It was all action on my first two years at Kinloss Mountain Rescue from 1972 – 74 . Every weekend was spent away with the team. I visited so many places all over Scotland. I hardly went home as I did not want to miss any time on the hill. We did lots of Call outs long drives to assist the civilian teams sometimes arriving after a long drive through the night to find the casualty was found. Communications in these days were poor and Scotland seemed a huge place.
On the odd time I had leave myself and Tom my pal chased Munro’s. These were great days the long winter was spent reading guide books and the SMC District guides planning hill days and climbs. I did my first winter climbs and was amazed by the North Face of Ben Nevis and Glencoe. Also the Cairngorms and climbing the easy gullies in Coire an’t Sneachda. The kit was basic and heavy and we met so many of the great climbers of that era. Climbing was a friendly sport and you got to know the characters about.
It was also amazing to meet many of the greats of Mountain Rescue. Ben Humble visited the section giving us some of his stories of past Rescues. Hamish McInness was a great friend of the team and we often met the Glencoe team and Lochaber which had a few ex RAF members in it. On our travels we built up a strong relationship with SARDA I was amazed how they would arrive from all over Scotland to assist on Rescue’s. Cairngorm had a female team leader Molly Porter in these early days looking back that was the start of a ever changing system.
I met a few of the other RAF Teams a few would come up to climb and stay in our block in the baggage room. Some of our best climbers would meet and I would be regaled by tales of expeditions to The Alps, The Artic, Patagonia and the Himalayas. There were a few good climbers about and I sat and listened passionately to their tales. Maybe one day I would get to those incredible places?
I learned a lot about the history of the team through our wonderful photographic albums held at Kinloss. We tried to find Kinloss routes and climb them. The library at Kinloss was superb with every mountaineering book available to read. Planning for weekends exercises there were few guide books available unlike now. It was all learning area knowledge and the Briefing after the weekend exercises you were taught so much.
All the time I was working on being Trained and getting the coveted badge. Then become party leader it took me 4 years in the end to achieve. Others did it faster but I had to work so hard even to become trained. It was a huge responsibility for a young person to take folk out in the worst of weathers and more importantly bring them back safely.
I learned so much on the crag days, stretcher lowering, abseiling, first aid using the radios and so many other skills. Navigation was the key skill as was fitness. Socially the team was great but very insular yet now I was part of it.
You grew up fast learning dealing with fatalities was never easy to me and n rarely spoken about. Yet bringing folk of the hill alive was a wonderful feeling even for a young lad. I had so many roll models in these early days always willing to help and advise you.
My personal kit was bought I was not on a great wage but boots crampons and ice axe plus clothing that fitted were my first big spends. I bought my own books that I still have: The Munro’s Table’s, Undiscovered Scotland, Callout and of course One Mans Mountains and many others. I loved Two star red and Space between my feet classics. Climbing magazines were coming out and when they were about I bought them.There was so much to learn in these days.
There was little time for relationships I became so selfish even to my family. I spoke on the phone every week to my Mum she really worried about me I only found that out many years later.
My initial boss who had give me a hardcore time left and the new Boss was a lot better to mr. Also the civilian who ran my office in my full time job was replaced by a serviceman. I was treated a lot better by now and was learning how to handle things better at work. The secret was to work harder than most and just get the dirty jobs done at work that no one else would do. I was learning. Yet often in the next 2O years I had some plonkers to “educate” them about the Team.
I was very happy in these early days Scotland had so many mountains to climb. I met so many characters from all over Scotland in the Police and Rescue Teams many became life long friends. We had a great bond with the helicopters the Wessex crews were superb and we worked hard at gaining there respect. To see the great hills like An Teallach for the first time was inspiring and the Torridon hills made huge mark on me and still does.
I failed on my first attempt at the Skye ridge in a day. We set of in the dark after a full days work myself , Tom Mac and Kas Taylor wanting to complete the ridge top to top in 12 hours. We carried to much and I blew up on the last Munro at the beleach after Am Basteir. I had nearly abseiled of my harness gear loops. Tom could easily have finished the ridge but instead took me off. Kas completed the ridge and I vowed that I would work on my climbing for my next attempt and travel light. I learned so much that day. I will never forget Tom giving up his day to ensure I got down safely.
It’s amazing to go back through those early years and the pace of life. I was averaging about 130 days on the hill a year. My job was very physical as well. Most call-outs were after a day on the hill or at work. I felt my stamina improving and soon became very fit and strong. Despite being small I could handle most weather especially the wind though wearing glasses was a pain that I had to get used to. M