A special day on Terry’s last Corbett with a lot of old and new pals – Am Bachach Kintail.

The forecast was poor and I left early winter must be coming as I had porridge before I left. I was meeting my mate Laurry outside Inverness and going to take my van to Kintail. As always Laurry changed the plan and we left my van.

It was a lovely drive to Kintail a bit wet but the colours of the trees and the hills were magical. Terry though living down South is a member of the Inverness Mountaineering club. We were early and I showed Laurry the memorial just above the Loch to a young student who went missing on the hills in the 60’s , I gave it a clean and told the story to Laurry of how he was found high up on the Affric hills by a keeper after the snows melted. I have written at length about it in my blog.

The Sandeman memorial

3 Jan 1969 – John Sandeman was one of a group of about twenty Edinburgh University students who had come up to Glenmoriston for part of their Xmas vacation for the purposes of climbing and hillwalking. At the time there was a large amount of Hydro-Board construction taking place in the Glen and the construction company, Carmichaels Ltd, had a large work-camp situated on the south side of the road just east of Dundreggan dam. There the party obtained accommodation since the workforce were not on site over the festive season.

On the day in question the students divided themselves into several smaller groups to tackle climbs of varying difficulty and set out into the Cluanie mountains via the large hill called Sgurr nan Conbhairean.

The Munro

The Munro where the young climber went missing.

John Sandeman was one of a group of four led by 19-year old Andrew Kerr and their route took them towards Bealach Coire a’ Chait; Sandeman was not a very experienced climber, however, and he found himself in a group who were just too good for him. About 3.10, with little of the short winter’s day ahead of them he had started to flag and had dropped some 100 yards behind his companions. They pressed on , crossed a false summit and returned. Sandeman was no longer following them. They assumed that he had dropped out and gone back down to the road, but when they did not meet him, they retraced their steps back up the bealach. When once more they did not find him, they returned to Cluanie and back to Dundreggan where the alarm was raised.”The whole party went out after dark, searched the lower hills and corries, but returned at 5 a.m. without success. It was just after returning that they learned that the missing climber’s father, 70-year old Mr Robert Sandeman, a retired jute manufacturer, had died suddenly the previous evening. John Sandeman, however, was well enough equipped to survive a night in the open and so the search resumed the next day.

The Police were told “At about 1515 on Sunday the 3 January, John Sandeman became separated from his party whilst walking from Coire a Chait and Sgurr nan Conbhaireen!. He has not been seen since.”

After being called at 0730 on the Monday the 4 Jan 1960 the RAF Kinloss MRT arrived at the Cluannie in at 1100. After conferring with the Police and local civilians it was decided to carry out a sweep search on either side of the route taken by Mr Sandeman after being separated from his companions.

That evening Monday 4 Jan it was learned that civilians from Inverness and Fort William would be available next day to search.  It was decided that the steep ground NE of Sgurr nan Conbhairean. This task was delegated as follows; Area between last known position and Loch Cluannie to be searched by civilians. Steep ground  NE of Conbhairean searched by MRT.  The decision to call of the search was due to the falling snow making it difficult to locate the casualty impossible!

Civilian assistance was on a comparatively large scale, parties coming from Inverness and Fort William. Co – ordination was difficult since the parties arrived at different times. In accordance with the pre –arranged plans they were allocated search areas by the local Constable. The lateness of the start of the civilian searchers and the onset of thick weather made this search virtually abortive. It is difficult to see how an efficient effort by civilians can be achieved unless facilities exist – such as a Youth Hostel  – where search parties can concentrate the evening before the search!

( I would imagine that the road conditions, poor communications did not help. D. Whalley)

Red flares reported were used by the Fort William Police to concentrate their parties.

Mention must be made of the great help given by the following: Mr Tom Ross the local hill farmer with great local knowledge. Constable MacKay of Dornie was out on the hills both days and his initial

Investigation of the students was very much to the point. Finally Mr Tennant of the Kintail Lodge Hotel wh organised the local civilian effort and made freely of his one transport.

It is presumed that he injured himself and died of exposure somewhere to the SW of Sgurr nan Conbhairean.

Footnote – On Friday, September 21st 1962, a shepherd, George MacKay, who was out gathering sheep with his employer, Mr. T. D. Girvan, saw something sticking up in the heather behind some boulders.

It turned out to be an ice-axe with the initials J.D.S. It looked as though its owner had just stuck it in the ground and sat down beside it to rest. With the axe were found some residual human -remains in company with a watch, cigarette lighter, spectacles and boots. John Sandeman had been found some two and a half years after his disappearance.

The area where he was found was at the top of Glen Fada, north of Aonach Shasuinn on the marches of the Ceannacroc and Guisachan Deer Forests.

We all met at the Clunnie Hotel for coffee. Some others came from South Terry’s friends from the past. We had coffee in the cafe and drove to the lay by to the start of our hill. I had all my waterproofs on.

Ready to go !

Am Bachach is only a short day but the weather was changing with heavy rain and winds forecast. I had left my inhaler and took my place at the back coughing and spluttering! It was great company so many wonderful characters and good views at time’s.

Terry and Gillian his wife l.

Everyone was enjoying the day and I just coughed my way up hill. It’s a good but muddy path. I put on gloves and my hat from the beginning and wondered how did o manage to climb in the past the North and South Clunnie in a day?

Me at the back the colours were magical on the hill as always at this time of year.

The group were great and waited for me to catch up and I got some magical views of the exceptional light. The rain was cold at time’s and tomorrow’s forecast of snow for the high tops was in the air.

On the hill

It was great to meet so many folk and myself and Helen Her husband Brian our doctor on Everest in 2001 had a great chat ( when I could) we got views of the big Affric hills and Kintail hills. The rivers were high in the Glen the path muddy and we were soon at the first top. At 734 metres we could see our summit about a kilometre away.

It was then on slowly the rest pulled ahead but waited for me near the summit

We found some shelter out of the wind and had a break were Terry had some champagne photos and food.

I got my breath back ate a piece and then as we were soaked headed down. It was still wet but a lot easier on the way off. At the bottom a cake was produced and we went back to the cafe at Clunnie for a warm drink.

The new Corbeteer.

It was a quick change then to Terry’s bed and breakfast for a superb meal. We were treated so well by the owners and the food was magnificent. I got cramp at time’s first time for ages. Thank you to our hosts for a lovely meal.

Binnilidh Mhor B&B

Situated in the tranquil Scottish Highlands, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, Binnilidh Mhor B&B offers easy access to outdoor activities such as hill-walking, horse riding, fishing, kayaking, and bird watching. The property is set less than 10 miles from Loch Ness and just off the A887 road to the Isle of Skye.

This property consists of 3 large en-suite bedrooms, 2 of which are suitable for guests with mobility difficulties. Guests can benefit from free Wi-Fi, an iPod docking station, a flat-screen TV, tea/coffee making facilities, hairdryer, ironing facilities and a silent fridge.

There is a lounge area which has a roaring log fire for winter days.

Breakfast is made of locally sourced ingredients and includes full Scottish and a continental option. Evening meals and packed lunches are available upon advanced request.

Binnilidh Mhor B&B is 15 miles from the historical town of Fort Augustus with its medieval Abbey. Guests can easily reach the famous location of Loch Ness and several famous Scottish Castles such as Urquhart and Eilean Donan. Inverness airport and the Isle of Skye is 1 hour’s drive from the property. Magical

We left about 2000 leaving Terry Gillian Ritchie and Alison to some peace and drove back to Inverness finding my cat locked in the Car park. Laurry dropped me off laughing and headed home . I got 5 star lodgings at my stepdaughters and made my granddaughters day. Apart from cutting my head as I slipped! The girls were shocked but soon went into Nurses mode . Yvette and Dave laughed only I could be so daft. I was well looked after and spent the night with my beautiful girls and Dave and Yvette.

What a day met so many great folk forgot about the mess the world is in. Thanks to Terry and Gillian for a great day to everyone who attended it was great to see you. Sorry I was so slow. Yet to be up in the hills despite the weather to see the colours the wind battering your face was wonderful.

The Doc Brian snd Helen !

There’s something about hill folk that make even a wet wild day fun. Even at my pace.

Posted in Mountaineering, Family, Friends, Wildlife, Corbetts, Enviroment, mountain safety, Munros, Weather, Corbetts and other hills, People, Health, Well being | Leave a comment

River crossing – memory

These words below are from an incident in 1982 when a USAF 111 crashed on Sgur Na Stri on Skye on a wild night in December.

“The first obstacle was the river but there was a very rickety bridge which we crossed with trepidation, it was pitch dark. snowing and an aircraft had crashed on the hill. Looking back we were high on adrenaline and were soon across, my dog swimming the fast flowing river. It was bitter cold and the smell of aviation fuel and burning was unmistakable.

The bridge at Camusunary

Rivers can be very dangerous especially at this time of year, most mountaineers will tell a tale of an impossible river where all you can do is try higher or wait till the river goes down. In my big Walks in the 70’s and 80’s we crossed some huge rivers.

Imagine if this river at the Fannichs was in spate ?

River Awareness-

Two of my friends recently very experienced mountaineers have had snags with rivers and the rain is still falling with today a break and then more rain for the weekend. One was on a big walk in the Cairngorms he was alone and coming back in the dark in Glen Feshie could not cross the river and that was on the forestry road a ford in the Glen was flooded.  He sensibly waited in the trees and crossed later next day when the river had slowed down. Two others were in Knoydart after two big Corbett’s and could not cross the river even though they went upstream for an hour. They camped and waited till next day. What great decisions they made sadly in a real situation and you are late back off the hill many of us will push on despite consequences and many think a river can be a problem.. Rivers at night in spate are a massive danger and it worth reminding folk especially at this time of year. After a after a hard day these wild rivers, heavy showers, and sleet, strong winds and  limited daylight you have to take great care.

 Please be aware that river crossing is serious and most years there are a few accidents in rivers. I have been lucky on a few occasions and I know of a few where the rivers were so high that hill parties have spent the night on the hill and to let the river calm down!  The big mountains are still shedding lots of water add to that more heavy rain due and you can have a problem, so please be aware of the power of nature and the effect on a mere human.

I have been on several call outs where a group has been unable to cross due to heavy flooding and have had to wait sometimes overnight to let the river drop.  In times of heavy rainfall, swollen streams can provide a formidable problem for the mountain walker. And crossing them can present hazards far more serious than just wet feet.

A friend sent me this photo – crazy stuff – rivers can kill even the most experienced so please be aware of the dangers.

Crazy river, Crazy Tarquin Photo

Avoidance is the key – careful planning of a trip and good observation should almost eliminate the chances of a difficult crossing. However, local flooding is not always predictable and occasionally a wet crossing is necessary, particularly in remote parts of Scotland. Fast moving water can be powerful and difficult to exit from. The water will be cold and the river bed slippery and awkward. Downstream obstacles such as trees, waterfalls and boulder chokes may prove killers if anybody is swept away. Mountaineering equipment is not designed with swift water in mind and will generally hinder rather than help. And if things go wrong during a stream or river crossing there can be many potentially serious problems to deal with, such as a split party, communication difficulties, immersion hypothermia, loss of equipment, injury etc. Ski poles are very hand as well and have helped me and others on many occasions.

On our big walks across Scotland  in the bad weather the most danger was crossing the rivers after a heavy rain or thawing snow. It gave me even more respect for these hazards that on a good day are so simple.   On our winter walk West – East in 1978 in November/ December near the end of a huge 4 days where the A9 was closed we were trying to make Braemar after a huge 13 hour day , it was full on winter. The last problem was the river Dee after a crazy day on these remote Munros Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch. It had been a terrible trip and we were completely exhausted. The navigation was very hard and the snow deep, ploughing through deep snow all day. At the end of the day we had to cross the river Dee near the Chest of Dee when Jim fell in the frozen river. He was very lucky to get out and was incredibly cold, there was no way he could change and just wrung out his gear and headed out. We had a bit of an epic getting to Linn Of Dee. I was sent to the Keepers house where the kindly keeper took us in for the night. We could not make the road walk to Braemar so knackered we were.

Even more recently in December a few years  ago we could not cross the river after a few days at Coruisk in December and had to wait for the next day. All the usual crossings were too dangerous and it was hold on and then leave, I have seen strong men and women swept down a river and been to incidents where sadly things have gone very wrong.

The power of nature always rules and the best thing to do is to respect it and wait till things calm down. There is lots of advice on river crossings mainly for MLC Training but at times you have to let nature run its course.  It’s a lot different in the dark in an area you may not know well and a river in full spate is not the place to be.

Every year the rivers taught me something how they change and how you have to be aware of them, well worth looking at that route you planned, Remember the daylight is getting shorter and a river may slow you down or even benight you. Check that route, check the torch and battery  always think common sense 

Worth a thought? Some great advice here:

More information.



Comments and photos welcome.

Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Hopefully today a Corbett completion by my mate Terry Moore on Am Bathach – 798 “The Byre” ( Kintail) forecast not great.

Am Bathach

I have not been on the hill for a while had a big tooth removed ( it took two hours to get it out) My mate Terry of over 45 years finishes his Corbett’s today in Kintail.

The forecast is poor wet and windy but we will have a good day. I was with him when he completed his Munro’s with Jim Morning on Sgurr Na Ciche in 1978 That was a long day.

Terry and Jim’s last Munro 1978

Terry has always been a superb all rounder. He has climbed in the Himalayas on Everest ‘s West Ridge done many peaks in the Himalayas. Yet it was on our winter West to East in Scotland in the late 70,s where he was a great companion. We were pushed to our limits yet he always remained Mr Cool along with Jim Morning way out of my league. A strong rock climber as well never phased and climbed the Skye ridge in 12 hours this year on his late 60’s. What a man of the mountains and always unassuming.

The Corbetts & Other Scottish Hills was first published in 1990 as a companion volume to the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s comprehensive guide to The Munros. This new edition has been fully updated by both previous and new authors and is complemented throughout by new mapping and a large number of new photographs. The guidebook details routes up all 222 Corbetts (Scottish hills between 2,500 ft. and 3,000 ft.) and many other popular lower hills. Other hills include popular classics such as Criffel, Tinto, The Pentlands, The Eildons, The Ochils, Ben Venue, Mount Blair, Bennachie, Stac Pollaidh, Suilven and a wide range of hills throughout the islands, from Lewis to Arran. The book has been edited by Rob Milne and Hamish Brown.

The Corbett’s

The Corbett’s are great hills I would say harder to do than the Munro’s. They take you to many places that you may not have visited and the views of the great peaks can be unsurpassed. I have only one left to climb and hope to get it done before the winter!

Today’s final Corbett is Am Bathach is often climbed with its lofty neighbour a Munro Ciste Dubh. It’s often climbed in ascent or descent from Ciste Dubh. The ascent from the main road A87 is an undulating grassy ridge is undulating and an airy ridge especially in winter. Yet the views on a clear day of this wonderful area are inspiring. I doubt we will get them today.

Am Bathach

Weather permitting !

Weather today – Southwesterly 25 to 40mph, strongest in morning when risk 45mph northern tops. Veering northwesterly by evening.

Very blustery with fairly arduous conditions for several hours, especially in the north, with marked wind chill.
How wet?
(Precipitation and its impact)
Passing showers, rain/snow later.
A scattering of showers spreading from the west, mostly brief, becoming sleet or wet snow on higher summits.

Later in the afternoon, rain spreading from the north, increasingly snow on the Munros. As it clears toward evening, snow will descend on back edge to 400-500m.

Cloud on the hills?
Chance of cloud free Munros?
Mostly higher tops, later extensive in rain and snow.
Covering many higher summits in the morning, particularly near west coast plus Clyde lochs, where patches will frequently cap tops above 800m. Inland and much of Lochaber, breaks forming toward higher tops. Increasingly extensive hill fog developing widely later in the afternoon as rain and snow develops.
30% west/south; 50% inland. Lowering widely to 20% later in afternoon.
Air clarity (below cloud)
Occasional sun, mostly well inland.
Becoming overcast afternoon.
Visibility very good, then widely becoming poor and very poor in rain and snow later.
How Cold? (at 900m)
Freezing Level
3C, lowering to -1 or -2C by evening.
Above the summits up to dawn, but likely to drop during the morning to 1200-1300m. Will then drop markedly toward evening to 600-

Posted in Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Friends, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Self Reliance ( meaning “reliance on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others”) on the mountains a few thoughts.

It is what many of us call this is the “silly season” it’s already started in my mind. The daylight hours are now shortening and the weather changing. Mountain Rescue Teams are getting busy as the weather, daylight catch folk out. We all make mistakes but I my view we should be a lot more self reliant when out on the mountains and wild places.

The Mamores early winter practising basic skills.

I was taught by so many great mentors one of the things was “self reliance “ a lot of folk still think that if they get into trouble all the have to do is pick up your phone call the Police and a Helicopter or Mountain Rescue Team will appear. Sadly this is not always the case !

How many folk know how many helicopters are there in Scotland that can respond weather permitting to launching an SAR aircraft to assist. They may have so many other things on. Like a rescue at sea a big crash that needs immediate evacuation a sick child that’s need to go to hospital quickly from a remote area. Someone has to prioritises these incidents. So you with your broken ankle or lost in the hills you may have a long wait before the “cavalry” arrive.

Are you prepared for hunkering down and waiting for assistance ? Try it spend some time on a summit and see how cold it gets.

Do you carry any emergency clothing such as an insulated jacket survival bag or bothy bag. A bothy bag is invaluable if it all goes wrong.

Do you carry a spare battery (a charger that will top up your phone there not expensive and a must for your phone) in a waterproof case that’s if you can get a signal, a torch that works a map compass etc . All part of being Self reliant !

So I ask you to look at the weather plan your day as we lose daylight, leave your route with someone you trust. The mountain Rescue teams and Dogs will find you but need to know what your plans were. You must try to be self reliant in every aspect.

Do not be a follower learn to navigate. Paths are snow covered in winter conditions change everything. Guide book time’s can be so different in deep snow or bad weather re appraise your route to suit the conditions.

A simple whistle is such an important tool as is communicating with your companions. Look after your companions do not let them lag behind stay together. Have a plan if all goes wrong.

At this time of year rivers flood and sometimes are uncross able. How would you cope with that? Check the weather forecasts and listen to good local advice.

Yet the hills this time of year with the stags bellowing as the rich autumn colours are a joy to see.

As I said try and find out how many helicopters are available for SAR in Scotland you could have a long wait are you prepared for that. Could you look after your companion if they are struggling ?

The Mountain Rescue Teams are all volunteers, great people who all live the mountains and wild places. We can all do our bit to help by trying to be as safe as we can. Yet if we are in trouble they will and do risk their lives for us. We are so lucky to have them so why not support your local team or an area you love. A little donation can help a huge bit.

Beinn Eighe .

The UK has an unique Mountain Rescue Service that as many envy let’s not take it for granted. There are many out there who will criticise this free service so we have to be on guard for that. There are so many good folk out there doing so much for others that never get the thanks they deserve?

Comments as always welcome you can donate to your local Mountain Rescue team or favourite area through the teams website or Facebook pages. You get this wee blog for free so why not help others.

Enjoy the hills and have fun !

Out in the winter ! Marvellous .

So please check your kit!

Plan your day for the time of year and conditions.

