The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet.
The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF) and only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be and gaining authorisation by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO) The three of us were very different Jim Morning (JM) extremely fit and powerful a talented mountaineer very organised and efficient. Paul Burns (PB) a man who felt no pain has huge powers to shut out what was going on and just get out and do it. He was a bit of a nightmare with his gear but could cope with any discomfort and pain. Heavy Whalley (HW) I had to work so hard every day at fitness and in the end got there most days a battle, I was my own man and at times a bit unorganised! The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.
The Last Day “A dream come true”
Day 21 May 29 It was an incredible night in the small school at Inversnaid where we were staying by kind permission of one of the locals. We were really tired may be we have misjudged the second last day but these hills were so hard, pathless and hard work, lots of unseen contours and rough walking took their toll. We found it hard to believe that this was the end of a superb walk across Scotland. In addition we were also very tired and were very glad we only had a short walk today to the summit of Ben Lomond and then hopefully a lift home to a hot bath and good food from the RAF Kinloss Team . We did not hang about in the morning the boots were soaked but it was the last day so I put my spare dry socks and broke a ritual. We had to be way early from our lovely bothy and were not sure what time our lift was from Ben Lomond but we had to be out the school before Inversnaid woke up. Not many will climb one of the most popular mountains in Scotland from this side most climb Glasgow’s mountain from the South. It was a great way up and we never saw a soul The walk is very interesting from this side and follows some hard ground very similar to yesterday. There was no path in 1976 till near the summit but the views of Loch Lomond are superb but unfortunately we never took it all in. It seemed a long 6 miles to the summit, it was harder going than we thought it would be. We were soon there and with the early crowds on the summit and never even took a photo, we felt that all these people were crowding us after all these days alone on the hills. It seemed a huge anti climax to us all and we just wanted home.
I find it really amazing that we just shook hands and headed off down the tourist path alone in our thoughts. On the last mile we met our lift heading up the hill to meet us, some members of the RAF Kinloss Team. They were a bit late and then it was a few congratulations and a long 5 hour drive in a land rover where we slept most of the way, we were exhausted now the walk was over. The land rover stank after half an hour we needed a wash badly and we were just wanting to get home.. The troops to be fair had no clue what we had done and until you do such a feat it is another world in you are in. It was sort out the kit most went in the bin and then was back to work next day and that was my holidays for the year over. A bit of a downer at the end!
It was my first big walk and a huge learning curb for me many that was to be invaluable in many call -outs in the future. I learned so much about the mountains and different ways up and down them and it was great having Paul and Jim on the trip. We never fell out all the way and at times we were pretty tired and running on empty. There were no bothies on a couple of occasions due to being let down by our organisation and that was hard after a big hill days. The hospitality of the keepers and their families were wonderful and the kindness was unequal especially at Scardroy Lodge where I was ill, this was true Highland Hospitality at its best and will never be forgotten.
The gear was basic as were the food caches every 3 /4 days with food and our boots were a pair of curlies that leaked every day. We had some incredible days saw so much and learnt so much about this great country and the hospitality we had been given was incredible.Why not go and do a short trip across this great land, you will see a lot more people and there will be more paths but the hills will always be the same. I have been a member of the Mountain Bothy Association ( MBA) for many years and appreciate what they do to keep these remote shelters going in 2014 so that others may enjoy what we did all these years ago. Why not join them or send them a donation or buy the book below.
These nights were the highlights of a great trip a fire going, the company of Jim and Paul, the gear steaming nearby and that first cup of tea I will remember these days forever.
|1962E- W||Kinloss||Autumn||11||Shaw, McKerron, Ballantyne|
|1964N- S||Kinloss||Summer||37||Armstrong, Golton, Raven|
|1966N-S||Kinloss||Summer||32||Ward, Morrison, Bradshaw|
|1967 S -N||Kinloss||Summer||26||Gilligan, Ward, Wagg|
|1968N-S||Kinloss/Valley||Autumn19 days||48/58||Hinde, Blyth, McGowan, Tomlinson, (Rabbits, Millgate350 miles/30480 metres|
|1970N-S||Kinloss||Winter 20 days||20||Roney,Tindley,Luff,Higgins300 miles/18288 metres|
|1970N-S||Stafford||Autumn 22 days||44||Brewer, Keane, Gillies, Penning, Goldsborough. 282 miles/21236 metres.|
|1976N- S||Kinloss||Spring21 days||62||Whalley, Burns, Morning 334 miles/31185 metres.|
The total for our trip was 62 Munros 334 miles and 104464 feet of ascent.
This was a record for the RAF Trips at the time and we were pretty pleased!
The Mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego!