Early start for Beinn Eighe from Achintee Ben Nevis to Torridon a wet day. A humbling experience among the great cliffs.

Sat night – I had an easy night leaving the group to relax after a lovely day on the Ben where we stayed at the Ben Nevis Achintee bunkhouse. I was up at 0500 had a quick breakfast and then headed for the 2 and a half hour drive over to Beinn Eighe. Leaving at t 0600 it was warm and windy as I left the car park at Achinttee at the bottom of Ben Nevis and there was no one going up the Ben yet!

The drive over was magical the roads quite and I cut over to the North West from the A82. It is not a road I  use often but what a cycle that would make it is interesting so many hills there were. I had great view of Ben Wyvis and then watching the dark crowds slowly coming in on the West.

I was going well so stopped as I was heading to Kinlochewe in the small car park to one of the great views to the village! It was a bonnie  scene and I saw a few stags about! There were lots of dark skies the forecast was not great with rain and gusty winds. For now it was a surreal view and I love it how many flash past here! I always stop I always make time and this is some view! Loch Maree and Slioch dominate and the Glen was in moody mood. The small village of Kinlochewe has a toilet open which is now a rare thing in the Highlands early morning. It was a quick stop and there were lots of van,s parking the night there. The Hotel at Kinlochewe was where the RAF Kinloss Team based itself in March 1951 in the car park in tents on the Lancaster Crash. It was a huge tragedy with all the crew sadly dying and due to the location of the crash it took several months to get all the casualties off the hill. One of the Team in 1951 Joss Gosling was a very young man on the RAF Kinloss Team now in his 90’s he manged to come up and while he stayed in the Hotel with his wife Annie all his family Ian, Heather and Andy has planned to come up to the Crash site a good 2 hour plus walk into the wild corrie.

The crew of the Lancaster that died on Beinn Eighe in 1951.

Also going up to the crash site was Geoff who annually makes a pilgrimage to visit the site. Geoff comes up for a few days and visits Joss and Annie and lives down South. We also had a few pals Mark, Kalie and Susan plus two dogs Islay and Lexi so after all arriving by 1000 we set of to foreboding skies. Just before we left we were amazed to see a big hind watching us at the car park, it looked pregnant and must have had a hard winter this year.

Geoff the relative of Flying Officer Strong

Photo – with the new plaque to go on the propeller up on the hill if we could get the old one off! Heather made me a couple bacon butties and a brew and i needed it as I was a bit stiff from yesterday and we were soon sorted and of up the hill.

To me this is one of the finest walks in Scotland it takes you through amazing mountain scenery. It is a “must visit” a great stalking path through stunning scenery. The weather was threatening but we were soon off and it’s a steady pull up to the beleach. It was then the wind and rain hit us and the start of on and off gear for the day. It was get the wet gear and a hat but we soon warmed up on but the path is great the river easy to cross and we only met a couple of folk!

It was so peaceful after the Ben Nevis walk yet both so different have so much to offer us. We are so privileged to enjoy these special places.

Its hard going I felt a bit tired due to lack of sleep but all were fine we stopped on the way up and I showed Heather, Ian and Andy where Joss their Dad and the Team  brought some of the casualties of the hill onto the Coire Dubh path. It is steep and loose and in winter formidable ground. I have always been amazed by what they achieved with such limited kit and equipment. I often took team members this way down in winter and the were amazed at what they did all those years ago.

Today there were few views of Liathach just mist and rain no views of the three great Corries or the Northern Pinnacles, this is God’s country whatever the weather. I love it it is never the same ever changing like the weather.

Photo A break out the wind just before the lochan where we had limited views sadly. There was still snow on the gullies and the mist was down as we walked round the lochan there would be no swimming today.

We soon saw the first wreckage in the distance and I pointed out the landmarks to all. Fuselage Gully still had snow in it and the rain was still on us but the wind had dropped in the Corrie. Ian told us as a young lad he and his Dad had climbed the gully in the summer nearly 40 years ago and  that was great tale. The gully is loose if you go up it summer and a propeller is jammed in the gully and is an historical piece of the Corrie now.

