Day 21 – Nov 17 – Linn of Dee – Carn Bhac – Braemar
It is amazing how you get used setting of in the dark and at least we followed the road into the wilds and the rough track after helped. The guide for these hills says navigation is not easy in this area with an abundance of peat hags and drifting snow and featureless ground, it was correct. Maybe that is why this hill is called the hill of the Peat Banks! I was glad to get to the summit, again it was a real slog out back to Braemar, constant wind and weather breaking us down and the reserves were running low. My knee was very sore but the hill bag was lighter, we passed lots of deer running effortlessly over the ground and felt jealous. We reached Braemar eventually and the Fife Arms where we were staying in the cold bothy. I was so glad to get there after a real wild few days. It seemed like ages ago we were at Dalwhinnie, not once did the weather give us a break but we had 2 days left it was in the bag? Distance 21 k and 972 metres 1 Munrp Total 42 Munros.
This was another very hard day over peat hags filled with snow, we had seen no one on the hill for 10 days! After getting sorted and picking up the rations we called RAF Kinloss who told us that they were playing War Games, it was the Cold War and the Station was playing war. This was a real blow as we expected the RAF Kinloss Team to be out and meet us when we finished on Mount Keen at the weekend. We may not even get a lift back as it may go on over the weekend if the Station did not achieve the desired results. We were pretty down when a friend arrived at the pub it was our mate Sid Green who was on holiday and wanted a day on the hill. He had an epic drive from England and was keeping away from RAF Kinloss and its war games. Sid was a breath of fresh air and it was great to have a chat with someone new and it would be different company on the hill tomorrow. He would meet us on Lochnagar if he could get his car up to Lochnagar Car Park. It was a very cold night in the bothy the temperature was very low in the old squash court and our gear was frozen in the morning. Two days to go was a bonus and only one day’s food to carry over the Lochnagar hills. The forecast was again wild, but we were used to it!
Day 21 November 18 – Breamar – Cairn An – t Sagairt Mor, White Mounth, Lochnagar –Spital of Glen Muick . Sid was amazed we were up and gone by 0700 just as the light was arriving, we wandered up the road to Auchallater and up to Loch Callater Lodge on Jock’s Road and met many deer sheltering by the Lodge. Then it was up the windswept hills plastered with snow and on to Carn an Sagairt Mor at 1047 meters. It was then onto the open plateau it was wild but by now we were so slick with our navigation and our gear and onto White Mounth and Lochnagar. The weather was brutal and with an Easterly wind it bit into the core of your body. We still had to watch the navigation it was tricky and were glad to meet Sid he was frozen it was a quick snack and get off the hill. Lochnagar in a blizzard is not easy you hug the huge cliffs and have to take care, again it is not simple but Sid was happy to give us a break as we tried to head down out of the weather. We were soon down in the Glen then along the track to Spittal Of Glen Muick we were staying with Mr Robertson the keeper an old friend of the team. Sid headed back to RAF Kinloss and said he would be back tomorrow what ever happened and meet us on Mount Keen tomorrow. (Sid was to die of cancer within a year a great big strong man and a great mate; I will never forget his kindness meeting us on that second last day.) It was real shame that the team would not be there but they were still involved in War Games poor souls. Mr Robertson had a good chat and we stayed in the MR bothy for the night, we had a dram with him and could not believe we only had one day left. We had definitely aged and lost lots of weight but were extremely fit. We slept well and were as usual away early it still was a bit of a walk to go much on our favourite ground peat and bog! It was another steady day of 24 k and 1219 metres in the wild weather again all day but only 1 day to go. 3 Munros and Total 46 Munros
Day 22 November 19 – Spittal Of Glen Muick – Mount Keen and Auchromie. It was a bit of a road walk to start then up onto the hill tracks and then over heather and peat hags in deep snow to the most Easterly Munro Mount Keen. This was the last day and we were still alive absolutely exhausted There was little joy just head down let’s get home .There were amazingly a troops there to meet us, they had been playing war games at RAF Kinloss. This was the Cold war era and the game/ war was over and they had come straight out to see us. Mick Trimby (RIP) ar great mate brought my lovely girlfriend June out and though she had worked like the troops for 5 days with little sleep it was great to see them. I was a very embarrassed on the top of Mount Keen with June being there (how daft is that) and it was strange to have company and then we walked down to Glen Mark. We just wanted to be on our own there was little chat poor June was not impressed. The weather was clod but clear and we were of the hill in the daylight and then a long 3 hour drive home. The walk was over and we were alive. What a trip what an experience for us all. Total 1 Munro 47 Munos in Total
Total 47 Munros Climbed, 506 Kilometres and 33429mteres of Ascent most in wild weather!
