“Freedom Climbers” a great read, Farewell to a lovely man and a good Boss and The Gaick Disaster.

I have just had one of those weekend and feel a bit tired after a strange week for me. I have done a lot of travelling and it has been all go for me after visiting a pal for a few days who has not been well it all happens so quickly with Cancer, operation and treatment but  she is doing well a hardy lass xxx. On my return home I heard that an old Boss in the RAF had passed away Roger Goldsworthy who was my  Catering Officer  in the 70’s and looked after me in my early days when I was a wild child at RAF Kinloss. Roger was one of the few  bosses in my trade who I respected as a person and helped me a lot even though I was far more interested in the  mountains than Catering. He advised me a lot and I always visited him when I could and owe him a lot and will miss him a true gentleman and lovely person. I think it upset me more than I will admit his passing he was a kindly man. I maybe made the wrong decision the weekend out was maybe not the time to be out with a big crowd of people with my climbing club at Newtonmore in the heavy rain. I will be at Roger’s funeral on Tuesday and will say a sad goodbye but to a good man and a great help to me.

Thank you Roger I appreciate your help.


The club meet was at Newtonmore but the weather and the rain was awful but it did not stop some of the club. They still were out  running, walking, cycling and even making cakes making the best of a wild weekend. The power of nature was incredible to see and the flooding and natures wildness with the flooding with the huge Spey river on the doorstep scary. I took it  very easy and enjoyed the book in the bothy and  cleaning it up after the had all left. I was given  the book by Fiona one of the club at the weekend and it was great to read  anew book. It is also very sad tale the  “Freedom Climbers” is about the incredible Polish Mountaineers. This is an insight into the  horrendous history and  the way Poland has been treated by many countries in the past. The effect of the war and yet how it produce some amazing people from this hardy nation. The Polish climbers and their huge influence in the World of Himalayan Mountaineering but at a huge cost in the lives of so many of the top Polish mountaineers. It is a complex book but well worth a read, thanks Fiona.

Freedom Climbers

Freedom Climbers.

The Moray Mountaineering Club had a few who went Mountain Biking from Newtonmore to Gaick Lodge and Glen Tromie a big route in that weather of about 50 kilometres. This was the scene of the Gaick Avalanche in 1800 where 5  were killed  and their dogs in a huge avalanche. This is part of the story:

Gaick Tales  The Black Officer and the Loss Of Gaick  Jan 4th 1800

Situated in the remote South-West of the Cairngorms between the A9 and Glen Feshie is Gaick lodge in Glen Tromie. This is a wild area especially in winter Glen Tromie and Gaick and has some tales like the huge avalanche that hit Gaick Lodge on the first of January 1800.  Staying at the shooting Lodge was the notorious recruiting officer John McPherson a retired Captain of the 82nd Regiment and a tenant of the farm of Ballachroan near Kingussie and of the Forest of Gaick. He and his four friends and dogs were killed when a huge avalanche hit the shooting lodge they were in.  They were overwhelmed probably as they slept in a small cottage near the site of the present Gaick Lodge. Friends alarmed at their failure to return a few days later only found a huge mound of snow. Digging revealed the roof gone and the house demolished.

On a call -out in 2000 looking at the avalanche slope.

On a call -out in 2000 looking at the avalanche slope.

The locals also talk about another one where the keeper lived on the spoils of another avalanche that missed the Lodge but brought down 2 Stags and lots of grouse in its wake helping feed the keeper for the winter!  The descent to Gaick from this area can be tricky as I found out in my winter traverse of Scotland in December 1978, these were crazy days .Wild weather had closed the A9 for several days and we had an awful day in deep snow and the slopes above Gaick. We were descending from Meall Chuaich the Munro and to us after the hill was unknown country to us.

Gaick Map

Gaick Map

The slopes were loaded with fresh snow but we had to make down as it was where we were staying the night at Gaick Lodge on our walk. As we descended in the dark and more heavy snow, I am glad I never knew the story of the Gaick Avalanche then, wild days. On a recent visit we saw that several large avalanches had crossed the main track which leads you into the estate. You will find the full story of this incident in Blyth Wright and Bob Barton’s book “A chance in a million”

A Chance in a Million a wonderful book a must for the winter Mountaineer.

A Chance in a Million a wonderful book a must for the winter Mountaineer. Have you read it


Gaick Lodge stands at the south end of Loch An T-Seilich. It was built to replace an earlier lodge (NN757849) that stood about 200m to the SE which was destroyed in an avalanche in 1800. This area is well worth a visit!

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 Bothies, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, Friends, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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