Beinn Bhan 896 metres route from Beleach Na Ba. A day snatched before the weather breaks.

It was an early start to meet my pal Kalie in Applecross before the forecast weekend storm broke. I had looked at a route and though the forecast was poor I thought we could see what the weather was like at Beleach Na Ba at 2000 feet. The drive down was past big rivers and flooded fields. One of the good things about starting so high was there would be no rivers to cross. There were plenty of deer about and the early morning light was stunning in places .

The drive into the sun at beleach Na Ba.

It was very quiet up in the car park but cold and windy. It was over-trousers and all the gear on as Kalie and her collie dog Islay arrived. We waited out a heavy shower then with gloves and hats on headed of up to the mast on Sgurr a Chaorachain. Here we could discuss our route and see what the wind is like.

It was windy and cold but after the mast we headed along the ridge her you are in another world. The classic Cioch Nose finishes here.It’s a wonderful sight the sandstone and the views into the coire. I love it here it was my solace when unwell a few years ago and 30 minutes from the road you are in heaven. The views are superb Kishorn in the sun, the light and the sandstone ever changing and the huge gullies and cliffs wet and dank from the rain your eyes cannot take it all in.

Cioch nose

From here after I bored Kalie about previous climbs I said the plan was to walk over from here to Beinn Bhan. Kalie had done the hill before but not this way. It’s pretty pathless and I had done it years ago and remembered how hard it was. Yet the views as we followed the Corrie Rim were superb the ground was hard work, time consuming but we had plenty of time. The weather had the odd shower it was cold but we were well prepared we picked a route through the sandstone boulders. This is great ground to navigate on at night and I had been this way with the newer RAF Team members in the past. You get some great sandstone but also Boulder fields that you have to be careful in. Yet what wildness.

The wildness of this place.

We then headed along to the connecting ridge that would take us to Beinn Bhan it does not look far but it is to me the never ending ridge. I dare not tell Kalie that is longer than it looks but her and Islay were loving the views and the changing in light.

Lost my sunglasses here,

We had a break ate and needed it I carry a flask now with hot chocolate that went down well and some cheese and jam butties. I also had a wee bottle of iron brew as we sat and enjoyed the views, Then began the toil up the ridge of many false tops.

On the ridge sun is out and Kalie loving the views.

The sandstone and the Boulder fields have a path of sorts now the rock is stunning so many shapes and colours. As always the views that few see and we took our time enjoying the sun and Islay always in front picking a line up the hill.

Incredible rock folds on the way up like a frozen ice cream or sandstone wave.

We had to be careful I was coughing a lot as the cold air hit me and am still awaiting a scan. I needed more water as my mouth was dry and throat sore. Kalie was going well Islay waiting and yet it was another top and another. Maybe it was just me but I had been this way before and knew what was coming.

The ridge hard work.

Kalie charged ahead and we were now at the summit trig point. It’s a high Corbett just under a Munro in height. The maim ridge is now easy ground but the views from the ridge into the wild Corrie is breathtaking. I had a few thoughts of some great ice climbs here. The great Mad Hatters Gully was a great day fighting our way off the cliff in the dark. Other days taking your gear for a walk in poor conditions. Every day on this mountain is wonderful.

Kalie on the summit.

It was then a bit more super food some tablet and then start the journey back. Time was moving on its dark by 1730 but we had some great views from the summit of the Torridon Giants.

The big cliffs and memories.

We wander back over some awful ground I lost the path but we were soon heading back to the Beleach where I got some water. I was still coughing but we were going fine.

On summit only half way there.
Before the light went.

It was a better route back but still hard going all the time you see the mast and think your further on. The sandstone is amazing we saw a few Ptarmigan already white. It was hat and gloves back on and torch out.

Torch on.

Kalie kept me right as we traversed back to the car park just getting off before dark. It was then sort out kit and get some fish and Chips in Applecross. The road to Applecross from the Beleach is awful we saw some deer and I hit some potholes. I was pretty tired when we got back and had an early night with the fire.

Fish and chips

The weather has been awful all night it’s raining and windy it will be an away day today, We needed all the gear at times you could feel the change in the weather. The hills are very wet and you have to be aware of the rock being slippy. A head torch is essential as is a winter hill bag. We knew we would be late coming off but we had plenty of breaks to see the mountains in their beauty and enjoy good company. What more do you need apart from a new body.

These holes in the sandstone have a name they are made by nature.

It had been an early start but so worth it. Thanks to Kalie and Islay for a great day.

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Taking your Dog on the hill! Please read this.

These last couple of years have seen a distressing number of dogs lost in the hills. Mountaineering Scotland now has a new page in our section on taking dogs to the hills, with information on how not to lose your dog and what to do if it does happen.


The content is written by highly experienced hillwalker and dog owner Anne Butler, in consultation with Scottish Mountain Rescue, and is well worth a read if you want to take your pet with you on your adventures.

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

Scottish Mountain Rescue Association of Mountaineering Instructors Mountain Training Ruffwear UK Hurtta Glenmore Lodge VisitScotland Tiso Cotswold Outdoor Craigdon Mountain Sports

Unless your dog has consistent recall, it should be kept on a lead. Even a trustworthy dog should be kept on a lead around livestock, deer and ground nesting birds. For the dog’s safety a lead is advisable when traversing narrow ridges, near steep drops or cornices.

Dogs should always be kept on a lead during the lambing season.

It is advisable to attach the lead to a harness rather than risk damage to the delicate structures in the dog’s neck where the collar sits. Dog trainers and veterinary physiotherapists recommend a Y-shaped harness which runs down the breastbone and does not put pressure on the soft tissues of the shoulder joint or restrict movement of the shoulder or forelimbs.

Many pet shops provide a fitting service to ensure the harness is suitable for the dog and the activities you wish to undertake. 

Ruffwear and Hurtta harness are designed for active dogs and even have handles to help lift the dog if necessary.

Ensure collars and harnesses are snug-fitting (two fingers tightness) as loose collars/harnesses can get snagged and the dog may become trapped. 

A bungee lead is ideal. These can be attached around the owner’s waist and the strong bungee absorbs sharp pulls and shocks and also allows the owners to keep their hands free for using poles or to navigate.

Teaching your dog to return to you following a blast on the whistle is an effective recall tool to use on the hill, it is ideal for when the dog is distracted or if a rapid recall is needed. 

A whistle has several advantages over vocal recall:

Dogs hear at a higher frequency than humans and are more likely to respond to a whistle than the human voice.

The whistle can also be heard at a much greater distance than the voice, especially in windy conditions or if the dog has roamed any distance away from the owner. 

If you are calling the dog and it hasn’t come back you will become stressed and angry – and why would a dog come back to someone who is angry? A whistle will remove any stress or emotion from the recall command.

Recall training to the whistle is easily taught at home, a variety of training programmes are available online or booking a 1:1 lesson with a local dog trainer can be particularly helpful.

Acme Gundog whistles are lightweight and can be worn round your neck or attached to the rucksack.

Although they are not infallible, GPS trackers are one of the most reliable ways to locate a dog on the hill.

GPS trackers need a mobile phone signal to connect to the device which is attached to the dog’s collar or harness. However, the tracker unit will still work without a phone reception as it uses a GPS signal to track the dog and there is no maximum range so can locate the dog even if it has roamed a long way from the owner. Some models have a history function so will show where the dog has been plus an active tracking setting to indicate the dog’s current location and some have a light and sound function which can be activated from the phone app.

There is a good range of GPS trackers available and potential buyers should research which model would best suit their needs. Some brands require an ongoing subscription in addition to the purchase price.

https://tractive.com/en/pd/gps-tracker-dog

https://getfindster.com/b/

In poor visibility anything that will make the owner aware of the dog’s location is helpful. Attaching bells to the dog’s harness or collar will provide an audible clue that the dog is not as close by as it should be and should be recalled back to the owner’s side.

https://www.barkandridesports.com/product/lock-load-slay-bells/

LED lights are ideal for locating the dog in poor visibility or after dark.

A great variety of lights to clip onto the collar or harness or full LED collars are available.

Microchips

Since April 2016 it has been UK law that all dogs are microchipped. 

A microchip contains identifying information for the dog and contact details for the owners. If a lost dog is taken to a vet or Police station, they will scan it for microchip details. Ensure your dog’s microchip details are kept up to date at all times.

It is helpful to add another contact number such as a your home or holiday address to the microchip database in case the owner is out of signal on the hill and the dog has been found

Collar and ID tag 

An ID tag should be attached to the dog’s harness or collar with the owner’s mobile phone number. It is possible to add a second or third number to the ID tag for a relative or friend.

A lost dog will often attach itself to other walkers on the hill, and a simple collar and tag with phone numbers attached will allow contact with the owners. 

Collars with mobile phone numbers embroidered into them are also available.

Mountain Rescue Teams are authorised by the Police to search for or rescue people injured or at risk in the mountains. But they are not routinely deployed by the Police to assist in the search for lost dogs as this would mean that teams would not be available if people need rescuing elsewhere.

However If you find a dog who is trapped or injured, call 999 and ask for Mountain Rescue. Do not place yourself or others in danger trying to rescue a trapped dog yourself. If the dog is injured the Mountain Rescue Team Leader will decide whether they are able to launch a call-out based on the information they have received from the owner.

If organising an informal search party, it is vitally important to consider the terrain, location and weather – and the experience and equipment of the people involved in the search. Many willing volunteers are not regular hillwalkers and may be putting themselves and rescuers in danger if they get into difficulty during the search.

Stay calm and try not to panic. Search methodically and call your dog’s name and blow your whistle. Allow quiet spells and listen carefully as the dog may be trapped and making noises or barking.

Contact a friend or relative and ask them to contact local vets, Police, council dog wardens and shelters and place notices on hillwalking Facebook pages with a photo of your dog, contact numbers and the location the dog went missing.

If the dog is missing near farmland it is worth trying to contact local farmers or gamekeepers who are often willing to help search and have a detailed local knowledge of the area.

Drone SAR for Lost Dogs UK is an organisation of drone pilots who will assist with searches for dogs in remote or mountainous areas. It is advisable to contact them ASAP.

Dog Lost is an organisation which offers support and advice for owners of missing dogs.

Thanks to Anne Butler Mountaineering Scotland and others for this article

Mountain Rescue Teams are authorised by the Police to search for or rescue people injured or at risk in the mountains. But they are not routinely deployed by the Police to assist in the search for lost dogs as this would mean that teams would not be available if people need rescuing elsewhere.

However If you find a dog who is trapped or injured, call 999 and ask for Mountain Rescue. Do not place yourself or others in danger trying to rescue a trapped dog yourself. If the dog is injured the Mountain Rescue Team Leader will decide whether they are able to launch a call-out based on the information they have received from the owner.

If organising an informal search party, it is vitally important to consider the terrain, location and weather – and the experience and equipment of the people involved in the search. Many willing volunteers are not regular hillwalkers and may be putting themselves and rescuers in danger if they get into difficulty during the search.

Stay calm and try not to panic. Search methodically and call your dog’s name and blow your whistle. Allow quiet spells and listen carefully as the dog may be trapped and making noises or barking.

Contact a friend or relative and ask them to contact local vets, Police, council dog wardens and shelters and place notices on hillwalking Facebook pages with a photo of your dog, contact numbers and the location the dog went missing.

If the dog is missing near farmland it is worth trying to contact local farmers or gamekeepers who are often willing to help search and have a detailed local knowledge of the area.

Drone SAR for Lost Dogs UK is an organisation of drone pilots who will assist with searches for dogs in remote or mountainous areas. It is advisable to contact them ASAP.

Posted in Charity, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | 4 Comments

How much does a photo bring back memories? The remote Coire a’ Granda Beinn Dearg. The healing power of the wild places to help your well being.

2013 Clearing the mind walking across the frozen Loch Coire a ‘ Ghranda

The photo above was taken after my second operation when I was pretty ill a few years ago 2017. As I recovered slowly by walking round my stunning Moray coast they were just not enough for me. I needed to see the hills and be in them. Though it was winter I just needed to be there and close to the mountains. It was still winter yet would I be up for a day on the hills?

Many years ago I had climbed after a snow hole in the remote Coire a ‘ Ghranda below Beinn Dearg. It’s a wild area and the approach was from the Aultguish which can be tricky due to a big river crossing and boggy ground. This is wild country you rarely meet anyone on this side of the mountain.

This was a place I wanted to revisit and had asked a mate to come (Pete Amphlett). I wanted to show him the great lines that form the ice falls in winter he agreed to accompany me.

It had been cold for a few days so the ground would be frozen if we were lucky. We parked at the far end of the loch at the Ullapool end. I had told Pete it would be a slow day he was okay with that. Even better he took the car and did the driving.

Pete picked a great line in he had been in this side a few times . It was still a long way in.

The late Andy Nisbet the famous Scottish climbing author said that it takes 2 and half hours to walk in, we took a bit longer and passed a couple of swans on the lower Loch a’ Gharbrain, that was the only wildlife we saw that day.

The route is famous for bog but today it was dry and frozen hard but still hard work. The views were great and even behind us we could see the Fannichs covered in snow with snow cornices clearly visible by Pete’s binoculars.

We could see Cona Mheal is a lovely Munro with its scrambly East Ridge takes in the views a lovely mountain. The snow was heavy going higher up and the hidden Loch nan Glean frozen solid, then the great cliffs of Coire a’ Ghranda came into view as Andy Nisbet states “the Corrie has a wonderful wild atmosphere” in the new Northern Highland Central Guide.

So many lines – such a great corrie it was a wonderful sight.

I had been to this wonderful area many times often with the RAF Mountain Rescue we trained a lot in these great hills and had many call-outs in this wild area. I also chased Munro’s, climbs and our at times our egos hardly taking any of it in.

When your young you hardly ever stopped to enjoy this wild place and now I can sit and take it all in. Nowadays it is different we had lunch and sat and looked at its grandeur it is so like Skye and it’s great Corries .

The Loch was frozen solid and apart from a fox’s footprints there was little life. Many come to Beinn Dearg and grab the Munro’s or the famous ice climbs of Emerald Gully or Penguin Gully and never see this place.

There is only one rock climb on the broken slabs by the famous Bell in 1946 but many incredible winter climbs. The famous climb “Ice bomb” is on the big cliff and was done by Mike Fowler the tax man from London who has climbed so many of Scotland’s great climbs. The late Andy Nisbet has done so many of the climbs it is incredible. Poor Pete he had climbed Emerald Gully the day before in 1994 and walked all the way in to this Corrie with a well known English visitor who was that tired when he reached the crag they walked out! The joys of winter climbing.

Pete enjoying the view.

We spent some time and then wandered back in the sun get sunburnt – note must pack sun screen and glad I had lots of water. We passed the ruined croft at the loch how hard must have life been in those days? We were soon back at the car and it was great to be driven home ensuring I rehydrated with pure hill water.

The body was a bit stiff as Pete dropped me off we had some day.

The healing power of the mountains

The effect on me was great I had a great sleep felt so much better but tired than only a day in the mountains can bring. My mind was full of the joy of the hills especially in winter.

I wrote this the next day:

The Coire of the Four Lochs

Familiar view, dry frozen moorland.

Swans on the Loch, little wildlife about.

Stop, the view the Fannichs – snow plastered.

Grind up the hill, to the frozen loch.

Peaceful, hard going in the snow.

Huge Cornices, ice ribbons, gullies

The big corrie – wild remote exciting.

Walk across the frozen loch

Take it all in – Wildness as it was.

Only nature is working here.

Time out – enjoy.

The journey back – hard going

Ruined crofts – what have they seen?

The Dam – landscaped, changed by man?

All gone now?

Soon the road.

Then the Wind-farm site

Are we losing it?

The wild?

2013 April – Heavy Whalley – Coire a Ghranda

Little was I to know that I would need 2 more operations to get sorted. I am sure I would never have coped without days like these to see me through. The mountains and wild places have great healing power.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Every photo tells a story. Friendships forged in the mountains.

The late Al MAcLeod on the Eiger North Face photo Ted Atkins’s

Al died whilst soling on the the North Face of the Matterhorn a few years later. It was one of the hardest periods of my life getting him home. I have lost a good few pals in the mountains it’s never easy and even today the mountains still take a toll.

Big Al in Yellow and Terry Moore Everest West Ridge Expedition.

I was scanning some slides yesterday and came across this classic. It’s of my great pal Al MacLeod on the Eiger North Face taken by Ted Atkins who is a another friend no longer with us. Al is wearing his yellow Lion Rampant hat he always wore and was going to get me one. He popped in to see me when he left for the Alps. He was such a lovely crazy wild man who became a great pal.

He was the one who helped me after Lockerbie coming over at Christmas to look after me. A big hard man with a heart of gold.

There is something about friendships that are forged in the mountains. Many call it the “fellowship of the rope“ yet how many lasting friendships do we forge during these crazy days on climbs and Rescues?

Over the years we may disagree or even fall out yet most relationships are rekindled. When your under extreme pressure your pals see you “warts and all” They see you exhausted and struggling yet you get through it if you have good pals for life.

