The Last year 2015 a year of “ups and downs”

I put this is as it was the last day of 2014  and I was not very well but managed to get to Jimmy Simpsons Funeral it was a sad end to the year. I had known Jimmy for many years, he was a local policeman  a great pal and member of SARDA and a man who looked after me after Lockerbie. We met often many times on searches all over Scotland, this was some man.

The Late Jimmy Simpson RIP

The Late Jimmy Simpson RIP

It was standing room only in the hall as the Church was full at Boat Of Garten long before the funeral started. The ” Boat”  was so busy with cars parked  all along the road. It was great to see so many pay respect to Jimmy. It was a fine service with many characters from the Family,Police,Mountain Rescue, SARDA and so many local friends. There were so many in Gillie suits it was a colorful funeral and the words spoken were from the heart. Great stories that summed up the man. The family lost some man a father, grandfather, husband and the Highlands a real character.

I had a pretty rough time with 3 operations in 2015 but eventually I got my problem sorted and it will be a slow recovery. It was a huge learning for me coping with a problem that left me exhausted and in great pain, but I learned so much from it and appreciate every day and the support was fantastic and I am recovering slowly.


Patron Outfit Moray

Jan – was spent recovering from operation number 2 and the visits were appreciated by pals, I tried to wander locally most days. My operations and the help from my doctor were greatly appreciated many thanks. Thank God for the NHS.

Taff visits me post op in Aberdeen hospital.

Taff visits me post op in Aberdeen hospital.


Feb 2015 –  I still managed 3 lectures in the early part of the year though I was pretty ill at the Clachaig in Glencoe the Mountain Cafe in Aviemore on Mountain Safety and the Findhorn Foundation for Outfitmoray where I  am the patron. These were great for me and made me feel part of the mountaineering world again. I did manage a few short walks but hardly any summits such was my state of health at the time.

Outfitmoray is an award-winning charity and social enterprise delivering outdoor learning, adventure and nature exploration programmes which transform lives.

Founded in 2003, we have worked with over 14,000 children and young people; building confidence, self-esteem and resilience, providing positive role models and encouraging the acquisition of life skills and new experiences through challenge and positive risk taking.

We are a visionary, ambitious and passionate organisation committed to making a difference to the lives of others and particularly those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Our unique approach to learning, education, training and development applies to all that we do, whether working one-to-one with children referred to us, running holiday and respite weeks for vulnerable children, outdoor learning and adventure programmes with schools, or activity sessions to improve health and well-being in adults.

We take a holistic approach to our work; founded on the principles of charity, care and compassion, building trust, valuing courage, patience and integrity, developing social skills and team work, respect for human dignity and taking a selfless approach to the needs of others. It is our aim to encourage positive growth: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, to provide hope for a better future, to improve happiness, health and well-being and to create a sense of life purpose.

April – 2015 – Farewell to the RAF Seakings

RAF Seakings farewell

RAF Seakings farewell

A Fond Farewell to the SAR  RAF Seakings.

On the First of April 2015 we said farewell in the Highlands to the RAF Sea Kings from RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire. The new contract will result in Bristow’s taking over the SAR Contract for the UK and I wish them well for the future. The new aircraft is long overdue and it will be a tremendous addition to SAR in the UK. The RAF and Royal Navy Sea Kings have been a huge part of my life as 40 years was spent involved with Mountain Rescue. The main period 37 years with the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. I also worked in the Aeronautical Rescue Co Ordination Centre at Kinloss working with the SAR Military Assets throughout UK.   Helicopters have been a huge part of my life even though flying terrified me.

Out climbing again.

Out climbing again.

In April I managed a few climbs at Redhythe near Portsoy and my first hill my local Corbett Ben Rinnes it was magic to be out again and on the rock. Unfortunately I had to have another operation soon after which set me back again.

Ben Rinnes April!

Ben Rinnes April! My first hill.

1 May MUNRO ADVENTURE – Day 1 -2015. DAY 1 .
Ben More (Mull) Beinn Sgulaird

My pal Graham from the Moray Mountaineering Club and his Wonder Dog Penny did a huge walk the Munros in 100 days. I added his blog to mine as he kept a daily diary and it was great fun and made my illness feel a bit better and got my mind going it was an incredible walk.

