Not a Lot Of People Know this ?

Not a lot of people know?

These notice boards have been in my local forest for many years. They were so ahead of there time. I was told the local Community Council put them up what a great idea and so forwarding thinking.

It reads : That litter can last a long time in the environment.

Cigarette ends 1 – 5 years.

Aluminium cans – 500 years.

Glass bottles – 1000 years.

Plastic Bags – 10 to 20 years.

Plastic Containers – 30 years.

Orange or Banana peels – 2 years.

Plastic 6 can holders – 100 years.

Styrofoam will last indefinitely.

Now that you know please take your litter home.

Scotland is Beautiful lets keep it that way.

Great thoughts !

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Compensation payments to Wind Farms?

Last night there was an interesting piece on BBC Scotland. I have been interested in the Wind farm and renewables debate it’s a very debatable subject for many and interesting to see the reaction by many of both sides of the discussion.

Comment W.W. W

It’s because of the way power is contracted to the grid, and not unique to wind, The companies have to provide a certain capacity, or they don’t get paid (or get fined). But if the grid decide they don’t need that much power, they need to cut production.

The companies have invested in capacity to produce, so if they are told to stop producing, they are compensated for it. Otherwise they have to invest all their money for when we need it, but could be told to turn everything off and not get paid.

Not all that different from booking a hotel and having a cancellation fee/non-returnable deposit: the hotel had the room for you, couldn’t sell the capacity to anyone else, so you still have to pay even though you don’t use it.

If the UK only had precisely enough capacity to meet needs, there would be no flexibility for production to raise if consumption rose, nor any resilience for when something went wrong.

The more peculiar bit is that because the renewable producers are easier to turn off, they are cheaper to have turned off vs a bigger power station. This is where I think it’s more contentious, because effectively we have incentivised not using the most environmentally friendly sources of electricity.

I fully understand that we need move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. To me it’s sad that very few in power looked into the future of Energy use and other ways planned for our future!

I know little about it but it is also incredible that the land owners get so much to rent their land for the wind farms. Also so much is made abroad including turbines also so much investment also from abroad the profits are mainly paid for out of our Electricity bills.

Why did we not try to have a Green Bond issued to build Wind farms. Many will say it was to risky but it looks like the companies who own them cannot lose with the compensation payments?

In my view I feel that should be classified as an energy producers’ risk and not compensated at all.

I have some interesting comments on the subject please feel welcome to add disagree with them?

W.W.W – Put it the other way: if someone wanted to convince you to put a lot of money into a project, which might take years to pay back its investment, let alone make profits, you might go for it as a long-term thing. If they told you that you had to go ahead and put your money in, but they might not pay you as much as you had costed your whole plan on, because periodically they could decide not to use your very expensive equipment, you might not invest at all. Or you might demand a higher price for the energy to mitigate the risk of being told to turn off against your will.

Via electricity bills, we will pay these costs irrespective: if they didn’t come as a payback for generation capacity being turned off, we would pay higher price per kWh. In a nationalised system, the cost of running all the generation capacity might even out across all locations and types, but the cost of paying for redundancy would still be there, only more opaque.

Steve – Equally as interesting is how much landowners get paid for having a wind farm on their land – they don’t have to actually do anything apart from giving their permission – the power generator does everything else 😳

Chris – It’s better than burning fossil fuels, and probably won’t settle down until it’s all renewable energy. A small price to pay in the long run?

Angus – Smart meters should allow consumers to be alerted and given the opportunity to use that electricity for free instead of paying the companies, could be used for storage heating etc.

Dave – Angus, the future, for example you plug your car in to charge with a requirement for it to be charged fully by 08:00. When that charging takes placed would be controlled by demand v’s generation. Some way of that level of integration yet though.

Paul – Unfortunately the floodgates were opened by the Scottish government, encouraging foreign business to take advantage of the uk energy market. You’ll understand why they love us when we pay higher rates for each kw generated than any other country. As an example the farm I used to work on was Norwegian but the background funding was Chinese. The operators are also quite happy to reduce generation and increase maintenance opportunities, particularly when the energy prices are low. Other consideration are that the farms in moray and Aberdeenshire will only cater for reasonably local use. The uk national grid doesn’t stretch to Scotland and isn’t particularly suited to imbalanced power inputs like wind farms. Not yet anyway. Plus, take a look at the proposed power links to France, Norway etc

Paul – This isn’t unique to wind, all generation essentially receives non generation payments, other wise nobody could develop anything with any certainty of a return. There are many issues but this probably isn’t the one to worry about!

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Some Great comments about the power of the Wind from yesterdays Blog. "Mountain Mishaps" we can all learn from them.

Thank you for the many comments on my piece on the power of the wind in the Mountains. Nowadays forecasts are very accurate and we have far more information on the weather and what to expect. Many of us still get caught out and unless you have experienced a strong wind most folk have no clue. Many think a 35 knot wind is far stronger than it is so it can be hard to gauge wind speeds. If it is blowing me and I cannot speak to folk with me its about 50 – 60 knots. That means to me get out of here time. Gusts are the ones that get you and if you are near a cornice or steep ground its easy to get blown over. I am very aware of the power of the wind often I thought we we invincible we are not. No matter how fit you are it only takes a gust to smash you into rocks or worse. Please be aware of the weather and plan your day accordingly. Many thanks for the honesty of a few pals who have allowed me to re quote them. We need honesty to pass on these messages. Be safe and enjoy the mountains.

Power of the Wind – “The RAF Wessex helicopter moving backwards, hovering over the tourist path on the Ben during the annual hill race, trying to pick up a casualty. Even though we were moving backwards the forward air speed indicator was showing 70 knots. (around 80 mph).
I think the Oban Times (or Press and Journal) later reported the unexpected sudden weather change for that race as ‘the worst hill storm in living history’ !

1988, I think. Wessex Pilot George Phillips


George it was 1988 just checked !

03/09/88Ben Nevis15 race casualties.  A real epic. Weather 40 knots – 10 wind-chill, driving rain, epic flying by RAF Wessex we ran out of stretchers and gear.
1988 Ben Nevis Race


There were 15 casualties.

A mountaineers Tale – A similar thing happened on my Winter ML this time to my assessor who disappeared over the cliffs trying to catch his rucksack with radio, fortunately several minutes later he reappeared and uttered these immortal words nose to nose and eye to eye ” Ron, you are not on assessment now, I don’t care how you do it, just get us back to the snow-hole….” we crawled trying not to get blown over the edge, lost all the maps bar the one that Jim in the Lodge stores had told me to stuff down my front just in case! Compasses broke, gloves disappeared, goggles froze up and no communication for two days. When we eventually got down we learned that the Lodge had been evacuated and roads closed due to snow and winds of 130mph on the plateau!

Winds make me nervous, very nervous, not sure why!!!! it’s hard to explain to a lot of the youngsters and young instructors brought up with mobile phones, social media, more reliable weather and avalanche reports along with HASAW what it was actually like just a few decades ago!

Ron Walker Mountain Guide.

Photo – The result of being picked up by a gust of wind (recorded travelling at 130mph) and being carried through the air for 25 metres, before being slammed into a pile of boulder P. Greening

The result of the wind smashing you into rocks – Photo P.G

There are three good things that you get out of the mountains. You meet people, you meet battle and beauty. The people are true, the battles are the only ones worth fighting and the beauty is life itself.

I miss the mountains for sure…but never saw one that was worth dying for….. BEST ADVICE

Jan 2020 Dougie Crawford

Please if you have a tale that you wish to share about a Mountaineering Mishap then please get in touch we can all learn from mistakes.

Thanks all for your comments and also I am fine a few thought it was my ankle that was battered. It was a mate a few years ago.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 1 Comment

Big Ian Ramsay – Family man – Our friendly Polis, Killin MRT and friend of many.

Yesterday was a long day and I was up at 0500 for the funeral of my good pal Ian Ramsay. Ian was the local Policeman at Crainlarich who I got to know over many years. I was asked by the family to speak at the funeral in Killin I was offered a lift with Don Shanks a good pal from my days in the RAF MRT. Don was the Leuchars Team Leader we also took down Tom Taylor another old RAF MRT Leader. The forecast was awful with a big storm on its way that is why we left early. The journey down was fine but the road from the A9 to Killin was pretty wild. There was lots of flooding but we arrived in good time. We met so many old pals, Ian’s MRT Killin another 2 RAF ex team leaders and troops and another 3 from the helicopter world. There were so many there Police, MRT, SARDA, Fire and all the locals. I was told Bridge of Orchy, Crianlarich and Killin were Ghost towns so many arrived to say farewell to Ian.

I met so many keepers and old faces you meet on Rescues. Ian was a loved man. I get asked to do a wee piece at a few funerals its never easy, I nearly broke down on a few occasions. Ian would have laughed at me but there were so many folk who loved the man. His family were wonderful and even at the grave when the weather was wild there was so much love. We could see the hills breaking through an occasional glimpse, with some snow and the rivers full. The Killin Hotel was packed for a cup of tea and some food but we could not stay long the forecast was getting worse. The drive back just before the winds came was good we made good time . Don’s wife Nina had a meal for us in Forres, that was a lovely end to the day. Its hard going home after such a day but there is something special about this Mountain Rescue family. The wives and children give up so much yet they see so much as Ian’s family have done. They give so much to us all we are all so lucky. Things have moved on since my days in Mountain Rescue and its great to see the help we are given by our families and friends is now being acknowledged. Ian always was well aware of this and how important in life were his family, the good local people and the love and care of those less fortunate in society is.

Thank you Ian for keeping me right.

Big Ian Ramsay – Our friendly Policeman, Killin MRT and friend of many.

In many years of Mountain Rescue you meet so many characters. I was so lucky to meet Ian on many occasions as he was the Village “Polis” in Crainlarich.  In my early days of RAF Mountain Rescue he would call us out as his house was across the road from the village Hall. In these days it would be strange to find a huge big Bobby waking you up to go on a Rescue.  These were the days before mobile phones and we used the local Police to call us out.

Ian Ramsay

Ian was a member of the local Killin MRT and always there on a call – out. We got to know the Police well all over Scotland in these days. There was a great bond between us and the local bobby like Ian would ease things with a few of the Senior Police Officers who found it hard to leave it to those who knew.  Many call this period as the “Golden Years of SAR” and the local Police man who knew his patch and its people was so important. As young guys we would have the odd misdemeanour on our travels on the roads and occasionally with the locals and Ian would help us out. He would also give us “advice” if we missed behaved. He would often pop in for a brew to our bothies. This to many of the young  RAF team who came from the cities they could not understand what a bond we had until they learned very quickly.

One winter night on Ben More in 1987 Ian and his Boss Sgt Harry Lawrie who was also the Team Leader of Killin MRT were involved in a tragic helicopter crash that killed Harry. Ian was very badly injured as was the wince man Mick Anderson. It was a miracle that the rest survived. Ian and Mick were saved that night by the actions of the Killin Team. I was there as we saw the incident happen as we were heading back to RAF Leuchars  and we were asked to help. It was an awful night and it was touch and go for Ian and Mick both were in hospital with life threatening injuries for many months.

After that night and over the years I became great friends with the Killin Team and Ian became a lifelong friend. Ian bore the scars of that night all his life and later on was involved in a serious car crash that gave him a lot of more medical problems.

Ian never moaned though his body was battered and was always one I could talk to. Over the years when I became a Team Leader at RAF Leuchars Ian looked after us and kept my young Team in order. He knew what was happening in his area. We had access to the hill tracks he knew the keepers and Estates and also there was little he did not know about the hills and the characters.

Though a quiet man we would sometimes be regaled with his stories of the “Fly boys” from the cities he caught on the A82 speeding or doing other things. Also he had a firm hand if anyone was misbehaving on his patch. It was traditional policing and Ian was the master. Yet he looked after the young, the vulnerable and elderly in the area and was much loved.

Over the years I was asked to play golf with him, though I am no golfer we had some laughs. It ended up with Ian coming on our Annual Golf Trip for a five day trip all over the UK. It was in essence an Mountain Rescue Trip and Ian loved it, he loved the craic I got to know Ian well as we drove up in my car; he used to be terrified with my driving. He told us some tales over a dram about his community characters and his Mountain Rescue work. How he often had the hard job of telling a relative of the bad news after a hill accident, road crash or sudden death. He as he did things with a kindness and care that was needed.  

Ian’s will not mind me saying his body took a battering over the years and despite being in great pain he never moaned. He also never blamed anyone for his accident he met the pilot and crew of the helicopter that he crashed in a difficult journey for all but it all helped with the healing.

His family were his life as was his lovely house overlooking Ben More in Crainlarich. He was dedicated to his wife Irene daughter and son Graham. When his granddaughters arrived that made his day we exchanged stories and he was so happy.  I was shocked when his health deteriorated so quickly. I was so honoured we spoke a few days before he passed away he was so strong and it was a hard conversation.  It is so hard for all that he is no longer with us. He was to me and others a traditional Policeman “the best of the best”,

Ian was one of a unique kind of person; he spent his life looking after others and gave so much to us all. He smiled through all his pain, told awful jokes but was one of the best men I have ever met. I have met so many folk who made a big influence in my life one was Ian he had a huge part of that. He lived his life and showed so much kindness and care throughout for so many.

My thoughts are with all the family and friends we have lost a warrior an unassuming man one of great humility and humour. He dedicated his life to helping others in the Police, in his community and in the Mountains and his family and friends.

Ian in Uniform.

Thank you to me and many others you will always be the Big Man with a big heart and a true pal throughout the years. We shared a lot of good times and also a lot of hard times but we had a true friendship that I and many others will never forget.

My thoughts are with Irene, Graham, Fiona her partner Kris the Granddaughter’s Laura and Eva and all Ian’s relatives and many friends.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Today I say farewell to a great pal – Ian Ramsay local Policeman, Mountain Rescuer and friend of many. Loved by his family a freinds and the local Community.

I am up at 0500 as I have a sad journey to Killin to say farewell to an old pal Ian Ramsay, Ian was one of many Policemen I knew all over the Highlands its his funeral today in Killin at 1100. I got to know Ian through my Mountain Rescue Career and sometimes folk forget that the Police have responsibility for Mountain Rescue in the UK. They rely on the local Mountain Rescue Teams to cover such wide responsibilities in the mountains and wild places.

Ian on the left with his pal Bill Rose Killin MRT.

Over the years there has been great trust achieved by the Police and local Mountain Rescue teams. Most of this was the work of local bobbies like Ian Ramsay and so many others like him. They are the unsung heroes all over Scotland. I have been asked to say a few words about my pal Ian at the funeral. This to me is a great honour as so many of Ian’s family and friends will be there.

I hope I do him and the family proud. I will be publishing my words on my pal tomorrow for those who cannot make the funeral.

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Know when to turn back on the hills especially in the wind and in winter !

During your journey keep 4 important factors in mind.

I often get asked about the hills in winter and this winter at present has been mixed. It is so important not to judge your winter hill days by the Summer associated times in many guide books and web sites. Every day is different and winter can quickly return. A great idea is to plan your day get your map out and look at your route plan it. Work out what is your formula for every kilometre travelled and what time to climb each contour. There are many variants but it all depends on who is with you and your and there physical shape. Navigating in a white out takes great accuracy and time and even this weekend folk were saying high up the Goggles were essential. Here are a few thoughts.

To me one of the big stoppers on the hills is wind and trying to explain what a 80 – 100 mph wind can do you no matter who or how hard experienced you are. Two things to bare in mind I have seen big men blown over by the wind. Some of the most scariest things I have been involved in is in high winds. The other point if you are pushing the boundaries and you have gone out in extremely high winds if you have a problem who will come and get you? The helicopter sadly will not be able to get you it will be up to the Rescue Teams. They will come out and do there best. I know several folk who have been hurt on Rescues some pretty badly in high winds. Looking back on a few incidents on Rescues I would not do that again when we were out there in extreme conditions. We were extremely lucky.

During your journey keep 4 important factors in mind. The human element, the conditions,the terrain and the timing.

At a turning point, analysing these 4 factors will help you decide whether to continue or not.

For example in what kind of physical condition are you and your party.

Are the conditions and weather good?

Is the terrain acceptable?

Do you still have enough time?

Plan your route and remember guide book times are for Summer conditions.

Check weather and avalanche conditions. Think how many kilometres will you climb in an hour in deep snow? How many metres of ascent in an hour ?

Todays weather for Cairngorms winds – Southwesterly 50-70mph; risk 80mph with gusts 90-100mph Cairngorm plateau, particularly middle of day. Speeds easing marginally into afternoon, rarely less than 40-50mph.

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Clavie night – great weather and an incredible tradition. A few tales of a dog and a phone down the loo!

Last night my wee village was busy I had a few pals overs as it was Clavie Night.

It’s a great night we had fun the weather was perfect with a full moon the village was mobbed.

Photo Al Swadel

As usual my wee house was busy with a few visitors and a dog. Sadly the dog left me a message in my wee office ! Enough said. You know who you are Coll! I blame the owners he also kept me awake and I had to dog sit him during the wee small hours.

We also had a visit from Drummond who arrived on his bike scaring us at the door.

The Drummond.

The we had another visitor who at the end of the evening she left and called in the morning she was missing her phone. Funny enough the loo stopped flushing and the rest was a reminder of my days on Everest clearing poo as my job as Bass Camp Manager. My Rescue skills recovered the phone and Dia —- was informed next day. My bill is in the post.

In all an interesting but smelly night. Great to see old pals and have a laugh. The Clavie of 2020 will go down in my memory forever. Will the phone or my carpets recover? Going for a nap now.

Did Drummond get home?

The Clavie – what is it all about ?

Thousands are attracted to the Broch for the annual event, which sees a tar-soaked barrel set alight and paraded around the streets to ward off evil spirits for the year ahead.The flaming spectacle of January 11 is led by Clavie King Dan Ralph and the local men who make up the Clavie Crew.

At exactly 6pm a burning peat will be used to light the Clavie before it is heaved onto the shoulders of crew members and marched around the town. Smouldering staves are handed out to householders and local publicans along the way and tradition has it that possession of a piece of the burning Clavie brings good luck during the coming year.

The Clavie’s final resting place is atop the altar of the old Pictish fort at Doorie Hill, where the fire is fuelled sending burning embers into the night.Mr Ralph said everything is now ready for the January 11 celebration.

“The barrel is actually made and the Clavie will be put together on Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, it will be lit at the Old Manse Dyke on Granary Street at 6pm and we’ll be off.”Condemned in the eighteenth century as “an abominable heathenish practice”, Brochers continue to observe the ritual every January 11.

The Ritual

The event takes place on the night of January 11 (the original Hogmanay before the calendar changed in 1660). The “Clavie” is a half barrel filled with wood shavings and tar. In the past, it would have been a herring barrel. Today, iron-hooped whisky barrels daubed with creosote are used. The barrel is nailed onto a carrying post – the same nail is ritually used every year – which is hoisted onto the shoulders of a local villager.

The clavie is then lit, traditionally by a peat from the hearth of an old Burghead Provost and from there carried by the elected Clavie King Each of the ten or so men (traditionally fishermen) take it in turn to carry the burning clavie clockwise around the streets of Burghead, occasionally stopping at the houses of former eminent citizens to present a smouldering faggot of the clavie in the doorway to bring the household good luck for the year ahead.

The men proceed to the stone altar of an old fort on the ancient Doorie Hill, the clavie is set down here and more fuel is added until the hillside is ablaze with a beacon of fire.

Al Swadel Photo

When the Clavie falls to the ground, it is the official start of the Burghead New Year. The flaming embers are snatched up by onlookers and used to kindle a special New Year fire at home, kept for luck or are even sent to relations or friends who have moved away from Burghead.

Origins?

As well as drawing comparisons with the Celtic festival of Samhain, various theories link its origins to the Picts (there was once a Pictish fort at Burghead) and the Romans. The word Clavie may have originated from the Latin Clavus meaning “nail” and it is speculated that the fort at Doorie Hill may have been an ancient Roman altar. However, contrary views suggest that there is not enough evidence to prove that the Romans came this far North. The festival also has many similarities with ancient Norse culture.

Whatever the origins, the practice of Clavie burning probably took place at many villages in the North East centuries ago, but was not always tolerated by the powers-that-be. It was condemned by the strict presbyterian establishment as “superstitious, idolatrous and sinfule, an abominable heathenish practice”. In 1704 a law was passed against Clavies. But the ritual practice of Clavie burning still continues each January 11th…

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A thoughtful short walk in the Cairngorms.

Yesterday I managed a short wander into the Corrie of the snows in the Cairngorms. Sorry but I needed a day on my own after losing my pal Ian from Crainlarich. Normally at this time of year the ski resort is busy especially on a beautiful day like yesterday. Sadly this year there is a lack of snow and the car park was empty. Most will know of the problems with the train on the mountain it is still out of service and is a great loss in the area to visitors.

There were mainly Mountaineering folk about plenty of Glenmore Lodge transport and a beautiful day blue skies and no wind. I had to get things done and just arrived at midday. The path into the Corrie was icy in places and I met a few visitors slipping about on the path. It was a slow wander in meeting a few folk and the Corrie was very bare but beautiful.

There is something about this place that I know so well yet it never ceases to amaze me. The wildness just 30 minutes from the car park takes you into another world.

Gary Smith author of Scotland’s Winter Mountains with one axe.

Sadly I still have an awful cough and chest but I just have to take it easy and its great to stop and take it all in. The no wind makes things wonderful and I passed a group getting lots of information in the area what a day to be out. I enjoy not to be rushing these days are gone and I met Garry Smith who has written a wonderful book Scotland’s Mountains with one Axe. I loved it and wrote to him in the past saying how much I loved this book. We had many years ago a list of easy gullies and climbs that you could do in the team. It was a great and took you to so many wonderful places.

Gary’s Book does this and gives you some great ideas. He wandered in with me to the lochans and we had a great chat. He is up Guiding and having a look of what available in the Corries.

In the Coire we could see folk in a few of the gullies the snow was sparse and most of the buttress’s black yet there was ice forming and its was good to see folk out. The Runnel, Central Gully, Alladins and a few others had teams in them. Its worth being aware of loose rock when conditions are so thin. I had a break at the Stretcher box and heard the ice starting to form on the lochans and the groaning of the ice as it moves about. Its still a great place to be and what snow was about was rock hard and the groups were doing what they could. There was lots of ice in the flat ice area which is a safe place to use crampons and gain the basic skills. I left the groups on the snow and walked round the lochan marvelling at the ice in the loch and the shopes.

I headed back the sun was setting and it was a stunning walk out taking care on the path and the ice. I was soon down and stopped at Loch Morlich to a bonnie view then a pop into Aviemore to see my pal Ray Sunshine Sefton and Mytrle for a catch up. It was then home in the dark with the temperature dropping rapidly.

A great book an unassuming cover.
Posted in Books, Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Kegworth – Aircrash- " lest we forget." Three weeks after Lockerbie in January 8 th 1989

A friend Steve Roberts wrote this and it worth remembering. Thank you Steve.

“Deepest respect and condolences to the relatives of the Boeing passenger jet which went down in Iran. Yet we must not forget the Kegworth Air Disaster – on this night in 1989. We were all invincible and most of us had been at Lockerbie too. This was 3 weeks before.

The shots in the fuselage include troops – Pete Winn, Hank Marvin, Kev Turvey, Johnny Musgrave, Steve Roberts .

What a night that was, never forgotten. “

Ropes used to stop wreckage moving.

The great thing was that that night they saved lives. Sadly at Lockerbie there were no lives to save.

