Wonderful walk to a wintry Ben Macdui – and the Anson Crash – Black ice and verglas.

I really enjoyed my walk in Strathfarrar on Friday and felt up for a longer wander on Sunday. I watched the MWIS ( Mountain Weather Information Service) and Sunday the winds seemed to have eased so it was a reasonable start from home and I picked up Bernie from Forres. It was a crisp morning and for some reason I went by the Carrbridge Road and after a short distance I stopped and realized the road was covered in Black ice it   is not gritted overnight. I took it very easy, the fields were frosty and the Cairngorms looked stunning in the morning light. On arriving at the Cairngorm Car park it was fairly quite with a load of young climbers ready to go with axes and all the gear. My plan was to go up the West Ridge of Lochan and round the Northern Corries always a wonderful airy walk getting views of these impressive corries and their climbs. The path was icy in places with the rocks even low down covered in a thin veneer of ice (verglas)  this was especially prevalent when crossing the burns.  It  was cold but the sun was out and a young lovely lassie ran passed us effortlessly heading for the high tops, how I envied her fitness. It had been 13 days since my two operations and yet for me I was moving well and enjoying this great place. The burns were sparking and the ground with a heavy frost was sparkling in the sun, it was a bitter wind that took no prisoners.

The great cliffs of Corrie an Lochan with the Great Slab!

The great cliffs of Corrie an Lochan with the Great Slab.

The path is excellent apart from the ice and we soon decided to head out to Ben Macdui. This part of the walk takes you across the high and exposed plateau and then descends to Lochan Buidhe the only land mark in this featureless wild expanse of stony tundra. In winter and in a high wind this is a wild place but today it was stunning, there was only myself and Bernie enjoying the wildness.

The only land mark is the famous Lochan Buidhe this lies at the lowest point of the plateau at 1125 meters it is the highest point of water in the UK! It is 2 long kilometres from here to the summit much of it stony slippy rocks and here the mist came in. The ground was very frozen now and the odd patches of snow rock hard, it was bitter cold and I put another jacket on and a better hat the ears were frozen, The summit has lots of cairns and shelters  from various adventures in the past by mountaineers soldiers, gemstone hunters and bird watchers! We reached the summit and hoped the weather would clear but it was not to be. It was very cold and we were joined by a solo walker from Salisbury after the Munro.

Heading out to the Memorial to the Anson Crash on Ben Macdui.

Heading out to the Memorial to the Anson Crash on Ben Macdui.

It was very cold had a quick drink and then in the mist and I took a bearing to head out to the Anson Crash Memorail on the way we saw another figure and it was a good friend Ray Harron who joined us in the mist to the crash site. We found the Memorial: how few visit this place and miss a special part of the mountain where 5 young men lost there lives in August 1942.

The Memorial!

The Memorial!

It was important for me to be here as I always try to visit these mountain sites and especially near Remembrance Day “Lest we forget”

The location of the Memorial why not visit and pay your respects!

The location of the Memorial why not visit and pay your respects!

I was in Hospital and I missed my annual trip a few weeks ago  so this was very important to me to be here.It is terrible that we are still losing young men and woman in wars: how far have we come since these dark days of 1942. There is wreckage right into the burn and this part of this wild remote place was very special today. I did a program a few years ago for the BBC on this site and it on their website.

At the Memorial - Photo Ray Harron.

At the Memorial – Photo Ray Harron.

We had a look about it is an artic environment and there is wreckage all over, today it was bitter cold and I took my gloves of to take some photos within a minute I had frozen hands ( hot aches)  and my camera battery died in the cold, I was lucky that Ray had his camera and we got some shots. The backdrop of  the Larig Gru, Cairntoul and Angels Peak in the cloud make this a wild place to be.

Ben Macdui Avro Anson air crash remembered 70 years on

Plaque to those who died in the Avro Anson crash
A memorial to the five dead men has been built close to the top of the summit

The five men killed in a WWII training flight crash on a north-east mountain are being remembered 70 years on.

Much of the wreckage from the Avro Anson air crash, which happened on 21 August 1942, remains on Ben MacDui in the Cairngorms.

There are hundreds of similar sites across Scotland, due to the high number of aircrew who trained for WWII.  All on board the training flight from RAF Kinloss died, including the pilot, Sgt John Llewelyn. The 24-year-old from Carmarthenshire, already an established pilot, was being trained as a fighter pilot. Due to the war, only the bodies were recovered and much of the debris from the crash remains intact on the mountain.

‘Young lads’

David Whalley, a rescue specialist, said: “There are two Cheetah engines still up here, it was a very powerful aircraft. Much of the wreckage of an Avro Anson is still on Ben Macdui

“It is amazing that this stuff is still here, incredible in these elements.”There are literally hundreds of aircraft scattered all over Scotland, they lost so many crew and these were just young lads who had joined the airforce to go to war and had to learn to fly quickly.”

A memorial to the five dead men has been built close to the top of the summit.

The Engine Cheetta at the site!

The Engine Cheeta at the site! The clouds cleared and the hills made a superb back ground.

It was a great walk back a bit sore but the sun came out and a bit of a wind as we headed for the Northern Corries. On the way we saw the Royal Navy Sea King heading home after training with the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team  in the Corrie. We passed lots of ptarmigan all in white on the slopes ready for the winter, still lots about and the odd walker as we headed to the Goat Track.  On the ridge we met another friend  Pete Amphlet at the Goat Track descent  and he had also been out on Macdui we left him to descend the Goat Track and a promise to be careful as there has been severe rockfall in this area. It was a great walk along the cliff edge looking at all the familiar climbs before the winter snows come.

Looking into the Corries - photo Ray Harron

Looking into the Corries – photo Ray Harron

We were soon on the spot height 1141 and then down into the Ski area and back to the car. I felt tired just under 19 kilometers not bad 13 days after my operations and great medicine. I was bit sore as we stopped for a tea at Ned and Glenda’s then home . The gritters were out as we headed home and drop of Bernie. Then a bath and relax, a bit sore today but great to be in the big mountains again. Winter is about, watch the roads for ice and maybe time for axes and crampons  and a bit more warm gear! No more messages please about taking it easy, at my age every day is to be used! I am taking it easy?




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 Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Gear, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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