Red Kites in the Thames Valley and in Scotland a great message from Glenmore Lodge about the winter weather on the mountains.

I am sown South visiting Lexi and Elli Skye and the Red Kites near Henley on Thames are everywhere what a display we get daily even from the house. It is in incredible to see these beautiful birds and their daily aerial acrobatics, what joy they bring how could we kill them to near oblivion over the years? It is amazing how varied the weather is down this far South with plenty of snowdrops out and the birds busy outside. I left Edinburgh in “storm Doris” with a big dump of snow and some wild weather.

The Red Kite

The Red Kite

Winter conditions this weekend in the Mountains some great advice from Glenmore Lodge in Scotland.

Thursday 23rd February 2017, 4:20pm

Marginal conditions in the mountains this winter have led to uncertainty and difficult decision-making when planning journeys – whether heading for the Munros or for climbing trips.

Because of this Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, has issued advice to all mountaineers on how to get the best out of their mountain journeys.

Shaun Roberts, Principal of Glenmore Lodge, and a mountaineer of 30 years’ experience, said:

“This is a very different winter to those we have become used to in Scotland. If you are planning to travel to high ground this weekend for Munro tops, or maybe to climb one of the few complete snowy gullies, mixed or rock routes, then prepare for everything from winter to potentially spring conditions!

“Storm Doris has delivered a welcome flurry of snow but, falling on unfrozen ground, rapidly rising temperatures and forecasted winds on Saturday aren’t just dampening optimism for a return to proper winter, but are also likely to dampen quality winter conditions for mountains and crags.

“We just can’t know what will be left after Storm Doris and when the warm temperatures depart on Sunday, hopefully bringing a forecasted return to cooler conditions.  But there are adventures to be had and we hope the following information will help the decision making.”

Munros – Don’t be fooled. Fleeting warm conditions and thawing snow cover may make a light-weight, minimal kit dash for the tops enticing. Equally those with limited winter experience and/or kit may be considering a cunning plan to step around limited snow cover.  But despite appearances, full winter kit is still required and returning sub-zero temperatures will ensure very firm snow cover with poor run-outs.

Its still winter in the high hills./

Its still winter in the high hills./

Snow gullies – Storm Doris and subsequent snow flurries may only offer a thin veil of cover over loose terrain following Saturday’s thaw. Options are limited here, with only a few gullies remaining complete before the storm arrived, and there is concern about raised ‘third party’ hazards as potentially high numbers of people are pushed into limited space. With temperatures rising there will be additional concerns about rock/ice fall from flanking cliffs and side walls.  Please talk and communicate with people around you and ensure a high level of awareness regarding other parties plans.

Classic ridges – These probably offer the most reliable option at the moment, being less susceptible to fluctuating temperatures, but reference ‘lean condition’ difficulty in the guidebook. As always, be mindful that lean conditions increase the risk of dislodging loose rocks, so step carefully and be mindful of those below.

Mixed routes – Good route information is going to be essential and it’s very unlikely that you will experience guide book conditions. If possible get local information and question if a route/area is loose if lean. If the route needs frozen turf then look at past temperatures for several days/nights of sub-zero. Moderate terrain with normally mixed snowy runnels, turf and boulders is likely to be very lean with raised objective dangers for you and parties below.

“Let us get the most out of this lean and unusable winter and at the same time look out for each other. Safe adventures.

For more information

Scottish Mountain Weather Information Service

Scottish Avalanche Information Service

It is easy to see how varied the UK is in weather and with the snow back in the mountains how easily we can get it wrong. The information above is well worth a read and if your out on the mountains take care. I am having a great time with the girls, what a laugh they are and if that is not enough Scotland won at the rugby a magic weekend and I watched the game with my step daughter Yvette a Scottish win what joy. The girls said we were too noisy.

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Storm Doris a lecture and a long drive .

Yesterday was full on. I was down staying with friends in Musselburgh for a lecture in Edinburgh! Storm Doris was in action in the morning and the hills near Edinburgh had lots of snow! Add to that heavy rain and it was a full on day!

My pals Kenny & Elaine who looked after me!  Great to see them and made my day! Kenny is just finishing his PhD and along with Elaine were great company! I was the best man at their wedding and it was so great to see them both. Kenny was on RAF MR with me and an example Team Leader great pal over many years and with Elaine made my short stay so much fun! The dog Meggy and cat Dora accepted me as well Dora hiding under my bed last night! It was amazing how much snow had fallen as I drove in the morning to the conference Centre and it was right down away from the coast. The radio was saying there was mayhem in the Central Belt due to the snow !

My chat was in the RBS Conference   Centre and I was on after lunch. It seemed to go well? It was “leadership in a crisis” and it was a fair audience ! Interesting folk and other chats.

Please note that I was doing this lecture for the non for profit Charity and there was no fee! I will hopefully get my petrol and these lectures take a lot of work over a week for 45 min ! So sorry I am not a millionaire, far from it !

I had a short break then it was a long drive South in the Storm and so many road works! Is the whole of the Uk roads getting fixed?

It was a 7 hour drive through natures weather listening to all the reports but the roads apart from the constant road works were fine ! I stopped three times and even had my first burger for was great to get out and stretch the legs for a bit! On the last hour of the trip the rural roads of the mad motorway had lots of branches and debris about after the big winds in the South and the kids were sent home early from the school! I had been warned about them though! 

I arrived at my stepdaughters Yvette  not too late had a beer a chat. Hopefully it is a sleep then to wake up with Lexi & Ellie Skye crashing into the room before school! That will make it all worth it! Then a great weekend with special people!

Thanks for the comments after the lecture and it was an interesting day to say the least!
A busy day or not ? 

I see there is a few warnings about the hills after the big winds and dumps of snow ! Winter is back on Scotland but be careful! 

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Varying weather on the drive to Edinburgh

No golf as it was a wild day and I left home in a bit of a wild morning the hills had a welcome dump of snow. The A9 was clear and wet but brightened up near Perth. Then near the new Bridge in Edinburgh the road was busy. Lots of work going on with the bridge and new houses everywhere!

I am staying with old friends Kenny and Elaine and we had a great meal and night and caught up.  Kenny just near the end of his PhD some guy and very happy Elaine as lovely as ever and great to spend some time with them.

I got out for short walk after the journey I needed it and it’s warm and windy we await Storm Doris!

The John Muir Trail goes near their house and it was busy with walkers. Lecture today so early start into the rush hour my idea of hell in the busy roads. Listened to the football Hearts got stuffed by Hibs 3- 1 in the cup. My Dad was a Hearts fan he would have been upset!

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In Edinburgh to give a talk to the Scottish Continuity Resilient Scotland Conference.

I was on the radio a few months ago talking to Louise White “Out for the Weekend” and someone heard it involved with a conference being run in Edinburgh in the RBS HQ tomorrow the 23 rd of Feb. I was asked to talk about “Leadership in a Crisis”. I thought about it for a while but decided I have something to bring to the conference and it hopefully will be an interesting chat? Just my luck the weather has gone mad so we will see what happens as I leave this morning?


I was very lucky I was taught and mentored by some incredible people in my time in the RAF Mountain Rescue. The Modern word “Team leader” has been used by the RAF Rescue Teams since the war and what an influence they had on me. I widely read about the history in the great book Two Star Red which tells of the early years of Mountain Rescue. When I joined in 1972 I was looked after by George Bruce my first Team Leader who was a magic person. He could communicate at all levels and had the “Bill Shankly” touch. Various others left there mark and added to my character, Ray Sefton,Pete MacGowan, Alaister Haveron, Tom Taylor, Don Shanks and many others. I met some incredible people in the civilian Teams Hamish MacInnes, Peter Cliff and so many others from every aspect of Rescue and leadership. In most areas we knew the Police, Coastguards  through incidents and training and the Land owners and gamekeeper and when the need arose we had Base Camps all over Scotland.  This was an incredible help to know the local Police the characters in the time of a disaster or tragedy. We learned from each other and I was constantly learning and given huge responsibility as we all were at an early age. Rank was not the main thing it was your experience your capabilities and in the military that was not and easy line at times. for those in high rank?


I was also privileged to be chosen and complete a Team Leaders Course learning much from the current Team Leaders. When I got my Team at RAF Leuchars I had 16 years of apprenticeship and even then it took a while for me to settle and learn some political skills. I was guided by good people and some great officers who shielded me from danger at time. Thank God for that and those who kept me in line but we had some teams and people. We dealt with many incidents not just tragedies in the mountains and plane crashes but helped in flood relief, forest fires and snow emergencies. At one time there were 16 helicopters in Inverness and we were there for a week helping with the emergency? Things have changed dramatically but I still feel you can learn form the past and in a rural situation away from the cities where help can be hours away and longer in a remote area in bad weather, those in the area will be critical. We worked hard with the SAR Helicopters over the years and we had a bond that was and is unique.

During Lockerbie we were lucky we had a great Boss Bill Gault who was the conduct between those in authority and those in the front line. He knew what we could do and let us get on with it and kept the pressure away till things settled down. Bill trusted us, he knew us all personally  and took responsibility for what we did and advised us when necessary. Everyone there had a job and did it, all took responsibility and never let us down. It was not really Leadership but great training,communications, the experience of real incidents and a trust in each other and having guidance from those around you when needed.  We were also self-reliant for 48 hours and could go anywhere at an hours notice. How many organisations can say that?

Yes maybe I have something to pass on as I feel that many of the lessons from the past are so easily forgotten? I also think that the efforts of Mountain Rescue and the people in it are a resource taken for granted at times, hopefully it will go well. Wish me well on the journey down.

The Scottish Continuity Resilient Scotland Conference is widely regarded as Scotland’s leading conference that brings Business Continuity and Resilience practitioners together providing an opportunity to gain valuable education, training and best practice to assist, organise, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies and disasters. 

We continue our theme of ‘Our resilience is your resilience’ which will run to 2018.  We promise a topical and interesting programme, providing excellent value for money.  The current line-up includes the following speakers with other speakers and topics confirmed in the coming weeks –

  • Scottish Continuity is delighted to welcome John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills who will officially open the conference and address the delegates.
  • Headline Sponsor – Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) – Chris Butler, Principal Cyber & Information Security Consultant,    will talk about “Risk & Resilience in 2017”.  Chris’s presentation will include the current risks to businesses; the current threat landscape; the importance of resilience, including cyber resilience and how it is more than just cyber security as well has what companies need to do to become and stay resilient.
  • George Fraser, Lead, Resilience Strategic Delivery, Royal Bank of Scotland will offer a brief history of technology resilience and why organisations must adapt to new technology paradigms.
  • David “Heavy” Whalley MBE, Mountaineer and ex-RAF Team Leader reveals all about lessons learned around” Leadership in a Crisis – how do you prepare your teams for the worst”.  A very interesting presentation is in store from a very talented and experienced professional.
  • Allan Everington, Managing Director of Dacoll Ltd shall outline the experience of an organisation’s continued journey to remain ever more resilient.  Why change at all? Where to start? Why what all the books say is probably true.  Hearts and minds are critical.  What the main challenges are / reaching the goal and keeping the momentum.
  • Chris Tunnah, Vice-Chair of Scottish Continuity will explain “What Is Next for Scottish Continuity?”
  • Keith McDevitt, Cyber Resilience Integrator with the Scottish Government and Graham Bye, CiSP (Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership) Co-ordinator for Scotland will outline the changing landscape in the UK on the engagement of cyber knowledge with the introduction of the National Cyber Security Centre and will specifically look at the business benefits of Cyber Essentials and the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP).
  • Professor Alison McCallum, Director of Public Health and Public Policy, NHS Lothian will speak about “What are the features of a resilient population”
  • Resilient people
  • Resilient pathways
  • Resilient procedures
  • Resilient partnerships
  • Resilient places

How can we create this together? What are the challenges we need to work on?

  • Tony Swift, Business Resilience & Corporate Security, AXA Insurance  demonstrates “The Transition to Resilience’.  With so many definitions of what resilience is Tony’s presentation will take you through the AXA journey moving from the traditional business continuity programme into a more resilience focused world.
  • Colin Edgar, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Glasgow Life – drawing on Glasgow’s experience of the Clutha and Queen Street tragedies we’ll explore how organisations respond to high-profile tragedy, how that response impacts on the public perception of that organisation, and how that change in public perception impacts the organisation’s ability to act in future.

As always, there will be exhibition stands to visit at coffee and lunch breaks and an opportunity to talk to suppliers.  Sponsorship and marketing opportunities exist for suppliers to promote their products and services to the attendees. Come along and network with your peers, make new friends and share experiences. Resilient Scotland Conference 2017 will afford you the opportunity of hearing about current and relevant industry practices; exposure to new technology and networking with like-minded peers, whilst showing an excellent ROI to your organisations.


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Happy Birthday Killin Mountain Rescue Team 50 years of Service.

Many who follow the Blog will know of my relationship over many years with the Killin Mountain Rescue Team. When I was at RAF Leuchars for 8 years with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team I worked a lot with Killin. We did many call outs together and got to know many of the personalities over the years. We had a special bond especailly after the  RAF Wessex helicopter Crash on Ben More which I have written about in the past in my  blogs when the Team Leader Harry Lawrie was killed.  During that tragic day I  have never seen such dedication when after carrying Harry of the hill the Killin Team  went out next day to recover the body of a young climber who had fallen.  Over the years I have worked  with Killin on many incidents and they are a typicaly great bunch of people still doing the same job with few plaudits.

It was great to see that the Forth Valley Police acknowledge 50 years of Service by the Killin Team. Words will never explain the effort, time and dedication of this great band of people all volunteers. Few realise that they are unpaid and in these days where so many bad things happen they and their like are what makes this small country so good. Thanks to those who have given so much over the years and the families who sit and wait while they and their like go to help their fellow man or women in trouble. It gives you faith in a troubled world. Well done Forth Valley Police for this tribute. We must never take these people for granted.    Happy Birthday Killin MRT.

Killin MRT - photoT

Killin MRT – photoT

From Forth Valley Police Facebook page


“Chief Superintendent McAllister attended the Killin Mountain Rescue Team AGM last night in order to formally thank the team for 50 years of service within the local communities that they serve.

Ch. Supt. McAllister gave a speech covering the highs and lows of the past 50 years, stressed how vital the Team are to keeping people safe on the local mountains and praised their efforts as volunteer members of the charity.

In 50 years, the team have completed over 1000 rescues and saved 1000’s of lives during that time. They have also recovered people who have sadly died on the mountains back to their families and friends.

50 years of service by Killin MRT - Photo Killin MRT.

50 years of service by Killin MRT – Photo Killin MRT.

Mr McAllister presented the team with a glass memento and in return, the team presented him with a book of the tales of Killin MRT during the past 50 years.”

A history of Killin MRT a great read.

A history of Killin MRT a great read.

Why not support Killin MRT on their birthday by donating to them?

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

A grand day in Coire an Lochan in the Cairngorms with the Moray Mountaineering Club.

It was the Annual Winter Skills day for the Moray Club and as always we go by Bus to the Cairngorms, stopping en – route in Elgin. Forres and Inverness for member’s pick ups. It has been a poor winter for snow and things were not looking great but having run RAF Mountain Rescue Winter Courses for many years in the past I knew I would find enough to give some a taster of the winter. The were just over 20 on the bus with two meeting us in the car park. They had travelled from Banff and Kinross and the plan for the day was made once we sorted out how many fancied the skills day. Ray Harron who along with Sandy Allan in the past has run these skill days but Sandy was not available and I had helped in the past and we had 10 willing volunteers. The rest of the club shot of to enjoy a sunny day on various routes in the Cairngorms.

Ten is a big group of varying abilities and we had a chat in the bus about planning a hill day looking at the weather and avalanche forecast and also the previous days activity. We then said what we hoped to get out of the day and asked what the group had done previous. We had a new member Ellen all the way from Australia with limited gear but we managed to sort her out. I had only taken one spare helmet and Ray had one so I gave mine up we looked at the gear and have a several types of crampons and a few had not seen much action. We also had a pair of “grippers” crampons in the group good for icy flat paths but not really great on the hill but we managed to cobble the gear out.

The MMC Huddle at the river crossing checking simple navigation skills.

The MMC Huddle at the river crossing checking simple navigation skills.

The car park was busy  there were few skiers but so many groups from all over  on winter skills so we wanted to pick a quite area away from the crowds and with not much snow that would not be easy, On the short walk in we talked about navigation and had frequent stops to show where we were and gain some simple navigation tips. We were followed in by Assynt Mountain Rescue Team who were training in the area. I always feel I should mention some of the call – outs I have been to and how tragic that not far from where we stopped about 15 – 30 minutes from the car park  I have recovered fatalities. It is hard to believe on a day like today with a warm wind and blue skies and the Mountain Rescue Teams should never be taken for granted.

Assynt MRT on there training weekend, a great bunch of people.

Assynt MRT on there training weekend, a great bunch of people.

10 is too many for one group so further on we split up into 2 groups and I wandered into Coire an Lochan with my group of 5. We were off the path and on the way we past the Ptarmigan that were about among the boulders they were white and not well hidden. They were in there winter plumage it is amazing how few come this way into the Coire and the Loch. It is a great place and with the loch frozen and the brown dirt debris on the ice from past avalanches on it. When I was ill this was a place I came to in all weathers just to get a view or a feel of this mighty place.

At the Lochan a lovely place for a break.

At the Lochan a lovely place for a break. There are plenty of little gully’s and places to go and it can make an interesting way of onto the ridge.  Beware of loose rock and in a thaw cornice collapse. The normal climbing routes were quite. There is a group to the right and that is the way we went up. They were long gone by the time we started.

The huge cliffs of Lochan tower above and there were three groups doing skills but plenty of space. There were also couple of climbers about and with the cornices above and the thaw they were welcome to it. At the loch we had a break, it was frozen and then did some winter skills. It was all simple stuff like walking on the snow at first, using the boots properly then ice axe breaking and then a bit of a wander in crampons. It was as always a bit of a “faff” sorting the crampons, few had tried them for a while and it took a bit of time but the weather was kind.  It was like going back in time from my RAF days on the winter course, when frozen hands are the norm after helping a group sort out there’s. I used to make the troops in the teams put them on many times during the day just to get them sharp at it.

Ice axe breaking make sure you have a good run out.

Ice axe breaking make sure you have a good run out and were a helmet. A skill to practice every winter.

We then set of for the main ridge in crampons up the snow, ice and grass by the burn. It was pretty tricky walking as the ground changed so often into ice, frozen grass and snow. It was a great place to learn and we had an hour of heavy concentration by all. There were a few snags as expected with the crampons but we all learned from it.

On the snow on the way up.

On the snow on the way up. Still smiling!

We say the limitation of the differing crampons on icy ground. grass and  seeing the limitations of the simple walking ones on steeper ground. I would always advise if using crampons have helmet on.

Concentration on the bits of ice.

Concentration on the bits of ice.

Then onto the frozen grass, which you can experience on the hill in winter.


Frozen grass is never easy and walking in crampons makes it an experience? The wander up made the day a bit more interesting for all but care had to be taken and 5 in a group meant it was busy time for all. We were all looking after each other checking our crampons and each others the “buddy buddy system” and showing that we can cope with various terrain that even a mild winter produces.

A well earned break with a view

A well-earned break with a view.

