Great bothies and Memories.

My old mate Mark Cheeky Simclair RIP and Ray Shaferon at Sheneval bothy with a grand fire on

My old mate Mark Cheeky Sinclair RIP and Ray Sharon at Sheneval bothy with a grand fire on.

It’s great when you find an old photo that sirs the memories like the one above of wonderful bothy days and night with great pals. Mark in the photo is no longer with us killed on Lochnagar many years ago with another top pal Neil Main after a climbing accident, a sad time in my life in March 1995. The photo above sums Mark up full of fine and lived to climb. He loved Alaska and a few days before he was killed he gave me a huge photo of Denali Inspired by Bradford Washburn  whose photos of Alaska of that wonderful peak are breathtaking. Mark and Neil he had climbed in that wild area and loved it, what a pair they were. Mark and Neil would love the book I am reading just now.



The Bond

The Bond.

The Bond

“Man, the only – only – good thing about that climb was that you were tied on to the other end of the rope.’ Simon McCartney was a cocky young British alpinist climbing many of the hardest routes in the Alps during the late seventies, but it was a chance meeting in Chamonix in 1977 with Californian ‘Stonemaster’ Jack Roberts that would dramatically change both their lives – and almost end Simon’s. Inspired by a Bradford Washburn photograph published in Mountain magazine, their first objective was the 5,500-foot north face of Mount Huntington, one of the most dangerous walls in the Alaska Range. The result was a route so hard and serious that for decades nobody believed they had climbed it – it is still un – repeated to this day. Then, raising the bar even higher, they made the first ascent of the south-west face of Denali, a climb that would prove almost fatal for Simon, and one which would break the bond between him and climbing, separating the two young climbers for over three decades. But the bond between Simon and Jack couldn’t remain dormant forever.A lifetime later, a chance re-connection with Jack gave Simon the chance to bury the ghosts of what happened high on Denali, when he had faced almost certain death.”


alaska-tent-clear-after-storm- we had some wild storms on our trip that we interesting but nothing like the tale in the Bond.

I have had great days on a big mountains and Alaska was special my thoughts of Neil and Mark how they would have loved to be climbing today with all the new and improved gear. So as the winter draws in take care in all you do and enjoy the mountains in winter at their finest.



Posted in Alaska, Books, Bothies, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Thanks for all the comments on PTSD and Mental illness ! 

Thank you for the supportive comments on yesterday’s blog. I did it as a former colleague contacted me as he realised that after over 20 years he was suffering from PTSD.

It was good to see the response and I was very pleased to hear that Scottish Mountain Rescue have ran several TRIM Courses to help the teams. Sadly it has taken so long but at least we have started and hopefully the professional Agencies, Police, Ambulance, Fire and other services are now at least aware but we have a long way to go?

I have had a few calls from pals asking how I am? I am fine but always a bit unsettled writing and speaking about PTSD and my life involved so many incidents but I was lucky I was surrounded by good people and that is huge.

As for mental illness I get so upset when people do not realise someone they care for is struggling ! 

We must not ignore the signs in all of us but ask the difficult questions to those we love! Everyone needs someone and that means even the toughest can succumb!

I have just been for a great walk along the wonderful local beach and just missed the Dolphins a free display. That is my way of coping and I enjoy the solitude of walking alone at times and yet company is great but I talk too much!

Now it’s time to watch the football today a thing I missed when I was out every weekend on the mountains with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team. 

Have a good day and keep your eye on each other! 

Posted in Articles, Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, mrdical, PTSD | Leave a comment

Looking after each other and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental Illness! 

Many will know that I suffered from PTSD after Lockerbie in 1988 and at times it still effects me! I have written about it many times in my Blog and regularly hear from so many who suffer from it. It is sad to see that such a tragedy like Lockerbie that effected nearly 70% of my team of 36 many only realising this recently over the last 10 years! So many families have had to deal with this and the strains on the families and loved ones ares huge. I know this from my time in the dark room! I also was heavily involved in the Shackelton Crash in Harrris in 1990 where 9 souls  died and the Chinook Crash on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994 where there were 29 fatalities. I was unfortunate to be on scene very fast on all these tragedies, so I sadly speak with vast experience on this subject. I also feel that this is so different from a war scenario where you expect to see death and trauma. On all occasions we were not expecting to experience anything so traumatic.

