I had originally planned the New Year at Glen Feshie but there was a mix up with the bothy so a few of us are of to Ballater tomorrow for the New Year. Many have plans but I am still shaking the cold and will see how it goes. It will be an adventure getting there depending on the roads. My main objective is to get there safely so will see what the weather brings and will be following Gus and Brent in my car. I have no plans will see how my cold is and how it goes.
I have spent a lot of time in the past at Ballater and we used to use the Village Hall for the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams training and on call – outs. We had a great Christmas here many years ago when we climbed every day two days on Lochnagar and one day on Creag and Dubh Loch I was exhausted after 3 days of big walk to the cliffs. I climbed lots mainly in winter on “Dark Lochnagar” especially when I was at Buchan near Peterhead and ran a mountaineering club. These were all New folk on the hill and we had some great days on Parallel A Gully, Black Spout Gully. Crumbling Granny and the Classic Raeburns I also have done many more of the harder routes but it these early days that stick in my mind.
I also was avalanched on the descent from Black Spout Buttress in 1985 coming down the Black Spout Gully when two climbers knocked the Cornice on top of us as they descended in a blizzard. We went all the way to the Loch and had an epic walk out with one with a broken arm. It was a night I learned about Self Reliance and that if we had waited for help in the weather conditions we would not be here today. I have written about this in previous blogs.
Sadly my best pal Mark Sinclair (Cheeky) was killed here on Lochnagar along with another good pal Neil Main on Parallel B a winter classic in the winter of 1995. It was a sad time especially for Libby Marks wife and Neil’s family and whenever I am on this mountain or nearby I have a few minutes to think about them.
I will never forget the great work by the Braemar MRT and the RAF Seaking helicopter that brought them off the hill and helped us so much. This was a dark time when a lot of top climbers were killed on the hills and made me take time out from Mountain Rescue to get my head together for a few months. I recovered and was soon back but tried to work hard to ensure that we are as safe as the mountains allow at all times.
Many would think that sometimes the sadness that mountains can bring would put me off. Yet I have had so many great days it took me a few years to climb on Lochnagar agin but I was with great people and we chose a wee route Crumbing Granny that takes you out near the summit. It was a great day and the sun was setting as we climbed the Cornice and the spin-drift was rolling about on the plateau yet what a place to be as we walked off. We had a young lassie with us her first winter climb she was overjoyed at the view she saw. I was thinking of Mark and Neil all the way home, the great days and climbs we had over the years. It took me 5 years to climb back on Lochnagar Ned I have done a few winter climbs since. I always went with guys like Dan Carrol or Ian Kelly true pals who new how this wonderful Mountain had taken my pals! They kept there eye on me as only true friends do and that is the thing about the lure of the Mountain. I gave Mark the nickname “Cheeky “after his first weekend in the team when he was a bit lippy! We did the 11 Mamores that day and he was impressive. He climbed all over the world but loved the winter magic of Scottish winter climbing! Neil was fairly new to the winter game but immediately built up a reputation on Scotlands big mixed routes. He was so powerful and the world was his. Mark and him made a strong team and how they would have loved the world we now live on where mixed Scottish winter climbing has now a huge following all over the world! I miss them both every day.
The mountains are wonderful but need to be respected, It is winter again so please be careful and enjoy the mountains and get out with your family and friends and enjoy the wild places.