Scottish Mountain Rescue in the “ Sometimes, Sad and at times Swinging 70’s”

The Curran Bothy in the Cairngorms.

The Curran Bothy in the Cairngorms. Near the scene of the Cairngorm Disaster.

Mountain Rescue Teams formed in this period?

Torridon MRT 1971
Police Scotland Tayside  MRT 1971
Ochils  MRT 1971
Glenmore Lodge MRT 1972
Dundonnell MRT 1972
Glenelg MRT 1973
Galloway MRT 1975
Police Scotland 1975
Tayside MRT 1976
Assynt MRT 1976
Arrochar MRT 1978

This was the start of my era in Mountain Rescue and it started with a big Avalanche Tragedy on Ben Nevis when 3 very experienced climbers were killed on Italian Climb in 1970.

Whirlwind

19/01/70 Ben Nevis

Italian Climb

Avalanched climbers.   3 fatal and 1 alive.  Mary Anne Hudson (WRAF RAF Kinloss died a good friend of the team).Jim McCartney was also killed one of the bright stars of the Scottish climbing Community.  .

 

1976 Massive Avalanche on Ben Nevis.

1976 Massive Avalanche on Ben Nevis.

Mountaineering in this period of huge change especially in winter climbing was getting popular and yet many climbers knew each other. The climbing community was then a tight parochial bunch and accidents often involved friends such was the community. The great winter cliffs were again being opened up with the new ice climbing gear and equipment.

Changed the face of ice climbing at the time!

Changed the face of ice climbing at the time!

Climbs that rarely saw repeats were being climbed regularly and the mountains still took a grim toll. Many top climbers of their day were  involved with teams and some of the names involved were a who’s who of Scottish climbing of the time. Glencoe was full of stars many working with Hamish in the Glencoe Climbing School.  The first Female Mountain Rescue Team Leader Molly Porter was leading the Cairngorm Team in this period from 1972 a decision well ahead of its time.

Photo – Cairngorm MRT and Leader Molly Porter.

1972 Molly Porter - Cairngorm Team Leader.

1972 Molly Porter – Cairngorm Team Leader.

Teams were improving gear, ropes were longer some 1000 foot ropes were made for the big cliffs on Ben Nevis and even left on site, manpower was still heavily used on these huge lowers and many new skills were learned the hard way on the Ben’s big cliffs.

In 1971 in the Cairngorms came an incident that changed Mountaineering when a group of school children died on the plateau. This was a huge tragic call –out that shook Mountain Rescue to its roots. Cairngorm MRT. Glenmore Lodge, Braemar, Aberdeen. Kinloss and SARDA were all involved.   This is well documented in various books and articles.

21/11/71 Cairngorm Plateau

36/986012

36/983010

 The “Cairngorm Disaster” – 8 missing 6 children 2 adults, found near Fiethe Buidhe on Cairngorm Plateau.  6 fatal.  2 alive. 2 Team members awarded Commendations. After the enquiry this was the start of formal mountain training and certification.
A This is the story of a police constable's crucial involvement in the development of rescue services in the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. It covers politics, personalities, everyday practicalities and the many trivia which, as in other walks of life, are so often inseparable from the momentous events which suddenly arise and overshadow ordinary lives. All these things are depicted against the background of a range of mountains of breathtaking beauty and, at times, fearsome dangers.Bobby on Ben MacDui -

A Bobby on Ben MacDui . Some of the rescues in this era.

This is the story of a police constable’s crucial involvement in the development of rescue services in the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. It covers politics, personalities, everyday practicalities and the many trivia which, as in other walks of life, are so often inseparable from the momentous events which suddenly arise and overshadow ordinary lives. All these things are depicted against the background of a range of mountains of breathtaking beauty and, at times, fearsome danger!

1978 Ben Wagon

Some big Rescues of the time

16/02/74 Ben Nevis

Zero Gully

2 injured climbers fell 150 ft into Zero Gully from Observatory Ridge lowered 1000ft to the CIC hut.
08/09/75 Isle of Skye

West Buttress

Sgur McConnich

Fallen climber with injuries to lower leg, facial and internal injuries.  700ft lower.  17 hour “epic”. Another big lower at the time

 

 

The Big Blizzards 1978  – Many teams all over Scotland were involved huge assistance given by Scottish Mountain Rescue

1978 Blizzards - Teams working for days all over Scotland.

1978 Blizzards – Teams working for days all over Scotland.

320-3/78 28/01/78 Rannoch Moor 50 stranded motorists.  The start of the big blizzards. MRT Team vehicles used to bring in motorists.

1978 blizzards laggan

321-4/78 29/01/78 Creag Meagaidh 1 exhausted walker found safe and well after a 3-day bivvy.
322-5/78 29/01/78 A87 between Clunnie and Invergarry 15 motorists stranded in blizzards.  All alive.  2 stretchered off for 2 miles.
323-6/78 31/01/78 Aberarder Farm Missing walker found safe and well.
324-7/78 31/01/78 Fort William area Probe in search for missing cars.  Nothing found.
325-8/78 30/0178-

02/02/78

Fort William Assisting Police in the blizzards.
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Early transports on the hills

 

342-7/79 23-27/11/79 Ben Lui area RAF Jaguar aircraft crash. Three-day search involving over 200 searchers, Killin, SARDA, Lomond, RAF Kinloss, Leuchars  RAF Valley MRT flown in to assist. Pilot found on very steep grade 2 ground lowered off. 1 fatal.
1972 in the Cairngorms!

1972 in the Cairngorms!

By the end of the 70’s the Mountain Rescue Teams were now officially all over Scotland with over 25 teams and SARDA. They were assisted by the two RAF Mountain Rescue Teams. In 1965 the Scottish Mountain Rescue Committee had been formed and was now in a position to improve communications between teams. Radios and Mountain Rescue equipment were much better as was Mountain Rescue Training in various skills including first aid.     I can remember an early call – out on Ben Nevis where I was told to take a tilly lamp on the hill. It still remains in 5 Finger Gully. Each Team had its characters and many local guides were part of the teams. Glenmore Lodge had some of the finest mountaineers of this era in their team and it was to lead to some interesting call outs. There team was a whoes  who of top mountaineers.  Hamish was still the main man in Glencoe with its local stars and Lochaber had so many characters others had been with the RAF MR Teams in the days of National Service. As a young lad I was looked after by some of them in the big call – outs, I nearly took out an autograph book to get their signatures. It was a great apprenticeship learning from the best.  There was much banter on the hills even on call outs and a bit of rivalry. SARDA also had some real characters who vanished alone with their dogs into the mountains on rescues!  Yet many other the other teams were still very traditional with local people keepers etc  and were also great companions on the remoter searches. Estate Tracks were opened to teams and hotels offered food and a break in a long call -out with hot food and drink. Mountain Rescue was a family and as I travelled round Scotland on many incidents I was amazed at the efforts put in by all teams. Many of the smaller Mountain Rescue Teams really struggled for gear  and when we could we give them bits and pieces and did training when we could.  There was little money in Mountain Rescue then   call this period from the 1960 – 2000 as the Golden Years of SAR? Is it just nostalgia , I think not.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Bothies, Equipment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?. Bookmark the permalink.

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