Classic pictures and photos. What’s yours ?

What’s your favourite picture or photo? Mine is not easy to choose. When I left for RAF Leuchars the girls in my office gave me the picture below done by a local artist. It was of my dog Teallach who was my constant companion for over 12 years.

Teallach

It’s a classic as the troops were always dressing him up and he just sat there. What a character he was.

I have always taken photos many were on slides. It was a lot harder to take them on a camera as phones on cameras make life so simple. Yet it’s the odd shot you get in a storm or a wild day that to me take you back to that days memories.

Canada Weeping Wall Alberta spindrift.

It’s not easy taking photos in wild conditions but sometimes it’s worth the effort.

Lochnagar top of route time for home!

How many cameras have I gone through ? Lots but it’s worth it to me. As the memory fades these photos give my fading memory a jolt!

“The King gets Crowned”

I have just bought another wee camera as well. It is a LUMIX it does the job how long will it last I have no clue. Pointless having a camera that you are scared to use due to the weather.

Top tips – take plenty of photos easy now with technology. Make sure you back up saved photos.

Name and date each one as your memory fades this is great.

Weather – Get those photos taken !

The other side of MRT.

What’s yours ?

Ben Lui by a pal Terry Moore .

Of course Teallach on the In Pin.

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Should mountaineers still be on Everest and other big mountains and using Oxygen as local folk are dying due to Covid. Comments welcome !

I have read a lot recently and my heart bleeds for the many who have died of Covid in India, Nepal and Pakistan. Yet it is amazing that there are still many expeditions out climbing the big peaks! Is this morally right?

2001 Everest from Tibet

Life is hard in these places and I was always privileged to climb on all of these countries. I made many pals with the locals the porters Sherpas and Sirdars we always left as friends they made our trips so successful. Yet much needed Oxygen is out in the mountains while local folk are dying through the lack of it in hospitals that are pushed to their limits. Most have seen the photos of what had happened and only recently have I seen a few articles on this subject in the mountaineering press.

There are many who run trips will say that they are bringing much needed money to these areas economy by still running expeditions. They say they are environmentally friendly in their glossy brochures. Yet it mind many Mountaineers are so selfish and they should be thinking of those who are needing help in these countries.

The best of the best.

Most dream of a trip to these places and I met so many great folk on my trips. I always have helped them when ever I could and looked after them as they did me. In 2001 no one else was on Everest all the trips had gone after a big storm and I was left with our 5 Sherpas and Mingma our Sirdar at Advanced Base Camp in Tibet . They asked for a day to clear the mountain high up. They brought down over 50 empty oxygen bottles that they re sold in tents and gear in Katmandu. I helped them carry them down from the North Col.

They offered me a cut which I refused and were saddened by the gear left after storms hit the mountain. We cleared up ABC paid for extra Yaks to carry the rubbish out, it was a mess despite environment bonds. I got to know them well and how well they looked after me. There was no one else about even at Base camp apart from us and the Yak men and families. The monks came from the Ronbuk Monastery and helped clean up Base Camp with us.

We spoke with the Sherpas about each other’s lives at night in the wee cook shack and I was in awe of these folk. As the oldest on the trip and the Base Camp manager we got to know each other so well. They gave me huge respect as I did for them. I feel for them all now as family means to them and how we can learn from them. This is why so many can risk their lives for us and others.

Great folk

Covid had hit many Base Camps and yet things carry on. I know the effort, money and dreams of going to these places. But after years of helping others in the mountains I worry about our selfishness and egos at times like these. Comments welcome as always. I have donated to a charity to help in a small way and pray that my friends from many years are okay.

Thinking of you all!

ABC on Everest only ours is left.

Comments welcome !

Mick Holmes ” No. It’s a slap in the face to all those needing oxygen to live to use it for ambition and ego. You want to help out a struggling economy, you don’t have to climb Everest for that. There’s something wrong somewhere.”

Posted in Articles, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, Friends, Gear, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being | Tagged | 4 Comments

Who remembers : Hill breeks, braces, wooly jumpers and Tartan shirts !Joe Brown Helmets . Ski instructor jumpers, the early fleeces? Ron hills !

Ben Hope 1972

Who remembers hill breeks wooly ones that made your legs raw? some that froze like suits of armour and never fitted a 5 ft 4 inch midget.

Who remembers : Braces iconic for the hill and holding up your breeks ? That were also so long for me.

Who remembers : Wooly jumpers / classic gear that your granny made that got so heavy when wet but great gear.

Who remembers: Tartan shirts hairy rubbed your skin raw but great for the pub!

Who remembers: Karrimor gaiters great wearing ?

Who remembers : Wooly hats bobbles not allowed?

Who remembers big heavy boots, aircrew shirts, long johns and the first fleeces ?

1973 Longhaven

Who remembers : Joe Brown Helmets heavy and effective ? Ventile jackets?

Who remembers the “ski instructor climbing jumper” like Glenmore Lodge well before folk thought of the Corporate image?

Corporate image !
Bobble hat Skye

I was asked by The National Geographic who wear doing a programme on an crash we attended. What did we wear on the hill?

Troops in their gear!

Lots more like Dachstein mitts, early Duvets. Helly Hansen Fleeces and trousers.

Skye – Helly Hansen fleeces !
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Mental Awareness Week.

In my early days on Mountain Rescue there was little awareness of the effect on mental health. It was a taboo subject which I hope I fought to raise the profile. It was hard going in the 80’s and I got lots of criticism for speaking out especially in the military and even within the Mountain Rescue Community. Things are a lot better now but there is still a stigma about speaking about your mental Health. Please look after your friends and family and use all the additional help that is available nowadays.

It’s Mental Health Awareness week please if struggling speak to someone we are all here for you. It’s okay to talk about it please do .

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A word of caution .

As I travelled to the Islands last weekend I saw Ben Nevis looking superb and covered in snow. It came as a reminder that the winter is still with us . I still carried my ice axe late into May as we often had rescues in Corries full of snow. The axe was also handy on steep wet grass. So as we all go out again many for the first time please be careful.

To many the gradual release from some of the Covid regulations means the hills will be busy. Please be careful as there is still snow about and tricky conditions. My pal Neil Reid posted this wee story!

“Crampons or no crampons on Beinn an Lochain

It was a benign winter’s day in mid-January 2001. I was in my mid-twenties and, having left the car at Butterbridge, I started the climb, excited about the solo prospect of conquering the two hills on opposite sides of Glen Kinglas; Beinn an Lochain and Stob Coire Creagach.

Heading up Beinn an Lochain’s steep northeast ridge, the snow level was reached at around 400 metres, with thinly dusted rocky outcrops alternating with knee-deep drifts punctuated by well- established boot holes.

My rucksack’s contents were packed from experience, with more than a nod to Langmuir’s Mountaincraft and Leadership book, and my ice axe was a particularly useful third point of contact on the ascent.

At around 600 metres, a short icy stretch was negotiated by kicking steps, before the sections of alternating drifts and dustings took me to the summit.

The views from the summit were spectacular, as they are from each of the Arrochar Alps, and I enjoyed 10 minutes of solitude and contemplation before the descent to Butterbridge for lunch. After passing a couple just below the summit I reached the icy stretch and spoke to a chap who had just reached the top of the slope by means of kicking steps. I remember vividly him asking me if the top was icy and I informed him that this was really the only icy section on the climb.

I turned around and started descending the icy slope, digging my heels into the ice, when both feet gave way and I started sliding.

The slope in question is around 50 metres in length, lies roughly at an angle of 45 degrees, and ends in a vertical drop of 50 metres on to an area of boulders, plucked from the cliff face.

I still remember the whine of my jacket on the ice increasing in pitch as my speed picked up, and it was my good fortune that the wrist loop on the ice axe held while the training from the Winter Skills course at Glenmore Lodge kicked in, and I was able to arrest myself using the axe with less than 10 metres to spare.

I got to my feet and looked up the slope to see the chap I had spoken to seconds earlier wave before heading upwards – perhaps he thought I had been practising!

The descent was completed without further incident and a refreshing lunch enjoyed before I started the climb on the north side of the glen. It wasn’t until around a third of the way up Stob Coire Creagach that the shock of the near miss finally hit home.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the choice I made that day not to wear crampons for the short icy section, and how different the outcome would have been had I not taken the training course in winter skills.

I’m fortunate that I can pass this experience on to my kids and if there’s a lesson to be learned! “

Though this was written in early winter please think when crossing hard snow and ice ( neve ) There are often about even at this time of year.

“Still, the last sad memory hovers round, and sometimes drifts across like floating mist, cutting off sunshine and chilling the remembrance of happier times. There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell; and with these in mind I say: Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps

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Colonsay – The Whale sculpture.

I listen to the news that so many folk want to go abroad for a holiday yet in Scotland there is so much to see. How many miss out ? I was very lucky to get a break with my friend Kalie and her sister. I was on the Isle of Colonsay and one of the places we wanted to visit was the Whale sculpture near Kiloran Bay. Kalie had been before and we had a cracking walk along the beach and then along the track to the sculpture. This is from a piece on the web explaining who built it and why !

Whale Skull

“A fascinating, huge sculpture of a whale, formed from beach stones found on the raised beach, on a flat piece of ground by Port an Obain, just north of Kiloran Bay. The sculpture is the work of artist Julian Meredith, and visitors are encouraged to add a stone to the sculpture and fill in any empty areas of the whale outline.

The whale stretches 525 feet from nose to tail. Though it is easily visible at ground level, by far the best way to appreciate the enormous sculpture is to ascend one of the hills that surround this sheltered bay.

The sheer scale of the sculpture is stunning; when you stand at one end the other end seems to stretch out forever away from you. 

Finding the sculpture is easy. Just take the Balnahard road from Kiloran beach and keep going over the long, slow rise. When you start to descend the far side you will see the whale sculpture spread out on the low ground ahead. “

It was an incredible amount of effort to make this a work of love. I am sure the effort was incredible and to see it close up was a joy. On the way we saw some wild goats they were massive on the crags and cliffs. There are huge cliffs and howffs about and I am sure it was near here that we bivied in a cave on a huge search. The flowers are coming out in the machair and on the beach were the remains of a huge whale it had been there and the bones were bleached by the sun

I went for a wander round the cliffs it was incredible and the sun came out along with a breeze. It was then back for a brew then the last ferry home via Oban. I got home at 0130 but what a great part of Scotland.

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Near Miss on Quinag – Quinag Memories.

Those who know their mountains will understand that Quinag is a magnificent mountain. Any mountain containing 3 Corbett’s summits is incredible. The summits Spidean Coinich, Sail Gharbh & Sail Ghorm Quinag will never let you down in my opinion. In summer it’s a cracking peak with views to the sea that are outstanding and that’s some Statement from those who know these North West mountains. The most Westerly summit has outstanding views of the lochs and sea. In winter it’s a different mountain and you will rarely see anyone else. Yet the many cliffs have some incredible climbs on the sandstone tiers.

https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/ullapool/quinag.shtml

Walk Highlands sums it up : “Quinag is a magnificent and complex mountain with three summits attaining Corbett status. The ascent of all three is one of the finest hillwalks in Scotland, with fine peaks, dramatic ridges and stunning views. If the full walk is too much, the ascent of the first peak (with a return the same way) is a short and fairly straightforward hillwalk with rewards out of all proportion to the effort involved. The mountain is under the stewardship of the John Muir Trust.

TERRAIN

Mostly good hill paths. Mountainous terrain with some very steep ground but only a minimal amount of scrambling.”

“Wee Bull Turner “on Quinag.

Near Miss on Quinag :

I always loved being up on the North West coast on the hills,climbing and away from the crowds. There is little better than introducing some “young rockstars” to real climbing away from the “climb by numbers” of the popular crags. I was at RAF Leuchars at the time and we would raid Kinloss’s area . Often we would wander on these hardly climbed cliffs. The only problem was you could get the full “mountaineering experience” of loose rock and route finding. The day this photo was taken I think we were supposed to be on a route on Quinag. What a place to be pick your line and have a look.

We got to the top of a pinnacle when I was belaying I heard a crash then a huge rock came crashing down. The smell of the sulphur and the fear gripped me. Lucky I was on a small ledge where I had adjusted the belay a bit. As the rock passed where I had been it missed I knew I was lucky another of my 9 lives gone. Yet what a day on the sandstone what an adventure and yet it could have been all so different. Life is about adventure and those who love exploring will enjoy this place .

From Stephen Turner – I can still remember that moment in vivid detail, time seemed to pass at a fraction of normal speed. Me on a stance on one foot and holding on with one hand being pushed and swinging to one side as a giant boulder slid straight at me. Thinking I have killed Heavy and at the very least I’m about to have my hand crushed before I fall. I recall the smell of smoke coming from all the sparks from that boulder as it tumbled down the hill, which seemed to go on forever. Then as casual as you like Heavy appears from along the ledge he was belaying me on. Turns around and tells everybody “That’s why you always have an extendable belay”.

This large and complicated mountian has several cliffs that give worthwhile winter and summer routes. Despite its height it tends to hold snow well.

The steep north face of Sail Garbh is an impressive cliff, excellent in winter but too low to freeze frequently. The climbing is often wintrier than appears from below though.

I last climbed the 3 Corbett’s a few years ago on my own. I was met by a Broken Spectre on the ridge and fresh snow. As I came out of the mist this was my view!

The ridge was a cracking day very icy but felt so remote. It was such a great day. The paths had a lot of erosion in places but the ridge was straightforward and the bitter wind made you keep going with few stops. Getting back to the car 6 hours later my face felt blasted by the wind but what a day.

Quinag another mountain of so many memories.

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Masirah – Desert Rescue memories .

Base Camp

I was posted to Masirah after a tour at RAF Kinloss. I was devastated at the time as I was really happy at Kinloss with the Mountain Rescue Team and it was the beginning of another winter. Masirah was a staging post for aircraft mainly for refuelling. The camp was about 600 strong all male a very strange environment at that time. I flew out just as the Cyprus war was starting in July 74. We should have night stopped on the Island but the did a “hot refuel” our plane the old Britannia that refuelled and had to leave with a fighter escort out of Cyprus. It was a scary time and you felt so vulnerable in the Britannia the passenger jet.

Masirah Football Team me with my Station Colours for playing against Gan.

Arriving in Masirah you felt the oppressive heat even at night. They thought I was someone else and I had to play in the 5 a side match that night. I was very fit then and did not let them down. The whole station was there in the 5 a side court the football was live for those working over the radio. I played for Masirah against Gan and Cyprus I was a full back. Though I saw myself I could handle myself on the pitch and feared no one. The crowd in the Stadium made by Workshops was a hostile place. Playing in my specs and being so small I was always given a hard time by the crowd. I loved the 5 a side and the many other sports we played there like hockey. 11 a side football was played on an ash pitch that hurt if you tackled. Because you were pure white no sun you were called a “Moony” which meant you were new to the Island. Masirah is just off Oman in the Arabian Gulf is the Island Of Masirah it is a small Island about as big as Arran in Scotland and is where I was posted to in 1974 for 9 months during my service in the RAF. It also had a Desert Rescue Team and the photo above is a camp site in the desert, where we slept out under the stars at night, an incredible time in my life. The only cover we had was old parachutes that gave you much needed shade.

No sunscreen or cover?

We never used sunscreen and had no clue the damage we were doing to our skin. We had various Base Camps around the island it was great to get away. We had a fire each night and a lacon of beer. The late Jim Craig was the Team Leader a great troop and we got on well and he quickly made me a party leader. Jim was already a legend before my time at Kinloss and he looked after me he tried to nickname me “Foddy” but it never stuck. It was pretty serious out most of the day in such heat. We often trained at night the views of the stars were incredible as were the shooting stars . At that time we were taught to navigate by the stars .

We trained every weekend on the small hills all under I think they were about 1000 feet but tough rocky, scrambly hills where the big problem was the heat at times regularly over 120 degrees. You could lose over a stone in weight due to dehydration over the weekend so you had to take care with water intake. It was some life! I worked in the Ration Supply depot in the Cold Store (the Freezers a haven to be in) Work was hard as every month supplies came by ship and when the ships were in you were out on the pontoons unloading the food for the station, really hard graft as much in these days was done manually. When the meat came off frozen usually in the night it was all hands to the pumps as you had to get it all sorted and in the Freezers before the sun came up, hard physical work. We worked 24 hours with no breaks it was all manually handled and done mostly at night when it was cooler. After the meat and frozen was off it was all the dry good for 3 months for 500 – 600 people. The sugar and flour was in 112 lbs bags about 50 kilos I only weighed just over 75 kilos so it was some training? The photo above shows a thin author with the half-gallon of water we carried on the hills , magic small hills very like Skye in Scotland with incredible wild life about.

Moving by Andover on Exercise.

The Sport on the Station was wonderful and we employed many of the local Arabs to help on the Station. I had a team of locals working with me and we had some incredible days and got on very well. As a young man it was my first time working with a group under me and we got on well. After work it was sport when the sun went down, football, hockey and lots of incredible fun in the sun. I also went shark fishing many times with my Foreman “Abbs” in a small boat for Barracuda sharks for the station, that was exciting and fairly serious in those non – Health and Safety days. I learnt a lot about people and cultures on that tour which stood me in great stead for the future on many expeditions, great days. We also went to Dubia every week on a meat and fresh fruit and veg run. It was a great day out but again hard work while everyone else had a day in Dubia and I went round the markets buying fresh food with Abbs. This was at the time that planes were getting hijacked me and Abbs were the only ones allowed out of the airport it was a scary experience as the local guards were very trigger happy. We also practised deployment with the Andover aircraft that was stationed there and it was always a laugh getting the wagons on with the big wide sand wheels. The reason the team was there was for aircraft crashes in the desert as the Island was a staging post for the RAF at the time. • The Island is famous for the Turtles that breed thousands come ashore on the beaches and lay their  eggs! It is a wonderful sight and the locals take a few of them for food in these days! Masirah Island is home to four distinct species of sea turtle. Oman has recognised the importance of preserving these beautiful creatures, as it is home to a large portion of their nesting grounds. On Masirah Island you can find the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the olive ridley turtle and the loggerhead turtle. • All four species nest and their eggs hatch at different times throughout the year. I was very lucky to visit the shanty town with Abbs where the locals lived many in houses built from fuel drums recycled from the RAF base during the war. Little was wasted and everything  was re used even in 1974. They treated me so well I learned so much from them especially during Ramadan. Abbs taught me a lot about his religion and was a wonderful person. Family was so important to them and though they had little they shared everything. The station had a swimming pool that was so well used especially when the stewardess arrived overnight on the Island. They caused quite a stir.

These were incredible days and I learned a lot it was the hardest work I ever did heavy manual work in extreme heat! The hills though small were incredible and I learned to cope and look after myself in a wild extreme climate! I was so pleased when I heard I was posted back to Kinloss. I learned a lot on that tour and could not wait to get back to the Scottish hills. It would still be winter.

Masirah Hills

You learned lots that stood you in good stead about climbing in oppressive heat and looking after yourself, I wish I had known about sun screen then?

Jim Craig Team Leader RAF Kinloss MRT.

Dedicated to Jim Craig Ex Team Leader Masirah Desert Rescue.

Christmas Day – poor photo .

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My first years at Kinloss what an apprenticeship!

Thanks for all the comments on the blog on Kinloss. When I look back on my first years at Kinloss with the MRT. It was some period in my life. What an introduction to so many great folks. Within the first few weekends I had lots of adventures including being avalanched on Lancet Edge near Ben Alder. I have written about this at length on previous blogs. The team had its own block transport and lived in an old 2 world war hut full of character. Looking back I think my trade did help? Food: Being a Caterer was to me another reason I got to join the team I could get extra rations and we all had to cook and took turns it was a nightmare on the petrol cookers and in tents. We were also given a chocolate allowance (scran) for the hill. If you mucked up you were on the river☺️.Training: This was great, long hills days, this gave me a love for big hill days and planning for them there were few books guides about in 1972. Navigation & Fitness were the key then the main other skill. There were lots of good mentors and the odd one who you did huge walks with. You had to learn all the knots and how the stretchers were tied on. I used to go to the loo with a bit of rope to practice. There was so many new things to learn it was all consuming but it kept you on your toes! Area Knowledge: As we covered the whole of the North of Scotland we used different Base camps every week. You learned the areas by going out all the time getting to know the hills and the landowners. We always asked permission to go on the hill this was well before freedom of access. I was shown the big cliffs easy ways off in bad weather and often where the new routes could be found along with Bothies whose location was often not well known. Fitness: I was chasing Munro’s so very happy to get the big days done. Like the Mamores, Fannichs etc lots of looking at maps. Then we had a briefing every Monday where you were asked what hills you did . Never easy if it was a long day with 7 or 9 Munro’s! The Briefings covered a different subject every week and the team had a huge Library gifted by ex team member’s and the old Albums going back to the early days full of history.

The late Ben Humble and Pete Mc Gowan Team Leader a few later with Ben receiving a team tie – ah as Ben would say. PHOTO IN THE OLD BRIEFING ROOM.

Technical training: in these early days was limited to the Sea cliffs at Peterhead where we did big abseils, tragsitzs and Gorge life outs. It was all new to me the knots and the skills needed. There were simple things to learn like carrying a stretcher back roping and lowering. First Aid : Once a year we had our Annual First Aid course on the station. It was a lot more basic in these days as was the gear. Communications : We carried a basic radio for each party on the hill and you were taught all the bits and pieces for good communications at the time. There were no mobile phones. Pyrotechnics : Again we were taught to carry them and use safely. Smokes for the helicopter and flares that illuminates the Corries on a big search and Ground illuminators that helped locate the best ways of the hill in the dark. Social: We met lots of great folk from other teams. Molly Porter from Cairngorm, Fred Harper from Glenmore Lodge Hamish in Glencoe to name a few Lochaber and Glencoe.

Longhaven Sea cliffs note no helmet.

Kintail, Skye, Torridon regularly called us to assist on big call outs. The section was always full of visitors we had Ben Humble regularly and he was well looked after by the team. I met many team members and you got to know them. Many became friends. Many were superb mountaineers like Big Ian Nicholson and the Glencoe Mafia. Many we met on the hill like Glenmore Lodge who were full of star climbers. Winter skills: Ice axe breaking was taught every weekend in winter and you had to show you had madtered this key skill. As was walking in crampons on steep ground and on icy paths. Maybe it’s my memory but the winters were very hard and our kit was not great. We were limited to our gear and often wet when on Call outs. Even though I spent every penny on my own gear my wages allowed I could afford only limited things like boots that fitted and crampons. Bill Marshall from Aberdeen would visit regularly who owned a shop in Aberdeen. He would let us pay at the end of the month.

Tom and Heavy Ben Dorrian Tom MacDonald collection.

