What’s your favourite ferry to a UK island ?

I was always taken to Arran for my holidays. The minute we were on the ferry the holiday started it was magical. As you got closer and saw the peak of Goatfell it was to a wee boy mind blowing. Taking in all the openness of the sea and the island coming into view sitting outside whatever the weather and the sea air blasting you. Every time I go on a ferry it’s these memories that remind me of my early days.

Planing on the ferry !

I love the Islands in Scotland and been so lucky to visit a few. What’s your favourite ferry to what Island ?

The old Sky’s ferry

As the RAF Team leader we would go every year to Arran the wagons and 4 tonnes would be booked on in advance we would have 2 four toners and 5 wagons it was a big operation. Often it was just a wee ferry to Loch Coruisk on Skye all different .

Loch Coruisk

There were ferries to Ardgour, Rum, Eigg Glenelg and Jura each so different but so enjoyable. We always had great craic with the ferrymen. Yet Skye is a place that means so much to me despite the bridge. The ferry from Elgol has so many great memories as does Arran.

There are so many adventures that start on the ferries. We went to Harris in the 70’s early morning ferry. I was a young lad and there was a bar on board. The team leader and two others had to drive the wagons of the ferry as most of the other drivers were the worse for wear.

So what’s your favourite ferry ? Any tales and photos ?

Missing Skye already.

Comments welcome

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

What’s going to be your first hill day after Lockdown. It still seems so long away off ? For me I would love to climb Morven Caithness and then Skye after that Ben Nevis and Glencoe .

Most of waited for any news yesterday about the changes in Covid Regulations it seems to be dragging on. How we miss our freedom and I will never take my freedom to roam for granted. Hopefully things are getting slowly better? Yesterday I had a walk along the beach the rain never came but I had some showers later on and wind. The beach was empty and I am so lucky it’s on my doorstep! I could see the stunning Ben Wyvis and Morven casting there snow in the distance . Morven especially is a stunning hill. I see it most days it clear I have climbed it several time’s but what a grand mountain. To me it is a classic mountain with its conical shape and covered in snow it’s a real mountain. The area has a sad history where many were cleared from the land and the Glen is full of empty Croft’s.

Morven – “the highest summit in Caithness – is a hill of great character, rising in isolation as a majestic conical peak. This route makes the ascent before continuing over the moors to reach Maiden Pap, which is something of a Morven in miniature, though even steeper. The whole round – which also passes the tors of Smean – makes for a classic though boggy outing” Walk Highlands

It’s a wonderful place I am sure the summit had been hit by lightening last time I was up. I cannot find any photos yet it’s a lonely Glen with lots of ruins of houses and sad tales.

Morven from my side of the Moray Firth .

As for Skye I love that place it will be just the odd climb if I can and a few hills a visit to the cave in the Coire and of course Sgur Na Stri among many others. Also a visit to Adrian and Bridgette in Glen Brittle to thank them for their kindness .

Adrian’s cracking guide

So many places so little time add in Glencoe, the Ben Torridon Assynt An Teallach who needs to go abroad . Wishful thinking to be out either alone or with good company? I also have to get down to Ayr to visit my family.

Many will not be so lucky and have lost loved ones. Many will lose their jobs, income and others will have health and mental issues. When you think about that the mountains are not important yet they hold a huge part of my life and well being as do my daily walks.

I have had so many kind thoughts and comments and even a wonderful picture from Skye. So many have been so kind and thoughtful. I have tried to write openly about my feelings it’s never easy to do. Folk ask about the book but it’s a hard write there is much sadness this effects me but also joy. Maybe I have to get a ghost writer but that will not be my book then ?

I got a call out of the blue yesterday from Brian who I knew nearly 55 years ago. His Dad trained us for a local race walk he had heard my brother had passed away and sent his condolences. It was great to speak and maybe I will get some photos of these early days race walking over the local Carrick hills?

Take care of each other make that call and think of those who are less fortunate than many of us ! It’s only a hill!

Posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Best hill long days ? For your average hill Walker ?

Most of us remember our first hill day of the weather was good the views of mountains that went on and on. Many caught the Munro bug and the seed was set. You decided to climb more and more. For many the obsessions had started and the journey begun.

What your best long hill days? We all have memories. Over the years we had a board at RAF Kinloss with some great ideas of Big hill days. This was long before the glossy books came out of big Munro days to build up your hill fitness. The First Munro book was simple table of heights . The new one just published by the SMC a mine of information.

The new SMC Guide the Munro’s

I wish I had a copy of it now as we used to tick the long days off when we returned from a weekend. Our egos meant we added to them over the years and to many young troops one of these big hill days was a must do.

A Classic for walkers

Looking back how we went on Call outs after some big days I will never stop being amazed by. Yet these were the days you remember sitting on a summit looking into the distance of the hills you have just climbed.

We had to carry full Mountain Rescue kit, in later years I used “Walsh running shoes”ending up on the odd Call out after a helicopter pick up. Arriving on scene with limited gear much to the amusement of others.

These are some of the best in my view and fading memory. Many involved Alpine starts and planning. It’s all so easier now with the superb articles, books on the Munro’s.

First time in Knoydart

Skye Ridge without doubt the best day or 2 day adventure in the Uk .

Great guide book and a big help to many.

Fisherfield 5/6 – long hard and remote add in An Teallach for more pain.

Fannichs 9 the last 2 on there own hurt a few leave at the beleach character building?

Beinn Dearg 5

North Clunnie – The Five Sisters of Kintail rise dramatically from the northern side of Glen Shiel. Combined with their easterly neighbouring Munros, up to 9 Munros can be bagged in one outing.

South Clunnie plus Saddle and Sgurr Na Sgine best way up to menvia the Saddle one troop when only expecting to do the 7 said when at the Beleach of Sgurr Na Sgine “this is another MR ego trip”

The Torridon Trilogy Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Alligin plus all the tops. I loved that day did it 3 times .

The great Glens – Strathfarrar, Cannich Affric so many big hills in wild country. So many combinations of exceptional hills.

Cairngorm 6 – the classic Braeraich – Cairngorm day add in Carn Na Mhain

Beinn Alder 6 wild country bike essential .

Ben Nevis 4 – the classic Ben Nevis to the Aonachs

Mamores 10 – My favourite day one of many memories used that day often as a test of fitness.

Etive hills first time I did them all we carried a Blacks Mountain Tent I went lightweight after that.

Ben More 7 – surpassingly hard day

Knoydart 3 – Easier if you get the boat in wonderful hills in a great location.

Lawyers 7

Glenshee 9 / so many combinations

Steve Fallon does a great piece on his website

http://www.stevenfallon.co.uk › multi-mu…Top 10 multi-Munro bagging days – Steven Fallon

I look back and think of these incredible days. Many were done again and again often with the dog.

Skye Ridge traverse

Later on we ( the dog and me) would do Tranters Round and the North and South Clunnie to together in a day.

Nowadays there are so many incredible record breaking days. Every year hill records are broken and the hills have now so many runners on them. You rarely saw a runner in my early days on the hill. You knew most of them at the time. Running when fit on the hill was an wonderful experience .

The South Clunnie 9 Munros and Teallach with his autumn coat he did these hiills in a oner 12 times, What a machine.

Folk regularly post on media the times that they run these great days. Strava and other methods of doing the hills are king for many.

In my youth wearing trainers Walshes!

Things are very different now but your first big hill day day be it 4 or 10 Munro’s or more is a lasting experience. Getting your map out and planning your day was such a great way of getting to know the area and plan your hills.

I struggle to climb a few Munro’s now my body a bit battered but I still get the enjoyment of getting my high “high”. Often I meet folk on a mission and envy them.

Whatever you do enjoy these great days and remember “the hills are not a gymnasium for your ego” once Covid allows.

There are so many other days not mentioned as has little detail of the days. Get your books maps out and plan some days for the future. We need this on these days to be ready for when we are allowed out to range these hills. Happy planning. It’s worth adding in the Tops as well?

What’s your favourite big hill day ?

Comments as always welcome?

Posted in Books, Friends, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

There is light at the end of the tunnel?

For some of us there is a good feeling about maybe things are getting better slowly. I am lucky I have had my injection for Covid last week. To me that was incredible to see how well organised the NHS and volunteers were I thank them all. Everyone is working so hard yet I hear so many moaning about “this and that”. Most are fit folk missing the hills and wild places. Yet in the great scheme of things these are minor life changes.

Many cannot visit loved ones on hospital or those in old folks homes. Most have been confined to there rooms for a year it’s very sad. Even worse is losing a loved one and not being able to go to the funeral. There is also the mental health impact of the shutdown that will be with us for years.

I think things are improving so instead of firing off posts in the media have think what you are writing. I would hate to be a politician whatever your leanings. Yet no one should be making money out of this crisis ?

Many folk have lost jobs, business and sadly

family most have limited money to look after families.

Yet we must be positive and pass that on. I wrote about losing my brother last week. Yet as I wander my village about so many kind folk some I do not even know talk to me about losing a loved one. Shared times that mean so much to me.

I have learned so much during this time. Hopefully things are improving slowly for us all. Let’s keep going keep looking after each other and stay in contact especially now .

Better time’s are coming I feel it will not be easy but we must keep going.

Comments welcome.

An Teallach what top ?
Posted in Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

1989 – A lucky escape the Sea King Crash at Creag Meaghaidh.

1989 – It was a hard winter we had lots of Call outs and were just getting over from the Lockerbie Disaster. The pace never stopped as we went from call out to call out all over Scotland. I had got a call from our Boss in London Bill Gault a lovely man from Greenock. He was an Navigator on helicopters and we knew him well. He said he was coming up for the weekend with a Boss from MOD. She wanted to look round some of our bothies and met the characters that made MRT. Women were to be allowed to join MRT in the military (well overdue in my mind) she was looking at accommodation. It was a typical dour winters day wet and miserable so at least I would have an easy day as we drove around, showing her the village halls and bothies. Sadly it was an awful day Bill did his best but even he struggled with her attitude. We met Hamish, Elma in Crainlarich and Nan in Roy bridge. We showed her round a few village halls was appalled that we slept on the floor and few had showers or good heating. We were stopping for a coffee in the Roy Bridge Hotel when I got a phone call through the bar there were no mobile phones then. I was told to recall the team as a Sea king had given a Mayday call on Creag Mheaghaidh. The team were in the training in the area the weather was poor and a recall was not easy. Yet we got them back quickly. As I was calling on the radio a Fire Engine on blue lights and two Police cars headed up the glen. On board the helicopter from Lossiemouth were the crew we all knew and some of the Lochaber MRT plus a film crew. We knew them all most were good pals. A Wessex and Sea King Helicopter raced to scene and despite the weather landed on and recover the crew and the passengers. How no one was killed was a miracle and I still had memories of another crash to a Wessex on Ben More a few years previously where Harry the Killin Team Leader was killed and two friends Ian Ramsay another local Policeman were badly injured. It was a busy few hours as we sorted out a crash Guard for the aircraft in the Corrie. It was a busy few hours but we soon got things sorted but I hardly had time to think of what could have been a real tragedy.

Bill took our guest away and we got both teams into I think it was Corpach bothy as most were just of the hill very wet and changing, She walked in to see a few hairy bottoms as the troops changed getting ready to change the team member’s for their night on the hill. We heard that all Lochaber were in the Bar in Fort William having a “Staying alive party” Myself and Bill took our guest over to meet them, they were defiantly having fun. We walked in and Willie Anderson was in fine form and asked me who my girlfriend was. That poor lady I felt for her but Bill Gault saved the day and took her away. In the end the lassies joined the RAF Teams and have brought so much to us over the years,

Looking back at the photos when I saw the aircraft we did crash guard for several days it was amazing that all got out alive. The aircraft was re built and flew again!

30/01/89-01/02/89Creag Meaghaidh202 Sqn Sea King Helicopter crash.  All crew and Lochaber MRT and film crew survived uninjured.  2 day crash guard.  
So Lucky

o

From one of the crew of the Wessex crew – “we parked our SAR Wessex alongside the crash site, about 30minutes after the crash.  It was the only time I ever saw 60 knots showing on my airspeed indicator, while parked on the ground. Martin Ring was the NCO winchman in our Wessex crew. He spotted the only safe place to land the Wessex by the crashed Sea King great thinking” The Lochaber Team members were taken off on another helicopter I think and our RAF MR were flown in as crash guard this lasted two days.

30/01/89-01/02/89Creag Meaghaidh202 Sqn Sea King Helicopter crash.  All crew and Lochaber MRT and film crew survived uninjured.  2 day crash guard.  

[Above details from MoD Accident Report.]

On the day of the accident, RAF Sea King XZ585 was taking part in joint exercises with Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (Lochaber MRT). At the end of this exercise, the Sea King was scheduled to transfer a stretcher to the remote First Aid Post in the Coire Adair valley.

Because strong winds had been forecast in the vicinity of Coire Adair, five members of Lochaber MRT left the aircraft beforehand to reduce the load. Then, the Sea King helicopter left for the First Aid Post with the pilot, co-pilot, radar operator, winchman and five remaining passengers. The passenger were: an RAF ground crew member; two members of the MRT, and two members of an ITV film crew who were documenting the operation.1

The Sea King, which was being flown by the co-pilot, made two failed approaches to the landing area. Then, the more experienced pilot took over the controls and modified the approach to take advantage of up-draughting conditions in the area. However, while hovering, a sudden down-draught required the pilot to overshoot the proposed landing area and to continue down the valley.

 At this point, the pilot turned the aircraft and flew back up the valley. However, after turning, the pilot again encountered down-draughting conditions and was forced to apply more power to clear the rising ground.

Without warning, however, the pilot experienced a sudden failure of one of the engines. Consequently, he warned the crew and passengers of an impending heavy landing. The helicopter then landed forcefully at 60knots, but rolled onto its side after hitting the ground.

The crew and all the passengers escaped. Four personnel suffered minor injuries.

The cause of the accident was recorded as a failure of the main rotor gearbox, resulting in a shutdown of the port engine.





Comments – P. Lucas –  The pilot did a magnificent job in saving what he could from a very difficult situation. He encountered a strong downdraft and at the same time, suffered a single engine failure, caused by the main rotor gearbox failing at the time when he needed as much power as he could. They impacted the ground at about 60kts. It could have been so much worse.
A few years ago I met the pilot and his family. They were amazed I knew anything about this crash. They were all incredibly fortunate to have survived. Not least due crew.

S. Atkins – Aside from the crash, which I still recall as being one of coldest jobs imaginable, the visit of the senior officer, was memorable. We originally were staying in Corpach, I think, before moving to Laggan. Corpach was a grim bothy, and I recall the officer and her tiny entourage being utterly appalled that anyone would choose to live like that! I just think that the bothy/RAFMR infrastructure at the time was a few years away from mixed gender service. Glad it didn’t take too long. I remember sitting in a life raft trying to keep warm after the tent got trashed! That was a fun job once we knew everyone was OK.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SAR, Well being | 3 Comments

Podcast – A look forward it will make you think. Radio Scotland’s Mark and Euan hear from UNESCO Chair for Integration Alison Phipps of Glasgow University.

podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/scotland-outdoors/id261779480

Posted in Enviroment, Mountaineering, People, Plants, Well being | Leave a comment

Leadership a few ideas.

Sometimes I wonder at folk are talking about leadership. There are so many thoughts on Leadership and so many Quotes “buzz words” and experts on the subject. In my my experience leadership was a process of learning from others. I was so honoured to be a Mountain Rescue Team Leader in the RAF. Mountaineers are by far very individualistic and driven and as a group can be hard to control? Many think that being in the military it would be easy to be a leader as the military discipline takes control. Yet most of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team were some of the most unmilitary folk you would meet. Yet get them together as a group and they were the best of the best. It was hard keeping the Senior Officers happy you had to tread a fine line at times. I learned the hard way how to do this and when to push the boat out.

Teamwork

The Team Leader in these days was in complete charge though we had an Officer in Charge the Team Leader ran the team. We also has a senior officer at MOD in London in the early days who was in total charge but he was guided mainly by the Team Leaders. As in any job we had good and bad and I learned from many of them, upset most but in the end found a balance. In these days you could speak your mind tell the Senior officers what was wrong and often you achieved results much to the horror of your immediate bosses who saw there careers over. At times your career had a blip but in my view you need folk who question authority especially in life threatening incidents. You have to stand by your decisions, whether its going into an aircraft that’s still on fire to ensure there is no one alive or on a mountain in avalanche conditions.

Mull of Kintyre the Chinook crash

In every situation I was responsible where and what my team did, I accessed the risks with my experienced troops and made the decision. I was so lucky to have learned from so many different types of leaders. All the ones that mattered in my life were mainly Mountain Rescue leaders plus a few Officers in charge or part of that system. We ran a Team Leaders Course where though it was not perfect we learned a lot from and we adapted this through the years with various course added.

Searching in wild weather

In my opinion this tests leadership qualities to the full working at time’s in often life threatening environments. It’s not a game and you are tested regularly. Much was learned in my early days and I did take so many lessons from them. They were great role models. I wrote a while ago about Leadership “when your not there your Team will never let you down. Train hard, give responsibility especially to the young and they in my experience will never never let you down.”Nearly 40 years in Mountain Rescue of managing risks on real operations and often training when others were not out due to the severe weather. That’s what we had to do. Unlike the other teams we had to know our area learn to work with other teams. It was a huge area the whole of the North of Scotland and the Islands.

The mountains and nature take no prisoners yet I was so proud that all my members came back safely every time they went out. It is unspoken by many but most Team Leaders worry especially in extreme weather about there team. Newer team member’s return sometimes wide eyed with a tale to tell of the power of nature or an epic during the day . Yet what they learned in these days was of huge benefit to all. To lead you have to know your team their strengths and weakness. We used a mentor system later on and looked after each new member on a one to one basis. Added to this all team member’s could ask for help and advice at any time from a more experienced team member and ensuring that they were given various ways to gain the knowledge they needed.

Team Members became a big part of the Mountain rescue family. In the military it was hard for the system to accept there was “no rank” on the mountains. It was your ability as a mountaineer that allowed you to lead that group. I learned very quickly from some of the best. I will never forget my first hill party in winter taking my group round Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg and the Aonachs coming off in poor weather in the dark. A testing day in short daylight hours I was no longer a party member or a follower and it did my confidence so much good.

Once on a call out after a big rescue in the Cairngorms I took my party of the hill as Coire Domain was in terrible avalanche conditions. I came back to Glenmore lodge thinking that Fred Harper the Principal would be annoyed. Yet he took time to tell me these are the decisions that mountaineers make. He said it was correct and it made me feel so much better. As the years rolled on you learn from your mistakes (hopefully) admit them and ensure they never happen again. I learned how much the families worry and give up for the team. How easy it is to get carried away and it can leave you little time for looking after them especially in a busy team. Once we were away for 10 days on various call outs all over Scotland. At the time I was not aware of what my family were going through at this time. They do worry for us and there was no mobile phones then. Sometimes you have to explain to the team members that we are not exempt from accidents and it’s hard to explain this to the young mountaineer who are what I call at the “invincible” stage”. Group safety is so important no matter what is going on in a Rescue. We must look after each other at all times. Training was hard it had to be and taking a group out in severe weather was what we had to do. That first time you navigate in a white out and bring everyone home is a huge confidence boost for a young leader.

Deputy Team Leader Course

Advice on what routes to climb and giving them the confidence to go for them all helps your Mountaineering Confidence as a leader. We often had to go into areas with no Avalanche forecast on the early years. I would phone my friend Blyth Wright the Avalanche expert for his advice on these areas especially up North. These were invaluable to brief the team members with as much knowledge as possible. The training helped as we often climbed in remote areas to get to know them in case of a call out. Training was so important and as the years progressed we introduced varied training based on experience for novices trained and party leaders. This involved often bringing in other organisations like Glenmore Lodge to update and validate our training and teach us new skills. It also helped us improve as mountaineers as that was our first task to be a component mountaineer. Many pushed the standards for the rime did some great Alpine routes and onwards to the Himalayas and the Artic.

Keeping the team safe whilst pushing standards especially in the military was never easy. Hard decisions were made regularly. As my first stint as Team Leader at RAF Leuchars in Fife. They were a young team within a year we had our hardest test. This was at Lockerbie where 270 were killed in a tragic terrorist attack. The team were exceptional. They all proved to themselves as they rose to every changing situation. We were there for 3 days working with other RAF Teams, the local teams, SARDA and so many other agencies. We knew many of the agencies we worked with this was invaluable. It was a life changing event it took its toll on many including myself. I was burnt out after trying to listen to so many friends struggle and struggled for many years.

I went straight from Leuchars to Kinloss as Team Leader and at the end of my tour I was exhausted. My family suffered and struggled and all these years have managed to start to live with my demons. I learned from that over the years that someone has to look after the leader, this was unknown to me at the time. I think I was able to do this in future years with pals who became Team Leaders. Few mention this aspect of Leadership. We have learned nowadays about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the effects on Rescue Services and their families. In the early days it was hardly accepted but now we know more and can get help for those that need it. You have to know your team to see the signs and get the help you need.

Lockerbie wreckage

Many of the Civilian Team leaders I have spoke to are retired. They have so many untapped memories and advice on Leadership yet are rarely asked for advice. What a resource not to use ? I am sure others may agree? I was so lucky I had tremendous folk as Deputies other leaders to discus things with and learn from. They would tell me where I was wrong and I needed that advice often. Its so easy to think that its all under control but others see things you miss. Each Team leader, party leader and team member was so different and I learned from so many. Even though I have been retired for 14 years the boys and girls still in my teams at times comeback for advice or help. What an honour that is for me after all these years.

David Whalley 40 years with Mountain Rescue Teams. Twice as Team Leader and once as Deputy and over 35 years a party leader. I learned every day thank you all for the advice.

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

A few thoughts about the accident in the Lakes where a member of the Patterdale MRT was badly injured.

I was phoned a few days ago by several of the media for my input on the awful accident in the lakes where one of the rescuers fell on a rescue and was badly injured. As the papers say sadly his injuries are life changing. This will be an awful time for his family and friends. It is even worse with the Covid regulations and the travel to mountain area being severely restricted. I did not comment and join the debate this was unusual for me and left it to others to. Sadly in amongst the comments you get the usual awful statements from the “key board warriors” many with little knowledge.

My heart goes out to the Patterdale team the family of the injured rescuer. It is a teams worse nightmare for all involved. As a RAF Mountain Rescue Team leader I was always worried of this happening to me and my team. Mountain Rescue is and can be very dangerous I know that only to well. My best results after 40 years involvement in some of the wildest conditions was that all came home safely.

This was always a huge worry we had slips and fall and one time a team member carrying a split stretcher on a rescue was picked up by a huge gust on to his back in winter. The stretcher then acted like a sledge and he hurtled down the slope. He was battered but okay I watched it and could do nothing to help. There were many other times when we were out on weather that few would venture. Someone I feel was watching us?

Yet during that same period we lost Two civilian MRT team leaders Harry Lawrie of the Killin team leader was involved in a helicopter crash on a rescue on Ben More and was killed. In the same incident my good pal Ian Ramsay was also badly injured along with the RAF Winch-man Mick Anderson that awful night. They both had life changing injuries. Next morning at first light we recovered the casualty who they were looking for she was also killed. I was amazed that the whole Killin Mountain Rescue Team joined us next morning for that search high on Ben More.

A few years later on Seanna Braigh the Assynt Team leader Phil Jones was killed on a training exercise by an avalanche. During my time in the RAF Rescue I was the Mountain Rescue expert on a Board of Enquiry for a team member who fell on a training exercise in the Mamores. We learned some lessons from that event.

Sadly accidents happen these are hard times for all. I have not been near a big mountain since Covid started it’s a big loss to me and many others. Yet those who live near the hills can still get their “highs”on the mountains and wild places. Most are taking great care and being sensible as always.

This was from the BBC news after the accident when a Rescue member of the Paterdale Team in the Lakes fell on a rescue.

The rescue volunteer was airlifted to the Royal Preston Hospital. The camper was taken to Carlisle Infirmary with chest pains but was later discharged.

Cumbria Police said the £200 fines issued to the men who had travelled to the area was the “only legal penalty available” in the circumstances.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery said the visitors had breached Covid rules by travelling together in the same vehicle and camping on the fells.

“I’m sure they are extremely remorseful for their actions,” he added.

“Set Covid aside, anybody who ventures up in the fells can have an accident and anybody who has accident can’t foresee what was likely happen to the mountain rescue. 

