Pete McGowan was an ex RAF MRT team leader. Pete was an amazing guy and he sorted out the “RAF Kinloss Team ” in the mid 70’s. What a leader and some task master, he was known throughout Mountain Rescue for his huge days all over the UK and came with a big reputation.
It was an incredible commitment to stay with the team three full weekends training a month ( friday night to late Sunday night, sometimes early Monday morning . What a leader he was and some task master, he had a huge purge when he took over the team and we were left with under 20 team member’s. I was one of the lucky ones who got kept about 20 left or were binned. He changed the team and the priority was becoming all competent mountaineers.
Pete was a huge influence on the team a true leader. He drive you on and gave you so much trust in what you did. Pete was also the Cyprus team leader when one of the young stars was killed Ian McKinnon as a block hit him on a ledge descending from Mt Kenya. To lose a young man in his prime a really effected everyone. A lot of the team wanted to go home. In my mind incredible strong leadership.
Once the enquiry was over Pete led several groups to the true summit of Kenya Neilson at 17022 feet a true mountaineers mountain. He also put up a hard grade 6 they named the route after Ian McKinnon The MacKinnon Couloir with local guide and climber Phil Snyder.
To me hearing the stories from those who were there he lead from the front. If you have any information on this climb please get in touch.
“By his outstanding qualities of leadership and organising ability he brought the Cyprus team to a high level of proficiency. In a recent training expedition to Mount Kenya during which a team member fell and was fatally injured. FS McGowan restored the morale of the team by his personal example of self discipline, courage and determination.
Ian had to be buried on the mountain as it was in such a dangerous area. This tested the team to the full in so many ways. Several expeditions have visited his grave and agree about the dangerous situation it is in.
He came to RAF Kinloss as Team leader a few years later to bring several young stars like Jim Morning and Terry Moore. This pushed our standards especially on climbing summer and winter. It had a huge effect on those who were left. I climbed a lot more and had a great day on Winter in Tower Ridge with Pete which I will never forget. He took us to great areas like the North West and we had huge days on the wild cliffs of Fionaven. Winter traverse of An Teallach including a route onto the ridge all the team were on the mountain pushing there own standards.
His techniques day were amazing as the team leader at RAF Valley he did huge lowers of the sea cliffs at Gogarth and the big cliffs in Wales. He took Mountain Rescue into another era. I learned a lot during his time as leader some of it you could use in future years. He gave responsibility to many of us and trusted our decisions. It was so hard and so committing but the learning was incredible. He had a good way of talking to you and making you feel confident. He took us all over Scotland we climbed so much and learned about the different area. This was great for area knowledge and confidence in working in wild weather wherever we were.
Before Pete arrived at Kinloss he was on a RAFMA expedition to the Himalayas to the very difficult Dhaulagiri 1V in 1974. As they set out huge blocks of ice fell from the icefall. Two Sherpas were killed and two injured sadly one died during the night the other was taken to Katmandu by rescue helicopter. A very tragic expedition which ended after the accident. It was a miracle that more were not killed. Such is the price we can play for attempting these incredible mountains.
Pete after his spell at RAF Kinloss retired in the late 70’ he built a new career as a Ranger in the Peak District. I often met him on his big walks and at Re unions. He is still on the hills with his mate Tom Taylor what a pair they are.
What a man, what wild days and no time for anything else, but we all learned so much. Especially me.
Reference – Whensoever Frank card