Their off winter climbing in the Cairngorms – Simple pieces of kit – The whistle – essential!

The UKC Climbing forum has a thread on winter climbing over the last few days, Andy Nisbet that pioneer of Scottish winter climbing has been out with friends climbing the first routes in the Cairngorms. The Message,Hidden Chimney Direct,Pot of Gold and Pygmy Ridge were climbed in Coire An’t Sneachda and in Corrie an Lochan “Fallout Corner”  grade 6/7. Conditions were said to be  good, the turf was frozen and the powder not too bad. That is it all started again the unique fun that is Scottish winter mixed climbing with the Northern Corries going to be busy as long as the cold spell stays. Have fun all and be safe! How crazy are we mountaineers?

Rescue 137 near the Mess of Pottage in the Cairngorms.


We used to chase early conditions  at times in our youth with long walks out to Coire Sputan Dearg near Ben MacDui in search of the first routes! Long walks back across the plateau usually in the dark made this character building for the younger troops! With the easy access of the Northern Corries  and the popularity of the Mess of Pottage an ideal crag to climb in the modern way.

A bit of a walk in but fairly quiet Coire Sputean Dearg near Ben MacDui,

The whistle

“Keep very quiet came over the radio – stop and listen for 5 minutes” it was a wet misty day in Skye and we were looking for a missing walker who had been out all night  on the Skye ridge. I never heard it but a SARDA Dog ran off and straight to the casualty, who was up on high ground, cragfast, he was using a whistle. That was over 35 years ago and it showed me how effective a simple whistle can be in the mountains, especially when the weather is poor. They are cheap and simple and such a great aid. Another time we were walking near Hells Lum in summer when we heard a whistle and a solo climber had got cragfast on the great cliffs. Lucky for him we were passing and the mighty Wessex was about and quickly got him off the crag! The whistle is so handy and so cheap and even in today’s days off technology it is a still has a place in your personal kit.    It is even worth attaching one to your harness in case of an accident on the crag as some leave their bags below the routes!

Skye on a wild day, the mist is down and no place to make a mistake! Navigation on a misty day is not easy.

This is a quote from the crewman on board the Sea King from Gannet who rescued the walkers without maps and compasses during the week.

“Fortunately they had a whistle which they were able to blow to give me an indication of where they were – the easiest thing was to tell them to stay in one place and for me to go to them,” the crewman said. “They had been lost for about two hours by the time I got there.“Although none of them were hurt, the job was still pretty urgent. At the very least it would have taken them two hours to walk off the mountain, even if they had known where they were going.

Take a whistle and learn the signal for rescue. Six good long blasts. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on the whistle blasts until someone reaches you and don’t stop because you’ve heard a reply – rescuers may be using your blasts as a direction finder. If you don’t have a phone signal and you are alone use your whistle and torch to send a distress signal: 6 whistle blasts or torch flashes in quick succession repeated every minute until help arrives. It may save your life?

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 mountain safety, Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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.