Looking back on 2017 – some thoughts!

The old saying that the main thing in life is:

“Health is wealth” and that is what makes life so much better! I am so privileged that I have been able to share so many adventures with some great folk this year. As always the mountains and wild places were where I spent a lot of time and I cherished so many grand days. It is not what you do anymore but the company that you have on a day out yet I still love my days out alone on the hills especially in winter. The hills and wild places will never disappoint me and going slower you see so much more and never take up for granted.

I was so privileged to Open Dundonnell Mountain Rescue new Team Base in Dingwall this year that meant a lot as did speaking at Killin Mountain Rescue 50 th Anniversary Dinner to be among true friends after all these years is incredible. My proudest moment was giving the Harry Lawrie prize to a Team member Mark Nichol for all his efforts. Harry was sadly killed in a helicopter crash on Ben More on a call out and the trophy is given annually! I was there with the RAF Leuchars MRT when the accident happened in 1987 and we formed a bond that last to this day. The Killin Team rightly gave a badge to Team member’s and partners who had done 100 plus call outs it was great to see the families getting acknowledged. The support given by the families is second to none and at last this is being recognised publicly.

With the Killin MRT great friends over the years.

I had some great hill days despite the poor summer and was recovering from a bout of illness that had lasted for several years and I tried to get in a year of reasonable fitness it’s a special thing. Your health is so important and as you age you see so many folks  with cancer or worse many not around anymore. I lost a good pal John Coull to cancer this year and that was a sad loss of man who loved the wild. Yet his funeral was a special event with so many friends from all over came and even a fly past by the Coastguards SAR helicopter.

John was one of the longest-serving members of RAF MR and was clearly loved by all. I was so lucky to go on a sailing trip with him for 10 days from Lossiemouth to Kyle of Lochalsh what a trip. We all miss you mate!

In Assynt a place I love.

I managed a few good days out got a few new Courbet’s in and some Munro’s and even the odd rock climb on the coast and in a North Wales during a wet summer. It was great visiting North Wales on a golf trip and then rock climbing with two old pals Rusty and Pete Kay. It must have rained most of the day but it was still fun on the Idwal Slabs.

My pal Pete on Charity Idwal Slabs North Wales

I had a great trip to Skye in May and spent most of the 3 days on Sgurr Na Stri visiting a crash from the early 80,s of an American F111 that was an awful night on this great wee mountain. It was amazing to be back over 30 years later and the Mountain is still littered with wreckage and memories. It is amazing the interest on each time I visit sites like this and get great feedback mainly from friends and family the power of the internet.

2017 Akye Sgurr Na Stri the day I won the Golden boot.

The hills still hold a lot of interest for me and it does not need summits nowadays but I visited over 100 hills last year. I also had some fun days on the hills with so many folk sneaking in the odd Corbett in long days and at times on a bike! These Corbetts are not easy. I met multi Munroist Hazel Strachan on Lochnagar on her Munro trip of 100 Munros fro Mountain Recue in 30 days. We met on the summit of her last Munro Lochagar on a wet wild day and we had a great wander. The weather she experienced during her 30 days was awful and it was great to meet her at last.

The Mountain Aid Talks a great Charity.

My step daughter Yvette did a sponsored Cycle from Oxford to John O ‘ Groats and I supported her it was some journey and Great to be part of it. I was amazed at the effort and the kindness of people on route. At the end the kids arrived with Yvette Mum Dave Mum and Dad and various others travelled up to meet them after their long cycle. Yvette, Dave and Dan did superb and raised a good bit of money £12000 plus for Reuben who is still getting medical help and is always in our thoughts.

This was what Yvette put out and so many supported her

“Hello and thank you for looking at my page. At the end of May I’m  going to cycle approx 750 miles, as fast as I can, to #RideforReuben who is the 3-year-old superhero son of my very close friends. Reuben was diagnosed with aggressive neuroblastoma just days before his 3rd birthday. His wonderful parents need to raise the staggering amount of £250k to get him overseas treatment to fight this rare cancer and carry on his childhood and their family life.

I’m a mum to two young children and I’m not super fit, or a super cyclist. This challenge to ride from the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, all the way through England to the very tip of Northern Scotland at John O Groats will push me beyond anything I have done before, or even thought of.

But Reuben’s fight is bigger and harder, and he is just little.

My ride will be a maximum of 7 days of punishing physical and mental pain, but little Reuben and his parents Jess and Kul are enduring a far far longer and harder trial. And they’re doing it with bravery and compassion and phenomenal strength. I can ride a few hundred miles to help them save their beautiful son, and I hope you can dig as deep as you can to donate to their fund.