I have been so lucky to have met so many characters throughout my life and as you grow older you look back and appreciate friendship more.

The Everest Team 2001.

On Everest in 2001 we had two team members summit Dan Carrol and Rusty Bale. We had others at the high camp all going as well as you can at 8000 metres. One of the troops got ill at the high camp. Everything stopped-as did personal ambitions and they helped him down to the North Col at 23000 feet . Here our Doctor got him going again by fluid intravenous drip and he got off the hill safely. There was no disagreement just get out pal off the hill that was what mattered. This showed me how we looked after each other no matter what our personal aims. A few expeditions on the mountain were only interested in the summit at any cost and sadly several died that year. The high mountains take no prisoners but working together you can cut the odds. We all knew each other from many years of Mountaineering we had a bond that went beyond summit ambitions. All coming back safe and well was the ultimate success.

Look after your pals and family especially in these strange times.

Posted in Articles, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 3 Comments

Falling leader – the leader must not fall?

Falling leader.

In the old days there was a saying “ the leader must not fall” These were the days before good protection in winter and summer climbing . In these very early days gear was poor and climbers were very bold. Nowadays the gear is so good that climbers can climb so hard and if the protection is good many can take falls and the gear will hold. That is the way standards have improved dramatically

Even when I started climbing we were taught that you must not fall. Belaying was basic there were no belay devices and you practiced falling leader. On our annual summer rock-climbing course we would use a tyre and it was thrown of the crag simulating a climber taking a lead fall.

Looking back it was horrific and as a young 8 stone wimp I was terrified watching the tyre flash past. You held the rope in these days by friction round your body. Often jackets and gloves were ruined by the friction burns. Some failed to hold or stop the tyre and the as the weight hit the body there were more than a few injuries. A few knees were injured and others it put them off of climbing for life. It did make you aware of what may occur and the shock load on a belay.

Thankfully things have moved on! We have belay devices and great gear that will take a fall if placed properly and your belay is strong.

In winter I remember in my early days a gentle “shove” on a snow slope to ensure you knew how to ice axe break. Also we practised ice axe breaking in crampons at one time. That was scary and again injuries were common and it could put you off winter climbing. Thankfully these training methods are long gone. Yet we did learn from them?

Climbing is a lot safer today there are far fewer accidents nowadays. Yet even on the late 70’s and early 80’s we would come across accidents in the big cliffs when we were climbing . Some were serious and we in these days knew most of the climbers. We had to use the gear we had to get a climber to a safer spot and there was a lot of adaptation on a Rescue then.

Looking back we did some big climbing accidents on the North west, Skye, Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Glen Clova, Cairngorms and a few on the smaller cliffs Polldubh Dunkeld and our local sea cliffs. My time in Wales was the same in Ogwen on the Idwal Slabs, Tryfan and Y Lliwedd and Snowdon. We were climbing a lot and seemed to be there or there about’s when accidents happened.

I watch the teams now so organised with all the new gear. Yet how many folk does it take to get all that gear to a big remote cliff when there is limited helicopter support in poor weather? Often we improvised moving casualties especially in winter to safer ground just using out climbing ropes and gear.

Thankfully things have changed I rarely climb nowadays but things seem so much safer. Yet a lot of the old tips are still valid.

Today’s tips – never pass a good runner even on easy ground.

Check your holds tap test.

Abseiling – check belay check each other especially in the dark it’s easy to make a mistake. No matter how much of a rock/ice god you are?

Fingers Ridge Cairngorm

Comments welcome as always !

Pete Kirkpatrick / I recall a poor lad having a spiral leg fracture on falling tyre/leader on the 1966 MR Summer. Those huge leather gauntlets we wore weren’t designed for brain surgery for a reason. I have a memory of ‘Escaping from the System’ JSRCI assessment using body belays and my filed efforts to hold a Navy 15 stone guy who was hanging on the rope. I failed.

Andy Woolstone – I also don’t agree that people claim they need to fall off to progress. I never actually went out to fall off a route, but I got myself into a position where I trusted my gear and ability to be able to progress. That allowed me to climb close to my limit and sometimes i pulled it off and climbed great routes, other times I took big falls but learned a lot.

Posted in Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | 6 Comments

Coire Lair a wander and some thoughts on the wonderful Stalking paths.

We had an Autumnal walk up to Coire Lair through mist covered mountains yesterday. It had been very heavy rain for a few days and the Coire has a interesting river crossing and some of the best stalking paths in Scotland. We left the cars below the wee car park near the station it’s always interesting crossing the railway line. The walk is well pathed and the trees were looking superb.

I still have medical issues just now so it would not be a big day but it was great to get out. It helps so much clear the mind . I love how the stalking path goes through the forest near the river which was in spate with views of the Corbett Fuar Tholl a favourite of mine. The path then climbs effortlessly across the great boiler plated slabs to the views of Coire Lair. They knew what they were doing when they built these wonderful paths all those years ago. I love this area it’s just full of memories.

Only a few of years ago I was looking for my sister nephews who died on Beinn Liath Mor. I searched for several days on my own looking for the missing brother. It was during the “Beast from the East” this path meant I was down safe after several hard days looking for him alone. I will ever forget the efforts of Torridon MRT, SARDA and the other teams who searched for 6 weeks until they located the second casualty.

This is a part of mountain rescue that few realise the effort to find a casualty after 6 long weeks of waiting for the family. Thank you all. .

On the way through the woods.

We had spoke about the level of the water and crossing of the river. In the end it was okay but you have to take care in rivers after heavy rain. Walking Poles are very helpful to keep your balance when crossing.

River crossing Women and children first.

The path bifurcates and here and you cross the river it was a bit deep but no problem. With a bit more rain it would be tricky.

The mist and mizzle was constant as we climbed up its a familiar path to me.

We passed the great cliffs of Fuar Tholl. Sadly they were hidden today. The stags were roaring we never saw them and then we stopped for lunch not far below the beleach. The view of the Lochan the heather and the water pouring down the slabs made even in the rain a special place.

Kalie and Islay happy to be out in the wilds.

There were few folk about a couple had decided not to cross the river and the solitude and wildness was special. Occasionally the dark cliffs cleared soaking wet but we could see this neglected area of the Munro Sgurr Ruadh. Then the mist came down again the rain got heavy and we decide to wander down. I am still struggling on the hill yet it was great to be out. My companion was happy with the decision and that is the way it is just now. Yet I loved being out again we had my “hill fix “

We headed down back across the river. It was still deep in places but a good laugh hence the photos. Kalie went first and Islay followed.

On the way back we met two groups of mountain bikers on the track. It’s now a classic mountain bike route. We let them past they were having fun and courteous and then had a discussion about the erosion on these great stalking paths. How long will the paths last as they increase in popularity. Never easy questions to ask ? I agree the mountains are there for all but the paths will not take a lot of traffic. Especially with the increase in new Mountain E bikes? Are Mountaineering Scotland and the Bike organisation working on this. These stalking paths and coffin paths are a huge part of our heritage.

Is there a joined up approach to looking after these wonderful assets?

I enjoy mountain biking but can foresee a problem looming sadly as I enjoy my bike as well.

Comments welcome.

Will these great paths take the increase in use ?

We headed down back to the cars and a quick change then home.

I was not disappointed I loved my wander in these great hills. The company of a kindred spirit and the beauty of this wonderful area. I am so lucky. Winters not far away and of course the clocks go back this weekend. I wonder how many that will catch out?

Check that torch and batteries !

Comments – John Armstrong “when stalker built these paths- he never thought of bikes on them. I enjoy my bike too but I try to stick to landrover tracks etc rather the old pony paths as I can see they won’t last and the estates really don’t use them now with ATV doing all the work.”

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Cycling, Friends, Gear, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Plants, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Great gear – the Bothy bag !

Group Shelters – We we’re lucky in the RAF that we had access to various trades within the Mountain Rescue Team. Our group shelters were made originally by our Safety Equipment Section of bright orange nylon. We went through a period of using big group shelters on Call outs in the early 70’s. They held about 8 team members and were mainly used for breaks on wild winter call outs. Once inside a shelter you were out the elements. You could re appraise the situation and check out how the team members were coping with the conditions. The public forget that Mountain rescue teams are only human and anyone can struggle in wild conditions. Just to be out of the elements the constant wind battering you is such a bonus. They were also wonderful for sorting out the casualty doing first aid etc and working out any changes in the search .

For some reason they went out of fashion and have only in the last 10 years have we started using them again. Things have improved rapidly we call them Bothy bags and are made in various sizes and are a wonderful piece of kit. If you have a problem on the hill they can be a lifesaver.

Bothy bag

Used by mountain leaders, rescue organisations, backcountry skiers and canoe guides all over the world, these indispensable lightweight emergency shelters allow the users to create a ‘microclimate’ that is warm and dry – perfect for map reading, group discussions or even as a morale-booster for wet lunch breaks. Bothy bags come in a range of sizes and feature clear windows, mesh vents and roof ‘sockets’ which can house walking poles for additional support. 
In 2014 they were modified with a new low temperature PU window allowing it to function in even lower temperatures.

Features:

  • Packed Size: 27 x 11cm
  • Dimensions in use: W = 117cm, H = 100cm, L = 132cm
  • Weight: 600g
  • Person: 4
  • Warm and Windproof Shelter
  • Durable Waterproof Seats
  • Roof Attachment Fits a Walking Pole Providing Support

A good thing to try is hang about on a summit for 30 minutes without a shelter it’s amazing how cold you get! Imagine if you are injured as well and waiting for a Rescue team in bad weather?

It may save your life well worth carrying in your group?

On a call out in Cairngorms

Pete Greening comment

Got caught in an overnight snowstorm, 200-300m short of the top of the Walker Spur (and at an altitude of around 4000m). Rather than do the usual thing and retreat down the route (would have been an epic), Nev Taylor and I decided to sit it out on a small ledge, inside a bothy bag.

Pete Greening Walker Spur Photo Pete Greening

We survived and managed to swim(!) our way to the top the next day. A highly rated piece of kit.

Nev Walker Spur bivy photo Pete Greening

I have got mine which will always be in my rucksack and it’s only the size of my hand so very lightweight – Dianne McLeish

Photo Dianne McLeish

Comment – A Swaddel

Not quite a bothy bag, but I always keep one of these at the bottom of my running packs. It forms part of my emergency kit for ultramarathons.

Photo A Swadel

Mike Parsons

The very first bothy bag was called the KISU, Karrimor Instructor Survival Unit, KISU. and made by Karrimor, my company at the time. Here is a link to the full story of all types of bothy bags. https://www.outdoorgearcoach.co.uk/group-shelter/

Some great information from Mike and how the Zardsky sac was developed after the Cairngorm Tragedy in Nov 1971 when 6 died on the plateau.

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

Whats your best piece of kit from the past?

Things have moved on since my early days on the hills. The clothing and footwear has improved beyond belief. Gone are the “hairy breeks” that many wore. How proud was I that I got a pair then at last I thought I was a climber. Long johns and even Pyjamas were worn under them! The layering system of string vests and “simmits” our cotton aircrew shirts and green pullovers were very basic. Later on came the Norwegian jumpers a famous bit of kit. The tartan shirts a must wear before all the gear changed.

The famous Curlies.

Socks are so much improved they fit now as are the variation in boots. We were issued with sea boot socks usually in only one size: large they were blister machines. My original first bought Hawkins boots were comfy but heavy when wet. The RAF Mountain Rescue teams had an issue boot “the curly”a great lightweight boot in the summer but in my opinion poor in the winter. Later on due to government cuts I am sure they were made of compressed cardboard. Often we were on call outs after a day on the hill when the boots were soaked through. One way to combat the cold was to wear two pairs of socks. These boots were awful to get crampons to fit. Most had to be adjusted by workshops heating the crampon and made to “fit” the boots. Often crampons broke due to metal fatigue from constant re heating ! What a change from today’s lightweight quick release crampon. Who remembers the faff of putting on crampons.

Plastic boots at Shenavall bothy my mate the late Mark “Cheeky” Sinclair”

In later on came plastic boots that were a game changer and nowadays have lead to the lightweight winter boots we have today. Also gaiters arrived on the scene the simple Karrimor gaiter was an excellent addition at the time. Before that it was socks over trousers for many !

Mid 70,s tartan shirts, Karrimor gaiters and String vests.

Looking at waterproofs we are now spoiled for choice and the prices. We had some awful gear early on the yellow smock designed to go over a rucksack by MOD was my first type of waterproof. It was awful and you took off in the wind. Look what is available now and the cost? Yet is any of it waterproof?

The Yellow smock huge and designed by the RAF.

Gloves – they were always a problem but we could not beat the early Dachstein gloves. What a wonderful thing they were and many still use them. A simple design and a good price.

Dachstein Mitts

Polar Fleeces – they were a game changer and I have written about them in the past. It was constantly wearing wet gear after days on the hill and out regularly on call outs later that day or night. Wet gear became the normal.

Nowadays few remember the basic gear we are spoiled for choice today.

The new material Gortex

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Equipment, Gear, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Insulation in winter camping bivouacking?

There was a wee chat on my Mountaineering Club Facebook page about the best sleeping bags for winter. I have had years of suffering in many mountains in the UK and abroad. I learned lots on my early walks in the 70’s but choice was limited.

1976 North – South – Simple scrims cut short!

I have a great Rab bag that I used on Everest on despite being heavy was well worth the weight. I spent so many years snow holing I learned that it was so worth the extra weight to be warm and comfortable. I had done many bivouacs but in 1990 on Kusum Kangru we had to sleep out at about 18000 feet just in our bivy bags it was an awful night. We had no sherpas after Base Camp.

An awful night!

The name Kusum Kangru comes from Tibetan meaning “Three Snow-White Gods”. At 6,367 m, Kusum Kangru dominates the southern end of Charpati Himal and separates the valleys of the churning Dudh Koshi from the upper reaches of Hinku Drangka.
The mountain is complex having at least five major ridges and faces, the most spectacular of which is the North face of the main summit. It is one of the most difficult of the trekking peaks to climb.

Scrin on the North Col Everest.


The first successful ascent of the main summit was made by Bill Denz of New Zealand on 7th October 1981 via the South-West buttress. He also completed the first solo climb and traverse of the mountain, descending via the northwest flank. A Japanese team had previously reached a subsidiary northeast summit on 9th October 1979
A 1988 British Expedition led by Nick Mason conquered the previously unclimbed East Face. In subsequent years new routes have been opened but all of them are technically very challenging.

25 years later in Alaska I learnt so much. Yet the thing that made the – 25 temperatures bearable was carrying two scrims. I could sleep well despite the cold and good insulation is a great comfort. It’s not bad for a one night bivy in my opinion but for a 3- 4 week expedition I went for comfort despite the weight. Various other expeditions to Pakistan, India and the Himalayas all built up my thoughts on insulation.

1994 Pakistan Thermarest on bag sleeping mat.

Sleeping mats are so different from the early days I remember using cardboard on my Duke of Edinburgh Award in the late 60’s and even old papers. Things moved on a lot of simple kit designed by the military to foam scrims and later insulated mats. The world was a lot simpler then.

Simple bivy in summer !

Needle Sports info https://www. needlesports.com/Catalogue/Camping/Mats

Sleeping Mats

“Camping Mats come in all shapes and sizes. There are broadly speaking two types, Foam Mats and Inflatable Mats. Both sorts come in different thickness and made of different materials and as always the customer has to choose between mountaineering’s ever conflicting parameters of efficiency, weight, bulk and cost.

Typically used in the British textile industry, one Tog corresponds to the heat insulation capability of clothing etc which maintains a temperature difference of 0.1°Kelvin while passing a heat flux of 1 Watt/m2*. Some manufacturers (mainly US ones) give an R Value for the insulation properties of their mats. By this they mean an imperial equivalent (°F-ft2-h/Btu). To convert Imperial R values to Togs, multiply by 1.76228. To confuse matters there is also a metric R value, more properly called an RSI value (10 Togs = 1 RSI).

The higher the Tog or R (or RSI) value the better the insulation provided.

If you aren’t totally confused by the above you should add to the mix that testing for R/Tog/RSI ratings is not by any means an exact science and that it is also expensive so, it is alleged, some figures that are given may be acquired by doing little more than taking a competitor’s figure and adding a pinch for good measure. Of course, who is alleging what about whom is also not easy to ascertain!

*NB One Tog was originally a war time measurement of the amount of warmth retained by a typical male wearing a three piece suit – it originated from research done in the North of England – hence the term tog (though this in turn is thought to originate from the Roman word toga)!”

The Scrim on my bag is the one I used in Alaska a great bit of gear bulky but worth the effort.

Nalgene water bottle and insulated container makes a great hot water bottle and gives you water for a brew in the morning. Top Tip.

Posted in Alaska, Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

A Tribute to Guy Lacelle.

www.ukclimbing.com/news/2020/10/vertical_ice_the_spirit_of_guy_lacelle-72523

From UKC – “This week’s Friday Night Video takes a look at the life of Guy Lacelle, a renowned ice climber who tragically died in an avalanche just over ten years ago. He had made groundbreaking ascents from the Rockies to the Alps and was also a talented competition climber.

