Handy reminders for the winter.

The Saddle Kintail

In my early days a few of the more experienced mountaineers in the RAF Team would advise me of possible danger areas in winter They would take time out to explain where they were when we were out. As we trained all over Scotland it was so important we knew of the danger areas This came with their many years of knowledge on the mountains in winter. It helped me on many occasions when we were on a call out or just a wild day climbing.

The wonderful Forcan Ridge at Kintail.

I try to pass this advice on when I am out in the winter.

The Saddle Kintail ” Care needs to be taken on the descent into the corrie below the Saddle, as there have been avalanches here. Otherwise, it’s fairly safe“.

The old Winter guide books used to advise of Avalanche areas but nowadays much is hidden in the climbs narrative. I wonder how many are aware nowadays? Of course Avalanche Awareness is all part a Mountain Day and one that is so important to learn. There are a great many ways to gain information and it is also well worth taking a Course in Avalanche Awareness. You can buy all the Safety gear, Avalanche transceivers, shovels , probes etc but getting a few days out with an expert is money well spent. You need to train with the gear as we did every year have a good shakedown on Avalanche training. As is reading the daily avalanche reports and weather reports in the day you go out and as part of your preparation days before. It all takes time but its well worth it,

The old Ben Guide !

Nowadays the knowledge is there there are great websites the Scottish Avalanche Service (SAIS) is a great resource and the App is free and easy to download. The Daily forecast give you so much information on what is happening all over Scotland.

It took weeks to locate these folk.

The normal descent route of Buachaille Etive Mhor Glencoe

Much of the knowledge is there but sadly some is getting lost in time. Be aware of where you are and use all the tools to travel safe in winter.

Well worth a read.

Every climbing area has places to be aware of in the wrong conditions, it might be a descent after a climb or on the way up to a route or hill. Always think be aware of where you are. A safe route can change due to a change of wind direction and a big deposit of snow. Be safe and use everything to make your day safe.

Posted in Avalanche info, Books, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Short wander in the Cairngorms to the crag in the mist.

Yesterday I missed the good weather by a day but wanted a wander. The Cairngorms is on my doorstep so it was a lazy start. The road was icy at the Dava Moor and it’s a wild place with a sprinkling of snow.

The roads needed care it was icy yet so many blast past and at the bridge at Grantown a car had skidded and smashed into the bridge. There were Police aware stickers on it.

The Dava with the light coming through.

The Cairngorms were hidden in cloud and I went via Aviemore. I stopped in at Glenmore to see Heather “the Safety “ but she was out but caught up with George and we had a bleather.

Not great visibility today.

I decided to go to the lower car park at Cairngorm and see if anyone was climbing on the cliffs above Strath Nethy. The cloud was down and there was a pair heading of. One was wearing lightweight snow shoes. They had lots of gear and must have been planning to climb. They headed off there was one other car there.

I go enjoy this walk up to the cliffs above Strath Nethy it is a short walk and usually very quite. Today it was hard going no views and the snow deep in places. The visibility was not great and did not look like lifting so the normal one hour walk took me longer to get high. There was some slab about as well as the photo shows.

Slab about ‘

It was heavy going at times . I decided that there were no photos to be taken and headed down after about an hour and a half. There was no wind thank goodness and though deep in places I was struggling. It was one of these days. I could hear the climbers in the mist but there would be little point. Two parties I think ? Hardy folk.

Off the path it was hard work. A big change from the day before. I had missed the weather by a day. It was definitely winter today.

Lots of snow !

The Crag features

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

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

You can download a SMC PDF mini-guide to this crag from https://www.smc.org.uk/publications/downloads/creaganchanofor the price of a coffee – all profits go to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust.

I was soon back at the car and headed home feeling pretty tired limited energy today? Maybe it was one of these days but at least I got four hours out on the hills.

You definitely needed to navigate yesterday and more snow is coming. If going out remember it’s winter. Leave a note and keep your eye on the weather conditions and snow.

Sadly on the Anniversary of completing my Munro’s in 1976 I never got to a Munro but still got out.

Today’s tip watch the roads early in the morning they were very icy yesterday. Worth taking your time.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Gear, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

“He wore two hats”.Tom Gibbon local Policeman and Killin Mountain Rescue member.

In my time in Mountain Rescue we relied so much the local village Policeman he was the person to get to know. They were the person in the know.

When we arrived in villages all over Scotland on our weekend training they were our contact for Rescues. These were the days before mobile phones and good communications . Often the local Bobby would be the point of contact and arrive in the wee small hours in the village hall. He would pass us the information and tell us to contact our Control the Rescue Centre. When we were training in the area we would phone ahead and tell them the Base usually the village Hall and got to know them well.

It may be a call – out a long way away and we would have to get moving for an early morning start moving our Base. Often we would be driving hours to get to Fort William, Glencoe, Aviemore,Skye or the far North.

We built up many contacts with the local “Polis” and many became friends and helped us out on so many occasions. Often friendly advice was given and taken when the team were out socially? The local Policeman knew every one the landowners keepers etc and was a great help.

Such a man was Tom Gibbon who we lost a few weeks ago. These are some of the words that have been written about Tom.

“The 66 year-old served as a rural community officer in the village and was one of a team of four officers providing 24-hour on-call policing from Strathyre to Tyndrum. He served with the police for 32 years.

More than once he would have to book someone as a police officer, but he would go out of their way to try and help them and they ended up buying him a pint.”

As a police officer he was involved in a number of high profile cases, including being drafted in to assist the investigations following the Lockerbie disaster and Dunblane tragedy. His first mountain rescue came in 1979 when he was called to assist walkers stranded on Ben More. Tom battled waist deep snow drifts and assisted in the recovery of the casualties.

In 1987, a Wessex helicopter crashed on Ben More killing team coordinator Sgt Harry Lawrie who was the local Police Sergeant and injuring another team member and one of the air crew. Tom was in the first group of eight members already on the hill and played a vital role conducting the rescue effort, ensuring survivors were recovered from the wreckage and evacuated. (I was at RAF Leuchars during this time and got to know Tom and the Killin Team well.)

He was one mountain rescue shy of 300 when he retired.

His close friend and former colleague Bill Rose, who is a former Inspector at Callander police office and Killin MRT team member, worked with Tom for 23 years. He said:

“Tom was very much respected and an integral part and good friend to the community. Always on hand to assist local people when required. A traditional police officer, his door was always open and often a word of advice from Tom was all that was required to resolve a situation.

“Tom commanded great respect from all who worked with him in his role of co-ordinating search and rescue for Killin MRT.“He was instrumental in recruiting a strong nucleus of members who lived in Lochearnhead and Balquhidder who provided a wealth of local hill knowledge.”

Earlier this year, Tom published a book, titled ‘He Wore Two Hats’, a collection of stories from his time with the police and mountain rescue”

Thanks for all you did for so many, Tom my thoughts are with the family and friends .

Posted in Articles, Books, Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Remembrance week – after all the parades how do we look after our Service men and women today ?

Thanks for the comments on my blogs during this Remembrance week each day I did a piece on Aircraft Crashes in the Mountains. It’s good to remember these places and to get away from the crowds and remember those who gave so much. I do not like crowds so I like to get into these wild places on my own.

Beinn Eighe

This is my way of thinking of those who gave so much. I visit many crash sites all over Scotland not just at this time but all year when I can. This is my way of paying tribute to these brave folk.

I find it interesting and wonder how many after the Remembrance parades think about the ultimate sacrifice so many made. Sadly today in the Military many are still suffering. I find it hard that despite the politicians being present at all these so Public parades and Services little is still being done for our Servicemen and women.

The old memorial at Assynt

Many who still struggle with PDSD and other illnesses ! Many are homeless yet there is little help available there was supposed to be a “Military Covenant” what happens to that?

So when the medals are put away for another year and we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Let’s ask all the politicians of all parties when they chase your vote at the door in the coming weeks what they are doing for servicemen and women ?

There is more to Remembrance than a once a year parade and a media soundbite?

These comments are not meant to upset people but to try to improve the current situation for Service folk.

Angus Jacks photo of the memorial the crew are buried here.

My good friend Angus Jack sent me this photo of his visit yesterday to the crash site of the Anson in Assynt. I have written often about this place and the fight to get this grave acknowledged by the powers that be. Angus sent me a few photos of the new headstone and I thank him. I will visit soon this winter. I did over 10 trips to Assynt when I was pushing to get this completed. It was well worth it.

Thank you Angus who also cleaned the algae of the memorial. He also laid a wreath .

The headstone and an Engine in the background. Photo Angus Jack

Comments welcome .

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Remembrance Sunday the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe and the Royal Marines from 45 Commando.

Today is Remembrance Sunday and a few years ago I was honoured to receive these words and photos from 45 Commando.


I am a Royal Marines Mountain Leader from 45 Commando, based in Arbroath and I follow your thought provoking blog. We train the Commando Units in these mountains in large numbers every year and I always like to take the lads up Bienn Eighe as it’s a magical mountain.

I didn’t know about this tragic story until a couple of years back when I found your excellent article about it. I thought you’ would like to know I was there today with 60 lads from X Company. We were doing a 2 day route from Achnachellach over Beinn Liath Mor and on to Beinn Eighe in order to be below the crash site before 11 o’clock. We normally split into 3 groups of 20 ish. I give the instructors your article to learn and pass the story on to the young Marines in their group. Today we ran 3 mini remembrance services up there just before 11 O’clock to pay our respects. The rest of our Unit normally attend services around Angus and send a contingent to Spean Bridge but the fact our route landed on Beinn Eighe today made it a very poignant place to hold a remembrance Service.

45 Commando on Beinn Eighe on Remembrance Sunday – photo Scotty Muir

Thanks to your article the story of those brave airman has been passed on to many. Please keep up your great work.

Lest we forget.

Best Regards,

Colour Sergeant Scotty Muir

Beinn Eighe is a mountaineer’s mountain in summer a huge hill of over 9 tops and in winter one of Alpine grandeur. Many chase the Munros there are two tops but this is not a mountain to be rushed it is the haunt of the eagle and those who venture into its wildest Corries will see the grandest of Scotland’s secrets. One of these Corries is the huge Cathedral like Triple Buttress and in one of it gully’s lies the wreckage of an RAF aircraft this is some of the story.

On the 13th March 1951 at 1804hrs, Lancaster TX264 call sign ‘D’ Dog of 120 Squadron, converted for reconnaissance purposes, took off from RAF Kinloss, a ‘fog free’ climate of the Moray Coast between Lossiemouth and Nairn.

The pilot was Flt Lt Harry Reid DFC, 24 years of age, a total crew of eight with a Second Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer and four signallers. It was a ‘Navigational Exercise’ via Cape Wrath, the very name a ‘mingled feeling of anger and disdain’ this being the extreme north-west point of the Scottish mainland and named after the Viking word ’hvraf’ meaning a turning point where the Vikings turned south to the Hebrides in the ninth century. The cape is isolated and its heathland untamed. Around midnight the aircrew flew over the Lighthouse. The last position, sent by radio was at 0127hrs 60 miles north of the Cape, this was the very last message from the aircraft.

The RAF Kinloss Team 1951 on Beinn Eighe photo Joss Gosling Collection

At 0200hrs a boy living in Torridon, on the east end of Upper Loch Torridon, looking through his bedroom window saw a red flash in the distance, but didn’t think any more about it until he saw the headlines in a Newspaper, ‘Missing Plane Sought’ and this was two days after the aircraft went missing. He mentioned it to the local Postmaster who immediately contacted RAF Kinloss.

Similar reports had been received. An Airspeed Oxford was sent to search which concentrated on Beinn Eighe. The wreck of the Lancaster was sighted on the 16th March. On the 17th March the Kinloss RAF Rescue Team arrived in the area and on the 18th approached Beinn Eighe from the North and into Coire Mhic Fhearchair from Loch Maree. Wreckage from the Lancaster was found after arriving at the foot of the Triple Buttresses and lying in the ‘corrie’. A ‘corrie’ is a semi-circular hollow or a circular space in a mountain side. This particular wreckage had fallen, the bulk of the aircraft being much higher with the crew inside. At the foot of the Western Buttress were the port wing, undercarriage, two engines and various cowlings. On the following day the starboard wing and some other parts had been blown down by the strong winds, but still no fuselage.

1951 Photo of Beinn Eighe on the search by Joss Gosling

The next day another party managed to climb higher and spotted the fuselage, burnt out, but couldn’t reach it. Further attempts were abandoned for the time being.The weather over the whole period of the search was ‘exceptionally’ severe for the time of the year. It was intensely cold with constant snow showers and high winds and temperatures well below freezing at night. The North of Scotland is much closer, in fact ‘considerably’ closer to the Arctic Circle than North Wales. Conditions in winter can be more ‘Alpine’, they may be ‘Artic’.

Between Beinn Eighe and Sail Mhor the weather was absolutely ‘atrocious’, with the wind coming over the ridge with such force it was virtually impossible to move, and the snow anything from one to four feet. The gully from the corrie was a solid sheet of ice. It was certain that no one was alive in the wreckage, and in the opinion of the Officer in Charge of the team the wreckage was so situated it couldn’t be reached by any members of the public unless they were ‘highly experienced climbers’.

The CO at RAF Kinloss, in the meantime, had offers from the Moray Mountaineering Club, a Doctor John Brewster with this Club having considerable climbing experience in winter.

This offer and another suggestion for help from the Scottish Mountaineering Club, holding their Easter meeting at Achnashellach to the South of Beinn Eighe were both declined.

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

Another attempt was made by a Royal Marine Commando, Captain Mike Banks and Angus Eskine. After a really difficult time with the weather, particularly gusts of wind that brought the human body on all fours, these two reached the main bulk of the aircraft. Eventually all unauthorised visits were stopped and the RAF Team once again returned to Beinn Eighe and this time reached the wreckage. It was most difficult and dangerous work recovering the bodies; three were actually in the fuselage. The last body was not recovered until 27th August.

1951 the Kinloss Team on the summit ridge digging Photo Joss Gosling

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

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

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

EPILOGUE On the 28th August 1985, a group of Officer Cadets led by Sergeant Jim Morning and Sgt Tom Jones were airlifted on to the summit of Beinn Eighe by a Sea King Helicopter from 202 Squadron. One of ‘D’ Dog’s propellers was recovered and put into a lifting net and taken by the helicopter to the road, and then to RAF Kinloss. The twisted three-blade propeller now stands outside the wooden Mountain Rescue Section building as a permanent memorial to ‘D’ Dog’s crew. The gully where the aircraft crashed is called by mountaineers Fuselage Gully and one of the propellers has to be climbed over and is used by climbers as a belay in winter.

Abseil – of Prop photo
Andy Nisbet.


PILOT Sgt R Clucas

Fly Off R Strong

Signaller Lt P


Flight ENGINEERFlt Sgt G Farquhar

Signallers Flt Sgt J Naismith

Sgt WD Beck

Sgt J W Bell

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

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

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

Sometimes, and by chance, the fault might be corrected in time, for with tact a good team could teach an Officer his job (although no team will tolerate an inefficient NCO.

Either the NCO will go, or the good men and therefore, the standard of the team). Tact was required on both sides and when life is in the balance, as it always is on rescues, feelings ran too close to the surface. The fewer experienced mountaineers in a team, the more tolerant prevailed.

As the Service took shape and experienced men were in the majority the teams worked more smoothly, and with, as it were, less emotional involvement.

Teams at the start of 1951 were inadequately equipped and poorly trained, but where – in Wales – this knowledge was confined to the RAF, in Scotland the repercussions of the Beinn Eighe disaster were widely publicised.

About this time two Medical Officers Berkeley and Mason who had put forward suggestions for improved efficiency came to the notice of the Air Ministry. It was largely due to the efforts of these two Medical Officers that the organisation and training of the teams underwent a drastic change in the following year.

One of the team members who was on the crash and has a unique account of what happened Joss Gosling who lived in Fort William.

He was only a young lad at the time and the crash affected him greatly. Joss was a competent mountaineer as he had climbed previously before his National Service. He had some unique photos and a diary of events of what happened. He explains how awesome it was to see the corrie for the first time and how he felt during the long days of searching and recovery. His description of the great Corrie being like a Cathedral always sticks in my mind and when the mist swirls in these great cliffs you can feel his words of that eventful time.

He explained that the “ugly step” on the ridge caused problems as the kit they had was very poor but they did their best, he is a wonderful man and a great example to us all.

Joss was at the crash site on the 50th anniversary in 2001 and speaks with great authority on this tragedy. The RAF Kinloss team put a small memorial on the propeller below the gully in 2001 in memory of those who died in this crash, “lest we forget”

I was very privileged to have my last weekend before I retired from the RAF in this area as a member of the RAF Kinloss mrt. This area due to its history is unique and I have spent many days enjoying these peaks. The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin became test pieces for team training first in summer then in winter conditions. Many of the classic climbs in summer and winter were climbed by team members and a few epic callouts over the years.

These hills have huge corries and alpine ridges where rescues have occurred mostly not reported by the National Press. The local Torridon Team and the RAF MR have assisted climbers and walkers over the years.

I have climbed Fuselage gully on many occasions with team members during my 37 years with the Mountain Rescue Service. In early Dec 2007 with two of the young, Kinloss Team members we had a special day. This was my last day with the RAF before I retired. It is a fairly simple climb by modern standards but I broke a crampon at the beginning and it made the day very interesting as we were being chased by a big storm as we descended. One crampon on the steep descent was thought provoking and I can only think of how the team in 1951 with their simple kit coped. I was brought up to respect the history of this majestic area and its people; there was no finer place to spend my last weekend than in this special place.

On my retirement I spend a two great years with the Torridon MRT as a team member. Finally retired from Mountain Rescue it is a great privilege to return to and enjoy the beauty of this mountain, its ridges, corries and wild life. Recently in 2009 two well known climbers were avalanched whilst descending from Fuselage gully and the wreckage stopped them being seriously injured as one of the climbers hit the propeller on his way down the gully.

It made big news in the Press!

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

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

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden. The long walk, views expanding as we climb. Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer.

They have been there for many years

What have they seen? The Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.


This is a wonderful poignant place. Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie?

This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe.

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

Just speak to Geoff and then look in Joss eyes who was there when he tells his story of a young lad in 1951. “Lest We Forget”

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

I headed up again this May 2109 with Geoff and this time with Ian Andy and Heather Joss’s daughter to visit the site and to replace the memorial.

Joss sadly passed away in his late 80’s and would have been so excited his daughter is going up to see a place that means so much to him.

It was great to see that the RAF MR were up the gully this year in 2019 and the tradition lives on as do the teams.

It is great to see an event such as this still not forgotten.

Joss was a wonderful man who taught us all so much about the past In memory of the crew and my pal Joss Gosling. Heavy 2019 . This summer I was up with Channel 5 filming for a programme on the Lancaster. I was with Ian Joss’s son it was a wonderful day. I think this program that will be out in Dec this year will be a great tribute to those who have so much.

Lest We forget.

Comment from a relative of the crew

“Heavy, My, just wanted to say what wonderful & poignant articles all week culminating in the Lancaster story for Remembrance Sunday today, brought a tear to my eyes. Take care when out on those hills you love.

Lest We Forget,”

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Remembrance Week Wellington Crash / Corrour / Alder Estate – Geal Charn.

This tragic Crash was on 10 th Dec 1942.

This crash site is in remote country access can be tricky. The route to this site is up an Estate road from Dalwhinnie just of the A9. Many nowadays Mountain bike up here. The bothy At Culra is closed due to Asbestos 2019. To visit in a day is a long expedition and care should be taken these are tricky mountains.

There is an amazing story of a Vickers Wellington aircraft 10/12/1942 that crashed south eastern flank of Geal Charn. One crew member survived in mid-winter and went for help. It is a story that few have heard. Wreckage can be found on Geal-Chàrn, and then at various points downward on the slopes of Leacann na Brathan, in the vicinity of Ben Alder.

The crash : The crew, from B Flight of No.20 OTU, were on a day navigation training flight from RAF Lossiemouth on 10 /12/1942. The planned route was from base to a point some 30 miles east of Peterhead – Crieff – Friockheim, near Arbroath – Maud, near Peterhead – base.

At some point the aircraft deviated from this route and at about 15:00 while heading in an easterly to north easterly direction (some 40 miles off course) flew into Leacann na Brathan on the south eastern flank of Geal-charn which at the time was snow covered and enveloped in blizzard conditions.

The only survivor of the crash, Sgt Underwood, after checking for signs of life from his crew made his way off the mountain and arrived at Corrour Lodge in a very poor state.

He was taken in and the next day transferred to hospital in Fort William. I cannot imagine trying to get off the mountain alone high up in winter from this area and all your crew are killed.


How Sgt Underwood managed this is a tale of survival and huge mental courage this is one of the wildest areas and remote hill country in the UK, Sadly little was known of this tale as in 1942 it was the dark days of the war and I would imagine crashes etc were fairly restricted information.

One can only think what was in his head as he headed down to Corrour and what he said to the keeper and his family who live in this remote place?

After the aircraft had failed to return from its exercise a search was organised but nothing was found before the report of the rear gunner reaching Corrour and help was received. The rest of the crew died in the crash.

• F/O James William Heck (25), Pilot, RAAF.

• Sgt Maurice Hutt (21), Obs. / Bomb Aimer, RAFVR.

• Sgt William Ernest Riley (22), Navigator, RAF.

• Sgt Joseph Towers (25), Navigator, RAFVR.

• Sgt James Hemmings, W/Op / Air Gnr., RAFVR.

Following the recovery of the bodies of those who had been killed the task of clearing the site was given to No.56 Maintenance Unit at Inverness. They inspected the wreck and decided to abandon it until the spring of 1943 before any work could begin. The recovery operation eventually began in July 1943 with a camp being established some distance from the site, assistance was rendered by army personnel of the 52nd Division, Scottish Command.

They provided 25 pack mules and a 3 ton lorry. With these most of the wreckage was removed from the site, but today a reasonable amount still remains.

I am sure there was an aircraft Tyre down near the road coming out of the Beinn Alder Track near the Dam at Loch Eiricht and the railway line, it would make sense that is where some wreckage was taken by the mules?

The wreckage on the mountain is in three debris fields, with the lowest lying (containing a few twisted pieces of fuselage) right on the main path going over the Bealach Dubh between Ben Alder and Geal-chàrn at an altitude of about 730m.

It was here that much of the aircraft was brought down by mules and I am sure that is why the wreckage is there on the path? I am sure this is where the wheel came from as the road passes the point where I used to see the aircraft wheel. Please be aware this is a tricky wild remote area if you plan to visit where the snow holds on for a long time.

OS 10-figure grid refs (GPS):

NN 48049 73196
NN 48072 73585
NN 48223 73680

Thanks to Danny Daniels and others for the information.

What a film this story would make and few have heard or have knowledge of this story, it was hidden in the tragedy of the war. I bet there is still a few who would know the tale, the keepers from Corrour would have been involved as would the Beinn Alder Estate/Corrour Estate any information would be gratefully accepted.

I had planned to go up on the 70 th Anniversary but was pretty ill for two years. I will make a point of going up on this 75 th Anniversary in 2020 god willing!

Do you have any contacts on the Estate who may be have a tale of this epic?

For many years I have explored this area and even winter climbed here we had the privileged of using the Estate tracks then when Mr Oswald was the keeper at Beinn Alder.

Often I have done these great hills and the 6 Munros in winter was always an objective with young troops a full on winter experience and the navigation wild on the huge Cornices of Beinn Alder. How many times did we struggle on these long days with limited light then be hit by huge drifts on the way off and swollen rivers in the dark with my trusted dog showing the way.

What a story worth a few thoughts “Lest we forget”

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Remembrance Week – The Oxford aircraft on Ben A Bhuird Cairngorms missing for 7 months and the tale of its find and how a watch found at the site in 1973 returned to the family.