Thanks to Steve for reminding us of this tragedy the RAF MRT from Stafford and Leeming MRT we’re on scene. They helped move the casualties from inside the fuselage. They also used ropes to stop the wreckage from sliding of the embankment.

The Kegworth air disaster occurred when British Midland Flight 92, a Boeing 737-400, crashed onto the motorway embankment between the M1 motorway and A453 road near Kegworth, Leicestershire, England, while attempting to make an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport on 8 January 1989.Flight origin: London Heathrow on board were 118 Passengers and 8 crew.

Of the 126 people aboard, 47 died and 74 sustained serious injuries. The Rescue services and others saved many lives. One can only think of all those involved and what a superb job they did in extreme circumstances. Thank you all as always little was said about what the Teams and Rescue Agencies did. Sadly Stafford RAF Mountain Rescue team is now gone but RAF Leeming is still very active.. My thoughts are with everyone involved.

Kegworth – Note the ropes.

You wonder how the modern media would handle such a tragedy. Most of the Teams involved were very young folk and yet they did what they could and it amazing that this happend just over 3 weeks after Lockerbie where both Teams were involved. What they did those who were there or involved will never forget.

How it effected them and their families is another story. Thinking of you all.

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More sad news Ian Ramsay the big hearted Policeman from Crainlarich has passed away.

Sadly a great friend of Mountain Rescue Ian Ramsay passed away last week. The funeral details are below .

Many in RAF MRT will have known Ian Ramsay he was the local Policeman at Crianlarich and a great local Policeman and a past member of Killin MRT. Ian was badly injured in the Wessex helicopter crash on Ben More in Feb 1987. He and the RAF winch-man Mick Anderson were badly injured. His colleague The Killin Team Leader Harry Lawrie was killed that day. It was a day those who were there will never forget. Ian became a great friend of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and SARDA over the years.

Funeral notice at the request of his family.

Ian Ramsay, Photo Killin MRT

Joseph “Ian” Ramsay passed away peacefully, on the 2nd January 2020, in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Beloved husband of Irene, much loved dad to Graeme and Fiona and loving papa to Laura and Eva.

The funeral service will be held on Monday 13th January 2020, at 11am, in Killin Parish Church and thereafter to Killin Cemetery.

All family and friends are warmly invited.

Family flowers only, donations if desired to Killin Mountain Rescue.

For any further information please contact Ross Anderson at Andrew Anderson & Sons, Callander 01877 330398

Ian and Bill Rose Killin MRT

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | 5 Comments

Always Think Safety are you prepared for that simple slip that can make your day a bit more than you thought?

As the winter is mild and the winds are up its worth looking at a simple winter walk one day only 3 kilometres from the road that ended up a very interesting day.

Most of us when we go out rarely think of what we would do in the event of an accident to our party. How many talk about what would you do if this occurred. Many have a vision of a phone call to the Police and a helicopter emerges in a few minutes and plucks you from the hill to a place of safety. Thankfully this often happens but at times the phone reception is poor, the helicopter is on another task and you will have to wait for the local rescue team to assist. If you are in a remote area this can take take lots of time. Even in a busy area like the Northern Corries you may be waiting a while. This incident was in Corrie an – t Sneachda a few years ago when a walker broke her ankle after a simple slip. It was a typical winter day. The path was very icy in the walk in, it was gusting 30 – 40 mph, and when crossing the frozen river she fell and broke her ankle. It was a pure accident and can happen to anyone.

Coire an – t Sneachda – Flag marks the spot. less than 3 ks from the road.

Snow was coming and going and though Corrie Sneachda is only 45 – 60 minutes from the road things can quickly develop. The weather came in as it does we had called the helicopter as it was in the area.

Bivy Bag in action.

These photos show how easy things change. Within a few minutes the Casualty was cold and shocked as you can see there was little shelter. No matter how fit you are the shock of an injury can and does hit you very quickly. It is amazing how quickly you can become immobilised and this is winter where even with today’s kit hypothermia hits quickly. It was just before the big boulder field as you approach the cliffs and the lochans not far from the road. Even though we called the helicopter and we notified Cairngorm MRT we sent a couple of troops to go back to our wagon and bring a lightweight stretcher, this was as a back up. Past experience had shown that the helicopter may not get in as the winds were pretty gusty here.

THE WEATHER CLEARS FOR A FEW MINUTES.

Great news or so we think!

We get sorted the Casualty out the wind, treated and in bivy and bothy bag. It should be simple now as the helicopter on its way. Despite the Casualty having a lot of gear we had to give her more and put a troop in with her in the bothy bag to keep her warm (great gear)

Cloud now in and we have to get her out.

The weather comes in again the Helicopter has tried to get in we hear it but quite rightly is not coming. We have the news confirmned that its too windy and added with the not viable. Our quick stretcher nearly with us they have done us proud and we have diverted a few troops who are climbing nearby and we have enough to evacuate. We have been with her for about about an hour.

This is the weather as we move her out.

Few folk realise how hard it is to carry a stretcher especially in winter its not easy and need lots of man/women power. Even the short distance from the Corrie to the road in crampons is hard work but at least you keep warm. The path is covered by snow and ice. If you tried to do a Health and Safety Assessment of this and the Risks of a trip or fall it would make you think?

Even a short distance is hard work.

I have just found these photos and it shows how quickly it can all change. Accidents happen and this was one of our own a Controller from the ARCC that wanted to see what we did at weekend. She was a good lass and it was unfortunate that happened. The Controllers in these days sent the helicopters to assist the Police, Ambulance, Mountain Rescue Teams , Coastguards etc. We had a policy in the military to show them what the conditions could be like hence the wander into the Corrie. There was a lot of learning that day. It easy to sit in a warm Control Room and forget what those do in the front line.

This was a short carry off imagine one in winter from Loch Avon or up North where I have stretcher carried for over 6 hours all night. Your day out could be a bit longer than you thought!

TEAMWORK

A few points – Its worth looking at a plan if it goes wrong on a day out.

Make sure someone knows where you are going. Carry some extra gear share the weight a bothy bag is an essential in winter as is a small medical kit. Make sure you can navigate carry a map and compass and know how to use them. Carry a phone and back up battery know there limitations. Make sure your torch is serviceable. Talk over what you would do if someone has a problem.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

1983 Canada Ice – the dream ice climbing venue. Koflachs boots, wooden ice axes, and basic ice screws.

Foot Fangs

As we wait for winter to come back my mind goes back to some great winter days and a special trip to Canada. I have so many wonderful memories of Canada and the Rockies from my early trip in 1983 when there were under 100 ice climbs there. My great friends Mark “Cheeky” Sinclair and Tom MacDonald had read Bugs MacKeith’s articles about ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies. It was I think in the SMC Journal and Bugs an expatriate Scottish climber who was living in Canada had written such an article we had to go. He told tales of huge ice falls many unclimbed, few climbers and of adventures on the ice. There was also some tales of incredible climbing taking ice climbing to a new level and so much scope for new climbing. They never mentioned the boldness of the climbing and massive Abseils of cliffs that have rarely in situ gear.

We were hooked and I spent 5 weeks on the best trip of my life in Canada in late February and  March 1983.  It was a group of six of us that went some top guys like Tom Mac Donald, Mark  Cheeky Sinclair and Pete Kay a bear of a man from down South in North Wales, Mark Ritchford  a young gun and a baby pilot from New Zealand at RAF Valley , Malcolm Taylor what a crew.

None of us had ever been to Canada and a winter trip was a very serious event. The flight over was exciting we wore everything as we had so much gear, we took the same as we climbed in in Scotland.  We hired a car nothing like the hire car nowadays as cash was tight. It was through “Rent a Wreck” real name and could not take 6 of us and gear in one go. It was all we could afford but did the job just. Three headed to Canmore our base near Banff in the Rockies about 2 hours away and three of us went and shopped for food and then hit the city Calagary but that is another story!  We had no clue it was a 5 hour return journey in mid- winter. Eventually we all arrived at the Alpine Club Hut at Canmore where we based ourselves for the first week. Money was tight for us all we lived frugally.

This was the ideal place to be and it became our Base for the whole trip as we moved about the key areas, rarely seeing anyone. We had the only guide a simple guide-book with a few routes in it.

This was the drawing that gave us the dream that took us to Canada by Bugs McKeith

We were lucky as staying in the hut was a young climber Guy Lacelle and Chic Scott little did we know how well-known and how incredible people we had met. As I said before there was little known about ice climbing and only a few climbers about Guy and Chic gave us so much information in these early days there were few fixed belays.

Scary belay !

There was a lovely place nearby called Grotto Falls and The Junkyard in Canmore we started a shakedown there. Tom and Cheeky had climbed some of the hardest winter climbs in Scotland a good few grade 5 climbs. I was a far more modest climber enjoying grade 3/4 and struggling on the harder grades. I had climbed lead things like the Mirror Direct in the Cairngorms, Green Gully and Comb Gully on Ben Nevis. They were like the introductory pitches on most routes it was frightening.  We were astonished at the steepness of the ice and the lack of protection we had in the way of ice gear. We carried 4 screws each and had little faith in them.   We had to buy some snargs after the first week on my Access card which I had just got and saved our trip financially.

At Grotto Falls

Next day we drove to Banff  for Rogan’s Gully  and Cascade Falls is a beautiful 300 metre grade 3 ice climb that probably sees the most ascents of any climb in the Rockies (when it’s in shape). It was a great introduction to ice climbing and the dangers of climbing in the Rockies, where the fear of avalanches is extremely serious.  Both routes were an interesting day and we were learning all the time. Descent is by abseiled points and abseils were off trees or ice screws, or ice bollards. There were few fixed belays it made one think and after two days climbing we had to have a rethink as we were running out of abseil tat ! We bought some hollow tubing that was recommended to abseil off later and had some scares watching it bend as we abseiled off, I was first to go as at that time was the lightest.

We had bought the wrong type of piping Guy put us right. We were also not abseiling with a back – up knot. We were very naïve then, I still have nightmares thinking of these abseils on frozen ropes and multi pitch abseils often in the dark. We knew little about ice belays and the Abolokov thread was un heard of. How things change.

The Abalakov thread, or V-Thread, is an ice protection device named after its innovator, Soviet climber Vitaly Abalakov. The Abalakov thread is a common method of protecting oneself while ice climbing because it is easy to create, does not require the sacrifice of expensive gear, and can be very safe when used properly. An Abalakov thread is often used in multi-pitch ice climbing routes. Because of its safety and convenience, the Abalakov thread is considered one of the most significant innovations in ice climbing. It significantly expanded the scope of possible routes and abseiling safety.

Abolokov with back – up early attempt.
Tom and his Foot Fangs.

We felt we were now ready to climb some harder routes and after some advice from Chic Scott and Guy  Lacelle we headed to Louise Falls a classic grade 4 climb near the magnificent Château at Lake Louise, this was the first of the steeper lines we climbed and gear was very simple then. We climbed with Chouinard Zero axes and humming bird and a couple of Chacals and even a what a great noise they made on sticky ice. We also used “Terrors” and carried a spare axe in case one broke in the cold, we climbed in some very low temperatures -20 to – 35.

This was our car that held 6 plus gear – we would climb in different areas. Mount Kidd Falls

As I said we only had a few ice screws about 4 per pair and they were hard work on the steep ice, nowadays you have possibly 12 screws per route and they are so easy to use. There were few in situ belays we had taken pegs but they were of little use and ran out of tat to abseil off.

The Abseils were pretty scary at first!

On our feet we had the Classic Salewa Crampons, the Chouinard crampons and Tom had a pair of the new Footfangs crampons.  We climbed every day one car 3 pairs all heading off in different areas, long wait in – 20 for lift tired but we got about. Most days were 12 hour days. Every weekend we headed back to the Alpine Hut at Canmore and partied but that is another story.  We met many famous climber the late Bill March and Rusty Bale so many others.

Mountain Route Mount Kidd Falls

We visited so many routes and had so much fun meeting few climbers on route ending up on the Weeping Wall and two of our team did an ascent of the classic Polar Circus in a day, pretty rare then. They also climbed a new route Sacre Bleau with Guy Lacelle who went on to become one of the best ice climbers in the World. I loved Canada and visited many times the last in 2011 how it’s changed. There are so many routes now it’s very busy but will always be a special place in my heart. Maybe get back and get a route in again before my 70 th birthday. I still have contacts in Canada. 

Louse Falls

It was a great bonus that first trip and led the way to so many trips by pals and helped push the climbing standards of many in RAF Mountain Rescue. It enabled me to climb some great routes back home even with my abilities.   To be on Ice that could take ice screws and that may hold a falling climber took a bit of getting used to.

It was a huge learning curb but what a place to learn! We had also invested in the new plastic boots Koflacks and they saved the day on a few occasions in the extreme cold. They were in the early days a white moulded plastic boots with felt inners an incredible improvement on all previous boots.

Polar Falls

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. The locals at the time could not believe the temperatures we climbed in as the colder it got the more brittle the ice became. We learned so much and loved Canada and its people, so much I did 4 other trips, yet nothing was like that first trip.

Routes climbed on the first trip – Canmore Junkyard, Rogan’s Gully, Cascade,  Grotto Falls, His, Hers, Chantilly Falls, Louise Falls, Professor’s Fall, Takewaka and Whiteman Falls, Mt Kidd Falls, A Bridge to Far, Bow Falls, Grotto Falls, Silk Tassel,  Massey’s, Pilsners Pillar, Guinness Gully, Carlsberg Column,  Bourgeau  Snivelling Gully, Panther Falls, Weeping Wall, Right, Central and Left,  Polar Circus. “Sacre Bleau” a new route.

Weeping Wall

I must get the old slides scanned any idea of the best bit of kit to do it? Mine is out of date. In memory of Mark Sinclair and Guy Lacelle taken too soon. Mark took me up some great routes and Guy climbed unroped beside me at times, the best of the best. Tom Mac I will never forget our fun on Carlsberg Column thanks mate.

I wonder what the young guns wood think of our gear wooden axes and basic ice screws when they run up the routes?

Big thanks to Tom MacDonald for giving me the trip of a lifetime – Guinness Gully and the Stout climbed with Mark Sinclair was one of many great climbs. Thank you all.

Posted in Articles, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 3 Comments

Dog Tales part 8 – the final chapter – you may need a hanky?

Part 8  – Tragedy – Just before we left Leuchars Kinloss Heavy’s great mate Al Macleod was killed whilst soling the North Face of the Matterhorn. The team was going out to Braemar for the weekend when the Police stopped the convoy and Heavy had to go to the phone and get the sad news. When we arrived Heavy at the village Hall he told the team Al was a big mate of mine as well and we had done some great days together especially after long hill days. He was leaving the RAF and had worked for Heavy for the last few months he was in the RAF as full time in the Leuchars MRT. He was an incredible mountaineer and man. Always smiling the women loved him, that evening after he told the team Heavy went to see Al folks. He took me as we had been before Al had taken us a few times when we were at Kinloss. I came in the house and Al’s family asked me in. I heard all the sad news, I loved Al as I was one of the few who could keep up with him after our sneaky days out. Al’s family lived in Blairgowerie and Heavy organised the funeral, it was an awful time. Al as many do had no Insurance in the Alps for climbing and a great officer who was with Heavy pulled the strings to get Al Home. The Team had a Wake at Leuchars where many came from all over it was a very sad night.

We left the troops early to celebrate Al’s life; Heavy had a hard time explaining to young Yvette that Al had been killed as just before he had left he had signed her autograph book before he went.   Most of the team had thought they were indestructible and invincible and this was a huge shock to them and the system. Al had been the man Heavy called after Lockerbie it hit us both very hard; running on the hill was never the same again without my big mate.  I was getting a bit older now and starting to slow down. I was finding how hard this mountain life can be.  We had only a few months to get ready for our move to RAF Kinloss this was Heavy’s dream posting.

Now it was not till late October 1990 that we moved to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire and it was hard leaving the troops. Heavy was taking over as the Mountain Rescue Team Leader of the Kinloss Team. We had a great farewell party at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. Amazingly the lassies were invited to it so we had a real party. It was a special night in the Hotel with Big Ian Nicholson the “mine host” looking after us. While Heavy was in the Hotel I was camping outside with some of the troops but it was a great night. The helicopter popped in and nearly took the tents out. After that it was a move to Kinloss. Now before in our moves it had been easy box stuff up and head off, now with the family it was so difficult. Old friends John and Mary helped and we had moved into a lovely rented house at Rafford till Heavy and Vicky found a house. I was in the last of 3 long journeys from Leuchars to Kinloss, it was snowing and very late and we had a full van and me and my mate Clova the cat. It was mayhem as Clova escaped her box in the van and was driving me nuts in the back. There was no room to move for me I was the last thing to leave Leuchars and for a moment thought they were leaving me.

We soon all settled down at the new house at Rafford and Heavy had a different Team at Kinloss to handle. There were many of the” Old and Bold” it took time but I was happy watching the world go by outside the old section at RAF Kinloss and listening to the craic.

 We hoped for a quiet time in the team but there was no chance of that winter. Straight after New Year we had a spate of Call – outs and then a near disaster when the Sea King crashed on the big Corrie on Creagh Meaghaidh. Amazingly no one was killed and the Team was heavily involved and we feared the worst at first. The helicopter was full of the “Old and Bold “from Lochaber MRT and as we flew in to the scene and could not believe that no one was hurt.  We also knew the aircrew and the film crew well that were on board it was a very personal call – out. After everyone was flown away I was on crash guard duties for a few days as both Kinloss and Leuchars MRT shared the crash guard duties. It had to be guarded at night as well so I was at the site for a few days. To see the big helicopter lying on its side was a big shock, but we still flew in and out with the team to replace the troops but not me. I was fed at the site and slept with the troops at the tent. We had a few visitors and then the Investigation Team arrived with the Crash and smash boys and we handed the site over to them. I was glad to get away after a few days.    I had proved my worth as the odd journalist and local climbers arrived for a look. They would see me and think I was a guard dog if only they knew.

Sea King Crash me on crash guard !

The team went back into the normal routine of training and call – outs but Al death had made many think of what they were doing. Al had pushed big routes in the Alps in in the Himalayas just missing out on the summit of Everest by the West Ridge. He had not long returned from Shiviling where he summited and told us that RAF MR  could achieve so much more on a purely RAF MR expedition. Heavy had taken him ice climbing to Canada where they had so much fun and I loved the tales, he would pop by the wee house in Dairsie when he was bouldering nearby and always brighten the day with his tales and huge smile. Life had to go on though and RAF Kinloss  was so busy.

It was straight into winter when we arrived and Heavy ensuring things were done his way caused a few problems but he was looked after by “Man Mountain Dan” his Deputy. The call- outs started straight away and came thick and fast. It was hard winter was I getting older but still the troops dragged me out. Heavy would give me a break on the big searches and the odd day off. The troops wanted me as I was still a good navigator.  The Mountain Rescue section at RAF Kinloss was very old and had holes in the wall and it was even worse in the winter as the now came inside under the war built wooden huts.  It was like an old bothy but what character. We had a few great call – outs in this time. At times where we found several casualties and one a 15 year old boy on the Ben a huge 3 day search was a great result. They were asked if they could keep going sometimes out for day after day the Rescue Teams were buzzing especially after such a long search. We had been away for over a week on call – outs and Heavy asked the team if they would continue and of course they did. This caused lots of problems for the wives and partners who hardly saw their families during this period. I was on the hill exhausted like everyone when the young lad was found. The cheers resounded round the Ben by everyone it was a special moment what a bunch.

Kinloss was a great place to be a slower pace with the Nimrod aircraft and most lunchtime many of the team would have lunch in the MR section and plan their hill day. At the end of the winter on the 30 May a lovely day for weather at lunchtime the phone rang and it was our control that a plane had crashed. It was amazing within 15 minutes we were in a Sea King helicopter heading for the Isle of Harris the weather was magnificent and as we flew so fast it was really busy on the aircraft. Heavy was up front and on the way they had reports of a Shackelton Aircraft with 10 on board had crashed. It was the only bit of mist on the Island as we arrived. It was a mini hell, the safety beacons were all going off and all the crew were dead.  It was like a battlefield again, I was used to it by now as was Heavy and the team. We were there for 4 days it was a sad time, we worked with the Investigation Board and I did crash guard as usual and the team worked so hard. The aircraft had come from the neighbouring Station at Lossiemouth and the tragedy was very raw.

A break at the Controll.

The Kinloss team had been flown in by helicopter, Hercules and a small jet the rest drove the long way.  We flew back ahead of the aircraft bringing the 10 bodies to Lossiemouth and landed in our Hercules aircraft from there. We drove through the station most were out to see their comrades returned but we received a few grateful thanks. It was very like Lockerbie for Heavy but he daren’t say anything, I flew back with the team in the Hercules how many dogs do that, it was very quiet on the way home. It was amazing the difference the way we were treated after we did an aircraft crash. After the Shackelton crash various VIP’s arrived at Kinloss and many were in the office speaking to Heavy. He told them regardless of who they were what a great bunch the teams were and in short sharp words what they did on aircraft crashes. It needed to be done and few realised that and we were under threat of cuts. I was under the desk listening until I yawned or walk out. Senior officers opening the door for an old dog was a great thing to see, the troops loved it and made me a Sergeant on the team nominal role.   

We arrived back to Kinloss and Heavy was busy as always with the media and the reports, it had been a hard few days and a sad welcome to RAF Kinloss. I was getting old by now I was over 10 and as they say had some “paper round” my body was as one would expect beginning to show my age. I was not allowed to jump over fences any more or jump out of the 4 tonner.  I still managed big days though but was very sore at the end of a day. I began to sleep even more not easy as home with Stephen and the cat on my case but I saw a lot more of them. The team had a plane crash just of the Station a Canberra aircraft crashed killing one of the crew but the team were there to help get the other aircrew out with their spinal boards. Heavy was running the Call outs and was on Control most of the time and I stayed with him. Meeting more God’s of Mountain Rescue. The Team had two Search Dogs now and we made friends, they even had a cage made for them to travel in the land rovers!  I still travelled in the landrover and knew when there was a call – out or the weekend Exercise as I would be in the transport waiting. Folk were amazed but I had by now seen it all.

Heavy went away for a long period to the Himalayas and for the first time I stayed at home and was looked after by the family and was I looked after very well, he was away for 7 weeks. When he came back I went out and had a hard winter, the cold really hit me, my joints were very stiff. We had lots of visits to the men in white coats, lots of pills and potions but you cannot stop ageing. I loved our walks with the kids, swimming was great for me and I would be in the sea every day not matter what the weather and still jumping off the rocks into the sea the kids loved it. We often went to Cummingston our local sea cliff and I loved the summer and the sun whilst the kids and team climbed.

Gradually I got worse and as happened my back legs started to fail, I could not get up easily; I was in pain but never showed it. Heavy had to put me in the car and weekends were spent with the cook at Base Camp but it was fun to be with the troops. My last hill day was at Bridge of Orchy we were setting out from the village hall and I got to the railway line and walked back to the bothy. Heavy came back and knew my hill days were over. My last hill was the local Ben Rinnes with the kids and after that it got a lot worse with my arthritis really affecting me.  In the end going to the toilet was not easy and getting up after it was worse, I just lay about and slept a lot more, the pain was worse and I even growled a bit when Heavy lifted me, but it was the pain that made me do it.

My life got pretty bad and there was little to be done, the man in the white coat said so. Heavy did not tell anyone but he did the right thing and we had a great wander down to Cummingston our local sea cliff he carried me down the path to the sea. After that we went to the vets and I had one of the few cuddles from him and then slept dreaming about the hills and all my friends and the kids. I was a proud dog but had lost my dignity and it was definitely the correct thing to do and I was asleep in seconds.

Me and Clova – look at the eyes.

The last thing I saw was Heavy’s tears and all and he had to go tell Vicky, Yvette, Steven and the team. What a life I had, hard but I had seen things and been places where few would ever go. I had met some of the best folk in the World all because I had big paws and a wee man with a big voice.  I had been on the hills since a pup loved every day. I never chased deer or sheep or any animal. I learned how to look after myself on the hill and what a life I had. I had flown in helicopters,  and the Hercules aircraft met so many but more important what a life in the mountains. What people I had met and seen.

Who will look after Heavy now?

What a dog, what a life thanks Teallach that last bit still makes me weep.

Heavy – January 2020

Last Munro An Teallach

Great advice about taking your Dog on the Mountains. In winter especially if your taking your Dog out the dog and you must be capable of looking after your dog. The link below will give you some great tips and a MUST READ for all Dog owners.  Please read it and be safe and have fun.

https://www.mountaineering.scot/activities/hillwalking/taking-the-dog

I would leave the Briefings when I got older and yawn if Heavy was going on!
Posted in Articles, Bothies, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 6 Comments

Dog Tales – Part 6 – A team leaders Dog, Call outs, Avalanches, big hill days and fun.

Introduction – I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the hills, mountains and wild places. My mother was Dreish another Mountain Dog she told me when I was very young that if I was lucky I may be able to choose this way of life as well. Dreish was an incredible dog a fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales, like her owner very fit and strong so I had a great pedigree. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog she was a machine. After a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Alistair’s wife Pat I met my owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy”. 

He was introduced to me and the other pups but it was my huge feet that mattered to him and for 12 years we looked after each other. Mainly to be honest I looked after him!

Navigation with the bairns – Put those maps away and follow me.

Things were changing and Heavy decided to apply for the RAF Team Leaders Course down in Wales. He was accepted and worked hard to get up to speed for it He climbed a lot more and did a lot of technical stuff, with Stretchers and things. He climbed in all weathers pushing his standard and as a poor rock climber it was never easy for him.  When he was away on the Course the Team and Dianne looked after me and I I still got looked after a weekend the troops were great to me. I was spoiled when Heavy was away but loved my weekends out. Heavy passed the Course amazingly and was very happy and all he had to do was to behave and maybe get a team.

Things were looking good when until he had been told he was posted to Ascension Island for 6 months after this he would get RAF Leuchars MRT. I could not go to Ascension but I was to stay and be looked after; he would be away for 6 months. I was a bit upset but that is life in the RAF.

Anyway Heavy had two days to go before he was posted and  he played football for his work and broke his ankle it was a bad break a pin and plate put in. The only good thing was he was not posted away and had to stay in UK. He was a pain and a terrible patient but I got lots of walks. Amazingly after 6 weeks the plaster was off and he went out to Arran with the Team on a Grant. I was out with troops and met him on Cir Mor with one training shoe and one boot on limping about. He was climbing alone on the Slabs, it was scary to watch. Once the plaster was off we did lots of training in the sea and built his ankle up and I loved the water. This went on for over a year and in the winter he could only get one boot on at times. I just kept doing huge days with the troops and getting fitter and stronger, we swam in the sea to help his ankle but it kept swelling until he got the metalwork taken out of his ankle. I was lucky I had few injuries but that winter I walked over a Cornice on Creag Mheaghaidh in a wild storm. I went over 1000 feet but luckily the snow was soft. Heavy was amazed I was okay, he thought I was a goner, I was getting over-confident.  I stopped Cornice walking after that.   It came as a huge shock to both of us, I was at the over confident stage!

Heavy had to get fit they call it medically upgraded, he should not have been even out on the hill but if he did not get sorted and fit he would not get a team. The hill days got longer, I found I was repeating Munros but it was great and Heavy was limping along and I was getting not far off finishing them life was good. On the Social scene the Team was great and they had wild parties at RAF Leuchars that I sat outside when they got a bit noisy getting lots of attention from the girls, what a place Leuchars was. Team members would take me out for a day on the hill for the company and even I would go running I was used to that after running after the wagon down some of the Highland Glens after a day on the hill!   

Lochnagar

These days of getting Heavy Hill fit again were some of the best of my life, we went to many remote bothies usually with new troops and always had fun nights. Many were amazed after a a long day at work and 2-3 hour drive to Base Camp to spend part of the night walking into bothies but I loved it, We would soon have a fire on and Heavy and I would go for a wander and find the buried coal and food, dropped off by our friends in the helicopter. We would meet some great people and I would get that close to fire my fur would start singing. In winter we would get the house on some of the great huts and Bothies like the Ossian Youth Hostel and there I did go on fire when I crawled under the stove and it got a bit warm. I would always find wood especially at Sheneval near An Teallach one my favourite bothys and after swimming the river would be given a huge piece to drag up. It was here we met some unsavoury characters and it was on a winter round of the Fisherfield 6 a huge day. We had been on the go for over 15 hours and one of the party was struggling, in truth we all were, it was deep snow and lots of navigation. He was left with the two others in the party for the long haul in the Glen back to the bothy. Heavy and I went ahead to get a fire on and sort out food and check the river. The river was very high and in the pitch dark scary. We left my light stick at bank near the shallowest bit for the rest to follow. When we arrived at the bothy there was a large group of 12 who had taken over the hut. They were pretty drunk and told Heavy that they had booked the hut and there was no room, Heavy said rubbish and one of his party was exhausted and they would make room. Now the wee man was very annoyed we brushed passed them and Heavy went upstairs and starting throwing their gear downy the stairs. “There is now” he said and then I was told to stay and growl while Heavy went to help the rest across the river. It was a quiet bothy when they got in and a couple came up and apologised. I continued to growl.

I was always taken out when Heavy went climbing and loved the days with the troops and it got better and better. I got out even more during the week with troops who could not make the weekend and was averaging about 220 hill days a year. It was not always hard days we had great chilled days with Heavy’s lassie Dianne doing Munros she was very keen and even bothying and she was enjoying it. The New Year before Heavy was given a Team we were in Glencoe and always got a big callout at that time of year. Glencoe were very busy and a climber had broken his leg in Broad Gully on Stob Coire Nan Lochan it was an all-night job on New Year’s night. It involved a long carry off with the teams and we got met by Hamish with beer for the troops at the end about 0300 in the morning. The next day we were in 5 finger Gully helping Lochaber on Ben Nevis, the weather this time was wild but it was another long night but great companionship in that wild place. The land rover was rocking in the wind when we arrived in Glen Nevis and I jumped out and Heavy and the troops did not want to leave it. The avalanche conditions were very high but the God’s were looking after us as always.

Yet that winter on Lochnagar Heavy was climbing on a day off on Lochnagar. Conditions were not great and I was left below Black Spout gully whilst heavy climbed the Buttress. The weather came in very bad and coming off the top with two others young climbers he met on the route he descended Black Spout. The two who were following walked over the Cornice. They brought it down on Heavy and his mate. It was dark when they all came tumbling down the gully in an Avalanche. I belted over to them and Heavy was okay but the others struggling.

It was now pitch dark and a blizzard was in force. It was an epic as the two that followed us and brought down the Cornice wanted to wait for a rescue. They would still be there now. These were the days before mobile phones. I helped route find the way out in awful weather and we got back in the wee small hours. We were lucky that night it was a steep learning night.

In 1987 Heavy was given the RAF Leuchars MR Team it was big appointment for him and they were a great bunch. I only had one problem with one troop who enjoyed being nasty to me during my time and that was sorted out by a big frying pan by Heavy before he took over. He never gave me a hard time again! Heavy was very happy but wanted the team to know the areas we got the nasty call –outs in, the wild Corries and difficult locations. The Team then were pushed into a lot more climbing and getting to know these places in Glencoe, Ben Nevis, The Cairngorms and the North West. We also hammered our local area hills and we rarely took a break. In these days we would get people in the RAF volunteering to join a Team many with no mountaineering experience. A few in the RAF thought this would be a good skive or a way to get a posting! They were shocked but the 3 weeks we had them most proved to be sound people and came back to the Team. I was kept busy being out in the hills regularly and even a midweek bothy and night wander. I always knew a new Troop and had my work cut out helping looking after them. It was never easy but some were very strong and most looked after me sharing their lunch and food with me on the hill.   It was usually on the midweek trip to Culra Bothy near Ben Alder and we would go after a day’s work, we became friends.   We drove in a fair way Mr Oswald was a great keeper on the Estate and would climb the 6 Munros after a night in the bothy; we had many great nights and made a few good mountaineers out of this testing time. It would be a long two days, even for me the final weekend would include a big hill day, one of the classics, the Mamores, Fannichs, Ben Lawyers or Kintail Hills. It would be a full on weekend the next day a Sunday a classic climb like Tower Ridge, or a Glencoe Classic, or even into the Cairngorms massive days and great memories. The reasoning that if the troops coped they would handle long call outs and gain the stamina needed to do our job.  I was always on the big hill day and got to know these hills so well.

Heavy’s lassie had moved to Aberdeen for a new job and he hardly saw her. He was at the stage where he thought that he needed to be out every weekend, never take a break   even though he had such a great Deputy and strong young Leaders We never had a moment but what a team we had we were ready for anything and we needed to be as we were to find out.      .

1988 It was another hard winter with the team dealing with many calls – outs. We did everything all over Scotland and the young team responded so well. Heavy was very busy, we had a few nasty call outs in Glencoe and also did some work with the Navy Sea King Helicopter at Prestwick at Gannet. They were good guys but took a bit of getting used to seeing a dog in the helicopter. We all knew our way round these wild corries a bit better and did some steep searches even on 4 legs. We travelled everywhere as Heavy wanted to ensure the Team were up for anything. It was hard going but the team were young keen and loved the mountains. I went down with Heavy to Prestwick and we had some fun with the naval aircrew and they became great friends, most of them had beards but lovely people and once they got used to me they were fine. We also did a few more Plane Crashes in the Borders a USA F111. We met some very high ranking USA Military people who were flown in after we had sorted it out. They were impressed but not with our communications and gave us a huge mobile phone that they moved some satellites for it too work and that was 1988. I was in the Control with Heavy when it was getting sorted out and when he spoke to us again he realised we had a GPO Line in the wagon.

Heavy had arranged that on any incidents that he called a magic number and they grabbed a line from the nearest pole and ran it into our tent or control point; We also had many visitors and great days with the members of the Hong Kong Civil Aid Team who worked with us most years. We had some adventures with them and also some fun days of the hill. We also had lots of visitors to the MRT Section and on the annual Inspection as it does everything gets tidied up. When the great man arrived the Team is all smart and completely different from normal. Heavy was running about daft and the Station Commander who did not really like me wanted me tied up for the great event. As always Heavy let me sit outside watching. It is said that when they arrived in a cavalcade that a USA President would have been impressed by I walked up to the staff car as he walked out and had a pee on the tyre. The troops were laughing, the CO was not impressed at all and for a while Heavy was a marked man ( as always I became a legend overnight) I was now happily ensconced under Heavy’s Desk and hearing all the bits that go towards being a Team Leader. Listening to the teams problems and escapades. I was now a Cpl Teallach on the Team nominal role and a party leader, that baffled the powers that be asking who Cpl Teallach was ?

This team was ready for anything or so we thought.

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Dog Tales – Part 5 Arriving at RAF Leuchars and some big aircraft crashes, huge learning.

That winter was a long one, lots of tragedy’s in the hills we loved also great days battling the weather, we were a team me and Heavy. Life had changed as Heavy got promoted and posted to RAF Leuchars he was still in his trade and was in charge of the Catering Office but would join the Leuchars MRT. Now I had met the Leuchars guys on many occasions and was looking forward to the move. Heavy was a bit unsure and we got a great send off from Kinloss. Kinloss and Leuchars was a bit like Rangers and Celtic in these days.  We lived in St Andrews for a while but soon moved into a shared house in Dairsie and had a great time. Heavy was sharing with two mates Paul and Pete and it was a fun house a bit like the Young Ones.  RAF Leuchars camp was very busy as it had very noisy planes on it but we soon settled in and I stayed at Heavy’s work during the day. They had the Wessex helicopter there and they were great and made my life easy with lifts to and from the hills. The aircrew were great and many became good mates and looked after me. I knew my place and was soon on board and hidden under the seats as soon as I got on board. They came out with us and stayed overnights on many occasions I was the guard for the yellow helicopter, these were great days. They had lots of Exercises this was the Cold War and the camp played games and one Marines from Arbroath  attacked our office it was an old armoury and were shocked when they took out the door to find me and Heavy there to greet them. I had to kid on I was a real Alsatian and they did not come in I was a hero again.

RAF LEUCHARS

The troops made me feel at home and we climbed a lot at night and I had great adventures at Dunkeld rock climbing and the local cliffs at Glen Clova midweek.I got lots of new hills in great for my Munro   gathering and met lots of new people. We met RAF Kinloss MRT a lot and I made good friend with Al MacLeod who used to take me running after a long hill day, he was a real hill man. We dealt with a lot more call outs and even when out at the weekend or rock climbing we seemed to get more call outs. We went to Glencoe a lot and I got to know this wild place, I met more Mountain Rescue characters and even visited Hamish MacInnes house in Glencoe and many of the Old and Bold from Lochaber.  We had some great trips to Skye and Heavy took me on a two day traverse of the ridge. We had some epics and after it I had only had one more Munro to do on Skye the In Pin. I had fallen off on another attempt with Heavy as we tried the longer side. On the day we did it he never told me, we climbed all day in Corrie Laggan and I would wander about on the ledges.

I could get up the first pitch of Cioch Direct and meet climbers at the end of the first pitch by a cheeky ledge Heavy knew. Later that day we went up the long haul to the In Pin and along with three of Heavy’s great mates, I got up it. It was a great night but I was told that I howled a bit as we went up the short side.

A very bemused walker on the ridge alone was freaked out by my howling on the ridge it was an amazing day though but one I did not want to repeat. Heavy abseiled of with me on the way down and I was glad it was all over. I had a big swim and a great walk off at the end of a long day for me.  I went straight in the sea at Glen Brittle!

Below White Slab.

At this time we had the odd weekend off and troops from Kinloss and Leuchars joined together on their weekend off to have a “Bad Boys weekend” Heavy had decided to try to become a Team Leader and needed to push his climbing for the assessment. These weekends were a group of the best climbers in the teams who went out and climbed without the restrictions of the RAF team. We had some great weekend’s big climbs in Glencoe, Ben Nevis and the Etive Slabs. I loved these weekends I would get some great days sunbathing whilst the boys climbed some amazing routes. I have sunbathed below Titans Wall on Ben Nevis, chased stones below Shibboleth and scrambled up to the top of the Etive Slabs. I met even more of the great Scottish climbers these were incredible days. At night there would be beach parties with big fires in Appin and other places meeting many of the locals, what great days and I loved the summer after such a hard winter. I was enjoying Leuchars it was magical.  I am now 7 years old in human years and as Heavy says in my prime, I am  loving the team, the hill days were great and I was ticking of lots of Munros. A few times I did the same hills like the Mamore Ridge 11 Munros then and a great hill day for the young troops and we had some magic days. We had a few big call outs some were very sad and we went to some great places. A plane crashed in the Isle Of Barra and we were flown in to help. We were on the hill down at Cairndow near Arrochar and doing a funny day of Ben Lomond, Beinn an Lochan and Beinn Bhuide, lots of travelling but lots of height. We had done two and stopped at the Base Camp for some soup the HF radio was busy and this was again before mobile phones.

The Barra Call out.

Heavy asked the cook what was going on as this radio monitors the Military helicopters. He said it was an incident at Barrow in Furness we listened and it was a plane missing in the Island of Barra. We were not far and we soon had a Navy helicopter outside and 8 of us flew off. Now a few troops were not so happy that I was going but next minute I was on the aircraft. Now the Navy are a wee bit different in these days with animals but Heavy was up front speaking to the crew and I was okay. The mist was down and we had to sneak in to the beach in heavy mist on Barra where we met some locals who took us to the crash site. It was some great flying by the Navy that day. It was a busy few hours and then we were told to have a crash guard overnight and the troops were in the local Hotel in Castlebay. You will have guessed who did the biggest stint crash guard but was rewarded with a huge meal made by the Hotel.  Next day I was in a room with Heavy and well looked after for a few days. It was an amazing trip and we made some great friends with the locals. We had no transport but some Nuns looked after us and even drove us around in there pick up crazy days. 

These aircraft crashes were now second nature to me but I did not like them, the smell of fuel. The twisted wreckage and I was always on guard. I could not tell Heavy but I was to get a shock over the years to come. I had to be aware of my paws getting cut on the metal. These were dangerous places.

Life was good and then Heavy met a lovely lassie Dianne, she looked after me and did not even complain about my hairs all over the car and the house. I got new dog bowls and a new bed life got pretty easy and even better she liked the hills. She even got on with the guys in the team and we had some great fun.

There was one terrible tragedy at this time as I said we were especially friendly with the helicopter crew’s .In February 1985 we had a great weekend at Bridge Of Orchy it was a special weekend for weather and everyone was ice climbing apart from me and a few others after winter Munros. The weather was magnificent yet there were many call – outs the snow was bullet hard neve. On the way home to Leuchars the Wessex helicopter buzzed our convoy. Mick Anderson was the winch man on board and a great friend, he always looked after me. The troops called him “grumpy Mick” and he always smoked a pipe but we did lots of hills together on his time off, he was also a team member. The team was asked to help in the search for a fallen walker. As we neared Ben More near Crianlarich the helicopter which had a few of the local Killin Mrt hit the mountain. It was a terrible night and the outcome was the Killin Team Leader was killed. Ian the other local Policemen on board was very badly injured as was Mick our winchman. Mick was a close friend of us and often took us on the hill. Ian was the village Bobby who I also knew well. Mick was badly injured and we knew the crew and hard worked so closely. The aircraft was crashing down the hill and it was lucky the Killin Team were already on the hill. What they did that night I will never forget.

Little left of the Wessex.

The tale of that night has been written about by Heavy and others. Next day in the daylight there was little left of the helicopter and we had a hard week on the mountain working with investigation Board. During that very sad period I made many friends especially in the local Killin team. We even went straight after crash the next morning to locate the fallen walker sadly another fatality. She had her crampons on her bag the hills were plastered with ice. The local people from Crainlarich brought the team food and even me tins of dog food and biscuits, I was amazed by their care despite losing their local Policeman. I was shocked by this helicopter crashing I like everyone else thought we in SAR were invincible, it was a sad reminder. It’s a lot different when it’s your own folk but everyone did their best.  

The next morning Heavy and I flew into the crash site and it was a tricky time we were worried but we got on with it though it was hard.  Every day with the Air Investigation Board was strange the troops were roped up on the steep ground to an engineer who was investigating the crash. I walked around. This was my type of ground but I was amazed how little of the helicopter was left and how hard the mountains can be. The team were very subdued I was privileged to listen to listen to them when they spoke about the crash. It had clearly affected them all.    

The Mighty Wessex Photo P BOARDMAN.FBIPP

We already had a superb liaison with the Wessex helicopter but this tragedy brought us so much closer together. These were incredible days on the mountains and despite the tragedies we saved many lives and met so many new friends.

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Dog Tales Part 4 – Wild winters and hard days.

Let me introduce myself: My name is Teallach I was a very soft Alsatian and I have been asked to write about my life in the mountains.

Introduction – I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the hills, mountains and wild places. My mother was Dreish another Mountain Dog she told me when I was very young that if I was lucky I may be able to choose this way of life as well. Dreish was an incredible dog a fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales, like her owner very fit and strong so I had a great pedigree. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog she was a machine. After a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Allister’s wife Pat I met my owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy”. 

He was introduced to me and the other pups but it was my huge feet that mattered to him and for 12 years we looked after each other. Mainly to be honest I looked after him!

RAF Kinloss MRT

I am now back in Scotland and 1983/84 were  really hard years it was another big winter after Heavy went to Canada ice climbing for a month so I was looked after by the team. When he came back he was wild about climbing ice and I had some long cold days as he chased classic ice routes especially in the North West. We also had a lot of call outs and I met a few lucky climbers who literally fell at our feet as we walked into a climb. One fell at our feet on Ben Nevis from the climb Cresta. He survived but did not next year when he went missing in Glen Feshie solo walking and was found weeks after a big search and thaw.

I also had another big aircraft crash at Balbeggie near Dundee a group of 6 Curlers from Switzerland crashed near Balbeggie in November 1983. It was an all-night search in heavy mist with the Tayside, Leuchars and Kinloss Teams and the SARDA dogs.  The aircraft had 6 on board when it went missing. We found it in the morning with   4 alive and two unfortunately dead, we found one of them away from the crash site. I was amazed that we found them alive it was a real shocker for me. It was only small hills but the thick mist meant that the helicopter was of little use, it was a long search and again a huge learning curb for me. I am sure I heard them that night but was told it was a sheep Heavy kept telling the controller that but we continued on the search ? At least we got folk out alive and I kept out of the way.

Balbeggie Crash we got folk out of this alive.

The Cairngorms, Ben Nevis, Glencoe and the other areas continued to catch many out and we had some long hard call – outs, searching Strath Nethy was never a favourite. I also got my paws speared by crampons on a big search on the Plateau and a big cut meant there was a bit of blood before Heavy noticed. We were half way down Coire Dohmain at the time; I learnt to keep my distance when the crampons were on.  The new team members were the worst and he stood on my paw in a white out and no one heard my barking! In these days you would meet many of the Glenmore Lodge “names” and many became friends of mine. I was definitely moving in the right crowd, we would bump into them on a Mountaineering Assessment a very serious affair in bad weather navigating along the plateau and at times they would have a chat and those getting assessed would see the human side! Then we would bumble of into the weather with me in front picking a route. I was always glad to see familiar things like spot height 1141 a big cairn on the end of the plateau but even here you can have a problem getting home, big Cornices.  I knew the familiar places where we thought we could relax after a wild day out, where we thought we were safe. The team went out in these conditions to give the new Team member’s experience of the wildest of weather and it took a lot of looking after each other to get safely off the hill. I was often by now moving up and down the hill party when it got spread out but when the weather got bad we were very close and looked after each other. I got to know the Cairngorms well as even during the week after work we would go and maybe does a winter climb in the dark when the crowds had left. I now had a light stick on me for the dark it was not for me but for Heavy to see where I was. I would meet them coming off. I knew the Goat Track descent well and could pick a line up the rocks even when the snow was rock hard. Climbers would be amazed to see me as they picked their way down this steep ground.

The Fannichs

I loved the Cairngorms but one weekend was to be the one that shocked me forever. This was a terrible time as the big winds not forecasted hit us in January 1984. I was heading with Heavy for a couple of days at Hell’s Lum a winter cliff in the Cairngorms with a young troop. Heavy had the Friday off the weather was magic, the forecast said so and we were going to make the most of it. Heavy’s mate Pam had just finished a night shift at RAF Kinloss and he was too tired to walk in so at the car park we changed our mind after I had a huge meal. This would normally mean we would be staying out all night.

We went to climb at Newtonmore on Creag Dubh a small ice fall called “Oui Oui” would be there. It was a fairly short and easy day but a big storm came in and we had some fun as the wind blasted us on the way off. It snowed like mad and I met them at the top of the climb and we had a real struggle in big winds and snow back to the car and then off to the Village Hall at Newtonmore, where the team were staying. I had never seen so much snow fall and headed to the top of the cliff to meet them coming off. We just got into the Hall and the roads were blocking with snow the RAF Kinloss Team took hours to get there with tales of a wild drive. It was a quiet night in the Braeraich Pub as we expected to have problems getting out on Saturday.  If we had walked in to the heart of the Cairngorms we would have had a serious night at Hell’s Lum, I was so glad we had not gone. Were we lucky or was it fate?

This was to be a terrible weekend.  One of the worst I would ever experience!

On the Saturday the weather was that bad we were stuck at Glenmore the road was blocked and ended up hiding in the Squirrel café and we walked from there due to the weather and the road being blocked. We managed the summit of the local Castle Hill but we had to crawl to the summit. I already was doing that but to see Heavy as well was unusual. We could see nothing all day and though it was an easy hill and we were exhausted, the wind and the snow were full on.   The spindrift was incredible on the hill and even from the road you could not see the hill. It was a wall of spindrift. The main road and the railway line was closed and on that Saturday night we heard that there were over 30 missing on the hill.  Next day were told to get up to the Cairngorm Car park as a party from Heriot Watt University had a problem and one survivor had got down to the Car Park saying his friends were in big trouble. They were planning an overnight camp at Coire An Lochan and the weather caught them out. We never expected what we came across. We got up to the Cairngorm Car Park as we were asked to help and we met with some of Glenmore Lodge and Cairngorm Team. It was light hearted at first we never expected what we found and so near safety of the road.  The tragedy we came across Heavy has written about before in his Blog it was awful to experience. 15 minutes from the Car Park, three young lives were lost. They were so near safety but the weather had got them. There would have been little chance in the winds and the weather of that weekend.  I was kept away by the troops, Cairngorm and Glenmore lodge as they put them on the stretchers and it was a solemn carry back to the car park.  The short stretcher carry was very hard work and everyone was very upset.

Where they had died I had walked down many times and it was so hard to believe that in such a beautiful place nature can kill. Then we went to Glenmore Lodge and told that we would be needed tomorrow. It was a very subdued night in Newtonmore unlike after a sad incident the team unwinds with a drink. Heavy was very upset unlike him and one of the Glenmore boys had a word with him, even these hard men had felt the sadness of the day. I am sure he felt that could have been us! How would we have coped with the big Storm at Hell’s Lum and we would have made our way off the plateau to the same Corrie where the students died?    Would we have made it we were invincible then or so we thought. To see those young folks just lying therein the open is a side of Mountain Rescue that few speak about. They had nearly got to safety it makes even a dog think.

There was little time to mourn as we found out that one of Heavy’s friends was missing, the mountains then were a small place and most who worked in them knew each other. Paul Rodgers was an Army Instructor based in Glencoe who was out with an experienced student Bill on the same weekend. He was on a two day expedition that included a snow hole and they had not returned. Heavy knew Paul well and he had stayed with us when he gave a lecture to the team at Kinloss.   He had always met us climbing in Glencoe and the Ben and on sunny days at Polldubh in Glen Nevis. What followed was a huge search Heavy has covered it in his Blog and John Allen in his book “Cairngorm John”. It was a huge search of about 100 people, many teams and lots of search dogs and so many of Scotland’s top mountaineers came and helped. The weather at times was awful and even Rocky Jimmy Simpson’s amazing dog was blown over a Cornice and spent the night under a Cornice and survived. He was covered in ice when he was found but so hard like his owner, it was another lesson to me about the mountains in winter. We were searching the gullies at times and got avalanched several times until Heavy pulled us out and back onto the plateau. The snow and the wind was incredible and all the teams said it was very serious conditions. I had never seen such wild conditions early on in the search. Every day we were battered by the wind and it takes it out of you even a dog and the teams were pretty exhausted.

One day of good weather yet we never found them.

We had one day of good weather when we were flown onto the snow hole sites on the plateau, Paul had planned to snow hole and we dug down over 25 feet to find old snow holes. It was a hard day digging but I hate to say I enjoyed it especially when Heavy as the smallest was put in a deep hole over 20 feet down by Paul Moore’s a Guide as he was the smallest. He was pulled out as the roof collapsed on him deep underground at times you had to laugh a bit. Most of the team slid down the Ski area on shovels it sounds strange but we needed that break after such hard times. I ran along beside and it was so strange after such a week? There was no sign at all of Paul or Bill. After several days the search was called off Heavy was heartbroken, he pleaded for the search to continue. Pete Cliff the Leader of Cairngorm Team who was to be a great friend as did Ray Sefton one of the RAF Team Leaders explained the rational. The Teams were exhausted and we had few places left to search we had done our best but this is the hardest decision ever to be made by the Police and the Teams, we had no sign of them. He went off to speak to his Military friends who were going back out next day. It was fitting that they found Paul and Bill just above the Goat Track; we had walked by this area often in the search but the weather was impossible. At times we were fighting for our own lives. The wind had changed some snow moved and a shovel was found below. Paul was found by his friends and a few MRT assisted in a sad recovery. We heard the news on the way home, we were exhausted it had been a terrible 6 days with in the Cairngorm’s alone 5 mountain fatalities.

Paul’s Grave at Kingussie – I still visit it

Heavy always went straight into work when he arrived back as we had been away for several days; he was working in the Catering Office at the time. The butcher gave me a huge bone as a well done. Heavy got “ did you enjoy your skive” from a  Boss and he was very lucky that statement was still in the air when Heavy walked away saying it was a good friend we were looking for and he would speak tomorrow about his stupid comment! In the military this is not what you say to a Boss but so deserved, Heavy’s career was over again? It is amazing some people’s lack of thought at times. 

Skye McRaes Barn

There was so much to take in but to get home to the fire and comfort of the house was great to be out of the wind and away from the snow. Heavy told me we were still going out on the hill next weekend! He was so upset and we helped each other, these can be lonely times. That was the worst of weather we had coped with, many will never understand that it does have an effect on you. All these young lives gone when Nature tells you its in charge no matter how hard you think you are its a constant battle in the mountains. These were punishing days for us all and we learned from every incident. Yet the fire still burned we loved the mountains despite at times the costs.

Around this time Heavy was promoted to Sgt and posted to our rivals at RAF Leuchars in Fife. It was in these days a heavy rivalry like Celtic and Rangers but we knew many of the team from call – outs. He would still be doing his job as a Caterer but would be a member of the Mountain Rescue Team. It was great for me as I had so many Munros to do in there area, Heavy told me we better stay fit as we would be tested! We were on the move again.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Family, Friends, Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Dog Tales – part 3 Back in Scotland.

Let me introduce myself: My name is Teallach I was a very soft Alsatian and I have been asked to write about my life in the mountains. 

I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the hills, mountains and wild places. My mother was Dreish another Mountain Dog she told me when I was very young that if I was lucky I may be able to choose this way of life as well. Dreish was an incredible dog a fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales, like her owner very fit and strong so I had a great pedigree. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog she was a machine. After a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Allister’s wife Pat I met my owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy”. 

He was introduced to me and the other pups but it was my huge feet that mattered to him and for 12 years we looked after each other. Mainly to be honest I looked after him!

It was great we were back in Scotland and straight on 2 weeks on the annual RAF Mountain Rescue Winter Course. The Course was split into two parts the first at Grantown on Spey at the PTI Outdoor Centre for 3 days then we split into 2 groups one stayed and the other went to Ben Nevis. It was a long Course over 10 days on the hills. Grantown where the Centre was fun though I was banned Anne the civilian administrator and the Chef let me come in once the Boss left every night. This was after a day on the hill this was ideal, nice and warm and looked after. The first 3 days of the winter course was hard, there were over 40 on the course many were new team members from the 6 RAF Mountain Rescue Teams. The entire Course in these days learned and were refreshed on basic winter skills and had an overnight stop in a snow – hole, it was exciting stuff.

Travelling to Skye with Kas the Team Leader.

I loved the digging holes and spent the day chasing snow thrown by the troops. We would also go for night navigation from the snow hole. This was where I could show them at the end of the walk where the snow hole was no matter how bad the weather. Some of the new troops were pretty worried about this but most of the time it went well. On another occasions in a snow hole the weather got bad I started barking in the middle of the night. Heavy told me to shut up . I kept going heavy went outside and he found two climbers who had a bit of an epic, saw the light of the snow hole tried to get in only to be met by a wild dog. They were bivying outside when Heavy brought them in.

In winter on our Courses there was always a call out when some climber fell of a route in the Cairngorms and we were there to help. To a few this was too much watching folk falling or picking up the pieces was not nice. The troops worked very hard often after a day on the hill the call out would come and usually me and Heavy found a route for the stretcher to be carried out. It was hard work but great after the training was over as we could go climbing or in poor weather bothying. If the weather was poor we head to remote areas getting Munros in. I got to know the Cairngorms well and only had one near epic when I went over a small cornice at Windy Gap, I never did that again for a while. Heavy was not impressed as he nearly followed me!  I learned to cope with the wild weather, I was used to it and  whilst the team was training and would curl up into my ball as the new troops learned simple things like putting on crampons, this could be a slow business.  I learned as a dog on the mountains you had to be patient and well trained I was rarely on a lead as Heavy trusted me and I have now a nose for the big Cornices.

Winter Course work

The Fort William phase on the Winter Course was great and Ben Nevis was special and we stayed at the famous CIC Hut I was allowed to climb the easy gullies but when they did a big route I would go for a walk with some of the course who were tired and needed an easy day. I met some of the greats of climbing at the time Cubby, The Brat, Doug Scott  to name a few and most were okay, if not I marked their bags! I was also not allowed to stay in the CIC hut but I did hiding under the beds if the nasty custodian was about in the end he was okay to me. 

Many were shocked when I emerged from one of the gullies and I was getting pretty good at finding 4 gully or a way off the Ben.  We had a great course and got very fit and then Heavy was back in the Catering Office but on the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and I stayed in the old hut where the team lived. The Team Leader Kas Taylor liked me so I stayed under his desk and the hut was that old that when it snowed the spin-drift would come into the office through holes in the wall. I could be covered in spin-drift and it was like being on the hill. Most days though I sat outside watching the world go by and getting lots of cuddles from the girls on stores. I learned where Heavy worked in Catering and would spend days with him as well. The Butcher was great to me and most days I would get a bone. I would even walk across to where heavy worked get a bone and walk back across the road with my bone. I became a bit of a character on the camp.

The hills were great and even when Heavy went climbing I would go and on an early day on Fionaven up in the North West he was climbing a big route and left me most of the day. They were late off and I worried but got them down to their bags and the torches when I heard him shout. Heavy will never admit that. Scotland was magic and I loved it Heavy was doing his Munros again and trying to get me round them, now that would a great thing for me to do.

My Stafford MRT mates were doing a big walk In May 1982 from East to West and Heavy was supposed to be on it but he could not get the time off as he was in his new job at RAF Kinloss. It was huge walk of 23 days and I went on it and loved it what a trip with of of Munros. The boys looked after me it was non-stop but I went well and learned so much.  Jim Morning led the walk and he was a big softie looking after me. After the long walk I had 76 Munros walked about 400 miles and climbed 150000 feet of ascent.

My feet were pretty battered after this walk but I had built up a huge stamina for the hill, my route finding in bad weather was impressive “up always up “was the motto and the river crossings in bad weather and swollen rivers became a new skill. I had done so many of the hills now and was repeating many but Heavy kept a log for me and would tell me.

The South Clunnie all 9 Munros again.

Heavy was now trying hard to climb Classic Rock and we had some great days though I was only 5 I was in my prime. On Eagle ridge on Lochnagar I was left below the route. Heavy was having his usual epic and shouting a lot and I thought I would investigate and ended up having a minor epic on the cliff. Heavy was not impressed as I popped up above him near the top of the route. We had great days in the Cairngorms biving at Loch Etcheacan and meeting and climbing Talisman. I pinched a few of Glenmore Lodge’s sandwiches that were lying about near our bags. In winter I loved the Northern Corries but got into another bit of trouble when I was up high near Pygmy Ridge looking for Heavy. Glenmore Lodge were on an assessment and I arrived high in the Corrie. I was lowered down, I did not need rescued and Fred Harper at the Lodge at the time said that I could be banned from the Corrie. It was only a joke but I was very upset.

From that day for a while I was tied up if Heavy was climbing and no one could look after me. Many got a fright when they arrived at a route to see a dog and the rucksacks covered in snow. Heavy was getting cocky and would leave his bag at the bottom of the climb. One day he was with a new troop and when they got to the top after an epic winter climb and Heavy’s map blew away, it was a blizzard and black as hell by now. They told me later that they started walking the wrong way heading for MacDui! Heavy noticed it was all going wrong and managed to find the tops of the Northern Corries.He got down into the Corrie it was now very late and the usual blizzard was up. I heard him calling and managed to pull the belay off and drag the two bags up near the Goat Track where we met a worried Heavy. I was a cold hero and Heavy learned not be so cocky and that his belay was poor. The poor lad with him never climbed again!

I came back from my Big Walk from West to East of Scotland very fit and strong. I loved the Scottish Hills but the call -outs were pretty hard. I got to love some places and we went to Skye a lot in late Sept 1982 we had a wild weekend I had been over the back end of the Skye Ridge and had a long Saturday on the Dubhs Ridge , with a scary abseil for a dog, a lower really. On the Sunday we were on Blaven and that meant I only had a couple of Munros left to do in Skye. My paws got fairly battered after the rough ridge and we were getting ready to leave for the long drive back to RAF Kinloss it was a wet day and I was glad to be leaving. The Police arrived and said there was a climber who had fallen whilst abseiling of the In Pin in Skye. In these days there were no mobile phones and if an accident happens and it took several hours to get help.  It was about 1600 and the team had to grab enough kit to get someone of the ridge. I went with them and the helicopter arrived and took us into the Corrie, it was wet and windy and a bit of an epic getting in. After that it was a big haul up the screes and rocks, loose and slippy where we met the Skye Team Leader Gerry Ackroyd below the In Pin. He is the local guide and like Heavy can take a bit of getting used to but he was pretty good. The poor casualty was very cold and wet and badly injured. At the time there were only 8 of us it was hard work to get a stretcher up there and the rope was a 500 foot one. Gerry told me to keep out of the way and they soon had the casualty on the Stretcher and lowered him off.  It was dark wet and cold and I had to wait with Heavy and John Beattie and lower the casualty off. It was horrible the stones were crashing about but after 3 big lowers we got down to the screes. I had to wait while Heavy and John scrambled down then follow them down. Everyone was worried about loose rocks but I was careful. It was a long night we met the Skye Team in the Corrie and had a long wet carry out to Glenbrittle.

I had been to a few aircraft crashes by now as this was Heavy’s job with the RAF Mountain Rescue and was aware how dangerous they were, with all the sharp metal and fuel about. For a dog this is a very wild place to be and the smell of fuel is overpowering. I was in the helicopter that flew into Strath Connon  for a USA F111 aircraft that crashed both of the crew got out safely, pretty unusual as most we went to there were no survivors. The F111 has a capsule like the space shuttle ejects the whole canopy of the aircraft which should come down in a parachute over land or in the sea. This was what the RAF MR Teams are for and we have to pull out all the stops. This was where I was usually handy with the team as they could use me on the crash site as a guard dog? At least I looked the part? The team had to ensure that the security of the crash site was kept until the investigation Board arrived. The team were there for a few days and it was a great place to be but I glad when we  left.

Just a few months later in the depths of winter in December, we got a report of another F111 missing in Skye. Heavy had just finished a 12 hour shift at work and was sorting his kit out for the weekend when we got the call in the MRT block a helicopter was inbound from RAF Lossiemouth a few miles away and would be with us in 15 minutes, it would take Heavy plus 5 others. This was December 1982 and the weather was horrendous.

Now Skye is a wild place to be and the last cal lout a few months before had shown me how tricky it is in the wet but in a wild winter night, with fresh snow, it would be taxing. The flight over was awful we were low level and poor Heavy who hates flying was up in the front, we went by Achnasheen and had to land on due to the snow and wait for the heavy shower to go through.   We got battered by the weather tried to pick up some of Skye Team at Elgol but nearly hit some wires and the only place to land was by the sea near Camusunary. Heavy has written about that night in his Blog but I will never forget getting told to swim the river it was deep and then work our way up onto the hill Stron Na Stri to find the crash site. I picked a line up the hill it was snowing really steep, wet grass with big crags and after a few hours located the crash. It was very dangerous and scary the smell of fuel was everywhere there was very sharp wreckage about I had to do exactly as I was told. Heavy tied me up as the wreckage was everywhere and we spent the night out on the hill till nearly midday next day.  We were frozen, soaked, it was a long night and I was really hungry, even I was cold! It was not until midday that the troops came to take over from us; we had no sleep and were exhausted. The weather had brightened up by the time the team arrived to take over. Both crew sadly were killed instantly so there was little we could do but after the other crash at Strath Connon we were sure we would find them alive. I spent a week with Heavy and the American Investigation Team at the crash site at the scene, travelling in every day it was not an easy week. We stayed in the Broadford Hotel and I was treated like royalty the Americans loved me and despite the sad event we made new pals. I grew up that week.  So did Heavy, it was the hardest call – out we had ever done.

I loved Skye the Cioch was a great place to climb and I could meet the troops on the first pitch of Cioch Direct via a ledge. It would make a few climbers laugh seeing me waiting for them. We climbed in Skye a lot got to love it and rarely needed a help. My feet were pretty tough by now out every weekend. The winter to come was a real epic, big snows and a lot of searches with the Kinloss Team, the worst weather was on Ben Nevis looking for two Irish climbers. It was a wild search in some of the worst weather I had been out in. The Teams searched for days and I made friends with some of the SARDA Dogs and even Jimmy Simpson the Policeman and his “War Dog” Rocky got to like me. I think I proved my value in the wild conditions and I was pretty aware of the Cornices and Avalanche slopes that we searched. This was one of the few times that we did not find anyone and Heavy and me would go back a few times later in the year and search the Ben looking for them.  I got to know a few of the wild places “ 5 Finger Gully “ and the hidden Corries of the Ben, it is a huge place.

It was all part of my training getting out every weekend meant that I felt was at one with the mountains! During this time I met many of the Characters in Mountain Rescue and got to know the real guys in the other teams.  The poor Irish boys we were looking for were not found till late that summer, months after they went missing, they had been buried under a huge amount of snow.  These were huge winters.

Most nights after the hill I went to the pub and feel asleep listening to the troops talking the usual rubbish after a few drinks but we were always up for the hill the next day.

We stayed in the local Village Halls every weekend and even camped at times. I loved the camping but in winter it could be pretty rough. In the Village Halls we slept on the floor om mats by now I had my own mat and sleeping bag, I was part of the team, this was my 5 th winter, I was gaining experience and even getting a bit cocky, not a thing to be in Scotland in winter!

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Friends, Health, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Drive back seeing family and a few friends and the dreaded Fly tipping in beauty spots.

I drove back today from Ayr after a few days with my sister. I was well looked after but it is the first Christmas without my sister Eleanor we all missed her. I left early and visited my friend Elma in Crianlarich. Elma is a legend in the RAF Mountain Rescue and had looked after the teams and SARDA for over 40 years. She was in great form.

Her garden is full of birds and to have a brew and her famous cakes and watch the birds is wonderful. I was amazed by the birds in her garden. I saw the goldfinch sorting out the others.

Elma’s house has great views of Ben More and Ben Chalumn what a setting. We all owe her so much for her kindness and love.

Then it was a stop in Glencoe to see Hamish we had a great chat and he is looking very well.

There is still plenty of snow high up in the Coe despite the thaw. Hamish’s house has a great view of Bidian Nam Beith what a situation.

I then headed home via the Laggan road A86 and came across a large dumped mattress. This is a stunning area with views of Ardverikie Estate. How can folk be so stupid.

How can folk do this I wonder as there were lots of dumped bags of rubbish as well. Anyway I have reported it and we will see if it is collected . The form on the internet was electronic and easy to complete. I took a few photos as well. Sad we have to do this.

Fly tipping!

It is worrying what we do to our beautiful places.

Comments Welcome

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Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas.

Happy Christmas.

For most of my working life I worked most Christmas for many years with the Mountain Rescue. We would be away for several days in a village hall in Newtonmore or Fort William. That made us central for call – outs. Now and again we would great the odd great day on the hills or an early ice climb.

Christmas Day on Ben Nevis.

We did get a few call – outs over the years some really hard ones on the hills. These were hard going especially as some were pretty nasty.

Yet more recently it was a time when vulnerable folk went missing. Many struggle at this time with mental problems their demons and loneliness. We had a few sad incidents like that. So though this is a family time it’s worth spending time with those less fortunate or ill. We all know someone?

I am down in Ayr my family home it is a place of good memories. I left early and after the foggy start it was a good drive down.

The A9 and Dalwhinnie hills

I got a wander along the Ayr beach. Arran was just clearing through in the mist. Goatfell still had some snow and the sea was calm. There were lots of folk about enjoying a walk.

I am with my sister and family it will be a bit different as we lost our eldest sister Eleanor this year. We all miss her, she is a great loss.

Yet it will be a good day and I hope you all have the same. Thanks to all who read the blog and for the comments.

Have a thought for those less fortunate than most of us and make that call or visit that friend. The card below is one my Mum sent my sister in 1967 it’s still magical.

Happy Christmas

Posted in Bothies, Family, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | 4 Comments

Dog Tales – Teallach Part 2



Let me introduce myself: My name is Teallach I was a very soft Alsatian and I have been asked to write about my life in the mountains.

I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the hills, mountains and wild places. My mother was Dreish another Mountain Dog she told me when I was very young that if I was lucky I may be able to choose this way of life as well. Dreish was an incredible dog a fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales, like her owner very fit and strong so I had a great pedigree. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog she was a machine. After a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Allister’s wife Pat I met my owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy”.

He was introduced to me and the other pups but it was my huge feet that mattered to him and for 12 years we looked after each other. Mainly to be honest I looked after him!



Dog Tales – part 2 Wales visits to Scotland and down in the Flatlands.

In Wales things were going very well and life in the mountains was indeed good but poor Heavy had problems his selfish life in the mountains was a lonely one for is partner. She left with her daughter to go back to Scotland and it was a hard time for us both. I had got used to family life and loved them all. Heavy was very upset at the time (us dogs worked that out) and the house was very empty. Gone were the easy nights of being pampered by my new friends and Yvette who was only little was very special. We had got up to all tricks together and it was as much fun as going on the hills. Many are scared when they see a big Alsatian but I was very soft and loved kids. I was jumped on dressed up and ridden as a horse, it was just like the troops did at the weekend.

After they left we got out a lot on the hills and days got longer and harder as the mountains became all consuming. We visited Scotland for a long Grant and had a 12 hour day On Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Alligin and next day we climbed the Cioch Nose in Applecross I ended up in the Loch due to the midges. This was 10 days in Scotland and then we moved to Fort William and I did the big 4 on the Ben and next day all the Mamores. The Aonach Eag followed both ways on the same trip and other great hills I loved Scotland, open, wild and few humans on the hill. It was such a big place and so few dogs even. Then it was back to Wales back to the hills and climbs that I knew . We were always busy in Wales and I got to love it. We had so many Call outs and a great bond with the Wessex helicopter at RAF Valley. We got to know the local teams and SARDA they had heard of me by now. Dreish my Mum was on the team at Valley and kept me in my place and I learned a lot from her. Wales was the ideal place to learn about the mountains.

The pup Teallach on Hellvelyn.

I was often on Crib Goch on Snowdon and many a climber got a fright as we ran along the ridge on the Annual Bike race. Even I was in fancy dress one year. All the time we were learning we had big lowers of the Idwal Slabs plenty of call outs and then we had a big winter. I would hear the helicopter before the team and new I may get a lift home. One time after 6 Call outs in one day as we were leaving the Wessex called in it now was pitch dark the hills were plastered in ice. They had to leave a crewman on the hill as they were running out of fuel. The helicopter was told to leave him there and we would get him near the top of The Glyders. It was full on winter we were tired and raced up the hill.

The helicopter crewman was wearing flying boots, the aircrew had little kit in these days. Darkness had come in and these were the days of the Wessex helicopter had no night vision goggles they were to come years later. They had to leave the Winch man on the hill to refuel at Valley. The troops had their sharp crampons on and it was even hard for me on the icy snow. I was now aware and when things got serious just kept out the way.

There was a bit of carry on and the helicopter came back to get him despite the weather and being told to leave him. We had moved him down the hill. I was in front with Heavy route finding. It was a tricky rescue and the RAF enquiry was interesting. Heavy getting into trouble as he was the “mountain specialist” for his decisions in support of the crew and giving them proper boots etc later on. This brought us even closer with the helicopter crews at RAF Valley they loved us and I was by now part of the team.

He was always in a bit of trouble very outspoken even on the hill. At times on a rescue and I knew when to keep out of the way. I must have looking back a fierce looking dog yet few knew how soft I was. We did a big call out on Idwal slabs in the dark when the head torch batteries fell apart in the wet the problem was a new cheap battery MOD had bought. Why do humans need torches anyway I have no problem? He wrote a signal to someone high up and got into trouble. We were near our time to end at Valley Heavy was hoping for a tour in Scotland and despite the Team Leaders assistance we ended up posted to the Deep South at RAF Innsworth near Gloucester.

I think the powers that be thought that was the end of us but it was not to be. At the same time his Mum and Dad passed away and Dad took ill whilst he was on the Team Leaders Course in the Peak District. He was climbing when the Policeman came up to the crag and told him. The troops dropped us at Crewe Station and we got the overnight train to Kilmarnock, the train was a great way to travel for me. I had never been on a train before and just got under the seat and slept. We arrived in at 0500 at Kilmarnock and we walked into Ayr 12 miles away rather than wake anyone up, we were to skint for a taxi. We were a funny sight walking along the main road.

It was a hard time and his Dad wanted to see me and we went to hospital where I was allowed in. I knew he was upset when Dad died and when we got back home to Valley when he went to bed I followed him up and slept under the bed. I was never allowed to do this and did so afterwards. Looking back we had two great winters in Wales and Heavy was climbing the ice a lot. This took us to some great places and I learned to wait until they were at the top of the climbs. It was good training for things to come. In summer I would watch the gear left below the great cliffs of Wales. At this time there was a lot of gear getting stolen from climbers our gear was safe with me on guard. We never lost anything and I became a celebrity on the crags. I would usually get bored and climb up and meet them on the top of the route. Many climbers got a fright seeing me climbing past.

The Flatlands – There were hard times in 1981 Heavy went to RAF Innsworth in Gloucester back to his job as a Caterer it was awful. There was no Mountain Rescue Team and when we arrived Heavy was told that no dogs were allowed on the station by the Station Warrant Officer. (SWO) Heavy said what shall he do put Teallach down. The SWO was a wild man and not impressed. As always Heavy ignored authority and we moved into an accommodation block with others and I slept in the room until the SWO found out. Heavy was back to working in the Catering Office and his boss let me come to work every day. I sat outside a lot and played with all the high ranking officers that lived there, they all liked me and played sticks and things. The SWO was not happy but could not get rid of me. As the powers that be loved me.

I left the SWO a message in the guardroom when Heavy was orderly Corporal one weekend! We were saved by joining the Stafford Mountain Rescue Team and had many great weekends as Heavy met them in his car at weekends in Wales or the Lakes. It was great to be back with the troops and I made many friends and climbed a lot more at the Peaks and other venues. At times we would meet the “odd jobs worth” on the crag or scrambled about or as I sat by the bags who wanted me on a lead but Heavy just gave them a hard time. It was long drives back at times 0300 in the morning and then straight back to work. It was great though I made new friends and the troops looked after me.

When we got back I slept Heavy had to work. We did a few callouts one for an aircraft during the week a Harrier that crashed in Wales and I sniffed the fuel on the ridge in a night search. I had to watch as this was tricky place to be at the crash site and there were many sharp bits of metal about and Heavy kept me away once they found it. The smell of fuel was overpowering and I was to find this out on many other occasions.

I was glad to leave after the casualty had been recovered. We came back to Innsworth as heroes and life got easier, I was now a celebrity on the camp. Heavy upset more people on the camp and within a year we were heading back to Scotland. I had been back twice with the Stafford Team and what a trip. Once we went to the North West a huge journey and so no other humans, I did some big days, The Fannichs I think 9 Munro’s in a day , The An Teallach hills and Fisherfields and The Beinn Deargs, Seanna Bhraigh hills my Munro book was getting ticked. I was also allowed to go to Stoer and had fun swimming round the Sea Stack with the seals whilst the troops climbed. We were posted from Innsworth for the RAF Annual Winter Course and then to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. Heavy was so excited the car was packed with me in the passenger seat. The road was blocked on the A9 and we had to go by Braemar it was some drive and Heavy is not a great driver I was terrified. We arrived at Grantown for the winter Course where Heavy was instructing I was immediately told again in no way could I stay in the Centre – Welcome to Scotland!

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

A Christmas Tale – Dog tales from the back of a landrover.

Let me introduce myself: My name is Teallach I was a very soft Alsatian and I have been asked to write about my life in the mountains.

I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the hills, mountains and wild places. My mother was Dreish another Mountain Dog she told me when I was very young that if I was lucky I may be able to choose this way of life as well. Dreish was an incredible dog a fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales, like her owner very fit and strong so I had a great pedigree. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog she was a machine. After a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Allister’s wife Pat I met my owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy”.

He was introduced to me and the other pups but it was my huge feet that mattered to him and for 12 years we looked after each other. Mainly to be honest I looked after him!

Young Pup big feet.

My first trip was to the vet for my check up and jabs, I have hated white coats ever since. Then on his advice we went to Scotland from RAF Valley in North Wales. It was a long journey over 500 miles and the vet said do it as my owner would travel most weekends.

My owner was in Mountain Rescue and had to lead a group in Braemar in Scotland for a week climbing and walking. I travelled in a land rover all the way, I missed my Mum but these humans were kind to me. I travelled in land rover in a box a long 10 hour journey with stops every 2 hours for me to learn about going to the toilet. I was glad that the man in the white coat said it would be good for me to get used to travelling so young as that was what I would do nearly every week of my life.

Teallach with bone on way to Scotland

We arrived in a bothy an old house (with lots of new places to explore) and I slept beside Heavy every night waking him for the loo now and again. I had a few accidents and ate a pair of boots on that week as I stayed with the cook every day.

I met all the humans in the team they were good to me and they seemed to like me.

The local farmer let me meet the sheep and any idea of playing or chasing them was explained to me by the ram. For the rest of my life I gave them a wide berth. In the mountains you could not chase anything but that was made up later on by the longest walks I have ever had.

My boss (call him Heavy) that week took me up my first Munro he carried me in his rucksack up Lochnagar and it was an incredible place, it was so big, windy and wild. We saw lots of birds but and things in the heather but I was impressed that the humans did not chase them either. I was allowed out on a bit of rope called a lead, but I was soon trusted not to need this. Heavy showed me the big cliffs and I felt the wind as he took me to the edge of the great cliffs.

He explained on a bad day humans could not see the drop but a dog would feel the wind and have the sense to avoid such places in wild weather and in winter huge Cornices were about.

I was pretty confused but later on in my life it was to save our lives in a few occasions.

He showed me the summit cairn always a place that I would mark by lifting my leg no matter what the weather and mark my territory and I learned lots over the next few months.

My Mum Dreish was also on the Mountain Rescue team and she gave me some great help but always showed me who was Boss. She could climb most things and that took a bit of effort for me but soon I was climbing better than Heavy (not hard) I would wait for him at the top of the climbs as I got older.

I was taken to work in the Mountain Rescue every day and lay under Heavy’s desk, I learnt to be quite and only growl only when an officer entered the room. I also went down to the helicopter Flight at RAF Valley In North Wales and got used to the noise of these yellow machines called Helicopters. It seemed to me that everyone was kind and soon I was jumping in them on my own and hiding out of the way under the seats.

I could hear them before the troops on the hill and knew it was a lift home so I was always ready and happy when I heard them. Getting winched out was another scary thing but Heavy did not like that either and often I would jump out first to see how high we were off the ground.

I was told to sit and wait until a human came and we practise this everywhere and I got used to it. The aircrew liked me and used to give me food until Heavy stopped them but right up to the end of my life I was always getting the odd snack from some soft centred aircrew.

North Wales was great place to grow up but we often got involved in many rescues and I had to keep out of the way especially in winter when the humans wore crampons.

I always knew when it was a bad accident, it was different and the team’s attitude changed. When they were carrying someone off the hill I kept well away. In winter I got speared a few times by crampons so I was wary after that and kept my distance.

I was soon not on a lead and building my hill knowledge, it was getting easier as in Wales as we were training 3 times a month every weekend and often during the week. Heavy said we were doing 150 days on the hills every year.

After a year I was a now classed as a novice had done the 14 peaks in Wales twice in one day! I also knew who the new troops in the team were and slept on their beds when they were at the pub.

I was given lots of freedom and loved my days on the hill. Every weekend it would be a new base camp but we also went to England and the Peaks and the Lake District and twice to Scotland.

Early days on Striding Edge Teallach waiting for me.

I learnt to swim very early not a problem in Wales but in the big rivers in Scotland I became an exponent of” wild water”. I loved it even in the water; I may have been half Alsatian and half seal!

If Heavy went to climb a big route I would go with another party usually on a big hill day and he was happy with that as long as I behaved. I would by now check the party if it split up and ensure everyone was there. I spared a few blushes at times when I found the odd troop or lost mountaineer in the mist or bad weather. I knew if someone was there even in the mist and would run off find them and come back and tell my leader.

In the end everyone wanted me in their party especially in a bad day; I was a type of doggy insurance for would be leaders!

Scotland was where my owner loved and we did the RAF Mountain Rescue Winter Course together at Grantown On Spey. I was not allowed to be in the Centre but every night I was in with the troops and I think Heavy got into trouble. I loved the Cairngorms and met so many people, Glenmore Lodge the Outdoor Centre where all the “hill Gods” lived and other Mountain Rescue Teams.

I loved the skills day in the snow as I would have fun but it was cold and I learned to find shelter in the snow. I would curl up and make a ball and wait for the troops to move again. I never felt the cold this was my office. We did a few rescues it was hard work in the snow even with my big feet. We stayed at the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis where no dogs are allowed but I was quite and the custodian did not notice till it was too late. I hid under the beds after a hard day on the hill.

I did a few gullies that year and I was far better soling (climbing free) than roped up depending on how hard the snow was. I learned to do as I was told and wait till the leader had climbed up, then move up. On the way down when it was icy I would follow Heavy’s footprints and on the odd occasions he would cut steps, I got better on snow after a few frights when I got over confident as did the humans. I loved the snow – holing in the Cairngorms Heavy was scared as he told me the weather could change very quick and we may not know. When your in a snow hole there is no wind and you have no clue what the wind is doing. I learned quickly as soon as I felt the snow building up outside (the lack of air told me) I would be out and dig the entrance. Over the years we had a few epics and once I found a very young troop who had gone out for a pee in his bare feet and could not get back in as the snow was so icy. I heard him outside while the rest were asleep and woke them up (lassie would have been proud) I loved the snow and this place Scotland my big feet were ideal for the snow and I was seldom cold. In my first two years I learned so much but Heavy was too busy to train me a search Dog as he was the Deputy Team Leader at Valley and had no time.

I met many Search Dogs in these early days some were a bit snooty but Heavy stood his ground and on the hill we became a formidable pairing. I got very fit and strong and my winter coat I could handle most weathers better than the humans. He promised me we would get moved to Scotland after Valley and we would do these Munros lots of days like the 14 peaks, big winters and lots of fun. I was a bit disappointed at the time but he had also fallen in love with a women and I had competition for his attention.

I had not met many women since I was a puppy and I had to get use to this change in my life. I also had a wee girl as well in the house Yvette and we had some fun, she was always dressing me up but so did the troops. It was no problem as I loved them both and I really got looked after and allowed in the front room, but not on the sofa.

Yvette and teallch

We had a great winter in Wales and there was ice everywhere if it was to hard I would wait below or make my own way up to the top of the route. I got to know some famous climbers in Wales. After a long weekend or even a 4 day grant on the hill I would sleep in the back of the land – rovers and wake up at the bothy. I would get dried have a meal and then sleep or play with any troops that had the energy left, I was now one of the team. What a life already .

Life was good!

To be continued.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Honest Climbers – great finds on the hills and Corries. “Crag Swag” etc.

In the old days when it was in Black and white we used to scavenge for gear at the end of the winter season. Equipment was expensive we were “poor”and often we would find some great gear below the busy routes.

Classic areas like the Northern Corries, Ben Nevis and Glencoe. We found lots of pegs, screws and carabiners in various states of wear.A few years ago recently we found two new technical axes worth £400 “ Quarks” below the waterfall “Oui Oui” near Newtonmore. They were returned to the rich doctors who lost them for a donation to Mountain Rescue all through the modern media.

Nowadays if you look on line people find gear and it usually gets returned . Are we a lot more honest nowadays ?

Yet in my early days of “Crag Swag” I found a new pair Chouinard climax axe and hammer. This was below Hells Lum crag in the Cairngorms. In these days there were few ways to find out whose they were. They are now on my wall on a board. This was the 1970’s !

The Chouinard Climax axe and hammer.

There is a line below Tower ridge I think (Pinnacle Buttress of the tower the Broad Gully below Tower Ridge )where in summer we found so much stuff we had to abseil off. It was the big broad terrace below the ridge. As I saw gear the rucksack etc I feared the worse expecting a macabre find but it was just gear that had fallen from the popular Tower Ridge.We took it to the Police Station in Fort William there were several hill bags, a camera an ice axe and lots of other gear.

I found original avalanche probe broken near Castle Ridge. I later found out they were made by the RAF Mountain Rescue Team in the 50’s out of Gas piping in the Station workshops. I also found an old Alpine axe in North Gully on Ben Nevis. It’s cleaned up and a new shaft and another memento.

Ben Nevis Op 3/1953

It’s still worth a look when the snow goes. Or are we to rich to recycle these treasures? There must be many stories out there of finds. Nowadays will it be phones , Gps and lease/ less axes ? Early recycling?

In summer now that’s another tale some routes you always find gear. A great place was Arran South Ridge Direct was always a day where you could find gear. Glencoe’s Crypt route has so much gear dropped you can see it below but you would have to be a caver to get it. Skye was always a good place to find gear as well, I always find gear here. I will leave you to think of the many other mountain crags that have lots of finds. Is there such a thing as Archaeological finds in climbing gear.

Comments as always welcome.

Comments Booty

Adrian Trendall – Great read, Heavy. Spent many happy hours looking for lost gear. Best find by far was we retreated off the classic N Face route on Grande Jorasses in a storm. Took a moe direct ab line after seeing anchor off route with backpack hanging on it. After that every 50m a bombproof 3 anchor ab point and being cheap skates think we took two of the anchors out at each ab. Half way down found an A5 double portaledge in a haul bag then increasing amounts of gear including a brand new rope still sealed in plastic bag inside a stuff sac. Complete rack of cams, pegs, nuts etc. Got a great photo somewhere of me on glacier below with all this booty. Turned out a few years earlier Jeff Lowe and Catherine Destiville tried a super direct winter line and bailed off leaving stuff everywhere. Ironic really since at time Jeff had a big thing about cleaning up mountains. The portaledge bag had Jeffs name and a PO box address in Boulder. This was pre internet days and I wrote to him but never heard anything back. Sold most of the stuff on campsite in Cham and funded an extension to my trip.

John Easton

Lochnagar was pretty good for “found gear” along the bottom of the crags once the snow started melting.
My best find was in the northern Carries – two sets of pristine crampons. Me being a good boy(?) they spent the required time in the Aviemore police station before finding their way back on to the hills on my feet.
On the negative side, did anyone out there find my Curver axe? I lent it to a young lady who lost it when she slid off the Fiacaill into Sneachda.

Posted in Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Lockerbie – Thinking of all those who lost loved ones and those who were involved on that tragic day.

The Anniversary of Lockerbie A Hard Day as always . Today I will be Thinking of the families who lost loved ones and all those involved in Emergency Services. Also the people of Lockerbie who did so much for all those involved.

Words can never tell the story.

Normally I try to get away to the hills on this day, I like to be on my own and the wild places are a place I get peace. It’s the Anniversary of Lockerbie that happened on 21 December today in 1988. Most will know my story but it had and has a huge effect on me and many I love.

The Rememberance window at Lockerbie.

At the time I was 34 and been in RAF Mountain Rescue for 17 years. In that period I had seen most things that few would ever see in a lifetime. I was the Team leader at RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue team it was a job I had worked hard for and was so pleased when I became Team Leader. Most of the team were young folk many in their early 20’s this was already a superb group of people tried and tested in Scotland’s Mountains.

The Leuchars Team.

I felt I was ready for anything sadly there were the constant tragedies in the mountains but also horrific plane crashes. In the end there were also great rescues and we working with the local Mountain Rescue had saved many lives. Most people even in Mountain Rescue had never seen things on a scale that I had it seemed constant and we moved from area to area helping each team when asked.

Yet Lockerbie with its terrible death toll and trauma will be with me and many others for the rest of my life. It was a terrible period but we had 4 RAF MR Teams and the local teams , SARDA and many from the South involved in Mountain Rescue and SARDA. All were helping the Police, Ambulance and Fire Service the many helicopters and so many others. It was a huge effort by all the were so many involved and each has a story. Despite it being a tragedy out anything that had occurred in peace time the best of the Scottish spirit came out. The local folk despite losing their own helped us all so much they have a specail place in my heart.

The Cycle to Syracuse team

As a Team Leader of a RAF Mountain Rescue team I struggled with trying to look after my team and so many others I knew . This was a huge incident with so much tragedy never seen on a scale in the UK in peacetime. It took a huge toll on me and effected my life with my partner at the time and the kids. My family and friends had little clue about what had happened. This was common to most of us, the effects of such trauma was rarely spoken about then.

In America at Syracuse

Little was known or spoken about PTSD then folk did not talk but it took a huge toll on so many. You were noted as a weak person of you asked for help. There was little about it especially in the military where the attitude “was get over it “ This is what you are here for.

Yet as I told a very Senior officer in the RAF afterwards that I doubt he would ever see what or could understand what we had been through. That did not go down well at the time.I have written at length in my blog of some of what happened it’s hard reading.

Last year I was invited to Cycle to Syracuse a University in the USA that lost 35 students in that tragic night. I met so many relatives of the students on that trip on our 7 day cycle. They showered our small group of 5 cyclist with love and kindness on the journey. We spoke to so many and learned individual stories of those they lost.

It was an event that after 30 years made such an impact on me. I knew the cycle would hurt physically but I got a terrible bout of Bronchitis that ( a year later I am still trying to clear)

Meeting the relatives was the most moving things in my life .

I knew that this trip would have a huge effect on me emotionally /mentally. Meeting so many relatives was overwhelming and took a huge effect on me every day. Yet I will never forget the words that were spoken to us by so many who had lost so much.

They were all very interested in the huge effect it had on those who were involved in the Emergency Services. Many who still struggle today and who were young folk like many of those who died.If your one of them (every year I hear from someone different whose life was effected ) please get help.

For me it’s a difficult time and most folk who know me know this. I try to deal with it in my own way.Today I cannot get out on the hills I am helping a friend move home from Respite care so she can be with her family over Christmas.

Please if your loved ones were involved in Lockerbie give them some space but be there if needed.

I may get out next week all being well the wild places clear the mind for me.It’s a hard time for many especially those who were heavily involved.

Thinking of you all at this difficult time.

Thanks to the Cycle to Syracuse Team for all their help and to relatives of those who lost their lives you are in my thoughts.

The Team David Walpole Collin Dorrance Paul Rae and Brian Asher. Photo David Marchi photography

Over the years I have tried to write about the effect of Lockerbie on my blogs. This is not for highlighting my part but how so many worked and gave so much there are so many unsung folk during this period.

It’s easy to forget incidents but those involved will never forget. Yet there were so many wonderful people who helped us during that terrible period. The local ladies “The Angels of Lockerbie” who fed us 24 hours every day and were there with a cuddle when we all needed it. Then we had to leave and go back to our families for Christmas as if little had happened. I will never forget in the USA being told on our cycle we had brought their loved ones home. The journey was completed, there was no hatred just love and compassion from so many things I will never forget.

Thank you all

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Well being | 4 Comments

Tragedy on Ben Nevis – 19 Dec 1954 – 65 year ago.

On the 19 Dec 1954 over 65 years ago Eleven Royal Naval personnel from Royal Naval Air Station Fulmar (Lossiemouth) left to climb Ben Nevis  via Coire Leis. They had stayed overnight and left the CIC hut where they were staying below the great cliffs off Nevis, the party was made up of 8 men and three girls from the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

They left the hut finding the weather poor and ascended from Coire Leis at 0900 and reached the summit of Ben Nevis at 1300. They left the summit after a 15 minute break; the conditions were very hard snow (neve’ and poor visibility.) The summit plateau is a tricky place to navigate and in winter 1954 the path would be covered with snow. They had intended to retrace their steps back down to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

On the descent they had a navigation error about 200 yards from the summit. This error lead them  to the cliffs between North East Buttress and the Arete (Brenva Face) They were not together there was now a party of six ahead  and the leader he led them away from the cliffs the others tried to catch up. One of the party behind the leader started glissading, lost control, lost his axe and fell; another member ran after him kicking steps and he lost control and also fell followed by 3 others from the party. In total 5 vanished over the huge cliff and out of sight.

The Brenva Face

The Party Leader roped to edge and could see nothing, they then they descended to the Corrie Leis and found all 5 dead below the huge Brenva Face.  They had fallen over 1000 feet, what a tragedy and an awful sight.  They went for help and it would be a long walk there were no mobile phones in these days. They went to Fort William and raised the alarm with the local Police. The Police called RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and the team arrived. At first light 23 members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, 8 Local Police/ mountaineering Club and 20 naval personnel assisted in recovery.  It must have been a long recovery and it took 10 hours in very poor weather, drifting snow, gales to recover casualties.

This was a terrible tragedy and one that shocked the whole of the Mountaineering world. Few have nowadays ever heard of this disaster and the terrible consequences of this navigation error and the mistake to glissade on such steep ground.