This film is told from the perspective of some of the best ice climbers in the world and archive footage to show the influence that Guy had on the sport.”

On our first trip to Canada in winter if 1984 we met Guy Lacelle on of the most incredible ice climbers I have ever met. We met in the Alpine Club in Canmore where we were staying on our week winter trip.

He was even in 1984 a pretty famous ice climber. On that trip we met many but Guy took to us I doubt he had met anyone like us before and gave us lots of advice on routes to climb. In these days there were not so many climbing in winter on Canada. The guidebook was pretty sparse and vague unlike today. Yet it was the trip of a lifetime.

We climbed hard and socialised even harder climbing 5 days a week and partying at the weekends. Guy was amazed by our small group and even climbed a new route “Sacre Blue” with Malcolm

at the end of our trip.

These were incredible days of simple ice climbing gear. We had Zero axes and Tom had a pair of Chacals and new foot-fangs. We had and Canada was so quiet you rarely met another climber on the routes.

Guy gave us so much local knowledge advised us on routes and took us to places that were unknown then. In these early days he soloed everything we could climb. He was so natural on ice yet laughed especially at my attempts on routes. Climbing then was fun, it was only part of the game. It was those who you met along the way.

We met so many of the names on that trip but Guy was some man. He became to many one of the worlds finest ice climbers yet as a man he was a lovely human being.

I laugh when I think back to his words “I thought all Scottish climbers could climb till I met you! “

His words never taken to hurt just to laugh at and with.

RIP Guy

Posted in Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Films, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Is your Mobile phone registered for the 999 text service ?

My friend Anne Butler reminded me of this. It could save your life!

Is your mobile phone registered for the 999 text service?

If you have an emergency in the hills and do not have enough signal to make a voice call there may be sufficient signal to send an emergency text to 999.
I have used it and it works!
To do this your phone MUST be registered for the 999 text service.

Text the word ‘register’ to 999. You will get a reply, and should then follow the instructions you are sent. This will take about two minutes of your time and could save your life. Details in the link below.

http://www.mountainsafety.co.uk/EP-Emergency-SMS-Mobile-Phone-Text

Emergency SMS

Since 2009 it has been possible to send a text to the emergency services on 999 – referred to as EmergencySMS.  The service is primarily aimed at deaf and speech impaired people, but it is not restricted to that subset of the population.  

Important

A voice call to 999 must always be used in preference to a text.  (This advice is from BT, who run the 999 and Emergency SMS functions.) 

Before you can use EmergencySMS

To use the service you must first register, which is a simple process – see below.  

To register

1. Send the word “register” to 999
2. You will receive a message about the service
3. When you have read the message, reply with ‘yes’ (in a text message to 999)
4. You will receive a further message confirming registration, or that there has been a problem with registering your phone

To check registration

At any time you can check whether your phone is registered by sending the word ‘register’ to 999.

Using the Service

To use the service, you just send a descriptive text – see example – to 999 and await a reply. Do not assume that your message has been received until you receive a reply, which should be in 2 to 3 minutes.

If you do not have a signal on your home network, you will not be able to send a text to 999. 

Further info

For full details see http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/ with further information from Ofcom at http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2009/09/trials-begin-on-emergency-sms-system/

Please remember a phone needs to be fully charged if your on the hill and protected from the weather. I always carry a battery charger on the hill and protect my phone in a case.

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering | 2 Comments

The Maiden Whiten Head – Bronze Cross on summit?

The Maiden Whiten head

Whiten Head – The Maiden Original Route, 55 m HVS. This is where sadly Tom Patey lost his life in 1970 in an accident abseiling. My friends The late Ted Atkins and Smudge Smith climbed the Stack and left a bronze cross on the summit.

I wonder does anyone have a photo of it? Is it still there?

Abseil off Photo Smudge Smith.

One of the great mountaineering books I have ever read is” One Man’s Mountains” is about the life of the famous Scottish Climbing Doctor Tom Patey. Sadly I never met Tom but he was well known by many of my friends in the RAF Mountain Rescue and helped them on many call outs especially in the far North West where he was a Doctor in Ullapool.

Tom Patey (Doctor Stack) was a Scottish climber mountaineer, doctor and writer. He was a leading Scottish climber of his day, particularly excelling on new winter routes. He died in a climbing accident on a sea stack at Whiten Head – The Maiden at the age of 38 in 1970.Tom Patey worked for ten years as a General Practitioner (GP) in Ullapool, in the far north-west of Scotland. He served for four years as Surgeon Lieutenant in the Royal Marines at the 42 Commando School at Bickleigh.

I have climbed many of his routes and really enjoyed them.

Posted in Articles, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Various types of travelling to Rescues !

1979 – Search Dog Dreish on the way home to Wales RAF VAlley after a Call out in Scotland. By Hercules.

Over the years I travelled to rescues by the usual methods land rovers and in the back of a 4 tonner. Later it became helicopters.

In the Desert Rescue it was by Andover aircraft with drops into the desert.

1973 – Masirah Desert Rescue Transport.

Later on we went on a big search from Wales via Hercules for a Jaguar aircraft.

In the past I also travelled with keepers across lochs in various boats for remote searches.

The Lifeboat helped on several rescues in Skye and we had a rib for years that was invaluable.

The Rib Daz Boat.

Looking back what a crazy times. But what memories.

Comments welcome.

From Al Haveron – Dreish was more than happy to lie on a seat travelling up to Prestwick in the Herc. Job done, rules are rules she had to be in cage to travel back. Heavy had to go to the butcher at RAF Kinloss to get a bone to tempt her into the cage.

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A short wander the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail. A few thoughts.

I had a short day on the Beinn Eighe Mountain trail that starts from the car park at Loch Maree. The weather had been poor with torrential rain but we had a short 3 – 4 hour weather window so my friend Kalie had chosen this walk as it may be sheltered from the weather.

On route we passed Torridon Mountain Rescue Team arriving at a local crag for team training. They were all Covid aware as we were but we had a chat then headed on to Kinlochewe.

A great insight into our walk.

It’s a great wee wander about 3- 4 hours ideal for the weather. The parking is easy and the car park busy with camper vans on the NW 500. You park and the trail starts by going under the road and into it seems another another world.

The route

It is a well marked path and so much to see on route. As you start from sea – level it takes you up to nearly 600 metres. The terrain is ever changing and we had great views of Slioch , Loch Maree and other hills. The mist was down on the higher hills but I had forgotten what a classic walk this is.

In the trees.

Many of the trees are incredible big old Scottish pines and at times you could think you were in a rain forest. The bracken is high and now browning in the late autumn and the Heather still has a few flowers. It’s the mosses that look so good thriving here the colours wild and vivid brighten this area.

Stunning mosses so rich in colour.

The path is steep in places and well marked with plenty of stops it follows a great line up the hill. The Quartzite made of the rock made the dull day a bit brighter. We Islay Kalie’s dog up front path finding the wee Collie was born for this we enjoyed the effort and the views.

Islay cracking company on the hill

The path becomes a geologists dream further up as you pass so many small crags. The colours on the rock and the lichen really brighten the day.

Kalie always smiling !

The path has groves cut in the quartzite and is well maintained with lots of cairns. The views were coming and going we could see Beinn Lair in the distance mist covered. I have just written about these wonderful hills.

We saw the rain coming it was a bit early than forecast as we stopped and put on the wet weather gear. It rained pretty heavy but it was still a great walk. We had only met two other couples on the way up. We hardly stopped at the top of the path and found ourselves in wild country.

A wee break before the rain.

It was then get to the top sadly no views today. It is a fantastic viewpoint of Beinn Eighe and the nearby Corbett but not today. We then headed down to the Lunar Loch so aptly namned . This is wild country of the path and after a big day on the hills you have to take care.

Just off the path we saw a wee shelter were some folk were getting out of the wind. A Bothy bag being well used. It was pretty wet by now but we had a break by the loch and the honey tea was just what we needed. As were the smoked salmon sandwiches with cheese. Living the culinary dream.

A bothy bag in action great kit.

The path goes back a different way a bit it avoids the steeper ground and easier but care needs to be taken on the Quartz in the wet.

You follow a fault further down where there is a stunning gorge. It is full of plants and trees surreal looking in places. There are many waterfalls to look at and the views coming down of Loch Maree are stunning .

The fault !

It did brighten up as we descended I grabbed the odd photos as Islay headed ahead. Slioch was still in the mist but it was a lovely walk down. Hard going on the knees and hips but well worth it. I could make out I think Spearhead ridge on Slioch another wonderful climb done many years ago.

On the way homev

It was then back down to the car park. It was busy and a lot of the time we could sadly hear the roar of the fast cars as they raced around the NC 500. I wonder what they see at times. How much they miss. Sadly the roads and the infrastructure are not doing well with all the additional traffic and you have to be aware of potholes especially in the rain. What is the solution?

We stopped at the garage at Kinlochewe and had a well earned hot chocolate and cake on the way back.

It was cold at times on the hill and though we were not that high just about 2000 feet. I think from now I will pack my winter sack with extra gloves and heavier jacket. What great day though thanks Kalie and Islay for the idea.

Kalie enjoying the hill !

This was the photo this morning a stunning sunrise. I love Scotland. Sadly though it’s the rutting season we never heard the stags.

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Flora, Health, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

A wander in my local area – Surfers, Wave Boarders diving birds Gannets and a Basking sharks as the sun goes down.

I was planning a hill day as the weather forecast was superb but I had a problem with my chimney and had to get it fixed. It was picked up by my Chimney Sweep and could have caused a fire. Once the contractors were sorted I headed out to Hopeman along the Moray trail. There was great surf up due to the Easterly wind and I saw 4 surfers just after the Maltings at Burghead. The coast was looking great with the spray and the big waves. It was a beautiful wander and I went down to the beach to watch them. You do not see the Surfers there often but the waves and the surf were stunning.

Hopeman Beach surfs up.

It was great to see folk out on the water and I headed to Hopeman for breakfast at the West Beach caravan site . Here there were groups in the water on Wave boards and lots of Surfers it was such a great day.

West Beach Hopeman

The sea was busy as the Surfers arrived word spread fast and I sat and watched them a great sight. The sun was up it was warm and everyone was having fun. Kids on the beach were in wet suits enjoying the water and it was the place to be. On my walk back Gannets were dive bombing in the sea always superb to watch.

Sunset in Burghead.

I was soon home after a brisk walk back and the contractors were finishing my chimney and putting in a new liner. It was still a lovely afternoon and I knew the sunset would be special. I put my wee house back to normal and sat outside in the sun.

In this photo was a Basking Shark

After dinner I headed up to the old Coastguard station in Burghead there was a big crowd. A basking shark was close by and we all watched and were amazed by it. The light was failing but I saw it what a sight. The Moray Firth was looking great under a yellow then pink Sky. Folk were about young kids being introduced to nature they are so lucky to live here. It was then home to await a big change in weather forecast today.

Last of the light.

I live in a lovely place we are so lucky.

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Mountain Memories A remote route Beinn Lair Wisdom Buttress. The Classic Corbett’s of Beinn Lair and Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor and Meeting Andy Nisbet.

I was lucky to climb on Beinn Lair for my only time many years ago (it was 36 years in 1984) when we went into Beinn Lair one of Scotland’s remotest hills. It is a classic day and these two Corbett’s of Beinn Lair and Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor on the North side of the Fionn Loch are two fine Corbett’s.

Nowadays a few get the boat across from Loch Maree when it runs, my pals were over last week and had a wonderful day out. The area has also many remote Munros the classic Fisherfield 5/6 and so many great cliffs.

We had seen many the cliffs on our Munro bagging adventures and from the Wessex helicopter as we flew with new crews on familiarisation sorties. At times dropping of hidden food caches at remote Bothies a perk we had worked on and benefited for years. I had managed occasionally to get a trip in the new Sea King and show them some of the out of the way crags that they may get a call out on. These were great trips and also gave me an opportunity to hide more food, coal and the odd bottle at bothies. The walk in to Beinn Lair from Poolewe even today with a mountain bike it’s still a long cycle/ walk in. I did it with the late Al McLeod in 1984 after an abortive trip on the nearby Canmore where we climbed Fionn Buttress a great Scottish VS.

I found it hard in a big wind and the odd shower that day we saw eagles. The next day was still damp and I managed to get Al to climb on the opposite side of the Glen on the remote Corbett of Beinn Lair. The area is dominated by the Fionn Loch a wonderful remote place and in these days access was never easy.”In days of yore” the climbing guide was very vague the area has so many incredible routes that little was written about Beinn Lair nowadays in the superlative SMC Guide to the Northern Central Highlands and others there is a lot more detail. Wisdom Buttress is now graded Severe is a 220 metre ( 700) feet three star route, with 7 pitches and was first climbed in June 1951 by by J. Smith, Miss A Hood. J.S. Orr. One can only imagine the limited gear of that era?

View from ridge to Canmore

Little was little known about this climb to us and we had an hard day especially route finding. It’s a long route and then as now not great in protection. I carried the rope Big Al took minimum gear (as always I carried some extras) it was graded Very Diff but seemed a lot harder it was pretty wet near the top and here the route finding was serious. My extra gear as always came in handy at times. Al managed as always to get up the route, he was a big strong man and I kept him on the rough line. He was dressed in his very light red wind-suit he never felt the cold and we ticked the Corbett and ran of the hill to get warm. My wee Olympus camera got wet and I lost all the photos. Yet I have great memories of that classic route but sadly no photos. Al was training for the big routes went on to climb high on the West Ridge of Everest, summit on Shivling and climb the North Face of the Eiger. Sadly he fell whilst soling the North Face of the Matterhorn a few years later in July 1989. I still miss him and this was one of my best days with Al.

The last time I was on Beinn Lair was with Gail and Stephen on Beinn Lair after my trip to Everest in 2001. It was a long day we walked in from Poolewe with huge bags and camped on the beleach . The last thing I needed was after spending 3 months in a tent was 2 days camping in Fisherfield. Yet it was as always magic and I was fit after being away so long. Seeing the great hills, lochs and cliffs again was just what I needed even after the wildness of Tibet and Everest to me this is special country. On the way in we had met only one person it was Andy Nisbet who had been soloing on Carnmore Crag Fionn Buttress for a new guide book he was working on . He had been his own for several days and we had a great chat.

Todays guide books are excellent.

We saw this figure in the distance moving fast with a huge ginger beard and big bag as he got closer it could only be the one and only Andy Nisbet. He stopped for a while asked how my trip was then we had a bleather in the middle of no where. He spoke of climbing with an Eagle for company and some of the routes he climbed. I mentioned my epic years before and Andy laughed, then off he limped back to civilisation his old climbing injuries playing up after his prolonged stop. Though Scotland’s most famous new router he always had time to chat with us mere mortals and we had met in many out of the way places in the past. Sadly Andy was killed with his pal Steve on Ben Hope in the Feb of 2019. this was a huge loss to all.

I hope to go back and get these hills done again see the great cliffs like I did in the mist as I walked up Beinn Lair following the ridge line and looking into these huge cliffs. It is a place surrounded by superb hills, lochs, goat’s eagles and lots of winter potential for new routers and for many chasing some of Scotland’s classic routes.

Gail on Beinn Lair

Even today this is a remote area and an accident here in bad weather could be difficult be careful but if you want adventure this is the place. As for the harder climbs on Canmore “Hard Rock routes” that’s another story.

Comments as always welcome.  

New route on Beinn Lair 1971 photo Graham Hunter – thank you Sir.

Posted in Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Professor Norman Collie and John Mackenzie honoured with bronze sculpture

It was great to see that the incredible statue to these two giants of Mountaineering is now completed and is on place at Sligachan with great views onto the Skye Ridge. It has been 17 years in the making. What a great effort by all involved. I traveled back from Harris but due to a delay in the Ferry it was to dark for a photo. I will get back and pay homage to these two greats of Skye mountaineering.

Photo Skye Sculpture Group.

“How can we thank this man for all he has done for the group over 17years.
STEPHEN TINNEY
The Artist.
Stephen listened to the group in 2004. We had an idea we wanted to celebrate John Mackenzie and Norman Collie. Stephen listened to our dream and came back to the group with the first maquette,he had captured the two men perfectly.
Little did we know how long a journey we were taking. Stephen has always been there for the group helping us throughout with artwork and visuals.
In 2015 we were invited to speak at a big event. Stephen made us a larger maquette for this and other events whilst trying to raise the funds needed.
We have seen and lived with the maquettes for quite a number of years now but nothing could prepare us for the final sculpture that is now in place at Sligachan.
We would not compromise. This sculpture had to be monumental, it had to be traditional and it had to sit in the landscape.
Stephen Tinney what you have produced is magnificent.
We thank you so much for sticking by us and giving us and everyone on Skye and around the world this sculpture.

A Sculpture for Skye
By Stephen Tinney.”

https://m.facebook.com/skyesculpure

BBC news also carried the story

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-54264403

Posted in Articles, Islands, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Last day in Harris “The Golden Road”

At the famous Sams Seafood Shack it was windy.

