A few thoughts if you go missing on the hills.

I write this as a big storm is blowing across the mountains. Many will be going out despite the weather thinking winter is over. It was today as a photo I took on Beinn Liath Mhor near Achnashealach not far from Torridon came up on my time line. It is a area I love with wild hills and great mountain paths. Five years ago 2018 when my sister who was very I’ll with cancer called late one night telling me that two men (brothers) and a dog were missing in the mountains near Torridon. I had seen the news the the missing brothers who were from Nairn (a town near my home) they were related to her she was their Aunty. when they never returned home that night an alert was raised. The Police had located the car at Achnasheallach near the small train station usually a busy wee car park for walkers. Sadly like many they had not left any message on what hill they were on. The Police were informed and a big Mountain Rescue incident was started. From where the car was located there are several Munro’s and Corbetts nearby. The usual problem for the initial search teams with limited knowledge of where there are is where to start the search ? Many teams were involved in a search including the Torridon Team, Kintail MRT, Glenelg MRT, RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team, and the coastguard helicopter crews. Sadly Alan was located on the initial search after 2 days along with his dog a few days later.

Photo – Torridon MRT taking a break in wild weather photo Torridon MRT.

Sadly both Alan and the dog were dead. The search continued for Neil in poor weather and was as massive search as happens called of after a few days until the weather settled . The teams were out regularly but there was a lot of wild weather and heavy snow. I met the teams as they set of one day the weather was bitter hoping they would locate Neil.

Looking along the ridge of Beinn Liathach Mhor

During the time when the teams were not out and Neil was missing I went out alone looking for him the ground was extremely hard. I was searching high up on rock hard neve where a slip would have been serious. I had taken two axes with me and I was glad of there security. I felt very alone: this is an area few venture into the wild backside of the mountain.

I had left very early but it was so cold that wind was artic I struggled even to keep warm when working hard . I searched all day in took an hour to get into the search area and I found nothing and it was hard speaking to my sister who was very upset. I had promised her I would call when off the hill. The weather was clear all day I had a pair of binoculars with me and scanned the hillside and Glen regularly. There was still a great depth of snow in places making it very hard going especially in the glen. I was so glad be off the hill at the end of that day I had felt extremely vulnerable and alone which was strange a thing I had often done before.

Maybe it was an age thing or possibly because I knew the missing brothers? Yet I had brought back friends over many years I knew before who had been taken in the mountains. I got back to the car and felt emotionally drained all the nervous energy of the day had taken its toll on me. I will never forget that day alone on the hill. There was still a huge amount snow about and it would take time for it to thaw and searching continued regularly by the teams.

this is from the papers at the time.

2018 Feb – Neil and Alan Gibson failed to return from a walk in the Achnashellach area of Strathcarron.

The body of Alan, 56, was found on 10 February following extensive searches, and the body of their Pointer dog Archie a few days later. The brothers were from Nairn, though Alan was understood to have been living in County Durham .Neil’s body was discovered 6 weeks later he was 63. This is how it was reported at the time.

‘Worked incredibly hard’

Since February, extensive searches have been ongoing of the Achnashellach area involving members of Torridon Mountain Rescue Team, Kintail MRT, Glenelg MRT, RAF Mountain Rescue Team, SARDA dogs and the coastguard helicopter crews.

Sgt Graham Cameron, of Police Scotland, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all the volunteers and partner search agencies that made tireless efforts to find Neil, Alan and Archie. 

“As always, they persevered and worked incredibly hard to battle some difficult and dangerous conditions in the hope of giving their family and friends some closure.

“My thoughts remain with Neil and Alan’s family who have shown such strength and bravery when faced with such a tragedy.”

In the end another tragedy in the mountain’s, things can go wrong very quickly. Please leave a note of where your going with someone you trust it makes the authorities job a lot easier if they have a clue of what your plans are.

Comments as always welcome.

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 Family, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, People, SAR, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A few thoughts if you go missing on the hills.

  1. Alan says:

    As someone even older than you!!! And also someone who goes to the hill almost excusively on their own I can pretty much equate to your comments on the matter. Someday I might not return but as you say you just never know & it’s good that some one somewhere is looking out for you.
    Keep well & let me know how the book’s doing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeanette Bryan says:

    Dave, you are an exceptional man. Whom the Bryan’s have great respect and gratitude for. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

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