Am  I a wind coward or just getting old?

I always look at the weather forecast and the wind speeds, the forecast is a guide so when I arrive in an area I keep my options open. I spent 40 years many times out in weather where only the mad would venture or Rescue Teams had to go. I have crawled across the plateau on Cairngorm roped up for over an hour trying to get off the hill after an unsuccessful winter search at night. We were not searching but surviving and I spent many years giving new team members the experience of extreme winds as this is what they may have to be out in on a rescue.  These were never easy and at first you think you are invincible and then you  learn from  your epics. I have watched a team-mate on Beinn Alligin again on a search get out of helicopter On the ridge and thrown in the air 30 feet and be lucky not to be blown over the edge. These and many other adventures make me wary of the wind. My mate a few years ago was going out for a look the winds were forecast to be high and he was picked up by a gust and smashed into a rock in Coire an Sneachda in the Cairngorms. He is a big strong lad and yet he smashed his ankle badly and could not walk out, it was a bit of an epic getting him off the hill. 

A quote from Pete 

“The result of being disrespectful to the wind (and weather forecast). 2 months in plaster!”

He is a hugely experienced mountaineer and had climbed some of the world;s big Alpine routes plus several Himalayan summits yet a Scottish wind a gust in the wrong place gave him one of his hardest days.  He was also off work for several months and that did not help. Thanks Pete for letting me use your photo – and words !

Wintry search in the Cairngorms not a bad wind but look at the dog!

As a young troop just 8 stone it was a fight to stay up in a bad wind and I learnt fast, small steps, use poles and crampons on icy ground, keep low as possible and  learn from every adventure. Yes I have a fear of the wind after a few of my own epics being blown of  a ridge and over a cornice in the past. At over 60 I feel I do not need to batter my body any more and enjoy my hill days. Even more important I do not wish anyone else coming out in these conditions for me and risking their lives or that of a helicopter? I have had many scary rides in a helicopter in big winds going in for an injured climber sometimes at great risk to all concerned?  So my days are over of fighting the big wind but I can still get caught out by a quick change in weather and the secret is to get down as quick as possible and into shelter. The forecasts are a lot better from my early days and can still be wrong but if we see the crowds and the spin drift on the tops wisping away this means high winds will be on the summits.

Wind coward – Yes I am  – Any comments?


The wind on the hilltops tends to be stronger than at ground level, and you should allow for this when planning your walk.

Wind speed at the top of a mountain can be two to three times greater than the valley, i.e. two to three times the wind speed quoted on lowland weather forecasts, e.g. the MWIS /BBC ETC .


Vulnerable Areas

Mountain summits, ridges & cols/beleachs tend to have strong winds, as it’s here that the fast rising air is funnelled.

  • 30 – 40 Mph blowing you about on the hill. Very hard going
  • 50 Mph + really difficult.
  • 60 Mph + wild, existing – chance of getting blown off!
  • How would YOU COPE WITH SOMEONE IN YOUR PARTY GETTING BLOWN over AND INJURED? The helicopter would struggle to get to you, it would be a Mountain Rescue Team that would try to assist?

Yesterday the Lochaber Team and the RAF Lossiemouth Team were out on Ben Nevis and located a hypodermic walker a great result well done all.  It is still winter on the hills be aware many are getting impatient but good weather may be on the way soon.


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 Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Am  I a wind coward or just getting old?

  1. pondbug says:

    oops – would you please delete my comment made via the iConnect account and I’ll repeat it as myself – thanks


  2. pondbug says:

    I agree. High wind speed is the first thing that makes me cancel a hill outing. Anything over 20mph is starting to make me wary and over 25/30 makes it a no no. I’ve had one experience of being blown off my feet – coming down Ben More Assynt in a stiff breeze, but on a dip in the ridge a strong gust funnelling over the ridge caught me sideways (so my rucksack caught it too) and sent me flying a few feet, taking down a colleague on the way! No injuries but a salutary experience.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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.