This is from the last hill from my blog ”

“It was fun on the top of Ben Wyvis and a big party when Graeme and Penny arrived and all had fun,It was  pretty cold on top and the mist was down  but all were happy. I was a bit sore after my efforts  was only 3 weeks afte mrit  so had a slow descent down and was soon out of the crowds and mist. The descent was hard going and the body feeling it and in the end maybe a bit too long for me at this time. It was still wonderful to spend time with friends and hopefully soon the body will recover. I cannot think of a better story than Graeme and Penny wonderful walk in some wild weather and how much I enjoyed following their progress and adding my bits to his blog,


When I read the book Hamish’s Mountain Walk way back more than 20 years ago I was already a keen walker and it inspired me enough to think I would like to do that some day. I picked up and read a copy of the new
2010 updated version last year and that was it the seed was sown , with me retiring in December 2014 there was no point in putting it off ,life’s to short no point saying in 10 years time if only I tried back then, you can’t buy back time. I was 56 years old , fit enough and strong minded enough to give it a go .
From January this year I slowly worked away at my route plans which were always going to be flexible , I wasn’t going anywhere I hadn’t been before , just some different combinations and approaches to the summits.
I felt comfortable with my 100 day plan and had built in a few spare days which I didn’t need in the end. I was never going to go down the purest route with no mechanical aids I wanted to enjoy the experience not for it to be a misery and as the weather turned out it’s just as well I didn’t . I picked a starting date of the 1st May to take advantage of the long days and the alleged good weather!!!.


I walked for 79 days of the 100.I used a garmin 920 xt GPS watch for the stats below

Total mileage was 1317 of which I walked 1176 and biked 141.

Total ascent was 145186 metres
A average of 1837 metres per day of walkingI used walking poles every day
apart from Ben Wyvis I forgot them Most Munros in a day 18 ( tranter round with Rachael)

There was 9 days doing a single Munro.Biggest ascent in a day 6210m
( tranter round with Rachael) Longest day 25hrs 15mins
( tranter round with Rachael )Shortest day 2hrs 15mins
Sgurr a Mhaoraich .

I got a view from 196 summits of the 282 70%I did 7 Corbetts and 1 Graham while doing the round . I was on my own for 53 of the days and had company on 26 days, I spent 55 nights in my camper van .

I had 8 nights in bothies
1 at the secret howff ( Glen Slugain)
2 at the Tarf hotel bothy
1at the Hutchieson hut
1at the corrour bothy
1 at Culra bothy
1at Sourlies bothy
1 at Shenavall bothy

I had 1 night in my tent at Altnour lodge Glen Ey.Best spell of weather was 9th – 12 June while in the Cairngorms. The wildest day was on Mount Keen in high winds.The wettest day was on the traverse from the Saddle and along the south Glensheil ridge. Most memorable moment was the sunrise hitting Ben Nevis at 4am while summiting Carn Mor Dearg on the Tranter round. Most challenging days were descending
Cruach Ardrain and coming across steep frozen solid snow fields and ascending Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaichs steep cliffs when I was lifting Penny up at full stretch and she fell backwards and I caught her .

The toughest day I had was going from Sourlies bothy back to the Quoich Dam via Larven when I had miss judged the days distance but was commited to carry on .Apart from the bothy trips all I carried was a 5 litre bumbag which weight about 5lbs when full

My daily hill food was a soreen loaf about 1lb dates and 1 litre on diluting juice ( + snacks for Penny ) . As the days went on I seemed to manage with less and less food on the hill but certainly made up for it when I got back to the van.

I only had 2 tics even though I wore shorts for most of the time.I wasn’t bothered with clegs it was to cold .


After having a few days to reflect on the completion of my adventure I must say it was pleasure to be out in our Scottish Mountains for 100 days even though the this summer’s weather didn’t play ball, the snow on the ground early on made a lot of the descents easier to be honest , I avoided the worst of the weather by having my rest days . There wasn’t a day it felt like a chore to go out on the hill, I was at one with the mountains for the whole time. Given the choice of a 5 star hotel or a night in a remote bothy in the highlands I would pick the latter. Now that box has been ticked I will take some time out and have a think to what to do next???.


To Penny my ever faithful hound,and companion for the wholeadventure she really is a WONDERDOG.

In July I managed 2 Munros on the walk above it was an awful day in Kintail it rained all day but Graham and Penny on their big walk. It was my first Munro of the year and I was exhausted after that day .

2015 Graham Graham Morrision last Munro

In August I tried to climb the Cioch Nose at Applecross but had no energy and felt awful but enjoyed a wander round these great hills whilst Dan and mate climbed the route!

The Cioch Nose Applecross

The Cioch Nose Applecross ,

My pals were great again and took me climbing again mainly to Cummingston and Redhyhe we had fun in the sun and I was beginning to feel better. I had my last operation soon after and started feeling better. Thanks to Pete, Steve, Dan and Al Barnyard for their patience. We had some great short days on the rock and what a feeling to be out again. I will never forget the shoals of herring being chased by our local dolphins as we climbed in the sun.

October – By now I was feeling better and enjoying a few hills days in the weather the best of the summer. I had a great day with Tom MacDonald on Braeraich in the Cairngorms it was a long day for me in the sun but magic.

