Munro Facts – thanks to Anne Butler

A big thanks to the “Munro Queen” Anne Butler.

At the end of 2021 there were 7096 Munroists on the Scottish Mountaineering Club ‘List of Compleators’.

Of those 7096 people:
9.7% have also completed the Munro Tops
10.5% have completed the Corbetts
9.4% have completed the Furths (3000ft hills in Wales, Ireland and England)
3.2% have completed the Grahams
3.8% have completed the Donalds
1% have completed a Full House (Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Furths, Grahams and Donalds).

Anecdotally, it is believed that approximately 15% of Munro completers choose not to register their completion with the SMC.
There is no Munroist No. 284 on the list, this number is dedicated to ‘The Unknown Munroist’, all those people who choose not to register.
Munroist No. 5639 is N. O Body, allocated when a double registration was removed.
The male/female split on the list is 77/20% with 3% unknown.

356 of the listed completers are multiple Munroists:

257 people have completed 2️⃣ rounds
59 have completed 3️⃣ rounds
16 have completed 4️⃣ rounds
10 have completed 5️⃣ rounds
5 have completed 6️⃣ rounds
2 have completed 7️⃣ rounds
1 person has completed 8️⃣ rounds
5 have completed 🔟 rounds
1 person has completed 1️⃣6️⃣ rounds

Notable achievements:

  • In 1901 Rev A. E Robertson became the first person to complete the Munros.
  • In 1923 Rev R. Burn became the first person to complete the Munros and Munro Tops.
  • Paddy Hirst (No.10) was the first female completer in 1947.
  • Steve Fallon (No. 1045) is the current record holder with 16 completions and he is well on his way to 17.
  • Stewart Logan (No.327) has completed 10 rounds of Munros and 10 rounds of Munro Tops. A total of 5100 summits over 3000ft (allowing for reclassifications). He has also completed a Full House.
  • Richard Wood (No. 88) has climbed over 8300 Munros and 3650 Corbetts.
  • Bert Barnett (No. 3112) has completed 5 rounds of Munros, 3 rounds of Munro Tops, 3 rounds of Furths, 4 rounds of Corbetts, 3 rounds of Grahams and 3 rounds of Donalds. A total of 4150 summits.
  • In 2020 Donnie Campbell compleated the fastest Munro round in 31 days, 23 hours.
SMC Photo
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Last days on Everest. A personal journey.

In 2001 I was lucky to be part of an Everest Expedition from Tibet. It was made up of purely RAF Mountain Rescue Troops and the Team Doctor. It was a great expedition in all aspects with Dan Carrol and Rusty Bale getting to the summit by the North ridge. We had a great team of 6 Sherpas many had summited before but were happy setting up the camps and were there if needed.

Everest 2001

Once Dan and Rusty summited the others were well set to have their attempts. Sadly one of the troops got sick at the top camp and in typical Mountain Rescue fashion all helped ensure he got down he did it on his own steam . At the North Col the doctor gave him some fluids and he walked down to Base Camp. So it ended well in the end but knocked out the plans of the others as the weather changed. I was the Base camp Manager ( general dogsbody) but had a busy time.

Winter was on its way and after a huge storm and a few Rescues involving our and other Sherpas all the expeditions left. That left us as the only expedition on the mountain. Three troops wanted another summit attempt and moved up the deserted mountain to the top camp above 8000 metres. I was at ABC ( Advanced Base Camp) at over 6400 )21000 ft)! metres with the Sherpas packing our kit. As the three were on the mountain another huge storm came in, we had poor communications and all the rest of our expedition were at Base camp 24 odd Kilometres away and 4000 feet below us. It was just me and the Sherpas. The others at Base camp were supposed to help me clear ABC but due to the heavy snow and all were all exhausted from their summit attempts they did not make it . In the end I would be on it own till we cleared the camp.

It was a worrying time I have never felt so alone but Mingma our Sirdar was all set to go up with his boys and help if needed when the weather broke. The ropes up to the North Col were in a poor state and the ascent is very dangerous after heavy snow. That afternoon Jim came down from the top camp saying he had managed to clear the ropes which were buried under lots of snow. Ted and the Doc were staying another night and would try for the summit. Jim was so tired and said conditions were not great. He was very exhausted and though strong as an ox the journey had taken its toll.

I will be honest despite 5 Himalayan trips I was extremely worried. There was little I could do I prayed that night that Ted and the Doc would be okay. I had spent many years looking after at the troops now I could do nothing but hope they would be okay! Mingma was superb he was a great pal as well there was no else to chat to but him and the Sherpas they were superb.

The boys are safe below the ropes Jim Groak Ted Atkins and Brian Kirkpatrick ( the Doc)

Next day the weather was still poor but we saw two tiny figures descend from the North Col. It could only be Ted and the Doc. We went up to the end of the ropes and they were so pleased to see us. Not as much as I was it ended up a me in tears. They stayed the night and the boys left for Base Camp a long way when tired. It was great to see them leave all three okay.