Ben Avon (1171m, Munro 17)
Beinn a’Bhuird (1197m, Munro 11)

Ben a’ Bhuird is amongst the remotes of the Munros in Scotland and amongst the granite tors of Stob an t-Sluichd there is the remains of an aircraft crash. Beinn a’Bhuird has huge cliffs with a summit on a vast plateau, with a tiny cairn resting there requiring navigation skills in mist. This is a tricky mountain in bad weather. Some large parts of the aircraft remain at the site, including the two engines. This is part of the story.

On January 10th 1945 at 1045 hrs, Oxford PH404 took off from RAF Tain on the North East coast of Scotland bound for RAF Hornchurch near London. The weather in Tain at that time was reported to have been good with blue sky, no clouds and no wind. However, the met forecast was apparently for adverse weather. Onboard the aircraft were five airmen from 311 (Czech) Squadron which was based at Tain, four Pilots and a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.

Squadron Leader Karel Kvapil – Pilot
Flying Officer Leo Linhart – Pilot
Flying Officer Jan Vella – Pilot
Flying Officer Valter Kauders – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Warrant Officer Rudolph Jelen – Pilot

The flight was not an operational one. It is believed that F/O Jan Vella was travelling to London to receive his DFC award, F/O Linhart, S/Ldr Kvapil and F/O Kauders are believed to have been taking some leave, and W/O Jelen was detailed to return the aircraft from RAF Hornchurch to RAF Tain.

The aircraft failed to arrive at RAF Hornchurch, and no record could be found of it having landed at any other airbase. It was believed that Oxford PH404 must have crashed in the sea since no trace of any wreckage had been reported.

It was not until August 19th 1945, that the fate of Oxford PH404 and her crew was finally known when the wreckage was discovered by two hill walkers. Doctor James Bain and F/Lt Archie Pennie.

The Oxford Memorial.

On January 10th 1945 at 1045 hrs, Oxford PH404 took off from RAF Tain on the North East coast of Scotland bound for RAF Hornchurch near London. The weather in Tain at that time was reported to have been good with blue sky, no clouds and no wind. However, the met forecast was apparently for adverse weather. On board the aircraft were five airmen from 311 (Czech) Squadron which was based at Tain, four Pilots and a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.

In 2005 memorial plaque to the aircrew who were killed in the crash was affixed to a boulder near the site by the local Air Training Core a lovely tribute.

The Oxford

Squadron Leader Karel Kvapil – Pilot
Flying Officer Leo Linhart – Pilot
Flying Officer Jan Vella – Pilot
Flying Officer Valter Kauders – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Warrant Officer Rudolph Jelen – Pilot

The flight was not an operational one. It is believed that F/O Jan Vella was travelling to London to receive his DFC award, F/O Linhart, S/Ldr Kvapil and F/O Kauders are believed to have been taking some leave, and W/O Jelen was detailed to return the aircraft from RAF Hornchurch to RAF Tain.

The aircraft failed to arrive at RAF Hornchurch, and no record could be found of it having landed at any other airbase. It was believed that Oxford PH404 must have crashed in the sea since no trace of any wreckage had been reported.

The men who unwittingly found the aircraft were Dr James Bain, a teacher in Elgin, and Flight Lieutenant Archie Pennie who was in the RAF but who was at the time taking a few days leave at his mother’s in Elgin. Long-time friends and both keen hill walkers, they had decided to spend their Sunday climbing two mountains in the Cairngorms, namely Beinn a Bhuird (3924 ft / 1196 m) and neighbouring Ben Avon (3843 ft / 1171 m). They located the wreck of the Oxford PH404, and alarmingly the bodies of five airmen.

Cheetah Engines

Oxford Ben a’ Bhuird engines.

They set out at mid-morning from Inchrory, and on approaching the summit of Beinn a Bhuird they found some aircraft debris and soon afterwards part of a wing. Finally, they discovered the remains

The cockpit and tail section were reasonably intact. The engines were relatively undamaged, perhaps because the aircraft had fallen on snow. The yellow paint work on the aircraft suggested to Archie Pennie that it had been a training aircraft. The bodies of two airmen were located in the cockpit, two others lay outside amongst the debris. The saddest discovery of all was that of the body of the fifth airman. It was found inside the remains of the fuselage and it was clear that he had initially survived the crash. He was wearing several layers of clothing that he must have removed from his dead crewmates in an effort to combat the cold. He appeared to have suffered a serious head injury and had made himself a make-shift bandage for his head wound using a towel.

It was clear to Dr Bain and Flt Lt Pennie that the crash had occurred some months previously owing to the condition of the bodies. They made a note of the aircrafts number and location and after descending the mountain went to Tomintoul and reported their discovery to the local police. They also reported the details to the local police in Elgin when they returned home.

The following day, Monday 20th August, a recovery team including Police Officers and members of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team from RAF Dyce made their way from Tomintoul towards Beinn a Bhuird to attempt a recovery of the airmen. Local assistance in locating the crash site was provided by Captain D McNiven, proprietor of the Richmond Arms in Tomintoul, and Mr William Stewart, a farmer from Clashnoir, Glenlivet.

A base for the recovery operation was set up near Inchrory. The Ambulance and transport wagons also waited at Inchrory as they were unable to travel any nearer the mountain due to the rough terrain.

By Monday night the recovery team on the mountain had removed the bodies from the wreckage and made efforts to prepare them for removal down the mountain. It was not possible to further progress with the recovery that night, and indeed some of the recovery team were in doubt as to whether it would be possible to remove the bodies down the mountain at all. They returned to the base near Inchrory to report on their difficulties and the NCO in charge of the party departed for RAF Dyce to inform them of the situation and to enquire about the possibility of burying the airmen on the mountain. However, the RAF authorities refused to permit a burial on the mountain and ordered that the bodies be brought down.

To assist in bringing the bodies down mules from an Indian regiment based at Braemar were transported by road to Inchrory. It took ten days to complete the recovery operation with the recovery team working in a very remote location on steep, uneven and boulder strewn ground.

The Mountain Rescue Team burnt the remains of the wreckage at the crash site to avoid it being mistaken for any other lost aircraft in the future. Only the engines and a few other small parts of the aircraft were not burnt. It was a gruelling operation for all the men involved.

The bodies of the five airmen recovered from Oxford PH404 were taken by road to an Aberdeen mortuary and placed in coffins. From here they were taken by train to Brookwood Military Cemetery near Woking in Surrey. They were buried there on September 3rd 1945 in the Czechoslovak section of the cemetery.

Many years later in 1973  Flying Officer s Jan’s Vellas  watch, which was so lovingly presented to him by the civilian workers in Silloth, had begun a new chapter in the Jan Vella story.

In 1973, 28 years after Jan and his colleagues were killed on the Scottish mountains, a young hillwalker named Philip Kammer, came across the crash site while climbing Beinn a’Bhuird. Philip caught sight of the debris and stopped to rest.  While shifting the gravel about with his foot, he suddenly uncovered the remains of the gold watch that had been presented to Jan by the civilian workers at Silloth 22MU.O. After being buried on the mountain for almost three decades, the inscription was still clear

“Presented to F/Sgt Pilot J. Vella by the workers of 22 MU RAF Station Silloth Cumbd, 24th December 1942.”

Philip tried to trace the owner of the watch through the Royal Air Force, but they were unable to help at the time and he placed it in a drawer, where it lay for several more decades, almost forgotten.

Linzee Druce, on her webpage, explains that in 2002, Czech researcher, Pavel Vancata,  asked if someone from the area around Tain could visit the crash site of Oxford PH404 to take some photographs of the crash site.  Linzee, who had been writing about her grandfather, Archie, who was killed in 1942 while flying in the RAF, offered to climb Beinn a’Bhuird and take some photographs.  The climb is described on her webpage, where there are a number of photographs.

This watch was returned to the family what a lovely thought all those years later.

There is a second wreck site on this mountain it was just off the plateau, about 1km south of the South Top of Beinn a’Bhuird on a ridge called Bruach Mhor, where a Vickers Wellington crashed in October 1940. This site is particularly impressive as the aircraft made a crater when it crashed which is still visible as a scar on the side of the mountain although most of the aircraft wreckage has now been removed.

Every crash site has its story and these are incredible and must never be lost. “Lest we forget.”

Acknowledgements: My thanks to Jim Hughes in Scotland, Pavel Vancata in the Czech Republic and Archie Pennie in Canada. http://www.edwardboyle.com/blog/?p=45

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Remembrance week – Ben Macdui the 1942 Avro Anson air crash remembered.

The Anson

“Lest we forget”

Many people visit Ben Mac Dui as the second biggest mountain in the United Kingdom it is a busy mountain. It is amazing how many visit this summit yet fail to notice a memorial marked on the map. 70 years ago on the 21 of August 1942 there was a plane crash on Ben MacDui .The memorial is about 500 metres from the summit, on a ridge, the view is incredible. There used to be a wooden plaque but now there is a metal one next to a small cairn and some wreckage. It is a great navigational point to find especially in winter but to me it is another very poignant place.

The Memorial – have you visited?

On the memorial are the crew names

Sgt J Llewellyn – (Pilot)

Flight Sergeant G Fillingham (Observer)

Pilot Officer W Gilmour (RCAF) Canadian Air Force. (Navigator)

Flight Sergeant Carruthers   (Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner)

Sgt J B Robertson (Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner)

This is to commemorate an aircraft crash here 70 years ago. It was an Avro Anson Mark 1 DJ106 the aircraft crash killed all five of the crew.  The aircraft and crew flew from RAF Kinloss in Morayshire in Scotland and was on a Navigational Exercise. The crash was located by the Royal Observation Corp on the 24 August and it took till the 27 August to remove all the casualties off the hill. This was in the dark days of war when Britain was fighting for its life. The Cairngorms was a huge training area, much of it sealed off and the public not admitted.  The mountains were the ideal place to test the skills needed by many different troops and Special Forces.

The Memorial on MacDui.

The Avro Anson was a two engine aircraft and wildly used as a training aircraft by the RAF and Commonwealth crews. Many of whom were lost in the mountains and the sea during training. This was due to the aircraft being very basic with limited navigation facilities, communication and the crew training short to support the war effort as quickly as possible. In addition the maintenance of the aircraft would have been very basic due to shortages of equipment and manpower. Crews were needed as quickly as possible for the war effort and unfortunately aircraft regularly crashed. Many crews died in the mountains after surviving a crash but dying of injuries. This was why in later in the war The RAF Mountain Rescue Service was formed.

As a member of Mountain Rescue for nearly 40 years, one can only imagine the recovery operation to recover the fatalities. This was a very remote place in 1942. Access was a long 3 -4 hour walk with basic equipment, no helicopters in these days and highland ponies may have helped with the transport of the casualties. There was no Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team in these early days.  Even in August the Cairngorm plateau can be a very inhospitable place.

One of the engines.

There is a lot of wreckage around the crash site even after all these years. Both of the Armstrong Sidley Cheetah engines are still there. The wreckage follows a line about 300 metres into the burn the Allt a’ Choire Mhoir where one of the engine lies. Pieces of the undercarriage some of it made of wood and sections of steel framework and lots of aluminium panels are still there. To wander round on a clear day as I did this month is a moving experience. The views of the Larig Gru and the huge corries of Coire Bhrochian and An Garbh Coire are impressive, this is a special place. The burn has several pieces of wreckage including a tyre. If you follow it further down the hill, you will see the power of nature and more wreckage. In winter the crash site can be under snow for several months and I have often used the memorial as a winter navigation training point when I was with the RAF Kinloss and Leuchars Mountain Rescue Teams. It is hard to find in a Cairngorm whiteout and the ground on the Larig Gru side is very steep. The stream and gully is usually full of snow and most of the wreckage is buried in winter.

Another Engine in the burn.

I did a piece for the BBC to be shown on the anniversary of the crash on BBC Scotland and BBC Wales. The weather was incredible and the views amazing, what a backdrop over to Angels Peak and Devils Point. It was a truly moving day and I hope we manage to portray some of the atmosphere of this special place. Three of the crew are buried in the cemetery at RAF Kinloss Abbey and the other two were taken home to Wales and Windermere. Whenever I visit a mountain with a crash nearby I try to leave a small cross in remembrance of those who gave so much.

Even today aircraft still crash in the mountains and in 2001 two American F15 aircraft crashed about half a kilometre from the Anson on MacDui. The F15 was state of the art technology aircraft and unfortunately both crew were killed. It took 2 days to find the aircraft, even in these days of huge changes in technology and equipment. Nature has a way of showing man who is in charge!  The whole recovery took several months to clear of all the wreckage, unlike during the war when there were no resources and aircraft were left where they crashed.

The high mountains of the UK have many such aircraft crashes from the war, where few survived after a crash and one near Ben More Assynt the crew are buried at the site. We must never forget the cost to these young lives; these were young men who died on the mountains for us to have the life we have today.

If you visit I hear that the plaque needs a clean let me know I must get over and check it out. Please be careful if visiting this site this is a wild place on a bad day and especially in winter.

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Remembrance Week The Shackleton Crash AEW MK2 WR965. 30th April 1990 Grid reference NF 996914. Isle of Harris

Shackelton AEW MK2 WR965. 30th April 1990 Grid reference NF 996914

The RAF Mountain Rescue was formed during the Second World War to rescue aircrew from crashed aircraft in the mountains of the UK. To this day the 3 RAF Teams that still survive are still called to carry out some difficult recoveries of aircraft both Service and civilian in the mountains. This was in 1990 when I was the RAF Mountain Rescue Team Leader at RAF Kinloss.

The Memorial for the Shackleton crash.

This is the sad story of this incident and the part played by the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team where I was the Team Leader on the 30 th April 1990.

It was a beautiful day at RAF Kinloss which is situated on the North East coast of Scotland. Unusually a lot of the Mountain Rescue Team had gathered in the crew room . It was lunch time when I was told on the phone by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) and there was a Shackelton aircraft missing from RAF Lossiemouth. It had been on a Training sortie from Lossiemouth and was last seen near Benbeculla, near the Isle of Harris on the West Coast of Scotland. I was told a helicopter from Lossiemouth a Sea King would be at Kinloss in 10 minutes and would take 10 of my team to the area. This is called a “fast party” a quick fast response to any incident.

10 Minute’s is not long to get ready for a pick up and to collect your thoughts”

In these circumstances 10 minutes is not long to prepare and the teams have a long established protocols to ensure we have the correct equipment to carry out any rescue. We managed to get to the aircraft pan ready for the Seaking Helicopter which landed rotors running and we were off!  In an aircraft crash information is coming in all the time, from the ARCC.  As The Team Leader I was getting constant updates from the aircrew and passing the information on to the team members in the back of the noisy helicopter not easy.  

“I was up front with the crew on headphones the radio full of information”

In any incident the helicopter flies flat out on a Rescue especially, when it is an aircraft from their station at Lossiemouth, nothing was spared. I was up with the pilots and getting all the updates on my earpiece. There are so many things going on in your head as the Team Leader and you are very busy. The flight to Harris was about 60 minutes and as we neared the last known position we were picking up the aircraft beacons in the helicopter which meant the aircraft in trouble and had crashed. Due to the remoteness of the area I spoke to my control the ARCC from the helicopter and asked for the rest of the RAF Kinloss team to be sent immediately to assist.

As we neared the crash site the noise from the beacons was intense and we feared the worst. The crash had occurred near the village of Northton on a small hill called Modal about 800 Feet above the sea. The only cloud in the whole of Scotland was over the crash site and the helicopter dropped us as near as they could to the incident. It was like the scene from a battlefield, a tangled mess of a once proud aircraft and the casualties, all fatal scattered around, memories that still haunt me to this day.  

“At times like these even in the middle of such carnage the Mountain Rescue Team has a job to do and we are all as professional, most of us had seen these sights before”.

A few shocked locals had managed to get to the crash and were relieved to see us and leave the horror of such a place. There was very little chance of any survivors. All 10 were dead.

Our first task is to ensure that all the casualties are accounted for and then to secure the crash site. All the fatalities have to be left in place as there will be a Crash Investigation Team on scene as soon as possible. Our next task is to secure the site which was still on fire and ensure there were no classified materials about.

“It was grim work but most of my team on the helicopter were veterans of such scenes, I had been heavily involved with the Lockerbie Disaster, we did what we had to do”.

Once things were organised at the scene I walked back down to the road about half a mile from the scene. It was surreal already the locals had put a small caravan in a lay-by and the ladies had a welcome cup of tea for us. They were wonderful people with typical Highland hospitality and care, which my team would need later on. They were so kind to my team and helped in the difficult days that we had ahead.

The cloud had cleared and this was one of the most sad but beautiful places in Scotland.  The local Police, firemen were on scene along with the Coastguards and the site was secured awaiting the Board of Enquiry, no casualties could be moved until the Police and the Procurator Fiscal arrived. My team guarded the scene and took photos and mapped the site out, standard procedures for an aircraft incident.

The aircraft was guarded through the night and all  the local people were so helpful to us all.”

The majority of the team who were still at Kinloss were flown to Stornoway by a Jetstream aircraft and by Hercules aircraft complete with our Mountain Rescue vehicles, they were all on scene by 1600, an amazing piece of organisation.

I never found out who was on in the ARCC who helped sort this out when I asked for help”.

 In the end I had 27 Team members, the 4 Tonner vehicles’ arrived by Ferry the same day! In the end all were needed to move the 10 casualties form the hill.

Once the site had been visited later on by the Board of Enquiry the team then receives permission to remove all the casualties from the scene, a hard and difficult task.

 “Few will understand but this is our job and we did it with great respect for the crew as we could,”

It’s hard to believe that I fought to stay in a Hotel at Tarbet during the grim task, we had to guard the site and after moving the casualties we needed to get simple things like showers. We needed that and it gave those who were not on shift a break away from the hill.

 After 3 days on scene we handed over the crash site to RAF Lossiemouth crash guard who were there for several weeks working with the investigation board. Most of the team and vehicles’ flew out that day from Harris in a Hercules aircraft ahead of all the casualties who were in another aircraft. We flew into Lossiemouth and drove through the camp for the short journey to Kinloss. The whole camp at RAF Lossiemouth lined up as we drove through a very moving experience, waiting for their fallen comrades. It was then back to normal, most of the team straight back to work we had been away for 4 days.”

 Sadly some Bosses were annoyed that we had been away from work for so long how little they knew what my team had done”.  

I went back to my partner and the kids as did most of the team few would understand what we did but we did our job as always. 

 “It was a moving experience for us all and one I will never forget”      I had a great team seasoned after years of Rescues all over Scotland yet this was an event few will forget, These were the early days before PTSD was acknowledged. After Lockerbie is was a reminder to me and I had a lot more knowledge hard won to look after my team who as always were superb.   

A few years later I revisited the crash site in Harris. The drive down was in driving rain but as we got nearer to Tarbet the weather cleared to bright sunshine and the hills had a smattering of snow. As we got nearer to the site the sun, blue seas, surf and clear sandy beaches made this a sad but beautiful place to be. Though the hill is only small by mountaineering standards, it’s fairly steep as it starts from sea-level. Memories came flashing back of the accident and even the superb beauty of this special place made it a difficult wee walk. Nature has as usual sorted things out and the scars on the hill are covered by heather and peat, occasional bits of wire and small pieces of metal remain of a fairly large aircraft.

The memorial on the top commemorates the crew of the Shackelton “Dylan” and details of the aircraft with the words “We Will Never Forget” inscribed on a memorial on the summit. It faces West the inscription is getting the worse of the weather and may need replaced within the next few years.  I think this has been done.

 On the summit the views were immense, unsurpassed with unique Island scenery of mountains and the sea and the fresh snow enhancing everything.  After spending some time on the top, with the wind it was fairly cold, we left that beautiful, though sad place, with a wee prayer for the crew and wondering how many people know of this place.

I will never forget what happened that day and how tragic the crash site was even to hardened mountain rescue men. The RAF Mountain Rescue Team carries out a complex job at times but I am proud of what my team did over these few days.

 “I will never forget the wonderful help we received from the Police, Coastguards and these magnificent people from North Harris who treated us so well over a terribly difficult 3 days. Thanks to all, from all of us”.


It should be noted that the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team has been at least two other Shackelton Crashes in their role in RAF Mountain Rescue. The first was on the 21 December 1967 when a Shackelton crashed at Locailort near Fortwilliam killing all 13 of the crew. The team were involved in the recovery all over the Festive period until the 8 January. I met the son of the navigator of this aircraft who came to visit RAF Kinloss in 2007, 40 years after his father died, a very moving day for me. I took him and his wife around the Rescue Centre the ARCC where I was on shift. From here we went to the Mountain Rescue Section at Kinloss and tried to answer all his questions, which he wanted answers for many years. In addition the team were also involved in the Shackelton Crash at the south end of the Mull of Kintyre killing all 11 of the crew on the 19 April 1968, the RAF Kinloss team were there till the 23 April.

“All these terrible incidents make a huge impression on the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and the team members and are never forgotten by those who were involved. Sadly this was our job.”        

“Lest We Forget”    

Shackelton  Crew

Wing Commander Stephen Roncoroni

Wing Cdr Chas Wrighton

Flying Officer Colin Burns

Squadron Leader Jerry Lane

 Flight Lieutenant Al Campbell 

Flight Lieutenant Keith Forbes

Master Air Electronics Operator Roger Scutt

Flight Sergeant Rick Ricketts

Sergeant Graham Miller

Corporal Stuart Bolton

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A weekend of memories. The Annual Scottish RAF Mountain Rescue Reunion.

Today after watching the rugby I am heading to Newtonmore for the Annual Scottish Mountain Rescue Reunion. There will be over 100 at the Reunion which is held at the Highlander Hotel.

RAF Mountain Rescue Badge worn on uniform with pride.

It’s a great gathering and the Current Lossiemouth Team usually attend. Even better is that many of the wives and partners will be there. They have supported the teams over the years. It’s hard to think that in the early days before many had phones the team would be off on a call – out and often the families did not know where they were.

1972 RAF KInloss Team.

The RAF teams were at the forefront of Mountain Rescue and when you look through some of the incidents before many of the civilian teams were set up it was a different world. Imagine no helicopter support, 5 hour journey to Skye. No bridge at Glencoe or Inverness or Kylesku. Epic drives basic gear poor communications and no GPS or mobile phones. These were different days, we have lost many of our early members gone to the big Munro in the Sky. Yet many are still about. I love to here the stories and try to document them. In these early days they dealt with some trauma without any help and yet when many still talk about the big incidents you can see the effect on them and their families.

RAF Leuchars Team

I enjoy hearing from the long suffering wife’s whose husbands were away 3 weekends a month plus call – outs they are the real heroes. We rarely mention this.

Things have changed and yet the ethos is still the same. The RAF Lossiemouth MRT are still in action and a great asset to Mountain Rescue. We have many ladies in the team and they have proved a huge asset over the years.

It was sad to lose the Military helicopters but the Civilian contract is working well and they will be giving a talk at the Re Union.

Early days of the Sea King on a call out
The Wessex

As always the tales will get longer and the snow will be deeper the climbs harder as the night goes on. Many only spent a few years in the teams yet the companionship changed there lives. Other spent over 30 years in various teams. Yet we are all the same it was how you coped in the hills that mattered not your rank. There were some great characters about it was a simpler world and we had leaders who all different shaped your life. The word “Team Leader”is now so well used in many professions.

I will meet many of whom were heroes to me. They taught you so much , gave you a hard time when needed and tried to ensure your training kept you safe when few would venture into the hills in the worst of weathers. Many like me are getting on in life but for a few hours we will be back on the hills fit as a fiddle climbing and having adventures. These were incredible days I was so lucky to be part of it. Even the long carries with stretchers through the night the scary helicopter flights were all part of my life. Yet you belonged to a superb group of people who gave a lot back to society and still do.

The new Memorial on Beinn Eighe.

Thank you all for shaping my life and to the families who gave us so much support we can never repay you. To all the team members what great days and to the current RAF MRT be safe and enjoy every day. These are some of the best days of your lives.

“The kit on the outside and the equipment may have changed.
Underneath the heart and soul of the troops remains the same.”

W.MacRitchie MBE RAF MRT Warrant Officer.

