Glovers Chimney – Ben Nevis.

Classic Scottish winter climbing – Glovers Chimney Ben Nevis photo Mark Hartree

First ascent winter 1935 by G.C McPhee and party.

My first introduction to this classic route was on my first ascent of Tower Ridge in the early 70’s with my old mate Tom MAcDonald. We were in a storm and had a group of 10 other climbers following us. It was pitch dark as I descended into the famous Tower Gap a climber arrived from Glovers chimney. I was amazed where he had come from the chimney looked evil in the wind, dark and spindrift it looked bonkers to me a young climber. I moved off leaving him to belay in the Gap I may have stood on his head he was not happy but was a grumpy man . Yet that quick introduction to Glovers chimney was from then one of my favourite climbs. When you read of the first ascent when the top chimney was climbed in the dark and the middle of the route had been descended already in 1907 by an SMC party. It’s classic reading of these hard climbers.

Glovers Chimney from the classic Cold Climbs the write up by Colin Stead

In these days it was simple ice axes and crampons. The initial icefall then the steep snow leads to the crux. How I loved that chimney I must have climbed it about 10 times. As the gear improved my climbing never did though it became easier to protect. Yet I often did this climb with the easier Gardh Gully a grade 2/3 climb. Yet in the photo below a bit harder as things change every winter.

We would often finish up Glovers Chimney and I would meet many other in the gap. Some were pretty grumpy and told you to wait but I always pushed on glasses akimbo I must have looked rather strange. I seemed to meet many plonkers here maybe it’s a Tower Gap thing?

When I went to Canada ice climbing in 1984? one of the first routes I did when I got back was Glovers Chimney. It was great to get away from the steep ice and into the crux chimney I felt safe in there to me that’s Scottish winter climbing a great mixture. Add in Tower Gap and the top of Tower Ridge it’s a wonderful day and what a finish. Nowadays it’s an easy climb for most but the memories and seeing folks faces or your climbing companion arrive in Tower Gap takes you back to my first impressions of such a grand climb.

Getting a helicopter lift of Tower Ridge is also a memory I will never forget but that was another tale.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT | Leave a comment

The Alpinist

Marc-André Leclerc climbs solo unroped, far from the limelight. The free-spirited 25 year old makes made some of the boldest solo ascents in history. Yet he was very different from most other climbers shunning the limelight.. He led a “hippy existence” with his girlfriend living rough and yet climbing so many incredible world class climbs all over the World.

This film is excellent in my view it takes you into another world where so many world class climbers talk about Marc. It is interests to hear their views. It was a hard film to make as Mark kept vanishing on projects leaving the film unfinished. He was not happy with filming he said it took away why he climbs solo.

This film shows another world to most people even to mountaineers. Why take some many risks in some of the Worlds great peaks. Watching him climb especially on the mixed climbing of Stanley Headwall in winter in Canada is breathtaking. He moves so smoothly despite the climbing being so extreme.

I enjoyed the Alpinist but you see the drive of a World Class climber pushing Alpinism to a new level. Each generation produces and pushes the levels of extreme Alpinism. Marc certainly does this.

Marc visited Scotland and had a great trip it’s worth reading about it!

inter Interview – UK Climbing23 Mar 2016 — Young Canadian alpinist Marc-Andre Leclerc recently visited Scotland for the first time as part of a strong Canadian group alongside Paul

What a film to me a must watch film. Comments welcome !

Posted in Alaska, Enviroment, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Out of the wind on Ben Nevis – Right hand gully Moonlight Gully Buttress. Waterfall Gully, The Curtain, Douglas Boulder Tower Scoop etc.

The weather on Ben Nevis can be fickle and when we ran our annual winter course we were often met by high winds. When the big routes were out due to weather we usually managed to get a route lower down. We still had to be careful especially after heavy snow as getting to the climbs could be taxing. I was always aware of avalanche danger especially from above. Years of climbing and searching on Call outs on the Ben gave me some great local knowledge. You always learned especially on the Ben. Here are a few thoughts of routes.

A thin Right hand chimney on Moonlight Gully Buttress. Climber Lee Wales.

I often did the ice fall of Waterfall Gully Carn Dearg Buttress taking care getting to and then if conditions were poor or Avalanche prone. Then maybe abseiling off the gear at the belay that was pretty good and it was a steady lead for a inspiring leader.

The Curtain Grade 4 winter first ascent L. Knight D Bathgate Feb 1965.

The Curtain – Carn Dearg Buttress grade 4 is another low level ice climb but one that many climb. My first climb in the mid 70’ ‘s with warthog ice screws and a single peg belay was an awakening to winter climbing especially as 3 others tried to join us on the belay. The descent down 5 gully in avalanche conditions was soul searching. I remember seeing loads of cornice debris in the gully. Some as big as cars. I remember having my rope running behind me as I descended to the shelter of the gully walls. Nowadays with modern gear it’s a lot easier.

Waterfall Gully

The Douglas Boulder – The South West Ridge or East Ridge of Tower Ridge can be a grand expedition – On a poor day you may see many climbers on the Douglas Boulder. Boulder is an understatement as it’s over 700 feet and brings you out on Tower Ridge.

Tower scoop above the figures

Tower Scoop – 75 metre Grade 3. The obvious central ice fall on the rock band at the head of Observatory Gully. Be careful as the ground above is very avalanche prone and care is needed to avoid the cliffs when descending.

The Curtain.

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

My mate Tom Mac Donald RIP.

Tom MacDonald

I have the just had the sad news of my pal Tom MacDonald died on Thursday at his home in Dundee. I have no other news as yet. It was a huge shock as I thought the man was indestructible.

Tom in Skye

Tom joined the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team at the same time as me in the early winter of 1972. We were called the “Terrible Twins” at one time as we were both small in stature but stood up for ourselves. These were great days, Tom was a very gifted mountaineer being brought up in the hills round Aberfeldy. He was a strong climber and an even stronger mountaineer. We chased our Munro’s together on any weekends of from the team. As we both did not drive at the time we had some epic journeys into the Rough Bounds of Knoydart and other places.camping bothying big days and hard nights

1973 Ben More Viscount call out

It was on our first attempt at a traverse of the Skye ridge in 1973 I was that tired I nearly abseiled of my gear loop. Tom spotted that and saved my life. We did Tower ridge in full on winter conditions the same year. Tom was so safe and competent especially in winter we had a magic day. We did many of the classic hill walks big days with big bags. Trips followed to Arran taking the hire bikes up Glen Rosa climbing on Cir Mor and other cliffs in 1974 and bothies all over Scotland including Galloway. Tom went to the Alps often excelling in these mountains I went with him on a couple of trips one where we witnessed a bad accident.Tom was very cool throughout and a big help on a sad day out.

Tom in Skye

We stayed with each other’s families when chasing hills my Dad was a minster Tom could not believe it and we had some laughs. Toms Mum and Dad made me so welcome as we chased the Munros their kindness and hospitality was immense. We both completed our Munros in 1978 numbers 147 & 148 on the same day with a party in Braemar. In these days we were so fit and competitive on the hills, Tom was a natural mountain man but always there for you. Tom became full time Deputy Team Leader at Saint Athans in South Wales whilst I was Deputy Team leader at Valley in North Wales. We met often and there was some friendly rivalry including the famous Snowdon Horseshoe Bike Race . As we were Rock-climbing we met a lot also during that cold winter when we climbed many of Wales greats ice routes. Tom was climbing very well and climbed many new routes in this period.

Yosemite

We both ended up back at Kinloss and rock climbed a lot of great routes. Super days on Centurion on Ben Nevis The Minus Buttress also. many of the Glencoe classic’s and Glen Etive with the “ Bad boys club” . What a time that was in the early Tom 80’s. There were so many routes in these weekends I will never forget them.

Not long after this Tom left the RAF and was guiding in Glencoe based at Onich and the Kings House. He guided on so many of the Classic routes and when not guiding climbed so many routes solo. I met him often at this period he was so fit and strong. He also climbed a lot with notable worthies including putting a bolt in the wall near the Squirrels hut in Glencoe!

It was on a trip to Canada in winter in 1984 that Tom had organised ice climbing. Tom had read about this wonderful place with hundreds of hidden ice falls. We had the trio of our lives climbing in basic gear of that time we climbed many of the routes of the day. We met many of the greats of that era in Canada climbing all week and having the weekends off meeting many locals. That was the best expedition of my life. Terrifying at times but so rewarding. I was amazed I was asked on that trip but what an incredible period.

Tom in Canada wearing Footfangs revolutionary at the time.

Tom always had a love of the wildlife and botany and he excelled in botany ending up working in this field where he was well respected. He located many plants due to his skill as a cragsman and worked and knew these hidden Corrie’s and their secrets.

We met a lot even later on in life had some great days and Tom took me into wild Corrie’s in Beinn Alder and the Cairngorms showing me plants and things I had missed over the years. His photos of plants and animals were superb and he was a true craftsman sharing his knowledge with so many.

As he aged He was still strong and fit moved on steep ground so well he got to places high in the Corries with so much confidence, He spent lots of time with his sister Janice exploring Scotland. They did Munros and big walks and were a great brother sister combination. His photos and tales from this part of his life were eagerly awaited.

Thank you Tom for all the great days every time I see a flower on hill I will think of you. I will also laugh at some of our escapades like the “Church Bell” episode at Kinloss. Crazy days in our youth we were a team leaders nightmare always pushing the boundaries but I would never change a minute of it.

About 20 years ago I was out in Glen Affric and had trudged out to a remote Munro. Who did I meet on the summit but Tom alone he had just been in a remote Corrie doing some botany. We trudged back over most of the Affric Munro’s chatting it was just one of these days. We met often after that I even did 3 days resettlement with Tom on the Cairngorm plants with Tom as my guide. This followed other days always into remote Corries and getting information on plants and flora we had seen on the hill. It is so hard to believe that Tom is not with us now. Many of my pals and others have stories and photos please share them and I will pass them on to Janet his sister.

Thinking of you Janet, Tom loved you very much and you him. Tom,s many pals are all thinking of you.

Rest easy “Wee man”

Dwarf Cornwell
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Bothies, Corbetts and other hills, Family, Flora, Friends, Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Plants, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 8 Comments

Meal Fuar – mhonaidh 699 metres (Hill of the Cold Mass)

I was offered a short day on the hill yesterday with Dianne and Dottie and we left at a descent time 0800 on quiet roads for Loch Ness, The plan was the Meal Fuar – mhonaidh 699 metres. This wee hill rises steeply half way along the West side of Loch Ness. It is a hill I have seen for many years. It is a popular walk for the folk of Inverness. It is accessed by a steep road just passed Borlum Bridge on the Southern outskirts of Drumnadrochit (known locally as Drum) There is good parking after 6 k to a small car park at Grotaig. Its path to the hill is well marked and was a bit muddy after all the rain. Walking passed the pottery a wee cafe is often open for tea and cake. The path takes you through fields and a birch wood and then onto the hill across a new forestry road and then a stile takes you out of the forestry via a stile. Just here we met a lone runner and had a chat later when he descended. All the snow was gone he said it was deep last week as this is his usual run.

Our wee hill

You pass the open moorland and onto the ridge heading South West rising steadily to the summit tops which is the farthest point. We had great view of Loch Ness and the the great glens of Affric, Cannich, Strathfarrar, The Fannichs and Beinn Dearg with our local Munro Ben Wyvis always visible. What a view point it is , just before the summit Dianne realised she had dropped her phone the path was muddy so hopefully we would find it on the was back. It was cold on top and my wee flask and honey and banana rolls were enjoyed. Two lads arrived and said they had found the phone and left it before the stile on a rock. Thank you. The girls were chatting all the way down and I was enjoying the hill and the views we met a few folk with dogs in the muddy sections and found the phone much to everyone’s joy.

The boys who found the phone thank you .

At the car park we headed to the Pottery for some tea and cake it was superb and well worth a visit. Then it was an easy drive home all feeling good, only a wee hill but so good to get out and enjoy a grand wee hill, that despite the muddy path is well worth the walk.

On the summit with Heavybear !

Thanks to Dianne and Dottie for the company it was great to get out again and are we not lucky to have some great hills nearby, that I never take for granted.

Guide book – SMC – The Grahams & The Donalds

A classic book

The Grahams are mountains in Scotland between 2,000 and 2,499 feet (610 and 762 metres) high, with a drop of at least 150 metres (490 feet) all round. A list of 224 mountains fitting these criteria was first published in 1992 by Alan Dawson in The Relative Hills of Britain, as the Elsies (LCs, short for Lesser Corbetts).

Some of the views !

Todays tip – it was pretty cold on the ridge extra clothing essential as were gloves and hat. It was not far above freezing on the top.

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Friends, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Point Five Gully Ben Nevis. A few takes from 1959 on wards.

1959 – 16 Jan 1959 J.M.Alexander, I.S Clough, D. Pipes, R.Shaw.

To many on Ben Nevis Point Five Gully is perhaps the most famous gully in Scotland, and one of the world’s most sought-after winter climbs. Its first ascent, led by Ian Clough, in 1959 took 40 hours over 6 days and involved around 1000 feet of fixed rope and 60 rock and ice pitons. They experienced classic Scottish winter weather, with storms raging around them and spindrift avalanches pouring over them as they climbed. The following year saw the first one-day ascent, with most parties taking 5-6 hours to climb the route these days. Nowadays with modern equipment many say it has been tamed. Yet every year so many have it on their wish list.

I have been lucky and climbed in Canada since 1984 in winter until recently. Yet so many locals asked me about the famous Ben Nevis and Point 5. Compared to many routes in Canada “the Point” as it’s effectively known was world renown even then. It has a huge history on Ben Nevis and was such a sought after plum for many years by so many of the top climbers of their day.

You cannot fail to be impressed by Ben Nevis North Face. For many years it was protected by a terrible muddy path that was an awful start to any day. Yet the views on a good day in winter make this a Cathedral to ice and snow. Nowadays the path is excellent the hut below the Ben The CIC hut a wonderful place to stay. Owned by the SMC it is unique vantage point for climbing on the Ben.

From the Ben Nevis Guide Book Rock and Ice Climbs. “After many attempts this famous route succumbed after a 6 day siege. Every night they recuperated in the CIC Hut – a disqualification in the opinion of a puritan minority ( who alleged, furthermore, that a rest day had allowed the party to replenish their stocks from a Fort William blacksmith’s ) Whenever Point 5 can be climbed in a day , using conventional technique remains to be seen. The first one – day and second overall ascent was made by J.R. Marshall, R. Smith 10 Feb 1960. No artificial aids apart from two axes were used. “

I love these historical facts that used to be in the old Guide books. Some of the descriptions are unique and are classic descriptions. I find a lot of the new Guide books mainly factual or is that just me ?

I have been very lucky to eventually get up Point 5 after three attempts. Once the spindrift was so bad we abseiled of the Second pitch, another time we were involved in a rescue and finally late on in the season I climbed it with the late Al MacLeod.

The first pitch was steep but short lived there was plenty of gear available but we had been to Canada and were confident. The Chimney and Rogue pitch made you think. If you like me have read the tales of this route it’s a climb like no other. I backed up Al’s belays on each pitch , he laughed at me but as always on each belay. I had done a few rescues on this area. After these pitches it is still steep but seems never ending snow with limited protection. We were first on the route a great tip and two other parties arrived as we climbed the first pitch. We never saw them and any ice is funnelled down these early pitches. From here It’s easy to think it’s all over but I have seen folk fall from here. We reached the summit via a small cornice of rock hard ice and sat on the top. I was drained my calves were sore and I was very fit then. The last few 100 feet were such hard ice you really had to ensure your feet were good each step. For me it had been a dream for me to climb this route. We wandered back down and Al ran up a few more routes solo such was his way. I packed up the gear from the hut and we descended for a night in the Fort. Next day I was in cloud 10 I would not go back again and climb Point 5 . I did many more routes on the Ben after that over 5O winter climbs but that was a special day for a very average climber.

To me I was on Ben Nevis on North Castle gully in 1973 getting scared cutting steps when both the Point and Zero Gully were soloed . To me the 70’s were the huge change occurred. In 1973 things were never the same after that incredible machine Ian Nicholson climbed Zero Gully and Point 5 on Ben Nevis in three hours – startling proof that the effectiveness of the new axe and crampon techniques reducing times on the classic lines. Great days, amazing people fantastic memories.

I was lucky to see many of the great climbers of their day solo many routes on Ben Nevis in a day and marvel at their confidence and ability. Yet Ben Nevis still brings out the best in each generation. The hard mixed climbing that is being done on Ben Nevis nowadays is outstanding as equipment improves and fitness and technique still make the Ben a special place.

