Yesterday was a great day as I was planning a hill at last. I stopped at Elma’s In Crianlarich early and dropped of the usual-food parcel. Elma has been a true friend of RAF MRT for 40 years. Her son Derek was in the RAF Kinloss Team and sadly died of cancer. Elma has always been a real star and looks after all the Mountain Rescue Teams for so many years. I had some great pancakes,scones and tea and headed off to meet a group from the Inverclyde Ramblers just outside Crianlarich. They were a varied group lovely folk who like the wild places. For a few it was there first Munro Ben More so it would be an interesting day. In my Mountain Rescue days we often used Ben More to assess fitness not stopping at all till the summit it blew a few minds. We were fit and young and so competitive .
They arrived just before 1000 and we parked near Ben More Farm. There were 10 of us going to hopefully climb the hill! The forecast was pretty wild later in the day with heavy rain and 30 – 40 knots winds. A big change from the recent weather.
I had been asked by Sadie Smart to come with them as her father sadly lost his life on a plane crash on Ben More in Jan 1973. It was my first place crash and involved a huge search for 3 days filled located the plane a Viscount from Glasgow airport that was on an air test with 4 crew. I have written in other blogs of this search the long days in deep
Snow and the eventual recovery of all 4 casualties again in wild winter weather. This incident made a huge impact on me as a young man. Ben More was also
to be the scene of another crash of a Wessex helicopter when the local
Killin Team Leader was killed as the helicopter hit the mountain on a search in the winter of 1987. As I said this is a poignant mountain to me and I had worked on many call – outs over the years with the local Killin Team. Sadie had been in touch over the years and we managed to get together to show her this mountain. It would be a testing day and every year I get requests and feedback for families to go to where they lost their loved ones it is never easy. Her Dad was Jimmy Moore one of the engineers on board.
Ben More is huge hill the highest in the area at 3700 feet . It is a huge pull up from the farm and according to “Walk Highlands is relentlessly steep” I think we all agree over the years on that and we had a group of 10 with us for a few it was their first Munro.
The forecast had some varying weather with torrential rain at times and very gusty winds forecast later in the day. We may be tested on the summit ridge later on.
From leaving the track after about 20 minutes you are on the hill-path. From here it is open slopes full of steep
wet grass and so many wild flowers enjoying the rain of the last few days. The path is fairly battered by many feet over the years and the dry spell and heavy rain have eroded it. We took it easy with a big group and the steepness.
It is hard at times to get a pace but as the day wore on we got higher. The mist came in and views shut and opened like a curtain. Familiar hills popped up from the clouds and the views expanded. There are some great hills on this area many underated from the popular Glencoe hills further up the road. Any summit here is hard won and the path seems as always goes on and on.
As you go higher you look into the Corrie on Meall Daimph where we recovered the casualties of the Viscount aircraft in 1973. It can be a dark foreboding place and in heavy snow dangerous.
Sadie wanted to know how we brought her Dad down and the crew of the mountain.I explained there was a big Avalanche risk and we contoured high into the Corrie.
It was extremely hard work digging and recovering the crew and taking them down off the hill. The search had involved three days by several teams Police and Dogs I remember the deep snow and the long 12 hour days.
Sadie was so brave as she listened and it is hard to try and explain but she wanted to know . My memory of these tragedies is clear as I wrote a diary every day. It is so sad that the aircraft hit the top of the ridge steep ground in summer but in a full winter steep and very treacherous ground.
As we neared the summit after 3 hours of walking the weather came in. We had torrential rain and very strong winds it was not summer now. Hoods were up and it was a relentless pull to the top.
We had a few minutes reflection and a minutes silence for Sadie her Dad Jimmy and for the Killin Team Leader Harry Lawrie he had died in a Helicopter crash on a call – out in 1987. For me and Sadie it was a moving moment and very poignant. Sadie was so strong this was her first visit to the Munro but there was little time to stop and sadly just swirling mist
no views just cloud wind and heavy rain.
The weather was now full on!
My plan was to head back as I had a meeting about filming tomorrow but headed down to the beleach with the group.
As it does nature came in with more torrential rain a big gusts and the rocky ground was slippy! It became serious so quickly and we gathered the group. It was a quick briefing on short steps in the wind and being aware of the wind power at times linking together in the gust that were now 40 knots plus! There were bags to sort out Gloves and hats to get out and to try and take breaks out of the wind. There was the constant regrouping in the mist check all are together and all learned something. I was in my shorts but being fat and stocky this is my weather even though I had not been out since I broke my ribs. It was constant check of the map to ensure we were on the right descent simple skills but in poor weather essential.
It became cold the mist was in but I was on familiar territory and we got down to the beleach where we headed down into the Glen out of the wind. The group
were all fine and all enjoyed the hill they had some day in all weather.
I hope for some it was a good introduction.
I left the group after a few hugs and followed the track lower down back to the bottom of the hill at
Ben More Farm. The sun was out and the extra layers off I was soaked but glad we had a moving day with some special folk. The Glen walk was refreshing in the sun the battle from the summit over time to relax in a place of great beauty among the hills I love. At times words fail you there was even a rainbow.
It was back to the van a quick change and head up the A82. The road was busy and I had time for a shower before my chat about tomorrow’s filming after a great meal in the 4 Seasons restaurant with Cameron MacNeish Richard Else and Paul Tatershill old pals.
It had been some day lots of emotion and memories and the nature keeping us in our place . I am always amazed by the power of nature and today it was a reminder what and how a day can change . I was glad I had spare gear to put on in the wild weather and hard to believe how cold it was.
Thank you Sadie and the Inverclyde Ramblers for a great day. I hope that all those who came out for there first Munro enjoyed the battle. Your company was what the wild places is all about and that you enjoy further adventures.
Sadie thanks for the honour of being with you your Dad Jimmy would be proud and his hankie you waved in the wild wind at the top was was lovely tribute.
This blog is dedicated cared to the crew of the Viscount aircraft that crashed on Ben More in 1973 and to Harry Lawrie the Killin Mountain Rescue Team Leader who was killed on a Rescue in 1987.
Also to all those Mountain Rescue teams and Agencies who go out to assist those in trouble . There are still so many great folk about. Sadly we forget this !
Heavy Whalley July 2018