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

The Cairngorms

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

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

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

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

A perfect alpine start.

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

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

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

My mate Dan

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Dan !

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

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

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

Safe mountaineering!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did Andy “

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

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

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

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

Nobby Vanderbergs flying antics in the Puma”

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

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

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

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

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

The following is from the Scottish MRT website.

⭐️Distinguished Service Award – Moira Weatherstone⭐

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

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

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

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

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

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

ScottishMR #VolunteeringToSaveLives

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

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

It’s still winter out there – be careful.

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

Mountaineering Scotland have issued this advice :

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

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

Comments and thoughts from the tragic Cairngorm tragedy in 1984.

I wrote a few days ago about a tragic weekend in the Cairngorms in 1984 and received some kind comments. Thank you all. It was an extremely very hard time I had gone out on my own car to ice climb the day before we were to meet the RAF Mountain Rescue Team in Newtonmore. I was lucky that myself and my companion decided not to go into the Loch Avon basin and the planned overnight in a snow hole. He was tired after a long night shift and was not feeling great.

Looking back that possibly saved our lives. It took me many years to realise that? I will never forget that storm coming in on a low level ice climb at Newtonmore. It came from nowhere as I was climbing on the top pitch I could see nothing the wind and heavy snow was nearly blowing me off the climb.

Getting off should have been easy but it was full on white out and my dog helped us get off as he came up to the top of the cliff. He I am sure was aware things were not right. My car just got us to Newtonmore where in the pub we waited for the Kinloss team to arrive for the weekend. They were very late roads and the short journey took hours the roads were shutting.

Next day we got to Glenmore the ski road was closed and the spindrift was blowing everywhere even low down. We daft as we were got to Castle Hill and nearly got blown away. I have never seen the snow blown up of the ridges for several feet it was extreme weather.

On the plateau during a break in the weather before we cleared the snow holes. Photo D Tomkins.

Then we got called up in the call outs we were completely shocked by finding 3 young students less than a mile from the road. Glenmore and Cairngorm MRt and ourselves helped carry them off the hill. It was tragic and had seen most things in 12 years Mountain Rescue.

It was then the huge search for our pal Paul Rodgers and Bill Scott who were missing. They were snow-holing when the weather broke. It was not forecast and it was the storm from hell. Both were accomplished mountaineers and I was shocked that they were still missing in such weather. It was a huge effort by so many with such a sad result.

I remember 3 days of searching one in good weather when we were searching the snow hole sites. The snow was so deep no exaggeration over 20 feet in places . Being small I was put in the hole via a tunnel we dug inside the snow hole looking for Paul and Bill. I was with Paul Moore’s a local guide from Glencoe I knew him well and some of the Special Forces up for some training for an Everest Expedition. I will never forget the depth of the snow the clostraphobic feeling and being pulled out of the snow hole . The snow that had fallen and been blown in that storm was surreal.

Digging out the snow holes.

The search was called off after several days of searching that really upset me but it was the right decision and not an easy one to make. I had my car and left next day stopping on my own at Grantown on Spey Outdoor Centre where many of my pals all outdoor instructors were gathered. I was very upset that the search was called of. It was here I heard that a few of Paul’s friends had located him and Bill on the plateau near the Goat track. That must have been an awful day for all. How near they were from safety and knowing Paul how hard they would both have fought for their lives.

The wind had changed overnight and a shovel was located in the Corrie. That is a story on it’s own and Leuchars helped on the recovery. I was glad I was not there I had seen so much in these winters. In the storm a few of us and a SARDA dog were near the area where Paul and Bill were located. There was no chance as the weather was awful we were struggling that day.

I drove back to Kinloss I always popped into work to say I was home. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. My line Manager was fine but another of my bosses said “ oh your back ? Did you enjoy your skive? “ I walked out luckily or I would have still have been doing time.

It took a long time to come to terms with things like that losing pals and how cruel the mountains can be. There is a photo of a lot of us sitting in the sun waiting for a lift near the car park. We had just helped carry of the three young students, the weather cleared and we are all strangely separate from each other in our own thoughts. Most of us had seen sad things but that was the start of a terrible few days.

We get so much joy but sometimes the mountains can be so cruel. It’s hard to explain to folk that often nature just tolerates us no matter how tough or experienced we think we are. I am always aware of this even now.

That year we dealt with another 4 fatalities later in the year and located several injured walkers and climbers. Life went on as did the Call outs.

Comments as allows welcome ?

1984 Paul Rodgers and Bill Scott tragedy – Comments : Bruce B – One of the students lost was my roommate for a term; the one that survived was the year above me at University. The incident is never that far from my mind during any winter day out in the mountains and has probably helped keep me safe.

Charlie M –  I knew Bill well. Really nice guy. We had climbed parallel B on Lochnagar a couple of years before. If I remember rightly it was one of his first ever winter routes. We got caught out on Lochnagar that night. It went from ok to mental in minutes and we only just made it out to a forested area near Crathie where we spent what remained of the night. Even breathing in the Blizzard was hard and visibility was non-existent. We were lucky to get off.

Bill B – I didn’t know that Charlie. It was a hard, sad callout, especially when it came hard on the back of the previous one. 5 fatalities in one weekend.  Awful.

Keith G – I did my MIC with Paul when he was at JSMC. He was an accomplished mountaineer and very easy to get on with.

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

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

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

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

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

1984 Jan – FROM MY NOTES

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

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

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

Paul Rodgers Grave at Newtonmore

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

Winter is still with us please if out be careful.

Hard Graft .
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Books, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, PTSD, Recomended books and Guides | 2 Comments

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

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

From the MBA website

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

COVID-19 (update 28 March 2021)

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

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

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

My reply :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave nothing but footprints take nothing but photos.

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

Scary Flights – “One shot pass” Alaska Denali.

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

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

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

So you get on with it or do not go.

One shot pass.

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

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

Tiny plane !

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

This is from my dairy

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

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

Not every landing is as expected landing on a glacier!

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

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

They all walked out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Walk Highlands

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


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

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

Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mor .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Munroist Reward – 300 ft Vs 4c

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

R Everett, D Gaffney 23/Jul/1988.

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

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

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Aircraft crash sites some information.

March 21 – Aircraft Crashes some information and Guides.

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

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

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

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

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

Info –…

Air Crash Sites Scotland

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

Lost to the Isles.

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

No Landing Place: Guide to Aircraft Crashes in Snowdonia Paperback

Aircraft Wrecks The Walkers Guide –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At her leaving do in Riybridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments stories welcome and photos !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all

Comments welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first team as Team Leader. RAF Leuchars.

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

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

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

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

RAF Valley

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

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

Early days. RAF Kinloss.

Comments welcome !

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

The classic 4 Munro’s

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

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

The Wessex overnighting on Ben Lui ! another tale.

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

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

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

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

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

Eas Anie Willie Mac on the last pitch 2004.

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

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

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

Ben Lui from a painting by Terry Moore

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

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

Mountaineering Scotland – Tick Prevention week.

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

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

Photo Mountaineering Scotland

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

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

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


Photo Mountaineering Scotland

Ticks – and how to deal with them

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

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

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

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

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

1972 Glenmore camping site

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

Ready for an early cook – not the Protective gear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Cooking disasters;

Mars bars in soup!

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

Turnips uncut and boiled whole in pan.

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

Curry to hot to eat a military thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top tip.

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

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

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

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

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

Comments, stories and photos welcome.

Great days

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

Timeline for a return to the hills?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the manifesto here.

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

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

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

Are you worried about your hill fitness ?

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

Comments welcome.

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

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

The old railway overgrown now .

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

An interesting day on the Great Prow – Blaven on Skye

An Interesting day on the Great Prow Blaven Skye. 

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

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

Hard Rock – Ken Wilson

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

The Prow

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

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

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

The Prow

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

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

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

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

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

The famous Mask

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

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

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

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

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

Info –1985  SMC Journal

Ken Wilsons Hard Rock

Skye the Cuillin SMC publications

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

Mother’s Day thoughts still so relevant !

My Mum

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

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

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

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

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

At Loch Ossian

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

Ben Nevis trip

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

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

I also got the love flowers and got that from my Mum so every few weeks I buy some or pick them and they always remind me of her. I have her deep love of the wild places and still feel her with me when out and about, what would she have made of today’s world, I wonder? .

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Articles, Family, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

The Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash 70 years on.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

THE CREW:-   PILOT    Flt Lt H S Reid
SIGNALLERFlt Lt P Tennison
SIGNALLERSFlt Sgt J Naismith
 Sgt W D Beck
 Sgt J W Bell
The Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joss’s classic photo at the crash site in 1951

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

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

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

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

Andy Nisbet abseiling from the propeller – Andy Nisbet Collection.

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

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

Beinn Eighe

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.

The long walk, views expanding as we climb.

Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer

They have been there for many years

What have they seen?

Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.

The Cathedral of Beinn Eighe


This is a wonderful poignant place.

Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie? 

This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe. 

Joss’s boots on their final journey.

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

People ask why do I visit these places?

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

Joss at Beinn Eighe on the 50 th Anniversary.

“Lest We Forget”

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

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

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

At the wing below the Gully.

Heavy Whalley March 2017  

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

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

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

The Marines in the Corrie.

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

David “Heavy” Whalley March 2021. 

David “Heavy” Whalley March 2021. 

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

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

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

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

Some of my Journals – a mine of information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all enjoy ! Comments welcome.

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

Inspirational Folk – George Bruce – RAF Team Leader.

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

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

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

7 stone weakling !

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

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

Kinloss at Ballahullish 1972

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

The Bruce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He would love that Rangers won the league last week.

Thanks George .

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

In the Doldrums? Sums up my feelings at time.

Doldrums “a state or period of stagnation or depression”

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

In better days !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every day is a new day !

Comments welcome !

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

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

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

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

Amended by Tom Patey

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

Dan’s Story

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


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

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

The Higher Management Committee laugh and l’m in!

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

THE SUMMIT DAY 10 July 1996.

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


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


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

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

Dan Carrol

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

A few thoughts on Big Lowers on the cliffs .

I was looking back after my friend Lee Wales wrote up his memories of his first big lower on Ben Nevis on a blog a few days ago.

It made me think back to my early days in the 70,s. My first was on the Ben Nevis as well I am sure it was a pair injured in Zero Gully. I was at the top and helping with the ropes. I was a bit in awe of Lochaber MRT they were impressive and looking back it was simple gear they used. The team had been involved over the years on a few big incidents in the 60’s on a big pick lower on North East Buttress.

16/02/74Ben Nevis Zero Gully2 injured climbers fell 150 ft into Zero from Observatory Ridge lowered 1000ft to the CIC hut. Lochaber MRT and RAF Kinloss MRT

It was I am sure a single rope was used and a couple of bottle openers for lowering . Looking back it was scary and impressive watching the Guide being lowered over the edge onto that vast space. Radio communications were poor then and much of the lowers were done that way. Going off on a rope on the Ben at night was inspiring.

11/03/74Carn Mor Dearg 41/1637092 fallen walkers.  Bodies lowered 600ft by Kinloss MRT.  Navigational error by walkers.

Longer ropes were eventually left at the summit shelter for lowers on the Ben. We were often in 5 finger gully with an injured climber a scary place in the dark to evacuate a casualty. I also did a big lower on Coire Eoghain for two fallen walkers in the 70’s in the winter. Taking them down the water slide to Polldubh.

5 finger gully Ben Nevis in winter lots of man women power.

Just before I had joined the team in 1968 the RAF Kinloss Team and Braemar MRT were involved in a big lower on Lochnagar for a climber on Eagles Ridge in winter. A few of the troops talked about it and I got a few stories and photos about the lower. A scary event for many and since then Braemar have been involved in some big lowers on Lochnagar .

I was involved in a couple of big lowers in Skye. One in the 70’s was on Collies Ledge Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich in early winter. I am sure it was again a single rope. There was only so much you can carry up a hill as a small group.

31/05/76Skye – Sgurr AlasdairLeader fell on Abraham’s Route 80 ft broke both legs, team lowered to CAS who was evacuated by helicopter.  2 rescued.

Many forget that this is after you carry your own gear for the winter or summer. Add a stretcher, casualty bag, first aid gear, rope 500 ft, belay gear (crag bag) plus anything else you may need, always working on that there may be no helicopter support. Add in poor weather and Skye in a mist or winter .These events are usually all of us after a hard day on the hill. It was very serious at times.

I was posted to North Wales in the late 70’s as full time deputy team leader and we did a fair amount of cliff rescues and training there. The majority were in Idwal on the Slabs at night. I also did a few in the Trinity Gullies on Snowdon. We did loads of training on small cliffs and also on Gogarth which was on our doorstep. Lowering a casualty into a lifeboat on the Team leaders courses on a course was a memory for a few as were early crag snatches on these big cliffs.

Yet I found training surreal at time’s we had all the gear and lots of folk to help carry it in. On a real Call out you can only carry what the man power and conditions allow . We had to adapt on real incidents that was something I learned throughout my Rescue Career. It was hard as safety was paramount as well. Often we only had the man power to carry one rope. We trained so much at Valley in North Wales at time’s I felt some of us got cocky and had to be extra careful as it could so easily go wrong. We did a Rescue in the Dollgarrog Gorge where instead of pulleys we used the trees and manpower to bring the stretcher up. It all worked well.

Later on in the 80’s we did another incident when I was back in Scotland on Skye. It was for a climber who fell as he abseiled of the In Pin on Sgur Dearg. By the time we got called we were just leaving the Island (we were on Skye for the weekend) It was Sunday night it had been a long weekend. We were about to leave the Island when we got the call to assist Skye Mountain Rescue Team. We managed to get a helicopter into the wee Lochan below the An Stac Screes. There were only 6 of us to carry a stretcher, rope casualty bag, belay gear plus our own kit.

26/09/82Isle of Skye Inaccessible Pinnacle 32’/44220Fallen climber aged 65 with back injuries.  1000ft lower and 2 mile carry off.  8.5hrs. All night carry off by Skye and RAF Kinloss MRT

It was pitch dark and it was not easy getting to the bottom of the In Pin even though I knew the ridge fairly well. Gerry Ackroyd was the Skye Team leader was already there with the casualty who had a back injury and the casualty was shocked and he was very cold. It was pitch dark and the head torches and lighting was poor in these days.

It was a quick sort out at the incident get belayed for the lower and get the casualty sorted. He was struggling and in pain. I ended up lowering the stretcher with John Beattie and Gerry and Terry Moore were being lowered as Guides on our single 500 ft rope. The rest of our small group went ahead to make safe belays . They were out of the way as it was very tricky ground especially in the wet and dark . It was awful looking back with .huge stones falling and the smell of cordite in the air. As soon as the rope ran out they got the stretcher safe and sheltered behind the cliff. We then scrambled down after each lower in the dark it was raining and trying to be careful not to hit them with all the lose rocks no matter what you did crashing those below us. It was a long way down and so easy to take the wrong turn and end on more serious ground but Gerry was also the local guide and kept us right. Thank God.

Eventually we got on the screes to be met by more of the Skye team and some more of our team. It was now early morning we were tired. It was a long haul to Glen Brittle in the dark a hard carry off despite our numbers. We were staying in MacRaes barn in Glenbrittle we had some food a few hours sleep then headed back to Kinloss it was a long day.

Over the years we did many lowers in winter most in my mind were a lot easier for fallen climbers usually lowered on our climbing ropes. As that is what we had with us. We used Hamish’s stretcher with the skids for the snow. It was lightweight and folded up it was easier to carry. It had a limited head-guard in the early days.

We trained with the Bell stretcher but it was very heavy in my mind and seemed to use the MacInnes stretcher more often especially on Call Outs . We often carried out casualties in Glencoe coming down the Corries at night using a back rope to safeguard the stretcher. The little steps on the paths when covered in ice are tricky!

It was the same coming off the Ben in later years if no helicopter was available. I remember falling off the path carrying a stretcher in the dark nearly into the river. Lucky the others held it as I fell into the river. I was black and blue after that. I watched one of the team going to assist a climber on the Brenva Face getting blown over by the wind with the Stretcher strapped to his back heading back down the hill with the stretcher acting as a sledge. He was a big lad and lucky stopped before some big boulders.

Things have moved on. Cliff rescue uses more ropes and specialised gear when you look at the gear at times I wonder how they get it all to a crag. Communications are also so much better as is lighting at night head torches are much more reliable. Yet these lowers are still dangerous. Rockfall and avalanche danger if the helicopter cannot get in are still so relevant. I did some big lowers on Creag Dubh ( Newtonmore and Creag an Dubh Loch for practice and in the Northern Corries before they were so busy safety was essential and there was always the fear of a big boulder taking out some of the team. In later years we used a dummy as a casualty I remember it burst and sand was everywhere. Much of the training was a night which made things more difficult. We learned crag snatches which would help in many ways a long way form the Tragzits of old.

Longhaven Sea Cliffs Tragsitz no helmet!

That’s just a small insight into a few incidents. On these as others you have to trust all your team and often improvise. Helicopters can do smany great cliff evacuations of injured climbers but the unique weather we have here can make things difficult.

Things have changed but in the end it takes some courage to go over a big cliff in the dark especially in winter. The joy of saving a life is incredible it’s a Team effort and every time you bring everyone of the hill safely it’s a success.

I am so lucky to have played a small part with so many others. We learn so much from the past that will benefit those in the future.

05/10/60An Teallach 19/068836Recovery of the body of a retired Royal Navy officer from a gully.  The area knowledge of a local keeper was of great assistance. Tech

Nowadays much has been learned over the years and the Mountain Rescue run their own courses on Technical Rescue with the latest gear and equipment. Things have moved on.

Comments welcome as always and photos.

Posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

Photo cliff rescue on Beinn Eighe photo Torridon MRT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

From Paul ex Seaking crew

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

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

Epic in the whiteout

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

Braemar MRT and there tracked vechile .

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

Night vision goggles

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

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

Giving the helicopter a direction to fly out .

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

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

Footsteps | Orion Face Solo

Towards the end of winter Tiso staff member Aaron Tregellis took advantage of a perfect weather window and headed north to Ben Nevis to solo the Orion Face, a Scottish winter climbing classic. Read on to find out about the route, equipment, and tactics.
— Read on

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

A Bairn on the Ben – Lee Wales.

Over the years it’s great to see the troops develop into sound mountaineers. Lee Wales is one of them this is his piece of a Rescue on the Ben – I always called the young troops “Bairn” Lee ended up as Team Leader at RAF Valley in North Wales. This is his tale of a big day/ night on Ben Nevis. To me it’s great to see him writing about his early adventures. Thank you Lee for sharing your words also to Mick Tighe for his photos. Enjoy and there’s a few good reminders in his tale !

Ben Nevis.

Bairn on the Ben – By Lee Wales.

“As I brought my partner up to the top of the climb the VHF radio he was carrying started to cackle into life. At almost the same time a climber, who must’ve heard our radio, came over to us and said he’d just seen someone fall from his belay stance one pitch from the top of Orion Direct. (It’s one of the Classic ice climbs on Ben Nevis) It was getting dark and we were not that experienced. This was to be the start of a long night where I would learn a lot!

The previous year I was a student on the Winter Course. I was 19, had been on the Kinloss team for about a year and was so keen to winter climb. On one of the evenings we all sat down and watched the film of Ian Clough and his partner climbing Cresta on the Little Brenva Face above Coire Leis on Ben Nevis. I didn’t really know anything about Ian Clough or his achievements, but I knew he was ex RAF Kinloss MRT. The movie inspired me to go and have a go at the route, especially as it seemed to be an amenable grade even for someone with my limited experience but huge ambitions.

By the following winter I had qualified as a winter climbing leader and so I was allowed to lead through with another winter leader as long as there was a PL in the vicinity. My climbing partner & PL that day was Richie Darling. Richie was a solid troop, who had come up from St Athan’s and is a fantastic guy. As we were both relatively inexperienced at our own levels, we thought it best to set off early to make the most of the daylight hours. We set off from the Torlundy car park at about 5am for the long walk to the start of the route at the base of the Little Brenva Face.

As it’s the furthest cliff face to walk to on the Ben it’s often less frequented and on this day we had it to ourselves. The climb itself, whilst it posed no serious challenges, felt long and serious for us and was a great introduction into longer more committing climbs.

The Ben North Face – You can see Cresta is highlighted on the extreme left of this topo above Coire Leis

No sooner had we topped out than we were confronted by the climber who had come up from the big face on other side of the NE Buttress – where the big boys played! The climber told us about the guy he had seen falling and that he could hear shouts for help. The VHF radio was buzzing and Richie quickly established, with someone – I don’t know who, who we were and our location. The climber who reported to us and his partner quickly disappeared off the hill, no doubt thinking that they’d done their good deed for the day! In hindsight I wished I had asked him to show us where he route topped outso we could’ve marked it as this would’ve saved the rescue party quite a bit of time later on!

What were Richie and I to do? I think we both felt pretty helpless, sure with our two 50m climbing ropes we could’ve possibly got down to the faller but I think it fair to say that at that time in our careers we were quite far out of our depth even contemplating something like that. So, after what already felt like quite a long day for us we took ourselves off to the summit shelter and waited for the cavalry to arrive. We ate some food, mused about the predicament of the guys stuck on the Orion Face and continued to wait for what felt like a very long time.

Overview Topo of The Ben – Cresta is on the Little Brenva Face and Orion Direct is on the 0.5 Gully/Observatory Ridge cliff face

(The topo above is used by climbers to assist in safely descending the mountain once they have successfully climbed their chosen route. It highlights the many danger areas (which many walkers are blissfully unaware of) and the safe route off the summit which can be followed in poor weather, which is often the case on Britain’s highest summit.)

When the Lochaber boys arrived, there were about seven to 10 of them I think. They were instantly a hive of activity. I was amazed when they lifted the floor of the summit shelter where we had been sitting for the last few hours to reveal a huge drum of LSK rope and a homemade stand for it to mount onto. There is 1000ft of rope on this drum, they set it up outside the summit shelter and just real off the end of the rope to wherever they think they want to start the lower from. Then an anchor is built above the location where the lower is going to take place – an educated guess was made as to where the top of the route was.

About half a dozen dead men (spade head shaped plates with a 6 foot cable) were place in a fan and brought together to a central focal point. There were no modern rescue type belay devices in use, if I remember rightly it was a standard belay device of some sort – like a DMM Bug. Then this crazy guy -Mick Tighe – tied into the end of the rope and he was off, being lowered into the dark and stormy night, with only hishead torch to light the way, down this huge and inhospitable face. But there was a problem! He could see the stricken climbers but they were too far over to the side and so Mick would have to be raised up, the anchor relocated and we would try again. It took 3 attempts to find the right line – if only I’d marked the top of the route! Each time we had to ‘raise’ Mick back up the guy on the belay device couldn’t keep up! Mick seemed to run up this terrain, no doubt moving as fast as possible due to the urgency of the task.

The Drum of Rope – Photo courtesy of Mick Tighe

As you can image all of this was taking hours and all the while those guys below had just been hanging there, waiting,with who knew what injuries.

The leader had fallen from his belay stance at the top of the penultimate pitch. The climber that had reported the incident to us said that the faller had placed his axes into the snow and anchored himself to them then shouted to his partner that he was ‘safe’. He then tried to reassure himself about the state of his tenuous anchor by pulling on the axes, they ripped out and right in front of his eyes the guy was off! Falling! An ice screw he placed on the lead arrested his fall. I think he’d already been taken off belay by this point and so the two of them were kinda counterbalanced off the ice screw. 

Once we got the right line things went fairly quickly. I’m not exactly sure of the technicalities of what Mick encountered or how he dealt with the two men. I think the faller had lower limb injuries and the other guy was physically fine. Mick crag snatched the faller and they were lowered to the bottom of the face on the 1000ft rope and the other guy was tied to another rope and was unceremoniously hauled/climbed to the top of the Ben. Once at the bottom the injured climber was transferred to a stretcher, which was brought up from the CIC Hut, and back roped/carried off the hill down to a waiting helicopter. The uninjured guy who was brought to the top walked off with the rest of us. Which I recall he didn’t seem very happy about!

The Faller (with a sling improvised chest harness – use a fat sling, it’s more comfortable for the casualty) – Photo courtesy of Mick Tighe 

For our part in the big event Richie and I simply helped to feed the rope to the belayer. We sat facing each other and I fed the rope to Richie and then he onto the belayer – not so glamorous! The temperature was hovering around freezing and there was a mix of sleet and snow. Everything at the summit was getting covered in a layer of ice so we would take the rope through our hands and scrape off the ice before it went to the guy managing the belay device.

I remember feeling pretty tired. I think if I’d have been more engaged in the task then this may have kept me going mentally but to the local team we were unknown and once set up there was little to do. It certainly was cold and I was shivering but then I clearly remember stopping shivering and falling asleep, then Richie would pull on the rope and wake me. At this point I had stopped feeling the cold and felt comfortable in my sleepy stupor. I know I definitely stopped shivering because when Richie gave me a dextrose tablet I started to shiver again! I can’t say if I was truly going down with hypothermia or if I was just tired or a mixture of both but when Pricey and a couple of guys turned up it really sparked me into life and then I was fine after that. It was an interesting experience and an excellent lesson for me to keep an eye on my troops in the future. If they don’t need to be there, then get rid of them (if you can) and if they are staying keep a good eye on them and try to keep them occupied.

So we all walked off to Torlundy and got back to Roy Bridge about 6 or 7 in the morning. As we walked through the door,and my first 24 hour hill day experience was coming to an end, we were confronted by a larger than life (well normal for him) Heavy Whalley who was making bacon butties and tea and passing out the drams of whisky – brilliant.

Richie Darling Climbing Central Gully on Ben Lui – Photo by the Author

Thanks to Mick Tighe for digging out and letting me use his photos. If you’re ever up at Roy Bridge then pop into the Scottish Mountain Heritage Centre which he set up and manages. 

Heavy Whalley & Mick Tighe – Two legends of Scottish Mountain Rescue & Mountaineering – An archive RAF Kinloss MRT photo

The ‘crag snatch’ is generally the method of choice on these big faces. Getting the casualty down and off the face as efficiently as possible is the priority. Stretchers are just not practical on this type of terrain and in these situations. As Mick says, ‘if they’ve survived to this point then they are usually going to make it’. Further exposure to the elements, to the casualty and the rescuers, is surely the biggest hazard at this point. The 1000ft of rope negates the need for knot passing, which to be fair isn’t the biggest issue with knots. The issue is the chance of knots getting stuck in the terrain as they move down the cliff face. Can you imagine a knot wedged in a crack 200m down this face on this night? Food for thought for the modern day tech rescue experts and our standard 100m ropes.

When I was the Team Leader at Valley I had 2 x 250m ropes in the back of the Control vehicle for this very reason. Each rope was spilt into two bags (125m in each) and would be carried by two troops walking close together up to the site of the lower. This meant we could do a lower on most of the cliffs in England & Wales without having to join ropes (or certainly vastly reduce the amount of knots) and subsequently remove the risk of knots getting stuck on the cliff somewhere down the face. I felt that given the relatively short walk ins south of the Scottish boarder and the fact that a standard rope a troop would carry was 100m that the burden of carrying the extra weight of 25m of rope was worthwhile. I took the idea from Lochaber MRT who use the same tactic with 500ft ropes when carrying out rescues of big cliffs in their area, such as on Creag Meagaidh.

Another point to note is that this much rope trailing down a cliff face is heavy! When Mick and the casualty reached the easier slopes below the face they were taken off belay. The rope was fed off the drum under control until the end was reached, at which point, and with what seemed like no warning, the end was let go. It whipped across the top of the crag and then down the face. My thought at the time was that could surely take someone off their feet and if they were near the edge it could’ve been disastrous! I think it would’ve been better to continue to belay the rope all the way to the endbefore it was finally released. That way there would’ve been greater control.

Heavy / Thanks Lee what a great piece ! Cresta was always a great favourite route of mine. It always seemed so Alpine and away from the crowds. I did many routes here and always wanted the team members to climb here. The history of the route is special to me a Patey route.

Crestsa film – This is a winter climbing film on Ben Nevis filmed by Hamish McInnes in the 60’s I know Hamish filmed it for the MOD. It starred a few of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, names like Ian Clough, Terry Sullivan and many others. It is a wonderful film of the second ascent of Cresta a classic climb of 275 metres on the Little Brenva Face first climbed by Tom Patey , L.S Lovat and A.G.Nichol on 16 Feb 1957 . In his old winter guide it was a 900 ft grade 2 , I did it very early on my winter climbing and found it a serious long climb, with an Alpine in feel and easily grade 3.”

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

What’s your favourite ferry to a UK island ?

I was always taken to Arran for my holidays. The minute we were on the ferry the holiday started it was magical. As you got closer and saw the peak of Goatfell it was to a wee boy mind blowing. Taking in all the openness of the sea and the island coming into view sitting outside whatever the weather and the sea air blasting you. Every time I go on a ferry it’s these memories that remind me of my early days.

Planing on the ferry !

I love the Islands in Scotland and been so lucky to visit a few. What’s your favourite ferry to what Island ?

The old Sky’s ferry

As the RAF Team leader we would go every year to Arran the wagons and 4 tonnes would be booked on in advance we would have 2 four toners and 5 wagons it was a big operation. Often it was just a wee ferry to Loch Coruisk on Skye all different .

Loch Coruisk

There were ferries to Ardgour, Rum, Eigg Glenelg and Jura each so different but so enjoyable. We always had great craic with the ferrymen. Yet Skye is a place that means so much to me despite the bridge. The ferry from Elgol has so many great memories as does Arran.

There are so many adventures that start on the ferries. We went to Harris in the 70’s early morning ferry. I was a young lad and there was a bar on board. The team leader and two others had to drive the wagons of the ferry as most of the other drivers were the worse for wear.

So what’s your favourite ferry ? Any tales and photos ?

Missing Skye already.

Comments welcome

Posted in Articles, Friends, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 5 Comments

What’s going to be your first hill day after Lockdown. It still seems so long away off ? For me I would love to climb Morven Caithness and then Skye after that Ben Nevis and Glencoe .

Most of waited for any news yesterday about the changes in Covid Regulations it seems to be dragging on. How we miss our freedom and I will never take my freedom to roam for granted. Hopefully things are getting slowly better? Yesterday I had a walk along the beach the rain never came but I had some showers later on and wind. The beach was empty and I am so lucky it’s on my doorstep! I could see the stunning Ben Wyvis and Morven casting there snow in the distance . Morven especially is a stunning hill. I see it most days it clear I have climbed it several time’s but what a grand mountain. To me it is a classic mountain with its conical shape and covered in snow it’s a real mountain. The area has a sad history where many were cleared from the land and the Glen is full of empty Croft’s.

Morven – “the highest summit in Caithness – is a hill of great character, rising in isolation as a majestic conical peak. This route makes the ascent before continuing over the moors to reach Maiden Pap, which is something of a Morven in miniature, though even steeper. The whole round – which also passes the tors of Smean – makes for a classic though boggy outing” Walk Highlands

It’s a wonderful place I am sure the summit had been hit by lightening last time I was up. I cannot find any photos yet it’s a lonely Glen with lots of ruins of houses and sad tales.

Morven from my side of the Moray Firth .

As for Skye I love that place it will be just the odd climb if I can and a few hills a visit to the cave in the Coire and of course Sgur Na Stri among many others. Also a visit to Adrian and Bridgette in Glen Brittle to thank them for their kindness .

Adrian’s cracking guide

So many places so little time add in Glencoe, the Ben Torridon Assynt An Teallach who needs to go abroad . Wishful thinking to be out either alone or with good company? I also have to get down to Ayr to visit my family.

Many will not be so lucky and have lost loved ones. Many will lose their jobs, income and others will have health and mental issues. When you think about that the mountains are not important yet they hold a huge part of my life and well being as do my daily walks.

I have had so many kind thoughts and comments and even a wonderful picture from Skye. So many have been so kind and thoughtful. I have tried to write openly about my feelings it’s never easy to do. Folk ask about the book but it’s a hard write there is much sadness this effects me but also joy. Maybe I have to get a ghost writer but that will not be my book then ?

I got a call out of the blue yesterday from Brian who I knew nearly 55 years ago. His Dad trained us for a local race walk he had heard my brother had passed away and sent his condolences. It was great to speak and maybe I will get some photos of these early days race walking over the local Carrick hills?

Take care of each other make that call and think of those who are less fortunate than many of us ! It’s only a hill!

Posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Best hill long days ? For your average hill Walker ?

Most of us remember our first hill day of the weather was good the views of mountains that went on and on. Many caught the Munro bug and the seed was set. You decided to climb more and more. For many the obsessions had started and the journey begun.

What your best long hill days? We all have memories. Over the years we had a board at RAF Kinloss with some great ideas of Big hill days. This was long before the glossy books came out of big Munro days to build up your hill fitness. The First Munro book was simple table of heights . The new one just published by the SMC a mine of information.

The new SMC Guide the Munro’s

I wish I had a copy of it now as we used to tick the long days off when we returned from a weekend. Our egos meant we added to them over the years and to many young troops one of these big hill days was a must do.

A Classic for walkers

Looking back how we went on Call outs after some big days I will never stop being amazed by. Yet these were the days you remember sitting on a summit looking into the distance of the hills you have just climbed.

We had to carry full Mountain Rescue kit, in later years I used “Walsh running shoes”ending up on the odd Call out after a helicopter pick up. Arriving on scene with limited gear much to the amusement of others.

These are some of the best in my view and fading memory. Many involved Alpine starts and planning. It’s all so easier now with the superb articles, books on the Munro’s.

First time in Knoydart

Skye Ridge without doubt the best day or 2 day adventure in the Uk .

Great guide book and a big help to many.

Fisherfield 5/6 – long hard and remote add in An Teallach for more pain.

Fannichs 9 the last 2 on there own hurt a few leave at the beleach character building?

Beinn Dearg 5

North Clunnie – The Five Sisters of Kintail rise dramatically from the northern side of Glen Shiel. Combined with their easterly neighbouring Munros, up to 9 Munros can be bagged in one outing.

South Clunnie plus Saddle and Sgurr Na Sgine best way up to menvia the Saddle one troop when only expecting to do the 7 said when at the Beleach of Sgurr Na Sgine “this is another MR ego trip”

The Torridon Trilogy Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Alligin plus all the tops. I loved that day did it 3 times .

The great Glens – Strathfarrar, Cannich Affric so many big hills in wild country. So many combinations of exceptional hills.

Cairngorm 6 – the classic Braeraich – Cairngorm day add in Carn Na Mhain

Beinn Alder 6 wild country bike essential .

Ben Nevis 4 – the classic Ben Nevis to the Aonachs

Mamores 10 – My favourite day one of many memories used that day often as a test of fitness.

Etive hills first time I did them all we carried a Blacks Mountain Tent I went lightweight after that.

Ben More 7 – surpassingly hard day

Knoydart 3 – Easier if you get the boat in wonderful hills in a great location.

Lawyers 7

Glenshee 9 / so many combinations

Steve Fallon does a great piece on his website › multi-mu…Top 10 multi-Munro bagging days – Steven Fallon

I look back and think of these incredible days. Many were done again and again often with the dog.

Skye Ridge traverse

Later on we ( the dog and me) would do Tranters Round and the North and South Clunnie to together in a day.

Nowadays there are so many incredible record breaking days. Every year hill records are broken and the hills have now so many runners on them. You rarely saw a runner in my early days on the hill. You knew most of them at the time. Running when fit on the hill was an wonderful experience .

The South Clunnie 9 Munros and Teallach with his autumn coat he did these hiills in a oner 12 times, What a machine.

Folk regularly post on media the times that they run these great days. Strava and other methods of doing the hills are king for many.

In my youth wearing trainers Walshes!

Things are very different now but your first big hill day day be it 4 or 10 Munro’s or more is a lasting experience. Getting your map out and planning your day was such a great way of getting to know the area and plan your hills.

I struggle to climb a few Munro’s now my body a bit battered but I still get the enjoyment of getting my high “high”. Often I meet folk on a mission and envy them.

Whatever you do enjoy these great days and remember “the hills are not a gymnasium for your ego” once Covid allows.

There are so many other days not mentioned as has little detail of the days. Get your books maps out and plan some days for the future. We need this on these days to be ready for when we are allowed out to range these hills. Happy planning. It’s worth adding in the Tops as well?

What’s your favourite big hill day ?

Comments as always welcome?

Posted in Books, Friends, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

There is light at the end of the tunnel?

For some of us there is a good feeling about maybe things are getting better slowly. I am lucky I have had my injection for Covid last week. To me that was incredible to see how well organised the NHS and volunteers were I thank them all. Everyone is working so hard yet I hear so many moaning about “this and that”. Most are fit folk missing the hills and wild places. Yet in the great scheme of things these are minor life changes.

Many cannot visit loved ones on hospital or those in old folks homes. Most have been confined to there rooms for a year it’s very sad. Even worse is losing a loved one and not being able to go to the funeral. There is also the mental health impact of the shutdown that will be with us for years.

I think things are improving so instead of firing off posts in the media have think what you are writing. I would hate to be a politician whatever your leanings. Yet no one should be making money out of this crisis ?

Many folk have lost jobs, business and sadly

family most have limited money to look after families.

Yet we must be positive and pass that on. I wrote about losing my brother last week. Yet as I wander my village about so many kind folk some I do not even know talk to me about losing a loved one. Shared times that mean so much to me.

I have learned so much during this time. Hopefully things are improving slowly for us all. Let’s keep going keep looking after each other and stay in contact especially now .

Better time’s are coming I feel it will not be easy but we must keep going.

Comments welcome.

An Teallach what top ?
Posted in Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

1989 – A lucky escape the Sea King Crash at Creag Meaghaidh.

1989 – It was a hard winter we had lots of Call outs and were just getting over from the Lockerbie Disaster. The pace never stopped as we went from call out to call out all over Scotland. I had got a call from our Boss in London Bill Gault a lovely man from Greenock. He was an Navigator on helicopters and we knew him well. He said he was coming up for the weekend with a Boss from MOD. She wanted to look round some of our bothies and met the characters that made MRT. Women were to be allowed to join MRT in the military (well overdue in my mind) she was looking at accommodation. It was a typical dour winters day wet and miserable so at least I would have an easy day as we drove around, showing her the village halls and bothies. Sadly it was an awful day Bill did his best but even he struggled with her attitude. We met Hamish, Elma in Crainlarich and Nan in Roy bridge. We showed her round a few village halls was appalled that we slept on the floor and few had showers or good heating. We were stopping for a coffee in the Roy Bridge Hotel when I got a phone call through the bar there were no mobile phones then. I was told to recall the team as a Sea king had given a Mayday call on Creag Mheaghaidh. The team were in the training in the area the weather was poor and a recall was not easy. Yet we got them back quickly. As I was calling on the radio a Fire Engine on blue lights and two Police cars headed up the glen. On board the helicopter from Lossiemouth were the crew we all knew and some of the Lochaber MRT plus a film crew. We knew them all most were good pals. A Wessex and Sea King Helicopter raced to scene and despite the weather landed on and recover the crew and the passengers. How no one was killed was a miracle and I still had memories of another crash to a Wessex on Ben More a few years previously where Harry the Killin Team Leader was killed and two friends Ian Ramsay another local Policeman were badly injured. It was a busy few hours as we sorted out a crash Guard for the aircraft in the Corrie. It was a busy few hours but we soon got things sorted but I hardly had time to think of what could have been a real tragedy.

Bill took our guest away and we got both teams into I think it was Corpach bothy as most were just of the hill very wet and changing, She walked in to see a few hairy bottoms as the troops changed getting ready to change the team member’s for their night on the hill. We heard that all Lochaber were in the Bar in Fort William having a “Staying alive party” Myself and Bill took our guest over to meet them, they were defiantly having fun. We walked in and Willie Anderson was in fine form and asked me who my girlfriend was. That poor lady I felt for her but Bill Gault saved the day and took her away. In the end the lassies joined the RAF Teams and have brought so much to us over the years,

Looking back at the photos when I saw the aircraft we did crash guard for several days it was amazing that all got out alive. The aircraft was re built and flew again!

30/01/89-01/02/89Creag Meaghaidh202 Sqn Sea King Helicopter crash.  All crew and Lochaber MRT and film crew survived uninjured.  2 day crash guard.  
So Lucky


From one of the crew of the Wessex crew – “we parked our SAR Wessex alongside the crash site, about 30minutes after the crash.  It was the only time I ever saw 60 knots showing on my airspeed indicator, while parked on the ground. Martin Ring was the NCO winchman in our Wessex crew. He spotted the only safe place to land the Wessex by the crashed Sea King great thinking” The Lochaber Team members were taken off on another helicopter I think and our RAF MR were flown in as crash guard this lasted two days.

30/01/89-01/02/89Creag Meaghaidh202 Sqn Sea King Helicopter crash.  All crew and Lochaber MRT and film crew survived uninjured.  2 day crash guard.  

[Above details from MoD Accident Report.]

On the day of the accident, RAF Sea King XZ585 was taking part in joint exercises with Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (Lochaber MRT). At the end of this exercise, the Sea King was scheduled to transfer a stretcher to the remote First Aid Post in the Coire Adair valley.

Because strong winds had been forecast in the vicinity of Coire Adair, five members of Lochaber MRT left the aircraft beforehand to reduce the load. Then, the Sea King helicopter left for the First Aid Post with the pilot, co-pilot, radar operator, winchman and five remaining passengers. The passenger were: an RAF ground crew member; two members of the MRT, and two members of an ITV film crew who were documenting the operation.1

The Sea King, which was being flown by the co-pilot, made two failed approaches to the landing area. Then, the more experienced pilot took over the controls and modified the approach to take advantage of up-draughting conditions in the area. However, while hovering, a sudden down-draught required the pilot to overshoot the proposed landing area and to continue down the valley.

 At this point, the pilot turned the aircraft and flew back up the valley. However, after turning, the pilot again encountered down-draughting conditions and was forced to apply more power to clear the rising ground.

Without warning, however, the pilot experienced a sudden failure of one of the engines. Consequently, he warned the crew and passengers of an impending heavy landing. The helicopter then landed forcefully at 60knots, but rolled onto its side after hitting the ground.

The crew and all the passengers escaped. Four personnel suffered minor injuries.

The cause of the accident was recorded as a failure of the main rotor gearbox, resulting in a shutdown of the port engine.

Comments – P. Lucas –  The pilot did a magnificent job in saving what he could from a very difficult situation. He encountered a strong downdraft and at the same time, suffered a single engine failure, caused by the main rotor gearbox failing at the time when he needed as much power as he could. They impacted the ground at about 60kts. It could have been so much worse.
A few years ago I met the pilot and his family. They were amazed I knew anything about this crash. They were all incredibly fortunate to have survived. Not least due crew.

S. Atkins – Aside from the crash, which I still recall as being one of coldest jobs imaginable, the visit of the senior officer, was memorable. We originally were staying in Corpach, I think, before moving to Laggan. Corpach was a grim bothy, and I recall the officer and her tiny entourage being utterly appalled that anyone would choose to live like that! I just think that the bothy/RAFMR infrastructure at the time was a few years away from mixed gender service. Glad it didn’t take too long. I remember sitting in a life raft trying to keep warm after the tent got trashed! That was a fun job once we knew everyone was OK.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SAR, Well being | 3 Comments

Podcast – A look forward it will make you think. Radio Scotland’s Mark and Euan hear from UNESCO Chair for Integration Alison Phipps of Glasgow University.

Posted in Enviroment, Mountaineering, People, Plants, Well being | Leave a comment

Leadership a few ideas.

Sometimes I wonder at folk are talking about leadership. There are so many thoughts on Leadership and so many Quotes “buzz words” and experts on the subject. In my my experience leadership was a process of learning from others. I was so honoured to be a Mountain Rescue Team Leader in the RAF. Mountaineers are by far very individualistic and driven and as a group can be hard to control? Many think that being in the military it would be easy to be a leader as the military discipline takes control. Yet most of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team were some of the most unmilitary folk you would meet. Yet get them together as a group and they were the best of the best. It was hard keeping the Senior Officers happy you had to tread a fine line at times. I learned the hard way how to do this and when to push the boat out.


The Team Leader in these days was in complete charge though we had an Officer in Charge the Team Leader ran the team. We also has a senior officer at MOD in London in the early days who was in total charge but he was guided mainly by the Team Leaders. As in any job we had good and bad and I learned from many of them, upset most but in the end found a balance. In these days you could speak your mind tell the Senior officers what was wrong and often you achieved results much to the horror of your immediate bosses who saw there careers over. At times your career had a blip but in my view you need folk who question authority especially in life threatening incidents. You have to stand by your decisions, whether its going into an aircraft that’s still on fire to ensure there is no one alive or on a mountain in avalanche conditions.

Mull of Kintyre the Chinook crash

In every situation I was responsible where and what my team did, I accessed the risks with my experienced troops and made the decision. I was so lucky to have learned from so many different types of leaders. All the ones that mattered in my life were mainly Mountain Rescue leaders plus a few Officers in charge or part of that system. We ran a Team Leaders Course where though it was not perfect we learned a lot from and we adapted this through the years with various course added.

Searching in wild weather

In my opinion this tests leadership qualities to the full working at time’s in often life threatening environments. It’s not a game and you are tested regularly. Much was learned in my early days and I did take so many lessons from them. They were great role models. I wrote a while ago about Leadership “when your not there your Team will never let you down. Train hard, give responsibility especially to the young and they in my experience will never never let you down.”Nearly 40 years in Mountain Rescue of managing risks on real operations and often training when others were not out due to the severe weather. That’s what we had to do. Unlike the other teams we had to know our area learn to work with other teams. It was a huge area the whole of the North of Scotland and the Islands.

The mountains and nature take no prisoners yet I was so proud that all my members came back safely every time they went out. It is unspoken by many but most Team Leaders worry especially in extreme weather about there team. Newer team member’s return sometimes wide eyed with a tale to tell of the power of nature or an epic during the day . Yet what they learned in these days was of huge benefit to all. To lead you have to know your team their strengths and weakness. We used a mentor system later on and looked after each new member on a one to one basis. Added to this all team member’s could ask for help and advice at any time from a more experienced team member and ensuring that they were given various ways to gain the knowledge they needed.

Team Members became a big part of the Mountain rescue family. In the military it was hard for the system to accept there was “no rank” on the mountains. It was your ability as a mountaineer that allowed you to lead that group. I learned very quickly from some of the best. I will never forget my first hill party in winter taking my group round Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg and the Aonachs coming off in poor weather in the dark. A testing day in short daylight hours I was no longer a party member or a follower and it did my confidence so much good.

Once on a call out after a big rescue in the Cairngorms I took my party of the hill as Coire Domain was in terrible avalanche conditions. I came back to Glenmore lodge thinking that Fred Harper the Principal would be annoyed. Yet he took time to tell me these are the decisions that mountaineers make. He said it was correct and it made me feel so much better. As the years rolled on you learn from your mistakes (hopefully) admit them and ensure they never happen again. I learned how much the families worry and give up for the team. How easy it is to get carried away and it can leave you little time for looking after them especially in a busy team. Once we were away for 10 days on various call outs all over Scotland. At the time I was not aware of what my family were going through at this time. They do worry for us and there was no mobile phones then. Sometimes you have to explain to the team members that we are not exempt from accidents and it’s hard to explain this to the young mountaineer who are what I call at the “invincible” stage”. Group safety is so important no matter what is going on in a Rescue. We must look after each other at all times. Training was hard it had to be and taking a group out in severe weather was what we had to do. That first time you navigate in a white out and bring everyone home is a huge confidence boost for a young leader.

Deputy Team Leader Course

Advice on what routes to climb and giving them the confidence to go for them all helps your Mountaineering Confidence as a leader. We often had to go into areas with no Avalanche forecast on the early years. I would phone my friend Blyth Wright the Avalanche expert for his advice on these areas especially up North. These were invaluable to brief the team members with as much knowledge as possible. The training helped as we often climbed in remote areas to get to know them in case of a call out. Training was so important and as the years progressed we introduced varied training based on experience for novices trained and party leaders. This involved often bringing in other organisations like Glenmore Lodge to update and validate our training and teach us new skills. It also helped us improve as mountaineers as that was our first task to be a component mountaineer. Many pushed the standards for the rime did some great Alpine routes and onwards to the Himalayas and the Artic.

Keeping the team safe whilst pushing standards especially in the military was never easy. Hard decisions were made regularly. As my first stint as Team Leader at RAF Leuchars in Fife. They were a young team within a year we had our hardest test. This was at Lockerbie where 270 were killed in a tragic terrorist attack. The team were exceptional. They all proved to themselves as they rose to every changing situation. We were there for 3 days working with other RAF Teams, the local teams, SARDA and so many other agencies. We knew many of the agencies we worked with this was invaluable. It was a life changing event it took its toll on many including myself. I was burnt out after trying to listen to so many friends struggle and struggled for many years.

I went straight from Leuchars to Kinloss as Team Leader and at the end of my tour I was exhausted. My family suffered and struggled and all these years have managed to start to live with my demons. I learned from that over the years that someone has to look after the leader, this was unknown to me at the time. I think I was able to do this in future years with pals who became Team Leaders. Few mention this aspect of Leadership. We have learned nowadays about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the effects on Rescue Services and their families. In the early days it was hardly accepted but now we know more and can get help for those that need it. You have to know your team to see the signs and get the help you need.

Lockerbie wreckage

Many of the Civilian Team leaders I have spoke to are retired. They have so many untapped memories and advice on Leadership yet are rarely asked for advice. What a resource not to use ? I am sure others may agree? I was so lucky I had tremendous folk as Deputies other leaders to discus things with and learn from. They would tell me where I was wrong and I needed that advice often. Its so easy to think that its all under control but others see things you miss. Each Team leader, party leader and team member was so different and I learned from so many. Even though I have been retired for 14 years the boys and girls still in my teams at times comeback for advice or help. What an honour that is for me after all these years.

David Whalley 40 years with Mountain Rescue Teams. Twice as Team Leader and once as Deputy and over 35 years a party leader. I learned every day thank you all for the advice.

Comments as always welcome.

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

A few thoughts about the accident in the Lakes where a member of the Patterdale MRT was badly injured.

I was phoned a few days ago by several of the media for my input on the awful accident in the lakes where one of the rescuers fell on a rescue and was badly injured. As the papers say sadly his injuries are life changing. This will be an awful time for his family and friends. It is even worse with the Covid regulations and the travel to mountain area being severely restricted. I did not comment and join the debate this was unusual for me and left it to others to. Sadly in amongst the comments you get the usual awful statements from the “key board warriors” many with little knowledge.

My heart goes out to the Patterdale team the family of the injured rescuer. It is a teams worse nightmare for all involved. As a RAF Mountain Rescue Team leader I was always worried of this happening to me and my team. Mountain Rescue is and can be very dangerous I know that only to well. My best results after 40 years involvement in some of the wildest conditions was that all came home safely.

This was always a huge worry we had slips and fall and one time a team member carrying a split stretcher on a rescue was picked up by a huge gust on to his back in winter. The stretcher then acted like a sledge and he hurtled down the slope. He was battered but okay I watched it and could do nothing to help. There were many other times when we were out on weather that few would venture. Someone I feel was watching us?

Yet during that same period we lost Two civilian MRT team leaders Harry Lawrie of the Killin team leader was involved in a helicopter crash on a rescue on Ben More and was killed. In the same incident my good pal Ian Ramsay was also badly injured along with the RAF Winch-man Mick Anderson that awful night. They both had life changing injuries. Next morning at first light we recovered the casualty who they were looking for she was also killed. I was amazed that the whole Killin Mountain Rescue Team joined us next morning for that search high on Ben More.

A few years later on Seanna Braigh the Assynt Team leader Phil Jones was killed on a training exercise by an avalanche. During my time in the RAF Rescue I was the Mountain Rescue expert on a Board of Enquiry for a team member who fell on a training exercise in the Mamores. We learned some lessons from that event.

Sadly accidents happen these are hard times for all. I have not been near a big mountain since Covid started it’s a big loss to me and many others. Yet those who live near the hills can still get their “highs”on the mountains and wild places. Most are taking great care and being sensible as always.

This was from the BBC news after the accident when a Rescue member of the Paterdale Team in the Lakes fell on a rescue.

The rescue volunteer was airlifted to the Royal Preston Hospital. The camper was taken to Carlisle Infirmary with chest pains but was later discharged.

Cumbria Police said the £200 fines issued to the men who had travelled to the area was the “only legal penalty available” in the circumstances.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery said the visitors had breached Covid rules by travelling together in the same vehicle and camping on the fells.

“I’m sure they are extremely remorseful for their actions,” he added.

“Set Covid aside, anybody who ventures up in the fells can have an accident and anybody who has accident can’t foresee what was likely happen to the mountain rescue. 

“That doesn’t lessen the anger and the frustration that people feel about this but they had no way of knowing that would happen.

“The county is still under an enormous amount of strain and we are asking people not to take unnecessary risks, to stay low level if they can, stay local when they are exercising. 

“This isn’t the time to be taking risks.”

BBC news “

It’s a very sad event and we are all thinking of the injured Rescuer and his family. There is a fund set up to him and his family.

Never take any of the Rescue Agencies for granted. As a wife of a long serving Rescuer and Team Leader of of one of our biggest teams once told me. “She never slept till he and the team was back of the hill from a Rescue”’ Few realise that the families bear the brunt of any accident and worry for us all the time.

Stay safe out there and think at time’s that if we have an accident coming to help are mainly unpaid volunteers who do this to help those in trouble.

Posted in Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Well being | 7 Comments

When Technology lets you down. A Zoom Funeral for my brother. My brother hated technology maybe he is laughing now?

In my time I have been to so many different funerals. Most have been a “Celebration of life”some have been very sad a young life lost on the mountains or worse through illness. All are so different.

I lost My brother recently he had a full life and passed away aged 76. He lived in Bermuda with his family for 50 years. Sadly due to Covid we could not even send one family representative to the funeral. It’s a strange time for all when a loved one is so far away.

The funeral was to be on “Zoom “we as a family all logged in and waited and somehow it did not happen. That was a strange hour to be sitting there alone watching a screen and it trying to connect? Had we done something wrong? In the end it was a problem with the technology so no one in the UK saw it . It had been a strange time as we had waited expectantly. I could not concentrate for over a week and as a family we were all in touch. I had used Zoom before and it is handy but a strange medium for many.

Yet to me a funeral is not the time to say things about those you love. To me you should never leave things undone especially in these strange time’s. I was left feeling very strange and had rarely felt so.

I will go out as soon as Covid allows and head for the mountains my brother loved. That is where I get my peace from. I am lucky to still be able to do this and need that “fix” . It is my way of coping and always has been. We all grieve differently in our own way. He loved the Bothies we both did and I took him to some great places when he came home. I will go again when Covid is over and have my own thoughts .


Just now I am thinking of all the family in Ayr and Bermuda . During my life seeing so much tragedy in the mountains it makes so differently when you lose someone.

I had a walk yesterday it was thawing after the heavy snow and met a young pal out running. It was great to see her and her pal. They stopped for a blether and it meant a lot. My brother ran all of his life and it was his way of coping with life. Time had dragged this weekend waiting for the funeral I could not settle or do much. I had a last wander down by the beach last night just before darkness about one hour before the funeral was due to start in Bermuda .

The sky was incredible so big and alive it had been a grey day with a cold wind at times. I saw the usual wildlife that I take for granted the Heron, Oystercatchers and a Curlew I see them every day and so many others. We are spoiled really as nature shows us life goes on. Yet the light so beautiful and the colours were wonderful. I think it was natures way of saying things will be alright. It did give me and my family time to reflect as we waited maybe it was just what I needed.

My brother hated technology I think he would be laughing at what’s happened? He is free from pain now from his cancer and hopefully at peace.

RIP Michael. We are all thinking of Fay and family in Bermuda and my family in Scotland .

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

Avalanche Risk – Worth thinking about.

It’s great to hear of folk who live locally being put on their local hills. Many are skiing and enjoying the unique conditions. I was just doing some research of a skier who was killed on Ben Wyvis in 1985?it’s a sad story. He was located next day his dog was there above the avalanche tip.

From the SMC Journal 31 March 1985 – Solo cross country skier buried under 1,8ms wet snow avalanche in An Cabar area. Found by SARDA Police dogs after helicopter search on 1st April. Dundonnel MRT were involved .

Please be aware that with the heavy snow comes a reminder to look at local Avalanche forecasts. Tweed Valley through Scottish Mountain Rescue posted the warning below.

Message from Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team:



To follow up on our post from last night, some more information coming in today from conditions in the hills of southern Scotland.

This photo from Spittal Hill in the Pentlands shows a shooting crack at the top of a NW facing slope. This is what we call a “red flag” and gives us an indication that the snow pack is getting heavier and maybe prone to release, potentially to full depth, as we saw a few weeks ago.

This crack is a few cm across and around 30m long. With a snow pack potentially over a meter deep in places we can see that a full depth avalanche of this nature would be huge.

With the forecast predicting rising temperature and rain, it’s very possible we will see avalanches over the coming days.

If you are out on the hills in the next few days please be careful!

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Photo credit: Neebo McKneebo

Enjoy what you have but please take great care.

It is well worth once Covid allows to do an avalanche course especially skiing alone in remote areas.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Learning from Covid – looking after our elderly in Sheltered accommodation during Covid. Love and treasure the elderly.

Covid brings lots of changes in all our lives and the sadness continues, many have lost loved ones, freinds and family. Yet little is said about how it really effects those in our Old Folks Sheltered accommodation and Homes .

I dropped some bits and pieces of at the Old Folks home today. Just a few goodies for an old lady I known for years. Her family live abroad and due to Covid she lives eats and sleeps in her room has done nearly throughout all of Covid . It’s a lonely time for her. I spoke to her on the phone from the garden it was heart-breaking to leave, she was waving as I left.

I phone her every day as this apart from her carers and a call from her sons is the only communication she has. Sadly she is extremely lonely. By not speaking much her memory struggles she needs to have that chat and misses daily contact. She has poor hearing and her eyesight is failing. She cannot read any mail she gets and her life is the television. It’s a sad way to live. The home is so busy where she is and do there best but I wish someone in power would open their eyes these elderly folk have don so much.

I fully understand the need to protect our older generation during Covid but surely we can do more? She was a lifetime Church member religion means a lot to her but she only gets a newsletter that she cannot read from her church. Surely someone could ring her weekly. She did so much for the church when she was fit, taking folk to Church without cars and helping in various ways. With her husband did meals on wheels for years helping others. Due to her eyesight and hearing she cannot use a computer now why is it that these organisations think all the elderly have access and understand the internet.

I find in the UK many do not look after the older members in the family. I have travelled abroad often all over the world and the older generation are respected so much more. How do we change this attitude? We must do more and learn from this.

If asked she will say she is fine that is what that generation says but that is not true. She does not want to upset anyone and cause additional work. Yet she struggles daily and finds even when she is spoken to folk speak to fast and she cannot hear them.

I lost my Mum to Leukaemia and my Dad not long after. Thank goodness they do not have to live through this and it would be awful to see them in a home just now .My Dad was a minister his life was his people and he visited all the time especially his elderly folk. We as a family hardly saw him he was out visiting. Of course he could not do this now during Covid but he would have found a way to support our elderly and sick better than what is happening now,

They say things will ease once we all get our Covid injections but surely we can all do more. Maybe we should pick up the phone be a bit more tolerant and chat for a while. One day this will be us I hope things have improved by then ! It would be good if folk highlighted these problems to the authorities it’s the only way things may improve . Surely we can do better ? Please if you know someone like this please give them a call, spend time with them it could be you.

Comments welcome

“Love, care and treasure the elderly “

Posted in Family, Friends, Views Political?, Well being | 2 Comments

Grieving in these difficult times.

First of all sorry for being of the radar recently. I sadly lost my brother last week and though he lived abroad for over 50 years and were so different folk it still hurts. We all deal with grief differently and my way is usually of going into the wilderness or mountains to get myself together. Unfortunately This cannot be done during Covid. Also no one can drop in for a brew and have a chat.

I have an old friend in a local home still living and eating in her room. She has been doing this mainly since last March. She is so lonely, missing visitors and though we speak every day she struggles to cope. I try to do little things for her but her eyesight and hearing is so poor. Yet she is warm and fed and better than many others.

It took me years to grieve for those I loved. Seeing so much tragedy in my life involved in Mountain Rescue I had to put these things out of my mind. It was my way of coping. Yet when I lost my Mum and Dad o found grieving so difficult it took years.

As you get older you lose more friends, family and those people that mean a lot to you . It can be a sad time in your life at times. You are reminded by doing simple things like removing names from your contacts? To me it is an act of admitting their gone forever. You can no longer phone or catch up for a blether.

Yet so many folk are kind and caring after a bereavement and life has to goes on. This is so important especially now.

Yet when I see the mountains and the fresh snow everywhere it is uplifting. The snow brings a cleansing and brightness to our lives. I feel that there is a way forward and good in most of us.

My bothers funeral will be in Bermuda we will see it via the internet. It will be surreal but many have had to do this recently.

I get my Covid jag next week and I am thankful fir that. Once things get back to some sense of normality I will try do all these things you missed.

Again thanks for all the kind words and thoughts. I hope the blog is bringing some joy of great memories of the places many of us loved. Last week was a wee blip life goes on.

Below is a link to my brother obituary in his local paper: He was some man like us all we have our faults but he had many good points.

Take care lots of love to you all.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

The promotion of Electric Mountain Bikes access in Torridon ? A survey comments welcome!

There are lots of views on Ebikes as I get older I am thinking about buying one just to ease the walk ins on hills like Beinn Alder and Seanna Bhraigh. Both these hills I would be following Estate tracks with minimum impact of the environment.

I have spent a lot of time in the Glens on the West Coast where some of the wonderful local stalkers paths are being heavily used by mountain bikes. There has to be room in my view to enjoy these areas but I have seen the paths in places cut up by mountain bikes especially in wet weather.

As electric bikes become more popular I can only see a rise in there use.

Many are worried that the old coffin paths are now being battered by bikes. Is there a way forward that we can protect these ancient ways for the future?

The Scottish Mountain Trust (SMT) give money from there profits to the upkeep of mountain paths and have done for many years. It would be great to see the EBike companies, clothing manufactures putting something back into local tracks.

Maybe you would like to complete the survey with your views .

From a pal “Fascinating topic being explored by my pal Charlie. His Masters dissertation Project is on the promotion of sustainable E-MTB access in Torridon. A subject that will stir up a’load of emotion.
He needs help by gathering these thoughts right here”

About this survey

Why are we doing this research?
Both mountain biking, and more recently electric mountain biking, has been a growing sport in the UK and Scotland. The UK bike market is estimated to be worth £1.5 billion, growing by 5% per year. The global electric mountain bike market could be worth $25 billion by 2030. Within Scotland it provides a valuable chunk of the adventure tourism market.

However, there may be certain drawbacks with its popularity – increasing the footfall in the mountains.

This project aims to explore what action can be taken to mitigate any drawbacks, such as access, erosion and user conflict, that might arise from the rise in mountain trail footfall, with a specific interest in eMTBs.

Research has shown that many people would prefer education rather than legislation regarding these types of issues, and this project would like to speak to landowners, organisations and mountain bikers and find the most effective way to deliver this message.

What is involved?
The questionnaire will initially gain some general information about you and your mountain bike and e mountain bike riding habits. Most questions will present you with a list of options to select.

You will then be asked more specifically about where you ride and how you decide on routes and your attitude towards, and knowledge of, sustainability while mountain biking. It will also seek to understand where you gain information on these subjects.

Previously to the questionnaire, researchers interviewed several landowners, land managers and other organisations, based in the Torridon area and elsewhere in Scotland on this subject. Some questions in this questionnaire were based on findings that came out of these interviews.

This survey will take about 10-15 minutes to complete.


Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

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

DAY 88/89/90( 28/29/30 JULY)

Munro map

Munro map

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

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

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

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

Penny on the Lurgh Mor Munros!

Penny on the Lurgh Mor Munros!

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

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

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

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

Posted in Corbetts, Enviroment, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Munros, Weather | Leave a comment

A update from Scottish Mountain Rescue.

We would like to start by thanking you all for your continued support to Scottish Mountain Rescue. We have been as eager as everyone else to get back out into the mountains. Below is Q&A on where things stand from Scottish MR:

Can I visit the Scottish Mountains?
We looking forward to seeing you out in the hills – preferably not on a rescue! 😬

When will people from further afield be allowed to visit the hills?
From Friday 16th April 2021.
The Scottish Government travel guidelines say travel restrictions in mainland Scotland will be lifted from Friday 16th April.

Are we back to normal when we visit the hills?
No! We still need to work together and remember what we are trying to achieve to make this work.

Are SMR teams responding to callouts?
Yes, a lot of work has gone in to procedures to try and make callouts as safe as possible for our team members and casualties. We also now have an adequate stock of basic PPE for rescues for each team.

Should I feel guilty if I need to call MR?
No, accidents happen, we would be concerned if you didn’t call us. We are here to help, not judge.

Remember in an emergency in the outdoors call 999, ask for POLICE, then MOUNTAIN RESCUE.

Are rescues the same as before?
No, they are likely to be slower, with fewer people, more walking and carrying for us.

What can I do to help make it work?
Self-reliance. Plan your day carefully, refresh your skills and knowledge, stick to the type of days that you know you have done safely for several years already. Be sensitive to any local community you are visiting.

Do I need to take any extra equipment?
You may well have to wait for longer than we would normally like for a rescue, so group shelter or survival bag, extra warm clothing and food are a good idea. Assume you will be out overnight if that helps to plan, although we hope it won’t be the case.

How else can I help?
If you are reading this we suspect you will be pretty well prepared already. But we are concerned that there is a group of people, who don’t usually go to the hills, who are keen to come and experience the benefits of hill walking so please share this to anyone you know of and direct them to Mountaineering Scotland for safety guidance.

If you are unsure or you would like more information on guidelines please visit the Scottish Governments website:


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

1989 St Abbs Head RAF Jaguar Aircraft Crash

A Jaguar GR1A xz359 from RAF Coltishall crashed in fog 1.5 miles WNW off St Abbs Head Lumsdaine Beach 1½ miles NW of St. Abbs Head, Berwickshire ( – The pilot (Squadron Leader Paul Victor Lloyd) sadly was killed. He was part of a two ship sortie flying low level over the North Sea. The first aircraft lost contact with him in the fog and as the Jaguar was in Norwegian camouflage he was hard to see! The aircraft hit the 500 foot cliffs at St Abbs Head about 100 feet from the top. I was the Team Leader at RAF Leuchars at the time. When our fast party arrived by Wessex helicopter from RAF Leuchars the cliff was on fire and the fog still in. We had to send a couple of troops down to check for the survivor, the ropes nearly melted! Unfortunately there was not much left of the aircraft as it impacted the cliff. How do you do a Risk Assessment for that?

The main difficulty was keeping the emergency services away from danger as the fog shrouded cliff gave them no idea of what was below them! A few choice words and once the fog cleared they understood the danger and vanished. After the aircraft was located and we had confirmed the casualty was sadly a fatality and had not survived. After this it was fairly easy to safeguard the site until the AAIB (The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is part of the Department for Transport and is responsible for the investigation of civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK and its overseas territories arrived to investigate. The report on this incident is on their web and is very interesting!

That was an interesting few days for the team and the Board working on the sheer cliffs. They continued to smoulder for a few days making it exciting on the ropes! It was pretty dangerous at times. Also a huge learning curb for the team and many vital lessons were learned for the future. The cliff was very loose and I was glad when we finished our work with no injuries to the team, apart from a broken leg at football and a very scary flight in a Puma helicopter..

Photo Andy Craig Puma helicopter

The AIB – Over the years I was to work with the AIB often what a great bunch of folk they are. We did some serious incidents together and built great trust over the years

Looking back it was a dangerous crash site they all are. The cliff burnt for several days. It was tricky getting the AIB down into the site as the it was on a loose and dangerous site.

Aircraft Crash sites are very dangerous places and it’s so hard trying to stress this to outside Agencies. To many thank God they will have never seen one close up. My advice as always was to keep the access to a minimum a bit easier on a steep loose sea cliff.

The team had done many Aircraft crashes each is different. This one certainly was and there were sadly more to come.

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