Any comments ?

PTSD is one of the mental illnesses most associated with military service but there are a range of other more common mental illnesses which might affect Service and ex-Service personnel. These include depression, feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and substance misuse, most commonly alcohol misuse. Yet many of my friends in the Rescue Agencies have been in touch and said they were having problems as well. This was not just a military problem.

I am proud that in these dark days in 1988 we help raise the huge problems in the military with so many suffering from PTSD. This was not easy as the military and all the emergency services still did not acknowledge PTSD. We have come a long way since these days! I was slated at the time by the establishment for asking for help by those who should know better! Yet it was worth the effort, heartbreak and problems over many years I feel!

Sadly I still hear from those who served with me in Mountain Rescue and other Agencies and yet only recently after all these years have suffered for years on their own. Many are servicemen and despite the great work of Help for Heroes & Combat Stress it is still not easy for those needing help to get it? Is this just my dealings with a struggling resources?

Trying to get the correct help is difficult and trying to get help through a hugely overworked NHS can be extremely hard. Mental Health is hugely under-sourced  due to the huge need of those who want help. At one point I waited for 9 months to get an appointment with a Psychiatrist a  few years ago. I was lucky and I coped and am much better but what an awful journey! On my leaving medical with the RAF in 2007 I was asked how could I have PTSD as I was a Caterer by trade? I walked off in disgust this was not what I needed.

It is sad to see that mental illness is the biggest killer of males in Scotland of a certain age. Maybe it is because we Scots especially the males find it hard to talk about our demons!

We have a duty to each other to look after those we love and care for and If we see friends struggle we must to speak to them and get them help! This is not easy and hard to do and many suffer in silence. It’s to late at a funeral to be sad over the loss of a troubled pal a trusted friend yet we missed the signs! We get so close on Rescues or the companionship of the rope on a climb or on a long expedition, yet how often have we missed our pal in trouble but what do we say and how do we say it?
Life in a Rescue Agency  gives you many challenges, many of us who read this blog may have spent so much time looking for people and trying to help those we do not even know on the mountains and wild places  who are in trouble. Yet at times we miss those who we think are the toughest of men and women who suffer in silence until it’s too late? Our own people.

As I write this it is great to see the Scottish Mountain Rescue is running a TRIM course at Glenmore Lodge this weekend! This helps highlight the problems of PTSD for future generations who hopefully have learned from our mistakes in the past!

Things are getting better slowly.

If you have problems go to your local doctor or for the Miltary ” Combat Stress and “Help for Heros “and there to help as are many other Agencies for my many civilian friends. I would appreciate  please  could you send me details of any other organisations as I often get asked for advice. There is lots of information on line!

Things are getting better slowly.

If you have problems go to your local doctor or for the Miltary ” Combat Stress and “Help for Heros “and there to help as are many other Agencies for my many civilian friends. I would appreciate please could you send me details of any other organisations as I often get asked for advice. There is lots of information on line!


PTSD –  that has been left untreated for a number of years or decades will require more intensive treatment. There are still positive health outcomes for sufferers, and the potential for a life beyond symptoms, but seeking suitable, timely treatment is key to maximising the chances of recovery.If PTSD is diagnosed early and the sufferer receives the right treatment in the right environment, rates of recovery are very positive. Veterans can live normal fulfilling lives, able to work with the condition and generally become symptom free for long periods.

There is a risk of delayed-onset of PTSD, where symptoms do not occur for years or decades after the traumatic event. Veterans who present with delayed-onset PTSD have often been exposed to the effects of multiple traumas over a longer period of time. This suggests that those who serve multiple tours are more at risk of developing PTSD several years after leaving the Military.

This does not just effect the military many Rescue Agencies have similar problems !

A look at this book on PTSD.

I have now read the above book by Professor Gordon Turnbull a RAF psychiatrist, now a World authority on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who assisted the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams after the Lockerbie disaster in December 1988. I must admit I was pretty shocked when I read in a paper this book had been published.

I was mentioned right at the beginning of the book and the paper as I had requested psychiatrist assistance for the RAF Teams after Lockerbie. The RAF and civilian ,mountain Rescue Teams where heavily involved in Lockerbie and though my experience was pretty varied at this time after 20 years of Mountain Rescue, this was a very different and traumatic experience. Gordon writes the story pretty well, but I feel if he had spoken to those involved a bit more he may have got a better overall view of how it effected many of the people who were there to this day. At the time I was criticized by some senior team members, as they felt help was not needed. Most who criticized were not there and this was a unique event, which was way out of anything I had experienced. Gordon gives credit the RAF MR for the way they dealt with the aftermath but he gives the St Athan Mountain Rescue team a hard time on how they dealt with his team during the debriefing after Lockerbie. I feel if he had spoken to those involved he may have understood why a bit better. You must remember they were there at Lockerbie and saw things that one will never forget. In all I am glad that the book has been written and would advise those involved in Rescue to have a read. A few of my team, still struggle with the aftermath of Lockerbie including myself. I am glad that PTSD is now recognised and hope this helps the Rescue Agencies,civilian teams and Dog handlers, some who still suffer badly from the effects of Lockerbie.

Take care and let’s look after each other!

Comments welcome.

Since this was written I have over 10 folks contact me thanks its appreciated and hopefully some will find help.

One reply

“As always your frank and honest writing about PTSD and it’s effects on military personnel , rescue and emergency services can only help those struggling with their lives. Lives in the aftermath of trauma, lives dedicated to the service of others and lives that have been involved in heroic actions.

Help is out there and that help can transform lives and reduce or negate the effects of PTSD. All GP’s should be able to refer to CBT and EMDR practitioners available on the NHS and these techniques really do work when practiced by empathetic and caring practitioners.

I would urge any of your readers to never give up on seeking help and to be brave in being part of a movement to remove the stigma of mental health in those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others. It is only right that you should receive the help that you need to heal the psychological wounds which left unresolved will determine your quality of life for the rest of your life.”


” yet its the elephant in the room….any psychologist will tell you that those most vociferous in denial are often those worst affected…authorities both civil and military are only now beginning to recognise it… for “treatment”, its a matter of trust…in both organisations it doesn’t really exist as people affected have an innate fear of it affecting their careers…..being more subjective about it, i am glad i have paid privately to address it, worth every penny and although theirs no miracle cures, its a sure way to at least begin to function and rationalise….good article though, and cuts through the macho nonsense.”

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Charity, Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, PTSD, Recomended books and Guides, SAR, Views Mountaineering, Views political | 6 Comments

Sunshine in the Cairngorms in more ways than one?

Yesterday was a special day in the Cairngorms not just because of the weather or because of the chance of wonderful day on the hills. I was with a pal Susan who a year ago this month was diagnosed with Cancer and she has had one hell of a year with Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy treatment. Sue has always been a fighter and with great help from the NHS and her family,kids and close friends she has fought a long battle and has come out the other side.  She and Mikey her son wanted a day on the hills to celebrate her recovery maybe climb a Munro and enjoy the great weather. Most of us have been close to this terrible disease and it was wonderful to see Sue looking so well enjoy every minute of a great day. I spent some time with Sue through her treatment and she will hate me for saying this but what a fighter she was all the way, there was no way she was going to lose this battle. She was an inspiration to us all and it is great to see her looking so happy  after such an incredible year. I have lost many pals to Cancer through my life and as life goes on it now a part of life and its was great to see how Sue has come through and the vast changes and success of the treatment.

The Classic bunkhouse at Carrbridge.

The Classic bunkhouse at Carrbridge with Sue and Mikey.

We spent the night with old pals Alyson, Tom and Chris Jones at their classic Bunkhouse in  Carrbridge to get the best out of the shorter daylight of October. I had played golf earlier on and we planned to meet about  tea time in a busy Aviemore meeting an old pal Bill Rose and family who were in holiday in the village. Aviemore was so busy and everywhere was booked up with so many enjoying the great weather and the school holidays.  Eventually we managed to get a meal  and then headed up to Carrbridge to the Bunkhouse. What a place this is and I have so many memories of this classic bunkhouse. It was the place of our last meet before our Everest trip in 2001.

We had a great time with pals Tom, Alyson and Chris  apart from managing to watch Celtic getting beat  I left Alyson, Sue , Tom, Chris and Mikey after the game as we had an early start in the morning. Someone had to get up The bunkhouse was warm and cozy as Tom had the fire on for us and a great place to be. Next morning amazingly we were away by 0830 and off to the” Active Cafe” for breakfast and then on to the lower Car Park on Cairngorm.

Clouds and windfarms

Clouds and wind farms.

I loved the walk from here its never busy and away from the industrial site that is the Ski area and the hordes of  people that is the main car park and railway. I used to wander around here when I was recovering from my illness and knew the area so well, every time I went out I got higher and the effects on the mind and body when ill can not be understated. Sue  I hoped would enjoy the walk onto the main ridge overlooking Strath Nethy it a great place to be . It is so good even when unwell to get out into the mountains as we both understand it does so much for the mind and body when fighting illness. We soon rose above a sea of clouds but we could still see the wind farms when we parked at just over 500 metres and we were soon off on the hill. The path is muddy for the first 10 minutes and then as you gain height on the ridge it becomes dry and is a  great way up. Mikey was getting some navigation lessons whether he wanted them or not and we were going well loving the view with the clouds below us in the glens. It was warm and sunny and not a normal October where winter is usually making it presence. All the snow was gone from quick blast on Monday just a little bit a smattering on the higher hills it was more like summers day but what a great day to be out.

Great path above the clouds.

Great path above the clouds.

From here it is easy access onto the plateau above Coire Laogh Mor, normally a place of many Ptarmigan and mountain hares but not till later did we see them. It is great walking and you seem to gain height effortlessly, the ground is lovely and soft and the deer grass and vegetation at this time of year make is like a carpet. The views are ever-expanding and soon we were overlooking Strath Nethy and the Munros and beyond. We had another stop on spot height 1028 and spotted the bothy at El Alamein. It was so clear and warm and all the big hills were clear and Mikey was keeping us right with the map. It was hot and we were drinking a lot but we good sit on the tops in no wind and the sun.

Above Strath Nethy.

Above Strath Nethy.

We saw no one and only a few ptarmigan on the ridge up to 1151 and past the Marquis Well snow-less from my last visit only a month before. From here you are near the Ptarmigan Restaurant and the people and we followed the path to the summit and the others enjoying the . It was great to see so many out though and Sue and Mikey were loving their day. We had lunch lots of photos and a bit of time on the the summit. It was still very warm , no wind and great views. Mikey asked me to show him where we were on the summit (he had become the teacher!) It was hard to believe that Sue had gone through a hellish year and yet here she was on the summit of her first hill and going well, we were all very pleased for her.

The wee wander

The wee wander

Times like these are specail and hard to write about but it proves that though life can be so hard but the power of the human spirit, determination and proper care can help you achieve so much? Thank God for the NHS and those who help us in our times of need.


I had left my car in the top car park and my keys in Sues car at the lower one, (idiot) so I headed of back with Mikey  to get the keys and Sue was happy and wandered down the main path to the car. On the way off it was sad  as what a mess is near the cafe with bulldozer and its an Industrial site with little care for an environment that can be so fragile and sad to see in my mind. We were soon past it and onto the open hill where we saw a huge hare and had a great wander down cutting back  to the car and then drove up and met Sue in the top car park. We had been on the hill for just 4 hours but what a day we had,great views, weather, and no wind so unlike Cairngorm at this time of year. It was then we went down to the cafe at Rothiemurcus and met Ray Sefton another pal and had a coffee and a bite to eat and a catch up.


Time was moving so we headed off Mikey and Sue back home to Onich and me back to the Moray Coast.

A great day and a definitely one to remember. Health is wealth never forget that.



Posted in Bothies, Enviroment, Family, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Weather, Wild life | Leave a comment

Looking forward to a walk with friends today!

Going for a wander today with a pal in the Cairngorms forecast is good and they just want a short walk.

Looking forward to these hills before the big snows come along with all the people? The photo above is in full winter in the Cairngorms !

It’s a great time of year with the trees changing and the light as always so important and highlighting the wonderful colours!

I  am so lucky !  I remember that Teallach my old dog always changed his coat into a darker brown for the first snow . He was so in tune with the mountains it was a great guide when to start carrying a bit more gear as it’s getting colder on the tops?

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A fall of snow on the Cairngorms – a few points of enjoying the winter.




I heard yesterday that snow fell on the Cairngorms and maybe this is the start of a long winter. I am off on Thursday to the Cairngorms so I will see for myself. The forecast is very good but just above freezing on the tops. Many come the first snow saw that it is it but winter is a magical time and I advise you to get out with someone and experience winter walking its a new world in which no matter what we do we learn so much each year no matter how experienced we think we are. First thing check that Mountain forecast?

Check your winter gear if your gloves are knackered get rid!

Check your winter gear if your gloves are knackered get rid!

It is worth looking out the winter gear I think, I have checked the torch, batteries, put in my bigger gloves ( plus a spare) lose a glove and you have problems and  I am now taking my wee duvet jacket and a flask. As always I love the first fall of snow and the blast of the wind on your face and a reminder that winter is coming or here.

Map and compass and the ability to use them, get out with a pal and learn now.

Map and compass and the ability to use them, get out with a pal and learn now.

I got into a discussion the other day about all carrying a map and compass on the hill and an ability to use them. A few thought that was too much and some just follow a leader for the day. I would advise that having a map and learning how to use it and a compass on the hill are essential.  Come the winter, the paths are gone and footsteps followed may take you into climbing ground or over cornices. Get a map and compass to go with your shiny new £300 jacket and boots! Get out with someone experienced or go on a course many are subsidised and if in a club are worth attending. Get out in your local area and practice in a safe place, try it in the dark and see how tricky and slow you become.

Practice is the way forward.


Comments welcome?


Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments

A must-see for anyone with an interest in Scottish mountaineering and mountain rescue. Various talks by Ian Spike Sykes.


TRANSITION EXTREME    Aberdeen   Thursday    27th October 7pm




IAN ‘SPIKE’ SYKES – ONETOUCH THEATRE  Inverness 31 Oct 2016 at 1930 

As a young man Ian was posted to RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team where he was involved in some of the most legendary call-outs in Scottish mountain history, including the 1963 New Year tragedy on the Isle of Skye.

After leaving the RAF, he remained an active member of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and was involved in the first lower down the north face of Ben Nevis – an epic 1,500-foot descent to rescue stricken climbers in the middle of winter.

Following a couple of years on Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey, he returned to the Highlands and opened the first Nevisport shop with his close friend Ian ‘Suds’ Sutherland. Join Ian as he recounts his many adventures and mishaps. A must-see for anyone with an interest in Scottish mountaineering and mountain rescue. This is on at Inverness Eden Court on 31 Oct 2016.

Aviemore Mountain Cafe 3 November at 1800 proceeds to Cairngorm Mrt.

Aviemore Mountain Cafe 3 November.

Aviemore Mountain Cafe 3 November at 1800.

If you get a chance worth a night out . Please share and pass on the details.


Posted in Lectures, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing. | Leave a comment