We had an easy start after our hill day it was windy and pretty cold at times. We had lunch at Sam’s Seafood Shack at Rodal then we headed along the Golden road. We had a superb lunch of fresh chowder and lobster sandwich.

The Golden Road – The south east coast of Harris, stretching from Tarbert down to Rodel, is deeply indented by lochs and contains some of the rockiest low level scenery anywhere in Scotland. For much of history the many tiny settlements that dot this coast were accessible only by sea. But in 1897 a road was built along the coast, linking these settlements together.

This east coast road is widely known as the Golden Road,apparently because of the very high cost of building it. It’s superb and we had a grand wander along it. It’s mainly a tight single track road with great views of the lochs and sea. There is so much rock about and we had short walks regularly with the dog.

The lovely campsite we visited.

The road was not busy and a wonderful place to be it was wet and windy then the sun came up 4 seasons in a day. It was a day to relax before heading back and sorting out for travelling home. How I would like to cycle this road it is stunning. Kalie drove the whole way bless her.

It was a great ending to a superb week there have been so many wonderful views and despite the virus great folk to meet. The bothy we stayed in was superb and the beaches, big skies, seas, lochs and hills make this some place to be. Now back to the mad world.

Posted in Bothies, Cycling, Enviroment, Islands, People, Views Political?, Weather, Well being | 1 Comment

Harris incredible weather a walk up Clisham and a visit to the Colby camp near the summit.

Big skies in the morning.

Yesterday we had a look at the weather forecast and decided to climb Clisham . It had been over 40 years since Kalie had climbed it with her late husband Nigel. She had wanted to climb it today but the weather was perfect yesterday. It was a stunning 30 minute drive to our hill the island was looking stunning with huge skies and great visibility. As always the sea and beaches looked magnificent. We would loved to have climbed the full horseshoe but today it was to be a slow wander up to the Corbett summit. There were few cars in the car park and we wandered along by the river it’s very wet badly eroded and boggy ground. We stopped often to enjoy the views which were stunning. The path is easily lost here in places and soon we were onto the steep ground very rocky in places with scree and lots of rock. The Sky was huge and as we climbed with Islay Kalie’s wee dog always ahead we savoured the views. In winter this can be a steep winter climb.

Not today as once high on the rocky ridge we could see the whole Island and the mainland. In the distance was St Kilda a great sight a place I have huge memories off from past visits.

The view from the car park of Clisham

The Clisham is a mountain on Harris, on the island of Lewis and Harris in the Western Isles of Scotland. At 799 metres it is the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides and the archipelago’s only Corbett.

I was near the summit enjoying the views when I saw a pair of Eagles soar above. The final ridge is grand and the trig point summit is a rounded domed cairn. Thus us where we met two folk from Arran another Island I love. Her we sat to have lunch and it was then I noticed I had left the sandwiches in the fridge. It did not spoil the day though Kalie was very understanding as was Islay with my incompetences.

Kalie ahead .

We spend a long time in the sun at the top I went along the ridge to the other top.

We both loved the views and the peace and beauty of this place. I spotted the Colby Camp just off the ridge and took some photos.

Colby camp Clisham

Note – There is a ‘Colby’ camp, similar to that at Creach Bheinn (see NM85NE 2 for details) situated beside the primary triangulation pillar on Clisham, at NB 1548 0730. They are ruins of shelters, windbreaks etc on the summits of hills across the Highlands left by OS parties during the principal triangulation of Britain in the 19th century. Colby and his men lived for weeks on lots of mountains taking bearings to other summits when weather permitted. Hardy men

Other Colby Camps

On one trip Colby recce camp sites and triangulation stations over mountainous terrain. He is recorded as walking 586 miles in 22 days , including Sundays! The only summit he failed to reach was the Cuillin in Skye. SMC J 2013

Summit views

There was no rush to descend but we set off down the ridge picking a dryer line back to the car. We stopped often enjoying the heat and company. It was a superb day out and one to savour. The views the weather and of course a good scenery . Islay got a wash in the burn at the end of the day and the drive back was superb.

What a day another I and Kalie will never forget and the day was completed with a walk along the beach at sunset. Today brings a bit higher winds but still good weather we are so fortunate to be in Harris.

Happy Islay

I was often on the Island in my other job in the RAF as a Caterer where I came over regularly to Stornaway to work out the Daily Messing Rate for the RAF personell at Stornaway and Uig. I met so many local characters in those days. Looking back they were a great chance to meet folk.

I did not get much spare time to look about then. Also as a member of the RAF MRT we often came over to climb and walk. Looking back I have been very lucky. Sadly RAF Stornaway is shut now but many memories are still with me.

RAF Stornaway closed 31 March 1998

After sixteen years in this role and also the end of the Cold War, the station was finally closed on 31 March 1998 and reverted to Stornoway Airport.

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Friends, Islands, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

29 April 1990 The Shackelton aircraft crash on the Isle of Harris.

The Shackelton Crash Harris AEW MK2 WR965. 30thApril 1990 Grid reference NF 996914

I am in Harris just now having an incredible trip. I have been so lucky to walk and climb here over the years. It like all Islands has a magical feel about. The minute you leave the ferry you seem to enter another world.

I am here with a friend Kalie who has booked a lovely bothy near Scarisdale beach. Amazingly It is about 2 kilometres from where we were based for the Shackelton crash 30 years ago..

The Kinloss MRT in Harris

The RAF Mountain Rescue Service was formed during the Second World War to rescue aircrew from crashed aircraft in the mountains of the UK. To this day the 3 RAF Teams that still survive are still called to carry out some difficult recoveries of aircraft both Service and civilian in the mountains.

This is the sad story of this incident and the part played by the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team on the Island of Harris.

I go back to the 30 April 1990 Isle of Harris, it is still so clear in my thoughts.

It was a beautiful day at RAF Kinloss which is situated in Moray on the North East coast of Scotland. Unusually a lot of the Mountain Rescue Team had gathered in the crew room. It was just before lunch time when I was told on the phone by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) and there was a Shackelton aircraft missing from RAF Lossiemouth. It had been on a Training sortie from Lossiemouth and was last seen near Benbeculla, near the Isle of Harris on the West Coast of Scotland.

I was told a helicopter from Lossiemouth a Sea King would be at Kinloss in 10minutes and would take 10 of my team to the area. This is called a “fast party” a quick fast response to any incident. I was the Mountain Rescue Team Leader at Kinloss I had a very strong team on this incident.

In these circumstances 10 minutes is not long to prepare and the teams have a long established protocols to ensure we have the correct equipment to carry out any rescue. We managed to get to the aircraft pan ready for the Seaking Helicopter which landed rotors running and we were off!

In an aircraft crash information is coming in all the time, from the ARCC. As The Team Leader I was getting constant updates from the aircrew and passing the information on to the team members in the back of the noisy helicopter not easy.

In any incident the helicopter flies flat out on a Rescue the crew are in full on mode and as a Team Leader you are on a microphone direct to the crew.

This is especially true when it is an aircraft from their station at RAF Lossiemouth, nothing was spared. I was up front with the pilots and getting all the updates on my earpiece. There are so many things going on in your head as the Team Leader and you are very busy.

The flight to Harris was about 60 minutes and as we neared the last known position we were picking up the aircraft beacons in the helicopter which meant the aircraft in trouble and had possibly crashed. Due to the remoteness of the area I spoke to my control the ARCC and asked for the rest of the RAF Kinloss team to be sent immediately to assist.

As we neared the area the noise from the beacons was intense and we feared the worst. The crash had occurred near the village of Northton on a small hill called Maodal about 800 Feet above the sea. The only cloud in the whole of Scotland was over the crash site and the helicopter dropped us as near as they could to the incident.

It was like the scene from a horrific battlefield, a tangled mess of a once proud aircraft and the casualties,all fatal scattered around. These memories that still haunt me to this day. At times like these even in the middle of such carnage the Mountain Rescue Team has a job to do and we are all as professional, most of us had seen these sights before.

A few shocked locals had managed to get to the crash and were relieved to see us and leave the horror of such a place. There was very little chance of any survivors.

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

It was grim work but most of my team on the helicopter were veterans of such scenes.

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

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

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

Once the site had been visited later on by the Board of Enquiry the team received permission to remove all the casualties from the scene, a hard and difficult task. These are words that do not express what horror there is in such a place, yet all the team worked hard. The 10 fatalities was a hard job to do and move away from the scene. These were in the early days of PTSD and few in power will ever realise the effect a tragedy like this has on those who carried out this task. We were accommodated in the Harris Hotel in Tarbet if not up at the crash scene and they looked after us so well.

After 3 days on scene we handed over the crash site to an RAF Lossiemouth crash guard who were there for several weeks working with the investigation board.

Most of the team and vehicles’ flew out that day from Harris in a Hercules aircraft ahead of all the casualties who were in another aircraft.

This was a day I would never forget. We flew into Lossiemouth and drove through the camp for the short journey to Kinloss. The whole camp at Lossiemouth lined up as we drove through a very moving experience, waiting for their fallen comrades. It is still as clear as day in my eyes.

I will never forget that experience and then we had to go home to our families. Few spoke of what they had seen and done. It was our job.

The memorial

A few years later I revisited the crash site in Harris. The drive down was in driving rain but as we got nearer to Tarbet the weather cleared to bright sunshine and the hills had a smattering of snow. As we got nearer to the site the sun, blue seas, surf and clear sandy beaches made this a sad but beautiful place to be. Though the hill is only small by mountaineering standards, it’sfairly steep as it starts from sea-level. Memories came flashing back of the accident and even the superb beauty of this special place made it a difficult wee walk.

Nature has as usual sorted things out and the scars on the hill are covered by heather and peat, occasional bits of wire and small pieces of metal remain of a fairly large aircraft.

The memorial on the top commemorates the crew of the Shackelton “Dylan” and details of the aircraft with the words”We Will Never Forget” inscribed on a memorial on the summit.

It faces West the inscription is getting the worse of the weather and may need replaced within the next few years. I have been back fairly often it is another part of my life that few understand. The views from the hill are very healing with the wildness of the area that makes this place so special and a place we should never forget.

This is what I wrote on my last visit. “On the summit the views were immense, unsurpassed with unique Island scenery of wild open stunning beaches, mountains and the sea and the fresh snow enhancing everything.

After spending some time on the top, with the wind it was fairly cold, we left that beautiful, though sad place, with a wee prayer for the crew and wondering how many people know of this place?”

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

Thanks to all, from all of us.

Footnote;

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

“Lest We Forget”    

David Heavy Whalley MBE BEM

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

Wing Commander Stephen Roncoroni

Wing Commander Chas Wrighton 

Flying Officer Colin Burns 

Squadron Leader Jerry Lane 

Flight Lieutenant Al Campbell 

Flight Lieutenant Keith Forbes

Master Air Electronics Operator Roger Scutt

Flight Sergeant Rick Ricketts 

Sergeant Graham Miller 

Corporal Stuart Bolton

Today 23 Sept 2020 I will pay my respects by walking up to the memorial with Kalie the forecast is good so it should be a memorable day. I was supposed to come over for the 30 th Anniversary in April this year but Covid sadly stopped it. Today I will remember the crew and all those involved in the recovery .

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

The Isle of Harris a trip down memory lane ?

I am so lucky just now I am in Harris the weather yesterday was perfect. We left the day before and had a superb night in Dunvegan then on to the Ferry at Uig next day. The drive from home was magical with the West Coast blue skies and the sun. I am over with a friend Kalie and her dog Islay.

Kintail.

Our trip tonight Skye was superb the ridge clear and we had a great night in Dunvegan in the Bed and Breakfast. We stopped often for a walk with Islay and the Skye ridge was looking superb.

Kalie and Islay Sgur na Gillean in the back ground.

We were away early next day to the ferry the haar was down and cobwebs were out on the gorse. I find it’s pretty unusual this but I always see it in these conditions.

Cobwebs

The ferry was strange surreal with everyone masked up all the time. Very busy with places pre – booked. We got a cup of tea on board and the journey was in the fog till we arrived on Harris. The sun was up, we stopped at The Harris Gin shop at Tarbet. It was then a great day in Harris visiting so many incredible places . The wild open beaches and the sea with few folk about were wonderful.

Busy beach?

The sun was out some haar came back but we just wanders all over enjoying the freedom. I love the huge sand dunes and beaches, the noise of the waves the stunning changeable views. The Island is a Geologists dream with so much rock about I love the shapes and colours each on unique.

Rose granite.

I had been to Harris many times but always to walk or climb. I sadly was here as Tram Leader of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in 1990 when the RAF Shackelton aircraft crashed killing all 10 of the crew. It was a hard time we were here for three days and the team did a sad but essential job . I will write about that during my stay. It crashed on a small hill called Maodal just above Sgarasta Bheag. This is only 3 kilometres from the crash on Maodal. Kalie has been here several times and did not know about the crash here. We will visit it though as it has a memorial on it. I will visit during my stay and pay my respects.

The hill Maodal and where we are staying

La’al Bothy | Self Catering Cottage Isle of Harris is where We arrived at our lovely wee house, it is perfect a short wander to the endless sandy beach at Scarasta and watched the sunset and listened to the waves.

Kalie loves it here as I do what a stunning few days already. On the sand we saw this lovely flower as we wandered back, living in such a wild place.

European sea rocket.
Posted in Aircraft incidents, Bothies, Enviroment, Friends, Islands, Mountaineering, People, Plants, Rock Climbing, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

1987 – Edinburgh Castle in “days of yore” training with the Fire Service with Troll.

This photo is of a training day with the fire service and with Troll who made climbing harnesses and other safety equipment. We had been asked by I think Dave Alcock the “Troll guru”of his era to show the Edinburgh fire Service cliff extraction. The late Al MacLeod is in the photo. Sadly Al one of my closest pals was killed on the North Face of the Matterhorn. He was such an incredible man.

Looking back it’s amazing that we were at that time acknowledged as experts in our field. We advised and worked with many organisations.

At that time as we had done over the years teams had been using minimum equipment on call outs over the years. 500 foot ropes and figures of eight descenders were the simple gear then. Doing serious rescues in Skye and other areas we had learned to adapt to what we had with us at the time. Also how many folk we had to carry the gear.

Nowadays things are very different with all the crag gear available and it’s a lot safer. Yet depending on the weather often you have carry all the gear to an incident. Two lowering ropes, crag gear all the latest gadgets. A stretcher, first aid kit, casualty bag and your own gear it was never easy . Hamish helped by making a folding stretcher that could’ve used on on the crags.

As we climbed a lot then we came across many accidents in the cliffs and had to lower folk to safer ground with what we had. Climbing ropes were often used as were body belays on steep grass.

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Far North Aircraft crashes Part 2 – Cranstakie Corbett the Mosquito and Ben Loyal Hampden the local heroes who saved a life.

Beinn Spionnaidh is the northernmost peak in Britain over 2500 feet. A whaleback ridge of quartzite scree, it offers unique views of the north coast.It’s neighbour another Corbett Cranstackie is a mountain of 801 m in Sutherland, the northwestern tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located west of Loch Eriboll and northeast of Foinaven. Like Foinaven and Beinn Spionnaidh to the northeast, its top is covered with loose, broken quartzite. On this hill is the wreckage of a de Havilland Mosquito Mk.IV DZ486 of No.618 Squadron, RAF, crashed on Cranstackie NC 350560 at 2000 feet near Durness on the 5th April 1943 while on a bombing exercise from Skitten Mosquito DZ486 – Flew into hill while on a bombing exercise .The aircraft is reported to have flown over Durness and Balnakeil before turning south and flying down the glen towards Cranstackie. 5.4.1943

Cranstakie Mosuito crash site 2000.

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

Ben Loyal known as the Queen of Scottish Mountaindis an isolated mountain of 764 m in Sutherland, the northwestern tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located south of the Kyle of Tongue and offers good views of the Kyle, Loch Loyal to the east, and Ben Hope to the west.Ben Loyal has the remains of an Hampden aircraft that crashed on the mountain in 1943. Grid Ref NC 583498 Sgor Chaonasaid at 1600 feet.The aircraft is a Handley Page Hampden, Serial No: P2118 Unit Codes: Z9-D Squadron: 519sqn Crash Date: 25.08.43 Based: Wick Crew:

Pilot; Flt Lt H. Puplett DFC,Navigator: F/O G. Richie,Radio Operator/Air Gunner:F/O C. Faulks Air Gunner:Sgt T Hudson-Bell

F/O Faulks was the only survivor when the aircraft flew into the side of Sgor Chaonasaid, the highest point in the Ben Loyal range. The aircraft was returning to Wick from an aborted search for missing Hampden P5334 when it flew into the hillside in a thunderstorm just before midnight on 25th August 1943. The rescue party arrived Ribigill a large farm house between Tongue and Ben Loyal, the rescue party were led by shepherd Mr E Campbell and Dr F Y McHendrick. The survivor was strapped to a piece of aircraft wreckage and carried him down from the mountain. after a long trip by horse and cart he was taken by RAF ambulance to Golspie’s Lawson County Hospital about forty miles away. He arrived there some 15 hours after the crash and was found to have very serious injuries including a broken right leg, a smashed up left foot and severe facial injuries and was initially not expected to live. Having spent some 18 months in hospital he rejoined his squadron taking up a ground-based role but was keen to be in the air again. He flew again before the War ended. Shepherd Eric Campbell and Dr Fowler Yates McKendrick M.B. Ch.B were both awarded the British Empire Medal for their rescue attempt on that night (Gazetted 3rd December 1943. In all they made six trips up and down to the aircraft that night, recovering the injured man and the bodies of his comrades. Dr McHendrick was also praised for his efforts in keeping F/O Faulks alive as they removed him to safety.