A huge thanks to Ray Sefton who had run the reunions for years and had stepped down. Thank you for all your hard work. To Brent and Gus who are taking over I am sure it will all go well.

To many troops please have a look and maybe come along it’s the same date every year.

The first weekend in Nov and at the Highlander Hotel in Newtonmore. Let’s get some of the beer troops there.

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Suilven – the Famine or Destitution Walls – Beinn Dearg and The road of Destitution.

After my winter wander on Beinn Dearg I had a look at some other effects of this tragic time in Scotland’s history. On that day I followed the “Famine Wall” on to near the summit and then all the way along the ridge. Its a huge feature that few know of its history and why it was built. It was built in the time of the Potato Famine in the 1840’s its a story of tragedy and” Man’s inhumanity to man” Yet its good to know some of the stories of these majestic places and the cost in emigration to our small country. How many died making these walls and roads we will never know but the Walls and roads are there as a reminder. So please when you visit these places please pass on these stories?

Many who climb Suilven in the North West Highlands of Scotland may wonder why has a dry stone wall running across its middle. The wall was built about 160 years ago. Some of the stones are massive like all the walls in these mountains.

The Wall – Photo Shane Younie Suiliven

I had two pals camp up on the summit this week they took some great photos especially of the wall that crosses the mountain. What effort went into that Wall? Its a long day and how this Wall was built is incredible as you hit the ridge there it is. You feel so feeble struggling up this mountain and yet over 140 years ago people built a wall here?

The famous Road of Destitution is another that I was told about and how it was built.

Why is it there ? I was told these tales long ago they are a huge part of our Mountain Heritage and big reminders into our history. The late George Bruce, John Hinde and Hamish Browns magical book Hamish’s Mountain Walk and Climbing the Corbetts are full of historical information and tales of these mountains.

There is far more to these wild places than ticking a list of mountains. Names like Destitution Road and Famine walls are a huge part of the heritage of this area

These were such terrible times where so many left emigrated “forced” for places like America, Canada, Australia and other places. This was due to famine and the terrible treatment of those who controlled the land. We lost so many folk that the Highlands never recovered frpm

Those who climb up Suilven will be amazed by how remote and incredibly steep it is . I cannot imagine the sheer effort to also carry/move such huge stones which make up the Destitution or “Famine wall” that crosses the mountain. When building the Wall where did they stay, they must have camped high up at times, there are few shelters and huge walks to get to the mountains .

The “Famine Wall” on Suilven

Why were they built?

The sad answer is starvation. In the 1840s and 1850s, during the Highland clearances, the people were forced from their lands by rich landowners to make way for sheep farming. Many leaving for America, Canada, Australia, etc. a potato famine struck leaving those that were left behind starving. Too proud to beg for charity, which the rich landowners had refused anyway, they were forced to work with little or no purpose, building roads and walls in the middle of nowhere in exchange for food. These were the ‘destitution’ roads and famine walls. They still exist across the Highlands to this day, a sad reminder of a blighted history.

The Destitution road. A832

From a Tourist write up.

This remains popular with travellers and tourists alike as its fine stretch offers a unique view of the Scottish Highlands. How many know that after endless hours of graft, what was created by the desperate men was the A832, a 126-mile long road which links Cromarty, on the east coast, to Gairloch on the west coast. For 125 miles, it remains in a single county, making it the longest 3-digit A road in Scotland and the fifth longest in Britain.

Dundonnell to Braemore

The most famous stretch of this road is from Dundonnell to Braemore is one of the most famous parts of Destitution Road. The A832 road enters the wild Dundonnell Gorge where it climbs alongside the waterfalls on the Dundonnell River before leaving at Fain Bridge.

Fain Bothy just off the road we used to use it as a Base Camp before it demise. Its in the middle of the moor a wild place.

It then travels across the wild open moors reaching an altitude of 1000 feet where you get these incredible views of An Teallach,The Fannichs and Beinn Dearg. I have used this road often in winter it is wild and one can only think of the effort making this road, controlling the rivers and how bad the weather could be. How many died making this in the days before Health and Safety? I have come back in a blizzard on a few occasions this is a wild place where the wind sweeps across there is no shelter. I often think of those who built this place.

Yet in Scotland it was a lot better than what occurred in Ireland during their famine. Yet is was a close run thing, The effects of the famine negatively impacted the already impoverished Highland population, leaving them in further despair and desperation.

The disease is thought to have affected around 150,000 people with one-third of the population leaving Scotland between 1841 and 1861. Many thousands died on the voyages or on the shores of their new world.

Destitution road remains popular with travellers and tourists alike as its fine stretch offers a unique view of the Scottish Highlands. It would be good to see something to teach future generations of its history.

Have we moved on today with Food-banks etc?

Rations: 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.

Posted in Books, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, History, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being | Leave a comment

Great weather on Beinn Dearg Hard going it’s hard going in the snow. A Winter day

Beinn Dearg (Ullapool)

I had not been up Beinn Dearg for a while so with a good weather forecast I was away early. It’s a 2 hour drive but it all went well though it was raining when I left home. Lots of stags on road especially on the Fannichs in dark so be careful.

I parked in the forestry car park just before 0800 there was another lad in car park he was heading to Seanna Bhraigh a long way. The stags were roaring on the hill. I could see fresh snow at about 700 metres. It was freezing when I got out the car and got sorted ice axe and crampons with me. Big boots and a bit heavier bag. I can see that the trees have been cleared near Stron Nea a cliff I had some adventures on as Doctor Tom Patey climbed here. This was his patch and I wanted to see how the gullies were looking it used to be a climbing ground for the team.

The Classic is Emerald Gully a wonderful ice climb. Yet before the cliff there are great routes neglected and well worth a look when the big cliffs are out due to winds. We have done many routes here. They have an Irish connection in their names.

Crag features UKC.

“This massive mountain has many corries providing some of the best winter climbing in the far north.”

The bike. Must sort my gears out.

The start is a track through the forestry for two miles so I took my bike. I had to be careful as there was plenty of ice on the track. It is worth taking it as on the way home it’s all down hill. My bike gears were causing problems. So I left it early. I was soon out of the forest and onto the hill path past the wee hydro in the trees. The path was tricky lots of ice and verglas. This was tricky going as it was pretty frozen all the way to the snow.


It was hard going I was slow and the gullies on the way up were still snowless until I hit the main cliff. It’s a good path but another needing tlc.

Some classic winter lines here.

I walked on heading to the beleach and after 2 hours I was in the snow. I had snow-holed hear many years ago when ice climbing in Coire Ghranda that was some day, it’s wild country with lots of scope.

From here it was heavy going there were no footprints just snow and when your on your own it’s hard going.

This was icy underfoot.

Once at the beleach it seemed to go on for ever but the main cliff had lots of snow but no ice. I have been to a few avalanches here there are lots of big Cornices above the ice routes. Be careful here if winter climbing.

From here I followed the Famine Wall that was built in the mid 1840’s during the potato famine . A tragic time in our history.

It is also called “Destitution Wall stands on Beinn Dearg, leading from the bealach up to near the summit before striking down the mountain’s north-west ridge. It was built in the mid-19th century by crofters in return for food during Scotland’s potato famine – a harsh way to earn a pittance”

The wall that had drifted snow on each side. That was hard work. I was feeling the hard going and stopped to eat. It’s a wonderful place to be. Yet it was bitter cold. I had my ice axe out as there was hard neve snow in places.

The Famine Wall

The wall takes you onto the plateau where you leave it and head to the summit. It’s featureless here and tricky navigation in a white out.

My phone stopped working it was bitter cold but moved it into my fleece pocket and it was okay after a charge and some heat. I marvelled at the views yet it was bitter. Running for several miles along the east-west ridge on Beinn Dearg is another sad reminder of our past, a huge drystane dyke, in places up to six feet high. It was built in the 1840s during the potato famine by starving crofters in return for food, just another monument to the harsh Highland living conditions of the time.

The Famine Wall

I decided to go back this way as the Glen would be still icy maybe the ridge would be better? It was still hard going and there was a lot of snow on this side. The views of The Fannichs and An Teallach and further North it was spellbinding.

Hard going

I dropped back down to the path fairly steep and had a wet river crossing then back on the path to the forest.

End of the Wall
I stopped here and had a great break no rush to get away from this place .

I picked up the bike and was soon at the car. Yes it was worth taking it. I was very tired and then the a change of clothes and rehydrate. I met the guy who I had seen earlier he had not made Seanna Bhraigh the heavy going put him off. Then it was a send a couple of messages that I was off the hill safely then the drive home. The Sky was pink and the hills looked incredible.

Bonnie view on way off.
I was soon home really tired but so happy what a day hard work but to be out on this place alone is a special feeling. Always tell someone what your plans are.
Posted in Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Blast from the past – Dachstein Mitts.

After yesterday’s wee blog on Wind – suits I got a few photos of Wind – suits and the famous Dachstein mitts. Looking through some of the climbing forums it was amazing to see how so many “tigers” berated them. As clumsy and overall an awful glove. In there day they were a great bit of kit for there time. That’s all we had. I loved them especially when they got worn thin and fitted your hands better. I even dyed mine red, they ended up pink . I least no one pinched them.

The Classic Dachstein Mitt.

Dachstein-mitts – They are not modern and hi-tec but still one of the best winter mitts available. Warm and virtually windproof – completely so when covered in frozen snow – they also provide excellent grip on snowy/icy rock.

On a tragic Avalanche on Ben Alligin In 1986 as flying over in a Wessex to start a search. My mate Jock noticed a Dachstein projecting from the snow. It was some spot and we landed on. It was way out of our search areas. We located the casualties two survived.

Gloves are a key part of winter mountaineering , lose a glove in the winter and have no spare and you can be in serious trouble. Without gloves you are useless, in wild weather the hands freeze quickly and soon you cannot navigate, use an ice – axe and that’s when all the problems start. They are still available from most climbing shops between £ 30 upwards – buy them a bit big a good tip.

The Classic Dachstein mitt

I have used them for years they are still an incredible glove and well worth carrying a spare in your bag.

Top tip ; Always carry a spare , ask me how many I have given away to people who have lost theirs on the hill.

Dachstein mitts are made from 100% wool, shrunk and felted to make them thick and dense. These naturally highly wind resistant, and provide good warmth even when wet. They are also very comfortable to wear as wool is an excellent absorber of any dampness from the hands. You cannot do anything requiring dexterity, but they are a cheap, comfortable and long-lasting mitt for winter use. So for all those poor climbers with limited funds they are still available.

Available in any colour you like as long as it is grey.

n Mitts

Traditional heavy duty wool mitts. made well oversized and then boiled to shrink to a tough thick woollen felt. As used by Scottish winter climbers, alpinists and Himalayan expeditioners for over 50 years.

Not waterproof but when used in snow, an icy skin forms over the mitt which is very effective at keeping hands warm. If you are an impecunious winter climber looking for the one glove that will do everything (as cheaply as possible) then this is about as close as you’ll get!

Please note that with the change in supplier from Lackner (who ceased production) to Huber, the sizing of these mitts has changed and they are now larger than they used to be.”

Back in the 1970’s just about everybody wore Dachsteins, but as with lots of things, fashions change and they are nowhere near as common 40 years later in 2013. There are so many great gloves about yet it’s good to see that they are still available though.

Ben Nevis Point 5 only a few years ago Wind suit and Dachstein mitts. Photo A. Barnard. Al gets the most of of his gear.
Many used them and attached them to your body like your mum did so you did not drop them!
27 Nov 2006 – Wind suit and Dachstein Gloves with fingers plus broken probe Cairngorms after a night shift in the Rescue Centre.
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Classic Gear – wind-suits.

In the RAF we were lucky we had always a contact or folks in the team who could make things. The Safety Equipment could turn and old parachute into a basic wind – top or suit if you chatted to them and provide Zips and some cash. I had some great gear made in my many years with the RAF MRT. They made so many other bits of kit but that’s another tale. The Marines had wind – suits and there were a few swaps made for them. Also some of our team members were part of big long expeditions to the arctic and came back with many prototypes. Gear was developing . My first sight of a real Wind – suit was meeting Pete Boardman in the Northern Corries in the mid 70’s. He was not famous then just another climber who was always helpful when we chatted, We met a lot and marvelling at this light piece of gear his wind – suit that he put on so quickly. We were struggling with trousers and zips. The wind – suit had huge zips it was also bright and light. I had seen the early wind suits that were designed by the Everest Team Don Willians on some of the massive expeditions of the 70’s.They were iconic.

1990’- The Keela windsuit in the Himalayas on Kusung Kangaroo a heavier bit of gear but great wearing kit. I bivied high in one of these ,

They were great for snow-holing easy to put on with lots of zips and pockets. You could just wear them with your underwear when digging a hole and keep your gear dry.

1996 – Alaska clearing the camp after heavy snow. The wind – suit was ideal, The classic Slioch one.

The great Slioch one we got made to our spec was lightweight yet was superb for winter climbing. Made from Pertex I loved it. Even a midget like me got it made to measure as my short legs were always hard to get the right length of material. I loved it I think I had it for years but gave it away in the end after several patching due wear and tear.

Summit of Diran 23000 feet with a Keela windsuit . The summiteers bivied in them for two nights after there high camp was Avalanched .photo Dan Carrol.

I loved my heavier wind-suits for the big call outs in the Winter. Keela a local company sponsored us for an Expedition and we helped design it. We bought many for the team. Okay you could sweat a bit but they were ideal for the wild weather you get on a wild winter day. I loved the pockets for maps, spare food and other items. I bivied in them at times. They came into there own when hanging about I still have a Keela suit . They were robust!

Ben Nevis – Ledge Route,

We wore them a lot for winter climbing in Canada and Scotland. They were light and even better bright for the photos that meant so much to us then. We were so vain.

Hanging about on a call out on the Cairngorms – Steve in Keela wind suit.

Wind-suits/ down suits have come on a long way the Suits we wore on Everest were well over £1500 each but for a different job. We did not buy them we were loaned them from the Military Expedition Store and returned after the trip.

Ted on Everest in his Down suit at 8000 metres.

I think I gave my red Slioch wind-suit away to a pal I had overgrown it ! I still have another one I carry in the car in winter, its still great gear. I miss the red Slioch it I wonder if it’s still about? It was so light and easy to wear.

Carl and Guy in the snow hole on Diran after the summit totally exhausted bivy in Keela wind suits / photo Dan Carroll.

Do you have any stories of Wind – suits ?
2001 – Rusty on Everest summit photo Dan Carrol.

Terry Moore my mate was climbing last year in winter in the Lakes he is still wearing his white wind – suit that he wore on Denali. He was climbing with another pal Brian Kirkpatrick who took these photos. I have a photo somewhere of Terry on Hells Lum in his white wind – suit. I must find it.

Terry in the Lakes in his White Wind – suit. Still like him going strong. Photo Brian Kirkpatrick,

Andy Kirkpatrick wrote a great piece on Peter Hutchison the founder of PHD it gives and early insight into Down Suits its on phdesigns.co.uk Its called Down all the days : A profile of Peter Hutchinson by Andy Kirkpatrick, its well worth a read.

Also the incredible smhc. co . uk The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection has some great photos of down/wind suits always worth a look.

High Bivy on Diran Carl sunbathing before the sun goes down in wind suit at 21000 feet photo Dan Carrol
Posted in Alaska, Articles, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Gear, Himalayas/ Everest, Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing. | Leave a comment

Looking back – on Cycle to Syracuse and looking after your Mental Health.

This time last year I was a small part of the team that completed the Cycle to Syracuse an incredible trip to the USA. This was to commemorate the Lockerbie Tragedy on its 30 th anniversary. The cycle ended at Syracuse University where sadly 35 Students were killed in the crash . Every year they have a wonderful poignant ceremony at the University.

I have met so many relatives from Mountaineering tragedies and aircraft crashes over the years. Yet during that week in the USA where the team cycled 600 miles in 7 days and we met so many relatives from the tragedy. We met many relatives on the road and in their homes all had a story to tell about young lives lost in their prime. All were heartbreaking tales that could not be rushed and yet their was love and forgiveness in their hearts.

I found it very hard coping with this but the love, kindness and care we received was heartwarming and heart breaking at the same time.

The families were so pleased to see us and I still cannot believe the support we received.

Incredible meetings with relatives.

I struggled for years after Lockerbie and other disasters. It effected my health and well being .

Not because I am a weak person but we all handle tragedy differently. Lockerbie was only a part of the trauma I was involved in my life. Apart from the many mountain incidents I was involved in some horrific aircraft incidents like the Chinook on the Mull of Kintyre where 29 died.

As the memories come up this week in photos it takes you back to an incredible trip and I thank the team and so many friends for their support.

These next few months will be as always hard yet I receive wonderful words from many of who are now friends we met on our trip.

Every year I get contact from families who many years later want to visit where they lost a loved one. It can be hard but it’s all part of the healing process for the family and helps me as well.

Many folk say why do you do it, you do not need the hurt and heartbreak. Yet to me it so good to be able to help and tell often the hidden story of a hard rescue or recovery and the people involved. Our families bore the brunt of a hard incident on these days we hardly spoke about what we did. It is so much better nowadays. We must keep going we are only in the early days of accepting that we may have problems.

Lockerbie Window of Rememberance .

It’s sad that a lot of history call out information was lost when teams when to to computers for there Stats. It seems sad that the Police have very few records of call outs going back to the early days. Were they destroyed?

I have a full history of the RAF Kinloss Team that runs from 1944 – 2012 to its closure. It is a wealth of history of Rescues all over Scotland. Sadly this is the only RAF Rescue team to still have a full history. It is amazing that they never kept this information. The only way I kept it was that we kept the originals that were binned and Retyped them out. Many helped with this task but they have been so useful. This has been down over the years in wthe Scottish Mountaineering Club Journals. They maintained a basic record of incidents since the early days of recording incidents. They hold incredible information much that is still relevant for safety and Stats.

I would be interested to find out how many teams have a complete record of incidents. This week I am trying to trace some information on a call out for relatives. This is the 4th request this year and I have managed to help all of them. One incident was 40 years ago.

So as the memories come back just now I remember the good we did on our trip. How we met so many folk and told them just a little of what our folks did. Most were unpaid volunteers from many Agencies some who still suffer today.

Posted in Articles, Cycling, Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

Every picture tells a story it’s so worth taking them.

Today saw the first over the radio of roads and a few cars stuck in the snow near the Lecht in the Cairngorms. Is winter on its way.

I saw the photo below on the RAF MRT Instagram Account. It was of the late Al MacLeod ice climbing in the Cairngorms I think. It looks Mid 80’s with the Korflack plastic boots and I think the axes are Chacals. Al is wearing the classic footfang crampons at the time an incredible piece of gear. Name the route?

Photos like these make me think of so many things, the climbs, the history and the company. I think this photo was taken when we came back from Ice climbing in Canada in 1984 full of confidence in our gear and ability. Al was so powerful on the ice it was his medium, he loved it and Scotland.He was fun to be with. I was never a great climber but was lucky to climb many of the classics of the time all over Scotland with so many pals. After a second trip to Canada in 2 years it was incredible how things had moved on.

The late Big Al MacLeod in action in his red wind suit and tracky bottoms. Plastic Boots, Chacal axes Loving the ice the situation and view.

Plastic boots came upon the mountaineering world like a rash in the late 1970’s and within a couple of years just about everybody had a pair. Scottish bog trotters said it was the first time they’d had dry feet for a hundred years, Himalayan climbers didn’t get frostbite and boot polish dried up in the tin – redundant. Unfortunately, there was a down side – condensation made your feet look like wrinkled prunes with blisters popping up on each wrinkle! Blisters appeared round the ankle where the boot top rubbed and if water did get in, it couldn’t get out. Some folk loved them, others hated them, but as if by magic, they almost totally disappeared from the scene sometime in the late 1990’s.
Koflach were one of the main producers back in the 70’s, using technology gleaned from making ski boots and we’ve got a prime example of their ‘Ultras’ here in the collection. They were probably the most prolific boot on the market at the time.

I also met the late Andy Nisbet when we climbed a lot in these years he was pushing the winter grades as he always did. We were on Cascade in the Cairngorms at the time we had a great chat as you did in these days when most climbers knew each other. He loved my dog who would wait patiently at the bottom of the route. Andy knew these climbs and was always there to give advice a great man.

The tools !

Mark Hartree / Just checked my diary. It was 21st Feb 1989. Cascade, Stag Rocks, 200′, IV. After we did Left Gully, 200′, III.
The hammer is called the Chacal. The Adze version is called the Barracuda. Superb pieces of kit. Loved them. Al wore Footfangs and we both had the excellent Slioch pertex wind suits. My old axes here with my trusty old Grivel crampons I wore.

From the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection.

The Simond Chacal

Produced by Simond from 1975 until the late 1980s, this axe featured one of the first “reverse curve” commercially available. There had been steep drop picks (Peck/MacInnes Terrodactly) and modular tools (Forrest Modular System, 1974) but giving the pick a reverse curve was, up until then, only done by climbers experimenting with their own axes. There is some debate about who tried it first.

As is sometimes the case, the idea seemed to occur to several groups of climbers at about the same time. Scottish climbers needed a better tool in the steep ice of the Cairngorms so they modified there picks.

Simond Ice Hammer

Others were tinkering with and re-forging alpine axes, and several manufacturers were starting to independently develop the concept as well.

The Chacal axe has a nice weight and head design. The pick was secured by a large yet low profile double sided nut and two rolled pins. Thin washers on each side of the nut covered the rolled pins and insured they stayed in. Replacing the pins or removing the pick required knocking them out with punch and hammer.

The tool initially came in a silver/grey painted version with a red rubber grip on the bottom third of the shaft for insulation and vibration reduction. Three lengths (45cm, 50cm, 55cm) were available.

In 1977 the shaft was fully protected by a black molded rubber covering and this remained the standard shaft through the remainder of the production.

I never had a set sadly expense I used the Terrordacyl that were made in Scotkand and of course the Chouinard Zero axe and hammers.


Produced by Simond from 1975 until the late 1980s, this axe featured one of the first “reverse curve” commercially available. There had been steep drop picks (Peck/MacInnes Terrodactly) and modular tools (Forrest Modular System, 1974) but giving the pick a reverse curve was, up until then, only done by climbers experimenting with their own axes. There is some debate about who tried it first. As is sometimes the case, the idea seemed to occur to several groups of climbers at about the same time. Scottish climbers needed a better tool in the steep ice of the carringorms so they modified their picks, Colorado climbers, always an inventive lot, were tinkering with and re-forging alpine axes, and several manufacturers were starting to independently develop the concept as well.The Chacal axe has a nice weight and head design. The pick was secured by a large yet low profile double sided nut and two rolled pins. Thin washers on each side of the nut covered the rolled pins and insured they stayed in. Replacing the pins or removing the pick required knocking them out with punch and hammer.The tool initially came in a silver/grey painted version with a red rubber grip on the bottom third of the shaft for insulation and vibration reduction. Three lengths (45cm, 50cm, 55cm) were available.In 1977 the shaft was fully protected by a black molded rubber covering and this remained the standard shaft through the remainder of the production. I could not afforded them so I had Terrordactyls and Chounaird Zeros later on . That is another story for another day.

Posted in Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering | 4 Comments

Getting to the top means your only half way there. “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” Ed Viesturs

Getting to the top means your only half way there! You still have to get off the mountain. With Bill Batson on Lochnagar.

The photo above is after a wild day on Lochnagar a magic mountain. Yet it has always taxed me to the full on several occasions especially winter climbing. It seem that when the wind blows it can be so bitter, more so than other hills.

It also has great hil lwalking and the circuit of 5 Munros is a classic day. In winter its a big test of stamina and in poor weather navigation.