The wheel still looks huge !

When you see the wreckage scattered about you must never forget that 8 people died here in 1951 and to me it is a sacred place to many. This is hallowed ground and everything was looking well after a wild winter as we wandered about looking at the huge engines and wreckage including wheels.

THE CREW:-   PILOT   –  

 

Flt Lt H S Reid

SECOND PILOT Sgt R Clucas
NAVIGATOR Fg Off R Strong
SIGNALLER Flt Lt P Tennison
FLIGHT ENGINEER Flt Sgt G Farquhar
SIGNALLERS Flt Sgt J Naismith
  Sgt W D Beck
  Sgt J W Bell

Photo – The group at the memorial and great to see the whole Gosling Family together and getting an understanding of what Joss the team and the locals did at this sad time. It never seems to amaze me how special this Corrie is and how magnificent the cliffs are today shrouded in mist they were still impressive. I had a few hard days climbing some of the routes here many years ago.

2018 May heading down.

Sadly we could not get the palque off the troops had bolted in in in 2001 and it would take more tools and time to replace and remove it. That is for another day. It was a hard walk out the weather was not kind to us but we had a few stops in the driving rain it was a wild afternoon and most were in their own world and its a long way out. I was in my won thoughts of some of the epic rescues in this corrie and on Liathach huge call -outs some lasting 12 hours when the helicopters could not fly. I was young and strong then ad felt invincible. Yet today was so moving and what a place to be with lovely folk.

The weather clears quickly

Heather and Andy went ahead to collect Joss and Annie from the Hotel they were staying at and we had planned a meal at the Kinlochewe Hotel with all of us. My feet were sore from the Ben and we all got down safely even Islay having a wee sleep on my knee on a break and Lexi the other dog emptying my bag for food.  The stops were short and we soon got down about 1730. It was a quick change of with wet gear into the Kinlochewe Hotel. Joss arrived with Annie and it was an emotional time and such a privileged to see and speak to Joss . When I met Joss we were both emotional he is such a fine man as his family is and despite his memory falling we were soon chatting about his epic days on Beinn Eighe all those years ago. His memory came flooding back no ego just doing my job he said along with his mates. We follow in the footsteps of heroes.  He was treated royally by the Hotel Staff who knew his story it was wonderful and heart  warming to see.

Photo – Joss with the memorial in 2001 on the 50 th Anniversary.

Joss at the memorial in 2001

To me Joss is a wonderful man, such a kind man and one of my heroes he has such an insight into Mountain Rescue in the 1950’s . A special man to me along with his family!

Sadly I told Joss we could not get the old memorial off as the weather has badly rusted the bolts so it will be another visit soon to get the new memorial up. Joss was happy with our efforts and got to see it again and we had a laugh about our attempts too get it off. The new plque was designed by Heather and paid for both her and Geoff.  I promise with help we will sort it out.

The meal was great the Hotel looked after us royally and treated Joss and Annie with huge respect which made the day. Thank you that was so kind of you all. It was now getting on I said goodbye to all, some  were staying the night  and I headed home getting back  just after 2200. I was so tired and the body in bits it had been a long weekend.  I was so well looked after all day and all weekend and the company was superb so many kind friends and for Geoff to revisit the site again was great. To me to see Joss and the family especially up with Heather, Ian and Andy was great to see what their Dad and those hardy souls did all those years ago. It was all worth while. It is also great to be able to explain how hard a time Joss and the troops would have had in winter of 1951 with their gear and such a tragedy to deal with to his family.

Thanks to  all for a different weekend.

Geoff a relative of the crew who makes an annual pilgrimage to Beinn Eighe. Happy again after revisiting the crash site.

For more information there is much more on the crash on the blogs.

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, Friends, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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