From the RAF Kinloss Archives

The Tragedy of The Royal Naval Party 19th December 1954 on Ben Nevis

A party of 11 Naval Personnel from HMS Fulmar set out at 0800 from the Allt a Mhuilinn to climb Carn Mhor Dearg to Summit of Ben Nevis. The weather conditions were very poor, wind a strong wind and heavy snow. The party left the summit at 1315 to return by same route. Six members of the party kicked steps down the snow slope for 200 yards from the summit – they thought to be the slope leading to the Arete, which they had just ascended. This actually proved to be 30 yards to the North East and lead straight to the cliffs between NE Buttress and the Arête. One member of the group behind started Glissading and passed the first party, he lost control, lost his ice axe and disappeared over the edge, another party member followed running down the slope, kicking steps, he also lost control and disappeared over the edge, 3 other members followed also out of control, over the edge. One member of the survivors roped up to the edge but could not see anything.

The remainder of the party slit into 2, one went back via the tourist route to raise the alarm. The other descended the Carn MOR Dearg Arête, roped up and found their friends all together – dead. (Location of Casualties 41/171713) The Fort William Police requested the RAF Kinloss Team to assist in the accident and the team was alerted from a training Exercise at Glenmore Lodge at 1530 hours. Due to the weather conditions a large party set of at 0600 to recover the casualties.

Twenty three members of The Kinloss Team and RAF Team Leaders Course assisted by 8 Policemen from Fort William and 20 Royal Naval personnel from Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth  in the recovery of the casualties on the 20 th Dec 2005. The recovery was lead by one of the survivors of the Tragedy who took the team to the location of the casualties in very poor weather conditions, driving snow and high winds.   It took 8 hours to get the casualties down to the British Aluminium Company’s Railway which was used to transport the casualties to Fort William; an awful task

Footnote:

Comments made by the Kinloss Team Leader “Due to several accidents in this area Doctor Duff, of Fort William has under taken to erect a barrier and a danger notice at the site of the accident” The late John Hinde and the Kinloss team put up the Abseil Posts on Carn Mor Dearg in 1955? (Photo attached)

Putting up the old abseil posts

After this tragedy a line of marker poles were erected to show the line of descent to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. Abseil posts were put up by RAF Kinloss team and Hamish MacInnes on the descent into Coire Leis  and in Coire Leis a small shelter was put in. These were removed recently June 2012 they were in a poor state of repair and are no longer there!

There is a Cairn marking the descent now.

How many know of this sad tale?

Navigation is a key skill especially in winter. You wonder how this tragedy would be shown by today’s media?

The Carn Mor Dearg Arete.
Posted in Articles, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Chasing the early routes. Often ending in taking the gear for a walk.

Looking back at early winter!

I remember when I climbed a lot trying to get the first winter route in. We were pretty competitive at the time there were a few of us in the team Usually when the first snowfall came we were off for a look, does that ring a bell?
If we were unlucky we “took our kit for a walk” big bags then and lots of gear. We were out all over Scotland a different Base each weekend. Looking back the knowledge we gained by walking in the hills and Corries was extensive.
We did once in late October get a route done on Corrie Sputan Dearg in the Back of MacDui. After that we stayed in the Hutchison Hut meeting Andy Nisbet who had been putting up some new route. The weather was awful we were running on empty when we got into the bothy, Andy arrived far later snow covered, we new of him but after a brew we had a fun night. He was as interested in our adventure as his route. After that we spoke a lot met on the hills and in remote areas. He is sadly gone but would have been out this week on a new adventure.

Oui Oui – Wee Wee Newtonmore. 1978

In the team we would venture onto Braeraich for an early adventure long hard days on big routes. Huge walk outs but we were fit young and invincible. There was always Angels ridge if the weather was okay what a place to be in winter it was wild. Sometimes these were new guys first big winter forays, this was adventure. Then we discovered Lurchers Crag another place that few climbed on we had fun there.

Castle ridge Ben Nevis early season – always interesting early on !


These early winter days were big walk in and outs in the dark. The Ben was another favourite the ridges would all give you a hard time in late November and early December. You thought you new them but cover them in verglas or heavy snow it would be long days even the best would abseil off at times. The forecast were not as good and at times we got cocky as we climbed these cliffs a lot in summer familiarity could make you to bold. We always had the team back up and all would have to wait for you coming off the hill before they could go to the pub. But what back up to have,

Ice at Christmas – Stob Ban Mamores.


There were fewer folk about then and always Christmas Eve /Day when out with the tram would occasionally produce a route. We got involved in some epics usually big early snows would catch out the odd climbing party. There would the usual areas that would attract many. The Runnel In Coire ant Sneachda would usually catch a few early on. The descents were also to be very aware of and once after an ascent in Glencoe of Crowberry Gully not descending Coire Tullaich and coming off by Etive. We found that next day there had been a big avalanche. Fortune or knowledge?

Smoking the White Owl Christmas – a young Rusty Bale.


We eventually got more experienced and learned where we could climb and this was well before the internet. You got to read conditions and catch the routes.
I seemed to have a knack of finding the lower routes ice falls that would be in after a cold spell. Fain Falls near An Teallach was one as were some lower ice falls on An Teallach even a climb near Loch Broom. Hidden waterfalls in remote areas great fun and always an adventure.

An Teallach

Up near the Ben was “Smoking the White Owl” a route we climbed for many years when the big cliffs were out. Also on the Ben the ice falls below Castle Ridge gave great sport and a different start to the ridge. Upon the Mamores we would note routes and have great days nothing hard but such fun. Up North the Assynt hills would produce the odd gem now the Guide books entice you there. There are still so many climbs worth looking at. Skye has now opened up we climbed Cioch Gully one winter it was incredible as was Pinnacle ridge in full winter. All the summits were adventures but now when conditions are in its easy access with the Bridge and the internet.

Christmas Eve Garda Gully Ben Nevis

Nearer home Strathfarrar always gave us fun easy access up the track and some great climbing meeting the climbing nobility at times. These glens have some hidden gems. The back of Ben Wyvis always produced a route another local crag and further on the Fannichs big walk ins and out. We could get access from the estates up the tracks which helped. Torrididon was always a favourite with lots to do Coire Na Caim became a favourite and the Northern Pinnacles a winter adventure for some of our budding stars. Of course Fuar Tholl and the Achnashellach hills are full of climbs we managed a few here we would often meet another guru of climbing Martin Moran an inspiring gentleman another we have lost. He was another who would give advice freely about routes and conditions. We were not a threat. We often got call -outs after a long day out sometimes involving a big drive to the Ben or Glencoe how did we do it and then straight on the hill?

Heavy Handed Loch Broom.


Further South in my days with Leuchars we found a few fun routes.The keepers would give us advice Glen Clova was always fun with some great early winter days here.
There was so much to do. We spotted routes all over on our summer wandering on Ben Lui that gave differing ways to the mountain summit and of course the wee climb “Eas Annie” near the Gold mine at Connish was for a long time a hidden secret. Ben Ullaidh became another favourite with easy access and so much ice.

Eas Annie near the top Willie Mac!


There were so many places now so well documented. I read of the epic climbs that are now being climbed all over Scotland. Big climbs on most of the crags now getting routes of high standards of mixed climbing. Its great to read of the routes getting done and this wee country will always produce such climbs.

There is great Avalanche advice and knowledge about now. It all started with Cold climbs and so many great guide books and the latest book Chasing the Ephemral . This giving you ideas of when and where to climb. Its incredible.


I hardly climb now but get the odd route in and enjoy it. Its great to get away and do something new its never hard at my grade but to go and do a new climb with good pals is a great experience. So why not get out and explore get away from the crowds and go climb.

Up in the North West Dan Carroll photo – Dutch Holland

Enjoy every adventure read the avalanche and weather reports. Be safe and remember the climbs will always be there! Comments welcome.

Posted in Avalanche info, Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Thanks for all the kind thoughts – the things that are important in life.

Every year you get older and its amazing when you look back how lucky we are. Nowadays we have Food banks and lots of homeless folk we have always had poverty but its so open nowadays. I came from a large family of 5 kids and though my Dad was a minister it was very poorly paid in these days. We lived in a large house that was very hard to keep warm yet we had so much. Mum was always terrified as it was a “tied house” and she feared that we would be out if anything happend to Dad. The Church gave you little time after a loss of a minister in these days. As the youngest I was the “spoiled one” by my sisters so I am told and later the wild one ( I still am). Yet we were so well looked after and loved and it would have been great to look after my Mum and Dad better. We could have made things a lot better for them both but sadly it was not to be.

Seemingly this is me when I was about 1 at the tennis courts in Ayr – where did my blond hair go?

Today I will go and visit an old friend in a local Respite centre and maybe take them out for a meal. I am asked what do I want I have enough “Stuff” so I need very little I would rather folk spent time with those they love or those less fortunate than them .

My grand kids are lovely kids and I love it that they being told that they are so lucky and have been making up an Advent Calendar of things that folks need that goes to charity. They put something in every day for those less fortunate its a great idea and sad we have to do this in 2019.

Lochnagar

Thanks for all the kind words and thoughts the photos that make me laugh. Hopefully I will get out on the hills and I am going to Lexi and Ellie Skye Carol Service in Inverness this week. We will share a cake and have a laugh “stuff “means little looking after those you love is priceless.

“Stuff” a word for the things many think are important: cars, wealth etc yet Health and good friends are family are more important as is looking after them.

Comments welcome.

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

A short day on the Cromdales. The Moray Mountaineering Club Christmas Bus meet and Dinner. A song for these hills.

I first skied ( badly) on these hill in the 70’s on a day we could not get to the winter Corries in the Cairngorms due to the snow blocking the ski road. As we were staying in Grantown for 2 weeks on our Winter Course with the RAF Mountain Rescue. It was a long day of falls and bumps getting of in the dark. It was a great break from the climbing after “several days of fear” on the routes. These hills and this ridge in summer are when dry a magic walk and full of history of whisky smuggling illicit stills and now the Whisky Distilleries that are nearby.. There has been a big battle here described in the song by the Corries at the end of the blog.

I got to know this area pretty well yet now my memory is fairly vague. The Cromdales deserved a day out as I have not been on these hills for years. I always see them on my drive to the Cairngorms. They stand out and always look inviting yet few visit this area.

The Guidebooks state: The Cromdales are a lovely range of hills full of history. You can see the huge Cairns on the summits.

Lovely light early morning

Our plan was to take my van leave early and hopefully climb Carn a’ Ghille Charr the more northeasterly of the two Grahams in the Cromdale Hills. The Grahams are the mountains in Scotland between 2000 and 2500 feet high, with at least 150 metres of descent on all sides. I am still struggling with my cough so had the ability to get off the hill if not feeling great. Dianne who lives nearby wanted to do a hill as well so I had a companion.

The drive was interesting we decided not to go in the bus as it would not be taking in these hills. As the roads were icy and I took care. This road is classic and after Grantown was interesting but stunning. Most of the rest on the Bus meet were walking via local routes to Grantown. I just wanted to get up higher and see how I was going on the hill . I found out later that two of the lassies were of to grab a Munro at Glen Feshie. They had left at 0500. Hardy lassies.

Pretty icy early in morning take care. Driving is in winter all part of the journey.

Our hill it states “Though a simple rounded hill it has fewer visitors than its neighbour, and the old paths that lead up onto the ridge from the Cromdale side have become overgrown which means parts of the route involve harder going through deep heather”. Today it was very icy to start and the ground frozen. You had to take care as the paths at low level were covered in ice .

On the track. Lots of ice hidden under the track.

We parked in the small car park by the river Avon at Ballcorach NJ155265 and followed a very icy path up to a ruined house at Kinardochy. So sad to see these places fall into disrepair how many stories could they tell?

Kinardochy ruins sad !

From her a track snakes up the hill and keeps you out of the Heather. This is shooting country and much of the land is burnt later in the year. Once of the track nearing the ridge it becomes Pathless for much of the ascent, with sections of deep heather today with lots of snow. It was surprisingly hard going and bitter cold. There were lots of mountain Hares stunning in their white coats. It was magical to see them. They were scurrying about.

On the ridge

The ridge is usually soggy in places with an intermittent path. Not today and there are tracks from vechiles an ATV track all the way to the summits. Today they were snow covered and icy in places the wind got up we had a wee break at the top Carn Eachie there was limited shelter.

Ben Rinnes. My local Corbett.

I put my big gloves on and the cloud came in. Clouds scurried across the summits but the views of my local Ben Rinnes and Corriehabbie hill were looking great. I could see plumes of spin-drift on some of the higher tops. There is a huge wind farm nearby but the Cairngorms looking plastered looked superb.

The Tomintoul Distillery is in the Glen below and with the mighty river Avon this is another wonderful place.

The Cromdales.

It was grab a sandwich and a hot drink and head on the the highest top. Carn A’ Ghillie Chearr 710 metres “hill of the unlucky or awkward boy”. The weather changed and cleared up but we had another quick stop. It was so cold though I really felt it.

I wanted to visit the crash site of the Armstrong Whitley that crashed here in the war. Sadly two of the crew survived the crash one died in hospital but only one of the crew survived which was a miracle. I could not imagine being up here after a crash. I would love to hear the local stories of the recovery of the crew?

On 31st January 1943 this aircraft took off from Kinloss airfield at 10.35hrs to undertake a cross country training flight. At around 17.00hrs the aircraft flew into high ground close to the summit of Carn a’Ghillie Chearr; one of the larger peaks in the Hills of Cromdale. It is located on the lower top just to the East just South of the summit. I will visit it again as this was covered in snow.

After this we headed straight of down the hill, it was steep and hard going and were soon down at the path that followed the River Avon back to the van. The path was still icy. It was then a drive back to the Grant Hotel in Grantown and the Christmas meal. We had 50 sitting down for a grand meal. Thanks to all for making it possible.I was tired not feeling great but superb to be out on these wee hills. Old age does not come easy but its great to be out.

The Haugh’s O’ Cromdale The Corries – lots of memories of this and other great folk bands,

“As I come in by Auchindoun,
Just a wee bit frae the toun,
To the Hi’lands I was bound
To view the Haughs of Cromdale.
I met a man in tartan trews,
Spiered at him (asked) what was the news,
Quo’ he, “The Hi’land army rues
That e’er we come to Cromdale.”We were in bed, sir, every man,
When the English host upon us cam;
A bloody battle then began
Upon the Haughs of Cromdale.
The English horse they were so rude,
They bathed their hoofs in Hi’land blood,
But our brave clans, they boldly stood
Upon the Haughs of Cromdale.”But, alas! We could no longer stay,
And o’er the hills we come away,
Sore we do lament the day
That e”er we come to Cromdale.”
T
Hus the great Montrose did say:
Hi’land man show me the way
I will over the hills this day,
To view the Haughs of Cromdale.”They were at their dinner, every man,
When great Montrose upon them cam;
A second battle then began
Upon the Haughs of Cromdale.
The Grant, Mackenzie and M’Ky,
As Montrose they did espy,
Then they fought most valiantly
Upon the Haughs of Cromdale.The McDonalds they returned again,
The Camerons did our standard join,
McIntosh played a bloody game
Upon the Haughs of Cromdale.The Gordons boldly did advance,
The Frasers fought with sword and lance,
The Grahams they made the heads to dance,
Upon the Haughs of Cromdale.And the loyal Stewarts, wi’ Montrose,
So boldly set upon their foes,
Laid them low wi’ Hi’land blows
Laid them low on Cromdale.
Of twenty-thousand Cromwell’s men,
A thousand fled to Aberdeen,
The rest of them lie on the plain,
There on the Haughs of Cromdale.Of twenty-thousand Cromwell’s men,
A thousand fled to Aberdeen,
The rest of them lie on the plain,
There on the Haughs of Cromdale.”

The Battle of Cromdale was fought on the 1st of May, 1690. Cromdale was the final battle fought on the British mainland in support of the first Jacobite Rising. It was fought between a small force of Jacobite Highlanders under the command of Major-General Thomas Buchan and a Government army of dragoons and infantry under Sir Thomas Livingstone.

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Friends, Gear, History, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Plants, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

1972 February – Avalanche on Lancet Edge of Sgor Iutharn

From the classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland by Andrew Dempster.

“The narrow rocky ridge gains its star from the grand position it occupies in wild and remote country, rather than the quality of the actual scrambling. With a good snow covering in winter it takes on an Alpine feel”.

The iconic Lancet Edge.

This was the last weekend of the trial to be a member of the RAF Kinloss Team and I was to go out with George Bruce the Team leader and 2 other team members. George had planned a winter scramble or climb up a magnificent ridge called Lancet Edge near Culra bothy right in the heart of the Alder Estate. This trial had been 3 full weekends one at Kintail, the Cairngorms and now Beinn Alder the team George was already my hero, he was a small “Billy Connelly/ Bill Shankly” man with a great sense of kindness,humour and a strong leader. He was acknowledged throughout Mountain Rescue at that time as a great leader, who had a talent that he could speak to anyone. Most of the Estates knew him especially the Keepers and gillies all over Scotland. He had just been part of the Cairngorm Disaster where 5 young / lives and an instructor died. George and the RAF Kinloss team did their bit along with the other teams but little was known about their input. He over the years to come was a great influence to me and taught me so much.

Lancet Edge from Andrew Dempsters Classic Mountain Scrambles.

That weekend we had driven from Kinloss in the Moray-coast after work. The old A9 was plastered with snow there were no gates on the road then. I remember it was bitter cold about – 10 we travelled in back of the open 4 tonner in our sleeping bags. The drive up the Estate road was interesting it was after 9pm when we arrived in the freezing garages.

Note – there had been high winds, very low temperatures and heavy snow most of the previous day! We were staying at the Estate garages at Beinn Alder Lodge. We were very lucky to have a great relationship with the Estate and the keeper George Oswald a true gentleman of the hills. Next morning after a cold night I slept in all my clothes in my sleeping bag it was still bitter cold the Loch was frozen over everything was white.

To a young 18 year old I cannot explain what this looked like to me what an experience and to see Beinn Alder covered in snow and opposite our objective Lancet Edge.

There were stags and hinds everywhere, many following the wagon thinking that they may have been getting fed. They were having a hard winter. I thought to myself people would pay a fortune to be in this place especially in a hard winter and this was one?

We passed the “Garrons “ the Highland ponies that live out in the open only using the trees for shelter when the weather gets bad. These ponies are the Estate transport for bringing down the stags and Hinds from the hill after a cull. The views of the mountains is incredible, snow everywhere and blue sky, these are huge mountains with the magnificent Ben Alder dwarfing its lofty neighbour’s with its sprawling ridges and huge corries.

We stopped at the Culra bothy then an open shelter used by climbers and left the wagon there. It is a very basic building with a fire, stone floor, sleeping space and freezing cold. I had spent many a night in bothies like these in Galloway whilst training for the Duke of Edinburgh award but this was a different league. It’s now closed due to Asbestos (2019)

Culra Bothy

This bothy takes you right to our objective was Lancet Edge which was opposite Ben Alder this was a ridge on the huge 1028 metres Sgor Iurtharn, it looked so Alpine and impressive. It a thin fin an icy ridge running up to a snowy plateau to my inexperienced mountaineering mind I wondered how we would get up that ridge.

It was an incredible place to be a fin of a ridge plastered with snow in this remote area what a place to be. We had with us a very experienced climber who had worked at Glenmore Lodge as a civilian Instructor who was one of George’s friends Davy Sharp. Davy I found out on the walk up across the moor was just recovering from a serious avalanche accident in the Lake District the previous winter.

Many years later

George was on great form he was talking,teaching and laughing all the time and in the hour on the walk in we learned many new skills. I was shown again how to use my axe and crampons on some ice on a small buttress and how to ice axe brake properly on some steep snow, we then set of kicking steps up the long slope leading to ridge. As is the normal procedure we all took our place in front kicking in the snow was hard work.

2003 High on Lancet Edge

The snow became deeper in small drifts.

As we got higher, the snow became deeper and was lying in places in drifts on top of steep frozen grass and heather. The steps were breaking off and tumbling down the steep ground. Nowadays I know now that this is not a good combination. We traversed round some steep buttress and marvelled at the views which opened out as we got higher.

Over these small cliffs.

I heard a loud crack: Then we were off.

We tumbled down the mountain I remember hitting a buttress and then I was in a what looking back was a tumble dryer of snow, it got everywhere. Then it stopped there was silence. I came too, half buried in the snow about 600 feet below where we were. Lucky for us the weather was excellent I saw the blue skies and the sun but I felt awful. I felt so cold and was shocked. All around me was debris and my rucksack nearby.

I could not get out of the snow my legs were buried in hard packed snow.

I was very shaken and George was soon at my side he was completely in control and explained that we had been avalanched. The rest of the party were nearby Davy was part buried and very shaken. We tried to use the radio but there was no reception we were on our own. I do not know how long things took I just did what I was told. Davy was soon out of the snow but was not feeling great. We gathered our gear and headed off the hill very slowly. George in his usual sense of humour said that Avalanches was very rare in Scotland and a great honour to be avalanched in such experienced company!

We managed to get back to Culra Bothy and then to the wagon by now Dave could hardly walk and I am sure he was taken to hospital for a check-up. George reckoned that we had fallen over 600 feet some of it over a steep cliff, we were very lucky that no one was killed. I had used up one of my mountaineering lives!

Next day I was back on the hill my back was sore and I struggled round Beinn Alder and Beinn Bhoil. It was a hard day and as we crossed the plateau a Cornice broke away. None of the rest of the hill party went on the hill.

On Monday after the weekend I struggled at work I could hardly lift and ended up in Elgin Hospital-getting an X-ray. The doctor reckoned that I had swallowed some snow in the avalanche and he said this may cause problems in later years. I have since that day had a bad cough especially in the cold and wet that I am sure is due to my Avalanche. I was so lucky looking back. Old age does not make it easier.

Nowadays we have the Scottish Avalanche information Forecast. (SAIS) and great weather reports in 1972 there was little information. After a few years later I tried to find out about Avalanches and spoke to Blyth Wright and Eric Langmuir attending very early Avalanche Courses at Glenmore Lodge.

Yet when we arrived back and told George Oswald the head keeper about our epic. He said “ I could have told you with the weather, the wind,cold temperatures and heavy snow I would have advised you to keep away from that area”.

Area knowledge such an important skill.

WIND SLAB.

Since that incident all these years ago Avalanche Awareness and Rescue is far more advanced much has been learned. I have worked with several folk including the late Blyth Wright and recently the Mountain Guide Mark Diggins who now run it on various projects on Avalanche Awareness. It is amazing how things have moved on since my early days and how a few were against its formation.

Its all there now for future generations to be far more aware than we were. Please follow the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) with daily forecasts from 6 areas. Even better go on an Avalanche Awareness Course it will be money well spent.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Avalanche info, Books, Bothies, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Today the Avalanche forecast starts. Well worth a look.

We are so lucky to have a public funded Scottish Avalanche Information Service. It’s free to use and is a great asset. Every day from today the Avalanche recorders go out to six areas selected and produce their reports. These reports will give you a good idea of what is going on in these areas.

Most have a short blog with pictures that can add to the knowledge of where you plan to go.

To make things easier there is an App available.

About the App

As well as providing an intuitive set of guidelines to help the user with their decision making process, features such as: SAIS daily avalanche reports, mountain info blogs, notifications, and tools to help users to determine critical slope angles, the direction a slope faces in relation to published avalanche hazard and your location will be incorporated.

Things have moved on from the early days. I was sadly involved in most of the big Avalanches since the early 70’s till 2010. Some of the searches lasted months to locate the casualties and recover them. Hopefully we have moved on since then?

On a big search in Glencoe for a family of 3 that lasted weeks.


Home

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) is a good way to learn about winter travel in the mountains. It is also worthwhile to attend a course on Avalanche Awareness it’s money well spent.

