I was working in the ARCC at RAF Kinloss when we had scrambled a Sea King helicopter to the Cairngorms for an injured winter climber. It would we thought be a standard incident but the weather was not great. The weather changed dramatically as the aircraft was in the Corrie and the pilot managed to land the aircraft below the climbs on the moraine by some superb flying. There was no way they would get the helicopter out in that weather so Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team assisted the climber and the aircrew off the hill as the weather got a lot worse. There was a huge dump of snow and conditions were poor though a short walk out was hard going for all. Unfortunately the helicopter would not be moving at least for a few days. We had a problem !
This is how the newspapers described the day. “In February 2006, a Sea King from Lossiemouth became stranded in the Cairngorms during a whiteout. … Nine days later, the stranded Sea King was defrosted and flown out. Heating experts de-iced the helicopter allowing it to fly to Glenmore Lodge, before it was flown to RAF Lossiemouth.
I was also in the Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and next day we trudged in early to maintain a crash guard for the helicopter. This is our job and over the years we have done a few things like this. There was even more snow that day and I wore snow shoes to get into the Misty Coire. Many others flounderd about but snow shoes were the key that day.
We had to navigate to the abandoned helicopter meeting a few early morning climbers who followed our trail. It’s a tricky area and though only about an hour from the car park many have struggled here in the past. It was past the huge Boulder field and though yellow that day you did not see it till you were right on it. Any tracks were covered by snow and a hard walk in with the boulders and heavy snow.
Looking back it was a surreal period the helicopter became a bit of an highlight to the day for many climbers. There were many visitors at time’s and helped pass a long cold day. We were to be there for several days in the end. Also when we changed shift we had 24 hour cover sometimes handing over in the dark in falling snow it was still hard to find.
It was incredible that when the weather allowed a few days later the engineers defrosted the aircraft and flew it to Glenmore Lodge.
It was a sight that I will never forget as it flew out on a stunning winters day. The Coire of the snows was now back to normal. The big yellow bird had become an attraction to all climbers in the Coire was gone. We had even given some climbers guided tours ! Some say there was even the odd party held there?
Someone put the helicopter up for sale on EBay during its stay on the Corrie. MOD were not happy at the time but we saw the funny side of it. I the end all the crew and the injured climber were safe and the aircraft flew again. It seems that a few nights at over 3000 feet did it little harm.
So when I walk into the Corrie I often tell the tale of the helicopter in the Coire. It’s now a bit of a story for those who remember.