A few thoughts again on those who comment on Mountain Accidents.

Yesterday I fielded a fair few calls from the media after the accident in Torridon  in the North West Of Scotland where an Avalanche took  another life. My thoughts as always are with those involved and especially the family. This is a heavy winter for weather, high winds and heavy snowfall can make conditions hard to judge. Many climbers seek new areas to climb some  in the remoter areas of Scotland places that I also love in far North West. Descents from climbs and summits in bad weather are tricky and there are few other climbers  in the remoter corries ,communications can be and are poor, help can be far away.  Yet these are incredible places to be and you only have to look at the media this weekend to see how many had a wonderful walking weekend climbing and skiing safely in this unique country.


I was alerted to a media page by a good friend  one of the unsung heroes of Mountain Rescue a mother who has at times had 3 of her family on Rescues at one time over many years . She was horrified at the response of some of the comments page whose comments really upset her. Much was the usual but some was too hard to repeat on this website and this is to a family who have just lost a loved one is completely out-of-order. Who are we to comment but before we put a pen to paper we  should think about what we say, especially if our knowledge is limited on the subject. Many have no clue that one-third of the Rescues involve non – mountaineering incidents. Many are vulnerable people who go missing and teams work unpaid in the wildest of weather. These could be your mother, father or relative!   In these days of a society that often has little care Mountain Rescue  is a wonderful service. Every weekend the Hospitals are full of drunk, drugged and partying people who have overdone it in the city’s and are using the Emergency Services, Medical, Police and social services at huge cost, little is said at this huge burden on the tax payer.  Am I am wrong to compare this to how many die every weekend in our cities and this is a tragedy but accepted now by a passive minority. It does not make what happened this weekend in Torridon any easier for all concerned but surely they should be left to grieve in peace. The Rescue Teams respond to help  do it because for most that could be them that has fallen and they have the skill and knowledge to help those in trouble on our mountains.

After a long difficult call out the Agencies, Team and all involved are exhausted and once the adrenalin of a rescue is over it is time to recover and recharge the batteries. We have an amazing Service especially in the remoter areas made up of local people who carry out a difficult task with great courage. It is not over after a Rescue, gear has to be sorted and ready for another incident and we go home to our families and try to act normal despite what we may have seen. Often relatives arrive and want to speak to the Team this is never easy and rarely is there any criticism of what occurred we are all mountaineer, many of the contacts made with a relative in a fatality are for life. These will be hard days for all concerned.

Jan 2014 Broken Spevtre

I have spent  most my life dealing with such incidents and have a commitment to Mountain Safety and Education, It is an ongoing task but we have so many things to assist us nowadays and have moved on and despite the annual tragedies I feel we are improving our education and training. There are huge advances in training and avalanche awareness and the new Avalanche service in Torridon is a great addition and I hope it gets funding to continue.  The Scottish Avalanche Service is a must for the daily forecasts in all the climbing areas. The Weather forecast again daily and free all, things have moved on but accidents happen and if we can learn from them we should. I ran two teams within the RAF Mountain Rescue and most weekends we were in new area all over Scotland. It was hard trying to train for the mountains and especially Call outs in wild weather. It was tricky also trying to ensure that the up and coming team member’s/leaders ambition did not run away with their ability and experience. These were hard too call at times because to operate in winter in the worst of weather you have to be at one with the mountain environment and even the experienced  get caught out. The mountains teach you so many lessons all the time.

We must take great care when out in the mountains for those who wait at home for us. Yet for many thousands it was a wonderful weekend in the mountains despite the weather forecast to those who do not understand the winter weather.

999 Emergency Text Service – are you connected you owe it to your family and climbing partner. 

Walkers who visit areas with bad mobile phone access can now register with a new service that allows 999 calls to be made via a text message.

Heather Morning, safety adviser with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, is urging walkers and climbers to register for this service in advance and not to wait for an emergency. She says,

“If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone.

“This is going to be particularly useful for those needing 999 assistance in the hills when mobile reception is poor and there is not enough signal to make a call.”

The emergency SMS service was established originally for deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired people. It allows users to contact the UK 999 services by sending an SMS text message.

Mountain Rescue Services in the UK are usually coordinated by the police.



The wonderful North West - Torridon

The wonderful North West – Torridon


Please be safe enjoy the winter I sit here impatient and missing the joy of winter but also aware that we must use all the tools available to make our journey as safe as possible.

Mountains will be always climbed, walked ,skied and used by those that love the wild places especially in winter – why do we love it? For me its is the wildness the weather the beauty and the remoteness and challenging the elements in our own feeble way. Even a short walk in wild weather reinvigorate us and I cannot wait to get out again as soon as I recover from my operation.   I have spoken to many families who have lost a loved one and I am friends with many still and have lost over 10 friends over 40 years in the mountains. Yet like so many I still love the winter and always will.

Please take care and be as safe as possible we have a unique Mountain Rescue service in the UK  made up the UK’s finest people, who work for others unselfishly.      Very rare in this selfish modern society.

W.H. Murray sums it up

“It is in winter that the Scottish Mountains Excel

No one who has seen the skyward thrust of a snow peak, girdled by its early morning cloud and flushed with the low sun, will dispute with me.

Follow a long ridge of encrusted snow to its sunset tower and tread the summit at moonrise.

This is Scottish winter climbing! ”



About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Avalanche info, Equipment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to A few thoughts again on those who comment on Mountain Accidents.

  1. Margo Murray says:

    I can only endorse every, full of commitment & concern, word you say The call of the wild is strong for all your beautiful reasons and we must respect it and those watchful kindred spirits who give us confidence to answer it. It is sometime since I have enjoyed my hills to the full but I left my heart amonst them and it still communicates with me regularly. My antidote to older age. Thank you.


    • heavywhalley says:

      I appreciate your comments – you are a like me a passionate lover of the wild and I will try to explain why we love it so much to those that do not understand. As we get older we appreciate the power of nature – she lets us play at times in wild conditions. Nature always teaches us mortals every day every season it is up to us to pass on the knowledge so that others can enjoy the wild as safely as reasonably possible!


  2. Lyndon A Jones says:

    Well done Dave an other extremely well written blog, you have a gift that I find myself sadly lacking following my last stroke in 2010.
    when I was a young mountaineer I certainly remember myself and long standing climbing partner in a few shall we say times when we found ourselves wishing we may have taken the second opportunity which would have been to get the hell out of hear back to the nearest pub, but staying and coming through the other side increased your comfort zones and abilities making it easier to go to that place next time

    The only time I ever got angry following. a call-out was with a belligerent idiot that had taken a group of scouts up Cadir Idris in South Snowdonia a mountain in my mind much underestimated as to it’s dangers especially in winter and probably frightened 6 kids from ever going up a mountain ever again in their lives how no one died that night I will never know.

    The call of the mountains never goes away I have two sons and not being able to walk and climb with them hurts inside so much

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is a lovely piece. I like the mountains in summer, but really I am a sea person. The RNLI here is in everyone’s blood, we support it and the brave crews totally. Just recently we had the tragic loss of a cement boat in the Pentland Firth with all hands. In our waters danger is never far away. As a sea person I well understand the call of the mountains in winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jon Wickham says:

    Thank you Heavy, you are the voice of sanity! I have tried educating and conversing with people who have commented on some of the national press articles, as this is one of the few times when MR and the mountaineering community has the ear of the wider public. However I have had limited results. I think many of these people are in some form or other ‘trolls’, who simply wait for the next news item and comment, no matter the subject and their knowledge of it. Perhaps we should not give them the attention that they seem to crave?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom Jones says:

    You knew my dad Philip. He died in the mountains many years ago through no fault ofhis own. I don’t think a day passes without me thinking about him, but his love of the mountains and mountain rescue made him who he was.
    I wouldn’t want to change that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mike Blakey says:

    An excellent piece – well done for saying this.


  7. Stuart Mckie says:

    I have been venturing into the mountains for nearly forty years and like many people here have lost friends to accidents on the hill.
    Your blog entry is excellent and expresses the views of common sense and common decency.
    It seems to be the way of it nowadays that criticism of mountain accidents is, mostly, uninformed and extremely knee jerk .
    We live in an age where obesity, inactivity and life style choice are all topics of debate and yet when others who don’t subscribe to this stereotype pay the ultimate price they are often ridiculed and criticised.
    The feeling of remoteness, of challenging the elements, of being alive are always expressed perfectly on the hill. Surely this poor chap should be celebrated for trying to embrace life and not adding to the poor social stereotype.
    Yes, we all know the risks and yes we try to mitigate the risk through training and acquired experience but the sad fact is that accidents happen whether on the hill or not.
    Thank you for bringing some balance to the debate.


  8. Jason says:

    I would also add to the advice about registering with the 999 text service that touch screens are probably the last thing you’d want in an emergency, when you can’t feel your fingers and weather’s wild, and an old-school ‘builders phone’ is the thing to have. A quick search for ‘builders phone’ on eBay will bring up dozens, many of which are £20 or less.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris says:

    As a physically disabled man who likes the backcountry, the possibility always exists of needing the services of Mountain Rescue despite not being engaged in Winter Sports. I value highly the safety net that exists of upland specific rescue services. To help with any potential retrieval, I carry a Satellite Phone and signal pyro, a bag of tricks which cost me less than £300. It surprises me that in the days of low cost satcoms, people do not plan and execute routes that allow them a clear path to satellites and carry a Satphone. I would not head into wild country without one.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. snowsurfer says:

    Reblogged this on Snowsurfer Pictures and commented:
    It’s easy to comment, but one should this before doing so

    Liked by 1 person

  11. k1nley says:

    Thanks for that – a very well-worded and considered article.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. scenicpees says:

    I lost a good friend, along with three others, in an avalanche in Glencoe two years ago. The draw of the outdoors was enormous for them and doing what they loved shouldn’t have to be defended. It isn’t like smoking, where doing it will definitely cause damage, going out into the hills properly prepared, with knowledge of the hills and an awareness of the risks is, in general, a safe activity and the chances of anything bad happening are low.

    While winter mountaineering isn’t my thing (March to November is as much as I can muster, though I do get up a lot in that time) the majesty of the mountains at any time of year is something that deserves appreciation and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend your time. Having Mountain Rescue as a last resort safety net makes it possible regardless of what situation may unexpectedly come your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. john D says:

    Heavy, criticism of those who die on our Mountains does nothing to heal the pain of losing a loved one . When a death occurs due to a mistake , ill judged decision or simply hellish bad luck those left at home are acutely aware of what went wrong. Rescue teams are loath to criticise in these circumstances as it will not bring the loved one back and encourages those who pick holes to increase the grief further. Having dealt with relatives whose loved ones have been killed we have to support them and try to explain what possibly went wrong but NEVER criticise and pass judgement .We can hopefully give some comfort at this very difficult time .
    All the best John D.


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