Ben Loyal wreckage photo Stuart McPhail

Aircraft Wrecks: The Walker’s Guide: Historic Crash Sites on the Moors and Mountains of the British Isles.

More info:

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.

Reference http://www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk/aircraft/scotland/p2118.htm

www.bbc.co.uk › history › storiesWW2 People’s War – A Lucky Escape – BBC

Please if visiting these crash sites treat them with respect. Young men lost their lives here.

Lest we forget.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Corbetts, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides | Leave a comment

Far North Aircraft Crashes. Ben More Assynt Conival and Ben Klibreck – Munros with a sad tale.

I was up in the far North last week on Ben Hee the views of the distant Northern hills were exceptional. It is an incredible place with stunning mountains each have there own history and tales. A few of the hills have aircraft crashes from the Second World War on them. From this summit I could see a few mountains many with tales of those who gave so much. Few folk know they exist but you can add to a hill day by visiting these poignant places where so many gave their lives for us.

Ben More Assynt and Conival has an Anson crash that I have written about on my blog. It is on the locally known Aeroplane flats and is one of the sites that the crew were buried on site. There used to be a stunning cross marking the site but this was sadly falling apart and was replaced after a huge effort by the War Graves Commission.

The story of the crash site the story of this aircraft and its crew it is a reminder to those who gave so much. The crash site is a moving place at over 2000 feet high on Imir Fada near Ben More Assynt it is in a remote area about 5 miles from the nearest road.

This was a visit to the Anson Crash Memorial now replaced. The cross was a powerful reminder of those who gave their lives for us, Avro Anson  N9857  from 19 OTU RAF Kinloss Map reference NC 295224



On the 13th April 1941 an Anson aircraft from RAF Kinloss on a cross country training flight crashed near Ben More Assynt in the North West Highlands at Inchnadampth above Ullapool. The aircraft had taken off from Kinloss in less than ideal weather to follow a route via Oban, Stornaway and Cape Wrath before returning to Kinloss. The aircraft had completed the first two legs of its flight and reported passing Stornaway in icing conditions around this time the aircraft’s port engine lost power and failed. Sometime after this having either flown onto Cape Wrath or turning for base near Stornaway the aircraft flew into high ground in near white out conditions to the North East of Inchnadamph.  The aircraft was reported overdue at Kinloss and an air search was initiated but this failed to locate the missing aircraft, it wasn’t until the 25th May that the aircraft was located by a shepherd. All six of the crew were killed. The crash site is the only site in Scotland where the crew are buried at the crash site.

Flying Officer JH Steyn DFC.  Pilot

Pilot Officer WE Drew.             Observer/ Instructor

Sergeant J Emery.                      Wireless operator gunner

Flight Sergeant T R Kenny.       Wireless Operator

Sergeant CM Mitchell.              Observer Pupil

Sergeant HA Tompsett. .           Wireless operator gunner.

The new Memorial.

Ben Kilbreck

1955 March – Vampire Crash  – Ben Klibreck

In the past I have extended a day on Ben Klibreck 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

The Ben Kilbreck Memorial

Sadly both crew died –

Gaelic spelling of Klibreck

Lt Peter Leslie Beers aged 24

Lt John Knight aged 23

Lest We Forget

Please if you visit these sites treat with the upmost respect and have a few thoughts for those who gave their young lives for us.

Tomorrow blog RAF de Havilland Mosquito, Cranstackie, crash date 05/04/43 Ben Loyal Hampden crash

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros | 2 Comments

I learned about Mountaineering from that?

I was looking back on a incident that I was involved a while ago. A solo walker left very early from Glasgow area to climb a Munro in February in the West Coast .

He reached the summit did his usual text to his family and stated he was heading down back to his car. The weather came in on his descent and he was in cloud and snow and found had made an 180 degree mistake leaving the summit which took him down into a remote Glen on the West Coast. There are few houses there no phone signal and he managed to get a lift by a passing local to a path that should take him back over the hill.

On his way on the path the weather came in again time was moving and he discovered he had left his gloves in the car. )He only had that pair with him)By now it was getting dark his hands were frozen and unusable when he needed them to use his compass and torch. I was told when he reached the ridge at 3000 ft he could not use his compass or torch and the weather was full on winter conditions.

Having no torch it was now nightfall he was on steep winter ground with cliffs stumbled and fell down the hill. That is the last he remembers. His family phoned the Police when he never called to say he was off the hill and were worried. He had left a route and the local Police located the car.

Due to the information a search was started that night and a the local team and SARDA did a search in wild winter conditions. Extra MRT teams were called in for a first light search. The casualty was located in the Glen early next morning about a mile from the road next to the river bank unconscious in a bad way. He was located near the river bank another foot and he would have been in the river. He was wearing dark clothing it was a great spot by the teams going into there search areas.

I thought that day there was little chance of his survival as he had such a poor pulse etc. There was little we could do try to keep him warm and we got a quick helicopter evacuation that helped save his life.He recovered fully and is alive and well after spending time in hospital.

It’s worth looking back and learning from incidents . I feel there are many lessons from this incident. In my view – He was saved as he had a great back up system: his family knew what hill he was on and his route. He always texted or called when possible on the summit and when he was back at the car. He had kept up the system for nearly 200 Munro’s over many years. The family were great as when he never called in they called the Police.

Points to note

As series of small mistakes added to what happened they built up as the day progressed.

Things went wrong when he took the wrong bearing ( always double check your bearing) especially if on your own.

He left his gloves in the vechile easily done always carry a spare pair especially in winter. When you lose your gloves in winter you use the use of your hands it is nearly impossible to navigate or use your torch.

Bright clothing is so effective if your wearing it on a search a Black and Green jacket maybe environmental friendly but hard to spot in a search if your huddled down or injured .

A few mistakes can cost a lot worth a few thoughts.

Great effort by all involved.

http://www.mountaineering.scot.com has superb advice on mountain safety. Well worth a read

Comments welcome .

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

1972 – First time on Tower Ridge Ben Nevis .

I had written this a few years ago and it was tidied up by a pal for the RAF MRT newsletter, its worth a look?

Forty- eight years ago, I climbed Tower Ridge for the first time. It was September 1972. I was a young lad in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in Morayshire, Scotland, a very young nineteen-year old. We had driven through the night and were up at the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis to search for three missing Royal Navy climbers who had not returned from a day out on one of Scotland’s finest ridges.

Tower Ridge

The RAF Mountain Rescue Service have a particular remit for the search and rescue of military personnel. In any case, for any big searches in these days, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team called in the assistance of the RAF teams – as at times they still do even today. This was in the days before mobile phones and lightweight VHF communications. I had only been in the Kinloss Team for under a year at the time and the drive down the Great Glen through the night to assist was exciting. I was to have many epics on this road in the years to come. We arrived at the police station in the early hours and were given a brew and a briefing.

The Police and Lochaber MRT had access to a snow-track vehicle in those days. The path to the CIC Hut could be swampy, but with the aid of the snow cat we managed to get fifty searchers to the hut at first light. The three climbers, from HMS Cochrane (Rosyth) had left the CIC hut where they were staying to climb Tower Ridge via the Douglas Boulder. I later found out they were also doing some work on an antenna on the Ben. They were found below the ridge in the basin near Gardh Gully, by the Lochaber Team if I remember rightly. Unfortunately, all were killed, found still roped together after a fall from the ridge, lying in the scree. We all helped to evacuate them to the CIC Hut below the North Face. It took all of us to move them. There were few helicopters those days, and, even though it’s a short carry, it was hard work. 

It was a real tragedy, a hard introduction to the world of mountain rescue for a young lad. In those days young members were expected to assist with everything. I helped load a young lad onto the stretcher. Lochaber MRT, as now, was full of incredible characters and a few were ex-RAF who had settled in the area, usually due to falling for a local lassie. They were a hard bunch but looked after you, as did many of our team.

It was one of my first tragedies on the Ben – a place I was to see on many more occasions. Once we had handed the stretchers over to the snow-cat at the CIC Hut, John Hinde was asked by the Police to investigate what may have happened. John Hinde was, even in these days, a legend in mountain rescue. I was asked (no one else fancied it) if I would climb Tower Ridge with John and Michael Rabbit (AKA “Bugs”), both of whom were very experienced mountaineers.

It’s hard to remember everything but it was a wet day, I’d never climbed Tower Ridge before. We more or less climbed up West Gully – not the usual way up the famous ridge. It was wet and greasy and always in my young mind was that three climbers had just been killed on this climb. 

Tower Ridge, rated a 2000-foot “Difficult” climb, was first climbed in 1892. It was first descended, not ascended! The first down-climbers were J. E. and B. Hopkins on 3 September 1892. They had ascended as far as the Great Tower the previous day. The first actual ascent was by Norman Collie, Godfrey Solly and J. Collier on 29 March 1894. This is the classic route on the North East face of the Ben, a true alpine day in summer or winter. It remains the most popular climb on the mountain. It has two cruxes: the Great Tower and Tower Gap. It can be excitingin the wind and rain. Never to be underestimated, in my view.As W. H. Murray states, 

“Tower Ridge is the pre-eminent example of a mainly moderate route that must be classic by virtue of its big cliff environment, its own great length, its clean sound rock, and the grand scale of its architecture. Whatever more ambitious plans one has on Ben Nevis, Tower Ridge is the first essential climb for the man or women who wants to know the mountain.”

We scrambled up unroped. The gully was loose and wet. I had just climbed Savage Slit in the Cairngorms the week before and felt I was ready for such a long climb. John was wandering all over, looking for signs of the accident. This is where all three had fallen from, roped together. He surmised that they were moving together when someone had slipped. The weather had been fine, yet the rock was greasy and wet, so you needed to take care.

John was a leading light in Mountain Rescue at the time,and very interested in mountain safety. He always analysed the accidents that he went to. He worked very closely with Ben Humble, the SMC Mountain Rescue Statistician at the time, and later became the SMC statistician himself, after Ben passed away.  John had noticed that two of the casualties were wearing normal military boots and this may have not helped. They can be slippery on damp rock. 

We will never know what exactly happened, but I was a very careful young lad moving along the ridge. It was a long day.

On every bit, even the easy parts, I took my time. I was certainly a bit in awe of the famous Tower Gap, especially as the mist came down. We moved together most of the time along the ridge, John showing the key belays, guarding me on the tricky bits. The Eastern Traverse, just a path in summer, and the Chock stone – then up onto the Great Tower. How tricky it can be there in winter! I learnt a lot that day from two incredible mentors, particularly how easy it is to have a slip or trip. I took extra care all the way, as one would expect after such an introduction to such a special place. I had taken no sleep the night before, and it was a long day for a young lad, yet I kept going, and was even given the rope to carry off – but only after we had climbed to the summit. “Look well to each step” is a great quote, so apt even today.

John Hinde

We were many hours behind the team, which had left to return to camp straight after the casualties were handed over to the police. There was little chat as we headed back to Torlundy to our Land Rover. That is how we dealt with trauma then.Those were the days when few spoke about these things, but, unknown to us, they were buried in the mind. After that call out I developed psoriasis, which was to be with me all my life. I am sure the trauma of these early callouts had something to do with this awful skin disease.

As the day ended, I lagged behind a bit, in my own world after a difficult experience. There was no food, not even a cup of tea, just a three-hour drive back to the base. Gear was very basic in these days and mine was wet, but I was soon asleep in the back of the vehicle. We arrived back at Kinloss late in the evening, very tired. It had been some day. 

In the Gap

On my return to work the next day, I was asked by my boss if I had enjoyed my day off.  He said that I would be working the next weekend to make up my “time off”!

I have many memories of this climb. Despite this tragic event, for many years I was to climb Tower Ridge with new team members, giving many an introduction to this incredible mountain. I have climbed it over twenty times in summer, yet still always seem to manage to wander off route, even on the most lovely summers day. “Follow the crampon marks” is the best tip. I have managed the classic four Ben ridges in summer in a long day. I’ve also done about ten winter ascents of Tower Ridge. That is a very different proposition. I have waited near the gap for many of the young Troops on their first mountain lead. As the wind howls through the gap it’s imposing. It is, as they say, “only a Diff,” but on a bad day looks horrific. On a few rescues in the past we have climbed down to the gap from the summit ridge. Yet what a climb, what joy you have climbing it, what views, and what a place to be. Another great climb to savour, but never take it for granted, or those you climb with.

I have climbed Tower Ridge on many occasions yet that first time will forever be on my memory .

The famous Tower Gap photo Lossiemouth MRT .
Posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

What do we love about Mountains and wild places.

I get asked so often “why do you go on the mountains often by folk. A day on the hills would be the last thing that some would want to do. “There is the well known reply “because it’s there” yet there is so much more than that. I love listening reading to why folk love these places. I did worry that in these days of so much that’s competitive in life of what the mountains were becoming? To me this sums it up “The mountains are not a gymnasium for your egos”

I was lucky to be out with pals up in the North we are all lovers of the hills and wild places. All day we saw no one just the hills. We are all of a certain age ( old) but it was great listening to some of their thoughts.

Here are some of my thoughts. Why do we go?

We love the space especially the solitude of these wonderful mountains. We love the ever changing skies the colours the “Bigness” of them.

Space

We love the changes in colours of the grasses the plants as the seasons move on. We love how plants can live and thrive in such hostile environments. We love looking into the wild corries the jumble of rocks, the cliffs and the lochans. (We missed all this recently with Covid )

The Bog Asphel is stunning just now.

We love seeing the wild life, the deer the birds soaring above. We love the company of like minded folk. We love we no longer have to rush up these hills. We love that we can enjoy the day and take time to look and grasp where we are. We love that we can still slowly get to a summit and can appreciate the views. We love the feel of the rock the changing types the roughness the colours.

We love we live near the hills and can be there in a short time . We love the feel of the wind and weather as it changes. We love the “craic” on and after a great day.

We love that despite lifes ups and downs we get great joy from the best medicine there is being out on the hills.

We love the feeling of being naturally tired and despite the aching body the simple joy a “Stravaig” can bring! ( Stravaig wander about aimlessly)

We love the nights spent in Bothies and tents the conversations and the fellowship of the mountains.

We love planning the next adventure despite our age. We love telling our exaggerated tales to our kids and Grandkids hopefully kindling a love of why we go and one day they will join us.

Great companions

We love mountain folk, mountain memories and mountain dreams.

Any ideas what this is.

We just love it as it makes us feel so good.

What do you love about the hills and wild places ?

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Corbetts, Family, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 6 Comments

Heading North for Ben Hee 873 metres – “The Fairy Hill“

Ben Hee – The Corbett Almanac

I am hopefully heading North its a 2 and a half hour drive up to Merknd Lodge, my plan Ben Hee 873 metres “The fairy hill”. which appears to be a fairly rounded hill from the A838 road – has some wild hidden corries (I hope to get a view of them on this trip) . Especially it’s steeper slopes on its eastern and northern sides. It gives a reasonably straightforward hill walk – revealing spectacular views.” I am lucky to have climbed this hill twice before usually with other hills.

Ben Hee.

https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/heading-scottish-hills-stalking-area-tables?fbclid=IwAR176yEvLQBhj6oqSBrKVNDuot8c-xmeo5LMm7RYOG25RKwih5cH-cyM7Xk

Its worth have a look at the Stalking that may be going on in the area if your planning hill days.

Todays tip – Checked out torch and batteries and weather forecast.

British Mountain Summary:
Based on forecast chart for noon 6 September, 2020
Headline for The Northwest Highlands
Chilly. Mainly dry, winds fairly light. Cloud breaks.

Posted in Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 2 Comments

As hill records Tumble ?

Tranters Round.

Many years ago I met the late Blyth Wright who at that time he was one of the “Glenmore Lodge Mafia”. At that time I was very interested in Avalanches having been unfortunately involved in a few. We met fairly often and Blyth was also interested in long hill days. He was a good friend of the late Phil Tranter who was the man behind “Tranters Round in Lochaber”. He told me some great tales of big days like the both Clunnies at Kintail North and South in a day. The RAF Teams were heavily involved in some of the Big Walks across Scotland in the 60’s and 70’s and they were good conversation starters away from the climbing and Avalanche tales. It gave me an insight into these incredible mountain days. Nowadays we have the Ramsay Round an incredible day adding extra Munro’s to Tranters Round . It was great to hear of how some of these days were planned and the simple gear they wore. In the RAF Teams we did some big days to us training but compared to today we only scratched the surface. In the RAF Mountain Rescue we met many of the top fell runners of these early years. In these days there were only a few then. Most were incredible fit runners taking their sport to another level. There were not many about in these days and when I moved to Wales I ran the 14 Peaks a few times saw the growth in running in the mountains. It was the same in the Lakes the Bob Graham Round and others. It opened my eyes to the sport and we often assisted in marshalling some of the races. In these early days there was some criticism of hill running but I always had a huge admiration for those involved in moving fast and light over the mountains.

