Tales from the Bothy – The East to West Of Scotland winter 1978.

The West to East of Scotland crew 1978 – and a photo in 2012 , the wee guy is really tired 2012 – Aged a bit and 300 kg heavier!

The photo above is of myself Jim Morning and Terry Moore during a Walk across Scotland in November 1978 just before some big snows came, blocking the A9 and making life very difficult on the hill. The previous year we had completed the North to South from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond and completed nearly 80 Munro’s. We were the usual brash young men and the legendary John Hinde sowed the seed, see how you get on in winter, November he said he would test us, how right he was! The walk started in Skye at Glen Brittle staying in McReas barn where Gidean McRae gave us a good send off and a weather forecast of 100 mph on the hills.  It was an epic on the ridge and we only managed Bannadich much to Jim upset and then down to Coruisk, to the JMCS hut what a start I was terrified. We had three wild weeks with only food drops twice. We were young and the other two extremely strong and it ended up a full winter traverse. The daylight was short and the Team leader advised us to stop at Dalwhinnie when the road was closed but we had some epics they’re going into the heart of the Cairngorms in very deep snow and blizzards.  The RAF Kinloss Team Leader sent a message via the Police telling us to stop at Dalwhinnie but being as daft as we were we ignored it!  Sorry Ray Sefton and his career could have been over had the 3 dead in blizzards he imagined had happened. The kit we had been very basic but the new magic material polar gear Helly Hansen  had just been on the market and we used  this.  Boots were frozen and wet every morning and all the kit usually soaking, the first two hours were the worst. The report after stresses  how poor our kit was but how good the Polar gear this great this was  new kit was. It was early starts walking in the dark and always finishing in dark. Some epic days were encountered at the party at the RAF Kinloss leaving doo and as the night they grew on and wilder. It was some epic walk with grand days, including The South Cluannie including the Saddle and Sgurr na  Sgine, The Big Four and 9 of The Mamores.  Tom Rigg a real character who used to warden the Youth Hostel at Ossian left us some food and whisky and a hidden key to let us get access.  We stayed at Ossian Youth Hostel and a real epic on Beinn Alder doing the 6 Munros and having  a hard time getting off from Geal Charn to Carn Dearg and the safety of Culra Lodge! The maps as well were very basic in the days before GPS and mobile phones! Three times we paced to the cornice in a white out at the end of along day from Ossian Youth Hostel and 3 times we ended in the same place with the spindrift howling up through the Cliff. In the end Jim said “you have  done your Munros you must remember the way” a classic line. Then I was sent over the cornice and luckily found the ridge.  Jim and Terry were chasing their Munro’s and were after each and every one they could no matter what the weather was doing. It was” march or die” and I was hanging out nearly every day. The snow meant it was really hard going and breaking trail was never easy and we all took out turns. The navigation was very hard going with a severe penalty for any mistake as the Cornices were huge.

A bit of the East To West and the tricky ridge from Geal Charn to Carn Dearg.

From Dalwhinnie the last week was through the Cairngorms to the remote Gaick Lodge and then numerous Munros. By now the snow was incredible deep and we saw so many deer herds in the hundreds, it still remains with me. The weather got worse but what a trip, staying with keepers and in bothys with rarely a person seen for days on end. We always got a dram and some food from the keepers and there wife’s always took pity on us and a grand meal was always on the cards. What a grand time, and being young and strong we had some fun. The last day before Mount Keen was the “Lochnagar five” in brilliant weather with our kit and bodies knackered after 18 days non stop. Mount Keen was an easy finish and then back to the real world.

RAF Kinloss was having a “Taceval” as this was the cold war period. This was a 4 day exercise which involved lots of daft scenarios that only the military could dream off. A nuclear war averted again and another win for the military, we managed to get a lift back to real world. We felt we had just been in a real war with nature over the last 3 weeks but few had a clue what we meant.  A few nights ago at the party at Kinloss it was just another wee trip and adventure in amongst all the stories many from adventures all over the world. The winter traverse was one of the best and hardest adventures and with time the stories grow and grow and grow but what an adventure and what an apprenticeship for the later years.    We met so many characters such great people especially the keepers and Gillies . Often they could not understand why we would not take a lift off the hill  after a hard day but we had to walk all the way. They all had a love of the hills as well and understood why and what we were up to ! I was always sent up to do the chatting and looking so tired and forlorn with my thick glasses it always worked and usually better accommodation was found for us by the Keepers wives. They always who took great pity on me. Thanks to you all!

Jim and Terry went on to become sound mountaineers with some great achievements in the Alps, Norway and the Himalayas including first ascents on some great peaks. We are still friends  after all these years. All a little older but it was the early days that made it for us. We are so lucky!

1978 November – Basic Kit on the “Lochnagar 5” Henry Lyod Jackets modified with a map pocket! Myself and Jim Morning me with dark hair. Photo Terry Moore. One of the few days in the 18 with views.

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.
This entry was posted in Book, Bothies, Friends, Mountaineering, Views Political?, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.