From here we had a wander along the plateau and some navigation practice for all. We had great views away from the path of the Larig Gru and the great Corries that are hidden and the views of the big peaks.

All maps out and get those rusty skills honed.

All maps out and get those rusty skills honed.

From here we had a wander along to the top of Lurchers crag away for the crowds who were all on the plateau Creag an Leth – choin 1053 metres a special spot and the wind got up but the views were breathtaking. It was good to see the improvement in a short time, just reading the map and getting to see the picture it produces as if by magic.

Loving the view.

Loving the view. Devils Point in the distance.

There is a small boulder field on the way up to the summit and with the wind gusting we were soon taking care and walking between gusts. It was great to see all looking out for each other and the enjoyment all were having.

First day on the hill all the way form Australia loving it.

First day on the hill all the way form Australia loving it.

The weather was still good and we had a break on the summit out of the wind and looking at the magic cliffs of Lurchers Crag and its ridges and gullies and views. We all took photos and it was great that 1 hour from the car park we are in this peace and solitude.


In all a great wander and we headed down chatting and looking at the map and talking about emergency procedures on the hills. As we traversed back to the path a huge white hare bolted past me and into the rocks a great end to the day.


Scott Williams photo magic hare.

My nephew Scott Williams took the photo above he is getting some great shots you can see more on this link. He is loving taking photos of our wild animals that we must look after and the environment they live in.

A fun day in the hill.

A fun day in the hill.

We were soon back on the path lots of people now about and back to the Bus. The rest  of the meet were off the hills and we stopped in Aviemore for a drink. I was dehydrated that cough had been with me all day and I had two pints of orange and lemonade. It was then drive back drop everyone off and home at a reasonable time.

Hopefully all enjoyed it and picked up a few tips. It hopefully will make you more self-reliant in the mountains but keep practicing the navigation and the winter skills when you can? Maybe next time if the snow is back we can do a bit more and even a night navigation with the club? The idea was for more of the newer club member’s to become self sufficient on the hills and then pass on their skills to others in the future?

From the top of Lurchers crag.

From the top of Lurchers crag.

It was a short day but a lot gone through and this was only a starter. It is worth spending some time on training instead of buying a £200  jacket why not go on a course there are plenty available?

Thanks for a fun day and make sure you check your gear check out and dry your crampons and maybe practice putting them on? A big thanks to Ray for his efforts he is a top man who I have known for many years a great pal and the man you want when all is going wrong.

I have big lecture in Edinburgh on Thursday and have a deadline of midday to finish it so I better get my finger out.

Thanks to all for a good day.


Posted in Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Winter skills day tomorrow in the Cairngorms.

It has gone so mild and tomorrow is the Annual Winter skills day for my local Moray Mountaineering Club we are off to the Cairngorms. It is  now annual event run by the club and gives some of the club a chance to learn/ update their winter skills. Myself and Ray Harron will be there to assist and I am sure we will find some snow about to practice the basic skills of winter mountaineering.

This is part of the Bus Meet that will take us up to the Cairngorms and hopefully weather permitting we will walk into the Northern Corries for some winter skills.

Before we go  on the hill we will have a chat hopefully on the bus about the weather and Avalanche state and the weather history recently. Then a check of kit and we will be off. You can learn so much in the walk in about what is happening on the hill so there will be no rush. A few are coming so we will make the best of the weather.

Some of the Skills Training we hope to take part in.

Very simple skills

Very simple skills- walking in crampons.


  • Previous weather and Avalanche information
  • Selection and organisation of personal kit appropriate to winter hill walking
  • Personal movement skills on snow, including kicking steps and using the ice axe for walking,  cutting steps, and self-arrest
  • Use of crampons in ascent/descent
  • Emergency procedures
  • Avalanche awareness and safe route choice

If time  the core techniques of winter navigation.

Wind Slab

Wind Slab

It is all-weather relevant and we will see what happens but it is well worth doing every year no matter how experienced you are.


Navigation never that easy in winter?

Posted in Avalanche info, Friends, Mountaineering, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., Weather | Leave a comment