RAF Kinloss the story so far! The Coruisk Tragedy New Year 1963.

The Magestic Corrie A, Ghrunnda in winter with ice and snow a wild place to be. The entrance is guarded by a  steep path tricky in bad weather and at night interesting.

Yesterday’s blog change of theme was due to me managing to get out on the rock which is what is best when one can during this poor summer. I was going to cover the 70’s and the RAF Kinloss Team but found some other great stories that we need reminding off during my research. As we mentioned Scotland was a different place in the early years and I had gone through all the Stats and picked up what I thought were the main or important callouts for the RAF Kinloss Team. I had missed a huge callout in Skye the story is so well told in Hamish MacInnes’s book “Callout” – you have to read this what a book what a man.  When I interviewed Hamish I asked him about a callout that stuck in his mind. I was expecting one of the epics in Glencoe but it was New Year 1963 and a very serious accident in Skye where Hamish and his wife Cathy was taking a break after a busy Christmas in Glencoe. How wrong he was to be as he was expecting a quiet time!

Map of New Year Incident in 1963 an incredible Callout and a great account is in Hamish MacInnes Book “Callout”

Hamish was just finishing pruning trees for a friend in Glen Brittle when he saw someone running alone off the hill. Hamish knew something was wrong and tells the tale. Three climbers had fallen at the back of the Dubhs one is still alive and a climber is with them.  This is in the days of no phones on the hill, basic torches for lighting and the middle of winter with lots of ice but little snow. Hamish set off with his wife and the informant to locate the accident and had called for assistance from the Portree Police Team and RAF Kinloss who were at Fort William for New Year. It would have been a busy time for Kinloss who had dealt with a few callouts already including one for a team member who had broken a leg! As Hamish says how John Hinde the Team Leader managed to get hold of the team who were scattered to the wind as it was New Year remains a mystery to this day. Hamish also remembered that the Junior Mountaineering Club Of Scotland  (JMCOfS) were at Kintail for Hogmanay and were asked to help. These were the days of everyone helping when trouble arrived on the hills. It was dark when Hamish, his wife Cathy and the survivor left and one can only imagine the thoughts as they trudged in over the ridge in very difficult conditions to try to save the injured climber and his companion. How the informant made another epic trek over the ridge with Hamish is a tale in its own. They searched but could not find any sign of the accident, they were exhausted and the conditions were extremely tricky with ice everywhere. In the end exhausted they made their way down to the hut at Coruisk where the rst of the group were staying. Here they found the survivor who told them the grim news and that all the climbers were dead. With no communications one can only imagine the thoughts of the locals and Police who tried to assist that night. Only a few had crampons and lighting was by Tilly light on serious winter ground.  After an epic they also decided to return to Glen Brittle and wait for daylight.

Callout

 

What follows is an epic with a two-day recovery for three climbers killed in the accident.  RAF Kinloss MRT and others from the local team arrived at Coruisk by boat and then began as Hamish states a very difficult recovery.  Over 35 people were involved to carry the three fatalities off down 2300 feet of the worst terrain in Scotland.  The An Garbh Corrie is one of the roughest in Scotland and wild and inhospitable place. Belays were very sparse and conditions incredibly difficult and most of it was done in the dark down icy slabs, with boulders crashing down all the night.  Crampons bit on the rocks like broken glass making life incredibly difficult but the recovery was completed and they arrived at back at the  hut with the casualties. These were all strong hard mountaineers all putting their lives on the line for the recovery of the climbers. One can only imagine how the friends of the party felt as they were brought down to the climbing hut at Coruisk and this was an incredible testing time for all. This Callout, though I have just briefly mentioned some of what happened is the one that Hamish remembers and when I interviewed him about it a few years ago he remembered every fact, as clear as day.  He knew most of the characters of the Kinloss Team John Hinde was leading the team and recovering from frostbite after a trip to  Denali in Alaska. Geordie Patterson, Jack Baines and Ian Sykes were all part of the recovery. Most mountaineers knew each other and it was a small world as was rescue in these days. They all have told me off this rescue and what memories of the epics of the recovery, most are men who say little after a rescue. What a story of a terrible tragedy and how all the climbing community, locals, climbers, rescuers and Police worked together.  The boat came in Coruisk took all the casualties and rescuers back  in wild weather. Hamish remembers that after a few drams some of the team began to sing as the tension from the rescue wore off. This is all part of the way team member’s cope with a tragedy on the mountains.   Get hold of “Callout” and read the full account. I have done several rescues in this area with the Skye Team in the past and as WH Murray states An Garbh Corrie is one of the wildest Corries in Scotland.

The steep ground where the casualties were found in winter and in ice and snow an awful corrie to be in.

We nowadays have all the equipment, navigational aids and even so the communications can be very difficult without helicopters in poor weather these wild corries are still an  extremely serious place to be.These were truly hard mountain people. We follow in the footsteps of heroes.

