these climbs will have had few ascents. A few of our older team members new some of these hidden gems.

Highland Scrambles North.

There are so many classic photos but one that caught my eye was on the Island of Rum. What a route and the description of the climb is just wonderful. 🥲 The Narnia Arête “One of the best easy climbs on the country, sustained and exposed but on amazing holds” Another description Harker described the rock (peridotite as “perhaps the best rock for climbing in the world.

Highland Scrambles North has landed and is now available to order direct from our site! ✨

With 200 routes (including more than a few shiny brand new ones to explore), high-resolution photo diagrams and beautifully rendered maps for greater clarity and accessibility, this updated guide will have you discovering every nook and cranny of the northern Highlands this summer.

The book is suitable for avid hillwalkers and climbers alike with journeys ranging from straightforward ridges to technical, committing adventures.

I wish I was 20 years younger but would so love to climb some of these routes. Look at the areas covered. Some of the finest mountains in Scotland.

Scottish Mountaineering Trust

We are a Scottish charity that provides grants to projects and organisations that promote public recreation, knowledge and safe enjoyment of the mountains, especially in the mountains of Scotland. Any profit from these guide books is well used by the Scottish Mountain Trust of which I was a trustee many years ago.

The Scottish Mountain Trust supports:

  • Publication of guides to, and information about the Scottish mountains
  • Footpath construction and maintenance
  • Land purchases that ensure public access
  • Mountaineering education and training, especially that aimed at young people
  • Mountain rescue teams and organisations, for equipment and facilities
  • Renovation of club huts available to the wider mountaineering community
  • Expeditions with educational or scientific objectives aligned with those of the Trust

Our work is financed by donations from individuals and organisations who share our values, and from the publication of guidebooks for the Scottish Mountaineering Club and other books connected with the Scottish Hills.

SMT Diamond Grant 

A 60th birthday present – £100,000 to help people enjoy the Scottish mountains

For its 60th birthday next year, the Scottish Mountaineering Trust is offering a ‘Diamond Grant‘ of up to £100,000, to a project that helps more people to experience and enjoy the mountains, especially in Scotland.

Chairman Simon Richardson explained: ‘We want the Diamond award to be not just a grant, but also a legacy, giving enduring benefits to the people who enjoy our mountain. We’re hoping to hear from projects that are really distinctive, that break fresh ground.’

‘ The Diamond Grant is , we believe, the biggest single grant ever made by a charity to Scottish mountaineering and we’re looking for something really special. We’re open to all ideas.’

Those interested in applying for the grant can find more information and the Application form Apply for the DIAMOND grant

Posted in Books, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Skye classics – White Slab Direct Coire A Ghrunda a forgotten route?

I was asked for some advice on routes to do in Skye. To me there are so many but one day that sticks in my mind is this classic. Myself and wee Jock Cameron were over on Skye for a bit of climbing, we did the long walk into Coire a Ghrunda and then dropped into the sun after climbing White Slab . I still wonder how Teallach followed us down. The sun was now on Stron na Ciche.

Jock a Glaswegian hated walking and moaned the whole way in but once at the cliff had his fag he became a new man, I love the walk into the Coire and the huge Broiler plate slabs that make the place seem primeval. Yet you can lose your way coming off in a wild day in the mist and rain. There was plenty of water and we drank a lot on the way up with the view of Rum on this far side of the Cuillin.

“You know Alf, going to the right place at the right time, with the right people are all that really matters.
What one does is purely incidental.”

Colin Kirkus to Alf Bridge on the summit of Sgurr Alasdair.

South Crag, Sron Na Ciche, Coir’ A’ Gr

White Slab Direct 180 metres Severe. Three stars .

Myself and Teallach at White Slab.

180m, 6 pitches. Easy start, then slightly tricky traverse across short slab; then easy upwards to base of white slab. Up middle of White Slab, then rightwards out to arete -exposed with little protection. Easy finish up chimney.

Jock on White Slab

My dog Teallach sunbathed and followed us at times on the day. I was amazed to see him on the top of White Slab. Jock was a grand wee climber we had so many great climbs together. Every day was fun that day that was, he smoked all the time, I remember of the crux he left a light fag on the key hold laughing at me. I wonder where he is now? Look at the weather early May no midges no crowds and incredible memories. I wonder how many climb in this corrie nowadays ?

From the ridge we descended down to the Cioch but that’s another story.

Posted in mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Skye – The Classic Dubhs ridge one of Scotlands finest days.

Said Maylard to Solly one day in Glenbrittle,

All serious climbing, I vote is a bore,

Just for once, I Dubh Beag you’ll agree to do little,

And, as less we can’t do, let’s go straight to Dubh Mhor,

So now when they seek but a days relaxation,

With no thought in the world but of viewing the views,

And regarding the mountains in mute adoration,

They call it not climbing but “Doing The Dubhs”

To me it’s one of the best mountaineering days in Scotland is the “Dubhs Ridge” in Skye. I am very lucky to have done this route on several occasions over 15 times. It is on most mountaineers tick list and a must do I feel.

This route starts at the shore of Loch Coruisk and follows the East Ridge of Sgurr Dubh Beag from sea level for nearly 3000 feet up boiler-plated slabs to the summit, where an exciting abseil down West face leads to the main ridge and one of the finest hills in Scotland, Sgurr Dubh Mor.

Brilliant friction on the slabs

Many years ago i had been in the Falklands for four months, I was happy to find on my first weekend back RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team were on Skye for the August Grant. 

Our new Team Leader Dan had just returned from Pakistan and the successful ascent of Gasherbrum 1 an 8000 metre peak.  He wanted everyone on the ridge and long days were the order!  You can’t argue with a Himalayan Hero! 

My fitness was not so good so I grabbed one of the new troops, to carry a rope, and set off to “Do The Dubhs”

The tradition in the team ensures you start from the Youth Hostel at Glenbrittle to the summit of Sgurr Na Bannadich then you drop down the Coruisk side off the ridge to sea-level. Then it’s compulsory to have  a swim in the Loch and up to the Dubhs, a long 10-12 hours just what you need. 

The team had a joint exercise with RAF Stafford and the Giant “Big Kev” who was with them wanted to come with us. 

Now he is HUGE!!  Eight feet tall and size 15 feet!!  His stride is massive and he was in those days very, very fit. 

He was instructed not to rush in front and to take it easy.

Well the day began well, even the long drag up the main ridge and on to Beallach Na Bannadich was easy, with Bob talking the whole way.  We did it in under two hours, the weather was magnificent.

Then we dropped down into the magnificent Coruisk, and we only saw one other party, Scotland at it’s best. 

The descent to Couruisk is fairly easy and we were soon at the Loch, again tradition states you must swim in the Loch, so in we went, what a great day!  Crystal clear water and not too cold, Bob told us he was an ex-channel swimmer and we spent nearly one hour enjoying the sun, and listening to Bob.

The weather forecast had promised thunder for late evening so reluctantly we wandered on. 

From the Loch can see the Ridge which starts more or less straight from the Loch, it is a marvellous sight and our new man Bob was suitably impressed, despite being back to sea-level. 

Now Bob amongst other things is a photographer by trade, and as he was in the most impressive part of Scotland, you would have expected him to bring a camera, but he didn’t!

Lucky I did.  You can follow any line up the slabs and the “Giant” who is now a recently qualified Team Leader and just been on a rock climbing course started up the steepest part with limited holds, even for him it was hard, and he was soon following the “old man” up an easier line.

The Guide book

States:

“apart from the initial trouble in climbing a ridge, one may proceed unroped up broad acres of boiler-plated slabs, whose rock is the roughest gabbro in all the Cullin

Scrambling, (easy rock-climbing without a rope), I stressed where it’s easier to die, and to satisfy our Lords and masters team members must wear a helmet. 

As the great WH Murray stated “apart from the initial trouble in climbing a ridge, one may proceed unroped up broad acres of boiler-plated slabs, whose rock is the roughest gabbro in all the Cullin.”  In other words, it is so rough and reliable that only the grossest negligence could bring a man to harm.  (Don’t tell the troops that). 

Bob was impressed and soon was enjoying the rock, under the Eagle eyes of the Giant, who now realises the paperwork involved in a troop falling off!  The “Old Man” was taking the photos which could be used in the event of an enquiry.  Giant was revelling in his new responsibility and the rock was warm and dries the views magnificent.  Our men Bob was going well but slowing down and he had stopped talking!, which made a pleasant change.  We had a few stops on the way and all to soon reached the top of Sgurr Dubh Beag, ready for the abseil.  Our man Bob was trying to get his training book signed up, but due to the storm clouds above poor Bob, did not get set up to abseil. 

Abb from Dubhs.

Lucky for him as the rope got stuck on a loose flake on the way down and it took loads of cursing and blood to free.  Our Bob was impressed when his turn to abseil came and saw blood everywhere, but he did cope.

Descent a bit tricky from the Abb

A big peel of thunder rang out and the hairs on our heads started sticking up, time to go!  If you have read where not to be when thunder and lightning are about, this is it.  Keep calm and get off as quick as possible, now the descent from this hill is not recommended. 

A descent in the late forties described it as one of the most serious mountaineering descents in Scotland! Not advised even for a man of Giants ability.

The Giant wanted us to wait for the storm to pass, which I vetoed as it was like being next to a lightening conductor!  He was sent off ahead to find the way off and to conduct “any lightening”. Bob said little, by now it was pouring with rain and rivers were running down the slabs making life worse, but the giant did his stuff and one wee abseil and two hours later we were running down the slabs making life worse, two hours later we were on the ground.  The radio was dead as all the troops had fled the hill at the first peel of thunder and we were on our own for miles away from anywhere.  Being old I remembered doing a similar walk out over twenty years before and it was hell. 

How do we tell Bob that the only way back is round by Coruisk to Glenbrittle a walk to remember?  It does not look that bad on the map but there is no path for eight kilometres.  We stumbled up and down heather and ferns and fell over holes for hour and hours.  I was on my last legs at this point, but being led by the Giant, my hero. 

Eventually we hit a good path and passed Corrie A Grunda and followed the mud into Glen Brittle, it was 23.30, the troops were waiting and they had a good laugh at the state of us, a good meal and a joint decision to hand in our kit, but why make them happy! Bob had told us he was a marathon runner but that was his hardest day ever.

A month later we were back in action, carrying a civilian walker, who had spent two nights on the ridge with a broken ankle near Dubh Ridge off the hill. 

Thank god for those heroes of the Sea King of 202 Sqn who saved a massive walk-out?  The weather was awful and we could have had to walk out by Coruisk.

A few years ago  I was back and we never wore our helmets ( it was so hot) a rock hit one of our party and how he was not killed I will never know. That’s a tale I told on my blog.

Always wear a helmet on Skye, we were lucky and nearly  spoiled one of the best days of my life.

There is no fool, like an old fool!!

That day one person was killed on the hills by lightening, nature takes no prisoners so be aware if lightening forecast do not be on a tight sharp ridge!

Summary –Staying safe

• Stay off ridges & summits, and away from single trees.

• Walls can be protective but keep more than 1m away.

• All metal objects (karabiners, crampons, ice-axe, ski poles, etc) should be stored safely.

• Move quickly away from wire ropes & iron ladders.

• Lightning currents can travel along wet ropes.

• Crouch immediately if there is a sensation of hair “standing on end”.

• Crackling noises or a visible glow indicate imminent lightning strike.

• Airborne helicopters can be struck.

Prevention of problems

• Check weather forecast.

• Seek shelter as soon as hear thunder. Don’t wait until you see the lightning.

• Lightning can travel 10 miles in front of storm clouds. 10% strikes occur when blue sky is visible.

• A storm can travel at 25 mph.

• Most common time for injuries are before the storm or at the apparent end of the storm.

• 30-30 rule

• Danger of being struck is when flash to thunder time less than 30 seconds (approximately 10 km away).

• Don’t climb for 30 minutes after last thunder & seeing last lightning.NO PLACE OUTSIDE IS SAFE DURING LIGHTNING –AVOID THESE:

• Small, open huts, caves & overhangs (increase risk from side flashes).

• Sheltering under small outcrop or overhang may increase risk of injury, as lightning that has hit a hill literally “drips” onto the person with the rain as it arcs over the ground.

• Water or wet stream beds.

• Near the tallest structure in the area e.g. single tree.

• Tents not protective (metal tent poles act as lightning rods).

• Stay away from high ground (ridges and summits).

• Power lines

• Ski lifts

• Metal objects

• Stay safe!

SKYE – We who have been go again, and again advise you to go, you will not be disappointed.

A great guide book.

My friend Adrain Trednall a local guide has a written a wonderful insight to the ridge and it’s secrets. How I could have done with this in the 70’s.

Many now go into the Dubhs by boat from Elgol it makes life a lot easier. You can also try to book the Couruisk Hut run by the JMCS I have spent nights here.

Elgol Boat what a view.

Coruisk despite its popularity is a wonderful place. It’s so atmospheric with the water dark black ridges and ever changing weather. To me it’s a primeval place of wild beauty. There is no where else in any weather to see this place when the rain pours down the cliffs and crags. On a sunny day after a swim in the Loch then climbing on the hot slabs it is unique and a big part of my life.

It was made famous by Danny MacAskill and his video on the ridge made it world famous.

Comments welcome .

Posted in Books, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

1988 Piper Alpha disaster.

I remember this tragedy with sadness as I knew one of those who died. Gareth Watkins’s was in the RAF Kinloss MRT with me in the 70’s. He was a lovely man and left the RAF to work in the oil industry as a medical attendant. There is some tragic footage of the rig on fire and a lot came from the Sea King at Lossiemouth. There was a documentary being filmed at the time on Mountain Rescue and I sure some of the crew filmed it. A few months later in December the Lockerbie Disaster occurred .

Gareth no 14 in the photo in Skye.

I received this today from a good friend Mick Coward. “Hi Heavy. Today 6 July 1988 i was the Piper Alpha disaster”

Piper Alpha exploded and sank on 6 July 1988, killing 165 of the men on board,plus a further two rescue workers after their rescue vessel, which had been trapped in debris and immobilised, was destroyed by the disintegrating rig. Sixty one workers escaped and survived, and thirty bodies were never recovery.

Remembering Gareth Watkin. “The initial explosion was around 22:00. In the Cullen Report it says Gareth was last seen helping a casualty to the Sick Bay”

Gareth Hopson Watkin, 42, offshore medical attendant. RIP.

Thinking of Gareth’s family and friends.

Posted in Friends, Lockerbie, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being | 2 Comments

Forgotten Bothies – White Cottage Glen Affric

White Cottage Glen Affric

It was one of my first weekends out as a young lad was into Glen Affric for the weekend in 1972,. It was a short journey from Kinloss in Moray and we would be there for the weekend. We would put tents up for cooking and one for us new troops while the older experienced would sleep in the bothy. It had a great fire wood left for us by the keeper and after a hill day we would have a great night singing and drinking out of green plastic mugs! The odd night a wet soul would arrive to stay in the bothy they were always welcomed.

In full song after a day on the hill. The late Jim Green Dave Wood, Andy and Bodger .

These memories of the tight road into Glen Affric arriving on the dark putting up the Base camp tents and then sorting out our sleeping in the tent. Basic living in these days Himalayan outer bags that were hopeless and a wee mat to lie on. Light was by Tilly lamp and cooking by a petrol burner known as the “bomb” How dangerous wee these days. You were always frozen but what a Glen in winter so remote. How did we cope ? I loved the singing that was very popular in these days we all had to learn a song. Mine was Shoals of Herring as always sung badly. I remember our gear being always wet boots frozen in winter in the morning.

Shoals of Herring

Oh it was a fine and a pleasant day
Out of Yarmouth harbour I was faring
As a cabin boy on a sailing logger
We were following the shoals of herring

Now you’re up on deck, you’re a fisherman
You can swear and show a manly bearing
Take your turn on watch with the other fellows
As you’re hunting for the shoals of herring

Well I earned me keep and I paid me way
And I earned the gear that I was wearing
Sailed a million miles, caught ten million fishes
We were hunting after shoals of herring

Night and day the seas were daring
Come wind or tide or winter gale
Sweating or cold, growing up,
Growing old or dying
As you we dream at a shoals of herring

Of course the hills are magnificent especially in winter and the views outstanding. As for the hills there a classic range a full traverse was always a hard day 8 Munro’s.

Affric Munro’s. This is what we came for these great mountains.

Mullach na Dheiragain (982m, Munro 167)
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (1151m, Munro 22)
An Socach (921m, Munro 270)
Mam Sodhail (1181m, Munro 14)
Beinn Fhionnlaidh (1005m, Munro 127)
Carn Eighe (1183m, Munro 12)
Tom a’Choinnich (1112m, Munro 41)
Toll Creagach (1054m, Munro 77)

I did these hills often always glad to get back to the bothy and some food and a wee drink. Sometimes in summer we were allowed to drive to the Youth Hostel at the head of the Glen. A few times we got stuck in the wet ground or crossing the river. I led my first parties on the hill here looking back if you had a problem you were on your own.

The keeper was a great pal of the team and looked after us. We had a great relationship with him and his family. I remember meeting his wife and getting her some baking items through my contacts in Catering. Sadly I cannot remember bigs name what a great person and this wax when we had great relationships with the keepers long before the Right of Access. I got a stag in return I was lucky I had a butcher on camp who sorted it. Fresh venison was magic.

By common consent, Glen Affric is the finest of all Scotland’s glens. It features a fabulous variety of scenery and is deservedly popular with walkers. The glen begins amongst the steep, bare mountains of Kintail far in the west.Further downriver is beautiful Loch Affric, at the foot of the highest mountains north of the Great Glen. The middle part of the Glen is a National Nature Reserve, magnificently wooded with Scots Pine – one of the last remnants of the original Caledonian Forest.

Affric you never let me down chasing the Corbetts opened my eyes to even more wildness of these hills. Even a cycle up the Glen is interesting or a wander in the rain round the Loch.

I remember on my big walks across Scotland the Great Glen’s were always extremely hard days Affric was one that always made you think. These were simple days poor kit massive hill days and big bags. It was a huge time of learning we were young and invincible. Yet what memories!

Posted in Enviroment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Music, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Sword of Gideon – 4c VS link up with Cioch Nose VD on Sgurr a Chorachain. Grand days.

UKC – climbing – Rock Sandstone Hard

Ray Shaferon on Seord of Gideon – Crag features
The south face gives some excellent rock climbing, minutes from the Applecross road.

This is a Tom Patey classic has one pitch up steep wall that’s makes you think? Access is easy: step out the car in the lay-by and climb. Objective dangers – Nowadays though with the North Coast 500 you could get run over. The rock is superb big holds in places and sculptured rock add in the views it’s like a Welsh or Lake District cliff without the people.

Guide book description – 125m, 4 pitches. Park at week parking spot just below switchbacks on road. Climb can be seen from road (5 min walk in!), first pitch is up the easy rock below the climb proper. Head left up crack/ramp at start of first pitch. Interest on first pitch dwindles after those first few moves. Quite bold at the start. 2nd (crux) pitch starts at the ledge, which can be traversed into if avoiding first pitch. Follow the crack up, then traverse left to belay stance. Fairly good gear. Committing 4a/4b move at start of 3rd pitch on good gear. Straightforward after that. 4th pitch starts at ledge, go straight up. Poss to link 3&4, but scope for good belay at top is poor. Better gear for belay at top of pitch 3.

I climbed it a few times once in the rain it was desperate but my mate Stampy was training for the Eiger North Facev at the time . I have climbed itvwith a link up with the Cioch Nose. The best way into this route climb on to the plateau past the mast and down the gully.

Worth wearing a helmet here loose rock. Continue along the corrie you will see the ridges profile scramble up to the start ( well marked) about 45 min from the finish of Sword of Gideon.

Ready to descend gully to Cioch Nose
Cioch Nose Applecross – many say one of the best for its grade in the UK.

The Cioch Nose – The climb description 450 feet, 7 pitches. First ascent Tom Patey and Chris Boonington August 1960 . An absolute belter of a climb which is best done as part of the A’ Chioch Ridge continuation. Add a few long slings to a light rack. Park at the Bealach na Ba viewpoint and head for the obvious mast. Just short of the summit head east and take the steep path down into Ciore a’ Chaorachain. Gain Middle Ledge by scrambling up A’ Chioch gully for 40m and then right onto a path, the start of the route is 20m past a series of low roofs and starts at an offwidth crack. Pitch 1 (30m, 4a) climb the offwidth and then over some bulges trending left to avoid the small roof, climb a fine corner to a ledge and a choice of belays. Pitch 2 (20m, 4a) thrutch up the awkward corner at the far end of the ledge. Exit right and climb easier ground to reach a thread belay on the one of the best ledges you’ll find in Scotland. Pitch 3 (40m, 4a) traverse right for 3m, enjoying an intermediate amount of exposure, and then up, past a peg runner, climb a series of horizontal breaks trending slightly left towards a chimney. Climb and exit this on the right onto another large ledge with an excellent thread belay. Pitch 4 (30m) go to the far end of the ledge (CN scratched on the rock) and climb a superb, but short-lived layback. Go right around the bulge and take the easiest line up to a chossy ledge and boulder belay. Pitch 5 (20m) scramble easily up and left over blocks to the false summit to a choice of huge belays. Head towards the formidable-looking ridge continuation by dropping down the neck and taking the surprisingly easy to follow path up huge blocks towards the well defined crack in the steepest section of the ridge. Avoid going left past the large gully. Pitch 6 (30m) climb the slab about 10m to the left of the large crack with an awkward move at half-height, to a comfortable thread belay. Pitch 7 (30m) climb up, trending right to easy ground and a choice of solid belays. Delightful scrambling over/around several false summits gets you back to the mast.

The first time I climbed this route was 1980 when I was up with RAF Valley MRT from North Wales. The day before we had climbed the Torridon Trilogy; Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin a big 12 hour day. We were up for a 10 day grant. It had been hot and we were tired and staying at Lochcarron in the village hall.

One of the lads who had only got the weekend off Dave Tomkins and had been with us on the Trilogy wanted an easy day. It was decided to climb the Cioch Nose at Sgurr a’ Chaorachain. It was already a classic 3 Star route.

We had a leisurely start as we were still aching from the previous day’s efforts. We parked by the main road and walked into the cliff, it was still very warm. The view of the route is with you all the way in and looks pretty wild and intimidating.

We took my dog Teallach he would wait by the crag and enjoy a leisurely day or so we thought. Even he was tired.

There was no path then to the route and we worked our way up the steep ground to the beginning of the climb.
I had been climbing a lot in Wales so this easy “Scottish Diff” would be no problem.

The guide book was a bit vaguer than the description nowadays. Right from the beginning It was an adventure on steep sandstone with some wonderful situations and great climbing.
The traverse out onto the wall on big holds is superb and what a situation. It seemed to go on for ever, it was never to hard but what a place to be. That wonderful book Classic Rock had a great description of the ascent and the old Black and white pictures in big boots and hill bags made this a real mountain adventure. The belay ledges were spacious but in these days there was a lot of loose rock about. Care was needed and still is.

It was a leisurely day climbing that chimney, the steep wall and a real adventure. We continued up the ridge and found a wee pitch above that was pretty tricky.

We were dehydrated and tired yesterday’s efforts hit us. We descended a gully still damp and loose taking care as there was plenty of loose rock in these days.

I was contouring round the ledges to get back to where we had left the dog. We heard barking and he had shuttled of to the Loch as the midges were at him. He was also dragging my rucksack that I had left with him.

He was fine and we headed back to the land rover as we came under midge attack.

We were the first back at the village hall yet it had been a long day as another group were doing the Torridon Trilogy. (in all 12 of our team completed it that trip incredible)

Poor Dave got a few hours’ sleep and then the drive back to North Wales for work epic. No Health and Safety then. Yet what a two days of your young and fit you will enjoy these routes Patey and Bonnington cannot be wrong ?

Classic Cioch Nose Applecross .

The book Classic Rock by Ken Wilson gives a grand write up on Cioch Nose.

When the road is clear in winter it’s a great ice climbing area well worth a look !

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Channel 5 at 2100 : Planes that won the war The Lancaster a piece on Lancaster crash on Beinn Eighe.

I did some filming a few years ago for this program assisted by Torridon MRT . It has been out on hold as COVID hit. It will probably be a small part in the program but it was a stunning days filming. I took no fee and Torridon team received a large donation. It was a wonderful day and hopefully a bit will in the film.

The Lancaster

LANCASTER GR3 TX264 – CRASH ON SAIL MHOR, BEINN EIGHE ROSS AND CROMARTY, SCOTLAND – 14th March 1951

IN THE MEMORY OF THE CREW OF LANCASTER TX264

Its 70 years since the crash of the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe. I was told of the story often and visited the site on many occasions. It is a situated in the most incredibly wild corrie on Beinn Eighe in the North West of Scotland. It was a huge learning curb for the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, that involved many changes that influenced most of Mountain Rescue in the UK. For many years I have visited the site spoke to a few of the RAF Kinloss team who were involved. I have taken relatives and family annually, filmed up on the mountain this place means a lot to me. Due to Covid I could visit but did later on. I will visit as often as I can and for as long as my battered body allows.

This particular crash had a considerable influence in changes to RAF Mountain Rescue later on.

The crash aroused and held the attention, even curious with that desire to know the true facts, rumours do circulate by ‘word of mouth’ at happenings like this one and for some considerable time.  The lines of communication in the early fifties were still a newspaper, local or national, or the ‘Wireless’, very few people had a telephone and Television was in its infancy.  ‘News of this kind was news’, where to listen or read would create an ‘image’ in the mind.  Headlines in the ‘Press and Journal’, Aberdeen, were – “Search of hills for missing Lancaster, Missing plane sought in Sutherland, Aberdeen.  Pilot on missing plane, where the missing bomber crashed, Plane wreck not yet reached.”

It is a sad story as anything of this nature is, particularly for the members of the Rescue Teams but does indicate without doubt ‘special significance’ or ‘emphasis’ on Mountain Rescue, with the extreme difficulties, along with mistakes, these teams faced in that day and age.  A detailed description of particular places and local features from Maps had to be the main concern and fully understood.

Beinn Eighe is a name, aggregated, for Peaks similar to each other or bearing a definite relation to the one preceding it. This mountain in winter is one of Scotland’s great peaks and accessible only by mountaineers. The gully where the main wreckage is a loose tricky ascent in summer and should only be attempted by mountaineers.

The following narrative relates the events of the Beinn Eighe crash on the 14th March 1951 until the 27th August, a very harrowing rescue mission undertaken by the RAF MRS, and civil MRS, despite being called out in all weathers of extreme severity and inhospitable terrain, are all volunteers.

On the 13th March 1951 at 1804hrs, Lancaster TX264 call sign ‘D’ Dog of 120 Squadron, converted for reconnaissance purposes, took off from RAF Kinloss, a ‘fog free’ climate of the Moray Coast between Lossiemouth and Nairn.  The pilot was Flt Lt Harry Reid DFC, 24 years of age, a total crew of eight with a Second Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer and four signallers.  It was a ‘Navigational Exercise’ via Cape Wrath, the very name a ‘mingled feeling of anger and disdain’ this being the extreme north-west point of the Scottish mainland and named after the Viking word ’hvraf’ meaning a turning point where the Vikings turned south to the Hebrides in the ninth century.  The cape is isolated and its heathland untamed.  Around midnight the aircrew flew over the Lighthouse.

The last position, sent by radio was at 0127hrs 60 miles north of Cape, Wrath this was the very last message from the aircraft.

At 0200hrs a boy living in Torridon, on the east end of Upper Loch Torridon, looking through his bedroom window saw a red flash in the distance, but didn’t think any more about it until he saw the headlines in a Newspaper, ‘Missing Plane Sought’ and this was two days after the aircraft went missing.  He mentioned it to the local Postmaster who immediately contacted RAF Kinloss.  Similar reports had been received.  An Airspeed Oxford was sent to search which concentrated on Beinn Eighe.  The wreck of the Lancaster was sighted on the 16th March.