2015 Oct Prop and CARN A MHAIN


October – An Lurg Crash site near Bynack Mor –

This is the story on the 14 August 1944 aircraft a Vickers Wellington HF16/A of 20 OTU took off from RAF Lossiemouth on a night  cross – country training Exercise and crashed on the plateau of An Lurg. 71 years ago (2015) HF816/A of 20 OTU took off from RAF Lossiemouth for a cross country training exercise (night Navex). However, at 22.30hrs, the aircraft crashed on moorland close to An Lurg Grid Ref  NJ 048097   Sadly all the crew of six  were killed. Phil Patersons Father was killed in the crash


2015 Oct The family at the site .JPG

2015 Oct The family at the site .JPG

“Phil Paterson was born 6 weeks after the crash and he contacted me after a visit in 2014 on the 70 th Anniversary of the crash after I wrote an article on my blog. He knew very little about the loss of his father Flying Officer P.G. Paterson aged 23 and the crew and was glad that I had visited and paid  my respects. Phil  is now 71 years old and wanted to visit the site, would it be too difficult for him? It was aA place he had never been or seen. I hoped that this may be possible so we arranged a date in early October. Phil brought up his two sons Julian and John from Manchester to hopefully visit this special place. They stayed overnight in the Cairngorm Hotel and we planned an early start. We had a gtreat visit well done Phil and family for managing a great day.

Back on the main path we stopped and enjoyed the sun Phil showed us his Dad’s medals still in the box and as they were the day they were sent to the family. He also had his Dad’s pilot certification from his pilot training in the USA all as pristine as the day they were issued.  We also saw his Dad”s service knife that Phil had treasured all his life with the date 1940 stamped on it. All day we were getting to know Phils father and the difficult time the family had after the war., After a break we then headed of along the path back to the cars at Glenmore in the sun.

To me this was a special day, some people ask why why do I visit these tragic places? This story to me sums it up.  It was wonderful that Phil at 71 had managed a visit to where his Dad was and his pals had lost their lives and with his two sons it was an incredible effort by them to get to this place.  What a day it had been and it was so emotional at times for us all especially for the family and a huge insight to the tragic loss during the war that so many families accepted as part of life.

We must never forget what these people did for us and that each of these Mountain Crash sites has a unique story and a huge effect on the families even 71 years after the crash.

Thanks to Phil and the boys for sharing this day with us all. I hope you take some of the peace and beauty of these wild Cairngorms Mountains with you on your journey home.

Soon the snow will sweep over this place and the winter will be with us, few know of this other side of the secret Wartime Cairngorms that means so much still to those who gave so much.”

My last operation was cancelled and I started to feel better and even managed out with the Moray Mountaineering Club for a weekend meet at Inchnadampth up in the North West. I climbed the Corbett Breabeg and had a great for me long November day in great company, what a joy to be out again especially in Assynt. I was slow but loved it

2015 Nov The Back of a Munro in the Assynt Triangle.

2015 Nov The Back of a Munro in the Assynt Triangle.

I was now into a series of lectures and After Dinner chats in November/ December

The 50 the Annivesary at Glenmore Lodge of Scottish Mountain Rescue – a great night with friends

The Mountain Bothies AGM lecture 50 th Anniversary. – The Mountain Bothies what a grand bunch of people.

50 th Anniversary book MBA

50 th Anniversary book MBA

The Munro Society Dinner at Granton On Spey

Braemar Mountain Rescue 50 th Anniversary dinner at Balmoral. What a fun night with some of the best people and a night to remember, I have much to thank this team for.

Braemar MRT 50 Th Anniversary Book.

Braemar MRT 50 Th Anniversary Book. A great read.

A favourite program of mine the on radio Scotland did an interview on BBC Radio Scotland where I did a chat with two great guys on the slopes of Ben Wyvis it was a great fun to be with them and we even had a laugh and I think it went well.

The boys from Radio Scotland.

The boys from Radio Scotland.

I also did a chat for the local Explorer Scouts in Kinloss who had just completed a Duke of Edinburgh Award and gave a great presentation, it was an uplifting night for me and I enjoyed giving a chat to them after their presentation.

2015 Dec Explorer Scouts at Kinloss

2015 Dec Explorer Scouts at Kinloss

I was down South with my Grandkids and had a special Christmas with those who mean so much to me and also visited my family on the way down in Ayr. It was wonderful to spend time with those I love and great to be on the mend. It was sad to see all the trouble in the World just now and the tragedy of the masses flocking to Europe to get away from War. The floods in Uk have hit so many areas and my thoughts are with them all.

2015 Feb Navy Seaking on the Ben

Tonight may be the last time the SAR Sea kings will fly from Prestwick and it is with sadness that we see them go Yesterdays Blog I said goodbye. The new contract is going well and I wish all involved a safe and Happy New Year.

It is farewell to 2015 a year of Ups and downs but I cannot wait for my time again on the hills. I am off to Roybridge for the New Year and maybe get up a small hill or two.

Have a great night be safe and love to all.



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 Books, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Rock Climbing, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Last year 2015 a year of “ups and downs”

  1. Mark says:

    Nice review of your year. Things certainly turned around for you, well done. Comparing your stats with mine you managed 3 times as many Scottish hills days, I’m only jealous! I did 16 bothy nights but a few of them were work partys. All the best for 2016, I’m already looking forward to reading the blog.


    Liked by 1 person

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