I am down South after leaving Inverness to travel to Henley to visit my lovely wee granddaughter who is now 18 months old. I got in last night and we had a bit of time together which was lovely. On the way down as I flew over the Cairngorms on a bonny night I could not help think about the disaster on the Cairngorm Plateau 40 years before and the effect of the tragedy on all those involved. It looked such a beautiful place in the November light as we flew over, peaceful and still and no snow at all, very different form 40 years before .
When the School party was reported missing, they had already been out for one night in a wild winter November night at 4000 feet. They had bivouacked, the word bivouac sounds organised but I doubt if it was. There was lots of snow but not enough to build a shelter and it was a fine granular snow that got into clothing sleeping bags and wet everything, spindrift. It was a wild night and visibility would be poor in the spindrift. They tried to move next day for help but now the snow was deep and the kids had been out all night with no hot food or drinks. They were exhausted, one cannot imagine how things were as they tried to keep their hopes up through a long November night. Things went from bad to worse and though one of the leader went for help she did not get far and by now it was Sunday. This is when the search started and the mountain rescue teams were out all that night trying to locate them. It was till the next day the Monday that they were located and only two were left alive a real tragedy and a miracle. The effect on the Rescuers at the scene must have been horrific and for the families unbelievable. It brings a huge perspective to me of this tragedy and the older I get the worse it seems. I often wonder how the survivors coped. The aftermath was a huge enquiry and huge changes took place in mountaineering and educating the young in the mountains, much of it needed to ensure nothing like this would ever happen again.
How many even now about this traged?y I think all who take out children and the young into the mountains should know the story and its lessons. It is so important that we educate the kids in wild places and they learn to love and care for the wild land but we must do it as safely as possible. The outdoors are a wonderful place to teach and nature is an incredible force, we must respect it.