Wintry walk on the Cairngorms and day of forgetfulness. Remembrance Day and some things we must never forget RIP Ant Dowling.

Ian Kelly and Steve Price

Ian Kelly and Steve Price two cafe bashers from the past.

I was wanting a low key Remembrance Day as it has been a busy week but my old mate Ian Ned Kelly arrived up for a week from the deep South. He was wanting to go on the hills as Gatwick does not have many and he missed the wild spaces. It was a slow start and we got a lift in Steve’s car. It was raining when we left and not what the forecast was predicting. Now Ian and Steve love cafes and we were soon in the Squirrel Cafe at Glenmore and we even got the fire going when I had realised I had forgotten my boots.  This was as far as they got the day before plus a few more cafes, hence I was brought into the equation. What a nightmare no boots so after a tea and bacon roll we headed back to Aviemore and I rented a pair of boots from Ellis Brighams,  I thanked for all the help and as Ned had worked there in the past so it was simple and saved the day.


Yes Boots rented  – Shinny and new

I can pick my days now but  poor Ned cannot and despite managing to not stop for another coffee we arrived in the car park on Cairngorm about 1100 a bit late for a winters day. We had a wander up onto Lochan  and the West Ridge the rain and sleet hit us on the ridge it was bitter cold and there was a fair bit of snow. It is familiar ground and a good wander for a day like today. Ned was telling us about a life near London working at Gatwick and the downfalls but the job he loves and I was glad I live in this place despite the weather. The wind picked up and it was time for the big winter gloves and a hat and it was wet and blowy, winter was here. I had not put on my waterproof trousers as I thought it would blow threw but was wrong,


I was soaked and for the first time in years cold and not happy and decided to descend into Corrie an Lochan and the starting to freeze lochan was below with chunks of ice on it. It was a miserable day now and I did not fancy a blasting along the plateau these days are over for me. The boys decided to follow me and we headed down the snow out of the wind into the Corrie so far we saw one other on the hills. I had a good look at the Corrie and the cliffs and there was some ice forming in corrie just below the ridge and then a stumble along the bouldery path. There is still a fair bit of snow on the hill even with all the rain, it was some dump last week.

Winter is here now. Looking at the Lochan cliffs.

Winter is here now. Looking at the Lochan cliffs. This is where I had enough and was soaked.

The Coire floor is a wild place and the Lochan with its chunks of ice on the loch is some place to be and some place to search in years past. There is a murderous boulder field just of the path it is  in snow an ankle breaker. Yet at times how many would love to be here today this whole wild Corrie to ourselves where remoteness and space abounds something that is hard to share with those with limited understanding of wild places.

Descending into the Corrie

Descending into the Corrie

We had a short break I was the only one with a hot drink and some food, what do they carry in these big bags? It was good to see the great cliffs but we saw no one climbing unusual for a weekend but it was not a great day. The Ptarmigan were about they were having a wild day but it is their environment up here in the snowy wastes.

Descending to the Lochan the boys in front

Descending to the Lochan the boys in front, ice on the loch – Space and wildness in this poor photo.

The were a few war stories on the way back to the car and poor Ned was so happy to be out and I felt guilty about the short day but I was more than happy to wander off myself but they were happy to accompany me. I needed the big gloves and gear today all my winter kit  and stopped a few times to get a photo, none of them had a camera with them.

Frozen loc

Frozen lochan a bit of a wet camera poor photo.

We were soon back at the car park soaked and in the loo at the train station for the skiers as busy as ever I am sure I left my Paramo  Red jacket soaking see below or in the Squirrel cafe on the way home after the tea that the boys stopped for?

Old age is with me add to that Ned broke my ski pole on the way off, he stood on it was an expensive day for me.

Not a great photo but it shows the red jacket that I may have left.

Not a great photo or flattening  but it shows the red jacket that I may have left.

Then it was back home for a sort out get the gear dried and leave the boys to tell the girls all my misadventures of the day. I dropped the boots into Ellis Brighams on the way home they were a bit wet and thanked Rob.

In all a short day but good company and winter is with us.

Yesterday was Remembrance Day and we were not at any parade but up on the hills we had a wee thought at 1100 in the mountains and thought of pals lost. One stands out Ant Dowling was a member of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and I did a lecture just after I retired to the team at the Base. Ant came up at the end( few normally do) and thanked me for it asking a few questions. Later on he and a few others came to my Mountain Safety Lecture in Aviemore and he was the same. I met him a few times on the hill and only found out after he was killed he was an officer, he was one of the troops and a fine man and a great loss. He loved the team the company and these Cairngorm hills, what a loss for his family and I always have a special thought for him on this Remembrance day.

Wreckage on Beinne Eighe

Wreckage on Beinn Eighe.

Squadron Leader Anthony Downing was seriously wounded when the vehicle he was travelling in was caught in an explosion south of Kabul on Thursday 22 December. He was flown back to the UK where sadly, he died of his wounds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. His family were with him when he died.It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Squadron Leader Anthony Downing, who died on 23 December 2011 following an incident in Afghanistan.



Totally committed to the Service, he was invariably seeking to improve himself and demonstrated huge strength of character, initiative and desire in his professional and personal life. A talented student of languages, Ant was also immensely fit and he competed in a number of extraordinarily demanding endurance events. A stalwart of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, his dedication and passion for supporting others were characteristic of a hugely popular, and deeply respected and loved friend and colleague. The very many people who knew him were richer for the experience, and will be all the poorer for his passing.

“Lest We Forget”




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 Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wintry walk on the Cairngorms and day of forgetfulness. Remembrance Day and some things we must never forget RIP Ant Dowling.

  1. John Smith says:

    I love your daily posts very informative and that photo of you made me laugh! I didn’t realise you could hire winter boots from EB, great idea to try before I buy

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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