The Falklands – a winter climb on Harriet.

I was privileged to spend two tours in the Falklands when I was in the RAF. It is a wonderful place for wildlife and mountains. Most of the popular peaks are less than 1000 feet and were the scene of bloody battles during the 1982 conflict.  They are still littered with the military remains of this awful war. Minefields, too many to clear, abound; giving a new meaning to the phrase “objective dangers”.  However, they tend to be well marked and fenced off. The war was incredible and I knew a few who have fought here. It was an incredible feat to fight this war and when you visit the graves of the Argentine’s forces it is a sad, sombre place. There is always a wind and with the rosaries blowing in the wind its chilling.

After the war the military have built a road from the camp at Mount Pleasant Airfield, where a garrison of 2000 personnel are based. The road is 34 miles to the capital Port Stanley. This is the only road, which for some reason has a monsoon ditch 4- 5 feet deep and 3 feet wide on either side. The engineers got the rainfall figures completely wrong; hence the ditch regularly has crashed and overturned Land Rovers in it.

This makes it an interesting drive to Stanley and back in winter. The road is often closed for military vehicles due too high winds and can regularly resemble driving up a frozen glacier in a blizzard. The winds can come from nowhere and can blow a wagon of the road with ease.

As a member of the RAF occasionally you get detached to out of the way places.  The Falklands Islands is one of these. It is a wonderful place and though the mountains are small, the highest below 2500 feet, they do have a fantastic appeal to the climber. I got my gear taken out through my contacts marked Rescue Gear ropes, axes, crampoms and ice gear its 8000 miles away.

All the outcrops are of quartzite and almost everywhere the Bedding is steeply inclined. The outcrops in the Stanley area are slabby, Mount Tumbledown being the exception. Balsam bog plants grow all over the cliffs and freeze in winter along with lots of other types of vegetation. Hence, there is plenty of scope for winter climbing.

Mount Harriet -we climbed the main crack on the slab.

 

The first climbs recorded were in 1946 by members of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, who were waiting at Stanley on their journey South to Antarctica.  The Royal Marines, who were based at Moody Brook until 1982, did a lot of exploration and since the conflict many Servicemen climbers have enjoyed the Falkland Islands climbing experience. This involves uniqueness in climbing almost virgin rock. Moreover, many routes have been left unrecorded and individuals have enjoyed the pioneering feel of seeing if a route will go. Only 2 routes were known to have been recorded in winter previously and one was by Stephen Venables en route to South Georgia in 1989, though little is known about it. (I tried to climb this but the weather was awful) It was on Mt Osbourne the biggest mountain in the Falkland.

The Falklands

 

The Falklands has a distinctive weather system and can contain all four seasons in one day.  One must expect the unexpected, especially when walking or climbing alone. The weather, which is dictated, from the Polar Regions can give exceptional climbing conditions very quickly. A climbing partner can be fairly difficult to find, as when winter comes, few venture out of the Military complex in search of excitement. Most of this complex is built like a space station, with corridors linking all the domestic accommodation. This is due to the regular high winds, when all but essential personnel are confined to base.  Sadly transport was an issue most of the Officers have the land rovers but I had a great Boss and he let me borrow it. We were away before anyone was up apart from the Police on the gate that cost me to get out that day.  When the winds and snow arrive the road is closed little moves but that never stops us so off we went thinking that our military career could be over.

Some people detached to the Falklands do not leave the complex during their 4-month tour. In addition the military mind does not accept the concept of solo mountaineering, but such is life.m

2000 Falklands Grotto Grade 4 Harriet. Photos from another ascent in 2000 with J Green.

The Marines fought for Mount Harriet, in the war  which overlooks the Stanley road. When you read the account of the battle and the terrifying fight they had for this hill it makes sombre reading. It was  hand to hand fighting and I knew a few of those involved.  Harriet has a great wee scramble and one can only imagine fighting for your life up here. The Mountain has a slab with the only previously climbed winter route, Grotto, a three star Grade 4.  This is an excellent, sustained and demanding route (for the grade) requiring torquing and hooking.

On another ascent of Grotto winter 2000.

The only problem was  the kit all we had were my ice tools, my ampons, drive in ice screws and winter boots. My partner Graham Stamp (Stampy) had come to the Falklands planning to rock climbing but had got the seasons wrong (southern hemisphere abstraction!)He only had summer boots we had an epic “swapping boots and kit in the middle of a blizzard”. I failed on the crux and Stampy, after donning my kit, sailed up the route,  I had placed a great pair of drive in ice screws in the Balsam plants they were incredible “bomb proof” that was frozen. Stampy  (he had previously lost a crampon on the North Face of the Eiger and completed the route with little problem – he was “a useful climber!)

The weather that day was straight out of Patagonia, one of the coldest days I have ever been on the hill.  (Nearly as bad as the Cairngorms). Eventually I scraped my way up the route and made our way off the crag.

The walk down is only 20 minutes to the road, where we were met by the local Police, who were very interested in what we were up to. But a dram from my rucksack ensured we were not in any trouble and all was kept quiet, as we didn’t have permission to climb.

We arrived back at camp many were oblivious to our great day, the road was still shut and few had walked out of the camp. It was a game of bluff to get back in the camp. Yet what a day we had and it took hours to warm my feet after the climb. What next?

One pair of The boots with Stampy, the other bloke was an Army PTI who came with us ne froze all day but enjoyed his first winter route.

After our wee epic, Stampy was posted back to the UK and I had no climbing partner. I asked several friends to come out but very few were interested in winter climbing. They all thought I was mad but I got the Bosses wagon and had some adventures, he always said do not die the paperwork will be intense. We also had the SAR Sea kings there so I when I could told them where I was.  During a tour in the Falklands you only get one day off a week and it was essential for my sanity, to get out of camp and on the hills.

I went out alone often but that is another story that makes me laugh.

Posted in Articles, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Falklands Islands, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

More on Ben Nevis Memories of the CIC Hut.

A few days ago I wrote a small piece about Ben Nevis it was something I had wanted to do for a while. Thank you all for the kind comments . Yet it only touched the memories of great days on that mountain.


The CIC Hut was a huge part of these memories. Situated below the huge North Face it has a history of its own. Names of all the greats who climbed were here and so many adventures on the mountain start at the Hut. This is a place of incredible history and has grown from a small hut to what it is today a superb facility for those who want to climb on the mountain. Part of the history was of the battles with mountaineers in the past trying to gain access to the hut. It was better protected than many jails by steel doors, many locks and barred windows. Nowadays entry is a lot easier and I have put the details down at the end of this article.

2015 Feb Navy Seaking on the Ben

Navy Seaking on Ben Nevis

Many have there first break after “battering “in to be first to a route. The path was in the past like the “Somme” so wet and muddy. Nowadays it is sorted  folk are amazed how good it  blessed be the “path makers” who sorted it out. In the old days Lochaber Police had a vehicle a tracked one that could get up to the near the Hut. I remember it breaking down often and the terrifying trips back of the hill with the Lochaber team and the RAF MRT.

Often we had driven from Kinloss in Morayshire to the Ben in the middle of the night for a call out  or an early start for a Rescue it was a scary 2 hours drive on crazy roads.  . Sometimes we would stay in the Police station in the old days waiting for daybreak.

1978 call out Ben Nevis snow track

Taking a casualty down to the Snow Track.

Nowadays Lochaber have a great new Team Headquarters and these days are long gone. We even slept in the cells that would not happen today unless you were in trouble.

1960 donald Duff Police

Donald Duff – a Lochaber great.

The RAF teams have a huge history of Rescues in the early days on Ben Nevis when they brought casualties down with the local climbers by the famous railway bogies.

1955 Rescue Team on the famous Boggies

There were even letters from the SMC about the Hut being broken into by the RAF team on a Rescue nowadays that is forgotten. I have a copy of the letter some where.

Then there were the scary flights in the helicopters Wessex and Sea King the wind battering the helicopters as it hit the unpredictable winds that made the mountain unique. New pilots would be taken to the Hut and practice for the Rescues that would come. Huge gusts would come out of the Corrie’s and seem to move the aircraft whilst flying in. When the wind turbine was put up that made the flying even more exciting.

Wild search on Ben Nevis

Many of the Lochaber MRT team were talented climbers and many rescues became a whose who of Mountaineering. On some of the big call outs, avalanches and searches. I learned so much about this huge mountain from so many of them. This was there patch and you learned to watch and learn and always seek advice.

