A long day – Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, Broad Cairn and Carn Bannoch – very tricky navigation. Lessons Learned thanks Breamar MRT.

Of  this area   Steve Fallon Munroist and guide says “Walking for some of the way is on fine paths, but be prepared for rough terrain heading up Lochnagar and on Broad Cairn and have your navigational wits about you when in bad weather and mist! ” So true today.

The Engine from the Canberra Crash on one of our hills Carn Sgairt Mor. Both crew were sadly killed.

The Engine from the Canberra Crash on one of our hills Carn Sgairt Mor. Both crew were sadly killed.


Drop off for the traverse

It was the Monthly Moray Mountaineer Club Bus Meet and an early start at 0500 to pick up the bus in Forres at just after 0700 as we had a planned meet a drop of at Glenshee and the bus would drop the meet of and then drive round to Loch Muick. The Bus had 22 of us on board and everyone has their own plans, mine were to start of Auchallater and get up high up  with plans to climb some of  the 5 Munros. It was all weather dependant and if the weather held if not my plan was to get the three hills in if the weather allowed.

Top Tip – Make sure you get a current weather forecast as the weather can change even in Summer.

It is a difficult trip over to Glenshee across the Lecht with its windy road and wild bridges all for a big bus to manage and yet the weather was lovely. It was about 1000 as a group of 7 got off at Auchallater to do the traverse the rest continued to Glenshee and one other went off on a fishing expedition in the hill lochs.   It is easy walking along an Estate track in the sun and we went well. Then we picked up the hill path that from here climbs effortless on to the high ground all over 3000 feet. There were so many wild flowers on the way up and views down to Loch Callater were lovely. From here the weather changed and though most put on their waterproof and the wind picked up and a fine rain fell as we headed up the hill to Carn Sagairt Mor a big hill at 1047 metres.

The path that climbd effortlessly onto Carn an Sgairt Mor 1047 metres. The flag marks some of the Canberra wreckage that litters the hill.

The path that climbd effortlessly onto Carn an Sgairt Mor 1047 metres. The flag marks some of the Canberra wreckage that litters the hill.

All the way up the ridge we passed lots of wreckage but got few photos and it was now cold and wet and we had to start navigating as the mist came in. We split up and I had three in my group and the weather got worse after the summit. The other three going for Lochnagar and me deciding that it would be easier doing it with the wind and mist.

An RAF Canberra jet crashed on the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor in 1956, Killing both crew and a very large amount of the wreckage still lies scattered around the summit area. The debris field covers an area of about 600m by 600m, centred on the flat 1047m summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, with large pieces to the north, west and east of the summit, some lying in boulder fields away from the main walking paths, down to an altitude of about 960m. It used to make an interesting navigation exercise during the hill day for the RAF mrt team members This is From the Site Air Crash Sites Scotland

1956 Sycamore call out

“On the way, you should encounter some scattered plane wreckage, including a large section of wing. These pieces are the remains of a Canberra jet that crashed into the hill in 1956 (more info A good amount of the remains of all three of the Canberra’s main wheels are still at the site, including one that is standing upright and in excellent condition – this is perhaps one of the most unusual pieces of air wreckage of all the crash sites in the Scottish mountains. Remains of parts of the Canberra’s Rolls-Royce Avon jet engines and wings are still visible as well.”

RAF Kinloss Archives

22/11/56 Carn an t Sagairt Mor


Search for a missing Canberra aircraft and the recovery of 2 Crew. One Of Ray Sunshine’s Seftons first call out.  Locals & RAF Leuchars RAF Kinloss on call out . Crew recovered with assistance of a RAF Sycamore Helicopter! Early Rescue/ Recovery in the mountain by Helicopter.

Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (1047m, Munro 84)

Cairn Bannoch (1012m, Munro 117)

Broad Cairn (998m, Munro 142)

The navigation had me working hard as though there are paths it was very poor visibility. It was map,compass, timing and Gps and fairly hard work on the high ridge along to the other two summits Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn. Make a mistake up here and you can be in trouble as many alternatives are there in the featureless high plateau. Many happen here it is a tricky area.

The wing of the Canberra in another visit photo Danny Danniels

The wing of the Canberra in another visit photo Danny Daniels

This was the first time for a few years I had managed three Munros and the navigation kept the mind alert. The others in my party had limited navigation ability and learned a bit about navigating in poor weather and the need for all your gear even in a June summer.

Top Tip  – Everyone on the hill should have a map and the ability to read and understand it, many are path followers, this is okay till the weather comes in. It is then its to late to learn to navigate, practice in good conditions, simple bearings and walking to them and the use of a compass. Can your partner /walking companion read and use a map and compass?

Top Tip –  Everything was in simple steps keeping a bearing short and checking everything, read the map and get to know what ground you should be walking across. This is essential when you are the only navigator it is hard work especially if you have not done it for while.


We all have if we go on the mountains to learn simple navigation and be able to assist if needed and my group are up for this now.  Basic skills like map reading and taking a bearing are simple skills that have to be practised. The ground was bouldery in places, care had to be taken in poor viability and wet rock, in the end we were still on time for our bus at 1730 at Loch Muick as navigating in poor conditions takes time and can add-on to your day. Top Tip – NAVIGATING IN BAD WEATHER ADDS TIME!

Top Tip –  I had planned for the weather before hand and was keeping and eye on my time and had a cut off to be off the high tops. We met a few people struggling with navigation and the followed us from a distance. Top Tip – WORTH HAVING A CUT OFF TIME?

Loch Muick at the end of interesting day a view at last and a few miles to go.

Loch Muick at the end of interesting day a view at last and a few miles to go.

The new  path took us down to the Loch and out of the wind and weather and then it was a long plod along the loch.

A big avalanche of rock and mud that goes into the loch just off the path! The effects of erosion or global warming ?

We got down just before 1700 and the bus driver was glad to see us, we were soaked and battered and the rest came in a bit late held up by the weather and the navigation. Unfortunately one of the group had a problem he was on his own and missed the bus as the driver cannot wait after a certain time due to driving hours. The Committee had to call the Police and he was located walking off later on just before midnight by Braemar MRT! It was hard for me to keep out but hopefully I helped give us much information as possible and I have never left anyone on the hill but where do you start and the Bus had 21 people waiting and the driver was so helpful but nearly out of hours.

I think this was learning call for many and a lesson to us all. It is never easy to cut your day but always be aware of changing conditions and the need to be proficient in map and compass skills, no matter how experienced you are.   I was under pressure yesterday and I have trained many new Team member’s in this area in wild weather, these were big days in featureless plateaus at times getting in 10 Munros in a well hard day. Now three is enough old age fitness and skill fade contribute but practice,planning and experience helps a lot.

There is always lots to learn about the mountains “every day is a learning day” no matter how experienced. It was back late 2200 and get ready for my Midnight ascent of Ben Rinnes that evening. A wash some food and the good news that our missing person had been located by Braemar MRT

It was just like the old days and now for an evening trip up my local Corbett. How would the body fair?

Thanks to Braemar MRT for their help as always a wonderful service , never to be taken for granted?.





About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Bothies, Equipment, Flora, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.