This route usually is tackled over a period of 9- 14 days, but with childcare considerations I don’t have that much time. I will camp to increase flexibility so can go further on some days and hopefully complete even faster than my 7 day deadline. I will have support along the way and will plan ahead to stop for donations at specific points to share #ReubensFight.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul and I will smash this challenge to thank you all for your donations. ”



I was so proud of Yvette and the team but it is so sad to see a wee one so ill and still fighting as I write this surrounded by love and the care of his parents, relatives and the NHS. Thanks to all who supported Yvette and we always ask how Reuben is doing and my thoughts are with them.

It is good that I can visit my family in Ayr we are all getting older and life is moving on but when I travel down to see my Granddaughters Lexi and Ellie Skye down South. They make life so good to see them so full of life and happy oh to be young again. It is worth all the travelling to be part of their lives.

Sadly I resigned as patron of Outfitmoray a few months ago mainly for personal reasons as I found that it was my time to move on. I did three residential weeks with them but found it hard going and was helped by my old mate Bernie Foran from Kinloss . It was long days and we cooked for the kids and it was interesting to say the least and I wish them all the best for the future! It is incredible the work that the unpaid volunteers do and who give up so much time for no pay to help others. Outfit is struggling financially not easy in the current climate and yet they do so much great work.   It was a privilege to work with them for nearly 3 years. I did a few talks/lectures to local groups and got a few donations for Outfitmoray over the years.

2017 Arran days magic memories.

2017 At the Chinook Crash memorial

In August I was asked to speak at the Arran Mountain Festival in Corrie Village Hall as a fundraiser it was a great night and an honour to speak to so many people on that Island that means so much to me. I spent many years here with my family when I was young on holidays and got a love of the mountains in Arran and it’s people. The Arran Mountain Rescue Team ran a BBQ and it was a special night.

I went with my mate Dan Carrol and we had a great few days on the hill and socially. We also visited the Chinook crash site on the Mull of Kintyre with his parents who live nearby. It was the first time since the crash in 1994  for me it was an incredibly moving day. it was great to see Dan’s Parents great people who like all families we owe so much too.

I was asked this year to speak at the Mountain Aid talks a 4 day tour starting at Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Dunfries and Cupar. Each night was hosted by the local Mountaineering Club and it was a busy week. The chats were well attended and the Local Mountain Rescue Teams gave me great support and I cannot thank them enough. I also met each night someone over the years that the teams had searched for or found and they spoke to me and thanked us all for the efforts in finding their loved ones. This is what makes Mountain Rescue so special and even 20 years on your and the teams efforts are still so appreciated. It touched my heart each night.  I still get a lot of enjoyment in my Winter talks and the Munro Society have booked me for this Feb in Aviemore as part of their Annual Mountain Safety talk. These are great fun and I enjoy the company and meeting so many folk.

Next year is the 30 th Anniversary of Lockerbie and it will be a poignant time with some plans for the Remembrance and I have met a few who may want me to be part of it. I feel I have to as to help the many who still struggle from the effects of the tragedy. Few will ever understand. I have returned to Lockerbie a few times and was there just before Christmas meeting some of the locals who did so much and live with the effects even 30 years on.

Each year there seems so much going on I just hope that I keep well and manage to look after and help those I love. It is easy to lose touch with friends in this busy world but it is great when you get back even after many years and find that friendship still strong. Life is too short to fall out over little things and it’s too late saying sorry when their not here as life can be brutal so that is one wish for next year. It was great to see Rusty and Nerys in Wales, Dave and Sue all the way from Canada and Kenny and Elaine who have moved up North. The annual RAF Scotland reunion was as usual great and lots of my era met and we had some discussions that night. I had a great day on the hill with Tom Mac, Dave Booth and Mark and Fiona. The year has been full of so many great folk so many good people friends who stick with you through thick and thin. I managed to visit Hamish in Glencoe a few times he has recovered from a serious illness and is bang on form, what a man what an example to us all.

2017 Aug a visit to Hamish with Dan Carol what a man and great to see him looking so well.

My lifetime pals  John and Mary always there as so many are like Dan my pal from MR and so many more.  I get great joy from my Granddaughters and from visiting my family and trying to stay in touch. All those who sent me cards I cannot thank you enough and I will drop as many as I can a line over the year.

As for the book now maybe I need a ghost writer any views  please ?

So this year the plan is to keep healthy lose weight and hopefully keep happy and enjoy life every day no matter what you’re doing look after those you love and make sure you tell them!

The Golden Boot enough said.

Happy New Year

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, Book, Family, Friends, Golf, Local area and events to see, Lockerbie, Mountain Biking, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Looking back on 2017 – some thoughts!

  1. Neil says:

    Happy new year David. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to your book!

    Liked by 1 person

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