Wages were poor in the RAF and we could borrow cash from the subs that we a;; paid when we ran out of cash. Climbing was only done by a few at that time in the team and my first route was with Kas Taylor on Creag Dubh at Newtonmore it snowed and scared me. The next weekend I was on Savage Slit on the Cairngorms. Leading after my partner had a wobble. I had limited knowledge climbed in a waist belt with the Tarbuck knot. After a fall at Grantown where I smashed my chin and an epic again with Kas in Skye in the rain when he slid a long way descending on slabs in the rain. He also took me and Tom MacDonald round the Skye ridge and I managed them all bar Sgurr na Gillean. I was that tired I nearly abseiled of my gear loop on my Willians Harness . Lucky my mate Tom noticed and saved my life. I was exhausted and not thinking straight. Yet you learn from these things.

S characters Inverailort

There were big winter walks on Ben A’ Bhuird in crazy weather with another mentor Teuch Brewer who was training for an artic expedition. All the time learning and pushing your fitness and navigation walking through the night in winter on these huge mountains definitely switched you on. I did a few winter climbs and was getting experience when I bought my own boots ice axe and crampons I felt much more competent. Call outs: in these early years I did many big Call outs all over Scotland. I saw at first hand what a small mistake or a long fall can do and no matter who you are “nature rules”There was limited training for these incidents and the trauma and how to deal with a tragic death in the mountains. The days of PTSD were unknown then . Often the new troops were left to it as the only way to learn it was hard going at times. A death in the mountains is not an easy thing to cope with but that was the job and you did it. As is a long carry off helicopters were not that often used then and much was done by the teams. I found aircraft crashes pretty hard going ad well and again an aircraft hitting the mountains at 400 mph is a traumatic experience. Everyone copes differently with tragedy I have always taken them hard and would continue for all my years in Mountain Rescue.

We had our own social scene our own table on the Mess and our own bar for leaving parties. We were a wild bunch always up to something on the station. Yet George out Team Leader looked after us and the Disco night on a Sunday as we returned from a weekend was wild. It was straight in to the party of we were late without a shower. Crazy days. I loved my first tour learned so much got two great winters in and a few classic routes and many huge walks. Yet despite such a apprenticeship I had much to learn. It did come at a cost my family hardly saw me as the mountains look over my life. My career struggled as my Boss was so anti MR despite me trying so hard he even held my promotion back for 6 months. Yet it was so worth it in the end.

Just a bairn

I was just becoming a trained member of the team when I was posted to Masirah in the Persian Gulf. That is another story. So many to thanks you learned quickly to stand up for yourself but many became lifetime friends looking back we were all very insular but that was what helped make us a team. Many of our families missed out many worried about us yet we were in our own world maybe selfish but hindsight is great and you learn from your mistakes.

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Mountaineering History The old Abseil posts on Carn Mor Dearg

Nearly 10 years ago I wrote this “The mountaineering press tells us that the Abseil posts from Carn Mor Dearg into Coire Leis have been removed. The eight abseil posts leading down from the Carn Mor Dearg arête into Coire Leis on the north side of Ben Nevis have been removed. The majority of the poles had fallen into disrepair and were unsafe to use. The highest abseil post provided a useful navigation aid and is to be replaced by a two metre high cairn that will be constructed in the same style as the other navigation cairns which currently exist across the summit plateau.

The old posts now gone.

This cairn will mark the top of the obvious descent line into Coire Leis in poor visibility. The cairn will be constructed by the landowners, The John Muir Trust. The cairn is expected to be in place by the end of July 2014 and will be located at Grid Reference NN 17078 71000

The marker ‘flag’ and pole at the top of No. 4 Gully (a popular grade 1 descent route in winter) has been removed and is also going to be replaced with a two metre high navigation cairn. This work is also expected to be completed by the end of July 2014. This is an extract from the John Muir Trust website and various other places.

Building the cairn.

2014 – ‘The Coire Leis abseil posts were originally installed in the 1960s by members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. The majority of them had long since fallen into disrepair and were unsafe to use. Some were right over on their sides’ says Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor of the MCofS. ‘I was up with a small team of RAF folk yesterday to finish the job. We carried the posts and other debris down to the CIC hut, from where they were airlifted out.

The Trust and MCofS relies on the help of volunteers to undertake this sort of work. A window of good weather at the end of May allowed MCofS to mobilise a group of volunteers and some members of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team to remove the Coire Leis post. The Number 4 Gully marker was removed at the same time.

The Coire Leis post will be replaced by a 2-metre high cairn, while the Number 4 Gully Marker will be re-instated as a 1.5 metre cairn with ‘No.4’ incised on the cap stone. This will make the marker stable and less prone to vandalism and maintenance in the future. Work will begin to build the cairns as soon as possible over the next couple of months.

John Hinde

The original abseil posts were put up in 1964 by RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue after several bad accidents in the area but as the report above states had fallen into disrepair. Accidents in this area were fairly common especially descending from the summit to the Carn Mor Dearg arete in the early 50′ and 60’s. In 1954 there was a terrible accident when 5 walkers from Royal Naval Station Fulmar (Lossiemouth) fell/ glissaded over the North East Buttress on 19 December 1954, all were killed and it was a tragic recovery by the locals and RAF Kinloss MR. Just after this accident local Mountaineer and Rescuer Doctor Donald Duff arranged for some poles to placed on the descent to assist mountaineers on finding the descent to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. This was in the days of basic maps, no Gps and basic equipment. It is very hard when you are at the sharp end of tragedies on the mountains, any ideas or views to try to stop such accidents are all worth looking at. It was quiet good that the RAF Kinloss Team assisted in clearing up the site last week. John Hinde and Hamish MacInnes told me the tales of carry gallons of water from the Corrie to mix the cement high on the ridge.

ABSEIL POSTS, Coire Leis – John Hinde from his dairies a great read. Sun 21 June 64 https://diariesofjohnhinde.wordpress.com/

“Liaison with Leuchars helicopter and Hamish MacInnes and some of his Glencoe rescue team. Lochaber and TA also helped. We had some people staying in the CIC Hut who went early on to the Carn Mor Dearg arete and radioed weather conditions for the helicopter. In all we flew three loads of cement, sand, water and the aluminium alloy abseil posts to within 500 vertical feet of the arete, on south side, and eight members of the team including me. The weather was good and we spent the rest of the afternoon sweating as we carried most of the loads up to a cache on the arete. The 8 men were flown up in two flights independently of the loads.

Descent by SSE Ridge of Ben Nevis to col of Meall Cumhann and then to the car park. We have arranged with Hamish to get the posts fixed on Sun 5 July.

Sun 5 July 64

Clear calm weather in hot sunshine on the Carn Mor Dearg arete of Ben Nevis. 15 of the team with Hamish MacInnes and Dave Crabbe of Dundee. We completed the carrying of all the materials for the abseil posts which we almost finished on 21 June. There were only six drums of water left to carry up from 3,100 ft. We mixed cement and sited all seven posts and completed the job by cementing them in place, firmly we hope. They may last for years but we shall have to check during the winter to make sure they still protrude far enough from the snow slopes. It should be quite easy to extend them. We went up and down from the Glen Nevis car park by the waterfalls of the Allt Coire Eoghainn.”

I wrote this at the time: “Whatever your views on the removal and the addition of the abseil posts and other cairns, that are in the mountains, views can be very varied, whether for or against. I at times worry about the elitism of some mountaineers and their views at times towards these. I for one have been glad to see them and other landmarks like the cairn on 1141 on the Cairngorm plateau on a wild day have been a lifesaver for me and great to see on a few climbs and rescues. This that is only my point of view. I am sure there are a few others who feel the same also but some that feel that they are that good they never need any assistance or help?”

Worth remembering?

Now at LOSSIEMOUTH MRT. HQ.

Please note the abseil post are not longer there !

Posted in Articles, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Colonsay – a visit this week and in 1978 Sept – A Dutch military Atlantic aircraft Crash. A night in a cave and a tale like! Whisky Galore”

Colonsay

I had previously been in Colonsay in 1978. It was for a French military Atlantic aircraft that had ditched on the sea. It was part of a big NATO exercise at the time.

Atlantic aircraft

14 September 1978 – A Dutch surveillance Breguet crashed in the Iries sea west of Scotland after the explosion of the right RollsRoyce engine

Everyone was okay but we were asked to search the coast for “sensitive stuff” It was one of these. Call outs I will never forget. I love the Islands so many have been fleeting visits so I am trying to spend a bit more time on them.

From today’s advice “Colonsay is the jewel of the Hebrides, is about 10 miles long and 2 miles wide with 135 friendly inhabitants, and little more than 2 hours from Oban by our modern and very comfortable ferry. Our outstanding natural scenery is rivalled only by the wealth and diversity of our flora and fauna, and our archaeological sites are of international importance. Local activities include agriculture, oyster-farming, arts, crafts, honey production, a brewery, accommodation for visitors, lobster-fishing, publishing and even a substantial bird sanctuary. The island plays host to a variety of festivals throughout the year celebrating our music, culture, literature and natural assets. Please explore and enjoy our community website – and, when you get an opportunity, come and join us in Colonsay.”

1978 Sept 17 – Isle of Colonsay and Oransay A / Dutch Military Atlantic aircraft crashed in the sea and stayed afloat for a while just off the Islands. Some of the wreckage washed ashore and all the crew survived. When we arrived by Wessex helicopter we had no communications and searched most of the day and I sure we lived in a Cave one night and much of the wreckage washed ashore vanished in true Island Fashion. It was very like the film “Whisky Galore” It was very difficult trying to get some of the sensitive items from the locals! They had a few dinghies, life jackets and other bits and pieces! A bit of barter and trading was called for was called for? We just made the pub it shut at 2200 then but managed a few beers but no food? I wonder if anyone has any photos. https://colonsay.org.uk/

From my pal Nick Sharpe a Guide in Canada “RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team also deployed to the west coast of Jura and did the same thing. “Spent a night in a huge cave sleeping on a soft bed of goat droppings!

This weekend I am visiting Colonsay again we had a superb ferry from Oban on a lovely day. The drive down was incredible and my friend Kalie picked me up from Onich. The hills were full of snow especially Ben Nevis.The drive to Oban was magical the sea and Ardgour looking superb.

Oban was busy yet the road was quiet and the new ferry terminal so clean and tidy. Yet parking near the ferry can be difficult. The ferry was immaculate and the 2 hour journey seeing Mull on a stunning evening was good. We arrived on time and our accommodation is right by the Hotel. We had a meal then headed to Kiloran beach it was amazing.

We hoped to see a sunset and we were not let down. It was incredible the beach looked red in the setting sun there was no one there and Islay the Collie was in her element.

The beach

It was so warm and lovely to be here we are so lucky to be here for a few days.

Islay

Comment Don Shanks – “If I remember right we were shocked that we didn,t get a lock-in…however we managed to cadge a lift back to our billet in a cowshed on the back of a council lorry..happy days”

Info – The Scottish Islands – Hamish Haswell – Smith.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Friends, Islands, Mountain rescue, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

The Shackleton Crash on 30 April 1990 – The Isle of Harris.

The RAF Mountain Rescue was formed during the Second World War to rescue aircrew from crashed aircraft in the mountains of the UK. To this day the 3 RAF Teams that still survive are still called to carry out some difficult recoveries of aircraft both Service and civilian in the mountains. This is the sad story of this incident and the part played by the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. It should be noted that many of the RAF Kinloss Team were stationed at RAF Lossiemouth during when the team was located at Kinloss.

30 April 1990 Isle of Harris

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

Ten minutes to sort your kit and go!

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

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

As we neared the crash site the noise from the beacons was intense and we feared the worst. The crash had occurred near the village of Northton on a small hill called Moadal about 800 Feet above the sea. The only cloud in the whole of Scotland was over the crash site and the helicopter dropped us as near as they could to the incident. It was like the scene from a battlefield, a tangled mess of a once proud aircraft and the casualties, all fatal scattered around, memories that still haunt me to this day.  At times like these even in the middle of such carnage the Mountain Rescue Team has a job to do and we are all as professional, most of us had seen these sights before. A few shocked locals had managed to get to the crash and were relieved to see us and leave the horror of such a place. There was very little chance of any survivors.

Tragic

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

It was grim work but most of my team on the helicopter were though very young were veterans of such scenes, I had been heavily involved with the Lockerbie Disaster, we did what we had to do. Once things were organised at the scene I walked back down to the road about half a mile from the scene. It was surreal already the locals had put a small caravan in a lay-by and the ladies had a welcome cup of tea for us. They were wonderful people with typical Highland hospitality and care, which my team would need later on. They were incredible to my team and helped in the difficult days that we had ahead.

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

The majority of the team who were still at Kinloss were flown to Stornoway by a Jetstream aircraft and by Hercules aircraft complete with our Mountain Rescue vehicles, they were all on scene by 1600, an amazing piece of organisation.  In the end I had 27 Team members, the 4 Tonner vehicles’ arrived by Ferry the same day! That is a story in its on right.

on board the Jet Stream.

Once the site had been visited later on by the Board of Enquiry the team receives permission to remove all the casualties from the scene, a hard and difficult task. These are words that do not express what horror there is in such a place, yet all the team worked hard 10 fatalities was a hard job to do and move away from the scene. These were in the early days of PTSD and few in power will ever realise the effect a tragedy like this has on those who carried out this task.

After 3 days on scene we handed over the crash site to RAF Lossiemouth crash guard who were there for several weeks working with the investigation board. Most of the team and vehicles’ flew out that day from Harris in a Hercules aircraft ahead of all the casualties who were in another aircraft. We flew into Lossiemouth and drove through the camp for the short journey to Kinloss. The whole camp at Lossiemouth lined up as we drove through a very moving experience, waiting for their fallen comrades. It was an experience I will never forget and then we had to go home to our families. Few spoke of what they had seen and done. It was our job.         

A few years later I revisited the crash site in Harris. The drive down was in driving rain but as we got nearer to Tarbet the weather cleared to bright sunshine and the hills had a smattering of snow. As we got nearer to the site the sun, blue seas, surf and clear sandy beaches made this a sad but beautiful place to be. Though the hill is only small by mountaineering standards, it’s fairly steep as it starts from sea-level. Memories came flashing back of the accident and even the superb beauty of this special place made it a difficult wee walk. Nature has as usual sorted things out and the scars on the hill are covered by heather and peat, occasional bits of wire and small pieces of metal remain of a fairly large aircraft. The memorial on the top commemorates the crew of the Shackelton “Dylan” and details of the aircraft with the words”We Will Never Forget” inscribed on a memorial on the summit. It faces West the inscription is getting the worse of the weather and may need replaced within the next few years. I have been back fairly often it is another part of my life that few understand. The views from the hill are very healing with the wildness of the area that makes this place so special and a place we should never forget.   

This is what i wrote on a previous visit. “On the summit the views were immense, unsurpassed with unique Island scenery of wild open beaches, mountains and the sea and the fresh snow enhancing everything.  After spending some time on the top, with the wind it was fairly cold, we left that beautiful, though sad place, with a wee prayer for the crew and wondering how many people know of this place?”

I will never forget what happened that day and how tragic the crash site was even to hardened mountain rescue men. The RAF Mountain Rescue Team carries out a complex job at times but I am proud of what my team did over these few days. I will never forget the wonderful help we received from the locals, the Police, Coastguards local Doctor and these magnificent people from North Harris who treated us so well over a terribly difficult 3 days.

Heading back by Shackelton.

Thanks to all, from all of us.

Footnote;

It should be noted that the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team has been at least two other Shackelton Crashes in their role in RAF Mountain Rescue. The first was on the 21 December 1967 when a Shackelton crashed at Locailort near Fortwilliam killing all 13 of the crew. The team were involved in the recovery all over the Festive period until the 8 January. I met the son of the navigator of this aircraft who came to visit RAF Kinloss in 2007, 40 years after his father died, a very moving day for me. I took him and his wife around the Rescue Centre the ARCC where I was on shift. From here we went to the Mountain Rescue Section at Kinloss and tried to answer all his questions, which he wanted answers for many years. In addition the team were also involved in the Shackelton Crash at the south end of the Mull of Kintyre killing all 11 of the crew on the 19 April 1968, the RAF Kinloss team were there till the 23 April. All these terrible incidents make a huge impression on the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and the team members and are never forgotten by those who were involved.

“Lest We Forget”    

David Heavy Whalley MBE BEM

In memory of Shackleton crew Dylan who perished in the crash.

Wing Commander Stephen Roncoroni

Wing Commander Chas Wrighton

Flying Officer Colin Burns

Squadron Leader Jerry Lane

Flight Lieutenant Al Campbell

Flight Lieutenant Keith Forbes

 Master Air Electronics Operator Roger Scutt

 Flight Sergeant Rick Ricketts

Sergeant Graham Miller

Corporal Stuart Bolton

These events are life changing not just for the crews families but for those involved in the recovery a grim task. Yet last year 2020 I was lucky to visit the crash site as my friend had booked a small bothy about a mile from the crash site. This was unknown to her at the time. We had a walk up to the crash scene and saw the Memorial was in good condition. Thank you whoever did that.

I met a few locals involved and their memories were still clear from that tragic day over 30 years ago. I also know a few of those from Lossiemouth many were on the Crash Guard who built the memorial on the hill. 2021 Last week I was invited to a “Zoom re dedication service” at RAF Lossiemouth it was very moving. These places are a huge part of my life and as long as I can I will continue visit them.

The view
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Family, Friends, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 13 Comments

Poo in the Wild places ! what can we do about it? What a mess we found yesterday.

Very recent fire pit in the woods.

I was over in the West and my friend and I took her dog for a walk near Sheildaig. Despite the fire risk and two signs some stupid folk had a fire in the forest. Crazy as this must have been done in the weekend despite massive Fire risk warnings. There is even High Fire Risk signs where they were.

High Fire Risk.

That was not the worst thing a bit further on there was lots of clean wipes/ paper and human feaces there was 4 separate piles strewn with about . Yet there is a toilet about half a mile away in the village. How do we stop this and why oh why do folk do this! It was disgusting and I know the problem as I have had a bowel problem in recent years. Yet these folk must have been staying here right by the main road.

Lots of this lying about .

This is an area where the local village folk walk and especially children play. The toilets in the village are run by them it seems Highland Council cannot afford to pay for them. So a small like Sheildaig had to take the maintenance on and the cleaning of the toilet. This happens all over the country. This too me is even worse how do we educate folk? This is happening all over the Country. Yet folk still leave such a mess. It’s right beside the NC 500 but sadly despite all the efforts by so many some folk still poo in the woods.

We reported this to the locals and sadly someone will have to clean this mess up.

Separate places where folk have pooed!

Yes, it happens to us all, getting caught short away from toilet facilities. But please read the following advice from Mountaineering Scotland.

I carry a small trowel on the hills so I can if caught out dig a hole. Do not use wipes as most are not biodegradable .

Below is some common sense advice to minimise the environmental and visual impact of your emergency poo.

  • Find an area well away from water courses, paths, summit areas and places where others might shelter (eg in the lee of large boulders, behind buildings etc).
  • Look for a depression in the ground or a place that is easy to dig out, with some nearby damp moss or other natural material to use as toilet paper.
  • Further excavate the depression in the ground by scraping and kicking with your foot or use a stick/walking pole or similar object. If deep soft moss is present, you can often create a good result simply by using your hands to lift it aside. Any loose stones can also be moved by hand to deepen the depression.
  • Now use the depression to do your poo. Damp moss makes the ideal substitute for toilet paper, indeed many find it even better than toilet paper.
  • Place the used moss on top of the poo, which helps to start covering it up.
  • If you have used toilet paper, wipes or tissues, you should take them with you in a plastic bag or container rather than burying them.
  • Cover the poo with the material you initially dug out of the depression. Add to this by kicking and scraping more material from around the depression to create a thick layer of organic material over the waste. Ideally use soil, moss, dead wet leaves, etc, whatever is available. This will make it odour proof and help it to decompose.
  • On top of this place stones, rocks or large branches so that dogs and other animals cannot get access and dig up the waste.
  • Clean your hands with hand sanitiser or by washing thoroughly.

For more detailed information on toileting outdoors, read our Where to go leaflet.


Further resources:

Please heed the advice !

Comments as always welcome!

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

The weather is changing again . Another lovely day in the West.

It looks like we are going to get some rain this week the ground needs it. Everything is so dry but it’s been a lovely few days in the sun after a long winter. ☀️ As I said there are a lot of sheep ticks about so be aware. I went with Kalie on one of her adventures on the Coast near her house. The sea was magical and clear. That stunning colour that makes you think your abroad.

A lovely wander.

We passed old herring buildings by a bay and had some great scrambling along the cliffs following ledges and big boulders, the weather was superb and we investigated some nooks and crannys.

We saw an otter slip by into the sea and the protection of the kelp. Kalies dog Islay noticed it first then as I stepped over a big Boulder it swam out to the sea under my foot . A magical site.

The big slabs

We passed the big sandstone slabs further round the Coast they were stunning to walk up in the sun. Lots of small cliffs with unclimbed short climbs and Goes by the sea . This really is a paradise.

It was so lovely sitting in the sun enjoying the views of Skye, Rhona Torridon and Applecross so many other hills. All from a different aspect you think you know Scotland yet you only touch the surface. I have sailed round here which is another adventure and have great memories of Rhona and Skye.

Very Reiff like !

It was then a wander onto the wee beach the tide was out and the views of Skye and Rhona wonderful memories .

Islay behind only for a minute .

We passed a big nest under an overhang I thought it was an Eagle but it was a Raven it was huge. We moved away and saw chicks in it.

Common Ravens build their nests on cliffs, in trees, and on structures such as power-line towers, telephone poles, billboards, and bridges. Cliff nests are usually under a rock overhang. Tree nests tend to be in a crotch high in the tree, but below the canopy and typically farther down in a tree than a crow’s nest would be.

NEST DESCRIPTION

Males bring some sticks to the nest, but most of the building is done by females. Ravens break off sticks around 3 feet long and up to an inch thick from live plants to make up the nest base, or scavenge sticks from old nests. These sticks, and sometimes bones or wire as well, are piled on the nest platform or wedged into a tree crotch, then woven together into a basket. The female then makes a cup from small branches and twigs. The cup bottom is sometimes lined with mud, sheep’s wool, fur, bark strips, grasses, and sometimes trash. The whole process takes around 9 days, resulting in an often uneven nest that can be 5 feet across and 2 feet high. The inner cup is 9-12 inches across and 5-6 inches deep. Nests are often reused, although not necessarily by the same birds, from year to year.

Lovely colours .