Ensure you carry a map in a waterproof case and compass and be confident in their use.

Carry a back up battery for your phone.

Make sure your torch is serviceable.

Winterise you’re hill bag.

Carry spare gloves losing a glove can be so serious in winter.

Plan your route – early start. Get weather forecast and later on Avalanche reports.

No when to turn round “the hills will always be there, the secret is to be there with them.

Leave your route with someone you trust with what you want done if your late etc.

Do not be a “follower” take part in all aspects of your hill day.

It’s not hill walking in winter it’s winter mountaineering !

A great piece of gear is a simple whistle if it all goes wrong.

As always comments welcome?

There is great information on the Mountaineering Scotland website it’s free and a brilliant tool. Well worth a look Mountaineering . Scotland website

Posted in Articles, Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 7 Comments

Past memories of the Lockerbie Tragedy thanks to these two great troops in 2018. Cycle to Syracuse!

It is amazing when photos turn up due to modern media . This one is very special. It was taken on my way to Edinburgh on a wild day cycling through a storm from Lockerbie. It was a hard day physically and mentally and without those two and a few others I would have struggled. I was training to go on my Cycle to Syracuse in the USA for the 30 th Anniversary of Lockerbie in 2018.

Scouse and Mark wet and cheerful.

As part of the 30th Anniversary 0f Lockerbie I took part in the Cycle to Syracuse.

Cycle to Syracuse – A team of cyclists from Lockerbie, Scotland, will arrive at Syracuse University on Thursday, Nov. 1, completing a 3,238-mile journey in honor of the victims of Pan Am 103.

This is from the write up on 2018 :

The Cycle to Syracuse team will arrive on the Einhorn Family Walk in front of the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center at 3 p.m. Bagpipers will lead the cyclists up the walk to the front of the Schine Student Center, where a brief program will be held.

Members of the University community are invited and encouraged to attend and welcome the cyclists.

The Cycle to Syracuse team is composed of five cyclists. Four are first responders: Colin Dorrance, representing Police Scotland; David Walpole, representing the Scottish Ambulance service; David Whalley, representing the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue; and Paul Rae, representing the Scottish Fire and Rescue. The fifth cyclist, Brian Asher, is the head teacher of Lockerbie Academy. The school shares a strong bond with Syracuse University, and is the school from which come the Lockerbie-Syracuse Scholars, who study at the University each year.

In addition to honoring the victims, the ride is intended to raise awareness of emergency services and mental health issues.

The ride has been completed in three stages. Students at Lockerbie Academy and surrounding primary schools rode exercise bikes or their own bikes at their local school throughout September and October, culminating in a final event at Lockerbie Academy on Oct. 10.

For the next stage, a 70-mile cycle ride from the memorial cairn at Lockerbie Academy to Edinburgh Castle took place on Oct. 13. 2018.

Meeting this lady was the climax of the journey.

In the final stage, team members are cycling more than 600 miles from Washington, D.C., to Syracuse, arriving in time to participate in Syracuse University’s Annual Rose-Laying Ceremony to honor the 270 victims of Pan Am 103, including 35 SU students, lost on Dec. 21, 1988.

Look Back Act forward!

The two in my photo were just “young bairns “in the Mountain Rescue Team and were part of a huge effort over 34 years ago! In 2018 they looked after me in 70 miles of pouring rain from Lockerbie to Edinburgh. Thanks Scouse Atkins and Mark Hartree for helping me on that wild day. I had various spills on my bike including a few bad falls and rib injuries.

Thank you for what you and so many others did all these years ago. Sorry for being slow but what an emotional day🚲 Great assistance from the Feechan Flyers sound people so much support from everyone especially the Cycle to Syracuse Team. Your all special.

It was an emotional journey in appalling weather during Storm Callumn and I never really recovered from that soaking. It left me with a real problem that was ongoing in my chest after 45 years of mountaineering in all weathers . Mentally it was an incredible journey meeting so many families who lost their loved ones in that awful night in 1988. As you look back I was so glad I struggled to go on the trip but it was life changing. Thanks to all who were part of the journey. As the days get closer to the anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster in December it is still dark time for many. Including me. Yet this trip really helped me meeting so many families and hearing there stories of loved ones lost.

Lockerbie window

The World has moved on my health will never be the same I still will never get over those dark days in 1988. Being the RAF Mountain Rescue Team Leader it took so much out of me and so many in Mountain Rescue, SARDA and many other Agencies. It was a different world then and nothing could prepare you for the journey years later. Hopefully the hard won lessons have been learned for future generations. Yet the way the world is going I worry about the future?

Comments as always welcome and a huge thanks to all who helped look after me. You know who you are.

Posted in Cycle to Syracuse Training, Mountain rescue, People, PTSD, Well being | 4 Comments

From Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Over recent months there has been an increase in the number of mountain incidents across Scotland, and now autumn is in full swing we’d like to remind people venturing into the hills to check your kit to ensure you are fully prepared. Ensure you have suitable clothing for any weather conditions you may encounter and have within your rucksack a spare warm layer (jacket, fleece), spare gloves, hat and extra food.

In addition to that it is important to have a map for the area you are walking in, a compass (know how to use it) and a torch and spare batteries. We have moved into autumn and the evenings are getting darker and the temperature is dropping.

We recommend that you don’t use a mobile phone as your only navigation aid as they have their limitations, if you do get into difficulty try and keep as much charge in your phone battery as you can, (in the cold battery life is very short).

Remember, if you do require assistance, phone 999 and ask for Police then Mountain Rescue, try and stay calm and give as much information to the operator as you can (what the emergency is, where you are, size of party, telephone numbers in your party, any known medical issues etc), bear in mind however that given the remoteness of some of the areas, mobile phone signal can be very poor and it can take a number of hours for the rescue team to get to you.

Leaving a route card of your intended journey with family or a friend can assist our Mountain Rescue teams too.

With a bit of forward planning, looking at weather forecasts, thinking about your route and your skills will enable you to have an enjoyable day out in the wonderful mountain environment we have in Scotland.

Picture Credit: Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team

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Early lesson – Leaving your bag below a route in winter ? I learned about Mountaineering from that.

In the mid 80’s at the “invincible stage” in my mountaineering our annual winter course was held over 2 weeks in the Cairngorms and Lochaber. This was when young team members from the 6 RAF teams came for a winter mountaineering experience. It was a one to one pupil instructor and a hard course weather driven with snow holing and lots of winter climbing.

The pupils were graded by the amount of climbing they did and what winter mountain days they got in. In addition there was usually at least one call out per course. The troops got one day off, most needed it.

That winter it had been a long one already I had climbed a lot and thought I knew the Cairngorms like the “back of my hand” in my experience few do and many learn the hard way about these wild mountains by not treating them with respect.

The Northern Corries especially Coire an t-Sneachda) are ideal for winter climbing only a short walk from the car park at 2000 feet even with a big winter bag. Yet once you climb a route you can be on one of the most hostile places in the Uk the Cairngorm plateau. The central of the three Northern Corries of Cairn Gorm provides one of the most reliable and easily accessed winter climbing venues in Scotland. Its high altitude and northerly aspect allow its rocky mixed routes to come into condition easily. The relatively short approach from the Cairngorm ski centre, combined with plenty of good climbs in the low to mid grades, mean it is often busy, particularly early in the season. There is also a fair amount of worthwhile rock climbing in summer, including the classic Magic Crack.

Guide book

My pupil on that last day was needing one more route to get assessed. So off we went I was climbing okay ( for me) so we picked the Alladins Mirror Direct a mid graded route with a steep ice start. I had done it often and thought we could get up it before the weather broke. In these days the forecasts were not as good as today but a big storm was coming on later in the day.

another day !

Guide book – The Mirror Direct grade 4 – The only obvious blue ice in the couloir. A short ice wall leads to an in situ belay. The upper reaches of the normal route offer some superb scenery.
Very suitable for learners.
Can vary hugely in difficulty and length depending on the current conditions.

Lesson 1 – take a good look at the conditions forecast.

We set off my partner was slow tired after a hard course. The snow was very deep on the way in and we had my dog Teallach route finding as the path was snow covered.

Lesson 2 – think how is your partner feeling tiredness etc ?

An early sign ?

We took it easy meeting a few climbers walking out saying it was not a great day and we’re aborting. We geared up and the climbs were empty and all the steps were snow covered there had been heavy snow overnight.

Lesson 3 – Recent heavy snow a warning sign.

Teallach my dog knew the routine he would dig a hole and wait for us to climb. We decided that I would take my bag with spare gear leaving his bag with the dog. He would have his head torch in my bag plus some spare kit.

We started climbing we were below the ice pitch which snow serpents were coming down. A wee wind was picking up and snow was moving about . There was no one else about I could hear a few of our parties saying they were going for a walk on my radio.

Lesson 4 / leaving bags was not a good idea or was the big change in conditions.

It took a bit of time to get up that first pitch it’s steep but short grade 3/4 all ice. The snow was that heavy I took my specs off and had my goggles on. I got to the belay fixed pegs buried by snow and brought the young lad up.He struggled but got up. I thought let’s abseil off but he wanted to get the route finished to get some leading in. It’s easy ground but can be serious and is about 400 feet to the top.

Lesson 5 – Decision making – we should have abseiled off but I decided to keep going!

He took a long time to climb the easy ground got a few runners in but I could not hear if he was belayed safely or not. After a while I set of and got up to him he was still faffing over a belay. I sorted it and then took the lead. Though easy this can be complex ground.

another day on the Mirror Direct heading up to the plateau.

I moved as fast as I could the snow was deep in places and avalanche prone but kept to the rocks and I kept the pitches short. The weather got worse and I could see he was struggling but in mind the safest way was to keep going.

Lesson 6 – pushed into decisions ?

Eventually I made the plateau it was wild By now a Gale. There was no one was about and I got a message from the troops asking where we were? I gave them an update of about 2 hours ! We ate some food I packed the rope and the gear whilst my partner took a bearing to get us off the hill. I was busy and did not check it (big mistake) but we just wanted off that hill.

Lesson 7 – always check bearings ! We wandered in the white out for about 20 minutes there was no visibility I felt something was wrong. I had given him my Map and asked for it back. He took it out of his pocket and off it went into the void. No map now in a storm this was very serious.

Lesson 8 – Always carry 2 Maps !

This was getting so serious it was full on white out so I got the rope out and took a rough bearing using my area knowledge back to hopefully to the cliffs . After 30 minutes I reached the cliffs I knew roughly where I was. So we headed into the void along the ridge I got the odd landmark by going near the edge found the mushroom stone and worked my way along the Corrie. It was looking back exhausting always ensuring that my partner was attached to me by a short rope.

I knew the way back was down by the Mess of Pottage but in the white out I could not be sure. The weather was full on my companion suffering running on empty. It was dark now but I noticed that my partner had dropped his torch on the way off. So it was all on my head torch light. I found what I thought was the descent into the Corrie. Warily I dropped over the Cornice and we were safe climbed up and brought him down. It was out of the wind at last and how better I felt but the snow was so deep.

We descended the Corrie was full of snow very deep and very avalanche prone. It was late now about 8 pm, pitch dark but I could see a little light in the Corrie what a relief . My partner was in his last legs we so lucky. What I thought was a simple day turned into an epic and a catalogue of simple errors. The light in the Corrie was my mate Don Shanks who was worried about us. We got down to him. He had walked back in to the Corrie what a star.

I was so pleased to see him and left him with my partner and went up to collect the dog.

It was hard pull up to the route only then did I realise how tired I was. I then found him the start of the route out of the snow came Teallach attached to my partners bag. He had been up there for about 8 hours waiting for us to come back. It was then a trudge home with Don’s long legs making a path home. We were so glad to get in that wagon back to Grantown. The warmth of the wagon I realised we were still wearing our harnesses. Don drove us back whilst I talked non stop and my companion slept .

It was then the walk of shame back at Base having to tell the tale to all. Huge lessons learned another day of learning and could have been much more serious. I learnt about winter mountaineering from that ? How exhausted was I that day and how lucky ?

Have you any stories to share ?

Comments as always welcome !

Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

New easy Routes – “sporting lines” in winter Slip, sliding away!

I was looking at a few old photos. It’s great as the memories come back especially when you went a new way up a mountain. Often you did not know what to expect but often the route gave you a surprise. Wandering would take you to some great places and provide some sport. The route below formed in a very cold winter spell in 1990 was only grade 2/3 but was as they say a “sporting line” onto one of Scotland’s finest winter mountains Liathach in Torridon.

Liathach climbing from the path in the Glen Water ice all the way to the ridge.

It’s amazing that in these days we wandered up lines into remote Corries. This gave us so much unique knowledge of these wild areas and great area knowledge. No guide book, or climb by numbers descriptions.

Some of the other mountains like Seanna Bhraigh, Beinn Dearg ( Ullapool) Strathfarrar and An Teallach provided adventures over the years. Rarely did we meet anyone and we were away from the crowds or did we claim the routes. Most were easy but so satisfying to arrive on a ridge by a different way.

Great conditions !

Most were adventures and climbs spotted on summer Stravaigs. We also managed a lot of low level ice routes when the big routes were out due to weather. It’s always worth having a look.

Heavy Handed Loch Broom ice ! Dancing on thin ice.

In the Late 70’s we would wander round cliffs in the winter usually finding some line. Beinn Dearg was always kind to us. I climbed a lot with Mark Sinclair (RIP) who would sing at time’s. The Paul Simon lyrics from 1975!

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away” crazy days but magic.

So if you fancy an adventure it does not have to be hard to be enjoyable and there something about picking a “sporting line”up a mountain or cliff. There still lots to do!

Loch Broom ice .

Comments welcome.

Posted in Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

A new book on the way from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust on Tom Patey .

Hamish and Tom Patey photo SMT publications

From the Scottish Mountaineering Trust

“Tom Patey is a Scottish climbing legend who needs no introduction. His climbing escapades, evening antics and desire for adventure combine to produce a character unlike any other in our country’s climbing history.

We are very excited to announce that we’ve just added his biography to our list of future publications. We’ll be working with the author Mike Dixon over the coming months to bring this extensively researched book into being in 2022.” SMT

I love Tom Patey book “One Mans Mountains is a classic” one of the best mountaineering books I have ever read. I know that the Scottish Mountain Trust will ensure this is another great addition to there publications . I am sure Mike Dickson will do a great job of such a book. I hope many of the unknown tales are included. Tom Patey’s spell climbing with the Marines down South and hope Hamish MacInnes had an input into the research before he left us.

I am sure Hamish had Tom’s desk in his house at Glencoe that he used as an office?

Thank you SMT for this project. If it is anything like their publication of Hamish’s last book it will be superb.

I will be awaiting this book eagerly .

Comments as always welcome !

One mans Mountains a true classic! Have you read it ?

From the SMT website 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 mountain amenities, especially in the mountains of Scotland.

The 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.

Where the money goes

Below are shown the totals of the grants and loans made by the Trust in its major areas of activity in the period 1990-2019.

Footpath Construction and Maintenance

£486,000Funding for Mountaineering Scotland

£235,000 Land Purchase £68,500Mountaineering Education and Training

£36,000Mountain Rescue Equipment and Facilities

£74,000Support of Expeditions

£34,500Renovation of Club Huts£315,000

Others – £321000

Total – £1,570,000

Great work so every time you purchase a book from the SMT some of the money goes to good causes.

Posted in Articles, Books, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

The Torridon hills some memories.

The other day I was up a lovely wee hill An – Ruadh Meallean near Torridon that gave me a great view of the West side of the Torridon Munro Beinn Alligin. I have done several big call outs on this mountain here in my days of mountain Rescue assisting the local Torridon and Kinlochewe MRT and SARDA in the past. These Torridon’s are huge hills with long approaches at times in to remote Corries in poor weather. Alligin is a wonderful hill but few see all sides of it chasing the Munro summits.

Yesterday I could see the West side of Alligin and it was the scene of a tragic avalanche accident in March 1986.

It must be remembered that there was little avalanche information for this area in these days. Weather reports were not as good as nowadays and there were no mobile phones. Big searches in these areas would involve lots of manpower and dogs and local teams would often assist each other in big searches.

In 2014 for the first time, SAIS provide a limited forecast for the Torridon area in the North West Highlands. How things have changed now we have a full report every avalanche season..

This was the Call – out details .

27 March 1986 – West Ridge of Beinn Alligin – Walker killed in 300 metre fall and two companions suffered broken legs and hypothermia. Spotted from the air by a Wessex helicopter and one of the MRT who saw a glove in the snow !

Beinn Alligin the other side.

Looking back it was a lucky break that the glove was noticed in the snow. The weather was not great but sadly one climber died but the other two were saved. Looking back they were in a bad way. Finding someone alive in such circumstances was pretty unusual at the time from a major avalanches.

Heavy and Berty plus Teallach – Early morning at the start of the day on the Torridon Trilogy. Photo D Tomkins

Yet its ok many hills I have so many mixed memories. Beinn Alligin at the end of the Torridon Trilogy with Liathach and Beinn Eighe. At the time in 1980 it was a great day. Coming off Beinn Alligin with my mates Dave Tomkins, Bertie and Teallach was a such an adventure !

The Wilds of Torridon.

As was Liathach and Beinn Eighe in winter classic mountaineering. The Torridon’s have so much to offer. So many great days climbing on Beinn Eighe on the superb Triple Buttresses in summer and winter. Visits to the Lancaster crash and so many ascents of Fuselage Gully in summer and winter. The Northern pinnacles on Liathach a (must) another great day as are some of the great ice routes in the Corries. Meeting friends like Martin Moran often on these hills he loved.

I have great memories of wild adventures coming of in the dark on these great peaks that test you no matter how much you think you know them? Troops trusting you and so glad to reach the safety of the Glen.

Classic painting.

In all I have never had a bad day here in any weather hopefully more to come !

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Are you ready for the change to winter?

Hopefully we have still got some summer left but I have not been out for a while but heading West this weekend. So I had a look at my kit. My summer bag was light.

I have added some more gear to my bag !

Warm gloves ( plus a spare) A better hat for winter and a buff.

My winter waterproofs are in. Bothy bag checked and torches. I carry two. Worth checking your torch after every trip.

I carry a small flask in winter well worth the weight.

My phone battery is also checked as is my map and compass. It’s easy to break a compass that has been in your bag all summer.

I noticed when I was teaching navigation last year that a lot of guys rely on their phone as a watch. I still use a watch especially for navigation legs and timing . Comments ?

A few tips / Get away early have a cut of point in the day to be down low it’s not easy coming down steep ground in the dark!

Practice navigation now before your in that white out. This is the time to check your taking of bearings timings etc.

Goggles to me are essential in winter. As are glasses if you need them to read the map or your phone.

When the snow comes Practising ice axe arrest 10 years ago is not so good. Practice every year. Go out with someone experienced and learn about ice axe breaking and crampon use. my advice even better take a course. You will not regret it!

Your route for the day all the Munro guides give summer time’s for hill days. In winter it all changes. Routes are dependant on weather and snowfall . Read the forecasts and the Avalanche report (this starts mid December) it will give you a guide to what’s been happening high up. Use these tools there free.

Remember wind has a huge effect on the hill. We always overestimate the wind speed read and understand what the speeds are and the effects on your day.