On the 17th March the Kinloss RAF Rescue Team arrived in the area and on the 18th approached Beinn Eighe from the North and into Coire Mhic Fhearchair from Loch Maree.  Wreckage from the Lancaster was found after arriving at the foot of the Triple Buttresses and lying in the ‘corrie’.  A ‘corrie’ is a semi-circular hollow or a circular space in a mountain side.  This particular wreckage had fallen, the bulk of the aircraft being much higher with the crew inside.  At the foot of the Western Buttress were the port wing, undercarriage, two engines and various cowlings.  On the following day the starboard wing and some other parts had been blown down by the strong winds, but still no fuselage.

The next day another party managed to climb higher and spotted the fuselage, burnt out, but couldn’t reach it.  Further attempts were abandoned for the time being.

The weather over the whole period of the search was ‘exceptionally’ severe for the time of the year.  It was intensely cold with constant snow showers and high winds and temperatures well below freezing at night.

The North of Scotland is much closer, in fact ‘considerably’ closer to the Arctic Circle than North Wales.  Conditions in winter can be more ‘Alpine’, they may be ‘Artic’.  Between Beinn Eighe and Sail Mhor the weather was absolutely ‘atrocious’, with the wind coming over the ridge with such force it was virtually impossible to move, and the snow anything from one to four feet.  The gully from the corrie was a solid sheet of ice.

It was certain that no one was alive in the wreckage, and in the opinion of the Officer in Charge of the team the wreckage was so situated it couldn’t be reached by any members of the public unless they were ‘highly experienced climbers’.

The CO at RAF Kinloss, in the meantime, had offers from the Moray Mountaineering Club, a Doctor John Brewster with this Club having considerable climbing experience in winter.  This offer and another suggestion for help from the Scottish Mountaineering Club, holding their Easter meeting at Achnashellach to the South of Beinn Eighe were both declined.

On the 24th March Dr Brewster informed the CO that men from the Moray Club were going to Beinn Eighe on their own initiative, the RAF team were ordered to return to base.  Five men from the Club arrived at Torridon and attempted to reach the aircraft but of no avail and didn’t make a further attempt.

Another attempt was made by a Royal Marine Commando, Captain Mike Banks and Angus Eskine.  After a really difficult time with the weather, particularly gusts of wind that brought the human body on all fours, these two reached the main bulk of the aircraft.

Eventually all unauthorised visits were stopped and the RAF Team once again returned to Beinn Eighe and this time reached the wreckage.  It was most difficult and dangerous work recovering the bodies; three were actually in the fuselage.  The last body was not recovered until 27th August.

Rumours, idle gossip as always, flourished that the crew had survived the impact but rescue being too late.  It was obvious to the rescuers, and verified by the medical authorities that death was ‘instantaneous’ in all cases.

After the last body was recovered the team sent the large pieces of the fuselage and wing hurtling down the gulley and later came to be known as ‘Fuselage Gulley’, much of it remains to this day.

Five of the crew of Lancaster TX264 are buried in Kinloss Cemetery, set in the peaceful grounds of the ruined Abbey, they are Sgt W D Beck, Sgt J W Bell, Sgt R Clucas, Flt Sgt J Naismith and Flt Lt P Tennison, in a section reserved for many aircrew who have died flying from RAF Kinloss over the years.

EPILOGUE

On the 28th August 1985, a group of Officer Cadets led by Sergeant Jim Morning and Sgt Tom Jones were airlifted on to the summit of Beinn Eighe by a Sea King Helicopter from 202 Squadron.

One of ‘D’ Dog’s propellers was recovered and put into a lifting net and taken by the helicopter to the road, and then to RAF Kinloss.  The twisted three-blade propeller now stands outside the wooden Mountain Rescue Section building as a permanent memorial to ‘D’ Dog’s crew. This memorial has been replaced and is at RAF Lossiemouth now where the current RAF Rescue Team is operational.

The gully where the aircraft crashed is called by mountaineers Fuselage Gully and one of the propellers has to be climbed over and is used by climbers as a belay in winter.

MTHE CREW:-PILOTFlt Lt H S ReidSECOND PILOTSgt R ClucasNAVIGATORFg Off R StrongSIGNALLERFlt Lt P TennisonFLIGHT ENGINEERFlt Sgt G FarquharSIGNALLERSFlt Sgt J NaismithSgt W D BeckSgt J W BellThe Crew

The standard of a Mountain Rescue Team, of even the rescue service as a whole fluctuates considerably and, sometimes, alarmingly.  Several factors contribute to this.

For many years there was ‘National Service’ eighteen months to two years. A Man would be trained as a good mountaineer and when competent he would be lost to civilian life. Sometimes several members would be demobilised at the same time. Not only would it be imperative to find new volunteers but also men to train these novices, also the teams had to be commanded.

The Team at the crash site . photo Joss Gosling collection.

To say that they were sometimes led by incompetent men is unfair and misleading. You have dj, but because there might be no experienced men available at one time, they were often led by Officers and NCO’s who would be incompetent to deal with emergencies, even those which might appear simple problems to the experienced mountaineer

Wreckage

I learned so much from one of the team Joss Gosling who became a great pal and friend of the family. Sadly Joss passed away a few years ago he told me of these early days in Mountain Rescue. The kit was so basic yet they all did their best.

The late Joss Gosling
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The Cromdales and a visit to the crash site of a RAF Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, Carn a’ Ghille Chearr, 710 metres Cromdale Hills.

I have visited the Cromdales a few times mainly on the odd winter course when we skied from Grantown on Spey. This was due to heavy snow at various years stopping us going to the Cairngorms. Yet I have never found the remains of crashed aircraft near the summit of Carn a’ Ghillie Chearr. It is a sad reminder of the war where 4 of the crew died. It is usually hidden by snow in peat hags near the summit.

As many will know I have not been on the hill for a long time. I have a terrible cough that is getting investigated and awaiting the results of a scan. I was very worried how it would go but so looking forward to getting out.

On the way to the Cromdales my pal Terry Moore who was visiting and me visited Jim Morning in Grantown On Spey. We had a coffee and cake then a wander down to the Old bridge. Jim and Terry were soon chatting of climbs past and The two Everest West Ridge-expeditions. There was also a great tale of an abseil of the Ben in wild winter conditions on a dodgy peg. I was filming them chatting on the bridge when my North Face jacket was picked up by the wind and deposited into the Spey. We left Jim in Grantown and headed for our wee hill.

Before my jacket went into the Spey . Jim, Terry and Islay .

It was last seen heading down the river with Islays lead in the pocket. Jim and Terry could only laugh I was so glad my car keys were not in the pocket.

My jacket before it’s trip down the Spey.

Càrn a’ Ghille Charr the more northeasterly of the two Grahams in the Cromdale Hills. Though a simple rounded hill it has fewer visitors than its neighbour, and the old paths that lead up onto the ridge from the Cromdale side have become overgrown which means parts of the route involve harder going through deep heather. Walk Highlands

TERRAIN

Pathless for much of the ascent, with sections of deep heather. The ridge is soggy in places with an intermittent path. This description is very apt there is a lot of Heather and burning of the hillside. After not being on even a wee hill it was steady going. Poor Terry and Islay the collie had to listen to me coughing like I was at altitude.

Slowly going with another spare top on.

The weather was fine very windy at times but once we got onto the ridge it was easier and had some shelter, food and a drink. The Wessex little wild life but I have rarely seen so many Cloudberry plants about.

Cloudberry

Cloudberry is closely related to the bramble family s, but unlike those, possesses no thorns. It spreads from creeping rootstock very low along the ground, never reaching more than 8 inches in height. It inhabits damp or wettish acid moorland and peaty bogs. The leaves are palmate, crinkly and usually solitary, and not in threes like most other brambles.

Cloudberry

Cloudberry is a very shy flowerer.

The berries change from red to pale orange, and are edible. They have an unusual fused appearance rather reminiscent of a mass of conjoined soap bubbles.

Cloudberry is a dioecious plant with male and female flowers on separate plants.

Cloudberry ?

Islay who I am looking after just now was ahead with her new pal Terry but it was just great to be out. We met no one, Terry waiting for me to catch up. The views were great Ben Rinnes and Morayshire looking so green. We had one shower but missed the rain we descended from the summit and after a short search near the start of the burn located the wreckage we were looking for.

At the wreckage

On 31st January 1943 this aircraft took off from Kinloss airfield at 10.35hrs to undertake a cross country training flight. At around 17.00hrs the aircraft flew into high ground close to the summit of Carn a’Ghillie Chearr; one of the larger peaks in the Hills of Cromdale, Moray while returning to base in poor weather. Three of the crew died at the scene of the crash, one died two days later and one other survived his injuries.

Grid ref and height from summit of crash site.

Pilot – Sgt Peter William Barrett RAFVR (1425570), aged 20, of Beverley, Yorkshire. Buried Beverley Church Cemetery, Yorkshire (A/K/43).

Observer – P/O Sidney John Stenning RAFVR (129370), aged 20, of North Kensington, London. Buried Kinloss Abbey, Moray (50/B).

Bomb Aimer – Sgt Joseph Raymond Charles Rugeroni-Hope RAFVR (1387054), aged 20, of Edinburgh. Buried Edinburgh Mount Vernon Cemetery (O/148).

Wireless Operator / Air Gunner – Sgt John Douglas RAFVR (980831), aged 23, of Glasgow. Buried Glasgow (Riddrie Park) Cemetery.

Air Gunner – Sgt A P Wilson. Injured.

We spent some time looking about found various bits and pieces in the peat hags. I always think of those who died here. Yet one survived and we know little of his story ?

Out of the wind.

We descended heavy going in deep Heather seeing several mountain hares and a deer. Terry and Islay were ahead I took my time the ground at times covered in deep Heather hard going. We were soon down at my van then home via Elgin and Lossiemouth after Terry bought me dinner. Islay was fast asleep. We then drove home had a bath sorted the kit and Islay slept all night after a big meal.

Dog tired

It was a fun day met Jim and had a great chat with Terry true pals. Not feeling bad today but hope the medical world can stop my hacking cough. Lost a jacket had so many laughs and great to feel the wind battering your face ! I do not care how slow I am just to be out on the hills is great. As I was walking this folk song by the Corries was in my ear all day.

The Haughs Of Cromdale – The Corries

A s I come in by Auchindoun,
Just a wee bit frae the toun,
To the Hi’lands I was bound
To view the Haughs of Cromdale.
I met a man in tartan trews,
Spiered at him (asked) what was the news,
Quo’ he, “The Hi’land army rues
That e’er we come to Cromdale.

A great book .

This is the first colour definitive guidebook to The Grahams & The Donalds and follows in the footsteps of the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s best selling guidebooks to The Munros and The Corbetts. There are colour location maps of each group, together with their neighbouring hills, plus 175 detailed colour route maps and over 250 detailed descriptions, including links to other hills. The guidebook is illustrated by 320 colour photographs of the hills. There are Gaelic hill name translations plus an indexed list of Grahams and Donalds in height order, together with a full standard index.

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An Teallach memories. Recent and Past.

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.Even the road has a story:

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.

My question to many “Is there a finer mountain in Scotland than An Teallach? “ I was speaking to a good pal just back from a weekend on the North West. They had enjoyed a great day on An Teallach as I have done so many times. To many it is 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. Yet how many did I introduce team members family and friends to An Teallach’s wonderful ridge.

My last visit was last year a lot slower but still as much fun with Tommy a friend for many years. He loved it and we had the mountain to ourselves chasing the weather.

2021 On the wee sandstone pinnacles.

Many just grab the two Munros on the ridge as it can be so wild looking. Yet the pinnacles Lord Berkeley’s seat but can be a great adventure with so many ways to go. This mountain has so many Munro tops plus the two Munros and many secrets hidden in the big Corries,. To me 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.Then you of lucky can see views of the Fisherfield wilderness and these great wild hills they ate a place to stop and savour. I always advise when you climb An Teallach climb all the ridges and tops and then you will appreciate this mountain fully.

I love the area so well it is famous for the wild 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 main ridge on a tiny 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 the great wilderness of Fisherfield and of course the famous Mountain Bothy at Shenaval a place to spend a night after a a day out. This to me is a place of great peace and tranquility,

The hidden Corries of An Teallach 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 thees wild places. It was so refreshing to be in such a place and just to look at wonderful Corries was worth the slog from the road. It was cathartic in my healing and trudging through the deep snow to Loch Toll an Lochan covered in ice was a sight I will never forget. That day I just made the ridge then turned for home. With a hea torch and pathless in the snow and icy path it cleared my head. The healing process was starting.

Scrambling

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 Sgùrr Fiona, in recognition of its considerable 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
Winter 2007

In the RAF Mountain Team we wore a helmet when scrambling and I think it is a good idea as you never know what can fall on you. It can be an especially tricky on a busy a mountain 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.

On my last Munro top

The pinnacles on the ridge 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 a rope on the easier parts of the ridge to gain experience and familiarity with the rock and terrain.

The hard parts on the ridge can be avoided as there are paths that cut below the ridge but again these can be tricky and care is needed. As always when descending take your time and a short rope and the ability to use it may be handy for those who need a bit of confidence.

The famous Climber Tom Patey carried out a massive call – out in winter 1966 on his own. The story is of a huge fall on An Teallach and the survivors attempt to save them. Hamish McInnes did a film on it “ Duel on An Teallach”

RAF Kinloss MRT 18-19/04/66

An Teallach 

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. 

On my last trip my mate Tommy who was a young lad many years ago after a day on the hill last years said:

“My face is sore with smiling all day on the hills.” What a mountain.

An Teallach

Leave the road and Cross the river,

No path, pick a line up quartzite slabs.

Blue skies, no wind, frozen ground.

In the Glen that few visit.

All rushing for a summit or a route.

Now sandstone slabs.

Pebbled and glaciated, the odd cairn.

Views of snow covered cliffs, frozen loch,

No words for this beauty.

Toll an Lochain.

2014 April Heavy Whalley

In my younger days in running shoes / Walshes

Finally – I named my dog after this great hill he was a great dog and completed Munro’s on An Teallach.

Climb it in winter with a winter route and continue along the ridge watch the sunset over the sea. Then complete the journey by torch home one of Scotlands great adventures.

How many have a tale of this mountain?

Last year
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Fathers Day ! Thanks Dad .

Today is Father’s Day it always makes me think of my Dad who passed away over 35 years ago.

Early days in Galllway

I wrote this piece a few years ago and memories came flooding back of how incredible parents I had.  

My Dad was a Church of Scotland Minister and I was the wild son of the manse.

As a minister my father a “Fire and Brimstone minister” a tee – totaller.  Yet we had a great child hood though little money but my Dad loved sport, football (Ayr United ) him and Mum were season ticket holders. Mum was always worried I would get arrested at a game . They both loved the mountains and wild places .

He was a dedicated Church Of Scotland Minister and Mum brought us up all five kids. He was a great visiting minister when folk were Sick or dying. Unlike many these days.

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 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 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 you needed him. He was a very talented runner and won the Arthur’s Seat Race on several occasions a very fit man playing tennis right into his later life.

It was in the Mountains  he spent his early days. He often mentioned this in the 1930’s at Loch Eil in the West Coast as a student Minister at Achnacarry 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. My Dad 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 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 up restricted tracks!

We had a plan to go round the big Hotels in the Highlands, the Clachaig in Glencoe, Kintail Lodge and Skye and do the big hills is comfort. Sadly it was not to be for once we had a bit of money but 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.

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. 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.

On father’s day and every day give Mum and Dad your love and tell them how much you care for them.

It upsets me how many families do not look after their families in these modern days.

Thanks Dad.

“I am still a bit wild but slowing down now! “ Heavy Whalley June 2022

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 9 Comments

Takithame ? Good Karma seeing the Dolphins . Marine waste.

Plastics and old fishing gear left by Burghead – Hopeman cycle track

The other day I dragged a lot of plastic netting old fishing gear near the cycle track. I had passed it for several years like so many but decided to do something so I dragged it onto the fence. Hoping the “rubbish fairy” will take it away? Nothing happens.

More rubbish.

I had some time to spare and so dragged the rubbish to the main road and took it to the skip today.

On way to skip.

It’s sad as on the way back I stopped for a rest. I saw I sold dolphin on its way to Inverness. Was this my reward for getting rid of some plastic from the sea ? Good Karma I feel.

I wish there was places handy to get rid of marine waste such as plastics. I am lucky and have a wee van to take it to recycling. I told my Grandkids the story yesterday they love Dolphins and the were very happy.

Comments welcome ? Is there any plans to place Marine Recycling nearby?

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More On Quotes.

There were some great quotes I thought I would share them with you all.

“You can’t carry experience youth”

“There’s old climbers and there’s bold climbers. But there’s no old bold climbers”

The mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego!

Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.

Climb if you will! But remember… what time the pub shuts 🙂 Dan Carrol

The ascent isn’t over until you are down😉

G Ackroyd

“…going to the right place, at the right time, with the right people is all that really matters. What one does is purely incidental.” Dan Carrol

Life without risk is like a candle without a flame – it lasts for a long time but is not very illuminating! Dan Carrol

“There’s a pecking order on this team and you’ve not got a beak yet”

Heavy Whalley

“The mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego!”

Kev Hewkin

“If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much room”

“If you hoot with the owls, be sure to soar with the eagles”. Mark Hartree

Pete Kay “Mark Hartree can’t hoot with the owls and soar with eagles tube, in other words you can’t go on the lash till the early hours in the fort and expect to do great things on the Ben. It never made much difference with me, I was never destined for great things 😂😂”

Pete Greening “”Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right. Unless you’re goin’ all the way. Heavy got off the boat. He split from the whole f***kin’ program” (with apologies to Martin Sheen)”

Good judgement is the result of experience, while “experience” is the result of poor judgement. Pete Greening

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” – Mr A Crowley

“Live every day like it’s yer last” Innes Cronshaw

Do unto others as you would have them do unto yourself. Innes

One of yours Hevs ” we are all god’s children”

My

mantra: Qui va piano, va sano. Qui va sano va lontano!

Motto of Alpini Italians – difficult to comprehend as they are some of the

Most fleet of foot mountaineers in the world. Charlie Cartwright

“There’s no I in Team …. but there’s a me and no U”Steve Price

Steve Price alternative exchange when a make team member said “There’s no I in team” his female boss replied “but there’s a U in c**t, so do what you’re told!”Rodger John

Jim Walton “If you can keep your head whilst those around you are losing theirs then you are probably misreading the situation.”

Andrew Woolfstone “Trust your feet.”

Dave Tomkins “never worry about things you cant change”

“To rest is not to conquer “

“Don’t put of what you can do tomorrow what you can do today” Coxy

“The retirement watch has no hands “

“Have no fear, ‘cos there’s no gear” Pete Greening

Ken Hughes “Steady away” usually said by Val or myself high up a route as you set off on your sketchy pitch.

“Trust everything and trust nothing” (Gerry Ackroyd) Alan Rowan

Steve Price “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t traing …. if it ain’t snowing we ain’t going”

“Anything goes in winter”

Heavy Whalley

Heather Lawrie Smith – Knowing is not enough – we must apply, Willing is not enough – we must do. Bruce Lee

Helen Howe “Short cuts make long delays: Tolkein”

Eric Sharkey

“Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe. A mantra for life.”

I think from a Gaston Rébuffat book “Ice he cried, and disappeared”Peter Anderson

Posted in Articles, Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

What’s your favourite quotes?

One of my favourite is : “Looking back on these wild free days in the open I realize my happiest memories are of the suntanned faces of my old companions”

Belmore Browne

1973 Masirah Persian Gulf

Another: “A man’s best moments seem to go by before he notices them and spends a large amount of life reaching back for them, like a runner for a baton that will not come.” David Roberts.

1973 Ben Dorian with my late mate Tom MacDonald.

Looking at the photo above I did many great hill days with Tom MacDonald when we both joined Mountain Rescue on 1972. Tom sadly passed away recently and look at our gear ? I am wearing “hairy breeks “ and Curlies . Tom has a state of the art Norwegian jumper we bought most of our own gear as soon as we had cash. Most of the RAF gear was to big for us !

Its funny when you look back when you were fit and strong. I have this ongoing cough that is really making things difficult to sleep or go on hill or climb. Still walking every day but how I miss the hills. Hopefully they will get to the bottom of it as I cough a lot and in these Covid Days I think folk think you have it.

Anyway I am still getting about and doing what I can just now. I just can’t wait to get back on the hills. We just have to make the best of what we have !

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Sept 1978 – Dutch Atlantic aircraft crashed in the sea off Colonsay . All crew recovered safely.

Colonsay

14 September 1978 – A Dutch surveillance Breguet crashed in the sea west of Scotland after the explosion of the right RollsRoyce engine.

Everyone was okay and they were all rescued by helicopter. The sea luckily was flat calm and there is a photo of the crew on the wing waiting for Rescue. I was a member of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team at the time. Kinloss and Leuchars MRT 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. We met many characters on the Island.

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? The locals did well on dinghy, and life jackets spoils of the sea . Plus a few bottles of whisky for there trouble. We did locate some classified material that was handed over to the Military police.

One the second day after bout search we just made the pub it shut at 2200 but managed a few beers but no food? We had a good night with the locals. I wonder if anyone has any photos of this!

I know there is a photo of the crew waiting at sea on the wing for pick up. It’s in Moravia at Kinloss I will try and get a copy.

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!“

Comment / 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”

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 1 Comment

Colonsay Day – 4 visit Dun Gallain an ancient Fort. Great last day wandering.Seeing the Waverley Steamer.

At last we had a day out Kalie as she had finished her bee course. We had the ferry late early evening so we had a wander from Colonsay Golf course to look for the old fort at Dun Gallain. We parked near the golf course near the airport. It was a great wander along the coast lots of rock to scramble on and a wander up to the hill fort well hidden.

Colonsay Golf Cpurse : If you would like to enjoy a golfing experience similar to that enjoyed by the very first golfers in Scotland (therefore, the world), then this course is for you. Colonsay Golf Course may not be the grandest in the world, but it’s certainly one of the most beautiful.

The 18-hole course is situated on indigenous machair, shortish grass growing in sandy soil, typical of the finest Scottish links golf courses. When you arrive at the first tee, you will be struck by the beauty of the course’s setting. Two beautiful, sandy Hebridean bays form the western fringe of the course: the first is called Traigh an Tobair Fhuair (“Bay of the Cold Well”). The second is called Port Lobh (which, unfortunately, means “Malodorous Bay”). Two burns traverse the course from east to west. From many points on the course, you can glimpse the sands of Ardskenish peninsular to the southwest. The course is fringed to the northeast by the rugged, craggy Beinn nan Caorach (“Hill of the Sheep”). 20 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean (next stop, Canada), in most weathers, you can spot Dubh Hearteach lighthouse. The panorama is completed by Dun Ghallain, a cairned headland where a ancient fort once stood.

The golf course !

To help you to visualise the course, think about the Masters course at Augusta, where every blade of grass appears to be meticulously manicured; then, picture the polar opposite! Colonsay’s unique course is completely natural, having been designed by the Supreme Architect of Golf. The greens are mown and rolled during the season by local golfers, with some help from the sheep and some hindrance from the rabbits. In the winter, they are joined by the cattle of Kiloran Farm. As a consequence, you may have the unusual task of having to clear some livestock from your line of fire before playing your shot. Fear not, though: local rules allow preferred lies on all fairways and a free drop for balls disappearing into rabbit-holes or taken by the ravens. More good news: there are no bunkers! In keeping with the “primeval golf” theme, however, you will come across the occasional sheep-scrape in the sandy ground, which some believe to be the origin of the modern bunker. At all times, if irked by the ruggedness of the course, you can find comfort in remembering that you’ll not find a lower green-fee anywhere.

The ancient fort is on top of the hill Dun Gallain it took a bit of looking for as all there is left is the foundations but what a vantage point. We wandered back via the Golf course amongst the Machair great views and rabbit holes lots of rabbits everywhere even on the greens but what a situation.

Great views.

It was such a lovely walk and Kalie was at last free for a walk. We sat on the wee top admiring the view then headed back past the airfield. I must have landed here during a search for a Dutch Atlantic plane that crashed of the coast on a NATO exercise. 14 September 1978 – A Dutch surveillance Breguet crashed in the Iries sea west of Scotland after the explosion of the right RollsRoyce engine. All the crew were rescued safely.

Wandering amongst the Machar (A machair is a fertile low-lying grassy plain found on part of the northwest coastlines of Ireland and Scotland, in particular the Outer Hebrides.) is so pleasant

Fields in of Iris’s

There were also so many orchids and Iris’s abound it’s lovely there were flowers everywhere. Apart from a couple of canoeists on the sea and a few others on the beach yet we had most of the area to ourselves. There was a great peace in this place with its blue seas and goes. The oystercatchers were a constant companino with their high pitched call.

We had plenty of time a wee sleep on the hill in the sun out of the wind great views of Jura and the mainland. Then a tea break lunch before heading back. We had another brew on the Colonsay Hotel and a wander up to the monument by the pier.

Magic unmentioned

Kalie had booked a meal before we went and after a some last minute shopping we had a meal at the pier just making the ferry. Then it wax the two hour ferry back on a vey empty ferry. Sadly we had no bees with us ( that’s another tale) The Waverley steamer popped into the harbour before the ferry. What a sight and so many memories.

The Waverly steamer.

We got back on the mainland thr Waverley was berthed in Oban Harbour. Then it was a long drive home me at 0130 Kalie a bit later. A superb few days away from the madness of the media.

I have great memories of the visits to the Islands exploring more and Islands and areas. The weather was exceptional and a great companion Islay. Highlights include a swim in the sea the flowers birds coastline and sea. Of course good company of Kalie. Really tired today now home getting sorted out.

The Bee course !
Posted in Enviroment, Golf, Islands, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Dog sitting in Colonsay !

Colonsay is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, located north of Islay and south of Mull. The ancestral home of Clan Macfie and the Colonsay branch of Clan MacNeil, it is in the council area of Argyll and Bute and has an area of 4,074 hectares.

On the Ferry to Colonsay

Over in Colonsay looking after Islay while Kalie does a bee keeping course. We stopped at Heathers house near Spean bridge to catch up with the late Joss Gosling daughter and her husband. We also met Annie Joss wife looking well all ready for a garden party. What a view they have of the Bens North Face .

View from Heathers house.

It was a quick catch up as we had a ferry to catch at Oban. Joss old boots are pride of place in the house. Joss was one of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team who as a young boy was involved in the Lancaster crash on Beinn Eighe. He was a dear friend and I miss him. He told me the tale many times how as a young man he was involved in the recovery of the crew . The weather was magnificent and we headed back on the A82 that was so busy through Fort William. It was slow going to Oban and even as busy here. It poured down as we waited for the ferry. Heavy rain while the rest of Uk was in sunshine.

Just as the weather cleared we saw Jura

It was sunny arriving in Colonsay and we have good accommodation not far from Kalies bee course which she starts today.

We got a great walk with a patient Islay to a nearby beach at Kiloran Bay. It was stunning a few folk a yacht mooring and lovely sand. As always the ever changing light made it special. We are so lucky to be here.

We walked along to the Whale bones it was impressive and with the dunes the rabbits and bird calls magnificent.There was no sunset this time but we sat and enjoyed the views and the peace.

End of a long day.

Kalie starts her course tomorrow and Islay and I will have some fun together.I hope everyone is as lucky as us with the weather?

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Health, Islands, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Denali ascent – “a closely run summit” by Jimmy Clethero RIP

Many expeditions have untold tales especially in the military this is one is told in my pals words about the late Jimmy Clethero. In these days there were lots of things that remain “untold” I hope you appreciate “ Stampys” account of our mate Jimmy who passed away recently from Cancer.

Denali is a wonderful mountain in Alaska where you have a unique environment. The weather is so severe I spent 3 days stuck in a tent in a blizzard with a sick mate. I feared for my life then it was and did take all my efforts to stay alive. It’s a big mountain no porters and extreme conditions that test the best of the best to summit. This is an account from one of our most underrated mountaineers Jimmy Clethero had he told me many years later. I put it on my wee book to write the tale but it could only be repeated after we left the service. It’s a measure of the msn Jimmy few know the tale another MRT legend tells the tale. It’s a great story of a man we lost to cancer recently. Thank you Stampy for your story I hope it gives you an insight into one of our finest mountaineers.

This is Stampy account:

“Yeah it was good old Rosco who got both Jimmy and I on the exped in May 88 with the PTI’s from Ballachulish (Kev Edwards, Shep Shepherd, Graham Carter and Graham Morrison). This would be the first high altitude experience for both of us.

I can remember the flight onto the Kahiltna glacier base camp via the spectacular ‘one shot pass’ courtesy of Doug Keeting Aviation, Doug himself was piloting the aircraft and on the approach for landing he gave Jimmy the surprise responsibility of pumping the hydraulics to get the undercarriage skids down for landing on the glacier. We both looked at each other as if to say “what the fuck, did he really ask you to do that” but as Jimmy was nearest the pump handle he grinned and shrugged his shoulders and got on with the pumping until Doug was satisfied skids were in the right position.

Jimmy and I were paired up for climbing and tent sharing and Kev Edwards was keen for both of us to take a look at the Cassin ridge but after a recce and seeing the state of the glacier and crevasses of the east Kahiltna fork and approach to the Japanese Couloir, the idea was quickly abandoned.

The West buttress was the focus along with the others. From the 14000 ft camp Kev Edwards decided to send us both and Graham Carter to the summit. After a really cold night at 17000 ft we were glad to be on our way but I was struggling with the altitude and never been so cold (lifa under wear, ron hills, buffallo jacket and goretex was a crap choice and just not enough insulation for some where this cold) We arrived at Denali pass at 18000 ft in poor visibility but were still able follow the wands marking the route. However the visibility was concerning and with the extreme cold, I new I was struggling and I’d had enough.

Jimmy though was going really well and was confident. The choice was hard for both of us to split up, it was decided that me and Graham Carter to return to the tent at 17000 ft and Jimmy to carry on to the summit. There was no conflict or arguing over over our decisions just mutual respect for each others wishes.

Graham Carter descended all the way down to the 14000 ft camp while I remained at 17000 to wait for Jimmy. It was a worrying time in the tent, the wind had got stronger, temperature dropped and visibility worse. I was cursing myself for not trying to talk Jimmy out of going to the summit and was hoping he would realise the conditions were not favourable, abandon his attempt and appear at the tent door any minute.

All the time I was waiting for him I was constantly updating Kev Edwards down at 14000 over the radios we had with us, I could tell how anxious Kev was. The following morning had arrived probably a good 16 hours after I last saw Jimmy and I was fearing the worst. Can’t remember who contacted who first but Kev told me over the radio that Jimmy had just wondered into the camp at 14000!

I got back to 14000 and reunited with Jimmy. He said he was 100% sure he’d reached the summit but had lost the marker wands and got disorientated on the way back, strayed onto steep ground and ended up down climbing what turned out to be rescue gulley average angle 50 degrees which exits a bit further up from the 14000 ft camp.

He wasn’t completely unscathed after his ordeal as his only head gear, the hood on his duvet jacket had been ripped off in the high winds thus sustaining cold injury frost nip to one of his ears. Typical Jimmy seemed to play down his epic and avoiding the fuss just took things in his stride. The doctor in the medical tent at 14000 examined the frost bitten ear and advised our team to get Jimmy off the mountain ASAP. Kev sent both of us back to the Kahiltna glacier airstrip to get the first available aircraft back to Talkeetna.

I remember we had to pack a tent and some gear just before we got to the airstrip. As you probably remember Heavy, having been there yourself, you have take everything off the mountain including those black poly bags that you crap in complete with contents.

Anyway as we were rummaging through the gear deciding who’s was who’s, Jimmy called across to me and said “I think this is yours Stampy”, I turned with open hands to receive the package Jimmy lobbed which thumped me in the chest then realised he had chucked a bag full of shit at me! The grin on his face was a picture. “Ya bastard Jimmy” was my response but couldn’t help laughing at his mischievousness.

We both got back to the Elmandorf USAF base just outside Anchorage where we waited for the others to return, 3 of them summited. The Yank medical staff at the air base were brilliant treating Jimmy’s frost bite, he received daily whirlpool treatment on the ear which got the blood supply back to affected area and prevented further tissue loss. The next few days waiting for the others were spent mooching around the city and drinking in bars. We then learned that 2 Brits we had both met and got quite friendly with whilst on the mountain had been killed in a fall climbing the West Rib. The news brought it home to us both the seriousness of where we had just been especially in Jimmy’s case. Graham Stamp

Posted in Alaska, Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

All the Corbetts in a day a great effort by Carnethy Hill running Club.

I have always been in awe of hill runners and met many over the years . They are a unique group of unsung heroes on the hills. Last weekend the Carnethy Club completed all the Corbetts in a day. What an effort of planning and effort by all. It’s great to hear of such efforts with little publicity. These runners are true hill men and women enjoying the mountains and travelling light and fast over the hills. Well done all. Thanks to the club for allowing me to use their words and photos. Well done all.

After about 6 months of planning, on Saturday 28th May 2022 over 200 Carnethies completed all of the Corbetts in a Day.  222  Scottish hills between 2500-3000 ft, or 762-913m in height were split into around 140 missions of varying length, difficulty and commitment to suit the novice through to the expert runner/walker.

The first hill was complete at 01:28 by Ross Christie who had to get back for his family and his work, and the last was ticked at 19:46, quite aptly, by Steve Fallon whose website and guidance was invaluable to the planning.  Ages of participants ranged from 6 Months baby Busby through to 80 Yr old (roughly)  past President Kieth Burns.  One team’s age exceeded 200yrs. Everyone experienced how rough and challenging the less trodden Corbetts are with rarely a path to follow and plenty of wet bog to delight in.

There are many stories to tell which will come out soon enough and we ask all participants to write a summary of the stories from the day.  The Jura Corbetts were done as part of the Jura Fell Race with Jasmin Paris being first female and Andy Fallas as 4th Male.  Hopefully they took a photo on their summits as proof!!!

There are many people to thank for making this happen. Nicki Innes and Ken Fordyce in particular, but also the planning team, regional leads and the control team in Tyndrum. The participants of course and also Mr Weather played a fair hand, at least in Ardgour.

In the interim, here are some random photos from the many.

Another great Carnethy day out.  Well done all.

Mark Hartree

President, Carnethy HRC

Well done all
Posted in Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Jimmy Clethero RIP

Sadly I missed my friends Jimmy Clethero’s funeral. I have been told it was a great tribute to the man that so many attended. Jimmy was a great mountaineer very cool in any emergency and never sought the limelight. He was also a great member, party leader and Team Leader of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. He was greatly thought of by all. As always our thoughts are with Chrissie and family.

Jimmy on Diran Expedition.

TRIBUTE TO ‘JIMMY’ CLETHERO Dave Egerton.

Mention the name Jimmy in the RAFMR world and everyone’s mind skips to the tall, skinny, quietly confident young Graham Clethero who arrived on the Stafford team in the early 80s.  Recognising his potential early on, Jimmy was made up to PL at the tender age of 19, a lot of responsibility for a young guy.  One can say it was fortunate that Jimmy found MR so early in his career.  I’d actually say it was MR who were the lucky ones as for 22 of the next 25 years he became the backbone and one of the driving forces of the 3 teams he served with, Stafford, Kinloss and Leeming as well as being a regular instructor on the numerous annual MR courses where troops from all the teams benefitted from his experience and mentoring.

A talented climber, both Summer and Winter, Jimmy always pushed his grades, teaming up with the other top climbers around the system where and whenever possible.  Quickly becoming an accomplished and competent mountaineer, he was as fit as the proverbial butchers dog, invoking many extremely painful memories of trying and failing to keep pace with the scruffy guy in the Ron Hills, Helly Hanson and red Troll rucksack.  Never one to showcase his achievements, with one exception, he was proud to hold the course record for the infamous Snowdon Bike Race, a fact he dropped into polite conversation on a number of occasions.  Jimmy was universally popular, his unassuming manner, laid back approach and unflappable nature endearing him to all and his calm, composed leadership ensured he became a role model and inspiration for many, myself included. Jimmy was always there for the troops offering support, advice, instruction, whatever was required and wherever necessary.  Never a chore.  

Mountain Rescue allowed Jimmy the opportunity to indulge in his lifelong passion for the mountains and crags.  He took advantage of the opportunities afforded to him, taking part in numerous successful overseas expeditions – many to the Alps, the Karakorum mountains in Pakistan, Denali in Alaska to name but a few and I would hazard a guess there are very few hills and crags within the UK which Jimmy hasn’t bagged or completed quality routes. However, he very rarely spoke about his many achievements preferring to look forward to his next list of challenges.  Others, like me, do talk of what he has accomplished, partly through envy, not having the skill or ability to copy the man, and partly sheer admiration.  I don’t believe there are any troops present today who can’t recall exceptional adventures with Jimmy and marvel at his ability to make it look so annoyingly easy!!  I always smile at the memory of Jimmy perched comfortably on his belay stance at the top of Great North Road, a quality climb at Millstone in the Peaks, it was sunny, rope in one hand, ciggy in the other, looking very much at one with the world.  That was Jimmy in his office.  In the 3 year period outside of MR, in Cyprus, Jimmy took it on himself to write a Cyprus climbing guide for the benefit of others to use – one of routes had the most interesting of approaches  If done mid-afternoon in summer it takes you straight down a popular tourist beach complete with many sunbathing half naked ladies That was a tough day.  

On the rescue front, Jimmy attended over 400 callouts, wide ranging from urban searches to some of the biggest aircraft tragedies this country has known – Lockerbie, East Midlands Airport, the 2 x American F15 jets on Ben Macdui and many others.  He also played a major part in the successful locating and rescue of Army personnel in an unexplored gully on Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, his practical, no-nonsence approach proving invaluable for its successful conclusion.  Once again he very rarely talked of these events, choosing to process them privately, despite having seen things nobody should really have to.

I’ve probably built up a bit of a ‘St Jimmy’ image so far but there is another side to him.  He loved a social and the odd beer or 3 with the troops or his family or both and he possessed a dry, thought out sense of humour which coupled with a mischievous side it was perfect for instigating misdemeanours.  If there was skulduggery going on, Jimmy was not far from it, normally orchestrating from the rear.  A damning drag race video using MR landrovers at an aircraft crash site appeared in the section – I knew who’s idea it was for the drag race – the voice behind the hidden camcorder confirmed the operator as being one of the same!  The instigation of troop swimmings, Clethero was always there; the kidnapping OC Regt’s wayward dog, which began to go awry when the station postman forgot to deliver Jimmy’s ransom demand, Jimmy the criminal – arrested for scaling a public building in Stafford after a few beers, antics with a retro carriage wheel, space hopper and a lack of clothing in a pub in N Yorkshire, comical sheep rescue from half way down a crag in the Peaks including the best rugby tackle one is likely to see.  There are plenty of stories shattering the ‘not so innocent’ image of Mr Clethero.  However, looking at the rogues gallery of troops present today, there are some far more qualified than I to elaborate later today.

I spoke with Jimmy a few days before the Stafford Reunion when he let me know that he wasn’t going to be present this year due to a hospital appointment.  Whether he knew the extent of his condition at this time I don’t know.  What I do know is that in the days and weeks that followed and as his condition worsened, Jimmy was surrounded by the people he loved, Chrissie, of who he was such a devoted partner, Kirsty and Maddison, who made him a proud father and whom he loved so much, his extended family and his friends of old.  The response to the initial facebook message was fantastic and only served to reaffirm everything I knew about Jimmy Clethero, he was one of, if not the most, loved, respected and inspirational of TLs, and always a great troop. The heartfelt, sincere messages which were all read out to Jimmy gave him the reassurance that the MRS family he was such a big part of, will be there for his family.

Thank you Jimmy for allowing me and many others to be part of your life. It has been a privilege to have served with you and an absolute honour to be your friend.  From the whole of the RAF MRS past and present, to Chrissie, Kirsty and Maddison please accept are profound condolences.  And Jimmy “you were and always will be the best”

Rest in Peace Mate.

It’s a privilege to read this dedication today and it was of particular resonance to Jimmy – It was written by ‘Anon’ – RAF Kinloss – February 1995 – And it was dedicated to all members of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team – With a message….Keep up the good work guys.

The Mountaineer

It takes a noble brand of man…. to be a mountaineer

No petty minded person ever found his pleasure here

But he who’s never climbed a hill…. for fear of aches and pains 

Has never felt adrenalin… surge madly through his veins

When safety is a toe-hold…. and your faith in finger tips 

And every breadth is like a prayer…. escaping from your lips

It isn’t just an urge to reach… the topmost craggy shelf

Its stretching nerves to breaking point…. to riseabove yourself

Nor is it tossing coins…..with life and death on either side

Its Courage, Caution, Commonsense,…. And ‘how to do it’ pride 

It’s Teamwork. And the best way is the best – No ifs and buts……

You learn to pull together… and to share each other’s guts

You reach the peak…. You’re handing round a flask…..A bite…..A smoke

While soaking up a scene… unseen by ordinary folk 

A no-man’s land of awesome splendour…. Beautifuland bare

And this is because you climbed a hill … purelybecause it’s there 

Wives and friends of Mountaineers … case hardened to their fate

Will tell you that they also climb….. Who stay at home and wait

A hill’s a burning heartache…. you just hope he can’t detect

That makes you pray the next one… will be climbedin retrospect

Jimmy on Great Harry.

Thanks for your input troops comments and photos always welcome .

Posted in Alaska, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

The mystery of the Wellington aircraft crash on the Island of Soay near St Kilda.

In 1978 the RAF Kinloss MRT were tasked to visit the Island of Soay to investigate wreckage that had been located. The location and logistics plus getting permission to land is extremely hard to achieve. Add to that the weather that destroyed some of the tents its an interesting story.

Soay from Hirta

The photo above was taken in 2014 on a perfect day which is rare for this area.

I was lucky enough to know the story of the Wellington on the Island of Soay:Soay is an uninhabited islet in the St Kilda archipelago, Scotland. The name is from Old Norse Seyðoy, meaning “Island of Sheep”. The island is part of the St Kilda World Heritage Site and home to a primitive breed of sheep. It is the westernmost point in the United Kingdom if disputed Rockall is excluded.

At the crash site.

This was the scene of an attempt by RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in 1978 to try to locate a crash site that was reputed to be on the small inaccessible Island. The team had a few epics including and overnight stay in wild weather, where tents were smashed by the winds in the exposed cliffs. This was all done by Sea Kings helicopters and there are a few tales of these trips.

Mark Sinclair and others at crash site on Soay

You can never take the weather for granted in this area and I pray for good weather this year for me. The islands hill on Soay is a prize Marliyn for you secret hill bashers! You may have to climb to get on the Island and permission which is not easy.

Sea King helicopter pick up from Soay

St Kilda and Rockall were all part of navigational training sorties in these days of very primitive navigational aids and many aircraft were lost in this area. St Kilda has a few aircraft wrecks on the Island and I visited them when we manage to land this year (May 2020). Unfortunately Soay will not be on possible, I wonder if anyone has visited this place recently?

This is an original photo from RAF Kinloss MRT ( KMRT ARCHIVES)

Keith Bryers.

Hi Heavy –” the aircraft was almost certainly Wellington Mk.VIII LA995 from 303 Ferry Training Unit, Stornoway, which was lost on 23 February 1943 with a crew of 6 whilst on a navex/fuel consumption test. The rear gunner was washed up at Europie on 2 March 1943 and is buried in Essex, the others (I have all the names) lie on the site in an unmarked grave. The wreck was known about in 1944 but wartime priorities seem to have prevented a visit to search for remains until the RAF’s visit in 1980; certainly, the wreck was reported by Morton Boyd of the Nature Conservancy Council as long ago as 1952. I visited the site in 1979. A rather foreboding location, truly ‘on the edge of the world’.” 

Keith Bryers

More info  from the blog

The aircraft could also be Wellington HX448, Lost Sep 28 1942, which also had Canadians on-board and was also in the area. The magazine After The Battle No30 has the story of the investigation conducted to find out the identity of the crashed plane on Soay, However no definitive proof (i.e id tags engine numbers etc) was found either way hence most websites giving both aircraft numbers. It would seem unlikely that further searches would be possible due to the remoteness and difficulty of access, changeable weather etc.

 Also as the wreckage or what is left is most likely to have been covered by scree falls and or rolling or being blown down the cliff The book, Aircraft Wrecks, the walkers guide is a good source of info regarding the two planes on the main island of Hirta. I have just been to the island again and hoped to have a look at the crash site on Connachair (Beaufighter) but low cloud stymied this.


The Church building on Hirta(St Kilda) has a small plaque commemorating the losses and carries the names of the casualties for the two planes on the main island, but for the Soay crash this section has been left blank of names. (Until the mystery is solved?)

No names on the memorial to the Soay Wellington crash in the wee church at St Kilda.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Short Sunderland 111 ML858 Crash – St Kilda – 7 June 1944 – A visit in May 2022.

The Sunderland aircraft crashed on a navigation exercise from a flight out of Oban.

I have been very fortunate to visit this sad Crash site on the remote Island of St Kilda on two occasions in 2014 and May 2020. On my first visit in 2014 I went down into the Gleann Mor to the crash site and was getting attacked by the birds.

That day the walking poles were handy that day as the Skuas dives bomb you. (The Skua a large brownish predatory seabird related to the gulls, they pursue other birds to make them disgorge fish they have caught)

Grid reference for Sunderland crash site .

On this visit 8 years later there were very few Skuas about; there is a problem with their numbers this year. This made it a lot easier to visit the site at grid reference NF 085 991 at 232 metres is the where the main wreckage just above the ridge. There is other aircraft wreckage scattered in the burn just below the ridge. It’s an amazing place the glen is wide open and one can only think of what happened here.  

The memorial at the Church on St Kilda

In these tragic places seeing the destruction of a big aircraft is a very sombre place to be. I always have a few thoughts for the young crews who died here. As always it’s a sad tale as all the crew were buried at sea due to the war. On this aircraft there were 10 crew sadly all who all died here on 7 June 1944 the day after D/Day. The story of the missing plane is told in the excellent Book “Lost to the Isles” and the recovery of all the crew. A harrowing experience for those involved.

The crew – Cecil Osbourne – Pilot

Richard Ferguson –

2nd pilot

Frank Robertson

David Roulston –

Australian Emigrate

Johnny Lloyd

Oliver Reed

William Thomson

Reference: Lost to the Isles Volume 3 David Earl & Peter Dobson.

There are three known wrecks on St Kilda one near the summit of Conachair

Bristol Beaufighter LX 798 St Kilda.

There is a propellor near the summit of Conachair and another down by the jetty (May 2022.)

During World War II, a long range night fighter, Bristol Beaufighter LX798 of 304 FTU based at Port Ellen, Islay, crashed on Hirta, St Kilda within 100 metres (328 ft) of the summit of Conachair on the night of June 3, 1943, with the loss of two crew. Most of the wreckage slid down the hillside and was lost over over the cliffs, and no bodies were ever found. The time of the event may explain why this wreck is also reported on June 4, 1943.

There is also the wreck of a Wellington on Soay which I visited in the late 70’s I have written about this in previous blogs. The crew have not been formally identified despite our efforts and others.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Corbetts and other hills, Sailing trips, Weather, Wildlife | 2 Comments

May 2022 – St Kilda trip back on Terra Firma.

Yesterday was sheltering awaiting the storm to die down. We satiated on boat all day till late afternoon as it would have been crazy to launch the inflatable in that weather. We all enjoyed the break. The weather and light changing every few minutes. Watching huge waves crash along the cliffs and reefs. There were the Birds still at it diving for fish. I was happy we were sheltered with a few miles from our harbour.

The wee harbour.

We headed back late afternoon and had a wander around we again had a cold wind, sun and then sheltered in a bus shelter as the rain lashed down. We had time to think enjoy what we had seen and as always my friend Kalie was smiling and so happy with the trip. The Four other companions were great company all different yet we had such a great time.

Great company

We head back via Stornoway today in the big ferry back to normal life . Yet what a trip a huge adventure in all kinds of weather a visit to St Kilda the journey through the stacks chasing the weather and the wild life: Orcas, Dolphins, so many birds and the wild seas.

Well that’s the end of a lovely few days. All I can say is a huge thanks to Murdo, Gary and the crew for looking after us so well. Few get the chance to visit this place but what an experience thank you all.

Posted in Book, Enviroment, Friends, Islands, People, Recomended books and Guides, Sailing trips, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Return from St Kilda.

In yesterdays blog we had to leave St Kilda early due to incoming bad weather. Murdo our skipper got it right but it was a very a v journey. I retreat to my bunk as the Cuma heaved and was battered by the storm. I think we got some shelter after several attempts at about 0300. Great seamanship again by Murdo and Gary.

We anchored here after a wild journey.

After two late nights sailing and a great breakfast 4 of us went on to the Island of Little Bernairaigh and enjoyed the stunning beaches and the walk. Little Bernera is a small island situated off the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Little Bernera lies between the sea lochs of West and East Loch Roag, immediately to the north of Great Bernera. The island rises to a height of 42 metres and has an area of 138 hectare’s.

Grand beaches .

It was lovely being ashore and despite the odd shower we had sun and wind. Typical West coast weather. There are huge dunes and beaches we had a good wander.

We visited the old church what a situation overlooking the sea. The island is uninhabited but a special place to be. The rest went on and I dragged behind enjoying the solitude and beauty of such a place.

The Church

It was then head back to the inflatable and back to the Cuma. The weather has changed and on that short journey I got soaked and was glad to get back on board.

As usual last “Waiting for me”

It was a change and some lunch then feeling weary I had a nap. Two others went out later in the afternoon but the rest had an easy day. We moved anchorage again due to the weather and have only one day left now before we leave on Friday.

A bit of light at the end of the day.

It’s incredible watching the weather change and how little I know of the sea and it’s ways. I have always respected the sea from sea cliff climbing. Yet in a small boat you are at the mercy of the elements. It makes you feel very small but also very privileged to be here.

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Arrived at St Kilda after a long journey from Stornoway. What a place.

We left the boat yard for St Kilda Murdo our Skipper deciding to make use of the weather. It was a long day arriving at Village Bay St Kilda about 0130 Tuesday morning. It was pretty rough journey at times but so worth it. We awoke to a sunny Village Bay St Kilda.

We were all tired but after breakfast were taken ashore where we were briefed by the Warden. We split up and had a wander through the village and then in the sun onto her hills. All the way passing the Cliets and views were impressive.

A cleit is a stone storage hut or bothy, uniquely found on the isles and stacs of St Kilda; whilst many are still to be found, they are slowly falling into disrepair.[1] There are known to be 1,260 cleitean on Hirta and a further 170 on the other group islands.

Village

St Kilda

Fragments of the past haunt these islands, now home to the UK’s largest colony of Atlantic puffins

  • The UK’s only dual UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of only 39 in the world.
  • Home to nearly 1 million seabirds, including the UK’s largest colony of Atlantic puffins.
  • Evacuated on 29 August 1930 after the remaining 36 islanders voted to leave as their way of life was no longer sustainable.
  • St Kilda has its own unique wren, as well as a sub-species of mouse which is twice the size of a British fieldmouse.

There is no place like St Kilda. Towering out of the storm-tossed waters of the Atlantic Ocean, its cliffs and sea stacks clamour with the cries of hundreds of thousands of seabirds. 

Internationally recognised for its birdlife, St Kilda is no less famous for its human history. A community existed here for at least 4,000 years, exploiting the dense colonies of gannets, fulmars and puffins for food, feathers and oil.

The final 36 islanders were evacuated in 1930. Now uninhabited, visitors can brave the weather to sail to the ‘islands at the edge of the world’ for the experience of a lifetime.

We wandered along the ridge ambling our way in the sun stopping to see the views and the silence apart from the birds. Up to the Mistress stone. I scrambled up but felt the legs a bit funny after 3 days at sea you had to be careful.

The Mistress stone

We had lunch here and then headed to see the crash site of the Sunderland in Glenmore that killed all the crew. It crashed on the 7 th June 1944 killing all the crew who were buried at sea a few days later. Usually there are an abundance of Skuas but a fair amount have been found sadly dead. We did not see many today.

Sunderland propellor

It was superb weather we wandered around enjoying our surrounds and so blessed to be here. We visited the wee honesty shop in the village then back for dinner. The weather was changing so Murdo decided to sail into the early hours after going past all the stacks. What a journey that was it was surreal with so many birds and the huge sea stacks so close by. We were all amazed by Murdo seamanship and the beauty we passed. It was over to soon and we set out for the mainland a 5 hour journey another late night.

Getting close to the stacks

It was a wild journey but Murdo got us there safely I was asleep as we berthed a change of location due to strong winds. Today we go to Little Bernara.

Comments welcome

Lochaber – A friend in our Local History Society holds the record for the St Kilda Marathon (probably because no one else has run it).
http://www.lochaberrotary.org.uk/bill-cameron-a-run-round-st-kilda-nov-1st-2017/

Posted in Enviroment, Islands, Plants, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Sailing trips, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 6 Comments

Everest Summit – 22 May 2001 Tibet – Dan and Rusty on summit. RIP Ted Atkins.

Thinking of a great trip to Tibet thanks to all I love seeing the photos. The memories of a great bunch of folk the magnificence of the Sherpas . Than you all ! Especially the families who waited and worried .

Looking back we were so fortunate on many ways a strong group of pals enjoying the magnificence of Everest. We never fell out not easy over 3 months dealt with some dramas and above all came back pals and unscathed. How many can say that?

Posted in Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

In Lewis a bit windy Met Willie Mac staying at Bragar for a few nights.

Bragar

We had a lot very night at Black Bridge with Anne and Mark for the ferry from Ullapool to Stornaway. The weather was ok a bit of a swell but a good 2 hour crossing.

Then shop in Stornaway and go and find the illusive Willie Mac who joined RAF Mountain Rescue as a young lad in the 80’s. He ended up Team Leader and Warrant officer in charge. A great pal we climbed all over together in Himalayas, Pakistan and Tibet.He is now back to being a crafter in Lewis. Poor Kalie had to listen to some tales.

Willie MacRitchie

We then had a wee walk to the beautiful beach and then on to our accommodation in Bragar.

Superb
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Hillwalking in the heat! Some tips.

Over the years I was very lucky to learn about walking in the heat during my time in Desert Rescue in Masirah in the Persian Gulf. Nothing can compare with the Temperatures out there are incredible and it took a lot to learn to walk or work in that heat. I was off loading planes and ships out in the open and it took some getting used to. We knew very little about heat stroke or exhaustion but carried lots of water on the hill and fruit in tins !

Masirah how not to dress / see water container.

Average Weather at Masirah

The hot season lasts for 2.3 months, from 17 April to 26 June, with an average daily high temperature above 33°C. The hottest day of the year is 13 May, with an average high of 35°C and low of 27°C

The cool season lasts for 2.6 months, from 8 December to 26 February, with an average daily high temperature below 28°C. The coldest day of the year is 16 January, with an average low of 20°C and high of 26°C.

At the end of the weekend with the desert rescue you could lose a lot of weight and looking back it was a huge learning curb.

Some tips that worked for me:

Drink plenty of fluid before you go! We had a saying drink like a camel.

Wear a head covering hat etc and I always covered my neck with a “bandana” that I would wet whenever possible.

Go slower, drink a little and often and in your water use an additive electrolytes to replace salts etc lost by sweating.

Check the colour of your urine when you can. The darker the more dehydrated you are.

Wear comfortable clothing carry long sleeved shirt trousers and have your breaks when possible in the shade. Also if there’s a breeze on the summit use it to cool down.

Top up your fluid from the rivers and burns whenever possible.

Use sun screen often and replace on the hill it’s easy to sweat of!

Skin cancer is serious and I wish we knew had known about it when I was working in the early 70’s. I have lost several pals due to skin cancer.

Sunglasses are essential look after your eyeless

When travelling back home in car rehydrate and replace lost fluid. Keep an eye on folk in your group for heat exhaustion/heatstroke it can be a killer, there is little water high up just now so ensure you carry enough.

Comments welcome :

Paul / “It’s easy to get caught out despite being supposedly experienced. I very nearly crossed the boundary the other day. The walk in was hot and I struggled to get enough fluid onboard. Limited water above 450m meant that I pushed a bit too much to get the day done which pushed me closer to heat stroke. I knew it was happening but foolishly felt it was still in my control”

Paul “the days when I’d carry 2 or 3 litres of water are long gone. I carry a litre now and rely on the hill to provide. I’ll be more careful in future. Arran looks fab, I’ll have to revisit some day” David Whalley of course. Us sensible people are also dafties. I’ve never done the central knoydart hills and I think I underestimated how much the walk-in takes out of you. 7 miles and 600m ascent. Even experienced you get to a point where luck is not on your side but I tried to rationalise my day even when I knew I’d maybe pushed it a bit far. I think the big point is, when you’re initially dehydrated, water is your primary concern so you forget to eat and get energy onboard which compounds the problem. You can also make nav judgements and errors because of this. Luckily I wasn’t at that point. It was still hard to force food and drink down me when I had the opportunity though. We are strange beasts.

Robin / Ogwen Valley MRT have just been to a heat stroke on Carneddau Dafydd. Man doing the 14/15 peaks, low on water …I got close in the desert a few years ago. The answer was to have a good dose of electrolytes first thing and that helped in 40c plus temperatures.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Health, Hill running and huge days!, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments

The Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash 70 years on.

LANCASTER GR3 TX264 – CRASH ON SAIL MHOR, BEINN EIGHE ROSS AND CROMARTY, SCOTLAND – 14th March 1951

IN THE MEMORY OF THE CREW OF LANCASTER TX264

Its 70 years since the crash of the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe. I was told of the story often and visited the site on many occasions. It is a situated in the most incredibly wild corrie on Beinn Eighe in the North West of Scotland. It was a huge learning curb for the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, that involved many changes that influenced most of Mountain Rescue in the UK. For many years I have visited the site spoke to a few of the RAF Kinloss team who were involved. I have taken relatives and family annually, filmed up on the mountain this place means a lot to me. Due to Covid I cannot visit but will when I can and for as long as my battered body allows.

This particular crash had a considerable influence in changes to RAF Mountain Rescue later on.

The crash aroused and held the attention, even curious with that desire to know the true facts, rumours do circulate by ‘word of mouth’ at happenings like this one and for some considerable time.  The lines of communication in the early fifties were still a newspaper, local or national, or the ‘Wireless’, very few people had a telephone and Television was in its infancy.  ‘News of this kind was news’, where to listen or read would create an ‘image’ in the mind.  Headlines in the ‘Press and Journal’, Aberdeen, were – “Search of hills for missing Lancaster, Missing plane sought in Sutherland, Aberdeen.  Pilot on missing plane, where the missing bomber crashed, Plane wreck not yet reached.”

It is a sad story as anything of this nature is, particularly for the members of the Rescue Teams but does indicate without doubt ‘special significance’ or ‘emphasis’ on Mountain Rescue, with the extreme difficulties, along with mistakes, these teams faced in that day and age.  A detailed description of particular places and local features from Maps had to be the main concern and fully understood.

Beinn Eighe is a name, aggregated, for Peaks similar to each other or bearing a definite relation to the one preceding it. This mountain in winter is one of Scotland’s great peaks and accessible only by mountaineers. The gully where the main wreckage is a loose tricky ascent in summer and should only be attempted by mountaineers.

The following narrative relates the events of the Beinn Eighe crash on the 14th March 1951 until the 27th August, a very harrowing rescue mission undertaken by the RAF MRS, and civil MRS, despite being called out in all weathers of extreme severity and inhospitable terrain, are all volunteers.

On the 13th March 1951 at 1804hrs, Lancaster TX264 call sign ‘D’ Dog of 120 Squadron, converted for reconnaissance purposes, took off from RAF Kinloss, a ‘fog free’ climate of the Moray Coast between Lossiemouth and Nairn.  The pilot was Flt Lt Harry Reid DFC, 24 years of age, a total crew of eight with a Second Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer and four signallers.  It was a ‘Navigational Exercise’ via Cape Wrath, the very name a ‘mingled feeling of anger and disdain’ this being the extreme north-west point of the Scottish mainland and named after the Viking word ’hvraf’ meaning a turning point where the Vikings turned south to the Hebrides in the ninth century.  The cape is isolated and its heathland untamed.  Around midnight the aircrew flew over the Lighthouse.

The last position, sent by radio was at 0127hrs 60 miles north of Cape, Wrath this was the very last message from the aircraft.

At 0200hrs a boy living in Torridon, on the east end of Upper Loch Torridon, looking through his bedroom window saw a red flash in the distance, but didn’t think any more about it until he saw the headlines in a Newspaper, ‘Missing Plane Sought’ and this was two days after the aircraft went missing.  He mentioned it to the local Postmaster who immediately contacted RAF Kinloss.  Similar reports had been received.  An Airspeed Oxford was sent to search which concentrated on Beinn Eighe.  The wreck of the Lancaster was sighted on the 16th March.

On the 17th March the Kinloss RAF Rescue Team arrived in the area and on the 18th approached Beinn Eighe from the North and into Coire Mhic Fhearchair from Loch Maree.  Wreckage from the Lancaster was found after arriving at the foot of the Triple Buttresses and lying in the ‘corrie’.  A ‘corrie’ is a semi-circular hollow or a circular space in a mountain side.  This particular wreckage had fallen, the bulk of the aircraft being much higher with the crew inside.  At the foot of the Western Buttress were the port wing, undercarriage, two engines and various cowlings.  On the following day the starboard wing and some other parts had been blown down by the strong winds, but still no fuselage.

The next day another party managed to climb higher and spotted the fuselage, burnt out, but couldn’t reach it.  Further attempts were abandoned for the time being.

The weather over the whole period of the search was ‘exceptionally’ severe for the time of the year.  It was intensely cold with constant snow showers and high winds and temperatures well below freezing at night.

The North of Scotland is much closer, in fact ‘considerably’ closer to the Arctic Circle than North Wales.  Conditions in winter can be more ‘Alpine’, they may be ‘Artic’.  Between Beinn Eighe and Sail Mhor the weather was absolutely ‘atrocious’, with the wind coming over the ridge with such force it was virtually impossible to move, and the snow anything from one to four feet.  The gully from the corrie was a solid sheet of ice.

It was certain that no one was alive in the wreckage, and in the opinion of the Officer in Charge of the team the wreckage was so situated it couldn’t be reached by any members of the public unless they were ‘highly experienced climbers’.

The CO at RAF Kinloss, in the meantime, had offers from the Moray Mountaineering Club, a Doctor John Brewster with this Club having considerable climbing experience in winter.  This offer and another suggestion for help from the Scottish Mountaineering Club, holding their Easter meeting at Achnashellach to the South of Beinn Eighe were both declined.

On the 24th March Dr Brewster informed the CO that men from the Moray Club were going to Beinn Eighe on their own initiative, the RAF team were ordered to return to base.  Five men from the Club arrived at Torridon and attempted to reach the aircraft but of no avail and didn’t make a further attempt.

Another attempt was made by a Royal Marine Commando, Captain Mike Banks and Angus Eskine.  After a really difficult time with the weather, particularly gusts of wind that brought the human body on all fours, these two reached the main bulk of the aircraft.

Eventually all unauthorised visits were stopped and the RAF Team once again returned to Beinn Eighe and this time reached the wreckage.  It was most difficult and dangerous work recovering the bodies; three were actually in the fuselage.  The last body was not recovered until 27th August.

Rumours, idle gossip as always, flourished that the crew had survived the impact but rescue being too late.  It was obvious to the rescuers, and verified by the medical authorities that death was ‘instantaneous’ in all cases.

After the last body was recovered the team sent the large pieces of the fuselage and wing hurtling down the gulley and later came to be known as ‘Fuselage Gulley’, much of it remains to this day.

Five of the crew of Lancaster TX264 are buried in Kinloss Cemetery, set in the peaceful grounds of the ruined Abbey, they are Sgt W D Beck, Sgt J W Bell, Sgt R Clucas, Flt Sgt J Naismith and Flt Lt P Tennison, in a section reserved for many aircrew who have died flying from RAF Kinloss over the years.

EPILOGUE

On the 28th August 1985, a group of Officer Cadets led by Sergeant Jim Morning and Sgt Tom Jones were airlifted on to the summit of Beinn Eighe by a Sea King Helicopter from 202 Squadron.

One of ‘D’ Dog’s propellers was recovered and put into a lifting net and taken by the helicopter to the road, and then to RAF Kinloss.  The twisted three-blade propeller now stands outside the wooden Mountain Rescue Section building as a permanent memorial to ‘D’ Dog’s crew. This memorial has been replaced and is at RAF Lossiemouth now where the current RAF Rescue Team is operational.

The gully where the aircraft crashed is called by mountaineers Fuselage Gully and one of the propellers has to be climbed over and is used by climbers as a belay in winter.

THE CREW:-   PILOT    Flt Lt H S Reid
SECOND PILOTSgt R Clucas
NAVIGATORFg Off R Strong
SIGNALLERFlt Lt P Tennison
FLIGHT ENGINEERFlt Sgt G Farquhar
SIGNALLERSFlt Sgt J Naismith
 Sgt W D Beck
 Sgt J W Bell
The Crew

The standard of a Mountain Rescue Team, of even the rescue service as a whole fluctuates considerably and, sometimes, alarmingly.  Several factors contribute to this.

For many years there was ‘National Service’ eighteen months to two years.  A Man would be trained as a good mountaineer and when competent he would be lost to civilian life.  Sometimes several members would be demobilised at the same time.  Not only would it be imperative to find new volunteers but also men to train these novices, also the teams had to be commanded.

To say that they were sometimes led by incompetent men is unfair and misleading, but because there might be no experienced men available at one time, they were often led by Officers and NCO’s who would be incompetent to deal with emergencies, even those which might appear simple problems to the experienced mountaineer.

Commando Climber by Mike Banks gives his view on the accident and the recovery.

Sometimes, and by chance, the fault might be corrected in time, for with tact a good team could teach an Officer his job (although no team will tolerate an inefficient NCO.  Either the NCO will go, or the good men and therefore, the standard of the team).  Tact was required on both sides and when life is in the balance, as it always is on rescues; feelings ran too close to the surface.  The fewer experienced mountaineers in a team, the more tolerant prevailed.  As the Service took shape and experienced men were in the majority the teams worked more smoothly, and with, as it were, less emotional involvement.

Teams at the start of 1951 were inadequately equipped and poorly trained, but where – in Wales – this knowledge was confined to the RAF, in Scotland the repercussions of the Beinn Eighe disaster were widely publicised.  About this time two Medical Officers Berkeley and Mason who had put forward suggestions for improved efficiency came to the notice of the Air Ministry.  It was largely due to the efforts of these two Medical Officers that the organisation and training of the teams underwent a drastic change in the following year.

One of the team members who was on the crash and has a unique account of what happened Joss Gosling who lives in Fort William. He was only a young lad at the time and the crash affected him greatly.

Joss’s classic photo at the crash site in 1951

Joss was a competent mountaineer as he had climbed previously before his National Service. He had some unique photos and a diary of events of what happened. He explains how awesome it was to see the corrie for the first time and how he felt during the long days of searching and recovery. His description of the great Corrie being like a Cathedral always sticks in my mind and when the mist swirls in these great cliffs you can feel his words of that eventful time. He explained that the “ugly step” on the ridge caused problems as the kit they had was very poor but they did their best, he is a wonderful man and a great example to us all. Joss was at the crash site on the 50th anniversary in 2001 and speaks with great authority on this tragedy. The RAF Kinloss team put a small memorial on the propeller below the gully in 2001 in memory of those who died in this crash, “lest we forget”

Look at the gear in 1951 – Photo Joss Gosling collection.

I was very privileged to have my last weekend before I retired from the RAF in this area as a member of the RAF Kinloss mrt.  This area due to its history is unique and I have spent many days enjoying these peaks. The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin became test pieces for team training first in summer then in winter conditions. Many of the classic climbs in summer and winter were climbed by team members and a few epic callouts over the years. These hills have huge corries and alpine ridges where rescues have occurred mostly not reported by the National Press. The local Torridon Team and the RAF MR have assisted climbers and walkers over the years.  I have climbed Fuselage gully on many occasions with team members during my 37 years with the Mountain Rescue Service. In early Dec 2007 with two of the young, Kinloss Team members we had a special day. This was my last day with the RAF before I retired. It is a fairly simple climb by modern standards but I broke a crampon at the beginning and it made the day very interesting as we were being chased by a big storm as we descended. One crampon on the steep descent was thought provoking and I can only think of how the team in 1951 with their simple kit coped. I was brought up to respect the history of this majestic area and its people; there was no finer place to spend my last weekend than in this special place. On my retirement I spend a two great years with the Torridon MRT as a team member. Finally retired from Mountain Rescue it is a great privilege to return to and enjoy the beauty of this mountain, its ridges, corries and wild life.          

Recently in 2009 two well known climbers were avalanched whilst descending from Fuselage gully and the wreckage stopped them being seriously injured as one of the climbers hit the propeller on his way down the gully. It made big news in the Press!

Andy Nisbet abseiling from the propeller – Andy Nisbet Collection.

In 2011 on the 60 th Anniversary of the Crash at the exact date a group of serving RAF MRT & Torridon MRT went up to crash site. The actual weather according to Joss Gosling who was on the actual search for the aircraft was very similar. We had thigh deep snow and the journey into the corrie took over 3 hours. BBC Radio Scotland accompanied us on the day and did a programme on the incident. We had a moving ceremony at the crash site, where we left a small wreath. The Stornoway Coastguard helicopter flew over the site as the weather came in making it a very moving day.    Joss now in his 80’s was interviewed by the BBC Scotland at the Hotel where the team had camped 60 years before.