“That doesn’t lessen the anger and the frustration that people feel about this but they had no way of knowing that would happen.

“The county is still under an enormous amount of strain and we are asking people not to take unnecessary risks, to stay low level if they can, stay local when they are exercising. 

“This isn’t the time to be taking risks.”

BBC news “

It’s a very sad event and we are all thinking of the injured Rescuer and his family. There is a fund set up to him and his family.

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/Chris-Lewis-Support-Fund-LDSAMRA-Patterdale-MRT

Never take any of the Rescue Agencies for granted. As a wife of a long serving Rescuer and Team Leader of of one of our biggest teams once told me. “She never slept till he and the team was back of the hill from a Rescue”’ Few realise that the families bear the brunt of any accident and worry for us all the time.

Stay safe out there and think at time’s that if we have an accident coming to help are mainly unpaid volunteers who do this to help those in trouble.

Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being | 7 Comments

Old photo of the early days of MRT? Where is it ?

I was asked if anyone had a clue what team this photo was off?

An RAF Mountain Rescue Team in the Highlands, 1950s. Unfortunately, the catalogue entry for this photograph doesn’t record if this was a drill or an actual rescue.

[Jimmy Nairn Collection, Highland Photographic Archive]

A reply from Ray Sefton ex RAF MRT Teamleader and member since the 50,s

“Not sure which RAF team. However, they way they are dressed it comes from
an era where there were no civilian teams. The ambulance is a civilian
vehicle and is like the ambulances we frequently used at Fort William and
Glencoe, so could be KMRT. (RAF Kinloss MRT) I have just expanded the photo and it looks like
railway lines the other side of the troops. That would mean the stretcher
has been taken off the Bogie at the British Aluminium works at Fort William.


In addition, the troops look to be wearing Korean Suits, which was the
anorak of 1950s. The troop with the ropes is also carrying a standard issue
small pack of that period.

Hope this helps.

Cheers

Sunshine

The Ben Nevis Bogie

The Bogie was part of a narrow gauge railway that ran between Loch Laggan, Loch Treig and the British Aluminium Works in Fort William.

In the 1950s, when the hills were not busy, the RAF had the only Mountain Rescue Teams in Scotland.  The RAF would not allow helicopters to be used on civilian mountain rescues.  We did some very long carry outs, made more difficult if there was more than one casualty.

In Fort William there was a bonus because we were often helped by Lochaber. Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland (JMCS) and sometimes Hamish MacInnes and his friends.  We most times had a policeman join us, often in his uniform.  However, when the ground got too difficult the team leader would send him down.

In these days there was no Torlundy track.  The walk in to the North Face or the CIC Hut started from the Distillery.  Frequently we were called out from the Jacobite Pub just before the 9pm closing time.  When a torch went out it sometimes meant that the troop was throwing up.

The Bogie was always positioned where the railway crossed the Allt a’ Mhuilinn.  It could only be used if a local trained Policeman was available to operate the bogie.  The stretcher was loaded and as many troops as possible jumped on, to save a walk.  On the bends occasionally some troops would fall off, but fortunately were never injured.  Health and Safety was not a problem.

In the early 1960s the RAF changed its policy on the use of helicopters in civilian mountain rescues and allowed there use.  The railway was dismantled a long time ago. 

The Bogie Ray Sefton collection
Posted in Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering | 2 Comments

When Technology lets you down. A Zoom Funeral for my brother. My brother hated technology maybe he is laughing now?

In my time I have been to so many different funerals. Most have been a “Celebration of life”some have been very sad a young life lost on the mountains or worse through illness. All are so different.

I lost My brother recently he had a full life and passed away aged 76. He lived in Bermuda with his family for 50 years. Sadly due to Covid we could not even send one family representative to the funeral. It’s a strange time for all when a loved one is so far away.

The funeral was to be on “Zoom “we as a family all logged in and waited and somehow it did not happen. That was a strange hour to be sitting there alone watching a screen and it trying to connect? Had we done something wrong? In the end it was a problem with the technology so no one in the UK saw it . It had been a strange time as we had waited expectantly. I could not concentrate for over a week and as a family we were all in touch. I had used Zoom before and it is handy but a strange medium for many.

Yet to me a funeral is not the time to say things about those you love. To me you should never leave things undone especially in these strange time’s. I was left feeling very strange and had rarely felt so.

I will go out as soon as Covid allows and head for the mountains my brother loved. That is where I get my peace from. I am lucky to still be able to do this and need that “fix” . It is my way of coping and always has been. We all grieve differently in our own way. He loved the Bothies we both did and I took him to some great places when he came home. I will go again when Covid is over and have my own thoughts .

Skye

Just now I am thinking of all the family in Ayr and Bermuda . During my life seeing so much tragedy in the mountains it makes so differently when you lose someone.

I had a walk yesterday it was thawing after the heavy snow and met a young pal out running. It was great to see her and her pal. They stopped for a blether and it meant a lot. My brother ran all of his life and it was his way of coping with life. Time had dragged this weekend waiting for the funeral I could not settle or do much. I had a last wander down by the beach last night just before darkness about one hour before the funeral was due to start in Bermuda .

The sky was incredible so big and alive it had been a grey day with a cold wind at times. I saw the usual wildlife that I take for granted the Heron, Oystercatchers and a Curlew I see them every day and so many others. We are spoiled really as nature shows us life goes on. Yet the light so beautiful and the colours were wonderful. I think it was natures way of saying things will be alright. It did give me and my family time to reflect as we waited maybe it was just what I needed.

My brother hated technology I think he would be laughing at what’s happened? He is free from pain now from his cancer and hopefully at peace.

RIP Michael. We are all thinking of Fay and family in Bermuda and my family in Scotland .

Posted in Family, Friends, Health, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

Avalanche Risk – Worth thinking about.

It’s great to hear of folk who live locally being put on their local hills. Many are skiing and enjoying the unique conditions. I was just doing some research of a skier who was killed on Ben Wyvis in 1985?it’s a sad story. He was located next day his dog was there above the avalanche tip.

From the SMC Journal 31 March 1985 – Solo cross country skier buried under 1,8ms wet snow avalanche in An Cabar area. Found by SARDA Police dogs after helicopter search on 1st April. Dundonnel MRT were involved .

Please be aware that with the heavy snow comes a reminder to look at local Avalanche forecasts. Tweed Valley through Scottish Mountain Rescue posted the warning below.

Message from Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team:

‼️ EXTREME AVALANCHE RISK‼️

⚠️ PENTLAND HILLS
⚠️BORDER HILLS
⚠️MOORFOOTS
⚠️LAMMERMUIRS

To follow up on our post from last night, some more information coming in today from conditions in the hills of southern Scotland.

This photo from Spittal Hill in the Pentlands shows a shooting crack at the top of a NW facing slope. This is what we call a “red flag” and gives us an indication that the snow pack is getting heavier and maybe prone to release, potentially to full depth, as we saw a few weeks ago.

This crack is a few cm across and around 30m long. With a snow pack potentially over a meter deep in places we can see that a full depth avalanche of this nature would be huge.

With the forecast predicting rising temperature and rain, it’s very possible we will see avalanches over the coming days.

If you are out on the hills in the next few days please be careful!

Home Page

Photo credit: Neebo McKneebo

Enjoy what you have but please take great care.

It is well worth once Covid allows to do an avalanche course especially skiing alone in remote areas.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Learning from Covid – looking after our elderly in Sheltered accommodation during Covid. Love and treasure the elderly.

Covid brings lots of changes in all our lives and the sadness continues, many have lost loved ones, freinds and family. Yet little is said about how it really effects those in our Old Folks Sheltered accommodation and Homes .

I dropped some bits and pieces of at the Old Folks home today. Just a few goodies for an old lady I known for years. Her family live abroad and due to Covid she lives eats and sleeps in her room has done nearly throughout all of Covid . It’s a lonely time for her. I spoke to her on the phone from the garden it was heart-breaking to leave, she was waving as I left.

I phone her every day as this apart from her carers and a call from her sons is the only communication she has. Sadly she is extremely lonely. By not speaking much her memory struggles she needs to have that chat and misses daily contact. She has poor hearing and her eyesight is failing. She cannot read any mail she gets and her life is the television. It’s a sad way to live. The home is so busy where she is and do there best but I wish someone in power would open their eyes these elderly folk have don so much.

I fully understand the need to protect our older generation during Covid but surely we can do more? She was a lifetime Church member religion means a lot to her but she only gets a newsletter that she cannot read from her church. Surely someone could ring her weekly. She did so much for the church when she was fit, taking folk to Church without cars and helping in various ways. With her husband did meals on wheels for years helping others. Due to her eyesight and hearing she cannot use a computer now why is it that these organisations think all the elderly have access and understand the internet.

I find in the UK many do not look after the older members in the family. I have travelled abroad often all over the world and the older generation are respected so much more. How do we change this attitude? We must do more and learn from this.

If asked she will say she is fine that is what that generation says but that is not true. She does not want to upset anyone and cause additional work. Yet she struggles daily and finds even when she is spoken to folk speak to fast and she cannot hear them.

I lost my Mum to Leukaemia and my Dad not long after. Thank goodness they do not have to live through this and it would be awful to see them in a home just now .My Dad was a minister his life was his people and he visited all the time especially his elderly folk. We as a family hardly saw him he was out visiting. Of course he could not do this now during Covid but he would have found a way to support our elderly and sick better than what is happening now,

They say things will ease once we all get our Covid injections but surely we can all do more. Maybe we should pick up the phone be a bit more tolerant and chat for a while. One day this will be us I hope things have improved by then ! It would be good if folk highlighted these problems to the authorities it’s the only way things may improve . Surely we can do better ? Please if you know someone like this please give them a call, spend time with them it could be you.

Comments welcome

“Love, care and treasure the elderly “

Posted in Family, Friends, Views Political?, Well being | 2 Comments

Grieving in these difficult times.

First of all sorry for being of the radar recently. I sadly lost my brother last week and though he lived abroad for over 50 years and were so different folk it still hurts. We all deal with grief differently and my way is usually of going into the wilderness or mountains to get myself together. Unfortunately This cannot be done during Covid. Also no one can drop in for a brew and have a chat.

I have an old friend in a local home still living and eating in her room. She has been doing this mainly since last March. She is so lonely, missing visitors and though we speak every day she struggles to cope. I try to do little things for her but her eyesight and hearing is so poor. Yet she is warm and fed and better than many others.

It took me years to grieve for those I loved. Seeing so much tragedy in my life involved in Mountain Rescue I had to put these things out of my mind. It was my way of coping. Yet when I lost my Mum and Dad o found grieving so difficult it took years.

As you get older you lose more friends, family and those people that mean a lot to you . It can be a sad time in your life at times. You are reminded by doing simple things like removing names from your contacts? To me it is an act of admitting their gone forever. You can no longer phone or catch up for a blether.

Yet so many folk are kind and caring after a bereavement and life has to goes on. This is so important especially now.

Yet when I see the mountains and the fresh snow everywhere it is uplifting. The snow brings a cleansing and brightness to our lives. I feel that there is a way forward and good in most of us.

My bothers funeral will be in Bermuda we will see it via the internet. It will be surreal but many have had to do this recently.

I get my Covid jag next week and I am thankful fir that. Once things get back to some sense of normality I will try do all these things you missed.

Again thanks for all the kind words and thoughts. I hope the blog is bringing some joy of great memories of the places many of us loved. Last week was a wee blip life goes on.

Below is a link to my brother obituary in his local paper: He was some man like us all we have our faults but he had many good points.

https://www.royalgazette.com/sport/article/20210209/michael-whalley-1946-2021/

Take care lots of love to you all.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

The promotion of Electric Mountain Bikes access in Torridon ? A survey comments welcome!

There are lots of views on Ebikes as I get older I am thinking about buying one just to ease the walk ins on hills like Beinn Alder and Seanna Bhraigh. Both these hills I would be following Estate tracks with minimum impact of the environment.

I have spent a lot of time in the Glens on the West Coast where some of the wonderful local stalkers paths are being heavily used by mountain bikes. There has to be room in my view to enjoy these areas but I have seen the paths in places cut up by mountain bikes especially in wet weather.

As electric bikes become more popular I can only see a rise in there use.

Many are worried that the old coffin paths are now being battered by bikes. Is there a way forward that we can protect these ancient ways for the future?

The Scottish Mountain Trust (SMT) give money from there profits to the upkeep of mountain paths and have done for many years. It would be great to see the EBike companies, clothing manufactures putting something back into local tracks.

Maybe you would like to complete the survey with your views .

From a pal “Fascinating topic being explored by my pal Charlie. His Masters dissertation Project is on the promotion of sustainable E-MTB access in Torridon. A subject that will stir up a’load of emotion.
He needs help by gathering these thoughts right here”

https://uhi.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/torridon-emtb-access?fbclid=IwAR3ilZ1_i2PSs7mSFF7Ztr6RR2LfcHWKRqgtcuS7Bs54vx2WTz14T6hNEGg

About this survey

Why are we doing this research?
Both mountain biking, and more recently electric mountain biking, has been a growing sport in the UK and Scotland. The UK bike market is estimated to be worth £1.5 billion, growing by 5% per year. The global electric mountain bike market could be worth $25 billion by 2030. Within Scotland it provides a valuable chunk of the adventure tourism market.

However, there may be certain drawbacks with its popularity – increasing the footfall in the mountains.

This project aims to explore what action can be taken to mitigate any drawbacks, such as access, erosion and user conflict, that might arise from the rise in mountain trail footfall, with a specific interest in eMTBs.

Research has shown that many people would prefer education rather than legislation regarding these types of issues, and this project would like to speak to landowners, organisations and mountain bikers and find the most effective way to deliver this message.

What is involved?
The questionnaire will initially gain some general information about you and your mountain bike and e mountain bike riding habits. Most questions will present you with a list of options to select.

You will then be asked more specifically about where you ride and how you decide on routes and your attitude towards, and knowledge of, sustainability while mountain biking. It will also seek to understand where you gain information on these subjects.

Previously to the questionnaire, researchers interviewed several landowners, land managers and other organisations, based in the Torridon area and elsewhere in Scotland on this subject. Some questions in this questionnaire were based on findings that came out of these interviews.

This survey will take about 10-15 minutes to complete.

https:// uhi.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/torridon-emtb-access?fbclid=IwAR3NoiCG4xK4-JU1Bx9eDhVnL8WaVCxMj6vJ6rwAKSLvMyRadDdS_xK8158

Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

An Teallach one of the finest mountains in Scotland ? Destitution Road.

Is there a finer mountain in Scotland than An Teallach? To see it’s jagged profile in the distance makes any mountaineer want to reach its summits. This to me is best seen from “Destitution Road” the A832 which has a sad history built during a time of famine.

During the 1840s there was great poverty in the Highlands. The failure of the potato crop in 1846 meant starvation for the people. The Central Board for the Destitute Highlands was set up and paid for various improvement projects. The ‘destitution roads’, such as this lonely road across the moor, were built by labourers in return for food. A day’s work involved eight hours of labour, six days a week. Oatmeal rations for the workers were set at 680g for men, 340g per woman and 230g per child.

The guide books tell you that An Teallach is a complex mountain massif, with ten distinct summits over 3,000 feet (914.4 m). From 1891 to 1981, only the highest of these, Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill, had the status of a Munro – a separate mountain over 3,000 feet. In 1981 the SMC granted Munro status to Sgurr Fiona

An Teallach

Thus was due to its topographic prominence (150 m) and distinct nature.] The complete list of Munros and Tops (subsidiary summits appearing on Munros is now as follows:]

An Teallach

• Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill 1062 m (3484 ft)

• Glas Mheall Mòr 979 m (3212 ft)

• Glas Mheall Liath 960 m (3150 ft)

• Sgùrr Fiona 1060 m (3478 ft)

• Corrag Bhuidhe 1040 m (3412 ft)

• Lord Berkeley’s Seat 1030 m (3379 ft)

• Sgurr Creag an Eich 1017 m (3337 ft)

• Stob Cadha Gobhlach 960 m (3150 ft)

• Sàil Liath 954 m (3130 ft)

• Corrag Bhuidhe Buttress 945 m (3100 ft) – deleted from Munro’s Tables in 1997

.To many it is in most peoples top 5 it is a hill I love and I been privileged to climb it over 50 times. I have climbed the ridge several times in winter adding in a few of the Classic Gullies and what an adventure this mountain is. I have also  added it to the Fisherfield 5/6 Munros in one huge summers day, it is a place I love and always try to visit.

To me many just grab the two Munros on the ridge how much do they miss as it can be so wild looking at the main ridge. It can be such a great adventure with so many ways to these summits.

This mountain has so many tops plus the two Munros and  many secrets hidden in the big Corries, it is a mountain to explore and the best way to do it is along summer day and take in all the Munro tops as well.

It is then you see the views of the Fisherfield wilderness and these great wild hills are always a place to stop and savour. You see the vastness of this area and despite the times we live in still so special.

I always advise to when you climb An Teallach climb all the ridges and tops and then you will appreciate this mountain fully. Climb it from the Corrie Hallie path then you see the mountain in its majesty.

2016 Aug – Goats An Teallach – Shane Roussel photo.

I love the area so well  it is famous for wild life especially the Goats that you may meet and smell before you see them on the ridge as they come wandering by. They make you feel so insecure of your abilty to climb especially if you meet them on the ridge on a ledge. They also hang about by the main road and be careful as you drive to hill, they may be about in a big group.

It is also the gateway to a great wilderness and of course the famous Mountain Bothy at Shenaval a place to spend a night after a great day out. An ascent from the bothy is another special way up.

Be safe but go and enjoy the hill once we are allowed.

The hidden Corries are wonderful and all sides of the mountain have huge Corries and ridges away from the crowds that offer incredible ridges on to the summits.

The Great Corries of An Teallach

When I was ill a few years ago as I was slowly recovering I wandered into these places and was as always in awe of the cliffs and the grandeur of these wild places. It was so refreshing to be in such a place and just to look at wonderful

My last Munro Top

That day these Corries was well worth the slog from the road. As an added bonus it was winter. I was exhausted at the time but to be alone in this vastness again.

• Climb all these tops and tell me how I’m incredible this mountain is. The views will be spectacular as will the scenery of this wild place. Get to summit in the summer and if lucky watch the sunset set over the hills.

In the RAF Mountain Team nowadays we wear a helmet when scrambling and I think it is a good idea as you never know what can happen.

1950’s The RAF Kinloss MRT troops on An Teallach

It can be an especially busy a mountain on a summer day which in winter can become a huge expedition under heavy snow.

Never take this mountain lightly is can be a serious proposition and the navigation can be tricky and if you get it wrong at the least you may have a long walk out.

The wonder of winter mountaineering – An Teallach incredible winter mountaineering .

The pinnacles are great fun and the sandstone so rounded at times and weathered takes care. This is especially true when as it can be have the sandy gravel on the ledges, take care with your feet and test the holds.

Great days on An Teallach

The exposure will keep you aware but newer walkers may find this intimidating so it is well worth while using the easier parts of the ridge to gain experience and familiarity with the rock and terrain.

Is this the mountain to rush ? I would save it for a good day it will be so worth it.

An Teallach at its finest.

The famous Climber Tom Patey carried out a massive call – out on his own. The story is of a huge fall on An Teallach and the survivors attempt to save them.

Some great ice

RAF Kinloss MRT 18-19/04/66

An Teallach

Two climbers killed on Sgurr Fiona. This incident was recently reconstructed and filmed for television. Hamish McIness film “Duel with An Teallach” Tom Patey was awarded a medal for his part. Well worth a watch lots of lessons from this sad event.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Buffalo gear – still going strong. Slioch Gear other past kit.

Terry and his famous Buffalo – Photo Terry Moore Collection.

One of the best bits of clothing over the years was the famous Buffalo shirt. It was a tried and trusted bit of gear made at a fair price. They lasted for years. I wore the trousers and the Salopettes in Alaska they were superb! I still see folk wearing them nowadays. The early ones had zips down the side to ventilate the jacket. The were there uniform of many on the hills. They also made a Buffalo mitt that was superb for casualties who had lost their gloves! I never got mine back after a rescue. They were supposed to be worn next to the skin but I always wore a lifa vest underneath. Some of the troops never washed them! They were much loved by many.

Buffalo

From the Scottish Heritage Collection

“It was back around 1978 that Scottish mountaineer, Hamish Hamilton, came up with his idea for Buffalo Clothing. For a long time it seems that he had been wondering how the Inuit people kept warm by using animal skins with the fur next to the skin which allowed moisture to circulate and escape through the porous hide. Hamish managed to create a synthetic version of the hide which he called Pertex and when this was combined with a fleece type inner he had an ideal material, initially for the production of sleeping bags and later on for a clothing system which included a top very similar to the one we have here in the collection.”

Slioch mountaineering equipment a well worn piece of equipment for the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams in the 80 & 90’s

In the RAF Teams we tried to support the local area. Slioch was a local company that made Gortex jackets and trousers. They even made a “Kinloss jacket”

Slioch Jacket in Knoydart

It was very robust but heavy with additional pockets but a sound jacket. They even made a lighter climbers jacket that the troops designed. Made in Poolewe they were a cracking bit of kit.

Duncan Tripp in Slioch Gear.

I am sure the SAR helicopters eventually bought the gear after a long battle for their winch men and then the crew of the Sea Kings helicopters.

Slioch jacket on Everest

A lady called Mary Buchanan set up Slioch back in 1982. Based at Poolewe in the North West Highlands it was a small, bespoke business that specialised in tailor-made clothing for the outdoor person. Several Scottish mountain rescue teams had waterproofs made by Slioch and the jacket we have here in the collection once belonged to John Fraser of the Ochils Mountain Rescue Team.
Mary sold the business to a couple called Tes and Catherine Urquart-Taylor, we think in the late 1990’s. They traded fairly successfully for a decade or so, but finally ran out of luck and business around 2006. The mountain which gave the company its name remains, tall and proud, beside Loch Maree, but sadly Slioch, the gear manufacturer is no more. From Scottish mountain Heritage

Best gear over the years please add?

  1. The Helly Hansen Polar Fleece and trousers.
  2. Karrimor gaiters and rucksacks/ Cullin Rucksacs
  3. Plastic Boots
  4. Lightweight boots – Karrimor
  5. Hamish’s Terrordactyl
  6. Clip on crampons.
  7. Willians Harness
  8. Tartan shirts
  9. Lifa underwear
  10. Dachstein Mitts
  11. Patagonia Pertex / Fleece trousers with full zip ( a posh lightweight Buffalo)
  12. Lightweight Duvets
  13. Modern head torches.
  14. Gortex bivy bags and Bothy Bags
  15. Karrimats
  16. Wind suits.
  17. GPS.
  18. Helly Hansen Mitts
  19. Lightweight rucksacks
  20. Lightweight ropes
  21. Paramo heavy but great value

The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection (SMHC)

The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection (SMHC) is a unique assortment of mountain memorabilia from Scotland and around the world, which has been cobbled together here on our website in what we hope is a legible and enjoyable format. The site is a living thing as we continue to update, improve and add new acquisitions. So, please take a tour around our virtual museum and let us know if you have any ideas, new information, or indeed any donations.http://www.smhc.co.uk/

Any photos comments views ?

Posted in Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 10 Comments

What was your favourite clothing for mountaineering.

The Pixie

A great bit of gear was a simple thin wind stop top. I am sure it was designed for the artic was light and very effective in wind. I was issued with one of these in the very early 70,s.

With the Curlie boots

Then we got ventile jackets pull over with a big map pocket so robust. Though fairly heavy it was robust but froze in winter.

The Curlies were for the RAF specifically these boots made by Hawkins were very basic great summer boot worn with two pairs of socks. Rubbish with crampons as they were to bendy.

Our man Smoc wearing the red ventile jacket sea boot socks and breeks

Note the slings they were issued size 1,2,3 and 4 . Does anyone remember the breaking strain ?

1951 on the Frozen Loch Beinn Eighe photo Joss Gosling collection

The RAF team on Beinn Eighe in 1951 on the Lancaster crash this photo was taken in the middle of the Loch it was a wild winter.