Phil Tranter photo Blyth Wright

Many will have noticed in the National Media a few recent headlines regarding record breaking runs.

“Ramsay Round record 14h 42m 40s yesterday (solo / unsupported)

Finlay Wild

Ramsay Round.The Ramsay Round, also known as the Charlie Ramsay Round, is a long-distance running challenge near Fort William, Scotland. The route is a circuit of 58 miles, including 24 summits with a total climb of some 28,500ft (8686m). It includes Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak, along with 22 other Munros. Originally, all 24 summits on the Ramsay Round were Munros, but Sgorr an Iubhair was reclassified in 1997. The route was devised by Charlie Ramsay as an extension to an existing 24-hour walking route, and first completed by Charlie on July 9, 1978.

Donnie Campbell – 32 Days to do all the Munros !

Donnie Campbell #MunroRound Day 32⁣ 10; Am Faochagach, Cona’ Mheall, Beinn Dearg, Meall nan Ceapraichean, Eididh nan Clach Geala, Seana Bhraigh, Ben More Assynt, Conival, Ben Klibreck, Ben Hope ⁣

⁣Total 282⁣ “ Job Done 31 days 23 hours 2min! #TimeToSleep⁣

⁣Incredible times ?

It was great to hear of how some of these days were planned and the simple gear they wore. In the RAF Teams we did some big days to us training but compared to today we only scratched the surface. In the RAF Mountain Rescue we met many of the top fell runners of these early years. In these days there were only a few then. Most were incredible fit runners taking their sport to another level. There were not many about in these days and when I moved to Wales I ran the 14 Peaks a few times saw the growth in running in the mountains. It was the same in the Lakes the Bob Graham Round and others. It opened my eyes to the sport and we often assisted in marshalling some of the races. In these early days there was some criticism of hill running but I always had a huge admiration for those involved in moving fast and light over the mountains.

Occasionally as in any extreme sport there may be an accident but these were few and most hill runners were so self sufficient you could not help but be impressed by them.

The press rarely understood what was going on and as the records fell mainly to no accolade in the media eventually the sport become a lot more popular. The new media outlets helped increase the popularity of extreme running. Technical days like the Skye ridge are now often run and huge distances Munro’s records are shattered.

What used to be a mainly male sport now is incredibly mixed with great feats done by both sexes. What a great example to all sports! It is a great example.

To watch a runner move fast over the hills is a wonderful sight. I was never much of a runner but managed a few great hill days light and slow over the hills. I often found the best way to run was alone with my dog when I was away from Mountain Rescue. Even at my speed it was the way to travel.Nowadays the gear from the footwear to the clothing is specialised a far cry from these early days. It’s now a popular way to enjoy the mountains with World class events held all over the Uk.

Yet in the past most Highland villages had a hill race of some type many are still going. Many were part of the local Highland games its a sport with history. It’s a sport that has been going for many years and looking back I wonder what Phil Tranter would make of these incredible hill days and times today ? So no matter if it’s just a run up your local hill or some mammoth hill day chasing your dreams. Have a look at the records that are being smashed just now. Times may have improved but the heart and soul of those at all levels who run on the mountains remain the same.

There have been some super books on the subject of Hill running some written recently well worth a read. Safety seems to have improved gone are the days when along with Lochaber MRT we assisted in the Ben Nevis Race a few times in the 70’s having lots of casualties. I remember doing safety cover for the Ben Race, The Cairngorm Race, The Mamores and the Glamaig hill race in Skye. There were many more throughout Scotland.

I envy those who run on the hills now but always think back to those carefree days with the dog. I will continue to read especially nowadays about these incredible running adventures of new feats, times and be amazed at the endurance and fitness of these incredible athletes.

A great read.

Remember that when out alone a broken ankle can stop the fittest. Be careful have some lightweight gear in reserve and tell someone of your plans. Safe running.

Comments as always welcome

Manny Gorman – The Corbett Round.

In my life I have been so lucky to meet some amazing people and Manny Gorman is one of them. I went to a lecture in Boat of Garten near Aviemore and I met Manny he was talking about his incredible trip “The Corbett’s in 70 days. I had met him before on the hill and as hill runner and he is one of its celebrities, they are unassuming men and women with no egos. Today’s sports superstars could learn from these people. “Manny “is of a breed of these unknown athletes, he is a passionate hill runner and he is one of the finest amongst this unique band of people. They are very private people, they are a “family” and this book gives an insight into this incredible sport, their life, the pain, the suffering but the joy of moving fast through wild land.

The Corbett Round

For more information

https://www.ramsaysround.co.uk/

View Post

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-53999465

https://www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk/

‘Feet in the clouds’ by Richard Askwith is a good read too, based around the history and his obsession with fell running.

Posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Hill running and huge days!, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

June 1960 – TD Gap call – out. No helicopters then? The way it was? Respect as they came off the hill.

5 June 1960 – Three climbers set off from Loch Scavaig by boat intending to return by the Dubhs all had been in the Cuillin before. The weather was perfect and the rock dry. The weather broke at about 6 pm when they were near Sgurr Dubh na Da Bheinn but they decided to continue. They reached the Thearlaich Dubh Gap at 8 pm the rock was slippy the leader attempted the chimney pitch. Roped up the leader fell above the first chockstone whilst putting in a runner, he fell back wards injuring his head. He died about 2 hours later. One of the other tried to climb out onto the wall on the Dubh side, he also slipped but was held by the third man. They spent the night in the gap and were found by a party doing the main ridge. They were helped down to Corrie a’ Ghrundha. They met an advanced party of RAF Kinloss MRT who had been alerted. Body brought down to Glen Brittle. SMC Journal 1961

The belay failure mentioned I would imagine means the runner that was being placed. RAF Kinoss Archives

From RAF Kinloss MRT Archives 6 June 1960 – “Three climbers fell in TD Gap.  1 fatal and 2 with minor injuries.  500ft ropes used for lower.” In these days it was a long way to Skye from RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. There was no Bridge at Inverness and Skye and the roads would be very tight. It was a 7 hour drive before they got on the hill. Carrying a Stretcher, ropes, medical kit and gear by a small team to one of the most awkward places in Skye would be a serious proposition.

The descent with the casualty into the gully would be very loose and dangerous not the place to be. Yet this was accepted as part of the risks of Mountain Rescue in these days pre – helicopter. Then the long carry off to Glen brittle on awkward ground again by a small team. Most would have been National Servicemen on short tours. National Service ended in 1960, though periods of deferred service still had to be completed. The last national servicemen were discharged in 1963.

From The Cuillin Ridge Light “the ThearlaichDubh Gap This is an awkward severe grade climb with a fearsome reputation and is probably the hardest climb on the ridge.” Adrian Trendall

1960 RAF Kinloss archives – TD Gap lower

Mountain Rescue even in the 60’s was pretty basic, if you look at this photo of Skye on the famous TD Gap. The team are using 500 foot ropes and are actually using 2 ropes on the stretcher, there were no helmets then issued and no one is wearing them. Flat caps were the normal attire.

We followed in the footsteps of giants.

From Ray Sefton who was on the Call out “

This was a very long day and night. I was there. In those days the team were issued with Tricouni nailed boots, that sparked all the time and made climbing more difficult on Skye.
The memory of the actions and respect by the farmers remains with me.”

Posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 4 Comments

Classic gear / Rucksacks various The Cuillin Rucksack made by Scottish Mountain Gear. Karrimor Outward Bound, Joe Brown, Troll, Mac, Pod, etc.

Who remembers this rucksack (above) what a great bit of kit. I am sure it was made of a design of Murray Hamilton one of the top climbers of his day

From a pal – Was that the one made by Scottish Mountain Gear? They’re still going. https://www.cuillinsacs.com/

In the team this was my first issued rucksack a very simple canvas bag with simple metal buckles leather and canvas straps no padding. We never carried that much and if you had the rope it went on the top. They wore well and lasted years I am sure they were just made for the RAF Teams?

1972 – Beinn Fhada or Beinn Attow with my issue sack. Stu MacKenzie with me sitting down with rope. A no frills rucksack!

The next Rucksack I remember was the Karrimor Outward bound. A very basic canvas bag with two pockets attached . No padding again even on the straps.

Jim Morning on Conival with the Karrimor Outward Bound Rucksack!

There was a huge range of Karrimor rucksacks around back 70’s then and this Outward Bound version was designed specifically for that market; simple, hard wearing and well priced.

After this I think we had the Troll rucksack issued. In bright Red with no pockets apart from on the top it was a hard wearing hill bag. The photo below is of the late Big Al McLeod on the North Face of the Eiger. Photo Ted Atkins.

The Red Troll Rucksack on the North Face of the Eiger a good climbing sack.

I bought so many rucksacks, I loved my MACPACK made in New Zealand it was great for expeditions but I lent it to someone never saw it again.

I am sure this is the MACPACK in use to Spantik in Pakistan.

The classic Joe Brown, the Haston Alpiniste were other rucksacks that I bought nowadays I never carry that much gear and even my hill bags are as light as possible and I like the bright colours. Others I have used the Pod, Hot Ice and many others.

Light, bright sack !

Comment D. WALKER

My original canvas Karrimore Alpenist lasted for years, replaced with the more modern one with plastic clip buckles in the 80s, however technological improvements in fabrics and back support soon overtook it.
The Troll, Trolltind made larger for MR was a great and simple climbing bag. With only the pocket in the lid it couldn’t have been more streamlined.

 Peter Weatherill, was it you that persuaded Troll to enlarge the bag for MR.?

Wee hill bags KMRT Photo

Posted in Equipment, Mountaineering | 6 Comments

Change of plan Portsoy – Fields of Gold, Redhythe, rock climbing and lots Dolphins.

Fields of Gold.

It had been a long time coming but we had an old pal back up Rhys and we had a day on the Cairngorms planned rock climbing. Dan my best pal was free so I was looking forward to a fun day.

On the short walk in. Old man carries the rope?

The forecast had changed overnight and the Cairngorms looked wet so we had a change of plan and headed for the Coast. ( Top tip keep checking the weather forecasts.) This was hopefully to miss the bad weather and the dreaded midges.

It’s a short drive to our wee fun crag near Portsoy and just what I needed today. Portsoy is a small fishing town on the North East Coast. We had not been here for a while and had to chase the memory of the way to the cliffs. “You pass the Jehovah’s Witness church” a good Landmark and park by the cliffs down a small track.

The Coastal path is fairly quiet and there is a car park at the end of the track. The fields nearby are stunning just now a ripened gold and as you pass the old concrete building on the coastal path its an old wartime look-out post. As you get near to our wee crag the views are excellent. It’s a magical coast and the crag is covered in stunning yellow lichen it looks so friendly. The wild life especially the Cormorants and the sea cliffs tumbling to the sea make this a special place. It’s never a busy cliff and I have rarely seen other climbers here. Grid NJ 575672


From UKC Crag features

“A pleasant low grade venue, with some very soft grading. The rock is not perfect, but is sound enough. A good place to solo.” Tidal

From Scottish Climbs.com Redhythe Point

Near the town of Portsoy on the Moray coast, Redhythe Point is a very good crag for those getting into leading, as well as providing sport for the more competent. Although partly tidal, many routes can still be climbed throughout the day. More like quartzite than sandstone

Covered in the 2003 NE outcrops guide

The Stack provides a few clean climbs, although the main point of interest is the crossing of the narrow channel separating it from the main crag. It also provides a good deep-water solo traverse at high tide mark above the channel.

Directions & Approach

On the west side of town, follow the signs to the sea level swimming pool (now defunct – ask a local)and park in the large parking area. Walk west along the coast until you arrive at an abandoned target shelter, then bear right along a vague path to the top of the crag – 15 mins.”

It was just a fun few hours easy routes by the sea the tide was in and apart from the friability of the odd holds it’s a grand place to be. We set up a short abseil rope and roped down to the ledges. The weather was great and I told of the day when the Dolphins chased the mackerel into this Geo and had a lunch as we climbed in the sun!

The wee abseil

Not climbing for a while it’s “Always worth checking each other no matter how experienced you think you are”. Skill fade is a forgotten danger to many of us who do not climb regularly.

At the belay

We climbed about 5 short routes it’s amazing how rusty you are. Also how careful you have to be checking each other’s harness and on the abseil Dan keeping us aware as he does. We had lots of stories and even the odd folk song as we climbed . It was so good to be back on the rock great fun and a lovely break for me despite having to carry a rope in.

Dan the man !

The crag is covered in yellow lichen on the cliffs is stunning “Yellow scales, also called Shore Lichen, (Xanthoria parietina), lichen species characterized by lobed margins and a wrinkled centre. It is usually found where the air is filled with mineral salts, especially near the sea and on rocksand walls.”

Old man on the yellow rock.

We had some great craic more tales and plans for future days.

Great craic

As we had a break for lunch we had a superb display of the local Dolphins that made our day. They were jumping out of the water and though to far away to photograph it was a superb display. What more could one want?

Great to see Rhys top man. Thanks for the fun.

It was then a walk back the “Fields of gold” were getting getting cut and the air was thick and dusty. The farmers hoping to get the crop cut before the weather changes. It was then a quick stop for tea and cakes with Dan’s folks who now live locally.

A heron taking off.

Thanks to Dan and Rhys for a fun day out. It was great to see you both and safe trip home Rhys see you soon!

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

Planning for a day on the hills? The love of maps.

Many of us older folk still love looking at maps, we find even on a popular map find new things to go and look at. I have spent so much time looking at them I even had a few in my loo and always wanted to wallpaper a room with a series of maps. I look over my old maps and look at some of the wonderful days we had and those still to come. It’s so easy nowadays to pick up a climbing guide or a Munros. Graham, Corbett book and plan your day. You can even get way-points and all the latest information on your hill day or climb. The internet is full of blogs, advice about hill days some great some poor. It’s great to see how things have moved on GPS and maps on phones etc have made life a lot easier. I wonder how many still get the maps out and ponder over them looking at their planned route? To me I got to understand the maps and there make up by looking closely you see the features and you can remember them when the day gets difficult. We carried maps in the early days for the whole of Scotland( Crash maps) as we regularly got called out at a weekend away from where we were training. We carried 12 maps of each area a lot of maps in a big old ammunition box. Maps were hammered on the hill and updated regularly for the military with new power lines for added for the helicopters and low level aircraft. This meant they often changed and you would get the old maps that were now outdated if you were lucky, They were a prized item, put them in a poly bag and you had a waterproof map. Years ago the Bothies most of the remoter ones had secret locations now you can find them through the internet and books. Its all there now you just have to do is ask “Mr Google”. I have great memories of my early days of hill bashing. There were hardly any guides to the hills and a lot fewer paths. The SMC have their District Guides full of detail and hidden information about climbing routes many in new areas. Giving little away but for those that looked so many hidden gems.

On my first Big Walk in 1976 the North – South of Scotland we poured over our route in the Briefing Room at Kinloss in the Mountain Rescue Section. It had a huge space and maps all over the walls they were always constantly looked at for ideas it was also used as a bar and that’s where we planned so many big days. For our walk we moved the chairs and got all the maps out on the floor only then did the depth of what we were planning came in. The planning was fun, we wanted no support apart from food drop offs in a few areas. We descended Munros by different ways heading for bothies and night stops, we saw so much new ground and Glens. We were young and invincible or so we thought. We sent food parcels ahead to keepers and Bothies that the team used. How we got to know Scotland planning that trip. I had completed my Munro’s just before Nov 1976 (Number 146) but the planning was a thing we did every weekend as we moved all over Scotland chasing summits. I would have a plan even bought many of my maps and asked others for good ways up hills. All this practice definitely gave you skills to work out your day especially when the weather comes in unexpectedly? It was so handy in big searches in the Mountain Rescue for many years all over Scotland. In these days when introducing new folk on the hill most were fit enough but getting to grips with navigation was the key skill. We would plan the day the night before just using the maps to judge times and distance. Who remembers the original Naismith’s route and inch to the mile maps, with not a great amount of detail? Add in wind, weather. terrain what your carrying, group size etc and things can change drastically. It to me is still a skill worth using. Be wary of Guide book times. Naismith’s Rule “This rule of thumb was devised by William W. Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, in 1892. A modern version can be formulated as follows: Allow one hour for every 3 miles (5 km) forward, plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet (600 m) of ascent. Be wary as no stops are planned in this.

Early days map reading Ben Lawers.

Top Tips. In the shorter days especially early winter I have a cut off time for getting of the hill depending on the daylight and weather. I always want to be down on the path or low ground before the light goes. Yet it good to get out and walk in the dark in a safe area and see how tricky it can be and how things slow down? Its time to check that torch and batteries?Always in addition to your modern devices carry a map, be aware that as you get older your eyesight gets worse a top tip you can enlarge a map of the danger areas on the hills like craggy descents. I have to now.