It’s hard to believe that many folk were against the Service when it started.

Posted in Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

10 Dec 1942 – The incredible tale of a Survivor from a plane crash high on Geal Charn near Beinn Alder.

I have always loved the Beinn Alder area it means so much to me. It was a big testing ground for me in my life in the Mountains.

It’s remote has some superb mountains and I enjoyed some great days in this area. I survived a big Avalanche in 1972 on Lancet Edge with a party of 4 RAF Kinloss team members. As a young team member I was out with the Team Leader going up to Lancet Edge when the slope broke away and we were thrown down the slope. The full story is told in my blog. Yet one story of this area is of the Wellington Crash high on Geal Charn a wild featureless place in winter.

The Munro’s from the SMC phone app.
Some wreckage Photo Danny Daniels

The crew:

James William Heck Flying Officer RAAF Pilot Killed

Maurice Hutt Sergeant Bomb Aimer Killed

William Ernest Riley Sergeant Navigator Killed

Joseph Towers Sergeant Navigator Killed

James Hemmings Sergeant Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Killed

Philip Edward Underwood Gunner – injured.

The crew, from B Flight of No.20 OTU, were on a day navigation training flight from RAF Lossiemouth. The aircraft went off route in a storm and crashed 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.

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 help was received. This occurred in 1942 when most crashes were kept from the public as it would not have been good for morale.

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 any information would be gratefully accepted.   I had planned to go up on the 70 th Anniversary but was ill for two years. I tried to make a point of going up on the 77 th Anniversary in 2019 but there was so much snow. I will get there again God willing!  Sgt Underwoods story of his 7 kilometre survival walk to Corrour after a crash in a blizzard in that December night deserves to be told.

“The fatalities were recovered 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 wonder if the group of Indian soldiers who died in Scotland during World War Two have been honoured at a multi-faith remembrance service. The event, the first of its kind, was held at Kingussie in the Cairngorms, where most of the 13 men were laid to rest.The Muslim soldiers were a part of Force K6, a mule transport corps that served alongside the British Army. Nine of the 13 men died while they were in the Cairngorms for mountain training. They had been sent to the area after being evacuated from France at Dunkirk to prepare for a possible invasion of Norway.

I always wondered if these were the men involved in the recovery on Geal Charn?

Much wreckage was taken down to the path which is near the beleach but there is a lot still on the hill, higher up. I have come of in winter and found a lot over the years. I always make a point of telling this story when I am in the area as it is one of incredible courage to survive crash in winter in this wild place.

Wellington  info

OS 10-figure grid refs (GPS):


NN 48072 73585 Engine Core plus two loose cylinders
NN 48223 73680
Wing Section Large at 2945 feet

Impact Scar  NN 48207 73682

Engine Core plus two loose cylinders  NN 48078 73628

Wing Spar frame (inside of fuselage)  NN 48058 73623

Buried Engine Core (possibly) – see photo marked as driveshaft, very small NN48066 73599

Engine Cowl rings and Armour plate NN 48077 73590

Broken up fuel tank (in stream)  NN 47989 73582

Engine Nacelle, prop cover plate, UC parts NN 48045 731194

Fuel tank in stream NN 47806 73108  (2200 ft)

Notes well worth a read for more information

https://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/crash_sites/scotland/vickers-wellington-l7867-geal-charn/

Culra bothy.

Thanks to Danny Daniels, John Ritchie for the information/photo and Ray Sefton.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountaineering, People, Weather | 3 Comments

International Mountain Day. Thanks for the memories. Let’s look after these places.

Today is the International Mountain Day. I have loved mountains all my life. I have so many memories of mountains that mean so much. This is just a snap shot.

Early days in Arran with family.

I was lucky to be introduced to mountains at an early age. My Mum and Dad loved the hills and taught me to love them as well, thanks. Arran and Galloway were where it all started.


Mountains are not just about summits but the folk you go with
.
Angels ridge Cairngorms. Angels Peak.

I was also lucky to join the RAF Mountain Rescue Team and get out most weekends. Here I met so many folk who taught me so much about the mountains, the people and there history.

On my first Big Walk – North to
South after sleeping at Bridge of Orchy toilets.

Memories on An Teallach another huge favourite.
Places that mean so much . Shenavall

Some of the friendships last for years. You have a bond that nothing else gives you. It’s not just the mountains but the Bothies and learning about the history of those who live and work in them.

Teallach
My companion on so many adventures.

Looking back I am so lucky and have seen so much. At one time I was spending over 150 days on the hill every year for 30 over years.

Going out with family – I am so looking forward to taking Lexi and Ellie Skye into hills.

I was lucky to go to the big mountains all over the World but you cannot beat Scotland .

Everest from ABC Tibet.

So thanks to all for giving me so many memories of the Mountains.

Hopefully more mountains to come.

In a place I love

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary”

My favourite mountain.

Let’s look after these wild places so that future generations can enjoy what we have. Please give something back to these wild places. Never take our “Right to Roam for granted” This was hard won by so many.

Take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints. Teach others the same.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Staying Alive – Andy Kirkpatrick Podcast.

Many will have heard of Andy Kirkpatrick he is some man but in his latest podcast he takes no prisoners its called “Staying Alive” If there is a man who should know about this its Andy.

In the podcast its starts slowly but once he gets to the main theme he takes no prisoners. Sadly even recently another top climber died in an abseiling accident and they can happen, so its worth listening to what he says. Andy is an elite mountaineer yet much what he says is common sense. His tips on backing up every abseil are spot on. I do not climb much now but was a bit worried about how few use a safety prussick/device when abseiling. Simple checks not matter how good you are its well worth listening to. It will help you simply stay alive in the mountains.

5 days ago · 1 hr 7 min · (46.2 MB)

Climber, writer and monologist (Google it), Andy Kirkpatrick talks about his experiences on not dying in the mountains.

Website: https://andy-kirkpatrick.com
Instagram: http://instagram.com/psychovertical
Itunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/psychovertical/id1489432991

Music by Pogo (https://pogomix.bandcamp.com)

In winter when the weather gets rough or you have to get off, be careful take the time to check belays abseil points and your and your partners gear. Mistakes happen usually after a route when your tired and not thinking straight. If your the main man or women make sure someone checks you as well. No one is perfect.

Glencoe abseil – KMRT

I learned this on an early attempt on the Skye ridge on the Drums when I was 18 nearly abseiling off on my gear cord on the old Willians harness. I was lucky my mate Tom MacDonald spotted it and warned me. Simple checks, save lives.

Check what your abseiling off better to leave new tat than loose your life? What price on a life?

Andy in his piece states just think of the mess you leave behind for your family, friends and those you love if it all goes wrong. Few mention the effects on what can happen if it all goes wrong as we chase our selfish dreams. Be safe and take care and take your time to check and catch up on modern practises.

Be around to enjoy the hills.

Comments welcome.

Abseil things change!

Posted in Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Crazy Sorrow – The life and death of Alan Mullin a book that is hard to read but you have to finish it.

This is the story of one of Scotland’s young mountaineers Alan Mullin his short life and his dad death. To me it tells a story of a horrific childhood the effects of sectarian bigotry, a hard life in the military and then a short life pushing climbing to its limits.

It was tragic reading but tells another side of life one that even now is hardly discussed.

The effects on his family and friends and how he struggled with his demons. He was a controversial character in the small world of mountaineering loved by a few and also in liked but always controversial.

This book must have been so difficult to edit by Grant Farquar to me it was a look into a tormented soul.

The troubled mind is to most of us so difficult to understand. Expert help is hard to get and resources are scant.

Yet every year we lose a lot of folk including a few top mountaineers to suicide. Few talk about their problems maybe this book will help in some way?

Just to get folk to discuss mental illness is a big step forward. The “Black dog” can hit many of us at all ages. We must try to look after each other better?

Its good to get help and unlike Alan maybe many lessons have been learned for future generations? I hope so as it a subject that we need to discuss and understand better?

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Articles, Book, Family, Friends, Health, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Books – that mean a lot to me a few more ideas for Christmas?

Books have always meant a lot to me and my early climbing days these books especially were specail. In these days that was what I wanted for all my Birthdays and Christmas presents from a very young age. 

I was always interested in Mountaineering and my Dad gave me his copy of Mountaineering in Scotland by W.H.Murray and Undiscovered Scotland what superb books as I was always reading it.

It was a first copy, signed and lent out over the years now lost but I got another copy but that first one took me into another world. My books which I tend to use a lot I highlight and underline that is too many is not the way to treat books? Yet to me they are like old pals to sit and read again and again.

I remember seeing that classic cover photo of a climber on the snow arête on Ben Lui. In these days it was so impressive and when I climbed it in winter via the Central Gully on Ben Lui it meant a lot. Nowadays it may be dated by the flowery writing according to “experts “but in my teens and still to this day it’s a magical book. I remember doing the early climbs like Clachaig Gully when I started climbing this book was so important to me. There were also winter climbing / walking adventures and I loved them all. These faraway places became mountains I wanted to visit and see. It gave  you an insight into these early days of Mountaineering.

To me still this is a classic and for all those interested in Mountaineering it’s a grand read.

My Dad also bought me Hamish MacInnes wonderful book “Callout”. I remember getting it again the classic cover with Hamish looking lean with his bonnet and rope on is another classic. The book was a shock when I read it. It showed the life and death that is part of Mountain Rescue with some incredible photos of Callouts in Glencoe. It’s still a sombre read but I read it from cover to cover. It’s been a favourite of mine. Again get hold of it is still a classic. It was recently re – released on Kindle.

Space below my feet. Gwen Moffat./Two Star Red Gwen Moffat.

When I joined RAF Mountain Rescue we had a huge library many of the team members bought a book before they left. Our Classic was “Two Star Red “a story of the early days of the RAF Mountain Rescue.

Yet it was “Space below my feet “that made a huge impression on me. It tells the tale of how Gwen Moffat as a single Mum in the 50’s climbed and made a living in the mountains. Life was not easy for her but what a tale she tells. I have given that book to so many girls who took up

Mountaineering and most enjoyed it. It’s a special book, years ahead of its time and again the classic photo of Gwen climbing barefoot is stunning. 

Hamish Brown’s “Mountain Walk” and Climbing the Corbett’s.

At first I never really appreciated this book but every time I climb a hill I read again about them in Hamish’s books. Hamish was the first person to climb all the Munro’s in a single trip. Not only are there the mountains but snippets on the history of the hills, the land and the local folk. I have highlighted so many paragraphs over the years and tried to pass on these wonderful tales. This is another classic.

Tom Patey – One Man’s Mountains.

What can I say about this book? It was put together after Tom’s death a series of Essays and songs by this Classic pioneer and Mountaineer. As I got into this book and was so lucky to climb some of his routes it again became a huge favourite. The black and white photos with so many epics are inspirational. The original book cover with the simple gear of the day and the rope round the chest in winter is of another era. Yet to me what a time to be a climber and part of these great days.

Martin Moran – The Munro’s in winter the first complete traverse of Scotland’s Winter Munro’s and Martin Moran “Scotland’s Winter Mountains” This is another classic that Martin Moran published in 1988. It is so full of information of safe travel in the mountains in winter. It’s to me so easy to read and written by an expert every time I read it I learn something else. Martin is a favourite author of mine sadly lost in an Avalanche in India this year. He left a huge legacy in his routes and his writing.

Martin Moran in his last book “Higher Ground “ is an insight into a Mountain Guides life. This is another brilliant book taking you into the life of a Mountain Guide. Martin writes with such passion. We miss him dearly. 

I also read and bought most of Chris Bonnington’s Himalayan Expeditions. These were a huge change with magnificent photos of the “Rock Star climbers” of the day. These were the last of the huge expeditions that were the norm in these days.

Then came the incredible Book by Peter Boardman – “The Shinning Mountain” it was followed by another great book by Joe Tasker – “ Savage Arena” these were out together in a wonderful Omnibus and what a change from the big Expeditions that were the norm. These were small expeditions with limited support that climbed Alpine Style on some of the Worlds hardest peaks. They showed what was possible and the way forward for small expeditions to the Himalayas. We visited the Himalayas not long after these books were published on an Alpine Ascent of Kusum Kanguru meaning “ three snow peaks”.

Kusum Kanguru has the reputation for beings the most difficult without doubt increased by the level “trekking peak” The climbing is technically difficult, needing a high degree of commitment and experience. Where as many Nepal’s peaks are ideal for well- led groups with limited experience, this mountain is not. On our trip we learned so much we were certainly not anywhere in the class of Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker.

There are so many these are just a few that I love :

A modern classic is Sandy Allan’s In some Lost Place the first ascent of Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge. What a story that takes you to another world of extreme Mountaineering by a local hero.

Classic Rock/Hard Rock/ Cold Climbs – Ken Wilson when these came out they were a superb insight into varied climbing all over the Uk.

The Munros/Corbetts – SMC always classic books and the profit goes towards the Scottish Mountain Trust to help with footpaths etc.

Always a Little Further” by Alistair Borthwick, a time capsule of Scottish Mountaineering.

Ben Nevis – K. Crocket/ S.Richardson. A real insight into the story of this great mountain.

No Tigers in the Hindu Kush. – P Tranter. Another hero of mine and an early trip to the Himalayas.

Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. A book of great joy about the mountains one I only read recently.

Chasing the Ephemeral – Simon Richardson how to get the most out of a Scottish winter.

Posted in Books, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Some ideas for stocking fillers for lovers of the outdoors.

As always a few ideas for the Christmas stocking fillers.

Bivy Bag

A Bothy bag / a great bit of kit its magic of you ever need it in an emergency or to get out of the weather. They all are lightweight and a place to get out of the weather even out for a walk. Kids love them and they can become a Den and a fun place to be! In an emergency in winter they can save a life. I carry one even on short walks! Well worth thinking about it may even save your life. Get a bright one.

A decent head-torch can be great stocking filler so useful in winter when the days are short. I carry two one as a spare – there are so many to choose from nowadays and always spare batteries . A must carry it’s dark in December in Scotland in early winter at 1530 and light after 0800 not much time of out in the wilds.

Good gloves are essential if your hands are cold then you can do little. Navigation and even putting on your torch becomes hard work. I carry at least two pairs more when climbing in winter they are essential. Thin working gloves and other pair that fit over that are windproof etc. Again so many choices.

Headwear is important hats balaclava and a buff a great piece of kit. Fairly cheap the Buff and they are made by and sold for so many good causes like Mountain Rescue Teams. They have so many uses and make an ideal stocking filler. I love them.

If you love the outdoors the winter is the time to appreciate it. I would advise a course on navigation and winter skills. Learn safely how to read the weather and the winter experience. There are so many Outdoor organisations who can teach you basic skills and advanced skills. How many outdoor winter lovers have done an Avalanche skills course this is another must do to keep you safe no matter how experienced we think we are.

Joining Mountaineering Scotland or the BMC is worthwhile as there is so much information and courses available to you. They also help fight for Access the environment to the wild places and represent us at many levels. This is so needed today in the environment issues that are occurring.

I also love to support the Mountain Bothies Association the MBA. What a bunch of volunteers that look after the remote mountain shelters in the UK.Mountain Bothies Association – Life membership is available, please contact our membership office for details. An online voucher for Life membership can also be purchased from their website.

The Bothies give something back.

The purpose of membership is to support the maintenance work of the MBA- your subscription enables us to buy the materials to repair the bothies and to run the association. Members receive a copy of the Members Handbook, a quarterly Newsletter, which contains MBA News, bothy related stories and notification of planned work parties and projects, and the Annual Report and Review. Some members help keep our bothies in good condition by joining work parties and others help in administrative roles. However, all members support the open bothy concept through their subscriptions and donations. All are valued whatever their contribution, but we do hope that you will be able to give us some of your time. How many have had a break in a bothy why not support them.

John Muir Trust. – Become a member

Wild places are special and need protecting. In becoming a member you join more than 11,000 like-minded people. You’ll be part of an organisation with a UK wide reach that is educating people about nature, taking care of wild land and influencing decision makers. In return you’ll receive regular, high quality information and get access to a number of member only experiences and benefits.

Order a gift membership between October and December and your loved one will receive a special festive welcome pack. Simply use promo code FESTIVE when prompted and as a thank you for giving this special gift you’ll save 10% on each Individual or Joint/Family membership bought.

Buy online here or call 01796 470 080. T&Cs apply. We’ll do our best to send all orders in time for Christmas but to be sure it arrives on time, please place your order before Friday 6 December. If you have any questions at all about a gift membership, or have a query about your order, please contact our friendly team at membership@johnmuirtrust.org

The Munro Society

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.

http://www.themunrosociety.com/about-the-munro-society

Of course the trusty whistle cheap and always worth carrying, I carry one on my bag all the time. Why not give a donation to your local Mountain Rescue Team?

These are just a few ideas any more?

Posted in Bothies, Charity, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Well being | 7 Comments

A great show at Culloden Academy Inverness. Christmas is a time for the kids to enjoy.

I drove to Inverness at the weekend Ben Wyvis was looking great but I was not going on the hills. It was magic as I managed to get to watch my Grand kids at Culloden Academy Inverness take part in their Christmas Dance show. It was fantastic and both girls loved it and it was a full house of over 500 watching. Sadly many years ago I hardly saw their Mum and her sister who also loved these type of shows as I was always away on the mountains. It was for a great part my job at the time but you never get these years back. Looking back how much I missed, not just this but call -outs on birthdays, time you can never get back. So it was so good to see the hall full of parents family and friends all there to support the kids. The effort by all the performers and their teachers was excellent. The rehearsals were kept secret by the girls but it was some show and they all did so well. Thanks to all at Performers UK who made it all possible.

To see so many kids loving the dancing and singing makes you believe that this is what Christmas is about.The joy the smiles and the effort they all put in was superb. In my mind we are so lucky that people volunteer or give their time to teach the kids and how they loved it. We had a family meal after and it ended a great day. I was laughing all day at the concert and nearly crying at times. ( Becoming so sentimental in old age)

I can never get that time back with my step – kids when I missed so much being away so often. But I am so lucky to get some real time with those I love. As i drove back Christmas has started and its so good to see the excitement in their lives.

we at times live in a crazy world but things like this help give you faith.

Thanks Yvette, Dave and the girls it was magical.

Posted in Friends, Mountaineering, Music & Cinema, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Every photo tells a story. Always take them a savour them mark them up with dates people and hills.

It’s great when you go through old photos and they can mean so much. It was a lot harder in the 70 when film was expensive to develop and cameras were not so cheap. I in the end took two cameras and have built up some collection. There is still lots on slides that I need to buy/borrow a slide converter any ideas.

In the 70’s the RAF MRT Team leaders course involved a phase of a two week walk. This was after all the technical rope and stretcher part was done in Wales. I think it lasted two months then It also involved some caving and then a Big Walk with some huge days. I helped support them on their journey on their walk as they had support at times and managed to get on the hill. It was interesting to see so how fatigue effected all those folk being assessed. As a young lad it was hard to believe that one day I would do a several Walks across Scotland and in the mid 80’s a Team Leaders course much shortened to two week on my Course. The gear looks so primitive compared with the modern kit. Breeks, gaiters and Karrimor bags, Henry Lyodd jackets, Dachstein mitts!

Ben Lomond after the end of the Team Leaders Walk – I was supporting them date approximately mid 70’s Heavy, Bob, Pete McGowan, Tom Taylor, USAF D Albridge, Pete Weatherhill, Don Shanks. Don Aldridge was the guy from the 67 ARRS USAF, 18 days on the hill, 349 miles, 113,870 ft of ascent 70 Munroes
A few years on 1976 the Aonach Eag Glencoe after one of our parties spent the night out on the ridge.

The photo above is of Glencoe. This is early morning on the Aonach Eag when one of our parties were benighted, it was a stunning morning and Don Shanks and myself went up to drop a rope to them. They were cold but okay. Note the kit I am sure that was my first Gortex Jacket that I bought, some of the others are in ventile jackets that we modified with full zips. Hard wearing but heavy. That was a magical morning we were lucky with the weather and the boys had roped most of the way coming from the Clachaig side I think. We all learned from that but as we reached the ridge as the summit cleared it was incredible. We were carrying two ropes and hot flasks. Hamish was aware of what was going on and just laughed.

1973 Skye ridge Easter . Tom MacDonald, Dave Foy, Paddy Allen and me the 5 Beatle.

I think this was taken in the big Easter grant in Skye 10 days on the hills mostly in winter garb. A young boy in this photo with my mate Tom MacDonald.

This photo is 46 years ago in Skye of to the Skye ridge, note the gear. Woolen jumper homemade, breeks, Bobble hat and small issue hill bag with radio in the back. Paddy has a hawser laid rope on his bag and the McInness Massay ice axe a heavy beast. The wagon was a 4 tonner where we sat in the back on boxes. No health and Safety then.

The Tragzitz.

No Health and Safety again 1972 Longhaven sea cliffs – Stretcher lower techniques day Paddy with no helmet. Now its Crag Snatch and simple lowers a lot easier.

The old techniques were scary and practised a lot. Note the gear the Curly boots on Paddy the breeks and the classic hill jumper. The wire would nearly decapitate you coming off the harness. Keep taking these photos they will make you smile in later years.

Comments welcome.

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

Thinking of my Mum – 40 years on.

This is always a hard week as every year at this time as the years go by its still the same today as it was when my Mum passed away.  This is the anniversary of my Mum’s passing she died in 1980 I still miss her every day, she was as all Mum’s are a special lady.  As you get older and wiser you appreciate her more and more. She raised 5 children washed cooked and looked after us, how she managed is incredible.  She was also the minister’s wife and worked so hard for the Church throughout her life which was never easy. These were the days when she was at the beck and call of not only her family but a needy church.  As the youngest of 5 children I was spoiled in every way, always in a scrape or trouble and being a Ministers son a bit of a rebel. Mum died of Leukaemia and right up to end told my sisters to keep it from us and even though I phoned her every week she still spoke as though all was well. I was at RAF Valley in North Wales in a relationship and with my job as full – time Deputy Mountain Rescue Team leader she thought I had enough on. It was only on her last few days I was told to get home as Mum was dying. It was a huge shock to me to see this lady so frail and yet not a moan though she was in great pain. It was a sad few days.     

My Mum was always there for me and we had a great bond through her love and care! She loved her family, their kids, the church, the mountains, football the tennis and dedicated her life to her family her grandchildren and as always the church. Money was really tight but we never wanted for love and she brought us all up almost single handed as Dad pursued his life as a minister. In these days he visited most of his congregation at night and we hardly saw him. During my wild years my Mum saw something in me as Mum’s do and as I grew up we got a lot closer! When I went and joined the RAF she loved that I was in Mountain Rescue though she worried about me daily as only Mum’s can do! We spoke every week on the phone as most of my leave was spent chasing mountains I was a rare visitor home!

All these years on I can never get these times back and like many regret my selfishness but that can be what happens when you work so far from home.  I wonder how many who read this sadly feel the same? At least you can do something about it.

https://heavywhalley.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/1936-my-mum-xxx.jpg
My Mum – sadly I never got her looks!

I rushed home on the train arriving in the early morning and walked with my dog from Kilmarnock to Ayr money was tight. I was shocked poor Mum was so frail and yet every week on the phone she never said a thing or complained and just listened to me and gave me advice. Poor Mum I later found out was in terrible pain for a long time but never moaned, she was incredible during these last few months. She told me to get my brother back from Bermuda and then she died shortly after he arrived home. We got some special time only two days together near the end and she was so upset she told me that she had little to leave us a monetary sense. Yet she had given us a lifetime of love and care and that is what matters. In this modern life I despair at times when I families ripped apart after a loved ones death over money and possessions. To me love, care and kindness is the greatest gift ever that parents can bestow on their kids.

The next few short days were awful and I think I was programmed to seeing so many tragedies in the mountains that it took me years to realise what had happened. Even at the funeral I was like a robot and had to rush back to work next day to North Wales. How I miss her and wish I could have done more for her and when in trouble or down she is still always still there for me!

Sadly it took me many years to grieve for her.

She was such a beautiful person in every aspect who loved us all yet had time to guide and be there for us. I shared so many secrets with her over my life and she was always there to listen when I needed! How she would have loved to see her grandchildren and their kids now. I would have loved her to have met all the great Grandchildren and Lexi and Ellie Skye and shared their lives! I also hope I got some of her good points I got the love flowers from my Mum so every few weeks I buy some or pick them and they always remind me of her. I have her deep love of the wild places and still feel her with me when out and about, sadly what would she have made of today’s world, I wonder?

She loved her tennis and would have been so proud of Andy Murray getting fit again and his brother in the tennis world and I believe she watches them in heaven and is praying for Andy to get well. I have had a few near misses in life in the mountains and I am sure she was there with me giving me that extra drive and push to get out of a situation. She told me how much she worried about this all-consuming aspect of my life.

Mum loved the Mountains and wild places.

Please give your Mum and Dad a hug or a visit or a call we all owe them so much they make us who we are. Mum I miss you as we all do thanks for being there for me. I am off to get some flowers for the house and for my friend Wendy, she reminds me so much of you every way.

Last year was incredible I wish I could have told her about my trip to America and the meeting of so many kind folk. So many reminded me of my mum one 81 year old who had lost her daughter 30 years ago in the Lockerbie Tragedy was so like my Mum. She radiated love and care and had no bad words to say despite what the world had thrown at her and her family, She spoke to us all and  gave us all a hug and I had a cry I am sure my Mum saw it and was happy for us.

Yet every year I miss her more and those I have lost including my two sister Jenifer and Eleanor who I lost this year. As you get older you think a lot more I suppose you have time it’s always worth looking after them every time you see them. Always make time for each other and learn and love form those we owe so much to.  

Last Sunday in the Church that Mum and Dad loved in Ayr there are two plaques on the wall dedicated to both my Mum and Dad. Flowers were placed this year in memory of them both and I was sent a photo it was a lovely thought.

Flowers in the Church in Ayr in memory of Mum and Dad.

Thanks Mum XXX

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

An Winter Ascent of Central Gully Direct on Lliwedd, A Memorable Day.

This is the last of a series of articles by a pal Andy Watkins who wrote them up after being confined to a wheelchair after a being knocked off his bicycle. This last article is about a winter cliff in North Wales on the mountain cliff LIwedd. Its a huge mountain cliff over 1000 feet sweeping to the lake. It was a place for the early climbers preparing for the Alps. Its a huge cliff and though I never climbed here in winter myself but had a few wild days on the Classic Rock routes. We even did a Rescue here when another climber fell nearby its a serious place. In winter which in Wales can be fickle this is a wild face with some classic climbs. This is Andy’s account of the Classic Central Gully Direct. As usual its an understated account of a winter climb on a classic Welsh cliff.

An Winter Ascent of Central Gully Direct on Lliwedd, A Memorable Day.

The cliff. from Cold Climbs.

It must have been February 1987 when we drove, Gary Lewis and I, S. Wales to N. Wales in my 2cv. The forecast was good but there was no snow at the edge of the road.

I planned to do Central Gully Direct but there was no snow at Pen-Y-Pass, in the morning, so I thought my luck had deserted me. There was snow below Lliwedd though and things looked more promising. When we got to below the Direct there was a thin covering of ice and I decided to try it. The problem was that the ice was too soft to enable a secure placement. I led and got a poor runner at 50 ft. I advanced another 60 ft until I came to a steep slab beneath an overhang.

Here, the snow was even softer but I managed to get one placement with my trusty Simond Chacal, which I managed to mantelshelf onto. This put me below the overhang. I had just surmounted this when the rope came tight. The belay was 10 ft above me. There I was 100ft above a poor runner and I’d run out of rope.

What could I do but shouted down “Climb when you’re ready”.After a short interlude, Gary started climbing and I got to the, loose, spike for a welcome belay. Luckily neither of us fell off!

The gradient of the gully eased after this and we soloed to the top. Gary was effusive in his praise and said “that had been a lead that Mick Fowler would have been proud of “.

We returned to the SWMC hut in Deniolen and I basked in adulation.The next day Gary dragged me up Vector and some other E2s at Tremadoc, I forget which ones, but I will always remember that climb.

Note: Thanks Andy for these articles they were superb and many of your pals have read and enjoyed them I have put these together for you.

Peter White ( Chalky) Most of us have had epics on at least one of those ridges! A very understated account of an incredible achievement but that is Andy… absolute legend.

Bill Batson – I climbed with Andy on several occasions, both on rock and ice. Always an adventure of life on the edge. Stunning days in fabulous company.

Dougie Borthwick – That makes Tom & myself look very sedate…5hrs to do the same route.. in summer 😅. Nice memory of partying all night, doing the 4 ridges then drinking the Alt a Mhuillin dry 😂. Wonderful read 👍👍

Eric Joyce – A legend

Posted in Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Dicing with Death Feb 1990 – A winter Ascent of the Central Buttress of Beinn Eighe

This is the second of a series of 5 articles written by my pal Andy Watkins. Andy was sadly knocked of his bike many years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair. I knew Andy well he was a member of the RAF Mountain Rescue when I was in Valley North Wales and we met and climbed a lot. He moved up North at RAF Lossiemouth and was oneof a group who were pushing military climbing in the 80,s and 90’s. He travelled light on the hill never felt the cold and was always introducing many others youngsters into this crazy climbing game. His gear was basic. This is an article about a wonderful climb on that Torridon Giant Beinn Eighe. “Dicing With Death”

Intro Heavy Whalley – The Triple Buttresses of Beinn Eighe, located in the stunning Coire Mhic Fherchair and is one of the most impressive cliffs in Scotland. The sandstone buttresses are capped by large quartzite cliffs. There is an array of classic summer rock and steep mixed climbs as well as some long mountaineering journeys. Central Buttress (Winter) VI 7. I have climbed a few routes on Beinn Eighe in winter the classic Eastern Buttress stands out but after a long day on Central Buttress in summer it was well out of my ability. The Central Buttress was a classic of the day climbed by a formidable team of Alan Rouse and Alec MacIntyre in Feb 1978. These were folk we met a fair amount as the climbing world was a lot smaller then.

This is Andy’s Story.

The phone rang on the Thursday night. Nick Clements, my partner on this escapade, was free for the weekend. I finished at 12 o’clock, lunchtime, but Nick had to work until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was February 1990 and we arranged to go to Beinn Eighe to do the Central Buttress of Coire Mhic Fheachair.

Beinn Eighe Central Buttress – from the classic Cold Climbs.

It was featured in cold climbs but would it be in condition? We decided to go anyway, I’d never been in to Coire Mhic  Fheachair and the walk would do us good.

After driving across to Torridon, from Morayshire, on the Friday night, we had a drink in the Loch Maree hotel, before driving a short distance down the road and turning in for the night. There was no snow by the side of the road, and our prospects looked bleak. At the time, I was driving a Lada Niva, a hopelessly unreliable beast, which insisted on overheating given half a chance. It had the advantage however of the seats folding flat so that you could use them as a bed.

We woke the next morning to find a warm wind blowing. But this is Torridon, and you walk in from sea level. It might still be frozen higher up. We decided to look, and decide when we got there. We started walking. Initially there was no snow and it was not until just below the first tier, that we encountered any, and that was melting fast. Having walked in we were loath, not to try it. Accordingly, we set out on the first pitch.

The Triple Buttress of Bheinn Eighe can be divided into two tiers. The top were covered in ice but the lower tier was bare. We roped up and started climbing. Initially the rock was bare and we climbed in boots, only putting on crampons on the second tier.  

On the first tier, I was lay backing a crack, when the whole boulder came away and, bouncing over me, fell to the screes below. Nick was sure that I had fallen, but I managed to step back onto the ledge below. It was the size of a small car and it would have crushed me if it had hit me.

At the second tier, we had to put on crampons and, as we’d hoped, ice abounded. Nick led off in the gathering gloom. The second tier is made of quartz, the water flowing out over the non-permeable rock to form a series of iced grooves.

We climbed on, dispatching this section in two long pitches. It became fully dark, and we had to put on head torches. The last tier is provided the crux. Nick led this bit and I led the last pitch to the, perfectly flat, summit.

Here there was a moon, among scudding clouds, and we didn’t need our head torches.We headed down to the Loch Maree hotel and had a well-earned drink. It was before the days of 24 hour pubs, and I seem to remember having a lock in, drinking with the guests and talking to a man, still buzzing from doing the route. He just couldn’t understand what made us do it.

Only twenty hours before, when I had pulled off the big boulder, I had asked myself the same question. Was it in full winter condition?

Decide for yourself. It was harder if anything. All I know is I’d come very close to being crushed.

Thanks Andy another great tale.

Notes My pal Ron Walker wrote this after he an incident in the Cairngorms. Tip, Tap Test.

” Unfortunately loose rock and rubble is normal on mountain routes and is to be expected even on the most solid and well travelled line, treat every handhold and foothold as if it were loose because many are or will be in the future – so take care. Tip, Tap and Test with your hands and feet as you climb, remember the three T’s!”

This Classic book was a wonderful addition to climbing at the time first published in 1983 and became a bible for many. The essays on each route are wonderful, well worth getting hold of. Great days.

Posted in mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Winter Adventures – A day at the races on Ben Nevis Castle Ridge, Observatory Ridge, North East Buttress and Tower Ridge.

Winter Adventures

Andy Watkins – photo A. Watkins Collection.

This is a from a good pal who I climbed with many years ago. It is his birthday this week I was supposed to go down South to celebrate his birthday. Due to other family commitments I could not make it. My pal Andy Watkins sent a series of articles that he wrote.

This is the first in a series :

Andy Watkins on the Sword At Carn Eacheacan – photo Nick Clements

A Group Of Five Short Articles About Winter Climbing

Do you have climbing memories? I do. I can remember some climbs, the most hairy, the sketchiest, the best, classic conditions, or the worst, very vividly sometimes.

At other times, I struggle to piece together the details. But my climbing memories are important to me, and so there are times I rehearse particular memories, actively trying to remember what it was I did on a certain day.

There are “old climbers, and there are bold ones”, the saying goes, but few who are both, and so all climbers who don’t die get old and have memories. There are lots of climbers. That’s a lot of climbing memories. What happens to all those memories if we don’t actively remember them? Do they just get erased, like the old messages on our answer messages?

If I write down my best climbing memories, will I remember them better? Will you help me remember them? Here are five of my best:

“A Day At The Races”{setting the record straight)

My first story starts, as do all good stories, with a failure. At the end of March, it must have been 1992 or 1993, Nick Clement, Phil Caesley and myself failed in our first attempt to climb the four ridges of Ben Nevis in a day, managing only Castle Ridge, in foul weather, before admitting defeat and skulking off down the Tourist track. There was a big avalanche in Castle gully, which I remember as a cautionary signal for the day.

In good weather, Phil and myself returned to Ben Nevis the following weekend. We intended to climb all four ridges un-roped to save time. We had in our bags a spare jumper, a Gore-tex suit and some Twixs chocolate and Phil had a “gopping” Cream egg which was a real struggle to get down with a dry mouth. It was the first time I had taken a litre of water on the hill. On previous visits to hills I had carried a much smaller water bottle.

Phil admits the dehydration training seemed to work though.

We carried a single 9mm rope but, in the event, did not use it. I had done all the ridges before but Phil had only done Tower Ridge, Castle Ridge and North East Buttress leaving Observatory Ridge for this event.

We were both experienced winter climbers but Phil had only done a dozen routes. This included a solo of Point 5 gully so he was not a novice!

We started on Castle Ridge, which we despatched in double quick time, descending via the abseil posts, which we did every time due to the avalanche risk.

We then ascended Observatory Ridge with the Zero Gully finish, for speed reasons, as cramponing on steep neve’ is fast. Phil commented on the sustained nature of the route, what he actually said was very rude saying the route was ——- hard but this is a family magazine and the actual words are unprintable.  

Then we turned our attentions to NE Buttress, which we despatched in a very quick time. The only pitch that I remember is the 40ft corner pitch at the top of NE Buttress, and I’ve got a picture of Phil on the traverse in, the rest is a blur.

We descended via the Abseil posts for the last time to the foot of Tower Ridge for our “piece de resistance”. The average time is 5 hours. The first ascent, by Norman Collie, took 5 hours in 1894, a good time today.  It was our last route and we did it in 56 minutes, not our best time, we had done it in 53 minutes after doing Hadrian’s Wall, but we were to tired this day, hence the longer time.

We topped out to meet two climbers who’d just done Tower Ridge and said they’d just seen two climbers on Observatory Ridge and were suitably amazed when we told them it was us. The looks on their faces when we told them we’d done 4 ridges in a day had to be seen to be believed. They shared a can of Guinness with us to celebrate our achievement.

We descended the Tourist Track just as it was getting dark and drove to Onich, where the RAF Mountain Rescue team, from RAF Kinloss, were staying and I drank beer out of tins long into the night, while Phil slept like the dead.

“Heavy” Whalley, the Team Leader, said that he thought it was the first time that it had been done and I should write an article about it.

(D Whalley – Many of my team including me were on the Ben and had seen Andy and Phil and offered them a bed for the night if they made it or possibly a “stretcher” ride home. I was very worried about them all day. Yet when they arrived it was one of these nights. It was inspirational to all of us and sowed seeds in many of the younger troops what was possible)

It must be emphasised that conditions were perfect, we just followed in the footsteps of those that had gone before and we didn’t jump the Tower Gap, climbing down into it instead, but it was still a good day, especially as we descended via the Abseil Posts and not number 4 gully.

We only took 13 hours, from car to car, more time spent in ascent of the mountain, descent and walking across the top than in ascent. I hope this sets the record straight.!

I had met Andy many years before in South Wales he was an incredibly driven climber. Climbing with little gear much of it needing repaired. I once met him and gave him a pair of crampons as his had no front points left. He climbed in Ron Hills and a woolly jumper soloed a lot and was always pushing the boundaries climbing solo at a bold pace.

Sadly Andy was knocked of his bike and is now confined to a wheelchair. It was a tragic event I visited Andy when I was down South at Innsworth and Andy was in a Care Home. I visited most weeks and it’s incredible to see what Andy has achieved.

This is what he wrote “I don’t climb any more because I was knocked off my bicycle in the year 2000, and I can no longer walk. I’m in a wheelchair. All I’ve got are these memories now.

But I can remember, and that at least is something.”

Thank you Andy for sharing this adventure and you were a huge inspiration to that group of climbers in my team and the military mountaineering clubs. If anything had happened during these days I would probably been involved in the investigation about what happened. It was always in my mind and worse if it was a pal . I had known Andy since the 70’s when we met at St Athans in South Wales. He one if a group that pushed the RAF Teams climbing to a new level. Getting that boldness, ability and drive within the Military environment is not easy to achieve. When you become a leader it is even more apparent. Yet this is what our sport is all about. No matter what level you achieve.

I will get down to see you Andy.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Bothies, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Health, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Night time walks, rescues and climbs in the summer and winter.

Night time climbs and walks. A few memories.

It’s so popular now to go out at night on the mountains camp or bivy and catch the early sunrise on the summits . Over the years all over the world I have been so privileged to be there. I have slept out under the stars in the hills and the deserts during my time in Mountain and Desert rescue and among some of the worlds great peaks.

Oman Desert Rescue sleeping under the stars. Every night whilst out on Exercise.

Some were coming of the hill on an all night Rescue after a full days work exhausted but to see the sunrise was always so uplifting. Even after a long night no matter how tired you were it raised your spirits. It’s was to me a primeval feeling.

In our early days we would rock climb at night the “Classic Savage Slit” after work in late summer in the Cairngorms was a team favourite. We would look at the weather and with a few pals climb at night drive home and go straight into work in the morning. We would be buzzing all day but you were young and fit then. In the RAF team part of the training was a night navigation and bivy. The Cairngorms would be ideal for this as after a long day we would announce an overnight bivy with just what we had. The plateau Loch Avon and Corrie Sputan Dearg we’re favourites.

A team bivy near Hells Lum then a scramble up Afterthought Arete,

Then the night climbing moved on into winter climbing when the cliffs were a lot quieter and climbs like the “Mirror Direct” done again after work. Once involving a Rescue after one of our troops fell and broke his leg. That involved a big carry off helped by the “A team “at Glenmore lodge and lots of explaining to do to our bosses. Yet this was great training for Rescues and mountaineering.

Then we had night traverses of the Aonach Eag in Glencoe as in the way wonderful W.H.Murray book. This would involve the West to East of the ridge then turn back straight round and do it East – West. I was always telling Hamish what we were up to and the local police.

In Wales there was always the classic Lockwoods chimney done late at night an annual event for the RAF Valley MRT. The 14 peaks would start with a night ascent of Crib Goch then on to a long day on the hills. It was all great training.

We alway every year had big night Exercises in Wales on the Idwal Slabs . These would involve big lowers at night. Unseen boulders crashing down the smell of Cordite filling the air. No fear just another part of the training. It is so easy to make a mistake at night and everything has to be doubled checked. Safety was paramount.

Then it was on to the epics in Skye, a lower off the In Pin on a wet night with Gerry Ackroyd of the Skye team on minimal gear. A stretcher at night down the loose slabs with a casualty was never easy. Often there would be rocks falling and then climbing down after the stretcher was at the next belay. All this was done on a single 500 foot rope and a with a badly injured casualty. Yet we all got down safely the “big man” must have been watching us! We had a few on Skye like that I was pleased it was dark and I could not see where I was.

The Ben was another great place in the 70’s the Lochaber heroes would be lowered down the big winter faces on Rescues. Communications were poor as usually was the weather lots of basic lowers and simple gear in these days. In early summer we would climb the gullies before the sun hit the remaining snow and it was always good training for the “Greater Ranges” The Classic Four ridges meant that me being a slow climber doing at least one of the ridges in the dark. Interesting times.

In the Alps then the Himalayas it was always early starts to get the summit in before the sun hit and melted the snow. Lessons hard won and learned.

Bivy at 20000 feet on Diran Pakistan – Photo Dan Carroll

So many now go out now to see a sunrise many introduced by the Munro Moonwalker and his superb books and photos. You have to be careful at night it’s a different game.Yet is there anything better than arriving at a summit in the dark awaiting the dawn?

A very cold bivy in the Himalays.

Another pal in Skye Adrian Trednall is always up in the Cuillin awaiting that classic photo and his photos are inspiring as is his enthusiasm. His Facebook page all things Cuillin is full of wonderful photos that were hard won by early starts.

My best but hardest memory was in 1982 on Skye on that classic wee mountain Stron na Stri. We had an epic night in the snow when an F111 USA aircraft crashed near the summit killing both crew. We located it after a long search late at night. Our gear was a lot simpler then plastic bivy bags etc. We were soaked frozen and had to stay till late morning. That was our job as the crash site was to classified and dangerous to leave. It became a survival exercise for the 5 of us. We bivied down in the wet snow we were soon soaked. It was my longest night I watched the weather clear at about 0730 and the views of the Skye ridge plastered in snow were incredible.

Early Morning drop off.

You felt the sun slowly warm you and rise on a cold morning in an early December day. You were still alive and the next few hours awaiting the rest of the team were spiritualWe were all alive and had survived in my mind as all these night time adventures had given us a great deal of experience that kept us going through that long night.

Later on when the Sea kings had Night Vision capability we would get early drop offs by helicopter as the sun rose. Was it cheating to be dropped of on the Devils Ridge on the Mamores as the sun rose on a big search. Not on a call out !

Looking back how lucky have I been ! Going out all night was looking back after a days work in training or on a call – out some of the best memories I have.

The navigation, the effort but the prize of a sunrise make all the effort worthwhile.

Night navigation in winter.

I hope I can get a few more nights out maybe a camp overnight on a summit like I did in the old days. The gear is lighter but is the body still capable.

Cave dwelling now that’s another story.

We will see.

It is in winter that the Scottish Mountains Excel

No one who has seen the skyward thrust of a snow peak, girdled by its early morning cloud and flushed with the low sun, will dispute with me.

Follow a long ridge of encrusted snow to its sunset tower and tread the summit at moonrise.

This is Scottish winter climbing!

W.H.Murray

“Nothing but a memory of the wide silent snowfields crimsoned by the rioting sky and of the frozen hills under the slow moon”.

W.H.Murray

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An Teallach wreath. In memory of Sarah Hassall thank you Angus Jack.

Sarah on An Teallach “ Best Ever”

A great friend of the RAF MRT Angus Jack from the local Dundonnell MRT laid a wreath on An Teallach this weekend in memory of Sarah Hassall.

As you will see from the photos An Teallach is in winter garbh an incredible mountain and one Sarah loved.

When I wrote back to Angus to ask and thank him for allowing me to use his words and photos.

He wrote this David Whalley.

“It was an honour and a privelege from our mountain community.” The mountains give us so much.

The wreath – photo Angus Jack.

“At the request of family and friends a wreath was laid on An Teallach at the weekend in memory of Sarah Hassall a former RAF Kinloss and Valley MRT member who died tragically last month.

It was Sarah’s favourite mountain. My thoughts were also of the many deaths on Teallach over the years and thankfully many more successful dramatic rescues.

A faint Brocken Spectre was seen.”

An Teallach – photo Angus Jack

Many thanks Angus for your efforts and kindness. It means so much to her family and her many friends. Thinking of you all.

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Great climbing gear / The Moac Nut ! Wooden Wedges.

Who remembers the classic MOAC nut. I loved them I remember on a classic route Nordwand in winter on Ben Nevis retreating from a battered in Moac and abseiling off into a storm. It will still be there!

Also using one on a wild lower in Skye at night a few years later, I bet they are still there I saw many stuck in cracks over the years .

Have you got any tales of great gear from years ago? .

Nowadays the gear for protection is incredible how far have we come on since these early days. I remember climbing on nuts made by the engineers in the RAF with a number 2 line threaded through. Classic gear.

Before that some climbed with wooden wedges on Beinn Eighe and early ascents on the sea stacks made again made in RAF workshops and with rope threaded through. The Old Man of Hoy still has some of the remains of these wedges.

The MOAC Nut photo Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection.

Moac – Created by Sheffield blacksmith, John Brailsford, the M.O.A.C. was one of the first ever purpose designed nuts for rock climbing,(the first being the Acorn – also invented by Brailsford.) Chockstones and machined nuts were the norm up to the point when MOAC’s first appeared in 1962.

The first batch were cast in Manchester and finished by Peter Gentil. At the time a guy called Ellis Brigham owned a chain of outdoor shops in the UK which had an import section called Mountain Activities and the first two letters of each word were used to create the name of this new nut – the MOAC – as Brigham had backed the first production run as a financial gamble which seemed to have paid off because millions must have been sold and fifty years later

Some of the older climbers are still using them. Remember to change the rope in the very early Moacs. The first versions were more rounded at the four corners and there were smaller production versions later on. They could also be filed down to fit smaller cracks.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

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.

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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.

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“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 .

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