I told Hamish I was off to Skye next weekend to Coruisk and immediately Hamish spoke about a massive call out many years ago . We  had a chat about a huge callout in Skye the story is so well told in Hamish MacInnes’s book “Call – out” – you have to read this what a book what a man.  When I interviewed Hamish a few years ago I asked him about a callout that stuck in his mind. I was expecting one of the epics in Glencoe but it was New Year 1963 and a very serious accident in Skye where Hamish and his wife Cathy was taking a break after a busy Christmas in Glencoe. How wrong he was to be as he was expecting a quiet time!

Hamish was just finishing pruning trees for a friend in Glen Brittle when he saw someone running alone off the hill. Hamish knew something was wrong and tells the tale. Three climbers had fallen at the back of the Dubhs one is still alive and a climber is with them.  This is in the days of no phones on the hill, basic torches for lighting and the middle of winter with lots of ice but little snow. Hamish set off with his wife and the informant to locate the accident and had called for assistance from the Portree Police Team and RAF Kinloss who were at Fort William for New Year. It would have been a busy time for Kinloss who had dealt with a few callouts already including one for a team member who had broken a leg! As Hamish says how John Hinde the Team Leader managed to get hold of the team who were scattered to the wind as it was New Year remains a mystery to this day. Hamish also remembered that the Junior Mountaineering Club Of Scotland  (JMCOfS) were at Kintail for Hogmanay and were asked to help.

These were the days of everyone helping when trouble arrived on the hills. It was dark when Hamish, his wife Cathy and the survivor left and one can only imagine the thoughts as they trudged in over the ridge in very difficult conditions to try to save the injured climber and his companion. How the informant made another epic trek over the ridge with Hamish is a tale in its own. It was in very tricky winter conditions with ice everywhere. They searched but could not find any sign of the accident, they were exhausted and the conditions were extremely tricky with the verglas and ice everywhere. In the end exhausted they made their way down to the hut at Coruisk where the rst of the group were staying. Here they found the survivor who told them the grim news and that all the climbers were dead. With no communications one can only imagine the thoughts of the locals and Police who tried to assist that night. Only a few had crampons and lighting was by Tilly light on serious winter ground.  After an epic they also decided to return to Glen Brittle and wait for daylight.

What follows is an epic with a two-day recovery for three climbers killed in the accident. RAF Kinloss MRT and others from the local team arrived at Coruisk by boat and then began as Hamish states a very difficult recovery.  Over 35 people were involved to carry the three fatalities off down 2300 feet of the worst terrain in Scotland.  The An Garbh Corrie is one of the roughest in Scotland and wild and inhospitable place. Belays were very sparse and conditions incredibly difficult and most of it was done in the dark down icy slabs, with boulders crashing down all the night.  Crampons bit on the rocks like broken glass making life incredibly difficult but the recovery was completed and they arrived at back at the  hut with the casualties. These were all strong hard mountaineers all putting their lives on the line for the recovery of the climbers. One can only imagine how the friends of the party felt as they were brought down to the climbing hut at Coruisk and this was an incredible testing time for all. This call – out, though I have just briefly mentioned some of what happened is the one that Hamish remembers and when I interviewed him about it a few years ago he remembered every fact, as clear as day.  He knew most of the characters of the Kinloss Team John Hinde was leading the team and recovering from frostbite after a trip to  Denali in Alaska. Geordie Patterson, Jack Baines and Ian Sykes were all part of the recovery. Most mountaineers knew each other and it was a small world as was rescue in these days. They all have told me off this rescue and what memories of the epics of the recovery, most are men who say little after a rescue. What a story of a terrible tragedy and how all the climbing community, locals, climbers, rescuers and Police worked together.  The boat came in Coruisk took all the casualties and rescuers back in wild weather. Hamish remembers that after a few drams some of the team began to sing as the tension from the rescue wore off. This is all part of the way team member’s cope with a tragedy on the mountains.   Get hold of “Call – out” and read the full account. I have done several rescues in this area with the Skye Team in the past and as WH Murray states An Garbh Corrie is one of the wildest Corries in Scotland.

We nowadays have all the equipment, navigational aids and even so the communications can be very difficult without helicopters in poor weather these wild corries are still an extremely serious place to be.

These were truly hard mountain people. We follow in the footsteps of heroes

 

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Book, Bothies, Friends, Mountain rescue, Recomended books and Guides, Views Political?. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to RAF Kinloss the story so far! The Coruisk Tragedy New Year 1963.

  1. Hardly appropriate to press the ‘like’ button for such a sad tale, but it’s an inspiring one too, for the selfless efforts of all involved. I remember reading this in ‘Call-Out’, which is indeed a book worth reading.

  2. heavywhalley says:

    Yes I agree but it is a tale worth remembering – a sad and tragic event but one cannot imagine the efforts of those involved.

  3. Alan says:

    Cam MacLeay that is named in both Call Out and Ian Sykes new book for his efforts in this rescue retired from mountain rescue just a few years ago after nearly 20 years with Torridon MRT.

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