I think being involved in Rescues on Ben Nevis fairly often especially big lowers give you even more respect for this great mountain. Over the years I have helped carry many casualties of the North face with Lochaber Mountain Rescue. I have searched below gullies in wild conditions looking for avalanche or missing climbers. I got to know the Ben fairly well, I felt it tolerated me at times. Yet a day like Point 5 or any other route on the Ben gives you such a feeling in your heart. To walk of in a sunset or fight your way of the plateau in a storm are the days you remember.

Many days like on Zero Gully with Mark Cheeky Sinclair or the Point with big Al MacLeod were the best days of my life. They got me up the routes that I never dreamed of climbing. Yet more than that they were great companions bound by a friendship that only climbing can bring. Sadly both are gone killed climbing yet many are still about doing what they can as age catches up.

Winter climbing is unique but is so different from most sports

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Munro Facts – thanks to Anne Butler

A big thanks to the “Munro Queen” Anne Butler.

At the end of 2021 there were 7096 Munroists on the Scottish Mountaineering Club ‘List of Compleators’.

Of those 7096 people:
9.7% have also completed the Munro Tops
10.5% have completed the Corbetts
9.4% have completed the Furths (3000ft hills in Wales, Ireland and England)
3.2% have completed the Grahams
3.8% have completed the Donalds
1% have completed a Full House (Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Furths, Grahams and Donalds).

Anecdotally, it is believed that approximately 15% of Munro completers choose not to register their completion with the SMC.
There is no Munroist No. 284 on the list, this number is dedicated to ‘The Unknown Munroist’, all those people who choose not to register.
Munroist No. 5639 is N. O Body, allocated when a double registration was removed.
The male/female split on the list is 77/20% with 3% unknown.

356 of the listed completers are multiple Munroists:

257 people have completed 2️⃣ rounds
59 have completed 3️⃣ rounds
16 have completed 4️⃣ rounds
10 have completed 5️⃣ rounds
5 have completed 6️⃣ rounds
2 have completed 7️⃣ rounds
1 person has completed 8️⃣ rounds
5 have completed 🔟 rounds
1 person has completed 1️⃣6️⃣ rounds

Notable achievements:

  • In 1901 Rev A. E Robertson became the first person to complete the Munros.
  • In 1923 Rev R. Burn became the first person to complete the Munros and Munro Tops.
  • Paddy Hirst (No.10) was the first female completer in 1947.
  • Steve Fallon (No. 1045) is the current record holder with 16 completions and he is well on his way to 17.
  • Stewart Logan (No.327) has completed 10 rounds of Munros and 10 rounds of Munro Tops. A total of 5100 summits over 3000ft (allowing for reclassifications). He has also completed a Full House.
  • Richard Wood (No. 88) has climbed over 8300 Munros and 3650 Corbetts.
  • Bert Barnett (No. 3112) has completed 5 rounds of Munros, 3 rounds of Munro Tops, 3 rounds of Furths, 4 rounds of Corbetts, 3 rounds of Grahams and 3 rounds of Donalds. A total of 4150 summits.
  • In 2020 Donnie Campbell compleated the fastest Munro round in 31 days, 23 hours.
SMC Photo
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Last days on Everest. A personal journey.

In 2001 I was lucky to be part of an Everest Expedition from Tibet. It was made up of purely RAF Mountain Rescue Troops and the Team Doctor. It was a great expedition in all aspects with Dan Carrol and Rusty Bale getting to the summit by the North ridge. We had a great team of 6 Sherpas many had summited before but were happy setting up the camps and were there if needed.

Everest 2001

Once Dan and Rusty summited the others were well set to have their attempts. Sadly one of the troops got sick at the top camp and in typical Mountain Rescue fashion all helped ensure he got down he did it on his own steam . At the North Col the doctor gave him some fluids and he walked down to Base Camp. So it ended well in the end but knocked out the plans of the others as the weather changed. I was the Base camp Manager ( general dogsbody) but had a busy time.

Winter was on its way and after a huge storm and a few Rescues involving our and other Sherpas all the expeditions left. That left us as the only expedition on the mountain. Three troops wanted another summit attempt and moved up the deserted mountain to the top camp above 8000 metres. I was at ABC ( Advanced Base Camp) at over 6400 )21000 ft)! metres with the Sherpas packing our kit. As the three were on the mountain another huge storm came in, we had poor communications and all the rest of our expedition were at Base camp 24 odd Kilometres away and 4000 feet below us. It was just me and the Sherpas. The others at Base camp were supposed to help me clear ABC but due to the heavy snow and all were all exhausted from their summit attempts they did not make it . In the end I would be on it own till we cleared the camp.

It was a worrying time I have never felt so alone but Mingma our Sirdar was all set to go up with his boys and help if needed when the weather broke. The ropes up to the North Col were in a poor state and the ascent is very dangerous after heavy snow. That afternoon Jim came down from the top camp saying he had managed to clear the ropes which were buried under lots of snow. Ted and the Doc were staying another night and would try for the summit. Jim was so tired and said conditions were not great. He was very exhausted and though strong as an ox the journey had taken its toll.

I will be honest despite 5 Himalayan trips I was extremely worried. There was little I could do I prayed that night that Ted and the Doc would be okay. I had spent many years looking after at the troops now I could do nothing but hope they would be okay! Mingma was superb he was a great pal as well there was no else to chat to but him and the Sherpas they were superb.

The boys are safe below the ropes Jim Groak Ted Atkins and Brian Kirkpatrick ( the Doc)

Next day the weather was still poor but we saw two tiny figures descend from the North Col. It could only be Ted and the Doc. We went up to the end of the ropes and they were so pleased to see us. Not as much as I was it ended up a me in tears. They stayed the night and the boys left for Base Camp a long way when tired. It was great to see them leave all three okay.

Ted at 8000 metres high camp he had to turn back he was so disappointed.

The great thing about climbing on Everest from Tibet is that Yaks can get to ABC but the weather had delayed them. We had two days to wait most of the gear was packed and sorted. I wander out to the where Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker had their camp before they went missing on Everest. I knew Pete well he was a top guy as I had met him on the hills often. It’s a lonely, wild place to be. On 17 May 1982 Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker were last seen on Mount Everest attempting to traverse The Pinnacles on the unclimbed North East Ridge at around 8250 metres. Their deaths marked the end of their contribution to a remarkable era in British mountaineering.

The North Col

Mingma asked if he could clear the top camps as the weather had improved. After all their efforts I said okay and they brought so much gear, tents and Oxygen which they could recycle and sell in Katmandu. I decided to go up to the North Col at just over 7000 metres, the ropes were poor and broken in places. I was alone in this historical place it was higher than I had been but was going well.

The Yaks

On the North Col I met the Sherpas and Mingma he was not happy that I was there. I said I would help drag kit down to ABC. He laughed and we carried huge loads down with Mingma saying “Mr Heavy take it easy how will I explain if you fall to Mr Ted and Dan”

The North Col 21000 feet a bit busy

I got down safely Mingma went back up and they brought down loads of gear left after the storm left hurriedly by most expeditions. We had a great night with a few drams at 6000 metres. Next day we cleared the mess left by other expeditions at ABC most had left in a hurry in heavy snow. It was thawing now and the rubbish was there to see. We collected over 50 bags of rubbish for the Yaks to take out. The Yaks had arrived now and we’re ready to go tomorrow.

I packed my tent and left early and Mingma and the Sherpas came down a few hours behind me. The weather was wild it was a long way down in poor weather. I was on my own as the storms came and went. I got my last views of Everest it was bitter cold and in the weather easy to lose the track. Yet what a feeling being alone in such a place. It took ages to get down and seemed to go on and on.

The boys.

As I arrived at Base camp once full of people and tents there was only our few tents and the Shed left. I arrived to tea and the troops in the Shed. Later the Sherpas arrived with the Yaks just before darkness. It was a night of celebration then dismantle the Shed and tents and leave this wonderful place .

Advanced Base Camp

How lucky was I to get such a trip and as the one of the few unguided trip on the mountain I saw the worse and best of this great mountain. I got to explore the base of the North Face and West Ridge on my own. Later on the Pinnacles where Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker went missing. I met some of the worlds great mountaineers Americans, Russian, French and others. We helped with Rescues and saw some cowboy operators on the mountain.

Lonely ABC

We all came back safe and well and even better all stayed friends. The Sherpas were magnificent they were outstanding and the best of the boys. They even offered me a cut of the money they got for the equipment they recovered from the mountain which of course I refused. What more can I say.

The boys

Looking back it was a great trip with the best companions ever. My part was nothing but with the trust we had with our Sherpas was outstanding. Sadly we lost Ted a few years ago he was the driving force of our trip. He went back and summited Everest and Nuptse. Ted later Designed a new oxygen mask for high altitude mountaineering and sadly fell on his local peak in Italy.

So that’s my wee trip to Tibet a once in a lifetime experience. Nothing compared with others on the mountain but a highlight to me of a great period in my life. It also showed how dangerous those big peaks can be and how many die chasing a dream? There is much more on our trip in my blogs but this is a wee part of the last few days on the “Big Hill“.

Thanks to all Ted ((RIP) Dan, Rusty, Pete, Nick, Ned, Willie, the Doc Brian, Jim L, Jim Groak, Kenny and our Sherpas.

Posted in Articles, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Himalayas/ Everest, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 7 Comments

Thanks to John Harper of The Braeraich for all those years of looking after us in Newtonmore . RIP John

This wee blog is read by many ex RAF Troops all over the World . I use it to pass news good and bad on to others many who live away from Facebook. I picked this up from Joanne through Facebook that her father had passed away.

Joanne Patience “For those that knew the force that was John Harper, he passed away last night and is now at peace with our mum. Love him or hate him he led a varied life and would always help anyone he could as he knew what it was to have nothing. Gone but never forgotten and always loved. My Dad. Xx”

John Harper (photo family) .

The RAF Teams knew her father John well. One great thing about the Teams being all over the Highlands is we stayed in various village Halls, After a day on the hill we would go to the pub and Newtonmore was a special place. The team loved it and the Braeraich Hotel was special to many

I met John not long after he had taken over the pub. He put on chips and soup for us and the pub was busy with lots of locals. We became part of the community using Newtonmore village hall for training and the Navy cottage for many Callouts. We would often come back very late after some of the huge Call outs that occurred John would stay open for us. He was accept that at times we needed to unwind especially after some of the tragic call outs. We all have great memories of John and his family over the many years. Newtonmore or “Hoot and Roar” became a place for the team especially at New Year. The pub was the centre of our world in those days . We attended a team wedding here and had so many cracking nights. You would meet so many other mountaineers and climbers in the pub.

I remember the back bar where I am sure the pool table was. The teams met many local lassies here and most have fond memories. John Harper was firm but fair and if we stepped out of line we were told yet he always looked after us. Being away from home on big searches it was important to switch of at least for a few hours. The Braeraich was a place for that and John knew how we were by our mood after a successful call out or a tragic one.

There is one story where the back boiler blew up just before New Year. John’s son was hurt and taken to hospital. The pub looked like a a bomb site yet that night John had the pub open. These were different days we took much of John’s banter for granted . His late night snacks with salty chips were designed to make you drink more! Which we did!

Many I hope will pass on the sad news of John’s passing think of the good times and the families welcome to us over the years. My condolences to Joanne and the family.

Comments welcome – thanks to Joanne for allowing me to use her photo and words.

Joanne wrote back “

This is a blog written by David Whalley or to those that knew the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams when they used to come to the village Heavy 😊.


Friday night usually meant for me buttering many loaves of bread for the obligatory trays of sandwiches made up for the teams on their arrival and in return they were great customers and always made Christmas and New year a real joy along with the hard work for both mum and dad. They even camped out in the Brae bar and the Chef’s Grill a few times when the village hall or Pine cottage had been double booked. Thankyou David and all the teams.”

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Family, Friends, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

Tricky winter hills – Beinn a Chaorainn.

I was speaking to a winter mountaineer the other day about Beinn a Chaorainn. A Munro on the Laggan road that is often combined with Beinn Teallach. He was unaware that on poor conditions Beinn a Chaorainn can be a very tricky hill in winter. Once again as winter is back very challenging conditions especially in poor visibility make this a tricky mountain. As further large amounts of snow forecast over the next few days this hill and others will make you think as you navigate safely. . In winter, beware that a huge cornice forms above Coire na h-Uamha and Beinn a’Chaorainn’s east-facing crags, which have caused tragedies in the past.

I have sadly been on many call -outs in the past on this hill and was involved in many searches it is a tricky mountain in bad weather.

Beinn a Choarrain This Munro summit ridge is well corniced – so take care in snow and mist IT CAN BE TRICKY NAVIGATION , there have been many accidents here in the past.

On one incident in 1994 we searched for months for a missing walker who had walked over the edge on January 1994 he was located in August – 6 months later under several feet of ice, It was a sad time for the family and the length of time their loved one was missing for made things even worse. I took the young son Neil who was with his Dad when he went over the cornice a day later after hed got down to raise the alarm, Neil showed me the exact spot where he last saw his Dad and it was an incredible effort by the young 18 year old. I searched along with Lochaber MRT for many months looking for his Dad it was a hard, sad time.   This Corrie can be very tricky ground to search in this wild coire is and always was threatened by huge cornices as we searched. This hill has a big history for me and is in no way a simple boring hill and at over a 1000 metres is big mountain.

2017 Dec – I met that young man at a lecture for Mountain Aid that I did in Cuoar this year, he introduced himself to me he is now a member of Ochils MRT. It was a magic night to meet him after the sadness of those dark days in 1994 but Lochaber MRT found his Dad in the end thanks to Hamish MacInnes who brought in ground radar in Sep 94 and there was still a huge amount of snow. It was wonderful meeting him and one of the most moving nights of my life. That awful day he did his best and helped us so much and that day we went out to where his father fell was a hard day yet this young man helped so much. I hope we meet again and his Dad would be so proud of what a man he has turned out to be.

We never give up in Mountain Rescue and it was a special night meeting and talking to him. I searched for his father throughout the winter and summer. In all I went out 10 times into the huge Corrie but the snow was still there. I would take a group from Kinloss Midweek and stay in Roybridge. Sadly despite our efforts we never found him till Hamish brought in the Ground radar. The Corrie is a huge basin and I was amazed how much snow was still there at the end of summer that year. We wanted to give some

Beinn a’ Chaorainn – Once on the ridge, there are no easy escape routes. A quick escape can be made from the summit by descending the northeast ridge, which descends from the south summit (Point 1049). However, caution is required on account of the in cut gully south of the main summit which is not terribly obvious on the map and is a known accident blackspot.

Beware of the cornice on Beinn a’ Chaorainn in poor visibility. Large cornices often build up on the steep east flank above Coire na h-Uamha, and due to the incut corrie edge a safe line between any of the hill’s three summits requires a dogleg rather than a straight line. It’s a well-known spot for tricky navigation, and for accidents,

The tricky area between tops

A very enjoyable winter scramble, slightly harder if the steep initial section is taken directly, but this is easily avoidable.

The approach from the road is via the east bank of the Allt na h-Uamha then cross it in order to join the track heading north. A new bridge means there is no need to ford the river.

At present (winter 2022 ) most teams are approaching via the zigzagged forestry track a little further west, avoiding the boggy section of the other approach.

Another Rescue of a fallen climber.

Comments welcome !

Heavy, The efforts that you, the RAF and Lochaber teams put in will never be forgotten by me, nor my family. I don’t doubt that many involved in that callout are friends on your page and to everyone of those I say a heartfelt thank-you.
The kind words about me as youngster from someone as skilled as yourself mean a lot to me too. Of course the events of that day, and those that followed shaped me into who I am now.
I hope we’ll meet again soon. Neil

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Books, Family, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Every picture tells a story – Sirius Falls – Assynt.

Nigel Kenny Kennworthy on the first ascent of Sirius Falls.

I had been speaking to the late Andy Nisbet about a big waterfall Eas A’ Chual Aluin. It is in Assynt at grid reference NC 282 278. This waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Britain. The fall is only likely to freeze in exceptional winters but then forms an exceptional climb the top is at an altitude of about 200 metres. It is graded V5 and has three stars and was climbed in 1986. My mate Mark Sinclair RIP had dragged me to have a look but it was not formed after a hard winter.

I next saw it in a hot summer as I descended from Glas Bheinn a lovely Corbett heading to Beinn Leoid via the waterfall and Glencoul. This was nearly 20 years later. I put it in my mind to look again in winter.

