The Median Rock climb is a route not many will know. It is Skye and on the Stron Na Ciche Coire Lagan Face. It is a huge face with so much rock a very intimidating place when you are a young climber. Many will pass it when chasing the popular routes on the Cioch Face it is a huge cliff. Nowadays it is not a popular climb but when it was done it was by E.W.Steeple and Barlow in 1909 it was for the time a daring frontal assault on the largest Cuillin rock face!
It is now graded very difficult and is over 1000 feet. The guidebook now says ” an excellent climb for the grade and needs good route finding ability to avoid considerably harder variations. I had been speaking to my great friend Jim Morning about the loss of our good friend Taff who passed away last week. Jim told me of a tale many years ago when he was 18 and on his first visit to Skye. It would be the late 60’s ? He and a mate both young lads in the RAF with limited rock climbing experience and gear took on the climb Median, dressed in shorts a tee-shirt and very basic gear. As the guide says it is tricky route finding and Jim ran into trouble high up late in the day. They decided to abseil off and ended up off route and hanging in chimney overnight. It was a cold night says Jim and they were lucky the weather held. RAF Leuchars were on Skye training and were sent out at first light by the local Police. Jim and his mate had just managed to get off the crag and Taff and the team arrived with all the rescue kit and walked him off the hill.
At the bothy in the glen they had the usual chat from the local Police and Taff in a makeshift office in MacRaes Barn in Glen brittle. Taff was a scary figure in these days a RAF Team Leader but after it was all over they retired to the pub and Taff advised Jim to join the RAF Mountain Rescue team, which he did and Jim became one of our finest mountaineers. I knew the story but did not know the part Taff played in it and used to send some of our “would be climbers” on Median in Skye to sort out their route finding!
Jim climbed all over the world including ascents of the Troll Wall, Shivling and several Everest Expeditions. In the end he became one of the main men within the world of Outdoor Activities in the military outdoor centres. Jim says Taff was instrumental in him joining RAF Mountain Rescue another great story emerges from the past.
From Ian Rideout
I was really sorry to hear of John’s death.Taff started with the Red Cross in Dumfries & Galloway when he left Emergency Planning and then came up to Caithness & Sutherland to work with my team. He was a fascinating guy to talk to and will be missed by many. He was quite open about the PTSD he suffered post Lockerbie, like so many who were involved. We have to recognise that even the hardest, most competent emergency professionals can suffer from witnessing major trauma. It should not stigmatize but be a reflection of their humanity towards others. ”
I can only praise these words from Ian . Taff’s support to me when I spoke about Lockerbie was special to me and I will never forget his story or the time he took to explain it. It took a lot of guts to talk like that and when a man such as Taff did it adds credibility and helps those who follow on the world of Rescue.
Thanks to Jim and Ian for these memories.