The Last Flight. Lost then Found
This great mountain along with Beinn Avon is one we climbed on a lot in summer and winter, I got to know it during 1973 when we completed a winter foray in February with the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. Teuch Brewer was training for an Arctic Expedition and we set of after work. He was a “man mountain” and it was a wild adventure navigating in wild weather and staying two nights out.
We carried a tent which meant huge bags and walked in at night after a long days work. We climbed 6 Munros that weekend heading back to Cairngorm for a lift home, it was a place I was to visit often. I then used this area a lot when I was posted to RAF Buchan on the North East Coast and formed a small mountaineering club. We got the offer of training with the new Sea Kings at Lossiemouth this was 1978 and we were dropped of on the summit and then did a long winter route. We got back to Invercauld just as the Kinloss Team were going to come out and look for us. It was -20 that night one of the party got frostbite and we did not realise how deep the snow was in the Glens. We were lucky it was a clear night with little wind but what a day. Over the years I rock climbed here there are Classic rock routes like Squareface and Mitre Ridge in the An Garbh Corrie of Ben a’ Bhuird. To climb on Squareface as the sun hits it is some experience after scrambling down a gully still holding snow in mid summer. These are days you never forget or the Wessex Helicopter offering you a lift home from the summit. In these days in summer we could drive onto the plateau ( not very environmentally friendly) and descend into the Corrie. Squareface was one of Tom Pateys hidden jewels first climbed in 1953 with J.m.Taylor.
We did winter lowers here what a situation and a few searches once unable to find the wagon in a white out. I was lucky to climb these these great routes often and meeting few folk but what a wonderful place to climb. In winter few venture but there are some incredible lines and climbs.
Even with a mountain Bike its a hard place to get to. On the plateau there is no shelter and the winds are fierce it can be a real battle getting home in winter. It was also the place of the longest Avalanche burial at the time where on Dec 1928 party of 4 avalanched on two fatalities and one found alive after a 22 hour burial. A Chance in a Million? Scottish Avalanches Bob Barton & Blyth Wright. Well worth a read.
The plane went missing for months and was found in the summer. The recovery of all the bodies is an incredible tale as well with the local Estate and even Indian Muleteers being involved. I wonder if they were the same folk who recovered the casualties in the Beinn Alder area. This was war time when man power was hard to get and these crash sites were classified to keep moral up.
On this mountain there is an Oxford Crash near the summit that was crewd by a Czech crew it went missing in the winter of 1945. It was not until August 19th 1945, that the fate of Oxford PH404 and her crew was finally known when the wreckage was discovered by two hill walkers from Elgin many months later. Being to many crash sites this must have been an awful thing to see as it looks like at least one of the crew had survived but died of there injuries and the cold,
|The hill walkers that||discovered the wreckage|
|Dr James Bain||F/L Archie Pennie|
Years later a watch was found on the site in the 70’s and many years later was returned to the family of the crew.
Acknowledgements: My thanks to Jim Hughes in Scotland, Pavel Vancata in the Czech Republic and Archie Pennie in Canada.
The website http://www.archieraf.co.uk has lots of information on these crashes and is well worth a visit.