On Observatory ridge late 50’ s the late Isn Clough very basic gear. Note the berry.
Ian Skye’s on the Lamp Cairngorms

When you look at the gear they had it’s amazing what they achieved and how well they climbed. Most lovely

I will be looking at more gear later. Breeches were commonly worn. My early ones were massive and froze on me like armour. Underneath we wore long Johns in the winter I wore pyjamas as they fitted better. Many got hold on the Fireman’s vest ( String vests) they were good. On top we had aircrew cotton shirts that I found cold on the wet. We all had aircrew jumpers but again wore home made woollen ones. If you had money a few had the fisherman’s jumper !

On the way to Knoydart Tartan shirt, string vest and gaiters !

Comments and photos welcome :At the Lodge in winter we all wore Double Ventile Jackets. A fantastic garment in a Dry cold environment. They were specially made for us by the company that made the Tents for British Antarctic Survey. Keith Geddes.

Posted in Equipment, Gear, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 3 Comments

Great days on a remote Munro Seanna Bhraigh – In Memory of Assynt MRT Leader killed on an Avalanche on 3 Feb 1991.

Seana Bhraigh (926m, Munro 262)

Seana Bhraigh


Past visits. In Memory of Phil Jones Assynt MRT Team Leader killed in an avalanche on 3 Feb 1991.

Phil Jones Assynt MRT – Photo Assynt MRT

As most will know the Munro Seana Bhraigh is a long way from anywhere. Some guidebooks say it is one of the remotest Munros about. The hill is in my mind best approached by Loch Coire Mhoir. This is reached by most by a private track up Strath Mulnzie, where a mountain bike is extremely useful. There are other ways in but to me this is the best. If you’re walking the route is well described in various guidebooks and can be an easy ascent but a long way from anywhere. I used to love doing a circuit including the other 4 Munros  Eididh na Clach Geala (927m, Munro 257)
Meall nan Ceapraichean (977m, Munro 177)
Beinn Dearg (1084m, Munro 57)
Cona’ Mheall (978m, Munro 176):  

Map from Hamish’s Mountain Walk

 In bad weather this is extremely tricky navigation but on a long summers day it’s a classic. Sadly the views from the Beinn Dearg Side of Seana Bhraigh are of a flat plateau, till you reach the Corrie rim of Seana Bhraigh then you can see the full immense view of these wild Corries.

Great views into the Corries

To me the best way to climb this peak is by Oykel Bridge. Its great place to be a wild area. The wildlife round this area is amazing and Oykel Bridge is a big fishing river. On the hill usually near the summit sometimes you may spot Goats near the summit and the odd Eagle soaring. This is a wonderful place and the views from the track as you walk/cycle in with the ridge and the first view of the peak of An Sgurr make it a very special place.

The wonderful photo of the Corries by Angus Jack

To me it’s not a place to rush: how many on their Munro chase miss this wonderful Corrie and all its secrets. To sit on the summit and spend time is an incredible experience and well worth the effort. On this hill the views North South East and West are wonderful and I have so many memories of this wild area and my companions over the years. On these Big walks we stayed in the bothy in the Corrie that makes it such a great memory a night in the bothy in a special place. It had a history of exploration in the winter as I became immersed in the winter climbing history in Scotland. These were some hardy folk. My late pal Blyth Wright regaled me with tales of this cliff when it was a new winter venue in the 60’s.

Seana Bhraigh is glacially carved with a huge beautiful northern corrie with some scrambling required to reach its eastern top Creag an Duine. In winter it is a special place it has two bothies right next to each other. One by the MBA and the other the Magoos Bothy.

Magoos Bothy

I had spent many nights in my youth in the big walks in 1976 on my N- S traverse of Scotland and others; these were huge days when we were fit. The MBA Bothy was a great place to be and the situation incredible with the classic ridge and scramble just outside the door. This mountain is a great winter wander along a remote ridge well worth the walk in. Take time it was also a great place to spend the night and with the new bothy and a fire. It’s well worth taking some coal or wood. The wander round the Corrie rim in good weather is wonderful it’s a huge classic Corrie and if you see the Goats it’s a marvellous sight. In winter its a massive set of Corries.

Its hard to believe I also ran a winter course in 1980 with RAF Valley MRT from North Wales and we climbed a few routes in winter a couple of of new routes over 5 days with my great friend Mark Sinclair (RIP). We drove into the bothy as we knew the keeper but had too make a hasty retreat later when the thaw came. These routes were never reported in the Guides and I hope to go back again in winter to have a look. It is an incredibly wild place and one of great beauty yet those who approach the hill from the other side see little of these huge Corries. I remember the huge Cornices then the wild navigation in a white out trying to get back off the ridge to the safety of the bothy. It is in my memory a wild plateau with tricky navigation especially in winter but what a hill.

SMC Guide

Many may have heard of Philip Tranter who wrote the first guide to this area in 1966 was a hero of mine and I tried to climb many of his routes and his hill days Tranters Round is one. He died in 1968 on his way back from the Alps in a motor bike crash. Scotland lost one of its finest mountaineers he was so young and so dynamic. My good pal Blyth Wright was part of the exploration and this area is steeped in the history of exploration and huge hill days. The club was called the Corriemulzie Club.

This place has so many memories a remote mountain yet a huge part of my life. Among these memories are of a great pal the Team Leader of Assynt MRT Phil Jones was killed here in an avalanche in Feb 1991 it seems so many years ago.

I was at just coming home from running the annual winter course for the RAF mountain rescue Teams this was 14 days away from home when the news was broken by the BBC. They just said that a MRT team leader had been killed, no name was given and it was an awful time for our families. These were the days before mobile phones etc. My partner was so upset as she thought it was me.

2008 I watched Eagles sore that day I was blessed and had a few thoughts for Phil.

When the news broke that it was Phil it was a terrible tragedy as I knew Phil and the Assynt team well and cannot imagine that happening during a training exercise in such a remote area. We had climbed together and got to know each other well Assynt MRT are a great team and we helped out with bits and pieces when we could. Phil was a huge part of the community and I still miss him to this day. I went to his funeral in Lochinver it was a difficult time and a reminder to all of us that tragedy can occur at any time. Mountain Rescue are not excluded from this. I would like to find out the details of the Avalanche from any of the Assynt Team who were there. I am helping with an Avalanche survey that goes back to 1960’s.

There was a small cairn on I am sure Quinag just of one  of the beleachs/ tops with a great view of the wild Assynt that Phil loved and I visited it not long after the funeral.

Phil Jones – Assynt MRT Photo

Can anyone give me a Grid Reference of it please?

Yet this Corrie is an amazing place with so many varying memories, the peace and quiet was incredible and the hills so green in the summer and the heather coming into bloom made this a great walk out even in a bad day but so worth saving for a good day.

View from the bothy window

Yet I have often been back to that Coire and really enjoyed the An Sgurr scramble and in winter is a grand expedition, how many have climbed it is Alpine from the bothy with some scrambling required to reach its eastern top Creag an Duine.

Info – During the stalking season, September 1st to October 20th, please keep to the main estate tracks.
Coiremor is the eastern end of the building, with Magoo’s bothy (non-MBA) occupying the western end. It is used by the estate especially in the fishing and deer stalking seasons but access is allowable so long as recognized tracks are followed.

To access the bothy, it is necessary to ford the River Mulzie at NH 292 906.  If the river is in spate a bridge can be used about 1km north of the ford at NH 298 922 although it is rough ground from the bridge back up to the path. Corriemulzie Estate. We got stuck here once due to being unable to cross the river.

Next time I go I will hopefully have an e bike to make up for my age I am looking forward to it once I feel a bit stronger. Its a fair cycle in but the e bike should make life easier for me if I can get one.

2008 with Janis on the bikes.

Information – Highland Scrambles North Scottish Mountaineering Scramblers Guide

Northern Highland North Scottish Mountaineering Club Guide.

Hamish Browns Mountain Walk

SMC – Munros Guide and App.

In memory of Phil Jones Assynt MRT.

About Assynt Mountain Rescue Team. To me they are a great group of people thank you all for all your great work in a massive remote area.

The primary role of the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team is the provision of search and rescue in mountainous or inhospitable terrain in North and NW Scotland, for any person who may be injured, or otherwise in need of assistance. The Team are all volunteers from a variety of backgrounds.

www.assyntmountainrescue.co.uk/

Assynt Mountain Rescue Team Registered charity number SC049089

Magoos Bothy – This bothy has been refurbished in memory of Mark Magoo who died in a helicopter crash in Kosova in 2001. It is right next to the MBA Bothy which is strange but a wonderful place to be.

Posted in Avalanche info, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Yesterday I lost my Brother – a few words in memory.

I was wakened very early last night by a phone call from Bermuda that my Brother had passed away. He lived in Bermuda for nearly 50 years. He had been ill with cancer for some time yet it came as a shock. It was too late to phone the family so I dressed and went outside for a walk. It’s very hard when you live alone and especially during Covid to deal with. My mind was racing and I put on my clothes and went outside.

It was starting snowing getting heavy but with no wind as I wandered down to the harbour for a walk and to clear my head. It was surreal here are a few thoughts.

Michael was my older brother and though we were so different personalities when I was young he looked after me. We shared a room as wee lads together. As the sons of a local Minister life could be difficult especially at school. I have good memories of our childhood it was a different era.

We listened to radio Luxembourg at night in our room and followed Ayr United. He loved cycling and was a big tourer. Michael was fiercely Scottish and loved his country. Sadly he was very ill as a teenager and the treatment he got sadly effected his life afterwards. Due to this he had a hard time for many years. He loved football played as a winger in the rough and tumble of Junior football. He was all elbows and a very fast winger hardy player .

Michael served as an Electrician by trade and did his apprenticeship in the 60’s. It was a hard life in all weathers working on builders schemes. There were lots of strikes many getting paid off as then work could be sporadic. He moved to Bermuda for work during the 70’s as our late sister Eleanor was working out there. These were hard time’s but he got a job with a big Hotel as an Electrician. Later he moved on the be the Facilities manager for Fidelity in Bermuda.

At Applecross

He did regularly come home on visits as he loved and missed Scotland. We had some great mountain days when he returned. We were on the hill in 2001 and had a great day on the Mamores near Fortwilliam when we heard the news of 9/11. From the beauty of a great hill day we learned the sad news. It was a shocking day that changed the World.

He married Fay a local lass in 1972 and together raised Edwin , Isabell and Eric and had a big family in Bermuda. I visited when I retired on my lecture tour of the States in 2008 we had a great time.

My visit in 2008’we had a great two weeks.

They all made me very welcome and I had a great trip. The family commented how different we were. He ran every day in Bermuda was a powerful runner played football in Bermuda like me he was short sighted this never stopped him and was a well known personality.

He loved Scotland the bothies, the Galloway hills and we had some adventures in the big Munro’s. Though we were very different it was on the hills we got on well. Though he was still fiercely competitive and fit even up to his last visit a few years ago. He loved the space the wildness and the beauty of the hills often going off for a few days alone in Galloway in winter when home. My sisters used to worry about him but he had his adventures and loved the wild places.

Michael and Jenifer my sister in Arran.

Arran was another place he loved he would always visit and grab a hill day we spent so much time of our childhood here. He would often head over on a trip home to these hills that were part of our life.

Galloway –

He said a few years ago that this would be his last trip home and we had a great day in Galloway on the hills that he loved. He loved seeing Loch Enoch, The Merrick and the Silver Flow names that meant so much to us both of past adventures.

Michael was deeply religious and worked very hard for his church in Bermuda. He was always working helping the local folk doing maintenance on the Church, helping the local folk in food banks helping with jobs. He gave a lot back to a Bermuda . He was also very kind helping his family especially his nieces and nephews often unseen helping where he could. He had a big heart.

I hope he has found peace from his pain in his final days. He did not want to speak at the end very hard for those of us so far away I suppose it was his way of coping.

He is now away from the pain he struggled with over the last few years.

My big brother was “old school” this is why I feel he kept so much to himself. It has been a hard time for his wife Fay and the family and those in Bermuda who have nursed him.

Michael am thinking of you all, we cannot be with you but you are all in our thoughts. Thinking of you my brother “The Flying Scott” When things allow I will go back to the hills you love and the Bothies and have some time alone.

Your wee brother.

Farewell the “Flying Scott“

David.

Posted in Corbetts, Family, Friends, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Well being | 17 Comments

“LEST WE FORGET – The Wessex Crash on Ben More 1 Feb 1987

“Lest we forget”1987  Harry Lawrie Team Leader Killin MRT.

This is a story that few will know outside the small group within Scottish Mountain Rescue. I still feel it needs retelling and how we should never take the Mountain Rescue Teams or SAR Helicopters for granted and how easily it can all go wrong.

Wessex Ben More

On the first of February 1987 a Wessex Helicopter from RAF Leuchars crashed on Ben More near Crainlarich this is part of the story.

The weather on that day the 1st of February was wonderful, blue skies and rock hard snow meant a great weekend for climbing and mountaineering. We knew there would be plenty of callouts that weekend but the weather was so perfect that the helicopters would be able to cope with most incidents or so we thought. I was with the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team staying at Bridge of Orchy Village Hall over that weekend. We had climbed on that incredible mountain Beinn Ullaidh, the ice was wonderful and most of the rest of the team spent the weekend there or on some of the classic ice climbs or winter mountaineering on these great hills. As usual we pulled out after tea for the drive back to Leuchars tired on the Sunday night for the two hour drive home. The Wessex which had been busy all day “buzzed” our convoy as we drove down the road. It said over the radio that “Rescue 134” was heading for an incident on Ben More a climber had fallen and Killin Mountain Rescue were out looking and they may need some assistance. We watched the helicopter stop and pick up some of the Killin Team and then head for Ben More!

The mighty Wessex a magic sight in the mountains. Photo Davy Taylor

At RAF Leuchars we knew all the helicopter crews and even trained many of them in winter skills, they were all great friends, together we were a team. It was a great relationship there was no rank just a real bunch of people who loved SAR. The winch man that day was also on the Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team he was Mick Anderson one of the most experienced in the RAF. What happened next was surreal as we watched the helicopter climb up the hill to the crags just before the summit ridge. Night was falling and we watched the huge searchlights of the helicopter light up the cliffs and reflect off the snow. Then as if in a dream, there was a flash and the Wessex hit the hill, it was awful. The Team Leader that day of Leuchars MRT was Don Shanks, “Mr unflappable” and he told us over the radios in our wagons as we were driving past to get to the farm below Ben More, get the team sorted while he called the Rescue Centre. Communications were poor in these days; no mobile phones, no GPS and the radios were red hot. We had a great friend in the village Elma Scott one of the Leuchars team’s mothers and Don called the Rescue Centre from her house explaining what had occurred and another helicopter was launched to assist. The Wessex I think had got out a Mayday message just before it crashed. Things went so quickly and another helicopter was soon on the way to assist. By this time we were ready to go on the hill and could see the smoke and fire on the hill. Killin had been already searching the hill looking for a missing walker when the aircraft had picked up Harry( the Team Leader of Killin and Ian another Killin team member both were local Policemen) from Base. They were taken high up the mountain to where the casualty was last seen and were getting out the helicopter which was on very steep ground when it hit the hill. The next thing they knew the helicopter was crashing down the hill towards the Killin Team who were searching for the climber. The next few minutes must have been horrendous, as after the helicopter stopped sliding down the hill after it stopped then went on fire, it was a very dangerous place to be. The crew and injured were dragged free by the Killin team members who had just missed being hit by pieces of aircraft. It was pandemonium and when things cleared Harry had been killed and Ian and Mick the winch man severely injured. There were some heroes that night, the Killin boys rushed into the stricken aircraft and dragged the injured out.

Words cannot explain their actions.

No training on earth can get you ready for such an event and it is still an untold tale.  Several of the Killin Team was awarded  for their bravery after the tragedy.  Meanwhile our fast party was up the hill in 20 minutes incredible effort and assisted Killin, those who were there will never appreciate how they coped; they were all so professional in amongst such tragedy. There was no inter team problems all worked together despite of the circumstances and the confusion, the radios were crazy for a while.  The helicopter a RAF Sea King took both casualties to hospital and Killin and the Leuchars Team helped carried Harry off the hill. That would be the hardest part of the night and so sad for all of them.

Harry

I was told to stay at Base as there was so much going on and Don  the Team Leader told me to stay it was full on. I was raging at the time but it was the correct thing to do. It was crazy and I learned so much that night about the pressures of being a team leader which stood me in great stead in the years to come. The RAF helicopter that crashed had a new senior officer on board the new Oc Ops at Leuchars who had been dropped off at the farm, thankfully before the crash. He was there throughout and was completely amazed by how all coped in such a tragedy and it must have been so difficult for him. As Killin MRT approached with Harry at the end of the journey of the hill, some idiots from the press tried to take a photo of the scene, they were quickly stopped by a few of us, nearly physically!

Lomond MRT were also there and it got pretty hectic at the control point as more press arrived this was big news and huge lessons were learned that night.  Harry’s wife was in the Killin Control caravan during the incident hat a tragedy for her and the family in the days and years ahead.

That night was hellish hard and we still had to find the casualty who had fallen earlier, few slept. It was a first light search and I wondered “how many Killin Team would be available there for the search”. I was given the job of organising the search below the steep cliffs near the summit. The Killin team turned up to a man that morning, an incredible effort and we line searched with of over 40 rescuers each in there own thoughts.

We found the casualty very quickly after a few hours search, unfortunately she was sadly another fatality. She had fallen on the hard neve snow yet sadly she had crampons on her bag , it was so tragic. It was hard to do but we soon had the casualty on the stretcher and carried her off. We all took turns there was little chatter and the grief was there in us all. Killin’s efforts that night and the next few days will remain with me forever.

I made many friends during the days that followed that have lasted to this day.  I was at the crash site for over a week with the Air Investigation Board of Enquiry. It was a difficult time but this is what we did and you put things on hold and got on with it. The AIB had a job to do and the ground was serious, good steep snow and ice with inexperienced engineers  in the winter mountains where a slip could give a serious injury. They knew their job though and found all they needed to and the investigation got completed, they said that aircrew fatigue was a big part of the accident. The helicopter had done several incidents that day and hardly ever stopped for a break. This was a lesson to us all for the future; you must try and get a break no matter what happens. It was to became normal flying up to the crash site every day in another Wessex but we had great faith in the crews and the aircraft and we had a job to do. We built a bond with the investigators built on mutual trust in the short daylight hours we had as most days we walked off at the end of a day of intense concentration.

I wrote about this incident on my blog several times and Ian who was badly injured in the crash is still a great friend and we golf together for a week annually. He still bares the scars of that night and we felt I should tell the tale as a lot have forgotten about Harry. As I re write this about what I remembered about that night and the efforts of those involved, it was hard but worth doing in my eyes. Every time I pass the great bulk of Ben More I remember that night all those years ago.

Harry’s family got in touch after my blog  a few years ago and were amazed when they heard this part of  story much of it for the first time. Yet this is only a small part of the story, The Killin Mountain Rescue Team were and still are an incredible bunch of people and I hope they will tell the tale of that night on Ben More many years ago. It hugely affected my life and many others and I learned many lessons from it.

A  few years later I was at Lockerbie and many of things I learned over this sad incident  are worth passing on for the future.  As the years move on sadly Mick Anderson the helicopter winch -man who was badly injured has passed away myself Bill Gault and Johnnie Macleod cleared his house, it was full of memories and none stronger than that day on Ben More. We have also lost Ian Ramsay who died recently   The year’s role on but every year a band of Killin MRT go to Harry’s memorial on the hill Ben Ledi just above Callander and pay their respects. One day I hope to join them.

When we go out in the mountains or on rescues we forget those who wait and worry about us, we must not forget what they go through for us! Few realise how much they worry about us and our safe return.

Please share this story it is a sad tale but one of incredible dedication by a real band of unassuming people who make this small country such a great place to live in.

If you are in a Rescue Team and something like this happened how would your Team cope, have you discussed it?  How would you manage to continue yet these folk did it is a true story of incredible fortitude. As walkers climbers and lovers of the wild never take what the SAR Helicopters or Teams do for granted, sadly accidents can happen.

Killin MRT 2017

This small part of the story is dedicated to Harry Laurie’s family and the Killin Mountain Rescue Team and to all the families who sit and wait.

A quote from a wife of one of Scotland’s busiest teams who was involved in Mountain Rescue for 40 years.

“I never slept till he and the team were off the hill safely” Be safe out there all those who enjoy and love these wild places and let’s never forget those like Harry who gave so much.

Killin MRT did a lovely thing at their 50 th Anniversary and they gave the partners of the team a wonderful badge as a memento of what the families do to support the team.

Huge thanks to the RAF Leuchars MRT who were incredible that night and the days that occurred after on the recovery and at the crash site for nearly a week.

Thank you all.

Killin Team members.

2017 September  – I was invited by Killin Mountain Rescue Team to their 50 th Anniversary  Party at Killin and I was honoured to present some the team member’s with badges for 100 call – outs. The wonderful part was that wives and partners got one as well and that was a great thing to be able to do. At last in Mountain Rescue we are appreciating the support of the families within Mountain Rescue.

I also presented the Harry Lawrie memorial cup to Mark Nicols and the Team shield for voluntary service Phil Younger. It was an emotional night.

100 Rescues Killin Mrt Photo Killin Mrt

The Harry Lawrie Memorial Cup. Photo J Allen Killin Mrt

Killin Callander and District Search and Rescue Group is an incorporated Scottish Charity and operates as Killin Mountain Rescue Team. We have rescue posts at Killin and Callander and are affiliated to the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland.

Our unpaid volunteer members are available to assist members of the public who find themselves in difficulty on the mountains and remote areas of West Perthshire which is in the northern part of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National park. Mountains such as Ben Lui, Ben More, Stob Binnien, Stuc a Chroin, Ben Ledi make the area popular with hillwalkers all year round.

Please ensure you are properly equipped for your trip. The weather can deteriorate quickly. Most of the incidents in our area are due to people losing their way in mist. If you have not been trained to use a map and compass in poor visibility be prepared to retreat early

Heavy Whalley 1 Feb 2021

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Another Classic hill Beinn Dearg (Red Mountain) Ullapool. The “Moon Rescue” and the Famine Wall.

Beinn Dearg is a big classic mountain in the North of Scotland it is the highest mountain North of the Inverness Ullapool road. It holds its lofty position and is often climbed with the other 3 Munro’s in Summer. Thecharder folk climb Seanna Bhraigh as well . The second peak, remote Cona Mheall, is on the opposite side of impressively rocky and wild Coire Ghranda whilst Meall nan Ceapraichean and Eididh nan Clach Geala can extend the route to give a grand traverse with spectacular views across towards Assynt. These are grand hills with superb viewpoints and lochans.

Yet to me on its own Beinn Dearg is a big mountain easily recognised from views from other hills and from the road and from Ullapool is one to savour .

It looks fairly dome shaped from the distance and benign but it has cliffs all the way along the most popular way in from Inverael. In winter they can hold some classic ice routes.

Description

Beinn Dearg: a mountain in the Inverlael area of the Highlands of Scotland. It is most frequently climbed by following the River Lael up Gleann na Sguaib. There is parking at the main road till the end of the forestry track just of the main road it can be cycled to the stalkers path (about 3 k) which then follows the stalkers path glen to the bealach, which is about a kilometre north of the summit. From here it’s a steady pull to the summit . At 1,084 metres it’s a big hill translation. There is a “Famine wall” which stops short of the summit. The summit can be hard to locate in Winter under snow.

This is another to me neglected mountain often I have climbed it usually with Mountain Rescue pals on training and on a few call outs. I had a great long day just after my operations on my own a few years back in deep snow.

It is a huge mountain from the Inverlael side. The path lets you see the hidden Hydro that helps powers the nearby Ullapool and the never ending stalkers path takes past the climbs where the late Doctor Tom Patey and his pals explored in the 60’s. Tom was a local Doctor in Ullapool and often climbed solo here. There are many great routes here the classic Emerald Gully a winter route that is well known. We climbed a few gullies round here in the 70’ when we started ice climbing it is a magnificent setting.

There are a few classic climbs like Emerald Gully and Penguin Gully not to be underestimated and scope for much more.

As the path steepens there is a big Boulder field near the beleach that can be tricky in deep snow that takes you to the Beleach where you can enjoy the views of Coire Ghranda on its South East Side. This is now wild country and there is a huge cliff that only the brave visit. I snow-holed here with a pal in winter leaving early to winter climb in this wild Corrie. The approach from the Aultguish side is a long slog. Yet it takes you into another world.