Looking It was a massive undertaking at the time with the lack of daylight and the weather we had nearly every day in wild weather. Navigation and Fitness were key elements and the area knowledge we had saved us in a few places. Maps were very basic not like today (2014) no GPS, we planned the route in advance but each day was dependent on the weather.
The gear was very basic, no Gortex but the polar fleeces were life savers. We were wet every day and had to keep moving to keep warm. We always carried a spare pair of gloves and basic kit to change into it was limited as we were carrying everything. We carried plastic bivy bags very basic!
Food was simple porridge and simple lightweight food, mashed potatoes and pasta, lots of soups and tea coffee etc, we were always hungry. Hill food was simple chocolate and sweets! We cooked on a primus it never let us down. I laid out the food in advance and the food caches were for the time great being a caterer by trade helped and still we were always hungry. I lost a stone on the trip and I was a skinny lad then.
Communications – we phoned whenever we got to a phone and were on our own a lot, weather forecasts were hard to get and it was always similar, snow, wind and cloud!
The road walking was hard work and we carried RAF Sandshoes basic but a great change from boots, everything was limited due to weight.
Bothies were used whenever and a great bonus the Mountain Bothies is a great asset we only met one person in a bothy on our travels. The fires were so important to try to dry the wet gear very night. We used the Scottish Youth Hostels twice at Affric and Ossian again we were the only people there!
The keepers and team contacts for Base Camps from Tom Rigg ,Mr MacRae in Skye, Kintail Cluannie Lodge, Mr Oswald at Culra ,the keeper at Gaick, the Keeper and his wife at Linn Of Dee and Mr Robertson at Lochnagar were all great to us. We had such hospitality meals and drams and I can never forget them and apologise for losing the names of everyone but my diary got soaked. We at times arrived very late very tired yet we always got a welcome. The hills were very quiet in 1977 and we only met our friends in the team on the hill imagine that today. These people were what going on the mountains were all about and remain so vivid memories even today.
Jim and Terry my companions were exceptional never complained unlike me and were to become incredibly powerful mountaineers, we never fell out on the trip and we learned so much for the future. The planning was a great just on maps and when you look back with the technology today it was impressive. Our navigation improved as did our fitness and mountaineering skills. As the days went on we did I still I feel at one with the mountains over this period of 21 days and became as one! This was to be a great help when we were under great pressure. The great thing is we are still great friends.
The assistance from RAF Kinloss from Jim Green , Mick Trimby and Sid Green all sadly deceased who came out with ice axes, food and transported us home, I have many wonderfull memories and
poor June who I was so embarrassed when you arrived on Mount Keen I am sorry. Our families who worried about us and I know my Dad and Mum were praying for us and we needed it. Ray Sefton and Don Shanks the Team Leader and Deputy at RAF Kinloss who worried if their careers were over as the weather came in. I never realised the level of responsibility for us until I became a Team Leader. Finally to John Hinde RIP – you really set the” cat among the pigeon’s with your Walk idea in the depths of November. But did we learn from it and many call –outs in the future were successful from the local area knowledge learned on that walk.
That is it nearly 9800 words on our Walk from West – East in 1977
Hope you enjoyed the adventure as I enjoyed remembering the trip.
This book is an outstanding read and a must for all winter mountaineers.
The Munros in Winter: 277 Summits in 83 Days by Martin Moran
In 1985 mountain guide Martin Moran achieved the first completion of all 277 Munros* in a single winter with the support and companionship of his wife Joy. Their success was a feat of dedicated mountaineering and effective teamwork through the storms, snows and avalanches of an epic winter season in the Scottish Highlands. Martin’s account of the winter journey became a classic mountain narrative, combining his passionate enthusiasm for the mountains with humorous insights into a marriage put to the test through three months of living in a camper van. It was described as ‘the best guidebook to the Munros’ by mountain writer Jim Perrin. The book inspired many other climbers and runners to pick up the gauntlet in pursuit of new feats of endurance on Scotland’s hills, and is now reissued with full colour photographs plus an introductory update by the author on how the ‘Munros in Winter’ changed his life.