Ted at 8000 metres high camp he had to turn back he was so disappointed.

The great thing about climbing on Everest from Tibet is that Yaks can get to ABC but the weather had delayed them. We had two days to wait most of the gear was packed and sorted. I wander out to the where Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker had their camp before they went missing on Everest. I knew Pete well he was a top guy as I had met him on the hills often. It’s a lonely, wild place to be. On 17 May 1982 Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker were last seen on Mount Everest attempting to traverse The Pinnacles on the unclimbed North East Ridge at around 8250 metres. Their deaths marked the end of their contribution to a remarkable era in British mountaineering.

The North Col

Mingma asked if he could clear the top camps as the weather had improved. After all their efforts I said okay and they brought so much gear, tents and Oxygen which they could recycle and sell in Katmandu. I decided to go up to the North Col at just over 7000 metres, the ropes were poor and broken in places. I was alone in this historical place it was higher than I had been but was going well.

The Yaks

On the North Col I met the Sherpas and Mingma he was not happy that I was there. I said I would help drag kit down to ABC. He laughed and we carried huge loads down with Mingma saying “Mr Heavy take it easy how will I explain if you fall to Mr Ted and Dan”

The North Col 21000 feet a bit busy

I got down safely Mingma went back up and they brought down loads of gear left after the storm left hurriedly by most expeditions. We had a great night with a few drams at 6000 metres. Next day we cleared the mess left by other expeditions at ABC most had left in a hurry in heavy snow. It was thawing now and the rubbish was there to see. We collected over 50 bags of rubbish for the Yaks to take out. The Yaks had arrived now and we’re ready to go tomorrow.

I packed my tent and left early and Mingma and the Sherpas came down a few hours behind me. The weather was wild it was a long way down in poor weather. I was on my own as the storms came and went. I got my last views of Everest it was bitter cold and in the weather easy to lose the track. Yet what a feeling being alone in such a place. It took ages to get down and seemed to go on and on.

The boys.

As I arrived at Base camp once full of people and tents there was only our few tents and the Shed left. I arrived to tea and the troops in the Shed. Later the Sherpas arrived with the Yaks just before darkness. It was a night of celebration then dismantle the Shed and tents and leave this wonderful place .

Advanced Base Camp

How lucky was I to get such a trip and as the one of the few unguided trip on the mountain I saw the worse and best of this great mountain. I got to explore the base of the North Face and West Ridge on my own. Later on the Pinnacles where Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker went missing. I met some of the worlds great mountaineers Americans, Russian, French and others. We helped with Rescues and saw some cowboy operators on the mountain.

Lonely ABC

We all came back safe and well and even better all stayed friends. The Sherpas were magnificent they were outstanding and the best of the boys. They even offered me a cut of the money they got for the equipment they recovered from the mountain which of course I refused. What more can I say.

The boys

Looking back it was a great trip with the best companions ever. My part was nothing but with the trust we had with our Sherpas was outstanding. Sadly we lost Ted a few years ago he was the driving force of our trip. He went back and summited Everest and Nuptse. Ted later Designed a new oxygen mask for high altitude mountaineering and sadly fell on his local peak in Italy.

So that’s my wee trip to Tibet a once in a lifetime experience. Nothing compared with others on the mountain but a highlight to me of a great period in my life. It also showed how dangerous those big peaks can be and how many die chasing a dream? There is much more on our trip in my blogs but this is a wee part of the last few days on the “Big Hill“.

Thanks to all Ted ((RIP) Dan, Rusty, Pete, Nick, Ned, Willie, the Doc Brian, Jim L, Jim Groak, Kenny and our Sherpas.

Posted in Articles, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Himalayas/ Everest, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 7 Comments

Thanks to John Harper of The Braeraich for all those years of looking after us in Newtonmore . RIP John

This wee blog is read by many ex RAF Troops all over the World . I use it to pass news good and bad on to others many who live away from Facebook. I picked this up from Joanne through Facebook that her father had passed away.

Joanne Patience “For those that knew the force that was John Harper, he passed away last night and is now at peace with our mum. Love him or hate him he led a varied life and would always help anyone he could as he knew what it was to have nothing. Gone but never forgotten and always loved. My Dad. Xx”

John Harper (photo family) .

The RAF Teams knew her father John well. One great thing about the Teams being all over the Highlands is we stayed in various village Halls, After a day on the hill we would go to the pub and Newtonmore was a special place. The team loved it and the Braeraich Hotel was special to many

I met John not long after he had taken over the pub. He put on chips and soup for us and the pub was busy with lots of locals. We became part of the community using Newtonmore village hall for training and the Navy cottage for many Callouts. We would often come back very late after some of the huge Call outs that occurred John would stay open for us. He was accept that at times we needed to unwind especially after some of the tragic call outs. We all have great memories of John and his family over the many years. Newtonmore or “Hoot and Roar” became a place for the team especially at New Year. The pub was the centre of our world in those days . We attended a team wedding here and had so many cracking nights. You would meet so many other mountaineers and climbers in the pub.

