In Praise of An Teallach – In memory of Sarah Hassell

Many who climb An Teallach climb the Munro’s Sgurr Fiona and Bidean a’Ghlas Thuill. they are both exceptional mountains and though a great day this to me is the appetiser they miss the main course. This mountain has 9 tops on it and is a complex mountain and one I love. How many have climbed the full ridge Sail Liath the Four Pinnacles of Coire Bhuidhe and Lord Berkeley’s Seat and gone out to these other outliers on the ridges?

I love climbing the full ridge from Sail Liath and then you meet the pinnacles falling into Toll an Lochain and the ridge looking like a natures hacksaw has made this place. The huge sandstone pinnacles and Buttress and the Lochan below.

How many who climb the whole ridge still miss the views from some of these rarely climbed other summits. The Munro tops.

The tops of An Teallach

Yet from these viewpoints the mountain is seen at its best. In my view the If you can go and climb them.

The modern guide books will tell you step by step how to climb the Two Munro’s but few go into the other ways onto the ridges. These are great fun and you can have superb day in the two Corries. I doubt if you will many others.

In winter there is some great climbing and that is well documented. Yet to do a winter route and then a traverse of the complete ridge is an incredible winter day. I have had the privilege to do this several times. Getting of the hill at the end of the day especially in the short winter daylight can be interesting. The classic Constabulary Couloir climbed by Tom Patey and members of the Police Mountain Rescue Team years ago. I had so many great days in winter here as well we climbed the Waterfall that flows onto the frozen loch and never recorded it.

Over the years we built up big days including An Teallach and the Fisherfield 5/6 in a day that became a tradition for a few. They now they add the Corbetts Beinn Dearg Beag and Mhor in running gear but what fun these days were. Sadly most were done at speed taking little time to look around just after a time that never really mattered. We often meet the Goats high up you smell them before you see them. You watch there agility on the steep ground and marvel at them.

Great nights in Sheneval Bothy and climbing An Teallach from this side but by rarely climbed ways. This is a complex mountain but with views that are always changing.

I have taken family and completed several Munro Rounds including one with my Dog Teallach and others with various pals. It was where I completed 2 rounds of the Munro Tops on these summits. Its a mountain that I love with all my heart.

Many of these climbs became a classic in my days with the RAF Mountain rescue team.

The young troops enjoyed this route and it became a right of passage for some. In winter its a fierce mountain where in varying conditions it can provide a long Alpine day where care is need.

 I really enjoyed it in a long Summer day when we could sit on the summits and enjoy a full traverse. There would be no rush but it was still a long day.

In my youth!

This would also be a good place to use the rope on the scrambles  and show the new team members the routes and places where care is needed and sadly accidents can happen. This was our job and those pieces of area knowledge were vital. The next time we could be here may be at night helping the local Dundonald MRT. They have a base at the foot of the mountain nowadays.

One of these days we did the whole ridge plus the outliers on a long summer day. It was special as three of the troops were young and loved every minute. We took a rope and took the hardest route up the pinnacles.

Mark and Sarah on An Teallach.

It was a marvellous day with special folk. Sarah, Mark and Stu were superb and the photos show it. This is a Scottish day in the Mountains that is very special and it was great to introduce them to the full ridge. The views all around of the Fisherfield hills and the remoteness is spectacular. 

The Troops on An Teallach.

That day I told them the incredible story of  the attempt of a Rescue a Documentary based on the diaries of Iain Ogilvie, “Duel on An Teallach” its now on utube about a single man’s effort to rescue two fellow-climbers. This was after they slipped from the ridge and fell down a 700-foot gully while climbing the An Teallach ridge in winter the north west of Scotland in April 1966. It is a tale I know well as the Kinloss MRT team were involved in the recovery Ian Olgilive did an incredible job to try and save the lives of his pals and the late Doctor Patey reached the casualties at night after Ian’s epic attempt to lower them alone down the face. Ian was awarded an MBE for his efforts and Doctor Patey the Queens Commendation for Bravery. The Ross and Sutherland Police Team led by Donnie Smith followed Tom Patey in that night. Please watch that video it is a insight into winter mountaineering. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF5H4v6shNs

In Winter Garbh


That day I went out to the Munro top Sgurr Creag an Eich with Sarah the rest sat on the top enjoying the views. We dumped our bags on the beleach and headed out it was an incredible day. I was a bit fitter then but not as fit as Sarah. Instead we walked slowly chatted as the views of this hidden side of An Teallach expanded. We sat on the summit and enjoyed it then took a few photos.

Sarah On the summit of Sgurr Creag an Eich

No one knew that was my last Munro top that day but I told her. She took a photo, then we wandered back to meet the rest of the boys. They I think had fallen asleep on the last summit. We walked off on a stunning evening with the North West at its best. They were all full of this specail day and had enjoyed it the weather was superb as was the company. They laughed at me running ahead getting the photos.

I found it great to see how these new team member’s had developed, the ones that last love the mountains forever. They share the joys and the sadness at times as a fatality is never easy on the hills. Yet the memories of bringing someone of alive is so fulfilling. They grow up and learn so quick. Many spent only a few years in the team yet they were involved in some epics that stayed with them for life. You watch them change and in a couple of winters become incredible capable young folk. There is great responsibility in this job most are young folk who trust you completel. At times there is great danger and you push them in bad weather to ensure they can cope when the call outs happen. Few ever let us down and you watch them become steady mountaineers but even better humans. I never stopped enjoying seeing them improve and you become very fond of them all. You can always learn and laugh as you are now the “old Codger” but still of use at times.

This week we lost Sarah in such tragic circumstances and I have had incredible messages of sympathy from many of her pals from all over the World. I cannot thank you enough for that. It was one of the best hill days of my life that day on An Teallach yet another memory of this great mountain and also of the specail people you meet in them.

For Sarah.

Our Sarah was one of them “Best Ever”

In memory of Sarah Hassell

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Munros, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In Praise of An Teallach – In memory of Sarah Hassell

  1. Jeanette Bryan says:

    So sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nigel Kenworthy says:

    I like to think that those of us in charge were these young people’s guardians; entrusted with their wellbeing and tasked with giving them some life skills besides great adventures, that hopefully have stood them in good stead throughout their lives. When one of then goes prematurely it is a real jolt and the sadness is palpable. Death can never take away the memories though.

    Liked by 1 person

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