The cliffs of Beinn Dearg

From the Beleach there is a big wall the Famine wall. It was built during a terrible Famine in Scotland one can only imagine the effort needed to build this wall. There are Famine walls all over and I have written about them. You would think things would be much better 200 years later but we have “Food Banks” now. Very sad.

Famine Wall

The wall does not take you to the summit but veers away West. The summit is only a small cairn hard to find on a winters day.

The Beleach

Many go on to do several of the nearby hills. Cona Meall Meal na Caeprachian, Edidh Nan Glach Geala. This is wonderful country full of wildness and incredible views. I ask anyone to name all the hills from this summit its magnificent.

There is another way in to the mountain from the end of Loch Glasgarnoch it’s wild land and can be boggy with a big river crossing.

It takes you into Loch Coire Ghranda one of the finest Corries in Scotland. It is well worth the long walk in as it is a place of solitude and remoteness.

I did several call outs here there have been a few bad avalanches and several times folk have walked off from the summit the wrong way. This is especially in Coire Ghranda a hard place to get communications and a long walk back to your car. If you make a mistake.

I had one really hard day in winter a few years ago in deep snow. We had broken a trail leaving the path for Beinn Dearg. It was a one early winters day doing a one point 1 kilometre an hour. I was with Dan Carrol who had just summited Everest. We had been followed at a distance by a solo climber. He kept his distance and we broke the path in. On getting back to Ullapool fairly tired we got a call to help Dundonnell MRT as a climber was struggling in the Beinn Dearg area. We were pretty tired but the weather was good and we drove to start of the forestry track. We were dreading an all night search and our area to search was up to the Beleach of Ben Dearg. The weather cleared and the helicopter was sent to search. We stopped regularly as we were tired. Our previous footprints were gone and it was hellish hard. We were scanning the hills looking for torchlightv. I saw something high and bright a small dot on the ridge. It must be him we got hold of the helicopter by radio and gave him a rough location.

The wind was gone and then I saw the light it was the moon sneaking over the ridge .

The helicopter called and said “ the light is the moon we do not have the fuel to go there.” I felt a right plonker as the Glen was now floodlight by the moon.

This was all we needed as we prepared for a long night on the hill. An hour later the missing Walker was located tired and a bit lost but okay and flown back to Rescue control. He had underestimated the snow depth and got caught by the weather.

I lived with my “Moon Rescue” for a few years. We got back in time to Ullapool for a late pint and our dinner.

Timings : It easy to underestimate your hill time in deep snow. It takes so long even though we had snow shoes on it was hard work.

The wild Coire Ghranda

Lots of snow about be careful.

Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team (DMRT)
operate in a vast area of rugged and
remote mountainous country. The team
of around 35 volunteers is available
24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help anyone in difficulty on the hills, mountains or crags in an area spanning more than 2,600 square miles.

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Posted in Avalanche info, Books, Enviroment, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Ben Wyvis / hill of Terror

One of my local Munro’s is Ben Wyvis is a mountain located in Easter Ross, north-west of Dingwall in northern Scotland. It lies in the council area of Highland, and the county of Ross and Cromarty. The mountain is prominent in views of the area, presenting a whale-back shape above the farmland of Strathconon. I used it often to take folk especially from my work on the hill. To many in the area it is their first big hill.

Ben Wyvis from the SMC app.

Ben Wyvis is a vast and sprawling mountain whose isolated position makes it the dominating feature of a wide area of the Highlands. The ascent to its spacious plateau is a reasonably straightforward ascent in good summer conditions by Munro standards and there are very extensive views from the summit. In winter it can be interesting with a long open ridge to the far summit that gets the wind and can bring huge Cornices. In a wild day it can be tricky navigation and Martin Moran tells a great tale in his book the Winter Munros of a wild day on Wyvis.

Ben Wyvis is one of my local Munro for those in Inverness and Dingwall it is a dominating hill located in Easter Ross, Ross and Cromarty, Highland, in northern Scotland.  It forms an undulating ridge running roughly north-south for about 5 km, the highest summit of which is Glas Leathad Mòr and is a very popular mountain for the locals. The route up the hill is well marked from the car park just of the the main road the Garve – Ullapool A835. There is a car park but its busy and the footpath is now well maintained unlike the bog it was. It takes you through the forestry where the views open up and you climb onto the steep slopes of An Cabar with great views of the many wonderful peaks like the Fannichs, Beinn Deargs and An Teallach. From the summit its a broad ridge ridge easy and eroded in summer but needing great care in a full on winter day. The summit of Glas Leathad Mor. There are 3 Munro tops on this hill that few will visit but well worth the effort. Some combine the day with the Little Wyvis the nearby Corbett a strenuous day.

On the summit Plateau

I have been battered many times on the summit ridge and it is a good place to teach navigation on a wild day with poor visibility.

Ben Wyvis is a vast and sprawling mountain whose isolated position makes it the dominating feature of a wide area of the Highlands. The ascent to its spacious plateau is a reasonably straightforward ascent in good summer conditions by Munro standards and there are very extensive views from the summit. In winter it can be interesting with a long open ridge to the far summit that gets the wind and can bring huge Cornices.

A great book.

In a wild day it can be tricky navigation and Martin Moran tells a great tale in his book the Winter Munros of a wild day on Wyvis when he was avalanched with his wife. In his bool Chapter 8 he talks about that day. Two months later there was a bad accident on Ben Wyvis. “Danger stalks the winter hills however competent or cautious the climber. Even the easiest hills should be accorded a proper respect” Martin Moran states later:

31 March 1985 – Solo cross country skier buried under 1,8ms wet snow avalanche in An Cabar area. Found by a SARDA Police dogs after helicopter search on 1st April. If you have any information on this accident,please contact me. The Dundonnell MRT where involved and SARDA.

Martins Avalanche.

There was a plan in 1980 for a Ben Wyvis railway all the way to the summit from Dingwall as part of a Ski resort for the mountain!  It is worth reading about but never got approved, there has been a few other ideas but all have collapsed. The Wyvis ridge is now a fairly eroded plateau and shows how popular this hill is with easy access from Inverness and Dingwall.

A few ski and snowboard on this mountain in winter and the huge corries hold the snow well. There is a tale by John MacKenzie a local mountaineer and the Earl Of Cromarty that land was rented by his ancestors from the Crown on condition that they could gather a snowball at any time of the year!

Lots of information here.

These huge Corries on the Eastern side of the mountain also hold some great winter climbs many years ago I climbed here after a helicopter drop off. There was very little knowledge of these Corries and winter climbing before the updated Guide book.

Its a great mountain and just now I can see it from across the Moray Firth it is plastered with snow.

Wyvis a great hill to explore.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Assynt memories and the incredible words of Norman MacCaig.

During this latest lockdown the memories come flooding back. One of my favourite areas is Assynt in the far North West of this wonderful country. Over the years I have visited here so many time’s. How o wish I could go there now? To me it was a bolt hole for me during an awful period when I was posted down South in the RAF.

More recently I was so lucky to have the use of the SMC Naismith hut near Inchnadampth. Often I was the only one there midweek I had this incredible place to myself. After a couple or even one day there I would have to drive back through the night to Innsworth near Gloucester. It’s a long trip but my time in the South was fuelled by my trips to Assynt. I hated leaving such a place it was why I left at night.

The hills of Assynt and Ciogach are unique and you rarely saw anyone else on these hills.

I loved the drive from Ullapool from the first time I visited in the early 70’s. The mountains are incredible they stand out like something surreal many of the hills are surrounded by the sea and these wonderful peaks. In these days I was chasing Munro’s and missing the other great hills.

There is something about Stac Pollaidh that when you see it how can such a mountain be so small yet it has so many adventures. The shattered pillars on the ridge and the wee step that bars many from the true summit. Yet on this lovely wee mountain or any other of these great mountains it brings the incredible words of Norman MaCaig the poet to the mind.

Stac Polly

“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 Pollaidh

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 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.”

How I love these words and how they describe these mountains.

I am amazed how few folk know this poem.

It is full of many meanings to me not just the beauty of the area but the ownership of a land. The politics of who owns them yet sadly I was never taught this at school. It is now.

These words to me are spiritual and beautifully crafted. I have a cd of Norman MacCaig reciting these poems?

He makes you think Is it right that someone can own such a place? Just for them ?

We are so lucky to have the right of responsible access in Scotland. So many countries do not. Never forget it was fought hard for by a joint political agreement on the Scottish Government working together . Let’s never lose it we are the envy of many other nations.

Is this land not to be looked after for the future generations to appreciate? How do we keep it going.

So many questions so few answers?

Stac Polly

A few years ago my great pal Pete Greening and his lass Ally had a great week at Elphin. They had good weather and had climbed walked and enjoyed this incredible place. This was Ally’s first visit she now loves it they had a magical cottage with views of Suilven from the windows. I was invited up had a great day with them ending up on Stac Polly one I will never forget. I met them on as they came off one of the classics scrambles Lurgain Edge. There are so many great ways up these hills.

Pete and Ally they are lucky they live in Cornwall another wonderful place but can be so busy. It is great that people still appreciate the wildness of Assynt and how important it is to us all.

I love to live up here especially my time on the hills all these things I never take for granted especially now .

Every time I visit I learn new things. This is so true especially today during the Covid Shutdown! There are so many other great days Cul Mor, Cul Beag, Fionaven and others.

The old memorial in Assynt now replaced

There are only two Munro’s on the immediate area Ben More Assynt and Conival again superb hills. Yet they hold the incredible story of a plane crash during the war. The crew are buried high on the mountain. It’s a sad tale yet it shows the solitude of this place that it was not located for 6 weeks after a huge storm. It is a place of poignant beauty. I have climbed these hills on many occasions but the ones that I remember are on my big walks of Scotland. Once on the summit you can see the last mountain Ben Hope where a good friend Andy Nisbet was killed recently with his climbing partner.

The new memorial

From the Crash site on Conival and the aircraft memorial you can see the wonderful Quinag another superb mountain with three Corbett tops. In winter it’s a fine expedition and has a few great routes on summer band winter on it. With lots of routes still to do ?

Another favourite Suliven stands out like a great battleship defended by a long walk in. I have had so many adventures here and the Eastern summit is “sporting “as is rock climbing on the Western buttress. I doubt even today you will rarely see anyone climbing here? The famine wall on the ridge tells another story of this place of the hardship and suffering of the locals and is a constant reminder to what happened here.

The famine Wall

From the SMC hut at Elphin from the window you can awake to the view of this grand hill. The sunrises and sunsets can be spectacular here.

As for the climbing here there is so much to do in the area from sea cliffs to the mountain routes and you will rarely see anyone else but that is for another day!

A great way to discover new ways up these hills!
Suiliven looking majestic.

How I and many miss this place yet this wee blog just touches the surface of a great area.

Let’s look after it and thank those who live here and care for this spectacular landscape and its history.

Let’s not forget the Assynt mountain Rescue Team who cover a vast area and are all unsung heroes !

Assynt MRT great folk up at the crash site !

Assynt Mountain Rescue works with the Police, Coastguard and other agencies in Sutherland and Caithness, volunteering to provide search and rescue support. The team can be on call any time, any day, and in any type of weather. All our volunteers share a love for hillwalking, mountaineering, rock climbing, snow and ice-climbing, caving and generally being in the outdoors. 

We rely on voluntary support and funding to provide this service. We work out of two bases – our main rescue post is at Inchnadamph, and we have a mobile unit at Thurso.

All our volunteers come from Caithness and Sutherland – including our dog Mollie! As a specially trained search and rescue dog, Mollie and her handler Charlie work throughout Scotland as part of the Search And Rescue Dog Association (SARDA). Meanwhile, on the human front, our 30 strong team train together once a month throughout the year. We are trained to work together on searches and rescues in winter or summer conditions.

We work with other agencies such as the Coastguard, or the RAF and neighbouring Mountain Rescue Teams. 

Donations and Fundraising

We are a charity that relies on funding from generous donations and our own fundraising activities. Our voluntary work requires us to be fully equipped and ready at any time to help anyone in need. We are always grateful for any donation, small or large, which can be made through our JustGiving website, or directly to any team member. 

Gift Aid may also be appropriate for the donor which increases the amount of money we receive. Recently our most welcome donation is from the Order of St John who donated the majority of the cost of our new Land Rover.

To me it is a “love affair “ with this area as Norman MacCaig says. But how we miss it but we will get back.

Stay happy,stay well, stay safe.

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Ted Atkins and Al Mac Leod North Face of the Eiger. Pushing the standards.

Ted in Ted and Al gearing up below the Eiger North Face

I just got sent these photos by a pal Rushie of Ted Atkins and Al MacLeod on the North Face of the Eiger in the late 80,s. I remember them coming back from this with “wild bivouac eyes. “ Sadly Al was killed on the North Face of the Matterhorn a few years later and we lost Ted in a fall in the Dolomites in 2018.

On the Eiger North Face

The late 70’s 80‘s and 90’s were a great time in the mountains for us but we lost many pals during this period, yet it pushed the mountaineering within the RAF Teams to another level.

The Eiger North Gace

Most of the main military expeditions to the Alps, Alaska , South America , Artic and Himalayas had RAF Mountain Rescue Team members. They helped climb Ama Dablang Shiviling and were part of the big Military expeditions of that period. Later going on smaller lightweight trips all over the world.

Eiger North Facde

Many troops went on to climb all over the world and bring back huge experiences to be passed on to the other troops.

Eiger North Face

This was a huge boost to teams in the UK but a bit of a nightmare of ensuring that safety was paramount during training. These were the days before risk assessments yet we were already accessing the risks at the time. I was never a great climber but climbed a lot of routes to ensure I could make a judgement on route choice by team members.

Eiger North Face

This meant we had so excellent mountaineers throughout our system in every team. There was competition and another generation came through pushing our standards all the time.

Al and Terry Moore on Everest west ridge expedition

We had great times and you knew the troops would never let you down. If there was an accident in training then the military quite rightly had a investigation. I fought to ensure that if this happened then one of our team leaders would be part of it. Our job was unique we often went into areas all over Scotland especially in winter in awful conditions that few would venture in. This was to assist local teams it was there area yet we had to work it. I feel we never let them down or lost a team member.

View from the Eiger

We had a few accidents and rightly learned much from them. I feel we Helped stop the blame culture of the time and improved safety. We did this by giving the young folk good training and “their heads”to make decisions on the mountain especially in Rescues. Regardless of age or rank I was never let down.

Looking back now at a “Risk averse” world it was an incredible period to be involved in.

It could also be harsh as we lost a lot of good pals. When Al MacLeod left to solo the North Face of the Matterhorn he was just leaving the RAF and working for me at Leuchars . He passed by my house, my stepdaughter Yvette asked for his autograph has I had made him into a hero for his exploits. He signed her wee book and I never saw him again. It broke many hearts and when Ted died a few years ago it was the same.

The mountains I and many feel give you a unique bond they give and take a lot. It’s so hard to explain to others yet to be part of that era even in a small way is humbling.

I am so lucky to have met so many outstanding folk. Also others who give so much and are unheard of. Most are still going strong and are still out there and will be out there after Covid.

Thanks to Rushie for the photos and all those who pushed us all on. There are to many to name but you know who you are!

Stay well, stay safe .

Posted in Articles, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

The Ben Lui Jaguar crash 27 November 1979

The RAF Mountain Rescue are there to recover aircrew from crashed aircraft and also work with the Air Investigation Board (AIB) after van incident.

This can happen on any high mountainous ground after an aircraft is located can be on steep and difficult ground in the mountains especially in winter . These are the testing times.

At times like this is when the RAF teams and their leaders are under incredible pressure. It is fortunate that we lostvfew aircraft but it seemed every ten years an epic occurs this was one of them.

On the 27 November 1979 a Jaguar aircraft crashed in the Ben Lui area.

SMC map

It was heading in a two ship formation for Bridge of Orchy, intending to turn west at the main glen towards Oban on the coast. Suddenly the cloud came down, and the leader told the No 2 to abort and pull up; this he did. However, on pulling out of the top of the cloud, he could not see his leader and could make no radio contact.

The two Scottish MRTs, Leuchars and Kinloss, were called out, as were several helicopters and several civilian teams, Killin, Lomond, Strathclyde and SARDA. In all over 200 searchers were involved. I was in the Team at RAF Valley in North Wales’s when this occurred. We were out for a weekend training on Cader Idris when we were called on the Cwfry Arête a climb on the mountain. We abseiled off and were told to pack up go back to Valley for a call out in Scotland.

At the time I was the full time deputy Team leader at Valley. It was the call out we had all being waiting for. We had trained for. We rushed back to be met by the team leader at RAF Valley. We had been getting updated as we drove back to RAF Valley. One can only remember what bead going through our heads. It was a quick sort out at Valley a brief. Our tram leader was Al Haveron he was a busy man.

I was also looking after the Team Leaders Search Dog Dreish with us who just sat under the seats once we boarded the Hercules aircraft. The Team Leader had been on a well deserved weekend off we did not have much time to grab our gear plus food and the Hercules aircraft took us to Prestwick for an overnight stay. We then had flights by Sea King helicopter to Crianlarich. A few troops and vechiles travelled by road in support.

Jaguar aircraft

The weather for most of the time was atrocious, remaining so for the whole of the search apart from one day. In the early hours the overnight parties who had been on the hill returned soaked through to the skin. They soon had hung up their wet gear from every hook and nail in the Tyndrum Hotel’s staff accommodation hut, a pattern that was to be repeated time and again over the next three days. Wet clothes were put on every day as we ran out of kit very quick. We had limited clothing with us and had to borrow from the Scottish teams. I also got extra rations dry socks and gloves brought down to us from Kinloss by an old pal Geordie Jewitt.

The aircraft wreckage was located on the nearby Beinn A Chleibh but no sign of the pilot. He had ejected but sadly was killed in the ejection and located on the nearby Ben Lui on very steep winter ground. I knew this area well from my earlier days at Kinloss but for many of the team it was the first time in Scotland but we were a strong bunch. I had huge respect fir them.

That day was another of vile conditions. All teams went on the hill it was a sad message when we heard he had been located.

The investigation Board and Doctor needed to get to the crash site and attempts were made to get the accident investigation people to the scene. Ben Lui in early winter is a serious mountain and on the short daylight in late November is a hard area to search. These are complicated mountains.

The Doctor Photographer and AIB had no experience of winter mountaineering and with their lack of climbing expertise in my mind and others should never have been put in such a situation

.

Ben Lui

A few epics followed that day on very steep ground near Ben Lui and the RAF in their wisdom winched a photographer to the site not dressed for winter mountaineering. The photographer dropped his camera on scene and some where up there is still a very expensive camera!

It was an epic getting him off the hill and we had a discussion with the senior officer that sent him up! He fell coming off the hill thankfully to be held by on of our team it could have been another tragedy.

It was a sad outcome as we had learned later the pilot had ejected but suffered serious head trauma after ejection

In all a very difficult search and showed that an aircraft could still go missing even in these modern- time’s. This was made worse during this period there were no mobile phones or GPS around.

The oldest guy in the RAF teams Colin Pibworth from RAF Valley did the link on the summit of Ben Lui for 3 days mainly alone. This was in the wildest of weather as communication’s were so important as the teams were all over the nearby mountains.

Hard lessons were learned especially when dealing with senior officers with limited knowledge of rescue or recovery! A few points to note were the incredible flying by the helicopters, I still cannot say how many we got on a Wessex on one drop off, I was terrified as usual.

It was a sad Call out but a wake up for us all that aircraft still go missing. Leaving Valley with limited personal gear wearing wet gear every day taught us all huge lessons .

I only told my family that I was at Prestwick after arriving that night by Hercules they lived on Ayr a few miles away yet I never saw them.

I learned huge lessons from this incident that I used in some remote incidents later on in my 35 years in mountain rescue. This was especially true on the Isle of Harris Shackelton crash when I was Team Leader at Kinloss in Morayshire Scotland on 1990.

In 1990 A RAF Team some were deployed by aircraft another years later to assist in the Shackleton Crash in Harris in the early 90’s. I learnt lots of lessons again from this huge search and how important the civilian teams who were heavily involved were so much part of the incident.

At times the military tended to keep the information fairly tight and to get the best result you must share it as it is the casualty that counts in the end and the Teams Safety paramount.

Lots of lessons were learned for future use. We were taken to RAF Kinloss and then back to Wales in another Hercules this time the dog was in a cage on the aircraft. She was tempted in by a huge bone I got from the butcher at Kinloss. Dreish sat and ate it all the way home. The worried aircrew especially the loadmaster thought she was a wild beast yet she was a superb hill dog with a placid nature. I got one of her pups who I jammed Teallach not long after this call out. He became my companion for many years on the hill.

In memory The pilot Flt Lt Alan Graham Procter RIP

This is from the report !

Date:

23-NOV-1979

Time:

Type:

SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1

Owner/operator:

226 OCU RAF

Registration:

XX762

C/n / msn:

S.59

Fatalities:

Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1

Other fatalities:

0

Aircraft damage:

Written off (damaged beyond repair)

Location:

Beinn-A-Chleibh, near Dalmally, Argyllshire, Scotland –   United Kingdom

Phase:

En route

Nature:

Military

Departure airport:

RAF Lossiemouth (EGQS)

Destination airport:

Narrative:

Encountered bad weather while acting as a chase aircraft. During the ‘pull up’ the pilot ejected, possibly in the belief that the aircraft was about to strike the side of a hill. It crashed on the summit of Beinn-A-Chleibh, near Dalmally, Argyllshire at 2,000 feet AMSL.

The staff pilot Flt Lt Alan Graham Procter ejected. Unfortunately, the weather made it impossible to find the crash site. When the site was located, it was discovered that the pilot had survived the ejection but his parachute had been caught by the wind, which dragged him down the mountain. During this he sustained a head trauma which rendered him unconscious. As a result he froze to death on the mountain. From the AIB report issued later.

Sad days but incredible learning for all.

In bad weather you still need boots on the ground no matter what technology is available.

Comments –

Weather was really wild. Road at Cononish was snow covered and icy. Long walk out. They set up a helicopter base at Dalmally Mart.recall when first piece of small wreckage found it had a label on it in French confirming it was the Jaguar. Bill Rose

Richard / Bill Rose “ln the mid nineties l found what I thought were pieces of random meccano on Ben a Chleibh, when l was gathering sheep. I had no idea what it was until Alec explained what l had found. “

Richard Eadington “yes. It impacted hard in the boggy ground and much of it was buried.”

Peter White “Bill Rose, yep almost vertical when it impacted. “

Peter White “The first time I met Mr Whalley though he was preceded by a bit of a reputation! 😂 Phil Bransby and I spent a day at the crash site babysitting the investigation team. Interesting looking at the canopy jettison jacks that I’d fitted about 6 months earlier!

Eric Hughes, RIP, found the seat after taking a line from the crater and the canopy about half a kilometre away. “

David, correct. Chase aircraft.

https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=55379

Dave Tomkins “my 1st experience of you guys i was lossie mountaineering club called in to help crash guard the photographer was my cpl , they should sent me , was very bad weather and i also did radio link for 1 day that was enough cant remember how long we stayed on site but we where put up in hotel “

Dave Booth “That was an epic especially Bruce and my experience in a Wessex.”

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Viscount aircraft crash Ben More Crianlarich 19 Jan 1973

One of my first aircraft searches was for a Missing Viscount aircraft from Glasgow airport that crashed on Ben More (Crainlarich) in the winter 19 -23 January 1973. The aircraft was on a short air test from Glasgow. The two engineers involved requested that an air test be performed so that they could examine the aircraft controls in flight. This was arranged, and later the aircraft was taken by a standby crew, led by Captain Walter Durward, on a test flight from Glasgow Airport.

The aircraft then proceeded N from Glasgow, and was about to return to the airport when it vanished. It was located two days later about 600ft NE of, and about 100ft below, the summit of Ben More (3,852ft).

Wreckage was scattered widely on the hillside and down a gulley. Some of the wreckage rolled downhill to Ben More Burn, at the western base of the mountain. This Ben More is E of Crainlarich and about 56 kms (35 miles) N of Glasgow. Poor weather conditions were prevailing at the time, with rain and heavy snow persisting.

Team Briefing in the village hall

I was a young member of the RAF Kinloss MRT it was my second winter in the team and it was an epic callout taking 2-3 days to recover the 4 casualties.  I remember the wild drive from Forres in Morayshire and the Police escort from RAF Kinloss and the snowploughs on the A9 in front of the convoy. These were the days before the snow gates were put on the A9 was single track, it was a long 5-6 hour drive. We arrived in the dark for  a first light callout, the weather was too bad to go out that night and we had few clues where the plane may be. The heavy snow and huge areas to search in wild conditions it made it a call-out that stayed in my mind for years. It was such a scary and long drive down in the snow and the hills were plastered with snow, it was a big winter.

Both RAF Teams Kinloss and Leuchars stayed in Lochearnhead Village Hall and there were 50 – 60 of us there. A lot of locals helped out there was no local team in the area then it was in the days of limited resources and communications. It was very tight in the village hall and the hill gear was always wet and very basic in these days.

As always all the teams worked well together and the locals could not do enough for the team during such a tragic event. Lots of people searching for people they never knew was an incredible feeling.

I remember information was vague no one had heard much but we had a few ideas from people who phoned the Police and thought they had heard or seen something. In the early morning we had a briefing in the Hall By “Taff Tunnah ” the RAF Leuchars Team Leader. George Bruce was our Team Leader and he was speaking to the Police and getting and trying to sort out the reports from the public.

I have a photo of this that was used in the press of the briefing on that first day, we were very young. see below:

On the first day I had an awful day searching in the Trossachs in the area between Glen Gyle ( West Loch Katrine )and the Balquidder Glen, with the late John Hinde in charge a MRT Legend. The plan originally was for the teams to split into 5 groups to search the main ridges as this is high priority on a aircraft search with limited information. The team had a capability of splitting into smaller groups of two with a radio in each party. In the event the snow was very deep knee deep in places with very strong SE winds and clouds above 1500 feet and we stayed together for the whole long day.

I have recollections that this became a survival Exercise on and off the hill, the Snow chains and shovels were essential as were the land rovers to get to the road heads and snow shoes would have been invaluable. My memory of the first day that it was along hill day even after 40 years’ experience on rescues on the hills in winter this was a hard callout. Teams had no clue where the aircraft had crashed and covered as much ground as possible in the conditions.

On the first day of the Search RAF Leuchars MRT found pieces of wreckage from the Viscount very early in the day a few miles from Ben More Farm. This was from one of the RAF Leuchars Team Steve Brooks – “Just checked my diary, it was around 6pm when Leuchars arrived having had a puncture on 3 tonne truck along way. It was 10:00am next day at 1500′ that documents from the aircraft were found on Ben More, think it was John Couls group, the search was then more concentrated and by evening more wreckage had been found along with 2 seats and 4 casualties” Most of the RAF Kinloss team were not recalled and completed their search area in desperate weather.

Communications were very poor in these days, no mobile phones and we just kept going, In a Rescue you always hope to find people alive but it is very rare in an aircraft crash in the mountains. I was exhausted when we got back soaked to the Village Hall where we were updated. The others had moved into the area along with some SAS troops and a civilian party had an even worse day “in desperate conditions” ( these were words rarely used by George Bruce and Taff Tonner the Team Leaders) Small parts of wreckage and papers from the aircraft were found as was the four bodies of the crew.

The snow was falling very heavily and they did not have a easy time, the avalanche risk would be very high in the Corrie and it was going to be a difficult recovery of all the casualties. The weather was very bad and the teams had to pull out as darkness and conditions had got even worse, the crew sadly had to be left in situ on the hill. They had died instantly and the crash was not survivable.

We arrived back at the Hall and got ready for the next day, it had been a long hard day and there was more to come!

After a hard day on the hill the Viscount aircraft and crew had been located and due to the wild weather they were left in situ until next day.

Day 2 –   Weather Sunday 21 Jan 1973 – weather fresh snow and cloud down to 2000 feet a steady wind and wind – chill.

The sad job of carrying the casualties of the hill.

It was a long night in the Village Hall with everyone busy planning next day’s recovery of the crew. As a very inexperienced young troop I was told I was on the body recovery next day, I hardly slept. RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars divided each team up into recovery and search parties. It was along haul up the hill with carrying ropes and Stretchers in deep snow to a height of 2800 feet. I was in a long line that left from Ben More Farm in the morning; it was heavy going with big sacks. The weather was misty above 200 feet and still very cold. The rest of the teams and 23 regiment SAS carried out a search for aircraft wreckage further up the very steep West Face of Ben More. They searched at 15 yard intervals up and down the face not easy in the conditions.This was fairly serious ground to search and the teams worked hard.

The Black box Flight recorder was located by them about 150 yards north of the summit by the SAS. A rough map was drawn after the search, which I still have a copy.

When we located the casualties we had first to relocate them in the heavy snow that had fallen overnight and I remember helping digging them out, not easy for a young lad. In these days it was the young lads who were used to handle and dig out the casualties a hard and difficult job I remember it well.

It was a steep learning curb but these were real people, husbands, fathers, sons and we had difficult job to do. It was very hard work digging and removing them from the deep snow we put them each on the Stretchers and they were taken off down the hill by us.

It was a sad job getting the stretcher ready with one of the casualties in the deep snow. A hard day for all concerned.

In the deep snow but we used the stretcher skids to good effect to help move the stretcher down the hill and a couple of ropes to ensure they moved swiftly but safely.  It was all a steep learning curb for me and my mate Tom MacDonald and the younger member’s of the teams. We were soon down in the Glen and the BEA helicopter lifted them out.  It was then back to the Village Hall, for some food no showers available kit now completely soaked and we were running out of dry gear. I can still remember how strange I felt but positive that I had done my best.

Day 3 Monday 22 Jan 1973

Weather – Freezing level 2000 feet, cloud base 2800 rising later Wind strong westerly decreasing later.

The next day after a briefing it was back up the hill to the main wreckage and digging around the cockpit area and other wreckage. Various sweep searches were carried out and parties were lifted in three’s by the BEA helicopter.

Viscount Crash site 1973

A Joint pair of parties from Kinloss and Leuchars climbed all the Gullies on the SE Face of Ben More locating no wreckage. More searching was carried out on the NE Ridge and SE Face of ben More to the summit. On the summit assistance was given to the Ministry Air Investigation Officer sweep searching in heavy snow. The lowest wreckage was located a fuel tank and the rest was thrown Westward across the summit ridge and down the West Face. It was another long day and I was glad to be off the hill.

The next day we traveled back to RAF Kinloss and I received a “bollocking” from my Boss in my workplace for being away so long, that upset me deeply. I was very lucky as George Bruce my Team Leader went and saw him and told him in a “few words” what we had experienced but I was a marked man after that by my Boss, such is life.

I had learned so much from this sad incident it was to teach me in future years as a RAF MR Team Leader. George Bruce, John Hinde and Taff Tunnah who are now sadly gone discussed this call – out with me a many years ago and the lessons learned.

They were real characters, different people entirely but led strong teams and knew what they were doing. One of the key points from this tragedy was getting the correct information as members of the public respond to the media who were asking for help or sightings of the aircraft. To get the right information to the searchers is very hard to do and I am sure that the local shepherd on the hill had notified the Police of seeing/ hearing something on Ben More at the time the aircraft went missing. The crew unfortunately died instantly but this information amongst many pieces on the day from all over the area. It is very hard to sort out the correct witness information. George, Taff and John Hinde taught me so much over the years especially about missing aircraft searches and recovery of crew and information about the crash. I dedicate this article to them and the crew of the Viscount Aircraft that sadly lost their lives.

In the summer of 1973 when the snow had gone a few of the RAF Kinloss Team went up to the crash site and found a few personal bits and pieces of the crews belongings. They were returned to the family.

2005 January 19 – David Whittick, engineer Bob Elrick and Wally‘s son Mike organised a Memorial service for all the crew of the Viscount, and held, a service at, Crianlarich Church on January 19th 2005 to dedicate an inscribed cairn, which has been installed in the churchyard in memory of the crew. The service was attended by more than seventy ex-colleagues and family members, who subsequently retired to the local village hall to exchange some memories and to enjoy some Scottish hospitality .

There is a memorial to the crew in the churchyard at Crainlarich which I went in the anniversary of the crash.. Meeting the family and locals friends who lost their lives is a humbling experience for all and how they appreciate what all the teams did to try to find their loved ones. All these years later it still has a huge effect on many.

The memorial at Crainlarich in the Church yard to the Viscount crew.

It is worth noting that in another very hard winter of 1987 I was heavily involved in a RAF Wessex helicopter crash on Ben More. Sadly a good friend Harry the Team Leader of Killin Mountain Rescue Team was killed and two good friends very badly injured. After the rescue as a Qualified Team Leader I led the Air Investigation Branch( AIB) for a week on the search on the Steep NE face of the mountain. This was a difficult task as it was full winter conditions and a big AIB Team to look after on winter climbing terrain. We were on the mountain for 5 days with the team. None of the AIB were mountaineers and we had a huge task looking after them safely and helping locate the first impact point on a steep winter cliff. It is never easy as these teams of experts are just wanting to get on with their job but in a hostile environment this can be not easy to try to keep them safe to do their job! The RAF teams have many aircraft engineers and their aircraft knowledge is invaluable locating and identifying wreckage for the ongoing inquiry. This was a where many lessons from the past from my early days in 1973 were well used on this tragic accident in the mountains. Many forget that this was the primary task of the RAF MRT the search and recovery of missing aircraft in remote and mountainous regions. Every few years an aircraft goes missing and the lessons of the past are worth remembering, you can learn much from past incidents and even with today’s technology it still needs boots on the ground in bad weather and the correct skills both of an on the hill to get the job done. It is always worth remembering this.

This is from a past blog in 2018

“Yesterday was a great day as I was planning a hill at last. I stopped at Elma’s in Crianlarich early and dropped of the usual-food parcel. Elma has been a true friend of RAF MRT for 40 years. Her son Derek was in the RAF Kinloss Team and sadly died of cancer. Elma has always been a real star and looks after all the Mountain Rescue Teams for so many years. I had some great pancakes, scones and tea and headed off to meet a group from the Inverclyde Ramblers just outside Crianlarich. They were a varied group lovely folk who like the wild places. For a few it was there first Munro Ben More so it would be an interesting day. In my Mountain Rescue days we often used Ben More to assess fitness not stopping at all till the summit it blew a few minds. We were fit and young and so competitive .

They arrived just before 1000 and we parked near Ben More Farm. There were 10 of us going to hopefully climb the hill! The forecast was pretty wild later in the day with heavy rain and 30 – 40 knots winds. A big change from the recent weather.

I had been asked by Sadie Smart to come with them as her father sadly lost his life on a plane crash on Ben More in Jan 1973. It was my first place crash and involved a huge search for 3 days filled located the plane a Viscount from Glasgow airport that was on an air test with 4 crew. I have written in other blogs of this search the long days in deep

Snow and the eventual recovery of all 4 casualties again in wild winter weather. This incident made a huge impact on me as a young man. Ben More was also

to be the scene of another crash of a Wessex helicopter when the local

Killin Team Leader was killed as the helicopter hit the mountain on a search in the winter of 1987. As I said this is a poignant mountain to me and I had worked on many call – outs over the years with the local Killin Team. Sadie had been in touch over the years and we managed to get together to show her this mountain. It would be a testing day and every year I get requests and feedback for families to go to where they lost their loved ones it is never easy. Her Dad was Jimmy Moore one of the engineers on board.

Ben More is huge hill the highest in the area at 3700 feet . It is a huge pull up from the farm and according to “Walk Highlands is relentlessly steep” I think we all agree over the years on that and we had a group of 10 with us for a few it was their first Munro.

The forecast had some varying weather with torrential rain at times and very gusty winds forecast later in the day. We may be tested on the summit ridge later on. From leaving the track after about 20 minutes you are on the hill-path. From here it is open slopes full of steep wet grass and so many wild flowers enjoying the rain of the last few days. The path is fairly battered by many feet over the years and the dry spell and heavy rain have eroded it. We took it easy with a big group and the steepness.

It is hard at times to get a pace but as the day wore on we got higher. The mist came in and views shut and opened like a curtain. Familiar hills popped up from the clouds and the views expanded. There are some great hills on this area many underated from the popular Glencoe hills further up the road. Any summit here is hard won and the path seems as always goes on and on.

As you go higher you look into the Corrie on Meall Daimph where we recovered the casualties of the Viscount aircraft in 1973. It can be a dark foreboding place and in heavy snow dangerous. Sadie wanted to know how we brought her Dad down and the crew of the mountain. I explained there was a big Avalanche risk and we contoured high into the Corrie. It was extremely hard work digging and recovering the crew and taking them down off the hill. The search had involved three days by several teams Police and Dogs I remember the deep snow and the long 12 hour days.

Sadie was so brave as she listened and it is hard to try and explain but she wanted to know . My memory of these tragedies is clear as I wrote a diary every day. It is so sad that the aircraft hit the top of the ridge steep ground in summer but in a full winter steep and very treacherous ground. As we neared the summit after 3 hours of walking the weather came in. We had torrential rain and very strong winds it was not summer now. Hoods were up and it was a relentless pull to the top.

We had a few minutes reflection and a minutes silence for Sadie her Dad Jimmy and for the Killin Team Leader Harry Lawrie he had died in a Helicopter crash on a call – out in 1987. For me and Sadie it was a moving moment and very poignant. Sadie was so strong this was her first visit to the Munro but there was little time to stop and sadly just swirling mist the weather was now full on!

My plan was to head back as I had a meeting about filming tomorrow but headed down to the beleach with the group. As it does nature came in with more torrential rain a big gusts and the rocky ground was slippy! It became serious so quickly and we gathered the group. It was a quick briefing on short steps in the wind and being aware of the wind power at times linking together in the gust that were now 40 knots plus! There were bags to sort out Gloves and hats to get out and to try and take breaks out of the wind. There was the constant regrouping in the mist check all are together and all learned something. I was in my shorts but being fat and stocky this is my weather even though I had not been out since I broke my ribs. It was constant check of the map to ensure we were on the right descent simple skills but in poor weather essential.

It became cold the mist was in but I was on familiar territory and we got down to the beleach where we headed down into the Glen out of the wind. The group were all fine and all enjoyed the hill they had some day in all weather. I hope for some it was a good introduction. I left the group after a few hugs and followed the track lower down back to the bottom of the hill at

Ben More Farm. The sun was out and the extra layers off I was soaked but glad we had a moving day with some special folk. The Glen walk was refreshing in the sun the battle from the summit over time to relax in a place of great beauty among the hills I love. At times words fail you there was even a rainbow. It was back to the van a quick change and head up the A82. The road was busy and I had time for a shower before my chat about tomorrow’s filming after a great meal in the 4 Seasons restaurant with Cameron MacNeish Richard Else and Paul Tatershill old pals.

It had been some day lots of emotion and memories and the nature keeping us in our place . I am always amazed by the power of nature and today it was a reminder what and how a day can change . I was glad I had spare gear to put on in the wild weather and hard to believe how cold it was.

Dedicated to the crew.

Thank you Sadie and the Inverclyde Ramblers for a great day. I hope that all those who came out for there first Munro enjoyed the battle. Your company was what the wild places is all about and that you enjoy further adventures. Sadie thanks for the honour of being with you your Dad Jimmy would be proud and his hankie you waved in the wild wind at the top was was lovely tribute.

This blog is dedicated cared to the crew of the Viscount aircraft that crashed on Ben More in 1973 and to Harry Lawrie the Killin Mountain Rescue Team Leader who was killed on a Rescue in 1987. 

Also to all those Mountain Rescue teams and Agencies who go out to assist those in trouble . There are still so many great folk about. Sadly we forget this !

Heavy Whalley July 2018

Dedicated to the crew of the BEA Viscount

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Bothies, Equipment, Friends, Health, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

The old Man of Stoer and an early ascent. What a classic day out The late Tom Patey and mates thank you!

One of the best books ever written

I have plenty of time just now to look back on some classic days . The Old man of Storr was one of these just along the Coast from Lochinver. Its a sea cliff that brings back so many memories.

I have been lucky enough to have climbed it 3 times and had an epic on another occasion with 3 members of the Hong Kong Rescue Team! The language problems and my ability left us on the crux with language difficulties and teaching abseiling without a safety rope for them . It has always been incredible place to be and I have many great memories of this special sea stack just along the coast fin the far North of Scotland. It is a great walk along the coast and the Stack has an interesting descent down the steep cliffs then a swim across to the stack which stands imposingly. At low tide you can miss the first pitch and scramble round the back on to the platform on the second pitch !

Late 80’s now to get down!

I have never been a great rock climber and had a few near epics in the past with 45 metre ropes that left you short on the wild abseil. In the early days without a back up knot with the birds, the exposure and the sea. The fear level rises considerably.

Happy troops

My dog loved the days spent here and always spent the day in the water when the weather allowed swimming with the seals round the Stack! On another occasion the Stack was covered in foam nearly to half way up the stack and yet Jim Morning swam across in a sea of foam while we sat and cried on the cliffs. Even Jim had to abort after the first pitch he was covered in foam, I must find these photos. What a place, what vision Tom Patey had in 1966, read the first ascent account. Carrying a borrowed ladder to the route was such a tale that I read and read again and again.

The route : 75 metre VS 4 Star

The classic and popular sea stack (not to be confused with the Old Man of Storr on Skye!) The First Ascent in 1966 in June by Tom Patey, B. Henderson, P Nunn & B Robertson. Now a 4 star VS.

The Old Man of Stoer has been a classic climb since it was first climbed in 1966 by Tom Patey and friends there is a great story in “One Mans Mountains” of the first ascent.

In his autobiography it offers a glimpse into the mind of Tom Patey, a man whose contributed greatly to modern climbing. He was killed in May 1970, abseiling from a sea stack The Maidens off the north coast of Scotland. He was 38.

People outside the climbing world knew of him as the only man who launched himself into space during the televised climb of the Old Man of Hoy. Inside the climbing fraternity everyone knew of him. It was when studying medicine at Aberdeen University that Tom first showed his talent as an extraordinary climber and started his long series of epic first ascents. He also took part in the four-man 1956 British expedition to climb the 28,800-foot Mustagh Tower, a mountain that many people regarded as unclimbable; they conquered it – Tom, John Hartog, Ian McNaught-Davies and the legendary Manchester plumber Joe Brown

Access notes, It has an unorthodox crossing across a gap and is tidal and wind affected.

Park near the lighthouse and walk along the coast

The Tyrolean Crossing – A Tyrolean traverse is required to access the stack. If one is not in place then a swimmer (preferably a volunteer) is needed in the party. Bring enough rope to leave a Tyrolean in place and carry out the descent abseil (60m ropes advisable)

The Old Man Of Storr Monday 28 July 1968 – This an extract from the RAF Kinloss Diary of the day! This was only Two years after the first ascent!

A party from RAF Kinloss of Gonk Ballantyne, Yeni Harman & George Bruce the Team Leader set out to climb the Old Man Of Stoer, they borrowed a ladder from the Ullapool Youth Hostel to get across to the Stac without getting wet.

They reached the bottom of the climb at 1700, left the ladder in place ready for withdrawal. Bruce decided against climbing, due to steepness, hardness and being incredibly frightened.

Stoer

Ballantyne and Harman completed the climb having difficulty in places finding the route and being spat on by nesting birds on the ledges. They eventually abseiled off at 2300. The sea by this time was fully in and the ladder was by now 6 feet under water. They decided not to swim back due to man – eating seals who were waiting patiently for the wrong decisions to be made. They spent the night testing Mr Harmans’s new space blanket and a fairly comfortable bivouac. They awoke at 0300 and found that the tide had ebbed enough to allow a crossing using the ladder.

Although only graded Hard Severe then the exposure was frightening , the abseil off even worse, not recommended for anyone with a weak heart. The route was climbed in big boots! (CLIMBED IN BIG BOOTS) There were still wooden wedges in the climb used for protection possibly by the first ascent climbers.

George Bruce – RIP thanks for a great tale

Wild Seas

Its a great day out so much fun and the birds will be a bit annoying the exposure is interesting as is the Tyrolean Traverse across the gap and the abseil is interesting. If you get a chance go and enjoy it.

Heavy Storr

Tidal and wind affected. Park near the lighthouse and walk along the cliff-tops. Scramble down to the platform opposite the base of the stack.

A Tyrolean traverse is required to access the stack. If one is not in place then a swimmer (preferably a volunteer) is needed in the party. Bring enough rope to leave a Tyrolean in place and carry out the descent abseil (60m ropes advisable). (UPDATE 28/8/18 – Tryolean now very frayed and will need renewed. Would reccomend checking tide times as it may now be required to wade/swim across).

At spring low tides and with a small swell it is possible to step/wade across to the base of the stack on the right hand side (facing out).  You can scramble around (anti-clockwise) to the top of pitch 2 of the “Ordinary Route”.

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

What’s your classic photo? Mid 50’s – Johnnie Lees and John Hinde rock climbing.

John Hinde climbing belayed by Johnie Lees in red Berry a classic. Look at the gear how much can you name ? What crag is this?

The photo above is of two incredible men. John Hinde and Johnnie Lees both in RAF Mountain Rescue. Johnie Lees was a legend who I finally met in 2001 we had a great chat and I will never forget it this was after our Everest trip.

Johnie Lees in 2001.

He was a powerful mountaineer a very talented rock climber and Team Leader within RAF Mountain Rescue. Johnie Lees was awarded a George Medal for a rescue in Wales.

On 3 January 1958, Major Hue Robertson, a climber from the Army Mountaineering Association, was climbing Amphitheatre Buttress on Craig yr Ysfa in Snowdonia, when he fell 30 ft fracturing his skull. He lay trapped on a ledge high up the ice-covered cliff. When Flight Sergeant Lees and his party arrived at the peak and lowered themselves down to him it was pitch dark and Robertson had lain delirious in freezing temperatures for six hours. It was obvious that Robertson had severe head injuries and would not survive if the lengthy process of evacuation by stretcher were implemented.

Speed was a matter of life and death. Using a cradle of ropes Lees improvised a Tragsitz harness and with the 14 stone soldier strapped to his back and struggling in delirium, was lowered hundreds of feet into the vertical darkness to the foot of the cliff. The speed and efficiency of the rescue, in bitter conditions, undoubtedly saved Robertson ‘s life. The operation was a triumph of teamwork, and for his part, Lees was awarded the George Medal. Robertson made a full recovery and after obtaining the admired harness from Austria, he presented it to the rescue team.

After the Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash in 1951 , there was great pressure on the RAF and MoD to act. Although Lees had scant knowledge of rescue techniques, his reputation and record as a climber with the RAF Mountaineering Association brought him an invitation to help organise the first training course for the rescue service in Snowdonia, later that year. In 1952, aged 24, he was posted to RAF Valley on Anglesey as Mountain Rescue Team Leader there. It is no exaggeration to say that the entire modern edifice of mountain rescue – both service and civilian – owes its sophistication and rigour to that appointment.

Lees’s excellence at training rescuers was not achieved at the expense of his own climbing career. He qualified as a mountain guide in 1955 and became one of the very few to receive the guiding qualification in winter mountaineering issued by the Association of Scottish Climbing Clubs in the same year.

After retirement in 1985, Lees was made an “honoured guide” by the British Association of Mountain Guides and remained keenly involved in the work of the British Mountaineering Council. For three years he had been chairman of its safety committee and remained a long-term member of its Peak area committee. In 1962 his services to mountain rescue were acknowledged with the award of the British Empire Medal. He also received in his later year’s many awards from within the mountaineering, mountain rescue and guiding world. He received these with his customary wry grace. Sadly he passed away in 2002.

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Some thoughts on the Winter Ascent on K2 by Sherpas. In praise of the finest Mountain Folk.

I am so pleased that the winter ascent of K2 was climbed by a Sherpa team. They are a great people and I have been so lucky to met so many over years. I am so privileged having climbed in the Himalayas, India Nepal Pakistan and Tibet over the years. From my earliest days I had huge respect for them and listened to their advice learned about the mountains and how to treat people as you would like to be with respect and an awe.

1990 Himalayas carrying an injured porter home.

My trade in the military was in the involved with food. Hence on so on many of my big expeditions I was the so called food expert. I got to work with the Sherpas a lot built up a trust and got to know them on the various expeditions well. We worked with many over the years. Of course the Sherpas are the some of the finest folk in the world . On my earliest trip to the Himalayas we attempted a lightweight alpine ascent of a very tricky mountain Kusum Kanguru. It is by far the hardest of the trekking peaks!

Our Sirdar Nawyan in 1990

Kusum Kanguru is a mountain in the Khumbu Region of the Himalaya in Nepal. Its name, Kusum Kanguru, means “Three Snow-White Gods” in the Sherpa language, which refers to the triple summit of the mountain. Elevation: 6,367 m First ascent: 1979 Parent range: Himalayas Mountain range: Himalayas, Mahalangur Himal

Our Sirdar who took us into the mountain looked after us so well. We got on as a group and he taught me a lot about the Nepali people the Sherpas. It was a long trek to Base 15 days , there were no roads then and the flight to Lula was too expensive. We got to know our porters so well by the end of the trip. At the end of a hard expedition we helped another big group of porters in a storm coming back over a Pass at 20000 feet. We carried their huge loads with them and for them, shared our dwindling food with them and became great pals. They took us to their village at the end and we got such hospitality and kindness.

It was the same in Pakistan in 1993 on Diran Peak where I organised the food and again learned so much from the locals. Our Sirdar Jabedd became a great pal. We had a mutual respect and that helped. He was very religious, looked after us all spoke about the mountains, religion and the World. He became a good pal, he called me “Mr Heavy” and looked after me throughout the trip. He was a pal of that incredible mountaineer Sandy Allan who he so respected My friend Dan Carrol went back a few years later and was on the way back form a successful summit 0f an 8000 feet peak. The met and Dan gave Jabedd his ice axe telling him it was a present from me.

1993 Pakistan Jabedd

Over the years and finally Everest in 2001 we had wonderful Sherpas they became again became great pals. I arrived with my pal Willie MacRitchie in Katmandu a week early to collect and repair gear we had bought from a previous expedition. I met our Sirdar Mingma and we got it all patched up in Katmandu and ready for the mountain. We worked closely and this was so helpful in the months to come . This is from my diary:

The boys at ABC 21300 feet on our last night

I was honoured to be on the mountain for the few days alone at ABC with the Sherpas. There was no other people on the mountain everyone else was gone after a big storm. We cleaned the whole area up and the Sherpas went up to the high camp and cleared everything that was left. This was when the other expeditions had long gone. I went up alone to the North Col at 23000 feet alone. The fixed rope was missing in places it was a wild place to be. I was offering to help but they were so worried for me. I could not believe what they brought of the hill. Tents gas bottles and rubbish. They did this unasked but to look after there mountain. They offered me a cut as the empty oxygen bottles had a good recycle value. Of course I declined and was treated as one of them for these few days. A huge honour. To me this was the highlight of my trip.

Over the years few expedition would’ve achieved success without the Sherpas. It is superb to see them taking control of their own mountains and being so rightly acclaimed for who and what they are. The best of the best.

2001 Everest Mingma our sirdar.

K2 will be a huge leap forward for these wonderful people. They treat the mountains as revered places. Abodes of the Gods they respect the beauty and wildness and so many have lost their lives looking after us. We can learn from them their trust and how they treat family, friends and the wild places.

You may think your fit and strong but these Sherpas are the ultimate mountaineers. it is wonderful to hear of their success on K2.

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Keep looking after those we love. Do not forget those alone. Good news K2 climbed in winter by Sherpa Team.

This second Lockdown is hard going for us all most will have blip. Or lockdown blues. Try to remain upbeat as you can get your daily exercise and think good thoughts .

As the lockdown continues its well worth remembering those who live alone. This second Lockdown is hard going in the depths of winter but think of those who have lost loved ones their jobs and especially those who live in a small flat with no garden or limited space . Yet we are lucky those in the NHS are struggling to keep up with the effect of Covid. Try to remain positive and stay in touch. I have a brother very ill abroad and it’s hard to get news there is no chance of a visit abroad and it is upsetting. Sadly it is similar for many.

What can we do ? I have several folk I stay in touch with and every day I phone an elderly lady who lives in a home. She has no visitors due to Covid has limited hearing and her sight is failing. She is confined to her small room for meals and has no contact apart from the staff and occasional social help. Her family live abroad she is very lonely.

It’s very sad as she did so much for others in her life. Meals on Wheels for many years and a big church goer. Always helping others throughout her 80 odd years. Yet I think she feels abandoned by society at times. Every week I try tondrop her off a few goodies doughnuts chocolate mini pork pies etc. These are the wee extras that she loves. We have not seen each other for months and I pray things change in the future for her.

Maybe with the new vaccines life will improve and though it may never be the same again it will be better? The nights are getting longer but the next few months will be hard. So please stay upbeat, look after those you love. Think of all the young folk struggling with home schooling missing their pals, their clubs and their freedom. Those waiting for operations and medical appointments most on hold.

Try to phone that friend or relative that you know may be struggling and keep going.

Keep going

Many thanks to all those who are keeping things going in all walks of life.

For all those who know Elma in Crianlarich ( The Grandmother of RAF Mountain Rescue) send her a card or phone her. She would love to hear from you. If you do not have the address I do contact me .

Good news : It is amazing that the second biggest mountain in the World K2 has been climbed in winter. Even better by a local Sherpa team the kindness folk in the world. How many summits claimed by others was success only possible by these great local folk. I hope they all get off the mountain safely. What a tale they will have to tell.

In the great words of Leonard Cohen

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in…”

As the daylight gets longer slowly we must keep positive. Thinking of you all.

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Hill foods ideas from the comments?

Thank you all I had so many replies from the blog on Hill Food some of the favourites mentioned.

In the old days we used to take a few Guinness the night before / not recommended today ? On the hill it was chocolate and the odd sandwich. I remember carrying a can of self heating soup for years Mock Turtle never tasted it though! Nothing healthy. On my big walks it was porridge and soup at night we would have rice and whatever we carried there was little in way of lightweight meals. Macaroni, packet soup mashed potatoes and MOD composite rations. They were mainly tinned stew, beans , sausages tinned fish. Tinned custard and Rice were the highlights of the day. Plus lots of tea ! It was heavy to carry.

Jelly babies, sports mixture sweets, cereal bars, crunchies, nuts, dried fruit. M & M’s dates wine gums, pastilles. Harribos various sweets. Flap jacks various , malt loaf and cake. Bananas and fruit! Nuts raisins peanuts were well liked.

Butteries, Oatcakes and cheese, wraps sandwiches jam/cheese, peanut butter. Pork pies mini, crisps, cheese cheddars. Cold cooked sausages. Dried mangos, nuts and raisins.

Hot flask cup a soup, mint tea and honey, bovril, coffee, plenty of fluid in winter hot orange ribena.

Mars bars, chicolate, Kendal mint cake, marzipan. Shortbread. Fudge, condensed milk! Boiled eggs (if warm and can be used to eat and heat hands) . Small tubs of Creamed rice or custard . Block of Jelly.

Rusty nail hip flask . Very few mentioned energy drinks and gels (I carry a couple of gels in case though! )

Finally : Have a good breakfast porridge seems very popular with fruit. Drink plenty of fluid before you go and when you return.

If your talking your dog ensure you are carrying some food for the dog!

Has anyone a good recipe for flapjacks :

Anymore ?

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Hill Food – update 2021 “The MR ethos, I recall, seemed to be that copious Guinness the night before provided suitable nutrition for the following day. All you needed was water to top things up. As a physiologist, I now see that this was patently horse shite”

In winter it is important you eat well and on the hill recently I was asked about food for the hill. In winter with the effect of the weather, the wind and a bit bigger bag, maybe deep snow the old saying ” I mile in winter = 2″ so lots more energy is expended.  Add deep snow and a head wind and few places to stop, at times you eat on the move. To those who have never experienced the winter proper here are a few tips.

A great part of a hill day is stopping for a break and having a drink and some food! This is especially true in winter when often it is difficult to have a break and replenish the energy reserves. A little and often is the answer and in winter I on a wild winters day I carry some food handy in the pockets, like jelly babies or a cereal bar. I find that the modern gels and power bars are costly and awful but understand they work for some. Yet I do carry 2 as a backup which I have used.

If I can the day before I go out I try to eat a pasta based meal the night before. Many forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I enjoy my porridge what a great starter slow burning food with a banana and honey.   I always carry a hot flask in winter this year its Mint tea and honey, superb and well worth the weight. It is also hard to get the liquid in winter and many carry various high tech drinks and gels but I am old school and drink water or a bottle of hot juice. I also ensure I replenish my fluid loss in the car on the way home and before I go out drink like a camel?

On the hill I will have a few sandwiches, jam or honey, oatcakes and cheese, sweets like jelly babies, cereal bars and fruit. The other day we had homemade cake and it was crazy that on our Big Walks in the 70’s one man “Big Jim” could eat so much chocolate on a big hill day of 11 Munros it makes me ill to think how many bars he could eat? See if you can guess?

The famous Eric Langmuir book Mountain Leadership had a piece on calories used on the hill. Someone has my copy do you have an idea how many calories a hill day can use? 4000 – 6000 calories.

“The number of calories burned hiking depends in part on your body weight. In general, a 160-lb person burns between 430 and 440 calories per hour of hiking. A 200-lb person burns approximately 550 calories per hour of hiking. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn in an hour of hiking.

Backpacker Magazine suggests a calorie estimate based on body weight and the general intensity of the day’s activity. For a strenuous day of backpacking with a “heavy” pack (no weight range specified), they suggest 25 to 30 calories per pound of body weight. Using my 185-pound self as a proxy, that’s 4,625 to 5,550 calories.

As you’ll notice, estimates vary pretty markedly. For the criteria I used (185-pound person backpacking for eight hours with a moderate to heavy load), estimates  range from roughly 4,600 calories to more than 6,300 calories.”

Anyway over the years I have got far more interested in hill food and most of the expeditions I was lucky to be on I planned the food like on Everest in 2001 in Tibet. This was a three month trip where the food was vital part of a successful expedition. After all few know that was in the RAF as a Caterer for 37 years!

I wrote a longer piece on my Blog on 2 Feb 2017 it may be worth a read?

https://heavywhalley.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/what-do-you-eat-on-a-hill-day-how-many-calories-on-an-average-hill-day/

Food for thought?

 Some ideas from recent comments:

Emergency banana and porridge bar every time

Hill Food Comments

Custard doughnuts from Morrison’s when needing a wee sugar boost ,also great incentive for getting my daughter to the top lol.

Partial to a wee bit of sushi.

Pork pie and jelly babies back in the good old sugar days.

Flapjacks and chocolate.

Cheese bars and pepperoni. And occasionally peanut m&ms if i need a sugar hit- they are like rocket fuel!

Jelly Babies

Tesco Genoa cake!

Pete Greening – A few years ago, one winter, Heavy made me undergo a form of starvation, sold to the unsuspecting masses as the 5+2 Diet. A month or two into it and a friend of mine (winter Mountaineering novice) asked if I would accompany them on a walk up Braeriach, starting from the Sugar Bowl…..a big day! My only food would be a few carrots! My friend did look at them quizzically and questioned my food choice, as surely a few carrots wouldn’t be enough to sustain such a high calorific activity. All went well. It was a great day. The summits were in cloud, which required good nav to stay away from the corniced edges. Suffice to say, we summited, then retraced our steps, down the hill, across the Lairig Ghru and back towards the car park. I had felt good all day. Had managed to keep my charge safe and even teach them a few skills on the way. The carrots had filled my (now tiny) stomach and the car almost in sight. Walking down the wee path that skirts the reindeer fields, I felt the last dregs of energy leave my body (a bit like how a rechargeable battery just stops working) and began to lose control of my legs. They didn’t seem to do as I wanted, and after a few more paces, I couldn’t seem to lift one over a small rock on the path. The toe of my boot caught the rock, forcing me off balance, I stumbled and fell like a sack of spuds, into a heap on the floor. My friend was shocked and aghast. They thought I’d had a heart attack, or something. They had been following behind me and had witnessed the whole thing. Apparently I had begun to stagger all over the path before hitting the ground. And when they got to me, to help me up, I was slurring my words.

After some reassurance (both ways), I was given some chocolate, helped to me feet and made the final 300 metres to the car.

Lessons learnt:

1. Despite the obvious weight loss advantages, winter hill days require huge amounts of calorific energy.

2. Carrots, although healthy, do not provide enough of that energy.

3. Haribo, nuts and chocolate are a much better alternative.

4. Never agree to join Heavy on some hair-brained diet regime.

Regrets:

No real regrets. It was a great day out, in good company. I actually lost quite a bit of weight that season, as did Heavy. The only thing that annoyed me was I put a couple of holes in the knee of my Mountain Equipment G2 mountain pants (expensive mountain wear) when I hit the dirt. (I did advise him not diet Heavy )

Tunnock’s caramel wafer. Get better the colder they are and you can easily unwrap them with dachsteins on!

Cuppa soup in a flask. Oh and Cheddar cheese biscuits!

I also like the primula squeeze cheese which got me thro a very long hill race section once lol and the puréed pouches of baby food – fruit is excellent and no mess with good sugar boost.

Porridge with Nutella and a black coffee to start day, cheese sandwiches for the hill and snacks for the day include oat and cereal bars and a bag of harribos. Fluid is water and a flask of black coffee.

Strawberry jam sarnies

I like to take peanut butter sandwiches as in the summer they don’t go off if I end up being out for a whole day in the heat. I make my own so know all the ingredients are natural. Good source of minerals and vitamins, carbs and fats, made with a touch of honey. Bananas are another must for me too. Always carry water in winter and water filter at all times. Usually a flask of hot sweet coffee too in winter. Homemade shortbread or tablet when out in the hills or long distance walks

Lemon and ginger tea. Even if it loses some of its temperature it still has an incredible warming effect due to the ginger

I also carry my porridge in flapjack form on the hill.😃. Christmas Cake and cheese together also great energy

I always take a flask for a hot drink but for cold drink a tip is to fill your water bottle with boiling water in the morning. By the time you start drinking it it will have cooled down but not hitting your tummy with ice cold water. Helps me drink enough

Not a great eater when walking, take SIS energy gels and bars with me .

Shortbread, some crispy cereal bars and water. Maybe a bag of Sports Mixture for a sugar rush if required.

Kendal mint cake, sardines and chocolate when i first joined RAF MR. Bloody gawping or what!

Bowl of pasta before I leave the car park. I’m partial to a ploughman sandwich and revels mixed in with mixed nuts

I remember being so hungry on the walk out from A Mhaighean to Sheneval with the late JC and Sean Unwin that I offered Sean a lot of violence if he didn’t give me one of the mars bars he told me he was carrying….never felt so weak in my life…lesson learned.

I used to keep a packet of jelly in the bottom of my hill bag.

A few trialist at Leuchars were grateful of it on more than one occasion.

Only ever used my flask for hot water and carried tea, cup-a-soup and hot choc sachet for variety. Geo Bars, home-made flapjack for snacks and emergency Mars Bars hidden deep in the sack.

Brunch bars and tablet.

Please add any ideas.

I carried a half pound block of marzipan as an emergency ration. I liked marzipan, but was not tempted to eat it short of an emergency. I gave up on Kendal Mint Cake after a bar dissolved in the pocket of my Blacks smock on a very wet day on Dartmoor.

MG “ I got back off an epic 2 day bothy trip on a winter course back in the day, Dave heavy met me with a steaming cup of bachelors cup of soup. Dave said these are great, bean hooked on “cup a soups” ever since.”

Cold sausage sarny, laced in broon sauce, with a hot chocolate to wash it doon!

B Rose “Hip flask with rusty nail”

Mini pork pies and Peanut M & M,s

Manny Gorman “Peanut butter and jam rolls”

John Easton” I don’t know if they are still available, but there was always a block of dried dates in the top of my sac. Palatable, energy filled and the dogs loved them.”

Ham, cheese and jam sarnies………followed by a crunchie !!

Some great ideas thanks all.

Posted in Health, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Unsung unassuming Heroes within RAF Mountain Rescue.

In the military its usually the Leaders that get rewarded as that is how the establishment see it. I always thought that any recognition should be to the whole team.

One of these is my old mate Joss Gosling one of the original
RAF Kinloss MRT on the Lancaster Crash on Beinn Eighe in 1951. Joss is photo’d holding the new plaque that is now fixed to the propeller below Fuselage Gully. Sadly Joss has passed away in 2018 he was one of the unassuming heroes of Mountain Rescue.

Beinn Eighe in Torridon.

In our small world of RAF Mountain Rescue among the greats Joss was to me a real unassuming troop who typified a team member especially in the early days of Mountain Rescue. Things were so different then.

Joss with some of the gear he used in the team. Simple basic gear.

Joss 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 wonderful photo of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in 1951 at Beinn Eighe

Joss was a mountaineer and caver when he joined the RAF Kinloss team in Morayshire a long way from his home in Bristol in England. He had skills that few others had at that time. On the call -out yet he will never admit he was one of the main men, who went high above the “Ugly step” on the ridge even today in winter needs solid winter skills.

Joss with the propellor on Beinn Eighe .

These few years in the team changed his life and he like many others roamed Scotland when he joined the Rescue Team. Far from home he travelled all over the Scotland its was a different world then to him and one he loved.

It was a time when the hills were empty, maps were basic as was equipment and the roads were simple! The RAF Teams were in these days at the forefront of Mountain Rescue and Joss and his mates were in the thick of it.

Joss loved the team and those three years with it changed his life! He took part in some epic call outs at the time! Rescue was simple and there were few of any teams about! It involved big stretcher carries long before Mountain Rescue Teams were formed and helicopters be came the normal way for extracting casualties. Keepers,Gillies and mountaineers were the folk who carried out rescues along with the local Police. The RAF Teams camped even in winter and used the odd village hall. The dances after the hills in the remote Highland villages were legendary and the RAF teams became part of the weekend fun in many areas. When the RAF Lancaster crashed on Beinn Eighe in winter of 1951 it took 3 days before the team had an idea where it had crashed. It was full on winter a big one and the gear was simple all ex war department. Joss was one of the team who got high on the mountain and was involved on the recovery of all the 8 crew that took months due to the location and seriousness of the crash. As one who has seen the horrors of such an event this would be a terrible tragedy and the recovery of all the crew was to be with Joss and his pals for all their lives. These were huge 12 hour days in the wildest of weathers.

The sad event and the carrying of all the fatalities over several months from such a remote and dangerous site would have been so tricky and dangerous. I was shown where they located the bodies and how hard the terrain was to evacuate them with simple ropes on very steep snow and ice.

Joss was unusual for the time as he took photos of the team, the conditions, of the crash site and the team that are now his legacy. From these we can pick together the conditions and scale of the call – out.

They are of a tragic incident in a mountain and the huge Corrie that he called a “Cathedral“ The Triple Buttress in Beinn Eighe is a majestic place and Joss’s stories of the tragedy are heartbreaking.

The wreckage was just off the summit and the tales of the incident where so many lessons were learned are now Mountain Rescue History.

I was brought up with some of the stories and read various accounts from others involved.Myself and Joss became good pals when I met him as Team Leader many years later. Like many troops he married a local lassie Annie from Fort William and after bringing his family up in Bristol he retired to Fort William . We built up a true friendship and often met for a chat and a visit. Joss and Annie often met us in a village hall or at are reunions or in my village where his son lives.

Joss told me of another era with huge humility of what he and his mates did all these years ago. His diaries 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 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 its wild beauty especially in winter in the big Corrie a place of majesty.

Joss family at Beinn Eighe year.

A few years ago all the family his sons Ian , Andy and Heather his daughter went up to the crash site with me and a few pals and relative of the crew is was an incredible day.

Joss with the Winter Course a few years ago.

It was a wild day but Joss met us for a meal in the Hotel afterwards he was now nearly 90. His health and memory was failing yet in the Hotel he rallied and the Hotel treated him as royalty.

Joss at the Beinn Eighe propeller at RAF Lossiemouth this year. A proud moment.

Joss had a great visit despite his memory fading and this upset him but what a chat we had at the meal. It was a wonderful two hours together. He was soon back in his youth and away on the mountains he loves in his youth surrounded by his family and friends. Memories came flashing back for him of these hard days on Beinn Eighe yet the beauty of the place was never lost on him . There was no egos he was just with his pals doing their best in these days and it was a privilege to listen to him. We had a great “man hug “and I felt the tears of both of us when I left. Yet what a great few hours we had and after a special day out on the hill with those he loved. Joss worked hard to be there as did his family to bring him from Fort William for the night. It could have been all to difficult and upsetting but Joss and us all loved that day that we will never get again. We are told by others “that we walk in the footsteps of giants” In Joss’s case this is so true rarely have I met such a man and learned so much about these early years in Mountain Rescue. Joss sadly passed away after a short illness yet he left a legacy of photos and his diaries of a time we must never forget. His last trip was as a guest at the dedication of the memorial propeller at RAF Lossiemouth outside the Mountain Rescue Section. The whole family were there and Joss loved the day and I am so pleased he made it. Sadly I saw Joss in Fort William hospital before he passed away he was not well and I knew this would be the last time we would see each other. He recognised me and that cheeky smile was there and we had a great chat. Joss was in hospital in the Belford at Fort William. He passed away surrounded by his family that he loved. I am glad he is out of his pain I will miss his words of wisdom and his kindness. I have become friends with Annie his wife and all the family. I promised him we would put the new plaque on the propeller as soon as the winter is over. This happened the next year. Every time I enter that “Cathedral of Beinn Eighe “I will think of Joss and his mates and those wild days in 1951. My thoughts are with Annie and the family. Two years ago we lost a true wonderful man of great humility and kindness. Joss leaves a huge gap in my life. Thank you Joss for all the stories and insight into another World .In his life he was surrounded by the love of Annie and the family and my thoughts are with you all now we still remain good pals.

That last hug at Kinlochewe meant so much to us both .Joss I still miss you but will always try to get up to your hill and your Corrie every year to remember what you and your mates did and how it changed what we do today.

I have learned so much from you and I always miss that that cheeky smile.

We walk in the footsteps of giants.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Old climbing banter – Crag x and the ever changing conditions?

It was interesting that when I was climbing in winter a lot how conditions could change dramatically from day to day. This was especially in the early winter when we would often try to get an early route in. I frequently met the late Andy Nisbett on our travels and we had some laughs. Despite being a top climber Andy was always interested in what we were up to and I often shared information with him of new crags. I suppose we were no threat yet at that time to him yet we had some steady winter climbers. The conditions could change especially true on the easier graded routes. These were the days when often a route was a snowed up rock climb. There was limited chat amongst other climbers as the internet was not about much was word of mouth but so many were secret about what was going on. We travelled every week to a different area as part of our job bumping into many of the climbers of that era. Early on in the year you may see a headtorch in the distance but there was always plenty of room for other climbs. Mostly you were lucky and no one was about and often you ended up taking a rope for a long walk. Guide books in these days were vague have a look at some of the old ones and they basically showed you the line and of you went. In the late 70’s we had a bit of an epic on Mainreachan Buttress in winter on Fuar Tholl after Hamish guide was produced. I always looked into far flung Corries in the summer and dropped into wild corries much to the disgust of some of the folk I was with looking for likely lines. This also was very handy on Call – outs searching these wild places assisting the local teams all over Scotland. Occasionally we did helicopter training and I would show the crews where the new routes were being explored. It gave you a birds eye view of some wild places.

Gardh Gully Ben Nevis – early 80’s
Gardh Gully same pitch at the same time of year

My old pal Mark Sinclair would drag me out midweek to some remote hill usually on the North West arriving in the dark after an Alpine start. He would have seen some new line and I was his belayer. Looking back these were great days but when he and his pal Neil were killed on Lochnagar some of the joy of winter climbing left me. It took me a few years to get my head sorted out. This was especially true on our 14 day winter courses climbing in the Cairngorms, the Ben and Glencoe often with very bold young lads and lassies who were at times fearless. Often I would take them to more remoter parts of the Ben, Glencoe or Cairngorms and show them the Brenva Face and climb some of these rarely climbed routes. This was true winter climbing with few crowds and real route finding awareness. Yet it was in the North West that we had some fun. Looking back how many get a winter route done on Fionaven or Seanna Bhraigh I doubt if you would have any company even today.

Seanna Bhraigh.

The term crag “x” was often used for a newish venue.

Posted in Enviroment, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Lockdown Blues

I have been speaking to a few pals and some are struggling during this recent Lockdown. Hopefully the vaccinations may help once we get them done. A few weeks ago should have been a great night in my village it was Clavie night. My village becomes alive at the Pictish New Year Celebration.

2020 Clavie night photo Al Swadel

Thousands are attracted to the Broch for the annual event, which sees a tar-soaked barrel set alight and paraded around the streets to ward off evil spirits for the year ahead. The flaming spectacle of January 11 is led by Clavie King Dan Ralph and the local men who make up the Clavie Crew. Sadly it was cancelled but in the great scheme of things its life just now. I normally meet a lot of folk at this time and enjoy the company.

Its a shame as I missed the folk dropping in, the party and the crowds in the village. I am still very lucky having a beach and forests to walk in . Many are not so lucky. I look at the hills they look superb snow covered and can see Ben Wyvis most days. The days are getting longer but its still bitter cold and I get out every day for my walk I am so lucky. I still speak to my old friend stuck in her sheltered accommodation every day and managed to drop her off some goodies that made her day. She lives in her room eats and sleeps there, her family live abroad and is very lonely. Every time I feel a bit down I think of so many like her just now and wish I could do more. Yet when I get out for a walk and clear the head things seem a lot better.

I am trying to keep busy with the wee blog keeping it going as it seems to be fairly popular.

Keep smiling, look after each other and stay in touch.

2007 An Teallach memories.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 4 Comments

The El Alamein bothy in the Cairngorms a great wee Cairngorm wander.

Spot the bothy ?

I put a photo on my Twitter account about a place a small shelter I visited often in the Cairngorms. It’s a great navigation exercise and many team members I was training in navigation had fun finding it in poor weather especially in winter.

It’s a well kent navigational feature that blends so well with the Rocky moraine.

The El Alamein’s bothy in the Cairngorms location was accidental – intended to be sited at the plateau’s edge just above the gently sloping grassy Coire na Spreidhe (Coire of the Cattle), a mistake in the map reference saw it constructed some distance beneath this coire, on the steep and boulder-strewn slopes of Strath Nethy. This is a lovely part of the Cairngorms with great views of Strath Nethy and Loch Avon. It is a place to sit and enjoy the views and peace away from the industrial Ski area. It is amazing what wild life you see so close to this busy area but in summer and a wild winters night it is usually peaceful and enjoyable.

El Alamein Bothy hard to find.

El Alamein Bothy can be hard to find. Try NJ 0165105358. let me know! Here’s some info

George Mac . “It’s in the vicinity to where the 1010 contour clips the 1000 contour. As you approach from the north just below the 1000 contour is appears as an unusual ‘hump’.”

A small line of tiny (now largely collapsed) never found them cairns lead down towards it, but even on a good day these would be difficult to discern from the other piles of rock which are abundant in this area.

Other incidents influenced matters too. In November 1972, there was the so-called Cairngorm Tragedy when seven children in a school party perished in the winter weather. The subsequent Fatal Accident Inquiry concluded that the existence of Curran Bothy caused the school party to head for it to spend the night, and hence if it had not been there they would not have headed for it and not gone on and perished. There are other arguments against bothies on the highly vulnerable plateau.

A simple shelter now in a sad state of repair.

A simple shelter now in a sad state of repair.

The plateau bothies, the Curran Bothy and the St Valery were demolished and the El Alamein left to its own devices. Jean’s Hut and the Sinclair Hut have gone,for various reasons. The Fords of Avon bothy on land owned by the RSPB has recently been rebuilt, but not for overnight accommodation. Basically it is an emergency shelter for those marooned while crossing the Lairig and Loaigh. It has been credited with saving several lives over the years. Whatever your views these places were and are part of the history of this place and make a good navigation exercise locating where they were and how they effected this wild area,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A stone is emebedded in the wall of the bothy it reads El Alamein Refuge 1963. It has the badge of the 51 st Highland Division that was thought they built the shelter a similar plaque lies at the former site of the St Valery Refuge. The military trained heavily in this area of the Cairngorms during the war, using the harsh environment as a test for the troops. 

This is from Ray Sefton the guru of the Cairngorms –  However, I have to make a minor correction to the history of the bothies. They were not built by the 51st Highland Division, but in memory of the Division. They were built by the Artificer Apprentices from HMS Caledonia, Rosyth, led by CSM Jim Curran of the Royal Marines. Jim married a local girl and lived in Aviemore for many years. The metal work for the El Alamein, Curran, St Valery and Fords of Avon were made in the workshops at Rosyth and carried to the sites as part of adventure training exercises and the walls were then built. I think the reason the El Alemain survived is that it was located in Inverness-shire, whereas the others were in Moray or Banffshire. Thanks Ray Sefton!

The plaque for the St Valery Refuge is worth trying to find a what a location it is in and makes an interesting search for a group. You wonder how many stories of nights in these wee bothies in the past. I spent a couple of nights in the 70’s as it was a great area for a night Exercise and a part that few of the Team knew. It would be hard to find in the days before GPS and many times it was very hard work to locate. It is as I said a great place to spot wild life and the many ptarmigan that live in this area are hard to spot especially during the nesting season. Be aware where you are walking as their camouflage is incredible, it is easy to stand on a nesting bird such is their dedication to their young. Please be as careful as you can not to disturb the nesting birds. 

This is not a barren wasteland but a place of great beauty and solitude. enjoy it. I hope to get out and visit after Covid restrictions end at long last!

The master of disguise.

The master of disguise.

From George Mc Ewan – The background to the HD symbol is St Valery was where the original 51st Highland Division was captured by the Germans whilst serving as a rearguard for the British Army pulling out of Dunkirk in 1940. It was reformed and the reborn division’s baptism of fire was at El Alamein in 1942. The Gordon Highlanders who made up one of the main infantry components of the division recruited from around this part of the Highlands. I think that’s the link. My Grandfather served with the 51st during this period and from his diary and the histoRy of the 51st they were mostly based up in the NE and around to Inverness – I’ve not read that they actually trained in the hills. The 51st’s sister division – 52nd Highland Division did train in the Cairngorms – they were being trained up as a mountain warfare division, complete with pack howitzers and mule trains ran by Sikh muleteers. Their first action in 1944 was – part of the division shipped off to the jungles of Burma, the other part took part in the fighting in the flooded coastal areas of Holland! Both a far cry from the Cairngorms. David Gleave close. It’s in the vicinity to where the 1010 contour clips the 1000 contour. As you approach from the north just below the 1000 contour is appears as an unusual ‘hump’.

Thanks for the information.

Spot the bothy

Comment Jim Fraser “It is in serious need of some TLC. A few years ago I put the door back on and used some aluminium sheet and wire to reinstate some kind of roof. Those were really temporary repairs and we need to be thinking about the choice between allowing it to become a worthless wreck and getting some proper work done on it. The reality is that it was always in the wrong place. Its brother, St Valery, was a victim of the move to remove shelters. Maybe we can do something else, in memorialising with those names, at more appropriate locations and in ways that the Scottish mountaineering community can approve of.”

Jim Fraser “Here’s a video of a visit. Looks like 2018 after I did a few repairs. Watch from 9:00.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN20Kcd46n4

I doubt it will collapse in time as ideas change on high mountain Bothies. I was glad to find it on a few searches in the past in awful weather?

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Missing the hills ! It could be a lot worse never forget that.

On the way off An Teallach after a great day.

Many of us are missing the mountains and wild places and I wonder if should continue posting old photos on the blog? I will as it brings back so many great memories of past days. As I am getting older I hope to have many more days on the mountains before my battered body gives up, time now is critical but there are a lot more important things going on.

The Cairngorms at there best!

My Granddaughter had her birthday yesterday she is 7 with her sister they are coping with a lot just now yet showing so much love and coping so well. I feel for them and all those struggling in these difficult times. Many have lost their loved ones lost jobs are worried and lonely so missing the hills is in the big picture not much of a hardship.

Like many of my pals we are all missing the hills but in the scale of things it is a small forfeit when others have lost so much but we still need to do our bit. I will get back into a routine again yet this time I feel its a lot harder. Please continue to stay in contact with those you love, who are lonely and struggling. Do not forget the Foodbanks and those less fortunate than us.

Life is tough just now for everyone but it will get better.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being | 8 Comments

“Every picture tells a story” The tale of the benighted Sea King in the Northern Corries of Cairngorm in Feb 2006.

I was working in the ARCC at RAF Kinloss when we had scrambled a Sea King helicopter to the Cairngorms for an injured winter climber. It would we thought be a standard incident but the weather was not great. The weather changed dramatically as the aircraft was in the Corrie and the pilot managed to land the aircraft below the climbs on the moraine by some superb flying. There was no way they would get the helicopter out in that weather so Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team assisted the climber and the aircrew off the hill as the weather got a lot worse. There was a huge dump of snow and conditions were poor though a short walk out was hard going for all. Unfortunately the helicopter would not be moving at least for a few days. We had a problem !

This is how the newspapers described the day. “In February 2006, a Sea King from Lossiemouth became stranded in the Cairngorms during a whiteout. … Nine days later, the stranded Sea King was defrosted and flown out. Heating experts de-iced the helicopter allowing it to fly to Glenmore Lodge, before it was flown to RAF Lossiemouth.

I was also in the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and next day we trudged in early to maintain a crash guard for the helicopter. This is our job and over the years we have done a few things like this. There was even more snow that day and I wore snow shoes to get into the Misty Coire. Many others flounderd about but snow shoes were the key that day.

Snowshoes on the walk in magic

We had to navigate to the abandoned helicopter meeting a few early morning climbers who followed our trail. It’s a tricky area and though only about an hour from the car park many have struggled here in the past. It was past the huge Boulder field and though yellow that day you did not see it till you were right on it. Any tracks were covered by snow and a hard walk in with the boulders and heavy snow.

Looking back it was a surreal period the helicopter became a bit of an highlight to the day for many climbers. There were many visitors at time’s and helped pass a long cold day. We were to be there for several days in the end. Also when we changed shift we had 24 hour cover sometimes handing over in the dark in falling snow it was still hard to find.

It was incredible that when the weather allowed a few days later the engineers defrosted the aircraft and flew it to Glenmore Lodge.

It was a sight that I will never forget as it flew out on a stunning winters day. The Coire of the snows was now back to normal. The big yellow bird had become an attraction to all climbers in the Coire was gone. We had even given some climbers guided tours ! Some say there was even the odd party held there?

Someone put the helicopter up for sale on EBay during its stay on the Corrie. MOD were not happy at the time but we saw the funny side of it. I the end all the crew and the injured climber were safe and the aircraft flew again. It seems that a few nights at over 3000 feet did it little harm.

Defrosting the Sea King.

So when I walk into the Corrie I often tell the tale of the helicopter in the Coire. It’s now a bit of a story for those who remember.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/6332159.stm?fbclid=IwAR0IZBrDg1vIBuOZX11EJLTVdyP-IhkViBog8oQ6QPwRhWQBE6L91fcy_j4

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

Lockdown Thoughts : a few trips Abroad The Wall of light – Canada Weeping Wall. Bugs MacKeith and our early trip.

Spindrift on Weeping Wall Canada

It was the winter of 1984 had been to the Alps on several occasions but this was my first big trip. Canada in winter then was a big proposition nowadays many do it but then it was and felt a huge undertaking. It was in the last week of a 6 week expedition we were now in the most incredible ice arena I had ever seen. I will never forget the first time I saw this cliff was in 1984 and I was in awe of it to me seemed to have me to be a sea of ice. I had never seen anything like it in my forays into winter. There hardly anyone about in winter in Canada then even on the Highway 93 in these days it was winter and climbers were few.

At that time there were under 100 ice climbs in the area, nowadays there are hundreds. It’s a Mecca for ice climbers.

My pals Tom and Mark had read an article in the SMC Journal by an ex pat Scot Bugs McKeith saying there was so much ice in Canada waiting to be climbed. He along with a few locals climbed these incredible pillars of ice with basic ice tools learning the hard way and pushing ice climbing to a new level.

Sadly Bugs was killed not long after he wrote his article about this mecca for ice climbers. The seed was sown in Tom and Mark though how we got the trip together at that time it was incredible.

Alistair ‘Bugs’ McKeith -, Alistair (1945-1978) known as Bugs.

Bugs is probably best known for his early pioneering role in the development of Canadian ice-climbing, but he started off life as one of a small but influential band of Edinburgh-born climbers of the 60s known collectively as ‘The Squirrels’.

His pre-Canada climbing record is impressive: new summer lines in Scotland, early repeats in the Alps as well as new routes in the Dolomites and Mont Blanc and participation of the first ascent of the North Pillar of the Eiger in 1970.

McKeith’s climbing career took a brief rest after this when he joined the British Antarctic Survey, but he put the time to good use to experiment with ice-climbing techniques – a factor which would lead to his innovative and bold approach in North America shortly afterwards.

After travelling and climbing in the Andes and back in the European Alps he returned to Scotland, he became dissatisfied with the ‘smallness’ of the place and moved to Canada. From the early 1970s onwards, McKeith was one of the driving forces behind the development of Canadian ice climbing, importing Scottish know-how to a largely unexploited arena and unsuspecting local climbing community.

The first ascent of Tatakakken Falls was futuristic in the extreme; a thousand feet of Scottish Grade VI ice it was the hardest icefall climbed at the time and the first at its grade. McKeith also made the first ascent of the famous Weeping Wall, off the Jasper-Banff highway. Innovative aid was employed during this ascent, the crux being overcome by the use of etriers hung from Terrordactyl ice axes– a technique which emphasised McKeith’s technical aptitude and willingness to think creatively. With his period of greatest achievement probably still to come, McKeith suffered an untimely death at the age of 33 when he was caught in a cornice collapse while descending Assiniboine having completed a major face climb.

What he had helped start in western Canada, however, was to evolve into a major facet of world climbing activity. Canadian climbers were and still are world leaders in ice climbing.

Standout climbs: 1st British ascent of North America Wall, Yosemite, USA, 1971; 1st winter ascent North Face of Mount Stanley, Canada 1973; 1st ascent Tatakakken Falls (Grade VI), Weeping Wall (V/VI), Canada. What a man, what a time to climb.

This Weeping Wall was the Mecca of ice climbing with the World famous Polar Circus just a few miles away. Two of our group did an early one day ascent of this climb which was incredible at the time. 

The Weeping wall It is 5 minutes from the road and just dominates the view and in these days there were exciting abseils of the cliff after a route, nowadays its a lot easier with chains and bolts.

We stayed at Rampart Creek is a Hostel in the wilds just a few minutes from Weeping Wall. This is a wonderful hostel set in a surreal location. It has no running water and all power is by Solar and they have a wee generator. The assistant warden was a lovely lady called Darcy who looked after us so well, she even cut wood for the sauna, what a lady, what hospitality. We had a great night and a couple of young American climbers were the only other people staying. It was an early start as Dan and Dave were after a big route on the Weeping Wall. This mecca for ice climbers forms a huge cliff about 2 hours from Jasper.

Climbers come from all over the world to climb on this incredible cliff. It has two tiers the first about 600 Feet separated from the Upper tier by steep snow and trees.

The Weeping Wall

The only way off this cliff is by abseil of trees and bolts in the wall. There are few bolts on the belays and most are ice screws or the famous V-Thread (also known as the “Abalokov” anchor, named after a Russian climber who popularised the technique) and the ice bollard. In a V-thread two intersecting tunnels are bored into the ice to form a “V” shaped tunnel. A sling or cordelette is then threaded through the V and tied in a loop. The rope is passed through the sling, which remains left behind after use. We got to Rampart Creek after an eventful drive and then settled in for the night, it was a cosy place but so much snow about must make it a hard life to live so far away in the winter. We had some great nights here in the past and I remember cutting ice from the river.

We climbed the easy Snivelling gully to get a feel for the cliff. Then onto other routes. Pure steep ice with gear limited at the time. It was bold climbing for its time. Then the wild abseils of with no back up then on the way of a prussic knot. Crazy but wonderful times.

Posted in Articles, Books, Friends, Gear, Ice climbing Canada, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

As we enter another lockdown. Thinking of you all.

I have been over in the West in lockdown with. Friend who is in my bubble. We have been enjoying some exceptional weather when the new Lockdown measures were announced last night.

I am near Applecross and we had decided to walk up to Beleach Na Ba yesterday as the road was closed due to snow.

We knew new measures were coming later that day this would be our last day out. The weather was superb but bitter cold with no wind. The road usually busy with the “famous/ infamous NC 500 “ and had the snow gates locked from just outside Applecross.

There is no access from either side of the Beleach just now or will there be for a while. We decided to take advantage of this and wander up the road to the viewpoint at 2000 feet. We were amazed how incredible it was a road walk but into another world .

Gates locked

We entered a winter wonderland initially the road was covered in ice then as we got higher so much snow. To go off the road was murderous the snow was so deep so any plans to do so we’re scuppered we had to follow the road .

Walking of the road the snow was so deep and untouched and covered with animal tracks criss crossing in the snow. The animals were loving it and had the mountains to themselves. No cars or vans just a quite place to be. With incredible views of the sea and the mountains.

The higher we went the deeper the snow on the road but the views were exceptional. It was a day like no other Crystal clear but by now the sun was up giving us some warmth. All we could hear was the crunch of our boots in the snow. It was stunning, we entered the shade at times then it became bitter cold and as we got higher the snow deepened into drifts like frozen waves.

There were miles and miles of untouched snow with the sun making it glisten. Yet no one about bar a couple of locals and a single bike track. I could not believe we were walking on the road in such an incredible day.

At the deserted car park

From the top it was a pull up we could see Skye and the Islands Rum,Eigg and Jura looked incredible as did the saw toothed Cuillin. The snow amplified the beauty and we sat had lunch in awe of such a day.

As far as the eyes can see

It’s hard to believe this was just a road walk from sea level to 2000 feet. Then it was time to descend with Islay the Collie in front all day. She hardly went of the road all day such was the snows depth. We saw a few grouse and deer on our return journey.

We headed into a superb sunset I got a message that lockdown was imminent so we enjoyed every minute of the walk back.

By now Skye was so stunning in the distance. We saw the deer high on the ridge silhouetted against a yellow sky as we descended then they headed down into Applecross it was The West at its best .

The sky turned yellow and was magnificent showing Scotland at its finest. We would now be heading for another lockdown and things would change again🌞

End of the day.

It will be hard but we will see no one apart from a few delivery folk. They are vital for the locals. There will be no travel as such but my friend has so much beauty around her with the Coast at her doorstep. It will be a long month but has to be done. At least we have great memories of a special day at a strange time.

Sadly as we enjoy ourselves and maybe have a moan many folk are dying, the NHS is struggling and we all have to do the right thing. Stay safe and help others by keeping to what we are asked. It is also important to keep your spirits up.

Let’s hope that the vaccination system helps and all our friends and family stay safe and take great care. Please stay in touch with those on their own make that call look after each other and think of those less fortunate .

I will try to keep the blog going living past tales and will be thinking of you all.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Seana Bhraigh Munro 254 – 927 metres/3041 feet. A hill not to rush. In memory of Phil Jones Assynt MRT Team Leader killed in an avalanche on Seana Bhraigh February 3 1991

Seana Bhraigh past visits.

As most will know the Munro Seana Bhraigh is a long way from anywhere. Some guidebooks say it is one of the remotest Munros about. The hill is approached by Loch Coire Mhoir is reached by most by a private track up Strath Mulnzie, where a mountain bike is extremely useful. There are other ways in but to me this is the best. If your walking the route is well described in various guidebooks and can be an easy ascent but a long way from anywhere. I used to love doing a circuit including the other 4 Munros and sometimes including the Corbett Carn Ban. In bad weather this is extremely tricky navigation but on a long summers day its a classic.

Goats near the summit.

To me the best way to climb this peak is by Oykel Bridge. The wildlife round this area is amazing and Oykel Bridge is a big fishing river. On the hill usually near the summit sometimes you may spot Goats near the summit and the odd Eagle soaring. This is a wonderful place and the views from the track as you walk/cycle in with the ridge and the blunt peak of An Sgurr make it a very special place.

To me it’s not a place to rush how many on their Munro chase miss this wonderful Corrie and all its secrets. To sit on the summit and spend time is an incredible experience and well worth the effort. On this hill the views North South East and West are wonderful and I have so many memories of this wild area and my companions over the years.

From the Munro SMC Munro app.

On these Big walks we stayed in the bothy in the Corrie that makes it such a great memory a night in the bothy in a specail place. It had a history of exploration in the winter as I became immersed in the winter climbing history in Scotland. These were some hardy folk.

Seana Bhraigh is glacially carved with a huge beautiful northern corrie with some scrambling required to reach its eastern top Creag an Duine. In winter it is a special place it has two bothies right next to each other. One by the MBA and the other the Magoos Bothy.

from the SMC winter guide

This place has so many memories a remote mountain yet a huge part of my life. I stayed here on many nights with team member’ after long days. Among these memories are of a great pal the Team Leader of Assynt MRT Phil Jones was killed here in an avalanche in Feb 1991 it seems so many years ago.

I had spent many nights in my youth in the big walks in 1976 on my N- S traverse of Scotland; these were huge days when we were fit. The MBA Bothy was a great place to be and the situation incredible with the classic ridge and scramble just outside the door. This mountain is a great winter wander along a remote ridge well worth the walk in. It was also a great place to spend the night and with the new bothy and a fire. It’s well worth taking some coal or wood. The wander round the Corrie rim in good weather is wonderful it’s a huge classic Corrie and if you see the Goats it’s a marvellous sight.

The great Corrie

Its hard to believe I also ran a winter course in 1980 with Valley MRT and we climbed a few routes in winter a couple of of new routes over 5 days with my great friend Mark Sinclair (RIP). These routes were never reported in the Guides and I hope to go back again in winter to have a look. It is an incredibly wild place and one of great beauty yet those who approach the hill from the other side see little of these huge Corries.

It is in my memory a wild plateau with tricky navigation especially in winter but what a hill.

Phil Tranter.

 Many may have heard of Philip Tranter who wrote the first guide to this area in 1966 was a hero of mine and I tried to climb many of his routes and his hill days Tranters Round is one. He died in 1968 on his way back from the Alps in a motor bike crash. Scotland lost one of its finest mountaineers he was so young and so dynamic. My good pal Blyth Wright was part of the exploration and this area is steeped in the history of exploration and huge hill days. The club was called the Corriemulzie Club.

Phil Jones – This Corrie always brought back many memories.

I was at just coming home from running the annual winter course for the RAF mountain rescue Teams when the news was broken by the BBC. They just said that a MRT team leader had been killed, no name was given and it was an awful time for our families.

Phil Jones RIP.

When the news broke that it was Phil it was a terrible tragedy as I knew Phil and the Assynt team well and cannot imagine that happening during a training exercise in such a remote area. An amazing place with so many varying memories, the peace and quiet was incredible and the hills so green in the summer and the heather coming into bloom made this a great walk out even in the torrential rain. We had climbed together and got to know each other well Assynt MRT are a great team and we helped out with bits and pieces when we could. Phil was a huge part of the community and I still miss him to this day. I went to his funeral in Lochinver it was a difficult time and a reminder to all of us that tragedy can occur at any time. Mountain Rescue are not excluded from this. I would like to find out the details of the Avalanche from any of the Assynt Team who were there. I am helping with an Avalanche survey that goes back to 1960.

There was a small cairn on I am sure Quinag just of one  of the beleachs/ tops with a great view of the wild Assynt that Phil loved and I visited it not long after the funeral.

Can anyone give me a Grid Reference of it please?

Yet I have often been back to that Coire and really enjoyed the An Sgurr scramble and in winter is a grand expedition, how many have climbed it as it looks Alpine from the bothy.

Info – During the stalking season, September 1st to October 20th, please keep to the main estate tracks.
Coiremor is the eastern end of the building, with Magoo’s bothy (non-MBA) occupying the western end. It is used by the estate especially in the fishing and deer stalking seasons but access is allowable so long as recognized tracks are followed

View from the bothy window.

To access the bothy, it is necessary to ford the River Mulzie at NH 292 906.  If the river is in spate a bridge can be used about 1km north of the ford at NH 298 922 although it is rough ground from the bridge back up to the path. Corriemulzie Estate. We got stuck here once due to being unable to cross the river.

Next time I go I will hopefully have an e bike to make up for my age I am looking forward to it once I feel a bit stronger.

A great photo courtesy of Angus Jack this week showing the An Sgurr ridge and the vast Corrie. Thanks Angus.

Information – Highland Scrambles North Scottish Mountaineering Scramblers Guide

Northern Highland North Scottish Mountaineering Club Guide.

In memory of Phil Jones Assynt MRT.

About Assynt Mountain Rescue Team

The primary role of the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team is the provision of search and rescue in mountainous, or inhospitable terrain in North and NW Scotland, for any person who may be injured, or otherwise in need of assistance. The Team are all volunteers from a variety of backgrounds.

www.assyntmountainrescue.co.uk/

Assynt Mountain Rescue Team Registered charity number SC049089

Update from a pal Feb 2020.

“Cycled in from Oykell bridge, good 4wd track all the way to the bothy, only problem was the river crossing. Could have taken the van a few km further up the track.” thanks Angus .

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Enviroment, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Hill Food ? Any ideas?

It is bitter outside and a bit of snow not the day for a drive to Aberdeen but needs must.  In winter it is important you eat well and on the hill recently I was asked about food for the hill. In winter with the effect of the weather, the wind and a bit bigger bag, maybe deep snow the old saying ” I mile in winter = 2″ so lots more energy is expended.  Add deep snow and a head wind and few places to stop, at times you eat on the move. To those who have never experienced the winter proper here is a few tips.

A great part of a hill day is stopping for a break and having a drink and some food! This is especially true in winter when often it is difficult to have a break and replenish the energy reserves. A little and often is the answer and in winter I on a wild winters day I carry some food handy in the pockets, like jelly babies or a cereal bar. I find that the modern gels and power bars are costly and awful but understand they work for some.

The most important meal of the day – Breakfast porridge?

If I can the day before I go out I try to eat a pasta based meal the night before. Many forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I enjoy my porridge what a great starter slow burning food with a banana and honey.   I always carry a hot flask in winter this year its Mint tea and honey, superb and well worth the weight. It is also hard to get the liquid in winter and many carry various high tech drinks and gels but I am old school and drink water or a bottle of hot juice. I also ensure I replenish my fluid loss in the car on the way home and before I go out drink  like a camel?

On the hill I will have a few sandwiches, jam or honey, oatcakes and cheese, sweets like jelly babies, cereal bars and fruit. The other day we had home made cake and it was crazy that on our Big Walks in the 70’s one man “Big Jim” could eat so much chocolate on a big hill day of 11 Munros it makes me ill to think how many bars he could eat? See if you can guess?

The famous Eric Langmuir book Mountain Leadership had a piece on calories used on the hill. Someone has my copy do you have an idea how many calories a hill day can use?

Jelly babies

“The number of calories burned hiking depends in part on your body weight. In general, a 160-lb person burns between 430 and 440 calories per hour of hiking. A 200-lb person burns approximately 550 calories per hour of hiking. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn in an hour of hiking.

Backpacker Magazine suggests a calorie estimate based on body weight and the general intensity of the day’s activity. For a strenuous day of backpacking with a “heavy” pack (no weight range specified), they suggest 25 to 30 calories per pound of body weight. Using my 185-pound self as a proxy, that’s 4,625 to 5,550 calories.

As you’ll notice, estimates vary pretty markedly. For the criteria I used (185-pound person backpacking for eight hours with a moderate to heavy load), estimates  range from roughly 4,600 calories to more than 6,300 calories.”

Anyway over the years I have got far more interested in hill food and most of the expeditions I was lucky to be on I planned the food like on Everest in 2001 in Tibet. A three month trip where the food was vital part of a successful expedition. After all few know that was in the RAF as a Caterer for 37 years!

I wrote a longer piece on my Blog on 2 Feb 2017 it may be worth a read?

https://heavywhalley.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/what-do-you-eat-on-a-hill-day-how-many-calories-on-an-average-hill-day/

Food for thought?

The joy of winter Terry Moore photo

Posted in Articles, Books, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | 8 Comments

Free – simple the Emergency Text Service! A must for all that use the outdoors!

Hill and mountain walkers urged to register for emergency SMS text service
Every year I try to pass the message on about this great free service about registering  your phone for the Emergency Text Service. It is amazing how few have done it and yet it is so simple and easy. 

Helicopters - if you need help do you know how to summon it.

Helicopters – if you need help do you know how to summon it. By having the emergency Text Service on your phone it may save your life!

Walkers who visit areas with bad mobile phone access can now register with a new service that allows 999 calls to be made via a text message.

Heather Morning, safety adviser with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, is urging walkers and climbers to register for this service in advance and not to wait for an emergency. She says,

“If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone.

“This is going to be particularly useful for those needing 999 assistance in the hills when mobile reception is poor and there is not enough signal to make a call.”

The emergency SMS service was established originally for deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired people. It allows users to contact the UK 999 services by sending an SMS text message.

Mountain Rescue Services in the UK are usually coordinated by the police.

http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/

Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering | 2 Comments

Take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints. Everest 2001 and the great Sherpa people.

The highest rubbish dump in the world. Everest ABC 2001.This was the Mess left at ABC at 21000 feet on Everest in 2001. 

All the other expeditions had long gone and I had been up to the North Col at 23000 feet trying to help our Sherpas bring down gear from the high camps that was abandoned and left by some of the huge other Commercial expeditions. Many clean up but a few are cowboys and add a storm or an accident and some  people want to do is leave There was no one else on the mountain, it was empty, the final storm of the season had done its worst and all the other expeditions had left. Yet was a wonderful feeling being up in the incredible place with only a few Sherpas all friends, the peace and solitude was back. What a privileged that I was left alone with the Sherpas  at the end of the our expedition at Advance Base Camp on the Tibetan side of Everest . This is still very high  at 21500 feet as high as many peaks we humans claim to climb. I was waiting for the YAKS to take our kit down and leave the mountain, we had been away for 4 months, it was near the end of the trip. We had stayed on when others had left and had tried to get some more members to the summit but in the end the weather made that impossible. A huge storm had buried the ropes at the high camp and they made the correct decision to come down from 8000 metres. When they left after a day’s rest for Base Camp I was left alone with the Sherpas to tidy up, we had 3 days. Once the storm cleared the place was a a real mess, left by other expeditions. Some of my mates had tried to come back up and help but could not make it the weather and the mountain had taken its toll, they returned to Base Camp.

The Sherpas and I spent 2 days tidying up and took 50 bags of rubbish of this wonderful peak. It cost us additional money to get the rubbish brought down to Base camp by the Yak men but it was worth it. We paid for this ourselves, even though we were short of cash. There is no way you can burn rubbish due to various environmental  and religious views so all has to be brought down. It is terrible how people treat this mountain, but I feel we did our bit and left this wonderful place a bit cleaner. What would Mallory and Irvin say of what has happened to this great peak.

This was  a great trip  we got two to the summit and most got to the high camp and no one was hurt. There were several fatalities during our stay and we made some great friends of all nationalities. We also met many half -wits chasing the dream that it Everest. It was only due to the efforts of the Sherpas lead by Mingma, incredible people and great friends who looked after us all that many get off that mountain alive. Brave, strong and loyal and such wonderful human beings. I was very close to them as Base Camp Manager and they looked after me especially on my trip to the North Coll at the expedition end and on my travels to the North Face and West Ridge.  The days spent alone walking into the West Ridge this huge place away from the madding crowds. I met only two crazy climbers waiting below the huge North Face to try the route Alpine Style. There were amazed when I popped up alone at their camp, it was long but incredible trip into that remote place. At the end I sat with Mingma at Advanced Base Camp, we discussed the Mess left by climbers and how anyone can leave such a place in such a state. He was very upset and so was I – Mingma is a world class mountaineer in his own right was one of the finest human beings I have ever met.

Mingma our Sirdar

Mingma our Sirdar

They had assisted other expeditions  on several rescues on the mountain that season.  The Sherpas had done well dragging huge amounts of kit left from other trips  of the mountain. They would be recycled and the risk they took would bring them some extra cash, much needed.  The empty oxygen bottles would be worth a lot on their own. I was offered my cut but declined, they had worked so hard for us and they would not even let me drag some down what remained of the fixed ropes from the North Coll.

2001 last day at ABC with Mingma and the boys.

This is the photo of our Sirdar Mingma and the boys on our last day at ABC, great people and good friends. I left next day our camp was packed away and the Yaks were nearly ready to go. I had little kit as I had given most of my kit away yet still had a big 6 hour day to get back to Base Camp. The weather was changing and I was struggling heading into the bitter wind, snow and wild weather, I had to keep moving due to my lack of kit. My last views of the North Col were incredible and the lonely wander down back to civilization at Base Camp was a hard day.   The rest were ready to leave next day all knackered after nearly 4 months away. It was a special time with special people, we all came back friends and intact, with huge memories.

Great  but sad view of the Northern Pinnacles where Boardman and Tasker died.

Great but sad view of the Northern Pinnacles where Boardman and Tasker died.

I will never forget the Solitude of the North Face, the huge walls of ice, the avalanches, the glaciers, the wind and these great people who make it all possible.

The Yak the workhorse of the high mountains.

Today snippets: In the big mountains take things slowly, watch the locals and learn from them.

Take nothing but photos – leave nothing but footprints

Posted in Enviroment, Friends, Mountaineering, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Avalanche Tales fromround the World – Mark Hartree

I met Mark as a young lad on the summer course (rock climbing in Wales with the MRT) He is a talented climber and a huge running enthusiast now. Here is some of his tales he allowed me to use on my Blog,

Avalanche tales from around the World

The work telecom was in its 2nd hour, Skype had failed so I had to call-in on my mobile. Sitting at my desk in the warm safety of my new house on 28th Jan 2021, it was before 1030 and I was looking at the snow-covered East Face of Caerketton. Then a question to me, which I answered, and I looked back at the hill. It was 1032 and I noticed that Caerketton now featured a green stripe. The East Face had just avalanched.

Wow, I thought, that’s unusual. A few minutes later I was in my running kit, in the car and driving over with two avalanche probes to run up the hill. It occurred to me the go and check if anyone had been hit by the slide while on the path below the face and bounding Erraid Wood, or maybe someone had triggered it from above walking or skiing. If injured, I would call 999 and the few Carnethies who live locally and who could react quickly if I needed a shovel or two. I completed the search of the debris above the path and went from bottom to the crown-wall at the top and back down again and satisfied my concerns. I finished my call, at times a bit breathless. No-one had been zapped thankfully.

Caerketton East Face the day before

Caerketton East Face after avalanche on 28th Jan 2021

Debris down to Erraid Wood

A snowman sized boulder to survey the debris

As I stood on top of a snowman sized boulder of snow looking at the debris it reminded me of other avalanches that I had experienced in my times in the hills.  Three came to mind that did not involve fatalities:

The first was on 20th March 1990 while climbing with a young loon called Graham Murray in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada.  The route was called Carlesberg Column, a grade WI 5 on Mt Dennis near a town called Field.  We were on a RAF Leuchars and Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) training expedition with 10 troops based out of the Canadian Alpine Club Hut in Canmore.  I was known then by my nickname – 2BA (a wee nut).  As we climbed this cracking icefall we had noticed that it was warming up from below-zero to quite mild and we completed the route with a bit of drizzly mist around us.  I had made my last abseil back to our kit at the bottom of the icefall and was waiting for Graham.  The loon had got his safety prussic stuck on the middle taped marker of the rope and was spinning around 50 ft above me in mid-air. I laughed as he faffed about and took off my harness and started to pack my kit.  Suddenly, a booming roar and screeching noise, and I looked up to see vast quantities of white lumps in the air.  I dived for a small tree and held on for dear life being pummelled by snow and dust as the slopes above the gully avalanched and spewed over the icefall.  All our kit was swept away and I feared for Graham.  Looking up, he was still spinning on the rope with goggle eyes after the avalanche spewed out over him.  He shouted:  “Are you OK, I thought you had gone”.  He freed his prussic and came down and we assessed our situation. If Graham had not got stuck we would both have been off the ropes and hit and swept away.

My personal diary (PD) on that day says:

Brilliant route on good ice. Rap’d off and just got down when upper icefall collapsed and avalanched slopes above. Just managed to avoid death – literally. Quite shaken up. Really scary.

Stock image of Carlesberg column with a climber

My time with the fabulous Leuchars MRT and 22 Squadron Wessex helicopters

I had hardly any clothes and no kit since our snow ledge has disappeared. Graham gave me a fleece jacket to keep warm and we grabbed everything we could find and ran away back to car. As we descended we realised that all of the slope below the climb had also avalanched making progress slow as we climbed through mountains of avalanche debris held back by the trees below. We reported our plight to the park avalanche service and a few days later got a call from the local rescue team with search dogs who had used our buried kit for probing and search dog training. We got our rucksacks, some climbing kit and some clothing back which was found buried 20ft down in the debris.

My second memorable avalanche was with Andy Fowler, who we nicknamed The Kurgan, on 8th March 1992 while descending Central Gully of Creag an Dubh-Loch.  On a Leuchars MRT training weekend we had had climbed the fairly easy grade II/III NW Gully and walked around the top of the crag to use Central Gully as a direct route down. After descending the main difficulties and at the bottom cone of snow, we triggered a slab avalanche about 20 ft wide in the Gully and ended up semi surfing down the gully on large blocks of wind slab until they slide stopped and we extracted ourselves unhurt.

The Kurgan, a twin brother to Andy Fowler?

My PD did not say much about this other than:

Planned to do route on Eagle Rock but (conditions) not good.  (NW Gully) on Creag an Dubh Loch excellent climb.  Really good fun coming down.

Somewhat buzzed we had ran away around the edge of the Dubh Lochan to get to the path by the flattest route only to find that the Loch wasn’t as frozen as we hoped. We survived, just, but learnt a few things about being light-of-foot on frozen lochans, that being 10 stones is better than being 16 stones, and that if lucky, you can surf on snow slabs.

These two experiences were dwarfed by much more terrifying avalanches in 1993.  To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service we had organised the Karakorum Conquest expedition to the Himalayas.  From 4th July to 16th August 1993 our objective was to attempt a first ascent the unclimbed North East Ridge of Diran Peak, an Eastern outlier to the bigger Rakaposhi.  At 7,266 metres, Diran has a pyramid shaped summit with an elongated North East Ridge that looked accessible and continuous in angle to the domed summit. We had a good experienced team with a mix of climbers and trekkers from the RAF MRT’s plus a few guests including a member of the SAS.  Our idea was for: a ‘NE Ridge Team’, which I was a lead climber in; a ‘North Face Team’ who would climb the original route up the North Face onto the West Ridge; and a trekking group to explore the surrounding valleys.  Having a North Face team doubled as enabling the NE Ridge climbers to use the easier North Face route as our descent.  We had picked Diran as it was fairly accessible, not too high, did not look too technical from the pictures we had available at the time, and looked kind-of do-able with a chance of coming back with our fingers and toes.  

After a horrendous and terrifying 26 hour non-stop bus journey along the old Silk Road from Islamabad to Gilgit, with a driver smoking dope, we had trekked for a few days up and across the Minapin Glacier to a fantastic base camp on a flattened area to the side of a small serac cascade.  From here we would load-carry up through the serac barrier for at least 3-5hrs, depending on the snow and ice conditions, to get to advance base camp (ABC) higher up on the glacier.  Base camp (BC) was a nice safe place to relax and acclimatise and was set up in RAF style.  It was fitted with a custom built “super- loo” of my own design, a cold jacuzzi for warm afternoons relaxing and a bath area to wash in the blue cold glacial stream coming out the Minapin Glacier.  We also made a cracking bread oven which made nan-pizzas and was also used to roast the odd lamb and chicken bought up from Gilgit by our Sherpas.

Our plan was for the two teams of 6 people working in pairs, to set up camps on the NE ridge Col and then higher up the NE ridge, while at the same time set up camps up on the North Face leaving a marked descent for the NE Ridge team and the North Face summit teams to find the ways down to ABC safely.

Diran Peak across the Minapin Glacier showing the long NE Ridge

Zoomed in short of summit with NE Ridge and North Face routes marked.  X was the problem area

Diran was first climbed in 1968 by three Austrians but previous expeditions had failed for reasons not known at the time.  Doug Scott also climbed it in 1985 by the North Face.  Our expedition preceded the internet and Wikipedia which interestingly now states that:

“Diran is the most dangerous mountain in Pakistan as its snow is the cause of many events resulting in hundreds of deaths.”

We did not know this of course at the time and I don’t know about the ‘hundreds’, only two, but the first bit, in retrospect, is correct.  

The following are short extracts from my personal diary written each day on the trip at the end of my day or soon after, and the Team Leader’s expedition diary (ED) written for the formal report to the RAF and our sponsors.  These give a flavour of my avalanche adventures here and might contribute to the Wikipedia assessment of Diran, along with global warming perhaps.

14 Jul 93

(ED)  Another fine morning with 9 people carrying loads….we pitch 2 tents at our newly established ABC. A few clouds appear in the afternoon – a sign of change in the weather?  

15 Jul 93

(ED)  The weather certainly did change… at 0445 in pouring rain (we) decide to cancel 0500 breakfast…as rain continues throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

(PD) I woke and felt awful (altitude sickness) and it was raining and I went back to bed…1300 got up and went to cook tent and suffered headaches and flu all afternoon…had tea and played volleyball for 10 mins as it stopped raining.

16 Jul 93

(ED)  A bright morning…16 loads en-route to ABC by 0600. 75 man days of rations, plus Epigas and stoves make up the loads, with each person carrying 30-40lbs.  Bill Batson, Pete Kirkpatrick and 2BA push on above ABC in an attempt to reach the foot of the NE Ridge.

(PD) Felt good all the way (to ABC).  Wee avalanche came down the N Face but miles from the camp.  Dumped load and continued with 500ft ropes, stakes and slings to try and put dump at the col.  Broke step most of the way until going got too hard and head exploded. Got to 14,600ft.  Back to ABC.

A wee tidler avalanche on the North Face on 16 Jul 93 – a warning sign perhaps.

17 Jul 93

(PD) rest for me. 0030 start tomorrow.

18 Jul 93

(ED)  Early start is rewarded by crisp, firm snow, and good progress made to their previous high point… From this point it appeared that no more than 500 ft would be required to reach the crest of the ridge (we were to ‘fix’ over 1500ft before we finally arrived at the crest (of the NE Ridge)).

19 Jul 93

(PD)  Left after 0200 and walked to kit dump and got 500ft rope.  Continued to bergschrund.  Storm appeared to be coming in over Rakaposhi.  Decided to run back to ABC arriving as it started raining.

(ED) Thunder and lightning storm in the morning stopped teams at ABC from carrying out their plans…in the afternoon 2 major avalanches sweep down the North Face towards ABC.

(PD) Slept for a fair bit of the morning but it was really bright so didn’t do too well. Spent the PM watching a big bergschrund above ABC slowly collapsing.  Finally came to a head when the whole shooting match gave way and set off a monstrous avalanche that must have travelled 2 km and ended up 400m from ABC.  We all ran away.  All somewhat buzzed and decided to return to base camp.  Packed and travelled glacier in the dark.  Got lost in the seracs but arrived safe in the end. Drank whisky and got pissed.

(ED)  Fortunately the avalanche debris comes to a halt before the camp, although both tents and expedition members are hit by the blast wave and showered cloud of fine particles that preceded the main debris.  Thankfully unhurt, but severely shaken, the group very quickly decide to abandon the camp and head back down to base camp…Once at base, the ABC team joined the other members of the expedition in a “Thank God we’re alive party”, which lasts well into the night, and sees off several bottles of whisky (which miraculously appear from the bottom of bags).

Me in my inner boots commenting on how f….g terrifying that was.  The avalanche had travelled 2km crossing the glacier and missing our first ABC by 400m.

20 Jul 93

(PD)  …got over the day before.

21 Jul 93

(ED)  ABC is re-established some 500m further uphill, at an altitude of 14,205ft.

(PD) site moved 300m up and left (where I had originally said). Site OK apart from locality to several crevasses – mind you – made crapping options an easy choice.

22 Jul 93

(PD)  Up at 0030 and spent 1 ½ hrs getting away. Walk up to fixed ropes was awful.  Didn’t bode well for the rest of the day.  On the way I threw-up 6 times the bacon and beans that seemed to come back on me. Found kit stash demolished by animals – food bags all eaten and everything a mess… Reached the other’s high point which was far too low and pushed the route another 600’ to the summit ridge.  Got to the top and bought up Robo.  By now wx (weather) had changed.  Snow fall and clagged in. Set up anchor and dumped kit.  Not much room and little good rock on narrow corniced ridge.  All sussed and ab’d (abseiled) of.   Snow was falling and avalanche risk was sky high. Really nerve racking at the bottom of the fixed ropes in the wee basin.

Retreating from the NE ridge in bad weather on 22 Jul 93

(ED)  It became clear that the weather was not going to improve and that a descent was inevitable.  This is made under very difficult conditions. To quote a radio call:  “The slopes are avalanching, it is raining and we need to escape.  The mountain is falling apart around us”.

(PD) made it back to the new ABC and dossed in a tent with Pete Amphlet: till –

Sleep was hard to come by.  Then at 0205 (on 23rd) the biggest roar, crashing and sliding booming noise.  A huge avalanche in the dark, we know not where from.  As the noise increased the for-gust hit the tent and flattened it onto us.

I remember looking up at Pete kneeling up in his sleeping bag to push the tent up.  He hadn’t witnessed the previous avalanche and I thought it pointless since he would not stop the car sized blocks of snow.  I did contemplate running for it again but with crevasses nearby in the dark this seemed a worse death to be buried in the bottom of a crevasse. I just curled up in foetal position and shut my eyes.  

(PD) The following gusts and snow pummelled us and filled the tent with dust. I prayed to God that I wouldn’t die. It was terrifying in the extreme.  No sleep till 0500 when it was light enough to leg it.  Avalanche debris had stopped a hundred meters away (from new ABC site) obliterating the previous biggy.  Shit – a close one.  Ran off down to BC marking route for others.

23 Jul 93

(ED)  There has been a massive avalanche up on the North Face during the night.  Everyone is concerned for the group left at ABC, until they inform us all is well on the 0700 radio schedule.

Google map of the area

Addendum

I was the only one of the team to experience both of these avalanches and had had enough of the NE Ridge which looked a lot harder and more committing than we had expected.  The expedition continued but the avalanche risk was really unacceptable and the rest of my group agreed to change our plans.  After this, we stripped our route and focused on the North Face, avoiding the line below the area that avalanched (X on photos above) as best as we could.  

Our expedition was a success with two RAF MRT troops and one SAS getting to the top of Diran and back down safely.  Dan Carroll, a summiteer and future Team Leader of RAF Kinloss MRT, went on to climb Everest on another RAF trip.  The SAS troop – Guy Homan, was later in the summit team of an Army Everest West Ridge Expedition in 1996 getting to a few hundred metre from the top before the threat of avalanches put pay to their attempt.   He later sadly died trapped under a trailer in a business park in 2016.

I got 4th highest on the North Face route following Dan’s team but aborted just below the West Ridge at about 6,600m as more storm clouds appeared over Rakaposhi at dawn again giving me a brown-pant moment again since I knew what was coming.  I convinced the other MRT guys coming behind me to descend quickly and we all got down as a huge storm hit, plastering the hill and glacier in a meter of fresh snow.  

Sadly, on my descent, I met two Spanish climbers who had come up and were planning to follow our team’s steps and use our camps.  I tried hard to persuade them to retreat telling them about the past experiences of clouds forming over Rakaposhi.  They were new to the hill and climbing lightweight alpine-style and insisted on going on up.  As far as I know, they are still on Diran’s North Face somewhere and were not seen retreating or ascending.  

The resulting avalanches on the North Face line stopped further attempts to go up the hill. There was much sole searching by our team who had all kept safe, and three stripped-out Pakistani Army rescue helicopters and crews we requested via the British Embassy in Islamabad which flew up to BC to try and help, but we all felt it too risky to cross the North Face slopes in the hope of finding them.

Diran Tragedy, 1993. On, reference was made to the death of Spaniards Francesc Xavier Socias and José Carlos Mármol from Mallorca on Diran. The pair were at Camp II on the normal north-face, west-ridge route at 6100 meters on the evening of July 31, 1993 when a severe storm struck with heavy snow and high winds. Gabriel Ordinas and Antoni Pons were at Camp I, hoping to move up the next day. When these finally were able to ascend, they found no trace of Camp II and their companions, who must have either been swept away by an avalanche or buried in the deep new snow.

Mark Hartree

Thanks Mark I will never forget watching the avalanches crash down the Face. We could see a light on the Col when the weather cleared but the mountain was to dangerous to attempt a rescue. Sadly the weather never allowed the helicopter to get close to the missing climbers. The big mountains take no prisoners .

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Great article by Davie Gunn on climbing in Glencoe.

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