I remember the back bar where I am sure the pool table was. The teams met many local lassies here and most have fond memories. John Harper was firm but fair and if we stepped out of line we were told yet he always looked after us. Being away from home on big searches it was important to switch of at least for a few hours. The Braeraich was a place for that and John knew how we were by our mood after a successful call out or a tragic one.

There is one story where the back boiler blew up just before New Year. John’s son was hurt and taken to hospital. The pub looked like a a bomb site yet that night John had the pub open. These were different days we took much of John’s banter for granted . His late night snacks with salty chips were designed to make you drink more! Which we did!

Many I hope will pass on the sad news of John’s passing think of the good times and the families welcome to us over the years. My condolences to Joanne and the family.

Comments welcome – thanks to Joanne for allowing me to use her photo and words.

Joanne wrote back “

This is a blog written by David Whalley or to those that knew the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams when they used to come to the village Heavy 😊.


Friday night usually meant for me buttering many loaves of bread for the obligatory trays of sandwiches made up for the teams on their arrival and in return they were great customers and always made Christmas and New year a real joy along with the hard work for both mum and dad. They even camped out in the Brae bar and the Chef’s Grill a few times when the village hall or Pine cottage had been double booked. Thankyou David and all the teams.”

Posted in Articles, Bothies, Family, Friends, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, People, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 6 Comments

Cracking books and ideas for climbing the hills. “Scotlands Mountain Ridges.” Dan Bailey and that old favourite the SMC District Guides.

Classic guide to the mountain Ridges.

This is great guidebook with a mix of summer scrambling, rock climbing and winter mountaineering on Scotland’s ridges, from the remote Cairngorms to the splendour of the Cuillin. Graceful carved walkways slung between summits, twisted spines of stone – ridges can be the most beautiful of mountain landforms. published: 2006Author: Dan Bailey : This book was to me very special so well written and full of enjoyable adventures. It will take you away especially on the remoter mountains to new ways often away from the crowds up our mountains.

Many years ago I was first interested in climbing the Munro’s and doing different routes up the mountains. Knowledge was not as easy as today to gain and to gain information on. There was no internet in these days. I used to buy the SMC district guide books.

The North West District Guide . An essential guidebook to the northern part of Scotland for all walkers and climbers. The book covers a vast area from the Great Glen to the North Coast. Comprehensive coverage of the Munros, Corbetts, Grahams and other hills; including Ardnamurchan, Knoydart, Applecross, Torridon, the Fannaichs, Coigach and Assynt. Fully illustrated in colour with detailed maps and sections on history, fauna, flora, geology and land use. Hardback, 352 pages.

The District Guides cover all areas of Scotland and they were a mine of information on different ways up the hills. The older guides are superb with wonderful photos and diagrams and ideas for new cliffs for climbing.

I over my early years bought all the District Guides. We took them out weekends and were superb to get more information on the hills and different ways up them. I would in these days be on the hills every weekend mostly with the Mountain Rescue Team. Many of the older team members knew these great adventures on the hills and where they were. I was taken into some wonderful places by them for which I am grateful for. I passed on my new knowledge to others and then many routes came out in various books. There were so many that became rights of passage for many. Routes like Lancet Edge on Geal Charn, near Beinn Alder, The Forcan Ridge at Kintail so many others that became great favourites and a great way up popular mountains.

Comments welcome as always.

Posted in Articles, Books, Equipment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Tricky winter hills – Beinn a Chaorainn.

I was speaking to a winter mountaineer the other day about Beinn a Chaorainn. A Munro on the Laggan road that is often combined with Beinn Teallach. He was unaware that on poor conditions Beinn a Chaorainn can be a very tricky hill in winter. Once again as winter is back very challenging conditions especially in poor visibility make this a tricky mountain. As further large amounts of snow forecast over the next few days this hill and others will make you think as you navigate safely. . In winter, beware that a huge cornice forms above Coire na h-Uamha and Beinn a’Chaorainn’s east-facing crags, which have caused tragedies in the past.

I have sadly been on many call -outs in the past on this hill and was involved in many searches it is a tricky mountain in bad weather.

Beinn a Choarrain This Munro summit ridge is well corniced – so take care in snow and mist IT CAN BE TRICKY NAVIGATION , there have been many accidents here in the past.

On one incident in 1994 we searched for months for a missing walker who had walked over the edge on January 1994 he was located in August – 6 months later under several feet of ice, It was a sad time for the family and the length of time their loved one was missing for made things even worse. I took the young son Neil who was with his Dad when he went over the cornice a day later after hed got down to raise the alarm, Neil showed me the exact spot where he last saw his Dad and it was an incredible effort by the young 18 year old. I searched along with Lochaber MRT for many months looking for his Dad it was a hard, sad time.   This Corrie can be very tricky ground to search in this wild coire is and always was threatened by huge cornices as we searched. This hill has a big history for me and is in no way a simple boring hill and at over a 1000 metres is big mountain.