Mick Tighe an old Lochaber Stalwart who was often sent over the cliffs on Rescues often on a single rope.

I met many others too climbers from all over the world on the mountain and my dog who was always with me  would get bored waiting for me and go up to the routes to check them out. He was often below the routes like the Curtain, Waterfall Gully and Tower Gully meeting many other climbers. He also would be in the Hut at night hidden under a bed as dogs were not allowed and few knew he was there.

I loved the tales of past where the Hut was a place of huge involvement by the Scottish Mountaineering community. The Hut has its own folklore with a few tales with the SMC and others on the amazing climbing on the mountain. It was a place on a bad day to get the guide books out and read about the routes waiting for a break in the weather. We got to know the Guide book, who climbed them and when. In the early days the RAF MR put up  a lot of routes  when Ian Clough was in the team. We climbed many of them as part of our gaining knowledge of the Ben.

Early rescues were down by climbers this is the SMC with one of their own at the CIC Hut in the mid 30’s. Climbers rescued their own in these days.

The hut was defended in the past by fierce custodians but they often had a soft spot for Mountain Rescue and the door was always opened on a Rescue where we could grab a break out of the weather. In mye early days we had to stay outside in the weather as the room was limited inside to the older and bolder over the years I got in.

We carried huge bags up the hill on Rescues there are ropes nowadays on the summit. We carried 500 ropes, Casualty bags and Stretchers that could catch the wind and blew you off the path. It was all training for the “Greater Ranges” we were told.

On one of my first climbs on Tower Ridge in winter that ended up as a midnight finish. The weather was awful and we ended up with a Conga of 15 folk following us. Pete McGowan was the team leader and myself and Tom Mac on our first big winter leads. It was a long day and the snow fell all day making the route a lot harder.

1977 Tower Ridge the day of the Congo at the gap.

We eventually got back to our base at Fort William ATC Hut just after midnight . One of our parties with two of our best climbers had got caught out by the weather on Observatory Ridge. The radios were poor then but they had decided to bivy as the snow  was avalanching. We had no sleep just a meal and drinks then it was wet kit back on and was away at 0500 for the Ben.The kit froze on the way up it was like walking in a suit of armour to the hut. We had keys for the forestry track that helped a lot but it was still hard work.

The long night after Tower Ridge at the CIC hut meeting our troops who had bivied high on Observatory Ridge – Simple gear but so glad our boys were okay.

I was told to grab a 500 ft rope that were in rucksacks as part of our Crag Rescue gear. I dragged it up to the CIC Hut as daylight broke it was hard work . On the awful radios we heard our boys were abseiling off and thank god and were heading down to the Hut.
They were safe and well and had a wild night but coped. I was so pleased when I checked the bag it was full of pulleys and extra gear for a cliff but no rope. I was that tired that  I never checked sorry! I learnt a huge lesson that day.

At the hut a brew was usually shared tea and maybe a dram were great as was a break out of the weather after a long day.Even the  hut table in the past was used to treat casualties.

Over the years things changed the Hut has been modernised it even has an inside loo. In the past we ran part of our winter Courses there as the RAF teams had done in the late 50’s. In these early days they carried coal up! Nowadays we have it easy.

“Below the great cliffs The hut nestles Long nights with heroes and egos History and mystery “

There were always a stretcher, probes, shovels and the radio to the local Police in the wee shelter near the door. I had been told that the odd climber slept i n here ! That I can vouch for that. I often wonder how many lives have been saved by the Hut by climbers struggling down for help?

Yet the stories get exaggerated over the years of the battles to get in to the Hut in the past. How the SMC were elitist etc ( I am a proud member) I and pals have had gear pinched when we left it hanging up near the old door at the entrance. Hence it was always shut when folk were staying it’s had great revamp and the Custodian is a kindly giant but do not cross him.

I must get back to the Hut and get back on the Ben. Whatever you do it’s never a bad day on the Ben. I am hoping to take some of the rockstars from the Moray Club if the weather ever clears this summer.

My favourite story is after a long 14 day winter course and whilst staying up the Hut at the end. Everyone else had gone home and I had said I would help cover the weekend and was waiting for some young troops to get up after work.

I had climbed that day though tired on Tower Scoop with two visitors to the Hut who had not climbed all week due to the wild weather. The forecast was poor but we managed the route Tower Scoop coming of in the start of a big storm. It was tricky getting off the route as there is a scary traverse on steep snow at the top of the route that was now deep snow. I told the boys to keep the ropes on till I found the way off in now blizzard conditions. We got off and the two lads learned a lot were a bit wide eyed and headed home at least with a wee route done. I was happy but tired.

I got back to the Hut later no one else had been out the wind was picking up more snow was falling and next day there would be no climbing it was now heavy snow. This would make very dangerous avalanche conditions.I waited in the Hut there were a few left staying overnight and I never expected my pals to arrive but they did at midnight. They had struggled to find the Hut in the ongoing storm.

I had went to bed to wait as it had been a hectic two weeks and heard the door being battered at midnight as the boys had arrived.I got up and put a brew on. The lads had a fun wander up and a test in navigation they knew there was no climbing tomorrow so got their whisky out and had a drink. This was all done at the entrance of the Hut.

I went back to bed but had to tell them to shut up at 0200 they were getting noisy the whisky was working it’s magic . They eventually came to bed and were soon snoring.
One hour later I heard the door go again. I thought my boys must have gone out to the loo ( there were no toilets then inside it was a spade job) As I opened the door there were two soaked people and a tent they dragged in full of gear. It was dark outside and the weather was even worse with more heavy snow and they were pretty cold.
I spoke to them and they said they had come up that night in the storm late in the dark they had pitched their tent and it had blown down in the storm.They had an epic and eventually made it to the hut in the blizzard.

I went into the main hut and made a brew it took a few minutes the rest in the Hut slept oblivious to what was occurring.When I came back with the tea I stood on the tent near the door. There was a groan and inside was someone it was a woman and lots of gear. The two  had been so out of it in the weather they forget to say that there friend was struggling and they had dragged her down to the Hut in the tent .

She was not doing well pretty cold and incoherent. I took her inside got her to change and gave her my duvet and then put her in a sleeping bag where she recovered. There was a few moans in the Hut when I put on the lights but I soon sorted them out. It took my sleeping bag and lots of hot drinks to bring her round.

The lassie recovered in the morning and we helped her down next day with her gear and her pals. I do not think they had a clue how lucky they were. She was a lucky lass indeed.

Always take your rubbish with you in the past we took so much down dumped near the hut when the snow left by helicopter. It was not always rubbish.

The CIC Hut from the SMC website .

“Arguably the only alpine-style mountain hut in the UK, the C.I.C. hut provides shelter from some extremely harsh weather.

The hut was erected in 1928/9 by Dr and Mrs Inglis Clark in memory of their son Charles Inglis Clark who was killed in action in the 1914-1918 War. The original building was extensively refurbished and extended between 2008 and 2012.

The approach to the hut -obviously- involves travel in mountainous terrain. Users of the hut, especially in Winter, should ensure they are suitably equipped and skilled for the conditions.

The most direct approach to the hut is from the Forestry Commission Scotland’s North Face car park near Torlundy. Follow the way-marked North Face Trail then continue, approximately south-eastward, briefly on a track and then onto a good path that roughly shadows the Allt a’Mhuillin.

There are a few power socket outlets in the hut that can be used for mobile phone chargers and other low power appliances. Mobile (though not necessarily 3G) reception for all major networks can be found on the downhill (north-west) side of the hut.

The hut is in high demand throughout the winter season, bookings should be made well in advance to secure bunks.

Latest reports from the CIC hut can be found on its Facebook page:”

CIChut

Comments welcome ,  maybe a piece on Memories of Routes on the Ben.

 

 

 

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Bothies, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments

Moonwalker 2020 Calendar all profits to Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Moonwalker 2020 calendar is now available!

Still only £5 each and ALL profits go to Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Last year raised nearly £600 – buy now at munromoonwalker.com/shop_online.

Its a great Calendar. Get it now for all those who live abroad and miss our great hills.

Posted in Articles, Charity, Munros | Leave a comment

Ben Nevis a few Memories.

Its funny I have been thinking about Ben Nevis this week and the BBC called me today to ask my views on this iconic Mountain. It is sad  that some Mountaineers feel that the normal route up the mountain is  spoiled by the huge of people that ascend it every year. Is that being elitist ?

