I was so lucky to have been told of Big Walks across Scotland in the past I listened intently when I met a few who had done them. There had been various long Walks the RAF Mountain Rescue have a history of Big Walks in Scotland. The most popular was the North to South from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond, later on there came the West to East from Skye to Mt Keen. Key figures like John Hinde and Pete McGowan were great enthusiasts for them and they were even used as the final training for Team Leaders on their assessment course.
Hamish Browns wonderful book “Hamish’s Mountain Walk”
“In the 60,s the RAF Rescue Teams made several North – South and East – West expedition’s over numerous Munros. I met John Hinde, whose accounts had stirred up readers: he was not the first in either direction.”
The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover the 270 miles with no support all travel on foot. The plans were to climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps and there were limited communications: basic weather reports, no Mobile phones or GPS and lightweight gear were a long way away ahead.
The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF)This was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete McGowan.
All military authorization for expeditions in these days had to have an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO ) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.
In the end the Totals were 62 Munros climbed 334 miles and 104464 feet of ascent. This was the first traverse of Scotland that all participants completed the same identical totals. My efforts were a lot slower than the others, but this Traverse had a great influence on my mountaineering. It was also a record-breaking traverse by 14 Munros. Not bad for 3 “Bairns” with limited experience. The kit was very basic most days we were wet and cold, yet we had a tremendous experience.
- 1976 Summer North – South 64 Munros
- 1977 Winter West – East 52 Munros
- 1980 Summer South North 72 Munros
- 1984 – Summer East – West May 80 Munro
I learned so much during our first walk, we climbed 62 Munros and did some huge days. The walk is from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond and we stayed in bothies, with keepers, village halls, even a school room and two train stations!
We left food prepositioned with keepers and friends. The complete Munros in the Mamores a 12 hour 10 Munro day, the Fannichs and many other big days an incredible first walk. I leant so much about the Scottish mountains during this period and as just having completed my Munros, I was supposed to know where I was as all times an impossible task. In these days it was an incredible journey and the hospitality we received from Keepers and their families was incredible. We were usually met by a huge dram and then tea and cakes and many times a meal by the wife’s who felt sorry for us, what friendship.
I doubt that I would ever feel that fit again after 3 weeks solid on the hill in all weathers. You I feel read the mountains, can sense the weather coming in and become part of the mountain. You were in these days a long way from communications and you become such a tight group.
The walks took a lot of planning we spent ages drawing the route on the many maps we used. We often climbed the hills and descended down unknown glens to us. I saw so much of nature on the hill and in the sky, saw huge herds of deer and few of the hills had paths unlike nowadays. There were few guide books to advise and we rarely met anyone in the bothies or on the hills.
There were different days but so worthwhile I would love to hear your stories of any Big Walks.