Day 21 November 18 – Braemar – Cairn An – t Sagairt Mor, White Mounth, Lochnagar –Spitall of Glen Muick .
Sid was amazed we were up and gone by 0700 just as the light was arriving , we wandered up the road to Auchallater and up to Loch Callater Lodge on Jock’s Road and met many deer sheltering by the Lodge. Then it was up the windswept hills plastered with snow and on to Carn an Sagairt Mor at 1047 meters. It was then onto the open plateau it was wild but by now we were so slick with our navigation and our gear and onto White Mounth and Lochnagar.
The weather was brutal and with an Easterly wind it bit into the core of your body. It was the coldest this was the coldest I felt on the whole walk it was bitter. We still had to watch the navigation it was tricky and were glad to meet Sid he was frozen it was a quick snack and then get off the hill. Lochnagar in a blizzard is not easy you hug the huge cliffs and have to take care, again it is not simple but Sid was happy to give us a break as we tried to head down out of the weather.
We were soon down in the Glen then along the track to Spittal Of Glen Muick we were staying with Mr Robertson the keeper another old friend of the team. Sid headed back to RAF Kinloss and said he would be back tomorrow what ever happened and meet us on Mount Keen the end of the trip. (Sid was to die of cancer within a year this great big strong man and a real pal I will never forget his kindness meeting us on that second last day.) We were upset that the team would not be there at the end but it was not to be but they were still involved in War Games poor souls. Mr Robertson had a good chat and we stayed in the MR bothy for the night, we had a dram with him and could not believe we only had one day left. We had definitely aged and lost lots of weight but were extremely fit. We slept well and were as usual away early it still was a bit of a walk to go much on our favourite ground peat and bog! It was another steady day of 24 k and 1219 metres in the wild weather again all day but only 1 day to go.
Day 22 November 19 – Spittal Of Glen Muick – Mount Keen and Auchromie. It was a bit of a road walk to start then up onto the hill tracks and then over heather and peat hags in deep snow to the most Easterly Munro Mount Keen. This is what many call a boring featureless hill from the Lochnagar side but today we enjoyed it and the sun came out and the miles passed, we did not speak the three of us alone in our thoughts. There were amazingly a few troops there to meet us on the summit, the war was over and they had come straight out to be with us. Mick Trimby another great mate brought my lovely girlfriend June out and though she had worked like the troops for 5 days with little sleep it was amazing to see her and great to see them. I was a bit embarrassed on the top of Mount Keen with June being there (how daft is that) and it was strange to have company and then we walked down to Glen Mark. The weather was good and clear and we were of the hill in the daylight and then a long 3 hour drive home. As we walked down to the wagon we could smell the trees and the fields of green after 3 weeks of snow and whiteness, what a relief. The walk was over and we were alive. What a trip what an experience for us all.
Total 47 Munros Climbed, 506 Kilometres and 33429 metres of ascent most in wild weather!
It was a massive undertaking at the time with the lack of daylight and the weather we had nearly every day in wild weather. Navigation and Fitness were key elements and the area knowledge we had saved us in a few places. Maps were very basic not like today (2014) no GPS, we planned the route in advance but each day was dependent on the weather. Our route changed with the weather and the that was a key to our safety on the hill.
The hill gear was very basic, no Gortex but the polar fleeces were life savers. We were wet every day and had to keep moving to keep warm. Feet were always cold, wet socks every day along with wet kit. We always carried a spare pair of gloves and basic kit to change into it was limited as we were carrying everything. We carried plastic bivy bags very basic! The Helly Hansens waterproofs state of the art and orange had a map pocket home-made this was a great addition, the jacket and trousers were very basic and we still got soaked.
Food was simple porridge and simple lightweight food, mashed potatoes and pasta, lots of soups and tea coffee etc, we were always hungry. Hill food was simple chocolate and sweets! We cooked on a primus it never let us down. I laid out the food in advance and the food caches were for the time great being a caterer by trade helped and still we were always hungry. I lost a stone on the trip and I was a skinny lad then.
Communications – we phoned whenever we got to a phone and were on our own a lot, weather forecasts were hard to get and it was always similar, snow, wind and cloud! Family and girlfriends relied on this for updates.
The road walking was hard work and we carried RAF Sand shoes no trainers then they were basic but a great change from boots, everything was limited due to weight.
Bothies were used whenever and a great bonus the Mountain Bothies is a great asset we only met one person in a bothy on our travels. The fires were so important to try to dry the wet gear very night. We used the Scottish Youth Hostels twice at Affric and Ossian again we were the only people there!
The keepers and team contacts for Base Camps from Tom Rigg ,Mr MacRae in Skye, Kintail Cluannie Lodge, Mr Oswald at Culra ,the keeper at Gaick, the Keeper and his wife at Linn Of Dee and Mr Robertson at Lochnagar were all great to us. We had such hospitality meals and drams and I can never forget them and apologise for losing the names of everyone but my diary got soaked. We at times arrived very late very tired yet we always got a welcome. The hills were very quiet in 1977 and we only met our friends in the team on the hill imagine that today?
These people were what going on the mountains were all about and remain so vivid memories even today.
A few notes
Jim and Terry my companions were exceptional never complained unlike me and were to become incredibly powerful mountaineers, we never fell out on the trip and we learned so much for the future. The planning was hard work and on maps we spent a long time on this and the food caches and when you look back with the technology today it was impressive. Our navigation improved as did our fitness and mountaineering skills. As the days went on we did I still I feel at one with the mountains over this period of 21 days and became as one! This was to be a great help when we were under great pressure. The great thing is we are still great friends.
The assistance from RAF Kinloss from Jim Green , Mick Trimby and Sid Green all sadly deceased who came out with ice axes, food and transported us home, I have many wonderful memories and to poor June who I was so embarrassed when you arrived on Mount Keen I am sorry. Our families who worried about us and I know my Dad and Mum were praying for us and we needed it. Ray Sefton and Don Shanks the Team Leader and Deputy at RAF Kinloss who worried if their careers were over as the weather came in. I never realised the level of responsibility for us until I became a Team Leader. Finally to John Hinde RIP – you really set the” cat among the pigeon’s with your Walk idea in the depths of November. But did we learn from it and many call –outs in the future were successful from the local area knowledge learned on that walk.
That is it nearly 9500 words on our Walk from West – East in 1977 and tomorrow I off for a couple of Operations and no doubt dreaming on these wild days as a young fit troop! I will be back, why not trawl through the Blog and read some other tales.
I am thinking of publishing a book but would like a bit of feedback as I have already been let down by one Publisher please send me an email if you would buy it?
Hope you enjoyed the adventure as I enjoyed remembering the trip. More to come ?