A tricky day on Beinn Liath Mhor and thanks to the Mountain Rescue Teams and SARDA who continue to search so the families can have closure. Sadly Archie the pointer dog was located yesterday .

Many will know that this year is a big winter and there have been some tragic accidents. Sadly my sisters nephews Alan and Neil were involved in an accident in the Torridon hills. Neil has been found and the Alan and his dog Archie is still missing for two weeks since Thursday 7 th Feb when they failed to return from a day on the hills.  Yesterday I went away early at 0500 in the morning to drive over to have look and see if much snow had gone in the thaw. The forecast was good but strong winds on the summits. It’s a fair drive from home but the roads were okay but I took my time. A good winter sunrise is worth the early start and below is one of the views I got.

I arrived at Achnashellach near the railway station as daylight was breaking and set of up the Coire Lair path meeting 3 walkers from Manchester. It is a great stalking path across wild scenery with Fuar Tholl looking wild in the snow. It is easy walking out of the forest then the path follows a lovely line over glaciated slabs . This easy walking path can give a false sense of security as once of the path and heading up the scree steep heather and snow this is real wild winter mountaineering land.

The views are wonderful this is not a place to rush then it is a steady pull up to where the path splits and then up onto the first top of the hill. I was stopping regularly with my binos and looking all over. This is wild remote country. The path follows scree and steep heather and grass and then patches of snow little buttress are about and care is needed. Huge expanses of rock and glacier drumlins with still lots of snow make searching even in good weather hard work. Great gullies split the cliffs and the snow is still deep in places. I headed up onto the first summit in crampons with all my gear on it was bitter. I was looking down the cliffs when I could but the wind was battering me. There was no way that my plan to descend into Coire was going to happen today it was just too dangerous. I headed along the ridge and snow fields constantly looking as much as I could of the terrain and behind for any trace but there was nothing. This is a huge area so much space and few people climb here in winter, there is the odd munro bagger about but what an incredibly complex area . I moved down I saw some figures in the Coire later learning that Torridon MRT were back out looking for Alan what great folk.

I had told friends where I was and got some texts telling me to take care and by now I was tired only 7 hours out but the wind the steep ground had taken their toll. I headed down stopping often looking around with the binos. I was carefully descending as you do on your own and it was hard work on the knees. In some places the snow is still very deep in others clear but the steep heather, ice  and scree plus the small cliffs every where make this a place to take care.

It was still steep heather and snow not the place to slip but was soon back on the stalkers path where I had a brew and some food. It was the first stop of the day for a long break. the view of the hills brought back many memories of big days in winter here combing the 3 Munros and the Corbett Fuar Tholl a long 12 hour day in winter. I had climbed on Sgurr Ruadh in the past and fought my way of in heavy snow the Coire seemed endless then.

It was a slow wander back to car feeling sad that I had seen nothing no sign of Neil or his dog Archie but had a far better understanding of the area and this hill even though I have climbed searched it many times. Looking down Coire Lair was stunning it has so much snow and the big Munro Sgurr Ruadh dominates the wildness as does the three tops of Beinn Liath Mhor. These hills are beautiful. unique and wild each one has its own features but the views from the summits and corries are incredible, this is a place of huge space, beauty and the power of nature in all its glory. This is a place where the light changes all the time, where the hares run free and birds are ever present. We get peace here, we need  effort to get here each at their own pace,  This is why we climb this is we are drawn and as I passed Fuar Tholl my mind was clearer and life goes on as always.

I had many thoughts today the sadness of the loss of Alan and the search for Neil and Archie the dog will continue till they are found. The incredible efforts of all the searchers and the Search dogs this is a wild place where nature rules especially in the winter! Off the main path this is winter mountaineering with ever changing conditions, crampons and an ice axe are necessary as is the skill to use them. I was glad of my gear today as I picked my way along the route.

These hills are serious mountains take care and be safe!

Tomorrow I will attend the funeral in Nairn for Alan with my niece . The mountains and wild places can be so unforgiving and beautiful as I so well know.

latest – news Police Scotland

Police have revealed the body of the dog belonging to two brothers who went missing in Strathcarron has been found.

Alan Gibson’s body was found on 10 February on Beinn Liath Mhòr near Achnashellach, but his brother Neil, 63, has not been found.

Searches continue for Neil Gibson, along with two other men still missing in winter conditions in the Highlands. Rescue teams involved in the operations face poor weather conditions and a high risk of avalanches.

The Gibson brothers were reported overdue from a walk on 8 February. Dundonnell and Torridon Mountain Rescue Teams carried out extensive searches, and the Torridon team has this week continued efforts to find Neil Gibson, aided by Coastguard helicopter crews. The body of the men’s dog was discovered on Thursday.

Two other walkers remain unaccounted for.

Marcin Bialas was reported missing after a fall close to the summit of Ben Nevis on 21 January. Numerous searches for the 36-year-old in the Observatory Gully and Gardyloo Gully areas failed to find the walker.

Jim Stalker was reported missing on Sunday, 11 February after a fall near the summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn, west of Creag Meagaidh. Mr Stalker is believed to have fallen through a cornice.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and the RAF Mountain Rescue Service have carried out further searches this week without success.

Police Scotland said carrying out searches for all three men has been challenging due to poor weather and a high risk of avalanche, although activity has continued where conditions allow.

Inspector Nick Hough, based at Fort William, said: “We currently have three missing persons in our mountain ranges and we have been co-ordinating searches with local Lochaber and Torridon Mountain Rescue Teams, HM Coastguard air support and other mountain rescue services.

“Our thoughts remain very much the families and friends of all three men and we would like to reassure them that all of the different agencies are committed to continuing with searches, where it is safe to do so.

“Large accumulations of snow remain and there is currently a high risk of avalanche in the areas.

“I wish to express my thanks to all the volunteers and partner search agencies that have already made considerable efforts to search for the missing walkers.

“Their continued commitment is appreciated by Police Scotland and the friends and families of the missing persons.”

John Stevenson, leader of Lochaber MRT, said: “We are still experiencing full winter conditions on Ben Nevis and the wider Lochaber area and they are challenging.

“We urge any visiting climbers and walkers to the area to be fully prepared prior to venturing out. Always check weather forecasts, avalanche reports and plan your routes; have alternative routes if weather conditions are not suitable when you arrive.

“Walkers should have a full complement of winter equipment, clothing, navigation and safety aids before attempting any walk or climb.”

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 Avalanche info, Corbetts, Family, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A tricky day on Beinn Liath Mhor and thanks to the Mountain Rescue Teams and SARDA who continue to search so the families can have closure. Sadly Archie the pointer dog was located yesterday .

  1. Fiona Daintith says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. You write beautifully Heavy I could imagine myself there. Beautiful photos. Sending xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lyndon A Jones says:

    So sorry for your families loss Dave, my thoughts and prayers go to you all and the families of the men still missing. May they be found and received to the loving arms of their families as soon as possible.
    A tremendous effort on behalf of all mountain, search and rescue teams and agencies involved.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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.