It’s good to see that a few excellent comments on some of the past blogs. Please remember that I do not write them to put folk off mountaineering. Many are thoughts on a mountaineering career of over 50 years. I loved the battle with nature we had and often that was on Call outs after a long day on the hills. This was assisting many of the local teams across Scotland. Here is another memory! Take what you want from it.
I have been writing about our East – West walk in winter In 1977 it was a wild time. Weather forecasts were poor gear was basic and any contact was by Public Phones. There were days when we out of touch in the severest weather ( The A9 was shut no gates in theses days) We were very fit Jim Morning and Terry Moore were outstanding mountaineers with first ascents in the Himalayas later on. Also two attempts at the rarely climbed Everest West Ridge both getting very high. I was a very mediocre mountaineer but pushed myself all the time. On several occasions during that walk were we running on empty and navigating for our lives. Fitness and hill qknowledge got us through only one day did we stay low from Gaick Lodge to Glen Feshie even that was hard work. The snow was deep and we took turns at breaking the path. Next day was one of the hardest of my life deep snow and featureless hills. An Sgarsoch and Càrn an Fhidhleir.
These two rounded, featureless hills are given distinction by their remoteness. In the heart of the wild country between the main Cairngorms and the Atholl ranges, few Munros can match these peaks for the feeling of solitude or open space. The day could be shortened by the use of a mountain bike on the approach. In winter on a bad day they can be very serious. Our route was from Upper Glen Feshie and Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy even in the 70,s it was such a great bothy with lots of wood to dry our gear. As usual there was no one about the roads were blocked anyway.
Running on empty – We were extremely tired the big days from Ossian 5 munro 4 more on the way to Culra bothy with an epic getting off the plateau in a white out then a big day on Beinn Alder and Beinn Bhoil had knackered us. The police met us at Dalwhinnie saying we had to stop the walk as the RAF were not happy and worried. We were lucky was my pal Jimmy Simpson who said he had missed us . Jimmy was a great pal now sadly gone who we met with his massive dog on Call outs all over Scotland. A real character.
Hard Navigation most of day – That day will remain in my thoughts forever we left the track after a long walk from the bothy. The navigation was so tricky over peat hags and frozen bogs snow covered. It was artic conditions with spell of White out. The navigation was vert tricky Jim had just passed his Winter MLC and Terry was a superb navigator. We all took turns checking each other breaking the route as the weather got wilder. It would be a very late finish as we were heading for Braemar. I doubted we would make it. As we descended absolutely exhausted the weather cleared. It was dark but a moon came out our gear froze on us but we were getting lower.There was still a lot of snow about but we carried on the burns were frozen over and the deep snow had a crust. This was such a hard day we had little food and drink and still big bags. Yet looking back what an eye opener and a great reality check for our egos,
Near the end of the day keep concentrating We could see the path below us the moon lit up the hills. It became still and bitterly cold. We made the descent to the path and on to White Bridge. While crossing the icy river Jim fell in and was soaked with the temperatures now about minus 15 we were in a rush to keep going. We arrived at Linn of Dee the road had tons of snow we were exhausted. We made a decision that Braemar was to far and I was sent to the last house the keepers house to ask if we could stay in his garage. It was about 2100 the keeper brought us in and his lovely wife made us egg and chips. He told us he had a bothy 2 miles down the road and would take us to it. A young keeper was there helping with the shooting. After our meal the keeper thought we were crazy as we could not take a lift even though we were exhausted. We also phoned Kinloss telling them we were alive and our families my Mum was very worried and thanked the keeper and his wife for looking after us. I went back to see the Keeper and his family took them some bits and pieces to thank them. I sadly lost their names so if anyone can help get me them that would make my day.
The Stalker was waiting at the Stalkers bothy with the young lad and he had some whisky. We had a brew Jim and Terry went to bed and I told him what we were up to. My adrenaline was still very high. He was a cracking lad a hill man though young full of a love for the hills. We arranged to meet up sometime. Sadly this did not happen.
Sad day – The young keeper and I never got our day on the hill. A few weeks later he was found near Landseer Falls near Feshie bothy dead of exposure after getting caught out in a big storm heading from Linn of Dee to Glen Feshie Lodge on Jan 11th 1978. I could not believe this when told that the hills could kill such a powerful young man We were on he search as well unknown to us it was our young pal.
Looking back – That day we had walked 35 k and climbed at least 1325 metres mostly in the worst weather possible. We had really pushed it out. If anything had happened there in my opinion would have been little we could have done. We were in a remote area, extremely tired, yet wanting to get more hills in (ego) we did think we were invincible then as many of that age do. I was just looking after myself in the end. There were no communications for 4 days we could have been anywhere as we changed our route due to the extreme weather.
Pushing it we certainly did. We were strong and fit but what would we have done if one of us had run out of steam? I had always tried to have something left in my tank so I can deal with any emergencies. It was empty when we hit Linn of Dee!