Weather forecast not so good for next week on the Ben! A look back to the early days of Mountaineering.

In the days of no crampons many of the great Scottish climbs were done in these boots!s

I have just been sorting out some kit for my trip to the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis and looked at the weather it looks awful but I have friends coming up from down South so will have to go over and see what happening. The hut is booked and payed for so may have to walk up and see what is happening! I was out for an Indian Meal in Elgin with good friends and will pop up and see them today after the rugby this morning as Pete has tried to keep his birthday quiet, no chance!

Birthday boy Pete Amphlett in action on Skye ridge Sgurr Nan Gillian Pinnacle Ridge. Photo R Shafron

I am working on a lecture for the Moray Mountaineering Club 80 th Anniversary at the Mansion House in Elgin in November. It is fantastic looking back at how much has changed since that first meeting in 1931! Massive changes in equipment to transport have changed the sport of mountaineering dramatically. The feats of the club members in these early days is impressive with so much achieved with limited equipment that resulted in some superb climbs such as the Vent a winter climb in Coire An Lochan and Savage Slit a rock climb in the Cairngorms, big undertakings in these early days. Just getting to the mountains especially in the Highlands with no bridges at Inverness, Skye, Ballahullish and Kylesku must have made getting about so hard and the maps and information was so poor. In addition the huge Hydro schemes in the Highlands must have changed much of the Highlands for ever. We are so lucky now with all the great equipment and information available today. We have such a legacy to live up to!

1935 MMC Journal, incredible reading!

Todays tip: Have a look at the weather forecast to get an idea of what is going on especially up high on the mountains, but remember it is only a guide!

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
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4 Responses to Weather forecast not so good for next week on the Ben! A look back to the early days of Mountaineering.

  1. Aye Heavy, when I arrived at the Big K in 1964 there were none of the bridges you mentioned; journeys were long and tiring. The fastest piece of road being the Snechy Straight where we could sometimes reach speeds of 60 mph+. The kit in those days wasn’t a great deal better, Trikes had been replaced with Curlies, although some Trikes were still available if you had the strength to wear them. Smocks Drab and hemp waistlines were de rigueur, woolie balaclavas were head protection, crampons were few and far between and Stubia wooden shafted ice axes, more like Alpen Stocks, were issued until Hamish came up with the MacInnes ice axe.
    How on earth did we do what we did and survive? I thought the same thing about the troops in the generation before me with the kit they had.
    All I can say is I thoroughly enjoyed my ten years in MR and would not have changed it for anything else. The only reason I left the RAF in ’72 was that, due to ‘cuts’, there was a move to have PTI’s only as TL’s. There were some great guys in that lot, but there were some that fell short of the mark and they were being shunted into the job. Jim Morning was with me a Stafford at the time, he was not a PTI then, but he turned out to be one of the stars.

    Cheers the noo,



  2. Heavy, age is obviously getting the better of me. On re-reading my previous response I see the date I said I left the RAF was ’72; it was indeed ’74. 74 minus 64 = 10, hope that’s right.



    • heavywhalley says:

      Thanks for the intresting views, It is incredible how much has changes over even the time I was in the RAF, huge advancements in transport kit etc,we take it all for granted. I did my first of 3 walks with Jim Morning what a man a great friend still but by gsh he was amachine on the hill. He mentions you a lot as one of his mentors. I am just back from the Ben and the CIC hut, some history there, I hope you enjoy the wee blog! I ttuelly think we survived due to the training and good leadership, George Bruce, Ray Sefton Pete Mc Gowan. Alaister and a few others, we had a few idiots but they usually did not stay long and it was based on mountaineering knowledge not rank, unique in the military, I must write this book.
      Regards Heavy


      • Heavy,
        You are right of course we were formed by those who inspired us. I had the privilege of having John Hinde and George Bruce as Team Leaders when I was at Kinloss. Sunshine was also on the team. Archie Hay and Curly Betteridge also came in as TL’s for short periods when ‘The Chief’ went off to Annapurna. I never served with Pete McGowan or Alistair but met them on many occasions, two great troops.
        Jim Morning did his probation with me when I was at Stafford. The first time he came on the hill with me I wanted to see what he was made of. He stuck to me like glue throughout the whole weekend, I just couldn’t burn him off. He was tired but he just wouldn’t give up. I knew we had a star in the making. The rest as the say is history.
        I do enjoy the blog, keep it up but get that book out soon.

        Cheers the noo,



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