2017 Dec – I met that young man at a lecture for Mountain Aid that I did in Cuoar this year, he introduced himself to me he is now a member of Ochils MRT. It was a magic night to meet him after the sadness of those dark days in 1994 but Lochaber MRT found his Dad in the end thanks to Hamish MacInnes who brought in ground radar in Sep 94 and there was still a huge amount of snow. It was wonderful meeting him and one of the most moving nights of my life. That awful day he did his best and helped us so much and that day we went out to where his father fell was a hard day yet this young man helped so much. I hope we meet again and his Dad would be so proud of what a man he has turned out to be.

We never give up in Mountain Rescue and it was a special night meeting and talking to him. I searched for his father throughout the winter and summer. In all I went out 10 times into the huge Corrie but the snow was still there. I would take a group from Kinloss Midweek and stay in Roybridge. Sadly despite our efforts we never found him till Hamish brought in the Ground radar. The Corrie is a huge basin and I was amazed how much snow was still there at the end of summer that year. We wanted to give some

Beinn a’ Chaorainn – Once on the ridge, there are no easy escape routes. A quick escape can be made from the summit by descending the northeast ridge, which descends from the south summit (Point 1049). However, caution is required on account of the in cut gully south of the main summit which is not terribly obvious on the map and is a known accident blackspot.

Beware of the cornice on Beinn a’ Chaorainn in poor visibility. Large cornices often build up on the steep east flank above Coire na h-Uamha, and due to the incut corrie edge a safe line between any of the hill’s three summits requires a dogleg rather than a straight line. It’s a well-known spot for tricky navigation, and for accidents,

The tricky area between tops

A very enjoyable winter scramble, slightly harder if the steep initial section is taken directly, but this is easily avoidable.

The approach from the road is via the east bank of the Allt na h-Uamha then cross it in order to join the track heading north. A new bridge means there is no need to ford the river.

At present (winter 2022 ) most teams are approaching via the zigzagged forestry track a little further west, avoiding the boggy section of the other approach.

Another Rescue of a fallen climber.

Comments welcome !

Heavy, The efforts that you, the RAF and Lochaber teams put in will never be forgotten by me, nor my family. I don’t doubt that many involved in that callout are friends on your page and to everyone of those I say a heartfelt thank-you.
The kind words about me as youngster from someone as skilled as yourself mean a lot to me too. Of course the events of that day, and those that followed shaped me into who I am now.
I hope we’ll meet again soon. Neil

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Books, Family, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Assynt – Ben Mhor Coigach Sgurr an Fhidhleir – The Fhidhleir

The Fhidhleir – photo Terry Moore

My friend Terry was up North visiting Assynt he had a couple of great days. I cover for him when he is alone on the hill. It’s a bit of back up for him he sent me a few great photos of this classic mountain.

Sgùrr an Fhìdhleir – the Fiddler

From walk highlands – The moorland walk to the peak of Sgùrr an Fhìdhleir disguises the drama of the peak’s far side. Approached up the fairly gentle south western flanks, from the summit there is an amazing contrast as the ground plunges away almost 500 metres vertically with amazing views down to the loch and of the surrounding Assynt peaks.

Straightforward hillwalk across moorland terrain; navigation could be difficult in misty conditions and there are vertical drops in the vicinity of the summit.

In the Corrie is the best view and this mountain is a classic when seen from the Stac Polly road.

226m, 9 pitches. Climb the slabs in the centre of the nose, follow a grassy right trending groove to a cave belay. step right under the roof to a slab with crampon scratches (difficult with tall sack) trend up and left to a large block belay. climb the ramp above to a ledge. head up on the right of the ledge and trend left onto the arete move up below the rusty peg, and climb above. follow the corner above to easier ground. First ascent N Drasdo & C Dixon – seemingly the Gary Latter guide gives a more detailed and accurate croute description.

N Drasdo & C Dixon.

The Nose of the Fhidhleir has always been a superb looking line. I summer many years ago I failed on it the gear was poor and there was grass and vegetation in places. In these days the gear was not great but we had an adventure and abseiled of a manky peg. I never returned to climb the nose but did many routes in the Assynt area on Quinag and Stac Polly. In season 2008/9, Simon Richardson and Ian Small completed a long sought line on the side of the Fhiddler.

This place has so many memories a remote mountain yet a huge part of my life. Among these memories are of a great pal the Team Leader of Assynt MRT Phil Jones was killed on Seanna Bhraigh in an avalanche in Feb 1991 it seems so many years ago. He was out training with the team in the Corrie when a slab avalanche broke away. He was such a good guy we had a good liaison with him and the Assynt team great folk covering a huge area.

When the news broke I was at just coming home from running the annual winter course for the RAF mountain rescue Teams this was 14 days away from home when the news was broken by the BBC. They just said that a MRT team leader had been killed, no name was given and it was an awful time for our families. These were the days before mobile phones etc. My partner was so upset as she thought it was me. It was my good friend Phil the Assynt Team Leader who was going to climb the Nose with me and had climbed it a few times before. Gear had improved by 1991 but it was not to be. So I never climbed that route yet every time I see it I think of Phil. He told us of so many local crags he and his friends climbed on and shared much of it with the team.

Glaciers, grinding West, gouged out

these valleys, rasping the brown sandstone,

and left, on the hard rock below –

the ruffled foreland –

this frieze of mountains, filed

on the blue air –

Stac Polly,

Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,

Canisp –

a frieze and

a litany.

Who owns this landscape?

Has owning anything to do with love?

For it and I have a love-affair, so nearly human

we even have quarrels. –

When I intrude too confidently

it rebuffs me with a wind like a hand

or puts in my way

a quaking bog or loch

where no loch should be. Or I turn stonily

away, refusing to notice

the rouged rocks, the mascara

under a dripping ledge, even

the tossed, the stony limbs waiting.

I can’t pretend

it gets sick for me in my absence,

though I get

sick for it. Yet I love it

with special gratitude,since

it sends me no letters, is never

jealous and, expecting nothing

from me, gets nothing but

cigarette packets and footprints.

Who owns this landscape? –

The millionaire who bought it or

the poacher staggering downhill in the early morning

with a deer on his back?

Who possesses this landscape? –

The man who bought it or

I who am possessed by it?

False questions, for

this landscape is

masterless

and intractable in any terms

that are human.

It is docile only to the weather

and its indefatigable lieutenants –

wind, water and frost.

The wind whets the high ridges

and stunts silver birches and alders.

Rain falling down meets

springs gushing up –

they gather and carry down to the Minch

tons of sour soil, making bald

the bony scalp of Cul Mor. And frost

thrusts his hand in cracks and, clenching his fist,

bursts open the sandstone plates,

the armour of Suilven;

he bleeds stories down chutes and screes,

smelling of gun powder.

Norman MacCaig

from The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon, 2005) 

Reproduced by permission of Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd.

they gather and carry down to the Minch

tons of sour soil, making bald

the bony scalp of Cul Mor. And frost

thrusts his hand in cracks and, clenching his fist,

bursts open the sandstone plates,

the armour of Suilven;

he bleeds stories down chutes and screes,

smelling of gun powder.

There are many ways to climb this mountain you can scramble up from the sea along the ridge but to me the best views are from the Loch.

Assynt
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Corbetts and other hills, Family, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Poems, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Every picture tells a story – Sirius Falls – Assynt.

Nigel Kenny Kennworthy on the first ascent of Sirius Falls.

I had been speaking to the late Andy Nisbet about a big waterfall Eas A’ Chual Aluin. It is in Assynt at grid reference NC 282 278. This waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Britain. The fall is only likely to freeze in exceptional winters but then forms an exceptional climb the top is at an altitude of about 200 metres. It is graded V5 and has three stars and was climbed in 1986. My mate Mark Sinclair RIP had dragged me to have a look but it was not formed after a hard winter.

I next saw it in a hot summer as I descended from Glas Bheinn a lovely Corbett heading to Beinn Leoid via the waterfall and Glencoul. This was nearly 20 years later. I put it in my mind to look again in winter.

Map of the area

Anyway I had spoken to my mate Kenny Kennworthy about the climb so he went to have a look. Sadly the waterfall was not formed but they looked over the other side of the Glen and saw another route. This became Sirius Falls a new grade 3. They had a long walk out but the keeper gave them a lift out on his boat along the Loch. The boat was called “Sirius” hence the name. it saved a long walk out along the Loch. I have done it in the past it’s hard going. Sadly Kenny and his partner Jamie Forder missed the boat out and Dan Carrol and Rusty Bale got the lift.

From the SMC Northern Highlands Guide book a special area with lots of potential.

So another route we missed but we climbed some other routes that weekend at sea level above Loch Broom. Winter roadside ice . It was a great weekend with amazingly Beinn Dearg not holding any ice that weekend yet the conditions low down were great.

“Heavy Handed” Loch Broom

Anyone climbed the big waterfall recently ? As always comments welcome.

Posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts and other hills, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

What’s your best Winter climb for the Mid range winter climber? A few of mine – Tower Ridge, Hadrian’s Wall, Comb and Green Gully plus many more.

After looking at The Classic Cold Climbs my mind was taken back to favourite winter climbs. To me it was about my companions and the day. I was so lucky to have climbed many routes before the crowds came in the early 70’s. I usually had strong companions with me but 20 years of winter courses on the Cairngorms the odd foray to Lochnagar and Ben Nevis. On these courses it was letting pupils lead the easier routes looking back terrifying at times. Yet we produced some outstanding winter climbers. We were always on call and dealt with a few nasty incidents when we were in the Corries. The odd climber would have an accident and it brought home how serious winter climbing can be.

One of my first routes was Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis a classic winter journey and for a young lad. Add to that we had a Congo line of other climbers following us. a wild Tower Gap and I was leading across the gap when a climber arrived from Glovers Chimney. I was shocked as it was in the dark by then. He was soling ( climbing unroped) These are the days you never forget. Another was on Hadrians Wall again on Ben Nevis when I used my spare terrordactyl as a runner. Ice axes were breaking and a few of us carried a spare. I was terrified as the belays were poor and in these days the ice screws were basic. Of course Green Gully first climbed in 1906 and Comb Gully make a great day out. Zero Gully when I did it to me was scary limited gear as Point 5 its a lot better now but worth remembering the old maximum the leader must not fall on poor protection on pure ice is to me still very relevant.

Kenny Comb Gully

Glencoe had so many wonderful days – Deep Cut Chimney, Twisting Gully. The Screen, North Buttress Crowberry Gully all classics. Some grand days with steep descents and of course the traverse of the Aonach Eagach.

Cairngorms and the Northern Corries always was enjoyable – I loved Alladins Buttress Chimney with mates Gus and the late Al Macleod . We laughed so much that day especially on the crux when I replaced the tat. Another great route was Fluted Buttress with Bill Batson following a mate Stampy up the route who had lost a crampon and not noticed saying at the top “that was hard”. Of course head over to Hells Lum and climb Deep Cut chimney what a route.

On my winter Course as a pupil it was common to do a few routes in a day like red Gully, Goat track, the Mirror Direct (my first steep bit of ice) Red Gully and Goat track gully. We would descend the Couloir and Central Gully.

Fluted Buttress – Photo Jimmy Coats

I loved the far North Emerald Gully on Beinn Dearg and Resurrection on Sgur Mor that was scary limited protection. An Teallach was another great winter venue with a ridge traverse making it a long day. Also even a few new climbs.

Glen Clova, Winter Corrie and Lochnagar were great venues when I was at RAF Leuchars in Fife . I could get a day off and find the Corries especially Glen Clova to ourselves. We had some great fun on routes like Look C Gully. Lochnagar was a lot more serious but incredible climbing and often we would meet many of the stars of the day out climbing. Winter climbing was a smaller world then.

I had lots of fun on finding wee climbs all over especially the far North more great days on ice mostly not recorded as we did in those days. The annual SMC Journal gives an update on new routes. We found out about Strathfarrar’ fun routes here plus so many others before the guide books were updated.

Dan on the Chancer

I had some great routes in Wales in the Devils Kitchen The Black Ladders ( such a Scottish cliff in winter) such great fun and short walk ins! I was so lucky to get some great climbs here. Also in the Lakes on Hellvelyn and the Peak District

So many grand days great companions, being scared yet getting up the routes and more importantly safely of the route when navigation is critical.

So if you get a chance get out and climb once the weather settles. We have great gear now and superb weather forecasts and the Scottish Avalanche Information service. Ice protection and mixed climbing using improved rock gear makes things a lot safer. The modern ice tools are designed for steep ice and mixed climbing a great improvement. I have not mentioned so many places routes that I have climbed but my advice get the guide books out have a look on the net and the world is your oyster.

Todays tips – always remember when the ground steepens walking poles will not stop a slide or slip. Get your ice axe out and keep your helmet on especially when descending and wearing crampons. Winter is a wonderful time enjoy it safely.

Comments – Central Gully RH, IV-4 ***, Coire na Ciste, BenN. This was the my first winter route. I was taken up it by the extremely able Colin MacLean, then of the Mal Duff possé. I still love it. Will accept any excuse to repeat it. Jim Fraser – it’s a great area high on the Ben.

The Curtain – Pete Kay I had forgotten about that Pete we were not long back from Canada and ran up it. I remember worrying that 5 gully might avalanche and we dragged our ropes down the gully. Great day add in Gardh Gully and Glovers chimney another grand adventure.

Posted in Articles, Books, Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Learning from Lochnagar.

Lochnagar is a wonderful cliff and it has so many incredible memories. In winter especially it’s a majestic mountain and comes into its own.

Lochnagar on that day yet the weather changed so quickly.

This is from UK climbing. To me they are wonderful words.

“Of all Scotland’s iconic winter mountains, Lochnagar holds perhaps the greatest mystique. Isolated from the honeypot venues of the Northern Corries to the north, and guarded by its long windswept walk-in, the great north-east corrie feels in another age, a brooding pagan god opening its granite jaws to tempt trespass by the brave. Modern gear has done little to tame this beast. Bottomless powder, crusty ice, verglas, smooth slabs, rounded bulges and blind seams offer equally insecure purchase to today’s leashless axes and monopoints as given to the triconis and slaters hammers of early pioneers. Yet perversely, this inhospitality evokes a strong pull upon loyal suitors seeking physical and mental challenge. Their hard fought, and harder won endeavours make Lochnagar a forcing ground for the cutting edge of Scottish winter climbing.”

Yet my many memories involve real wild weather as any weather coming from the East hits the mountain. I have had some real battles with the weather here on Callouts, mountaineering days and climbing.

