The best laid schemes – Glen Etive Adventure – Sir Charlie of Glen Etive.

I had hoped to get out yesterday but was a bit late leaving, the weather was really stunning and the sun was out it was blinding at times. Even better the wind had dropped, there was a bit of black ice about so I took great care. Aviemore was busy and I was going to walk into the Corries but the crowds put me off as I was late. They are busy trying to get the skiing going after the high winds but will have a job on there hand with more high winds due. In the end I had a wander near Glen Feshie  I did not go high and a bit of snow about blown into the gullIes and lee slopes. Glen Feshie is a lovely place and away from the beaten track a wild area. The Rothiemurcus Forest is a well maintained and environmentally friendly area. Many years ago this area was pretty busy and the crags and cliffs still hold many secrets, some of the cliffs are Alpine in length.    Many were out trying to get a day out before the weather changes again, well worth the effort.

It was a short walk for me it cleared the head as I wanted to get back to see the Annual Charity Swim in Burghead Harbour. This is for local Charites but I missed it I was back too late, bad planning. Over 200 hardy souls did the jump into the harbour and lots of money was raised for charity well done.  Maybe next year.

1977 Ben LUI A big winter.

1978 Ben Lui A big winter mountain look at the snow about the 4 Munros in winter in the shot December daylight makes to interesting walking.  Fergus Murray an Army Cadet Officer was an Olympic class athlete! He only told us after the trip!

This area holds some high hills and is a true wilderness in winter, all these hills are a test in navigation and winter skills. As I sat enjoying the view I remembered a huge call out it was very sad as it occurred at Christmas 1978. I was with the RAF Mountain Rescue team at Tyndrum enjoying some great days we had been down there for several days enjoying the Ben Lui hills 4 great Munros a really hard winters day in heavy snow. We also climbing in Glencoe – Twisting Gully a great classic ice climb and a quite place in these days. I was pretty fit just having completed a huge traverse in winter across Scotland, unlike now. In the RAF Mountain Rescue we were staying in the staff headquarters for Christmas in the old Tyndrum Hotel, we had 16 out and it was a great time. We had a met a few local lassies who worked in the Hotel and yes Tyndrum was a wild place in these days. Few realise that in the Mountain Rescue have our own epics on the hills and on Christmas Eve one of our parties had not come back from the Glen Etive hills, they were on the Ben Starav. This is a huge mountain and a real proposition in winter, there was a lot of heavy snow.  This was on the days before mobile phones and by 1800 I went with a mate to see what was happening. It seemed a long drive from Tyndrum down Glen Etive in the dark its a windy road. We found their transport in the glen below Ben Starav and at the wee house we had a chat with the owner whose name I cannot remember ( a real character in the Glen, his name would be great) I have since  found out that he was Charlie Cattanach the keeper locally known for his as Sir Charlie, thanks to Davy Gunn of Glencoe. He he had spoken to the boys early in the day. The house had I am sure no electricity it was lit by tilly lamps and the kids were excited about Christmas. It was an amazing house but what character and true Highland hospitality and they were always good to the team and mountaineers.  How many had Charlie helped in the past , he was always full for a good story. We refused countless drams and headed up the hill after about an hour it was wild we got a broken message on the radio. They said that they were biving in poor weather, all were okay and would be out at first light. It was late now and we were told to head off and get back in the morning. We stopped at the house and gave the kids our chocolate, and headed back to Tyndrum. On the way we phoned Hamish in Glencoe and he was as always laid back and said if we needed any help to call.    When we got back it was late and it was an unwritten rule in the team that no one had a drink till all were off the hill. The cook was not into this rule and we got no meal and he was pretty drunk by the time we got back, the meal was a disaster. He was soon sorted out (sorry) and I was in trouble again. That would wait till later! We all had to cook and took it in turns it could be along and worrying day starting of with breakfast in winter at 0700/0730 with tea in bed for all the team.  Soup had to be ready for midday and the main meal by 1800.  It was a sleepless night for me as we left early 0500 with tea and bacon sandwiches and headed back up to Glen Etive to meet them. We wandered up the Glen it was pouring and met them coming down pretty cold and wet no Gortex in these days, we were glad to see them. All were okay but deep snow and high winds had held them back and one of the new troops was struggling so they had a wet but “character building night”. Back at the wee house in Glen Etive the kids were enjoying Christmas and we got invited in this time despite being soaked and wet and were all given a huge dram – apart from the drivers. We left them to it and were soon heading back to Tyndrum – all were asleep in the steamy land rovers in minutes, then a change of clothes, breakfast and then the news a huge  call – out in the Cairngorms.

Lots of learning on this few days!

To be continued!

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 Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Views Political?. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The best laid schemes – Glen Etive Adventure – Sir Charlie of Glen Etive.

  1. Davy Gunn says:

    The family were the Cattanachs and that would have been “Charlie”. His family all now live in Glencoe village. Quite a charachter and worked as a keeper. The cottage was eventualy vacated as one of the kids tested postive for TB although didn’t have symptoms. They then moved to a cottage at the old pier. I new them well and have many stories of Charlie but they are best told over a dram in a bothy. Keep the blog posts coming. Great adventures. Bliadhna Mhath Ùr for 2014


    • heavywhalley says:

      Davy – great I took them loads of socks and stuff afterwards – great people always lots of kids everywhere! As always the best of people in the West – they had no elecrticty that was right!


  2. Robin cattanach says:

    That’s a lovely story my dad was sir Charlie . He always enjoyed inviting people in for a piece or a dram . We had Tilly lamps till in the middle of the eighties .

    Liked by 1 person

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