Lochnagar (Cac Carn Beag) (1155m, Munro 20)
Carn a’Choire Bhoidheach (1110m, Munro 42)
Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (1047m, Munro 84)
Cairn Bannoch (1012m, Munro 117)
Broad Cairn (998m, Munro 142)

Yet though I climbed the Munros circuit many times I was attarcted to the Coire of Lochnagar Dark and foreboding. It is a place of historic routes and climbs and one where I have had many adventures. Many years ago when I was climbing regularly Lochnagar was a favourite. Yet it involved a big walk in 2 hours plus to the Corrie. Even the drive up the Glen in snow can be tricky. I climbed here a lot when I was stationed at RAF Buchan on the East Coast. I started a mountaineering club and took a few climbing. Looking back I was very fit I had just done a 3 week walk across Scotland. Most of the club were complete novices and yet we climbed a few good mountains and routes. We even held a 5 day winter course on the mountain with big walk in every day.


This is a superb Mountain and the view of the huge cliffs and the lochan below are special. I had several epics here and some wild flights in by helicopter in the past. We always got battered by the wind here and had some crazy winter days. With a strong windS and snow this can be a fearsome place. I had a big scare in the late 70,s after an ascent of Raeburns Gully where the weather was so bad we could not get the gear off harness etc as it had frozen on until we reached our bothy at Crathie! It was one of the hardest days ever and we had a fight to get of that hill. In the early 80’s I was avalanched nearly down to the loch when two climbers brought a cornice down by walking over it as we descended from a wild day on Black Spout Buttress. Again it was a big walk out fairly battered.

Classic Lochnagar.

A bit more detail:

On a wild day (this was the 70’s the weather forecast were not so accurate) After a climb we hit a big storm on the plateau. Lochnagar has can have a huge rim of massive Cornices in winter that you have to be aware off. What followed was an epic getting of the hill safely. My two young companions were inexperienced and were exhausted after our climb yet we got back to safety just and no more. I had led the climb all day climbed the huge cornice and then navigated off. On the top in the blizzard we could not get the ropes of they were frozen. It was a pretty close run thing for me.

It was a long walk out in deep snow and whiteout once we got out the wind things improved. It was very late back and one of the party had slight frostbite. I wore glasses all the time and had an epic reading the map and the compass. It was impossible to speak to each other but looking back the rope kept us together as I tried to keep away from the huge Cornices in the white out. It was a massive day of learning but I was amazed how exhausted one of my party was. On the summit I could see he was running on empty.

I was younger then and not so wise. I thought I knew this hill well it was our local mountain at the time. I had climbed it then over 20 times. I had lots to learn as we all do.

Big Cornice on Lochnagar,

The weather when it hits Lochnagar can be brutal as bad if not worse than anywhere. So it well worth remembering “getting to the top your only half way there” Over the years this mountain brought me much joy and sorrow when I lost two pals on Parallel B a classic ice climb. It took me years to climb back in that Corrie again. Yet this mountain has everything, great climbing and the Dark Lochnagar. Its an area that I love and learned so much from and always will.

Dark Lochnagar

The tight road, stags and hinds nearby.

Park and leave the woods.

Mr Oswald the cheery keeper long gone.

The bothy still stands, the sign still there.

The flats, more deer and wild animals.

The Royal bothy, unused?

Scots pines, the small wood

Safety after a long day.

The grind up the track never- ending.

Familiar names

the ladders, fox’s well, comforting.

Then the view   Dark Lochnagar

Brooding formidable,

Historical and familiar climbs.

Summer and winter battles.

Steep  granite and dark gully’s.

Laughter, joy and sorrow.

Wind, rain, snow and tears

Lochnagar and Teallach

Sit in the peace and wildness.

Dark Lochnagar 

For Neil & Mark

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory .Ed Viesturs

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

An Teallach wandering a few tips? Navigation and low level ice – winter ridge walking. The Scottish Mountain Trust and path repair?

Yesterday on the way back from the Munro’s on An Teallach I met my mate Ray and we had a wander over the neglected land to the West of the main path. When you leave the beleach you just head over to the high ground.

Ray on the plateau.

It’s a lovely area and a place I would take the new members of Mountain Rescue team members navigating. It’s pretty barren an ideal as it has few features. After a long day on the hill it kept the brain going as navigation is the key skill in the mountains especially in winter top tip. This area has a bleak look but is so interesting the geology of the plateau has lots of interest. There are loadss of sandstone about and loads of the effect of weathering.

Also in places lots of pebbles from the sandstone strewn in various locations. It’s like someone has been working on the rocks it’s just weathering. Its amazing to come across several metres of just pebbles.

We also located this structure I thought it must be for taking bearings etc. I received this last night . Its a “Base for supporting a Stevenson screen for housing meteorological instruments – thermometers etc.” That must have been a long plod to get the readings anyone got any tales of this up here?


On the way off An Teallach I had noticed in my early days some good climbing on the small cliffs pf Glas Mheal Mhor and had climbed here with my mate Mark Sinclair. In these days the 70’s you rarely put your new climbs in as the North West was at that time going to be an area where you could explore with limited information. It was to be left for future generations. I think it was due to the rise of the climbing guides that were getting popular. Anyway attitudes changed and lots of routes were reported. The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team had been climbing since the 50’s on many of the crags in the summer and winter.

The crag on Glas Mheall Mor.

They rarely reported their routes so a few routes were never in the guides. We had climbed on the main cliffs on An Teallach fairly often in the winter these were long hard days and usually completed with the ridge traverse. This cliff with a short walk in was a bit easier and after a hard weekend we had some fun on the ice. Despite the crag being low when the temperature drops the ice forms in the wind.

I was Chairman of the Mountain Rescue Committee at the time.

From the SMC Northern Highlands Central Glas Mheall Mor -NH080 860 Page 274.

This is a good option with easy access when the winds are high and you are getting old. If Cold enough, ice forms readily producing various ice falls on the cliff. The cliffs are spring fed giving water ice when the higher cliffs may not be in condition.” A good tip if Fain Falls is there as you drive about 3 ks from Dundonnell NH 132837 Carn A’ Bhiorain – Coill A’ Bhun another grand climb 105 metres grade 4 two star. Its a classic and the team put up another route nearby Goat Falls grade 3 – 100 metres.

A great climbing guide well worth buying and the profits go to the Scottish Mountain Trust. (SMT)

The Trust’s revenue is derived in the main from two main sources:

  • Publishing guidebooks and other publications on behalf of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and other books connected with the Scottish Hills. The Trust’s publication activity is carried on by a wholly owned subsidiary company, Scottish Mountaineering Trust (Publications) Limited. The whole operating surplus of the company is covenanted to the Trust and forms the overwhelming majority of the Trust’s income. The trust is also responsible for the administration of the legacy known as Mrs Snart’s Bequest, which is solely for assisting mountains safety.
  • Donations. These are always most welcome and can be of any amount. If a donation is made to us without any conditions it will go into the general fund. If you would like to discuss specifics in connection with a donation then please do contact us. Any donation can be kept confidential, if so wished.

Examples of the work of the trust

Below are shown the approximate totals of the grants made by the Trust in its major areas of activity in the period 1990-2017.

Footpath Construction and Maintenance £419,000
Core Funding of Mountaineering Scotland £215,000
Land Purchase £68,500
Mountaineering Education and Training £31,500
Mountain Rescue Equipment and Facilities £65,000
Support of Expeditions £32,500
Renovation of Club Huts £189,000
Other £277,000
TOTAL £1,297,500

The huge corries of An Teallach make a great wander in winter as in snow and ice they excel. The various ridges are wonderful and the views in the Corries make this a place of wonderment to me. I will leave you to explore this mountain don’t just chase the Munros look into this mountain and its wildness.

A view I love the snow and ice sculptured Corrie and the knife edge ridge.

When I was ill after 3 years of operations I left early and headed into the corrie I only made the lochan but what views. In winter its incredible the gullies and winter lines, the snow and ice make this place unique. It was long hard trip home but how good I felt in the wild, with wind and snow. The best type of medicine you can get?

A grand way up in winter Glas Mheall Liath.takes you onto the summits.

Top Tips: It was great to be out on the hill again, I see the Cairngorms have snow now so the first blast of winter is with us. I have put some more gear in my bag, extra gloves so important drop a glove and you can be in trouble always carry a spare. Its time for a bit more clothing and bothy bag is a great idea in an emergency. Head torches are vital and must be checked every time you go out. Plan your day accordingly to the weather and your fitness. Learn to navigate carry a map and compass practise every time your out. There are no paths in a white out ensure you have a fun day. Winter is wonderful.

The wonder of winter – top tip carry some spare gear If out tell folk where your going..

The Munro Society is another great way to support great causes in the mountains so if you have completed the Munros and want to give something back why not?


Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Maybe a selfish day?

Today I should be out with my Mountaineering Club on a Bus meet to Dundonnell . I decided not to go out as I am needing a day out on my own. Selfish ?

The SMC Munro

Safety note ( I have left my plans with a pal)

I will leave early and head North I am not sure how far I will get but need the time out.

I do not need a summit but just to be near these great peaks will be special.

The mountains give you great healing and make you feel so much better so it will be good to get some fresh air.

The weather looks a bit mixed so it will be a blast. I will see what happens.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Family, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Some information on Sarah.

Many will know that we lost Sarah last weekend a star troop, a young Mum, wife and part of the RAF Mountain Rescue Family. Sarah’s husband has been in touch and has seen my blog and the many comments by friends it gives the family great comfort. He will be in touch with me reference funeral arrangements which due to the nature of Sarah’s death the date is at present difficult to forecast. When I get any information I will update through the usual channels. Sarah’s loss has been mind numbing to so many least of all her close family and young sons. She was a great lass, one of us and was so enthusiastic, bubbly and loved the mountains, Mountain Rescue and its member’s. She coped in what was then primary in the military “a man’s world” and proved without doubt that she was equal to all of us and great company on the hills. Please if you have any photos of Sarah send them to me and I will collate them and pass on to the family. Stories and memories are what make Sarah specail as well fell free to add them. I leave you with Kenny Kenworthy’s words which sum her up for me. “I like to think that those of us in charge were these young people’s guardians; entrusted with their well-being and tasked with giving them some life skills besides great adventures that hopefully have stood them in good stead throughout their lives. When one of then goes prematurely it is a real jolt and the sadness is palpable. Death can never take away the memories though” Kenny Kennworthy RAF Kinloss MRT Team Leader. I hope to travel down whenever the dates are released. Thinking of you all.

Sarah on An Teallach overlooking Beinn Dearg Mor and Beinn Dearg Beag wonderful mountains and a great day in the mountains. Photo Mark Falcus.
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Check your head – torch is working – Tilly lamps on the hills.

Tilly Lamp

From Tilly lamps to head – torches.

It is hard to believe that on one of my early call outs in 1974 in March on Ben Nevis I was on a search at night for a young couple who had wandered into 5 Finger Gully on Ben Nevis.

I was given a Tilly lamp to search with and I carried it up the gully. It was steep awful ground with snow and ice in the Gully when a then well-known Lochaber Team Member Willie Anderson who saw it took it off me as I was really struggling on the steep ground.

Willie threw it away, he was looking after me I needed to be fully aware of any slip with my axe.

I was worried about how I would explain that to my Team Leader but he was okay about it. I have been there on several other occasions in 5 finger Gully and never found it and apologise for leaving litter on the hill.

I wonder what future Mountaineering archaeologists will make of a Tilly in 5 finger gully.

After that I purchased a decent head torch as the issue one was pretty poor. In Mountain Rescue you do a lot of Rescues and train at night a head torch is essential and there have been a few disasters on this piece of gear over the years.

At RAF Valley in North Wales during a time when money was tight late 70’s MOD in its wisdom bought cheap batteries for our head torches that fell apart on a Wet night rescue high on the Idwal Slabs. I was the Deputy Team Leader at the time and sent of a powerful signal to the powers that be about the procurement of such rubbish.

That was the last signal I was to send for a time as it ruffled so many in the Supply Branch at the time but we got descent batteries after that. The marvellous improvement in head torches and lighting for personal and Rescue use is incredible. Tales of climbers climbing in a wild winter night with a torch in their teeth as they climbed some of the big routes in the ebbing light and moonlight are legend.

After seeing the recent pictures of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team on call outs last winter with their powerful headlights is a huge improvement from the early days. Each rescuer is in their own world of snow and a pool of light it is surreal and impressive. I try to keep up with all the changes and the costs of some of these head torches are incredible some are over £300.

I have tried so many the famous “Sharks Eye” with 6 heavy batteries that lasted about 2 hours was amazing but it was hand held and not much use when searching very steep ground. We also did some testing with Hamish MacInnes and a huge Military Searchlight in Glencoe millions of Candle power how many remember that night?

A head torch is a vital addition to a winter hill bag and I always carry a spare so often I have had to give mine away. This was often to some person who does not carry one or has not checked it for some time and the batteries are flat. Always check your head torch and ensure it is working.

Try walking at night and see how tricky it is, imagine that without one?   

I always carry two after lending mine out on rescues and never seeing them again.

It’s worth remembering Your phone is NOT A HEAD TORCH.


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Thanks for all the kind thoughts and words after the loss of Sarah.

It is great to hear from so many folk after the loss of Sarah a tragedy. I am lucky to have so many who care with incredible words and thoughts when you lose someone.

Over the last few days I have received so many.

Mountaineering especially Mountain Rescue brings you very close to those you climb or walk with. There is at times a unique bond and trust in each other especially in bad weather or if things start to go wrong.

In Mountain Rescue you may take a lot more risks at times than normal. That is the nature of the beast. You hope that your training will ensure that the chances of an accident are cut. That means training in weather where most would not be out in. At times the “risk assessment” was high but I was so lucky in my time we never had a fatality from one of our own.

Many were very young folk joined with limited experience but our training produced some exceptional Mountaineers and people. Yet I always worried about them on a Rescue and was so glad when they all came back home. Looking back we must have been doing things right.

“I like to think that those of us in charge were these young people’s guardians; entrusted with their well being and tasked with giving them some life skills besides great adventures, that hopefully have stood them in good stead throughout their lives. When one of then goes prematurely it is a real jolt and the sadness is palpable. Death can never take away the memories though. “Words from Kenny Kennworthy RAF Kinloss MRT Team Leader. Photo Kalie Wilkinson.

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

In Praise of An Teallach – In memory of Sarah Hassell

Many who climb An Teallach climb the Munro’s Sgurr Fiona and Bidean a’Ghlas Thuill. they are both exceptional mountains and though a great day this to me is the appetiser they miss the main course. This mountain has 9 tops on it and is a complex mountain and one I love. How many have climbed the full ridge Sail Liath the Four Pinnacles of Coire Bhuidhe and Lord Berkeley’s Seat and gone out to these other outliers on the ridges?

I love climbing the full ridge from Sail Liath and then you meet the pinnacles falling into Toll an Lochain and the ridge looking like a natures hacksaw has made this place. The huge sandstone pinnacles and Buttress and the Lochan below.

How many who climb the whole ridge still miss the views from some of these rarely climbed other summits. The Munro tops.

The tops of An Teallach

Yet from these viewpoints the mountain is seen at its best. In my view the If you can go and climb them.

The modern guide books will tell you step by step how to climb the Two Munro’s but few go into the other ways onto the ridges. These are great fun and you can have superb day in the two Corries. I doubt if you will many others.

In winter there is some great climbing and that is well documented. Yet to do a winter route and then a traverse of the complete ridge is an incredible winter day. I have had the privilege to do this several times. Getting of the hill at the end of the day especially in the short winter daylight can be interesting. The classic Constabulary Couloir climbed by Tom Patey and members of the Police Mountain Rescue Team years ago. I had so many great days in winter here as well we climbed the Waterfall that flows onto the frozen loch and never recorded it.

Over the years we built up big days including An Teallach and the Fisherfield 5/6 in a day that became a tradition for a few. They now they add the Corbetts Beinn Dearg Beag and Mhor in running gear but what fun these days were. Sadly most were done at speed taking little time to look around just after a time that never really mattered. We often meet the Goats high up you smell them before you see them. You watch there agility on the steep ground and marvel at them.

Great nights in Sheneval Bothy and climbing An Teallach from this side but by rarely climbed ways. This is a complex mountain but with views that are always changing.

I have taken family and completed several Munro Rounds including one with my Dog Teallach and others with various pals. It was where I completed 2 rounds of the Munro Tops on these summits. Its a mountain that I love with all my heart.

Many of these climbs became a classic in my days with the RAF Mountain rescue team.

The young troops enjoyed this route and it became a right of passage for some. In winter its a fierce mountain where in varying conditions it can provide a long Alpine day where care is need.

 I really enjoyed it in a long Summer day when we could sit on the summits and enjoy a full traverse. There would be no rush but it was still a long day.

In my youth!

This would also be a good place to use the rope on the scrambles  and show the new team members the routes and places where care is needed and sadly accidents can happen. This was our job and those pieces of area knowledge were vital. The next time we could be here may be at night helping the local Dundonald MRT. They have a base at the foot of the mountain nowadays.

One of these days we did the whole ridge plus the outliers on a long summer day. It was special as three of the troops were young and loved every minute. We took a rope and took the hardest route up the pinnacles.

Mark and Sarah on An Teallach.

It was a marvellous day with special folk. Sarah, Mark and Stu were superb and the photos show it. This is a Scottish day in the Mountains that is very special and it was great to introduce them to the full ridge. The views all around of the Fisherfield hills and the remoteness is spectacular. 

The Troops on An Teallach.

That day I told them the incredible story of  the attempt of a Rescue a Documentary based on the diaries of Iain Ogilvie, “Duel on An Teallach” its now on utube about a single man’s effort to rescue two fellow-climbers. This was after they slipped from the ridge and fell down a 700-foot gully while climbing the An Teallach ridge in winter the north west of Scotland in April 1966. It is a tale I know well as the Kinloss MRT team were involved in the recovery Ian Olgilive did an incredible job to try and save the lives of his pals and the late Doctor Patey reached the casualties at night after Ian’s epic attempt to lower them alone down the face. Ian was awarded an MBE for his efforts and Doctor Patey the Queens Commendation for Bravery. The Ross and Sutherland Police Team led by Donnie Smith followed Tom Patey in that night. Please watch that video it is a insight into winter mountaineering. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF5H4v6shNs

In Winter Garbh

That day I went out to the Munro top Sgurr Creag an Eich with Sarah the rest sat on the top enjoying the views. We dumped our bags on the beleach and headed out it was an incredible day. I was a bit fitter then but not as fit as Sarah. Instead we walked slowly chatted as the views of this hidden side of An Teallach expanded. We sat on the summit and enjoyed it then took a few photos.

Sarah On the summit of Sgurr Creag an Eich

No one knew that was my last Munro top that day but I told her. She took a photo, then we wandered back to meet the rest of the boys. They I think had fallen asleep on the last summit. We walked off on a stunning evening with the North West at its best. They were all full of this specail day and had enjoyed it the weather was superb as was the company. They laughed at me running ahead getting the photos.

I found it great to see how these new team member’s had developed, the ones that last love the mountains forever. They share the joys and the sadness at times as a fatality is never easy on the hills. Yet the memories of bringing someone of alive is so fulfilling. They grow up and learn so quick. Many spent only a few years in the team yet they were involved in some epics that stayed with them for life. You watch them change and in a couple of winters become incredible capable young folk. There is great responsibility in this job most are young folk who trust you completel. At times there is great danger and you push them in bad weather to ensure they can cope when the call outs happen. Few ever let us down and you watch them become steady mountaineers but even better humans. I never stopped enjoying seeing them improve and you become very fond of them all. You can always learn and laugh as you are now the “old Codger” but still of use at times.

This week we lost Sarah in such tragic circumstances and I have had incredible messages of sympathy from many of her pals from all over the World. I cannot thank you enough for that. It was one of the best hill days of my life that day on An Teallach yet another memory of this great mountain and also of the specail people you meet in them.

For Sarah.

Our Sarah was one of them “Best Ever”

In memory of Sarah Hassell

Posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Munros, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Tragic News today.

I was on the hill today and received a few texts usually a sign of bad news. It was sadly an ex Team-member had been Murdered. Sarah Hassall (McIroy) was with me in the RAF Kinloss MRT. She was a great team member loved the Mountain Rescue and a strong lass on the hill. She was always “happy go lucky” laughing and like us all a troop. It was neverv easy in these early days when the girls arrived on the RAF teams. She was a great lass strong and always enthusiastic and so funny.

She spent time in her first years at RAF Kinloss and was full time Mountain Rescue At RAF Valley in North Wales.

Sarah on An Teallach.

We had many great days on the hills and crags over the years. Sarah loved the mountains and became talented rock climber. We had one special day together doing all the tops and Munro’s on An Teallach she was the only one who came out with me to that last top. The rest of the boys sat on the Munro enjoying rest. Call – outs were never easy she saw a lot in these early years some sad events. She was a true team member.

She married and joined the Army and left in 2010 to raise her two young sons. They were her pride and joy.

Sarah on Blank
The Isle of Arran – she loved the mountains x

Sarah on Beinn Alder.

I always tell folk that after she had a great day on the hill or a climb her words “Best Ever” would be to thank you for a fun time. My thoughts are with the family.

See below the Police Statement.

“Pontypridd murder investigation:
Woman victim named and her family pay tribute

South Wales Police is now in a position to name the 38 year-old woman who died following an incident at an address in Llys Graig Ty Wion, Pontypridd, on Sunday morning (6 October).

Sarah Hassall was from Chelmsford, Essex – her family have paid the following tribute to her:

‘After growing up in the family home in Chelmsford, Sarah dedicated herself to 14 years of military service in both the RAF and the Royal Engineers.

‘Her career was dominated by her commitment to mountain search and rescue – Sarah represented her units at both rock climbing competitions and competitive running.

‘Sarah left the army in 2010 to embark on, and excel at, even greater challenges – raising two young boys, Owain and Evan.

‘Sarah was my best friend and touched many more lives along the way. We all now mourn her passing, grateful for the short time we had in her company.’

Sarah’s family are currently being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.

The investigation into her death, which is being treated as murder, is ongoing. The 37 year-old man from Pontypridd, who has been arrested in connection with her murder, remains in police custody.

Anyone with information on this incident is urged to call 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting occurrence *369431.“

Awful News.

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That old Question “Is it worth recording that you have completed your Munro’s ?”

When I completed in 1976 I completed along with a mate Tom MacDonald on the same day on separate mountains. I was pretty pleased with myself as in these days It had become a consuming passion and I was lucky to be able to go out most weekend to a different area with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team. In these days I could not drive and many hills were hitched to on our weekend off. The late John Hinde and Ben Humble put in our completion with the SMC as at that time in the RAF Kinloss Team as few had previously completed. There were few guide books then and a very basic Munro book. In the Briefing room we had a Munros Board even then.

Most of the information was in the SMC District Guides or from others. Few of the hills have paths and often you rarely met folk on the hill. It was a different era.

“Dear Heavy

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

Many thanks for your hard work with the team, for you can be rightly and justifiably proud of your efforts. Well done and best wishes for many happy and enjoyable days in the mountains.” Pete McGowan.

Munro write up.

This is a great discussion point to me I would be interested to hear your views on whether you should Register with the Scottish Mountaineering Club Clerk of the lists or not?

The SMC hold a record of Munros, Corbetts, Grahams and Donalds compleators. Notification of compleation and any amendments to the List should be sent by email to the Clerk of the Munro list – munroclerk@smc.org.uk or in writing to the Clerk of the Munro List

Last Munro Ladhar Bheinn

Alison Coull
258/1 Ferry Road

The Clerk of the List, likes to know how long you have taken, your first and last hills, your age, plans for the future, where you are from and any other details which may be of interest. You letter will be added to the SMC archive in the National Library of Scotland. The information in your letter may also be included in the summary of munro achievements in the SMC’s journal which is published annually.

Enclose an SAE to ensure a reply notifying your number and details of how to purchase a specially designed Munroist tie or brooch. If you request a certificate the SAE should be A4 size with correct postage (A4 is Large Letter size)

The Clerk aims to respond within two weeks of receipt but there may be a longer delay at busier times of the year for registration or if the Clerk is on holiday. If you have not heard after a month you may wish to contact the Clerk again in case your notification has not been received. 

Another Completion . Sgurr Na Ciche.

If you have completed your Munro’s the Munro Society does a lot of good.

Founded in 2002 membership is open to anyone who has climbed all the Munro summits as listed in Munro’s Tables at the time of compleation – currently there are 282 mountains of Munro status with a height of 3000ft or more above sea level. Many such Munroists, who are often said to have ‘compleated’*, register their detail with the Clerk of the List. This official list is maintained by the Clerk on behalf of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and now exceeds 6,000 names. However, some of ‘compleaters’ do not register their details for a variety of reasons.

The Munro Society welcomes all Munroists who have compleated whether or not they have registered with the Clerk of the List.

The Society exists to bring together the wealth of mountain experience that members have accumulated and thus provide a forum in which to share interests and concerns as well as creating opportunities for convivial gatherings.They do a lot for Mountaineering and they give a lot back to the mountains which give us so much.

The Munro Society.

Some books that made the Munro journey a joy for me. These books and many others are a wonderful insight into this magical journey.

In 1985 mountain guide the late Martin Moran achieved the first completion of all 277 Munros* in a single winter with the support and companionship of his wife Joy. Their success was a feat of dedicated mountaineering and effective teamwork through the storms, snows and avalanches of an epic winter season in the Scottish Highlands. Martin s account of the winter journey became a classic mountain narrative, combining his passionate enthusiasm for the mountains with humorous insights into a marriage put to the test through three months of living in a camper van. It was described as the best guidebook to the Munros by mountain writer Jim Perrin. The book inspired many other climbers and runners to pick up the gauntlet in pursuit of new feats of endurance on Scotland s hills, and is now reissued with full colour photographs plus an introductory update by the author on how the Munros in Winter changed his life.

Hamish Brown was the first walker and climber to complete the Munros in a single round. By his own rules he did it self-powered except where ferries were required and with the aid of his trusty fold away bike. The year was 1974, and the roads of Scotland carried only a fraction of the traffic they do today, windmill farms were unheard of, crafting was more vibrant than it is today, and a strong Scottish mountaineering tradition was already established. Four years later Hamish s Mountain Walk appeared and was an immediate success, inspiring not only climbers but also readers fascinated by the history, geology, plant life and lore of one of Europe s most remote and unspoiled regions. Many walkers and authors would follow in Hamish Brown s boot prints, but none could bring the freshness and few could touch the depth of knowledge and experience. Now the book returns, re-imagined in modern fonts, with a new introduction and appendix and with two brilliant full colour plate sections provided by the author from his photography over four decades. This new volume is destined to further inspire and guide new generations of hill walkers about the Scottish hills in this new era.

Some terms on those who chase mutiple rounds.

Munro golfer is one that walks “pure” rounds. They walk every round from start to finish, one Munro after another.

Munro banker walks multiple rounds at once. So while walking round number one they also bag Munros for their next round or even their third round.

These terms, of course, only apply to people who are waking more than one round of Munros, but these Munroists are increasing in number.

Many when I started Munro Bagging were so against the Munros most I felt were a bit narrow minded, the Munros etc in my view give you a great understanding of this land we all love. We are all different many enjoy like me many aspects of mountaineering but I still get great joy attending a final summit of any round.

Footnote – On Oct 1 st Steve Fallon Mountain Guide completed his 16 th round of the Munros well done Steve! https://www.stevenfallon.co.uk

Posted in Books, Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Thank you all from Mountain Aid. Corbett’s for Courses. Thanks for raising £1200 for Charity.

Mountain Aid is a great charity and best to my heart they do a lot of work for Mountaineers.

During May, June and July 2019 Mountain Aid, the hillwalkers’ charity, organised a successful fundraising campaign “Corbetts for Courses”.

Over the three months over 200 ascents of Corbetts  (Scottish hills between 2 500 ft. and 3 000 ft. and a drop of at least 500 ft. all round) were undertaken by more than 70 participants, some four legged, many climbing several hills.

Corbett’s for Course Collage

The sum of almost £1200 was raised for Mountain Aid.  This will enable the charity to fund its navigation and winter skills courses which are free to participants.

Highlights of the event included ascents of:

     Ben Aden, a remote hill in Knoydart, accessed by canoe along Loch Quoich

     West coast hills accessed by private yacht

The Corbetts on the islands of Rum, Skye, Harris, Arran, Jura and Mull And Goatfell at night.

     Many of the Corbetts along the Stevenson Way during a three-week trek

A spokesperson for Mountain Aid said, “We would like to thank everyone who took part in the event and made it such as success, whether that be by climbing a Corbett, making a donation or supporting others in their endeavours. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, Mountain Aid will be able to continue to provide freetraining courses for the next year”. 

Further information available at     www.mountainaid.org.uk


Mountain Aid

Mountain Aid is a volunteer-run Scottish Charity (SC040294) with the objective of promoting mountain safety. Established in 2009, the charity is the successor to the well known Boot Across Scotland. 

Mountain Aid activities include:• An annual programme of free “experiential” navigation, winter skills and outdoor first aid training courses.• A series of free mountain safety lectures at venues across the country.• Organising Skills for the Hills and Scottish Mountain Safety Days. These exhibition style events offer hill-goers a chance to meet and talk to agencies involved in the great outdoors in Scotland.


Compared with the more popular Munros, the Corbetts are spread further across Scotland, stretching down into the Borders, west into Ardgour and featuring on many more islands. There are 222 of these distinctive mountains, whose height ranges between 2500 and 3000 feet, with descent of at least 500 feet from adjacent hills. The challenge of completing all the Corbetts is often considered to be greater than that of completing the Munros.





The included image is a collage of summit photographs taken by participants during the event.

Mountain Aid is a Registered Charity SC040294 and is privileged to have Cameron McNeish as Patron since 2009

For more information, visit www.mountainaid.org.uk or email info.mountainaid@gmail.com

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Ardmair a wonderful setting by the sea and the mountains. This week snow is forecast for the mountains

I am so lucky my Grandkids are in Scotland and up and they were up for the Festival at Ullapool staying at Ardmair Point caravan and campsite. What a location that is. The sea the small Isles and the mountains make it a perfect setting.

I was on baby sitting duties on Sat night so Mum and Dad could go to the Festival in Ullapool.

I drove up in the afternoon through rain but it cleared as I arrived near Ullapool. The sun was out and the town so busy. I had a drive round up to Elphin the hills wet clearing and as always it was incredible these hills are so wild. Sadly the road was busy with “posh cars” blasting along in convoy ticking off the NC 500 oh for the Police with a speed gun. Goodness knows what they see in their mad rush or is it just me?

They miss all this.

It was great having a bit of time as the girls were in Lochinver and I had a few hours on my own.

The great poetry of Norman MaCaig are always in my head when I leave Ullapool into these hills.

A Man in Assynt

“Glaciers, grinding West, gouged out

these valleys, rasping the brown sandstone,

and left, on the hard rock below –

the ruffled foreland –

this frieze of mountains, filed

on the blue air –

I love these hills.

Stac Polly,

Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,

Canisp –

a frieze and

a litany.“

On my drive it was busy though with lots of folk about many looking at the views and enjoying it. There were loads of photographers waiting for the right light to hit the hills

Ardvreck Castle – where one of my heroes was murdered.
While Montrose was landing in Scotland, from Orkney, Charles was agreeing with the Covenanters that he would disband. The King’s letter never reached Montrose and he marched to defeat at the Battle of Carbisdale, in April, 1650. A few days later, Charles disavowed Montrose under the terms of the Treaty of Breda. Montrose fled to Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt, where he was betrayed to the Covenanters by the Laird, Neil MacLeod, for the princely sum of £25,000.

I stopped at Ardvreck Castle is a ruined castle dating from the 16th century which stands on a rocky promontory jutting out into Loch Assynt in Sutherland, Scotland. It has great views of the hills.

One can reach the ruins by driving along the A837 which follows the north shore of Loch Assynt from the village of Inchnadamph.

Opened: 1590

Built by:

Clan MacLeod

I visited the Castle and it was good to have a wander and see this piece of history I had often visited years ago on a wet day hiding from the hills. In these days it was a quick look now at last I had time. It had great views of the back of Quinag and I will be back in winter to revisit when the crowds have gone.

It was then a wander a walk them back to a sun filled Ardmair and fun with girls. They love the beach and learning the simple things like skimming stones. It was warm and after tea we had more fun outside. The light was incredible and to watch the girls on the beach was magic as the light changed. The sun setting to young eyes and the stunning views even to young kids is spell binding. They both had their faces painted at the Festival it was so good to have them with me. The simple things are so important.

The beautiful sunset.

So often we rush about and miss the simple things like sunset and family time. It was an easy night with the girls and instead of staying I headed home after Mum and Dad returned . It was an easy drive home the hills were dark but the stars were out. I saw a few deer about and stopped for a break in the dark as I always do. I am sure I heard the first stags of the season roar in the darkness. Always a sign to me of the winter on its way. The girls Mum and Dad stayed and visited old haunts that we had done many years ago. It’s great and I hope the girls will have a love of the wild places that they have. We are spoiled up here we have so much and I never take anything for granted.

It’s hard to believe that snow is forecast for the mountains this week after sitting in the sun enjoying the last of summer. Yet it is – the nights are drawing in and I wonder what another winter will bring.

Today’s tip.

Watch how you plan your days on the hills.

There is less time before it’s dark.

Check that torch and put some extra gear in your bag.

Have fun as that is what it’s all about.

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Tom Patey – One Man’s Mountains.

I head up to the North West to Ullapool this weekend. Ullapool is a gateway to the promised land. It was and is a place of incredible beauty and wildness a place I love. It was the home of a great character Doctor Tom Patey. The climbing Doctor.

One of the great mountaineering books I have ever read is” One Man’s Mountains” about the life of the famous Scottish Climbing Doctor Tom Patey. Sadly I never met Tom but he was well known by many of my friends in the RAF Mountain Rescue and helped them on many call – outs especially in the far North West where he was a Doctor in Ullapool.

His most famous call -out was on An Teallach in April 1966. 2 climbers we’re killed on Sgurr Fiona.  This incident was recently reconstructed and filmed for television. Hamish McIness film “Duel with An Teallach” Tom Patey awarded a medal for his part. It’s an incredible tale and the Locals and RAF Kinloss MRT we’re involved in the evacuation. I have spoken to some who were involved what Tom Patey did that night was incredible.

Tom Patey was a Scottish climber mountaineer, doctor and writer. He was a leading Scottish climber of his day, particularly excelling on winter routes. He died in a climbing accident at the age of 38.Tom Patey worked for ten years as a General Practitioner (GP) in Ullapool, in the far north-west of Scotland. He served for four years as Surgeon Lieutenant in the Royal Marines at the 42 Commando School at Bickleigh. I have climbed many of his routes and really enjoyed them.

Wreckers Slab.

The most recent was one of his Classic climbs in Cornwall “Wreckers Slab” and that was a great day.

Wreckers Slab 115 metres VS – North Devon – One of the longest, most alluring and serious VS climbs in the West Country, Wrecker’s Slab is nevertheless the most attempted of its genre on the coast. The huge, slim slab rising from the beach on the far right-hand side of the cliff has very little in the way of technical difficulty but should not be underestimated as the rock is poor, protection spaced and the situations very serious. Start at the base of the slab just right of the overhangs. An amazing cliff, one of the best adventurous routes in the country. Make it a must to climb, what a fantastic day out. Oh and make sure you don’t throw all the hand holds down to your belayer.I had waited 40 years to climb this route and my pal Pete Greening took me up it what a climb.

An old peg on the route.

Patey’s routes are all over Scotland and his writings about his adventures are all in the book, I love “Night Shift in Zero” and his epic Sea Stack adventures you have to read the book and then have a go a some of his adventures.

His regular first ascents, such as Mitre Ridge, The Scorpion and Douglas-Gibson Gully (Scotland’s first grade V—sustained ice to 80 degrees), whenever his studies allowed.  He was based in Aberdeen then and with Brooker climbed the first winter ascent of Eagle Ridge in Lochnagar, in 1953, with Patey and Mike Taylor. The trio astounded their peers by completing the traverse in just over four hours in hobnail boots—to this day an impressive feat for what is still seen as a long day’s climb at grade V. Their climb remains a classic Scottish winter route. 

Zero Gully was another and they climbed these routes with simple gear. Most climb Zero Gully downgraded now with great ice tools and 8 ice screws, they were bold men.

Hamish MacInnes recalls one February evening in 1965 and asks if he would like to make an attempt at the first winter traverse of the celebrated Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. The winter traverse of the Cuillin remains a major challenge today. Alpine in length, commitment and technicality, the ridge neither rises above 4,000 feet nor drops below 2,500 feet. Yet the historic traverse by Patey and his three companions is reported as a catalogue of comic and near-tragic mishaps, including a broken crampon and Patey’s climbing partner Brian Robertson “stopping every half-mile to be sick” due to the accordion-and-whisky session of the night before.

Patey routes in the Alps and the Himalayas are incredible. After summiting the Mustagh Tower along the Northwest ridge (just days ahead of a French team), Patey was chosen as the doctor for the British-Pakistani attempt on the 25,550-foot Rakaposhi in the Karakoram, in 1958. Again, his stamina and grit came to the fore, and he made the summit with Mike Banks.

In his memoir of the expedition, Mike Banks recalls how Patey, after a grueling day, would cheerfully kick snow-steps up the start of the next day’s section of mountain, while the other team members lay exhausted in their tents.

Tom after the ascent of Rakaposhi
The Maidens sea stack.

He was probably best known for his humorous songs and prose about climbing, many of which were published posthumously in the collection “One Man’s Mountains.”

What a man read the book.


Frank Strang

“I grew up with Tom, he and my Dad were big pals and disappeared every weekend to the hill. He was some character and used to tell his wife he was out treating patients but would be playing the accordion in our kitchen with a dram in hand . They “discovered ” the Northern Highlands decades before the masses . I was fortunate as a boy to live in Assynt and the house was a stopping off place for the likes of Tom , Bennett , Slessor, MacInness , Todd, Weir, Tiso  all legends now but characters and family friends then. Great stories . Seems like another World now though?”

On May 25, 1970, Tom Patey was abseiling off a sea stack off the north coast of Scotland called The Maiden. He and a group of friends had just made the first ascent, and Patey was the last man off the top. On his way down he paused, apparently to rearrange the rope. Then his friends watched as he plummeted off the rock face to his death on the slab below. He was 38.

The exact reason for Patey’s death, carrying out a relatively simple manoeuvre that he had done thousands of times, can never be known for sure. However, a predominant theory among his friends hinges on the way he dressed and his notoriously chaotic rope management.

Offering further insight, HamishMacInnes says, “The previous weekend I had been climbing with Tom and he had forgotten his belt, so I gave him an old sling and an old Pierre Alain carabiner [a swing gate that was recalled due to safety issues] that I just used for hauling rucksacks. I told him, ‘Don’t use that carabiner for climbing,’ but these things didn’t register with Tom. That was the carabiner he used for the abseil.”

Wrote Patey: “To my mind the magic of a great route does not lie in its technical difficulty or even the excellence of its rock but in something less readily definable—atmosphere.”

“Live it up, fill your cup, drown your sorrow

And sow your wild oats while ye may

For the toothless old tykes of tomorrow

Were the Tigers of Yesterday. ”

Tom Patey with fag. “How does he climb Solo and briskly , 20 fags a day and a bottle of malt whisky”

Patey Comments from friends

Neil Reid “An early lesson in what a small world it is. almost 40 years ago I was sitting reading the book in my parents’ home and my Dad asked what I was reading. I showed them and started to explain who he was, but was interrupted by my Mum who said she “kent fine fa he wis” – his widow was one of her Thursday morning fly cup pals. That was me in my place”

Tony Bradshaw  –  A well ken’t GP from Ullapool and he turned up at any base camp we set up in his area in the mid to late 60’s , TP with a fag in his mouth and John Hind making up a rolli

Andy Nisbet – Never met him sadly, but I did a new route with his daughter some 20 years ago (the only route she’s ever done, I think).

Neil Findley – An old pal of mine hamish baites climbed with tom and bill brooker,hamish used to tell me tales of their adventures while sipping his pint in the nuke in old portlethen

Graham Hunter -Yes, knew Tom. Excellent book, must re-read.

G. Ackroyd – One of my first reads David Whalley. One of the true characters. (read once or twice since as well.

Angus  Jack – A great read, an inspiration in my younger days. Lived life to the full

Ranald Strachan – My old man fell off one of his new routes back in 1964 on an outing with Dinger Bell in Applecross (DB had to coax him back onto the crag!)….owe my existence to a shonky peg that held. Bit of legend of Dr Patey.

Pete Ross – A short walk with Whillans,’ in Games Climbers Play, was one of the most descriptive character essays I’ve ever read. Perrin’s iteration dissected Don Whillan’s character, warts and all, but in my opinion didn’t quite capture the essence of the man. Tom Patey’s description of their aborted attempt of the Eiger North Face gave us a real insight: ‘Don’s philosophical discourses were not for the faint-hearted’. One skillfully crafted phrase gave the reader a unique insight into a flawed genius’s character. One Man’s Mountains a must read on a cold night, with a ‘dram’ close by, to experience the richness of Scottish Mountaineering literature.

George Adams – I did some winter and summer routes in the Cairngorms with Tom and Bill Brooker in the early 1950

Jim Bruce – My first climb with Tom was at the Bullers o Buchan.

Quite embarrassing really, as I picked up my spoon before his dad had said grace for the meal.

Any more comments.

Posted in Articles, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

The Film the Dawn Wall – El Capitan an incredible story.

Last night I watched The Dawn Wall with Yvette my stepdaughter her choice it was an incredible story and to me easily as good as the recent Mountaineering film Free Solo.

The Dawn Wall is an account Of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s climb on Yosemite’s El Capitan’s incredible Dawn Wall. The film leaves you with your heart in your mouth as they both suffer near misses. It’s a very personal journey the highs and lows for both with a huge insight into climbing at an elite level. It also for me enters a personal insight for Tommy after he was taken hostage and the difficult journey he went on.

Below El

“On January 14, 2015, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson topped out El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite Valley to a circus of friends, family, and media. Their 19-day push to complete the first free ascent of the wall cfar beyond the climbing community. But the story of their cutting-edge ascent begins long before that winter, or even the seven years that Caldwell, joined later by Jorgeson, had attempted what’s considered the hardest rock climb in history. The story of the Dawn Wall is the story of Tommy Caldwell.

The Dawn Wall, the long-awaited documentary film from Red Bull Media House and Sender Films, delivers Caldwell’s story in full, from childhood to his capture by militants in Kyrgyzstan his passion for big-wall free climbing, in which equipment is used only to catch falls. Of course, highly accomplished free climber and boulderer Jorgeson plays a central role in the film as the other half of the climbing team, but The Dawn Wall focuses heavily on Caldwell, the visionary behind the climb. Through moving interviews, the film explores Caldwell’s inspiration that led to the seven-year project. But the documentary skims over his darker motivation: a deep depression that would ultimately lead him to the greatest accomplishment of his life”.

The story is an incredible one and I enjoyed it so much. I rarely watch films but this was a great choice. I saw the incredible Yosemite again where I visited and worked with the Yosemite SAR

I was there on a Rescue on El Capitan with YOSAR team in 2008. It was some place the scale of 3000 feet of pure granite was wild. I loved my month here and this film brought so many memories back.

Rescue Expert John Dill below the Wall.

It was great to see that incredible place and these cliffs again. I never climbed on El Capitan but did on Half Dome. Yosemite is place you must visit and the land of Environmentalist John Muir. I learned so much being out there and saw the wilderness of nature and how folk struggle against it. The wild life, the waterfalls, the Trees,the flowers are incredible. It is a timeless land and one I will never forget.

I visited on early spring it was amazing to see snow still high up and only a few folk about.

How lucky are we to be able to escape into another and get the highs and lows of extreme athletes in this place .

Yosemite is a special place we owe at lot to John Muir for leading the fight to keep it that way. We can look into another world of climbing on the Dawn Wall.

Please watch it it’s impressive and see what true companionship on a rope means. It’s unique as are the two climbers.


It’s a great film, heavy and every bit as good as Free Solo. To be honest, I preferred Dawn Wall since it was a much bigger picture story with lots of interest about Tommy’s life and problems he’s had to deal with/overcome. Also brought back great memories of long trips to Yosemite in the 90s to do Salathe Wall and the Nose etc. Adrian

Posted in Articles, Books, Enviroment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Films, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Memories of Wales – The 14 peaks – grand days out on the rock and ice.

After visiting Wales on a Golfing trip last week it got me thinking of my great days on the hills and climbing in Wales. It was the late 70’s I had just come from Scotland from up in the North and completed a Winter West to East Traverse of Scotland it was a hard three weeks. I was pretty fit when arriving in Wales in these days.

The Wessex

I was coming as the full time Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader of RAF Valley in Anglesey. It was a big change for me and my knowledge of Wales was limited to a few Summer rock climbing courses and my Mountain Leadership Assessment In Llanwryst. Yet I loved the place and learned so much in these early years.

My young Dog born in Wales and a great companion on the hills. Teallach

In these days 1978 there was a lot of Internal rivalry between RAF Teams and coming from Scotland it was a hard gig. The troops then did a lot more rock climbing in the South and thought we in Scotland were all big walkers on snowy hills.

RAF Valley MRT

My first early weekend was the classic 14 peaks a great day then as now. Very similar to the big Scottish hill days like the Mamores. The hard thing was I was given a rope to carry and I ditched that early on. Also coming down to the main road twice was not what I expected. That was where the physiology comes in especially after Tryfan. Yet it was a great day and to be met on Drum by the late Colin Pibworth RIP a famous name in RAF MRT was magical. The early start on the Friday night Crib Goch by night and then walking most of the day. It was a wonderful day. We did great things like the Annual Snowdon Bike Race over Crib Goch for Charity when most of the Rescue Teams got involved before Health and Safety. It was so competitive as well.

The Annual Bike Race over the Snowdon Horseshoe.

I am sure I was with Stan Owen a great hill runner at the time. I did this day fairly often as it was a such a classic.

On Crib Goch Dave Booth in action.

Most of the team had it in there list to do. I remember being tired but spent next day at Tremadoc with my mate Jock climbing Merlin Direct and a few other routes I was tired. Jock said “your a Welsh troop now so you have to learn to climb. “

Yet there were other great days the Rhinogs A few miles south, however, is a pair of wild and beautiful secret gems: The Rhinogs a classic day in anyone’s book. I loved the remoteness of this area and it became a favourite. We covered the Karrimor Mountain Marathon here it was a hard day as there were a few injuries at the time. I learned lots from that weekend.

The Classic Creag Dubh Wall – Tremadoc

I got some great climbing in as we had a board in the Mountains Rescue that was in theory a guide to some of the selected climbs . These were a great idea to make you get about the area. I did all the classics in Wales in the book Classic Rock. Most were done in big boots and a rucksack scary at the time. Looking back we did Main Wall in a snowstorm and had great days in the Pass. The Llanberris Pass was always special with the steepness and famed routes but so there were so many routes. Looking back on it every day was incredible Mountaineering. We would walk one day then climb the next when the Scrambles book in North Wales came out we did many of them it was a great way of getting to know these mountains.

Tryfan became a favourite even then on the polished classics . Grooved Arête was a favourite as were many of the climbs on this wonderful face. The Milestone a place of history was one we could grab a summer climb when we had the long nights. Wales had so many places to visit I always found Craig Yr Ysfa a classic place very Scottish in atmosphere. We climbed all over and had Gogarth on our Doorstep we even did the odd Exercise here with the Coastguards. Add to that having the Wessex helicopter at RAF Valley we had a wonderful relationship with the crews.

Wales was so compact the drive from Valley in Anglesey was short and there was so much time even to climb in the long summer nights. The old classics like Lockwoods Chimney became a tradition within the team done at night it could be classic.

We learned quickly and got involved in so many Rescues as we were on scene climbing when many happend. All the time I was learning and gaining knowledge of the area. There was a great social Scene as well and we met many of the top climbers and though most of us were climbing easier routes it was incredible to see what was being climbed.

Wales worth doing Rock just a few I can remember so many more. It is all easier routes but great fun.

Classic Rock !

I loved Wales never a great climber I was lucky to be in North Wales for 3 years as the Deputy Team Leader of RAF Valley MRT. I learned so much thanks to Wee Jock, Nige Hughes and Pete Kay we had some amazing days. I was also back on many RAF Summer Course two weeks climbing in Wales teaching rock climbing. A few pals have asked me to recommend some areas and my memory is poor I have not even touched the surface can you help and add or improve this please.

Everything is in Wales and usually an easy walk in, what a great change from Scotland and if the weather is poor you can usually find dry rock somewhere. The scrambling is also exceptional and a few on their day off after 6 days climbing on our Annual Summer Course did the 14 Peaks as it was called then. The cliffs in the popular areas can be busy but we climbed a lot in the evening or when the cliffs were quiet or away early. I loved it and must get back soon. We did lots of call -outs working with the local Teams and it was a place of lots of learning. Many crag call – outs that were complicated and at night but you learned quickly.

Here is a wee guide just my thoughts can you help by adding improving?

Ogwen Valley – has always been in my mind a place to learn and some grand mountaineering routes. Idwal Slabs classic climbing a great day to start a trip in Wales combination of routes is possible to climb to the top of the crag. This can be very busy but there are so many routes and great to get multi pitch routes in with a short walk in.  The routes on the slabs are classic Hope, Tennis shoe,  Lazarus, The Arete , Grey slab a tricky VS up high all classics and you can have a great day here, easy walk in and such fun place to be.  

Idwal Slabs Big Boots on many occasions.

Tryfan – Milestone Buttress and East Face Routes – Milestone Direct a short walk from the road, it has so many situations and a climb we did so often, many before the pub or in the evening before it got busy. Soap Gut another old classic rarely done is very classic and here are other routes here with plenty of history and some great fun. Many are in Classic Rock by Ken Wilson. On the East Face of Tryfan  there are more mountain routes that finish near the summit of Tryfan  –  Gashed Crag, First Pinnacle Rib and the lovely Grooved Arete  all fairly long routes average 500 feet with Grooved Arete at 700 feet. Also Munich Climb was another we did a bit harder .There are so many climbs all classic can be polished but again superb climbing.

Those who like the walk in Craig yr Ysfa in the Carneddau with Amphitheatre Buttress and Great Gully big 750 feet climbs, very Scottish in feel. 

The Llanberris Pass a place of pilgrimage for those who love rock. Here there are great classics again a bit steeper and more serious in my view and some great climbs.

Classic Rock recommends – Nea, Crackstone Rib Wrinkle, Flying Buttress and Spiral Stairs, The Cracks on Dinas Mot and of course the Classic Cenotaph Corner, others like Cemetery Gates and the modern wild lines are impressive. There are also many steady VS routes that get you into the feel of the place. Spectre was one or am I wrong? For a mountain route Main Wall on Cairn Las is excellent and a great mountaineering expedition. We had snow on one of our ascents.

The Slate Quarries – You will love this place, in Llanberris – Bus stop Quarry was our haunt in the past – Comes the Dervish and so many others so many fun days.

The Moelwyns – A place well used by RAF MRT for leading on good rock, Slick, Slack Kirkus all about 400 feet so many climbs usually quiet and a great place to get the leading and route finding in. My mate Alaister lives below the cliff you may meet him top man.

Tremadog – Love this crag usually great when the weather is poor a crag with a café heaven. To me One step in the Clouds, Creagh Dhu  Wall, Scratch, Christmas Curry, and  Striptease so many others a majestic place.   I spent so many happy days here and Eric Jones used to run the café.

Gogarth – Sea Cliffs Abseil descent and well worth just a look is awesome, we did some lowers and training on these cliffs in my RAF Valley days.  It the Classic Dream of white Horses and so much more Lighthouse Arete a great introduction to sea cliff climbing. There is also Holyhead Mountain a grand cliff nearby with many routes worth doing.

 Memory fade again can anyone recommend me a few more climbs? A few have already.

Comments -Pete Kay – Dream, Grim Wall, Cenotaph Corner

David Tomkins –   Striptease Tremadog , Cemetery gates , Direct on Dinas Mot

Main wall Cyrn Las severe

Crackstone rib is hard to beat. Steady climbing and great situations. Pass hasn’t seemed so busy recently as it was in 80s.

Phil Williams –  Bochlwyd Eliminate, King Bee Crack, Mean Feat!

Rhoscolywn – I climbed here a few times memory fade but great sea cliffs maybe someone will remind me of the routes to advise.

Pete Kay and me after a wet day in Idwal a few years ago.

So many other place apologises for missing them can you add please cannot find my Valley photos but the memories live on.

I have so many memories and lucky to have a mate Rusty who Guides in the area maybe I will get a few climbs with him before I get to old. Rusty Bale ?

Looking back it was a grand time I was back two years ago on a wet day on Idwal Slabs with Pete Kay and Rusty Bale, we had fun. In my years in Wales we had the best winter for years and that is another story we ice climbed everywhere all over Wales and I was so lucky. Add to that the great folk and the odd big call -out we even went to Ben Lui in Scotland for a Jaguar aircraft crash in winter. We were flown up by Hercules to Prestwick. These are other tales like the Bike race over the Snowdon Horseshoe for Charity and the Forest Fires that are worth telling at a later date?

Ben Lui Valley MRT

The Valley Team and Hercules on way home from Ben Lui Call out.

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What would you have done ?

This is another interesting story of a pal who was out alone in the Cairngorms Last week. He had been up on the hills for a week. He is A very fit competent Mountaineer.


How’s things? I saw your comment on my FB post. I won’t deny it, I was in agony but didn’t have much choice. I’ve been up in Scotland for the past week enjoying the hills and as the forecast for yesterday was quite good, I decided to go and do Bynack More then round onto Cairngorm and back to the van which was parked outside Glenmore.

Whilst running down off the summit of Bynack More I tripped and took a forward tumble landing badly on my left elbow. Straight away I knew it was bad. I’d also gashed my left knee and a scuff on my right wrist. The pain was intense and I almost threw up. Weighing up my options, I decided it was probably best to retrace my steps and walk back the way I came in, all be it the longer way. A passing walker was going to call MRT.

I told him my legs still worked and by the time anyone got to me I could have descended a fair way on my own, besides I wasn’t going to be rescued(!) so set off walking. 2 hrs later I got back down and called into Glenmore to see if there was a medical centre in Aviemore. I told them was I’d done and suspected that I’d broken my arm. When they helped me get my jacket off and saw that my left arm was badly swollen and deformed they called for an ambulance – a bit embarrassing! The outcome, I’ve fractured the ulna in my left arm and gashed my left knee.

It could have been a lot worse and typically it happened at probably the furthest point away from my van. That said, it’s the first time I’ve ever walked 7 miles with a broken arm before and it was excruciatingly painful but these things happen and I get to play another day.

How’s things with you? I spoke to Al yesterday but then offered to come up and drive my car back bless him. I’m still in the RAF, based down South at the moment.


A interesting story and a hardy man. Thanks for letting me use this piece there are some interesting thoughts in it.

If you were out on your own would you be able to cope! Great effort.

Comments welcome


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One Last Climb – the incredible Eric Jones Mountaineer – Sky Diver – Adventure.

I just watched this incredible film on Catch up “The Last Climb” it was superb and a great insight into an incredible man and his life.

I was very lucky to meet Eric a lot on North Wales at his cafe at Tremadoc near the cliffs we loved climbing on when I was at RAF Valley in North Wales. Eric was already the local hero made famous for soling many of the great routes in Wales. I also attended a First Aid Course with him we had a laugh. He said he did it as a few climbers had fallen off his local cliff Tremadoc and he had looked after them. I am sure we have him an old stretcher as his wife was getting upset with climbers bleeding on her sofa.

He is most well known for the first British solo ascent of the north face of the Eiger in 1981, and for his climbs on the Matterhorn and South Col on Mount Everest.[1] In 1969, Jones ascended the Bonatti Pillar on the Dru solo,[2] and in 1971, he was the first person to climb the Central Pillar of Brouillard on the south ridge of Mont Blanc. In 1986, he became the first person to BASE jump from the Eiger.

It was a powerful film and shows that Eric is at over 80 still an incredible man. This film gives a small insight to the man. It has an incredibly moving end and I loved it. Stay well Eric and thanks for a great film and an insight into a true adventurer.

Posted in Films, Mountaineering, Music & Cinema, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Soay St Kilda The Mystery of the aircraft crash

I got a email from an piece I wrote about Soay and an aircraft that crashed during the War, was there any update on my article. I have been so lucky to visit such places and St Kilda is a place so unique and its history is incredible. Yet it was the scene of lots of aircraft during the War Years who used it as a navigational point on training missions. There are several aircraft crashes on the main island. Many more were lost on route. For some years there was thought to be an aircraft crash site on the St Kilda archipelago of small Islands.

Soay (Scottish Gaelic: Soaigh) is an uninhabited islet in the St Kilda archipelago, Scotland. The name is from Old Norse Seyðoy, meaning “Island of Sheep”. The island is part of the St Kilda World Heritage Site and home to a primitive breed of sheep. It is the westernmost point in the United Kingdom, excluding Rockall

Soay lies some 40 miles (64 km) west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic It is about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north-west of Hirta, from which it is separated by the narrow Sound of Soay, which is only about 500 metres wide. Two sea stacks, Stac Shoaigh (Soay Stac), 61 metres (200 ft), and Stac Biorach, 73 metres (240 ft), lie between. The island covers about 96.8 hectares (239 acres) and reaches a height of 378 metres (1,240 ft), the cliffs rising sheer from the sea

SOAY 2016
SOAY 1978

Soay is a 0.97 km ² large, uninhabited island in the Scottish St Kilda archipelago, the most isolated group of islands in the UK. This archipelago is located in the Atlantic  Ocean and the Outer Hebrides are adjacent.


This was the scene of an attempt by RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in 1978 to try to locate a crash site that was reputed to be on the small inaccessible Island. The team had a few epics including and overnight stay in wild weather, where tents were smashed by the winds in the exposed cliffs. The Team were tasked by the AHS (Air Historical Society) that some yachtsmen had located an aircraft crash on the Island. Some RAF EOD, the procurator Fiscal and a CID Sgt from Stornaway went along with the RAF Kinloss Team dropped of by the Sea King Helicopter. Over two years including a tented night stop when the tents were smashed wreckage was investigated but the aircraft could not be confirmned. The aircraft remains a mystery according to the RAF.


This was all done by Sea Kings helicopter and there are a few tales of these trips. You can never take the weather for granted in this area and I pray for good weather this year for me.

The islands hill on Soay is a prize Marliyn for you secret hill bashers! You will have to climb to get on the Island from the sea.

St Kilda and Rockall were all part of navigational training sorties in these days of very primitive navigational aids and many aircraft were lost in this area. St Kilda has a few aircraft wrecks on the Island and I have been so lucky to visit them on several occasions. Unfortunately Soay will not be on possible, I wonder if anyone has visited this place recently.

Keith Bryers.

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

Keith Bryers

More info  from the blog

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

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

From the site RAF Kinloss Archives.

The Church building on Hirta(St Kilda) has a small plaque commemorating the losses and carries the names of the casualties for the two planes on the main island, but for the Soay crash this section has been left blank of names. (until the mystery is solved?) It would be great to see another trip with the modern investigation techniques to prove which aircraft it was finally I have asked before but got no joy. It would be a wonderful tribute to those who died.

The Memorail in St Kilda The Soay crash names not there.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds | 4 Comments

Ruadh – Stac Beag

Ruadh-stac Beag the wonderful Beinn Eighe Torridon outlier.

The great domed Corbett of Ruadh-stac Beag is separated from the main Beinn Eighe ridge; it has considerable defences on most sides and access is usually via the screes of its southern flank. It makes a fine walk through stunning scenery – and could be combined with the ascent of Meall a’ Ghiubhais. From Walk Highlands

Ruadh – Stac Beag

This was planned to be my last Corbett but after hearing from a few folk who said it’s a long day I decided it would not be ideal. It’s a hard Corbett by any means. I have only three left and want to invite a few special folk to my final one. This will be next year as two special folk are recovering from illness.

The wonderful walk in from the pony track that starts near the Aultroy visitor Centre of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve.

Meall a’ Ghuibhais another great Corbett. The Pony track is a great way in to this wilderness.

I left fairly early as the forecast was looking good. I was on my own and have wanted to climb this hill for many years. This mountain is an outlier of the complex mountain of Beinn Eighe with its myriad of summits. Few venture into this side chasing the two Munro’s and missing so much?

The inner Corrie of the Black Carl’s lots of scope for winter. Few see this side.
The great dome of Ruadh Stac Beag and the hidden Corrie’s.

Parking is easy at the You leave the path and I headed into some wild country it’s very rocky and you have to take care as you round Creag Dhubh the vastness of this place is incredible.

The burn sparkling on the sun this
Is an incredible place to be.

I had planned a scramble up the slab on my hill. Yet on my own I felt that it was not right and looking at it I had been up there before. Yes again The memory plays with you in these days the Corbett’s were just another hill an adventure to get to know this area for Rescues.

I would take the young team members into these places. Often we would get dropped by helicopter on a search in bad weather and this hill knowledge was invaluable. I saw no one at all all day till on my way home. There is no phone service round here once in these mountains . Yet the solitude is peaceful as are the views of Slioch and the Fisherfield hills are incredible .

Looking back

The water was sparkling clear water on the Quartzite rocks add to the beauty.

This is not the place to have an accident so I was careful all day but just enjoyed the weather. I love walking alone I always say where I am going and when I am off it’s simple to sort out. I can stop when I want and have no time limits my days of rushing round the hills are long gone. The quartzite of this area allows so many plants to flourish and though late in the year there are still many about. This area is especially good for Juniper and rarely have I seen so many mini junipers about.

It was perfect for walking and as I picked my way up to the beleach the mountain is an incredible amount of scree and tottering cliffs. Yet in there own way they are so beautiful and I love hugging the corrie Rim and seeing them and there crazy shapes.

The view up to the beleach.

The path is vague even on the ridge and lots of loose scree And blocks but the views are incredible as you climb.

Shattered pinnacles and scree.

It was hard work yet as you climb you could see the Munro’s on Beinn Eighe and the outlying cliffs. I could see folks on the summits possibly of my own club who are in Torridon for the weekend.

The Munro summit of Ruadh Stac Mhor – with the hidden cliffs of a route I climbed many years ago – Thin Mans Ridge !

Once on summit is very flat and I made my way along to the Cairn in the sun. I could see the sea and for miles.

It was warm and I had my lunch and saw More folk on the main ridge. I could have slept up here it was such a grand day but wanted to get down the loose screes and the burn.

Near the summit of Ruadh Stac Beag any idea what it is for there were two of them ! From Eoghain Maclean Fixed points photography points. I put them in 20 plus years ago 😀well spotted Heavy. Just off the summit I saw these two objects?

I headed down taking care it was steep and loose. It was a good decision not to not leave this hill to my last one. Yet again the views were stunning all round vistas of the sea to Gairloch and Loch Maree.

Coming down the ridge.

I was glad to be back down safely and headed back higher up on the moraine on the way I came in seeing the incredible cliffs close up of the Black Carl’s.

The descent and a well earned drink .

I was soon on the path after a long walk across the screes. I still had not met anyone and I was back on the pony track. Slioch was back in view as was the massive Waterfall near it. I stopped again and took of my top to enjoy the sun.

Here I met a few folk and was soon back at the car. It was then I noticed my phone was missing I headed back up the hill I had an idea that I had put it down at my last stop. The round boulder where I had a drink and a short break. It was hard going back up but I met Ian and Lorraine from Muir of Ord who had found it. They had just done the same hill as me yet we had seen no signs of each other. They were a lovely couple and would not take a reward so we wandered down the hill. Good Karma to them. I stopped in at the Visitor Centre to tell them I had located my phone.

What a day I headed home after a superb few hours that I will never forget. This is what it’s all about for me. How lucky am I ?

Posted in Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Munros, People, Plants, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

My local hill Ben Rinnes

Two pals are of on a walking holiday and we had a wander on our local Corbett yesterday. The forecast was for rain at midday. We drove through whisky country it was still dry and parked at the Distillery below the hill.

Ben Rinnes.

We had not been up this way for a while so it would be a change from going up
the busier route from the other side.

Parking was easy and it’s only about 45 minutes drive from home. We follow the hill track from the Distillery. In the past I have been this way and it was always wet. Today the track was a bit worn and there were lots of shooting butts on the hill. Sadly no sign of wild life. The track is getting eroded by the weather but helps you get onto the ridge.

A warm start very close.

This is a quieter way to climb this hill and you pass the Scurrans Cairngorm granite tor’s that always are a place to stop. Before that the path heads on to the ridge it’s pretty wet here. It was today and muddy. The summit has the great name Scurran Of Lochterlandloch and the name Scurran (is applied to the other two tors on this magic wee hill. Many thanks for reminding me of this Donald Watt and Hamish Brown!  Hamish Brown’s Mountain Walk and Climbing the Corbett’s is a great book for information on the hills in Scotland.

The weather still held and it was good to get a wind on the ridge. The Scurrans dominate in a land of Wind Farms and the beautiful fields of Moray in late summer. The mist came and went and we followed the main track to the summit where we met a few souls.

We had a break here the Granite Tor’s are incredible I have camped here many years ago in winter. They were then covered in snow and they look wild.

The Scurrans

From here the rain came in and we wandered along to the summit. The trig point has been painted and looks great thanks to Eric Grant that was a labour of love.

Ella on top with the refurbished Trig Point..

The old Trig Point – now sorted out thank you.

There were a few others on the summit we had a bleather. We came back the same way as it was raining but it stopped and the mist lifted we were back in the views again and the sun.

It was then head back to car and stop for tea at the Steam Railway station at Dufftown for some tea and a sausage roll. Cracking day out thanks ladies.

The Cafe.

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.
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”.

Crash site References

250 metres downhill from summit

Rinnes W1 – NJ  25627/35634 – 783 Metres

Rinnes W2  – NJ  2562335664 –  774 Metres

Rinnes W3 –  NJ 2563435696 – 761 Metres

Rinnes W4 – NJ 2565035718 – 747 Metres

Rinnes W5 – NJ 25695 –  694 Metres

Ben Rinnes a grand wee hill it always allows you a fun day, no views today from the summit but great company.

Ben Rinnes Wreckage.
Posted in Corbetts, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Ben A Bhuird the Oxford Crash Ben Avon and other tales.

The Last Flight. Lost then Found

This great mountain along with Beinn Avon is one we climbed on a lot in summer and winter, I got to know it during 1973 when we completed a winter foray in February with the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. Teuch Brewer was training for an Arctic Expedition and we set of after work. He was a “man mountain” and it was a wild adventure navigating in wild weather and staying two nights out.

We carried a tent which meant huge bags and walked in at night after a long days work. We climbed 6 Munros that weekend heading back to Cairngorm for a lift home, it was a place I was to visit often. I then used this area a lot when I was posted to RAF Buchan on the North East Coast and formed a small mountaineering club. We got the offer of training with the new Sea Kings at Lossiemouth this was 1978 and we were dropped of on the summit and then did a long winter route. We got back to Invercauld just as the Kinloss Team were going to come out and look for us. It was -20 that night one of the party got frostbite and we did not realise how deep the snow was in the Glens. We were lucky it was a clear night with little wind but what a day. Over the years I rock climbed here there are Classic rock routes like Squareface and Mitre Ridge in the An Garbh Corrie of Ben a’ Bhuird. To climb on Squareface as the sun hits it is some experience after scrambling down a gully still holding snow in mid summer. These are days you never forget or the Wessex Helicopter offering you a lift home from the summit. In these days in summer we could drive onto the plateau ( not very environmentally friendly) and descend into the Corrie. Squareface was one of Tom Pateys hidden jewels first climbed in 1953 with J.m.Taylor.


We did winter lowers here what a situation and a few searches once unable to find the wagon in a white out. I was lucky to climb these these great routes often and meeting few folk but what a wonderful place to climb. In winter few venture but there are some incredible lines and climbs.

Techniques on the plateau!

Even with a mountain Bike its a hard place to get to. On the plateau there is no shelter and the winds are fierce it can be a real battle getting home in winter. It was also the place of the longest Avalanche burial at the time where on Dec 1928 party of 4 avalanched on two fatalities and one found alive after a 22 hour burial. A Chance in a Million? Scottish Avalanches Bob Barton & Blyth Wright. Well worth a read.

The Oxford.

On January 10th 1945 at 1045 hrs, Oxford PH404 took off from RAF Tain on the North East coast of Scotland bound for RAF Hornchurch near London. The weather in Tain at that time was reported to have been good with blue sky, no clouds and no wind. However, the met forecast was apparently for adverse weather. Onboard the aircraft were five airmen from 311 (Czech) Squadron which was based at Tain, four Pilots and a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.

Squadron Leader Karel Kvapil – Pilot
Flying Officer Leo Linhart – Pilot
Flying Officer Jan Vella – Pilot
Flying Officer Valter Kauders – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Warrant Officer Rudolph Jelen – Pilot

The flight was not an operational one. It is believed that F/O Jan Vella was travelling to London to receive his DFC award, F/O Linhart, S/Ldr Kvapil and F/O Kauders are believed to have been taking some leave, and W/O Jelen was detailed to return the aircraft from RAF Hornchurch to RAF Tain.

The aircraft failed to arrive at RAF Hornchurch, and no record could be found of it having landed at any other airbase. It was believed that Oxford PH404 must have crashed in the sea since no trace of any wreckage had been reported.

It was not until August 19th 1945, that the fate of Oxford PH404 and her crew was finally known when the wreckage was discovered by two hill walkers.

The hill walkers that discovered the wreckage
Dr James Bain F/L Archie Pennie

The men who unwittingly found the aircraft were Dr James Bain, a teacher in Elgin, and Flight Lieutenant Archie Pennie who was in the RAF but who was at the time taking a few days leave at his of the wreck of the Oxford PH404, and alarmingly the bodies of five airmen.mothers in Elgin. Long-time friends and both keen hill walkers, they had decided to spend their Sunday climbing two mountains in the Cairngorms, namely Beinn a Bhuird (3924 ft / 1196 m) and neighbouring Ben Avon (3843 ft / 1171 m).

Oxford Ben a’ Bhuird engines.

They set out at mid morning from Inchrory, and on approaching the summit of Beinn a Bhuird they found some aircraft debris and soon afterwards part of a wing. Finally, they discovered the remains

The cockpit and tail section were reasonably intact. The engines were relatively undamaged, perhaps because the aircraft had fallen on snow. The yellow paint work on the aircraft suggested to Archie Pennie that it had been a training aircraft. The bodies of two airmen were located in the cockpit, two others lay outside amongst the debris. The saddest discovery of all was that of the body of the fifth airman. It was found inside the remains of the fuselage and it was clear that he had initially survived the crash. He was wearing several layers of clothing that he must have removed from his dead crewmates in an effort to combat the cold. He appeared to have suffered a serious head injury and had made himself a make-shift bandage for his head wound using a towel.

It was clear to Dr Bain and Flt Lt Pennie that the crash had occurred some months previously owing to the condition of the bodies. They made a note of the aircrafts number and location and after descending the mountain went to Tomintoul and reported their discovery to the local police. They also reported the details to the local police in Elgin when they returned home.

The following day, Monday 20th August, a recovery team including Police Officers and members of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team from RAF Dyce made their way from Tomintoul towards Beinn a Bhuird to attempt a recovery of the airmen. Local assistance in locating the crash site was provided by Captain D McNiven, proprietor of the Richmond Arms in Tomintoul, and Mr William Stewart, a farmer from Clashnoir, Glenlivet.

A base for the recovery operation was set up near Inchrory. The Ambulance and transport wagons also waited at Inchrory as they were unable to travel any nearer the mountain due to the rough terrain.

By Monday night the recovery team on the mountain had removed the bodies from the wreckage and made efforts to prepare them for removal down the mountain. It was not possible to further progress with the recovery that night, and indeed some of the recovery team were in doubt as to whether it would be possible to remove the bodies down the mountain at all. They returned to the base near Inchrory to report on their difficulties and the NCO in charge of the party departed for RAF Dyce to inform them of the situation and to enquire about the possibility of burying the airmen on the mountain. However, the RAF authorities refused to permit a burial on the mountain and ordered that the bodies be brought down.

To assist in bringing the bodies down mules from an Indian regiment based at Braemar were transported by road to Inchrory. It took ten days to complete the recovery operation with the recovery team working in a very remote location on steep, uneven and boulder strewn ground.

The Mountain Rescue Team burnt the remains of the wreckage at the crash site to avoid it being mistaken for any other lost aircraft in the future. Only the engines and a few other small parts of the aircraft were not burnt. It was a gruelling operation for all the men involved.

The bodies of the five airmen recovered from Oxford PH404 were taken by road to an Aberdeen mortuary and placed in coffins. From here they were taken by train to Brookwood Military Cemetery near Woking in Surrey. They were buried there on September 3rd 1945 in the Czechoslovak section of the cemetery.

Acknowledgements: My thanks to Jim Hughes in Scotland, Pavel Vancata in the Czech Republic and Archie Pennie in Canada.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, SAR, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 1 Comment

The nights are drawing in. Are you ready?

The nights are getting darker, winter is coming and I was checking my torch, sadly it was not working after a dormant summer. As always summer has seen so many out travelling light and enjoying the hills in the the longer days.

The shorter daylight of the onset of winter means shorter day on the hill or coming off in the dark.

You will be reading in the media soon that a few will get caught out with no head-torches it happens every year.

So when did you last check your torch and batteries?

Get it out and check. It is also worth looking at your route and remembering that if you plan a 10 hour day you have the possiblilty of walking of in the dark.

Top tip

Get out early and make the most of the natural light.

Walking at night is very different and worth practicing , have you done this yet. Its a good skill to have? You do not want to be on the tops in the dark unless you have to.

Plan your day. What speed do you walk at night compared with the daytime.

You may find a big difference? If you wear glasses on the hill its not easy to read a map in dark, I always expand my map by blowing up the scale on the computer . This is so that I can see the contours easily. My phone lets me do this as well and I have a screenshot ready in case I need it.

If using your phone have a spare battery and cable and always carry a map and compass.

A phone is not a substitute for a torch!

A few tips, but the best advice is to get out and practise in the dark and this can be done anywhere.

Far better to learn or check out your skills in a safe area than on the Ben in the dark in bad weather.

The view at night with no torch!

From Tilly lamps to head – torches.

It is hard to believe that on one of my early call outs in 1974 in March on Ben Nevis I was on a tragic search at night for a young couple who had wandered into 5 Finger Gully on Ben Nevis. I was given a tilly lamp to search with and was in the Gully when a then well-known Lochaber Team Member Willie Anderson who saw it took it off me as I was really struggling on the steep ground. Willie threw it away. I was worried about how I would explain that to my Team Leader? I have been there on several other occasions in 5 finger Gully and never found it and apologise for leaving litter on the hill. I wonder what future Mountaineering archaeologists will make of a Tilly in 5 finger gully. After that I purchased a decent head torch as the issue one was pretty poor. In Mountain Rescue you do a lot of Rescues and train at night a head torch is essential and there have been a few disasters on this piece of gear over the years.

At RAF Valley in North Wales during a time when money was tight late 70’s MOD in its wisdom bought cheap batteries for our head torches that fell apart on a night rescue high on the Idwal Slabs. I was the Deputy Team Leader at the time and sent of a powerful signal to the powers that be about the procurement of such rubbish. That was the last signal I was to send for a time as it ruffled so many in the Supply Branch at the time but we got descent batteries after that.

The marvellous improvement in head torches and lighting for personal and Rescue use is incredible.

Tales of climbers climbing in a wild winter night with a torch in their teeth as they climbed some of the big routes in the ebbing light and moonlight are legend. After seeing the recent pictures of Skye Mountain Rescue Team on call outs recently with their powerful headlights is a huge improvement from the early days.

Each rescuer is in their own world of snow and a pool of light it is surreal and impressive. I try to keep up with all the changes and the costs of some of these head torches are incredible some are over £300. I have tried so many the famous “Sharks Eye” with 6 heavy batteries that lasted about 2 hours was amazing but it was hand held and not much use when searching very steep ground.

We also did some test with Hamish MacInnes and a huge Military Searchlight in Glencoe millions of Candle power how many remember that night?

Top tip:

A head torch is a vital addition to a winter hill bag and I always carry a spare so often I have had to give mine away. This was often to some person who does not carry one or has not checked it for some time and the batteries are flat. Always check your head torch and ensure it is working.

Try walking at night and see how tricky it is, imagine that without one?

Top Tip: In winter I always carry two after lending mine out on rescues and never seeing them again.

I repeat:

Your phone is NOT A HEAD TORCH.

A few tips again:

check that torch, maybe buy a spare and batteries and have look at the map and your route, get away early and practice your skills no matter who or how experienced you are.

Posted in Articles, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

One of those special days on Beinn Eighe in Torridon.Watching Eagles soar.

Yesterday it was an early start for some filming for Channel 5 for a tv program on the Famous Lancaster aircraft. In March 1951 a Lancaster crashed in Beinn Eighe in Torridon just below the main ridge sadly killing all 8 crew. It took 3 months to recover all the crew such was the snow and ground the aircraft crashed on.

The RAF Kinloss Team In 1951 photo
Joss Gosling

The RAF Mountain Rescue Team who were poorly equipped and trained learned so much from this tragedy. I have written about this in this in my Blog on several occasions.

The crew Rowan Graham Ian and Andy

Involved in the aircraft recovery was a Young Joss Gosling a National Serviceman who took incredible photos of the incident, it showed the awful winter weather conditions and their basic gear. Joss became a lifelong friend and only recently passed away, he gave me a unique insight into what happened and the effect the trauma had on him and his teammates.

It’s a long walk in To the crash site about 3 and a half hours and Andy who was filming needed a hand with gear. I asked Torridon MRT to help and Graham and his son came along as Sherpas. The team got a donation from Channel 5.

Joss’s son Ian came along to tell his Dads tale so all we needed was good weather.

The Cathedral that is Corrie Mhic Fhericier

Andy had contacted me and we hatched a plan we got a weather window. It’s a long walk in and so we met at 0830 it was windy so no midges.

We did a bit of sorting out and filming in the car park and set off up the path. We stopped on route on a few places as I told the story and the then the wind dropped. It was wonderful walking great company and Andy doing the filming was at the top of his game.

Normally it’s hard work filming but he cracked it. Folk never realise how long things take but Andy was impressive.

I love this place these Torridon mountains mean so much to me and your view is always while walking of Liathach and it’s incredible cliffs.

You then walk round the back of Beinn Eighe into another world of lochans and Morain hillocks with views of the sea and Loch Maree.

To me this is God’s country my heart loves this place and today on a Bank holiday we met only three others. The space and wildness is exceptional to me this is as near to heaven as you get.

You round the hillside and see today the waterfall glistening in the sun meets you.

Andy had permission to use his drone and he brought it out and it was flown giving incredible footage of the area .

The sky was incredible and the light perfect shadows on the cliffs enhanced the features we sat and enjoyed this piece of heaven while he got about his filming. Then we saw a few feet below the great Buttress enjoying the grass not bothered that we were there.

From here it was a pull up to the Loch, Andy had never seen it before and this place is majestic.

It is a Cathedral of nature with the Loch it’s colours the Sky and the huge cliffs all enclosed in a mighty Corrie. The sun was wonderful warming and here we had lunch among the boulders by the loch. I could have stayed all day. This is a place in any weather of incredible beauty and in winter even getting here in deep snow is a journey.

We wandered round the loch and I showed Andy in the distance some wreckage. We did another interview then at the end of the loch headed up the hill.

One of the 4 Merlin Engines

Andy was amazed by the wreckage still left a tyre , engines and a wing. So much wreckage I had been here on many occasions but it always had a huge effect on me. 8 young men died here it is a solemn place to me and others. Further up there is a propellor where we renewed the plaque last year. It was done with the help of Joss’s family and Geoff a relative of one of the crew who died in the crash. The RAF Lossiemouth MRT put it on an made a great job of it.

It is made of slate and we put it up this year it was looking great and here we stopped and did some more interviewing and filming.

This is a fitting tribute to these young men .

After that Andy did some more filming and then we had a good break sitting in the sun. I doubt I have in my 50 years on the hills had such a great day.

Could it get better and then above us we saw two young eagles soaring in the thermals. We watched this in awe they were so graceful and in this amphitheatre it was a joy to behold.

I believe in good Karma and to me this was Joss my pal watching over us ensuring we told our story. It was so powerful and when you see wildlife in this habitat it’s so hard to explain the beauty of nature .

Andy Filming Ian.

We finished of the filming put the cameras away and Graham and Rowan who had been so good packed them away. There patience was so good and I cannot thank them enough.

We refilled our water bottles at the burn had a last look round and headed home.

We did not hang about on the path the weather was changing yet we still enjoyed the views but moving well down the path. The skies were darkening but the we saw the hills in a different light.

It’s was hard going and yet we made great progress back to car park for just after 1730 meeting a pal in the car park. He had a great day as well on the tops.

The local Stag in the car park

We sorted the gear and said our goodbyes. I think Andy got some great footage He seemed pleased and it was a great day.

The program should come out next year I will update when I hear. I then headed to see my pal Kalie her sister Wendy and a pal Sarah from America. Kalie lives near Applecross it was a busy drive as this road is on the NC 500 with camper vans and lots of motorbikes on the single track road. . I was treated to a great meal of salmon after a wonderful Hill day superb company and I laughed all night.

I stayed the night that was planned we sorted out the World and I head home today.

This was an incredible day thanks to Graham and Rowan from Torridon MRT . Ian Joss’s son and Andy who did all the hard work filming.

The stars to me where the Eagles who showed us what wildlife is about.

Also Kalie, Wendy and Sarah who laughed at my jokes and made this day so wonderful.

This was some day and one that I will never forget.

Dedicated to the crew of the Lancaster that crashed on Beinn Eighe and to Joss Gosling and the RAF Mountain Rescue team who in 1951 did there best.

“They soared like Eagles”

Posted in Articles, Charity, Enviroment, Films, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Poems, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

The famous Bull Call – out on the 5 Sisters of Kintail – George the Bull.

Getting the Bull Of the hill on the 5 Sisters of Kintail – The Saddle in the distance.

Looking back it good to have a laugh at some of the things that happend. In the early 70’s the team received a call from the Skye Police that walkers had reported a Bull on the summit ridge of the 5 Sisters. It was not a happy Bull and walkers had to avoid it by a detour on the ridge. They reported it to the local Police and they called the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team who thought at the time it was a joke but it was a real request for help. A party was sent up and located the Bull on the ridge ( not difficult). I wonder how they got it to start coming down. The story we were told it had been frightened by a car on the main road and bolted up the hill become one of the first Bulls at a Munro summit.

I wonder how many have done that? I wonder how Health and Safety and the Risk Assessments would be for this incident today?

Not a great photo but the Bull descending back to the lower ground. The hills were safe again.

It was one of the lighter moments in Mountain Rescue and must have been a big talking point at the time. I wonder if any of the Kintail Mountain Rescue Team know the story?

The Five Sisters of Kintail

A classic ridge walk taking in three Munros, the Five Sisters give a wonderful days excursion with magnificent views.


The going is very steep on ascent; there is a little scrambling along the ridge itself and much rocky ground.

Comments welcome.

The crazy rescue of George the Bull Rescue

George was reluctant to co – operate and rope was eventually secured round his horns. After 4 hours of gentle exertion he persuaded to descend 1000 ft. However by this time he was showing signs of peevishness and had made several charges at his would be rescuers. They were somewhat relieved when at this stage his owners took over and managed to coax him down to their farms and his girlfriends.

From Alan Boulton via my blog

“I arrived in Kintail in 78 as the NTS ranger and this story was still fresh. My recollection was that this was a dept of Agriculture bull on loan and you saved the crofters the embarrassment of explaining that they couldn’t return the bull because he wouldn’t come down from the top of a Munro.”

From Wullie Fraser Kintail MRT

“Yes…thankfully a bit before my time….but recollect Dolan Macmillan and John Ross embellishing the incident on numerous occasions.

Oh what fun we had before the days of risk assessment.”

I wonder what the Risk Assessment would be of this rescue? Is it in the Mountain Leadership Syllabus and does it classify as “Objective Dangers in Mountaineering” 

Sgùrr na Ciste Duibhe reaches a height of 1027 metres (3369 feet) making it Munro number 104 in terms of height.] It is one of three Munros which make up the famous Five Sisters of Kintail group of hills (the others being Sgùrr Fhuaran and Sgùrr na Càrnach) and is often climbed as part of the walk which takes in the full Five Sisters ridge. The mountain is not particularly photogenic and it is difficult to get a good impression of it from the A87 because of the steepness of its slopes as they fall into Glen Shiel.

The hill’s Gaelic name translates as the Peak of the Black Chest or Coffin. The meaning of the name is unsure but it is thought to refer to an unusual deep rocky hollow near the summit which lies between the main ridge and a false crest. This can be dangerous in mist or snow conditions. Other sources say that the name refers to the deep hollow of the Allt Dearg on the hills south west slope.[4] The mountain should not be confused with another Munro called Ciste Dhubh which lies just 7 km to the east. It may never be the same after this incident!

Comment from Gordon Binnie :

Opening a cows airway en route to a search area. It had fallen into a ditch and was struggling to breathe. With the legendary Mick Tighe and Kenny Harris Oban Mountain Rescue Team

Mick Tighe and Kenny Harris

From Gordon Binnie

Posted in Articles, mountain safety, Munros, People, Views Mountaineering, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Stag Rocks – “Final Selection” a three star classic diff a day with pals. The St Valery Refuge a Cairngorm lost shelter.

I had wanted to do this short climb for many years; sadly for some reason when I climbed at bit I had missed it always climbing the nearby Afterthought Arete and a few others climbs many years ago. We had spoken to several pals about this climb and though a short Diff of 60 meters it has 3 stars in the Guide. Pete and Dan were keen and Pete had done it beforeand raved about it. All we needed was some good weather. The situation high above Loch Avon is wonderful and all the pictures I had seen made it look impressive. It’s a steep slab on Cairngorm Granite on big holds and last year we had a good look at it after a day on Afterthought Arete.

The views of Loch Avon the great glaciated slabs, the waterfall and Hells Lum Crag was looking very wet and the nearby hills these big Munro’s make this special. It is a place to cherish and we all have so many memories of these cliffs.

Walking to the cliff with Ben MacDui in the background.

Two years later we set out in a not to great forecast with this summer’s usual rain forecast and not to warm temperatures. They were forecasting frost that night on the plateau. We set off a bit later with Dan driving and managed to meet pals in Boat of Garten where we stopped for a brew caught up with Fiona and Mick Morris and Mull the black lab then headed off. It was late about 1130 when we got to the Cairngorm Car Park. It was busy so we paided our dues and headed of up the hill. Pete and Dan chatting on the way up to spot height 1141 me coughing as this bronchitis is still with me especially when going uphill.

It was a lovely day a few midges in the car park but once onto the plateau we headed round and a breeze we lost them heading for Stag rocks. It’s a bonnie place and off the path hard to believe you are up in an artic environment. We were soon at the top of the cliff and the guide says you can descend the gully but to me it looked wet and loose. We headed for the top of our route had some lunch and then abseiled down into gully.

On the way down I spotted an abseil on the West side that would have been a bit easier. Our double ropes got us down and it’s amazing how out of practice you are if you have not climbed or abseiled for a while.

The Abseil in.

Down in the Gully below out route the midges were out in the Gully Dan had his Midgy net me and Pete suffered. We had left ours with the bags. The first short step onto the route was wet and slippy but after that it was superb climbing.

The damp start with the route above.

Dan ran out the rope to a huge belay and Just when he was on the main slab a jet flew past at our eye level what a noise it was. In the Gully it was at our height and scared me and Pete. The Corrie rebounded with the noise echoing round then his mate flew by at first we thought it was thunder. I forget what a noise they make. This was “Thunder in the Glens “ Which is on in Aviemore this weekend.

The only folk we saw opposite us.

Then we saw another pair of climbers on a route opposite the only folk we saw all day. Dan was soon belayed and we followed. I took lots of photos once away from the midges and it is a superb line. There was great gear but in places the rounded Cairngorm granite makes you think at times.

Dan up there.

Once on the belay we were away from the midges In the breeze and enjoyed the views. We could now see even more the sandy beach at Loch Avon looked magical and then we had a we shower of rain that lasted a few minutes.

The final scramble.

We were soon on the last short climb of our and back at the bags. We had a break put the gear away and sat for a few minutes. It’s a place to sit and enjoy. We then set off back not far from our route heading back is the plaque to the St Valery bothy on the small granite boulder. I have memories of the wee bothy that used to be here and the granite plaque could do with a clean. I must come back and do that one day.

It’s a place I have used to take folk navigating and can be interesting finding it. Then we headed back me a bit behind then another short shower came in but went very quickly. We saw the Reindeer at the shoulder of Cairngorm.

The Yellow man on the route.

It also got me remembering the St Valery bothy that was on the cliffs above Stag Rocks above Loch Avon. The bothy was built-in 1962 and was used mainly by climbers on the nearby Loch Avon Cliffs. It was a small bothy very like El Alamein made of local stone and turf with a few pieces of framework to build the basic structure.

It was taken down after the Cairngorm Disaster in 1971 and was a real difficult time with various organisation’s who were for keeping the high Cairngorm bothys and others who wanted them taken down including Mountain Rescue Teams, the Police and the public.

It was a huge time of upset for many; It was not sorted out till 1975 when the Curran and the St Valery were taken down after a huge discussion and several years of difficult negotiations by all concerned.

  John Duff the Ex – Team Leader of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team tells his account in a wonderful book ” A Bobby On Ben MacDui” This book tells  much of the politics of this sad period after the tragedy.

St Valery Refuge now gone.

The St Valery Refuge was above the Stag Rocks Grid reference NJ 002023. There are many tales of epics on Rescues trying to find the hut which in wild weather was never easy. On a great day it was a marvellous location but it was incredibly exposed and very near the cliff edge in the days before GPS and other navigational aids.

St Valery granite in need of a clean.

In 1971 Bill March & Chris Norris were to search the St Valery Refuge on night of the Cairngorm Disaster and though great mountaineers failed to find it spending the night at the Shelterstone with Alan Fyfe and Reg Popham who were searching another area. This is how difficult an area it was in and so tricky to find. I was on one search A few years later just before the bothy was knocked down. We were told that there was no room for us on a wild night by some ensconced famous climbers. It was not at all a diplomatic discussion that occurred. Yet we soon got in and shivered the night away. I remember nearly being blown away as we left in the morning, the wind was incredible.

The bothy was very near the cliff edge and in a wind and whiteout it could be a wild place to be.

St Valery bothy was removed with help from the Royal Navy, Police and Mountaineering Council Of Scotland in 1975 and still those who used it or were involved in the debate have differing views. The engraved stone with the name was still there as the only remaining piece of the remains of the bothy left. Aug 2019.

Any stories and photos would be greatly appreciated.

Pete and Dan

We were soon heading home another shower and then back to 1141 that place that means so much. How many times have I been glad to see it.

Here we had a wee stop then head down the ridge through the Ski Centre back to the crowds. It was great to get back to the car, the midges met us again and then the drive home. There were superb rainbows just near the Dava Moor and I was back just before 1900 pretty tired but what a fun day. We had missed the heavy rain and it was warm and so good to be away from the crowds. Thanks to Dan and Pete and of course the Cairngorms for an amazing wee climb in an incredible situation.

At 1141

The older you get the more you appreciate this place and places like it. How had I missed this wee gem for all those years but how good to go and climb again even on an easy route on amazing rock.

Today’s tip – always check each other before you abseil or climb it easy to make a mistake no matter how experienced you think you are.      

 Stag Rock – Crag features

This is the large collection of cliffs on the north side of Loch Avon between Coire Raibert and Coire Domhain. The cliffs face south and can be a real suntrap allowing for rock routes to be done both early and late in the year. This does pose obvious problems for some of the winter routes but there are some good lines which have a very different feel to the nearby norrie (Northern Corries.)

Approach notes

Approach to the crag is usually via the Goat Track or 1141. Descent to the base can be done via Coire Domhain, Y gully, Diagonal Gully or Coire Raibert. There is an abseil  point into Diagonal gully a little way down from the plateau on the gully’s west side which gives access to the routes around Final Selection.

2019 Aug – We abseiled in from the other side down the route as I did not fancy the wet loose gully.

Posted in Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 5 Comments

Moonwalker 2020 Calendar all profits to Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Moonwalker 2020 calendar is now available!

Still only £5 each and ALL profits go to Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Last year raised nearly £600 – buy now at munromoonwalker.com/shop_online.

Its a great Calendar. Get it now for all those who live abroad and miss our great hills.

Posted in Articles, Charity, Munros | Leave a comment

Corbett’s for Courses thanks to all.

From the Corbett to Courses Facebook page

“Hi all

Big thank you for all your fund raising efforts.

The preliminary total figure for Corbetts for Courses is £1052.07 which will pay for 26 places on navigation and winter skills courses.

If anyone still wishes to make a donation you can do so through our Paypal GIving Fund page at [https://www.paypal.com/uk/fundraiser/charity/3513638](https://www.paypal.com/uk/fundraiser/charity/3513638).

If you donate £25 or more you are welcome to claim a free Mountain Aid buff, email us at corbetts4courses@gmail.com with your details.”

There are still a few to climb so have look and let’s get them finished.

If you managed to climb a few if you can donate it’s a great cause.

Posted in Articles, Charity, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Corbett’s for Courses. Mountain Aid can you help ?

This is the latest from

Karlin Herwig on Facebook for Mountain Aid .

Corbetts for Courses

Mountain Aid: the hill walkers’ charity, is excited to announce our May 2019 fundraising initiative Corbetts for Courses.

For a day Mountain Aid want to encourage hill-goers to become Corbett Connoisseurs and raise valuable funds to ensure Mountain Aid can continue to offer free skills training and safety lectures.

To get involved:

  • Join the Mountain Aid CorbettsForCourses Facebook group (or use the contact form below)
  • Choose a Corbett (there’s 222 of them)
  • Post your chosen Corbett to the Facebook group (or contact us)
  • Climb your Corbett during May – July and share your summit photo to the group (or email it to us and we will post it for you)
  • Make a donation to Mountain Aid (£10 is suggested but please give what you can).

With your help we hope to put someone on the summit of every Corbett during the month of May.

Of course, the same Corbett can be climbed by several people and you can choose/climb as many Corbetts as you wish.

Check out our news page for regular updates of which Corbetts have been claimed and / or climbed.

Update 28th May 2019:  at the request of our supporters and corbett fans the duration of the event has been extended until the end of July 2019!

Contact Us

Please complete the form to contact us about Corbetts for Courses. It would be helpful if you tell us which corbett you might be interested in.

Please note that as we are run entirely by volunteers and do not have any paid staff, that there may be a delay of a couple of days before we are able to respond. Thank you for your patience.

And here’s the map. Blue circles are free, brown triangles are planned (you know who you are – just one week left to go!) and yellow stars are completed.

Hi all,

Thought it might be useful to post the full list this time, including free, planned and completed hills. We’ve got one more week before the end of the three-months period; how many more can we get done????

• A’Chaoirnich [Maol Creag an Loch] NN7352480711 Free

• Ainshval NM3784194333 Free

• Am Bathach NH0733514340 Completed

• An Cliseam [Clisham] NB1548407302 Completed

• An Dun NN7173580507 Free

• An Ruadh-stac NG9214548064 Completed

• An Sidhean NH1710345392 Free

• An Stac NM7628579280 Completed

• Aonach Buidhe NH0576132465 Free

• Aonach Shasuinn NH1732218022 Completed

• Arkle NC3027546180 Planned

• Askival NM3931095223 Completed

• Auchnafree Hill NN8086230811 Completed

• Bac an Eich NH2221548950 Planned

• Baosbheinn NG8703165420 Free

• Beinn a’Bha’ach Ard [Beinn a’Bhathaich Ard] NH3605943484 Free

• Beinn a’Bhuiridh NN0942428362 Completed

• Beinn a’Chaisgein Mor NG9825178554 Completed

• Beinn a’Chaisteil NN3471936404 Completed

• Beinn a’Chaisteil NH3699680112 Free

• Beinn a’Chlaidheimh NH0613577581 Completed

• Beinn a’Choin NN3542613028 Completed

• Beinn a’Chrulaiste NN2462756682 Completed

• Beinn a’Chuallaich NN6845861775 Free

• Beinn Airigh Charr NG9303076184 Free

• Beinn an Eoin NG9051164634 Free

• Beinn an Lochain NN2180307893 Completed

• Beinn an Oir NR4980674947 Completed

• Beinn Bhan NN1406085714 Completed

• Beinn Bhan NG8036145039 Free

• Beinn Bheula NS1547998326 Free

• Beinn Bhreac NN8683882077 Free

• Beinn Bhreac-liath NN3027733917 Completed

• Beinn Bhuidhe NM8217696727 Completed

• Beinn Chaorach NN3588632825 Completed

• Beinn Chuirn NN2803029235 Completed

• Beinn Damh NG8926250201 Completed

• Beinn Dearg NN6086849755 Completed

• Beinn Dearg NG8953060820 Free

• Beinn Dearg Bheag NH0199581134 Completed

• Beinn Dearg Mor NH0321779939 Completed

• Beinn Dronaig NH0370738184 Free

• Beinn Each NN6016515806 Completed

• Beinn Enaiglair NH2250080525 Completed

• Beinn Iaruinn NN2969990046 Free

• Beinn Lair NG9815873278 Completed

• Beinn Leoid NC3202729490 Free

• Beinn Liath Mhor a’Ghiubhais Li [Beinn

• Liath Mhor a’Ghiuthais] NH2808371315 Free

• Druim nan Cnamh [Beinn Loinne] NH1307807694 Free

• Beinn Luibhean NN2428107920 Completed

• Beinn Maol Chaluim NN1349452585 Completed

• Beinn Mheadhonach NN8800575900 Free

• Beinn Mhic Cedidh NM8282978819 Free

• Beinn Mhic Chasgaig NN2214750228 Completed

• Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh NN2087135013 Completed

• Beinn Mholach NN5875065490 Completed

• Beinn na Caillich NG7959306698 Completed

• Beinn na h-Eaglaise NG8543312007 Free

• Beinn na h-Uamha NM9171566424 Completed

• Beinn nam Fuaran NN3611138193 Completed

• Beinn nan Caorach NG8715212123 Free

• Beinn nan Imirean NN4192830949 Completed

• Beinn nan Oighreag NN5416741200 Free

• Beinn Odhar NN3373533884 Completed

• Beinn Odhar Bheag NM8465477873 Free

• Beinn Pharlagain [Ben Pharlagain – Meall na Meoig] NN4481764210 Planned

• Beinn Resipol NM7664265464 Completed

• Beinn Spionnaidh NC3619557297 Free

• Beinn Tarsuinn NR9601541275 Completed

• Beinn Tharsuinn NH0551843351 Free

• Beinn Trilleachan NN0864643900 Completed Beinn Udlaidh NN2806133134 Completed

• Ben Aden [Beinn an Aodainn] NM8993998626 Completed

• Ben Donich NN2183804307 Completed

• Ben Gulabin NO1004172214 Completed

• Ben Hee NC4265533942 Free

• Ben Ledi NN5623609777 Completed

• Ben Loyal – An Caisteal NC5781148861 Free

• Ben Rinnes NJ2549935447 Completed

• Ben Tee NN2406497202 Free

• Ben Tirran NO3734274615 Completed

• Ben Vrackie NN9508063243 Completed

• Ben Vuirich NN9972570009 Free

• Benvane NN5351613728 Completed

• Bidein a’Chabair NM8890393060 Completed

• Braigh nan Uamhachan NM9753286667 Free

• Breabag NC2867215739 Completed

• Broad Law NT1464223538 Completed

• Brown Cow Hill NJ2210504455 Completed

• Buidhe Bheinn NG9633409056 Completed

• Cairnsmore of Carsphairn NX5946497995 Completed

• Caisteal Abhail NR9690744324 Completed

• Cam Chreag NN5368049126 Completed

• Cam Chreag NN3755034670 Completed

• Canisp NC2028918732 Completed

• Carn a’Choire Ghairbh NH1368518878 Free

• Carn a’Chuilinn NH4167303403 Completed

• Carn an Fhreiceadain NH7256107134 Completed

• Carn Ban NH3384987583 Free

• Carn Chuinneag NH4836083334 Completed

• Carn Dearg NN3499696628 Free

• Carn Dearg NN3572294884 Free

• Carn Dearg NN3450488700 Completed

• Carn Dearg Mor NN8232591187 Completed

• Carn Ealasaid NJ2276911776 Completed

• Carn Liath NO1648997623 Free

• Carn Mor NM9030590943 Completed

• Carn Mor (Glenlivet) NJ2657618346 Planned

• Carn na Drochaide NO1273893845 Free

• Carn na Nathrach NM8862869883 Completed

• Carn na Saobhaidhe NH5989614408 Free

• Cir Mhor NR9727843111 Completed

• Cnoc Coinnich NN2335100755 Free

• Conachcraig NO2794986521 Completed

• Corryhabbie Hill NJ2809328869 Completed

• Corserine NX4978087068 Free

• Cramalt Craig (deleted corbett) NT1684524740 Completed

• Cranstackie NC3506155604 Free

• Creach Bheinn NN0237442240 Completed

• Creach Bheinn NM8706057648 Completed

• Creag Mac Ranaich NN5456425567 Completed

• Creag Mhor NJ0574604781 Free

• Creag nan Gabhar NO1546484112 Completed

• Creag Rainich NH0960075155 Free

• Creag Uchdag NN7082832324 Completed

• Creagan na Beinne NN7444136853 Completed

• Cruach Innse NN2799176373 Completed

• Cul Beag NC1403508834 Free

• Cul Mor NC1620311919 Completed

• Culardoch NO1935098826 Free

• Dun da Ghaoithe NM6724736218 Completed

• Faochaig NH0218431717 Free

• Farragon Hill NN8403355305 Planned

• Foinaven [Foinne Bhein] – Ganu Mor NC3152050697 Planned

• Fraoch Bheinn NM9860894041 Completed

• Fraochaidh NN0290451712 Completed

• Fuar Bheinn NM8534356342 Completed

• Fuar Tholl NG9754448948 Free

• Gairbeinn NN4605098527 Free

• Garbh Bheinn NM9043362214 Completed

• Garbh Bheinn NN1692660096 Completed

• Garbh-bheinn NG5312523246 Completed

• Geal Charn NJ0905112699 Completed

• Geal Charn NN1561894267 Completed

• Geal-charn Mor NH8363612330 Completed

• Glamaig – Sgurr Mhairi NG5136130005 Completed

• Glas Bheinn NN2589664116 Free Glas Bheinn NC2548626501 Free

• Goatfell [Goat Fell] NR9913941540 Completed

• Hart Fell NT1136513575 Free

• Leathad an Taobhain NN8217485829 Completed

• Leum Uilleim NN3307164141 Completed

• Little Wyvis NH4296064480 Completed

• Mam na Gualainn NN1150762548 Free

• Meall a’Bhuachaille NH9908611544 Planned

• Meall a’Ghiubhais [Meall a’Ghiuthais] NG9760663421 Completed

• Meall an Fhudair NN2706819244 Completed

• Meall an t-Seallaidh NN5421023408 Completed Meall a’Phubuill NN0293885419 Completed

• Meall Buidhe NN4268844962 Completed

• Meall Dubh NH2453407847 Free

• Meall Horn NC3526144921 Free

• Meall Lighiche NN0947852835 Completed

• Meall na Fearna NN6507818687 Completed

• Meall na h-Aisre NH5152800046 Free

• Meall na h-Eilde NN1854994632 Completed

• Meall na Leitreach NN6405970288 Completed

• Meall nam Maigheach NN5860143587 Completed

• Meall nan Subh NN4607739750 Completed

• Meall Tairneachan NN8074554376 Completed

• Meallach Mhor NN7766190877 Free

• Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill NC3572039150 Free

• Meallan nan Uan NH2637254472 Free

• Merrick NX4275685549 Completed

• Monamenach NO1760070670 Completed

• Morrone NO1321088650 Completed

• Morven NJ3768103996 Completed

• Mount Battock NO5496484470 Completed

• Quinag – Sail Gharbh NC2093829210 Planned

• Quinag – Sail Gorm [Sail Ghorm] NC1983730426 Planned

• Quinag – Spidean Coinich NC2060227746 Planned

• Rois-Bheinn NM7560277838 Completed

• Ruadh-stac Beag NG9727661340 Completed

• Sail Mhor NH0329588706 Free

• Sgor Mor NO1150082500 Completed

• Sgorr Craobh a’Chaorainn NM8955375795 Free

• Sgorr na Diollaid NH2817836262 Completed

• Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine NG9690953149 Free

• Sguman Coinntich NG9770030360 Completed

• Sgurr a’Chaorachain NG7966241752 Completed

• Sgurr a’Choire-bheithe NG8959401597 Completed

• Sgurr a’Mhuilinn NH2646655747 Free

• Sgurr an Airgid NG9404522715 Free

• Sgurr an Fhuarain NM9874097981 Completed

• Sgurr an Utha NM8850283974 Completed

• Sgurr Coire Choinnichean NG7907501078 Completed

• Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh NM9479994668 Free

• Sgurr Dhomhnuill NM8895467888 Completed

• Sgurr Dubh NG9790955791 Free

• Sgurr Gaorsaic NH0358821875 Completed

• Sgurr Ghiubhsachain NM8756075128 Free

• Sgurr Innse NN2902474823 Completed

• Sgurr Mhic Bharraich NG9176717364 Free

• Sgurr Mhurlagain NN0125994469 Free

• Sgurr na Ba Glaise NM7701677754 Completed

• Sgurr na Feartaig NH0551445398 Completed

• Sgurr nan Ceannaichean NH0872448063 Free

• Sgurr nan Eugallt NG9271404866 Free

• Shalloch on Minnoch NX4076290564 Free

• Sron a’Choire Chnapanich [Sron a’Choire Chnapanaich] NN4560445301 Free

• Druim Tarsuinn [Stob a’Bhealach an Sgriodain] NM8746572742 Free

• Stob a’Choin NN4172215975 Completed

• Stob an Aonaich Mhoir NN5374869424 Planned

• Stob Coire a’Chearcaill NN0168772682 Completed

• Stob Coire Creagach [Binnein an Fhidhleir] NN2306310918 Completed

• Stob Dubh NN1663848831 Completed

• Beinn Stacach [Ceann na Baintighearna] [Stob Fear-tomhais] [Beinn Stacath] NN4743216323 Free

• Streap NM9466086376 Free

• The Brack NN2456503061 Completed

• The Cobbler [Ben Arthur] NN2595205822 Completed

• The Fara NN5982684264 Free

• The Sow of Atholl [Meall an Dobharchain] NN6251974120 Completed

• White Coomb NT1632015095 Completed

Can you help see the Corbett’s for Courses Facebook Mountain Aid.

Posted in Articles, Charity, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

All you cycling fans these are well worth a listen – podcasts from the Adventure Syndicate.

I got this from the incredible Jenny Graham (Round the solo cyclist World record holder)

“Yo yo yo!!! We have new RTW podcasts out 🥳🥳🥳 could do with folk leaving reviews on itunes to help get it up the charts.

If you have a spare minute

Heres the link…

Thaaaaaaanks 😍🤩🥰🤟


Posted in Cycling, Friends, Gear, Mountain Biking, Well being | Leave a comment

Over in Skye it’s hot.

Well what weather to visit Skye. It was so hot and clear blue skies all the way. I went by Applecross to visit a pal had a great lunch fresh smoked salmon and passed the Torridon and Applecross hills looking incredible.

The mighty Liathach – Torridon

The roads were so busy everyone it seems has a camper-van and on the tight roads it was scary at times. Add to that the convoy of posh cars tearing up the road all on a mission?

I was glad to get to Skye in one piece.

photo – My mate Islay xx

I met so many who had been on the ridge I knew it would be warm and many were finding it hard going due to the heat.


I am staying in Broadford and away early tomorrow. It’s another hot day planned so I need to be careful with the sun.

The usual tips apply

Drink carry plenty of water. A lot more than usual. I try to drink as much as I can before I go get hydrated.

Use sunscreen and cover up. Use a hat !

It’s so easy to damage your skin by to much sun. Many of us are suffering from this due to not looking after yourself with sunscreen.

Heat exhaustion is not funny so be careful enjoy the weather but take it easy

I find early starts help as you are up high when the sun is at its hottest hopefully with a breeze.

It’s great to enjoy some good weather at last.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Enviroment, Friends, Gear, Health, Hill running and huge days!, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Fraochaidh a grand Corbett with great company superb views and lots of clegs.

I needed a hill day as I have been down visiting my sick sister. It’s never easy seeing someone you love ill and trying to help. It makes you appreciate life and your health so much.

My pal Terry Moore from the days when I was fit was up to climb some Corbett’s.Terry is an exceptional Mountaineer we did a West to East in winter in 1977 when I was fit we had been pals for many years.

We could maybe meet and he was happy to meet me early in Ballahullish Near Glencoe I left Ayr at 0530 it would be a long day.

The traffic was easy the Loch Lomond road quite and every lay-by had vans parked.The forecast was good but warm before a storm and heavy rain came in.

Ben Lomond early morning.

We met at the jetty in Ballahullish and I wanted to climb the Corbett Fraochaidh at the back of Beinn A Bheither. I thought I had not done this before. Terry was okay with this despite climbing this Corbett on a sailing trip in May.

My plan was to go in from Duror and according to the Guide Steve Fallon his advice is always good.

“Fraochaidh in Appin (Corbett) – Steven Fallon

Routes up the Corbett Fraochaidh in Appin. Fraochaidh is fine hill with a long summit crest situated in Appin. … Approaches to Fraochaidh can be made from Ballachuilish to the north-east, Loch Creran to the south and Duror to the north-west.”

Terry just before we climbed the hill !

We followed the the cycle track from Duror and then onto the hill by the forestry track for about 3 ks. It’s then up the hill where the trees have been felled. I found this hard going Terry who guided for Big trips in the Himalayas took it all in his stride.

Rough ground through forestry.

I was finding it hard going the clegs were awful following me and attracted to the yellow top I was wearing. Yet it was great to clear the mind and Terry kept the chat up and with a few stops to look at the incredible views.

Terry in Guide mode.

All the big hills were in view all day old favourites and memories came back.We were soon on the ridge in the breeze and away from the Clegs. The views got better.

We were soon on the top on the way up I recognised certain features. I had been on the summit before. My memory must be hopeless as the last time was Dec 2016 from Ballahullish how could I forget that. Terry was in disbelief of my incompetence also I had done it many years before from the Beinn A Bheither a huge drop .

Summit again !!!

We had some lunch it all came back to me and then headed back . Terry had another Hill to do Beinn Trilleachan in Glen Etive.

The descent was hard going but then back into the clegs and back to the van.

Terry headed of to Glen Etive I had a 3 hour trip home. It was a great day,grand hill and enjoyable day.

Thanks Terry sorry for you doing another Corbett again yet it’s a great hill recommended.

Today’s tip yellow tops attract clegs.

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Equipment, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

A cycle after a busy day. Bruce’s well in Prestwick looking tired and neglected.

I managed a cycle yesterday from Prestwick into Ayr along the cycle track. It was not far about 10 Miles’s round trip. It takes you along the beach past the golf course and near the Port of Ayr. This is an heavily industrial area sadly lots of litter and rubbish about. There was a bit of a wind as well but it was a good break.

The weather varied from dark skies to a warm day and I caught the odd shower. I saw this on a Board at Prestwick.

“When the spirits are low

When the day appears dark

When the work becomes monotonous

When hope seems hardly worth having

Just Mount a bicycle and go out

For a spin down the road

Without a thought on anything

But the ride your taking”

One of the places I passed was Bruce’s well a Historical point of interest looking pretty neglected in Prestwick with rubbish and the rusty railings making it look very neglected. Sad to see! Maybe someone will do something about it as it’s a Council sign that describes this Historical well.

“One of the “claims to fame” is the Bruces Well as Robert the Bruce visited Prestwick and rested on the site of a hospital and the walls of the old hospital are still there today.”

It was a good hour out and I needed that maybe I will get time to get out today.

Posted in Articles, Cycling, Enviroment, Family, Health, Local area and events to see, Views Political?, Weather | Leave a comment

Looking after our own.

I am down in Ayr as I have family member who is very ill. I am so glad that I can help in a limited way by doing simple things for them.

We are lucky as we have a strong family where everyone helps when they can. Health is what we all take for granted yet as we get older it can cause problems.

It’s easy when we are young and fit to forget those struggling but it is also part of life getting especially getting older

I am so lucky to be surrounded by good family and friends many are not. I hear of lots of folk struggling with health and well being issues. I try to help when I can but sometimes try to hard.

Many of us spent so much time in the mountains looking for folk we never knew. Risking our lives at times for others. Yet when family and friends are struggling some of us are “too busy to help”

Sadly some say that “I do not do hospitals” when folk are ill. I find this is an awful way of not coping with life.

Yet you can help by being there and doing practical simple things.

Every day as you get older you learn from life, There can a lot of practical help you can give and even sharing life’s worries with a friend or family member can be eye opening.

As my pal John often says ” None-of is are getting out of this alive” so let’s enjoy what we have.

Every day spent with those you love and care for is so precious. Make that phone call, make that visit if you have fallen out with someone get in touch. Please enjoy every minute of every day that we have .

We watched Andy Murray yesterday on his come back at the Doubles tennis. That made today very special for us both .

Thanks Andy .

Today give a hug or call to those you love .

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Articles, Family, Friends, Health, medical, People | 4 Comments

It was early away about 0100 yesterday for the 2 and a half hour drive to

Sheildaig on the West Coast. What a stunning village that takes the Celtman into its heart as does the whole area.

The weather was dry on the way over with no magical sunset as I drove the light came through. The hills still looked dark but the heavy rain of the last few days had stopped.

The wild life was waking up with deer crossing the empty roads there were some big deer involved so I took it easy. The hills were clear and only a little wind.

I was going to watch a pal Mark Hartree who was competing on this magical race .

Mark is a long standing pal who was with me in my Mountain Rescue days. He and another pal accompanied Scouse Atkins me on my Cycle from Lockerbie to Edinburgh in storm Calumn. It was payback for me to come and cheer him despite the 0100 start .

Mark one of the stalwarts of MRT

I had also Helped marshall in 6 of the previous Celtman with Torridon MRT so I had never seen the start at 0500 in the village I was not disappointed.

The eighth edition of the CELTMAN! Extreme Scottish Triathlon, part of the Xtri World Tour, will take place on June 15th 2019 in Wester Ross, Scotland.
Centred around the stunning Torridon mountains we will take you on an adventure unlike any other.

Make no mistake – when we say this race is extreme we mean it. Read the race information carefully before entering as you may have to endure cold water, strong winds, driving rain and difficult conditions on the mountain with low visibility.

Photo Ryan

Please download the Race Manual for more details.

I arrived as the competitors were getting buses from the start of the race. The village of Shieldaig was mobbed with over 200 competitors support crews and supporters. It’s an incredible place to be with all the competitors. I saw many familiar faces and the Adventure Show was filming. The swim today looked okay with the water pretty still. The midges were out though and the first swimmers would be back in one hour.

I had time to get a bacon roll and tea from the Sheildaig Coastal Rowing Club it was so busy and they had been up very early preparing the food. They were doing a great trade for all the support crews and it was out of the midges. Where else would you get food at 0500.

From my mate Pete

“David Whalley great to see you as well mate. I thought the flowers for me 😂. The lady’s who did that breakfast were amazing. If you know any of them could you please say a big thank you from me.

Definitely need to catch up soon.”well done all.

Out of the water tired and cold only 209 k to go.

SWIM 3.4K in cold, deep and  jellyfish infested Atlantic waters

I found it incredible watching as the first swimmers come into view. The burning lights the smoke and the drums on the shore make it a special atmosphere.

They are supported by kayakers and boats as Safety is essential. I have done this part in the Safety boat in the past it’s a huge responsibility ensuring all 200 make it safely in the 3 – 2 k of open water.

When you see the main swimmers come in it’s like a shoal of fish in the distance. It must be hard work with cold water tides and the jelly fish.

Watching them come ashore is amazing they give everything and now have a quick change in the open then the 202 k cycle. All these competitors are incredible athletes.

Mark getting ready after swim for the cycke.

The cycle is massive and I followed them through most of it through impressive scenery. The route is through exceptional country every lay-bye is full of support vechiles.

I know it well Kinlochewe , Gairloch Poolewe, Dundonnell – Braemore and on. Today there was a head wind but I could not believe the effort needed to complete this part of this gruelling event.

Mark was going well with his wife Fi and Jim West Mike Lynch two Carnethy runners in support.

We stopped often as he pushed on. He was like the others pushing on despite the head wind. We stopped and cheered as he and others speed on it was impressive to watch .

Fiona in support !

BIKE 202K on incredible scenic (and often very windy) Highland roads

I left them just before Garve it was 1300 and heavy rain falling Mark still had about 50 k to go then the hill run. I was pretty tired just watching and for the first I would not be on the hills. I felt guilty but I have to take it easy just now. My thoughts were with them all.

RUN 42K through an ancient drover’s pass and over the Beinn Eighe mountain range.
I had a mate who will be piping on the summit for the runners now that would be heartwarming for the competitors.
Also the Torridon Team doing the Safety cover on the mountain. They would have a long day.
ASCEND over 4000 Metres during this epic day
PUSH YOURSELF 100% and win the coveted Blue T-shirt.

At the end there is a meal at the Village Hall it will be a long day and what effort by all.

I stopped at my pals at Black Bridge for tea and a sandwich we had a catch up and then I headed home.

I got home and went to bed. Mark and many others would still be out .

The Celtman is a great event true sport at the extreme. It was wonderful to watch.The local support is immense and it was a incredible day. I met again so many inspirational people as always.

Your all heroes.

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Missing my sister Jenifer on her birthday.

Yesterday would have been my sisters Jenifer’s birthday she sadly passed away suddenly a in 2016. It was a huge shock to us all and how we all miss her everyone

She was one I could talk to about anything and despite the news we could always laugh at times.   Many of life crisis, health, family, love, career and so many other topics were discussed. Jen was always a listener and then would advise once I had has my say. I got to know her well when she nursed her husband for so many years until he moved into a Care home and she was there every day till he passed away. 

Jenifer always saw the good in most of us and was always there in times of need and support!

I was so lucky to have had her in my life  and also two other great sisters Eleanor who I lost this year and Rosemary who miss them both dearly.

It was a hard first visit to my home town after

She passed away and realising she was not there, but this is life and you have to enjoy what you have.

It is so hard also for my brother in Bermuda who is so far away.

My sister in my Dad’s old church in Ayr the flowers were dedicated to her by the family and as we all love flowers  like she did it is a great way to remember her!

She would love it but would never want any fuss. A typical Scottish lady.


Photo Kim Bates 

My thoughts are with her family Stuart, Caroline and their families. 

Always make time for those you love that are dear to you! Never put off that visit or call . Even in these busy times in life cherish those you love and be their like Jenifer was for us in times of need.

Miss you Jen xxx


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