The boots in the photo above were worn by my old pal Joss Gosling who had them on the RAF Kinloss MRT. He was a member of the team as a young man that located the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe in mid winter. All the crew were killed and it took months to recover the crew due to the depth of the snow. It was a life changing event for Joss. The boots are now used by his daughter in her Bed & Breakfast to raise money for Lochaber MRT.
Joss was a wonderful man and told me so many tales of these early call outs and how it shaped his life. Joss took lots of photos of the incident that are a unique piece of history.
The photo above is of the impressive ridge seen enclosing the opposite side of the Luchd Choire leading up to Creag an Duine makes a fine and challenging scramble, approached from the walkers car park (outside stalking season only) at Corriemulzie Lodge in Strath Mulzie. There is also an easier approach to the hill from the same start point which reaches the summit from the north and can be used as a descent by scramblers. It’s a great way up and missed by many in winter it’s airy in places. Yet well worth a visit !
I cannot mention ridges without the classic Angels Peak in the Cairngorms.
It’s a fair walk in but what views of the Larig Gru . If you visit you will not forget the wonderful An Garbh Coire where the 1000 feet/ 300 metres scramble up the North East ridge of Angels peak.
From the bothy its a steep climb up to the lochan. This wee climb is a lot more serious in winter if you take in the waterfall on the way up to Loch Uaine at 900 metres, From here its a scramble to the summit first on big granite boulders and then the last 100 metres on the airy ridge. The views are spectacular all around and spend time on this ridge its easy and not a place to to rush. I wonder if I will get back this year. I love this place for its remoteness and the adventures I had had here. Plus a few call – outs, where you feel its a wild but stunning place.
An Teallach – Paul Taterhall the local guide says:
“There’s no doubt that An Teallach is a solid Grade 3 when taken directly. Unlike some other classic ridge scrambles, though, most of the difficulties are avoidable.”
“There are bypass paths that run along the south west side of the mountain, and a lot of people walk the ridge while avoiding the pinnacles,” explains Paul Tattersall, who regularly guides the ridge through his company Go Further Scotland. “To experience An Teallach at its best, you have to make an effort to stay on the crest and go off the front of each little sandstone pinnacle.”
He recommends parking at Corrie Hallie and starting with an ascent of Sail Liath, leaving the two Munros to the end. The bonus of doing the ridge in this direction is that you won’t have to downclimb the Bad Step – an extremely tricky pitch that often catches scramblers out.
As ‘bad’ as all that?
After the 954m summit of Sail Liath, there’s a brief stretch of airy walking with fabulous views on towards the ridge before your path is suddenly blocked by the Bad Step. This, like most of An Teallach’s challenges, can be avoided by banking left – but where would be the fun in that? Instead, Paul recommends you rope up and approach it directly.
“There are two shortish pitches here that can be tackled and protected using a basic scramblers rack,” he says. “The first is around 12 metres of buttress scrambling on rounded holds up and on to a ledge. Then another 12 metre pitch which follows a curving weakness to another ledge with just a little bit of rock above you to get up and over before you’re on the ridge line.”
Don’t be tempted to go ropeless unless you’re as experienced as they come. When the Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team is called out to An Teallach, it’s almost always because scramblers have come unstuck in this extremely exposed spot. If in doubt, of course, bypass the Bad Step and go up the first gully to regain the ridge and get back onto the pinnacles.
This is the really fun bit. Between the Bad Step and Lord Berkeley’s Seat is the sharpest point of this spiky ridge – a series of pinnacles whittled out of Torridonian sandstone that give around 600 metres of heady scrambling.
“Stick to the crest as much as you can here, making your way up and down the little sandstone teeth,” says Paul. “This section isn’t as technical as the one before it, but many people will still appreciate a rope for the exposure. The sandstone can be blocky and fractured, sometimes liable to break off due to natural weathering processes. Another reason to stay roped up.”
At the end of the pinnacular scrambling is a particular feature known as Lord Berkeley’s Seat. Legend has it that Lord Berkeley used to sit up here and smoke his pipe, dangling his feet over the edge and taking in the views. He certainly couldn’t have chosen a more scenic spot.
“The whole face of An Teallach is undercut at this point, so this exposure is massive,” says Paul. “There are also fantastic views over the ridge.”
Others include Aonach Eagach, Liathach, Beinn Alligin and the Horns, Beinn Eighe and the Black Carlin’s, The Forcan Ridge on the Saddle, Beinn Alder and the Short and long Leachas and of course Skye has so many.
With the huge increase in people on the hill and the increased use on the hill – paths who maintains the hill paths we use? This is not just walkers but mountain bikers as well.
I was recently in Arran and amazed by the improvement in the paths and the re – wilding done. What used to be a boggy path up Glen Rosa is now a joy to walk on.
It’s the same in many places the path to the CIC hut was a nightmare many years ago it was a mud bath now another path so well improved it’s a pleasant walk.
I support the John Muir Trust and I know they assist path work on Ben Nevis and Assynt. It would be great to see everyone who uses the hills supports these paths. The authors of the guide books for walking and cycling could help by donating some of their profits to maintainable paths. I know some do ? I wonder do you if your in a club does your club help ? The Scottish Mountain Trust donates money from their Guide books to path-work.
Andy Alexander – “Have to agree Heavy was in Assynt recently and the John Muir trust do a great job. Quinag had very little erosion and the paths were great. Blessed be the path makers and maintainers indeed.”
I had planned a weekend with my friend Kalie and Islay her Collie. I met them at Sheildaig a stunning village where Kalie was rowing with the local coastal rowing group.
As I watched it was a stunning night. Very busy with cyclist and boats but still warm.
I had met a friend Chris Miles who lived in my village he was skippering a boat. It was a stunning drive West past busy carparks for the hills and vans everywhere.
Kalie and I had hoped to climb Beinn Alligin next day but aborted due to the heat. We had carried lots of water I had 4 litres and Kalie had more. We left early in the morning and there was no water on the way up the hill and we after an hour we decided to come down. Islay had a drink every time we stopped but with her heavy coat it was not the place for a dog. We came down and swam in the river even Islay came in and she like most Collies do not like water.
Years ago I would have been disappointed but with age comes in my mind a happiness to be out in wild places.
So in the end it was not a wasted day and the time spent in the river was incredible we saw few folk but the clegs / horseflies were about and biting! They are definitely silent assassins.
Islay cooling of and having a drink in the shade she found.
The river near the car park is in places a steep gorge but just out of the trees we found a lovely spot to swim cool down and relax.
The river is stunning the sound of water and the heat of the sandstone with views of the Torridon hills as a back ground. There are so many places like this in Scotland we are blessed.
I had swum here years ago after big days on the hills and it has not changed. Watching the power of the river the dragon flies about and the colours of the grasses in the water it’s all so vivid.
There was no rush Kalie was in her element in the water and I just sat and dried off on the rocks. Days like this are so special. Thanks Kalie for making me slow down. We wandered along the river saw the big waterfall and the colours on the rocks. Islay enjoying the day as well,
After a while we left headed to Torridon village for a drink and ice cream. Then a walk along the loch to the Outdoor Church.
The Church had a huge history during the Disruption when the churches split. It’s in a wonderful location by the Loch.
It was then drive back along the coast to Kalies. The road cannot cope with the NC500 it’s in a poor state now. There is limited budget to fix it lots needing done. What a great and varied day thanks to Kalie and Islay. Canoeing tomorrow ?
Rick was one of Scotland’s finest mountaineers who at 68 was still pushing the boundaries in World Class mountaineering. I met him a lot on many of Scotland’s great cliffs in winter always an unassuming man.
To many Ricks finest climb was In 2012, British alpinists Sandy Allan, Rick Allen, and South African Cathy O’Dowd, along with three Sherpas Lhakpa Rangduk, Lhakpa Nuru and Lhakpa Zarok, traversed the ridge to Mazeno Col and set up a camp at 7,200 m (4.5 mi). A summit attempt the next day proved unsuccessful and O’Dowd and the three Sherpas decided to descend via the Diamir Face. After two more days, Allan and Allen successfully made their summit attempt on 15 July and descended by the Kinshofer Route to reach base camp on the 19th after an expedition lasting 18 days.
From UKC “Rick is one of the world’s most accomplished high altitude mountaineers. He’s climbed several 8000m peaks, including a new route on the north face of Dhaulagiri. In 2012, together with Sandy Allan he made the first complete ascent of the Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat. The Mazeno is the longest ridge on any 8000m peak, with more than 10km of climbing over eight 7000m summits before the final push. Rick and Sandy spent 18 days on the route, running out of food and water and pushing themselves to their mental and physical limits. The ascent won them a Piolet D’or in 2013, although Rick says the recognition from the climbers he respected was more valuable to him than an award.”
There has been so many losses in the last few years of some of our legendary climbers. My thoughts are with Ricks family and friends.
One of the re motest Munro’s is Beinn Fhionnlaidh above Loch Mullardoch.
From “Walk Highlands” Beinn Fhionnlaidh which overlooks Loch Mullardoch, is at the N end of a crescent shaped ridge of mountains enclosing Gleann a’ Choilich.
There are no direct access routes to this mountain consequently it is best climbed with Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail.
The summit is a slightly elongated cone, which on its S face, links to Carn Eighe at Bealach Beag above Coire Lochain. In my mind it’s a remote Munro above Loch Mullardoch.
One very hot weekend just like now the team were in this area. It’s a great area to get Munro’s done and most of the team were doing just that.
On the remote Beinn Fhionnlaidh one of the troops suffered Heatstroke. Even though he was carrying two litres of fluid but had drink it. There was no water on the hills high up so replenishment was not possible. The heat and lack of fluid took its toll and very quickly he became very ill.
What a place for a rescue and we were lucky that one of our helicopters was training in the area and picked him up. It could have been a lot more serious. Despite the experience of the party the effect of the heat was missed. It is so easy done. It all happens so quickly so please keep an eye on each other on the hill.
There are lots of warnings out about the heat on the hills so please be aware of its effects.
It would be good to hear from others of their days in the heat. Comments welcome ?
Dougie Para medic – “Not to be underestimated…dehydration is one of the big causes of cardiac arrest…..a real danger in those of us who still believe we are 25 and have that in built stubbornness….good article.”
Over the years I was very lucky to learn about walking in the heat during my time in Desert Rescue in Masirah in the Persian Gulf. Nothing can compare with the Temperatures out there are incredible and it took a lot to learn to walk or work in that heat. I was off loading planes and ships out in the open and it took some getting used to. We knew very little about heat stroke or exhaustion but carried lots of water on the hill and fruit in tins !
Average Weather at Masirah
The hot season lasts for 2.3 months, from 17 April to 26 June, with an average daily high temperature above 33°C. The hottest day of the year is 13 May, with an average high of 35°C and low of 27°C.
The cool season lasts for 2.6 months, from 8 December to 26 February, with an average daily high temperature below 28°C. The coldest day of the year is 16 January, with an average low of 20°C and high of 26°C.
At the end of the weekend with the desert rescue you could lose a lot of weight and looking back it was a huge learning curb.
Some tips that worked for me:
Drink plenty of fluid before you go! We had a saying drink like a camel.
Wear a head covering hat etc and I always covered my neck with a “bandana” that I would wet whenever possible.
Go slower, drink a little and often and in your water use an additive electrolytes to replace salts etc lost by sweating.
Check the colour of your urine when you can. The darker the more dehydrated you are.
Wear comfortable clothing carry long sleeved shirt trousers and have your breaks when possible in the shade. Also if there’s a breeze on the summit use it to cool down.
Top up your fluid from the rivers and burns whenever possible.
Use sun screen often and replace on the hill it’s easy to sweat of!
Skin cancer is serious and I wish we knew had known about it when I was working in the early 70’s. I have lost several pals due to skin cancer.
Sunglasses are essential look after your eyeless
When travelling back home in car rehydrate and replace lost fluid. Keep an eye on folk in your group for heat exhaustion/heatstroke it can be a killer, there is little water high up just now so ensure you carry enough.
Comments welcome :
Paul / “It’s easy to get caught out despite being supposedly experienced. I very nearly crossed the boundary the other day. The walk in was hot and I struggled to get enough fluid onboard. Limited water above 450m meant that I pushed a bit too much to get the day done which pushed me closer to heat stroke. I knew it was happening but foolishly felt it was still in my control”
Paul “the days when I’d carry 2 or 3 litres of water are long gone. I carry a litre now and rely on the hill to provide. I’ll be more careful in future. Arran looks fab, I’ll have to revisit some day” David Whalley of course. Us sensible people are also dafties. I’ve never done the central knoydart hills and I think I underestimated how much the walk-in takes out of you. 7 miles and 600m ascent. Even experienced you get to a point where luck is not on your side but I tried to rationalise my day even when I knew I’d maybe pushed it a bit far. I think the big point is, when you’re initially dehydrated, water is your primary concern so you forget to eat and get energy onboard which compounds the problem. You can also make nav judgements and errors because of this. Luckily I wasn’t at that point. It was still hard to force food and drink down me when I had the opportunity though. We are strange beasts.
Robin / Ogwen Valley MRT have just been to a heat stroke on Carneddau Dafydd. Man doing the 14/15 peaks, low on water …I got close in the desert a few years ago. The answer was to have a good dose of electrolytes first thing and that helped in 40c plus temperatures.
I am just back Arran it was really hot on the hills. We had Islay my pal Kalies Collie with us she is a cracking dog and well used to the mountains. Yet we still had to watch her on the heat as she has a real heavy “fur coat”. We ensured she drank plenty of water and followed the burns up the hill to ensure she had plenty to drink. It’s not easy to do on many hills but we also had plenty of stops to cool down. Here is a reminder from Mountaineering Scotland with advice for taking your dog on the hill. It’s well worth a read. Please share
Are you planning to take your dog with you when you head for the hills this weekend? Remember that while it may be taps aff weather for you, our four-legged friends are stuck with that fur coat and may struggle to cope with the heat. It can cause them a lot of suffering and even to collapse. Read our advice on dogs and the weather and be your dog’s best friend.
Many dogs do not cope well with being out in the heat and you should assess how well your dog does walking in hot weather on low level walks before considering taking them into the mountains.
You should always plan your route to take in as much water as possible with rivers and lochans for the dog to cool off naturally. You will also need to carry additional water for your dog and encourage it to drink regularly. Wet food (available in pouches) is better than dried food during hot weather.
Many dogs have pink noses and these are prone to sunburn. A child’s Factor 50 waterproof sun cream should be applied before your walk and regularly throughout the day.
Sportscotland @VisitScotland Association of Mountaineering Instructors Mountain Training Scottish Mountain Rescue SSPCA
This was our last full day on Arran we were away early to Glen Rosa for a wander up Cir Mhor a grand hill from the Saddle.
It was very warm and Glen Rosa means so much to both of us. I spent many great holidays here with my family usually ending up in Glen Rosa after a hill day with a dook (swim). From the age of 5 I can remember great days with my Dad Mum and family on all the peaks.
The campsite at Glen Rosa was not too busy and we left the car there. I had memories of walking into Glen Rosa in the past on a boggy path but it’s well looked after now. After the bridge you leave the track to the path and you spot the great swimming pools on the Granite worn slabs.
The views are great and the centre piece is the great cliffs of Cir Mhor what a mountain. My Dad took me here and I remember wanting to climb on this cliff. We met some “real” climbers and I was amazed by them!
Since these early days I have been so fortunate to have climbed here in the past so often there’s some superb routes on the granite here. We met a family going for a climb on the classic Sou’wester slabs. Today we would wander up to the Saddle and on to Cir Mhor . We went slow even Islay Kallies Collie was feeling the heat. On route we passed the Goatfell slabs with the classic named “Blank and Blankist” that put a few off climbing here.
