One of the great things about being away on a 9 month tour to Masirah in the Persian Gulf was I got a months leave as you cannot take leave in Masirah. I had plans hatched with my pal at Kinloss to get lots of Munro’s done. It was still winter (April )when I returned I did the right thing by visiting my family and then heading off to the hills.
We both did not drive so it was hitching, trains and bus travel to Cairngorm. We had planned a bothy out at Corrour after climbing Braeraich Cairntoul and Devils Point. It was a long day in poor conditions and serious navigation. I struggled with the day there is no way I was ready for a long winters day. Yet I got there and we came back via Cairn a Mhain, Ben MacDui and Cairngorm. Then we hitched into Aviemore and the train back to Kinloss.
My pal Tom MacDonald and I completed our Munros both on separate hills in November 1976. We were both young members of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and were so lucky to have done these great hills before they became so popular. It was a great weekend I finished on An Socach 944 metres and the other two Munros for the rest of the party it was a big day in November. Tom finished on I am sure Beinn Bhreac and we were staying at Braemar with the Team. Most of the hills were done with the team and it was a constant chase to get the summits done with some great characters who taught us lots. I had no car could not drive and on the odd weekend off we hitched to the hills. I learned to navigate and worked hard getting to hills on buses, trains and hitching. It was an all-consuming journey and what a day when Pete McGowan the RAF Kinloss Team Leader and the late Ben Humble a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue presented me and Tom with a photo on our completion. This was the after myself and Tom MacDonald had completed out Munro’s 1976. This was about a year before Ben passed away. It was a great privilege to meet Ben Humble, what a character. We had a great blown up photo of the North Face of Ben Nevis that Ben Humble took and gave to the team.
Myself and Tom had some adventures rock climbing in Arran and Glencoe. Tom was a far better climber than me and we climbed some great classic routes. We got to know the Etive Slabs and seeing the stars who were about at that time. We hitched and camped but all the time taking our weekend off to get some climbing done. Slowly we bought some gear harnesses, ropes and gear. All the time getting to know both the hills and the great cliffs.
Tom became a party leader before me as I had to prove myself to our new Team Leader Pete Mc Gowan what a man he was. He led from the front and changed the team. There was no place to hide in Pete’s team and he pushed you to improve. He also got some great climbers in who became true friends. Jim Morning and Terry Moore from Stafford and Valley. They helped push the standards and we climbed a lot more. Pete took us to some great crags like climbing on Foinaven in the far North we regularly got back to Kinloss after midnight on Sunday night .
Pete expected complete commitment to the team. He was hard to please but what an example he was to us all. He lead from the front and was a true mountaineer. He had climbed all over the world and had the team working hard. It was a small team once he had done a clear out but we were so driven. He updated our training sending us on First aid Instructors courses at Halton and gaining civilian mountaineering qualifications like the Mountain Leadership certificates.
You learn from every Team Leader and I was storing their leadership qualities for future use. I had an aim to become a Team Leader it would be a long hard process if I was to achieve this in the future.