It was then walk back to the road probably the last day it will be quiet. Today things open up and many more folk and cars vans etc will be about. This is the route from Applecross to Sheildiagh on the North Coast 500. A very busy tourist location on single track roads. There are lots of lambs about so please drive carefully and be respectful to other drivers. Use passing places and take all rubbish with you please.

There is so much to see try not to rush!

Today’s tip watch out for the newly born lambs in the road ! Drive slowly and carefully!

Hello Everybody,
Just a wee reminder that is the season for ground nesting birds. Please be aware of keeping dogs under control on moorlands such as Dava Moor. See below from my friend !

Ground nesting birds

Just saying as I got approached by the Land Manager.

From the Outdoor Access Code:

Ground nesting birds:
During the breeding season (usually April-July) keep your dog on a short lead or close at heel in areas such as moorland, forests, grasslands, loch shores and the sea shore to avoid disturbing birds that nest on or near the ground.

Thank you. Comments welcome as always .

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Cycling, Enviroment, Flora, Friends, Health, Islands, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Plants, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Please be careful in the sun. Sun damage is serious.

It was very hot yesterday on the hills you have to be careful in the sun. I learned the hard way in the 70’ after 9 months Desert Rescue in Masirah in the Persian Gulf. This was the early 70,s so we were not so aware of sun damage. All we carried was water radio and fruit !

Got the hat and glasses but to much skin in the desert in Oman

Use sunscreen and top up during the day. Sun damage is with you for ever on your skin and can lead to-serious problems later in life!

Wear a hat and sunglasses drink a lot of fluid and top up on the hill. I wear a bandana which I wet when I can to keep my neck cool. A long sleeve top is worth carrying it to stop sunburn. Keep drinking a little and often. I tend to have plenty of fluid before I go at breakfast. Due to the sheep ticks I would be careful if wearing shorts. Check yourself and of on the hill your dog. My friends dog had 6 sheep ticks on her. Lyme disease is very serious. There is also a big fire risk please be careful.

On the way home I have plenty of fluid in a cold box and rehydrate. I also wear open sandles or crocs with socks of to let my feet breathe . A good tip?

Be careful the sun is here maybe just for a few days but we need to be ready. Walk slower take your time and sit and watch nature. The flowers are out there is much to see.

Marsh Marigold.

I like to get away early before it gets to hot ! A good tip.

Enjoy the great weather your comments are welcome.

Sun hat and sunglasses with a long sleeved top on my bag. Plenty of sunscreen! Sun damage is serious.,
Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Health, Hill running and huge days!, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

What a day on the back of Beinn Alligin in Torridon. A visit to a remote Corrie.

I was away early yesterday from my home on the East heading for the West coast. The forecast was superb and being a Friday the hills should be quite. It was a lovely drive over no rush and we met in the Beinn Alligin car park. It was one of these stunning days a little hazy but perfect walking and no midges. The carpark was empty but everything was bone dry there was a big Fire Risk on the hills so please be very careful.

Over the years I have done many hard hill days here. The walk in and out especially after some big days or epic callouts do not let you take the beauty in of this path that you can follow to Beinn Alligin or Beinn Dearg or through the Glen to Liathach or Beinn Eighe. Today was perfect walking I could have done with lighter trousers but just incredible. The path follows the river it’s superb in places with pools and gorges and the first bit of the path takes you through wonderful woodland. The trees the mosses and the river plus so many beautiful boulders make this a lovely wander on its own. The birds were singing and the sun was out and today no midges. This was a close to heaven for us as it gets.

Kalie in the forest on the way !

Kalie my friend and Islay her lovely Collie were my company for what turned out to be a grand walk. The river is so close by and the views of that superb mountain Beinn Alligin open up as you walk. The stunning Corbett Beinn Dearg watches you all the way. This is a huge unsung Corbett that I love. It’s a complicated mountain and one of Scotland’s finest with a huge pull onto its main ridge and a scramble summit. It’s a steep descent any way you go. Well worth a visit?

Heavy bear from the Charity Outfit moray. Looking at the mighty Beinn Alligin,

There are two great bridges crossing the river lifesavers in poor weather when the river is wild and the path is superb.

Islay and Kalie with Beinn Dearg in the distance.

The views of Liathach are stunning still holding snow the huge Coire na Caim and the pinnacles in full view.

We passed the path up to the Horns of Alligin another wonderful day but I wanted to have a look at the North West face of Nan Rathan

(the backside of the Horns of Alligin) I had been here on a few call outs in winter and never really seen this wild place.

This face opens up and there is so much scope for a winter climber. The path continues it was not marked on the map but takes you on past a great wilderness.

From UKC

It’s a huge area and though it was warm we stopped and enjoyed the day. Islay still has her winter coat so she was a bit warm so we sat down often and enjoyed every minute. Islay cooling off.

Islay cooling off.

The cliff was looking incredible there are a few lines but the scope for more and some serious scrambling about. Well worth a visit and great to be here on such a great day.

The North West Face

We continued on and to the approach of the Corbett Beinn Dearg.

Up on this wild place there is a series of small Lochans and the huge bulk of another Corbett in the distance Bosbheinn. This area is full of great hills. There was a bit of wind cooling and we just enjoyed the views. Yet it was the huge bulk of Beinn Dearg that looked so good today with a chunk in its armour on the steep slopes.

Beinn Dearg

We had some lunch then headed down the weather was still perfect and I had been drinking a lot and taking it slowly. You have to be careful in the sun. It was a great wander back down we met no one on the hill. It will be so different tomorrow .

Thanks Kalie and Islay for another great day.

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Braeraich aircraft crash a past visit . Blenheim Z7356 on Braeriach, Cairngorms.On 22nd March 1945. A visit in 2015.

This was a piece written after I was recovering from several operations in 2015 a few years ago. I was with a good pal Tom MacDonald who was up visiting its well worth revisiting the piece I wrote.

I had always wanted to visit this place in the Cairngorms on the summer. It was an aircraft crash site just of the beleach between Sron Na Larig and Braeriach. I had managed a short day along the Northern Corries on Sunday and felt pretty rough so I was a bit wary how I would be but the weather was forecast so good I had to give it a go. I was feeling better but did not want to rush any recovery, it would be a slow day.

Tom is not an early riser but I managed to get away by 0800 the sun was out and what a drive we had. The familiar Dava Moor and the views of the Cairngorms were special, the clarity was incredible and you could even see the Tors on Ben Avon.  The only problem I had was the brightness of the sun it was so strong whilst driving I must put in my sun glasses. I always use the back road to Nethy Bridge another stunning drive we are so lucky.  We had looked at what way to go into Braeriach and the option we chose was from Rothiemurcus as I did not fancy the short climb back up to the Chalamain Gap and the Sugar Bowl ( it was the right one in my mind) From Rothiemurcus Lodge you leave the shelter of the trees.

The path up into the Larig Gru was so dry and we had a chat about days past chasing Tom along this path in winter when doing these big hills and with no car the long walk back to Aviemore. The views all the way are great and the cliffs of Lurchers Crag ( Creag an Leth – choin ) dominate as does the huge cleft of the Larig Gru. This was a favourite winter climbing arena for me. It was hot and a bit of a wind blew and we made good time with Tom a well-known botanist advising me of my shortcomings in this field.

The hills were a wonderful golden brown and the deer grass blowing in the warm wind here and there was the odd flower still enjoying the sun. The words of the song “Golden Brown” were in my mind. I was enjoying it so well

We met a pair out for a short walk before heading back to Oxford after a week on the hills. I had flashbacks of when I was down South at Innsworth  near Gloucester for two years in 2002 and how I missed these hills, now it is all there on my doorstep, living the dream! I felt okay maybe it was the company and we soon crossed the river and pulled up to the site of the Old Sinclair Hut now gone. What a place this was a cold place to be and in a strange place. Yet we used it often as a break in searches in the past.

The views from here are amazing the Larig Gru path goes through the boulders and off up to the Pools Of Dee.  We had time for a cup of tea and a few stories it was a place I could have spent the day.   The cliffs in winter Of Lurchers Crag have been a great place for me and in the days when I ran the RAF Winter Course many years ago  we had some great days away from the crowds. It still can be a wild place in a bad day.

From the site of the old bothy the Sinclair Hut it is a steady pull up onto Stron Na Larig with its great gullies and ribs that crash down into the Larig Gru. There is a good path but Tom is like me and we wandered along the edge of the cliffs marvelling at the wildness of this place with it shattered ridges and gullies. So many on that great rush for summits and ticks in a book are head down and miss this, all they see is the path and how many have commented on my love of the wild cliffs. Every corner each spur changes and every aspect is different. Tom has been on botanical research here and showed me some of the places he has been, brave man. These gullies and ridges offer sport in the winter for those who fancy a day away from the crowds, it can be an Alpine arena on a winter’s day.

Heading over to the site

It was  a bit longer than I expected up onto Stron na Larig at 1180 metres but though slow I was loving it and those dark days of being ill were hopefully in the past. I had always missed this wreckage of an aircraft on this hill and I wanted to see what I had missed. There are two crashes very near each other unfortunately this one:

http://www.edwardboyle.com/wreck24.html

RAF Bristol 142M Blenheim IV / Z7356 all the crew were killed.

“This Bristol Blenheim was being flown by 526 Squadron RAF. At the time of the accident, it was returning from RAF Digby(JSSO Digby) in England to its home base close to Inverness. However, it flew into cloud not far from Aviemore and crashed at the southern flank of Sròn na Lairige (Braeriach) in the Cairngorms, just short of its final destination.

The remains of the aircraft was destroyed in the resulting fire. All on board perished in this accident. Those who died in this accident were:

Air Crew: 

WO Charles Henry Fletcher (30), Pilot, RAFVR

• F/O John Eric Shaw (27), Navigator, RAFVR

•   F/O Stanley Charles Gale (28), W/Op / Air Gnr, RAFVR

 Ground Crew travelling as Passengers:

• Cpl John Michie (29), RAFVR

• LAC Angus McIntosh Fulton (27), RAFVR

• LAC Adam Veitch Bryce (36), RAFVR

http://www.edwardboyle.com/wreck24.html  a great website

We had a rough idea where the wreckage was and wandered about at a grid reference we had, it was out.  Tom pulled out his binos and we saw wreckage and wandered down.

We had an incredible wander about and there is wreckage all over much close to the path but few see it.  There was little wild life about a couple of Ptarmigan and a hare amongst the boulders darted out as we approached.

I wanted to locate the two propellers and they were a bit away on some steeper ground and we were lucky it was dry as this could be a slippy area in the wet and care should be taken. I was carrying as I had left my bag on the beleach and was carrying my I Pad for photos ( daft)  We found the propellers and they are in some situation with a backdrop of the Larig Gru, Ben MacDui and Carn a Mhain in the distance.

Care should be taken.

This is as all these crash sites are to me moving places. There are a few in the Cairngorms on the opposite side of the Larig Gru is the site of the Anson Crash near Ben MacDui as we stopped and photographed this place.

As always my thoughts with all these young men who died in the war and the terrible losses to their families, that have never been forgotten. 6 died in this place and after a lifetime of Mountain Rescue it must have been an awful task getting them off these wild remote hills. Please do not take or remove any wreckage these are poignant places and treat them with respect.

We spent a while and enjoyed the peace of this place it was interesting ground to be on and I promised a winter visit. Time was moving on and the summit was not to far away but I decided that we had a long way back and the summit could wait for another day.

We still wandered back along the cliffs Tom wandering among the ridges and I enjoying the sun and the views. The shattered ridges and gullies were looked at and we sat and enjoyed the view. Lurchers Crag on the opposite side of the Larig Gru was looking superb as the light played  and showed the great gullies in detail of the crag.

We were soon back at the site of the Sinclair Hut, I could have stayed here it was so hot and scenic but after another break we wandered back in the sun. Tom was looking for plants and me in my own world. I felt good a bit sore but what a difference for Sunday maybe I was really coming out of dark place and into the sun again?

Thanks Tom for a great day, it was so special to be out and enjoying this place. I cannot wait for my next wander on Saturday with a relative of another crash in the Cairngorms on An Lurg it will be a moving day and the weather looks good.

Thanks to Danny Daniels and Ray Sefton for the assistance and Tom for the company .

http://www.edwardboyle.com/wreck24.

At the site

Please treat these sites with respect as they are where young men died. They are protected under the military remains Act and should be respected.

Thank you comments and photos always welcome !

Tom looking into the Corrie
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

John Muir Day – a few thoughts.

When I was at school many years ago I was never taught about John Muir and the effect he had on the environment. Why ? I have no clue. Things are better now and John Muir is celebrated in the USA and his birthplace in Dunbar Scotland.

I was so lucky to visit the USA on a lecture tour just after I retired in 2008 for 3 months. Six weeks was spent in Yosemite with the local YOSAR search team and some nights I went to the little theatre and listened to the tales of John Muir in a series of various plays. To here the stories in this incredible place with its wild life, huge trees and waterfalls was something I will never forget.

It was surreal and gave me a great insight into this great man. John Muir was played by Lee Stetson we became friends and chatted after each event.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.” John Muir

With Lee who plays John Muir.

It took me many years to understand that the mountains and wild places need looking after. Many years before I stopped racing round the hills and looking at where I was. I wrote this:

“As I stopped the wind was wisping across the loch and the spray was soaking me at times. It was surreal with the changing light at times surreal yet magical as well. The tree roots are amazing down by the loch worn,bent, open to the elements and yet the trees were huge towering above and swaying in the wind. Trees the things we take for granted and for years I never appreciated them.

I only discovered John Muir about 20 years ago and on a trip to Yosemite I was amazed how much the Americans hold him in respect. Seeing the great trees in the park was humbling and you can see why he fought so hard to save them from being cut down.”

In the Yosemite theatre I watched a few plays on John Muir and his work and it was incredible being in the park where he walked and got so much inspiration. Lee Stetson who plays John Muir was wonderful and I watched every show he did in my 6 weeks visit.

John Muir all these years ago took on the establishment and the industrialisation of many special places in the USA. I love these tales and when I watch my grand kids climbing trees I think of him. What would he make of the Wind – Farms all over Scotland, the rubbish in the seas and wild places and the Freedom of Access we have in Scotland nowadays? This freedom of access is under pressure daily we need to ensure that this right to roam is never lost?

John Muir is now respected in his own land and the young folk are taught about his great work at school. His views and writing through education and work of the John Muir Trust. https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/

The John Muir Trust is a conservation charity dedicated to protecting and enhancing wild places in the UK John Muir

John Muir (1838 – 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. One of the best-known hiking trails in the U.S., the 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier.

A true Renaissance man, Muir was: inventor, mountaineer, explorer, botanist, geologist, nature-writer and environmental campaigner; many would add: Christian-mystic, visionary and wilderness-sage. His writings are the fountain-head from which the American conservation movement erupted, setting the agenda, the ethos and the argument for the creation of a vast National Park system. Muir did more than simply describe the grizzly bears, the giant redwoods and luminous landscapes of California’s High Sierra; as the founder of the Sierra Club, his endless campaigns saved them for all posterity. This new selection includes Muir’s finest autobiographical books: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth and My First Summer in the Sierra along with the best of his climbing and conservation essays from: The Mountains of California, Our National Parks, The Yosemite and Steep Trails. It offers a rounded portrait of Muir as a giant of American letters; of a visionary, whose passionate defence of ‘everything that is Wild’, still reverberates through today’s environmental movement, inspiring new generations of activists and all who love the natural world. In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. He is today referred to as the “Father of the National Parks” and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life. Muir’s biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become “one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity,” both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. “Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world,” writes Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified “the archetype of our oneness with the earth”. Muir was extremely fond of Henry David Thoreau and was probably influenced more by him than even Ralph Waldo Emerson. Muir often referred to himself as a “disciple” of Thoreau. He was also heavily influenced by fellow naturalist John Burroughs. During his lifetime John Muir published over 300 articles and 12 books. He co-founded the Sierra Club, which helped establish a number of national parks after he died and today has over 1.3 million members. Author Gretel Ehrlich states that as a “dreamer and activist, his eloquent words changed the way Americans saw their mountains, forests, seashores, and deserts.” He not only led the efforts to protect forest areas and have some designated as national parks, but his writings gave readers a conception of the relationship between “human culture and wild nature as one of humility and respect for all life,” writes author Thurman Wilkins. His philosophy exalted wild nature over human culture and civilization. Turner describes him as “a man who in his singular way rediscovered America. . . . an American pioneer, an American hero.” Wilkins adds that a primary aim of Muir’s nature philosophy was to challenge mankind’s “enormous conceit,” and in so doing, he moved beyond the Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau to a “biocentric perspective on the world.” John Muir what a man please spread the word! He was a man who loved nature and fought for it taking on politicians and Industry we need men and women like John Muir nowadays. Never take what we have for granted there are many who will sadly take it all away bit by bit.

John Muir Trust
  • The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” …
  • “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” …
  • “The mountains are calling and I must go.” …
  • “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

So when my grandkids climb trees I tell them of John Muir climbing to the top of one to feel the effects of the wind in a storm. What a man what a legacy to leave

Comments welcome.

https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/support-us/become-a-member

Wild places are special and need protecting. In becoming a member of the John Muir Trust, 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.

Whichever type of membership you pick, your support will help protect the wild places in our care, campaign on the urgent issues facing wild land and connect more people with nature.

So every time you see kids climbing trees tell them about John Muir climbing that tree in a Gale to feel the force of nature.

They love that tale ! Look after our Freedom to roam it was hard fought for and should never be taken for granted.

Posted in Articles, Books, Enviroment, Friends, Lectures, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

The Cairngorm 6 a long time ago. Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochan Uaine,Devils Point,Sgurr a Mhain ,Ben MacDui, Cairngorm. Scrambles and aircraft crashes?

First part of the day.

Some of my Mountaineering club were are away doing some of the great peaks in the Cairngorms . It’s great to see and I heard they had a great time. These peaks mean so much to me I have had so many classic days here. They climbed the great slabs by a scramble route onto Devils Point good on them. I found them pretty tricky one day when I did that route. What a day they had.

  1. Cairngorms – The Big Seven.       The Cairngorms       Cairn Gorm – Ben Macdui – Carn a’Mhaim –            The drop into the Lairig  Gru   is when the mind games start.      The Devil’s Point   – Cairn Toul – Sgor an Lochain Uaine (The Angel’s Peak) – Braeriach – then the trudge home to the Sugar Bowl. You can do them anyway I prefer completing on Cairngorm.
The walk in to Braeraich.

My memory went back into these great days on these hills many were often climbed in summer and winter. In my early days the Cairngorm 4 was a big day – Brairiach ,Cairntoul, Ben MacDui and Cairngorm was the classic a big day especially in winter. The descent into the Larig gru then the pull up to Ben Mac Dui from the Larig Gru to MacDui can be so hard going. Over the years we would add Devils Point Carn a ‘ Mhain to the Cairngorm 4 it became the Cairngorm 7 the updating of Angel’s Peak as a Munro . One day just after I broke my ankle and had it pinned and plated it would be about 1987 I did this big day with a boot and a trainer as my foot was still giving me problems my ankle would swell during the day. One of the teams wife Myrtle Sefton had wanted to do this day for a long time so Myrtle came with us. Myrtle was a lover of the Cairngorms since she and her family had spent many summers watching birds and camping on the Ben MacDui plateau. Myrtle was only a young lass then yet her knowledge of this area is huge as of the wild life.

When doing these days it was always a good tip for an early start. We were away by 0500 it was raining and the weather was poor. We had some thoughts of aborting on the first summit Braeraich. It was hard going in the gloom. There are usually time for a visit to the two aircraft crashes on this mountain but not today it was navigation and we were on a time scale. Blenheim Z7356 on Braeriach sadly ,killing all the crew and the Oxford HM724 which is near the main path.

Looking from the Corrie into the Larig Gru from the Corrie with great views of Carn a Mhain a very special place to visit

The Blenheim crashed nearby but much of the wreckage is in the Corrie and worth a visit when the snow goes. I have written about these crashes in previous blogs. There are many other ways on to these great peaks the way I have done often was by Angels ridge that takes you into the wild corries these are huge and there is often a good snow cover late into the summer. There are some serious winter climbs as well when I was younger you will rarely see anyone else.

Some great ideas in this book

The North East ridge is a lovely day out the views to be savoured. On the way in you pass the wild Pools of Dee and the An Garbh Choire and Corrie Bhrochain. If you want a bit of solitude this is the place to be. I often searched here in my Mountain Rescue days and its a wild place and I had some scary helicopter flights here and huge walk outs dragging a stretcher into the Larig Gru.

Yet we went on the cloud was down it rained and we had to navigate all the way to Devils Point. The plateau along from Braeriach can be tricky navigation and care has to be taken. We were all in our own thoughts as we descended to the Corrour bothy from Devils point for a break. We met a few walkers as we had our lunch or early breakfast. They were fairly surprised that we had come across the 3 Munro’s (now 4) with the update of Angels peak to Munro status. that early. We were wet and a bit down I said that Myrtle was our Mum and was pushing us to do a big day. To be honest we did not fancy that walk back down the Larig Gru. so of we went. Those who have been here no how you feel. It was a hard pull up to the beleach to Cairn a Mhain. In the past I have climbed the slabs on to the ridge but not this day. The weather was clearing and drying us out. The summit is a great view point then the trudge back and up to Mac Dui! There was little time to stop time was marching on and Cairngorm was in view. It was the first time for years that I had not stopped at the wee memorial just off the summit( how many miss that?)

Classic Angels Peak

The walk back to Cairngorm seemed to go on and on even Myrtle said so her long legs charging across the plateau. It was hard to imagine how hard a day you can have here in winter. The final pull up to Cairngorm so often just a wander hurt us all. Soon we were at the weather station and the summit and then down to the car park saying little but pretty pleased with our day. It was great to do that day with Myrtle and she looked after me over the years as her husband Ray was my team leader and mentor. My ankle was like an elephants foot at the end of the day but I could now go and get my RAF medical to saw I was still medically fit. It took another year to get the plate and pin out and the ankle has been great a bit arthritic but done a few miles.

Pools of Dee – early morning view – God’s Country

Hopefully I have left you with a few ideas, please do not just run round these hills savour them, take lots of photos and you will have memories that will last for your life.

Classic Reading : Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland – Andrew Dempster

Aircraft wrecks The Walkers Guide

The Cairngorms – SMC Publications.

The Munros – SMC Publication.

Looking towards Braeriach.

Comments as always welcome

Fergal :

“ I remember you putting three of us out on a night time traverse of the big 6. You also wanted an ascent of Savage Slit (I think that was just to put more weight in the sack). We started from Cairngorm and another party went from the other side. We exchanged climbing kit in the larig. Long night🤣” Good training!

Posted in Articles, Books, Bothies, Enviroment, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 8 Comments

Three words for consideration as we all venture out into the hills and wild places – Mountaineering Scotland.

The Cairngorms

As we all get set for a return to the hills, let’s all make sure we have the very best day. Three words – consideration, planning and flexibility – will see us through a lot.
Parking will be a choke point in many more popular locations, and we need to remember that there’s still a lot of snow high up, but if we treat each other and the hills with respect, we can make it a really memorable return.
Enjoy yourselves out there! 😃

https://www.mountaineering.scot/news/return-to-the-hills
VisitScotland Sportscotland Mountain Training Association of Mountaineering Instructors Tiso Cotswold Outdoor

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

At last a day in the Cairngorms – The Runnel in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorm.

At last we are allowed to get out on the hills away from my local are . Myself and my old mate Dan took advantage of that to climb in the Cairngorms. I was aware that it’s still winter high up and the Northern Corries provide a great array of great winter climbs. This is partly due to the easy access to the Northern Corries by the ski road. The road is now open after the restrictions were removed. We decided to leave early as the gullies are still in the shade. I heard that the many of the climbs were still there so myself and my pal Dan wanted a look.

A perfect alpine start.

The weather was wonderful and it was a special drive to the mountains. The trees and the sunshine on the way plus the views of many favourite hills still snow covered made the early start something special.

The car park was empty and we wandered slowly into the Corrie. It was so quite we could here the birds singing as we walked it was surreal.

I have not been on the hills since last February so it was a slow walk in. We sorted the world out on the way in. My mate Dan is great company and so good to be out with him again he is the most dependable companion in the mountains.

My mate Dan

The walk in slowly we took about an hour and we sorted the gear out and put on crampons helmet and harness. Even that was slow as I had bit done it for a long time.

The route we wanted to climb was the Runnel a 3 pitch grade 2 winter gully. It’s an old favourite of mine. It was first climbed in Easter 1946 by an Edinburgh University Mountaineering club. The Runnel – “the Central and best defined of the three gullies from the top of the snow bay. It gives straightforward climbing to near the top where there is a fine icy chimney which leads to the final slopes. There are grooves either side of the chimney which can also be climbed especially when traffic jams develop below the chimney pitch “ The Cairngorm guide SMC climbers guide.

OLD GUIDE BOOK

It was a climb that we had done many times in the past often in wild weather that is the Cairngorms. It looked like it would be a joy today.

Yet this time the weather was superb as were the conditions. The snow was sparkling like diamonds in the early morning light. The Coire was so quiet compared with past visits.

Skill fade – putting on and wearing crampons after nearly two years felt strange and I took my time to get used to them again. There is the usual steep apron to the climb that hurt my calves in days past this would have been a romp. We roped up early on the climb the belays and protection was superb. We soon got into a rhythm and just marvelled at our surrounds. There was no wind at all it was clear and the snow was perfect. The Cairngorm granite was looking superb on the cliff as the shadows moved round the cliff. There were a few cracks in the frozen snow where you could rest I needed that.

As the sun hit the cliff further round a few bits of ice and rock came down the gully walls. It’s a thing you must be aware of in late winter. Falling ice and Rock make this wee gully seem Alpine today. Sadly this has caused a few accidents in the past so we ensured that the belays were as safe as they could be. Also well out of the line if fire as we could.

We were soon at the final chimney it was lovely wee pitch the cracks were dry and there was good ice and snow and a wee cornice then you were out of the sun and into the sun on the plateau.

There were a few skiers about on the plateau and a fair covering of snow still. The views of Ben MacDui and the other Cairngorm mountains were sparkling.

We had some food and a drink and what a place to sit and enjoy the view. It was so warm we took lots of layers off and wandered back slowly.

In the past I have done several routes in a day here but today and due to my age and fitness that short climb was enough. Yet to be out and enjoy a cracking wee climb on a special day with a great friend was a magic time for me.

It’s a great joy to be out and with the mountains opening up be careful. Many of us may have lost fitness and a bit of skill fade. Be safe try to enjoy your day, spend time looking at views the birds and animals. Enjoy the freedom we have back and please look after the land and take only footprints and leave nothing but footprints!

I got back was pretty tired sorted my kit out and had a bath and a wee kip. I woke up to cramps in my legs a sure reminder to get hill fit. Yet I have been walking or cycling nearly every day. My days of climbing are drawing down but how special was that wee climb. So much to do so little time. Coming out of the climb over the cornice and into the sun drenched plateau was wonderful.

Thanks Dan !

The Northern Corries are a great place to be they can be busy so worthwhile going very early. I cannot repeat please be aware of the sun hitting the cliff and ice and rock falling if climbing late in season.

Today’s tip – my gloves got wet today tried these ones will stick to my proper winter gloves if I get a chance to climb again!

They got very wet and cold! Not really a winter climbing glove.

Safe mountaineering!

Lots of great advice in the Guide.
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Some thoughts after the Blog on the Jaguar Crash at St Abbs Head. The Hillsborough Tragedy a sad day.

I had sadly forgot that when this Call out was on going the Hillborough Tragedy occurred on the 15 April 1989 when 96 fans were killed watching a football match. My head must have been so full at the time with the Call out I had forgotten this. It’s amazing that my memory blanked that out. I was pretty worried that some of my Mountain Rescue Team could have been injured as the main wreckage was on a steep loose sea cliff. After the Jaguar hit the cliff at over 500 mph it dislodged so much nd loose rock. The cliff was still on fire and we were under severe pressure to examine the cliff and recover any remains. A tragic but difficult task. As I said the cliff smouldered for a few days and nearly set the ropes on fire. I was under pressure from above to get the AIB to the crash site ASAP and it’s hard to tell senior officers that had arrived that this would have to be handled carefully. There was so much happening.

Some of my team were Liverpool fans and heard the Hillsborough Disaster unfurl on the wee radio we had at the Control wagon.

Comment from Scouse Atkins -“ A memorable callout for many reasons but I’ll never forget listening to the Hillsborough tragedy unfolding, via a tiny AM radio. Just horrible. “

Andy “It was bizarre mate. Just a total feeling of helplessness. Weirdly, myself and Willie Mac went to Anfield the week before for a match, during a climbing trip down south. Mad to think of that now. Hope all’s well fella.”

Andy Craig / “That’s another abiding memory Scouse, of you sitting off to one side clutching the wee radio”. ☹️

A few of the team were given a flight in a Puma.

Andy Craig – “Another shot of the Puma. A number of us were taken for a flight that turned out to be an aerobatic display, low level runs and so on. Heavy on the ground was so concerned about his Troops on board he had words with the pilot on landing!”

I did Andy “

Andy Craig I did give him a bollocking – my words from my diary “ I spent
My life keeping my troops alive not for you to kill them all”
The Wessex boys told him he was lucky I did not punch him!”

Mark Hartree “Some exciting but sad times. Telling one of the rescue hels to keep away from the cliff as debris was being blown off into us below.

Cordoning the largest of the remains and shoo-ing away birdlife.

Coming back up with the AIB guy from the impact site to hear our ropes had been melting in the smouldering peat.

Nobby Vanderbergs flying antics in the Puma”

Thanks for all the comments and photos Andy Craig. Hard times on that cliff.

The most dangerous crash site I had seen in my 18 years in RAF MRT.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | Leave a comment

Moria Weatherstone SARDA and Arrochar Mountain Rescue – well done to a special lassie.

The Search and Rescue Dog Association has always meant a lot to me. For years we met them on the huge call outs all over Scotland They would drive often long distances to be with us for a first light search. In these days they often worked alone. I always tried to look after them when I became a Team Leader many stayed in our Bothies and ate food with us. Even 30 / 4O years ago there were several female handlers unusual for the time it was a different world then. They were all excellent people great characters often putting their lives at risk in sometimes awful conditions. It great to see that Moria had been recognised by Scottish Mountain Rescue for her service to SARDA and Arrochar MRT. She has also been a big part of the Mountain Rescue executive for many years.

Well done Moria. I know this award by your friends will be appreciated. Stay safe and thank you.

The following is from the Scottish MRT website.

⭐️Distinguished Service Award – Moira Weatherstone⭐

“We have recently presented Moira with a DSA for her contribution to Mountain Rescue in Scotland.

Moira joined Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team back in 1990, and during her time on the team she has been their training coordinator for 2 years and Treasurer for 11 years, as well as an active rescuer.

In 1992 Moira also joined Search & Rescue Dog Association (Scotland) and has had a succession of search dogs, Crioch, Skye and currently Kim. Within SARDA, in addition to being an active search and rescue dog handler, she has held the position of Secretary for five years and has also been an Assessor/Trainer for several years, assisting new handlers and their dogs to reach qualified standard.

And as if Moira didn’t already have enough to do, she has spent almost 10 years volunteering as Treasurer for Scottish Mountain Rescue, where she still holds this role. During her tenure she has been instrumental in guiding changes across the board in many aspects of running the organisation. She also works as an instructor on SMR national Search Management Training Course.

We couldn’t possibly put into words the contribution Moira has volunteered to Mountain Rescue in Scotland over the last 30 years, her dedication and support has been outstanding.

Moira, from all of us at Scottish Mountain Rescue, we THANK YOU”😀

ScottishMR #VolunteeringToSaveLives

It’s great to have some good news at last.

Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Well being | 1 Comment

It’s still winter out there – be careful.

I often went to many incidents at the end and beginning of winter. Many were for falls on hard snow and ice that catch many out. Winter is not over yet as the weather forecasts show. There is still lots of snow about and there is hard snow about where a slip could be life threatening . There are also long run outs onto rocks and the possibility of a slip could be likely. Please be aware and be safe winter is not over yet. Do not be a statistic !

Mountaineering Scotland have issued this advice :

“If you’re heading for the hills this weekend make sure and check not just the weather forecast, but also the avalanche conditions – it’s still very much winter up high.
Look out for patches of old snow too – it can be a real slip hazard, often with dangerous run-outs for a fall.”


https://www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/essential-skills/weather-conditions/late-lying-snow
Scottish Mountain Rescue Glenmore Lodge Association of Mountaineering Instructors Mountain Training Sportscotland VisitScotland

Posted in Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 3 Comments

A sad few day in the Cairngorms – The loss of a good friend. The great blizzard of 1984.

1984 Paul Rodgers Call – out Kinloss and Leuchars at Glenmore Lodge. Everyone was exhausted.

I often wandered into the Northern Corries with many friends who wanted an insight into mountaineering. Its a stunning place as the road pre – COVID would a low level a short walk into the coires and the plateau. Its hard to believe that this place so stunning and beautiful even in a bad day can end up in a survival exercise. Often after returning from a climb or Call -out I remember many such days, We had to train to work in bad conditions so for over 40 years I was often here testing myself and those with me. These days are now gone but I still love that walk into the Corries and always will despite some sad memories. Yet often we brought back climbers and walkers that had fallen in the area even though it only a short walk that was hard going in the boulder fields or wild weather. It was back breaking work at times when the helicopter could not help but great to bring someone of alive. Is there a better feeling? Sadly the photo reminds me a sad few days when 5 died in a storm in the area.

This photo turned up recently of a tragic period in 1984 when 5 climbers died in the Cairngorms including a good pal Paul Rodgers who died on the Cairngorm plateau after a huge search. We had already assisted Cairngorm and Glenmore MRT and SARDA with the recovery of 3 students who perished in a bad storm that weekend. My pal Jimmy Simpson SARDA dog was lost overnight on the hill and located next day amazingly unscathed. Paul and a student were out on the plateau overnight on Winter training in the Cairngorms. The weather at times was terrible as bad as I can remember. I have written in great detail on these awful days and the effect it had on many of us. Paul was a top class mountaineer and we will never know what happend but the weather was incredibly bad and the forecast was so wrong at the time. John Allan writes about it in his book Cairngorm John and gives his insight into these terrible days. That call – out was very near the wire for many of us as we pulled out the stops to try and find Paul and his companion.

1984 Jan – FROM MY NOTES

This weather took me back to 20 Jan 1984, the weather forecasts were very basic and I had the Friday off and along with a young friend Pam Ayres we had decided to walk in that day to Hells Lum Crag in the Cairngorms, we had planned to snow hole for the night, and climb the Classic Deep Cut Chimney. Pam was on the night shift on the Thursday but had to work late on an aircraft and was so tired when I picked him up, he slept all the way to the Cairngorms. The weather was superb and as we sorted out huge bags Pam said he was not up to it, he was really tired and had the start of flu.  This was very unusual as he was a very driven young man, we had climbed some great routes that winter and I was just back from Canada, It was bitter cold so rather than waste the day we had a coffee and went and climbed  a great wee waterfall at Creagh Dubh called “Wee Wee!”  This change of plan I think saved our lives.  During the climb the weather changed as we came of it was a blizzard we had an epic getting off the crag and my dog Teallach came up and ploughed in front of us. We decided to meet and stay with the RAF Kinloss Rescue Team that was staying in Newtonmore for the weekend. It took the Kinloss Team 4 Hours to get to Newtonmore such was the weather, in  a blizzard when they arrived at the village hall and the winds were wild.

Next day we dug the wagons out and heard the forecast the winds were crazy, we mostly drove to the Cairngorms to try to go for a walk but were stopped at Glenmore as the road was blocked. We all took refuge in the Glenmore cafe and all we could see about 500 feet above was a wall of spindrift an incredible sight. We then got told by the Police that 3 students were missing in Corrie Lochan one had made it down to the Car Park and said his friends had got tried to make it to a bothy Jeans hut an hour walk from the car park when they were caught in the weather, they tried to bivouac but had no chance the winds were recorded at over 100 mph. They all tried to get back and only one made it and went for help. The police got the road cleared and Cairngorm Kinloss/ Leuchars and Glenmore Lodge found the three all dead about 15 minutes from the car park. I was there when we recovered them three young people killed so near home what a tragedy. I kept thinking if me and Pam had been in Hell’s Lum deep in Loch Avon would we have survived?

It was an awful start to a crazy weekend and a huge shock to us all!   We were seasoned troop with over 10 years’ experience in Scotland and this was as wild as I had ever seen it.  We then heard that there were over 30 others missing, including a good friend Paul Rogers who was an instructor at the Joint Services Mountaineering Centre at Ballahullish in Glencoe. Paul had just spent the evening over at Kinloss with Paul Moores and spent the night at my house. We had met often on the hills and climbs most climbers new each other in these days. We had been told he was missing with another companion Bill who was on a course as a student. As the day developed most of the missing turned up so many had epics all over the mountains but Paul was still missing with his companion. Paul was a very accomplished mountaineer and we were sure they would be okay. After three days of searching some of it in terrible weather, though one day was superb yet we never found anything. The search was called of on the fourth day. The next day Paul and his partner were found by their friends from the Outdoor centre near the top of the Goat Track on the Cairngorm Plateau so near from safety, unfortunately they were both dead. It was huge shock to us all that a man of Paul’s capabilities had been caught out; he was one of the strongest mountaineers about.    No one could have survived in that weather, we were checking out snow holes on the plateau which were covered by 20 – 30 foot drifts in places, incredible. I was on the plateau digging into snow holes some covered by 20 – 40 feet  of snow and had an epic when the roof collapsed. There were over 50 -60 searchers from the RAF teams, 30 – 40 from Cairngorm, Glenmore, Lochaber three helicopters and 6 rescue dogs. Add to the JMTC staff and members of the SAS who knew Paul plus many more of hills pals from all over.   Teams spent over 2000 hours looking for Paul and his companion a huge operation all in vain. We even lost a search dog Rocky which spent all night just below the Cornice after being blown of the ridge, he survived and was found by Jimmy Simpson his relived handler, hungry but okay. Teams got avalanched on the search and we were very lucky we all got away with searching in such weather with no Mountain Rescue casualties. I found it very hard to leave as Paul and Bill were still not located its hard when its a pal, but its life. I never forgot that few days it was amazing as we had one day of superb weather but so much snow had fallen and it was so deep. Paul and Bill got so close to safety but in these winds at times movement is impossible. We will never know what happend and today we have better weather forecasts and gear, sometimes even that is not enough. In the end nature rules. It took me a long time to get over that weekend and that was a hard, sad winter.

Paul Rodgers Grave at Newtonmore

It was a huge learning curb for me and one that taught me so much. How small the Mountain world was and how many came to help from all over to look for Paul and his partner.  I regularly take friends to visit Paul’s grave in Kingussie, it is a huge reminder how the hard the mountains can be no matter your fitness, strength and experience.

Winter is still with us please if out be careful.

Hard Graft .
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Books, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, PTSD, Recomended books and Guides | 4 Comments

Memories of the first bothy I used Back hill of Bush Galloway

Memories of my first bothy Back of the Bush Galloway. Please note all Bothies are still closed due to Covid restrictions.

From the MBA website

https://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/

Please be aware that this website is the only up to date source of information about MBA bothies and regular updates will be given here. Please consult the relevant bothy page before your visit and observe any restrictions on use. Information provided in books, magazines and social media platforms may be incorrect, misleading or out of date. Some MBA bothies are locked by their owners during certain periods; details of those are noted on the individual bothy pages on this website.

COVID-19 (update 28 March 2021)

It is not safe to use bothies at present due to the risk of infection. Please do not visit until further notice.

I received this through my blog a while ago about a visit to a bothy in Galloway Backhill of Bush bothy with my brother in 1971 – 51 years ago:

“I once met a chap by the name of Heavy in backhill of bush bothy in the Galloway hills.it was new year 1977. He was there with his brother as we arrived at the bothy and made us feel so very welcome making us a brew and getting our feet up at the fire. We went our separate ways next morning and never met again. I have written about the guys in my memoirs. We sat till the wee hours swapping stories and laughs and that camaraderie we formed still lives with me. I just wondered if you were the same person. I am Ian a lot older though! “

My reply :

It’s was lovely to hear from Ian all these years later. Sadly the bothy at Back Hill is no longer open. I am not sure of why but it was getting misused and I think the forestry had to shut it .

I think but it was my first bothy I visited as a young lad through the Boys Brigade aged 12 .

I will never forget arriving about 12 years old and the fire was on and listening to the tales and stories round the fire. Everyone was so kind and helpful and I was in complete awe of them.

The total exhaustion of arriving after a big day with huge packs and just a wee boy then struggling after a hard day. Being given a cup of tea by some kindly person who saw this wee bedraggled youth and took pity on me.

The smells of the wood fire, the steaming wet gear and the wood at the door left by the forestry all these memories are still with me nearly 50 years on!listening to the tales of the mountains and Silver Flow that swallowed forestry machines in its mud. Falling asleep by candlelight.

That’s why I love the Bothies, they are unique to Scotland by allowed grace of the landowners and the Mountain Bothies Association whose great folk who maintain them.

Nowadays there is so much written on on the internet about Bothies even several books giving details of location etc. Many years ago much of these details was by word of mouth.

Things have to change folks sadly yet we must look after them and never take them for granted. I always ensure I take all my litter out with me. Often carrying huge bags of rubbish out.

Many years ago we would after the winter get out with the helicopter and the new aircrew on the helicopters and show them the Bothies in the area. It was all part of the aircrews learning Area Knowledge as the Bothies were always a place to check when looking for a missing person. We would take lots of rubbish and “other items” away in the days before Health & Safety stopped this!

A few years ago I was honoured to speak to the Mountain Bothy Association at their AGM in Newtonmore. I met many of the characters that make this wee organisation so good.

With COVID shutting all the Bothies these are strange times ahead. Hopefully the Bothies will survive and those who use them will treat them with the respect they are due? There are in my view Tricky time’s ahead as Landowners are seeing a change in the Bothies use by large groups and at time’s the mess they leave.

Many bothies would make ideal get away accommodation for the estates ? These are in great demand nowadays.

I have seen several being updated for this use over the years.

Comments welcome as always ? I hope they remain with us to give many that great introduction to the wild places. We will never know how many lives they have saved over the years?

Leave nothing but footprints take nothing but photos.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Scary Flights – “One shot pass” Alaska Denali.

I did lots of scary flights in helicopters for many years on all weathers. Yet the most scared I was when flying into Denali (Alaska) on Mount McKinley.

I had seen many aircraft crashes in my Mountain Rescue days. Always in my thoughts was that rarely did anyone get out ! It did give me a great wariness in flying. Lots of the helicopter crews knew this.

Add to that the tragedy of Lockerbie that I was involved in yet I had to fly a lot to go on so many expeditions all over the world.

So you get on with it or do not go.

One shot pass.

Alaska is a wonderful place and so wild. Access is by small aircraft and you have to take everything with you on the plane.

There are no porters everything is hauled by sledge and the rest on your back. It’s an exhausting procedure moving up the mountain slowly yet it is an exciting place. In Alaska every thing is weather relevant and at times you have to wait Takeetna . Packing the aircraft is scary there was no space left and only room to get in. It’s so tiny and you never think the aircraft will take off !

Tiny plane !

My memories are we got a weather window after a few days waiting we were in the pub. Next thing we were off and heading through “One Shot Pass” and into an Alpine world where everything is so huge that it is impossible to grasp the scale and size. Distances are warped! We fly over Base Camp which is nestled down in the South East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier between the Summits of Foraker and Denali. During climbing season (peak May and June) you will be looking at a continuous stream of climbers on there long effort to climb Denali.

This is from my dairy

I had an interesting trip to Alaska in 1996 – previous trips by other friends had showed blue skies and great weather, incredible peaks and unlimited sun light! Unfortunately our trip was not like this at all. The long trip to Anchorage was fine and the drive to Talkeetna was fascinating where you await for the weather as you fly into Denali, landing on a glacier at 7200 feet!

Most people may be are aware that I hate flying and flying in a little Cessna and landing on a Glacier was something I was not looking forward to at all. To get to the mountain you have to fly from Talkeetna a wonderful wild west town where you wait for the weather to allow you to fly in to the mountain. Packing and unpacking weighing gear, for a month on the hill taking stuff out, what an epic and the weight is incredible. After 4 days waiting for the weather we were off, the weather cleared and we got the message in the pub, that never closed. When the aircraft left Talkeetna is was packed with gear and had an epic taking off we had 3 on board and food and gear for a month. All this to be dragged by you on your sledge, there are no Sherpas in Alaska. In addition we had skis, yes skis for me as well but that was the plan. The flight in to the Base Camp takes about an hour is an incredible journey, mountains everywhere and the huge bulk of Denali just looks so massive and imposing. The flight takes you over high mountain passes and the famous “One shot Pass” is exciting as you pass the huge cliffs, Cornices and a wee gap in a ridge.

Not every landing is as expected landing on a glacier!

People  I naively asked why they call it “One Shot Pass” and got a laugh in response. It’s the best shot you have for flying a direct route to Kahiltna Base Camp. Our tiny plane lifted up out of the cloud layer, and the three great peaks of the Alaska Range I saw them for the first time these amazing peaks of Foraker, Hunter, and Denali rose above the glacier in full view.