It is a busy hill with charity walks, The Three Peaks and sadly  rubbish left and the many feet on that path increasing every year. Yet I look back to when I pestered my Mum and Dad to take me up the mountain it was then called the “Tourist Route”. I was only 10 and done a few hills but this was the one I wanted to do. There were no tee shirts then or Facebook then it was what I had read or heard about.

My Mum ready for her ascent of Ben Nevis. My Mum before her day on the Ben 1962

My Dad had always regaled me with names like the half way lochan, Red Burn and the Zig Zags then the huge plateau with the huge gouges of cliffs and the constant snowfields. It was another world for me that day and the summit was a great climax. It was a great feeling to a young lad.

The Zig Zags

Yet the day did not end and he showed me Tower Ridge, Gardyloo Gully and other climbs and how the Observatory was there for many years. He told me how the winds can exceed 100 mph and the summit is often hidden by cloud and the snow remains all year in places. He then took me and Mum across the Carn Mor Dearg Arete to get a view of the hidden North Face. From there we got great views of the huge North Face that was to seduce me for over 50 years.

Busy Summit.

It was then a steep descent down to the hut we met some climbers with ropes and boots heading up to the the famous CIC Hut. It was here that my Dad pulled out he was a minister and we  got a cup of tea in that hallowed place.

I wanted to climb here and when I looked at the steep dark cliffs they looked impossible to me then.  Then it was the big drag back to the the half way lochan and back to the Youth Hostel I was exhausted but this was where I wanted to be.

Over the years I must have climbed so many routes on Ben Nevis mainly introducing many young Mountain Rescue team member’s to this great mountain. The classic climbs like Tower Ridge were done every year in summer and winter often combining several ridges in one day.

In winter it was special and I did over 30 winter courses on the mountain. As the chief instructor later on it would be hard waiting for parties on the summit or at the top of routes many a long day was spent here.

There were many Rescues I remember being a tiny part of one of my early rescues in the 70’s as Lochaber MRT did a huge lower on a single rope for a fallen climber. My first big call – out was climbing Tower Ridge as a 20 year old just after 3 climbers had fallen to their deaths with John Hinde to try to work out what happend. That was a sobering day and a day I learnt so much.

There were many call -outs as we were climbing over the years that had great outcomes but often after climbing all day we had to head back up to help the Lochaber Team. One of my best call -outs was finding a young 16 year old lad alive on Ben Nevis after a huge search for 4 days.

It was a great effort by Lochaber, Glencoe, RAF Kinloss, RAF Leuchars and SARDA plus the SAR Helicopters. The cheers on the radio when he was located alive were a thing that I will never forget. There were the huge avalanches in winter and the incredible searches and picking up knowledge from the Lochaber Team on this vast mountain.

I got to know the Ben over the years as we looked for fallen climbers or missing walkers often in terrible conditions when it tested your skills just to stay as safe as possible. When I was helping run the searches as a Team Leader I always worried about the teams as always the weather was very poor.  The North Face is huge as are the wild Corries where you search in heavy snow or at night it can be dangerous ground. This is a huge complex mountain surrounded by cliffs and steep ground. As a walker if you stray from the path on the summit which in winter and in bad conditions is hard to find you can get into trouble.

After a climb no matter how well you think you know the hill to me navigation is the only way to get off this hill on a bad day. The weather changes so quickly and as it starts from sea level it can be a long hard day. This is Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team patch  and they do an incredible job its a serious mountain and we are all in debt to them. It attracts climbers from all over the World and is a Mecca for winter ice climbers its history is incredible and those pioneers from a bygone age put up some routes. Today there is still incredible climbing on the mixed routes that are world class so many climb here and when its in condition there are few better places to be.

I have so many stories of trying to get ready for the Team Leaders Course and pushing my rock-climbing. We did that as a break from the team. Meeting some great climbers at the time. A young Dave “Cubby” Cuthbertson came with me when we had two pals overdue on the Bat and Titans Wall. We made friends with many of them staying in the Achintee Bunkhouse. We were to get involved in a few rescues with these wild guys over the years. It was amazing who you met-on the Ben. Yet despite the differences we maintained respect from many. Our land rover would be full of climbers heading of a full day in the Ben. It was an incredible time to learn.