I climbed here a fair bit especially in winter and loved the place. The long walk in, the hidden cliffs and the Lochan can make it so special. The team at Kinloss and Braemar had a big Rescue here on Eagles ridge many years ago. The team was very friendly with the local keeper what a character he was.

This is a tale of a wee epic in Lochnagar in the early 80’s. I had just moved to RAF Leuchars MRT and was climbing for me pretty well. I knew Lochnagar from my days at Kinloss but also RAF Buchan on the East coast.

Another day Dan Carrol on Raeburns Gully.

At Buchan we had started a mountaineering club and Lochnagar was our nearest big hill. I had ran a wee winter course there. It was an incredible few days. It was full on winter conditions and we had one day a big epic getting some of our lads off Raeburns Gully as an big storm came in. The cornice was huge and we had to drop a top rope down to them. They could not get their ropes off as they were frozen solid. It was a struggle across the summit taking care navigating of the mountain plateau there is no shelter. Then you have the long walk back to the wagon. The wind was bitter, so cold with driving snow all the way home. You had to keep an eye on each other one was not far from exposure. It was a true introduction to climbing on Lochnagar.

The old guide of the cliff.

About 5 years later my brother came over from Bermuda. He is not a climber but very fit he loves the hills and bothying. We had a few days together but wanted to do a climb.

We were over East anyway and he wanted to climb Lochnagar. I thought I would take him up by a route. We had done winter skills ice axe breaking and crampon work. He went well on the hill.

The latest SMC Guide

The options were a walk up the easiest route Black Spout we had my dog Teallach with us. Teallach was used to climbing and maybe if we could Raeburns Gully would be fine. Teallach would wait for us at the bottom of the route, he was well used to it.

In these days there was limited avalanche information. The forecasts were basic as well. Yet the weather was looking good but as we entered the Corrie I saw there were huge cornices about. I checked the conditions we dig a pit in these days there was a lot of slab on top of hard snow . Not good at all.

We had a look at Raeburns Gully but the snow was not great and I could see the huge Cornices it was an easy decision. No go!

We had plenty of time as we set off early the weather was fine. I took a fair bit of gear with me as always.

Michael was still keen to climb so we wandered over to Black spout. The snow was not great so I had done Black Spout Buttress before. We could make the pitches short and the belays were good according to my memory. It should be a safe mixed route.

From The Cairngorm Guide

Black Spout Buttress grade 3 /5 a three star route. It’s 250 metres long but made up of short technical pitches with a bit of scrambling. “I would pitch it all as my brother had done little in winter. The old guide was basic but said it was a safe route in powder conditions.

Pressure – My brother was still very keen and looking back I felt pressured to climb.

We left the dog below the route he was soon sheltered and in his bivy mode. We saw another party walk in the Corrie and poke about and leave.

It all started okay and my brother was enjoying it. We moved well and even though it was his first climb At about 1400 we saw two guys arrive and shouted what route we were on . They decided to follow behind us .

When my brother came up the 2 nd pitch he said the young lads behind were asking lots of Questions. They seemed worried ?

The weather changing – I told him to just concentrate on the climb! It was snowing very heavy now and the final pitches were short but covered in powder that slowed me down. The steps were tricky and I faffed about a bit. In these days it was grade 3 now it has a tech 5 on the route . The snowed up rock made it very tricky !

Run away – We should have abseiled off earlier but we pushed on the snow was building up. I could see the cornice on Black Spout it was huge with the constant spindrift building up.

The boys behind were worried so I told my brother to leave them the belay gear. Just below the top the weather was fierce as I pocked my head on the plateau. We had been fairly sheltered on the route. I belayed out of the wind and got my brother sorted out.

Another wild day on Lochnagar with Bill Batson.

The flawed plan – I would lower him down the gully then follow him. He was down I knew by the tugs in the rope. As I prepared to follow my brother the leader reached my belay. He was worried and I told him to use my ropes to descend the gully. We would wait for them where we left the dog.

I abseiled off the weather was awful even with goggles on. My brother was fine and sheltering below the ropes. The snow was now awful we hugged the gully walls seeking safety.

The avalanche- We descended it was dark now making our way to my dog. He came bounding up to us the snow was in poor condition. I could hear the voices of the others now in the gully they were pulling down the ropes. I heard a crash and then the wall of snow hit us. We were covered in snow and in a huge avalanche. We tumbled down and down, snow was everywhere. Oh no been here before !

When it stopped all was silent it felt like the wind had dropped. I was on the top of the snow not far from the Loch. I had been trying to protect my head all the way down. We were lucky the boulders were covered. My head torch was still with me and my brother was nearby very shaken. I had to get him out, he was partly buried. Teallach was on scene quickly and nearby were the two climbers all were shocked but amazingly alive.