Our pilot Paul skirted over One Shot Pass, giving me a non stop update of how close we were and we had got friendly over the days of waiting to go. He was bringing the plane in low over the crevasse fields of the Kahiltna, the longest glacier in the Alaska Range. The plane in front bumped along the glacier and then crashed, we flew over, they all got out, gave the thumbs up and we flew back to Talkeetna. It was to windy to land and Paul did not want to risk it, I was terrified and agreed with him.

They all walked out!

We went back and a few hours later the aircraft had been moved and the wind had died down we were off.   We landed on skis in the white powder snow and came to a stop before a snow hill cluttered with tents.

Most climbers are on their way up the mountain; the others have returned from their attempts. So far that year, only 18 percent of Denali’s 600 climbers have made it to the summit, a very low number for a mountain that boasts a 50 percent chance of success.  We had landed and soon we were on the glacier and the wee plane lightened now took off over the glacier and was soon lost in the great peaks. The Plane does not hang about and is gone as soon as we were off, now on the glacier a jumble of tents and gear and the “Base Camp Annie” met us and gave us a quick brief.

Everything is carried with you and each night you break camp and move on or stay and move gear up. It was a wonderful place to be and soon the tent was up and we got organised.

It was going to be an interesting trip! I will never forget that trip or the landing ?

Still alive ‘
Posted in Alaska, Articles, Avalanche info, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Is winter on its way again? Lurg Mor and Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich wild hills and the remote Munro top Meal Mor. The remote rock climb “Munroist Reward”.

The forecasts is today the weather will get pretty wintry again. As it’s the Easter holiday and things are starting to open up a bit please be aware.

It is fairly common for spells of wild weather to hit us so keep watching that weather forecast. There are so many weather sites there is no excuse not to be aware. It’s not always been this way as the forecasts were a lot more sketchy in the past.

The Met office and MWIS are very good sites as is the Scottish Avalanche Information Service sites. Information is free so please check what’s happening on the mountains?

From Walk Highlands

“ A challenging expedition to climb two of the remotest Munros. The fine, pointed summit of Bidein a’Choire Sheasgaich would be more celebrated were it not hidden deep in the wilds of Monar, whilst neighbouring Lurg Mhòr is even more inaccessible. The walk can be broken up by an overnight stay in the bothy or wild camping.

TERRAIN

I cannot wait for things to open up as I have 2 remote Munro’s left to do. I better get them done as time is getting on as is my body. It’s a long walk or cycle on from Craig but it will be so worth the effort.

A long but good approach track leads to Bendronaig Lodge – this has been widened and smoothed for hydro works and could be done by mountain bike, though the first ascent is long and steep. Beyond there is a stalkers path to Loch Calavie and along the ridge between the peaks, but the rest of the route is very rough and pathless. A serious expedition, far from help, requiring experience of wild country”

Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mor .

These are superb mountains and having done them on several other Munro rounds they are still serious wild mountains.

On my second round of the Munro’s we climbed them from Strathfarrar on a bitterly cold weekend. It was -15 on the hills. This was on the mid 70’s nearly 50 years ago.

We walked in after work on the Friday and had a long wander along the Loch Monar and a very cold open bivy. From here we climbed the rarely ascended the East ridge to the Munro top Meall Mor to the summit of Lurg Mor. The ridge was snow covered and looked daunting but was fine it’s a grand walk to the other Munro Bidein a’ Coire Sheasgaich. This was often called “Cheese cake” by the young troops. Then things went wrong one of the young lads was struggling it was big day for us all and myself and Jim Morning had to drag him off the hill. The weather was extreme but we were fit and strong and got him into the Glen and then had another bivy Pait Lodge. There was no one there but there was a sign in the window allowing access if needed round the back I doubt this happens nowadays ? We met another party in the lodge that were caught in the weather. We learned lots that day there were no mobile phones or chance of rescue.

Most other ascents went fine one great day was with two young troops “Just” William, Tommy Pilling and my dog Teallach we had a bivy that day planned in winter but then the kit was so much better this was the mid 80’s.

I told them the story of the past epic. They both loved that few days and it was so good to introduce them to these wild hills. Both became sound mountaineers.

I had planned to complete these hills again with some pals via a rock climb aptly named : Munroist Reward but I got ill for a few years and I think that is now long gone. The route is so aptly named. I have seen this climb when I was looking in the Corrie.

Munroist Reward – 300 ft Vs 4c

90m, 2 pitches. The left edge of the main slabs by a series of overlaps.

R Everett, D Gaffney 23/Jul/1988.

Has anyone climbed this route ? I bet it has few ascents ?

The Bothies are out of use just now due to Covid but there are some great places to stay in the area. Of course a tent makes these days a bit better but please whatever you do : Respect the land, take all your rubbish with you and treasure every day in the wild. Be safe and have fun these are hills to savour .

Posted in Articles, Book, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Cycling, Family, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Far North aircraft crashes great courage on Ben Loyal by Local shepherd and Doctor. The Mosquito on Cranstakie .

Now we can travel many are out hunting Munros and Corbetts, most of the hills have tales to them many getting forgotten in these days of how many Munros, Corbetts and Strava times. Maybe I am getting old but I was lucky to be brought to the hills by my father and Mum who told me many tales of the hills in Arran and Galloway. A steep ascent was broken by a tale of a plane crash or some unusual local stories. They always made my day and later on I was so lucky to go on the hill with the late John Hinde who was always telling me more and more of these tales. The late Tom Weir was another who through his early TV program met so many of the locals who make these areas so interesting.

Hamish Brown in his book “Hamish’s Mountain Walk and climbing the Corbetts” This is a a great guide to the hills but also much of the history of the area. Its so well worth a read and to pass on the tales for future generations. Have you read this?

The Far North

I love the hills of the far North the huge space and the wild views are so appealing.

Beinn Spionnaidh is one of the northernmost peak in Britain over 2500 feet. A whaleback ridge of quartzite scree, it offers unique views of the north coast.It’s neighbour another Corbett Cranstackie is a mountain of 801 m in Sutherland, the northwestern tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located west of Loch Eriboll and northeast of Foinaven. Like Foinaven and Beinn Spionnaidh to the northeast, its top is covered with loose, broken quartzite.

On this hill is the wreckage of a de Havilland Mosquito Mk.IV DZ486 of No.618 Squadron, RAF, crashed on Cranstackie NC 350560 at 2000 feet near Durness on the 5th April 1943 while on a bombing exercise from Skitten Mosquito DZ486 – Flew into hill while on a bombing exercise .The aircraft is reported to have flown over Durness and Balnakeil before turning south and flying down the glen towards Cranstackie. 5.4.1943

Cranstakie crash site

Crew : F/O (124.814) Donald Louis PAVEY (pilot) RAFVR – killed Sgt (1220369) Bernard Walter STIMSON (obs) RAFVR – killed. I have visited this site on 3 occasions its a grand hill and enjoyed looking for the wreckage not easy in the days before GPS. NC 350560 ROUGH GRID REF

Ben Loyal

Ben Loyal

This classic mountain is known as the Queen of Scottish mountains by many. It is an isolated mountain of 764 m in Sutherland, the north-western tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located south of the Kyle of Tongue and offers good views of the Kyle, Loch Loyal to the east, and Ben Hope to the west. Ben Loyal has the remains of an Hampden aircraft that crashed on the mountain in 1943. Grid Ref NC 583498 Sgor Chaonasaid at 1600 feet.

The aircraft is a Handley Page Hampden, Serial No: P2118 Unit Codes: Z9-D Squadron: 519sqn Crash Date: 25.08.43 Based: Wick Crew: Pilot; Flt Lt H. Puplett DFC,Navigator: F/O G. Richie,Radio Operator/Air Gunner:F/O C. Faulks Air Gunner:Sgt T Hudson-Bell

F/O Faulks was the only survivor when the aircraft flew into the side of Sgor Chaonasaid, the highest point in the Ben Loyal range. The aircraft was returning to Wick from an aborted search for missing Hampden P5334 when it flew into the hillside in a thunderstorm just before midnight on 25th August 1943.

The rescue party arrived Ribigill a large farm house between Tongue and Ben Loyal, the rescue party were led by shepherd Mr E Campbell and Dr F Y McHendrick. The survivor was strapped to a piece of aircraft wreckage and carried him down from the mountain. after a long trip by horse and cart he was taken by RAF ambulance to Golspie’s Lawson County Hospital about forty miles away. He arrived there some 15 hours after the crash and was found to have very serious injuries including a broken right leg, a smashed up left foot and severe facial injuries and was initially not expected to live. Having spent some 18 months in hospital he rejoined his squadron taking up a ground-based role but was keen to be in the air again. He flew again before the War ended.

Shepherd Eric Campbell and Dr Fowler Yates McKendrick M.B. Ch.B were both awarded the British Empire Medal for their rescue attempt on that night (Gazetted 3rd December 1943. In all they made six trips up and down to the aircraft that night, recovering the injured man and the bodies of his comrades. Dr McHendrick was also praised for his efforts in keeping F/O Faulks alive as they removed him to safety.

That is a tale few no about ?

Please treat these crash site with respect they are places where folk died and should be treated respectfully.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Well being | 1 Comment

Aircraft crash sites some information.

March 21 – Aircraft Crashes some information and Guides.

Recently there has been some folk seeking information on aircraft crashes in Scotland and other area in the UK.  I was a member of The RAF Mountain Rescue that was founded to recover crashed aircrew from Mountainous and wild country and had done so since the Second World War.  These sites are well worth a visit but please remember that young men dies here and the wreckage is protected by the Military remains Act. I have visited many sites from North Wales, the Peaks the Borders and all over Scotland including the Islands and contributed to a few books on the subjects. Most of the sites are in remote places care must be taken and please leave nothing but foot prints take nothing but photos. This is still so relevant in these hallowed places.

In my early years we had a list of crash sites that we visited regularly in Arran, the Borders, Wales and Northern Scotland, we used them often for a navigation day for the team and I delved into the history of these crashes in these wild places. I have written on many in my blog so please have a look. I found St Kilda a wonderful place to visit as there are aircraft crash sites there including on Soay but that is another tale.  These are just a few there are plenty more

Vampire Memorial at Ben Kilbreck
14-16/03/51Beinn Eighe 19/948602Lancaster crash.  Team on standby for two days before search commenced.  Various searches until 28th August.  8 bodies recovered over four months.  This incident had a huge impact on the equipment and training of RAF MR service. Huge amount of Wreckage left in gully. I still take relatives to these crash sites most years. Lots of Wreckage and memorial on the propeller. A sombre place.

19\3\55Ben Kilbreck 16/618316RNAS Trainer Vampire aircraft both crew killed. Memorial on far top not the Munro marked on map. In the past I have extended a day on Ben Kilbreck it by going to an aircraft crash site on the South East Spur of Meall Ailein and to a monument to the crew of a Vampire Trainer aircraft from Royal Naval Station Lossiemouth that crashed in 17 March 1955 sadly killing both crew. The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team were involved in the recovery and located the crash in a wild March day all those years ago.  The weather was wild and after a 6 hours search the aircraft was located.  It is a remote site and a very impressive memorial set on the ridge with great views this wild part of Scotland. It is worth extending the day and going out to visit this site that few see.  The monument is marked on the map and pieces of the aircraft can be found a grid reference Sheet 16/6182316 and NC 619305   Lest We Forget.  
22/11/56Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, 44/208844  

Search for a missing Canberra aircraft and the recovery of 2 bodies. One of Ray Sunshine’s Sefton’s first call outLocals & RAF Leuchars RAF Kinloss on call- out . Crew recovered with assistance of a RAF Sycamore Helicopter! Early Rescue/ Recovery in the mountain by Helicopter. Lots of wreckage about including a wing.  The Lochnagar 5 ‘This group of five Munros forms a high-level circuit around Loch Muick. The highest peak is Cac Carn Beag, which looks down into the dark coire of Lochnagar below, which is a favourite winter climbing area. The other summits are less characterful, but many discoveries are made when roaming over them, including wildlife, waterfalls and plane-wreckage. The second site I visited is perhaps the most spectacular air wreck site in the Scottish mountains. An RAF Canberra jet crashed on the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor in 1956, Killing both crew and a very large amount of the wreckage still lies scattered around the summit area. The debris field covers an area of about 600m by 600m, centred on the flat 1047m summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, with large pieces to the north, west and east of the summit, some lying in boulder fields away from the main walking paths, down to an altitude of about 960m. It used to make an interesting navigation exercise during the hill day for the RAF mrt team members This is From the Site Air Crash Sites Scotland “On the way, you should encounter some scattered plane wreckage, including a large section of wing. These pieces are the remains of a Canberra jet that crashed into the hill in 1956 (more info A good amount of the remains of all three of the Canberra’s main wheels are still at the site, including one that is standing upright and in excellent condition – this is perhaps one of the most unusual pieces of air wreckage of all the crash sites in the Scottish mountains. Remains of parts of the Canberra’s Rolls-Royce Avon jet engines and wings are still visible as well.” RAF Kinloss Archives  
Canberra Crash

Info – http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/crash_sites/scotland/d…

Air Crash Sites Scotland

Books – Lost to the Isles – David Earl and Peter Dobson

Lost to the Isles.

Hell on high Ground David w. Earl – This study of aircraft crashes on hills and mountains of the UK and Ireland covers the period 1928 to 1992, the majority relating to World War II. Drawing upon Air Force records, civil accident reports and news reports, the author has included the accounts of survivors, eye-witnesses and rescuers

No Landing Place: Guide to Aircraft Crashes in Snowdonia Paperback

Aircraft Wrecks The Walkers Guide –

This book aims to give readers access to the tangible remains of hundreds of historic aircraft that still lie at crash sites on the moors and mountains of the British Isles, all of which can be visited. It covers almost 500 selected sites, with emphasis given to those on open access land and including; accurate verified grid references, up-to-date site descriptions and recent photographs. Arranged geographically, the areas covered include:

South-west Moors – 15 entries. ~ Wales – 93 entries. ~ Peak District – 82 entries.
Pennines – 76 Entries. ~ Lake District – 32 entries. ~ North Yorkshire Moors – 23 entries.
Isle of Man – 18 entries. ~ Scotland: Lowlands – 47 entries. ~ Highlands and Islands – 85 entries. ~ Ireland – 19 entries.

Representing the main upland areas of the British Isles, each of these sections is introduced with a brief narrative describing its geographical characteristics and aviation background, discussing the factors and trends lying behind the concentration of losses within each area and noting any especially significant incidents. Individual site entries include precise location details including, where required, additional references for scattered major items of wreckage and any relevant notes to aid finding or interpreting the crash site, together with details of the aircraft, names and fates of those on board and the circumstances of the loss.

Please I repeat do not take any wreckage and leave the sites tidy, remember these are where young men died. I always take time to think of the crews and those who recovered them. I took a son who was born 6 weeks after a crash in the Cairngorms he is over 70 now. It was a hugely moving experience for us all.

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Roybridge Village Hall – Roy fridge. In praise of village halls.

I wrote last week about Mountain Rescue cooking and the nightmare it caused for many of the troops in the team. We all had to take turns cooking for a day when we were accepted in the team.

That reminded me that in the various village halls often the Caretaker would look after us. There were so many characters about then but one that always kept us in line was Nan Simpson. Nan was the caretaker at Roybridge Village Hall.

At her leaving do in Riybridge.

She always had a bowl of soup for us when we arrived and as her house was attached to the Hall she would also sort us out if we got too noisy. She was a lovely lady never complained when we got called out in the middle of the night or came back late from a Call out. She saved many a cook. There was always soup for us on arriving. She would invite you into her house and share a dram with you after a sad call out. She loved many of the teams wilder characters like Al MacLeod, Jim Green and others.

When Nan passed away we sent a wagon with myself the late Kerr MacIntosh and Scooter Beresford to attend her funeral. It was the least we could do for looking after us all.

Every time I pass the hall going West I think of Nan and the many others who looked after us. Great memories.

Off course many of the village halls we used in the early days were glad that we paid a fee for there use. This income I know did help keep the halls going and were invaluable to us. Occasionally we helped put in showers with help from MOD and the halls were used for many things like Sunday services and we had to move things about.

Some halls used – Lochinver, Achilitbuie, Kintail, Portnalong and Broadford on Skye. Torridon, Kinlochewe, Spean Bridge, Glencoe, Crainlarich, Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum, Cairndow, Corrie and Lochranza in Arran. Killin, Braemar, Ballater, Aviemore, Carrbridge,Boat of Garten. Laggan, Onich, Newtonmore, Cannich and many more. Some sadly gone now like Kintail. Then we used Bunkhouses and instead of sleeping on the floor on mats we had beds, kitchens and showers. Things moved on.

Every team had its own village halls in there areathey used many friends were made when the halls were busy with various groups using them. The local kids would arrive and “help” the cook pealing potatoes etc in reward for chocolate!

Everyone must have ha a tale or a story please feel free to comment. I always remember cleaning up when we left and forgetting our buckets and mops. Most halls ended up with MOD mops and buckets!

Comments stories welcome and photos !

Darren – I think the teams use of halls probably worked as a very good indirect government subsidy for them, either making them viable or helping them afford improvements. Any kitchen enhancements that avoided the need to use the mk5 were a bonus! Stuart McIntyre i know a few halls said they weren’t insured for gas appliances, can’t think why!

Jason – Darren Summerson when I was WOp I used to tell halls to up their prices and use the dosh to install coolers etc. Kept the teams popular with the community.

Steve Blythe – Friday night arrivals- unloading after a long drive (after a long week at work) setting kit up, getting a brew on, sorting your bed space (scrambling for the best spot) then sitting at the big table in the middle with a massive pot of tea and guide books and maps everywhere planning the weekend. Great times and great memories.

Richard P – Utter luxury! I only remember straw filled bothy’s.

Mick T / Great memories of the McLaren Hall, Killin!

Andy Young / Portinscale did very well from us, and we benefited with a shower and decent kitchen. Mind you the farmers arms next door did fairly well also!

Stuart V / Remember Great Strickland ? Roger John – Stuart Vyner always colder inside than out – even when it was snowing! Andy Young – Roger John and if it wasn’t freezing the condensation dripped everywhere.

Andy Craig – That sounds like Onich as well! ☔️❄️ Andy Craig yep much the same as oink

Ian Whiting / Talking of Great Strickland, I remember the cup of tea I made after the pub… it had frozen by morning! I went outside in the snow to warm-up!

Coxy – My first christmas away from home Dec. 1987 was spent with Leauchars MRT in Newtonmore village hall and new year spent in Ballachulish village hall. Partying in the Kings house to bring in the New year . To date still the best christmas / new year I ever spent.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 9 Comments

What a grand game of rugby last night. Cheered me up.

During these strange times it’s true that Sport does cheer you up. I am not a rugby fan yet I really enjoyed the France via Scotland game last night. It was great to see this wee nation work so hard right to the end and get a result.

As the Guardian says “but Scotland, like an irritating wasp at a picnic, refused to go away, “ They fought so hard and never gave up.

Thank you Scotland I hardly drink now but enjoyed my pint of Guinness. In these weird times we need things like this.

As the Scottish captain Stuart Hogg said “ Had a lot of fun yesterday. Smiles on our faces – the best feeling ever is winning in a Scotland jersey #AsOne

It’s great to see the respect the players have for authority we can all learn from that ?

Thank you all

Comments welcome.

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

Good thoughts make your day. A visit to an old friend for the first time in a year.

Yesterday was a strange day I was allowed to see my old friend Wendy. She is 85 and in a Care Home and had not seen many visitors for nearly a year. It was her birthday and was my old Bosses wife Eric Hughes he passed away a few years ago. He was my first Officer I/c at RAF Kinloss and looked after many of us when we were wild and young. Yet he saw in me and others something in us that I will never forget how he helped us. These were tricky time’s for me I could have easily gone off the rails.

When he passed away he asked me to keep my eye on his wife her family all live abroad .

Over the years I have tried to do that we speak most days on the phone and I drop some bit off for her weekly. She is on her own in her room for most of the day in the home. It’s a hard to me for so many as health problems like hearing and eye site fail.

Yet we had a lovely time and she was smiling and laughing at the end. We were outside it was bitter cold but Wendy was out in the fresh air. It made a huge impression on me just seeing her and spending time with her. I feel for so many like Wendy on their own in these strange days. So many have lost loved ones there had been little time to grieve so we must look after the lonely they are not just the old.

It’s amazing how many folk have so much effect on your life. I was lucky with a strong family and great mentors in life ( to many to mention) it’s sad to here of families who do not speak pals you may have fallen out with life is to short. Make that call send that letter or card! Sometimes you get a reply if not you have tried?

My first team as Team Leader. RAF Leuchars.

I have had a few emails phone calls recently a lot from ex Team members who seem to be like me reminiscing. We all seem to be doing it. It’s great to hear that to so many in Mountain Rescue these were great days.

Most like me came into the Mountain Rescue with no experience and so young. We learned from some great mentors who taught us so much. Of course there were some characters who were hard going but in the main most were stars.

They looked after us in hard time’s on the hills when we were learning and running on empty at times. Many of us met on Summer and Winter Course where we learned winter skills and summer rock climbing in Wales. In my time I ran the annual winter Course in Scotland. To many young team members this was their first venture in winter. Early on they snow holed and learned winter skills it was a hard two weeks on these days. They were often flung into Call outs after a big day on the hill and never let us down. Yet it made a huge impression on most who attended.

It’s makes my day to hear from these folk despite the mistakes I made (and there were many) that folk contact me. Many mention so many of the Party leaders and Senior troops who helped them along the way.

RAF Valley

Many only spent a few years in the system but they seem to be the best years of their lives. Most are married now and some were at the time. The families also gave so much for the team and in these days their efforts not recognised. I wish I could have done more at the time to appreciate their efforts. We did start things like families days and even families weekends. The kids loved them it is amazing it took years to get the wife’s and partners to the annual Reunion.

The great thing is that I can pass on to so many others who were involved of their thanks. In these strange days it’s great to hear and speak to so many . A phone call or a message is so important just now

Early days. RAF Kinloss.

Comments welcome !

Rescue course
Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Ben Lui – Conish the Gold Mine and the Eas Anie waterfall and the ice climber alert !

The classic 4 Munro’s

I have been watching on BBC Scotland “Gold Town “ is about the mining for Gold near Tyndrum and the Gold mine near Conish Farm just below Ben Lui . The mine is actually on Beinn Chuirn 880 metres and is a Corbett. This area was previously mined for lead in the past and many of the open mines are seen from the A82.

I got to know the area well and MR Burton who owns the farm below Ben Lui has helped us on many occasions. He let us drive up the Glen and always spoke to us. It’s a great wander on some superb hills.

The Wessex overnighting on Ben Lui ! another tale.

There have been some huge call outs here in the past with the local Killin Mountain Rescue Team. I have done the classic 4 Munros Ben Lui, Ben Oss, Ben Dubhcraig and Beinn a Chleibh. These are great hills and so enjoyable.

I have also climbed in the Corrie the Classic Central Gully is a favourite and we climbed many other snow and ice routes in the huge Coire. There is also has an aircraft crash here we visited often. In the Corrie are the remains of Lockheed Hudson Mk.III bomber, Serial Number T9432 (ZS-B) of 233 Sqn Royal Air Force, which was based with Coastal Command at Aldergrove, Northern Ireland. The plane crashed into Ben Lui near Tyndrum on 15 April 1941, sadly killing all four crew members on board. The aircraft struck the southeast side of the mountain in poor weather, close to the snow-covered summit then ploughed its way into a narrow gully and simultaneously disintegrated. Pilot Douglas Eric Green, his Co-pilot Fredrick Victor Norman Lown, and crew of Leonard Alfred Aylott and Wilfred Alan Rooks all perished.

I was also on a huge search for a Jaguar aircraft that crashed. On the 27 November 1979 a Jaguar aircraft crashed in the Ben Lui area. It was heading in a two ship formation for Bridge of Orchy, intending to turn west at the main glen towards Oban on the coast. Suddenly the cloud came down, and the leader told the No 2 to abort and pull up; this he did. However, on pulling out of the top of the cloud, he could not see his leader and could make no radio contact. More information is on my blog . That was a huge learning curve for me and I wanted to become a Team Leader after that incident. I was the Full time Deputy Team leader then at Valley in North Wales we were flown up to assist.

There is a waterfall near the Gold mine that I have been lucky enough to climb a few times in the past. This information was on UKC climbing forum. It is a great ice climb in winter.

Eas Anie Grade 4 50m, 3 pitches. Classic water ice giving perfect protection.
The lower gully is easy. The upper left hand section provides the crux with two good long pitches. The easier right hand finish can offer ice flutings and an ice cave.

Eas Anie Willie Mac on the last pitch 2004.

August 2020. There is a sign on the last track gate, which you would miss out if you followed the signpost to Eas Anie. This says that the Cononish Gold Mine will refrain from blasting within 300m of the route when it is in condition and being climbed. So probably a good idea to give them a call before setting off. 01838 400 306.

12 Feb update There is now a box with a switch at the top gate just below the gulley and above the mine. This is the Ice Climber Alert for the mine office. Switch it on when you go up, and last one down switches it off. DonNOT walk into the Gold Mine area

The BBC Scotland program is a great insight into the balance of the National park the Mine owners (Scottish Gold) and the locals to the project. It’s a great series you should be able to get it on “Gold Town “ on BBC Scotland. It was great to see Mr Burton and his wife and hearing their views. I loved seeing the hills and the area again. Great memories comments and views welcome?

Ben Lui from a painting by Terry Moore

And as always there are the Corbet’s in the area!

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Health, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Recomended books and Guides, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Mountaineering Scotland – Tick Prevention week.

Ticks have been with us for years and it’s worth reminding those who love the wild places about them. I have known of several well known mountaineers who have been severely effected by ticks. It’s well worth reminding yourself and others about ticks. This article is from Mountaineering Scotland .


Tick Bite Prevention Week takes place in March each year. Ticks are small bloodsucking parasites that can carry a whole host of dangerous diseases diseases that can be transmitted to pets and humans. Prevention is the best way to protect your pets and yourself against tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease.

Photo Mountaineering Scotland

A few facts about ticks…Ticks are active and looking for something to feed on (you and your pet) as soon as the temperature hits 4C.

Ticks transmit Lyme Disease and many other very serious and deadly illnesses.

Ticks can be tiny (too small to see), and they can look like a skin lump on your pet’s body.

Ticks

Photo Mountaineering Scotland

Ticks – and how to deal with them

Although ticks were once regarded as nothing more than a bloodthirsty nuisance, increasing awareness of Lyme Disease and its potentially long-lasting effects means people are more concerned about ticks, how to avoid them, and how best to deal with them.

The tick is an invertebrate related to spiders. There are over twenty species in Britain related to various different mammal or bird hosts. They carry a number of diseases, the most well known of which is Lyme disease. 

They can be found all across Scotland and particularly in the wetter west, in woodlands, moorlands and long grass. 

Scientists recorded more than 800,000 ticks in just a short stretch of thick vegetation at the side of a path. They are active all through the year, but particularly in summer.

https://www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/health-and-hygiene/ticks

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Tales from the RAF Mountain Rescue Kitchen Bombs and scary times.

1972 Glenmore camping site

When I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue Team at RAF Kinloss in 1972 one of the biggest hurdles for many was the Duty Cook. This was well before the Food Safety Act and Health and Safety. This meant you cooked all day for the team it was every ferry months and scared most of the team to death. Even though I was a Caterer by trade it was a big day the first time you cooked!

Ready for an early cook – not the Protective gear.

You were in these days mostly in a tent for cooking the “cook shack”. The cooker was a “bomb” or Hydro burner that ran on petrol. It was lit heated up when the leaded petrol vaporised in a tunnel made of heavy bomb plates.

The Bomb – Army No 1 Cooking Stove Hydra Burner
Ex MOD No 1 ‘Hydra’, Cooking stove in working order with Spanners and spares
Runs on Leaded Petrol
The No 1 Hydra Cooker was made to form the basis of a Field Kitchen, dug into a Trench the same width, up to the depth of the front plate and up to 2 meters long it could Boil Bake and Roast at the same time.
Complete with storage cover
Accessories (not available) included Ovens, Dixie’s, Hotplates, and a Trench Lining Kit with grid supports.

Looking back Tents,Petrol and fire what a scary combination. It also had a series of “bomb” plates to cook on. In addition a very simple oven with no temperature gauges . To many in these days this was the hardest part of the MRT trial everyone cooked apart from the Team leader and Deputy they cooked at Christmas and New year.

I was lucky my Mum had taught me to make a basic meal from an early age : breakfast soup and mince and tatties. I was more ahead of the game yet it was still a scary day. The cooking shift / day started early especially in winter. Relight the Tilly’s lamps and clean up from the nights mess that the troops would have made after the pub. Breakfast was busy it was a full on in a limited time. It was a full Scottish breakfast then bacon ,sausage eggs beans etc and porridge.

Often you were cooking for over 20 so the morning was the worst as you-have to take bed tea round everyone before breakfast and wake the troop who got the weather by radio. Tea in bed was a ritual usually served to all in the famous green cups. Everyone wanted away early in the hills so it was a busy time. Soup had to be ready by 1200 in case the team were recalled for a Call-out.

It was so full on then you had to have the meal ready for 1700. Troops would arrive back have their soup and change for tea.Washing up was in a tin bath with hot water. This was hard to get and keep the water hot and once the team was back you had to have lots of hot water for tea and brews. This was hard to keep up with the demand .

If there was a Call- out the meal could be delayed for hours and had to be edible. Never an easy task.

It could be such a hard day and so long you were exhausted at the end of your cooking stint. The only protection you had was fireman’s gloves to move the hot pots and pans. At the end of the day you smelled of cooking. There was limited washing facilities available. Yet there were som great meals produced and on big call outs in remote areas we had our kitchen up as soon as we arrived. There was brews for everyone including SARDA.

All the food was fresh in the early days and we had some great meals.

Memories

The cook shack burning down at Glenfinnian when a Tilly lamp was dropped.

Cooking disasters;

Mars bars in soup!

Chicken boiled whole in a Dixie. Giblets left inside in a plastic bag.

Turnips uncut and boiled whole in pan.

Occasionally The cook to drunk to cook he had gone into the nearby pub and “met the locals”at lunch . He was rewarded by a visit to the river.

Curry to hot to eat a military thing?

One team leader hated Garlic so the troops put it in everything he never noticed.

Many of the locals ladies would pop in and “save the cook”?

Many of the local kids would be employed peeling spuds and veg for the team ration of chocolate “as a reward”

A famous tale with a newer cooker in the 90’s

“I remember the fire extinguisher exploding in the Mk5 cooker at Ballatar. Kaz, the Chef for the day Ex Team leader just stood there calmly, as troops dived all over thinking it was an IED, saying “a touch too much curry powder added l think” What a great man 👍👍👍Al Slyvester “

Davie Walker “I remember the incident well. Kas forgot to remove the fire extinguisher from the stowage cage, compounded with as we all did placing the oven on top. Got way too hot. “

We moved into Bothies and bunkhouses and kitchens things got better with running hot and cold water.

A well known SARDA team member burnt part of the kitchen at Newtonmore village hall.

I caught a famous Regiment man getting the RAF cooks at Base to prepare his food for his main meal he was so worried about the meal and also one of my Officer I/c who did the same..

The new hall at Crianlarich just opened when we burnt the floor. MOD had to sort it out.

Nowadays things are a lot better. Team members are trained in cooking by Catering “experts “but I bet there are many current tales ?

Top tip.

Soup was great to rehydrate after the hill and still is.

I still remember warmly some great soups made by troops followed by an hour in bed before the evening meal. Some of the meals were incredible Some were awful.

Some troops Mums would travel out to our Base camp and help their son or daughter.

That reminds me of the rats at Skye and other Bothies like Tomdoun. Food Safety was to say the least scary. We carried all this on our 4 ton truck along with comp rations for call – outs only. We had tables chairs and all the cooking utensils needed.

I remember being asked why we had used so many saucepans by stores over the years. When the troops burnt them that badly they would ditch them. I sent a wagon off midweek and located 7 pots and 2 frying pans from the Bothies. The troops had got rid of them usually on the roof! Crazy days.

Comments, stories and photos welcome.

Great days

Posted in Equipment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 11 Comments

Timeline for a return to the hills?

Mountaineering Scotland has welcomed the First Minister’s announcement on Tuesday 16thMarch of the timetable for easing Covid restrictions in Scotland as a positive step, enabling us all to start looking to the future with some optimism.

The Cairngorms in it wild beauty ! Looking towards the Pools of Dee

Although it was encouraging news that travel restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on 26th April, all the dates in the timetable are dependent on the suppression of the virus and the continued rollout of the vaccine. We would like to thank all our members for their support over the last year and also for continuing to play your part in our collective efforts to move out of lockdown restrictions. 

This has been a very challenging time for everyone in the mountaineering and outdoor community as many of the freedoms we take for granted have been taken away or severely constrained. 

Limiting the movement of the population by restricting non-essential travel has been a cornerstone of the Government’s policy in suppressing the virus and limiting transmission. This has been particularly tough for those living in the central belt and in the larger cities across Scotland who have had limited access to the outdoors.

We wrote last week to the new Minister for Public Health and Sport, ahead of the announcement of the revised framework this week, requesting additional flexibility at Level Three in the framework to allow people to travel out-with their local authority areas for outdoor recreation. We also took the opportunity again to highlight the inequality of access many have lived through during this lockdown, and the impact it has had.

Brian Shackleton, President of Mountaineering Scotland said: “Whilst it’s great to see an end in sight for the travel restrictions, many of our members, especially in urban areas, will continue to be constrained where they can go for a further six weeks. And we know it will be hard for many to see any logic from the Covid risk standpoint in allowing some indoor commercial venues to re-open early while continuing to deny travel further than five miles beyond their local authority boundary to safely access the outdoors.

“We can, however, see an end in sight and start to think about our return to the hills and mountains.”

The Mountaineering Scotland staff team are already planning the delivery of online events to help us prepare, and are delighted at the prospect of getting back to delivering climbing and mountain skills training face to face once again. 

We also hope many of the Scottish climbing walls will start to reopen from 26 April, and have been continuing to work closely with the Association of British Climbing Walls, BMC and Mountaineering Ireland to take a UK wide approach to supporting the sector to get back up and running. 

Given our experiences and what we have learnt as an organisation over the last year, we have also been pleased to work with our partners in the Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance and this week launched our joint “Manifesto for the Outdoors” ahead of the Holyrood elections later this year. A key ask in the manifesto is that Scottish Government appoints an Outdoor Recreation Champion who can better represent the interests of the sector across Government departments and agencies. 

Read more about the manifesto here.

Over the coming weeks we’ll all be busy be doing our kit checklists, getting the maps and guidebooks out, and looking forward to planning an adventure or two, and we look forward to seeing our members – and hopefully many new members – out there again very soon. (Mountaineering Scotland )

I just cannot wait to get away on the hills again.

What are you planning to do if we get the okay to go ? Crossing all fingers.

Are you worried about your hill fitness ?

It will be great just to get away from my local area, though I love it I just need to be on a big hill again!

Comments welcome.

Posted in Enviroment, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Covid a year on . A Wee local walk – Take time to sit, listen and stare.

The old railway overgrown now .

This time last year the world changed. I was getting out on my bike not far taking my lunch and sitting by the sea. A year later I am walking the same area but not cycling due to an injury to my back that’s getting better.

I remember cycling near Roseile a local walk and hearing the drum of a woodpecker. Every day I was out I could here but never saw it.

Yesterday I was walking along the old railway line. It reminded me of early adventures as a boy walking to the Heads of Ayr by the old railway line often alone. It was a big adventure then and having my beans and sausages was the highlight of the day.

I heard a noise it was the “drum”of a woodpecker I waited heard more and more and sitting and watching I saw it.

Woodpecker

I did not have my good camera with me only my phone. Yet to me it was a special moment and one I would normally miss in my usual rushing about.

I am so lucky to live in such a place and despite the restrictions being able to hear and see nature.

Maybe this should read “take time time to sit, listen and stare?
Posted in Health, People, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

An interesting day on the Great Prow – Blaven on Skye

An Interesting day on the Great Prow Blaven Skye. 

I was out for another weekends training at Kintail on the West Coast with the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team. The weather was great so we planned to get a climb in Skye just over the water it was the mid 80’s. There was no bridge there I was trying to get as much climbing in as possible before my RAF Team Leaders Course and was enjoying it. It had been a good summer and we had got a lot of rock climbs in all over Scotland! 

At the times we were chasing some Classic climbs and The Great Prow was in the famous book Hard Rock by Ken Wilson. It was one of the easiest of the routes in the book and many who know these things could not believe it was Skye’s only route in it.  I had walked in before but the route was wet so we did a long climb on the Buttress which was as they say “character building.” The Corrie in winter is superb with lots of interesting gullies, we had climbed here a lot.

Hard Rock – Ken Wilson



This was to be the day to get the route climbed as we had two good climbers with us Dave Tomkins also a photographer and Stampy Graham Stamp who would later climb the North Face of the Eiger. We also had a young troop Ros with us for an “experience day” he had just done the RAF MR First aid Course. 

The Prow



The Friday night in these days at Kintail is always a great night and we stayed in the village hall opposite the pub. This is sadly no longer there what memories of that hall. The locals had a fancy dress night in the hall and there was lots of hats and masks left when we arrived along with the debris of the usual party cans bottles etc that we tidied up in the hall. Anyway in the morning we had an early start and the troops had some of the masks on as we headed for Skye! 

In these days there was no bridge it did not open till 1995 .  It was the ferry we went across in complete with masks if I remember mine was a batman mask . The ferryman was laughing as was the garage at Broadford when we filled up on fuel on Skye then it was round to Blaven the mountain our route was on. It’s a great drive iconic with the first views of the iconic mountain always makes me smile. The classic Glach Ghlas Traverse is an outstanding day and how many miss this wonderful scramble and climb and in winter a route to task most of us. Not today we had planned the climb we were after.

The weather was great but the walk up to crag is and I quote “Purgatorial” according to the SMC guide. It is up steep screes to the cliff the Prow is situated. A far better way is to descend “Scuppers Gully” by another route but not today.  the walk in is from sea level up to 2200 feet and about a mile and a half a lot on scree.

The Prow



I had also been up here in winter and the scope for winter climbing is superb and the walk up easier if frozen. Anyway we made it to the base of the crag the weather was great and we were enjoying the day. The cliff is imposing and the Great Prow an outstanding feature but there are some hard routes round here with few that let mere mortals like me climb on it 

Two other climbers arrived that is unusual as this part of Skye is usually quite! They were two top Scottish climbers doing a much harder route on a cliff that gets few ascents! We had a good chat and off we went . Climbing was pretty friendly in these days and we were fairly well known as we climbed on most cliffs in these days. It was a great community and most folk knew each other. 


The climb – “The Prow” from Classic Rock – very Severe 380 feet East Face of Blaven first ascent 1968.

As always I was a bit worried but the route was fine with some great belays and 4 pitches one was very loose but we had fun and I climbed in my mask. We were soon on the top the views of the ridge are stunning and then we started to descend Scuppers Gully back to the bags that we left below the route. On the way down we heard shouting, not the usual but that call that means trouble. On arriving we found one of the climbers on the deck looking pretty rough, he had fallen off or a hold had come of and hit the screes. He was in a bit of shock and we soon sorted it out and had an arm injury. Poor Ross was thrown into the casualty care while we thought about the evacuation. Now it is not far from the road but its awful ground. This was 1984 and no mobile phones so it would have been a long time to get the stretcher and enough man power to get him off. 

From the SMC Journal 1985 – June 8 th 1984 –  Climber 21 (m) on the Jib  130  metre three star E1 –  East Face of Bla Bheinn fell 20 feet arm injury , shock/ Rescue by RAF MRT and RAF Leuchars helicopter  28 man hours.

The famous Mask

The Wessex helicopter was training in the area and was planning coming to see us and by magic I tried a call on our radio. There was no way we should have got any answer but by pure luck we did. We got contact and the helicopter was going to refuel and would be straight over. Now the cliff is steep and overhanging in places and soon the winch – man was dropped off with us on a long wire, we had a bit of work sorting out the casualty. More importantly we had the helicopter Neil Robinson stretcher basic but meant we can now move the casualty. There was no way the helicopter could winch here so we moved him to the screes an epic on the loose ground.  We struggled and heaved with him but managed to get into a possible winching position. It was then a pick up by the helicopter not easy with the closeness of the cliff and the turbulence but as always they were great. It was soon over and we were left to walk down of the hill with his mate.

The Wessex coming in not a great photo but shows the cliff and the awful screes.

Our casualty was off to hospital and recovered well climbing again within a few months.    It was a good job and could have been a lot different as rarely are there other climbers on the crag in those days. 

It was back for tea and medals and then I noticed that for most of the time I had my mask on and I got some wind ups from the helicopter crew for that, what did the casualty and his mate think? Crazy days, but as I sit here with my ribs still sore and look back a great outcome thanks Dave, Stampy and Ross.

Blaven to me is a very underrated mountain and the Traverse of Clach Glas is superb especially in winter. If this mountain was anywhere else but in Skye its popularity would be incredible. It is the finish or start of the Greater Skye ridge traverse a huge day. I met a couple of young lads who had completed it in winter the late 80’s on Blaven. I was the Team Leader at Leuchars and saw them coming up from the other side of the mountain. We waited and took our time meeting them on the summit. I had several young lads with me it was there first experience on Skye they were tired after a hard few days. We talked to the climbers they were pretty hardy and knackered. We gave them the offer of a lift  took them back to our bothy in Portnalong fed them and dropped them off at their car in Glenbrittle. Otherwise they would have had a long walk.  I never did get that bottle of whisky.

Info –1985  SMC Journal

Ken Wilsons Hard Rock

Skye the Cuillin SMC publications

Posted in Articles, Books, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Mother’s Day thoughts still so relevant !

My Mum

It’s a year on since I wrote this and yet every word means more every year. Many have lost their Mums due to Covid. Even worse many have died alone a tragedy that as a nation I doubt we will ever come terms with?

What would my Mum be thinking of today as we are in the midst of this virus? She would definitely be upset with the way some folk who do not listen to current advice from those in the no. The selfishness of a few is hard to understand and those who are only thinking of themselves has always been around I am glad she is no longer with us to see what is happening.

Yet she would be there with her words of wisdom for us all. She would find it hard that the family could not visit but we should look after our Mums’s very day not just on Mothers Day.

I always think about my Mum even more so just now. A few days ago was the day of Women who Inspire my Mum is without doubt the lady I was always inspired by. It has been many years since I lost my Mother, she died of Leukaemia an awful disease which she kept away from most of the family, and she did not want to worry us. That was typical of her and off her generation. It was only at the end I was told she was very ill. I was at RAF Valley in North Wales in a job as full time Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader and was living with my partner and her young daughter. As we are at that time in life I was caught up with my career, my life and very driven. I had always phoned Mum every week but she never told me she was ill until the last few days of her life when I was summoned home. I was shocked when I was called home as she was dying and to see her so frail and yet so strong in mind and still very beautiful.

I always think about my Mum even more so just now. A few days ago was the day of Women who Inspire my Mum is without doubt the lady I was always inspired by. It has been many years since I lost my Mother, she died of Leukaemia an awful disease which she kept away from most of the family, and she did not want to worry us. That was typical of her and off her generation. It was only at the end I was told she was very ill. I was at RAF Valley in North Wales in a job as full time Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader and was living with my partner and her young daughter. As we are at that time in life I was caught up with my career, my life and very driven. I had always phoned Mum every week but she never told me she was ill until the last few days of her life when I was summoned home. I was shocked when I was called home as she was dying and to see her so frail and yet so strong in mind and still very beautiful.

At Loch Ossian

My life in Mountain Rescue has led me to see many tragedies close up and I think I never really felt the effect of this great loss at the time as I was hardened by what I had seen in the mountains. It is a terrible thing to admit that I seemed to cut myself off at the time from the hurt and pain of her death. Even when I had to go back home straight after the funeral to North Wales and my partner tried to console me I was very hard to deal with, it was my way, to man up and not show the hurt I felt. I did get a few days to talk to my Mum at the end, we had a few chats even though she was very ill and I told her about my life in Wales, my new love and plans. She said as long as I was happy so was she. Mum was the finest person I have ever met, she was so caring. She gave me along with my Dad a great chance in life and my love for the outdoors. She was the one who dealt with the five children a huge Manse the poor wages and a big house to heat and look after. The love we had been incredible and the adventures we had were life enduring. Long days on the hills, in Arran, Galloway and the Highlands a love of sport and she was an avid Ayr United fan both home and away! She loved the tennis and how she would have loved to see Andy Murray in his prime. She would have been so proud of Andy Murray and his brother in the tennis world and I believe she watches them in heaven. She did not have long with the grandchildren but they were her joy, how she would love to see how they have all done in life. Money was always tight in a big family she would give away her last penny.

Ben Nevis trip

My Dad was a minister old style he visited his people the needy, the sick and the dying every night, we rarely saw him. Mum brought us all up and the work she did for the Church was incredible. At the end Mum was very upset that she felt that she could leave us nothing in the way of material possessions but she gave us all so many life skills I can never repay her. These last few days were very special and I will never forget carrying her to the bathroom and helping her near the end. She was so frail but so clear in what she said to me. To her I was the “wild child” of the family but she looked after me and was always there for me, it is such a loss in my life I feel it and still miss her and my Dad. It was such a pity as we all progressed in life we could have made her life so much better for them but it was not to be but what a legacy they gave us all. Nowadays I worry as all many children are interested in is the financial legacy they may inherit and Mum and Dad are packed off to an Old Folk’s home and left. We have so much to learn about looking after out elderly folk maybe Covid will make us all rethink how we respect and look after our loved ones.

My Dad was a minister old style he visited his people the needy, the sick and the dying every night, we rarely saw him. Mum brought us all up and the work she did for the Church was incredible. At the end Mum was very upset that she felt that she could leave us nothing in the way of material possessions but she gave us all so many life skills I can never repay her. These last few days were very special and I will never forget carrying her to the bathroom and helping her near the end. She was so frail but so clear in what she said to me. To her I was the “wild child” of the family but she looked after me and was always there for me, it is such a loss in my life I feel it and still miss her and my Dad. It was such a pity as we all progressed in life we could have made her life so much better for them but it was not to be but what a legacy they gave us all. Nowadays I worry as all many children are interested in is the financial legacy they may inherit and Mum and Dad are packed off to an Old Folk’s home and left. We have so much to learn about looking after out elderly folk maybe Covid will make us all rethink how we respect and look after our loved ones.

I also got the love flowers and got that 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, what would she have made of today’s world, I wonder? .

Please give your Mum and Dad a hug or a visit when we can we all owe them so much they make us who we are. We do not need Mother’s day or a commercial event to remind us.

Today is a special day but our parents are special always, never put off for another day what you can do today in showing your appreciation for them, they are not here forever! Treat every day as Mother’s Day and tell them you love them. This year many cannot visit our Mums yet we must speak to them and use technology to be with them those of us who are lucky enough to have Mothers that are still with us. I was speaking to a friend who was at a funeral recently where a son had fallen out with his mother and he had not spoken to her for over a year she died suddenly.

Today is a special day but our parents are special always, never put off for another day what you can do today in showing your appreciation for them, they are not here forever! Treat every day as Mother’s Day and tell them you love them. This year many cannot visit our Mums yet we must speak to them and use technology to be with them those of us who are lucky enough to have Mothers that are still with us. I was speaking to a friend who was at a funeral recently where a son had fallen out with his mother and he had not spoken to her for over a year she died suddenly.

As I write I am so glad to have such a lovely Mother and feel very proud of her and wish she was still with me. When I am in trouble she is always there for me. How she would have loved to see how we all are, I am sure she does.

Thanks Mum you will always be in my thoughts and my love for you will always remain with me till my last breath xxx

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The Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash 70 years on.

LANCASTER GR3 TX264 – CRASH ON SAIL MHOR, BEINN EIGHE ROSS AND CROMARTY, SCOTLAND – 14th March 1951

IN THE MEMORY OF THE CREW OF LANCASTER TX264

Its 70 years since the crash of the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe. I was told of the story often and visited the site on many occasions. It is a situated in the most incredibly wild corrie on Beinn Eighe in the North West of Scotland. It was a huge learning curb for the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, that involved many changes that influenced most of Mountain Rescue in the UK. For many years I have visited the site spoke to a few of the RAF Kinloss team who were involved. I have taken relatives and family annually, filmed up on the mountain this place means a lot to me. Due to Covid I cannot visit but will when I can and for as long as my battered body allows.

This particular crash had a considerable influence in changes to RAF Mountain Rescue later on.

The crash aroused and held the attention, even curious with that desire to know the true facts, rumours do circulate by ‘word of mouth’ at happenings like this one and for some considerable time.  The lines of communication in the early fifties were still a newspaper, local or national, or the ‘Wireless’, very few people had a telephone and Television was in its infancy.  ‘News of this kind was news’, where to listen or read would create an ‘image’ in the mind.  Headlines in the ‘Press and Journal’, Aberdeen, were – “Search of hills for missing Lancaster, Missing plane sought in Sutherland, Aberdeen.  Pilot on missing plane, where the missing bomber crashed, Plane wreck not yet reached.”

It is a sad story as anything of this nature is, particularly for the members of the Rescue Teams but does indicate without doubt ‘special significance’ or ‘emphasis’ on Mountain Rescue, with the extreme difficulties, along with mistakes, these teams faced in that day and age.  A detailed description of particular places and local features from Maps had to be the main concern and fully understood.

Beinn Eighe is a name, aggregated, for Peaks similar to each other or bearing a definite relation to the one preceding it. This mountain in winter is one of Scotland’s great peaks and accessible only by mountaineers. The gully where the main wreckage is a loose tricky ascent in summer and should only be attempted by mountaineers.

The following narrative relates the events of the Beinn Eighe crash on the 14th March 1951 until the 27th August, a very harrowing rescue mission undertaken by the RAF MRS, and civil MRS, despite being called out in all weathers of extreme severity and inhospitable terrain, are all volunteers.

On the 13th March 1951 at 1804hrs, Lancaster TX264 call sign ‘D’ Dog of 120 Squadron, converted for reconnaissance purposes, took off from RAF Kinloss, a ‘fog free’ climate of the Moray Coast between Lossiemouth and Nairn.  The pilot was Flt Lt Harry Reid DFC, 24 years of age, a total crew of eight with a Second Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer and four signallers.  It was a ‘Navigational Exercise’ via Cape Wrath, the very name a ‘mingled feeling of anger and disdain’ this being the extreme north-west point of the Scottish mainland and named after the Viking word ’hvraf’ meaning a turning point where the Vikings turned south to the Hebrides in the ninth century.  The cape is isolated and its heathland untamed.  Around midnight the aircrew flew over the Lighthouse.

The last position, sent by radio was at 0127hrs 60 miles north of Cape, Wrath this was the very last message from the aircraft.

At 0200hrs a boy living in Torridon, on the east end of Upper Loch Torridon, looking through his bedroom window saw a red flash in the distance, but didn’t think any more about it until he saw the headlines in a Newspaper, ‘Missing Plane Sought’ and this was two days after the aircraft went missing.  He mentioned it to the local Postmaster who immediately contacted RAF Kinloss.  Similar reports had been received.  An Airspeed Oxford was sent to search which concentrated on Beinn Eighe.  The wreck of the Lancaster was sighted on the 16th March.

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

The next day another party managed to climb higher and spotted the fuselage, burnt out, but couldn’t reach it.  Further attempts were abandoned for the time being.

The weather over the whole period of the search was ‘exceptionally’ severe for the time of the year.  It was intensely cold with constant snow showers and high winds and temperatures well below freezing at night.

The North of Scotland is much closer, in fact ‘considerably’ closer to the Arctic Circle than North Wales.  Conditions in winter can be more ‘Alpine’, they may be ‘Artic’.  Between Beinn Eighe and Sail Mhor the weather was absolutely ‘atrocious’, with the wind coming over the ridge with such force it was virtually impossible to move, and the snow anything from one to four feet.  The gully from the corrie was a solid sheet of ice.

It was certain that no one was alive in the wreckage, and in the opinion of the Officer in Charge of the team the wreckage was so situated it couldn’t be reached by any members of the public unless they were ‘highly experienced climbers’.

The CO at RAF Kinloss, in the meantime, had offers from the Moray Mountaineering Club, a Doctor John Brewster with this Club having considerable climbing experience in winter.  This offer and another suggestion for help from the Scottish Mountaineering Club, holding their Easter meeting at Achnashellach to the South of Beinn Eighe were both declined.

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

Another attempt was made by a Royal Marine Commando, Captain Mike Banks and Angus Eskine.  After a really difficult time with the weather, particularly gusts of wind that brought the human body on all fours, these two reached the main bulk of the aircraft.

Eventually all unauthorised visits were stopped and the RAF Team once again returned to Beinn Eighe and this time reached the wreckage.  It was most difficult and dangerous work recovering the bodies; three were actually in the fuselage.  The last body was not recovered until 27th August.

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

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

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

EPILOGUE

On the 28th August 1985, a group of Officer Cadets led by Sergeant Jim Morning and Sgt Tom Jones were airlifted on to the summit of Beinn Eighe by a Sea King Helicopter from 202 Squadron.

One of ‘D’ Dog’s propellers was recovered and put into a lifting net and taken by the helicopter to the road, and then to RAF Kinloss.  The twisted three-blade propeller now stands outside the wooden Mountain Rescue Section building as a permanent memorial to ‘D’ Dog’s crew. This memorial has been replaced and is at RAF Lossiemouth now where the current RAF Rescue Team is operational.

The gully where the aircraft crashed is called by mountaineers Fuselage Gully and one of the propellers has to be climbed over and is used by climbers as a belay in winter.

THE CREW:-   PILOT    Flt Lt H S Reid
SECOND PILOTSgt R Clucas
NAVIGATORFg Off R Strong
SIGNALLERFlt Lt P Tennison
FLIGHT ENGINEERFlt Sgt G Farquhar
SIGNALLERSFlt Sgt J Naismith
 Sgt W D Beck
 Sgt J W Bell
The Crew

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

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

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

Commando Climber by Mike Banks gives his view on the accident and the recovery.

Sometimes, and by chance, the fault might be corrected in time, for with tact a good team could teach an Officer his job (although no team will tolerate an inefficient NCO.  Either the NCO will go, or the good men and therefore, the standard of the team).  Tact was required on both sides and when life is in the balance, as it always is on rescues; feelings ran too close to the surface.  The fewer experienced mountaineers in a team, the more tolerant prevailed.  As the Service took shape and experienced men were in the majority the teams worked more smoothly, and with, as it were, less emotional involvement.

Teams at the start of 1951 were inadequately equipped and poorly trained, but where – in Wales – this knowledge was confined to the RAF, in Scotland the repercussions of the Beinn Eighe disaster were widely publicised.  About this time two Medical Officers Berkeley and Mason who had put forward suggestions for improved efficiency came to the notice of the Air Ministry.  It was largely due to the efforts of these two Medical Officers that the organisation and training of the teams underwent a drastic change in the following year.

One of the team members who was on the crash and has a unique account of what happened Joss Gosling who lives in Fort William. He was only a young lad at the time and the crash affected him greatly.

Joss’s classic photo at the crash site in 1951

Joss was a competent mountaineer as he had climbed previously before his National Service. He had some unique photos and a diary of events of what happened. He explains how awesome it was to see the corrie for the first time and how he felt during the long days of searching and recovery. His description of the great Corrie being like a Cathedral always sticks in my mind and when the mist swirls in these great cliffs you can feel his words of that eventful time. He explained that the “ugly step” on the ridge caused problems as the kit they had was very poor but they did their best, he is a wonderful man and a great example to us all. Joss was at the crash site on the 50th anniversary in 2001 and speaks with great authority on this tragedy. The RAF Kinloss team put a small memorial on the propeller below the gully in 2001 in memory of those who died in this crash, “lest we forget”

Look at the gear in 1951 – Photo Joss Gosling collection.

I was very privileged to have my last weekend before I retired from the RAF in this area as a member of the RAF Kinloss mrt.  This area due to its history is unique and I have spent many days enjoying these peaks. The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin became test pieces for team training first in summer then in winter conditions. Many of the classic climbs in summer and winter were climbed by team members and a few epic callouts over the years. These hills have huge corries and alpine ridges where rescues have occurred mostly not reported by the National Press. The local Torridon Team and the RAF MR have assisted climbers and walkers over the years.  I have climbed Fuselage gully on many occasions with team members during my 37 years with the Mountain Rescue Service. In early Dec 2007 with two of the young, Kinloss Team members we had a special day. This was my last day with the RAF before I retired. It is a fairly simple climb by modern standards but I broke a crampon at the beginning and it made the day very interesting as we were being chased by a big storm as we descended. One crampon on the steep descent was thought provoking and I can only think of how the team in 1951 with their simple kit coped. I was brought up to respect the history of this majestic area and its people; there was no finer place to spend my last weekend than in this special place. On my retirement I spend a two great years with the Torridon MRT as a team member. Finally retired from Mountain Rescue it is a great privilege to return to and enjoy the beauty of this mountain, its ridges, corries and wild life.          

Recently in 2009 two well known climbers were avalanched whilst descending from Fuselage gully and the wreckage stopped them being seriously injured as one of the climbers hit the propeller on his way down the gully. It made big news in the Press!

Andy Nisbet abseiling from the propeller – Andy Nisbet Collection.

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

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

Beinn Eighe

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.

The long walk, views expanding as we climb.

Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer

They have been there for many years

What have they seen?

Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.

The Cathedral of Beinn Eighe

Memories!

This is a wonderful poignant place.

Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie? 

This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe. 

Joss’s boots on their final journey.

Recently in 2013/2014 and 2016/17/18/19  a relative of the incident Geoff Strong a nephew of Fg Off Robert Strong who was killed in the crash asked to visit the crash site. He lives down South and has now three times made the pilgrimage with myself and friends to the great Corrie. This place even after all these years after the 1951 crash mean so much to many.

People ask why do I visit these places?

“Just speak to Geoff and then look in Joss eyes who was there when he tells his story of a young lad in 1951.” He never forgot what happend here, yet despite the horror they saw this place brought him back again and again to remember the crew who died.

Joss at Beinn Eighe on the 50 th Anniversary.

“Lest We Forget”

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

 I headed up again this May 2109 with Geoff and this time Heather Joss’s daughter to visit the site and may be go over the tops with Heather. Joss is now in his late 80’s and is excited his daughter is going up to see a place that means so much to him. It was great to see that the RAF MR were up the gully this week March 2017 and the tradition lives on as do the teams.

Take care and it is great to see an event such as this still not forgotten.

At the wing below the Gully.

Heavy Whalley March 2017  

In May 2018 I was up again at the crash site with Geoff and Heather, Ian and Andy Joss’s family. We had a new plaque to put on the propeller below the Triple Buttress. Unfortunately the old plaque was put on in 2001 to last and it will take a bit more time to replace it with the new slate one. Joss though not well came up and stayed in a local Hotel and had a meal with us after our wet day on the hill. Though Joss was not well he enjoyed the day and at the end his eyes were sparkling and we had a lovely day thanks to all those who organised it.

Sadly in November 2018 Joss passed away in Fort William surrounded by his loving family his memory will live on every time we visit Torridon and Beinn Eighe.

We did complete the replacement of the plaque on Sat May 11 th 2019 and the family were with us and Geoff Strong. It was a special day.  The plaque is now in place many thanks for all the help of Lossiemouth MRT and Geoff Strong and Joss’s family for providing the new plaque.

The Marines in the Corrie.

I received several letters and emails on the various pieces I have written on the Beinn Eighe Tragedy. Many from relatives and one form the Marines who took Marines to the crash site for Remembrance day and sent the photo above.

David “Heavy” Whalley March 2021. 

David “Heavy” Whalley March 2021. 

Two Star Red Gwen Moffat has a lot of information on this incident.

How Beinn Eighe tragedy transformed Scotland’s mountain rescue operations | The Scotsman

https://www.northern-scot.co.uk/news/70-years-on-raf-lossiemouth…

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-56359623

Photo – E. MacLean winter visit.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment

The Scottish Mountaineering Club Journals. Now available to all on the website.

Some of my Journals – a mine of information.

The SMC journals have always been a superb way to gain information on the history of Scottish Mountaineering. I have over 60 journals that I use regularly. This was often for the mountain rescue information and Accident summary over the years they have been priceless giving information no longer held by the Police or Rescue Teams. I also loved the stories of first ascents of Scottish Routes. Th have pride of place in my library at home and have upset a few of my partners with me delving into them all the time. They are published annually and if your looking for new routes or classic tales of the mountains at home and abroad these are the publication for you. When I left RAF Leuchars as the Mountain Rescue Team Leader the team got me a made to measure bookcase for my Journals.

They are now available for all. There is enough reading for a lifetime. It’s a wonderful achievement by the SMC to let the public have access to these Journals.

With the support of grants from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust and a great deal of hard work by Club members, an additional 80 years of SMC Journals have been scanned and are now available to all on the Club’s website. With lockdown keeping most of us at home, this is especially good news as the Journals make fascinating reading. Most of the photographs are of course in black and white, which perhaps adds to their appeal. As these are OCR’ed volumes you can perform a full text search to find information, but note also that there are four sets of indexes also on the site, so you can quickly find a particular Journal if required.

I used to hold the old Journals for the SMC that could be sent to collectors who were missing a copy. I had to give this task up as my wee house was to small for them.

The Journals from the Club’s foundation in 1889 until 1929 were already on the website and the newly uploaded Journals cover the period from 1930 to 2008, so there is a huge amount of extra reading now available. Please note that Journals from No.135 onward are particularly large files (200mb plus) so a high-speed connection is helpful. The final batch of Journals from 2008 are in the process of being scanned and will be uploaded in due course. The Journals can be found here:-http://www.smc.org.uk/journal/downloads

The Club would like to thank the Scottish Mountaineering Trust for their support for this project and especially Club members Robin Campbell, Tony Stone, Mike Watson, Martin McKenna, Derek Pyper, Graeme Morrison, John Hall, Rob Ferguson, Noel Williams and Simon Richardson who did the work.

The Journals from the Club’s foundation in 1889 until 1929 were already on the website and the newly uploaded Journals cover the period from 1930 to 2008, so there is a huge amount of extra reading now available. Please note that Journals from No.135 onward are particularly large files (200mb plus) so a high-speed connection is helpful. The final batch of Journals from 2008 are in the process of being scanned and will be uploaded in due course. The Journals can be found here:-http://www.smc.org.uk/journal/downloads

The Club would like to thank the Scottish Mountaineering Trust for their support for this project and especially Club members Robin Campbell, Tony Stone, Mike Watson, Martin McKenna, Derek Pyper, Graeme Morrison, John Hall, Rob Ferguson, Noel Williams and Simon Richardson who did the work.

http://www.smc.org.uk/journal/downloads

I will never forget what a previous partner said to me many years ago at the end of the relationship. All you will have at the end is your SMC Journals they are out in the street with the rest of your gear. Journals I love them still.

Thank you all enjoy ! Comments welcome.

Posted in mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

Inspirational Folk – George Bruce – RAF Team Leader.

In your life if your lucky you meet some inspirational folk. One of these was George Bruce.

Your first Mountain Rescue Team leader leaves a huge impression on you in my case was George Bruce a small wiry RAF Scottish Team Mountain Rescue Team Leader with a with a mind as sharp as a razor.

I had tried to join the Mountain Rescue as soon as I arrived at RAF Kinloss in 1971 as a 7 stone weakling.

7 stone weakling !

I was a really a skinny wee lad. I wandered into the Mountain Rescue Headquarters and was sent away from the Mountain Rescue by some of the Team who said that they thought I was too skinny. They took the Micky and told me to get lost.

It was just the type of thing that happened in these days and this was just after the tragic c Cairngorm disaster in November 1971. The Cairngorm Disaster (which is well document in my Blog dated 20 Nov 2011). In this tragedy 5 children and an adult had died on the plateau in November 1971 and the RAF Kinloss Team, Glenmore, Cairngorm Team, Braemar, Aberdeen and SARDA were all involved. It was a tragedy that was to change mountaineering for ever.

Kinloss at Ballahullish 1972

The Kinloss Team after this looking back was very strong at this time with some huge personalities and characters. George was a non drinker and ruled the team by his strength of character. He will admit he was not the best mountaineer by far in this team but what a man manager and he got the best out of his team.

The Bruce

He was a bit of a Bill Shankly / Alec Ferguson/ Billy Connolly his management was superb. His sense of humour was marvellous and his public speaking without notes incredible.

He had a way with words that could cut you down in a second if you needed it. He had incredible contacts with each Highland estate and knew every keeper many who remained friends long after he retired.

He kept the Officers and the powers that be in their place and looked after his men whatever they did. He had a knack of on a big call – out of being able to work with the Police and other Team Leaders easily due to his people skills and could fight his corner when needed.

He looked after us all and often gave me a few words of wisdom behind the office door. Outside of the team we got into a few scrapes but George was always there to sort it out.

He looked after me when I joined and made sure that I was kept on the right track. It is amazing how such a man can effect you life in the future.

George after his tour at Kinloss ended up at Grantown On Spey at the Outdoor Centre there before he retired. He went on to work at the Pentlands as a warden and helped many others.

George’s farewell with legends John Hinde and Ben Humble.

He was a Physical Training Instructor and a parachute Instructor, one of the finest in his day. At the centre in Grantown he had many visits from the senior officers of the RAF. George would regal them with stories, one day a very high senior officer of “Air Rank” near God in the military who forgot his rucksack. On arriving in the Cairngorm car park in a wild day with no gear at all.

When asked where his rucksack was he said “I do not need it” George as quick as always said the immortal words” the mountains have no respect for rank , you had better get back and get it”

George was always there with advice and we became great friends he followed my career and gave me great advice.

When I became the RAF Leuchars Team Leader George spoke at the Re union dinner at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. He was amazing taking the “micky” out of everyone. He was in his element.

The last time I met him he was dying of cancer and yet what a chat we had in Aviemore. It was typical George. He was still upset that Rangers were in a bad way and he hardly spoke of his illness just about life and so many great pals and stories of past days. His funeral many years ago was down in Prestonpans near Edinburgh and I was given the great privileged of carrying a cord at the grave.

I was very lucky to meet and work with such men as George Bruce. I still miss him as many of us do.

He would love that Rangers won the league last week.

Thanks George .

Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 3 Comments

In the Doldrums? Sums up my feelings at time.

Doldrums “a state or period of stagnation or depression”

This last week that word “Doldrums” has summed up how I was feeling. I hurt my back in a fall initially it’s was very sore and it took a week to get some effective pain killers. It will take time a few weeks to recover.

In better days !

My daily walks had to be cut short and I like so many rely on them for my sanity during these strange Covid times.

It is easy to get fed up and mentally down but you have to keep going and I am so lucky where I live. Yet I try to get out at night they before sunset as well if the weather is good it’s refreshing.

I started to do some admin as that was all I was fit for last week. I was updating my contacts address’s and information. Then it hit me how many folk I have lost in the last few years. My sisters Jenifer Eleanor my brother Michael and Hamish plus a few others. It would be my brothers birthday in two weeks now he has gone. We did speak regularly by phone and email. It was hard at the end as he hardly spoke there was so much I wanted to say to him but did not get the chance. Yet I am lucky and have so many good family and friends.

They do stay in touch lots of folk sadly do not have this in their lives.