The clegs were about and were bitting once we used some spray it was not too bad. We had lunch on the Saddle and met another lassie coming up from Glen Sannox. The views here are magical of Glen Sannox and Cir Mhor looks pretty steep and rocky from here. I climbed on the slabs here as well on the Sannox side we had fun in my RAF Valley days on a trip from North Wales. Climbing from dawn till dusk when we were young !
The route up Cir Mhor is hard to spot but it’s there. It can be tricky in bad weather or winter so care is needed.
It follows another good path to the summit a pull of 1000 feet through granite crags. We stopped a bit Kalie and Islay in front and me a bit behind. I felt the heat today and drank a lot of water.
This can be a tricky descent in winter and near the top the path goes round to the main cliffs. I remember climbs here great days in the past with so many companions. It was then a wee scramble to the airy summit no views a bit more food and a look at the map.
The path to the beleach rather than go back the same way was followed and again great work on the path has been done here.
It was here I wandered over to the cliff edge and saw the family we met on Sou’wester Slabs. They were high up below the overhang and I shouted they answered and were having fun. We headed down into the Fionn Corrie. Islay and us all needing water to cool down.
Kalie is a water lass and could not wait to cool off at the pools in the way off. In between when we could Islay who is not a fan of water was getting cooled down in the burn.
At last we reached the pools before the bridge there were a few folk we met on the way down but had the “ dook” to ourselves. The water was so warm and we could have stayed there but the clegs were back.
The swim is invigorating another lassie arrived and enjoyed the respite from the heat. I had so many memories going back over 60 years of being here.
It was a short wander back to the car and we chatted about the how the Glen had changed. There were no sheep, lots of new trees planted bringing back life to a great Glen. It was so lush apart from the clegs and the dragon flies we saw eagles soaring and so many wild flowers. It’s a stunning place in weather like this.
We reached the car drove back to Catacol and showered then an lovely evening meal in the Lighthouse at Pirnmill.
The end of a grand day, great company and memories of family and friends. Sadly most of my family now gone but what a day.
Thanks Kalie and Islay for a superb day out. Thanks to Arran for giving us such great weather and so many memories. I love this place and it’s folk yet away from the crowds it’s so peaceful.
It was great to see family in Ayr and visit old haunts but it was a short visit as I was heading for Arran in the afternoon. I left the car in Ayr and got the train to Ardrossan the first train trip for a while. The train was busy as was Ardrossan and I walked from the South beach station to the ferry. It was so busy with a fun fair and lots of folk out enjoying the weather.
It was a great trip across and lots of memories of past days in Arran. The weather was superb for the short crossing and I met my friend Kalie and Islay her dog at Brodick. it was very busy. I love arriving in Arran it’s just one of these special places and memories for both of us of family holidays on this incredible island.
We were staying in a wee bothy on the North West side of Arran away from the crowds at Catacol.
Catacol is a picturesque village just south of Lochranza, in the northwestern corner of Arran. Its name come from Old Norse and translates loosely as ‘gully of the cat’. This is thought to refer to wildcats that were once native to the area.
The village lies near the mouth of Abhainn Mor, a river flowing down from the heights of Glen Catacol. Between the village and the bay is a stretch of beautiful sandy beach that makes Catacol a magnet for visitors.
THE TWELVE APOSTLES
The most famous landmark in Catacol is a row of terraced 19th-century cottages known as The Twelve Apostles. The ‘Apostles’ were built in the 1860s to accommodate people cleared from land in the island’s interior so that the land could be used for deer stalking, then a popular activity amongst the upper classes.
The new residents of the terraced cottages were supposed to earn their living by fishing. To make this easier, each cottage had a first-floor window of a different shape. In theory, the woman of the house would light a candle to signal to her husband, fishing in Kilbrannan Sound (the western arm of the Firth of Clyde), and then would know which cottage was signalling by the shape of the window outlined by the candlelight.
We arrived took Islay for a wander and sat outside after dinner it was a lovely night. The midges arrived later but it did not spoil the evening. The forecast is good so we will go for a wander round the local area as it’s mostly new ground to me tomorrow.
Elma Scott has played a huge part of my life. She has constantly look after so many of us over the years. She has always been there for the RAF Teams and SARDA over 45 years. Her door is always open and her advice when you need it. She has seen the effect on most of us after tragic call outs like Lockerbie and the Chinook crash and can spot those who needed help. Also in our personal life during our many dramas she has been there to guide us. She has and is friend,confidant advisor, teacher and if your in the wrong you get both barrels. We all owe her so much.
I visited Elma yesterday in Crianlarich on my way to Ayr. She was in great form, looking so well, she thanked all for the cards when she was ill during Covid . She got so cards and letters it was overwhelming for her. It made a huge difference .
I had an early breakfast and a great catch up. Her cakes and tea is legendary as always her superb pancakes and soda scones and a great catch up.
Elma had been so special to the RAF Mountain Rescue throughout the years. Her wee house below Ben More has always been open for us and her hospitality renowned. She is never short to give us all advice on any subject.
Elma is an amazing lady who has done so much for us all. Every time I visit I get more stories from past call outs. Please keep sending her cards and letters it means so much and if your passing give her a phone and she would love to see you all.
She has had great contact with the current Valley Mountain Rescue Team in North Wales and it cheers her up.
Thanks again everyone please keep it going . I have not seen my family since Covid so yesterday was special for me.
The drive down was great Glencoe looking mean and moody and I caught up with a good friend the day before.
The roads were busy but Loch Lomond was stunning and I was wishing I was on the hills. Anyway now in Ayr lots of memories I met my sister and her husband and then watched the tennis with my nephew Scott it was a lovely afternoon and head for Arran tomorrow.
Things you used to take for granted are now so special. Thanks to all and Arran as always excites me like my hometown Ayr so many memories, so many more to make.
Could you imagine being taught by these climbers in 1965 ? Think of all the news routes they would have climbed. They were the some of the cream of Scottish climbing of that era . I wonder if anyone remembers climbing with them. Hamish told me some great stories of the early days of the Glencoe climbing school and the fun they had. I wonder if anyone went on a course run by them it would be great to hear from them?
Dougal Haston was one of the top local climbers of that era. He climbed with Robin Smith in Scotland and on the Eiger North Face in winter. He later went on to summit Everest , Annapurna and do many incredible routes in the Alps and overseas. Dougal died in an avalanche in The Alps.
The untimely death of Dougal Haston in 1977 robbed climbing of one of its most charismatic, controversial and enigmatic figures. A man of extremes, who managed to combine a rock star’s lifestyle with a career at the cutting edge of world mountaineering, Haston remains a cult figure whose deeds have inspired generations of climbers world-wide.
Jim Moriarity a local Scottish climber member of the Creag Du. Jim Moriarty, who died in 2005, went on to tackle climbs such as the Cassin route on the North Face of the Cima Ovest. He was one of Dougal Haston’ s early pals climbing on their local Currie Wa’s
John Harlin an American was another of that era sadly killed on the Eiger Direct when his rope broke. He was the man behind the idea the Eiger Direct in Winter an incredible climb of that era.
John Cunningham another wonderful climber from Glasgow. Bold rock climber and pushed ice climbing to new levels pushing front pointing. Worked at Glenmore Lodge. Killed on a Sea cliff in Anglesey when a student fell in. He tried to save him. When John Cunningham was swept to his death off storm-tossed Anglesey in 1980, British climbing lost one of its greatest exponents and most forceful, yet enigmatic personalities. Born in an elemental part of Glasgow in 1927, Cunningham’s life was shaped by his background in an East End tenement, a working life in Glasgow shipyards and an eventual escape to the crags and ice gullies of Scotland, the wastes of Antarctica and the peaks of the Himalayas and the Western Alps. Drawing on interviews with his contemporaries, friends in the legendary Creagh Dhu Mountaineering Club and his family, and containing previously unpublished photographs of first ascents, Creagh Dhu Climber is the story of a man whose personality and achievements continue to inspire but which have, until now, remained untold. Above all this book is a record of a way – and philosophy – of life that no longer exists.
Tom Patey a wonderful pioneer of Scottish climbing a legend in his era. A doctor who lived in Ullapool and was a huge explorer of new routes. Killed on a sea stack The Maidens up in the North Of Scotland. Tom Patey, one of Scotland’s best-known climbers, was killed on May 25th 1970 while abseiling from a sea-stack off the northern Scottish coast.
Rusty Ballie a South African climber climbed many routes including the Old Man Of Hoy. I met him in Canada where he emigrated to in the early 80’s. He was very good to us when we met him.
Comments as always welcome and if you met climbed with these folk and have any stories?
Comment – Smudge Ardgour :
“Blimey! …no need for CV’s on this one”
“I’m going to phone the Operator immediately! Edinburgh 1098” !
I was asked to repeat this article that my friend Pete wrote. It sums up one of the best call outs and results we had in my long period with Mountain Rescue. It was a huge Team effort ad always by all Agencies and a huge reminder of how not to give up.
05/03/90-07/03/90 Ben Nevis
41/155717 Huge search by Lochaber, Glencoe,LMRT, KMRT, SARDA, Helicopters for a missing venture scout found after 3 days search at 1000 metres by Leuchars Team leader.
Cas had severe frostbite and exposure, lowered 500ft to Rescue helicopter. Conditions extreme. Magnificent result for all.
The article below to me describes a Mountain Rescue incident, few will know of but it was typical of many rescues that go unreported. Five mountain Rescue Teams – Lochaber, Glencoe, RAF Kinloss, RAF Leuchars & SARDA searched for a young 17 year old who was lost alone in Ben Nevis in winter.
This was a busy time most of us had already been away on Call -outs for many days, the teams were exhausted, we had not seen our families for over a week “but the casualty must come first” we were all battered by the weather, exhausted and yet after so many incidents we all worked so hard. That was a awful winter with lots of fatalities some to folk we knew. Yet when the call came we all somehow got that extra energy to go out again into the wildest of weather.
In these days the teams were as always assisted by the RAF Wessex / Sea King helicopters flying in typical winter conditions.
This is an article written by Pete Kirkpatrick who was the Team Leader of RAF Leuchars at the time, to me it is what Mountain Rescue is about. Five Mountain Rescue Teams over 5 Days searched and this was after many days of constant call –outs.
“How could a dead person be waving at me? My eyes must be mistaken. Tiredness and the constant peering into the mist were creating false images. It could not be true, but if it was, by hell it was some surprise.
Those five days had started with the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) undergoing a normal weekend training exercise in the Arrocher Alps. During every weekend, the 6 RAF MRTs train around the hills to maintain fitness levels and expertise. The usual result is teams returning to their units, contented and weary late on a Sunday night.
This Sunday, started to change shape around Crainlarich on the journey home. Over the radio we heard of a rescue taking part on the Buachaille in Glencoe. An offer of help was made and accepted.
The incident involved a crag fast climber high on the mountain. In true good MR fashion we carried the world to the scene, in the hope it would not be used, but reluctant to ascent the mountain with hope alone. Happily, the climber was recovered quickly and assisted off the mountain. The team went to ground in the Kingshouse Hotel on the edge of the Rannoch Moor, four to a double room, one snorer per room.
Monday. The rain lashed down and the windows rattled. Inside the dining room the team tucked into a civilised breakfast, girding their loins for the drive back to Leuchars – or so we thought. Telephone call – assemble the team and report to Hamish McInnes in Glencoe.
Two overdue climbers had left yesterday for a route on Stob Coirre Nan Bieth, and had not returned. The weather was causing concern. It seemed wise to combine RAF Kinloss and Leuchars, Lochaber and Glencoe MRTs members and go and find out why?
That day the teams assisted five climbers from the mountain. Three who had never been reported missing but needed help, and the original pair who walked in uninjured having survived an enforced bivouac. The MRT workforce had put in a considerable effort due to the gale force winds, difficult ground and snow conditions. Another night in the Kingshouse was needed, too tired to go home now.
Tuesday. Another telephone call, report to the Fort William Police Station and assist in a search for a missing seventeen year old lad called Garry Smith, lost since yesterday on Ben Nevis. Quickly formulated opinions passed through the brain, but as yet not for public consumption. Yesterday’s weather, his lack of experience, the statistics of the big bad Ben – this lad was a goner.
Over 120 people swamped the mountain and helicopters scoured the visible areas. Danger spots were probed carefully and fearfully. His parents had travelled up from Manchester. This was not another lost person; it was now somebody’s son. I have a son capable of the same misguided mountain enthusiasm. (Pete’s son is the now a very well-known mountaineer he is the world famous Andy Kirkpatrick)
Mountains are there for pleasure and adventure. Epics are great if you survive. The trick is having the epic only once and learning from it. Was this lad still capable of learning?
We helped to search Five Finger Gully and expended more nervous energy than physical in the dangerous ground. In a last chance throw of the dice, a night search seemed appropriate. A small group went out again. A lone Landrover waited remained in the Glen, hopefully awaiting a positive radio message; no such call came. The searchers returned to their sleeping bags, depressed.( The teams were exhausted and many heads were down quit rightly we were all exhausted and many were getting pressure to go home and back to work)
(I was helping organising the search from Fort William Police Station with Donald Watt the Lochaber Team Leader and Pete is right this was the last day of our chance to find Gary alive. The teams were exhausted this was the last chance to find him. The family were with us things were looking bleak)
Wednesday. New search areas, but no new information. Tired hearts and legs ascended the mountain again. No stretchers were carried. Private opinions had been voiced – bodies don’t need rescuing, only finding.
My team had been tasked to search the slopes north of the main footpath above the half way Lochan. Difficult rocky ground to walk on let alone search in misty and sleety conditions. The area was finally reached and the separate parties began to slowly search across their 500ft portion of the mountain. I was in the top group and five minutes into the search I could see an arm waving from a red shape. A mixture of emotions and thoughts ran through me – relief, guilt, concern and professional questions on what to do next? Satisfaction would only be allowed if we got him off this mountain alive.
He was barely conscious and soaked through to the skin and half covered in a plastic sheet torn to shreds by his crampons. He was alive – just.
During the next 15 minutes other party members arrived, dry kit replaced wet clothing; sleeping bags, hats and gloves eventually cocooned his body. The message of ‘You’ve been found, but it’s not over, hang on, don’t give up now was firmly implanted – repeatedly!
Down below, the news of the find had revitalised everybody involved in the SAR operation. A tremendous combined ‘Will to Live’ seemed to transmit upwards.”
Incredible effort by all the teams.
(When Gary was located the radio message came in to the Police Station, the cheer that went up when we were told that Gary was still alive but in a bad way, he had a chance, I will never forget that message and the huge hug from a big burly Policeman)
Below, beneath the mist line sat the Leuchars 22 Sqn Wessex, only 60 seconds flying time away, poised, waiting for the opportunity to snatch the casualty and save him an hour of bone jarring man handling. Suddenly the mist parted and that window of opportunity appeared. Rapid plans were made between the ground party and the helicopter. A quick in and out, a difficult winching operation, pray for the break to last – let’s do it!
The helicopter closed carefully with a constant eye on the swirling mist. The winch man descended into our welcoming arms. Strops were placed. Checks were made – thumbs up.
One of the best days ever!
GO, GO, Go – gone. Gone to live another day.
As I said in the introduction it was an incredible rescue and what a result for us all. The teams all came off the hill feeling elated, Ben Nevis had shown mercy this time, Gary had hung in there and been found. It was a huge rescue attempt by all the teams and it never matters who locates the casualty we are all part of a big team. To me this was one of the best Rescues I have ever been involved in and what rescue is all about. This will be one of many stories to do the rounds at the RAF Leuchars/ Kinloss Re Union this weekend. I was in the Fort William Police Station when the news came through that he was alive. The family were about, there joy and tears were shared by all. Cheers came over the radio from all teams involved and a massive cheer in the police station said it all. Big tough Lochaber bobbies had a tear in their eye as did many of us. Words do not describe how we felt.
Thanks to Pete Kirkpatrick for permission to use his wonderful article it still makes me think of these epic call – out and the amazing people that are involved in Mountain Rescue.
“Dead Men Don’t Wave” – “The Casualty must come first” There is always hope. Please share if you feel this of interest?
2017 July – I always wondered what happend to Gary , I received this email recently
Just seen this article, Gary Smith is my brother and we will always be thankful for not giving up on him. To say it changed things in our lives is an understatement, I am a Mountain Rescue team member in my home town, Gary was a Team Member but had to leave for work commitments, he is now a father of 5 amazing children and has helped to save many lives in his job as a Charge nurse in an A&E Department, none of this would have happened without everyone out over that week.
When I was in America in Yosemite there was a superb Bus Service as cars were restricted in the park. They are well used and it great to see that at last we are trying to ensure that buses can be used in Glen Nevis. I hope it goes well. Thanks for all behind this idea.
STARTING TODAY! New bus service for Glen Nevis. Avoid the congestion, lack of parking and stress and let Shiel Buses do the driving for for you with a relaxed, scenic trip up Glen Nevis. 😀🚌
A bit of the history:
Nevis Landscape Partnership (NLP), in collaboration with Lochaber Environmental Group (LEG) and Shiel Buses, have been awarded funding from Paths for All’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund to trial a new regular bus service from the centre of Fort William along Glen Nevis.
This pilot project was developed in an effort to reduce the ever-increasing congestion in Glen Nevis, particularly during the summer season when more than 400,000 people visit the Glen. The current ‘drive, photo, leave’ phenomenon affecting many honeypot locations in Scotland, increases the use of private cars and vehicles and overwhelms the available parking. This leads to a range of environmentally damaging issues including verge side erosion and harmful pollution, and often makes a visit to the Glen stressful, devaluing the Glen Nevis experience.
By contrast this new bus service, running hourly seven days a week from May to October, will provide opportunities for the local and visiting community to truly experience Glen Nevis in a sustainable and low impact way. It will stop at points of interest and will give visitors the opportunity to explore the Glen on one ticket, providing a slower, more immersive experience. Passengers will be able to sit back and admire the views or to participate in numerous walks along the Glen, and even better, you can take your dog with you!
The first service will head up the Glen leaving Fort William Middle Street at 7:30am and continue into the early evening with the last service leaving the Lower Falls car park at 6:00pm for those wishing to take it slow or embark on more adventurous activities. The reliability and frequency of the service will eliminate the pressure of ‘clock-watching’ the car and visitors will have greater flexibility in hop off locations than the current service provides.
Kate Willis, Environmental Development Officer for LEG noted, “As the climate and ecological crisis deepens we need to significantly reduce our carbon emissions, and this project provides the opportunity to do this by making it easier to hop on a bus rather than getting in a car. We hope that residents of Fort William will take advantage of the bus service to access Glen Nevis and thank Smarter Choices Smarter Places for funding the pilot and NLP and Shiel Buses for working with us to deliver the service.”
Residents of Fort William can take advantage of a concessionary fare with a local smart card, which we hope will encourage more local people to sustainably explore the natural wilderness on their doorstep, without battling through crowds to find a parking space.
Patricia Jordan, member of the Fort William, Inverlochy & Torlundy Community Council, says. “The new bus service is very much needed to ease congestion in the Glen, and I would like to congratulate NLP, LEG and Shiel Buses on securing this funding.”
The bus will launch its first journey on the 4th May and will run daily until 4th October. This exciting project will complement the wider objective to tackle the congestion and pollution in Glen Nevis, including the installation of bike racks and shelters along the Glen, funded by Cycling Scotland, to encourage cycling through the beautiful routes that Glen Nevis has to offer.
Lizzie Cooper, Manager of the Nevis Landscape Partnership said “It’s great to be working with LEG and Shiel Buses to provide this pilot service. I hope it will be well used by locals and visitors and that the feedback from passengers can inform future service improvements up Glen Nevis.”
Comment J Glennie “
Brilliant idea! The car parking spaces up the glen must be filling up fast this summer so this should help.
Also, last time we stayed at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel I took the train to Fort William and walked back to the hostel. This bus would cut out most of the road walking from that trip 🙂”
My friends Babs her pal Kay and “young Derek” aged 79 were going for a walk to Ben Rinnes yesterday. I thought I might be able to meet them at 1000 after my hospital appointment in Elgin. It would be good to catch up and the forecast was excellent. Ben Rinnes is a lovely hill that I often climb it’s a busy local mountain much loved and cared for by the “Friends of Ben Rinnes “ They look after the mountain and the path. It is only a short drive from my house and is well loved.
As always it’s a busy hill many taking advantage of the weather. I just got there as they were setting off. I was ready to go parking was tight but I got in.
It’s a great path and Babs and Kay were soon chatting as were myself and Derek he was so pleased to be out on the hills again it’s so good for everyone after the Covid shutdown.
It’s a steep pull to the summit but the path is good and busy. Lots of families out and it was great to see. The views of Moray were wonderful the fields and now the many wind farms and the Cairngorms with snow still lingering. There are small trees growing even near the summit. They must have a hard life here. Also the Cairngorm granite tors that are near the summit have wonderful shapes and look sculptured. It’s a grand wander from the steep path to the summit plateau where the views are outstanding.
The summit was quiet and we had lunch and then went to have a look at the remains of the aircraft that crashed a few hundred feet from the summit. This side of the hill is covered in cloudberry and walking is wonderful as the ground is so soft and springy. There are also some hares here that I see most visits.
A low-growing relation of the raspberry (although not as sweet as that species), the cloudberry was a traditional food in parts of the Highlands and was well known to the Gaels, as is attested by a considerable number of mountains named after it, ranging from Stirlingshire to Aberdeenshire.
The Gaelic for the fruit is oighreag, and the plant is known as lus nan oighreag. Places like Meall nan Oighreag and Càrn Oighreag were recognised as areas for collecting the fruit (they ripen from deep red to orange in autumn). Keep your eye open for them in the hills – and here’s a little project for a keen person – why not see if the mountains named for them still carry the species in abundance today?
Even a few hundred feet away from the path it’s so quiet and today so warm. It is a place so covered in Cloudberry and peaceful you may hear folk on the summit of the wind is right. Today it was so warm and hard to believe a tragic aircraft crash occurred here.
Ben Rinnes was the scene of a terrible plane crash on 14th November 1943. A Wellington Bomber HF746 of No20 Operational Training Unit, based at Lossiemouth, crashed into Ben Rinnes whilst on a navigational exercise. Both the crew were killed. A former member of the ground crew who went to the site on the hill shortly after the crash described it as “the most complete burn-out he had ever seen”.
I regularly visit this place it’s not far from the summit and have taken so many others to visit and pay respects.
We traversed back to the path from the crash site amazed at the scrawny fir trees struggling to grow on the ridge. It was then back down the path meeting lots of folk heading up.
We were soon down at the car and I only picked up one face mask the path was litter free. There was no dog poo bags about as there were on another trip. It’s good to see folk are looking after our wee Corbett. We are lucky to have this on our doorstep.
We said farewell I went back via Grantown to visit a pal and we had a good chat. It was then home stopping for fish and chips and the football on tv after a shower.
Today’s tip : Be careful with the sun please use sunblock drink plenty of fluids and a hat . sunstroke is not nice.
It took many years for me to realise how much the families who supported us on Mountain Rescue give to us. When I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue in 1972 the commitment was three weekends a month. The weekend started after work on Friday night we left at 1800 and were away till Sunday night sometimes very late home. Looking back it was crazy there were no mobile phones and few telephones in the remote areas to stay in touch with families and loved ones. How did families cope especially those with young families. How selfish were we?
Things did change we had Christmas parties for the kids at RAF Valley in North Wales in the late 70’s. Then later on we would have a families weekend annually where we got the families, partners to a Base Camp.
I remember in Aviemore getting a call out and I was left with all the families whilst the troops went on the hill.
We will never repay the support we were given and even today take this for granted. The families and partners are the real heroes of all our voluntary agencies!
I find nowadays that after a day on the hill I enjoy a “recovery wander” in the local area if I am away from home. I was at Arnisdale this weekend on Beinn Sgreathill and we had to be in Inverness to pick up my friends car from the garage in the late afternoon. In the old days I would have been up another hill next day but I am now appreciating other places to visit thanks to my friend Kalie who knows the West coast well.
Kalie loves this area as I do and we stopped near Glenelg for a wander at Sandaig.
From Walk Highlands “A short walk to visit the beautiful and atmospheric Sandaig bay. This peaceful spot was immortalised as Camusfearna in ‘Ring of Bright Water’ – the famous book by Gavin Maxwell telling of his life with his pet otters at this lonely spot.” It’s a stunning place with magical views a coral beach and some incredible history.
It’s a lovely wander down to the beach. There is a forestry track to follow it was sunny and let the legs recover from Saturdays efforts on the hill. We wandered slowly even Islay (the Collie) taking it easy in the sun. The views opened out and we were passed by a couple cycling on the forest track and later on. Family heading down to the beach.
We had lunch by the sea it was so peaceful (no others though) and a couple of boats came in to visit the Islands. The tide was in so we could not walk across to the islands yet it was perfect there. The Views of the Loch and the peace just the water and where we sat down only a few folk.
What a place to write a book Gavin Maxwell had picked a perfect spot. I was given his book as a young lad and loved it I have reordered it and it will be great to re read this classic . I must go back again soon and spend more time and take it all in.
Coming back uphill helped stretch the legs we followed the old path. Lots of memories for Kalie. The ferns were high at the start and I had a few ticks when I got home and we were soon back on the forestry track.
Kalie had many tales of the local area and the people the characters some who knew Gavin Maxwell all these years ago. She also loves otters and wild life and it was great listening to her stories.
We headed back over the Rattagan pass had great views saw few cars or people. The views of the 5 sisters from the high point always excites me.
We were soon on the road home the road was busy with constant traffic going to Skye (it must be full) Our journey back was great even Loch Ness was not busy and we were soon in Inverness back to the real world .
Today’s tips : lots of ticks about be careful and it was very warm so dehydration can really effect you. Carry lots of fluid and be aware of ticks .
Although ticks were once regarded as nothing more than a bloodthirsty nuisance, increasing awareness of Lyme Disease and its potentially long-lasting effects means people are more concerned about ticks, how to avoid them, and how best to deal with them.
What are ticks?
The tick is an invertebrate related to spiders. There are over twenty species in Britain related to various different mammal or bird hosts. They carry a number of diseases, the most well known of which is Lyme disease.
They can be found all across Scotland and particularly in the wetter west, in woodlands, moorlands and long grass.
Scientists recorded more than 800,000 ticks in just a short stretch of thick vegetation at the side of a path. They are active all through the year, but particularly in summer.
The tick has three life stages: larva, nymph and adult, taking between one and three years to complete a life-cycle. Each stage requires a single blood meal to grow. It is when they are feeding that ticks can pass on infections and bacteria.
Both larval and nymph stages of the ‘sheep tick’, the most common species found in Scotland, are the ones most commonly encountered by walkers. They climb to the top of foliage and attach to passing animals, generally small mammals, but they will also feed on humans if they get the chance. Climbers on sea cliffs can be at risk of encountering tick species, like the ‘seabird tick’ too.
The tick’s bite is painless and some ticks can be as small as a poppy seed or spec of dirt, so it can be easy to overlook them. A tick will generally remain attached until it is gorged with blood, increasing greatly in size, before dropping off. This can take between a few days and 2 weeks.
Top tips for avoiding ticks
When you are out and about in the hills try to:
Avoid walking through long grass and areas of thick foliage – consider keeping to paths and tracks in heavily infested areas.
Leave no exposed skin on your legs, feet, ankles or arms – wear long sleeves, tuck trousers into your socks or wear gaiters, choose fabric which is thickly woven.
Spray insect repellent on clothing and socks.
Wear light-coloured clothing so you can see the dark ticks and remove them – inspect clothing often to remove the ticks.
Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks when you get home, especially your hairline, navel, groin, arm pits, between toes, behind the ears and knees.
How to remove a tick…
Firstly, don’t panic if you find an embedded tick – it’s most likely that it’s not infected, and if you remove it within 24 hours it is unlikely to have passed on the bacteria.
The most reliable method of removing a tick without leaving any remnants in your skin is to purchase a tick hook.
Don’t use a lighted cigarette or match or essential oils to encourage the tick to fall off and don’t squeeze the tick (especially one that is engorged with blood) as this will inject the fluid in the tick back into your body.
Lyme disease – what is it?
Early treatment with antibiotics is required in order to be effective in lessening the short-term symptoms and the long-term complications. Full recovery is possible, but treatment in the later stages of infection is more difficult and relapses are common.
After several months of being infected, about ½ of those treated with antibiotics develop recurrent attacks of painful and swollen joints (arthritis) that last from a few days to a few months. The arthritis can shift from joint to joint, the knee being most commonly affected. About 10-20% of infected patients will develop chronic arthritis.
Research indicates that the variant found in Scotland is different to that found elsewhere in the UK. The Scottish variant seems to cause more neurological problems with symptoms ranging from stiff neck, severe headache, meningitis, temporary paralysis of the facial muscles (Bell’s Palsy), numbness and poor motor coordination.
I had been asked by my friend Kalie to come on a “Last Munro party” of one of her pals to Arnisdale to climb Beinn Sgritheall. It’s a big hill that dominates the village and from here you can see the magnificent Knoydart Munros across Loch Hourn.
This hill is a place of many memories it was my second day on the hill with the RAF Kinloss MRT in Feb 1972 when we did a directisima from the road. I was just a young 18 year old and then about 12 of us had tea with “Willie the Post” after the hill. He is a great character even then and now just reaching 90 I met him this weekend . I will never forget his kindness and help on Rescues over the years. He was with the local Glenelg Mountain Rescue team and always helping us.
Beinn Sgritheall Is a grand mountain it dominates the village and I climbed it several time’s in winter and on my West to East in winter 1978. It was a long walk from Broadford on Skye after crossing from the wee ferry at Glenelg and heading into the big hills and the snow. We were young then and had little idea of what we had taken on.
It’s a viewpoint of excellence and has a myriad of flowers on the hill.
On the way there I stopped near Loch Clunnie at Clunnie to clean a wee memorial just above to main road to a young student John Sandeman who lost his life at New year in 1960. It’s a sad tale as he was not located for months later far from his point last seen. My blog has a big piece on the tragedy.
Kintail always excites me it’s so green just now and the hills rise steeply from the road. My first view in Feb 72,was in darkness travelling in the back of an open 4 tonner with the team. It was freezing pitch dark but next day we awoke to the hills plastered with snow and the Sailing Ship in the bay.
From Kintail it’s a great drive over the Ratagan pass to Glenelg and Arnisdale. I also walked back in the 70’s from Glenelg from a Ceilidh just getting back for breakfast and a big hill day. This is a place of huge memories.
From Walk Highlands “Our hill Beinn Sgritheall gives a steep and punishing ascent; the effort is well worthwhile however as this is one of the finest viewpoints in the Highlands, with a fantastic outlook over dramatic Loch Hourn to Knoydart and the Cuillin of Skye.
The summit of Beinn Sgritheall has a triangulation pillar that is now at a strange angle at 974 metres, and on a clear day has one of the most magnificent panoramas you’ll ever see to me. The view of Loch Hourn now being matched by a fabulous outlook over Skye and the Cuillin ridge. If the weather permits, you’ll want to linger here and drink it all in. Most guide books recommend the descent down the west ridge of the mountain. This is rocky at the top but not difficult, and has a couple of easier sections to relieve the general steepness. Continue along the ridge to the small lochan at NG816126. From here a steep path takes you through ferns and trees to the road. It’s hard on the knees after a day on the hill. So we had a plan now and could see the hill from our accommodation.
I did not sleep to well maybe I had eaten too many cherries but we met some of the group at Arnisdale for a slow walk. We hoped to be ahead of the ultra runners and fitter members of the group that were coming. They had camped near the Clunnie for the night.
The path for our Munro starts in the village and is unrelenting, winding it’s way up to the “ Beallach of pain. “ from sea level it’s a big pull.
I was aware it’s very steep sided and I remember in winter being wary of how steep it is snow covered.
We met Lorraine a friend of Kalies at the village and a few others including Mum and Dad of the Munro Queen. It was so laid back but look and a few others arrived and we set off and steadily gained height. It was warm but no midges. We stopped a few times for drinks but all were going well and near the Beleach we saw the runners and others coming. It was great seeing folk happy to be out on the hills on such a day the weather was magnificent. Many had not seen each other since the lockdown so there was much chatter. What a group so many runners, lovers of the hills and so much chatter a bunch of friends enjoying their day.
From the Beallach the path is steep and full of scree it does look intimidating but we wound our way up slowly and we could now see the Kintail hills and the islands. It was a going to be a grand day. I took many photos of the views and the group.
On the first summit we had a break met up and had some food. It was perfect weather. One of the group even got his stove out and had fried “tattie scones” a first for me to see on a summit .
From here it’s a lovely ridge walk to the Munro where we waited just before for the “Munro Queen” Alex to the summit. Her Mum, Dad and all those who could manage were with her it was a special occasion.
What views we had all day. Ever changing it was one of these days.
It was then a party on the summit with lots going on. Perfect weather, company and a superb mountain.
The sea the Islands and the hills made it so worth the effort.
The usual photos were taken and everyone was happy. Myself and Kalie went ahead on the way off as not to rush yet we could have stayed on the summit for ever. We missed another group with someone else completing their Munro’s and a few stayed to share their day.
We came down the West ridge ahead of the group getting overtaken by a few runners and Lorraine who was working next and had to get back. We ambled down looking down the steep sides at the gullies screes and steep gullies.
It’s a scramble down the road the path muddy and slippy in places but no midges. As Kalie says an easy walk along the road but it was very hot back to Arnisdale.I wish I had left my bike here though.
Looking back ; What a fun day I met so many lovely folk congratulation to Alex on completion and to all the many characters. I usually like going on the hill in a small group or myself but this was magic.
Today’s tip : make sure you rehydrate on the hill I got cramp as we stopped for a coffee and cake with Kalies pals in Arnisdale. A Bannana is good to prevent this as is a bit of salt. I slept well that night and the wind kept the midges away.
I just found this postcard sent from my mate Mark Sinclair ( Cheeky) . It was posted in November 1983 after an ascent of the Diamond Couloir on Mount Kenya. He climbed it with Malcolm Taylor who was a New Zealand fast jet pilot. They had just returned from out winter trip to Canada climbing many of the classic routes and were both climbing well.
The card says
“Well youngster what a story I’ve got to tell you. I lost about a stone living on boiled rice for 9 days. After that I told Malay I was heading back to civilisation for a steak. Anyway we did the Diamond Couloir, quite hard touching Scottish 5 at 17000 ft.“
The Diamond Couloir’s first ascent was claimed by Phil Snyder and Thumbi Mathenge in 1973, avoiding the steeper high section by a ramp on the left. The difficult upper section, named the ‘Headwall’, was pioneered in 1975 by Yvon Chouinard and Michael Covington, who helped to establish the Diamond Couloir as one of the world’s greatest ice climbs.
For many years, the Couloir attracted climbers from all over the world. However, over the last 15 years the line has hardly seen any ascents and the climbing community had largely written this gem off as a victim of global warming and shifting weather patterns. The top section remains intact, but the lower half is the problem due to its melting ice and dangerous rubble shoot.
Sadly Mark was killed along with his pal Neil on Lochnagar after a fall on Parallel B Gully in March 1995.
Officers in Fort William are appealing for information to help trace a woman reported missing in the Lochaber area.
Sarah Buick (24), an experienced walker from Dundee, was last known to be, as pictured, at the Summit of Ben Nevis around 5am on Tuesday, 22 June. She has not been seen or heard from since and there is growing concern for her welfare.
Sarah walked to the summit from the Lower Falls area of Glen Nevis, to the South of Ben Nevis, but may have walked to other locations after her summit of Ben Nevis, or intended to return using a similar route to descend to Glen Nevis.
She is described as being around 5ft 3ins tall, of a slim build with long brown hair. At the time she went missing she was wearing a light green jacket and carrying an orange rucksack.
Inspector Nick Hough of Fort William Police Office said: “As time goes on we are becoming increasingly concerned for Sarah. She is an experienced walker and often makes trips alone, but it is very unlike her to be out of contact with friends and family for this length of time.
“We are appealing to anyone who may have been in the Ben Nevis or Glen Nevis area over the last 36 hours and has seen anything which may help our searches to please get in touch.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting incident 2741 of 22 June.
I have just had a lovely day with my Grandkids, my stepdaughter and Dave it was a day I will never forget. They all made me so happy and showed me so much love, laughter and kindness. Its even more important these days. We had a great lunch for Father’s Day and so many laughs. I am so lucky to have them all in my life. I wrote this piece a few years ago and memories came flooding back of how incredible parents they were. My Dad was a Church of Scotland Minister and I was a wild child. Not uncommon for a ministers son.
My Dad was a minister in Ayr he was a “Fire and Brimstone minister” a tee – totaller. We had a great childhood though little money but my Dad loved sport, football and the mountains. He was a dedicated Church Of Scotland Minister unlike many Ministers of today he was always out visiting his people and my Mum brought us up all five kids. Dad had a huge faith gave a tenth of his salary to the Church Ministers were poorly paid in these days and Mum was always worried about money and being in a tied house.
I was a bit of a wild child as the Ministers son maybe it was because you got some grief which was usual for a son of the Manse! I was always playing up and getting into many scrapes. Dad was very strict and I needed it but looking back he gave me a great life. The rest of the family were well – behaved and as the youngest of the family with three sisters and one brother I was spoiled by them all and often in trouble.
Dad and Mum gave me a love of the mountains and sport and we used to go to all of the Ayr United games home and away. Dad always wore his dog collar and this often got us into the games for free. I would vanish among the crowd and Dad and Mum would be in the stand. (Mum was always worried I would get arrested) He had a booming voice which I have and it like me could be heard all around the ground and was a bit of a local character.
The Church was his life and he worked so hard we hardly saw him. He was an old-fashioned minister who visited his people and was a true hard worker and was always there when his congregation needed him. He was a very talented runner and won the Arthur’s Seat Race and several occasions a fit man playing tennis right into his later life. His best friend at University died as an alcoholic that put him against alcohol all his life.
It was in the Mountains he spent his early days in the 1930’s at Loch Eil in the West Coast as a student Minister visiting the far-flung parishes in Glendessary and about, small Churches with great people. He was looked after by the Head Keeper Cameron Of Loch Eil who carried all the heavy sacrament communion bits and pieces of gear for my Dad minister to some far-flung parishes. They would do a few Munro s after the services, he loved these days. He never forgot and always remembered Cameron and his care and loved the mountains and we had some great days out. It was in the hills that I really started to get to know my Dad and when I joined the RAF and joined the RAF Mountain Rescue he was happy.
We managed a few great days in our amazing Galloway Hills, The Merrick, Corserine and Back Hill of the Bush and of course Arran were spent so many holidays. We had so many great days on the Ridge, Goatfell, A’Chir and the other great peaks. We all went as a family and had such holidays, huge days 12 hours at times and fish and chips on the way home. These are days I will never forget. The family holidays swapping manses in the Highlands were great fun and more big days on the mountains. He would tell me tales of the hills, the murder on Goatfell in Arran and of the plane crashes in Arran and Galloway. We met Hamish MacInnes in Glencoe when we were climbing Bidean Nam Bian and got lost. Hamish was up and heard us and took us of the hill and gave us a tea in his wee house. When I told him years later I was that wee boy he remembered it all and that Dad corresponded with him and always prayed for him on his expeditions. Hamish told me many prayed for him that was one way he lived to 90.
He never wore any kit a jumper as his spare kit and old pair of shoes and trousers, he wore the dog collar at times to get us up Estate tracks.It worked as he was always allowed to park and we often got tea and scones after a day out. I had a plan to go round the big Hotels in the Highlands, with him the Clachaig in Glencoe, Kintail Lodge and Skye and do the big hills in comfort. Sadly it was not to be as my Mum died suddenly of leukaemia and Dad took it very hard. He was never the same and he collapsed in the pulpit during Easter week Services and never really recovered he was in hospital till he died. He was all there mentally but the stroke never allowed him to get out of hospital, it was a sad time for all. The last time I saw him I took my dog that he loved into the hospital he said he wanted to see Teallach and I was to get out on the hills and enjoy life. I wanted to say so much to him that day as here he was that strong man dying. I have mentioned before it took me years to grieve for both Mum and Dad. I was hardened to death with my work in Mountain Rescue only saw them once a year as I was always chasing my selfish dreams. We spoke often on the phone and if we were on a big call out he would pray for us in church we had a good back up! You are who you are and family makes you who you are, I was very lucky to have had such a Dad and Mum, special people who you have no clue at the time what you owe them.
In the end Money means little, love and care is far more precious, I was a wild teenager and yet they still loved me and did their best, I will never forget that. He gave me a strength that got me out of some situations like when I collapsed in a lay by in the annual Carrick Hill race 13 miles and over these wee hills. I was very young Mum and Dad were supporting, Mum wanted to put me in the car as I was exhausted. Dad gave me some strong words I got up and completed the race which we won. These words were always with me on my many adventures when running on empty on the mountains. On father’s day and every day give Mum and Dad your love and tell them how much you care for them.
Hopefully I have some of my Dad’s qualities that have stood me in good stead and I will never forget these early adventures in my life.
ROCKFALL WARNING: Anyone heading for the Glenshiel area this weekend or in the weeks ahead should be aware of a recent collapse of a lower section of the cliff which forms the south wall of the Forcan ridge. It was reported my Mountaineering Scotland director Alistair Todd, who said: “It won’t affect anyone planning an ascent of the Ridge, but it is a significant hazard for anyone ascending or descending either the Saddle or Sgurr na Sgine. “As a result of the collapse a 10 – 15m section of the path, which runs alongside the old boundary wall, has been obliterated by a large number of unstable large boulders. “The path can still be used, however walkers should pass through quickly to minimise the danger from further rockfall coming from above.”
The rockfall occurred at grid reference NG 9444 1298 and is shown on the map, with the green line denoting the normal walkers ascent/descent route and red arrow showing location of rockfall.
Scottish Mountain Rescue Association of Mountaineering Instructors Mountain Training
Many will notice public toilets are being closed due to lack of money as one who travels all over Scotland I have noticed this and have been thankful to find some still open, thank you Nairn. My friend on the West Coast sent me an article on toilets up North. I have already seen what happens and where folk will relieve themselves outside a shut toilet, surely not the answer?
Its a need we all have especially as we get older. Needing to visit a toilet!
I love my country but after years of Council cuts due to various political parties not raising Council taxes there are very few toilets that are run or open by the Council’s. I love the Highlands and was up in Torridon the other day. It was an early start and I was pleased to see the toilet at Kinlochewe open. It is looked after paid for by the community and rely on donations to keep it going. I always donate when I use it, I wonder how many do?
All over Scotland this is happening it’s now the accepted norm. I wonder what all those who visit these areas think? In my mind it’s a sad state of affairs and will only get worse?
What’s the solution folk complain about using the outdoors as a toilet but surely those little Communities need help and it is a basic human right to have a basic toilet facility in these places.
I am sure if some of the Executives who run these Councils on big wages took a pay cut or they looked at some of their expenses money could be found from somewhere? What is the Scottish Government policy on this they have a policy for nearly everything so why not the toilets maybe they could all agree on it. I want my Country to be place where all are welcome and a basic thing like toilets are available for all.
Yet some places are getting better I was in Glen Affric a few years ago and there was a new toilet run by the Forestry Commission and cleaned daily by a lovely lassie. It was a joy to use and the visitors were amazed. If it can be done in a remote Glen by some visionary Forestry Commission why not in the towns villages and tourists areas.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Codehelps ensure that everyone has statutory access rights to most of Scotland’s outdoors. With regards to pooping outdoors, it says “If you need to urinate, do so at least 30 metres from open water or rivers and streams. If you need to defecate, do so as far away as possible from buildings, from open water or rivers and streams, and from any farm animals. Bury faeces in a shallow hole and replace the turf.”
That makes sense, doesn’t it? So for wild peeing, don’t wee into streams. Don’t poo near anything that something might stand in, slip on or eat (urgh) your deposits. Digging a hole to go in is the best idea, if you can. Then just cover up your droppings and walk away whistling at a jobby well done.
Some even say that if you have a dog poo bag, you could poo into that, then perhaps double-bag it for everyone’s sake before disposing of it correctly. If you try this, do let us know how you get on…
“Any chance of a day out on the hill” I get these questions now and again. I have a friend who joined the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team in the 80’s as a very young lad when I was Team Leader. Brian “Tommy” Pilling like many of his era served a hard apprenticeship in the team. We had to be hard on the new members it was not an easy time big Callouts, wild weather and of course Lockerbie. The main thing was to get the troops fit! The way forward was Big hill days all the classic ridges and many Tommy became like many a great team member. He always keep going , always smiled and was a bit wild but we all were even me.
This was my first Team as Team Leader and I had plans. Looking back you have a huge bond with these young folk they gave so much as did there families.
We lost touch over the years as folks do but met up for his 50th birthday a few years ago and I had a great time with his wife Mandy on the Cairngorms.
He told me he was up West on his own and fancied a day on the hill. His family are grown up and he had some time and Mandy said go for it.
When Tommy called a few weeks ago I had not been feeling great but said I would try and see how I felt nearer the time. He would have been happy for a coffee but said he had rarely been up in Torridon. It was a place he wanted to come to. He had plans.
Looking forward at the weather it was going to get very windy in the afternoon so we met at 0730 for a day on Beinn Eighe. One of the best mountain days in the UK.
Tommy had not done Beinn Eighe before and to me it’s a wonderful mountain. The joy he enthused all day on this mountain was so invigorating. Due to the weather forecast I decided to get the ridge and it’s two Munro’s done before the weather broke later in the day. We met at the little car park at Glen Torridon and headed up Corrie Loaigh. I know this Corrie well as we used it a lot for winter training with the Torridon Mountain Rescue Team. It’s a good path and we chatted all the way up enjoying the shelter from the wind. Tommy had such enthusiasm and I felt stronger, still slow but I was enjoying his banter and his stories. He is a fierce Burnley supporter and I caught up with his stories and the update on his family. He was so proud of them all and it cheered me up.
All the way up onto the ridge the wild flowers were out. Orchids, cloudberry and so much more to see. The livid mosses so green and the wee burn so clear make this a special place. The top of the Corrie is steep and in winter care has to be taken here. We got on the ridge and Tommy put on his Balaclava and I another top as we headed to our first Munro Spidean Coire nan Clach (Peak of the Corrie of stones) it was windy so we did not hang about.
From the ridge we are in a different world looking into the gullies wild Corries and shattered pinnacles that make every view different. I was feeling good and was soon along the ridge. We met a couple enjoying there day sheltering from the wind and we had a chat.
It was then on through this incredible ridge walk. I was still feeling strong and despite the wind was warm. I had all my clothes on I was glad I had put a bit more in my bag.
I love looking in these wild Corries and we saw an Eagle! The day got better.
We took the traverse path along below the ridge. It’s now well marked we were out the wind at last.
The Celtman ultra marathon was here at the weekend this hill is part of a huge day. The path brings you out at the descent to the Beleach to Coire Mhic Fearaichar a gully that care has to be taken.
We left our bags at the beleach and headed out to our second Munro. We watched the weather and had great views of the the wonderful Cathedral that is the Triple Buttress. We ambled along getting great views seeing a magnificent panorama of mountains Lochans and wild space.
As we reached the summit the rain started and the wind got up. We headed back to the beleach and the gully descent. It’s loose in places and I always hug the right hand side. There can be stonewall from other groups but we were on our own.
I was still feeling good my pacer Poles excellent and I took care on the now wet rock. We got down just as a party we’re starting down so we were well away from the rockfall. The Celtman uses this descent on the race and they run down the gully. My day for this is over but I was moving ok.
I had a wee surprise as Tommy had wanted to visit the Lancaster Crash site so we went of and traversed in to let Tommy see the scale of the area. This crash means so much to me and I have written so many blogs on it. A few years ago we put a new slate memorial up and I wanted to see how it was faring on this remote site? It was also 70 years since the crash and in 1951 70 years on.
The weather was pretty wild now heavy rain and gusty winds . We saw a few heading down but few visit this place. How much they miss this site is such a part of the mountain.
Tommy was amazed at the amount of the wreckage and the back drop of the wet, black triple Buttress made this a somber visit. We spent time here saw the family of deer nearby and headed down into the heavy rain. I thought of my old pal Joss Gosling who was on the Call out in 1951 and recovered the crew over that awful winter. I always think of the crew who all died here.
The walk off is superb even in bad weather it got gusty and we nearly got blown over. There was still views but it was head down as the wind blew. I was still feeling good and we found some shelter and I needed some food.
We kept going and got a battering in the wind. It was really wet now but eventually we got down. Tommy was chuffed as I was it was a great day. He offered to take me for a meal and sadly o needed to get home. The drive went well and I was still feeling good.
Being out on the hills is my life. I may be slow but what a place to be how good it is for my well being. How I needed that day, thanks Tommy for a great day.
Beinn Eighe “The Triple Buttress”
Unseen from the road.
Majestic cliffs are hidden by ridges and wild corries.
A long walk in, views expand as we climb.
Liathach, brooding watches our progress from afar.
A familiar family of deer by the boulders,
They have been there for many years and are friends.What have they seen?
The views of moor and lochans,Waterfalls sparkle in the sun.
At last, the lochan.
Then Cathedral like, great cliffs glisten in the snow.
Time and weather sculptured, wreckage glints in the sun.
This is a wonderful poignant place.
This Torridonian giant
Heavy Whalley March 2011
Tommy – get these Poles out and use them. They will be worth it. Keep loving the mountains and keep looking after Mandy and your family,
I love Scotland but it’s so painful being a Scottish supporter. Yesterday we lost three one to Croatia. I thought we played okay though. Yet Croatia were a different class when it came to the crunch. It would have meant so much to out wee country especially just now.
It’s always hard being a Scotland supporter but I think we will have a good future with some of these young players.
My brother who passed away recently would have been upset as like me he was an ardent footy fan. Never mind maybe one day.
Lots of banter from my English pals all the best to you. I am off to cry now !
It’s great to see that this long awaited book is coming out. I have my copy is ordered !
From Scottish Mountaineering Press “The Fox of Glencoe chronicles the adventures of the legendary Hamish MacInnes and his achievements in the field of mountaineering. It is now available for pre-order, with delivery expected by the end of July.
Throughout this rich collection of tales, Hamish’s unorthodox character and pragmatic approach to risk and loss are conveyed with wry, elegant style, offering a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest mountaineers of our time.
Few people cram as much into a lifetime as Hamish did, and these memoirs reflect his restless curiosity and ability to marshal loyalty and support for the most outlandish schemes. The result is an eclectic array of tales that include youthful and historic first ascents, a disorganised attempt on Everest with only £40 and a borrowed tent; hunting for treasure in South America; dangling film stars from DIY contraptions off the North Face of the Eiger; hot air ballooning off Ben Nevis; and much else besides. Tenacious and inventive by nature, Hamish also committed much of his life to developing modern alpinism and promoting mountain safety and rescue. His legacy is vividly brought to life in this collection of unseen and retold stories, images and additional narratives from some of his closest friends.
At 368 pages long, this colour-illustrated hardback is available for £30, with the option to purchase a special slipcase edition for £40. We also have 50 numbered fine-art pencil and wash prints of Hamish, which are combined with a special edition of the book, for £50.
All profits from the Scottish Mountaineering Press go to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, a Scottish-registered charity who provide grants to support the Scottish mountains and the communities who enjoy them.”
Well done the Scottish Mountain Press Hamish I am sure would be pleased !
Since the start of the Celtman I was involved in the safety cover with Torridon MRT and helped with others and added a few points over the years. It was amazing when it started and that was an eye opening day for many.
I remember coming off the hill after midnight it was a long day escorting some very tired athletes of the hill. Lots of lessons were learned. Many things stick in my mind of these early days: the wonderful people involved. All those connected with the race the organisation and the volunteers. Those in the race always thank you on the hill from the elite runners to those doing their first race. The banter and friendship is overwhelming. Enjoy the event on Saturday, stay safe and I hope the weather is fair. Torridon MRT have always been the main safety cover on the hill and they have a unique relationship with the event organisers.
The ninth edition of the CELTMAN! Extreme Scottish Triathlon, part of the XTRI World Tour, will take place on June 12th 2021 in Wester Ross, Scotland. Centred around the stunning Torridon mountains we will take you on an adventure unlike any other. Make no mistake – when they say this race is extreme they mean it.
Swim 3.4 K in Loch Shieldaig
Since 2012 the water in Loch Shieldaig has been below the seasonal average. This appears to be an ongoing trend.
The extreme nature of the temperatures led us to shorten the swim course from 3.8K to 3.4K. Even with this shortened distance the athletes suffered badly from the cold.
In 2013 a severe storm added to the drama with strong Southerlys pushing the competitors off course.
We strongly advise cold water training for this race and to wear a heatseeker vest under your wetsuit.
Ride 200K on incredible Highland roads
The stunning CELTMAN! 200K bike route takes you along some historic single lane roads and wide open highland A roads.
Although we do not have any mountain passes to boast of the route includes 2000 metres of climbing and being coastal is affected greatly by our varied weather.
It is common to find a strong headwind on the last third of the course, just when you thought you could relax!
Run 42K over two Munros
The CELTMAN! run is unsurpassed for it’s challenging nature and beauty.
In Scotland any mountain over 3000 ft (914.4 metres) is classed as a Munro. You will attempt two of these during the race on the Beinn Eighe range.
Spidean Coire nan Clach (‘Peak of the Corrie of Stones’ in Scottish Gaelic), is the highest point on the main ridge itself. It stands at a height of 993m. You do not go to the absolute summit of this peak due to the technicality of the climb but you go as far as the trig point.
Ruadh-stac Mòr (‘Big Red Stack’ in Scottish Gaelic) is on one of the spurs off the main ridge of Beinn Eighe and stands at a height of 1,010m.
Weather permitting (it’s often cloudy) you will have the most incredible vistas.
My days of helping with the safety cover are over. Yesterday I drove over to help my friend Kalie who has a competitor staying with here.
On the way I met two young lads Ex RAF MRT who are doing the race we had a great catch up.
The area is full of competitors and supporters. It was a slow drive round. The weather looks fair and hopefully it will all go well.
This morning poor Kalie was up to do breakfast for her athletes at 0200 and by 0230 they were gone. There day is going to be busy. There is a little cloud on the hill but no dreaded midges and it’s not to warm. They will be on the swim now, then the huge 200 k bike ride and the 45 k run over the hills. There hardy.
I hope everyone is fine and has a safe race. Just to finish is some achievement. Good luck to all and two other friends Scotty Shareman and Al Swadel.
To all the Organisers, Locals, Marshall’s and Torridon MRT thanks for all your efforts. I hope the 9 th Celtman Extreme Triathlon goes well.
We were on our first winter traverse West to East of Scotland. We had done a North to South a year earlier and John Hinde one of our mentors had said “if you think your fit try one unsupported in winter” . His words still resound “December with limited daylight would test you three. We were young fit invincible and cocky. “ The Three were myself Terry Moore and Jim Morning.
The gear was simple in these days , basic maps and long days with wet gear bothy to bothy setting off and arriving in the dark. Yet we had a secret weapon the new Helly Hansen Fleeces . What an improvement they were what an investment.
We were on our last week a crazy journey that started in Skye. Blown of the Skye ridge with only 1 Munro done. Then the snows came for the rest of the three weeks. In the last week after Ben Nevis big 4 then the it was the plan to climb all the Mamores . We had been on the go for 10 days had all types of weather it was the hardest journey we had ever done. The Mamores was to be the hardest day the 11 Munro’s even then a test of all your skills. Not easy when you add on big rucksacks and 4 days food. This day in winter is so underestimated it can be Alpine but what a day.
So we set off laden with food for and kit . That day we only managed 9 Munro’s that was crazy enough. Then it was the long walk to the bothy for the night. The bothy was at Luibeilt. Yet after getting there we forded the river to the nearby Meannanach bothy. We were soaked the river was high but we had to get shelter.
We were soaked cold and hungry. We had a system every night: One would get the stove going with soup or tea and the boys would change. Then They would get sorted.
The bothy was dark as hell freezing cold and the stove was lit and the brew boiling. We had a few candles the bothy was bleak. It was freezing, damp and wee just wanted to eat and get in our sleeping bags. Over in a corner was a load of wood. Jim and Terry got the fire going and the room lit up. The wet clothes were put near the fire and then we heard a rustle. In a far corner was a man who had been there since we arrived. We never noticed him! He had a knife and was sharpening a stick. He was not happy we were burning what seemed all the wood. It was very creepy. He sat on the shadows as the firelight room with his knife. I offered him a brew but he hardly spoke. Yet he told me enough that he had been staying here for a few weeks. He seemed troubled. In these days the bothies were very quiet at these time’s of year in these days.
We were exhausted had a big day tomorrow heading for Beinn Alder 4 Munro’s so we needed sleep. I told him we would be away early and gave him some of my emergency chocolate. He was still carving with his big knife as I fell asleep. I was worried but slept okay. We were up and away by 0600 and he was still asleep.
A year later our friend from the bothy arrived at Kinloss to see us. He was having a bad time in his life was a big business man and thanked us for speaking to him during his dark period. I told him how worried I was that night. I imagined waking up or not ! I slept with my ice axe nearby !
Strange days !
I have written at length on this walk in my blogs. These were incredible days thanks Jim and Terry.
See first photo to show position of loose boulders in relation to the abseil in to the gap. Climber exiting by the severe as used on ridge traverse, belayer looks to be on the said blocks.
First photo annotated by Emily Jones who also added, ” I didn’t commit my weight to the rocks and they slid, with the scree and smaller lodging boulders falling down the slope towards the East. very scary! A lot of caution needed when navigating these boulders.”
Please share thanks to Adrian Trednall of All things Cuillin for the words.
Be safe !
Some consider this the hardest part of the Cuillin traverse, particularly in the wet. From the bottom of the gap, climb the north side via a large block and corner to a break on the left side at 30 feet. Continue straight up, passing a bulge on either side, to easier ground.
Thanks to Adrian Trednall for passing on the information
First my apologises for no blogs as I had a really upset gastric problem for nearly a week. I have no clue how I got it but am feeling a lot better now. I tried to “flush” it out but that did not work. My taste went as well and I could not get out due to the need for the loo. Without going into to much detail I never ate for 4 days living on water, bovril, lucozade and nothing else. Eventually The doctor prescribed some tablets and a week on I feel a bit better. This bug was worse than anything I have had in Pakistan India or Nepal and if there was a bug to catch I would catch it. It is amazing how weak you become so quickly. I did Covid checks and they were negative.
It was an awful week but I have on the bright side I lost a bit of weight. My pals have been all over the place this week on the hills and Glens while I have been on the loo. I am glad they are getting out and enjoying themselves. My time will come.
I knew I was not feeling great after my hill day last Friday. There was no energy and I was always feeling cold.
A sample has gone off to be checked and I kept away from folk. Most of the time anyway I was pretty weak to go outside.
Being unwell It gives you time to think and clear your head. So out of every experience comes some learning.
I will take it easy this weekend and recover properly. I am eating again and enjoying slow walks again in the sun. It’s amazing to see the flowers out and the folk enjoying the weather and the sea. Every day is a new day.
Sadly I had to pull out of taking a friend John and his son up Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis . I have been really lacking energy and very tired recently. I feel I let John and his son down as I had promised them a while ago. Yet I felt I had no power and maybe have got round the day but add in the journey down I know I had made the right decision.
Ever since my cycle in America I have been left with a hacking cough. I also had a bronchial problem . Added to that my Psoriasis had broken out again making exercise extremely painful.
My chest had been checked out and I have been told its just wear and tear after a lifetime of getting wet and cold on the mountains plus the odd avalanche ! Get on with it.
Yet I felt after all the poor weather the forecast looked good. I woke about it was a bit overcast but the weather was looking good in the West.
It was an easy decision so I decided to go for a bike ride. I have friends who live nearby Black Bridge just passed Garve. As I got to Garve the sun came out.
I had a great catch up and it was great to see them.
We had a lazy breakfast thanks to Anne and Mark . I had been up Strath Vaich often doing the Munro’s Corbett’s and Call outs. It’s wild country. I had never cycled up it and would see how it went. The sun was out no midges and you follow the road it’s stunning scenery.
My friend Mark had an appointment in Dingwall but cycled up with me up to near the Dam.
After that I went on alone. The tarmac Road to the Dam it’s a great road used by the hydro and the Estate and of course the cattle. There are lots of lambs about enjoying the sun it’s a peaceful place. The river is nearby controlled by the dam but this is a beautiful place.
After that is an Estate track with many gates but it’s a wild area. You have views of the other side of Am Faochagach a big featureless Munro usually climbed from the other side. It’s a big long mountain but from this side you cross the bridge and head up from the Estate house Strathvaich Lodge .
Mark left me at the ford in the river and then a muddy track back to the main Estate track on the other side. It was a muddy push up a wee hill.
From here the track follows Loch Vaich up the Glen. It seemed to go on for ever. Most wee hills I cycled but them it was a get of and push. The only wagon I saw was the Estate one at one of the many gates. I stopped often the views opening the vastness the hidden side of the hill and the odd deer watching. It was hard going and I nearly turned back I was running on empty. I was glad I was not on the hill and took my time. I was soon past the Loch looking at the few buildings that once folk lived in.
Here I stopped for lunch the midges came out but I enjoyed my Jam butties and a drink.
