Running on empty. 1976 North to South of Scotland.

I have just read Kevin Woods update on his winter traverse of the Munros. The weather is wild and yet Kevin is still pushing on. He is up North and had an early start on Saturday on Conival and Ben More Assynt. He was on the first summit at sunrise chasing the weather. Yesterday he was on Ben Hope our most Northerly Munro where we lost Andy and Steve last year in a climbing accident. Kevin writes about his feelings on the summit in his latest update. He then headed for Ben Klibreck and was as he says “running on empty” and descended at 500 feet. It was a great decision and its easy to get into a situation when tired. Kevin will recover of that I have no doubt. I hope he gets some good weather and he is going so well. His updates are a great insight into the winter mountains and coping with the conditions.

It reminds me when I read these updates of my early days on the hills. We did some great walks mostly unsupported traverses of Scotland. We carried our gear and were resupplied every week. It was hard going and I was running on empty at the end of the first week. See below a flavour of these days

Day 6. May 14 1977

This is the story of my first Walk from North – South of Scotland in May 1976 it was an adventure and no day was ever the same. The gear was simple the maps basic but what a trip. We were self contained carrried all our own food and got resupplied when we could.

1976 May – RAF Kinloss MRT – North to South Traverse of the Highlands.

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps  and there were limited communications Mobile phones were a long way away. For most of the trip we were carrying fairly heavy hill bags and walking in between the hills. 

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF)This trip was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan.He gained authorization for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

1976 North – South Route

We had started on Ben Hope

19/5/76Ben Hope – Ben Hee – Merkland Lodge Good day, excellent weather, Long walk after Ben More then pull up Ben Hee- are we carrying too much? Keeper at Merkland Lodge  gave us all a dram (huge) great Highland hospitality. 1 Munro
210/5/76Ben More Assynt – Conival – Ben More Lodge. Steady day interesting way off the hill superb winter potential in big Corrie to Ben More Lodge . 2 Munro
311/5/76Ben More Lodge – Loch Coire Mhor Bothy Monster road walk, blisters – great bothy in the heart of Tranter country, what a corrie, must climb here in winter.
412/5/76Seanna Bhraigh- Eididh nan Clach Geala- Meal nan Ceapraichean- Cona Mheall-Beinn Dearg- Loch Droma. Very long day, tricky navigation and lots of views in between the weather, bothy very poor, owner miserable, booze everywhere in bothy at Loch Droma. 5 Munros
513/5/76Loch Droma – Fannichs – Beinn Liath Mhor Fannich- Sgurr Mor- Meall Gorm- Meal A Chrasgaidh-Sgurr na Clach Geala-Sgurr nan Each- The Nest (Cartilage not good) Struggled today, they both left me very physical day. Very Heavy Hill bags from Hell.   7 Munros.

1976 Day 6 May 14

Nest of Fannichs Bothy is sadly no longer there Fionn Bheinn to Scardroy Lodge.

The leaving of the bothy was not easy wet clothes on and huge rivers to cross that were pretty swollen by the rain and snow. These rivers were endless and we got soaked as we headed round Loch Fannich and into the back of Fionn Bheinn our only hill for the day. This hill is described as an uninspiring hill in many guides but from the Fannich side it is a wild place and we enjoyed once we got there the lovely North Corrie of the hill the Toll Coire was impressive. We followed the back ridge looking into the Corrie where there were so many deer.

From here it was down onto the road at Achnasheen and from here I felt awful. I told the other two to keep going and I would catch up on the way to Scardroy Lodge in Strathconnon. I had a bug and went downhill very quickly and the easy pull over to Scardroy left me wasted it was less than 5 miles and 500 feet but what a mess I was in when I arrived. The keeper and his wife were with Jim and Paul and had a meal and a dram for us I went straight to bed feeling awful and really worried about tomorrow! The keeper was a lovely man and his wife was so good to me, I must have looked awful.


Distance 21 miles and 7547. Total 1 Munro Grand total 16 Munros .

Day 7. May 15

It was a forced Day off at Scardroy looked after by the keeper’s wife and given drinks and lots of care, I thought for me the walk was over. I started to get better and after eating some soup that was brought later in the afternoon I felt weak but on the mend. We were given a great meal that night and I decided to carry on and see how it would go. I will never forget the kindness shown to me at Scardroy and unfortunately lost the name of the Keeper and his wife. Can anyone help? My mother phoned them when I told them of the kindness I had been given and thanked them for all their help. I was pretty weak when I went to bed but I prayed I would be able to cope with the big hill day?

Jim and Paul were fine but said they would make the decision if I was too slow, I remember these words even to this day. I recovered and managed next day slowly in a cold wild windy day. I was to go back to Scardroy and thank them after the walk and drop a few gifts and a bottle but it was little recompense for such great Highland Hospitality. My Mum even wrote and thanked them as they let us all use the phone this was 1976 no mobile phones then. This Glen was to be revisited on several call outs in the years to come both for aircraft incidents. One in 1982 for an USA F111 that crashed a few miles from Scardroy and both crew got out alive, the other was for a missing Cessna aircraft that was found on Liathach.

How not to pack your bag. Big bags big days.

Next day I had recovered and I struggled along for the next 3 days on all the Munros in Strathfarra ,Cannich and Affric these were huge days.

Interesting looking back on these days. All the best Kevin I am sure you will recharge the batteries and look forward to your updates.

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 Bothies, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Running on empty. 1976 North to South of Scotland.

  1. Tony B says:

    Excellent N to S diary , well done …. do we have a NtoS club .?


    • Date Station Season Munros Team
      E- W Kinloss Autumn 11 Shaw, McKerron, Ballantyne

      N- S Kinloss Summer 37 Armstrong, Golton, Raven

      N-S Kinloss Summer 32 Ward, Morrison, Bradshaw

      W-E Kinloss Summer 30 Hinde, Shaw

      1967 S -N Kinloss Summer 26 Gilligan, Ward, Wagg

      N-S Kinloss/Valley Autumn
      19 days 48/58 Hinde, Blyth, McGowan, Tomlinson, (Rabbits, Millgate
      350 miles/30480 metres
      N-S Kinloss Winter 20 days 20 Roney, Tindley, Luff, Higgins
      300 miles/18288 metres

      N-S Stafford Autumn 22 days 44 Brewer, Keane, Gillies, Penning, Goldsborough. 282 miles/21236 metres.
      1976 Kinloss Spring
      21 days 62 Whalley, Burns, Morning 334 miles/31185 metres.
      1977 Team Leaders Spring
      20 days 62 Shanks, Weatherill, Aldridge (USAF 345 miles/29628 metres.


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