What a story to tell and it still lives on and must never be forgotten.

Beinn Eighe

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.

The long walk, views expanding as we climb.

Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer

They have been there for many years

What have they seen?

Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.

The Cathedral of Beinn Eighe

Memories!

This is a wonderful poignant place.

Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie? 

This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe. 

Joss’s boots on their final journey.

Recently in 2013/2014 and 2016/17/18/19  a relative of the incident Geoff Strong a nephew of Fg Off Robert Strong who was killed in the crash asked to visit the crash site. He lives down South and has now three times made the pilgrimage with myself and friends to the great Corrie. This place even after all these years after the 1951 crash mean so much to many.

People ask why do I visit these places?

“Just speak to Geoff and then look in Joss eyes who was there when he tells his story of a young lad in 1951.” He never forgot what happend here, yet despite the horror they saw this place brought him back again and again to remember the crew who died.

Joss at Beinn Eighe on the 50 th Anniversary.

“Lest We Forget”

RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue have now been disbanded and there place taken by RAF Lossiemouth MRT. The memorial has been moved from Kinloss to Lossiemouth and is looking great well done all concerned,

 I headed up again this May 2109 with Geoff and this time Heather Joss’s daughter to visit the site and may be go over the tops with Heather. Joss is now in his late 80’s and is excited his daughter is going up to see a place that means so much to him. It was great to see that the RAF MR were up the gully this week March 2017 and the tradition lives on as do the teams.

Take care and it is great to see an event such as this still not forgotten.

At the wing below the Gully.

Heavy Whalley March 2017  

In May 2018 I was up again at the crash site with Geoff and Heather, Ian and Andy Joss’s family. We had a new plaque to put on the propeller below the Triple Buttress. Unfortunately the old plaque was put on in 2001 to last and it will take a bit more time to replace it with the new slate one. Joss though not well came up and stayed in a local Hotel and had a meal with us after our wet day on the hill. Though Joss was not well he enjoyed the day and at the end his eyes were sparkling and we had a lovely day thanks to all those who organised it.

Sadly in November 2018 Joss passed away in Fort William surrounded by his loving family his memory will live on every time we visit Torridon and Beinn Eighe.

We did complete the replacement of the plaque on Sat May 11 th 2019 and the family were with us and Geoff Strong. It was a special day.  The plaque is now in place many thanks for all the help of Lossiemouth MRT and Geoff Strong and Joss’s family for providing the new plaque.

The Marines in the Corrie.

I received several letters and emails on the various pieces I have written on the Beinn Eighe Tragedy. Many from relatives and one form the Marines who took Marines to the crash site for Remembrance day and sent the photo above.

David “Heavy” Whalley March 2021. 

David “Heavy” Whalley March 2021. 

Two Star Red Gwen Moffat has a lot of information on this incident.

How Beinn Eighe tragedy transformed Scotland’s mountain rescue operations | The Scotsman

https://www.northern-scot.co.uk/news/70-years-on-raf-lossiemouth…

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-56359623

Photo – E. MacLean winter visit.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

The Chinook Crash Mull Of Kintyre 2 June 1994.

2 June 1994. –   28 Years ago and this story is still as vivid as it was when it happened. 

It started as an unreal day I was stationed at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire I had just stood down as the Full time RAF Mountain Rescue Team Leader and after a short break I was mentally exhausted and I was back on the Kinloss Mountain Rescue team. It was good as I was again a Team member and not the leader a great deal of pressure was gone and I was back in my trade running an office in the Catering Squadron what a change from a full – time Mountain Rescue Team leader.

The station in these days had  regular Exercises “Tacevals” this was 1994 and old habits the Cold War meant that we trained for war and the RAF Station shut down for 3 days as we played war.  It was a very busy time and as a Caterer (my real job) the station was on 12 hour shifts for 3-4 days. It was always and awful time as much was concerned with the station being attacked at the end and various wild scenarios that could occur. Most of us had to go into hardened shelters, practice using gas masks etc, generally an hard time for all.

On this exercise we had we had practiced an aircraft crash on the airfield and just finished it. As usual the top brass in the Station were in charge and it was the usual chaos but as always the RAF MRT were in their element and it was soon sorted with the Team being told to stand down and leave it to the other services on the station to learn. It is so easy dealing with a scenario near the station or on it but away in a remote area another world. This is what the RAF MRT is for and we had many veterans of difficult aircraft crashes and incidents in our team at the team.

It was unreal as just as we finished we had a real crash. The weather was great it was early June and the whole team was available, the pagers and Tannoy blared out and I was at the MRT Section within a few minutes. It was just after 1800 we had been working for 12 hours. The Team Leader Jim Smith said that it was a possible helicopter Crash on the Mull Of Kintyre and a Sea King helicopter was inbound in 5/10 minutes to pick up a “fast party”.

The Mull Of Kintyre is a remote area in the West Coast of Scotland and a long way off. I did not expect to get on the helicopter and the 5 /10 minutes is not long to sort out your world but I was told I was going. I was to be one of the “fast party “they were a very experienced group 5 team members plus the Team Leader that went on the aircraft. The rest of the team another 20 would follow by road a long journey 5- 6 hours away! It was not long after 1800 when we were called and we were away very quickly.

Photo – Arriving at the Lighthouse loaded and wondering what we would find. The mist is clearly visible. Photo David Whalley.

The Flight to the Mull of Kintyre

Jim Smith was the Team Leader he had only recently handed over to me and once you are in the back of a helicopter it is a different world. In the back it is noisy and even in the summer the aircraft is dark and busy with the crew all working hard, it is incredible to watch. Add to that it was a possible military aircraft crash the crew do not hang about. The flight about an hour from Kinloss was so fast we hammered across the mountains. I remember flashing by Ben Alder and heading low and fast to the Mull of Kintyre.

The information is as always was scant and even though it had just happened more information was coming all the time. In the back of the aircraft you feel out of it but then a scrap of paper appears and we were told it was a military helicopter a Chinook with a lot of passengers.

There are a few people who ask you what do you think off as you are in the helicopter? My thought was a lot of casualties the Chinook is a big helicopter and there may be multi –casualties? How would we cope? How would I cope?

As we neared the Mull Of Kintyre the mist was down and the helicopter could only land at the lighthouse landing site in thick mist. It was too difficult to try to get us further up the hill. We could hear the emergency beacons going off in our aircraft just before we landed in a swirling mist right by the lighthouse.

Information was very scant but the beacons were a bad sign and we had to get in quick. We were carrying large trauma/ first aid bags plus our kit and as soon as we landed we had a quick get together. We had the very basic P.P.I. gear with us masks and other paraphernalia but as we had a trudge about half a kilometre up hill to the crash site we decided to move fast and not wear it. You should never approach a burning aircraft from downhill due to the fuel and fire risk – we had no option there was only one way to get to it.

As we left I was worried this was a big incident there were 29 on the aircraft I was praying some would have survived. As we got nearer the smell of fuel and smoke was everywhere as was wreckage and the fires were burning. I said to Kim and Andy please keep an eye on me this is too like Lockerbie for me!

The smoke and fire were so similar. I dreaded what I would see would I cope? I was the only one of our group who had been at Lockerbie and was still struggling 6 years on. Would I cope?

“We split up into pairs to locate the crew a grim job, with the aircraft still burning and banging scene from a movie or hell but this was real life. “

There were a few locals about this is a remote area and the main town Campbeltown is 10 miles away. They were rightly shell shocked and were glad we had arrived. They had done their best but by their faces told us they just were glad we were there.

It is so important to account for all the passengers and crew and we doubled up and raced round the site. There was little we could do all the crew were dead and the crash site was very dangerous, sharp wreckage, fires, smoke and trauma. There were weapons about this was an extremely dangerous place.

We located all the 29 on board all were dead. This was a hard time but we went into professional mode and then updated Jim the Team Leader and all we could do now was secure the site and wait for the support and the rest of the emergency services. Its hard but you have to repeat to everyone like a mantra ~the trauma and dangers about at such a place make it very dangerous”  Add in a few live weapons about and lots of personal belongings,  danger and trauma was everywhere. You have to ensure the minimum amount of are involved to do the task.

This is extremely hard to explain and my attitude which is now common policy I hope is to keep the trauma away from as many as possible.”

The aircraft had been carrying some of the cream of the military, police and civilian anti-terrorist experts to a Conference in Fort George in Inverness and the security implications were to be massive.  It would be a difficult few days ahead for everyone?

These casualties were folk that some of us knew, they had families, they were people and now this had happened. I had seen many incidents in my 20 odd years with Mountain Rescue this was another hard one. I always find it’s hard to take your mind away but you have to get on with the job we had to do. None of the casualties can be moved it’s now a crime scene and a huge investigation will take place, we would be busy. Our Task was protecting the site and to ensure the integrity and that no one gets hurt, these are dangerous places.

We now awaited the emergency services and help from the rest of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams were glad this was a remote crash site. The Press and media would have a long walk to get near the site. It was getting dark and I felt alone as we made a perimeter using the road as a boundary.  I was coping Jim was busy and I was with my small my group and explaining to the powers that were arriving the dangers and horror of what was around.

It was not an easy time but we did our best as you do .

https://www.obantimes.co.uk/2019/05/31/service-to-mark-25th-anniversary-of-chinook-crash-2/

I visited the site with my friend Dan on the way to speak at the Arran festival a few years ago. It was surreal but well worth a visit.

Thanks to all the Agencies who helped over a traumatic few days. Days you will never forget.

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Simple tip – Carry a whistle in the wild places.

In these days of high tech gear one of the best is the whistle. It’s cheap and light and may save your life. In many years of mountain rescue we located many casualties by their whistles.

When I climbed a lot we also did a few rescues of crag-fast folk. This is where the whistle was handy and we carried one on our harness a good tip?

Simple but effective
Posted in Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | 2 Comments

Heat stroke exhaustion !

Over the years I was very lucky to learn about walking in the heat during my time in Desert Rescue in Masirah in the Persian Gulf. Nothing can compare with the Temperatures out there they are incredible and it took a lot to learn to walk or work in that heat. I was off loading planes and ships out in the open and it took some getting used to. We knew very little about heat stroke or exhaustion but carried lots of water on the hill and fruit in tins !

Masirah – Desert Rescue

At the end of the weekend with the desert rescue you could lose a lot of weight and looking back it was a huge learning curb. 

Some tips that worked for me: 

Drink plenty of fluid before you go! We had a saying drink like a camel. 

Wear a head covering hat etc and I always covered my neck with a “bandana” that I would wet whenever possible. 

Go slower, drink a little and often and in your water use an additive electrolytes to replace salts etc lost by sweating. 

Check the colour of your urine when you can. The darker the more dehydrated you are. 

Wear comfortable clothing carry long sleeved shirt trousers and have your breaks when possible in the shade. Also if there’s a breeze on the summit use it to cool down.

Top up your fluid from the rivers and burns whenever possible. 

Use sun screen often and replace on the hill it’s easy to sweat of! 

Skin cancer is serious and I wish we knew had known about it when I was working in the early 70’s. I have lost several pals due to skin cancer. 

Sunglasses are essential look after your eyeless 

When travelling back home in car rehydrate and replace lost fluid. Keep an eye on folk in your group for heat exhaustion/heatstroke it can be a killer, there is little water high up just now so ensure you carry enough.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • a headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • loss of appetite and feeling sick
  • excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
  • cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • being very thirsty

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, they need to be cooled down:

1.     Move them to a cool place or into whatever shade there is available.

2.     Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.

3.     Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.

4.     Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good, too. Cold packs may not be available in the mountains, but you can improvise by using clothing soaked in water.

Heat stroke

If there are no signs of improvement after 30 minutes of treatment for heat exhaustion it may be developing into heat stroke, which can be very serious if not treated quickly. So at that stage you should dial 999 and ask for the Police and then Mountain Rescue.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water
  • not sweating even while feeling too hot
  • a high temperature of 40C or above
  • fast breathing or shortness of breath
  • feeling confused
  • a fit (seizure)
  • loss of consciousness
  • not responsive

While waiting for assistance from Scottish Mountain Rescue you should stay put, try to keep the casualty hydrated. Placing a wet buff or similar on the back of the neck and fanning can all assist with lowering of temperature. If you can provide shade this should be attempted.  

Put the person in the recovery position if they lose consciousness while you’re waiting for help.

Remember yourself and the others in the party: you are all enduring the same high temperature. If the temperature remains high you should all be drinking plenty and doing what you can to remain cool.

Mountaineering Scotland has great advice on there Website .

More information on heat exhaustion and heatstroke from the NHS.

I always rehydrate on my journey home with water and an electrolyte drink it makes sense.

Be aware in hit periods there is a greater fire risk

Posted in Enviroment, Friends, medical, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Hostile Habitats Scotlands Mountain Environment. Hill Flowers and Fauna.

I have always loved seeing the varied flowers and fauna that exist in our mountains. I even hired my pal Tom MacDonald to show me the flowers and Fauna in my backyard the Cairngorms. Within half a mile he showed me over 30 plants. Many I had missed on rushing round the hills. It is so worth stopping and looking at what’s around there is a wealth of flowers, grasses and trees to see. Add to that the varied Geology. We live in a wonderful place and you can discover so much of you slow down and open your eyes.

It’s worrying to see some of the scenes from the highlands right now. Getting out into the hills can benefit us both physically and mentally, but this mustn’t be at the expense of the mountains and delicate ecosystems that exist in and around them.

The SMT publishes Hostile Habitats, a book which introduces each aspect of the Scottish mountains to the read, providing insight that can educate and inspire. Insight that can build awareness of the amazing depth and breadth of the landscape, flora and fauna they contain. Respect starts with understanding, and if you’ve got a friend that has started heading to the hills for the first time why not let them know about this book.

Mountaineering Scotland also provide a wide range of free resources to help you prepare for you first camping or hillwalking trip.

Respect. Protect. Enjoy.

Posted in Book, Enviroment, Mountaineering | 1 Comment