Map of the area

Anyway I had spoken to my mate Kenny Kennworthy about the climb so he went to have a look. Sadly the waterfall was not formed but they looked over the other side of the Glen and saw another route. This became Sirius Falls a new grade 3. They had a long walk out but the keeper gave them a lift out on his boat along the Loch. The boat was called “Sirius” hence the name. it saved a long walk out along the Loch. I have done it in the past it’s hard going. Sadly Kenny and his partner Jamie Forder missed the boat out and Dan Carrol and Rusty Bale got the lift.

From the SMC Northern Highlands Guide book a special area with lots of potential.

So another route we missed but we climbed some other routes that weekend at sea level above Loch Broom. Winter roadside ice . It was a great weekend with amazingly Beinn Dearg not holding any ice that weekend yet the conditions low down were great.

“Heavy Handed” Loch Broom

Anyone climbed the big waterfall recently ? As always comments welcome.

Posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts and other hills, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Learning from Lochnagar.

Lochnagar is a wonderful cliff and it has so many incredible memories. In winter especially it’s a majestic mountain and comes into its own.

Lochnagar on that day yet the weather changed so quickly.

This is from UK climbing. To me they are wonderful words.

“Of all Scotland’s iconic winter mountains, Lochnagar holds perhaps the greatest mystique. Isolated from the honeypot venues of the Northern Corries to the north, and guarded by its long windswept walk-in, the great north-east corrie feels in another age, a brooding pagan god opening its granite jaws to tempt trespass by the brave. Modern gear has done little to tame this beast. Bottomless powder, crusty ice, verglas, smooth slabs, rounded bulges and blind seams offer equally insecure purchase to today’s leashless axes and monopoints as given to the triconis and slaters hammers of early pioneers. Yet perversely, this inhospitality evokes a strong pull upon loyal suitors seeking physical and mental challenge. Their hard fought, and harder won endeavours make Lochnagar a forcing ground for the cutting edge of Scottish winter climbing.”

Yet my many memories involve real wild weather as any weather coming from the East hits the mountain. I have had some real battles with the weather here on Callouts, mountaineering days and climbing.

I climbed here a fair bit especially in winter and loved the place. The long walk in, the hidden cliffs and the Lochan can make it so special. The team at Kinloss and Braemar had a big Rescue here on Eagles ridge many years ago. The team was very friendly with the local keeper what a character he was.

This is a tale of a wee epic in Lochnagar in the early 80’s. I had just moved to RAF Leuchars MRT and was climbing for me pretty well. I knew Lochnagar from my days at Kinloss but also RAF Buchan on the East coast.

Another day Dan Carrol on Raeburns Gully.

At Buchan we had started a mountaineering club and Lochnagar was our nearest big hill. I had ran a wee winter course there. It was an incredible few days. It was full on winter conditions and we had one day a big epic getting some of our lads off Raeburns Gully as an big storm came in. The cornice was huge and we had to drop a top rope down to them. They could not get their ropes off as they were frozen solid. It was a struggle across the summit taking care navigating of the mountain plateau there is no shelter. Then you have the long walk back to the wagon. The wind was bitter, so cold with driving snow all the way home. You had to keep an eye on each other one was not far from exposure. It was a true introduction to climbing on Lochnagar.

The old guide of the cliff.

About 5 years later my brother came over from Bermuda. He is not a climber but very fit he loves the hills and bothying. We had a few days together but wanted to do a climb.

We were over East anyway and he wanted to climb Lochnagar. I thought I would take him up by a route. We had done winter skills ice axe breaking and crampon work. He went well on the hill.

The latest SMC Guide

The options were a walk up the easiest route Black Spout we had my dog Teallach with us. Teallach was used to climbing and maybe if we could Raeburns Gully would be fine. Teallach would wait for us at the bottom of the route, he was well used to it.

In these days there was limited avalanche information. The forecasts were basic as well. Yet the weather was looking good but as we entered the Corrie I saw there were huge cornices about. I checked the conditions we dig a pit in these days there was a lot of slab on top of hard snow . Not good at all.

We had a look at Raeburns Gully but the snow was not great and I could see the huge Cornices it was an easy decision. No go!

We had plenty of time as we set off early the weather was fine. I took a fair bit of gear with me as always.

Michael was still keen to climb so we wandered over to Black spout. The snow was not great so I had done Black Spout Buttress before. We could make the pitches short and the belays were good according to my memory. It should be a safe mixed route.

From The Cairngorm Guide

Black Spout Buttress grade 3 /5 a three star route. It’s 250 metres long but made up of short technical pitches with a bit of scrambling. “I would pitch it all as my brother had done little in winter. The old guide was basic but said it was a safe route in powder conditions.

Pressure – My brother was still very keen and looking back I felt pressured to climb.

We left the dog below the route he was soon sheltered and in his bivy mode. We saw another party walk in the Corrie and poke about and leave.

It all started okay and my brother was enjoying it. We moved well and even though it was his first climb At about 1400 we saw two guys arrive and shouted what route we were on . They decided to follow behind us .

When my brother came up the 2 nd pitch he said the young lads behind were asking lots of Questions. They seemed worried ?

The weather changing – I told him to just concentrate on the climb! It was snowing very heavy now and the final pitches were short but covered in powder that slowed me down. The steps were tricky and I faffed about a bit. In these days it was grade 3 now it has a tech 5 on the route . The snowed up rock made it very tricky !

Run away – We should have abseiled off earlier but we pushed on the snow was building up. I could see the cornice on Black Spout it was huge with the constant spindrift building up.

The boys behind were worried so I told my brother to leave them the belay gear. Just below the top the weather was fierce as I pocked my head on the plateau. We had been fairly sheltered on the route. I belayed out of the wind and got my brother sorted out.

Another wild day on Lochnagar with Bill Batson.

The flawed plan – I would lower him down the gully then follow him. He was down I knew by the tugs in the rope. As I prepared to follow my brother the leader reached my belay. He was worried and I told him to use my ropes to descend the gully. We would wait for them where we left the dog.

I abseiled off the weather was awful even with goggles on. My brother was fine and sheltering below the ropes. The snow was now awful we hugged the gully walls seeking safety.

The avalanche- We descended it was dark now making our way to my dog. He came bounding up to us the snow was in poor condition. I could hear the voices of the others now in the gully they were pulling down the ropes. I heard a crash and then the wall of snow hit us. We were covered in snow and in a huge avalanche. We tumbled down and down, snow was everywhere. Oh no been here before !

When it stopped all was silent it felt like the wind had dropped. I was on the top of the snow not far from the Loch. I had been trying to protect my head all the way down. We were lucky the boulders were covered. My head torch was still with me and my brother was nearby very shaken. I had to get him out, he was partly buried. Teallach was on scene quickly and nearby were the two climbers all were shocked but amazingly alive.

My brother was pretty upset as were the others and I went back up the gully and found two rucksacks and a torch. By the time I got back the two lads said they were to tired exhausted, battered and would wait for a rescue! I told them no help would come that night I had checked them over and our best bet was sure we had to keep moving. They were shivering and spaced out. My brother was very quite I told him we were getting out of this place. I knew he was strong and fit and he agreed. I also said that he was my main worry. If push came to shove we would have to leave them.

There was no chance of Rescue in these days / no mobile phones etc – I explained there was no Rescue we were on our own we could get off safely if we all kept going.

“March or die” I decided not to go back the normal route to the Beleach but head for the track near the bothy Gelder Sheil as the wind was wild. The struggle back was awful, myself and Teallach broke snow most of the way. We stopped in the bothy ate and then had a struggle to move again.

When we hit shelter of the woods it had taken us 4 hours to get there. I was carrying lots of gear two ropes and really exhausted. The snow kept coming at us there was no respite. Morale was low so you have to be blunt and say we will get through this.

And so we did the drive back was helped by a police Land Rover thank you ! The road was closed after we got down.

So ended my 2 nd avalanche in 15 years on the hill. We were so lucky to get out of that with a few battered ribs and bruises.

Many years later I was to lose two pals on a big fall from Parallel B. The Braemar team were magnificent to me and the families. It was a sad time. Sadly my best pal Mark Sinclair (Cheeky) was killed here on Lochnagar along with another good pal Neil Main on Parallel B a winter classic in the winter of 1995. This article is dedicated to them.

The mountains are all about learning !

I thought I was invincible then as many of us do.

We should have turned back my brother had no experience of these conditions. I had my Mountain Rescue head on thinking we are invincible.

I was pushed into a situation and we were so very lucky .

I did many Avalanche courses after that and when the Avalanche service started I used it daily. There is an App that’s a great help.

About the App

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

In 2011 the “Be Avalanche Aware” initiative was developed following a collaboration between many agencies and groups from throughout the UK and further afield with the objective of addressing the avalanche situation in Scotland. Organised by the Snow and Avalanche Foundation of Scotland (SAFOS) and managed by the SAIS the BAA initiative was introduced in the winter of 2013 with the production of the BAA leaflet.

The BAA initiative outlines the decision making process and fundamental considerations for assessing avalanche hazard. For the first time, the BAA initiative provided a guideline framework for those going into the winter mountains.

Lochnagar sunset!
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Dog sitting – Back from the West my pal Islay for a few days. Plans for the New Year? “So much to do so little time “

It was very wet over in the West but we had a quite New Year we got lots of driving rain. The rivers are very high and the great peaks snow less. It was a long drive back until I neared Garve then the sun came out. I have Islay the Collie for a few days staying with me helping a friend. We managed a walk at Rogie Falls the river was in full flow.

Logie Falls

It was then pop in and see my Grandkids and another walk in pouring rain with Ellie Skye and Lexi. They loved being out we were all soaked but it was real fun. I had dinner with them and It’s good to be home. I took Islay out for a final walk in the dark it brought back so many memories of my Dog Teallach of king days in the dark coming off the hill. Catching the dogs eyes in the torchlight as they wander about their eyesight is so much better than us. Islay is happy and now asleep on my living room floor.

Islay getting comfy

What plans have you for the New year mine are to stay well and fit. Look after those I love family and friends. Take time for folk and give what you can to help those who are struggling. Highlight the great people about unsung heroes and heroines who never get a mention. They are the ones who keep this country going.

I would love and hope to complete my Corbett’s only 1 to do. Creach Bheinn (Loch Creran) Creach Bheinn is a continuation of the ridge from Beinn Sgulaird and offers wonderful views of the western seaboard.

SMC Munro App

Get an ebike and complete my remaining two Munro’s – Lurg Mor & Bidein a Choire Sheasgaich.

My dog Teallach a Machine

Climb Tower Ridge in winter again stay at the CIC hut again.

Get some winter routes in the Northern Corries !

Summer rock – climb again – Ardverikie Wall, Cioch Nose (Applecross) Cioch Direct on Skye, Rannoch Wall Glencoe to name a few!

Hills – Liathach, Ben Alligin, Beinn Dearg, Ben Loyal , Ben Stack and other Assynt Hills Do a few hills with my stepdaughter Yvette..

The Islands – Visit St Kilda again Skye as well plus Arran again Rum and Harris.

Visit some Bothies Bearnis Corrour and others.

Glencoe big boots .

Visit crash sites on Aonach (Beag Alder area Assynt and others )

So many plans hopefully a few will come to fruition ? I always get a call from a friend to do a hill and health willing I do if possible meet them,

Finish that book!!!

What’s your plans for 2022? Comments welcome

1974 Tower Ridge

Stay safe winters on the way back beware of the flooded rivers just now, be patient “the hills will always be there the secret is to get there with them “

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Health, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Happy New Year all. What’s your best New Year climb or walk?

It’s that time again and I am lucky enough to be on the West coast. The weather has not been great with a big thaw on plus some heavy rain. Yet it’s a great place to be.

The hills have lost a lot of snow but winter will be back of that I am sure. It happens most seasons so we just have to be patient.

What’s your best memory of a winter day? One of mine was a traverse of the Arran ridges in the late 70’s. Arran holds a special place in my heart as it was one of my first experiences of mountaineering as a very young lad. Previously I had been in the Galloway hills which can be wild in winter but Arran was another level. The ridge in true winter conditions was not supposed to be in often. I could see the hills from my home town in Ayr where I was on leave. I was lucky and had a superb day with a pal. When I got back to Kinloss few appreciated my efforts. They had been looking for a plane that went missing in Mull. The Great Mull Air Mystery is the name given by the media to the disappearance of pilot Peter Gibbs on 24 December 1975 after he took an unscheduled solo night flight from Glenforsa Airfield on the Isle of Mull in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, United Kingdom.

The Arran ridge in places is Alpine and we roped up in a few places. I found it very tricky even though I knew the ridge well. We camped in Glen Rosa and left well before daylight. It was a long day, we were fit but so glad to get back to our tent, exhausted physically and mentally.

Other notable New Year days include a few Call outs in Cairngorms, New Year’s Eve in Glencoe Stob Coire an Lochan and on Ben Nevis that old nightmare place 5 Finger Gully. It used to be a common occurrence for mountaineers to end up there!

I did have a great day with Yvette on Ben Wyvis many years ago. We saw no one and had a blue sky day. I even put her on a wee rope descending the snow was so hard. She will kill me for this photo but it’s one I love.

Yvette on Rinnes – sorry Yvette!

Over the years there were more incidents for “ vulnerable people” old and young going missing. For many especially nowadays life is so hard so look after those you love. It was another aspect of the job and one rarely spoken about.

It’s strange to me that we spend so much time training and on Call outs for folk we do not know? Yet how often do we look after our own, keep our eyes open for any signs that the “black dog”’( depression is there) no matter how strong we think we are.

Finally a huge thanks to all the Emergency Services and Agencies who are there for us. Many give up family time and it took me many years to appreciate their sacrifices. Time with a young family is something you will never get back.

Families worry about us and few talk about it. It’s a bit better nowadays but never forget those you leave behind at home.

Thank you all for what you all do. In this world that seems to be falling apart the good well out way those who make so called “news” nowadays.

Stay safe, stay well and look after those precious to you.

Happy New year all.

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Friends, Health, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 6 Comments

2021 Memories.

Lost my brother in February very hard for all the family. Even worse with COVID.
Sunny Island beach
2001 – Arran trip
December Ben Alder cottage trip
Trip to Ayr
Ben Sgreathail
The Outfitmoray coast to coast.
An Teallach again with Tommy Pilling another cracker
Beinn Eighe with Tommy Pilling two great days on a marvellous mountain.
Torridon – cracking area with a special person.
The Runnel – with Big Dan Carrol May
View from Applecross – New Year Skye in the distance stunning.
View from Arrina
On way back from Ben Alder Cottage December 2021
Landing lights – Christmas Eve 2021 it’s all about the joy of Christmas.
2021 Boxing Day Swim made me laugh and well done all a great event for local charities.

I thought I would share a few photos of this year. It’s been a crazy time the world is a strange place but yet we still have so many lovely places many on our doorstep to see. It’s easy to get down but the World is full of good folk most never get a mention. If we have our health we are very rich indeed.

Kintail Am Bathach Terrys last Corbett a grand day and an honour to be there despite the rain
My mate Flo

As you get older you lose family and friends yet it makes you appreciate those you still have. I am so lucky to have pals and family who stay in touch regularly. We may fall out now and again but life is to short and every day is precious. Many struggle just now so keep an eye on each other. It’s to late when their gone. Make that call, write that letter or have that chat you will feel better for it.

Of course my wee pal Islay

Thanks to all for the laughs and odd adventures, kindness and love

These two make me so happy there such fun kids.
Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Happy Christmas to all.

Thanks to all for reading the Blog have a great Christmas and spare a thought for all those working today. The Landing lights were on for Santa ready to arrive as two young girls get more excited.

All ready for Santa’s visit.

Last nights quote “ I cannot get to sleep I am so excited” I bet most of us remember that feeling? How many of us remember feeling that excited.

Christmas jumper on Stob Ban many years ago

It was lovely to hear from so many past and present friends and get the odd tale and story. It’s so important to stay in touch and get those tales out.

From Roy

“A very happy Christmas to you Heavy. I so enjoy reading your blog as I am sure many other people do. Exactly 40 years ago today, as a very young 18 YO, I was the designated Christmas cook for KMRT staying at Dundonnell (so much for the Team Leader taking his turn!). I will never forget seeing An Teallach in all her winter glory and learning ice axe arrest techniques on her slopes with Gus Tait and Keith Powell (RIP). Great times and ones that I will never forget.

Posted in Mountaineering | 4 Comments

Lockerbie another year on and the pain is still there.

Today is the Anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster in 1988. I was the Team Leader of the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team. My first stint as TeamLeader and I had a great young team. We were involved in so many Call outs all over Scotland. There was a good blend of experience and youth. We coped with so much and I was extremely proud of them all. Yet that night thing changed and it has had a huge effect on my life and those I love.

I was there at Lockerbie with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and many other Agencies! It took a huge toll on many of us and still does. What we saw and did was a like a memory from hell and something I never want to be involved in anything like that again. It was a scene of a battlefield with such trauma in a small Scottish town your mind could never take it in. Add to that so near Christmas and we could do little but locate the fatalities and map the wreckage. There is much more to the story we were there for 3 days then returned to Leuchars. The local teams, SARDA and Army and others were there for a lot longer.

This year it seems for me personally better but sadly another one of my friends who was with me at the time is not well .

These were to me and many others a few days of hell and he has just recently been effected by PTSD! It like many others has take years over 30 to manifest itself in him! This is a common occurrence most years I get the similar calls.


This is the time to keep an eye on those who were involved ! Few have got away unscarred and many just need a hug or a bit of family love at this time! Or even time out.


As always the 21st Of December is a hard day for those involved in the UK’s worst terrorist murders and shame on the UK that no one has been held responsible for it!

In 1988 I asked for assistance with our mental health . To even ask at the time was not accepted by the powers that be. In these days you were in the military and told to “man up”.

We did get some help and the tale is told in other Blogs. Professor Gordon Turnbull was then a young medical officer in the RAF and formed a small team to try and help us. His book Trauma explains part of the story. These were difficult times for me as the help I got and my team was limited.

It was even worse for my friends in the Civilian Mountain Rescue Teams, SARDA and other agencies like the Army and Police. Dark days indeed. There was little help for them and there families.

In 2018 I took part in a cycle to Syracuse in the USA . This was where over a week we met many of the relatives of the Students who were killed in the crash. It was a physical and physiological journey for me. Yet I got great comfort from the families who I met. It was also comforting to speak to many and tell them what we all did. How many of those involved were very young and how it effected them. In the end it was a journey I needed to do. Thanks to Colin, Brian, Paul and Dave for there support.

I thought back then I was at my invincible phase in 1988 I had a strong young team and many years of Mountain Rescue. I had dealt with so many tragedies in the mountains and plane crashes. Nothing in my experience was like Lockerbie. It changed my life and I still live with it.

A few tips on looking after those involved.

Keep an eye on those who were involved. They need you now ! 

They deserve it and they gave so much!

With thoughts for :

The People of Lockerbie 

Those on the Flight.

The Police, Fire and Ambulance Services

Mountain Rescue RAF and civilian  Teams.

SAR Helicopters  

SARDA – U.K.  Wide 

The Military especially the Army

The Coastguards 

The Volunteer Services and all those other incredible Agencies involved WRVS etc. 

I have been privileged to talk to many about my insights and hope to be able to speak about what many of these unsung heroes did during these dark days in 1988. It was not easy doing it but it’s as they say #goodtotalk

These were the only chance to tell the tale of the efforts of so many and how it still effects them . As the years go on there are there are few who know about in what happened in Lockerbie Scotland or the UK about Lockerbie!

From A pal

“It’s strange how much it has affected us. I was asked about Lockerbie just the other day and could feel the emotions welling inside of me. It’s been 4 years since I was struck with PTSD from this event and despite all the help I am now realising I will never be cured, none of us will. We just find ways to deal with it.”

Another comment 

“Hi Heavy, tomorrow will be a difficult day for many people, touched by the Lockerbie disaster on the 21st of December 1988. Small comfort, I know but MR are that happy few that have shared the misery and in doing so shored up the spirits of those profoundly affected by much of what we have seen. Together tomorrow, in spirit if nothing else. Memories of times shared with people we trust.

This is why every year I write about it. None of you are forgotten.

Stay safe and well it’s good to talk. If you need help seek it and remember “ we all did our best”

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Cycle to Syracuse Training, Lockerbie, Media, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 6 Comments

A sad event “Tragedy on Ben Nevis – 19 th December 1954 .”

“On the 19 Dec 1954 exactly 67 years ago Eleven Royal Naval personnel from Royal Naval Air Station Fulmar (Lossiemouth) left to climb Ben Nevis via Coire Leis. They had stayed overnight and left the CIC hut where they were staying below the great cliffs off Nevis, the party was made up of 8 men and three girls from the Womens Royal Naval Service.” KMRT archives.

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

Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg

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

The Brenva Face from a Sea King

Glissading is the act of descending a steep snow or scree covered slopes via a controlled slide on one’s feet or buttocks. . Glissading involves higher risks of injuries than other forms of descending.

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

This was a terrible tragedy and one that shocked the whole of the Mountaineering world. Imagine having to carry 5 young folk from this tragedy off the hill. These were the days long before helicopters. The trauma they must have dealt with would be terrible.

Few have nowadays ever heard of this disaster and the terrible consequences of this navigation error and the mistake to glissade on such steep ground.

Now gone replaced by a cairn in 2012 the descent to the Corrie can be very icy.

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

Look well to each step

The Cardinal Rules of Glissading or Bum sliding.

1. Never glissade with crampons on.If you’re wearing crampons it means that you’re probably on hard snow or ice. This means that should you glissade, you will slide really fast. If you slide really fast and you catch a crampon spike, your leg will snap like a dry twig. As such one should never glissade with crampons on.

2. Never glissade on a rope team.If one person loses control on a rope team, then others may do so as well.

3. Never glissade on a glacier.It’s likely that you’ll be roped up if you’re on a glacier so if you do glissade, you will be breaking two rules at once. We don’t glissade on glaciers because of the possibility of hidden crevasses.

4. Always make sure that you can see where you’re going. This should make sense. If you can’t see, then you could end up sliding into a talus field or off a cliff.

5. Make sure that there is a good run-out.A good run-out is imperative. One should certainly avoid glissading above dangerous edges, boulders or trees.

These rules are quite black and white. There are few grey areas in glissading. If there is some question of the run out, then the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution. Though you might be tired, sometimes walking down the mountain is the safer alternative.

So todays tip we can always learn from the past: On the Ben the snow on the ridge to the Carn Mor Dearg Artete gets the sun and with a freeze can become lethal with rock hard neve ( hard snow) I was always aware of this and the navigation needed to get to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. Crampons in winter and an ice axe and knowledge of its use are essential. Also the key skill of navigating.

How many even knew of this tragedy?

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Rannoch Station – Ben Alder bothy and a great few days away.

Tulloch Station

It had been planned for a while a wee trip to Ben Alder bothy with friends. It’s a fair wander in and we got the train in to the lonely Rannoch station. We had huge bags old bodies and the weather forecast was not great. We decided due to various reasons to take the estate track to Loch Ericht. My knee was still sore and old age made the decisions easy. Add in a lot of rain rivers crossings looked crazy but the estate road was a longer but a safe way in. We had all taken COVID tests and the train was empty with all the passengers masked making things feel a bit surreal.

The weather brightened up. The Loch in the distance . The motley crew plus Islay .

It’s about 8-9 miles to the bothy and we all had not worn big bags for a long time. The first mile hurt we met Dave and Kalies sister Wendy at Rannoch and we took their car to the start of the Estate road. A E bike would have been great but our bags were so big. We started in the rain pretty slowly bags hurting but with plenty of stops for rests we made our way. There were plenty of trees down after the storm but we saw no wild life at all.

The weather changes !

We had only a 6 hour window of light to reach the bothy but as the weather improved we were delighted to get great views of so many hills. This is rugged hill country with so many memories. The cloud lifted and we could see the magnificent Ben Alder and neighbour Ben Bhoil. They dominate the view as does Loch Ericht. The last few miles was a wet boggy path where Lorriane super strong went ahead and we stumbled on. We all got to the bothy well before dark. Taking the bags off was a joy.

Kalie still smiling
Bothy dog Islay

The bothy was sadly a mess we cleaned it up there was so much rubbish about an old pillow, sleeping bag, mats plastic bottles etc sad to see. We soon had the bothy tidy a great fire on we had brought coal with us and there was some dry wood. The girls had a meal ready in a short time and we sorted out our gear. I had plenty of kit but the bothy was warm and we had a cracking night with a few drams and great food. Because I have this cough I was worried I would keep folk awake but it seemed to settle. We had a great night and it seemed so worth all the effort to get there. Tomorrow we would see what the weather brings it was not a great forecast. I was soon asleep tired but so pleased to be here with no one else about.

From the Mountain Bothies website- Ben Alder Cottage – Grid Ref: LR42: NN 499 680

Location: Central Highlands

If you use the Mountain Bothies please join or donate?

Owner: Ben Alder Estate

Ben Alder Cottage is in two parts. The old stone part of the bothy is always open and accessible for anyone to use. The timber built extension is for estate use only.

Availability: Deer Stalking takes place in this area from mid August until the 15th February. The advice from the estate during this time is to stick to paths where possible, and use the most prominent ridges to access the hilltops. Access is never restricted. Ben Alder Estate can be contacted on 07795 225066.

Ben Alder Cottage was last inhabited around 1918 by a Joseph McCook who had lived in this isolated cottage for almost forty years as a deer forester. The bothy sits at a junction of two rights of way and in its present form dates back to 1871. It was first renovated by the MBA in 1969.

To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use & benefit of all who love wild & lonely places.

A recipient of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the Mountain Bothies Association is a charity which maintains about 100 shelters in some of the remoter parts of Great Britain.

With the permission and support of the owners, these shelters are unlocked and are available for anyone to use. All of our maintenance activities are carried out by volunteers. We welcome new members who want to support our work, either by attending work parties or by contributing financially through subscriptions and donations. Without this support, many of these unique shelters would be lost forever. If you love the outdoors and wild places, please consider joining us.

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

A poem By our “Poet Laureate” Babs Moray Mountaineering Club

From Babs “What a sweet weething, he’s inspired a wee mini poem, I hope you’ll speak to me again once I’ve posted it!”

A Robin on yir rope
Gies ye a bit o’ hope
O’ better days tae come
And snow, it’s such great fun!

Be careful, be prepared!
Be avalanche aware!
Take heed o’ Heavy’s warnin’
Stay safe! The winter’s dawnin’

Dinna dee whit he does
And fa’ doon a muckle great hole!
“Mind ma words and nae ma deeds!”
He’s such a wise auld soul!

Thank you Babs.

It’s great to see a bird so close when your climbing. This was taken about 10 years ago on a climb at Fort Augustus. Return of Nedi Jedi.

Posted in Friends, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Keep smiling and look after those you love.

I no hardly listen to the news it’s awful. I am lucky having so many folk to chat to. Many do not send cards a lot by the internet etc. yet many older folk love a card with a letter and photo in. Postage is expensive but please do not forget those who do not use the internet and a card and phone call are everything.

Happy Christmas

We all have in our families someone like this so please do not forget them. A bunch of flowers a phone call can make a persons day.

Let’s spread some care and love to those who are lonely. Be kind and the Karma will come back to you.

Posted in Family, Friends, Health, Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

The Corrour Tragedy 29 – 31 December 1951.

A few years ago as I walked into Ossian Youth Hostel from Corrour Station on Friday night a small snow shower hit me just as it was getting dark. It reminded me of though such a wonderful place to be to be caught in bad weather in these hills as I have in the past in winter can be a survival exercise. You are a long way from help if it goes wrong, nowadays we have so much better gear and clothing yet people still get caught out .  The further you get from Loch Ossian and past Corrour Lodge is wild country and in 1951 an experienced party of mountaineers left the station and headed into the wilds for New Year. This is a small part of the story:

The Corrour tragedy on 29 -31 December 1951.

Five members of the Glencoe Mountaineering Club form Glasgow decided to spend New Year at Ben Alder bothy. All were fairly well-known mountaineers at that time. I spoke to Hamish MacInnes many years ago about this tragedy and he knew some of them as mountaineering was a small sport then. They had planned to get the train to from Glasgow to Corrour Station near Loch Ossian a lonely but beautiful place to the North of Rannoch Moor.  They arrived after the afternoon train and got a lift from a lorry to Corrour Lodge at the end of the loch. After a meal cooked in the woods they set off for Ben Alder Cottage some 11 kilometres away over a high pass at 2030 hours.

They were carrying large packs with 3-4 days food as the bothy at Ben Alder Cottage is very basic. After about 4 kilometres the party became tired and 3 decided to bivouac in the lee of a river at about 500 metres. The other 2 pushed on and tried to cross the beleach W.S.W of Ben Alder but due to deep snow they also bivouacked.

They woke at 0600 and with the wind now and a gale blowing behind them tried again to reach the beleach; they turned back and met the others at 0915 near a small Lochan. The weather was so bad that they found it difficult to pack their kit. They all then tried to head back to Loch Ossian only a short distance away. The wind was in their faces and weather were extremely wild, winds over 80 -100 mph recorded across Scotland; one by one they succumbed to exposure and died. The only Survivor was the wife of one of the fatalities who reached Corrour Lodge where the local keeper and the SMC were staying and mounted a rescue party. Nothing could be done; it was a terrible tragedy and rocked mountaineering in Scotland for many years. They must have had such a hard time dealing with such a tragedy.

There is an account of this in the book the Black Cloud (L.D.S. Thomson) and the SMC journal Vol 25 No 143.  It must be noted that some of the accounts are taken from the survivor who had lost her husband and will still in a state of shock even a few weeks after the incident. Weather forecast in 1951 was very vague and exposure was unheard of in those days. In the same SMC Journal Doctor Donald Duff a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue wrote an article on Exposure Tragedies, much is still relevant today.

RAF Kinloss MRT were called into assist and in their report the train was delayed taking the team to Corrour due to fallen trees on the line such was the weather. The damage all over Scotland was incredible, the equipment worn by the walkers was very basic and nowadays we have all the great gear, good weather forecasts but the hills can still take their toll in lives if we make a mistake.

The late Hamish MacInnes spoke to me about this tragic event. He knew all those involved. Hamish said they were experienced mountaineers and it was a terrible time.

The route.

The power of nature is shown in wild weather and no matter how hard we are on the wrong day it can easily go wrong.

Today’s tip: we can always learn from the past, worth knowing.

Dedicated to the memory of those who died. John Black, John Bradburn,Sydney Tewnion and James Greive The sole survivor was Mrs Tewnion

In 2013 in the same area a solo walker was found after a big search, he was siad to be trying to live of the land another tragedy. This is wild country and in winter a hard place to be and survive. These are big remote mountains even with the improvement in equipment and technology.


I. D. S. Thomson
· 1993 The book begins in the late 1920s when searches were made by shepherds, stalkers and as many able-bodied volunteers as could be mustered; it ends in the days when helicopters and trained mountain rescue teams had become available. A good history into Mountain Rescue many of the problems are still encountered even in these modern days.

Reference SMC Journal 1952 Accidents – The Corrour Tragedy

Ref – RAF Kinloss MRT Stats.

Two Star Red Gwen Moffat – Chapter 13 women and Survival

26-5/5131/12/51Ben Alder – Corrour Disaster 42/475732Four male walkers died of Hypothermia during a great gale . SMC amd Estate evacuated the party to the Lodge. Only female in party survived.  All casualties evacuated by train. Kinloss MRT attended.
Posted in Articles, Bothies, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

The Wellington Crash 10 Dec 1942 Corrour / Alder Estate – Geal Charn. A sad but amazing tale.

There are few who know of this incident yet it is an incredible event. It takes you back to the dark days of the war 1942 when Britain was struggling. This tragic Crash was on 10 th Dec 1942. Near the remote summit Geal Charn near Beinn Alder.

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

This is an amazing story of a Vickers Wellington aircraft 10/12/1942 that crashed south eastern flank of Geal Charn.

One crew member survived in mid-winter and went for help. It is a story that few have heard. Wreckage can be found on Geal-Chàrn, and then at various points downward on the slopes of Leacann na Brathan, in the vicinity of Ben Alder.

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

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

The only survivor of the crash, Sgt Underwood, after checking for signs of life from his crew made his way off the mountain and arrived at Corrour Lodge in a very poor state. This journey after the trauma he had been involved in is an incredible feat of strength in full on winter. Even to modem mountaineers this is a wild area and there was a tragedy here a few years later.

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

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

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

The Culra bothy

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

The rest of the crew died in the crash.

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

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

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

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

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

Following the recovery of the bodies of those who had been killed the task of clearing the site was given to No.56 Maintenance Unit at Inverness. They inspected the wreck and decided to abandon it until the spring of 1943 before any work could begin.

The recovery operation eventually began in July 1943 with a camp being established some distance from the site, assistance was rendered by army personnel of the 52nd Division, Scottish Command.

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

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

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

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

OS 10-figure grid refs (GPS):

NN 48049 73196
NN 48072 73585
NN 48223 73680

Thanks to Danny Daniels for the photo and grid references and others for the information.

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

I had planned to go up on the 70 th Anniversary but was pretty ill for two years. I will make a point of going up someday.

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

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

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

Yet all do not compare with the story of this crash and the survivor attempt to get help for his crew.

What a story worth a few thoughts and thoughts for those who died “Lest we forget”

Comments as always welcome.

Information:

It is amazing that we know little about the survivor Sgt Underwood the rear Gunner who is the main part of this incredible story. If anyone can give me some information that would be great. We must keep the story and the sacrifice of the crew alive!

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Bothies, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

Some good advice from Greg Boswell.

It’s great when you see some of the top climbers giving good advice. Greg has let me publish his words from last week there’s a lot of sense in them!

Great advice

It’s all very good and well running of time the hills to play in the snow but make sure you go prepared. Think of the others that may have to put themselves at risk if you need help.

Obviously accidents happen, I have had my fair share of unforeseen mishaps some bigger than others but with the changeable weather conditions just now it’s best to er on the side of caution and go into the hills ready for any eventually.

I’ve been in Torridon three days and I have seen the hills white all over soggy and wet the next day so don’t underestimate the mountains due to the info you’ve seen online or in pictures! Greg Boswell

Many thanks to Greg for allowing me to quote his wise words. Stay safe and enjoy the wild safely,

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

Early lessons from the “helicopter Fast party” The USAF F111 that crashed on Skye 7 Dec 1982. 30 min to get your life sorted .

The changes over the years in Mountain Rescue and the introduction of a fast party for deployment by helicopter changed a lot of our protocols. In the RAF Mountain Rescue. Things changed we could be flown all over Scotland to aircraft crashes or mountain incidents many far from our base. You had to be self sufficient and cope with st least a night out.

USAF F 111

It became a “ 30 minutes to get your life together” in the RAF with the Mountain Rescues we were often involved in a helicopter picking you up or at Base or the hill became a common event . It meant you had to be ready at all times. I had a huge involvement in one incident. It was in early winter December 7 th 1982. I had been working a 12 hour shift, it was winter snowing at sea level in Morayshire and I had just got back to the Accommodation Block at RAF Kinloss. The phone rang I picked it up it was the ARCC at Pireavie saying a F111 USA fighter had crashed in Skye very basic somewhere on the main ridge more information later. It’s was just after 7 pm there had been snow at sea level, the forecast was poor. The aircraft was flying with state of the art gear mist if it was classified. The cloud base was down with little chance of clearing till next day. Add in the snow forecast we would be on our own!

What do you take – The Helicopter will be with you in 30 min (or less). In that short time you have to change into hill kit, grab radios and any kit you think you will need. Your brain is on fire you grab the troops in the accommodation and a driver to take you to the aircraft pan. The aircraft can only take 4 plus my dog Teallach. It’s a rush to sort out gear I am the party leader my decisions are the ones on group gear. Not easy add it’s dark and winter and you are heading for Skye and it’s incredible mountains

You can only carry so much – There are no mobile phones, GPS and our radios are basic. We took 3 radios plus spare batteries, Sharks eyes torches, ropes and I had all the climbing gear. To make room I ditched my sleeping bag( looking back a daft move ) and had a small duvet. Add to that full winter gear personal head torches, harness, helmets etc our rucksacks are full. The clock is ticking the helicopter is on its way it will be with us in 5 min. Let’s go no time for anything else. Arriving at the aircraft pan the gritters are out on the runway it’s a bad forecast. It’s a rotors running pick up into the darkened helicopter and as the leader I get headphones and we take off. The crew are great brief me on the updated weather and say we may not get to Skye as the forecast is awful. These are great people and will push out the boat to get there. The Sea King had no night Vision capability then.

The flight in – I am know up front in the helicopter the troops asleep in the back in the dark I pass all the information that is coming in via the ARCC to them by a note. It’s an USA F111 that’s crashed in Skye ( we had all ready been to one a few months before in Strathconnon where the crew survived) This was always on my mind as the aircraft cockpit is ejected like the Space Capsule and floats down by parachute. This was our job the Rescue of aircrew we were all aware that. That was a long flight in with everything changing as more information became clear!

The weather – The weather started ok with the odd flurry of snow we passed the lights of Inverness and headed over to Skye. The weather got worse and we got caught in a heavy blizzard and landed in a white out in Achnasheen. It was touch and go we waited as the weather went through and headed over to Skye. The crew were busy flying and updates coming in. The information we got was that the aircraft had crashed on Sgur Na Stri to me I had to look at the map it was near loch Coruisk and was reminded of it from a past walk. We also could hear Skye MRT calling they were at Elgol offering assistance.

A near Miss – The weather got better and we tried to pick up some Skye MRT then the blizzard hit again and visibility was awful. I think I was at the door helping the winch man when he saw the Hydro wires and we had to pull all our power to get away from them.

Landing – The pilot explained that he had limited time and asked me for a safe place to land I said Camusunnary as it’s very flat we headed out to sea and arrived at Camussunary. As we left the aircraft we were told we were on our own now till they could get more assets in the helicopter was going to Broadford As it had a small airport to be assessed. We left the helicopter as it vanished we felt very small even here. Then we saw the bothy door open out came what to me looked like a ghost. There were three lads one was to became a lifetime pal Paul Rosher staying in the bothy and thought the Cold War had started!.

Myself and Paul many years later on a Call out

Paul came with us up the hill until we hit the main wreckage I did not want him to experience the tragic scenes we may encounter. It was an epic climb to the site with debris everywhere the smell of aircraft fuel, the loose rocks and the river making things extremely tasking.

Sgurr na Stri

Sadly we located the crew later that night not a nice experience. I was sure we would find them alive when we discovered them there was no hope of survival my reserves crashed. I had so much on my mind but had to stay alert there were so many dangers about . The boys were tired a couple running on empty. a crash site is a dangerous place to be with sharp metal and fuel everywhere. Add on the trauma and we were soaked and cold. There was not option but to stay where we were despite the remote location we had to secure the crash site. We had a terrible bivy and never got any communications with anyone despite me trying all night. I walked about all night with my dog trying to stay warm it was heavy sleet now. With no communications we only got a radio reply in the morning. The rest of the team came on by road they had a long journey from Kinloss arriving late at night. We did not get relieved till midday it was a long cold wait. We were soaked the everything was wet and we needed a hot drink. I was exhausted. During the long hours in the wet darkness I thought of the crew and their families. The tragic news they would receive and how their lives would change.

The crash site

The rest of the story is in my blog! I was never so glad of seeing the sunrise over a snow covered Cullin on the early morning light.

Lessons learned: so many ? After this we had gear that we may need for a fast party handy in grab bags and as communications got better mobile phones and GPS arrived things got better. We got descent bivy bags after that but every call out is different and you have to adapt to the challenge. Over the years things have adapted.

Post Crash Management / Health & Safety – Nowadays we would have all kinds of Health and Safety protocols, masks and suits etc. You can have all the gear but at times you will have to carry all that up a mountain with limited access in winter is a very interesting proposition? in the end we coped and learned lots for future years.

This article is dedicated to the crew and families Maj Burnley Rudiger, 37, and Lt Steven Pitt, 28, died when their F111 fighter bomber went into Sgurr na Stri, a small hill on Skye, on 7 December 1982. Sara and Steven accompanied us to the site a moving day, one I will never forget.

A big thanks to Al Tait, Joe Mitchell. And Keith Powell (RIP) and Paul Rosher who we met in the bothy At Camusunary and came up the hill with us. A special thanks to Adrian Trednall who visits the site regularly and took the son and daughter to the crash site with myself a few years ago.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

Don’t get down – There’s lots of good news about. Cairngorm Mountain Rescue did a great job in wild weather and I had a visit from one of the Ladies of Lockerbie.

Yesterday I had returned from a couple of days away at Achnasheen in a bothy. I was a bit down as I had hurt my leg falling in a big hole covered in fresh snow. I also had an upset stomach so I returned a day early feeling a bit down. It’s short daylight and dark now early its easy to get down at this time of year.

It was great to see the great video of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team in action in the wildest of weather. They evacuated a climber and had a very hard carry off at night. The wee video brought back memories. Yet all those involved were volunteers who risk their lives for others for no payment. It’s the same with most of the emergency services they do it to help others . Yet you get the usual “keyboard warriors” putting in there views much of it with no clue of what’s happening. So well done all involved stay safe this winter.

Cairngorm MRT in action photo Cairngorm MRT taken from there Face book video.

CALL OUT:- CMRT just back from a call out for an male with a lower leg injury sustained during an avalanche. The climbers were able to self rescue down to the coire floor, where they were met by team members and stretchered back to the Cairngorm ski area. There were multiple reports of avalanches in Coire an t-Sneachda this afternoon. Many thanks to Cairngorm Mountain for their assistance during

We rely on public donations to fund the work that we do, if you would like to contribute, you can also go to our website – https://cmrt.org.uk

Yet when I got back I got a message from a lady one of the “Angel’s of Lockerbie” who had been up visiting. Sadly I had missed her but will never forget what they did to help us at Lockerbie. They made meals for us round the clock looked after us as only Mothers and Grannies can do. Helped us by having a few words as we returned from such awful scenes. They were the true heroines of the tragedy. To this day they help relatives from all over the world as they visit where so many died. 1988 was many years ago and I learned to live with my demons but also remember that out of such a tragedy comes so much love and care. The world is in a mess yet I am sure if we concentrated on the great people who do so much for others in their own quite way and never get a mention.

Let’s keep the good stories going think positive and remember the world is full of kind caring people. They should be the ones that influence our young folk. Every town every village has there stories of people who give so much yet rarely get recognised.

I get a buzz from being out on the hills though the body struggles but when you get glimpses in a wild day of the huge snow covered hills life is good. To see the Stags crossing a river in full spate and to see an Eagle and buzzards about is awe inspiring. It helps clear the mind and regenerate your soul. It’s dark at this time of year and yesterday I never ventured from my wee house as my knee was still sore. Today I will get out for a wander.

Please don’t forget that many older folk love a card or a letter it makes there day so have a look and despite the cost send it. It’s been a lonely time for many we are lucky to have so many who dare for us. Can we share the love?

Posted in Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

A good short day – Maurader crash on Beinn Na Fuesaige.

Location of Crash site

This aircraft struck the north western flank of Beinn na Fuesaige in Glen Carron to the south west of Achnasheen, at 1,900ft a short way below the summit and at about 200mph. Sadly all the crew died .

Updated Grid ref NH 087 542 height 584.7 metres. 3/12/21

Height 584.7 metres

Yesterday was a short day we did not arrive at the Jacobite climbing Club hut at Invercroft till just after 1130. I picked up Maggie from Forres and met Alaister and Mark who were coming for a walk. We had a short walk to the bothy across the gangway with our kit and fuel the fire. Thank goodness for the walkway as the ground was soaked.

As we had brought coal and peat for the open fire it should be a good night and the bothy was on a tidy state a bit damp but that’s expected!

The walkway

We had brought fuel for the fire and dumped our gear it was a short walk to our hill a few miles down the road. It was a wet steep walk onto the main ridge some steep Heather in places. We took our time me at the back but saw two Eagles and a few hinds. My cough was not great but just took it easy as it was so good to be out again. The hills were soaking with all the rain but it was a steady plod to the two tops.

It was cold in places on the main ridge but little snow as we climbed we got good views of the Torridon hills snow covered as the mist and rain came in. These wee view points give grand views.

At the crash site

We had a rough grid reference and height of the crash site and after a snack on the summit did a sweep search for it. In the end we located it tricky in these conditions and spent some time before heading down before dark.

Back at the hut.

We were glad to get in fire on as the rain got heavier. We had a low key night in front of the fire and Dan arrived later on. The bothy warmed up a bit and it was good to get some company. I was coughing a lot so slept downstairs this chest problem is hard at times. It was comfy though and warm in my sleeeping bag.

We managed to dry some gear and get sorted for next day. We will see what the weather brings.

Posted in Articles, Books, Bothies, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides | 1 Comment

At last a weekend on the hills. Some tips for early season mountaineering.

The day started early with a Covid Test as I am away for a weekend with the Moray Mountaineering Club . There are only a few of us out staying at the Jacobite Mountaineering Club hut near Achnasheen Invercroft.

The hut

These are strange times but it will be good to be out again despite the big changes due to COVID. I am lucky I am all jabbed up and will take it easy.

I will hopefully depending on weather get upa hill. It’s good to see that folk are winter climbing and there is lots of information about on conditions. This is a lot different from when I started winter climbing.

Winter tips: If your starting to winter climb keep an eye on conditions especially early in the season. There are a few good sites about conditions. UKC climbing and A few others are worth a look. It is so important to look at the weather the days before you go. The SAIS avalanche reports give a good guide as well. Most areas are covered and look at them and build an idea of what the snow is doing. The Met office and MWIS are a good Source of weather reports again well worth a look.

Even better every one who is out winter mountaineering should go on an avalanche course and get information from experts.

I had a few mishaps over the years a couple of Call outs when with hindsight we should not have been there. Also early on I was involved in a big Avalanche on Lancet Edge in 1972 I was unaware of the dangers.

Yet winter is a great time to be out and about. The benefits are enormous of a good winter day and even a wild day with a battering from the wind and weather leaves you with that “ready break” glow. It’s hard to explain to those who do not venture out.

Home

Start of Season 2021/22 – Be Alert to Early Winter Snowpack Instabilities

A standby avalanche forecast service will be provided mostly for the Northern Cairngorms and Lochaber regions during the months of November and early December. When significant blanket snow cover is present in the mountains SAIS avalanche forecasters will carry out field observations and produce public avalanche hazard reports. Lochaber reports will be a good reference for the western highland ranges and Northern Cairngorms reports for the eastern highland ranges Daily Avalanche Information Reports for the 6 operational areas of Lochaber, Glencoe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms , Northern Cairngorms and Torridon regions will be issued from Friday 10th Dec 2021.

Beinn Eighe 1951 photo Joss Gosling.

We are lucky having all these aids to make our winter days safer please use them and remember it’s not winter walking but winter mountaineering on the hills.

Finally be aware of the Deer on the road or transiting at dusk or early morning it could stop your adventure if you hit one.

A must read !
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Tomorrow I hope to visit them Maurader aircraft Crash Accident Site near Achnasheen It was on the 3 rd June 1943 – Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) Hill of the beard

Tomorrow I hope at long last to be visiting this crash site near Achnasheen. I have not been before and as I am staying nearby at the Jacobite hut I will leave early and hopefully the weather will be kind . Many will know that I am interested in aircraft crash sites in the mountains, this is one site I have not visited yet Maurader aircraft Crash Accident Site: it crashed on the 3 rd June 1943 – Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft)

Beinn na Feusaige shows a steep slope to the north of Loch Sgamhain in Glen Carron but is really just an eastern extension of Càrn Breac. Walk Highlands

This crash site is on the hill of Beinn na Feusaige on the road to Achnasheen SW of the A890. A while ago I was sent a letter from a father who lives locally and his young girls are trying to raise some money for a small memorial near the crash site. It is lovely to see that these two young girls are interested in the mountains and want to have the site remembered where the American crew sadly died.

USAAF Martin B-26C Marauder 41-34707 was on a transit flight from the USA via Meeks Field (Keflavík, Iceland) to Prestwick in Scotland. This was a recognised aircraft ferry route, which should have taken the Marauder over Stornoway in the Western Isles. However, for some reason, the aircraft was flying too far East of the prescribed course, and therefore over high ground on the Scottish mainland.

As the Marauder continued on its course through mist and rain, it struck the side of Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) in Glen Carron, near Achnasheen [map] on the NW mainland of Scotland.

ttp://www.aircrashsites-scotland.co.uk/marauder_beinn-na-feusaige.htm

The crash site photo Andy Lawson

Accident Site: Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) [map]

Sadly all the airmen died in this accident. The crashed aircraft was destroyed by an ensuing fire.

  • 1st Lt Merritt E Young (26) (O-662715), Pilot, USAAF.
    (Buried, Payne, Paulding County, Ohio, USA.)
  • 2nd Lt Robert A Anderson (O-729949), Bomb Aimer, USAAF.
    (Buried, Madingley Cemetery, Cambridge, UK.)
  • Staff Sgt Vincenzo (Vincent) Bravo (24) (11021367), Flt Engr., USAAF.
    (Buried, Medfield, Massachusetts, USA.)
  • Staff Sgt Marshall R Miller (38111816), Radio Op., USAAF.
    (Buried, Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, Texas, USA.)
  • Master Sgt Lewis M Cross (14069227), Gnr., USAAF.
    (Buried, Madingley Cemetery, Cambridge, UK.)

Aircraft Type Designation: 179 / B-26 (Medium bomber) 

Aircraft Type Nickname: Widow Maker (due to high casualty rate in early models).

This aircraft was designed for the USAAF as a medium bomber. It first flew with that Air Force in 1942 in the SW Pacific. However, early models earned a reputation for difficult handling and landing characteristics. Later, the B-26 Marauder operated with the Ninth Air Force from bases in the UK.

Depending on the variant, the aircraft could be fitted with two 1,400kW (1,900hp) or two 1491kW (2,000hp) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp R-2800-43 radial engines.

The Marauder had a maximum speed of 460kmh (287mph) at 1,500m (5,000ft), and a service ceiling of 6,400m (21,000ft). Armament consisted of two 0.50 gun in the nose, and also in the waist, dorsal and tail turrets. It had a maximum bomb load of 1,814.37kgs (4,000lbs).

3 Jun 1943 – Accident Site: Beinn na Feusaige (625m / 2,051ft) [map]

(Glen Carron) Nearest main road: A890

Comments – J Henderson – ” have been to this crash site on my first visit to this hill, but could not find it on a second visit. I think it is SW of the summit and not particularly large. It is a long scorched scar on the hill side with a small amount of metal debris.”

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 onboard and the circumstances of the loss.

Product information

Publisher‎Pen & Sword Aviation; First Edition First Printing (16 July 2009)Language‎EnglishHardcover‎352 pagesISBN-10‎1844159108ISBN-13‎978-1844159109Dimensions‎15.88 x 2.54 x 23.5 cmBest Sellers Rank1,035,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)1,734 in Military Vehicles2,224 in Military Aircraft2,339 in Hiking & Walking HolidaysCustomer Reviews4.5 out of 5 stars 57Reviews

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Well being | Leave a comment

Keep smiling / these are tricky times for all.

Suilven.

It’s a bit of a crazy place just now and a lot of folk are feeling the world is mad at time’s. Yet sadly there are so many good stories about. Look at what the Nurses, Doctors Para medics, health support workers are doing.

There are so many good folk out there. I was so lucky to meet so many in my life in Search and Rescue I’m so many Agencies. These were normal folk in the Police, Mountain Rescue Teams. Helicopter crews, Search and Rescue Dogs. We worked with many more in the Coastguards, Lifeboats so many folk giving up time to help others.

These folk rarely make the news, their stories are seldom told sadly good news seems not newsworthy.

I never knew the term “Black Dog” now I understand a lot more how some folk get depressed. I am glad people are talking about depression and you would not believe how many it effects.

So let’s keep an eye on each other just now even those we think are strong still struggle. Many who read this will all be part of helping others over the years. We all need love and support so let’s not forget our friends and those we love !

As the kids are getting ready for Christmas the trees and decorations are going up. Let’s enjoy this happy period but not forget those less fortunate !

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Last days of the West – East of Scotland walk.

Day 21 – Nov 17 – Linn of Dee – Carn Bhac – Braemar

It is amazing how you get used setting of in the dark and at least we followed the road into the wilds and the rough track after helped. The guide for these hills says navigation is not easy in this area with an abundance of peat hags and drifting snow and featureless ground, it was correct. Maybe that is why this hill is called the hill of the Peat Banks! I was glad to get to the summit, again it was a real slog out back to Braemar, constant wind and weather breaking us down and the reserves were running low. My knee was very sore but the hill bag was lighter, we passed lots of deer running effortlessly over the ground and felt jealous. We reached Braemar eventually and the Fife Arms where we were staying in the cold bothy. I was so glad to get there after a real wild few days. It seemed like ages ago we were at Dalwhinnie, not once did the weather give us a break but we had 2 days left it was in the bag? Distance 21 k and 972 metres 1 Munrp  Total 42 Munros.

This was another very hard day over peat hags filled with snow, we had seen no one on the hill for 10 days!  After getting sorted and picking up the rations we called RAF Kinloss who told us that they were playing War Games, it was the Cold War and the Station was playing war. This was a real blow as we expected the RAF Kinloss Team to be out and meet us when we finished on Mount Keen at the weekend. We may not even get a lift back as it may go on over the weekend if the Station did not achieve the desired results. We were pretty down when a friend arrived at the pub it was our mate Sid Green who was on holiday and wanted a day on the hill. He had an epic drive from England and was keeping away from RAF Kinloss and its war games. Sid was a breath of fresh air and it was great to have a chat with someone new and it would be different company on the hill tomorrow.  He would meet us on Lochnagar if he could get his car up to Lochnagar Car Park. It was a very cold night in the bothy the temperature was very low in the old squash court and our gear was frozen in the morning.  Two days to go was a bonus and only one day’s food to carry over the Lochnagar hills. The forecast was again wild, but we were used to it!

Day 21 November 18 – Breamar – Cairn An – t Sagairt Mor, White Mounth, Lochnagar –Spital of Glen Muick . Sid was amazed we were up and gone by 0700 just as the light was arriving, we wandered up the road to Auchallater and up to Loch Callater Lodge on Jock’s Road and met many deer sheltering by the Lodge. Then it was up the windswept hills plastered with snow and on to Carn an Sagairt Mor at 1047 meters. It was then onto the open plateau it was wild but by now we were so slick with our navigation and our gear and onto White Mounth and Lochnagar. The weather was brutal and with an Easterly wind it bit into the core of your body. We still had to watch the navigation it was tricky and were glad to meet Sid he was frozen it was a quick snack and get off the hill. Lochnagar in a blizzard is not easy you hug the huge cliffs and have to take care, again it is not simple but Sid was happy to give us a break as we tried to head down out of the weather. We were soon down in the Glen then along the track to Spittal Of Glen Muick we were staying with Mr Robertson the keeper an old friend of the team. Sid headed back to RAF Kinloss and said he would be back tomorrow what ever happened and meet us on Mount Keen tomorrow. (Sid was to die of cancer within a year a great big strong man and a great mate; I will never forget his kindness meeting us on that second last day.) It was real shame that the team would not be there but they were still involved in War Games poor souls. Mr Robertson had a good chat and we stayed in the MR bothy for the night, we had a dram with him and could not believe we only had one day left. We had definitely aged and lost lots of weight but were extremely fit. We slept well and were as usual away early it still was a bit of a walk to go much on our favourite ground peat and bog! It was another steady day of 24 k and 1219 metres in the wild weather again all day but only 1 day to go. 3 Munros and Total 46 Munros

Weather clearing

Day 22 November 19 – Spittal Of Glen Muick – Mount Keen and Auchromie. It was a bit of a road walk to start then up onto the hill tracks and then over heather and peat hags in deep snow to the most Easterly Munro Mount Keen. This was the last day and we were still alive absolutely exhausted There was little joy just head down let’s get home .There were amazingly a troops there to meet us, they had been playing war games at RAF Kinloss. This was the Cold war era and the game/ war was over and they had come straight out to see us. Mick Trimby (RIP) ar great mate brought my lovely girlfriend June out and though she had worked like the troops for 5 days with little sleep it was great to see them. I was a very embarrassed on the top of Mount Keen with June being there (how daft is that) and it was strange to have company and then we walked down to Glen Mark. We just wanted to be on our own there was little chat poor June was not impressed. The weather was clod but clear and we were of the hill in the daylight and then a long 3 hour drive home. The walk was over and we were alive.  What a trip what an experience for us all. Total 1 Munro  47 Munos in Total

.

 Total 47 Munros Climbed, 506 Kilometres and 33429mteres of Ascent most in wild weather!   

Notes

Looking It was a massive undertaking at the time with the lack of daylight and the weather we had nearly every day in wild weather. Navigation and Fitness were key elements and the area knowledge we had saved us in a few places. Maps were very basic not like today (2014) no GPS, we planned the route in advance but each day was dependent on the weather.

The gear was very basic, no Gortex but the polar fleeces were life savers. We were wet every day and had to keep moving to keep warm. We always carried a spare pair of gloves and basic kit to change into it was limited as we were carrying everything. We carried plastic bivy bags very basic!

Food was simple porridge and simple lightweight food, mashed potatoes and pasta, lots of soups and tea coffee etc, we were always hungry. Hill food was simple chocolate and sweets! We cooked on a primus it never let us down. I laid out the food in advance and the food caches were for the time great being a caterer by trade helped and still we were always hungry. I lost a stone on the trip and I was a skinny lad then.

The late Sid Green with Jim Morning

Communications – we phoned whenever we got to a phone and were on our own a lot, weather forecasts were hard to get and it was always similar, snow, wind and cloud!

The road walking was hard work and we carried RAF Sandshoes basic but a great change from boots, everything was limited due to weight.

Bothies were used whenever and a great bonus the Mountain Bothies is a great asset we only met one person in a bothy on our travels. The fires were so important to try to dry the wet gear very night.   We used the Scottish Youth Hostels twice at Affric and Ossian again we were the only people there!

The keepers and team contacts for Base Camps from Tom Rigg ,Mr MacRae in Skye, Kintail Cluannie Lodge, Mr Oswald at Culra ,the keeper at Gaick, the Keeper and his wife at Linn Of Dee  and  Mr Robertson at Lochnagar were all great to us. We had such hospitality meals and drams and I can never forget them and apologise for losing the names of everyone but my diary got soaked.   We at times arrived very late very tired yet we always got a welcome. The hills were very quiet in 1977 and we only met our friends in the team on the hill imagine that today. These people were what going on the mountains were all about and remain so vivid memories even today.

Jim and Terry my companions were exceptional never complained unlike me and were to become incredibly powerful mountaineers, we never fell out on the trip and we learned so much for the future.  The planning was a great just on maps and when you look back with the technology today it was impressive. Our navigation improved as did our fitness and mountaineering skills. As the days went on we did I still I feel at one with the mountains over this period of 21 days and became as one! This was to be a great help when we were under great pressure. The great thing is we are still great friends.

The assistance from RAF Kinloss from Jim Green  , Mick Trimby and Sid Green all sadly deceased  who came out with ice axes, food and transported us home, I have many wonderfull memories and

poor June who I was so embarrassed when you arrived on Mount Keen I am sorry. Our families who worried about us and I know my Dad and Mum were praying for us and we needed it.  Ray Sefton and Don Shanks the Team Leader and Deputy at RAF Kinloss who worried if their careers were over as the weather came in. I never realised the level of responsibility for us until I became a Team Leader.   Finally to John Hinde RIP – you really set the” cat among the pigeon’s with your Walk idea in the depths of November. But did we learn from it and many call –outs in the future were successful from  the local area knowledge learned on that walk.

That is it nearly 9800 words on our Walk from West – East in 1977

Before !

Hope you enjoyed the adventure as I enjoyed remembering the trip.

After !

This book is an outstanding read and a must for all winter mountaineers.

The Munros in Winter: 277 Summits in 83 Days by Martin Moran

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

Posted in Books, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

In memory of my Mum.

This is the anniversary of my Mum’s passing she died in 1980 I still miss her every day she was a all Mum’s area a special lady. As the youngest of 5 children I was spoiled in every way, always in a scrape or trouble and being a Ministers son a bit of a rebel.

My beautiful Mum – thank you xxx

Mum was always there for me and we had a great bond through her love and care! She loved her family, their kids, the church,  the mountains, football the tennis and dedicated her life to her family her grandchildren and the church. Money was tight but we never wanted for love and she brought us all up almost single handed as Dad pursued his life as a minister.

During my wild years she saw something in me and as I grew up we got a lot closer! When I went and joined the RAF she loved that I was in Mountain Rescue and though she worried about me as only Mum’s can do! We spoke every week on the phone as most of my leave was spent chasing mountains I was a rare visitor! I can never get these times back and like many regret my selfishness. How many feel the same?

When mum got ill with Leukemia she never told me till a few days before she passed away and I was summoned home. Yet we has spoken every week, she hid it as did the family. She did not want me worried as I was in a relationship and now in North Wales as full – time Mountain Rescue my life was so busy. I rushed home and was shocked poor Mum was so frail and yet every week on the phone she never said a thing or complained and just listened to me and gave me advice. Poor Mum was in terrible pain for a long time but never moaned, she was incredible during these last few months. We were told to get my brother back from Bermuda and she died shortly after he arrived home. We got some special time two days together near the end and she was so upset she told me that she had little to leave us a monetary sense. Yet she had given us a lifetime of love and care and that is what matters. In this modern life I despair at times when I families ripped apart after a loved ones death over money and possessions. To me love, care and kindness is the greatest gift ever that parents can bestow on their kids.

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

She was such a beautiful person in every aspect who loved us all yet had time to guide and be there for us. I shared so many secrets with her over my life and she was always there to listen when I needed! How she would have loved to see her grandchildren and their kids now. I would have loved her to have met all the great Grandchildren and Lexi and Ellie Skye and shared their lives! I also 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. She would have been so proud of Andy Murray and his brother in the tennis world and I believe she watches them in heaven.

Please give your Mum and Dad a hug or a visit we all owe them so much they make us who we are.

Mum I miss you as we all do thanks for being there for me!

I am off to get some flowers for the house and for my good friend Wendy, she reminds me so much of my Mum in every way.

Mum told me just before she passed away that she worried so much for me and the team when we were on Callouts. If I was helped by a keeper or person on my big walks Mum would write and thank them. She told me that she could sadly leave us nothing financial. She gave her whole life to us and the Church and I was so lucky to have her in my life. I hope I manage to have a few attributes that my mother gave me.

Posted in Articles, Family, Health, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 2 Comments

A time I felt we pushed it to far?

It’s good to see that a few excellent comments on some of the past blogs. Please remember that I do not write them to put folk off mountaineering. Many are thoughts on a mountaineering career of over 50 years. I loved the battle with nature we had and often that was on Call outs after a long day on the hills. This was assisting many of the local teams across Scotland. Here is another memory! Take what you want from it.

I have been writing about our East – West walk in winter In 1977 it was a wild time. Weather forecasts were poor gear was basic and any contact was by Public Phones. There were days when we out of touch in the severest weather ( The A9 was shut no gates in theses days) We were very fit Jim Morning and Terry Moore were outstanding mountaineers with first ascents in the Himalayas later on. Also two attempts at the rarely climbed Everest West Ridge both getting very high. I was a very mediocre mountaineer but pushed myself all the time. On several occasions during that walk were we running on empty and navigating for our lives. Fitness and hill qknowledge got us through only one day did we stay low from Gaick Lodge to Glen Feshie even that was hard work. The snow was deep and we took turns at breaking the path. Next day was one of the hardest of my life deep snow and featureless hills. An Sgarsoch and Càrn an Fhidhleir.

These two rounded, featureless hills are given distinction by their remoteness. In the heart of the wild country between the main Cairngorms and the Atholl ranges, few Munros can match these peaks for the feeling of solitude or open space. The day could be shortened by the use of a mountain bike on the approach. In winter on a bad day they can be very serious. Our route was from Upper Glen Feshie and Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy even in the 70,s it was such a great bothy with lots of wood to dry our gear. As usual there was no one about the roads were blocked anyway.

Running on empty – We were extremely tired the big days from Ossian 5 munro 4 more on the way to Culra bothy with an epic getting off the plateau in a white out then a big day on Beinn Alder and Beinn Bhoil had knackered us. The police met us at Dalwhinnie saying we had to stop the walk as the RAF were not happy and worried. We were lucky was my pal Jimmy Simpson who said he had missed us . Jimmy was a great pal now sadly gone who we met with his massive dog on Call outs all over Scotland. A real character.

Hard Navigation most of day – That day will remain in my thoughts forever we left the track after a long walk from the bothy. The navigation was so tricky over peat hags and frozen bogs snow covered. It was artic conditions with spell of White out. The navigation was vert tricky Jim had just passed his Winter MLC and Terry was a superb navigator. We all took turns checking each other breaking the route as the weather got wilder. It would be a very late finish as we were heading for Braemar. I doubted we would make it. As we descended absolutely exhausted the weather cleared. It was dark but a moon came out our gear froze on us but we were getting lower.There was still a lot of snow about but we carried on the burns were frozen over and the deep snow had a crust. This was such a hard day we had little food and drink and still big bags. Yet looking back what an eye opener and a great reality check for our egos,

Near the end of the day keep concentrating We could see the path below us the moon lit up the hills. It became still and bitterly cold. We made the descent to the path and on to White Bridge. While crossing the icy river Jim fell in and was soaked with the temperatures now about minus 15 we were in a rush to keep going. We arrived at Linn of Dee the road had tons of snow we were exhausted. We made a decision that Braemar was to far and I was sent to the last house the keepers house to ask if we could stay in his garage. It was about 2100 the keeper brought us in and his lovely wife made us egg and chips. He told us he had a bothy 2 miles down the road and would take us to it. A young keeper was there helping with the shooting. After our meal the keeper thought we were crazy as we could not take a lift even though we were exhausted. We also phoned Kinloss telling them we were alive and our families my Mum was very worried and thanked the keeper and his wife for looking after us. I went back to see the Keeper and his family took them some bits and pieces to thank them. I sadly lost their names so if anyone can help get me them that would make my day.

The Stalker was waiting at the Stalkers bothy with the young lad and he had some whisky. We had a brew Jim and Terry went to bed and I told him what we were up to. My adrenaline was still very high. He was a cracking lad a hill man though young full of a love for the hills. We arranged to meet up sometime. Sadly this did not happen.

.

Sad day – The young keeper and I never got our day on the hill. A few weeks later he was found near Landseer Falls near Feshie bothy dead of exposure after getting caught out in a big storm heading from Linn of Dee to Glen Feshie Lodge on Jan 11th 1978. I could not believe this when told that the hills could kill such a powerful young man We were on he search as well unknown to us it was our young pal.

Looking back – That day we had walked 35 k and climbed at least 1325 metres mostly in the worst weather possible. We had really pushed it out. If anything had happened there in my opinion would have been little we could have done. We were in a remote area, extremely tired, yet wanting to get more hills in (ego) we did think we were invincible then as many of that age do. I was just looking after myself in the end. There were no communications for 4 days we could have been anywhere as we changed our route due to the extreme weather.

Pushing it we certainly did. We were strong and fit but what would we have done if one of us had run out of steam? I had always tried to have something left in my tank so I can deal with any emergencies. It was empty when we hit Linn of Dee!

Wild weather
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Great article on the effect of wind in the mountains.

As the weather gets a bit wilder and winter returns to the hills it is so important to read the weather forecasts. There are so many available now compared with when I started mountaineering. There are many great website

MWIS https://www.mwis.org.uk/forecasts/scottish

The Met office

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/specialist-forecasts/mountain

Mountain weather forecast

Mountains can be inhospitable and dangerous places for the ill prepared. From one hour to the next, from one hill to the next, they can exhibit a dramatic variation in weather conditions. Whether it’s a well-planned expedition or a spur of the moment decision to go to the hills, it is important to check the forecast.

This is a great article published about the effect of the wind. Many have limited knowledge of the strength of the wind on the mountains,

www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/skills/series/skills/wind_in_the_mountains-12609

Thanks Helen and UKC

The wind is a killer the forecast is not good for this weekend take care.

Always remember as I have seen often a gust of 40 – 50 blow a climber or rescuer off their feet. Very unlikely you will get a helicopter coming in so it’s up to the Mountain Rescue Team to get you off the hill. I feared high winds so many of my pals blown over and a few hurt on Rescues. So when you go out spare a thought for those who have to risk their lives for you. Everyone is a volunteer unpaid and do it to help others. We can all have an accident but if the wind is forecast very high stay low level or go to the cake shop.

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1977 Winter West – East Scotland. Kintail to Fort William heavy snow and a meeting with the Sea King helicopter.

Day 8. – 4/11/77 – Kintail Sheil Bridge – A very steep start to the day after a walk up the road and then huge hills on the 5 sisters of Kintail ridge. This is classic walking/ mountaineering. I feel a lot better today that we have axes and crampons. We see no one, the hills are very quiet no wonder it is November. Sgurr Na Ciste Dubh, Saileg, Sgurr a. Bhealaich Dheirg, Aonach Meadhoin, and out the long ridge to Ciste Dubh. It was a great day with lots of height, snow on the ridges and left early at 0630 and just got in to the bothy in Glen Affric at Altbeithe Youth Hostel in the dark. It was a wild descent into the bothy which we could just make out between the storms, with the rivers giving a bit of trouble in the dark. The bothy is the Youth Hostel very remote and access by a long walk. It is left open to help walkers and is a magic place and in winter solitude. There was lots of food in left by others it so we ate well, this was great but will have to leave early and start in the dark; it is a big day in the tomorrow. Knee hurting with all the descent will it cope?

Affric Youth Hostel

What a cosy night in the Youth Hostel am still amazed that is was left open in winter for the few that venture out. The new polar fleeces are magnificent well worth the expenditure; Jim is still wearing “curlies” the team issue boot. I am in my big winter boots but still getting cold feet due to the constant wetness. 18k/2412mtrs – 4 Munros Total 17 Munros

Day 9. – 5/11/77 – Altbeith Youth Hostel Glen Affric.  Away in dark as always it took a bit of time to cook and get sorted, wet socks and gear is never easy to put on, especially with the snow about. Snow is at 1000 feet – up the glen big rivers and onto Tigh Mor Sleige, Sgurr Nan Conbhairean, Carn Nan Ghlusaid, all new hills for Terry and Jim. Tricky navigation in poor visibility, it is a head down day only 3 Munros. Down onto the road A887 where we were buzzed and met by a RAF Sea King  with the late  Mick Anderson the winchman from RAF Lossiemouth who stopped and brought us some goodies, it was out of the blue and magic. We had a long road walk along the road to Greenfields near Loch Garry. They left us some goodies at the Bridge at Greenfields; we took ages finding it in the pitch dark. We also had trouble finding the bothy as we had never been there before far less in the dark. This is an new area for me and it will be a huge day again tomorrow. These hills and the road walks are very hard, body aching, gear very wet, great to have dry gear on after a day being wet. This is the best part of the day along with the soup and tea. I crave for bread, we have some now thanks to Mick and the Sea King. Looking at the map and reading my battered book before I fall asleep. This was a big day 39k  2274 metres 3 new Munros 20 Total Munros  . We see lots of Deer and many are now down very low a sign of wild weather. I hate the roads not easy on my knee; we wear our RAF sandshoes on the road and look like tramps now with our stubbly beards.

Where next ?

Day 10. – 6/11/77. Greenfields is a beautiful place at the back of the Glengarry Forest and the plan is the Corbett Ben Tee and the Loch Lochy Munros Sron A Choire Garbh and Meall Na Teanga. It is great to be out of the forest and a new way up old favourite hills. This is big country and great to see a new aspect to these popular hills, I wonder how many come this way? There are few paths coming from this side until we reach the hills. It is a very steep descent to Clunes battering on the knees and all more new ground. High winds and more snow we are battered and nearly drop off at the beleach due to the weather but push on. We sign the wee book hidden under snow on the summit hidden in a tin. The ridge walk was great and these hidden Corries are full of deer and we see many hares turned white already for the winter, we have yet to meet anyone on the hill! We are rewarded with a great view in the clearing of the big hills ahead and Loch Lochy; they are plastered with snow as are the hills behind us to the West. This walk is turning into a winter walk and we are glad to hit the road and the long walk to Fort William to make the next day easier. The road walk is awful, feet are battered and we are soaked bags very heavy but stop at Spean Bridge for some food and then the long walk into Fort William. We are staying at the ATC Hut so no chance of getting our gear dry. There is a wee shop nearby and we stock up and sleep the sleep of the just, even Jim is feeling it. My knee is getting worse but once I get going its manageable. We make use of the phone box and I phone the Team and the weather forecaster it looks awful for the days ahead same again with more snow and high winds. I also phone Mum and Dad they are watching the weather to and worried?. These hills are usually fairly easy but with the long approach and the long walk out make it and each day a slog. A day off planned after tomorrow. I need it. This is another big day 40 k and 1828 metres. 2 Munros Total Munro’s 22

Meall na Teanga and Stron Na Coire Garbh

Day 11. 7/11/77 – Fort William ATC Hut – the plan was the Big four The Aonachs Mor and Beag and Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis but again the weather is awful and we are running on empty. We decide to climb Carn Mor Dearg is tricky in the wind and snow and we meet out first few people on the Arete. We feel that they intrude in our solitude and by now are walking at our own pace, I am grinding it out and glad we have only to climb the two Munros. We get great views of the North Face the gullies and ridges are favourites and we pick out familiar climbs. Jim and Terry going very well but good to see they are tired. We met a few on the Ben summit with no kit, it is winter now and icy, the wind batters us but we are now used to it after 10 days on the hills. There are big Cornices on Ben Nevis already and we take care as the navigation can be tricky and we are tired, no errors yet and all are checking. Jim and Terry so powerful and I feel the pressure but they make use of my area knowledge at times and I take my turn breaking the snow. I feel that we are becoming at one with the mountains and see a storm coming and are ready for it with the gear on quickly, no faffing about now. I noticed this on my other walk how the mind and body is aware of the weather and the terrain after several days out in a row on the hill or is it just me? We travel light today no sleeping bag or cooking gear as we have a day off in Fort William, the body is battered and the gear needs a bit of sorting but a day off bliss. What a difference going light weight is and the effect on the knees is great. Note to myself never do a walk unsupported again! 20 k 1700 metres easy day at last! 2 Munros Total Munros 24 .

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Winter West – East 1977 some big days Part 2 Kinlochhourn – Kintail via a few hills and heavy snow,

Day 5. November 1  – Kinlochourn-Gleouraich-Spidian Mialach- Cluanie Lodge Kintail. This was another massive pull from sea level; to both Munros, they were steep then a big walk to Cluannie Lodge at Kintail there was lots of snow my thoughts “we may have to pull out because of weather is so bad”. We had  been wet all day worried about frozen feet, no ice axes with us, hills now plastered and very tricky on the very steep  wet grass snow covered  descent. Winter was with us on the hills, we may have to relook at our plans. .The keeper gave us a huge dram when we arrived at Cluannie Lodge and told us the weather was going to get worse he gave use of a house near the big Lodge. We had a great fire and tried to get our clothes dry wet gear in sleeping bag every night.  I told Terry that my knee was bad he stayed with me Jim pushing on with navigation and route, just hanging in.   I phoned RAF Kinloss from the Lodge and asked for ice axes and pain killers to be sent out ASAP.  A very long hard day, these are serious big hills, the wind is constant as is the wet gear. The walk after the hill went on for ever. 35k/2816mtrs. – 2 new Munros and Total Munros 7

Munros Gleouraich Spidean Mialach

Day 6. – November 2  Cluanie Lodge Kintail – We did not want to leave the comfort of the bothy and the fire. Jim still wanted to complete the 9 Munros of the South Cluannie despite the weather conditions. We had some day and used fence posts as ice axes. In the end we settled for seven of the Cluannie Munros in deep snow and heavily corniced. Drum Shionnach-Aonach Air Chrith-Maol Chean Dearg-Sgurr a Doire Leathain-Sgurr an Lochan-Creag nan Damh-Sgurr na Sgine-Sheil Bridge, no ice axes lots of snow. It was really tricky coming off in the dark with the deep snow all the way. The area knowledge I have is very handy and saves time, we have to watch as we are getting white out conditions at times then it clears.  Another huge day of 25k/2841mtrs.  7 new Munros Total 14 Munros

No Axes

We needed a day off after 14 Munros in pretty wild conditions. Knee very sore had a big chat as we are heading into wild Affric but will be slower but will get there, pain killers help! Terry has a bit of a limp but still chasing Jim. The weather to wild to be left behind and snow too deep to break own steps, all took turns today over the 7 Munros.

Day 7,- 3/11/77  At last a day off at Sheil Bridge Kintail  well needed in the small bothy, we got our ice axes  picked up our winter gear and another wild weather forecast for the following week! It was great to have lie in and sort out the gear and get it dried off. We picked up our rations for the next few days anaxes and more winter kit the bags were very heavy! We went to Kintail Arms for lunch and were soon back at our tiny bothy and slept like logs.

Drying off

Our daily routine is always the same up at 0500 porridge on the stove and try to be gone by 0700 earlier as the weather got worse. The daylight was getting less every day and at the end we had about 6-7 hours daily.   We usually finished in the dark first things was the water on for a brew as we changed into our one change of clothes and socks, get a fire going if possible. The meal was always porridge in the morning the food of Gods, soup and a ready meal never enough at night and on the hill we carried chocolate about 3 bars a day was what we planned and carried. At the food caches we had some lovely things like tinned fruit and custard, I loved it. I hardly eat the chocolate and Jim on one day ate 10 bars, it is scary now thinking about it.

There are some big days ahead, remember these were the days before GPS, Good weather forecasts and some basic gear. Comments welcome more to come!

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A short “Welly wander” to the bothy at Corrie Fionnaraich – Coulags .

I am over in the West visiting a friend the weather is wild the rivers are in full spate and the rain has been driving most of the day getting worse in the West. I had a pal finishing his Munro’s on Maol Chean Dearg and overnighting in the bothy. Maol Chean-dearg is a dramatic, steep sided dome of Torridonian sandstone in the wonderful Coulin Forest between Torridon and Strathcarron. On the north side it plunges in crags down to a lochan and has an awe-inspiring outlook over the Torridon peaks. (Walk Highlands) it’s a grand hill in a wonderful setting and spending a night in the bothy is a great way to enjoy the hill.

I had decided to pop in on my way and see them if they were of the hill. The wee car park had 6 cars in it as I arrived early afternoon. They had left earlier in the morning. It was full metal Gortex on from the start.

I decided to wear my Welly’s as I was only going a few miles to the bothy. It was a day for Welly’s snd a good choice as the big river had a bridge but the hills were full of white water bounding down. Showing me a few winter lines for future forays.

Welly boot time !

The cloud was down very low and the rain torrential I met the gillie we waved as I set off into the pouring rain. The path was flooded and signs keep you way from the Estate house I was soon wandering in my own world hood up and crossing the small Burns that come over the path.

The main river moving so fast uncrossable apart from the wee bridge.

There were few views and just before the bridge I met another stalker. We had a great chat and had seen the Munro team high up near the beleach. He said the weather was awful and they would be off on the dark. I said I was only going to the bothy where they had left their gear. I had 2 hours of daylight left but had my gear and a torch . I only wanted to drop of a can of Guinness for the Munro king,

The bridge needs a few planks repaired .

I was soon on the bridge taking it easy. I met 3 other walkers pretty wet heading down. They had stopped at the bothy as well seen where my pals had left their overnight gear. I left my token can of beer in the bothy. They had coal and wood in the bothy it was very tidy and hopefully they had a great night after getting off the hill.

The bothy in the mist .

It was a wet walk down cross the bridge again and back to the van. I had stuffed my waterproof trousers inside my Welly’s so my feet were damp now.

Potential winter lines on the hills in a cold spell.

It had been a short wet day but the rivers and the colours on the hill are superb just now. There can be great danger in the rivers so be careful and with about 7- 8 hours daylight you need to plan your day accordingly. The West has been wet for several days so be aware of the dangers of river crossings.

Lovely colours

Today’s tip – start early for your walk at this time of year.

What Welly’s do you recommend ?

Do you support the Mountain Bothies Association ! (MBA)

To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use & benefit of all who love wild & lonely places.

A recipient of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the Mountain Bothies Association is a charity which maintains about 100 shelters in some of the remoter parts of Great Britain.

With the permission and support of the owners, these shelters are unlocked and are available for anyone to use. All of our maintenance activities are carried out by volunteers. We welcome new members who want to support our work, either by attending work parties or by contributing financially through subscriptions and donations. Without this support, many of these unique shelters would be lost forever. If you love the outdoors and wild places, please consider joining us.

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Getting away for the mountains in the short daylight of Mid November and December.

These are the days of shorter daylight – This time of year you get into the short daylight hours on the hills. Around now we have less than 8 hours before it’s pitch dark. Many of us learn this the hard way. Stumbling of a hill in the dark especially a mountain you do not know is never easy. In winter the clock is always ticking .

Imagine descending this ridge in the dark – Lancet Edge.

Navigation in the dark or poor weather – Navigating in the dark can be tricky add fresh snow and poor weather the odds begin stacking against you. River crossings in the dark are not easy and you will read of a few folk every year who cannot cross swollen rivers and some get benighted. Yet coming of the mountains on a starlight night is special.

Guidebooks time’s – Guidebooks for the times for hill routes on the popular mountains are just as it says a guide. I used to like to be down on a good path before darkness fell. Walking on the dark can be a lot slower and trickier in winter. Add in a bigger hill bag big boots and maybe a winter climb this is why many set of in the dark to get the best of the limited daylight.

Wild weather on a call out in the Cairngorms.

Be flexible – It’s always worth changing your plans if you are running late “flexibility is the key to safe day” . As the weather changes we will read of folk needing assistance as walking in the hill in the dark is a key skill. Sadly there are still many who rely on their phone as a torch and to navigate. The battery does not last long in a cold winter day. Always carry a good torch check it every time you go out and carry spare batteries. The same goes for navigation carry a map and compass.

Route planning – Plan your day look at your route have cut off times. Always check the weather and the avalanche reports (that start in Mid December.) Remember that new overnight snow or drifting snow can change your safe route and you may have to come off a different way. These all add time to an already short daylight.

Getting to your hill – Driving to your hill setting off in the dark on icy roads can make even a short journey a slow process. Be careful as many roads will not be treated/ cleared for ice and snow especially the remoter areas. Carry a shovel and some emergency gear.

Always tell someone you trust your route. This makes things so much easier if you have problem. At least the Rescue Agencies will have an idea were you were going and where to look?

Have fun, be safe and remember that late starts in winter, bad weather and pushing on despite the weather changing are cutting your odds of a safe day. Try navigating in the dark in a safe area and look after each other. Stay together and keep an eye on each other. It’s easy when the weather is wild to be in your own world and miss how your companion is doing.

The mountains will always be there the secret is to be with them !

Now we have to get off the hill Lochnagar winter.

Comments as always welcome .

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River crossing – memory

These words below are from an incident in 1982 when a USAF 111 crashed on Sgur Na Stri on Skye on December.

“The first obstacle was the river it was snowing pitch dark but there was a very rickety bridge which we avoided in the dark. We were high on adrenaline and were soon across, following my dog swimming the fast flowing river. It was bitter cold and the smell of aviation fuel and burning was unmistakable.” It was so cold and we had an all night search and bivouacked at the crash site till next morning.

The old bridge at Camusunary Skye now gone

I was out the other day over in the West the rivers were so high due to constant heavy rain. I crossed the bridge near the bothy it needed a bit of TLC and took care. A slip here in the water would have been serious.

Bridge to the bothy

My walks across Scotland in the 70’s gave me a great respect for Ricer crossings as we were coming of the big hills often in in familiar territory. I have been on a few Call outs where folk have had to bivy as they could not cross the river due to the it’s depth and power. Coming of in a dark winters night can be tricky enough without dealing with a flooded fast flowing river !

As always – https://www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/weather-conditions/river-crossings. Has great advice

River crossing in the great outdoors

Blue on the map is water, but what the map doesn’t signify is how easy or hard the water will be to cross. It might be a simple case of jumping from one bank of a stream to another, hopping across a few boulders in the burn, or swapping boots for crocs and braving the cold for a few metres across a shallow river. Or it may not.

You can get a guide to width, at least, by looking closely at how the water is depicted on an Ordnance Survey map. Streams are shown as a single blue line, where thickness is proportionate to the stream’s width, and where the single blue line splits into two, with light blue shading in between, that means the river is more than 8 metres wide.

But regardless of width, in times of heavy rainfall or snow melt the burns and rivers in the mountains of Scotland can present a serious and potentially dangerous challenge.

Lots more information on the website – if in doubt do not cross !

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45 years on – the Big Walk some thoughts of a winter West – East .

The West – East of Scotland Skye to Mount Keen 1977.

Looking through my notes from what seems another era I looked at my preparations and worries to get ready for a big undertaking then our winter walk in October / November in 1977. These were days of simple gear, no mobiles GPS and the maps I am sure were still inch to the mile?

The idea of a walk across Scotland from West to East in late October/ November with hindsight was crazy, with no support a pretty serious undertaking.  My pal Jim Morning and myself had just completed a huge North to South Of Scotland Walk in 1976  in May and along with Paul Burns we had pushed the boat out in the way of hills done. We thought we were ready for an unsupported winter traverse. After speaking to a few people most said go in late March/April making use of the long daylight and reasonable conditions. I never for a moment thought we would plan it for November. This is usually a wild month with various problems. The daylight is very short and the weather can be very unsettled and on this trip it was wild nearly every day. This ended up as a story of “A walk nearly a walk to die for.”

At the time I was a member of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team a young party leader who had just completed his Munros in 1976. The Team was myself Heavy Whalley, Jim Morning (JM) and Terry Moore (TM) this was the first expedition in to attempt a Traverse of Scotland mountains West to East in November. Jim and Terry were just posted in from Stafford and Valley in North Wales , both were incredibly fit and extremely strong mountaineers . This walk was the based on an idea by the late John Hinde, one of the founder fathers of the Big Walks.

At the time we were cocky young lads invincible or so we thought and I think John had the last laugh. He said do you think you are that good try a walk in early winter that will test you, how right he was so right.

Some quotes “Few civilians had the time or the organisational support to try it [a long walk]”…  Hamish Brown. “… It is not a competitive game, any cutting corners leads to lack of safety…”  John Hinde.

Past Walks up to our attempt in November 1977

1962  RAF Kinloss  East – West MRT  Season – Autumn Munros 11 Team Shaw, McKerron, Ballantyne.

1964 –  RAF Kinloss – North – South Season – Summer  – Munros – 37  Team – Armstrong, Golton, Raven

1966 – RAF Kinloss – North – South – Season – Summer – Munros – 32 Team – Ward, Morrison, Bradshaw.

1966 –  RAF Kinloss – West – East – Summer – Munros 30 – Members – Hinde, Shaw.

1967  – RAF Kinloss  South  – North –  Summer – Munros – 26 – Members – Gilligan, Ward, Wagg

1968 – RAF Kinloss/ Valley – North – South – Autumn – Munros 48/58 – Members – Hinde, Blyth, McGowan, Tomlinson, (Rabbits, Millgate) 350 miles/30480 metres 19 days.

1970 – RAF Kinloss – North – South – Winter – Munros 20 – Members Roney, Tindley, Luff, Higgins. 300 miles/18288 metres. 20 days.

1970 – RAF Stafford – North – South – Autumn – Munros 44 – Brewer, Keane, Gillies, Penning, Goldsborough.282 miles/21236 metres, 22 days.

1976 – RAF Kinloss – Spring – North – South – Munros 62 – Whalley, Burns, Morning.334 miles/31185 metres, 21 days

1977 –  RAF MRT Team Leaders – Spring – 62 Munros – Shanks, Weatherill, Aldridge (USAF 345 miles/29628 metres.

There was some great names on these lists and we were already on it, lots would be watching us and We spent a lot of time planning it we used the RAF Kinloss  MRT briefing room floor and had access to all the maps we needed. 

The walk with we had done with Jim unsupported the year before South to North in May gave us an idea of what the effort needed. We laid  all the maps out on the big floor over several days and planned our route. Jim and Terry were chasing their Munros and they had big plans. I just looked at the vast distances and hills and thought how hard this would be. Jim and Terry were another level both had just arrived in Scotland from RAF Stafford and RAF Valley they were so keyed up to get these hills done.

I had just completed my Munros in 1976 which was a big event in these days and was really amazed at the routes they were planning. They also wanted to go unsupported and the only time we could get off work was late October and November. Alarm bells rang in my head, but we were at the invincible stage of our mountaineering life and we could do anything? The gear was so basic as the photos show, heavy breaches or “breeks” that when wet rubbed you raw all over and when frozen became like armour. They took ages to dry, we had bought Polar jumpers and polar trousers from Helly Hanson they were a lot of money at the time but they proved the best buy I have ever made. They dried quickly and were a life saver. The rest of the gear was so basic; we carried one pair the forecast for the week was awful. Winter was coming early.

The boys at the beginning of the walk fresh and clean with no clue what was to happen to us.

We spent a lot of time planning it we used the RAF Kinloss  MRT briefing room floor and had access to all the maps we needed.  The walk with we had done with Jim unsupported the year before South to North in May gave us an idea of what the effort needed. We laid  all the maps out on the big floor over several days and planned our route. Jim and Terry were chasing their Munros and they had big plans. I just looked at the vast distances and hills and thought how hard this would be. Jim and Terry were another level both had just arrived in Scotland from RAF Stafford and RAF Valley they were so keyed up to get these hills done. I had just completed my Munros in 1976 which was a big event in these days and was really amazed at the routes they were planning. They also wanted to go unsupported and the only time we could get off work was late October and November. Alarm bells rang in my head, but we were at the invincible stage of our mountaineering life and we could do anything? The gear was so basic as the photos show, heavy breaches or “breeks” that when wet rubbed you  raw all over and when frozen became like armour. They took ages to dry, we had bought Polar jumpers from Helly Hanson they were a lot of money at the time but they proved the best buy I have ever made. They dried quickly and were a life saver. The rest of the gear was so basic, we carried one pair of socks as spare and a simple change for each night that we tried to keep dry inside the sleeping bag.

We carried plastic bivouac bags and head-torches and spare batteries.  In addition we carried chocolate for the hill food, which I hardly ate 3/4 days food at a time, a stove, pans, cups, knife fork spoon, fuel, matches, sleeping bags and a mat. It was basic equipment and weighed in about 25 – 30 lbs. Crampons and ice axe were added as was a small rope for river crossings.    We carried little in the way of luxuries, RAF plimsoles were used for the road walking  and what a bonus they were the fore runner of trainers. I had a book,camera and film, small first aid kit and some sweets.  We shared the communal gear each taking our turn, we planned to stay in bothies or with keepers. When we left we still had no accommodation for 4 nights to get?

The daylight is very short in October/November at the best 6-7 Hours and the weather is notoriously poor. Jim and Terry were incredibly fit and competitive a different class on the hill from me. It was going to be a wild walk and in the end we went in late October and early November as this was the only time we could take our leave or holiday .

We learned so much from this walk, lessons never to be forgotten in a lifetime in the mountains. During the walk we had set up food caches and were completely unsupported and self-sufficient, we walked the whole way no lifts were taken.

At a few points we were running on empty and without a doubt we nearly died, the weather was awful and even the A9 was blocked for a time. There was no gates on the A9 then.

Our Team Leader Ray “Sunshine” Sefton tried to get us to stop as the big blizzards came in, we kept going.

We had planned/hoped to stay in bothies and with local gamekeepers but we had several nights where we lived rough and had to change our plans. We had food dumps in some places and got re – supplied twice on the route. Jim and Terry were as always chasing Munros and that added to the pressure, no matter the weather.

I had completed the year before so had to follow and was supposed to be an expert!  I did a diary every night in an exhausted state! On reading it now it shows how worried I was and how exhausted I felt most days.

We arrived in Skye on 28 October 1977 to start the traverse West to East of Scotland. It was wild weather in Skye, the ferry nearly did not run. We were dropped off by the team at Glen Brittle staying in McRaes Barn and enjoyed a meal of steaks over a primus one of the perks of being a Caterer. The forecast was awful winds of over 80 mph on the Skye ridge we had big bags and 4 days food. Jim still had plans for a few Munros and then drop down to the other side of the ridge, sounds easy but not in Skye. This was our first night was at the JMCS Hut on the dark side of the ridge at Loch Coruisk. Jim and Terry slept well I listened the wind and rain batter the barn roof and feared for tomorrow. 80 mph on the Skye ridge. I was really worried especially about getting off the other side of the ridge and down to Coruisk. Jim and Terry were in their own world and were a lot better on the rock than me, that wee rope I was carrying may be used a lot tomorrow.

I was to be honest full of worries, would I cope? Or let them down and this was only day 1. I phoned my Mum and told her not to worry from the old phone box in the rain. As always she said she would pray for me, we may need it.

We left early in the morning from Mac Rae’s barn in Glen Brittle it was pouring and windy. The owner Gideon saw us leave and wished us well.

We were off !

 

 

 

Posted in Bothies, Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

The late Tom MacDonalds Funeral details.

The late Tom MacDonald’s funeral is on Thursday 3 Feb at 1500 at Perth Crematorium. If your coming please could you message me.

Many thanks .

Photo Lost Valley Glencoe G McPartlin.

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Time on Rock

I heard the author Anna Fleming speak on the Outofdoors podcast it was a really interesting interview. I enjoyed hearing about her book and her journey rock climbing and learning about the natural world.

Worth a listen

It was interesting to hear her views on how woman’s climbing has pushed on over the years and how attitudes have changed for the better. It is refreshing to hear her views on what she sees and why she climbs.

I bought the book and enjoyed it there are so many great crags all over the UK that I have also have been lucky enough to climb on. She explains the problem solving from route finding to working out a route like a game of chess. Yet it’s the climbing in wild areas the views and the feelings after completion of a route that I felt she describes so well. She also describes the different types of rock, it’s qualities and feel. From Gabbro in Skye to Granite, Gritstone, sandstone and even my wee local crag at Cummingston. The shapes of the rock, the colours and so many things we take for granted.

A rock-climber’s eye view of the natural world, tracing a geological and personal journey across the British Isles over ten years

Canongate – In Time on Rock Anna Fleming charts two parallel journeys: learning the craft of traditional rock climbing, and the new developing appreciation of the natural world it brings her. Through the story of her progress from terrified beginner to confident lead climber, she shows us how placing hand and foot on rock becomes a profound new way into the landscape.

Anna takes us from the gritstone rocks of the Peak District and Yorkshire to the gabbro pinnacles of the Cuillin, the slate of North Wales and the high plateau of the Cairngorms. Each landscape, and each type of rock, brings its own challenges and unique pleasures. She also shows us how climbing invites us into the history of a place: geologically, of course, but also culturally.

This book is Anna’s journey of self-discovery, but it is also a guide to losing oneself in the greater majesty of the natural world. With great lyricism she explores how it feels to climb as a woman, the pleasures of the physical demands of climbing, fear and challenge, but more than anything, it is about a joyful connection to the mountains.

Comments welcome

Posted in Books, Mountaineering, People, Plants, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Sorry for no blogs –

Sorry no blogs been a hard week after. losing my old pal Tom MacDonald. I had some great memories that came flooding back. Mostly of our young days in the hills. Thanks to everyone who contacted me with so many great words. They are so appreciated by many of his family and pals.

1996 I met Tom when out with the team on a emote Munro he was out Botanising. on Mullach na Dheiragain.

Mountaineering makes friendships that last for life we may lose touch but it’s so worth working at them over the years. I am so glad to have known Tom shared so many adventures In our lives. It’s so hard to think he is gone. As the mountain flowers come out this year it will be special as they will always remind me of Tom.

1973 SKYE

I am lucky I was with my Grandaughters last week to see them laugh Nf have fun is a great thing to have in my life. Then to head over West and see my friend Kalie despite a wet weekend was special. As I drove over to the West I saw lights coming of the hill in the dark on Beinn Eighe. Then lots of Torridon MRT Wagons in the lay-by. Someone was needing help and the Team were there.

Life goes on and losing a pal makes you rethink life. Live every day and be kind to folk, stay in touch with those you love and enjoy what we have.

FUN IN APPLECROSS

If anyone has good climbing photos of Tom I would love a copy.

One of Toms great Photos. Thyme – leaved Speedwell humifusa @ Geal Charn

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200 years of HM Coastguards. Thank you.

Over my many years in Mountain Rescue I was privileged to work with many Agencies. Yet I was always happy to work with the HM. Coastguards in my early days we had many exercises one I remember was on Hoy. There was in those days a worry that if the weather was too poor for helicopter or lifeboat assistance how would we get a casualty to the top of the cliff.

This was well before Health and Safety and the tradition gear of the Coastguard was flat hats and welly’s. I was amazed by their agility on the cliff and how well we got on together. These were great days where we met so many characters all locals who had all the knowledge and the contacts. They were so laid back but knew there patch.

We had several other Exercises all over Scotland and another on the huge cliffs of Cape Wrath on the far North. We learned from each other’s skills and got to know all our strengths and weakness.

As the incidents changed and over the years we worked a lot looking for local vulnerable people who had gone missing. The Coastguards were often involved and again we learned from each other.

When I worked for the last 5 years in the Aeronautical Rescue Co ordination Centre. (ARCC) at Kinloss. Here we organised the helicopter assistance across the UK. Every day we spoke to many Coastguards in the UK . The Coastguards were such a help especially in evacuating casualties from the Islands or remote areas . Day or night they would be there to help the helicopter crew with the casualty or finding a suitable landing site. It was always done without any fuss and a great asset to us.

So all the best to all the Coastguards nowadays they run the SAR helicopter. They are a great sight to see. I am lucky enough to live on a small village on the Coast and the Coastguard are a huge part of the village and have been for so many years.

Like all mainly volunteer agencies they get little praise for what they do yet are appreciate by all. Thank you all.

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