One day one winter – The big hills in winter from Loch Ossian another era?

The West to East Day 16 – 11/11/77.

This is one day in a huge winter walk in 1977 when 3 of us Jim Morning, Terry Moore and myself set off from Skye to Mount Keen. The idea of a winter traverse in November was the late John Hinde he said it would test us, he was so right. We had just done 9 of the Mamores in full winter conditions and had some terrible weather and it was to get worse. These were the days of no mobile phones, GPS and simple gear that was heavy when wet. We carried 3-4 days food and all our gear replenishing at pre – arranged food dumps it was a self – contained walk and a huge learning/ survival exercise

Beinn na Lap (935m, Munro 241)

Beinn Eibhinn (1102m, Munro 47)
Aonach Beag (1116m, Munro 38)
Geal-charn (1132m, Munro 26)
Carn Dearg (1034m, Munro 98)

A big hill day.

Day 16 – 11 Nov 1977 –    Access to the Corrour Youth Hostel achieved , my great friend Tom Rigg the warden(RIP) had not let us down and the key was where he said it would be. There was coal and lots of food so we ate a great meal and toasted Tom with a dram he left us. The fire was on it was a big stove and the gear was soon steaming. The weather was very worrying and I was really struggling with my knee Jim and Terry still going well but the constant pressure of the bad weather was taking a toll. Concentration had to be full on not just on the tops but a walk off the wrong ridge or over a Cornice could be fatal. We were very fit and strong but the reserves were being hit. The rivers were never easy and very full when we were crossing many in the dark and getting soaked. I knew what was coming in the next hills and was very wary. These are even more remote mountains and these Beinn Alder Hills are very serious and a long way out if anything goes wrong.  The boys wanted to do Beinn Na Lap one of the easiest Munros and then head on for 4 more big mountains to Culra bothy a big day in wild weather. We left the bags and more or less ran up Beinn Na Lap the weather was okay, it was great to be light weight and then pushed on for the 4 Munros in the hinterland between Loch Laggan and Loch Ericht. Beinn Eibhinn. Aonach Beag , Geal Charn and Carn Dearg. I had done these hills before a few times they were new to Jim and Terry there was no way we would not be doing them It was a bit of journey to the first Munro and getting the bags on again was not easy after being light and free!

Wild weather and simple gear.

It was a plod to Beinn Eibhinn  and along the graceful ridge to Aonach Beag, then the weather hit us. We had been away very early 0600 but it was after 1500 on this top and we still had two big Munros to do. As the snow hammered down we were back in a white void and tricky navigation got us along the ridge to our third Munro Geal Charn and its big Cornices. This is place I was avalanched of its Southern Spur in 1972 Lancet Edge surviving a big fall and walking away from it a bit battered and bruised.    We had huge problems locating the Northern Spur which gains access to our ridge and final Munro Carn  Dearg. The summit plateau of Geal Charn is a featureless plateau and not to be underestimated, three times we went to the point where we were sure that our ridge was but there was just a big Cornice. Jim and Terry great navigators Glenmore Lodge trained paced it again and again. In the end time was ticking away, the weather was worse, heavy snow and then someone said “ You have been here before you must remember it?”   Enough was enough I went over the edge, (I am sure it was me) and we were spot on our ridge huge Cornice falling about and with my background of being avalanched I wanted out of there fast. We reached the beleach it was dark now and yet the boys wanted the last hill Carn Dearg and dragged me along and then an awful descent in wild weather to the wonderful Culra Bothy and safety. Fire on, clothes changed and nerves shattered; along with my battered body it was 2100 and very late! We had really pushed the boat out I felt and all the way I was thinking of the Corrour Tragedy in December 1951 where a group died in the beleach on the way to the bothy. We were lucky and someone I feel was looking after us.  There was also the tale of a Wellington aircraft that crashed on that huge plateau  and the only survivor made it alive to Corrour in 1942, nearly 35 years to the day we were on the hill.

Young and daft at the beginning of our walk.

We had all Iearned a lot that day. One more day till our rest day at Dalwhinnie our food was now d own to nothing and we still had  Beinn Bheoil (1019m, Munro 112) ‘hill of the mouth’
‘hill of rock and water’ Ben Alder (1148m, Munro 25) then a big walk out.

Culra bothy on another trip no wagon on the walk. It was “march or die”

It was a blizzard outside as we fell asleep, exhausted. Thinking of putting on the wet gear again, the cold and another day of survival? These two companions were some machines on the hill and we kept each other going the walk got worse the A9 shut and we went into the Cairngorms and full survival mode.


Mount Keen still alive and still pals.

Nowadays I struggle on a couple of Munros but these huge days live with me for ever as does the companionship of great people like Terry and Jim.  Big Jim has just had a hip operation Terry a recent knee operation but we still get out and about and everyone knows my body is just coping after various operations. I would never change any of it and look forward to many more adventures but its great to look back on past days and also look to the future, Loch Arkaig on Saturday and  Skye at the end of the month.

2011 Jim and Terry at RAF Kinloss farewell bash.

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 Aircraft incidents, Articles, Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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