Garbh Bhein – Ardgour a sad tale.

As a Mountain Rescue Team Leader the worst thing that could happen is a Team member being badly injured or killed. I will admit it worried me a lot during my years as Team Leader and as a Party Leader. Call – outs were always when it could be so easy to step over the line between safety and danger and many of the times we were out I would not have been there by choice.

To operate in these conditions you have to train hard and at times push the boat out so that when the call – out comes you are ready for most things that nature can throw at you! This was often in the RAF Teams as we had some very young and inexperienced Team members on long hard days in poor weather and no matter how experienced you are these were testing times. In the end God willing if you work hard you had a strong team that could cope with some of the wildest conditions imagined. If you add to that a huge area of the whole of the North of Scotland that could be “your patch” then you have to learn as much as you can of all the mountain areas. You do not in the RAF have a local area like most civilian teams that you know intimately but hopefully with hard training and a steady knowledge of most mountain areas built up over the years.

At the memorial

I had a few near misses and learned so much from them as did many of others. Sadly the RAF Kinloss Team now disbanded and at RAF Lossiemouth lost a Team member in a fall whilst rock climbing in August 1956 in Garbh Beinn in Ardgour. It was a tragic day for the team and one can only imagine what effect it had one the family of young Allan Grout who was killed. Allan had not long joined the team and was climbing in Ardgour.

Garbh Bheinn is an exceptionally fine mountain, well seen across Loch Linnhe from North Ballachulish. It has fine rock scenery and some classic climbs as well as being a superb viewpoint. Yet it is a remote mountain and looks stunning.

The climbing gear of that era

The accident must have been awful for all concerned, no phones in these days and someone had the awful task of going for help, then the long evacuation by your pals so many sad questions. I can only imagine running down the Glen for help awful. The effects on those who were there would have been hard – there was no awareness of PTSD then!

I still think as a Team Leader as did my pal Dan who was with me on my last visit. Imagine notifying the poor family and the loss of a young life so many years ago. The carrying of Allan off the hill and the enquiry. This was a tragedy that would affect many for the rest of their lives a tragedy.

The Great Ridge

I suppose as Team Leaders it had always been in our thoughts how would we have dealt with and accident like this to our team and we had a few near misses in our 30 odd years.

We spent some special time here and decided that time was moving on we wandered up into the corrie. We had not enough time to climb and it was a day to relax and enjoy this stunning place and we were left to each other thoughts as we wandered around. 1956 was a long way back but what a sad time that day all those years ago must have been. I wonder if there is anyone with information on the accident as I can find little around. Can you help and the piece in “Whensover” is vague? I was always told Alan climbed above his leader but fell off.

The Memorial is at NM 9097962798 and worth a look it is some wild place.

Yet looking back its still a magical place and I have huge memories of climbing here the classic Butterknife on immaculate rock, Great ridge often climbed and others. It was a place of incredible wildness and the back drop a place of great beauty. As are the hills, in Ardgour mostly neglected, get over and enjoy them. Yet have a thought for Alan.

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 Articles, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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