I am so lucky to have been on the Ben as that young lad of 10. I have taken so many up the normal route including several Blind Groups they were one of the most rewarding and hard days out. On one day took it 13 hours. So is a first time up Tower Ridge or any of the climbs on the North Face in summer or winter giving a young team member an introduction to the Ben. To stay overnight in the CIC Hut just below the North Face is a privileged and its wonderful to watch the sunrise and sunset on the North Face or fight your way up to it in a blizzard. To come to a dram and meet some of the great climbers is a wonderful experience and I must get back. To hear the stories of past adventures is a great and to meet the new young ones who continue the tradition of making this mountain unique.

Coming off the summit as the sun is setting and the views after a good day is spell binding. As is sitting outside the hut with a dram after climbing the Four Ridges in a sunny day. Walking round the North Face and finding the odd artifact of another era in the gullies and wondering how it got there on a long summer night was a thing I used to do. Getting a helicopter lift from a route and being back in Fort William in 10 minutes were unique days.

I remember the helicopter flights in big winds as we sneaked up the hill and how glad I was to get out at times and walk. The great skill of the crews that tested their mettle to the fullest. The long walk down after a call -out or climb when the path used to be a sea of mud. Now the path to the North Face climbs is a great improvement.

It was also a hill that I completed at the end of some great days hill walking like Tranters Round or nowadays Ramsay’s Round that finishes on the Ben. I will never forget on Tranters Round and coming round from the Carn Mor Dearg arete and onto the summit looking at the cliffs despite being exhausted is amazing.

 

I go back to that day with Mum and Dad and think how lucky I am. I have struggled down the path carrying many stretchers with lots of pals helping bring of a fallen climber or walker. You build a bond that will never be broken.

So when you think about the hordes walking up to the summit by the normal route remember this is their big day and I was one of them once. I hope that Ben Nevis will cast its spell on them and like me will come back and back and you leave little trace of you being there apart from memories of this iconic mountain.

The Ben

How many times have I walked that path?

Through forestry and muddy track.

Bag bulging, sweat is pouring,

Then the great cliffs mourning.

Watching In the mist clouds,

Emerge, along with memories.

Many happy, many sad.

Long carries in the dead of night,

With unknown people.

Each glad to be alive,

All helped by fellow climbers.

In the gloom, avalanches crash,

We struggle over frozen burn and icy rock.

Yet there  is a special joy

Getting someone off alive

Off that hill that does at times kill.

Not just the tourist, but many, with great skill.

Why do we climb?

If you ask you do not know?

This “Ben”, this mountain,

The  ridges,

Its names full of history and mystery.

Clears in the mist.

This mountain means so much,

Too me and many friends.

It will never change.

Then , as now

Its ever-changing snow and ice.

Are friends? As are the familiar names,

Of cliff, buttress and  where we play our games?

Tales of great climbs,

Great days and nights on this hill.

These are special to those who

Know the secret of this magic place.

Below the great cliffs

The hut nestles

Long nights wth heroes and ego

History and mystery

This is why we go and always will.

On this great hill

Thank you Ben Nevis for a lifetime of Memories!

 

Posted in Avalanche info, Books, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | 3 Comments

The other side of Mountain Rescue.

P1050584

Beinn Eighe May 2019 a visit with my great pal Joss family and his boots take a final hike they are now used as collection box for Lochaber MRT at their Bed and Breakfast.

I often get contacted by families many years after a tragedy that I was at in my days in Mountain Rescue. For many families it takes years to come to terms with an accident. Families even get in touch about incidents that happend 40  even 50 years ago. I have most of the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journals that have the historic details of Mountain accidents I can see what I can find for them. Sadly many of the old information by the RAF Teams was lost when the teams moved to other bases or were disbanded. Yet I decided when I was the RAF Mountain Rescue Team Leader at RAF Kinloss I would save all the paperwork that was being thrown out of call -outs and build the history from its start in 1944. This was done with a few pals and became a huge labour of love yet it was worth it and I have all the incidents listed from 1944 to the RAF Kinloss Team move to RAF Lossiemouth in 2012.

Many of the old information on incidents that was held by the Police who are in charge of Mountain Rescue who went to Computers from paperwork and sadly many reports are now gone. It was the great vision of people like Ben Humble and John Hinde the early Accident Statisticians who thankfully added the Scottish Mountain Accidents to the annual Scottish Mountaineering Club Journals. They hold so much historic details especially from the early years. It is a mine of information that was used a lot in the early days of Mountain Safety.

1990 Sea King on the Ben 1990-001

It is now part of the job by many Mountain Rescue teams to take relatives to near where the accidents happend sometimes many years after the accident. It is never easy  to do and now with the Media and Facebook and twitter etc it is a lot  easier to contact the Mountain Rescue teams direct. Yet there are many who wait years after an accident to visit as we all deal with grief differently.

teamwork stretcher hill

The other side of MRT.

I never thought that my involvement in Mountain Rescue would allow me to help folk many years after a tragedy. Yet I feel it helps in so many ways and if it allows relatives to come to terms with their grief its worth it. I get a lot of requests from relatives especially of aircraft incidents and over the years I have been to a lot of sites one 70 years just after the pilot who was killed his son was born a few weeks later. This is what they wrote:

  • “Thank you for everything you did for us on Saturday. It was a both a pilgrimage and an adventure for me my sons John and Julian to visit my Dad’s crash site. It was a pleasure to meet you and your friends and to be on the mountain with you and enjoy the camaraderie of a group of mountain rescue. The visit to the crash site was an experience to be remembered and valued forever”

It is amazing that these blogs especially  the ones about call outs many years ago still get relatives getting in touch and wanting information.   The internet has its faults but still does a lot of good. It is so rewarding for all involved and many Mountain Rescue Teams are involved in this process long after a Rescue.

We all deal with grief differently.

Comments welcome.

This was one of the first attempts at collating the Scottish Mountain Accidents – Regional Distribution 1925-1945  taken from the SMC Journal.

  1. Compiled by B H. Humble

The SMC Journal has maintained a continuous record of mountain activities in Scotland since 1890. The Journal emerges annually and may be found in any good quality climbing & walking shop, and the larger bookshops. For members of Mountaineering Scotland affiliated clubs, copies can be purchased at a discount through your club’s Secretary.

If you live too far from a stockist, you can set up a subscription from our Distribution Manager, or purchase it from our distributor Cordee.

If you are interested in picking up an older edition of the Journal please contact our Journal Archivist.

The Scottish Mountain Rescue produces annual statistics that are produced on there website and help with mountain Safety education.

Comment on Facebook-

“Yes Heavy as you know it took me 45 years to visit the site of my father’s air crash. That visit with you has made me even more hopeful of finding more information and photos of the incident x”

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Lightning is forecast please be aware – Thunder and lightning is very,very frightening.

I was talking to a good pal yesterday an experienced mountaineer and we were speaking about Thunder and Lightning on the hills. We were both amazed by the lack of knowledge of the power of nature especially lightning in the hills. In the past it could be easy to miss but the modern forecast give far more information and the dangers. If you have ever been caught out in the hills in thunder and lightening you feel very vulnerable. My first time was when doing the Fannichs at the end of a long day we were on the last two Munros going well when the sky went dark. Then we felt the air change this was the early 70’s and the weather forecast were vague. We ran of terrified really scared. I then went to the Alps and learned so much from others as we watched the storms hit the mountains and have seen what lightning can do on the hill the power is immense it can and does kill and the damage it does on a mountain is terrifying. I have seen furrows on the ridges where a strike has occurred. It can smash boulders trig points and cairns its fierce. This is nature at its wildest so please watch the forecast and be aware. I would advise to read the forecast daily and stay of the tops and ridges. We carry ice axes crampons and walking poles all that can conduct lightening. We are so small and nature is so powerful, I write this as the thunder crashes overhead making one feel so small.

Tale of a scary day in Skye – Lightning very, very frightening.

“A big peel of thunder rang out and the hairs on our heads started sticking up, time to go!”  If you have read where not to be when thunder and lightning are about, this is it.  The Skye ridge on the back of the Dubhs on a sharp ridge a long way from home what do you do? The lightning was flicking along the ridge like you see on a film it was surreal. It was not forecast, Nature is so powerful and we mere mortals. We felt so small and vulnerable; the power of nature in such a place is awesome.  Keep calm and get off as quick as possible, that was in my mind. Sadly that day on another hill someone was not so lucky they died.

Please read the weather forecast and this excellent piece on the Mountaineering website.

https://www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/essential-skills/weather-conditions/lightning

In the Alps we would not think twice about being out in lightning warnings are given and respected may be we should heed these warnings a lot more and educate others?

Weather forecast for Cairngorms  Rain becoming widespread. Increasing risk lightning.

Rain increasingly frequently, although for several hours from dawn, little if any rain in most areas. By midday, rain, initially showery, will be becoming widespread and increasingly include heavy downpours and thunderstorms.

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A short days climbing on the sea cliffs near Findlater Castle Crathie Point . “Tip tap test” the rock!

I was asked to go climbing yesterday and I must admit I was feeling like a lazy day. I have been a bit down not sleeping since I lost my sister last week. Yet it was worth it in the end.

We were planning a day in the Cairngorms but the weather report was not great so we went to a wee cliff that Pete Amphlett and I had been at a few years ago nearby . We managed to get another pal Dan Carrol to come. It was not an early start but we headed to Pete‘s for tea and cake then off to Findlater Castle near Portsoy.

Pete was back from climbing near Helmsdale and was climbing well for an old tiger. He was up for it and was enthusiastic.

You drive to the wee car park at Findlater Castle it was already warm and close.

The Castle itself is well worth a visit. The ruins of Findlater Castle stand on a rocky promontory projecting out into the sea some two miles east of Cullen and a mile west of Sandend.Brown tourist signs direct you from the A98 to a parking area at a farm, Barnyards of Findlater, and from here it is a half mile walk along a good grassy path to the interpretive board on the cliffs behind the castle.

Sadly the wee car park was full of rubbish dumped from cars so sad to see in such a stunning area. Pete had found this cliff while kayaking a few years ago this coast is neglected by many yet its stunning.

We headed for about 20 minutes on the path past fields of wheat and just looking at the sea the Geo’s the inlets and coast it’s a lovely place.

We headed onto the cliffs at Crathie point and Pete could see a rope in the distance. His crag to his shock may have people on it ! This is very unusual for this area to be climbing with company.

The cliff is in between Logie Head and Redhythe popular climbing areas.

The rope Pete could see was an old piece of fishing rope used by Anglers to descend in wet weather.

We soon reached the crag and met two

Anglers on the rocks they used the old rope when the rocks are wet and we had the crag to ourselves. I had over 10 ticks on my trousers when we geared up. There were a lot about.

Pete showing Dan the cliff.

We had a drink then did a few easy routes I was so stiff but managed in the end . I had climbed here before a few years ago.

The rock is like Redhythe a metamorphosed sandstone more like quartzite producing more holds and crack lines than the nearby Logie Head. The rock is slightly brittle and care must be taken on flaky holds. Most routes are in the lower grades and protection is reasonable. The rock is sharp in places.

photo – Dan having fun.

We did about seven routes the main slab has a bit longer routes the sun came out and it was enjoyable.

It is always worth remembering to check every hold as there were a few loose ones. This is especially true if the cliff is not often climbed.

I let Dan and Pete climb the last route while I took some photos. The sun came out and it was so warm. There were two out at sea on their Paddle Boards going along the coast the sea was a bit rough but they were having fun. Our anglers caught a few mackerel and seemed to enjoy their day. In all it was a great place to be. There were plenty of sea birds but not near us they were noisy all day. We saw no Dolphins today.

We headed back in the sun along the cliff top path and back to the car and home. It was good to get out but how unfit I am I need to remedy this. Thanks to Dan and Pete for the day out.

Worth remembering about loose rock “Tip. tap and test. ”

North-East Outcrops

Edited by Neil Morrison

Published: 2003, 2014
ISBN: 0 907521 74 6
Cost: £18 (In Stock)

2003 (reprinted 2014, 2017). Details the rock climbing, and some ice climbing, on the rugged coastline and inland outcrops from Dundee to Aberdeen and north to the fine Moray Firth coastline. Includes Glen Clova, the Arbroath sea cliffs, the Angus Quarries, Cummingston and the Pass of Ballater. The reprint comes with a card cover, and 63 crag diagrams and maps but no colour photographs.

My mate Pete says that the routes have been written up in the SMC Journal by the late Andy Nisbet. I cannot find them in my Journals ? He also said the cliff has been named its Crathie Point .

It’s still a fun place to be but be careful.

Thanks Pete and Dan

This is from my pal Pete

“Heavy they are in the 2014 SMC journal pages 214,215 and 216.

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