Then the track goes round to Gleann Beag I pushed my bike up
here. Then it was mainly down hill to the big bridge. I met two cyclist on the hill as I descended they were so strong and powerful
I felt a real wimp.
It was then head up the hill to the Corbett Carn Ban . I left my spare battery on my bike so got no photos as my phone died. I had wanted to see Seanna Bhraigh and it’s magnificent Corries. I have climbed camped Bothied here often it’s some place.
My Corbett was a slow process only about 3k from the track yet I was so slow. I just took my time and got there eventually lots of stops. Great views of Beinn Dearg it still has snow on it looking regal. My hill It’s a featureless hill that seemed to be never ending just one foot in front of the other. I was glad that there was no one with me to see my puny efforts . The hill was empty despite the Bank Holiday and I saw no one yet the views energised me.
Time was moving so I headed down it’s so much easier. Had a few treats like dates to renew my energy and got back to the bike and my phone charger. I cycled a bit and pushed the bike up the hill. Then it was down the track in the sun occasionally pushing stopping but though so tired it was great to be in these hills again.
I was soon following the Loch and took the higher track met two posh cars from the big house going out fishing! Then another muddy track to the tarmac road the cattle sheep and lambs sitting in the sun. I was soon back at Mark and Annes fir tea. Mark had bought a new ebike I was envious in my exhaustion.
After great hospitality I headed home.
It took a day to recover and had an easy day. Made a few decisions:
I must sell my racing bike and look for an ebike and maybe a call to the doctor to get a check up.
Please do not say it’s old age! My sister tells me that.
Note – I love being alone on the hill. I find I do not hold anyone back and leave my plans with friends so if anything happens they at least have a plan where I am .
Getting old is not easy:, years ago I would have done 5 Munro’s and that Corbett in a long day!
That’s the past. I am still loving being out on the wild places seeing the great hills at a slower speed.
Hillwalkers and climbers have been delighted to get back to Scotland’s mountains in recent weeks.
But Scotland’s weather hasn’t been playing ball with people’s dreams of returning to the heights.
While we’re on the countdown to midge season, and ticks have already been making their presence felt in the glens, cooler than average temperatures have meant many late-lying snow patches remain, some of them icy when the temperature drops.
Kev Mitchell Vice Chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue Said: “Despite the challenges the ongoing situation is putting on our volunteer team members, Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams remain ready to respond to anyone who gets into difficulty in the outdoors, wherever that may be, in any and all weathers. If you are injured or in need of help in the outdoors call 999, ask for POLICE, then MOUNTAIN RESCUE.”
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I loved the drive down Glen Etive to the end of the road surrounded by Mountains to the loch. The walk in is easy and enjoyable to the foot of these incredible slabs through the ferns. In my early climbing days it had a reputation very unique to Scotland. Over the years I was lucky to climb a good number of the routes with good pals and also introduce a few others to the “Slabs”
These are the classic Slabs to me is the Etive Slabs it’s an amazing place on Beinn Trilleachan. Many who chase the Munros and Corbett’s will have been on this hill and have seen the huge scar of the slabs on the hillside. I have been lucky to climb here often been dragged up many of the harder routes. These are big routes interesting and fairly hard, with long run outs with chance of a fall. I loved climbing here it was such a place and in the early days you met many of the climbing Gods here. If you read the guide book descriptions for the” gallus leader” you may end up with an “Etive Kiss”that is to be avoided. You would meet the woes who of climbing on the apply named Coffin stone where you gear up.Most of the routes meet up near the overlaps where though they are intimidating it can be a social place to be. Names like the moustache and the view down to the “coffin stone” where folk meet are all memories.
These huge granite slabs are incredible and push the art of padding to another level. Bill Batson on noticing he had left his rock boots. It was in the 80’s and I was glad as I thought we would have an easy day.
When Bill noticed he had no rock boots he still led Hammer 150 metre HVS in trainers. I followed and refused chalk just asking for a pull on the famous scoop. All the “names” were laughing it was that type of place then. We had a great day this was when chalk was just being used to stop the sweaty hands on a lovely warm day. Yet when you get to the belay ledges the views of Loch Etive, Cruachan and the Etive hills are magical. You gear up on the apply named “Coffin Stone “what a name for a worried leader or terrified second.
On another visit we had a grand but late day on the Swastika and did the final pitch when Pam Ayres tried to free it. It was some finish and we just got off before dark and a late night in the Onich Hotel. I will never forget Pam shouting “how do you aid” and worried about the old pegs. Yet we lived to climb another day.
I loved my days here and it’s a place you must visit. It takes a bit of getting used to but you soon get the hang of it. These are huge slabs but what a setting. If there is any wet weeps or rain the fun starts.
Looking back what days we had last time I was there with the RAF team it was a wet day with Big Mark Freestone and Rhys. Mark became the Team Leader of Lossiemouth MRT on the Classic Spartan Slab he loved it. We had a great day what a route it’s got everything. I hope he takes the teams rock stars keep coming here in the future. It’s some place.
A few years later I was back a lot older the slabs looked steeper now. We decided to climb Spartan Slab it was still damp. On the route we were attacked by wasps it was scary then it rained and we had the ultimate experience on the route with the famous crevasse where I was stung 3 times.
Read the essay by Robin Campbell on Swastika you will laugh at his descriptive words in Hard Rock. I did this climb a lot once we were nearly benighted on it after a late start. Few climb the top crack that was a bit different from the padding lower down.
Note: After the elation of climbing on Etive be careful on the descent from the top of the crag. The path has lots of loose granite that act like ball bearings. A fall here may take you over the cliff .
I have just been going through some old photos and scanning some. The memories come back. Look at the blue sky on Cir Mhor and is a classic. Where is the Blue skies these days. It reminds me of the rough granite and so many superb days with so many pals. The walk in up Glen Rosa is wonderful follow the river with all the granite pools, more memories of days past. Early walks swims with my family in the 60’s. Then you see the wonderful Cir Mor a huge piece of rock. On my first time climbing here it looked so intimidating. The granite so rough and the scramble up to the big pitches. Soon you are below the overhangs and the rough granite tearing your hands. I have climbed this in all weathers when a sou’wester would have been helpful. We always climbed it in big boots and a bag in the early days and had fun in the chimney finish. This climb never let me down and add in the ferry trip, the Island feel and incredible walk back its a place I love.
Sou‘wester Slabs, featured in the Classic Rock book is a 100-m VD climb on Cir Mhor, Arran.
Featuring slab and crack climbing on superb mountain granite, it was first climbed by G H Townsend, G C Curtis, M J H Hawkins and H Hore on 03 September 1944.
Many will know and love this route its one of my favourites and in these days its great to be reminded of superb routes. There are a lot harder climbs on this cliff but this one is special. Ardverikie Wall – 550 foot/ 150 metre Hard Severe.
I love this climb it in a real situation and the views are special. Taking a bike in is worth it just for the journey out. To me it’s another great route sparse on gear at times. You rarely saw folk then now it can be busy. So get there early and go to the summit it’s a grand view.
Access is easy with a bike and worth it for the journey home mostly downhill. The crag does not look that great from the distance but it is a fun place and the route over 550 feet looks steep and intimidating. I found it so on my first visit in 1975, Tom MacDonald climbed it with me Tom laughing at my attempts. I found it bold but I am a poor climber and there was little gear then. It is described as “a thin ribbon of grey micro granite” but once on it the journey begins. In these days the route was sparsely protected and the 4- 5 pitches give classic climbing and the views outstanding of the lovely lochan na – Earba and the Ardverikie Estate. This was all made very famous by the TV series filmed here.
It is worth the short stroll to the summit (a climb should always do this?) It is a place that at times misses the rain and on the various occasions I have climbed it once or twice in big boots and then the three Munros it was a grand day. Many novice RAF MR Rock climbers cut their teeth on this crag and we had a few wobbly leads at time in the rain but what a place to be. There are plenty other routes here and recently and new routes have emerged. I also had a few fun days in winter when the big hills were out we got a couple of winter routes in many years ago. I have been so lucky to repeat it many times every time and adventure and it can be a busy crag nowadays as its in Classic Rock.
Ben Rinnes – This hill is a favourite of mine, its my nearest hill a Corbett and has been a good pal over the years. We used it often in my early days with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team for training and I remember doing a SARBE TEST in 1972 with a helicopter.
I have often introduced lots of friends and work mates to hillwalking on this mountain. The guide book tells you that if you climb it from outside Dufftown by its shortest route it takes you one hour and forty minutes to the summit. It’s a huge track well maintained and surprisingly litter free but lots of dog Poo bags about, left for the dog poo fairy, I collected them on the way off. If you want a longer day if you continue along the ridge to the Bridge of Avon and have transport there. It is a grand looking hill with great views over the Moray Firth to Ross and Cromarty and of course the Cairngorms.
The easiest way is to follow the B9009 about 5 k from Dufftown and take the minor road to Edinville. Parking can be tight with room for only about 8 cars and it can be a busy hill. t several runners and a many walkers all out on the hill. The path is good and maintained by The Friends Of Ben Rinnes a great bunch of people who look after this wee hill. The wind was pretty cold and I was glad to be wearing most of my winter kit again from the start of the walk. I met lots of folk some running some out with the family many with kids as young as 5 all having fun and very pleased despite the cold weather. It was great to see. The views are great the Cairngorms still holding snow and the Moray coast and the many windfarms that are now here. I took my time to the summit of Ben Rinnes (The Headland Hill) at 840 metres where I got some shelter. It was then an enjoyable break amongst the granite Tors that make up the summit with its trig point and viewpoint.
It is such a lovely summit with such a panorama today. Many climb the hill and leave quickly yet this hill has an interesting side.
Few know that there are the remains of a Wellington Bomber on the hill near the summit. There is little left of the aircraft but I had a rough grid reference and had visited it often ago with groups from work. I had plenty of time so off we went into the mist on a compass bearing and after about 250 metres we found some wreckage at 783 metres and spent some time looking about. I found it not even by navigating and this side of the hill is so different. There were so many hares about they looked at me and then scampered off.
A ptarmigan sat nearby and watched as I looked around he was not bothered and sadly someone had left rubbish nearby that I took home. The ground is so mossy and soft and I sat enjoying the views and the solitude occasionally hearing voices coming from the summit. The Wellington was from nearby Lossiemouth and it crashed killing both of the two crew a Sgt Grove who is buried in Evesham cemetery. The other Sgt Rennie was taken to Glasgow. The aircraft got caught in a violent snowstorm and crashed whilst on a night Exercise from RAF Lossiemouth.
This is from the Friends of Ben Rinnes Website
Ben Rinnes was the scene of a terrible plane crash on 14th November 1943. A Wellington Bomber HF746 of No20 Operational Training Unit, based at Lossiemouth, crashed into Ben Rinnes whilst on a navigational exercise. Both the crew were killed. A former member of the ground crew who went to the site on the hill shortly after the crash described it as “the most complete burn-out he had ever seen”. The outline of this crash site is still clearly visible from the north side of the Ben where the ground was scarred so badly that nothing will grow there even today.
“A Wellington Bomber crash in 1943 John has dropped us an email giving his recollections of that event. John and his family lived in Edinvillie at the time of the crash; he still has relatives living in Edinvillie today.
I traversed back to the path had a short rain storm and was soon on the path back to my van. I met a few going up all enjoying this wee hill most chatted and a mountain biker speed by coming from the summit. The car park was still busy and then it was a short journey home. It was good to get out again hopefully maybe get a Munro done this week depending on the weather.
How I have missed the hills.
John writes:- It was on a Saturday night after 10 o’clock.It was snowing very heavily and myself, my brother & a friend, Geordie Davidson, were outside with our father and a neighbour when we heard the plane go over. We could tell it was in trouble by the sound of the engines. We then heard a thump so we knew it had crashed. There was not any fire, just the wreckage covered a large area. It was about 200 yrds.straight down from the top of the Ben, My brother Peter told me nothing is growing on the crash site still. There was only two killed in the crash and their remains were amongst the wreckage. Three crew bailed out, One landed on a farm in Elches and it is said he married the farmers daugher. Maybe some of the locals could verify if it is true? On our way down it was airmen that was spread out looking for the two crew because they were supposed to also bale out. We did take a few 303 bullets as a keep sake. I never saw them remove the wreckage, but I can imagine it must have been terrible hard work. I don’t think there is anything else I can tell you. Maybe you can tell me, if there was a memorial service on the Ben a few years ago for the two crew members? Keep up the good work and I will be up to Aberlour at the end of June John Murphy
The Friends of Ben Rinnes is a registered charity (No SC 034370) which works to care for the paths and environment of Ben Rinnes and to promote responsible enjoyment of the hill by walkers. Its members are all volunteers who share these aims and who wish to support them.
The increasing popularity of the hill with walkers of all abilities has resulted in major erosion and widening of the existing paths, particularly on the upper slopes. Worst affected is the most popular route to the summit leading from the car park at Glack Harnes on the Edinvillie to Glen Rinnes road over Roy’s Hill and up the north eastern ridge. The resultant scarring on the summit cone is unsightly, unpleasant under foot and, worst of all, damaging to the fragile environment.
“Happy Anniversary to all involved. I’d not been on MR long when they got back from Everest and I went to the lecture they did at Kinloss in the mess. It was inspirational and fuelled my passion for the mountains ⛰. I remember it like it was yesterday. These seemingly professional mountaineers talking about climbing the highest mountain in the world, like it was nothing. Amazing.”
It’s 20 years on since we had our trip to China and an incredible expedition . We all knew each other well all apart from our Doctor were RAF MRT and had few problems with each other. This is unusual when your away for over 3 months. How many trips go like that ?
It was as I have written a trip of a lifetime. The photos that Nerys and Rusty put up of Everest and the team were incredible and a huge reminder of how privileged we all were?
I was only the Base Camp manager but it was incredible to be there in Tibet on such a mountain. It was a busy time and o often got away into the rarely visited places like the West ridge alone. I also got to know our Sherpa team so well we built up a trust hard earned.
On summit day when Dan and Rusty were heading for the summit we could see them on the final pyramid through the telescope . We had radios that were rarely used we left them to it. When they summited it was a quick “we are there” but then the long wait till they were safe. It was some of the hardest times watching and waiting at Base. To hear later Dan and Rusty talk of how shattered they were after there long summit day. They were together no Sherpa support and had to rely on each other. Yet both said there was little they could do if one had a problem on the mountain.
The rest of our team were going well and we had several teams behind the first summit team using the tents in a “hot bed system” Unfortunately one of the troops got sick at the high camp. It was then a great effort by all to help him off the hill. His partner Willie Mac got him down to the North Col.
At the North Col the Doc filled him with fluid and he manage to get down the fixed ropes and then walked off later.
The Sherpas took medical kit up the hill to ensure this happened. They did not want to summit but they would be there if needed and did not let us down. What a support and back up.
It was a worrying time but all the troops gladly gave up their summit attempt to ensure our sick mate was okay.
There were other summit attempts but the winter had arrived. I was up at Advanced Base with the Sherpas as a big storm hit. Everyone else was gone from the hill. Our little tents were alone on the mountain.
Ted Atkins, Jim Groak and the Doc were at the high Camp. The weather stopped them and I was so pleased to see them come down safely.
I then spent a few days alone with the Sherpas sorting out ABC and collecting 50 bags of rubbish left by other expeditions.
The troops were supposed to come up to ABC . To help clear the camp but the weather broke again I was alone with the Sherpas.
We then cleared the mountain sadly several had died that year as happens. It was an insight into another world. I saw the best and worst of the world of High Mountaineering.
Our Sherpas and team had assisted in Rescues but it seemed to me that some folk were only interested in their summit!
Yet as I walked alone ahead of the porters and the Yaks back to Base at the end (a big day of 20 plus Kilometres from 21500 to 17500) I was alone with my thoughts. The weather was wild I felt so alone and got my last views of Everest as the snow fell. I got back to Base the sanctuary bog our hut and seeing all my pals. The Sherpas and Yaks were not long behind.
We were all safe thank God all still pals, happy and could not wait to see our families again.
It must have been hard for the families who worried for us all! We only had the overland journey back to Nepal to go!
Looking back :
Ted is gone now taken by the mountains. A man whose idea it was to go as a pure MRT group he knew we would work for each other. We had the best Sherpas on the mountain who did such a job for us. They were our team mates and they kept a wary eye on us all.
I will never forget Rusty and Dan speaking from the summit and then the hours of waiting for them arriving at the high camp tents. They still had a long way to go and it was not till I met them as I was heading back up to Advanced Base Camp.
We had our big Boss with me and it was magical to meet them they looked knackered but what smiles they had.
We continued up to ABC our Big Boss had his Everest moment just getting there!
20 years on seems a lifetime to me. We are all still mates and it would be great to meet up again before we get to old. ????
Thanks to all families for your support to many to mention sadly.
In memory of Ted Atkins and Al McLeod who gave us the dream to go and see this incredible mountain.
Thanks for all your comments on boots on the hill. The main point was to remind folks that they need to check there soles to ensure the tread is still good. There were many comments that a lot of folk use approach shoes on the hill. I do at times but again it’s worth checking your soles for grip! When Approach shoes came out I used a pair on the Rum ridge they were great but I trashed them. Nowadays they are better and as I broke my ankle many years ago I prefer to protect my ankles a bit more. It’s personal preference in the end.
Running shoes. They are designed for the hill with big tread. Many are taking this up and loving the freedom they give. There are so many brands now on the market in my day your choice was limited to Walsh’s and I did some superb days on the long hill like Tranters Round when I was fit. These were wonderful days as you could go light and felt at one with the mountains. Unfortunately my running days are over and I still miss that freedom.
My friend Adrian on All things Cullin gives some great advice on footwear what to wear on the Skye Ridge. A unique test of footwear? Please have a look at “All things Cullin” on Face book
Comment : These days I don’t wear mountain boots but do wear wellies with vibram soles. When they get worn down I get them resoled here, https://lancashiresportsrepairs.co.uk/ I think it’s good value! A few folk that I trust said they often used Approach shoes on the hill any more information, advice comments would be great?
The point of my ramblings were to have a look at the soles of your boots approach shoes, running shoes. Many of us have been walking low level during the Covid restrictions. Boots approach shoes have been hammered as we walk in different places. So please have a look at your soles.
It is hard to believe its mid May with a forecast that is more like winter. I find it very cold just now many will be champing at the bit to get out. Please have a re look at the weather forecast form any of the mountain weather sites. MWIS and MET office have some great advice. This is todays for my local hills the Cairngorms with snow and whiteouts forecast. So if your venturing out just get some of that winter kit back in, it makes sense?
Low pressure rotating slowly across Britain brings a poor day to most places. Rain frequent or rarely ceasing; snow and whiteout across the Munros, focused on the Cairngorms, whilst western Scotland will be drier. Windy, gale or locally severe gale force for periods.
Headline For Cairngorms NP And Monadhliath
Windy, cold; severe gale high tops. Rain, upland snow & whiteout.
How Windy? (On The Munros)
East to northeast in the range 35 to 50mph, sometimes 60mph higher Cairngorm plateau. Wind speed table below.
Effect Of The Wind On You?
Be prepared for arduous or difficult walking conditions across the hills with significant buffeting and wind chill.
Rain and upland snow rarely ceasing
Almost constant precipitation will drive in from the northeast through the day, falling as snow above 800m, later 600m, leading to periods of sustained whiteout across the tops, extensively lying on the higher Munros. Least precipitation around Glen Garry and west of Dalwhinnie.
This is only part of the forecast so always be prepared to change your route and go lower leave the mountains for another day. If you change your plans please tell someone no matter how experienced you are where you are going.
How lucky we are to have good free weather forecast that are pretty accurate so please use them. Comments welcome.
I am so lucky I live in Moray with so much on my doorstep. I have the sea the forest and grand walks and cycles all on my doorstep. Sadly we have to stay in Level 3 for a bit longer as does part of Glasgow as the levels have risen in our areas. We were all planning what to do with our additional freedom but it’s on hold again .
I had planned a few hills to complete my Munro’s and Corbett’s. They are now on the back boiler. I have had both jabs thank to the NHS and a wee trip to Colonsay that helped so much. I did enjoy that lovely island. I had a bit of a reaction to my psoriasis ( a long going skin complaint) from the Covid jab that will take a long time to clear. Yet when I see what happens in India and other countries I am reminded of how lucky I am.
I am also so fortunate to have good pals and family but the Covid Blues affects us all at times .
So please do not forget to speak to that pal or neighbour or send that card or letter.
I must get out for a short cycle today and what a wonderful time of year with all the plants coming out. I see new things every day in nature.
I would hate to be a politician just now whatever your views and however you vote. Sometimes the hate i hear is terrible for their decisions. So many keyboard warriors with expert views, hindsight and constant criticism. I try to put it aside and do what I think is right.
Hopefully the latest rise in Covid cases will be controlled and we can get on with our lives. I think of those who are struggling financially for such a long time. So no matter how down you get there is much to be thankful for.
Take care and try to enjoy yourself try to think of others and stay in touch with those you love .
What’s your favourite picture or photo? Mine is not easy to choose. When I left for RAF Leuchars the girls in my office gave me the picture below done by a local artist. It was of my dog Teallach who was my constant companion for over 12 years.
It’s a classic as the troops were always dressing him up and he just sat there. What a character he was.
I have always taken photos many were on slides. It was a lot harder to take them on a camera as phones on cameras make life so simple. Yet it’s the odd shot you get in a storm or a wild day that to me take you back to that days memories.
It’s not easy taking photos in wild conditions but sometimes it’s worth the effort.
How many cameras have I gone through ? Lots but it’s worth it to me. As the memory fades these photos give my fading memory a jolt!
I have just bought another wee camera as well. It is a LUMIX it does the job how long will it last I have no clue. Pointless having a camera that you are scared to use due to the weather.
Top tips – take plenty of photos easy now with technology. Make sure you back up saved photos.
Name and date each one as your memory fades this is great.
I have read a lot recently and my heart bleeds for the many who have died of Covid in India, Nepal and Pakistan. Yet it is amazing that there are still many expeditions out climbing the big peaks! Is this morally right?
Life is hard in these places and I was always privileged to climb on all of these countries. I made many pals with the locals the porters Sherpas and Sirdars we always left as friends they made our trips so successful. Yet much needed Oxygen is out in the mountains while local folk are dying through the lack of it in hospitals that are pushed to their limits. Most have seen the photos of what had happened and only recently have I seen a few articles on this subject in the mountaineering press.
There are many who run trips will say that they are bringing much needed money to these areas economy by still running expeditions. They say they are environmentally friendly in their glossy brochures. Yet it mind many Mountaineers are so selfish and they should be thinking of those who are needing help in these countries.
Most dream of a trip to these places and I met so many great folk on my trips. I always have helped them when ever I could and looked after them as they did me. In 2001 no one else was on Everest all the trips had gone after a big storm and I was left with our 5 Sherpas and Mingma our Sirdar at Advanced Base Camp in Tibet . They asked for a day to clear the mountain high up. They brought down over 50 empty oxygen bottles that they re sold in tents and gear in Katmandu. I helped them carry them down from the North Col.
They offered me a cut which I refused and were saddened by the gear left after storms hit the mountain. We cleared up ABC paid for extra Yaks to carry the rubbish out, it was a mess despite environment bonds. I got to know them well and how well they looked after me. There was no one else about even at Base camp apart from us and the Yak men and families. The monks came from the Ronbuk Monastery and helped clean up Base Camp with us.
We spoke with the Sherpas about each other’s lives at night in the wee cook shack and I was in awe of these folk. As the oldest on the trip and the Base Camp manager we got to know each other so well. They gave me huge respect as I did for them. I feel for them all now as family means to them and how we can learn from them. This is why so many can risk their lives for us and others.
Covid had hit many Base Camps and yet things carry on. I know the effort, money and dreams of going to these places. But after years of helping others in the mountains I worry about our selfishness and egos at times like these. Comments welcome as always. I have donated to a charity to help in a small way and pray that my friends from many years are okay.
Thinking of you all!
Comments welcome !
Mick Holmes ” No. It’s a slap in the face to all those needing oxygen to live to use it for ambition and ego. You want to help out a struggling economy, you don’t have to climb Everest for that. There’s something wrong somewhere.”
Today I am away early to meet my pal Tommy who was a young lad in the Leuchars Team. His family have grown up and he is back on the mountains he loves. We had a great day on Beinn Eighe , Slioch and Beinn Alligin. So I will meet him tomorrow for another great mountain. An Teallach.
Is there a finer mountain in Scotland than An Teallach? To see it’s jagged profile in the distance makes any mountaineer want to reach its summits. This to me is best seen from “Destitution Road” the A832 which has a sad history built during a time of famine.
During the 1840s there was great poverty in the Highlands. The failure of the potato crop in 1846 meant starvation for the people. The Central Board for the Destitute Highlands was set up and paid for various improvement projects. The ‘destitution roads’, such as this lonely road across the moor, were built by labourers in return for food. A day’s work involved eight hours of labour, six days a week. Oatmeal rations for the workers were set at 680g for men, 340g per woman and 230g per child.
The guide books tell you that An Teallach is a complex mountain massif, with ten distinct summits over 3,000 feet (914.4 m). From 1891 to 1981, only the highest of these, Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill, had the status of a Munro – a separate mountain over 3,000 feet. In 1981 the SMC granted Munro status to Sgurr Fiona
Thus was due to its topographic prominence (150 m) and distinct nature.] The complete list of Munros and Tops (subsidiary summits appearing on Munros is now as follows:]
• Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill 1062 m (3484 ft)
• Glas Mheall Mòr 979 m (3212 ft)
• Glas Mheall Liath 960 m (3150 ft)
• Sgùrr Fiona 1060 m (3478 ft)
• Corrag Bhuidhe 1040 m (3412 ft)
• Lord Berkeley’s Seat 1030 m (3379 ft)
• Sgurr Creag an Eich 1017 m (3337 ft)
• Stob Cadha Gobhlach 960 m (3150 ft)
• Sàil Liath 954 m (3130 ft)
• Corrag Bhuidhe Buttress 945 m (3100 ft) – deleted from Munro’s Tables in 1997
.To many it is in most peoples top 5 it is a hill I love and I been privileged to climb it over 50 times. I have climbed the ridge several times in winter adding in a few of the Classic Gullies and what an adventure this mountain is. I have also added it to the Fisherfield 5/6 Munros in one huge summers day, it is a place I love and always try to visit.
To me many just grab the two Munros on the ridge how much do they miss as it can be so wild looking at the main ridge. It can be such a great adventure with so many ways to these summits.
This mountain has so many tops plus the two Munros and many secrets hidden in the big Corries, it is a mountain to explore and the best way to do it is along summer day and take in all the Munro tops as well.
It is then you see the views of the Fisherfield wilderness and these great wild hills are always a place to stop and savour. You see the vastness of this area and despite the times we live in still so special.
I always advise to when you climb An Teallach climb all the ridges and tops and then you will appreciate this mountain fully. Climb it from the Corrie Hallie path then you see the mountain in its majesty.
I love the area so well it is famous for wild life especially the Goats that you may meet and smell before you see them on the ridge as they come wandering by. They make you feel so insecure of your abilty to climb especially if you meet them on the ridge on a ledge. They also hang about by the main road and be careful as you drive to hill, they may be about in a big group.
It is also the gateway to a great wilderness and of course the famous Mountain Bothy at Shenaval a place to spend a night after a great day out. An ascent from the bothy is another special way up.
The hidden Corries are wonderful and all sides of the mountain have huge Corries and ridges away from the crowds that offer incredible ridges on to the summits.
When I was ill a few years ago as I was slowly recovering I wandered into these places and was as always in awe of the cliffs and the grandeur of these wild places. It was so refreshing to be in such a place and just to look at wonderful
That day these Corries was well worth the slog from the road. As an added bonus it was winter. I was exhausted at the time but to be alone in this vastness again.
• Climb all these tops and tell me how I’m incredible this mountain is. The views will be spectacular as will the scenery of this wild place. Get to summit in the summer and if lucky watch the sunset set over the hills.
In the RAF Mountain Team nowadays we wear a helmet when scrambling and I think it is a good idea as you never know what can happen.
It can be an especially busy a mountain on a summer day which in winter can become a huge expedition under heavy snow.
Never take this mountain lightly is can be a serious proposition and the navigation can be tricky and if you get it wrong at the least you may have a long walk out.
The pinnacles are great fun and the sandstone so rounded at times and weathered takes care. This is especially true when as it can be have the sandy gravel on the ledges, take care with your feet and test the holds.
The exposure will keep you aware but newer walkers may find this intimidating so it is well worth while using the easier parts of the ridge to gain experience and familiarity with the rock and terrain.
Is this the mountain to rush ? I would save it for a good day it will be so worth it.
The famous Climber Tom Patey carried out a massive call – out on his own. The story is of a huge fall on An Teallach and the survivors attempt to save them.
RAF Kinloss MRT 18-19/04/66
Two climbers killed on Sgurr Fiona. This incident was recently reconstructed and filmed for television. Hamish McIness film “Duel with An Teallach” Tom Patey was awarded a medal for his part. Well worth a watch lots of lessons from this sad event.
I hope as Tommy says “
My face is sore with smiling all day on the hills.
Yesterday I was talking to giving some some of my friends about navigation. As always a few spoke about how they find it hard to cope with using glasses on the hill especially at night or in bad conditions. Taking bearings, reading a map can be difficult add in darkness and poor weather it can be hard. I have never sadly had good eyesight but looking back how did I cope. At times it was a nightmare until I got my eyes sorted out a few years ago. This was highlighted after I had developed cataracts in both eyes .
I notice a lot of my pals are now wearing glasses and they ask “How did I cope all these years wearing them?” This is what I wrote a few years ago on this subject.
“It makes a lot of folk more aware of the limitations that many older mountaineers are now learning to cope with walking/ climbing with glasses. Too many it’s hard to accept. At the Clachaig Inn after my Mountain Safety Chat many years ago as I was packing up a gentleman came over with his wife and asked me how I cope with Glasses on the hill. It is a question that I am getting asked more and more. One thing about getting old it happens to us all. It is so strange to watch these heroes trying to cope with glasses it is like their invincibility has been tested and found wanting! Various friends asked me for the first time in 40 years how I coped especially when winter climbing in wild weather, heavy rain, mist and blizzard conditions? No one was interested before and I struggled for my whole life with very poor vision.
My answer “when it gets that bad I would rather not see where I am” Many of us older mountaineers now wear glasses I have worn them since 4 years old! I have tested the awful National Health Specs to destruction over the years. As I young lad I broke so many pairs I was constantly in the opticians it was my second home! I wore specs even when playing football which I loved and was sure I invented a band round the legs to keep them on!
I smashed so many pairs but you just have to get on with it and they have been a huge hindrance all my life. I used string as well to keep them attached but they still got smashed regularly and also they were held up by Elastoplast and more sellotape. I tried all types but still manage to break even the un – breakable ones and have had to always carry a spare pair everywhere. I tried contact lenses but no joy my eyes just did not cope so for 60 years I have worn glasses.
On the hill I had a few pairs of prescription lenses made for my goggles over the years they were not cheap at all the last pair cost £300. I always carried a spare pair on the hill. (a top tip. ) At last I now I get some compassion into my short-sightedness after so many years.
A few tips: There is no such thing as knowing the mountains like “the back of your hand” in a full winter storm you need everything going for you to get back safely. Navigation is essential even in these days of modern technology. With poorer eyesight with age it gets harder add in darkness and using a head torch it get tricky .
Make sure you carry your specs, they are no use in the car or at home. I notice that some of us are so vain and will not wear them on the hill or forget them on a day out.Tip : A bigger scale map – It is worth blowing up the scale of the map for tricky area’s if you have the technology to do this, makes it far easier to see with poor eyesight.In heavy snow/ rain it is not easy with glasses on so you have to get used to it!
Carry a spare pair of glasses with you. If struggling ask for help get your mates to check your bearings etc. Now you may have some compassion to those who struggle with poor eyesight on the hill. I had to go private to get my cataracts done. I could not wait the delays at that time on the NHS were massive. If I were not to get both eyes done could have meant no hills for 3 years.
It came to a crisis when as darkness fell I was coming of from a crag in winter in the Cairngorms.
The snow was getting heavy and drifting I did not see the ice and off I went back n my back. I was heading for a steep Coire the ground was flattish but I still could not stop. The only way I stopped was by steering into a Boulder and cracking a few ribs.I struggled of the hill and felt so daft. I was lucky I never expected ice to be hidden under the snow and just had my walking poles out. It took seconds to pick up speed I was lucky.
That was the end of my winter experiences that year.
The operation on my eyes was costly but so worthwhile and to not wear glasses after 55 years on the hill is wonderful what a difference in the rain and snow. I still carry a pair of reading glasses but my vision is so much better. So please accept that you may need glasses on the hill forget the vanity and carry glasses with you if you need them to read your map or get off the hill safely.
I wish I had got my eyes done years ago but the military were not allowing it. It was the early days of laser surgery. I am so pleased with the results nearly 5 years on. It has changed my life on the hills in poor weather.
The mountains aren’t the place to be during a thunderstorm, but their notoriously hit and miss nature can easily catch you out. Here’s some timely advice from MWIS ambassador Richard Davison on what to do if you are caught out in a storm:
With a possibility of thunder forecast for the rest of the week it’s maybe worth remembering that it’s more than just some disco lighting and sound effects to accompany your torrential rain: lightning has to be treated with respect and completely avoided if you can.
A few years ago I was awakend by a wild thunder and lightening storm at 0500, thank goodness I was in my bed and not on the hill, where you are at your most vunerable.
Tale of a scary day in Skye – Lightening very, very frightening.
I had just come back from the Falklands 4 months away and my first weekend was in Skye, I was dreaming about it.
We had planned a long classic day in Skye – Up from sea – level to Sgurr Na Bannadich down to Coruisk then a swim and back over the UK Longest ridge the Dubhs and back hopefully to Glenbrittle. We had started from Glenbrittle and it had already been a hard day and very hot the cool waters of Coruisk. Sgurr na Bannadich was hard work from sea level and the drop to the loch and a good swim before it was called “wild swimming” woke us up and then we were off again from sea level to climb the classic Dubhs ridge.
To quote the SMC Guide:-
“This is the best easy climb in Skye and a contender for the best easy climb in Britain”.
Although technically easy, The Dubh Ridge is a very long route in a remote setting. Getting benighted is a distinct possibility if you make a route finding error, and a retreat may not be straight forward. This article will offer some additional information not available in the guide books which may help keep you on track and with any luck get you there and back in a day.
The Dubh Ridge rises from the western shore of Loch Coruisk and stretches west over the three tops of Sgurr Dubh Beag (Little Black Peak), Sgurr Dubh Mor (Great Black Peak) and Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn (Black Peak of the Two Tops). The famous Dubh’s slabs are on the initial section to Sgurr Dubh Beag. Above the slabs the climbing is similar to many sections of the main ridge.
Right: Sticky approach shoes are perfect for the Dubh Ridge.
The climbing is graded ‘Moderate’. Most climbers with some rock climbing experience will not feel the need for a rope but there are some short sections that could be described as “real climbing”, so if you have any doubts you may want to consider carrying a short rope and three or four nuts.
The route is achievable in a long day from Glen Brittle by a reasonably fit team.
We had managed most of the ridge and the wild abseil was where things happened – thunder and lightening was not planned and then:
“A big peel of thunder rang out and the hairs on our heads started sticking up, time to go!” If you have read where not to be when thunder and lightning are about, this is it. The Skye ridge on the back of the Dubhs on a sharp ridge a long way from home what do you do?
The lightning was flicking along the ridge like you see on a film it was surreal. Nature is so powerful and we mere mortals. We felt so small and vulnerable; the power of nature in such a place is awesome.
Keep calm and get off as quick as possible, that was in my mind, now the descent from this hill is not recommended. A descent in the late forties by W. H. Murray described it as one of the most serious mountaineering descents in Scotland! “The An Garbh Coire is rarely visited and is a huge Corrie of wildness and worth a visit on its own. ”
Not advised even for a man of Giants ability. This is a real area of wildness saved by people like W.H. Murray for future generations to enjoy; this is a really special place for those who love the wilderness.
It is also not a place to make a mistake, the phone does not work in this area and any help is a long way off, add to that the seriousness of where we were. This was not the place to be,
The Giant Big Kev – wanted us to wait for the storm to pass, He is over 6 foot which I vetoed as it was like being next to a lightening conductor!
He is that big I was brave and went off ahead to find the way off and to conduct “any lightening”.
Bob who was exhausted by now said little, by now it was pouring with rain and rivers were running down the slabs making life worse.
It was that wet that foam was building up on the slabs and the Corrie was just one great waterfall. We managed though and after one dodgy abseil and two hours later we were down through the slabs and soon we were on the ground amongst the huge boulder field in the corrie. There are no paths here just massive boulders all slippery and wet.
The radio was dead as all the other troops had fled the hill at the first peel of thunder and we were on our own for miles away from anywhere. Being old I remembered doing a similar walk out over twenty years before and it was hell.
How do we tell Bob that the only way back is round by Coruisk to Glenbrittle a walk to remember?
Now that is another story!
That day one person was killed on the hills by lightening, nature takes no prisoners so be aware if lightening forecast do not be on a tight sharp ridge! Check the forecast if in doubt keep of the hills.
Recently I was back and one of my mates got hit by a fallen stone – Always wear a helmet!!!
Summary –Staying safe
Stay off ridges & summits, and away from single trees.
Walls can be protective but keep more than 1m away.
All metal objects (karabiners, crampons, ice-axe, ski poles, etc) should be stored safely.
Move quickly away from wire ropes & iron ladders.
Lightning currents can travel along wet ropes.
Crouch immediately if there is a sensation of hair “standing on end”.
Crackling noises or a visible glow indicate imminent lightning strike.
Airborne helicopters can be struck. Check weather forecast.
Seek shelter as soon as hear thunder. Don’t wait until you see the lightning.
Lightning can travel 10 miles in front of storm clouds. 10% strikes occur when blue sky is visible.
A storm can travel at 25 mph.
Most common time for injuries are before the storm or at the apparent end of the storm.
Danger of being struck is when flash to thunder time less than 30 seconds (approximately 10 km away).
Don’t climb for 30 minutes after last thunder & seeing last lightning.
NO PLACE OUTSIDE IS SAFE DURING LIGHTNING –AVOID THESE:
Small, open huts, caves & overhangs (increase risk from side flashes).
Sheltering under small outcrop or overhang may increase risk of injury, as lightning that has hit a hill literally “drips” onto the person with the rain as it arcs over the ground.
Water or wet stream beds.
Near the tallest structure in the area e.g. single tree.
Tents not protective (metal tent poles act as lightning rods).
Stay away from high ground (ridges and summits).
SKYE – “We who have been go again, and again advise you to go, you will not be disappointed.”
Adrian Trednall guide to Skye is a wonderful addition as a guide. It is on my mind superb and an essential for the ridge.
Adrian is a mountain guide and photographer living on Skye. He has been climbing since the 1980s with a CV that includes Alpine north faces, big walls in Yosemite and first ascents on the White Cliffs of Dover.
It used to be a thing in RAF Mountain Rescue to be able to climb in Big Boots and then on wet rock. The quote is mainly in big boots and a hill bag they said it was “character building”! This was to ensure that on many of our Call outs were in very wet conditions and we could cope. Even searching the wild Corries of Ben Nevis, Glencoe or Skye would take you onto some awful wet steep ground. When wet it’s even worse and great care is needed. Hence climbing on big boots wet rock and we did a lot of it! It went to another level when troops went to the Alps and the better climbers wore Big boots on VS and above. I struggled on Severe and Very Difficult climbs but I was a never a rock climber.
I remember doing the Classic route of Cioch Direct in Skye in socks I took my boots AS THE CLIMB BECAME A RIVER. This was before my Team Leaders course. Also Soap gut on Tryfan (well named) with Wee Jock and of course the Moelyns in North Wales. All good training for Clachaig gully, The Chasm in Glencoe and the Ben’s classic ridges. Some of the troops took it to another level by climbing the Old Man of Hoy in Big boots and Dream on Gogarth?
What’s your memories of climbing of big boots and wet rock !
Top tip / put more gear in ! You never know when your off!
I was looking at Ian Mitchell’s book titled Mountain Footfalls. In his chapter on Glendessary he refers to an article in an old issue of the Life and Work The Church of Scotland magazine by Mr Whalley, a student missionary in Arkaig 1933-41. He had preached to a congregation of 35 in the corrugated iron schoolhouse and held a Sunday school at Glen Kingie – I think I read recently on Facebook that your father had been a minister – would this have been him??
Yes this was my Dad he was a student missionary. I have ordered Ian Mitchell’s book .
My Dad who was a minister was a student missionary in the 1930’s and worked here as a Student missionary for several summers at Achnacarry and loved the area and the people! He ministered the local people in the remote Glens. He was helped and stayed with the family of the head Keeper Donald Cameron who helped him in his early days . Donald carried the communion cups and wine over the hills to the small parishes to give communion and always came over these big hills on the way home. Dad took me to meet the man in my trip in the mid 60’s Donald Cameron the head stalker and he had made a huge impression on him all those years ago and they remained great pals throughout their lives. My Dad was young and very fit winning the Arthurs Seat hill race several times when he was at Edinburgh University and running Cross Country. He always told me how powerful the Head stalker was on the hill and how he looked after my Dad and he was the subject of many sermons. I should have listened more.
The Guide Mick Tighe sent me more information on my Dad thanks Mick . It brought back so many memories of him. Like us all he had many faults but a faith and a big heart. He gave me a love of these Highlands and it’s people their kindness and respect. Something I have tried to do in my life.
I spoke to a friend yesterday whose wife saw an adder on Morven in the far North of Scotland in Caithness . (Morven is a mountain in Caithness, in the Highland Region of Scotland. The hill is classed as a Graham and, at 706 metres, its summit is the highest point in the county of Caithness)
They were amazed to see the adder and did not think adders were that far North but they are about.
In my time on the hills I have seen many. In Arran and Galloway when I was young there seemed to be a lot more about. I would see them often on a hot day on the granite rocks basking in the sun. Glen Rosa and Cir Mor were places I saw them. My Dad warned me about them in our travels on the hills. I saw a dead one on the road low down last week on Arran sadly it had been run over. Dogs can be bitten as they are root around keep an eye on them.
Adders: They are Scotland’s only native snake and its venomous. Luckily its bite isn’t considered very dangerous to most humans and they will hide or flee rather than attack. Still, be careful not to step on one and definitely avoid picking them up; adder bites can be very painful, cause inflammation and me be more serious for the very young or old.
They are about – March to October.
Where to see: They are on south facing banks/rocks/dykes on a sunny day.
Best conditions and time of day to see them:
During Sunny spells. (Ideal in the weather just now)
How to recognise an Adder.
They are Either grey or dark red in colour, adders have clear zig-zag markings.
Adders come out of hibernation in March and will be very active looking for food to restore themselves after a long hibernation. Sunny spots and rocks.
When I was working in the ARCC we had two incidents moving people with adder bites to hospital on the hill. So they can be serious.
What are the effects of an adder bite in people?
The Effects of an Adder bite : This may include: shock; severe pain at the location of the bite; swelling, redness and bruising at the location of the bite; nausea and vomiting; diarrhoea; itchy lumps on the skin; swelling of the lips, tongue, gums and throat; breathing difficulties; mental confusion, dizziness or fainting; irregular heartbeat. Not all of these will be seen in all cases, and the severity of symptoms varies substantially. In around 70% of cases there is no or very little envenomation, leading to only local symptoms such as pain and swelling. The first symptoms may take from a few minutes to hours to become evident. It is estimated that in around one third of all adder bites, the snake does not actually inject any venom (a “dry bite”). In this case the patient may experience mild pain from the wound caused by the snake’s teeth, a risk of infection, and anxiety. Note that adder bites do not always leave two puncture wounds in the skin; such marks typically vary from one to three, and they are not always obvious. In rare cases there can be a range of more serious effects from adder bite, including kidney failure, anaphylaxis, heavy blood loss, coma and cardiac arrest.
How many folk have seen an adder any stories or photos?
Be careful an adder bite is serious on the mountains.
Clegs / there are also a lot of clegs about this year.
From mountaineering Scotland a great source of advice :
“Concentrated in the northern highlands, these relatively large insects have a vicious bite. You will only feel the bite as the fly disengages to fly off, by which time it is too late. They do not swarm in large numbers and thankfully are relatively uncommon. They are most active in the summer months from June to September.
The majority of people react to the bite with a large red weal, which is exceptionally itchy. The itch can continue for many days afterwards, and up to two weeks.
You should not scratch the site of the bite. Antihistamine creams applied to the bite area help take the pain away and stop the itching.
Birch flies, or black flies
These flies belong to the genus Simulium, a part of the black fly family and, like the smaller midges, the females require a blood meal in order to reproduce. Most of these blood-sucking insects attack livestock but, according to entomologists, several species are known to bite humans. The predominant species on Speyside is Simulium reptans.
The worst affected areas appear to be localised, being confined to woodland around Loch Insh near Kincraig and along Speyside around Aviemore.
The birch fly appears when birch trees start to leaf in May and black swarms of them congregate in shady areas under the trees, normally in the morning and particularly near running water where they breed.
The bite of the birch fly is extremely unpleasant and can cause extremely irritant sores, much worse than mosquito bites. The usual insect repellents do not seem to work. Locals are aware of the problem and resist picnicking or fishing under birch trees for a couple weeks in that area. Warm and very wet weather early in the spring provides ideal breeding conditions leading to a surge in the population of birch flies. Local businesses often place posters warning tourists of the danger. So taking an interest in the weather and reading notices may be prudent if you’re staying down in the woods! “
This weeks quote where’s all the midges “ the clegs have got them”
There’s lots of repellents about “Smidge” works for me.
Al Saw this beauty on the walk off, after climbing Pagoda Ridge with Abo Alexander.
Shane – Al Barnard myself and Brodie Jewison saw a fine specimen on our way up Beinn Tarsuinn (Arran) unfortunately my camera man (Brodie) missed the shot
And a number of shed skins too
I think Arran has good head of adders 👍👍
Adele – One of my adder spottings was Morven too!
George – Aye. GLEN affric and Glen Cannich…….saw Bull Horsefly here in Inverness at the weekend !