“Lost on Bidean nam Bian and a early meeting with Hamish MacInnes

Bidean nam Bian is more a mountain range than a single mountain, a huge and complex mass of dramatic crags, ridges and summits towering on the south side of Glen Coe. The main summit is hidden from the road behind the Three Sisters – three great prows – and the top of Stob Coire nan Lochain.

“Lost on Bidean Nam Bian “ my first meeting with Hamish McInnes a day to remember .

Mum on the hill on 1938 Loch Ossian

Father’s Day yesterday brought back an old memory going back to the early 60’s.I was about 12 then a Bairn.

My Dad, Mum and myself were staying in a manse for a week not to far from Glencoe. We did this often as a means of a cheap holiday. Dad had promised me a day on the big hills in Glencoe.Bidian was the biggest in the Glen at 3700 feet. I know now it’s a complex mountain. Walk Highlands description” Bidean nam Bian is more a mountain range than a single mountain, a huge and complex mass of dramatic crags, ridges and summits towering on the south side of Glen Coe. The main summit is hidden from the road behind the Three Sisters – three great prows – and the top of Stob Coire nan Lochain.

My Dad and mr in Galloway

We set of on a not to great day. We had such limited gear but Dad had a map inch to mile and very simple brass compass. More important he always carried a big bar of Cadbury’s chocolate in his tiny rucksack. Mum and I carried little but I had bought a pixie type cloth jacket with money I earned from a paper round . I had done many hills in Galloway, Arran and Ben Lomond and been out on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award making up a group of 4 on an expedition. Yet Glencoe was to be a different ball game.

I remember driving through Glencoe the tops were so Misty the rock slippy and wet. We passed enormous cliffs big waterfalls tumbling down the cliffs.

To a wee 12year old it was intimidating. After great effort we headed up the steep path to the ridge. It was to me a wonderland of huge mountains. They looked so impossible to climb up to!

The map detail in these days was basic but we followed the ridge it never seemed to end. By now the rain was heavy the mist was down. Mum had said a few times we should go down but as always common sense did not prevail. In the odd times we got a view it was of huge cliffs and very steep ground.

The wind got stronger and we continued Dad had his jumper on now over his white shirt. We made the top and had a break out of the wind. The chocolate and wet sandwiches came out. We did not hang about and Dad decided the wind was to strong to go back the same way. He planned another route of that would take us down by what I was later to know as Church Door Buttress. We followed a very rough bearing on Dad’s tiny compass.

We were soon in very steep ground Dad would lower me down with his stick. I was lost in the adventure but Mum was worried by now It was looking an adventure to far . Stones were falling near us when we heard a voice “ in the mist are you okay”

We were soon joined by a very tall man quietly spoken who my Dad recognised as Hamish Mc Inness. We were still high up the mountain on very broken ground where a slip would be serious. Hamish took us down by weaving effortlessly through the cliffs.

Once down in the Corrie he walked us out and took us to his house for tea. My Dad told him he was a minister Hamish laughed and said lucky I was up looking for kit left on a rescue. He never told us off just chatted with us and said life is about experiences like the one we had. My Mum was so pleased he had turned up like an Angel when we needed help.

We headed back soaked I fell asleep unaware of how lucky we were.

6 years later I met Hamish on a Rescue in Glencoe I was by now in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. It took me years to speak to Hamish of my story he remembered it. I said you did not report it as Rescue he said no your Dad said he would mention the day in one of his sermons! Which he did often. I was honoured to become a friend of Hamish during my time in Mountain Rescue as Team Leader at RAF Leuchars and Kinloss and for for many years. He would always have a story to tell and would remind me of our “Wee rescue” many years before .

Hamish passed away a few years ago Mum and Dad are long gone but I was to climb on Bidian often in sumner and winter. We did many rescue there with Glencoe Mountain Rescue. I never told my tale till now looking back we were lucky that Hamish was about that day.

In memory of three great folk in my life. Mum, Dad and Hamish.

Myself the Fox of Glencoe and Willie Elliot

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.
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