My lovely granddaughters live in Inverness now and when this is all over I will see much more of them. I will also hopefully to be able to visit my sister Rosemary and family in Ayr again and even though we speak on the phone most days it’s not the same.

I have a good pal in the West we get on well and she understands me pretty well not an easy task. She is always there for me and we keep each other going.

I cannot wait to get back on my bike get out on the hills and travel in my beloved Scotland again. I have so many plans: finish my Corbett’s my Munro’s and visit so many friends.

These strange times have allowed me to take time to contact pals and friends I have lost touch with even a few that I fell out with. Life is so short to spend being upset about a past upset.

My blog keeps me going and now there is a good few who have read it. It’s good to keep it going and you hear from so many out there. It’s amazing the replies you get to some of the stories I write about.

I should have finished my book but just cannot concentrate on it just now. Maybe I will have to get help? A ghost writer. There are so many stories I have to tell but some are still hard to re live .

I have read read so many great books loved them and the radio has been superb not the daily doom on the news but various podcasts on all types of subjects. I always turn to Music and it’s magic to relive past memories. I find I am rediscovering so many albums.

I have received lots of great kindness from many especially when I lost my brother and try to do my bit for others less fortunate. There will be lots to do when Covid eases so many have lost family and their income. There are hard time’s ahead.

Yet Spring is not far away, the snowdrops and daffodils are out. Warmer weather is coming and if we all take it easy behave maybe life will not be so restrictive?

I hope to be able to visit Wendy an old friend who is in a home confined to her room at 84. We speak daily, her hearing is poor as is her eyesight and how she misses company. Every week I drop some simple “goodies” of for her. I often go round to the garden and we chat on the phone it’s only a little thing but cheers her up. She misses company so much and I feel for so many of our old folk in homes how they struggle.

I hope once this is over we re look at how we treat our old folk? Yet I doubt it things will most likely stay the same.

It may sound like I am moaning yet I live in a lovely wee village that is very friendly. I have spoken to so many I meet on my walks most folk are kind and considerate .

I get many laughs on my walks there is a group of ladies that swim most days no matter what the weather. I meet them most days and they make me laugh. There hardy souls.

When I lost my brother a few weeks ago I wrote about how I felt. Not being able to go to the funeral he lived abroad. The number of local folk who spoke to me about it gave me their condolences and spoke about their personal losses was amazing as were their kind thoughts.

It was pretty “Dreich “ yesterday but I got out. There were not to many folk about yet I saw the Heron in the harbour Curlews and Oyster catchers. The waves were crashing against the rocks as well there was a swell in the sea and the water seemed alive.

It was wet but a refreshing wander. I listen to the radio on my headphones at time’s the football usually and I am soon in my own wee world. There is also a huge beach to walk on and the forest when it’s wilder. I am very lucky.

So if you feel down tell someone, I think we all do have “Doldrum days” during these weird times. I kick myself and no how lucky most of us are? I cannot imagine living in a big city with limited space ?

Life goes on we must make the best of what we have look after those we love and care for a stop and look at the snowdrops and spring flowers arriving.

Take care all it’s good to talk about how you feel.

Every day is a new day !

Comments welcome !

Posted in Articles, Books, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, People, Sailing trips, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Summits and Scranbreaks an ascent of Gasherbrum Expedition – Dan Carrol.

My mate Dan Carrol is well known in Mountain Rescue he was my Deputy in the RAF Kinloss Team and a true pal. As a leader I was lucky to have such a man’s support he kept me right. Dan became a Team Leader and was moved to St Athan’s in South Wales. He came up to Scotland for a New Year break and was not feeling great, he decided to go home early despite the great conditions. On his way home he soled “Wee Wee” a short ice fall at Newtonmore.

“Gasherbrum, Masherbrum, Distighil Sar, All are good training for dark Lochnagar! “

Amended by Tom Patey

At 8,080 m (26,510 ft.) Gasherbrum 1 (aka Hidden Peak) is the 11th highest mountain on Earth. Gasherbrum 2 is 8,035 m (26,362 ft.) is the world’s 13th highest mountain. They are the most remote 8,000 metre peaks.

Dan’s Story

It was Christmas ’94. I was as close to hell on earth as one can get without actually being posted to England. I was the Team Leader of a Mountain Rescue Team in South Wales. lt would have been a boring job had it not been for the 25 Troops who comprised the St Athan MRT and who managed to maintain enthusiasm for the Team despite the lack of callouts and the growing mountains of paperwork. HELL It is now 20 January 1995. This is hell on earth. I am in an intensive therapy unit in a hospital in England and cannot move a muscle. L cannot talk, digest food, blink an eye or even breath for myself but I can still think clearly. I have contracted a condition that has almost killed me. The physicians believe that I will be paralysed for several months and that my recuperation will take the best part of 2 years. On the other hand, I know that l will soon be back on my feet and that l will be climbing before long. After all, I have just applied to go on the Joint Services Expedition to Gasherbrum 1 in May 96 and I will need to work on my fitness after 2 years in exile in South Wales!

GETTING THERE

2 months later and by rights I should still be in that intensive care unit in England. However, after loads of support from loads of great people! – I am in the Capel Curig Training Centre sitting in front of a Higher Management Committee. 2 weeks ago I was in a wheelchair. I still walk with a limp. However, I can walk and I did manage to get here – the selection weekend for the British Services Gasherbrum Expedition. Colonel  Meryon Bridges, the Expedition Leader asks: ‘lf, during the exped, you felt that you were going well, and you were relegated to load carrying – how would you react?’ I had just spent 3 months flat on my back rehearsing the answers: ‘Obviously I would be disappointed but the success of the expedition comes first…….However, I am sure that won’t happen. I am sure that when you are picking the summit team you will be looking at me.’

The suits look dubious then Squadron Leader Richard Gammage breaks the tension: ‘Modest, eh?’ I reply: ‘Well, this is my one chance to sell myself – I’m not always like this but l’ve got some catching up to do.’ The deputy expedition leader Lieutenant Commandeer Steve Jackson interjects: ‘So you’re usually less modest?!’

The Higher Management Committee laugh and l’m in!

MATTERHORN The spring of 95 is hard work for me at RAF Headley Court. l’ve lost fitness, strength and flexibility during my illness. The summer and the Joint Services Alpine Meet in the Zermatt Valley are my best chance to prove to myself that I am fully on the road to recovery. It is dawn on a gin-clear July morning in 1995. I am standing on the summit of the Matterhorn with Rusty Bale, we’ve made an enjoyable ascent and are now looking down at the fastest of the guided parties approaching the summit. Next stop Pakistan…..

THE WALK-IN Behind us were long, tedious months of begging money from sponsors, equipment from suppliers and time from bosses, but here we are. The flrst night under canvas in the Karakorum.  lts difficult to get perspective of the hills around us. As we walk in for 9 days the hills turn into mountains and the sandy soil into snow covered glacier. The views are marvellous – Mustagh Tower, Broad Peak, Trango Tower, Masherbrum,K2 – it is a bit like being in a foreign country! Top Tip: ski poles and cameras are essential when walking in the Karakorum. Our 172 porters wear plastic sandals on their feet and sleep under thin blankets. We feel a little chilly in our plastic boots and 5 season sleeping bags. However, at least the altitude doesn’t  bother us – probably because we spend a lot of time inside our tents!

SCIENCE The exped managed to get a load of money for doing some medical research into the effect that electrolyte drinks have on hydration at altitude. We are now paying the price: we must measure everything that we drink; everything that we pee and (the worst bit) get weighed naked every morning – much to the bemusement of the porters! It becomes a routine: wake-up, pack away sleeping bag and scrim, pee in a bottle, get weighed (freezing!), take tent down, get breakfast, make a note of how much liquid you drank, have a crap and go! First thing in the morning we walk with duvet jackets on.  Then, when the sun comes up, its tee shirts and shorts. Top Tip – umbrellas and personal stereos are essential for walking in the Karakorum!

BASECAMP BLUES Basecamp is a dump. it’s a dump with unlimited food – unfortunately it’s all compo which isn’t very appetising after 3 weeks at 16,500ft eating compo! There are 11 expeditions here – now that one of the American groups have gone home! It’s been snowing continuously for 4 days. Somehow it still manages to snow when the daytime temperature is +40C. Last night our Napoleonic war-surplus single-pole tent collapsed under the snow – now there’s a surprise! There are lots of bullshitting competitions in the mess tent but the same people keep winning. The Everesteers reckon that they carried heavier loads for longer and to a higher altitude ‘on the Big E in 88 and 92’. John (an ex-marine now working for the army) reminds them that they never got to the top in 88 nor 92. Meryon refers to his masterplan – we are still apparently ahead of schedule. However, all our hard work of making a trail through the icefall has probably been destroyed. Someone preditcs (prophetically) that it could go either way. I’m bored!

THE PLAN

After the camp 1 boys (5 of them) have reached camp 2, I get selected for the couloir party. There are 4 of us. We are to go up to camp 2 and fix the Japanese Couloir then establish and stock camp 3 – we have been allocated 3 days for this. Then we are to wait at camp 2 to support the Everesteers (2 of them – both as brave as 2 bugs in a rug) when they come up from basecamp to make the first summit bid. Then we are to make the second summit bid and clear camp 3! Meryon is keen to make a joint ascent with a Spanish military exped who are sharing our campsites.

THE REALITY

We have spent the last 6 days at camp 2 attempting to fix the couloir in the face of bad weather. On the radio from basecamp, Meryon has expressed concern over our lack of progress. We have still not finished fixing ropes up the couloir and have not yet reached camp 3 despite John and Steve Willsons’ superb efforts. Tomorrow, John and l, together with the Everesteers and 2 Spaniards, will make another attempt to reach camp 3 and go on to make a summit-bid that night.

CAMP 3

0400hrs: me and John set off ahead of Andy Hughes and Steve Hunt to fix more rope from John’ highpoint the previous day. The Everesteers are going well. l’m-knackered and have a headache – it’s been a very long, very hard day. Camp 3 is on flattish ground with steep drops on 3 sides – we get the lightweight assault tent up and intend to wait until 2200hrs before setting-off for the summit. Very cold in our down suits – no sleeping bags means no sleep! We are joined by Allan Hinkes just before the sun goes down – he is making a solo attempt and only arrived in basecamp a few days ago.

THE SUMMIT DAY 10 July 1996.

Theforecast is bad but it’s now or never. One of the Spaniards Inyakt breaks trail most of the way to the summit in deep, soft snow! The route finding at night on steep ground is very confusing. L am totally wasted and worried about descending these steep slopes and about the weather. When it gets light, the others stop for a rest and I catch up and tell them I want to go down. John says he’ll take me down but I persuade him to continue …… after a rest I continue too’ The final slope is never-ending. Alan Hinkes overtakes me, hammers his axe into the snow, clips ii to his harness and goes to sleep for a while! The snow is getting softer in the sun – I want to go faster so that I can get down before it’s too soft, but that’s impossible’ One by one the-others are disappearing somewhere above me! Slowly, I realise they must be at ‘he top – I pull over the slight cornice onto a narrow ridge and the summit! The time is 0930hrs,’there is just time for a few photos and the weather worsens very rapidly!

THE DESCENT

Imagine soling  down 2 gully on the Ben – 10 times with a respirator on, during a rapid thaw in deep soft snow, in 60 mph winds, with a hangover after drinking cheap whisky and red wine for 4 days continuously (without any sleep). That would be more enjoyable than the descent from the summit of Gasherbrum 1. I know that neither Lochaber MRT nor helicopter will come to our aid when Andy trips and tumbles about sooft – I still have enough sense to be relieved when he stops, uninjured, in the steep, soft snow. The wind continues to blast into or, eyes. as we descend, I turn away to put ski-goggles on and when I look back John is falling, sliding and tumbling down the slope. lt looks bad and Steve descends fast towards John – l  try to go fast but can only move facing into the slope, one axe at a time. I see John stop…then he stands up. I think that the mountain-gods are benevolent today. We go slowly and as carefully as our fatigue allows, Steve waits for me, eventually we reach camp -3. We rest for a while before descending the fixed ropes to camp 2. Seven of us have made it to the summit that day: Flt Lt Steve Hunt, Cdr Andy Hughes, Cpl John Doyle, Inyaki and Huan from Spain and Alan Hinkes’

 DEATH

2 Spaniard’s came up to camp 3 and made it to the summit the day after us_. They also fell on the descent from the summit of Gasherbrum 1 losing 3 of their 4 axes. One of them, Minolo, sustained neck injuries. They made it to camp 3 where they got caught in bad weather for 6 days. They’ both weakened steadily at 7100m. When they eventually tried to descend, Minolo fell from the fixed ropes to his death despite the loyal assistance of Alfonso.

Many thanks to Col Meryon Bridges for making it happen and for the support of RAFMA. Remember – if there was no such thing as climbing we would all have a lot more space on our book shelves.

Dan Carrol

Posted in Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Tricky Flying in the SAR helicopters – scary flights in helicopters.

Early morning sunrise on way to a call – out on An Teallach what an experience

Many folk asked me over the years as I was in the RAF if I flew much in helicopters? I did lots of hours flying with the crews of the SAR helicopters. We had the Wessex at RAF Leuchars and RAF Valley in Wales and the Sea Kings at Lossiemouth. Often the “fast party” went by helicopter as the team followed in the wagons. As the group leader on board you were given headphones and could listen to the crews banter and get updated on the incident. It gave you a unique insight into the flying as the troops slept in the back!

It was an insight into another world. You built up a trust a bond at time’s with the crews that I will never forget.

I was often asked to help train new SAR crew by doing flights into well known areas where they could end up on Rescues. You were in another world listening in to the crews banter. It also meant when things were getting scary you had a front seat insight into the crews thoughts. Sometimes in bad weather you were asked for advice on where exactly we were in bad weather? It was a mutual trust and bond between us all. Looking back it was an incredible part of my life.

Photo cliff rescue on Beinn Eighe photo Torridon MRT

I was renown as always being a wimp when it came to Flying in Helicopters. Yet over the years I was dropped on many wild places so many like the The Aonach Eagach ridge in Glencoe.

There were other time’s on Ben Nevis often at time’s training with new crews. Approaching the CIC hut below the North Face was notorious for gusting winds. Unless you fly often you are unaware of these conditions.

There were so many crazy places like The An Teallach ridge, Skye’s Pinnacle ridge and on the other mountains on the main Skye ridge in various places . Liathach was another wild place twice I remember on the pinnacles usually winched down or a wheel on the ridge and a jump off. Yet looking back it all went well and once we were dropped of it was surreal your in another world from the warmth of the helicopter and have to switch on to the situation. The helicopter would fly off and you would be left to do your stuff.

Yet an early morning flight into the mountains on a Call – out was surreal. I was so privileged to be part of it. To see the mountains in the early morning light as the sun rises or sets is incredible it’s a vision that stays with you forever.

In the Wessex my dog Teallach loved flying he fell asleep. Why is the pilot in the back who was flying the aircraft.

Yet places like the Larig Gru in poor weather were still scary with the wind and the weather doing there best to batter the helicopter . When we got Night vision goggles in the early 80’s it was a different ball game with lots of learning for all. It took a lot of training to get it right! It was amazing to fly in the dark and see all the lights on the cliffs as darkness fell as climbers finished their routes in the dark.

I remember being in a Wessex helicopter ending up in the Basteir gorge on a Call – out in Skye and having to reverse out with the burn below us and the walls of the gorge so close. I was at the door with the winch man talking the pilot out . I still have nightmares about this.

I think I had never been so happy to be winched onto Pinnacle ridge after that with my dog.

The Basteir Gorge not the place to be in a helicopter in bad weather,

The Sea king trip to the F111 crash in Dec 1982 to Skye was memorable. We landed on the main road at Achnasheen in a blizzard at night in December waiting for the weather to go through. Then continuing on to Skye trying to collect some of the Skye team at Elgol and just missing the Power lines. That knackered the helicopter and it just dropped us a Camusunary and I could not wait to get out of the helicopter. It was another epic.

Rockall

Then we had a helicopter flight to Rockall in 1982 it was a long way out and the scary winch from a huge helicopter. It was a civilian chinook the awful downdraft, the spinning on the wire feeling sick then trying to find a belay on wet slimy stack !

From Paul ex Seaking crew

“I do remember the Garbh Choire refuge was very difficult to approach in a Sea King if the wind was easterly and blowing up from the Lairig Ghru. The pilot had to fly up into in the bowl, then turn round for a very steep descent to the refuge. It certainly sorted out the real pilots from the boys!”

There was also a big epic on a Call – out to Loch Etcheacan in the Cairngorms we were landed in a blizzard on day two of a huge search. I told the chopper not to bring any more troops in. He never got my message hovered over the frozen Loch got the troops out. We noticed he was struggling to get out a white out came in and a few of us ran across the Loch and got the pilot to turn the aircraft and showed him by 20 troops in a line a safe way out.

Epic in the whiteout

We had to walk out to Braemar though our wagons were in the Cairngorm car park. We were lucky that John and Beano from Braemar saved the day and picked us up in there tracked vechile.

Braemar MRT and there tracked vechile .

Other scary places Creag Mheagaidh at the Rescue Box , Coire ant Sneachda the winds played there parts.

Night vision goggles

Looking back these were incredible days and I met and trusted so many superb people. As of now they are the best of the best who fly our modern SAR helicopters. They fly in all weathers have a great safety record and what an asset to Rescue they are. Please never take them for granted even in these days of better technology. Being on a big cliff with the helicopter blades near the cliff getting winched out takes some skill.

Thank you all stay safe and every time I see the helicopters I think of these wonderful scary days and these great men an women who fly in them.

Giving the helicopter a direction to fly out .

It’s great nowadays to see my local SAR helicopter on its way to incidents I always have a thought for those on board.

Posted in Articles, Equipment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 6 Comments

Munro Adventure 2015 DAY 88/89/90( 28/29/30 July) The 5 Loch Monar Hills – Maoile Lunndaidh Sgurr Chaorachain Sgurr Choinnich Bidean a’ Choire Sheasgaich Lurg Mhor

MUNRO ADVENTURE 2015
DAY 88/89/90( 28/29/30 JULY)
THE 5 LOCH MONAR HILLS

Munro map

Munro map

Maoile Lunndaidh (1005m, Munro 128)   ‘bare hill of the wet place

Sgurr a’Chaorachain (1053m, Munro 78) ‘peak of the torrent’
Sgurr Choinnich (999m, Munro 139)   ‘mossy peak’
Bidean a’Choire Sheasgaich –    (945m, Munro 226)   ‘pinnacle of the farrow cattle coire’

Lurg Mhor (987m, Munro 161)   ‘big shank’


After Mondays hills I headed home as the weather for the next 2 days was going to be rubbish and I was due a rest day after a few long days out recently.
Today’s weather was going to be good so I set off at 6am and headed for Glen Carron but had a wee detour first back up to Loch Droma as I left my poles there on Monday when I came off the hill , no luck they were gone there was always a chance they might have been though.

Penny on the Lurgh Mor Munros!

Penny on the Lurgh Mor Munros!


Arrived at the car park at Craig got the bike ready and set off at 8.50 across the railway line then across the River Carron and a uphill cycle for 3.5 miles where I left it at the end of the path of the descent route. I continued on foot almost as far as Glenuaig Lodge and went cross country to pick up the NE ridge which ended up at the 996m top and a almost level grassy ridge to Maoile Lunndaidh , it was bitterly cold on the tops today and had to put on all available clothing , returned the same way to the 996 point spotting 3 dotterel on route then down the W ridge to the bealach . A steep climb of 500m took me up onto the level ridge just a short distance from Sgurr a’ Chaorachain , all the summits were clear today and visibility was superb even the Cuillin was clear in the far distance . After a short descent and ascent I was on Sgurr Choinnich in no time , I met a few people here one who was doing a bird survey on the summits . The last 2 hills were still a long way off in the distance and a descent to bealach Bhearnais led to a ascent of the Corbett Beinn Tharsuinn which can’t really be avoided , continued over it and down following the dyke to the foot of Bidein a’Choire Sheasgaith (Cheesecake) . It’s a very steep ascent at the start and a very tricky section to thread your way through the crags , I had to help Penny on up on a few occasions and had quite a struggle myself at one very exposed section much worse than anything I came across in Skye!!!. Once that was over it was a good path to the summit . I now headed to one of the most remote hills in Scotland Lurg Mhor but what a place to be on this fine clear day . I had done 19 miles to reach here and only had 10 miles to get back !!!!. First you have go back col between these last 2 hills then descend NE to about 400m contour round the side of the hillside and finally climb back up to the Bealach Bhearnais all on no path. Downhill all the way now and picked up the stalkers path back to where I left my bike and a nice downhill finish back to the van .

This is not exactly a natural round of these hills but a very rewarding feeling on completion.


Today’s totals:28.9mls,2957m ascent,9hrs 23mins.


270 Munros to date. – Another great day in an amazing area – see you next Saturday.  

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RAF Kinloss MRT gone but not forgotten.

RAF KInloss MRT.

RAF Kinloss MRT moved to RAF Lossiemouth in July 2012. The Kinloss Team was my first Mountain Rescue team as a young lad posted on on 1972. This was just after the team had been involved in the Cairngorm tragedy when 5 children and a young instructor died. This was a huge incident for the team yet no one talked about it.

It took me a few months to get in the team as I was very young and skinny. In the end I managed and many of the Team leaders and team members had a huge influence on my life and I ended up as the Team Leader in 1990 it was one of my proudest moments. As was meetingb George Bruce my first Team leader that was a great experience and when he passed away I was honoured to take a cord at the graveside of a man who like all the others taught me so much.

George was one of many mentors. It was a long exciting journey full of great characters. I was lucky to have managed the Munros a few times, a few Big Walks across Scotland and lots of winter trips including 5 to Canada in winter, trips to the Alps and most mountain Ranges and even the Himalayas 4 times including Everest in 2001.

All the time getting great experience and learning that would stand me in good stead.

Yet that first day going to meet George Bruce and getting a quick history of RAF Mountain Rescue. I was then taken into the stores and kitted out with lots of gear. It was like an Alladins cave ( yet very little fitted a small skinny young man. I was given so much kit it was overwhelming.

comments- Tony Bradshaw –

Bob Stewart and I escaped from RAF Scampton QRA in 1966 …to KMRT …..life changing for us both…what a fantastic experience …. making life long friends … and turning two lads into true mountaineers…rubbing shoulders with legends of the time and the future ….. saving lives and facing tragic loss of life ….. only one regret…. never made it to Everest ( got to KMRT to early) ✊

  • Bill Batson “Great memories of the mad, bad years at Kinloss. Long, hard days on stunning mountains with incredible people. A few sad memories too, of friends lost to the mountain or to illness. But so many more good memories.”
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