1979 RAF Valley – North Wales learning the hard way.

I was so lucky (though maybe not for my new Team leader Alistair Haveron) that I was posted to RAF Valley on North Wales as full time Deputy Team leader in late 1979.

The Valley Team

I had lots to learn and Al taught me so much. I was never easy to handle in these days and had some huge battles with authority but was always looked after by Al and the team. I was also well supported by the RAF Wessex helicopter crews and a few were on the team as Officer in charge.

It was hard at first I was the Scottish troop in a sought after job taking over from one of the most senior Mountain rescue troops Colin Pibworth. Colin had been in Mountain rescue since the 50’s. At first he never spoke to me during our hand over yet we became huge friends later on.

I had a few battles with a few of the troops at first .Yet great support from many and made lifetime pals. On my second weekend outs I did the 14/15 peaks pretty fast with Stan Owen who was a great fell runner. Who met us on the last top but Colin Pibworth a true hero in Mountain Rescue. After that we got on so well.

I climbed a lot more in Wales and was taken under the wing of my mate Jock Cameron Pete Kay and Dave Tomkins we did all the Welsh Classics and many more. Gogarth was only a few miles away and I was scared down there a few times. We also did a few lowers onto the Lifeboat interesting and so much learning. There was a lot of technical crag work learned.


We had a wonderful Welsh winter on my arrival were I climbed for Two weeks out most days in Wales. The Team Leader Al sent me out I got to know the crags and mountains and most of the active climbers so well. I got many of the young troops out on the many ice falls that formed that year. Midweek it was so quiet and most of the known climbs were empty.

Most of the young guys were given a hard apprenticeship but we did some great climbing. We climbed in winter on the Devils Kitchen, The Pass and the Black Ladders great routes and met many of the stars of that era. It was amazing climbing next to Joe Brown in the Black Ladders. I found North Wales was so compact and easy access add to that we had our own SAR Wessex’s at Valley who were always about for lifts off the hill. They were Like minded folk who became such great pals. They gave so much support and advice. We even had a few pilots as officer ic great people.

I was single, learning so much and Wales had a great social scene which we became heavily involved in. Every month we travelled to new areas like the Lakes, The Peak District learning about new crags and cliffs and meeting lots of new contacts.

Gimmer crag the Lakes

We got on well with the local teams and did some epic call outs at night on the Idwal slabs. We met a lot of climbers and were there when a few fell off. It was huge learning for me bags of action and I was getting to know my patch and the locals such a key factor. I got extremely fit and was enjoying my time in Wales.

Alaister my Team Leader had to leave to run the Royal Tournament in London. I was left in charge of the team. Government cuts were in and we were issued with poor paper head torch batteries that fell apart in the wet. We had to cover them in plastic bags but they still fell apart. On a night rescue the batteries fell apart.

Creag Dubh Wall

Being a bit Naïve I sent a heavily worded signal to our Headquarters in MOD. I was then stopped from sending my signals without them going through the system. Luckily Al again saved my bacon as I was nearly posted away from Mountain Rescue.

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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