References SMC Munros

There is also a phone App.

https://www.mountaineering.scot/activities/hillwalking/getting-started/planning-your-route

The Munro App

This digital version of the SMC’s best selling definitive hill-walkers’ guidebook provides route descriptions and maps to all of Scotland’s 282 Munros (mountains over 3000 feet), which can be purchased by area or by route. As well as being a handy pocket sized reference for use at home or on the hill, you can log your ascents electronically as you work your way to Munro completion! Since its first printed publication in 1985, all profits from this best selling guidebook have been donated to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, a charity created to promote the enjoyment, appreciation and conservation of mountains and the mountain environment.

There is a review here in the TGO magazine by Alec Roddie https://www.tgomagazine.co.uk/review/smc-munros-app/

Posted in Book, Bothies, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Frank Card RIP RAF Mountain Rescue – Montrose/Edzell 1949-51

Frank Card RIP Montrose/Edzell 1949-51 Frank wrote the book Whensover.

I saw this on the RAF MRT Association on Facebook Page from Alister Haveron.

“I had a call from Jo with the sad news that Frank passed away on the 18 August 2020. He hadn’t been too well for a while. Frank was author of Whensoever and editor of OTH “On the Hill”for many years.

Whensoever: 50 Years of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service 1943-1993:: 50 Years of RAF Mountain Rescue

Whensoever – Book Review From gum-boots and oilskins to Goretex and plastic boots in 50 years is not so remarkable. What is remarkable is that for 50 years the Royal Air Force has maintained an efficient mountain rescue service, both at home and abroad, manned entirely by enthusiastic volunteers. These men and women give their private time and risk their lives. They are of all ranks. They are not paid for the considerable amount of training they are expected to undertake.


Much of their emergency work is involved with recovering and rescuing, not just aircrew as was intended, but also civilians who have underestimated the wrath of the British mountains. They turn out in all weathers. Much of their emergency work is involved with recovering and rescuing, not just aircrew as was intended, but also civilians who have underestimated the wrath of the British mountains. They turn out in all weathers and under all conditions – hence the slogan on their crest, and the title of this book.


They have searched for schoolchildren and pensioners in Scotland, aircrew in Wales, rare falcons in Cyprus, secret devices in an RAF wreck high on a remote mountain in Turkey near the USSR border. They took an important but largely unnoticed part in the Lockerbie and Midlands air crash operations.
For many of its volunteers, mountain rescue became a way of life, and veterans of every decade recall their days with great pride and affection. Frank Card has been able to tell the major part of their story: to tell it all would require several volumes; but by careful and diligent research and the willingness of past and present team members to share their experiences, the author can present to you, their story of WHENSOEVER.

Frank Card – He was an outstanding ambassador for the RAF Mountain Rescue Service and Association. The funeral will be a family affair due to Covid 19 and restricted numbers. Jo is hoping to get the service recorded and will provide us with a copy for the website. I will send an Association wreath and a coffin drape.”

Posted in Articles, Books, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

A podcast, for mental health some thinking time and a head clearing cycle later along the coast.

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” ― Leonard Cohen

Today I was asked to do a podcast for Basic Scotland.

https://basics-scotland.org.ukWeb result with site linksBASICS Scotland

BASICS Scotland (British Association of Immediate Care) is a charity based in Perthshire. We specialise in promoting the provision of high quality pre-hospital emergency care to health professionals in Scotland.

It was as always fairly hard mentally talking about things that are buried deep in the mind. Yet I feel its worth doing as I have always been proactive in passing on my thoughts and the mistakes I made over the years in dealing with traumatic situations. Hopefully we can pass on lessons learned to future generations through folk talking openly about their experiences.

I tried to go for a cycle later to clear my head but got caught in a heavy rain shower. I find that getting out and exercising clears my head. When the weather cleared later in the day I go out again on my bike and enjoyed a stunning evening cycling along the coast. Its so good to be able to get out and about.

A yacht along the coast in the lovely sunset.

When the podcast is live I will add a link on this blog. Here are some words I wrote in the past that may help folk understand.

Many will know that I suffered from PTSD after Lockerbie in 1988 and at times it still affects me! I have written about it many times in my Blog and regularly hear from so many who suffer from it. It is sad to see that such a tragedy like Lockerbie that affected a huge number of my team over the years.  A few only realising this recently over the last 10 years! So many families have had to deal with this and the strains on the families and loved ones are huge. I know this from my time in the dark room! I also was heavily involved in the Shackleton Crash in Harrris in 1990 where 9 souls died and the Chinook Crash on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994 where there were 29 fatalities. I was unfortunate to be on scene very fast on all these tragedies, so I sadly speak with vast experience on this subject. I also feel that this is so different from a war scenario where you expect to see death and trauma. On all occasions we were not expecting to experience anything so traumatic.

PTSD is one of the mental illnesses most associated with military service but there are a range of other more common mental illnesses which might affect Service and ex-Service personnel. These include depression, feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and substance misuse, most commonly alcohol misuse. Yet many of my friends in the Rescue Agencies have been in touch and said they were having problems as well. This was not just a military problem.

I am proud that in these dark days in 1988 we help raise the huge problems in the military with so many suffering from PTSD. This was not easy as the military and all the emergency services still did not acknowledge PTSD. We have come a long way since these days! I was slated at the time by the establishment for asking for help by those who should know better! Sadly many in the military, Mountain Rescue said I was wrong and to man – up. Our families and loved ones could not understand what we had been through.  Yet despite it was worth the effort, heartbreak and problems over many years I feel!

Sadly I still hear from those who served with me in Mountain Rescue and other Agencies and yet only recently after all these years have suffered for years on their own. Many are servicemen and despite the great work of Help for Heroes & Combat Stress it is still not easy for those needing help to get it? Is this just my dealings with a struggling resources?

Trying to get the correct help is difficult and trying to get help through a hugely overworked NHS can be extremely hard. Mental Health is hugely under-sourced  due to the huge need of those who want help. At one point I waited for 9 months to get an appointment with a Psychiatrist a  few years ago. I was lucky and I coped and am much better but what an awful journey! On my leaving medical with the RAF in 2007 I was asked how could I have PTSD as I was a Caterer by trade? I walked off in disgust this was not what I needed.

It is sad to see that mental illness is the biggest killer of males in Scotland of a certain age. Maybe it is because we Scots especially the males find it hard to talk about our demons!

We have a duty to each other to look after those we love and care for and If we see friends struggle we must to speak to them and get them help! This is not easy and hard to do and many suffer in silence. It’s to late at a funeral to be sad over the loss of a troubled pal a trusted friend yet we missed the signs! We get so close on Rescues or the companionship of the rope on a climb or on a long expedition, yet how often have we missed our pal in trouble but what do we say and how do we say it?


Life in a Rescue Agency  gives you many challenges, many of us who read this blog may have spent so much time looking for people and trying to help those we do not even know on the mountains and wild places  who are in trouble. Yet at times we miss those who we think are the toughest of men and women who suffer in silence until it’s too late? As I write this it is great to see the Scottish Mountain Rescue is running a TRIM course at Glenmore Lodge this weekend! This helps highlight the problems of PTSD for future generations who hopefully have learned from our mistakes in the past!

Things are getting better slowly.

If you have problems go to your local doctor or for the Military ” Combat Stress and “Help for Hero’s “and there to help as are many other Agencies for my many civilian friends. I would appreciate please could you send me details of any other organisations as I often get asked for advice. There is lots of information on line!

PTSD – that has been left untreated for a number of years or decades will require more intensive treatment. There are still positive health outcomes for sufferers, and the potential for a life beyond symptoms, but seeking suitable, timely treatment is key to maximising the chances of recovery. If PTSD is diagnosed early and the sufferer receives the right treatment in the right environment, rates of recovery are very positive. Veterans can live normal fulfilling lives, able to work with the condition and generally become symptom free for long periods.

There is a risk of delayed-onset of PTSD, where symptoms do not occur for years or decades after the traumatic event. Veterans who present with delayed-onset PTSD have often been exposed to the effects of multiple traumas over a longer period of time. This suggests that those who serve multiple tours are more at risk of developing PTSD several years after leaving the Military.

This does not just effect the military many Rescue Agencies have similar problems!

A look at this book on PTSD.

I have now read the above book by Professor Gordon Turnbull a RAF psychiatrist, now a World authority on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who assisted the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams after the Lockerbie disaster in December 1988. I must admit I was pretty shocked when I read in a paper this book had been published.

I was mentioned right at the beginning of the book and the paper as I had requested psychiatrist assistance for the RAF Teams after Lockerbie. The RAF and civilian mountain Rescue Teams where heavily involved in Lockerbie and though my experience was pretty varied at this time after 20 years of Mountain Rescue, this was a very different and traumatic experience. Gordon writes the story pretty well, but I feel if he had spoken to those involved a bit more he may have got a better overall view of how it affected many of the people who were there to this day. At the time I was criticised by some senior team members, as they felt help was not needed. Most who criticised were not there and this was a unique event, which was way out of anything I had experienced. Gordon gives credit the RAF MR for the way they dealt with the aftermath but he gives the St Athan Mountain Rescue team a hard time on how they dealt with his team during the debriefing after Lockerbie. I feel if he had spoken to those involved he may have understood why a bit better. You must remember they were there at Lockerbie and saw things that one will never forget. In all I am glad that the book has been written and would advise those involved in Rescue to have a read. A few of those in my team, still struggle with the aftermath of Lockerbie including myself. I am glad that PTSD is now recognised and hope this helps the Rescue Agencies, civilian teams and Dog handlers, some who still suffer badly from the effects of Lockerbie.

We have learned so much from these early days when as very young man or women we were thrown in to the situation recovering broken bodies from the hills. It was the way it was done then thank God things have moved on and we look after the young member’s a lot better. We now try to keep the trauma to a minimum of those who have to deal with it at the coal face, yet it still has to be done but the lessons and protocols are now in place.

Many who read this spent most of their lives looking after or for those in trouble on the hills and wild places. We I feel must look after those who were part of our Rescue Agencies even years after they have left. Keep your eyes on your pals and hopefully they will look after you and yours.

Take care and let’s look after each other!

Comments welcome.

Since this was written I have over 10 folks contact me thanks its appreciated and hopefully some will find help. I did a trip to America as part of the Cycle Ride to Syracuse in memory of those who died at Lockerbie a few years ago. It was hard for me and the small team to meet so many relatives, I found this extremely cathartic and it was incredible meeting so many folk and telling our small part in the tragedy. I also regularly meet folk of whom I was part of the recovery of their loved ones in the mountains. Again this is hard to do but does help me cope.   We all cope differently.

One reply

“As always your frank and honest writing about PTSD and it’s effects on military personnel, rescue and emergency services can only help those struggling with their lives. Lives in the aftermath of trauma, lives dedicated to the service of others and lives that have been involved in heroic actions.

Help is out there and that help can transform lives and reduce or negate the effects of PTSD. All GP’s should be able to refer to CBT and EMDR practitioners available on the NHS and these techniques really do work when practiced by empathetic and caring practitioners.

I would urge any of your readers to never give up on seeking help and to be brave in being part of a movement to remove the stigma of mental health in those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others. It is only right that you should receive the help that you need to heal the psychological wounds which left unresolved will determine your quality of life for the rest of your life.”

Another

yet it’s the elephant in the room….any psychologist will tell you that those most vociferous in denial are often those worst affected…authorities both civil and military are only now beginning to recognise it…..as for “treatment”, it’s a matter of trust…in both organisations it doesn’t really exist as people affected have an innate fear of it affecting their careers…..being more subjective about it, i am glad i have paid privately to address it, worth every penny and although there’s no miracle cures, it’s a sure way to at least begin to function and rationalise….good article though, and cuts through the macho nonsense.”

Top Tips – It’s okay to talk

Who looks after the leader?

Who helps the families of those involved?  Take care out there.

Some information https://www.outpostcharity.org

Outpost Charity has been dedicated to providing support for Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families since 2014.

Today we continue providing emotional, social and practical support focusing on the Veterans Camp and the provision of household necessities goods and/or services.

Our aim is to provide relief from suffering and hardship for men or women who are or have at any time served with any branch of the British Armed Forces.

Our registered charity number: SC044790

Comment – Great contribution to raising awareness about mental health and lowering people’s reluctance to talking about their darker times. Sadly, in my dabbles and research about young people, I’ve seen how some people’s traumatic family experiences is effecting their present lives. I’m also more aware now of people beyond the military – nurses, social workers, police, care workers and more, who do crazy stuff on our behalf and then lie awake in the night reliving the experience.

Heavy Whalley Aug 2020

Posted in Cycling, Friends, Health, medical, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being | 4 Comments

Scottish Mountain Rescue Benevolent Scheme.

It’s great to see after so much work by many that Scottish Mountain Rescue now has a Benevolent Scheme. This hopefully will be able to help team members and families who are in a time of need.

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

He ain’t Heavy he is my brother!

Many have spent years on the hills and wild places. Carried lots of unknown folk of the hills. Spent days searching for folk we never knew. Yet I know of several pals that are suffering and in dark places. Some are the toughest folk I have ever met. It’s to late turning up at a funeral look after your pals now.

He ain’t Heavy he is my brother

Doors always open, the kettle can be switched on or, with luck, a beer in fridge 👌

I’m doing a BROTHER check-in, showing support for one another.
I need EIGHT men to post, not share, this message to show you are always there if someone needs to talk.
I’m pretty sure I can guess those who will say “done” on my post.

Posted in Articles, Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Potholes, camping and Toilets.

I travelled back early the other day from the West yesterday early to miss all the traffic. Most lay-byes were full of camper vans and tents they must be having fun as the midges were out. Yet it was sad to see so many vans and tents around Sheildaig yet the new campsite had space.  Please support the locals as its a small village and due to cuts by the successive  governments this wee village has to pay for and look after the toilet that many use. It is the same all over the Highlands and to me a disgrace. The census gave the number in the village as around 85 people. The cost of running a toilet is over £5000 annually all raised by the locals. So if you use the facility please leave a donation. It is a sad state of affairs we are in. Why have we let this happen? Surely a working toilet in every village is a right?

Potholes – On my journey home it was so good to see so many groups out cycling. Sadly the road especially the A896  after Kinlochewe to Loch Clair is very potholed and the verges are collapsing due to the heavy traffic. This is dangerous and needs sorted I did report it before.  I drove this way in winter several times last year when the potholes were full of water and unseen. I saw a cyclist crash the other day and helped her she was okay but hit a big pothole unseen until she crashed. I have sent a complaint to the Council on “Fix my street”  an app on my phone. I will keep chasing.

Folk may think I am always complaining but it helps to alert the authorities to these things. Money is tight but what is more important?

Posted in Cycling, Enviroment, Mountaineering, Views Political? | Leave a comment

Over on the West – A midgy fest until we reached the ridge Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire an outlier on Beinn Damh. Hill of the stag. Renamed hill of the midge!

I had come over to the West for a hill day with a friend who lives on the Applecross Peninsula. I love the Corbett Beinn Damh : ‘hill of the stag’ it’s a classic mountain and one I have done several times. Its a favourite of Kalie as well so that was the plan the forecast was good!

It’s a well documented hill in the Torridon area and a lot easier day than the big Torridon Classics of Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe. It’s starts from the Torridon Inn and parking is available. From here the route is through the wonderful Caledonian pines on a great footpath out of the forest and onto the main ridge.

The path is excellent but sadly getting eroded by mountain bikes in places. There has to be an action plan for this erosion as it in places is getting worse. The midges were wild and we dare not stop. Despite our efforts they were everywhere in your ears your nose and biting a lot despite sprays and midgy net. I had forgotten how awful they can be. Kalie was laughing at my complaining (my threshold for midges is low ) and she seemed to cope so well as I retreated into my midgy hell. She had promised a day of sunshine and a breeze. The agreed forecast was for sunshine after midday Kalie promised it would clear but I had swallowed so many midges I coughed all the way up despite my midges net. Kalie was going great I would have run away but she kept smiling so it was onwards and slowly upwards.

Overtaken by a 9 month old baby

We had Islay the collie with us up front no bother for her and the path was busy. I was even over taken by a 9 month baby on the steep part just below the ridge. Kalie loves this hill there was to be no retreat and wanted to climb to her favourite viewpoint away from the crowds. She was on a mission along with Islay and I just had to keep going.

Lovely family on the ridge out of the midges from Newcastle !

We had a chat with the couple with the baby from Newcastle enjoying their banter and enthusiasm and the breeze when we reached the ridge. Then we headed up onto the broad ridge; from the far side there are on a good day great views of Loch Damh, Kishorn and the Applecross hills, backed by Skye and the sea. Not today it was misty. From here it is possible to make an hour long detour to the summit Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire – well worth the effort in good weather; the path is clear over the intervening peak with one steep section on the final climb beyond (out of sight from the bealach).

