1976 – Things move on: Becoming a Party leader and planning a Big Walk – North to South Scotland.

I had been back in the team for a year now was fully trained and hoping for my party leader. This had been a long journey for me it took me for what seemed years to prove myself. I had often taken parties on the hill in summer, winter and call outs I felt I had proved myself. Pete McGowan made me a Party leader and it was a great day for me. In these days there was no presentation just a low-key mention at the Monday briefing. It was a huge day for me. It meant I could do what I wanted on the hills for myself, I could finish my Munro’s and climb a lot more. I had a great day on the Skye ridge top to top 12 hours I was learning.

The RAF Mountain Rescue Badge

I wanted to go to the Alps that year but my mate Jim Morning had asked me about doing a Big Walk across Scotland.

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 was 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 Mobile phones and GPS and lightweight gear were a long way away off.

One night no bothy staying at Bridge of Orchy station.

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 Mac Gowan.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.

Extract from The Big Walk North To South – May 1976 David Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning and Paul Burns. Heavy Whalley – Jim Morning (JM Paul Burns(PB) This was the first expedition in the RAF to be led by SAC’s VERY JUNIOR RANKS and no officer. The expedition had lots of support by Pete McGowan (Team Leader) who stuck his neck out to let us do the Traverse.

Three young lads on the walk

It was my first big walk and a huge learning curb for me many that was to be invaluable in many call -outs in the future. I learned so much about the mountains and different ways up and down them and it was great having Paul and Jim on the trip. We never fell out all the way and at times we were pretty tired and running on empty. There were no bothies on a couple of occasions due to being let down by our organisation and that was hard after a big hill days. The hospitality of the keepers and their families were wonderful and the kindness was unequal especially at Scardroy Lodge where I was ill, this was true Highland Hospitality at its best and will never be forgotten.

Long days

The gear was basic as were the food caches every 3 /4 days with food and our boots were a pair of curlies that leaked every day. We had some incredible days saw so much and learnt so much about this great country and the hospitality we had been given was incredible.Why not go and do a short trip across this great land, you will see a lot more people and there will be more paths but the hills will always be the same. I have been a member of the Mountain Bothy Association ( MBA) for many years and appreciate what they do to keep these remote shelters going in 2014 so that others may enjoy what we did all these years ago. Why not join them or send them a donation

These nights were the highlights of a great trip a fire going, the company of Jim and Paul, the gear steaming nearby and that first cup of tea I will remember these days forever.

The total for our trip was 62 Munros 334 miles and 104464 feet of ascent.

This was a record for the RAF Trips at the time and we were pretty pleased! Yet a lot of the fun was planning it. Getting all the maps on the floor in the briefing room and drawing a route. It was so exciting looking forward to seeing new Glens, cliffs and new ways up the hills. Sitting at times watching the herds of deer and wild life all around. Watching the weather and being at one a unique experience that only comes when you spend time in the mountains. Only then in my mind do you become as one in the mountains.

My advice for anyone is to get away on an unsupported walk it’s a unique experience even today. You will not regret it.

Just remember “The Mountains are not a gymnasium for your ego!”

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.
This entry was posted in Articles, Friends, Gear, Health, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 1976 – Things move on: Becoming a Party leader and planning a Big Walk – North to South Scotland.

  1. chopperlad says:

    What a wonderful epic journey ! Early on too. Great trust from the Organisation to let you go by yourselves; an unsupervised, unsupported walk !

    You are a STAR, Heavy !

    Liked by 1 person

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