The forecast was poor and I left early winter must be coming as I had porridge before I left. I was meeting my mate Laurry outside Inverness and going to take my van to Kintail. As always Laurry changed the plan and we left my van.
It was a lovely drive to Kintail a bit wet but the colours of the trees and the hills were magical. Terry though living down South is a member of the Inverness Mountaineering club. We were early and I showed Laurry the memorial just above the Loch to a young student who went missing on the hills in the 60’s , I gave it a clean and told the story to Laurry of how he was found high up on the Affric hills by a keeper after the snows melted. I have written at length about it in my blog.
3 Jan 1969 – John Sandeman was one of a group of about twenty Edinburgh University students who had come up to Glenmoriston for part of their Xmas vacation for the purposes of climbing and hillwalking. At the time there was a large amount of Hydro-Board construction taking place in the Glen and the construction company, Carmichaels Ltd, had a large work-camp situated on the south side of the road just east of Dundreggan dam. There the party obtained accommodation since the workforce were not on site over the festive season.
On the day in question the students divided themselves into several smaller groups to tackle climbs of varying difficulty and set out into the Cluanie mountains via the large hill called Sgurr nan Conbhairean.
John Sandeman was one of a group of four led by 19-year old Andrew Kerr and their route took them towards Bealach Coire a’ Chait; Sandeman was not a very experienced climber, however, and he found himself in a group who were just too good for him. About 3.10, with little of the short winter’s day ahead of them he had started to flag and had dropped some 100 yards behind his companions. They pressed on , crossed a false summit and returned. Sandeman was no longer following them. They assumed that he had dropped out and gone back down to the road, but when they did not meet him, they retraced their steps back up the bealach. When once more they did not find him, they returned to Cluanie and back to Dundreggan where the alarm was raised.”The whole party went out after dark, searched the lower hills and corries, but returned at 5 a.m. without success. It was just after returning that they learned that the missing climber’s father, 70-year old Mr Robert Sandeman, a retired jute manufacturer, had died suddenly the previous evening. John Sandeman, however, was well enough equipped to survive a night in the open and so the search resumed the next day.
The Police were told “At about 1515 on Sunday the 3 January, John Sandeman became separated from his party whilst walking from Coire a Chait and Sgurr nan Conbhaireen!. He has not been seen since.”
After being called at 0730 on the Monday the 4 Jan 1960 the RAF Kinloss MRT arrived at the Cluannie in at 1100. After conferring with the Police and local civilians it was decided to carry out a sweep search on either side of the route taken by Mr Sandeman after being separated from his companions.
That evening Monday 4 Jan it was learned that civilians from Inverness and Fort William would be available next day to search. It was decided that the steep ground NE of Sgurr nan Conbhairean. This task was delegated as follows; Area between last known position and Loch Cluannie to be searched by civilians. Steep ground NE of Conbhairean searched by MRT. The decision to call of the search was due to the falling snow making it difficult to locate the casualty impossible!
Civilian assistance was on a comparatively large scale, parties coming from Inverness and Fort William. Co – ordination was difficult since the parties arrived at different times. In accordance with the pre –arranged plans they were allocated search areas by the local Constable. The lateness of the start of the civilian searchers and the onset of thick weather made this search virtually abortive. It is difficult to see how an efficient effort by civilians can be achieved unless facilities exist – such as a Youth Hostel – where search parties can concentrate the evening before the search!
( I would imagine that the road conditions, poor communications did not help. D. Whalley)
Red flares reported were used by the Fort William Police to concentrate their parties.
Mention must be made of the great help given by the following: Mr Tom Ross the local hill farmer with great local knowledge. Constable MacKay of Dornie was out on the hills both days and his initial
Investigation of the students was very much to the point. Finally Mr Tennant of the Kintail Lodge Hotel wh organised the local civilian effort and made freely of his one transport.
It is presumed that he injured himself and died of exposure somewhere to the SW of Sgurr nan Conbhairean.
Footnote – On Friday, September 21st 1962, a shepherd, George MacKay, who was out gathering sheep with his employer, Mr. T. D. Girvan, saw something sticking up in the heather behind some boulders.
It turned out to be an ice-axe with the initials J.D.S. It looked as though its owner had just stuck it in the ground and sat down beside it to rest. With the axe were found some residual human -remains in company with a watch, cigarette lighter, spectacles and boots. John Sandeman had been found some two and a half years after his disappearance.
We all met at the Clunnie Hotel for coffee. Some others came from South Terry’s friends from the past. We had coffee in the cafe and drove to the lay by to the start of our hill. I had all my waterproofs on.
Am Bachach is only a short day but the weather was changing with heavy rain and winds forecast. I had left my inhaler and took my place at the back coughing and spluttering! It was great company so many wonderful characters and good views at time’s.
Everyone was enjoying the day and I just coughed my way up hill. It’s a good but muddy path. I put on gloves and my hat from the beginning and wondered how did o manage to climb in the past the North and South Clunnie in a day?
The group were great and waited for me to catch up and I got some magical views of the exceptional light. The rain was cold at time’s and tomorrow’s forecast of snow for the high tops was in the air.
It was great to meet so many folk and myself and Helen Her husband Brian our doctor on Everest in 2001 had a great chat ( when I could) we got views of the big Affric hills and Kintail hills. The rivers were high in the Glen the path muddy and we were soon at the first top. At 734 metres we could see our summit about a kilometre away.
It was then on slowly the rest pulled ahead but waited for me near the summit
We found some shelter out of the wind and had a break were Terry had some champagne photos and food.
I got my breath back ate a piece and then as we were soaked headed down. It was still wet but a lot easier on the way off. At the bottom a cake was produced and we went back to the cafe at Clunnie for a warm drink.
It was a quick change then to Terry’s bed and breakfast for a superb meal. We were treated so well by the owners and the food was magnificent. I got cramp at time’s first time for ages. Thank you to our hosts for a lovely meal.
Binnilidh Mhor B&B
Situated in the tranquil Scottish Highlands, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, Binnilidh Mhor B&B offers easy access to outdoor activities such as hill-walking, horse riding, fishing, kayaking, and bird watching. The property is set less than 10 miles from Loch Ness and just off the A887 road to the Isle of Skye.
This property consists of 3 large en-suite bedrooms, 2 of which are suitable for guests with mobility difficulties. Guests can benefit from free Wi-Fi, an iPod docking station, a flat-screen TV, tea/coffee making facilities, hairdryer, ironing facilities and a silent fridge.
There is a lounge area which has a roaring log fire for winter days.
Breakfast is made of locally sourced ingredients and includes full Scottish and a continental option. Evening meals and packed lunches are available upon advanced request.
Binnilidh Mhor B&B is 15 miles from the historical town of Fort Augustus with its medieval Abbey. Guests can easily reach the famous location of Loch Ness and several famous Scottish Castles such as Urquhart and Eilean Donan. Inverness airport and the Isle of Skye is 1 hour’s drive from the property. Magical
We left about 2000 leaving Terry Gillian Ritchie and Alison to some peace and drove back to Inverness finding my cat locked in the Car park. Laurry dropped me off laughing and headed home . I got 5 star lodgings at my stepdaughters and made my granddaughters day. Apart from cutting my head as I slipped! The girls were shocked but soon went into Nurses mode . Yvette and Dave laughed only I could be so daft. I was well looked after and spent the night with my beautiful girls and Dave and Yvette.
What a day met so many great folk forgot about the mess the world is in. Thanks to Terry and Gillian for a great day to everyone who attended it was great to see you. Sorry I was so slow. Yet to be up in the hills despite the weather to see the colours the wind battering your face was wonderful.
There’s something about hill folk that make even a wet wild day fun. Even at my pace.