Still smiling

We hardly had any views but the steep cliffs cleared briefly and we got the occasional views. This is the haunt of goats but not today we saw a bird of prey but could not work out what it was.

The blooming heather what’s the little white plants ?

The heather was in bloom so colourful and there were bees working hard on the collecting the nectar.

Dinner!
Kallie at her favourite viewpoint ! Na view !

We had a long stop on the summit no midges a wee snooze waiting for the weather to clear but it did not. The Trig point is made of the local sand stone and is a classic cairn. Occasional glimpses of the loch and the hills and then the clouds came in.

We set off down the midges were not that bad and were soon back at the car park where we had a soft drink. It was then on to Sheildaig to the cafe for cake and a brew and back to Kalie’s joining the camper vans along the tight single track roads.

End of the day.

It was back for a shower and then a great dinner thanks Kalie. Then we went up to her other viewpoint to see the sunset ask me was there any midges ???

Thanks for a great walk lovely to be out on the West and I think the West Coast midges have had there fill of me. I will be back thanks Kalie sorry for my winging!

Please be aware of ticks there are lots about well worth checking you and your animals wherever you are just now .

Ticks !

To a midge

You wee buggers

You drive me mad

Getting everywhere and making me sad.

Up my nose and in my hair

How did you get there?

Nowhere is safe from their bite.

Ankles, legs, ears, even eyes.

They at times make a grown man cry.

There is no answer to the midge

Such is life and then there’s the itch!

You canny stop them when they bite

Whatever you try it’s not worth sh—te.

The curse of Scotland these wee pests.

I tried and tried they always come out best.

Yet they still drive me to tears!

I must man up is the shout.

But when they bite I still want to run about.

You would think by now I be used to them?

No chance at all getting bitten on every Ben.

We pray for that wind that never comes.

To disperse these buggers to another land.

So the moral to this tale is?

We are stuck with midge get used to it !

Posted in Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Flora, Friends, Health, medical, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Dog Tales – part 3 Back in Scotland.

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

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

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

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

Travelling to Skye with Kas the Team Leader.

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

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

Winter Course work

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

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

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

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

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

The South Clunnie all 9 Munros again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dog Tales – Teallach Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pup Teallach on Hellvelyn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We arrived at Grantown for the winter Course where Heavy was instructing I was immediately told again in no way could I stay in the Centre – Welcome to Scotland!

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

Epic at Etchachan – part 2. Some decisions are never easy

As the helicopter vanished we were on our own now  at Loch Etchachan in the Cairngorms lying  at a height of 930 meters the highest notable expanse of water in Great Britain. There was no water to be seen it was covered in winter ice, more like the arctic than Scotland but this is the arctic Cairngorm. The wind was howling there were 22 of us many had been there for over an hour, the windchill was incredible and  it was decision time. We had a huddle and in wild conditions, trying having a discussion with 5 strong leaders in a blizzard is a lesson in management.  I explained that as it was now midday and the weather was as bad as had ever seen we needed to get out. There was no point Breamar MRT were also having a very hard time and some of their party’s on the hill were descending.  Many others I would imagine were waiting for this decision  to get off, which is wrong but a human frailty. There were still 2 young climbers missing but it was decision time and it was decided we were getting out. The last thing you need is the Rescue Team needing rescued and we were pretty far out in the depth of the Cairngorms. Some of the team were not happy it is hard to call off a search but this was not a search this was survival it was time to go.

This photo is on a great day it shows behind the climbers head the descent that we may have made down to Loch Avon. In the wrong conditions not the place to be.

This photo is on a great day it shows behind the climbers head the descent that we may have made down to Loch Avon. In the wrong conditions not the place to be.

We had three options: One to go over the plateau and head back to the Northern Corries, the weather would make this very difficult and with a group of 22 I thought very unmanageable. Many were struggling after a hard two days searching and this could prove fatal.  Option 2 was favoured by the stronger team members a few was to drop down to Loch Avon then pull up onto Cairngorm or out by Strath Nethy an awful thought. This would involve going down very dangerous avalanche slopes that I had noticed on the epic flight in. The  climb up back on to the plateau also took you into Avalanche terrain, the walk down Strath Nethy in deep snow is purgatory. Blyth Wright a great friend at Glenmore Lodge and also the Avalanche Coordinator had advised me on the dangers of this area when I told him where we may be going to search. His words rung in my ears as I spoke to the team.

The long walk out down Glen Derry past the hut.

The long walk out down Glen Derry past the hut.

The other option was crazy but safer, our transport and Base Camp was on the Northern side of the Cairngorms but that was the least of our troubles. We would go out by Glen Derry ! Miles and miles but mainly down hill, out of the weather with no transport at the end of a hard day. Decision made let’s get going. In the deep snow I let the young fit troops break trail as I spoke on the radio to my good friends at Braemar MRT and Aberdeen MRT. They had also pulled off the hill out and were trying to send some transport to help us up Glen Derry I had little hope as the snow was very heavy by now.   To my amazement after about one hour I heard John Drysdale a real character on the Braemar Police and his side kick “Beano” on the radio.

Kassbg - Braemar MRT Photo

Kassbg – Braemar MRT Photo

They were coming to get us on the Braemar secret weapon. Out of the blizzard came this amazing vehicle. How we all got in all troops plus all the kit, ropes, avalanche probes, huge bags,shovels  on was amazing. I got a seat in the front cab and with the heater on the world changed. The boys were out in the open but they were getting off the hill. How they knew where they were going in the blizzard was incredible  but I was in the hands of great people.  These are the people that make Mountain Rescue so special, amazing how they looked after us.We were soon down in the Glen, then how they did it but we were taken to the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar still iced up with all our kit. We had no money but credit was good and we all had a meal and lots of hot drinks. It was by now about 1900 and eventually we got 5 land-rovers to drive round and pick us up from Glenmore.

Breamars secret weapn the helicopter was long gone. One of the best and most exciting drives in my life! John Drysdale and Braemar MRT I cannot thank you enough.

Braemars secret weapon a newer version  the helicopter was long gone. One of the best and most exciting drives in my life! John Drysdale and Braemar  & Aberdeen MRT I cannot thank you enough.

 We got back after an epic drive via Keith not long before midnight, the roads were closing most of us were soaking wet and the troops asleep and unaware of the epic drive.  What a day, what an adventure and what great help by Braemar and Aberdeen MRT who went out of their way to help us. Getting back late to the bothy at Newtonmore we then had all the kit to sort, radios to charge and gear to put away. The face was blasted and the nerves were a bit shot, we were all alive no mean feat after an exciting helicopter drive, a wee epic on the hill and the drive out of Glen Derry with the Breamar boys and girls..   

This is a must read for all who venture on the Scottish Mountains  in winter. Worth rereading every year. A great Stocking Filler for Christmas, but give it to them now the snow is here!

This is a must read for all who venture on the Scottish Mountains in winter. Worth rereading every year. A great Stocking Filler for Christmas, but give it to them now the snow is here! The Chapter on the Black winter is an incredible piece and a must read even by those who think they are invincible to what the mountains can throw at you.

The call -out was called off next day and unfortunately the two climbers were found weeks later in Coire An Lochan by Cairngorm MRT. It looks like they had fallen/ avalanched whilst descending the West Flank a tragic end to an epic call – out.   This was a tragic period called ” Black Winter” when many died on the Scottish Mountains 0f 1994/1995. This is well written about in the book  A Chance in a Million written by Blyth Wright & Bob Barton there is a chapter on the ” Black Winter” a must read for all winter walkers/ climbers and skiers. Even the very experienced as this period spells out in the book can have fatal accidents.

An interesting view of Rescue in the Cairngorms!

An interesting view of Rescue in the Cairngorms!

I have a photo I must find it is of the helicopter on the loch it is poor quality but it is just visible in the snow and shows conditions we were in. When I show it many cannot believe what it is  but it shows the epic weather we at times take for granted.  We must never forget the work done by the helicopters and the Mountain Rescue Teams most of it never reaches the news or public view.  In these huge call – outs over 100 people, Search Dogs and helicopters  go out to help or find missing walkers and climbers. This is typical winter weather in the Cairngorms where life can be very difficult indeed.

I hope this wee tale has given a feel for some of the decisions made by teams, leaders and helicopter crews on a rescue. We must never take what they do for granted or think that technology and modern kit makes rescues easy. At times programs in the media about Rescue make it all look so easy. It is not easy at times and I hope those who make the decisions continue to ensure at the end of the day all who are out there come back safely.

I spoke to Graham Gibb the Team Leader of Breamar at the end of the incident, Graham a good friend agreed and was pulling his teams of the hill when my broken messages came through. There was no problem just a quite agreement that the correct decisions were made.

In the early 70’s I had taken a party off in a similar incident on a wild call – out, things were getting out of control and a young troop on the Cairngorm plateau had broken a crampon on a descent into Loch Avon. Everyone else was off the hill except my party and one Lodge group of two. It was Allan Fyffe and another top climber on a search in Loch Avon. I decided to get out of it and came back to Glenmore lodge to meet Fred Harper who was running the search. I apologized and he told me that what we did was correct and no problem and to make the right decision especially in a situation like that was brave and correct.  It would have been easier to try to save face and have another epic on our hands, everything was heavily iced but we got off.  Always know when to get out of a situation it is never easy but as Fred said “better to live another day”

Posted in Avalanche info, Books, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, SAR, Views Mountaineering | 4 Comments

Epic at Loch Etchachan ! The Sea King!

I had a look at the Breamar MRT Twitter account last night and a few others, there looks like plenty of snow about. They were deep in the heart of the Cairngorms at Loch Etchachan with the burn full of green ice and the hills scoured by the winds and it looked very wintry indeed. With a bit of blue sky weather at the weekend it may be busy on the hills and climbs. I love this area deep in the Ciarngorms and the Hutchison hut recently has been  renovated by the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA). It is still a place of great wildness and beauty and in winter only visited by a few.

Typical Cairngorm weather.

Typical Cairngorm weather.

I had a real epic in this area in winter it was during the Black Winter in the 90’s a sad crazy spell when there was a huge amount of accidents. The date was the 4 th March 1995 We were looking for two climbers who never returned from a days climbing in the Cairngorms. It was day 3 of a wild Cairngorms Call – out we were not sure where they had gone to climb do as is the norm the net was thrown even wider. I was with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and we were asked to search and assist the Breamar and Aberdeen Teams in the Southern side of the Cairngorms. The weather was crazy huge winds and a big avalanche hazard at that time. We met at Glenmore Lodge for a pick up by the Sea king helicopter and I had over 20 troops pretty exhausted from two days searching. When we were given our area in the middle of the Cairngorms they would drop us by loch Etchachan and we would search from there! I was pretty worried but thought there would be no way we would get in to this area not in the current weather. How wrong I was, as we waited at Glenmore Lodge with the usual cups of tea a normal kindness shown by the lodge staff. We got the message that the helicopter was inbound. There is a refuelling dump at the Lodge so the helicopter can make great use of this facility and make several flights from this base.

map gorms

As usual the brave boys from Lossiemouth helicopter flight said they would have a go and I was in the first attempt. It was poor visibility and heavy snow showers but we sneaked up Strath Nethy – me up front the rest in the back oblivious to what was happening. It was some great flying we sneaked in through Loch Avon getting buffeted by the wing but what views of the great cliffs of Shelterstone and the aptly named Hells Lum We eventually landed down near a frozen Loch Etchachan. It was as wild as I can remember the hills were packed with snow and as we flew over huge drifts of snow were scoured on the hills. I am never the best of flyers but this was one scary flight. As we got off the spindrift was awful one minute you are in a warm helicopter next minute in a white hell. You are ready in the aircraft for what the weather can give you and as soon as we were down on the ground and I thanked “The Lord” The goggles and face masks were on and we watched the helicopter make use of a break in the clouds and fly over a clear but wild Cairngorms. There was no shelter just get the bothy bags out and sort out a plan! I was sure the weather was coming in again so we had a break and looked at our search options. We had 20 minutes till the rest arrived it was a windchill of -20 and spindrift and very cold and uncomfortable.

Our friends Breamar Mrt were on the hill and having a hard time they were amazed that we had arrived and I asked to keep in touch as there was a huge avalanche danger. A lot of my team were unaware of this as many were tired and on a rescue just want to get the job done but safety comes first.

The crazy conditions and the depth of snow about in that winter. This was a search in Glencoe 15 feet drifts. The Black winter.

The crazy conditions and the depth of snow about in that winter. This was a search in Glencoe 15 feet drifts. The Black winter.

I was just sorted out when I heard the helicopter coming back again making use of the break in the weather and we soon put up a flare and in came the Yellow helicopter. When he comes in on a day like this the spind- drift is incredible and you have no chance of seeing anything. We could hear him and stayed where we were wanting him to drop the guys and go. This was soon done and soon there were now over 20 team members in the middle of the Cairngorms. As the helicopter started to move away a whiteout came in along with a wind and visibility became zero! We all huddled together and heard the helicopter try to break off but after a few minutes it was still very close. The visibility cleared and it was over the frozen loch Etchechan and struggling to get out. then it seemed lost again in the spindrift. Trying to speak on the radio was no use so in all the din and wind I got the message to a few of the troops and we started heading onto the frozen Loch to give the helicopter some visual reference to get out. I had to get to the front of the helicopter and give the crew a reference ? Most of the troops had got the message and formed a line about 10 metres apart showing the way out down the glen eventually the crew saw us and turned the helicopter over the Loch and headed out. That was a close call.

We regrouped after the helicopter left – I was pretty shaken as were a few of the more senior troops a lot of the younger ones were unaware of what had occurred. It all became silent as only this wild place can be and apart from the constant snow, wind and spind – drift awful but beautiful. it was well after midday by now and we had decisions to make. This is where things really got interesting, Braemar Mrt were a lot higher than us and having a rough time I could hear it on the radio. I was unfortunately in charge and said we can do little here in a rescue capacity it was getting into a survival scenario we will have to make a decision. We got a message not to expect any helicopter support we were on our own and the weather was getting worse. Our transport and Base Camp were over the Cairngorm side of the hill a long serious epic walk in these conditions. There was no way I was taking over 20 troops down to Loch Avon and back over the Cairngorms in these crazy conditions of weather and the very serious Avalanche danger?

To be continued

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

Missing hill runner Glen Lyon.

Message from Tayside Police Division:

MISSING MAN – CHRIS SMITH – GLENLYON

Officers in Perthshire are today continuing their searches in the Glenlyon area for missing 43-year-old man Chris Smith.

The searches have entered their third day, after Chris was last seen at around 3pm on Tuesday, 27 October. Search teams have been focusing around the walking route it is understood Chris had planned to follow, encompassing four Munros – Meall nan Aighean, Carn Mairg, Meall Garbh and Carn Gorm.

Police Scotland have been working in close partnership with local mountain rescue teams and the ongoing assistance of the Coastguard helicopter.

Inspector Emma Bowman, from Tayside Police Division, said: “Chris is an experienced hill walker and fell runner, so it is naturally concerning that he remains missing at this time. Our thoughts are with his family as the searches continue today.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has taken part in the searches so far and ask anyone who has any information about Chris’s whereabouts to contact police on 101, quoting incident 2775 of 27 October.”

Missing runner

Thoughts are with all the family and those in the search.

Update

BODY RECOVERED IN GLENLYON

Police Scotland can confirm that at around 11:50am on Thursday, 29 October, 2020, the body of a man was found near to Meall Garbh in the Glenlyon area.

Formal identification has yet to take place however the family of missing 43-year-old Chris Smith has been informed. Enquiries remain ongoing and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in due course.

Posted in mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People | 3 Comments

The Zardsky sac a bit more gen ? A few tips on early winter Mountaineering gear to carry !

Following my blog on bothy bags yesterday I received this from Mike Parsons:

“The very first bothy bag was called the KISU, Karrimor Instructor Survival Unit, KISU. and made by Karrimor, my company at the time. Here is a link to the full story of all types of bothy bags. https://www.outdoorgearcoach.co.uk/group-shelter/

The Cairngorm tragedy in 1971 played its part in the development of these bags. This would be why I remember them from my early days in the Mountain Rescue. I found Mikes information very interesting. Thank you.

There is some Snow in the weather report for today it should fall on the high mountains. Always check the weather and Avalanche report that starts in mid December for updated conditions.

Today’s tip: My hill bag has been winterised bigger gloves head torch checked and small duvet added. I am hoping to be heading of for a walk on the North West will be good to get out. I will add a hot flask and wear warmer kit. As always my Bothy bag will be in my rucksack.

Do you have any tips for winter walking?

Leave early daylight is getting short. The clocks go back this weekend cutting into daylight hours.

Also have a good breakfast porridge usually and have some snacks handy in pockets to “graze on“ I like a hot flask on the hill in winter. Tell someone what your plan is.

Early winter Applecross.

I like to change my clothes for the journey home. I carry in the car dry clothes especially a top, jumper and socks. I rehydrate on the way home as well plenty of fluid taken.

Ice axe and crampons are essential in winter more on that in a later blog.

The stags should be roaring today a fine start to the early winter days.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments