75 years of RAF Mountain Rescue. Thanks for the feedback on the piece on Village Halls. The Duty cook! Everyone had to do it.

Village Hall feedback from Mark Hartree  – Inverailort castle was my most memorable place with a quite interesting host in Mrs Cameron Head. It had a post office that she ran and generally smelt of cat pee. I had a nice cup of tea with her and she told me a bit of history of the place back to the war. I forget the details but included big events and parties in the ballroom we stayed in. Quite unique and definitely slightly eccentric perhaps.
Did any PS ever ‘accidentally’ add something to the ridiculously low hire receipt for the rental fee for some of the halls, in the spirit of Highland hospitality perhaps…?

Yes we did MOD paid a Base Camp Fee and many halls survived on the money and there use in winter.

Lee Wales – I think the roughest village hall for me was Carbost although the area made up for it! Cairndow was a lovely place to go and Plockton. Yes Ballater is a heat hall too. Bags of character.

The troops have gotten used to more accommodation in bunkhouses and the like now and I guess its probably right that we should always try to improve the standard of weekend living for the guys. However you can not beat the communal feeling of all sleeping on the village hall floor together. That is lost in dorm rooms in bunkhouses.

Thanks all.

Teallach comfortable in someones sleeping bag.l

In later years the teams move into a lot of private Hostels and the odd Youth Hostel at Ullapool and Torridon, many a walker shared a meal with us after a day on the hill. They were maybe not so happy when we left in the middle of the night for a call -out. The great things was that these places had drying rooms and at least you could get some kit dried on long wet call outs and  a shower at the end of a day became magical. Before this it was the sea or the loch before wild swimming became popular. We had some favourites where a bed for the weekend was not a luxury and  was so important. Places like Roybridge Hostel, Inchree Bunkhouse and chalets, Portnalong Bunkhouse in Skye  where the owners looked after us so well and became friends.  Here we met many of the top climbers of the day and sadly were involved in Rescues and recoveries for a few. These were the days where most climbers knew each other and we also bumped into many other walkers and climbers. It was a hard fight to improve the conditions as the RAF thought we should still be in tents at weekends and living rough. If you give up 30 -35 weekends a year then the least you are due is a bed a shower and maybe a place to dry your gear?

1953 troops butties

The Duty Cook – everyone had to do it apart from the Team leader and he cooked at New Year or Christmas.

Part of the trial to join the RAF Team was to cook for the team for a complete day. This meant no hill and getting up about an hour and a half before the team to cook breakfast. Later on you were put on first time with a cook ( one of the team) who would advise you then you were solo. Many top mountaineers were terrified by cooking, I was lucky my Mum gave me the basics when I was younger, so a breakfast and mince and tatties was not to bad, Keeping it all warm and when parties were late off the hill or a call -out meant a long day.

Normal cook Day

Up at 0630 sometimes earlier in winter or call – outs  and the breakfast started with cleaning up from the team mess they may have left the night before, after pub food could vary. This could be a late night fry up if rations allowed to sandwiches. It could be messy but we all had to do it.

Breakfast would be porridge, plus bacon eggs, sausage tomatoes and beans, tea would be served to all team member’s in bed about 15 – 30  minutes before breakfast. There could be 15 -20 to cook for in my day even more.

then it was clean up as the team went off training. Soup homemade had to be ready by 1200 in case the team got a call – out.

Evening Meal usually about 1800 was soup, main main meal mince stew chicken roast etc fresh veg, potatoes,rice  and a sweet. In between you had radio checks and other tasks it was a busy period. Failing in the task used to mean a swim in the loch or river but a better solution was a re cook next weekend. The standard of food was pretty good but as Health and Safety and Food Safety took over in the 90,s things got more organised. Food safety training , certificates etc.    There were lots of phone calls to Mum and even the odd panic visit to Base Camps by worried parents.

Don Shanks frying the bacon – with the GAS Cooker.

I remember the long days when team was out all day and night and trying to save a meal for their return, also the first light searches meant cooks could be up at 0400.

It was in the early days we cooked with a petrol bomb that you worked by a valve that leaked fuel and you lit it till it vaporised, scary in a tent. It was called the Hydro Burner and all who used it would have a real fear of it. It would flare up like a flame thrower!

The Hydro Burner scary !

Then we got gas 4 burners stoves field kitchens a lot better but still interesting with a small oven. We had limited refrigeration but things are so much better now. They had a small fire extinguisher attached and had to be taken out before use. One ex Team Leader did not remove it and the extinguisher exploded like a rocket no one was hurt thank God.

1998 MR COOKING health and safety shorts etc.

Looking back these were some days and many of the team have stories of the Duty Cook but food is so essential on the hill so it was an important job. Most of the meals were excellent and we all learned how important a job it was another skill learned by us all.

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In Praise of Village Halls. 75 years of RAF Mountain Rescue.

In praise of Village Halls!

The RAF Mountain Rescue trained most weekends all over Scotland and the UK. In my early days we camped a lot and on the odd weekend used the village halls or Garages Barns or Lodges on the odd Estate like Ben Alder or Lochnagar in whatever area we were in training. As times went on we used the village halls a lot more as the troops were looked after a bit better.  We were told we were getting soft. Many can remember the halls as basic places with maybe two toilets, if lucky no showers and a small kitchen. They had space and it was dry and had parking. We usually had a hall floor that we all slept on in our mats  and sleeping bags. There was limited heating if any and in winter they were cold but so much better  than tents.

f=”https://heavywhalley.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/0021.jpg”> We were even out at Christmas! The late Keith Powell in sleeping bag –  and Mark Shewry.[/capt

We used so many of the village halls in Scotland and beyond were a huge part of my life and many others with the RAF Mountain Rescue teams. We used them as Base camps for our weekly training with the Mountain Rescue all over Scotland. Each had its own hall keeper and many became great friends. Once they got used to us all was well it was a bit of hearts and minds at first. At Roybridge Nan Simpson the hall keeper (sadly now gone) would have a big bowl of soup ready for us in the winter. She lived on a house attached to the hall and was very patient with us all.  On arrival we would set up, we slept on the floor sometimes having to clean up after a party or dance. We would use the hall for the full weekend  and  the local community got for the use of them all a Base Camp Fee. This gave some halls some well needed cash. I wrote many a letter is support of the village Halls at times saying that rightly they were a huge part of Scottish life in rural areas and a vital part of Emergency Planning and much-needed lottery cash and support was obtained.  Many halls such as in Skye Carbost were also used for Church services, local meetings and even as Dentists at Lochcarron and we worked together in sharing their use. We had so many contacts and became friends with many of the locals many who still are to this day.   A few halls few would have Bingo or a highland Ceilidh when we arrived on a Friday night and we would join in and often we tidied up after a Highland wedding before we moved in. We always left the village hall in a better state than we got it, always leaving mops brushes and pans all over the highlands courtesy of the RAF.   Local kids would be constant visitors for chocolate and other goodies during the weekend. They loved the wagons the radios and meeting the troops. Many would drive the poor cook mad (we all took turns at cooking)with questions and a few earned cash pealing the spuds! A few times we would have a party after a big call out and if it was a sad or fatality at times this involved the odd drink. Locals would turn up with the odd bottle and cakes for the team from the village.

[/caption]At Newtonmore we used to stay in the Village Hall and nearly burnt it down one day with a kitchen fire. The New Year village party would end in the hall and we would move all our kit to under the stage! Many a call out was called and we would have to pull out to move across to the West to help. In the far North West Lochinver, Achilitbue,  Durness and Tongue were annual trips and many a hall had a shower installed courtesy of the MOD.  Hall keepers were regularly woken by the Police when we needed a place to stay after or during a call-out and all were incredibly helpful.

Wild night in Corrie Arran.

[/caption]Often in the days before mobile phones the local Bobbie would arrive and give us the shout that we were needed in another part of the country. It would be a pack in the wee small hours and then off, we would be trying not to wake the village, not easy with 6 wagons. We had bases everywhere Braemar, Ballater,  Pitlochry, Killin, Lochearnhead, Crainlarich, Cairndow, Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum, Glencoe, Ballhullish, Port Appin, Onich, Bridge of Orchy, Dunkeld,  Fortwilliam, Corpach, Spean Bridge, Roybridge, Laggan. Skye, Torridon, Kinlochewe, Cannich, Strathfarra, Affric, Kintail, Dornie and all over this great land. On the islands it was amazing and we stayed in schools and old Military Accommodation in Orkney. We stayed in Castle grounds Lochailort at times, we could always find a place to stay in an emergency and always were helped.

So to all of you thanks for all the memories and for putting up with your frequent noisy neighbours!

Maybe an idea is a tour of all the bothies village halls, when I pass them I have so many memories. The main one is the cold in winter and trying to dry our gear on long call – outs never easy, but part of a great life at the time. Also we had to cook for 20 plus but that is another story. The early wake up call with tea in bed served by the cook and the newest troop, whoever you were we all did it and the cooking all took their turn.


What was your favourite bothy I loved the Ballater Village hall with the tartan carpets  it was luxury sleeping on it !   I loved Arran as well the Corrie and Blackwaterfoot Halls but every one was a memory. The Clova Squash courts was another memory says that it was cold in winter or was it just me?

The worst bothy Tomdoun with rats for company and eaten alive by midges.

What was your memory?

How many Bothies can you name !

[/caption]Some comments –

Great reading Heavy and no truer words. Some very fond memories throughout the 90’s for me on the hard floors of friendship. Here’s to the village halls of this great land.

Johnie MacLeod –  I always liked getting up early and getting the weather from Edinburgh Rescue in the Sigs Waggon and just watching the sunrise with a green plastic mug in hand. Happy Times.

Scouse Atkins – Nice piece mate. Hard to decide a favourite, probably Port Appin or Lochinver. Great times.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Bothies, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | 8 Comments

Jenny Graham on the BBC


Jenny going great on her World record attempt.

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Jenny Graham Round the World Record Attempt update – Going great Jenny !

Jenny is making her way out of Russia 🇷🇺, along Lake Baikal (largest freshwater lake in the world, (everyday’s a school day! 👩‍🏫)) and will soon cross the Mongolian border 🇲🇳, those legs have pushed out almost 5000 miles!! 😮 She’s pretty much been through more time zones than she’s had a bed to sleep in!!

Go Jenny go! 🚲 💨 🌍 💪

you can follow her here:



(Jen you are extraordinary) 💜

Take care Jenny stay safe and well your an inspirational lassie .

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It’s all new to me 🚵🏼‍♀️ This Cycling game?

This cycling game is so different and at last I am back out on the bike and looking forward to some cycling over the next few days. My ribs are getting better and after 6 weeks the recovery was not easy. My patience levels are low and taking up a new sport at 65 is not that easy. Of course at 11 I did a paper run on my bike and a butchers run on Sat and used to love cycling Arran was a favorite but that was many years ago.

It’s a different fitness and it hurts even at my speed. I find that so many cyclist are competitive and is always how far and how fast? A bit like how many Munro’s, what climbs and how long did it take over 40 years ago ? I have been lucky to have over 50 years of Mountaineering and be in control (sometimes ) but fairly happy even in extreme conditions. This was not once a month but averaging 120 plus hill days a year plus expeditions and call – 0uts.

This cycling game is so different so much to learn and so many new things happening. As a “mechanical dyslexic “it is never easy but slowly I am getting a idea of what I am doing.

2018 cairngorm July bike

There have been so many new things in the world of cycling so many heroes/ names to get to grips with. Also so many words to learn like “chammy cream “and the need to be comfortable. The padded shorts and bibs and the gear it’s all new to me. Cleats that attach to the pedals and hurt my knees getting in and out but now coping with them. It all a different game, the odd day out with so called pal Kenny murdered me on the hills. He was so competitive and so fit, where was the patience old mate?  I learnt a lot in two days and was off for 6 weeks. Yesterday I was out trying to get fit and building it up slowly it was back to the beginning again but so good to get out and I visited a friend in Carrbridge and two others who were golfing on the course. It was great day no wind, perfect and the roads were not too bad.

2018 – Endura meeting July – Thanks to Stuart Kirk for his help and advice

On Wednesday I visit Endura near Livingston to get our gear sorted for our “Cycle to Syracuse Team “in late October to the USA. It was a great visit and we were well advised by a great Scottish company who deal with cycling gear for all types of cyclists.

The entrance foyer was incredible with so many photos of cyclists in action. Thank you all for you have done for us and all the advice.

Endura a great Scottish Company

Some information about our trip.

I have the honour to represent the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, The Civilian MRT,SARDA and the military on the 30 th Anniversary of Lockerbie this year. There will be a Commemorative cycle ride to from Lockerbie to Syracuse University New York State USA in late October early November.

Why Syracuse ?


Collin Torrance explains–( he was the youngest Policeman at Lockerbie in December 1988 and a local bobby.)

There were 259 people from 21 nations aboard Pan Am 103, aged between 2 months and 80 years. Then there were 11 of our own townspeople  from Lockerbie who lost their lives.

So why focus on the 35 students of Syracuse – an eclectic group from a ‘foreign’ land?

Since 1990, in the aftermath of the loss, funds were gathered from public and private donations that allowed a formal link between Lockerbie Academy and Syracuse University to form. A scholarship programme was established that allowed two graduating 6th year pupils to travel to the USA and study and live as first year freshmen for an entire year. Concurrently, each year, 35 students are invited to apply for and be awarded a special remembrance scholarship position at the University. This is highly prized and contested each year and is given to final year seniors, each of whom represent a student who was lost from the flight.

The assembled 37 students, in parallel to their normal studies, also embark on a yearlong programme of events to highlight humanitarian work; peaceful, anti-terrorist initiatives, debates, artwork and other awareness and charitable activities. The focal point of all this work is the Remembrance Week. This is held on the campus each year, normally around late October, which culminates in a ceremony whereby students speak, family members attend and the University honours those lost – with a view that such tragedy never occurs again.

Since 1990, Lockerbie has to date sent 56 of its children across the Atlantic, 3,200 miles away, to be part of this amazing programme. This in turn has forged hundreds…. thousands…. of new friendships and lifelong relationships between students, staff and relatives and friends of those lost – all with a purpose of continually understanding and appreciating one another a little better and helping to shape the future. This week, I have been afforded the deepest privilege of being able to tour this dynamic, forward thinking institution first hand. I’ve been able to speak to the scholars, hear of their plans for the future, and experience some of their drive and determination for a more compassionate society.

I want to thank those who have looked after both my children as they journeyed through this process too, by joining them in Syracuse this year, the 30th anniversary year, and I want as many people as possible to see this phenomenon at first hand too.The motto of the scholarship is LOOK BACK, ACT FORWARD. What an ethos for living! We will of course be remembering all those lost and affected by Pan Am 103, but that’s why we focus on Syracuse.

Please join us in this journey.

Thank you!

Colin Dorrance, Founding organiser, and Lockerbie resident.


Could I ask you to go to Cycle to Syracuse Facebook page and like it? There will be a lot more over the months on the journey. RAF Mountain Rescue, the Civilian Teams and SARDA the SAR Helicopters and the military were a huge part of this tragedy and did so much that few know about. Many of our team members  from all over the UK and SARDA were affected by this tragedy as were many other Agencies . I hope I will not let them all down. Please comment as just a like means little and many have memories of theses days.


Please ;look at the Cycle to Syracuse page like it and if you can please comment..

Endura a great Scottish Company

Posted in Cycle to Syracuse Training, Cycling, Lockerbie, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

The Gower the Three Cliffs Area – The classic climb Scavenger! John Brailsford Mountain Guide and the Cycling connection !

The photo above is of the classic Climb Scavanger at the Three cliffs in the Gower South Wales. It is a short 3 star climb first climbed by John Brailsford in the mid 50,s solo!

Crag features

Very popular with beginners and clubs. Easy-angled slabs up to 25m high including two great ***VS routes, Scavenger (4b) and Arch Slab (4c). There is an E4 6a too, but it stands alone among easier routes. (There’s nothing in the grades between the lone HVS – which is very short and easy at HVS 4c – and that E4.) Some routes polished at start.

Approach notes

Tidal. The sea comes in very fast: don’t get caught at the bottom. Approach from the campsite down across the bay. Miscalculating the tide will mean wet trousers, at best.

It’s a magical place to climb !

John was the Team Leader of St Athan Mountain Rescue at the time and the team explored the Three Cliffs regularly. I was lucky enough to get out with them in my tour down South in 2002 – 2004 and got climbing in many areas every weekend. The Gower is a great area and so worth a trip!

John Brailsford is a veteran mountain guide who I am sure was the Team Leader of Saint Athans Mountain Rescue Team in South Wales. He qualified as a Mountain Guide and now lives abroad with a detailed knowledge of the Dauphine which is probably unsurpassed. With the help of excellent photo- graphs and topos, John demonstrated the glacial changes that have taken

place in his new homeland and the wealth of classic alpine and rock routes in this area.

The Sky cycling team Connection

Sir David Brailsford

“His wonderful adventure of hardship and failure mixed with blind faith and enterprise started with the 18-year-old Brailsford telling his parents at their home in the Snowdonian mountain village of Deiniolen that he was giving up his job as apprentice draughtsman with the local highways department. “Listen, I’m off to France to race my bike,” he pronounced breezily.

“What the hell are you doing?” implored mum Barbara. She had a point: Brailsford was only cycling because he had injured his knee playing his beloved football – in later life, incidentally, he was hailed as “Vialli” by his Westminster Casuals team-mates, thanks to his pate rather than any scoring prowess – and convinced no one but himself that he would one day ride the Tour de France.

Dad John, though, encouraged him. “He was orphaned at seven and if you think I’m driven, you should see him,” says Brailsford. “He’s an Alpine guide who always thought you had to make your own way in life. Just like he had. ‘Yes, have a go’, he told me.”

Scavanger / photo below Pete Greening with his son in action!

It is in the genes!

Posted in History, Mountain rescue, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing | Leave a comment

Body found in Glen Nevis area.

From the BBC Scotland news.


2005 – one of the searches where we never located the casualty.

Police and mountain rescue have recovered a body from Glen Nevis in the Highlands.

The alert was raised at about 14:00 on Saturday that a body had been discovered.

Inquiries are ongoing to establish the identity of the person found. It is not known if it is a man or a woman.

Ch Insp Alastair Garrow said: “The body was recovered in a remote location and had clearly been there for some considerable time.‎”

He added: “We will obviously be considering all options in terms of longer term missing people who have sadly not been found yet.

“These operations can be challenging and I would like to thank all those who assisted in recovering the body sensitively and safely.”

One week ago the body of a climber who fell from Ben Nevis was found .

Marcin Bialas, who was 36, reportedly fell through an overhanging ledge of snow on the mountain into a gully on 21 January.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue said a man’s body was recovered from Observation Gully on Ben Nevis on Saturday 30 June.

Sadly over the years there have been several

Walkers missing in this busy area and once the body has been identified at least the family will have closure.

Never easy for all those involved. Sadly despite the popularity of these hills in bad weather you can maybe due to a navigational error a slip or illness  end up in some wild area far from help that few enter in to. Teams can only search if they have an idea what the missing person was heading for , sometimes they leave no route or clue and sadly hope fades and searches are called off.

Glen Nevis, one of the most picturesque of all glens. This leads not just along the foot of the Ben itself but past the stunning ridges of the Mamores and through the dramatic Nevis Gorge to Steall Falls – It is also the pathway for many walk within the area. To me it is surely one of the most dramatic destinations for a shorter walk in all Scotland. There  are over 20 Munros in this area it is a honey pot for walkers. WH Murray likens it to a Himalayan walk through the gorge.

Most folk like the idea  to be free to roam, but they generally have a good idea of one’s objective for a days walk and leaving a route helps the Rescue Agencies and enables them to put resources in key areas. Without this looking for someone in area like this a needle in a haystack scenario. So please leave a route or at least have someone aware of what your plans are. Give the Rescue services a chance.

The wild corries of Anoach Beag. Few come to this side of the mountain.

.“When a person goes missing, the relatives are faced with awful uncertainty and grief. There’s also a legislative process of immense complexity to deal with.

“While the aftermath is bad enough, the next of kin are unable to administer the financial situation of their missing relative, due to legal issues, and they suffer financial hardship while lacking information about the actions they are able to take in relation to the missing person’s property.” Until their found there can be no closure for many.

Thinking of all those who have lost a loved one and for those who have carried out the recovery.

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