Eat well before hand porridge is a great fuel hydrate and have some food handy that you can eat on the move.

Carry a small duvet that you can use in an emergency or during your breaks . Plan for what to do if someone has a problem on the hill?

Are your boots in good condition ensure your soles are not worn out . This is the time of year for slippy wet grass ! A slip can be very serious.

Winter is a great time of year but you can prepare yourself for it. Plan a sensible day and remember “the hills are always there the secret is to be there with them”.

There are few paths in winter it’s a lot of route finding and constant checking of navigation.

Do not be a follower we all have our part to play on a day on the hills. Take an active part in the navigation check the leaders bearings and timings. It’s so easy to put the hood up and leave it to others?

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Poetry on the hills – How I missed out for so long .

Norman MacCaig.

This is part of his work that made me read lots of his poetry. I love the poetry of the mountains and wild places and coming from Ayr the land of Robbie Burns it makes me sorry I took years to appreciate it. I was so proud that a few years ago the Mountain Bothies Association printed my poem in their book.

Hear my words carefully.
Some are spoken
not by me, but
by a man in my position.’

Norman MacCaig was born as Norman Alexander McCaig in Edinburgh on 14 November 1910. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh (MA with Honours in Classics, 1932). In 1940 he married Isabel Munro and they had two children. He won the Cholmondeley Medal in 1975 and in 1985 he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.  He was made an OBE in 1979.

Yet this is the poem I love:

A Man in Assynt

Glaciers, grinding West, gouged out
these valleys, rasping the brown sandstone,
and left, on the hard rock below — the
ruffled foreland —
this frieze of mountains, filed
on the blue air — Stac Polly,
Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,
Canisp — a frieze and
a litany.

Who owns this landscape?
has owning anything to do with love?
For it and I have a love-affair, so nearly human
we even have quarrels. —
When I intrude too confidently
it rebuffs me with a wind like a hand
or puts in my way
a quaking bog or a loch 
where no loch should be. Or I turn stonily
away, refusing to notice
the rouged rocks, the mascara
under a dripping ledge, even
the tossed, the stony limbs waiting

. I can’t pretend
it gets sick for me in my absence,
though I get
sick for it. Yet I love it
with special gratitude, since
it sends me no letters, is never
jealous and, expecting nothing
from me, gets nothing but
cigarette packets and footprints.

Who owns this landscape? — 
The millionaire who bought it or
the poacher staggering downhill in the early morning
with a deer on his back?

Who possesses this landscape? —
The man who bought it or
I who am possessed by it?

What words and how they sum up these specail hills. I love them so much. If you get a chance there are some recordings of Norman MacCaig that with his special voice it brings the poem to life.


The journey to Shenevall 

Cars fly by as you cross the road, to another world,

Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

The track winds’ through the trees,

The river breaks the silence.

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

Midges and clegs abound here but not today,

 too cold, its winter.

Cross the river, is that bridge in the wrong place?

 Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top,

the wee cairn, stop, no rush, drink it all in.

An Teallach, snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

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

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

 Youthful memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress?

Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer,

they are still there; Shenevall.

It never changes, only the seasons.

Fire on, primeval.

Tea in hand,

Alone with my thoughts.

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.

Memories ­­

Thanks to the MBA! Heavy Whalley for Yvette Feb 2013


I was given a wonderful book by friends many years ago Poems of the Scottish Hills and I read it often. I think that made a huge influence on me.

What’s your favourite Poem ?

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Books, Bothies, Mountaineering, People, Poems, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Staying in touch and a short winter wander Cha-no to that nearly ended with a serious injury.

I often get asked why I write the blog it’s easy to answer as I get so many stories contacts from it. It is great to hear from past friendships and from other mountaineers some now gone and families trying to find put more about them. At least once a week I find or catch up with old pals.

I am back home know trying to sort out a broken boiler but hope to be back on the hills soon. How I have missed them. Yet it was important to stay in touch and visit folk again. So please feel free to comment on anything you read but remember that we should always treat everyone with respect whatever their views.

It’s also important to remember the lesson from Call outs or adventures. It’s the way we gain experience yet few offer up tales and many lessons are lost. So let’s hear the odd tale “I learnt about mountaineering from that”

One of my tales:

I was recovering from several operations a few years ago and would wander alone up from the lower Cairngorm car park Coire Na Ciste onto the cliffs overlooking Strath Nethy. It had a huge healing effect on me. There is a winter climbing cliff that is not too busy away from some of the crowds that throng the Northern Corries.

This small east-facing winter crag was first developed in the 2010/11 season. The cliff has a short approach (less than one hour from Coire na Ciste carpark) and short routes allowing you to climb many routes in a single day.

Whilst it’s still nowhere near as popular as Lochain/t’Sneachda, Cha-no is no longer as secretive as it once was. As such it’s very likely that you’ll bump into other people. However, if you turn up with a mindset to climb anything (including unclimbed routes) as opposed to just the small number of popular routes, you shouldn’t be queueing!

You can download a SMC PDF mini-guide to this crag from https://www.smc.org.uk/publications/downloads/creaganchano

It’s only a short walk about an hour and your up on the plateau. It was very early winter December and I arrived about 1100 and decided to wander up to the cliffs. I had all my kit crampons etc with me the snow was down to about 800 metres and blowing across the plateau slowly like a silent serpent.

It’s a pretty quiet area at that time of year but I thats why I love it. I was soon crossing above Coire Loagh Mor. There were patches of hard water ice in places where the streams had frozen but they could be avoided as there was also a lot of snow as well. It was not worth putting crampons on as I could see the ground and avoided the ice by going to the snowy areas. This is a wet area and low lying ice that forms here quickly as its very high up.

I was loving being out again walking slowly but enjoying the wildness and the views. I love early winter and could make out other footsteps ahead so there may be a few climbers on the cliff. It’s a lovely wander but it was clear but often I have had to navigate to where the routes start. I often go to the 1028 metres high point to confirm my navigation then look for familiar landmarks.

This day it was fine though no problems finding the cliff and most most folk abseil or down climbing from the ridge to the bottom of the cliff. I could see a pair climbing and was surprised by the amount of snow about.

The Crag

I watched them for a while and had lunch and took some photos. I noticed that the weather was changing and snow started to fall steadily and quietly . The wind got up and I decided to head home. I was now in cloud so took a bearing and headed back. It was getting late and the light was slowly fading.

Busy cliff.

I had been recently advised that I had the start of Cataracts in my eyes. I had noticed this in poor light that my vision was not 100% and was aware as was my doctor but on a long list with the NHS to get fixed.

I wandered back the snow was drifting and I followed my bearing. To be honest I forgot about the water ice and as the snow hit heavier I never saw the frozen stream. I fell and even though it was flat I went sliding down the ice on my back. I could not stop and I could see the Corrie rim in front of me ? My ice axe was on my bag I was using my poles. The only way I could stop was to direct myself into a Boulder.

The area on another day covered in snow but has ice underneath.

I stopped lay there my ribs were sore but I had not gone into the corrie. That would have been serious. I felt a right idiot but stumbled back to my van and was aching. It was getting dark and managed to get home. I had visions of what could have happened and how serious it could have become . Even worse it would be the Cairngorm team who would have picked me up.

There are lots of lessons to learn.

Lesson 1 – Treat a winter walk with respect even a short one. Get away early !

Lesson 2 – I should have put my crampons on or at least had my axe out and poles away.

Lesson 3 – as you get older you do not react so quickly so take it easy.

Lesson 4 – in poor visibility or light be aware of your limitations. My Cataracts did not help.

Always tell someone whenever you are going into the mountains !

Comments welcome

Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

All well in Crianlarich – visiting Aunty Elma a lady who always looks after RAF MRT.

On my way back from the deep South from a good trip with old pals I drove to see Aunty Elma at Crianlarich. My old mountaineering mates tell me I need to post cheery posts. Elma has looked after many of us over the years on our visits to Crianlarich. She is a wonderful person who looks after RAF Mountain Rescue. Her wee house has always been a haven for many.

She was in great form and as usual had a wonderful spread of homemade cakes, Soda Scones and fresh pancakes.

I got all the updates on everyone and many will be glad to know she is in good health. She loves her letters, cards, photos of the families and phone calls so please keep them coming. It was raining as I arrived but a rainbow came out as I left so fitting. It is a place of memories her wee house to many.

Just for me!!!

How many stores have been told here by all who had tea, soup and cakes after a call out at Elma’s. I wonder how many did she fit into her wee house?

Elma had always been there for us giving us advice in all things and often telling us things that we needed to know. I got many rollockings here in the past.

So as we start to move about again if you can give Elma a call and drop in and see her.

She sends her love to all as always. you are all her bairns. So get writing or give her a phone she loves hearing about her Mountain Rescue Family.

Stay well and happy.

Comment – Bill Rose “Kindness to others is rewarded with true friends. Love thy neighbour no matter how far they travel.”

Posted in Bothies, Family, Friends, Health, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Keswick Mountain Festival thanks to all.

Yesterday I did a Q & A ( Question & Answer session) with Cameron McNeish at the Keswick Mountain Festival. I travelled down to another world from Scotland. It was so busy and there first big event since Covid. I was hosted by my long time pal Terry Moore and Gillian his wife. We had a great catch up and a magical night in their house near Carslile.

Terry’s !

Next day we were away early as Terry said it would be busy and it was. I was not speaking till 1700 so we had a great time looking round the stands and listening to various speakers in the outdoor tents. The theatre by the lake is a wonderful location and there were so many races/ runs on all day for all ages and abilities it was uplifting to see.

One of the events

I was told that a friends daughter Shona Cammack was exhibiting her pictures for the first time we paid her a visit at the Festival.

Shona and her art ! Lots of memories there

Shona Cammack

adventuresketchbook.com·@adventuresketchbook·Scottish artist. Painter of mountains and other wild place

Her recent interests have been with Scottish mountain bothies and that is what she will be offering this time !Adventure Sketchbook was duly visited and we had a long chat with Shona her partner and her brother. Terry being a fine artist was impressed. A talented lassie and I loved her art.

We had a great wander Terry looking after me it was a long day till we met Cameron for a chat on my talk. I must admit I was apprehensive I had not done a chat fir about 3 years but Cameron put me at ease and I think it went well. As I said it’s a bit strange if you have not been speaking for such a long time. Yet they were a good audience and Cameron so professional as always. The organisation was faultless and as a first live event for 18 months it was an honour to speak here. Thank you all.

Cameron . thank you !

We had a visitor Al Hinkes popped in before we went on stage. He was on great form and we had a lively discussion as you do !

As we finished we met Richard Else who was also speaking after me with Meg and it was grand seeing some friendly faces.

After this we headed home my throat was sore and I had my Persistent cough again. The we stopped and Italian meal in the town where Terry’s paintings were in pride of place.

It was then back to watch the tennis I only managed to watch one set what a match though. I was really tired it had been a long day. Terry looked after me and as we left the we had seen the Lakes and the sun was out. People were enjoying being out, live music was playing what a day.

The weather was stunning as we left !

Thank you all for making my day. For Terry Gillian and Cameron for all the help. Big thanks to Terry’s Cockerel for the early calls from 0400.

Terry another big thank you.
Posted in Bothies, Friends, Lectures, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

Heading to Keswick Mountain Festival.

I thought I had retired from these talks that I used to do but was asked to speak at the Keswick Mountain Festival with my friend Cameron McNeish. He is going to do a Question and Answer chat with me. I was asked to go down by. Friend Paul who runs the Celtman Triathlon in Torridon.

It’s been a long time since I did one of these talks but it will be good to see folk again and I do enjoy sharing my experiences I hope it goes well?

During my time as Deputy Team Leader in North Wales we went to the Lakes a every month. We had some great days superb climbing and mountaineering.

In the Lakes late 80,s

This was before the Lakes got so busy but when I came back North to RAF Leuchars and Kinloss we went to the Lakes rock climbing a lot. I have some great memories of classic days and a few Call outs.

On Gimmer

So I hope it goes well and if your in the Lakes it would be great to see you at Keswick Mountain Festival on Saturday.

Posted in Enviroment, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

How to call for help in the Mountains in an Emergency ?

We are delighted to see so many hillwalkers and climbers enjoying the mountains over the recent months. This summer has seen a noticeable increase in the number of people heading for the outdoors and, with foreign travel opportunities still limited due to coronavirus, it’s likely that many will carry on their new hobby throughout the winter. We would like to use this opportunity to remind all hillwalkers on ways to stay safe in the hills and how to call for help.

Scottish Mountain Rescue Vice Chair, Kev Mitchell said, “We are very lucky in Scotland to have a world class volunteer Mountain Rescue service. Help us, to help you, by being prepared and knowing what to do in an emergency. If you are lost, in need of assistance or in an emergency, dial 999 ask for POLICE then MOUNTAIN RESCUE. Enjoy our incredible wild places and support our volunteer teams who will assist you any hour, any day and any weather.”

For tips on being prepared, click on the link below:

ScottishMR #StaySafe #BePrepared

Well worth discussing if your with your climbing companion what to do? Also what do you do without a phone signal?

Comments welcome.

It is worth noting that in some remote areas a phone reception is not possible. This can be in a Corrie or Valley. In my days in Mountain Rescue we would often have to move to a high point and try to get a reception. Also as mountaineers we should whenever possible be prepared to be self reliant and be able to cope with waiting for help. You could be on the hill stationary with a casualty for a long time.

It is well worth discussing what to in an emergency.

Comments as always welcome.

Comment – Joe Glennie

Great advice there David Whalley.
I’d reiterate the bit about having a grid reference to hand. The only time I’ve called out mountain rescue from the hill I was in an obvious place that anyone in mountain rescue would know so when the leader of the mountain rescue team asked for a grid reference I just told him where I was…

Him:- “It’s not for me, it’s for the helicopter pilot”

Me:- 😳🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️🗺

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Best combination of easier rock climbs.

What is your best combination of rock climbs in the easier grade! The book Classic Rock gives so many routes you can add together to make great days and memories.

I feel that the 4 ridges on the Ben are one such day. Up North East Buttress down Tower Ridge up Observatory Ridge down Castle Ridge.

Tower Ridge

There are many more like in Skye .

Cioch Direct a few years ago!

Cioch Direct, Arrow route and Integrity.

Cioch Direct Early 50’s

My best day Skye Rock ***                                   Isle of Skye              

Coir’a’ Ghrunnda – White Slab 600 ft Severe in the sun then on to Sron Na Ciche                                                           Cioch Direct 500 ft  Severe *** Arrow                                        Route 120 ft V Diff ***  Integrity Severe 250 feet.                                                                                                        

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Ben Stack a Wee gem up North.

Ben Stack is a favourite mountain of mine. Despite its size it’s a classic. Ben Stack is a mountain in Sutherland, in the northwest of Scotland. It is 721 m high. It lies southeast of Laxford Bridge and northwest of Loch More along the A838 road, and just west of Loch Stac a great area.

In winter it’s a stunning peak and to climb it on a short winters day and watch the sunset over the mountains and sea is a magnificent sight.

What’s your favourite hill!

Ideas :

Stac Pollaidh



Ben Loyal

Cir Mhor

Beinn Damh

Beinn Dearg (Torridon)

Ben Aden

Ben Lair – Fuar Tholl Beinn Dearg Mor, Sgurr na Stri, Beinn Airigh Charr, Beinn Lair, Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse, Fuar Tholl, Ben Loyal.

Ben Stack.
Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Gaberlunzie – great Scottish Folk Band and the sad loss of Robin Watson one of the famous duo.

Yesterday I heard the very sad news via Gordon Menzies that his Gaberlunzie partner of 50 years, Robin Watson, had passed away

Robin was one of the most well known and most recognisable musicians in Scotland’s folk music scene and for 50 years with Gordon shared their Gaberlunzie brand of rousing and passionate Scottish folk songs with Scotland and the world

We often meet Gaberlunzie in the early days with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team at Kinloss. As we travelled the Highlands we would meet them playing in the village halls. We knew most of the songs by heart and even were told we were to loud at time’s when singing their songs . They also played at RAF Kinloss in a thriving folk club on the Base. They stayed with us in our accommodation a few times.

They also played a lot locally up I’m Moray and played some incredible music on these days. They were very nationalistic and wrote many stirring songs. They were and are a big part of my life. I still have every Album they ever made!

Thanks for the memories my thoughts are with Robin’s family.

Robin on left

Robin Watson, 1941-2021

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Podcast on Beinn Eighe about 30 min in from Joss Goslings Diary / on Radio Scotland – Scotland Outdoors sept 4 th!

Yesterday the Scotland Outdoors programme did a piece from Joss Gosling’s diary. It was I thought a great tribute to Joss Gosling and the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in 1951.

The link is below :


Joss at the crash site.

It was wonderful to read from his diary and show some of the thoughts he had as a very young man.

The crew of the Lancaster.

I have done a lot with the radio show on BBC Scotland as it’s on every Saturday and is now available from a weekly podcast. The presenters are great folk who know Scotland better than anyone. It’s a great listen and covers all subjects.

Thanks to Joss’s family for allowing me to read and use Joss’s words. Thank you. Sadly Joss is no longer with us but his memory words and photos live on. We must never forget.

Thank you all.

The Kinloss Team at Beinn Eighe 1951 photo Joss Gosling collection.

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A Classic Climb Greag Dubh Wall – Tremadoc North Wales.

I located a photo with great memories of my time in North Wales. I loved climbing there and we often went to Tremadoc which seemed to hold the good weather.

It was also a roadside crag( no long Scottish walks – ins ) and a local climber Eric Jones at that time ran the cafe that was a haven for climbers. Eric is a Welsh legend a world class mountaineer, loved by all.

He would sometimes carry out rescues on the cliff many on his own where he was famous for soling most routes. He always looked after us and was invited to a First Aid course with the team. As always Eric was great company. We even gave him a stretcher at one point ( from Valley) to help save his sofa getting ruined from injured climbers awaiting an ambulance.

In the 70’s and 80’s many top climbers climbed here. It was at one time a “who’s who” of climbing. We went often to the cliffs and were never disappointed. A special thanks to Pete, Jock and Dave Tomkins for some grand memories.

If your in Wales is a must do as it was climbed by some famous Scottish climbers.

I have never climbed hard in my time but did many of the classics on this beautiful cliff. It was a place to enjoy and at that time being able to come down for a brew was a big part of the craic. My favourite route was the Classic Creag Dhu climbed by the members of that incredible group of Scottish climbers on a visit to Wales in 1951. I was lucky to climb it 3 times what a great route and to a man who missed Scotland so much it was always a joy to climb here. Especially the short walk ins ! Creag Dubh Wall Craig y Castel. Tremadog North Wales. How lucky was I to climb this classic 5 times .

First ascent – J Cunningham, W Smith, P Vaughan. July 1951

Rockfax Description
The route of the crag, great climbing up a big bulky buttress on lovely rock. .
1) 4b, 32m. Climb the groove that leads to the overhangs and continue up until it gets too difficult. Then make a move round the rib on the right to a delicate foot-traverse right to a groove and soon, a large ledge and big fat tree belay. The direct line without the detour is Creagh Dhu Wall Direct, VS.
2) 4b, 30m. Drop down and hand-traverse the huge flake out left then climb the face to a small ledge (possible stance on One Step.). Step up and make hard moves into the polished slanting groove. Finish either side of the roof above this. © Rockfax

UKC Logbook Description
A wonderful route. Head up and right to large ledge (belay). Then fabulously exposed 2nd pitch goes out left along the huge flake. Head up obvious line above, good holds. Tricky crux, entering the groove near top. 3 stars.


Careful rope work required to avoid rope drag.

The diagram from Classic Rock a great book by Ken Wilson – the essay by Jim Perrin on the route.
Al Wildman on the Slab Pitch of Main Wall (465ft HS), Cyrn Las

Main Wall

Grade: HS 4b ***
(Cyrn Las (Gyrn Las))

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Articles, Books, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Time to check your gear for winter?

The picture was taken in 1972 after I had been in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team for a few months. I had just done my first winter. That was some introduction for a 7 stone wee lad . Every winter I learn something new!

1972 – Early days on Ben Hope.

The next few months will see a big change in weather as we head towards winter. There will be a lot of folk getting caught out in the dark and by the changing weather.

Torch : Always carry a torch that is serviceable and spare batteries. Worth checking every time you go out.

Navigation : Map in a waterproof bag and compass are essential as is the knowledge to use them. If you use a GPS or phone ensure you carry a battery pack and the phone is fully charged. Especially necessary in winter when the phone should be kept insulated . Most phones are designed to cope with use in warm houses/ workplaces not in hostile environments. In the cold and wet they lose power so easily.

Back up: Please add some additional gear like a small warm jacket as back up if things go wrong and back up gloves are another essential. A bothy bag between the party or group can be a life saved if you have an accident on the hill.

Tell someone your route: Always tell someone you trust your route and what to do if you do not return ?

Plan for the day : If out with a group discuss what to do if someone is hurt?

Beinn Alder a serious place in winter navigation essential.

Remember it may take Mountain Rescue teams time to get to you. The weather and where you are in addition to helicopter availability are all things to remember. Could you or your mates cope with a long wait in bad weather. Try hanging about on a summit for a few minutes in poor weather and see how cold you get.

Early start: Get away early as possible it’s better to be walking in to your objective in the dark than stumbling of later on when your tired.

Plan to come off the hill in daylight .

Plan Change: Always be prepared to change your plan “The hills will always be there the secret is to be there with them”

Hopefully these few tips will help you have a safe time on the hills as the weather changes.

Weather – most hill days are dominated by the weather. Read the weather forecasts before you go out and later on read the avalanche reports that start in mid December.

This time of year is a superb time. The hills are changing the days are shortening just plan for a shorter day as we loose the daylight.

The mountain Rescue Teams are busy enough and are there to assist. They are unpaid volunteers but risk their lives to help others.

A great read !

Self reliance – we can all do our bit to be self reliant and look after each other on the hills.

It’s in winter that the Scottish Mountains excel!

The hills have given me so much joy over 60 years. They are there for all just be careful and remember while most of us are out enjoying ourselves some who love us do worry till we come safely home!

Tips – practice navigation with an experienced mountaineer or take a course on navigation and basic mountain skills there are so many great mountain guides out there.

Winter mountaineering !

That first snow always excites me as much as from my early days. You never stop learning no matter how old or wise you think you are. I get great joy seeing young folk who were out with me at the beginning of their mountaineering days become safe competent mountaineers.

There is superb advice on Mountaineering Scotland’s website it’s free and will answer so many questions you may have.

Get out there and enjoy !

Winter wonderland! Coire Ghrunda Beinn Dearg ( Ullapool)

Finally – “do not become a follower” take time to learn these skills and be part of the day! If it all goes wrong you can help it may save your pals life.

Posted in Articles, Books, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Long Gone Mountain Rescue Teams ? HMS Fulmar (Lossiemouth) And a sad day in winter 1954.

When I joined the RAF Kinloss we met a few and I am sure a some of the climbers from the Navy at HMS Fulmar ( Prestwick) it closed in 1972 . It had an MRT which was a sub unit of RAF Kinloss MRT. HMS Condor, Arbroath was a sub unit of RAF Leuchars MRT at that time. Both these teams were very useful because they could increase numbers on a search significantly. They also produced some excellent climbers. We all worked very well together hill parties were always a mix of RAF and Royal Navy.

I wonder if anyone has any photos of that era !

Of Course RAF Lossiemouth is now the home of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team that moved when RAF Kinloss closed a few years ago in March 2016.

I wonder if this accident when 5 Naval climbers from Fulmar died in an accident on Ben Nevis in winter 1954?

The top of Ben Nevis

On the 19 Dec 1954 over 60 years ago Eleven Royal Naval personnel from Royal Naval Air Station Fulmar (Lossiemouth) left to climb Ben Nevis  via Coire Leis. They had stayed overnight and left the CIC hut where they were staying below the great cliffs off Nevis, the party was made up of 8 men and three girls from the Women’s Royal Naval Service. They left the hut finding the weather poor and ascended from Coire Leis at 0900 and reached the summit of Ben Nevis at 1300. They left the summit after a 15 minute break; the conditions were very hard snow (neve’ and poor visibility.) The summit plateau is a tricky place to navigate and in winter 1954 the path would be covered with snow. They had intended to retrace their steps back down to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

On the descent they had a navigation error about 200 yards from the summit. This error lead them to the cliffs between North East Buttress and the Arete (Brenva Face) They were not together there was now a party of six ahead and the leader he led them away from the cliffs the others tried to catch up. One of the party behind the leader started glissading, lost control, lost his axe and fell; another member ran after him kicking steps and he lost control and also fell followed by 3 others from the party. In total 5 vanished over the huge cliff and out of sight.

The Party Leader roped to edge and could see nothing, they then they descended to the Corrie Leis and found all 5 dead below the huge Brenva Face. They had fallen over 1000 feet, what a tragedy and an awful sight. They went for help and it would be a long walk there were no mobile phones in these days. They went to Fort William and raised the alarm with the local Police. The Police called RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and the team arrived. At first light 23 members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, 8 Local Police/ mountaineering Club and 20 naval personnel assisted in recovery. It must have been a long recovery and it took 10 hours in very poor weather, drifting snow, gales to recover casualties.

A tragic tale .

Comments welcome.

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Wreckers Slab – from the words of babes ?

Wreckers Slab!

My mate Pete Greening wrote this “While on holiday in Cornwall in Aug 2013 David Whalley (Heavy) enters into the spirit of things by doing his best impression of climber/surfer/visionary/Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, during an ascent of Wrecker’s Slab”

I was down on holiday in Cornwall with my stepdaughter and her young daughter Lexi she would be about 3 at the time. My pal Pete came over he lives in Cornwall and as we packed to go climbing Lexi got a bit upset as she thought I may not come back! It makes you think that when we are away someone is always worrying about us. Yet we are like I was unaware of what evens were one thinks.

I had always wanted to climb this route and my mate Pete had sorted it out. He had guided it often and knew I wanted to climb it.

We started by walking on the Coastal path north of Bude to “Cornakey Cliff” which is home to one of the north coasts classic routes, “Wreckers Slab.” This route, full of history was an impressive achievement for the time, when it was climbed in 1959 by Tom Patey, Kieth Lawder and Zeke Deacon. At the time it was full of loose rock, vegetation and was poorly protected for the lead climbers who didn’t have the modern ropes or protection that we use today.

Wreckers Slab is the longest single slab on the Devon and Cornwall mainland and rise’s in three long pitches of 120ft, 150ft and 140ft. The climbing grade is given by the most recent guidebook as VS -, 4b, 4a. Which suggests that the climb will be fairly sustained and possibly poorly protected rather than having excess technical difficulty.

The route was great once you got on it. It was a crumbly path down to it on the shore. It had a reputation for loose rocks but Pete was in great form and we had a classic day.

Photos Pete Greening!

Yet that day made me think and be as careful as I could. Lexi was glad to see me home and I had a classic day on a climb with a good pal.

Thanks again Pete!

So when your “off doing your thing “ think of those you leave behind.

The book that Pete refers to by Yvon Chounaird
Posted in Articles, Book, Family, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Sea King Helicopter Memories.

Early morning drop off in the Mamores.

My first memory of the. Seaking was getting dropped of on Ben a Bhuird for winter climbing in the late 70’s. After being so used to the Wessex it was so big and we could get many more on the aircraft for a Rescue. Many of the crews were converted from the Wessex.

It took a while to get used to the down wash of a bigger aircraft and we learned after getting dropped of on tight ridges like An Teallach, Liathach and Aonach Eagach. We soon got used to it and did so many hours on them they became trusted friends.

When night vision Goggles came in we learned the hard way. Scary drop offs in the dark in the Cairngorms and all over Scotland. Learning new skills and teaching the new team members how to stay safe.

Night vision!

As Team Leader you were often up front with the pilot on headphones. At time’s assisting the crew and getting the latest update from our control on the incident. The troops would be in the back on the longer trips oblivious to changing incidents. Messages to them were passed by paper! Sometimes it was better to not say till we landed.

Loading a casualty in the dark in Strathfarrar

We did many flights from Kinloss picked up at 15 minutes notice to a mountain or Island an hours flying away. Often arriving ahead of the local team and being dropped in with the winch man to the casualty.

The respect for the crews was such that many became such good friends over the years. We learned so much together and had huge trust in their professionalism.

When the Navy Sea Kings joined us in the SAR role we gained great respect for them. At Leuchars we trained a lot with The Sea Kings at Gannet at Prestwick.

Flights to Aircraft crashes in Harris and the Mull of Kintyre were incredible in the helicopters . Flying low and fast into a crash site will be memories that will remain with me for life.

The crews always looked after us and the civilian teams often coming back to save us long walk outs. Flying in wild conditions and always being as safe as they could.

We had an epic at Loch Etcheachan in the Cairngorms where we had to get out on the frozen Loch and line up to show the Sea King the way out. This occurred After dropping us off in a storm in a huge search for two missing climbers. We were all lucky that day !

Loch epic !

We had a few near misses like at Creag Megadaidh where the aircraft crashed with a lot of Lochaber’s Mountain Rescue Team on Board that was a worrying period. All walked away.

I miss – the early morning flights across a snow covered Scotland.

I miss the drop off’s after a big climb when a Sea King out training would offer us a lift home. We were the envy of many.

I miss the Sea king arriving and taking our casualties away saving us hours of dangerous work especially at night. Arriving in the dark like a space ship on there Night Vision gear.

I miss – As the aircraft was getting older the oil leaks on the fuselage and the odd crash guard in wild places with the Sea kings.

I miss – the wild winches onto the hill that like the flying always scared me and the crews knew this.

Early flight

I miss – the banter of the crews with us yet it great to see many are still flying with the new SAR contract.

I miss my dog Teallach jumping on board on a rescue and immediately getting under a seat and falling asleep. Many a new winch man got a fright when this big Alsatian jumped on board! He could hear the helicopter before us on the hill and knew maybe after a hard rescue we would get a lift home.

These were Great days great memories never to be forgotten. Especially the lovely Yellow colour of the Sea King in a winters day arriving on scene with more troops or picking up the casualties.

Winter !

The odd night stops with the crew in Hotels after a Rescue due to weather. Getting accommodation for the crew and us and a dog was always amusing. Visits to Hoy, St Kilda and many Islands. Getting fish from the fishermen as a thank you.

The helicopters crews like the SAR crews today are great folk. Thank you all I always knew if we had a problem in the Mountains you would be there for us and rarely let us down. As we get older we look back and marvel at their skills.

Thanks to all!

Cairngorm Callout

What’s your memories ?

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Islands, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 1 Comment

Comments on my blog on “The use of the Stress Bottle before counselling”

Yesterday I wrote a piece on my blog on the use of alcohol in my early days con Mountain Rescue? Many will know I was at Lockerbie, (270 Fatalities) The Shackleton crash on Harris ( 9 fatalities) and the Chinook on the Mull of Kintyre (29 fatalities) Add in nearly 40 years of mountain Rescue dealing with a constant stream of fatalities you can see why I and many of my team struggled over the years . It effected me personally and my life right up to recently.

When I asked for help in 1988 for me and my team. I got a really hard time from the military authorities for showing weakness. These were the days where we just got on with it according to many. Most who had no experience of what we had dealt with. So we coped as best we could and often a drink was taken after a hard incident.

Families had no clue what was going on in our heads and many over the years have spoken to me of their long term problems.

Things are better now but still there is still a long way to go.

See below from some of my friends their comments .

“Debriefing with your mates who where there, in a quite corner of a pub somewhere (with no “outsiders” eves dropping) over a few pints and letting the pressure slowly release, the questions be asked and even a bit of the “black humour” to flow, when you are in safe and trusted company goes a long way towards avoiding long term problems for individuals, strengthens the bonds between team members and even goes towards doing a “better” job next time”

Alan Swadel – I think what was important was not only the drinking but it gave the troops an opportunity to unwind and chat about what we’d just been through. A decompression of some sorts before going home. I always thought it important that the troops stayed somewhere overnight before going home after a big job. Not only to recover physically from the hard work but to get time to mentally digest what we’d all just been through and discuss it with people “who understood”

Steve Grasper – “Debriefing with your mates who where there, in a quite corner of a pub somewhere (with no “outsiders” eves dropping) over a few pints and letting the pressure slowly release, the questions be asked and even a bit of the “black humour” to flow, when you are in safe and trusted company goes a long way towards avoiding long term problems for individuals, strengthens the bonds between team members and even goes towards doing a “better” job next time “

Angus – “excellent article as usual Heavy, yes the Aultguish provided ‘stress relief’ and an opportunity to talk on a few occasions after difficult shouts.”

Tony – “Excellent piece Heavy …. as a suffer from PTSD I can endorse all your comments and observations ….in my time there were lots of civilian call outs plus 3 aircraft crashes which even now are still spinning round in my head , I have received help over the years , and still do. There are

medications to help but there is a “price“ your body has to pay for their help .

The latest help is “Tapping” https://www.evidence.nhs.uk/search?q=emotional%20freedom%20technique

Also check this out ….https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/can-having-anxiety-make-you-feel-tired

SMR are more aware of the PTSD now days and support is given .

But I guess we just wish it would go away not just for us but for our nearest and dearest too, thanks for speaking out . Like you I would welcome any comments.”

Jim Sutherland

“A very honest post Heavy, it rings true to me that is for sure.”

Dougie Crawford – alcohol

“It’s a depressant…..”

Lots of interest on the piece I wrote some good replies via Facebook l thought others may want to read them!

My advice is:

No matter how tough you feel you are please speak to someone you trust.

Look after your mates, keep an eye on them. We were lucky we knew each other well but a few were missed over the years.

It’s ok to be feeling down at times .

Do not take the easy way out with drink or drugs it’s not a long term solution.

Everyone deals with things in their own way and react differently.

Seek help!

I still get the “Black Dog”at times .

First coined by the Roman poet Horace and later adopted by Winston Churchill to describe his own depression, the metaphor of the “black dog” has been used for centuries. … It is easier to say you are having ‘a black dog day’ or ‘the black dog on my shoulder’ than it is to say you are depressed.

This is often before the anniversary of Lockerbie near Christmas . I get solace from going into the hills on my own and clearing my head. Nature heals, I also have a few trusted friends who I can chat to. Going to America and meeting so many of the families who lost loved ones at lockerbie has helped me so much. We were on a Cycle to

Syracuse University where 30 young students were killed on the flight. Speaking to many of the families was cathartic and gave me so much peace after years of struggling.

Not many of us can do that but each has to seek a way through these dark time’s.

Take care and never be ashamed to ask for help.

Hammy Anderson – “After 20 years in M.R. I was surprised at the number of RAF personnel who were unaware of our existence and even less aware of what we went through. I still have the odd restless nights with flashbacks to some of our callouts.”

As always comments welcome.

Nature heals.

Di – “We were the same when we went to medical incidents. When I was aeromeding in and out of the gulf when we got back to Brize all the medics went into a room with a few slabs of beer to debrief and say how we felt and how we could improve things before we went off to our rooms. We only had a couple of beers but I felt it let people open up easier and people tended to be more honest in a protected area.” Dianne Mcleish I don’t advocate alcohol.at all, but in the context of debriefing and relaxing, it’s probably a relaxant in moderation, more than a depressant….good point.

Dougie Crawford – “Getting pissed and sounding off, (as well as a host of other anti social outlets) that we have all relied upon is the military way of cheap treatment. Any qualified mental health staff will emphasise its negative effects…all that is produced, at best is a consensus of mutual suffering. Reconstructive counselling takes guts, is performed sober as a necessity and takes time. Throwing beer at traumatised personnel is morally and ethically insulting. You have done a lot to champion an enlightened approach mate,…that in the context of all our senior years and experiences took a huge dollop of courage and comittment….ridiculously, fighting stigma and the culture of its acceptable to be emotionally stunted, still stalks any of us who have or continue to face, trauma, in the course of our lives.”

David Whalley – Douglas Crawford thanks mate I agree about the miss use of alcohol but it was at the time all
We had.

I wonder how many alcoholics it produced ? We all know that was true these were dark days for many. I hardly drink now and getting help was really hard and still is.

At the time we did our best I hope it is a bit better now?

Thanks all your comments help raise some hard points to discuss.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Family, Friends, Health, Mountain rescue, People, PTSD, Well being | 2 Comments

The Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash by Doctor Brewster The Moray Mountaineering Club.

This was given to me a long time ago it was from the Moray Mountaineering Club Journal (1981)

This is the story of the search for a missing Lancaster aircraft on Beinn Eighe the article was written 30 years ago in my clubs Journal. This is the story of how 5 members of the Moray Mountaineering Club who tried and on their own to reach the wreckage after the initial failure of the RAF Team.

On March 14 1951 a Lancaster from Coastal Command from Kinloss failed to return after an Exercise over the North Atlantic. A large scales air search was mounted over the next few days without success. Finally, following some late local information the search was concentrated on the Torridon area and the wreckage was spotted on Beinn Eighe on the lip of Corrie Mhic Fhearchair at an altitude of 2800 feet.

The RAF Mountain Rescue arrived at the foot of the mountain on the 18 March 1951. At that time this men consisted of volunteers many of whom were doing their National Service. They were poorly equipped and largely in experienced. They had very little if any regular training nor did they have ice axes, nylon ropes or even proper climbing boots. The weather deteriorated during the next few days. After two attempts to reach the aircraft and an injury to one of their members they were recalled to Kinloss to await better weather.

MMC Journal – On March 21 I telephoned the OC at Kinloss and offered the assistance of 5 or 6 experienced climbers for the Moray Club. Our offer was refused as was the help from the SMC ( Scottish Mountaineering Club) I was informed that the RAF Team had been withdrawn.

Next day I phoned again and said we were going up on our own and asked for the exact location of the wreckage and for an up to date weather forecast. These two requests were immediately granted. The forecast was not encouraging but in spite of that we decided to set out next morning.

Our party consisted of 5 members of the Moray Mountaineering Club. My companions were David Banks , David Forrester, Charles Ross and Kenneth Maclennan. We all had considerable experience in rock and snow climbing and knew the Torridon Area well. We were equipped with proper boots,ice axes and a nylon rope.

We left Forres early in the morning and arrived in Glen Torridon around 1000 am. The weather was fair and no snow on the lower slopes. The ground was froze hard and the temperature below freezing.

We proceeded up the track which runs between Sail Mhor on the East and Liathach on the West. About a mile up the track we left to ascend the Sail Mhor Ridge. Our plan was to get on the Sail Mhor Ridge and then cross comparatively easy ground to the rim of the Corrie where the aircraft was lying. At about 1500 feet we came

to the snow line. We continued up the snow the ascent was getting steeper as we got nearer the crest of the ridge and the weather deteriorating rapidly. In spite of this we carried on and did eventually reach the ridge but got no further. The wind was gale force lashing us with heavy driven snow. In addition visibility was less than 15 yards. It was now

obvious that further progress was not possible. To go on in these conditions would not only be foolhardy but it would be impossible to see any wreckage in blizzard conditions. With great regret we therefore turned back and in due course reported our failure to RAF Kinloss.

Two days later the weather improved and the aircraft was reached by two Navy men who were in holiday in Kinlochewe ( Mike Banks a famous mountaineer at the time wrote about this in his book Commando Climber)

The RAF team was sent back with reinforcements and stayed their till their task was completed. Even with improving weather this proved to be a vert long and difficult job. Part of the fuselage was lodged in a steep gully running down from the rim of the Corrie. Eventually all 8 bodies were brought down it took a long time the last one in late August.

1951 Beinn Eighe Photo Joss Gosling .

The entire incident led to the complete reorganisation of the RAF Mountain Rescue .For the first time an officer Flt Lt Danter was put in charge. Under his dynamic leadership and that of his successors the team were thoroughly trained and equipped so that now they are probably the finest rescue Team in the country.

Although our small expedition did not succeed, we had the satisfaction of having done all we could to help our many friends at Kinloss.

Of the five of us who took part, three are in business or retired. Sadly Charlie Ross was killed whilst climbing in Glencoe about 8 years ago. David Banks died about 3 years ago while on holiday.

A very full and detailed account of the entire Beinn Eighe incident has been compiled by Keith Bryers of Inverness and was published earlier this year by the British Aviation Archaeological Council in their Magazine.

I am indebted to that article for some technical details.

Doctor J.M. Brewster Moray Mountaineering Club from the 1981 Journal.

1951 at the crash site.

Note – One of the two Navy climbers on Beinn Eighe was Mike Banks

Banks then received an invitation from Hamish MacInnes to join him for an attempt on Rakaposhi (7,788m) in the Pakistan Karakoram. Though it falls a little below the 8,000m threshold. He summited with Tom Patey in 1958. Banks was a captain in the Royal Marines.

In 1962, Banks led the first attempt by an all-British party on Mt McKinley (6,194m). One member required rapid evacuation due to altitude sickness, two were snow blinded and one frost bitten. Banks continued with Lieutenant Hugh Wiltshire RM and Chief Technical John Hinde RAF. John Hinde was also of the Moray Mountaineering Club.

Note – I have lots of information on the Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash but there was none at RAF Kinloss when I took over as Team Leader. I suspect someone used the reports for research and it vanished. Over the years I spoke to a few on the incident like Joss Gosling snd others. He gave me an honest insight into the incident.

The famous Guide Gwen Moffat wrote about it in her book on The RAF Mountain Rescue Two Star Red.

Also Frank Card wrote about it in another history of the RAF MR “Whensover”

Doctor Brewster’s Account is an piece of what happened through different eyes.

Further reading:

Two Star Red Gwen Moffat

Commando Climber Mike Banks

Whensover Frank Card

http://www.heavywhalley.com Beinn Eighe

Heavy Whalley Aug 2021

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Family, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Part 2 – The Diary of Joss Gosling from the Lancaster Crash on Beinn Eighe in 1951.

1951 The Triple Buttress Beinn Eighe photo Joss Gosling collection.

Joss’s Diary continued.

20 April 1951 The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team left Kinloss for Kinlochewe to find the weather dull.

Saturday 21 April – The weather was really fine it improved, not a cloud in the sky . Five of us were dropped off at Bridge of Grudie and climbed to Corrie Mhic Fhearchair . The snow was well below the shoulder and it being 2 feet deep in places.

We crossed the loch and climbed the slope to the gully .Rig and Cas continued to climb and see if they could find the tail plane and rear turret. All the time sheltering from falling snow and ice from above due to a thaw. We retreated to the stream and sunbathed and soaked our feet before returning to to the road to await transport.

Sunday 22 April – The team climbed from the Torridon road to Coire an Laoigh and followed the ridge for about a mile and a half to the wreck where two attempted to dig about the wreckage.

The Dig – Beinn Eighe photo Joss Gosling.

We found small bits of instruments, engines and crew. The weather was hazy but the the views magnificent from the top. We abandoned digging as the wind speed increased and the the sky was clouding rapidly. Traversing the ridge once more we glissaded approximately 2000 feet to the end of the snow line and from there to the road. Then the same day returned to Kinloss.

Wednesday 4 July – We returned to the Bridge of Grudie and six of us climbed into the Corrie where most of the snow had cleared exposing more parts of the aircraft. Another engine was located which had left an oil trail on the scree slope and further pieces were scattered for 200 feet. More places of the mainplane were right at the foot of the scree slope. I also located the ammunition feeding unit into the guns from the rear turret where we think the other body may be. I searched around but found nothing a large snowdrift may reveal something when it melts. We returned to Kinloss that day.

Monday 27 July – We arrived from Kinloss for Kinlochewe and camped behind the Hotel.

Tuesday 28 July – Six of us left Base at 0700 and climbed onto the ridge from the Torridon end. The rest of us climbed from Bridge of Grudie. We scrabbled among the bits and pieces. The last body was located and brought down. We then dislodged all the large pieces which were mainly fuselage and sent them down the gully to the screes below.

We returned to Kinloss to Base packed the gear and drove back to RAF Kinloss.

Joss Gosling 1951

The tragic crash took 137 days to recover the last fatality. One can only imagine the effort going back to Beinn Eighe so often much in poor winter weather. Much was learned from this incident and the RAF teams got better training and equipment from the lessons learned. One must remember that most of the Team were National Servicemen who were only with the team for an average of 18 months.

2001 Joss at the Crash site with the old Memorial.

In these days of mobile phones, great gear , Gps, good communications, helicopters etc one can only admire those involved. The would also have to deal with the grim task of locating casualties and lowering them on single ropes on steep ground. Also in these days Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD) was unheard off. We must never forget those who lost there lives.



SIGNALLER Flt Lt P Tennison
SIGNALLERS Flt Sgt J Naismith
Sgt W D Beck
Sgt J W Bell

We do follow in the footsteps of giants

Note :

Over the years Joss told me this tale and others of another era with huge humility of what he and his mates did all these years ago. His diaries and unique photos documented the simple gear with such a degree of accuracy it was eye opening.

In his later years Joss could not manage the hills but my annual pilgrimage to Beinn Eighe with his family and one of the crews relatives was often brightened by Joss arriving at Kinlochewe to greet us after the hill.

He loved this mountain and despite the awful memories of recovering the crew he saw in its wild beauty especially in winter in the big Corrie a place of majesty.

As he put it when he first saw the wonderful Coire Mhic Fhearachair he said “ it was the wildest Corrie he had ever seen”. Many years later he would tell me to him this place was “Cathedral like” how true he was.

Joss’s drawing of the crash site below the Buttress

Thanks you for giving us an insight into this piece of Mountain Rescue History. Huge changes occurred in the RAF Teams after this incident and better training and equipment ensured huge lessons were learned.

The crew . Lest we forget.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

The Diary of Joss Gosling written in 1951 on the Beinn Eighe Crash. Part 1.

This was from a personal diary of Joss Gosling of the Beinn Eighe crash of the Lancaster aircraft that crashed in 1951.

Basic Gear Photo Joss Gosling Collection

The Lancaster Crash on Beinn Eighe (A copy ) from the original diary of Joss Gosling who was a young Team member of the RAF Kinloss MRT in March 1951 on the Lancaster Crash in Beinn Eighe in which all the Eight crew died.

When reading this please remember this was winter 1951. Equipment was very basic as was the training given to the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams. Maps were basic as were weather forecasts there were limited communications between hill parties that seldom worked.

Joss (who wrote this) was not a Team Leader just a troop in the early 50’ s doing his National Service . He was typical of that time where you had to serve in the military as part of National Service . A that time Mountain Rescue was a great escape from the military at weekends in the hills.

Joss Gosling was one of the RAF Kinloss Team who as a very young man wrote these words in his diary. He gave me a copy many years ago and copies of the unique photos he took. It is a look into a very different world from today.

Joss passed away a few years ago and I still miss him.

Joss”s Diary – Wed 14 March 1951

At 0600 a tannoy message told us to report immediately to the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue section where we were informed that D for Dog was due back at midnight but was still missing. We packed all of the kit onto the vechiles And were told to return to work but be at immediate readiness. (There was no news of where the aircraft could be )

Thursday 15 March – on Standby at Kinloss

Friday 16 March – on Standby at Kinloss

Sat 17March – Left Kinloss at 0830 for Kinlochewe because of a report by an aircraft of a wreckage on the ridge of Beinn Eighe. We camped behind the Kinlochewe Hotel and at 1430 left for Lochan an Iasgaich from where we walked along a deer path between Liathach and Beinn Eighe searching the sides with glasses( binos) but with no luck. Another party reached parts of the wreck in Coire Mhic Fhearchair.

Sunday 18 March – We started at 0800 walking from Bridge of Grudie along the track in Glen Grudie and across the shoulder of Ruadh Stac Mor into the wildest Corrie that I have ever seen. At the back end Three Buttress’s towered into the mist there height being approximately 800 feet. At the foot of the right hand buttress on the steep slope which was covered in snow was a the Port wing and undercarriage. Scattered round were two engines and various cowlings. A party of four attempted to climb the Right hand gully but the ice conditions and mist prevented them. The search was abandoned due to the weather conditions and we returned to base at 1530.

Monday 19 March – Returned to the Corrie to find that the wind had brought down the Starboard-wing and various parts of the main plane but there was no sign of the fuselage. Another party tried to reach the ridge, they reached higher than yesterday attempt and reported seeing the burnt remains of the fuselage but could not reach it. Returned to Base at Kinlochewe.

Tuesday 20 March 1951 – returned to Kinloss until snow conditions improve to reach the Fuselage.

Friday 30 March 1951 – We travelled back where we followed the track through to Corrie Dubh Mor until a weak point was found up the South side of Sail Mor. It consisted a steep scramble then a snow field right on to the ridge. Before us was rising into the mist was the buttress which we had seen from Coire Mhic Fhearchair along which the ridge continued. Don and Gavin climbed to the top and then asked for three more troops with a rope. Mike, Junior and I asked to go we reached the top of the “ Ugly step” to find the others with one of the bodies ready to be lowered into the big gully. Because of the conditions it was tricky climbing back down. The body was lowered by rope and the rest of the party escorted it down a snow slope 1200 feet to the track below. We arrived back at our base wet through and ver tired but happy to know we had achieved something this time. ( The body was left near the track as it was dark by now from an interview by Joss )

Sunday 1 April – We left Base and divided into two parties , four people continued to the top while the rest of us brought the first body down on the stretcher to the track in Corrie Dubh. From there a pony carried it to the road and we returned to camp.

Don, Gavin, Mike and Bob reached the top they dug out 3 bodies and brought down 2 to where they had left the first one under very tricky snow conditions.

Monday 2 April – Today we brought two more bodies down to the path for the pony . Three climbed to the top for another body, two continued with the body and six of us climbed round the shoulder to Sail Mhor into the Corrie to see if the aircraft tail had come down all they found was a wing tip. The snow was extremely bad very deep, we returned by Bridge of Grudie and back to Base.

Tuesday 3 April – We brought the 4 th body down to the track for the pony. The weather was too bad to reach the top-and we returned to base at about 1300 hours.

Wednesday 4 April – Andy and I left Bridge of Grundy for the Corrie nearing the Corrie we had to shelter from a very heavy storm which lasted for 15 minutes. We then made for the shoulder and climbed into the Corrie which was completely in the mist. We decided to return because visibility was down to nil and a high wind and snow. Another party attempted to reach the top from the other side of the hill but the high winds and weather prevented them.

Thursday 5 th April – We returned to Kinloss to find the funeral in progress of three of the crew. We will return when the weather improves.

Photo Joss Gosling Collection

To be continued:

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Great effort by Carnethy Hill Running Club all the 282 Munro’s in a day !

What a great achievement by the Carnethy HRClub all the 282 Munro’s in a day.

Carnethy Munros In A Day – 14th August 2021

282 Munros will give over 282 stories.  

This story started when Iain Whiteside spotted that the 214 Wainrights (named tops in the Lake District) had been done in one day.  That covers four OS maps.  We convened a planning meeting on Zoom to consider how to do the Munros In A Day.  

This was a much much bigger challenge over a much larger area covering Islands, peninsulas and the remotest corners of the UK. It would require complex logistics, planning, commitment, teamwork, reasonable weather and a dose of luck.  Some impressive spreadsheet wizardry by Ian broke the problem down in to short, medium, long and extra-long hill days.  Safety issues discussed, the likelihood of success considered and dates suggested.  Should it be next year in June 2022 with long days and better weather?…no, let’s do August 14th 2021 – in just 53 days’ time.  Crazy?

Nicki Innes set about rustling up the Carnethy ladies and others were given the date to reserve.  After all of the slots were filled on the spreadsheet, then unfilled due to injuries and drop-outs, then back-filled with replacements, over 125 Carnethies plus friends and family members had signed-up and it was game-on with 10 floaters ready to leap into action to fill gaps if needed.  Ken Fordyce sorted the communications plan for the day with his son to semi-automate reporting which doubled as a safety check on the day.  Nicki sorted a master Whatsapp group.  Sub-groups formed in regions quite seamlessly to arrange shared transport, accommodation, safety plans, food and end of day beers.  Guidance for a safe day went to everyone on the basis that if Storm Apocalypse did not hit Scotland on the 14th a common sense approach would prevail and we would go anyway and see what happened.

Fittingly, the first Munro was Beinn Dearg, north of Bruar, bagged at 0755 by Carnethy veteran Keith Burns, who at 79 years young, continues to put many of us to shame.  An Coileachan fell next at 0839 in the Fannichs by your President and his dog Barra who saw nothing all day but clag and rain on their 9 hills.  The youngest Carnethy to summit was Rowan Paris who at the tender age of 3.5 years old, ticked her 5th Munro – Carn Liath across Glen Tilt from where Keith had been earlier. She has with her Mum, Dad and Moss so was in good hands. 

Some big days were put in:

Alex McVey, Iain Whiteside and Eoin Lennon on the 12 Munro Mullardoch Round, 57km, 4,400m in 12hrs,

50km, 4,300m, 14hrs 20mins by Michelle Hetherington over the Monar Munros,

44km, 2,700m, 7.5hrs by Alan Renville across from me on the Beinn Dearg 6 – described as “A character building day out. Rain, thick cloud, wind and a swamp underfoot.”

Everyone put a shift in across Scotland so it is a toss-up as to who had the toughest day: 

Sasha Chepelin, Ali Masson and some pals (who Carnethy need to sign-up) managed 65km, 5,100m in 12.5 hrs on a new ‘South-of-Glen Shiel Round’ which was “Longer than I signed-up for. A pretty spectacular day out though.”  It was 14km to get to their first Munro.  They did twice as much as me in a similar time! 

Kudos though may have to go to Declan Valters who committed solo to the remotest of Munros in Knoydart adding then adding in the Munros South of Loch Cuaich to make a huge round of well over 55km, 5,000m ascent on the roughest terrain in Britain.  

The jeopardy that followed, that had us on the edge our seats like the finale of Line of Duty, was the race by Jamie Paterson and his pal on the Skye Ridge to get Sgurr Nan Gillian done before midnight (having arrived on Skye after 0830!). This team was one of the youngest in the club.  The other was for Declan to be helped out by Mick James and Jonathan Marks.  John Busby had worked out that Declan could not make Gairiach in time.  At 2210 Mick and Jonathan set off and raced to summit Gairich at 2348 just as Sgurr Nan Gillian was confirmed by Jamie.  Poor Jamie then had to run/walk from Sligachan back to Glen Brittle as the Hotel was shut – well it was 0200 in the morning.

In 1988 over 2,000 people tried this in the Boots Across Scotland challenge.  They failed to summit two Munros.  Water Aid has tried several times and in 2007 came close…. <Waiting for confirmation>.  We are certainly the first single group or club to do this, possibly the first ever.

There are so many stories and minor epics so there will be a Carnethy Journal telling them along with the 282 summit shots. Please send in your stories to Ken which I am sure will make great reading.

My hat is doffed to everyone who participated and I am sorry for those who could not make it this time.  It was courageous.  We did it: we pulled together as a club a quite audacious plan; we committed in short time and executed it safely from bagging the first top to ticking the last top.

282 Munros in 15hrs 53 mins.

That will take some beating…. What next….


This Friday from Mark Hartree

Saturday was such a great day. Over 100 Carnethy H R C took to the hills and ticked off all of the 282 Scottish Munros in one day. I did the 9 Fannichs giving a 12hr day. Others did bigger and rougher days with some ticked one or a handful.
The jeopardy was whether the last Skye and Knoydart Hills, especially Gairich, would be done before midnight. Thanks to the supreme efforts from Club members and some herculean efforts we completed all Munros with 12 mins to spare. We think that it is the first time they have all been submitted in one day, but certainly the first time a single club has done it. In 1988 Boots across Scotland tried this challenge with over 2,000 hillgoers to achieve this goal. Their attempt failed (severe weather meant they missed out on two summits). Water aid planned to but cancelled in 2020 due to Covid….
Great teamwork, organisation and commitment by all involved in the great Carnethy.
Here is a random selection of piccies.

All the 282 Munro’s in a day ! Magic

Update / Also, time to complete now thought to be 16hrs 48mins since early summits reported later in the day were topped at 0700.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Long Gone Ferries Ballahullish, Skye, Cape Wrath ! Any memories ?

Ferry memories:

One of the classics was The Old Skye Ferry before the Bridge was built. It used to take us over to Skye for training and for Call outs. In these days there was no Kessock bridge at Inverness. (Work started on the Kessock Bridge in 1976, and it opened in 1982. Its total length is 1056m and the central span is 240m long. )

A journey to Skye could take 4 hours drive in winter the roads were not great in the early 70’s . It could take-longer at time’s, in these days many of us travelled in the back of the 4 toners in all weathers we had sleeping bags and made a bed on the gear . We left Kinloss on a Friday and woke up in Skye it was fun. No Health & Safety then one and wagon pulled a trailer full of fuel. No fuel cards !

We used to tell the new troops that you could get “Duty Free” on the ferry. So off they went by now the Ferry men knew and were in on the joke ! As for the Bridge Tolls after the Bridge was built that’s another story.

The Skye Bridge was opened 20 years ago, on 16 October 1995, to replace the ferry and revolutionise road transport to and from the island. Built as a a private finance initiative, the bridge initially had the highest tolls in Europe which led to a decade of non-payment protests.

The old Skye ferry .

Daz Steatham “Still using it when I first joined Kinloss. Remember when the bridge first went in – we used to get waved through/free access to the Isle for callouts but then they used to charge us full price to get back off the island once the job was done!! 🤣🤣”

Ballahullish Bridge

The Glenelg ferry is still running a wee ferry with a great history. Run by locals and well worth for a trip to Skye.

Imagine no bridge across Loch Leven to Glencoe and the only way was a long drive by Kinlochleven if you missed the ferry! Another classic ferry.

As for the Bridge when it was getting built a few of us crossed on the bridge supports along with a few of Scotland’s top young climbers. We got a severe warning from the local police who were waiting for us at the other end. The bridge was built by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company and opened in 1975, replacing the Ballachulish ferry.

Kylesku Bridge – another favourite and when this was getting built a few of my Team bungy jumped of it ! Again we were lucky the Police got in touch .

The cost of the bridge was £4 million, although was earlier budgeted at £2.75 million. The bridge opened to traffic in July 1984, and was formally opened by the …Construction cost: £4 million start: August 1982 : July 1984 opened

Cape wrath ferry – we we used this wee ferry on a few call outs a great adventure. Then the local mini bus to take us to the search areas.

Grand memories maybe next time maybe the big Ferries Arran Rum Harris Orkney and others ?

Comments and stories welcome !

Stan Sherman “It was worse when you arrived at the crossing and found you had missed the last ferry, we spent the night sleeping in the carriages of the Inverness Train one winter.”

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, History, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Sailing trips, Views Mountaineering | 4 Comments

Never take for granted our Families and how much they give us! Thank you all.

When I started Mountain Rescue in 1972 I was in the RAF had few responsibilities. I was like many very driven (looking back obsessed) by Mountaineering. Nothing else mattered at that period in my life. My family at home suffered and I was always away chasing the next hill and climb rarely going home often only once a year. I regret thus now as I lost my Mother and Father a few years later and always feel that despite phone calls and letters I was not there for them.

I was also in several relationships over the years but most faltered due to my obsessive desire for mountains and I lost a few loves of my life! My life was not right and how I messed up. Yet I am lucky that Yvette and Ashleigh treat me as a stepfather and I am a Grandpa to Yvettes daughters one of the joys of my life. Later on I did try to help the families in the team by starting Families weekends where we got them out to various Base Camps. Gairloch was a favourite as was Aviemore and Killin when at Leuchars. Off course we had leaving parties that our partners came to but later had Christmas ones and Barbecue as well.

These were great times and despite a few Call outs on the weekends the families saw what we did and a bit of our life then.

In these days we did 3 full weekends out in every 4 a month only later did we cut it to two weekends. They were full weekends from Friday night to Sunday night. Add to that Callouts all over Scotland and we were hardly at home. One period we were away for 8 days on Rescues.

I cannot imagine what went through the wives partners heads. Looking after the families mostly alone as we were away. It was crazy as even our Annual Reunions til the 90’s were male only but despite some moans we changed that.

We knew little about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in these days as some of the incidents dealt with trauma in a huge scale. Many of us came back and did not want to talk about what we had done or seen. It was a difficult time for the troops and the families. As we learned more we tried to include the families more and try to explain better what we did and how it effected us.

To me the true heroes of not only Mountain Rescue but all of the Rescue Agencies is the families. They give so much and especially those early years for children can effect them when Dad or Mum is away. It took me years to understand that many families worry about our safety as we are out out in all weathers. After all we are not invincible as many of us thought.

So every time the Mountain Rescue Teams are out or any of the Voluntary Services think of the families they leave behind. Only a few years ago I had a few folk in when one of their pagers went off. Dad went of to speak on his phone and left his daughter and my Stepdaughter talking. I could see she was upset and asked her what was wrong she said it’s my birthday tomorrow and Dad will not be here as it looks like he is off on a rescue. I really felt for her but Ashleigh my stepdaughter told her she felt the same when she was younger. She and Yvette missed many birthdays etc and I never really knew how much it effected them. I wish I had the wisdom then of age that you gain later in life.

I am sure things are a lot better 50 years on but we must never take those who love us for granted. Thanks to all fir their comments .


Pete Kirkpatrick / Ian Ellis posted this photo recently and my wife said. “Those were some of the best days of your life, weren’t they? She added quickly. “I’m not sure they were the best of mine – I never saw you.”

Confession time. I definately was going through a selfish bastard phase of my life when MR took up most of my time, energy, focus and thoughts. It was great. I ponder now. What, if I was more aware then, of the sacrifice other wife’s, partners, parents etc etc made to allow us ‘troops’ to do our thing would things have been different in some ways, for them and me?

Ponder time over. I think I was lucky to be in a time and place when us ‘troops’ could do what we did, and in the way we did it – and have a wife who understood what made me tick.

Keep sane and nearly safe everybody.

S Atkins – A fascinating post Peter. The MR monoculture was almost unique in military terms. Fascinating, creative, people who perhaps sought a less prescribed military experience. I always felt troops were somewhat characterised by the ‘gallus’, in the eyes of our bosses. It was educational and, for me, utterly inspirational. I joined Greenpeace and Amnesty following insightful chats with people such as Mick Anderson, John Chapman etc. A true crucible of innovative, and somewhat outlandish, thinking. My old landlord and teammate, Spy, referred to MR troops as ‘social misfits’. Cannot really argue with that! Hope you are well.

We were totally consumed in the moment and everything rock, and we were lucky enough to be doing it together. Too heady a mix. Any deity would forgive us, our loved ones not so much.

Nina Shanks – Don and I have been married for 46 years….it’s wasn’t always easy bringing up 2 girls mostly on your own. Made me a whole lot stronger. Sometimes I think it’s because we saw so little of each other that it’s lasted as long as it has!!! Lol.

Paul D – Pete Kay and David Whalley Peter Kirkpatrick – Chatting here now…. 3 of the many great people who inspired me the most during my MR shenanigans. From Trialist to Team Leader, a 20 year rollercoaster of happiness, interspersed with emotion and the seriousness of the job at hand. A life never to be repeated. If I had one regret, I wished I had respected and dealt with the death we witnessed on occasion with a little more respect remorse and compassion. It occasionally plays with my mind. Thanks to all the great troops, ones in a million.

Mark H – Great points guys. Were were basically selfish bastards. Our wives and girlfriends semi widows much of the times. But it formed who I am and what I pass onto others, and my dog, don’t we have some incredible memories.

“2ba, catch this stretcher if I throw it down to you” ( at the top of Idwal slabs)

“Er, Pete, I don’t think that is a good idea, lower it” ….”Tight, tighter, puuulll “

Peter Kirkpatrick thanks Pete. I use this example simply for the Love of all the experiences you, Heavy, Bill and the 100’s of guys (and girls) I came across gave me, either leading or following them, and the adventures/ epics we had, plus the few saved people. Beasting the hills chasing Andy Fowler, Steve Price and Steve Heaney laid the way to my hill running days recently. Your ‘death marches’ or ‘see how far can you go in 24 hrs’ gave me the confidence to run Tranter’s, Ramsay’s, Skye Trail, Hadrian’s…and 50+ others giving nice wee days out post the MRT. Recent biking and swimming just give the knees a rest and extends the adventures into new areas. My fingers, elbows and shoulders have had a few years break so maybe get back climbing again!. There are a few climb-runs if fancy…. and swim, run, climb, bike…

So having been a selfish MRT git, I am still a selfish git sometimes. I am very very grateful of the wonderful Fiona Hartree for suffering my addictions.

Bill Batson – Hi all. I’ve loved reading everyone’s comments and it’s brought back all sorts of – mostly happy- memories. I’ve never been a big one for looking back at times gone by but reading these posts really does make you realise how important and life changing/shaping/affirming our MR days have been. Would I have wished for anything to be different? Not at all.

Martin Gilmour / Certainly was a commitment for troops and family. The missed birthdays, Christmas and school days. Without a doubt would do it again. My son is stationed at Lossiemouth would I recommend MR to him not sure..

Martin Garnett – We had a telephone land line fitted in our married quarters’ told the BT installer to fit it in the bedroom. Jill Garnett asked why the bedroom? I answered, we get tanoyed in work for a call out, its just in case there was a call out in the night. Obviously no thought of Jill on how inconvenient a telephone in the bedroom was for day to day answering the the phone or making calls during the day.

The sitting room would have been better for the phone Yes we were selfish.

Thank you all.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 1 Comment

Animal Rescues. Sheep at Applecross and the Bull on the Five Sisters ridge at Kintail.

Lamb rescue

My first animal rescue was around Applecross near the Cioch Nose where several sheep had got stuck on steep crags. Seemingly it was an annual event and a few of the Kinloss Team were sent up to help. As a new troop I was expendable and sent down to get them off the cliff. What happened was incredible and we got 3 sheep of a loose ledge. They were very weak having eaten all the grass about. It was simple wrap a few slings round and lower them off. The shepherd was appreciative and we had a few big drams before heading home to Kinloss. There were no animal harness then!

Off course there was the famous Bull rescue at Kintail in the early 70’s

“I was just a young boy at the time, in the Kinloss Team but I remember the police called up the team to say there was a bull on the ridge. We thought it was a joke.

Bull on Five Sisters of Kintail Ridge
Image caption, Mountain rescuers managed to get the animal back down into the glen below

“The bull was thought to have been frightened by a car on the road in the glen below. The bull managed to get all the way up on to the ridge.

“It wasn’t very happy and it was stopping walkers from traversing the ridge. The walkers had to make a detour to avoid it.”

The Press had a field day “RAF Kinloss MRT were involved in a Bull rescue the Bull called George was safely guided the bull down from the ridge. The Munroist are safe now the Press said. It was over 50 years ago and an old pal Val Tenanty has written on this Callout .

Val and the Bull.

On a few walks on the hills we have found sheep stuck on cliffs and a few in bogs hard work getting them out. Located a few list dogs that seems to be happening more and there are harness’s for rescuing animals now. Early ones were very basic and at times dangerous!

Comments welcome !

Andy Elliot – “I remember we did a sheep rescue in Glen Clova, 4 ewes stuck on a ledge, the farmer said if they stay they’ll die, if they jump they’ll die, so if you manage to get them off it’s a winner all round. I think it was Anthony Crombie and I who abseiled down with a cargo net between us and we somehow bundled them in the net and carried on to the bottom of the crag”.

Eric Sharky “I was certainly involved in sheep rugby in the 80’s on horrible ground near the Cioch nose in Applecross 🤣 A fine day out.”

Dougie Crawford “With Ken Fryer, Brent Craig , Andy Barton…lowered off the bealach na ba cliffs, for the successful rescue of old Murdo Macraes two cragfast ewes…it went incredibly well…then back to the croft for a dram or six…slept all the way back to kinloss….I look at those cliffs now and cringe….youth, sense of bravery and total trust in lowering team….never forgotten”.

Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Hamish MacInnes – The Fox of Glencoe. Thanks for the review Adrian.

My friend Adrian Trednal wrote this in “All things Cuillin” on Facebook. He has given me permission to use it. I personally loved the book it is a wealth of stories by a man I miss and many others dearly. Many of the tales I knew but the photos some I have never seen before made me laugh. Hamish was more than. Mountaineer he was a good friend and how I miss his banter his phone calls and his company. Glencoe to me will never be the same but this book is a great tribute to a special person, well done all involved. The Editor and the Scottish Mountain Trust has done a great job it’s without doubt an outstanding read and again a big thank you to Adrian for his review. Hamish would be very pleased I am sure !

The Fox of Glencoe !

A review The Fox of Glencoe Hamish MacInnes.

The Holy Grail of Mountaineering (Auto) Biographies

Hamish MacInnes The Fox Of Glencoe

Hamish MacInnes must surely qualify as a polymath of the mountaineering. Not just a talented climber and mountaineer but a world leading authority in mountain rescue, a designer and engineer, prolific author and a safety adviser to many big budget films.

The book is suitably large (368 pages) and well suited to such a larger than life character as Hamish. It’s available in three different editions, Standard, Special and Limited. The Standard is anything but standard; a large hardback, sumptuously produced. The Special includes a nice slipcase to protect your precious book and the Limited (but now sold out) has the slipcase and a print of the man himself.

From a design perspective the book is a work of art from the stylish front cover through the carefully selected double page spreads of colour photos to the layout of the chapters themselves. Scottish Mountaineering Press is certainly on a roll with it’s new look books and everything about the book from the font to the binding, the choice of photos to the written content are all combined to produce an ultra up to date book about an iconic character.

The book only arrived on Saturday and I picked it up meaning to just glance through it but after reading the very moving introductions by Chris Bonington and Michael Palin just felt compelled to keep reading. The book is a clever mixture of stories told mainly by Hamish but bolstered by accounts from close friends and climbing partners. I’m guessing but assume some of the gaps were to cover chapters Hamish hadn’t written before his death last year. This mix of writing works well and it typified by the chapter on the first Cuillin Ridge traverse in winter.

The winter ridge chapter was originally written by one other team member, Tom Patey, for the 1965 SMC Journal but has been upgraded with additional commentary by Hamish and Brian Robertson in 2017. It’s typical of the chapters in the book with excellent writing and contemporary photos. Added touches include a photo of the successful team chilling out post traverse at Mrs Campbell’s house in Glen Brittle. There’s also a photo of the entry in Mrs Campbell’s logbook recording details of the epic traverse.

The ridge chapter was of prime interest to me but all the other chapters make compelling reading and truly capture Hamish’ diverse life. Not only is the writing brilliant but the chapter titles are intriguing, for example, “A Mini, A Train And A Corpse” or, “Y-Fronts Rescue.”

“The Evolution Of The Terrordactyl” provides an insight into the development of all metal ice tools after an accident on the then unclimbed Zero Gully on the Ben. Wooden handled ice axes had snapped yet Hamish had been using his all metal “The Message” for a decade. This tragic accident with three climbers killed prompted Hamish to design the “Terrordactyl” and the story continues to involve Yvon Chouinard and Don Willans whose motor bike tyre was no match for the new all metal tool! Read the book to find out more!

Some of the film work chapters are amongst the most readable. “Kilts, Claymores and Cameras” includes Highlander that was filmed on the Cioch and how in the epic fight scene Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert are secured by 2mm high tensile steel aircraft wire ankle loops attached to alloy chocks secured in the rock.

The chapter on Clint Eastwood and filming The Eiger Sanction makes for a gripping read especially as Clint did his own stunts including cutting a rope and the subsequent fall. Clint took all this in his stride but did ask, “Hey, guys, is this safe?” To which Hamish answered, “It’s safe enough but I wouldn’t do it.”

The book is so diverse covering alpine climbs, an early attempt on Everest, “Jaguars In Glencoe”, exploration and climbing in the jungles of south America and a whole lot more written in Hamish’s inimical style. Ice axes and rescue stretchers, climbs and climbers, friends and partners are all covered. The title of the post reflects Hamish’s involvement in the making of “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” with Michael Palin.

The choice of photos are really good and not just some epic mountain vistas but ones like John Cleare’s “Master engineer at work”, a masterful black and white image of Hamish in his workshop.

This is a fantastic read for climbers, many of whom owe a huge debt of gratitude to Hamish for the development of mountain rescue gear and procedures but also to a wider audience since it’s a fascinating autobiography on so many levels and genres.

Everyone at SMP deserves a huge amount of praise for producing such a bench mark book about such a seminal character as Hamish. This must surely set the standard for future autobiographies/biographies of not just climbers but anyone who has led an interesting life. SMP are on fire and producing new books in distinctive styles at a rate of knots.

Many thanks to Robert Michael Lovell for arranging the swift delivery of this stunning book.

The Fox of Glencoe

Thank you Adrian !

Posted in Articles, Books, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

1976 The North to South of Scotland walk the first week, Big bags, Big Learning.

I was tiding up and found a few old Walk basic reports this was of the 1976 North – South Walk.

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps  and there were limited communications Mobile phones were a long way away off. We carried 3 -4 days food plus all our gear, “Big Bags Big learning”

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF) This was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan. by and gaining authorization for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO ) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. We were lucky to have a Briefing room that most nights we were in with maps along the floor deciding the route. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Kinloss Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Posted in Mountaineering | 2 Comments

Enjoy the Outdoors more make it a family affair! More great advice from Mountaineering Scotland

I have always tried to encourage young people and families to get out on the hills and wild places. I was lucky as I was introduced at an early age by my parents . We had great holidays and adventures to Arran and climbing the hills and enjoying the coast and the rivers. We had little kit but these were the days that meant so much to me. Mum and Dad gave us great rewards on the hill Dad would always have a huge bar of Cadbury’s chocolate and sweets. Whenever possible we would have Chips on the way home a huge treat. These are special memories.

Arran late 50’s with my sister and brother.

Yet at times I feel that some folk though are pushing their kids on the hills. Make sure it’s fun for them it’s not an ego trip for you. You want them to have the love of the wild places for life ! Not put them off. You do that by taking it easy and not setting the day based on your ambitions? Make the day fun stop and enjoy it with them. Watch the weather and make it an adventure. My father would tell me the tales of the hills and help me appreciate nature.

Top tip – From Pete Greening “And try and pick sweets/treats that have little, or no, wrapping. Maybe make a “bag of joy” – a ziplock freezer bag full of sweets/nuts/dried fruit/chocolate. This reduces the chance of leaving litter on the hill.”

Posted in Articles, Corbetts and other hills, Family, Friends, Gear, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

More on Big Boots on climbs some of the comments received.

These are just a few comments of Climbing in Big Boots some classics :

Mark Hartree – Had some fun days in big boots. Slabs in Wales, ridges in Scotland, sea cliffs on Anglesey. (Dream of White Horses in plastics) “Great being youthful”

Al Barnard – With Stampy on Route 2 on the Ben, and then going off route on to Bullroar……your lead Stampy! Bold!

George Wurr – Not allowed to wear stickies until you can lead VS in boots and hillbag!

Don Williams – Never had any stickies so always used boots. I was not a great climber but could manage (just on VS). Navigation was my forte.

Val Tennety- If your “Boots Vibram aka “Curlies” couldn’t get you up a climb – you shouldn’t be there…on saying that, one-weekend exercise in Torridon – and in mid-winter! I had forgotten my trusted curlies back at Kinloss…so had to go on the hill – Beinn Eighe et al – with my favorite “Tree Thumper” driving attire – Flying Boots…never needed a laxative for months after that escapade – and never ever forgot the curly boots again!

D Williams – Luckily never used my curlies on the hill. Had my personal vibrams from before MR. Used the curlies (highly polished) for the dance at Swallow Falls on a Saturday night if we had base in the area.😂

Mark Pryor -Fell off the last pitch of Amphitheatre Buttress on a summer course ’90s with Al Sylvester . Bonked my head in my Joe Brown helmet. Al said “have you ever had a head injury?”… I said “yeah, fractured my skull twice.” The look on his face.

Al Slyvester – Mark Pryor l should have known you had brain damage before we went climbing 😂😂

Derrick Harman – Big boots and a bivy on the Old Man of Storr late 60’s not long after the first ascent and they used a ladder to cross!

Bobby Motherwell

Agags Groove, big boots wet rock. When confidence was high and the years were kinder.

Pete Greening Aug 21 Yesterday, in Great Gully, Craig yr Ysfa!

Big Boots Great Gully – photo Pete Greening.

Ken Hughes – Pete Greening me and Stormy on one rope, Twiggy and Taxi on the rope behind us. Did a night ascent at midnight after the pub. We ended up sleeping in slings for an hour or two waiting for the pair behind 🤣 …. Well, I had a ledge and Stormy slept in slings 🥃 topped out at dawn to walk off for breakfast.

Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Kinloch Castle up for sale on Rum!

Sorry no blogs as I was over on the West Coast and the internet was down. It’s sorted now !

I see Kinloch Castle is up for sale on the Island of Rum. I have great memories of the Island. We did a few call outs here mainly for bird watchers in the past. The locals were always so good and did so much for those in trouble on the Island. I have written about these call outs on my blog.

We also several times took our boat known as “Daz Boat” over at night many years ago just after a huge lightning storm. We had NVG’s (Night Vision Goggles)and saw a Whale as we crossed. It was another great memory. On landing in the dark a few thought we were SBS off a Submarine and we milked that one on the Island. We also had a Sea King drop off some more fuel as the late John Coull (RIP)drove in our boat the locals and the folk from the Castle round the Island.

In these days it had a wee hostel attached and a bistro that we booked a meal. I spent the day on the ridge and was picked up Dibidil bothy by our “Daz Boat” That saved a big walk out.

It was then a big meal

after changing and we met some lovely lassies from St Andrew’s University who were working for the summer on the Island. One came over the ridge with us.

Later on we had a great party in the Castle and even in these times it was starting to look unloved and drab. Yet inside we’re so many treasures of the man behind it’s building. Such wealth for one person to be able to build this is to me surreal. Yet I will never forget that night.

I doubt if anyone will buy the Castle and wonder what will happen to it. As for me and many others I have incredible memories.

The locals and the team!

Kenny K – There is a really good story there… you may have written it already. Great few days – dragging stags off the hill… nearly getting shot, tick nests. In fact, there was a really good story for every one of my Rhum (English spelling) visits (i.e. the Post Office incident).

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Enviroment, Friends, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Beinn Eighe boots !

Boots on Beinn Eighe !

The boots in the photo above were worn by my old pal Joss Gosling who had them on the RAF Kinloss MRT. He was a member of the team as a young man that located the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe in mid winter. All the crew were killed and it took months to recover the crew due to the depth of the snow. It was a life changing event for Joss. The boots are now used by his daughter in her Bed & Breakfast to raise money for Lochaber MRT.

Joss was a wonderful man and told me so many tales of these early call outs and how it shaped his life. Joss took lots of photos of the incident that are a unique piece of history.

The RAF Kinloss Team on Beinn Eighe.

“We follow in the footsteps of giants”

My blog has the full story.

2001 Joss at the Propeller!
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Why not have an adventure on the Munro’s via some cracking ridges ! Seana Bhraigh, Angels Ridge, Forcan Ridge on the Saddle and An Teallach.

Seana Bhràigh is a remote Munro with dramatic northern cliffs and great wilderness views. There is an interesting scramble . A long walk, with sections which could be difficult to navigate in poor visibility. The forestry track can be cycled to save 5km of walking.

The photo above is of the impressive ridge seen enclosing the opposite side of the Luchd Choire leading up to Creag an Duine makes a fine and challenging scramble, approached from the walkers car park (outside stalking season only) at Corriemulzie Lodge in Strath Mulzie. There is also an easier approach to the hill from the same start point which reaches the summit from the north and can be used as a descent by scramblers. It’s a great way up and missed by many in winter it’s airy in places. Yet well worth a visit !

Seana Bhraigh

I cannot mention ridges without the classic Angels Peak in the Cairngorms.

The Angel’s Peak (or Sgor an Lochain Uaine) – now at 1258 metres the fifth highest Munro – (updated Munro) it stands at the heart of the Cairngorms wilderness, a long and lonely way from anywhere.

It’s a fair walk in but what views of the Larig Gru . If you visit you will not forget the wonderful An Garbh Coire where the 1000 feet/ 300 metres scramble up the North East ridge of Angels peak.

From the bothy its a steep climb up to the lochan. This wee climb is a lot more serious in winter if you take in the waterfall on the way up to Loch Uaine at 900 metres, From here its a scramble to the summit first on big granite boulders and then the last 100 metres on the airy ridge. The views are spectacular all around and spend time on this ridge its easy and not a place to to rush. I wonder if I will get back this year. I love this place for its remoteness and the adventures I had had here. Plus a few call – outs, where you feel its a wild but stunning place.

An Teallach scramble.

An Teallach – Paul Taterhall the local guide says:

“There’s no doubt that An Teallach is a solid Grade 3 when taken directly. Unlike some other classic ridge scrambles, though, most of the difficulties are avoidable.”

“There are bypass paths that run along the south west side of the mountain, and a lot of people walk the ridge while avoiding the pinnacles,” explains Paul Tattersall, who regularly guides the ridge through his company Go Further Scotland. “To experience An Teallach at its best, you have to make an effort to stay on the crest and go off the front of each little sandstone pinnacle.”

He recommends parking at Corrie Hallie and starting with an ascent of Sail Liath, leaving the two Munros to the end. The bonus of doing the ridge in this direction is that you won’t have to downclimb the Bad Step – an extremely tricky pitch that often catches scramblers out.

As ‘bad’ as all that?

After the 954m summit of Sail Liath, there’s a brief stretch of airy walking with fabulous views on towards the ridge before your path is suddenly blocked by the Bad Step. This, like most of An Teallach’s challenges, can be avoided by banking left – but where would be the fun in that? Instead, Paul recommends you rope up and approach it directly.

“There are two shortish pitches here that can be tackled and protected using a basic scramblers rack,” he says. “The first is around 12 metres of buttress scrambling on rounded holds up and on to a ledge. Then another 12 metre pitch which follows a curving weakness to another ledge with just a little bit of rock above you to get up and over before you’re on the ridge line.”

Don’t be tempted to go ropeless unless you’re as experienced as they come. When the Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team is called out to An Teallach, it’s almost always because scramblers have come unstuck in this extremely exposed spot. If in doubt, of course, bypass the Bad Step and go up the first gully to regain the ridge and get back onto the pinnacles.

Pinnacular playground

This is the really fun bit. Between the Bad Step and Lord Berkeley’s Seat is the sharpest point of this spiky ridge – a series of pinnacles whittled out of Torridonian sandstone that give around 600 metres of heady scrambling.

“Stick to the crest as much as you can here, making your way up and down the little sandstone teeth,” says Paul. “This section isn’t as technical as the one before it, but many people will still appreciate a rope for the exposure. The sandstone can be blocky and fractured, sometimes liable to break off due to natural weathering processes. Another reason to stay roped up.”

At the end of the pinnacular scrambling is a particular feature known as Lord Berkeley’s Seat. Legend has it that Lord Berkeley used to sit up here and smoke his pipe, dangling his feet over the edge and taking in the views. He certainly couldn’t have chosen a more scenic spot.

“The whole face of An Teallach is undercut at this point, so this exposure is massive,” says Paul. “There are also fantastic views over the ridge.”

Others include Aonach Eagach, Liathach, Beinn Alligin and the Horns, Beinn Eighe and the Black Carlin’s, The Forcan Ridge on the Saddle, Beinn Alder and the Short and long Leachas and of course Skye has so many.

What’s your favourite ?

Posted in mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

The Stress bottle – before counselling?

Most years sadly we assisted many Mountain Rescue Teams with taking fatal casualties of the mountains. I do know it effected me over the years. Yet in these days it was just get on with it. At time’s despite your efforts a Walker climber would die even after huge efforts by teams. In these days we were told it was “part of the job.

Weakness –

Any sign of weakness was rarely accepted and “man up” was the phrase used. You must appreciate this was the 70’s.

The Stress bottle

As a young lad from 18 years old tragedies on the hills or aircraft crashes became a part of my life. As was a long journey home from Lochaber Glencoe, Skye, Kintail and many other places. Often without a shower or a debrief and straight back to work sometimes to Bosses who had no clue some thinking you were on a jolly! That as a young lad was hard to take.

Over the years things improved and the horrors of Lockerbie and the lessons learned were hard fought for. Many in the military took years to appreciate the effects on some of the team.

When I became Team Leader in the late 80’s I did try to change things. I pushed for the team to stay together after a fatality if it involved a long journey home.

We had a “stress bottle s of whisky” kept on the Control wagon and many unwound with a drink after a nasty job.

This was usually after a tragic or difficult incident in these days there was little advice on what to do ? This was our way at that time of dealing with it.

We all deal differently with things and a few were effected badly by what they did and saw and still are.

I was one of them it took me years to admit this to those I love. Families had no clue what was going on in some of our heads!

Alcohol was not the way forward yet at the time it’s all we had ? I am glad things are different now?

Comments welcome !

Al Swadel – Debriefing with your mates who where there, in a quite corner of a pub somewhere (with no “outsiders” eves dropping) over a few pints and letting the pressure slowly release, the questions be asked and even a bit of the “black humour” to flow, when you are in safe and trusted company goes a long way towards avoiding long term problems for individuals, strengthens the bonds between team members and even goes towards doing a “better” job next time

Alan Swadel – I think what was important was not only the drinking but it gave the troops an opportunity to unwind and chat about what we’d just been through. A decompression of some sorts before going home. I always thought it important that the troops stayed somewhere overnight before going home after a big job. Not only to recover physically from the hard work but to get time to mentally digest what we’d all just been through and discuss it with people “who understood”

Steve Grasper – Debriefing with your mates who where there, in a quite corner of a pub somewhere (with no “outsiders” eves dropping) over a few pints and letting the pressure slowly release, the questions be asked and even a bit of the “black humour” to flow, when you are in safe and trusted company goes a long way towards avoiding long term problems for individuals, strengthens the bonds between team members and even goes towards doing a “better” job next time

Angus – excellent article as usual Heavy, yes the Aultguish provided ‘stress relief’ and an opportunity to talk on a few occasions after difficult shouts.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Lockerbie, medical, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 17 Comments

The Munros a look back to 1976

I am looking back on the early Munros days what a great way to learn about this wonderful country, the mountains their hidden secrets, friendship on the hills and of course it’s people.

My last Munro in 1976

I was on a mission to plan my weekend hills and had the Munro book and my own list with me everywhere I went. Every weekend I would mark them off with a story about the weekend it was so great and what a way to get to know Scotland. The hills were quieter then and there were few paths away from the honey pots of the popular hill. During the week was spent in pouring through maps and planning what a way to learn. There was no quick fix like apps and the books and guides were pretty vague. The hills was a bit of exploration as it should be and all the time you were learning.

My pal Tom MacDonald and I completed our Munros both on separate hills in November 1976. We were both young members of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and were so lucky to have done these great hills before they became so popular.  It was a great weekend I finished on An Socach 944 metres and the other two Munros for the rest of the party it was a big day in November. Tom finished on I am sure Beinn Bhreac and we were staying at Braemar with the Team. Most of the hills were done with the team and it was a constant chase to get the summits done with some great characters who taught us lots. I had no car could not drive and on the odd weekend off we hitched to the hills.  I learned to navigate and worked hard getting to hills on buses, trains and hitching. It was an all-consuming journey and what a day when Pete McGowan the RAF Kinloss Team Leader and the late Ben Humble a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue presented me and Tom with a photo on our completion. This was the after myself and Tom MacDonald had completed out Munro’s 1976.  This was about a year before Ben passed away. It was a great privilege to meet Ben Humble, what a character that is his great photo behind me of the Ben and Carn Mor Dearg that used to hang in the RAF Kinloss MRT Briefing room.

Pete McGowan the RAF Kinloss Team Leader at the time what a man and gave us both a picture of our day and on the back he wrote these wonderful words. It was signed by Ben Humble a real mountain character and pioneer of Mountain Rescue.

“On behalf of all the members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team may I congratulate you on a really fine achievement in ascending An Sochach 3097 feet in Breamar on 13 November 1976.  You completed a unique double with Tom Mc Donald to join a small band of climbers who have ascended all the 280 “Munro Mountains” in Scotland.

Yours Aye Pete Mc Gowan  Team Leader RAF Kinloss MRT

(Also signed “Congratulations” by Ben Humble SMC )” I was so proud that Ben Humble

 I was so proud that Ben Humble was there he was some man a hero from another era and he always spoke to me no matter who was about.

It meant so much and still does to me to this day that Pete took the time to make our day special. Pete  is incredible man and a true leader who sorted the team out and made us a true band of brothers and ready for anything that Scotland could throw at us.  We learnt so much in these few years. There were so many great days in that period it was all fresh and new, the old basic inch to the mile maps, poor weather forecasts, no mobile phones, no GPS and few paths and you rarely met people. There were also no wind farms to blight the views. We had so many friends as the keepers in the glens, great names Mr Oswald at Ben Alder, Mr Mc Rae in Skye, Mr Robertson at Loch Muick so many more, we always addressed them as Mr or Sir they were real characters. From Skye to Ballater we knew so many of them and the advice they gave us was incredible. This was well before we have such great access thanks to the work of all parties in the Scottish Parliament.

The SMC Munro book so very basic back then and there was only one about the SMC Munro’s Tables it was our bible and how I enjoyed ticking it after very adventure. Each year I was getting in over 130 hill days getting in so many new hills little else mattered? Nowadays there are so many great books on the Munro’s my favourites are listed below, each have a gem about these mountains.

The Munros SMC , The Munros Tables SMC Guide

The Munros Cameron McNeish and the Munro Almanac.

Some of the epic days are so clear even today my first attempt at the Skye ridge in one go apart from Gillean in 1973 when I nearly abseiled off the rope and Tom saved my life. Huge days of all the classic ridges, The Mamores, Fannichs, Kintail, Fisherfield, Torridon, Glencoe, Tranters Round, light and slow in running gear, the Etive hills with a Vango Tent and so many more adding to them each year and learning so much. In winter it was hard with the simple kit. Big days in the Cairngorms in mid winter on Beinn An Beinn A Bhuird  with troops traing for the artic, huge cornices and dead reckoning navigation. The Curly Boots that froze as did the breaches (whatever happened to them) Big rucksack’s were the norm and a rope was always carried along with fairly useless radios. We learnt to navigate with basic maps and limited area knowledge. Learning the hard way from mistakes in the winter traverses of the Cairngorms bothying, camping high, snow – holing and then at the end of the day maybe a call –out.  You built up stamina and how often did it happen often coming off a 12 hour day on the hill then out on a night call – out no Health & Safety then. I have hundreds of tales about wild day on the hill, great adventures, near misses that will stay with me forever.

There were a few in the Team in those early days that mocked us Munro baggers they were the so-called climbers. At times they would walk round the summit tops to wind us up. It took a few years in the end for me to understand there was more to life than Munros and I learned whenever I could to mix the climbing and the Munros. After each weekend we would be asked at briefing what Munros, hills we had climbed and had to be able to name them all, a big day like the Kintail/Fannichs/ Beinn Dearg Range would be not easy but you learned the names and the area knowledge built up. My early big Walks across Scotland in the 70’s and early 80’s were a huge influence and we were climbing the Munros by new routes, great knowledge was gained from these walks. We added more and more hills a bit of bravado then and had some incredible days. Many pushed the boat out sometimes  nearly to far!

I feel so privileged to have had such an experience in these early days, so many memories of great days and I have been lucky enough to get several Munro round completed over the years. In the end I have slowed down, I take my time and enjoy these great mountains; everyone has several memories for me. It was wonderful taking the new troops out on the big days, get them fit and learn about these hills and climbing so many of the classic days again and again. I had a great dog Teallach a big soft Alsatian who completed a round and I will never forget our two-day traverse of the Skye ridge, one never to forget. We were so lucky that the Munros were a big part of our training in the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and all the classics big days were done again and again often in wild weather. Navigation and Stamina were the key skills and so many young novice troops learned on these great mountain days.

Looking back what a marvellous journey from that day 40 years ago who would have believed where it would take me? I have climbed all over the World been on some of the world

“I still feel young, although I cannot climb mountains quite so fast as I could years ago.” John Muir, 1910 (aged 72)”


I see so many enjoying the Munros but there are other hills that are not so busy, please take time to enjoy these places. The Munros have been run in incredible times but however you do them just think of these early days before Apps and modern navigation devices, guide books that take you step by step through the route. If you get half the fun out of them and met so many great character’s you will be lucky and have memories for life. Try to savour them climb them by a different route and take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints. Give something back to these great hills.

Posted in Books, Friends, Mountaineering, Munros, Well being | 2 Comments

Extract from my first Big Walk the North To South Scotland – May 1976 David “Heavy” Whalley , Jim Morning and Paul Burns. Heavy Whalley – Jim Morning (JM Paul Burns(PB)

Where were you 41 years ago ?

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps  and there were limited communications Mobile phones were a long way away

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF)This was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan. by  and gaining authorization for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO ) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Extract from The Big Walk North To South –  May 1976  David Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning and Paul Burns.  Heavy Whalley – Jim Morning (JM Paul Burns(PB) This was the first expedition in the RAF to be led by SAC’s VERY JUNIOR RANKS and no officer. The expedition had lots of support by Pete McGowan (Team Leader) who stuck his neck out to let us do the Traverses.

1976 Big Bags Big days

During the walk we set up food caches and were completely unsupported and self-sufficient, my cartilage went on Day 7, when we took a rest day only 2 were planned. Most of the rest of the walk I was on my own most days. The Mamores Traverse I completed in 12 hours Jim and PB were back at bothy 3hours before me!  It was definitely mind over matter, when on your own on the hill.


We had already done 9 wild days on the hill a completely self-contained trip carrying 4 days food staying in bothies all the way .   The hills were still wintry and the gear very simple we carried fairly big bags as gear was heavy then. It was wet gear most day! But what days.


18/5/76 Day 10 Glen Strathfarrar  – Affric  Toll Creagach-Tom A’ Chonnich-Cairn Eighe-Mam Sodhail-An Socath – Altbeithe Youth Hostel. Big mountain day-hard hills-great bothy- leg  sore around my knee/ weak.  Weather pretty wintry. 16 miles/6060 feet.
19/5/76 Day 11 Mullach Fraoch Choire-A’ Chraliag- Sgurr Nan Conbhairean-Carn Ghlusaid-Greenfields (cartilage went on descent) Long road walk-Sea King Helicopter met us and dropped bags, and gave us a well earned brew and some rations. Thanks too the late Mick Anderson winch man. Hard to find at bridge at the end of the day. Stayed at Greenfields in a hut. That is the Glens over hard 5 days. 22 miles/6800 ft.long day.
20/5/76 Day 12 Greenfields – Sron A’Choire Garbh-Meal Na Teanga- Spean Bridge- Stayed in toilets at  Spean Bridge Station later stayed at Bridge of Orchy Station later on as well got kicked out at 0500- left wallet in pub – found next day by Police.19 miles/4086. No bothy after the hill not so great.
21/5/76 Day 13, Spean Bridge Railway station – Aonach Mor- Aonach Beag- Carn Mor Dearg-Ben Nevis. Big day need a rest now my leg hard going downhill ABOUT AN HOUR BEHIND THE BOYS AT THE END OF THE DAY. 17 miles/7500 feet.
22/5/76 Day off Fort William in the old ATC Hut at last went to doctor with cartilage told to withdraw from walk-no chance!
Tired days? But what memories.
Posted in Articles, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

One incredible day on Garbh Bheinn in a heatwave to Ardgour visiting Alan Grouts (RIP) Memorial.

It had been my plan for many years to visit Ardgour and visit the memorial to a young RAF Kinloss Team member Alan Grout who was killed whilst rock climbing on these cliffs. The story is vague as it happend 60 years ago but young Alan was a new team member at the time in 1956 and it seems that he climbed above the leaders belay and took a big fall. In 1956 there was little gear, no harness,no helmets and protection was very basic. The story is told in Frank Cards book “Whensover ” He took a big fall according to the book falling 50 – 70 feet and the pendulum meant he sadly hit the rock !  He was killed instantly ! The photo below shows gear of the same era on Waterfall Buttress near Slioch and a new severe climbed by the RAF Mountain Rescue Team.  The team was climbing all over Scotland in these early days many were new climbs for the time.

1956 on Waterfall Buttress 1952 on Waterfall Buttress on a new route Dan Stewart Tuti  100 metre severe – Beinn A Mhuinidh near Kinlochewe. photo J Lees

Whatever happend to Alan it would be a tragedy and the RAF Kinloss Team in 1957 built a memorial to Alan in this wild corrie, nowadays Memorials are scorned  quite rightly on the hills but  it was the thing to do in that era. For years when I was in the team at RAF Kinloss we visited this wild place and climbed many of the routes in this incredible corrie.  It became a place of pilgrimage for me  and one to show even the best young climber that mistakes can be made  and at times they can be so costly. Few who arrive here are not impressed with the situation. There are so many climbs about all defended by a usually wet long walk in. The  Great Ridge dominates the corrie and is the classic as is Pinnacle Ridge, Great Gully and many more incredible rock climbs. There are acres of cliffs and gullies and this is wild Corrie and one of the finest in Scotland for rock scenery.

The long walk in and it was so warm The long walk in and it was so warm.

I was going to go myself into Garbh Bheinn no one else was available but felt I had to go and visit the Memorial. I had been there on the 50 th Anniversary in 2006 with Jimmy Coates another Team member . The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team is now sadly  gone but there is still a RAF team at Lossiemouth and I managed to get my old mate Dan Carrol to come with me. Dan was a former RAF Kinloss/ Leuchars and St Athan Team Leader and I was glad of  such great the company. We had talked about it in the past and as I have a small operation on Thursday the only day we were free was Monday and he wanted to come. It was a long 3 hour drive across to Ardgour and the short Ferry crossing from the Corran Ferry was incredible it was a blue sky day, hot even at 0600 in the morning and there was a wind so no midges. This wee ferry takes you into another land Ardgour is some place that few realise missing this area out for the big hills of Glencoe and Ben Nevis.

Views that were specail. Views that were special.

Argour is such a wonderful place and the ferry makes it special and the views of these hills are superb. These are really rough wild mountains, there are few paths and the hills are covered in rock and steep ground and days on these hills are precious and few venture in. We parked at the old road and the very wet and boggy  path takes you into Coire an lubhair it was hard going and so warm today. This is some walk in and I found it really hard going, we had taken some rock climbing gear with us which did not help as we maybe fancied a climb after our visit to the memorial. The memorial used to be marked on the map but we had to use our battered memories to remember where it was. Off the path it was hard going no path and real rough ground but we found it and what a situation it is in. It is on the top of a small buttress and looking spectacular in the sun.

Dan at the memorial. Dan at the memorial.

Dan was well ahead by now  but I stopped to take photos and the memorial  on the top of the small crag that glistened in the sun. It has a wonderful backdrop of huge cliffs and buttress it was a long 2 hour walk in the heat. The memorial was in great condition for 60 years old and we had a great break here. It was strange but we thought of what may have happened here. The accident must have been awful for all concerned, no phones in these days and someone had the awful task of going for help, then the long evacuation by your pals so many sad questions.  After this notifying the poor family and the loss of a young life so many years ago. This was a tragedy that would effect many for the rest of their lives a tragedy.  I suppose as Team Leaders it had always been in our thoughts how would we have dealt with and accident like this to our team and we had a few near misses in our 30 odd years. We spent some special time here and decided that time was moving on we wandered up into the corrie. We had not enough time to climb and it was a day to relax and enjoy this stunning place and we were left to each other thoughts as we wandered around. 1956 was along way back but what a sad time that day all those years ago must have been. I wonder if there is anyone with information on the accident as I can find little around. Can you help and the piece in “Whensover” is vague?

2000 Al Grout mem

I have always wonder why was the memorial is in this place well off the path and rarely visited?


I was feeling a bit rough the sun and my neck injury hurting and sore so it was the right move to enjoy this place and not climb. We would have had a rush and long day that I would have struggled with. Dan as always was fine about it.  There was no one around just so many memories of  many ascents of this fine cliff and opening new team member’s eyes to this wild place. There were some good  past winter ascents, grand climbs a few epics and always the pilgrimage to the Memorial and the thoughts of why we climb. It is also at times the consequence of a mistake and the long-term effect on the family and those involved?

The Great Ridge another day? The Great Ridge another day?

Dan took the rock gear off me( he is still a bairn in age) and we had a long wander back stopping and drinking,lots from the river. It was great cooling down and enjoying the views and I had feeling a bit dizzy at times until I drunk more fluid and then it was okay. It was the effect of the sun was battering down all morning it must have been about 25 degrees. Time was moving on and we were soon back at the car and then the Ferry back to the mainland.

Dan heading off in the sun! Dan heading off in the sun!

It was so warm the sea so flat calm and a quick visit to see Hamish and later Sue at Onich and coffee at Crafts and Things in the Coe and then the long drive home. It was great weather the hills were sparkling  and what an incredible day we had. No summits but a lot of reflection, thanks Dan for the company and understanding on this special place and looking after me on a wonderful day.


The Memorial is at NM 9097962798 and worth a look it is some wild place.

Take care if out in the sun, walk slowly, drink plenty fluids, wear a hat and use sun screen or you will have snags!

Posted in Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 4 Comments

Lou Costello RIP

When I was posted to North Wales one of the real characters I met who was an ex troop at RAF Valley Mountain Rescue Team. Lou was one of them, we met often and had a huge Mountaineering CV. He climbed with many of the “Old and Bold” a very quiet generous man. He looked after me in my early days at Valley and we climbed a few times once on Cloggy he was so cool and laid back and had climbed with many of the greats of his generation. That’s was many years ago in the late 70’s . Over the years he has been a mentor to many team members. He loved Gogarth and introduce many to it. He made so much of his own gear and was a great inventor of kit. My pal Graham Stamp has written this and has allowed me to use it to tell many of Lou’s pals the sad news .

From Graham Stamp a great pal – Hi Troops. Sad news I’m afraid. Great friend and climbing buddy Lou Costello sadly passed away this morning. A great friend of the Valley Team over decades, many of the troops that new him would remember what a character he was. Lou was always keen to pass on his vast knowledge on the crags of North Wales especially Gogarth and climbing a route with him would always involve fascinating stories of epics he had been on. I remember climbing Mousetrap at South Stack with him, himself leading the crux displaying the boldness and coolness required to accomplish such a route. I’ve many stories of climbing with Lou and trips to the alps (Hirondelles ridge on the Grand Jorasses we also did together) as I’m sure many of you that also climbed with him have as well but above all will remember what great company he was in the mountains and on the crag. He will be missed.

Lou on left at Hornlie hut Matterhorn photo P .McGowan

Comments welcome

Mark Hartree – Sad sad news. Very sorry to hear this although I did wonder if he had already passed on to the big crag in the sky. As an 18yr old fool, I climbed my first routes on Gogarth and Cloggy with Lou who seemed to be a font of climbing knowledge. He pointed out to me that I should put some gear in. On Slanting Gully on Llewidd one re-union we only just made it to the meal after abbing off in the rain. He taught me that once you make a decision on the hill, stick to it and do not bottle out and reverse your choice. That way, you will learn mountaineering judgement. Best Wishes to his family and all who knew him. 2ba

Bob Tomlin – Really sad to hear about the loss of Lou, RIP. Lou was one of the guys who (as a newbie to Valley) made you feel instantly at home, welcome and was a huge part of the Valley experience, often nipping in to the section and coming out on weekends and sharing stories. He was there on my earliest days on the hill and seemingly as happy doing any aspect of mountaineering, be it escorting his blind friend around the Snowdon horseshoe, taking part in or supporting expeditions or climbing either on technical pieces or in Chossy traditional gullies. Will be sadly missed. Raising a glass tonight.

Ted Rodgers – Lou was one of a kind and lived a colourful life with lots of adventures.He nearly came to Changabang with us and I still have the duvet bootees he made me for the trip.One of many characters who enriched my climbing world.

Paul Jiggins – Desperately sad news… I’ll have a drink for him tonight, I remember he liked his whisky. I remember some happy times with him on various crags…. especially South Stack. Just having a read of the Gogarth guide book and a small dram. One of Lou’s favourite routes… Mousetrap… rip olde friend 😢

Gogarth Guide book photo P. Jiggins

Pete Kirkpatrick – Ex Team Leader Valley MRT – Just learnt of Lou’s passing. Now reading people’s memories of him, I recall his support of the Valley team in my time, that was deep rooted, genuine and giving in so many ways. I’m now regretting not having any ‘hill or rock’ time with Lou. I do recall vividly though Lou, along with Jack Baines (At different times.) been very welcome regular brew drinkers to the MR section at Valley. The past linking to present troops like a blood line. Farewell Lou.

Nigel Hughes – Lou popped into the section, probably on a monthly basis, for a brew and a natter to the troops therein. I knew his face, but not much else; except he was a skinny guy who rode a Norton Commando. In Apr ’82 he turned up at Holyhead Mountain where the troops climbed most Weds evenings and we did our first route together. Lou seemed to know every route. No, Lou DID know every route and enthusiastically relayed stories in answer to my curiosity. A couple of months later Lou accompanied me and Jock Pirrie up into Ogwen to climb Manx Wall. As we passed various crags, more tales of past endeavour were sprinkled on us; he was genuinely an interesting guy with no arrogance who loved his hills. Lou was an outstanding climber who put up many first ascents in the late ’60s/early ’70s. He loved Gogarth and also introduced the troops to Rhoscolyn way before it gained wider popularity. We all climbed Bagger’s Crack in honour of Lou, who made the first ascent back in 1970. He also had first ascents of many others, notably Cocaine and El Dorado; often climbing with his buddy Dave Durkin. And if anyone has done or in future ever attempts Truant Right Hand, you’ll appreciate how good Lou was; especially considering the era these first ascents were realised. My last route with Lou was Fallen Block Crack in 1988. As we roped up he asked if I had any large gear on my harness. ‘Not really’ I replied, ‘Then you’ll need this’ and handed me a No10 Hex. ‘Put it in about fifteen feet from the top’ and it’ll protect the crux’. Well I climbed up and sure enough, 15ft from the top is where I put his Hex. Sums him up perfectly.

Ah so sad! Brilliant guy. Had the pleasure of climbing a route with him in a less well travelled area on Holy Island whilst I was based at Valley. He was expanding my area knowledge. Must’ve been about 2014. It had sections of traversing and was about VS (the route was his choice) and I recall that he was struggling to bend one of his legs due to a problem with his knee! No issues on the route and almost anyone else his age would not be going anywhere near a sea cliff face! Great guy. Had several enjoyable meet ups having a brew with him and the guys who organised the reunion. Lee Wales

My thoughts are with Lou’s family and friends . Great things happen when men and mountains meet.

Anyone got photos of Lou on the hill or climbing ?

Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Some good comments from yesterday’s blog on Training in wild conditions.

Please note yesterday’s blog was not an ego article but an insight into the mindset of the times. The point I was trying to make was that we trained very hard to do the job we did. I got to know what a 40 mph wind was like and how hard it was to control look after each other in winds and weather. You learn about wind, snow conditions etc. There was only one radio in each party in the early days 70’s and no GPS, good weather reports limited communication and avalanche information. I would get my information from Blyth Wright one of those behind the eventual SAIS service we have today. I was always asking advice if we were off on a call – out in the wilder parts of Scotland no matter what time I called he would assist. I took a great interest in Avalanches after my early epic on Lancet Edge in 1972!

Wind speeds !

As I stressed it was all a huge responsibility on the young leaders and the Team Leaders with an organisation I feared at times would not support us if it all went wrong! Yet we built a trust I felt we had to make all the tram self reliant and we would have the capacity to help each other if all went wrong.

Stu MacKenzie RAF MRT – “Yes thats ok and read abd agree with the content. 50 years ago we were out on the Monadhliaths and the weather was so bad, blizzard, we decided to turn back and get off the hill. Next day we were out looking for the party of schoolkids who all perished bar one. So sad, but it was all down to experience and decision making.” (The Cairngorm Disaster)

Ally – Everyone’s training is their responsibility, standards are achieved by experience, learning Hill craft and understanding your responsibility. No one is a expert we just learn how to use the hills. Fab article..

I think on the RAF Mrt side fitness and our relative youth, helped offset slightly weaker area knowledge because as you said we covered large areas. If you could put in say 25-30km in on the hill, you’d learn more of the area, the same with climbs or scrambles. The youth angle aided recovery, we’ve all had those jobs where you’ve barely eaten tea in the bothy and you’re back out up the hill on a callout, potentially all night, or even turned around in the car park back uphill.

I always saw fitness being key to making good decisions, if you aren’t physically wrecked ploughing uphill or in tough conditions you can think clearer or more wisely, especially as a party leader when you’re responsible for others who are less experienced.

Darren Summerson – RAF MR Team Leader

Ryan – Torridon

Great article Heavy, not only honest but pure. To be able to rescue climbers or recover a body successfully in what can be the most harrowing conditions we must also train in these conditions to be the best we possibly can and to stay safe. I never understood why fair weather walkers wanted to join MRT, maybe it was just for the badge.

Neil – Lakes

A good read Heavy and totally agree sometimes the hardest decision is the one that’ll save yours or team members lives. When a team member has an accident on a rescue it’s the worst situation we found that out for sure.

Andrew Wolfstone RAF MRT

Darren Summerson along with what sumo said, fitness got troops out of trouble a lot I think, nav errors being a main one, because the guys were so fit they would just turn around and carry on. Normal hill goers were probably only for enough for the day planned barring any mistakes.

The winter course was a big eye opener for me, going from joining the team and sleeping every Sunday on the drive home to teaching on the winter course where you’re on the hill for almost 2 weeks straight. Most of the students were part time and only out 2 days a week. Hats off to them.

A great read as well

Alan Jackson -Another good read Heavy. Regular, hard training in any activity slowly builds a high level of fitness for body and mind which is essential for clear thinking and coping with developing situations in a hostile environment. In my experience, it only becomes apparent just what a high level of fitness has been achieved when returning to that activity after you have had to stop through injury or other circumstances. We may have experience but trying to regain that previous level of fitness can take much longer than we think.

Great advice in this Classic
Posted in Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

The point of Training hard for the worst that the weather can do on the mountains.

I have written a few blogs recently about mistakes I made on the hill. The point I wanted to make was to show how little things can escalated and can turn into an epic .

I spoke to Dan Carrol who I respect as a mountaineer and for his honesty. Dan was my Deputy at Kinloss Mountain Rescue where he was an outstanding mountaineer.He was also my Team Leader at Kinloss well respected by all.

Dan is great to chat to his advice is invaluable.

I was talking him through the piece I wrote yesterday of an epic I had in the Cairngorms over 35 years ago. As a young climber who thought he knew the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms well was pushed to my limits. A few folk contacted me and wondered why we trained so hard.

From the epic on Eat
Five finger gully Ben Nevis .

What Dan reminded me was we were training all our new Team members for a unique environment.

We were not training for working in normal conditions but for the wildest. We were training to operate in the worst of weathers. “As the only all weather SAR”’ that was often when most of our Call outs occurred. We often were going out when others were going home.

The responsibility of taking young / new team members out in these conditions was a huge undertaking . Yet we thought that at the time we were invincible nothing would happen to us.

The training we did in awful weather pushed the safety margins at times. As I got older I could see this and tried to tell my party leaders (mostly young folk) The decisions on the hill we’re theirs and if things got that serious to come off the hill. The big point was that “No one would criticise their decisions and there would be no shame attached to any decisions” .

I learned from so many great mentors. One that stands out I was very lucky as a young party leader we were supporting Cairngorm and Glenmore Lodge MRT in a big search in winter .

I was sent to support a few of Glenmore Lodges top men as they were returning from a search in Loch Avon.

It was then that Fred Harper the principal of Glenmore Lodge who briefed us . Only a few of us were out that day as the conditions were as bad as they can be as we headed out in the Cairngorm plateau.

He kept the minimum folk out due to the serious conditions.

Wild day in the Cairngorms.

As a young confident party leader I was so pleased to chosen for this task. In my small party on the hill one of the young lads normally very strong was really struggling.

The weather was bonkers as bad as it gets. Out on the whiteout on the plateau he was having a bad time with the consistent wind and snow. It’s very hard to keep an eye on the group when the goggles are on hoods are up, wind is trying to blow you off the hill. Even my dog Teallach was finding it hard. I made the decision to come back. We huddled together and agreed decision made. Now we had to get off the Hill. I made the decision and it was full on getting off. In these days my whole life was on the hill, I was prepared for the weather but felt I had let the Glenmore group down.

On returning to Glenmore we were

called into Fred’s office in Glenmore Lodge. I dreaded it feeling I had let him down. He was great and said “ you made a great decision always remember when to call it a day”

These words and advice I have never forgot.

The great thing is we had few real epics despite averaging about 150 hill days a year for over 35 years. Even more important I never lost a Team

member and how many of these young folk became competent mountaineers. The responsibility was at times huge for all. I have discussed this with various Team Leaders of both Civilian and RAF most felt the same .

Our young party leaders never let us down and always produced the goods. It was a huge learning curb for all. Unlike the civilian teams we were called in all over Scotland into many wild areas. We did not have an area as such that’s why we trained in all areas every weekend.

You relied on your skills to keep everyone safe. It is well worth noting this was before good weather reports, Avalanche information, mobile phones, good communications and GPS mapping. We relied on navigation, fitness and a bond between us. Added to that some great people as mentors and working hard to learn the Mountain areas all over Scotland. Add to this a helicopter drop offs at short notice into a wild area and having to access the mountains and the limited weather / avalanche conditions available at the time !

The only way in my mind was to train was to get out on the hills in all weather’s and test ourselves. It seemed to work ?

On the hill you learn to trust your companions and especially your climbing partners. This bonded us over years and I felt is unique to the world of Mountaineering.

Interesting looking back ?

I look back when I had to be part of an official enquiry into an accident for a team member in training. This was a testing time and took a bit of understanding the “Blame culture” that was present at the time by those in power who had little understanding of what we did. We did learn from these incidents and adjusted protocols to ensure that they would not happen again.

Most folk will have their own stories of lessons learned these are still relevant to this day.

Comments welcome as always

Stu Mackenzie – “Yes thats ok and read abd agree with the content. 50 years ago we were out on the Monadhliaths and the weather was so bad, blizzard, we decided to turn back and get off the hill. Next day we were out looking for the party of schoolkids who all perished bar one. So sad, but it was all down to experience and decision making.”

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 3 Comments