My brother was pretty upset as were the others and I went back up the gully and found two rucksacks and a torch. By the time I got back the two lads said they were to tired exhausted, battered and would wait for a rescue! I told them no help would come that night I had checked them over and our best bet was sure we had to keep moving. They were shivering and spaced out. My brother was very quite I told him we were getting out of this place. I knew he was strong and fit and he agreed. I also said that he was my main worry. If push came to shove we would have to leave them.

There was no chance of Rescue in these days / no mobile phones etc – I explained there was no Rescue we were on our own we could get off safely if we all kept going.

“March or die” I decided not to go back the normal route to the Beleach but head for the track near the bothy Gelder Sheil as the wind was wild. The struggle back was awful, myself and Teallach broke snow most of the way. We stopped in the bothy ate and then had a struggle to move again.

When we hit shelter of the woods it had taken us 4 hours to get there. I was carrying lots of gear two ropes and really exhausted. The snow kept coming at us there was no respite. Morale was low so you have to be blunt and say we will get through this.

And so we did the drive back was helped by a police Land Rover thank you ! The road was closed after we got down.

So ended my 2 nd avalanche in 15 years on the hill. We were so lucky to get out of that with a few battered ribs and bruises.

Many years later I was to lose two pals on a big fall from Parallel B. The Braemar team were magnificent to me and the families. It was a sad time. Sadly my best pal Mark Sinclair (Cheeky) was killed here on Lochnagar along with another good pal Neil Main on Parallel B a winter classic in the winter of 1995. This article is dedicated to them.

The mountains are all about learning !

I thought I was invincible then as many of us do.

We should have turned back my brother had no experience of these conditions. I had my Mountain Rescue head on thinking we are invincible.

I was pushed into a situation and we were so very lucky .

I did many Avalanche courses after that and when the Avalanche service started I used it daily. There is an App that’s a great help.

About the App

As well as providing an intuitive set of guidelines to help the user with their decision making process, features such as: SAIS daily avalanche reports, mountain info blogs, notifications, and tools to help users to determine critical slope angles, the direction a slope faces in relation to published avalanche hazard and your location will be incorporated.

In 2011 the “Be Avalanche Aware” initiative was developed following a collaboration between many agencies and groups from throughout the UK and further afield with the objective of addressing the avalanche situation in Scotland. Organised by the Snow and Avalanche Foundation of Scotland (SAFOS) and managed by the SAIS the BAA initiative was introduced in the winter of 2013 with the production of the BAA leaflet.

The BAA initiative outlines the decision making process and fundamental considerations for assessing avalanche hazard. For the first time, the BAA initiative provided a guideline framework for those going into the winter mountains.

Lochnagar sunset!
Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Dog sitting – Back from the West my pal Islay for a few days. Plans for the New Year? “So much to do so little time “

It was very wet over in the West but we had a quite New Year we got lots of driving rain. The rivers are very high and the great peaks snow less. It was a long drive back until I neared Garve then the sun came out. I have Islay the Collie for a few days staying with me helping a friend. We managed a walk at Rogie Falls the river was in full flow.

Logie Falls

It was then pop in and see my Grandkids and another walk in pouring rain with Ellie Skye and Lexi. They loved being out we were all soaked but it was real fun. I had dinner with them and It’s good to be home. I took Islay out for a final walk in the dark it brought back so many memories of my Dog Teallach of king days in the dark coming off the hill. Catching the dogs eyes in the torchlight as they wander about their eyesight is so much better than us. Islay is happy and now asleep on my living room floor.

Islay getting comfy

What plans have you for the New year mine are to stay well and fit. Look after those I love family and friends. Take time for folk and give what you can to help those who are struggling. Highlight the great people about unsung heroes and heroines who never get a mention. They are the ones who keep this country going.

I would love and hope to complete my Corbett’s only 1 to do. Creach Bheinn (Loch Creran) Creach Bheinn is a continuation of the ridge from Beinn Sgulaird and offers wonderful views of the western seaboard.

SMC Munro App

Get an ebike and complete my remaining two Munro’s – Lurg Mor & Bidein a Choire Sheasgaich.

My dog Teallach a Machine

Climb Tower Ridge in winter again stay at the CIC hut again.

Get some winter routes in the Northern Corries !

Summer rock – climb again – Ardverikie Wall, Cioch Nose (Applecross) Cioch Direct on Skye, Rannoch Wall Glencoe to name a few!

Hills – Liathach, Ben Alligin, Beinn Dearg, Ben Loyal , Ben Stack and other Assynt Hills Do a few hills with my stepdaughter Yvette..

The Islands – Visit St Kilda again Skye as well plus Arran again Rum and Harris.

Visit some Bothies Bearnis Corrour and others.

Glencoe big boots .

Visit crash sites on Aonach (Beag Alder area Assynt and others )

So many plans hopefully a few will come to fruition ? I always get a call from a friend to do a hill and health willing I do if possible meet them,

Finish that book!!!

What’s your plans for 2022? Comments welcome

1974 Tower Ridge

Stay safe winters on the way back beware of the flooded rivers just now, be patient “the hills will always be there the secret is to get there with them “

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Health, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment