On Sunday I was up at 0500 and away by 0545 it was raining as I headed over to the West Coast to Torridon to meet some pals for a visit to the Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash in the wild and beautiful Coire Mhicfherchair. The rain got pretty heavy after Inverness and the hills were cloud hidden and some of the showers were heavy but the road was empty and it was an easy drive over to the West, what a difference when there is no traffic on the roads.
I arrived early at the car park it was busy already and parked next to Heather and Nick’s magic VW camper-van and was welcomed in the rain by a cup of tea. My long time pal, Eoghain MacLean arrived he was the ex Team Leader of the Torridon and Kinlochewe Mountain Rescue Team. He is now retired and is a superb wildlife photographer he was joining us for the day. We were in great company that man knows his hills and the wild life. Also Geoff arrived ready for his annual pilgrimage to the crash site where his Uncle Flying Officer R. Strong was killed in the Lancaster crash. Geoff was staying at the Loch Maree Hotel and had a big drive up from the Midlands. He had stopped in Fort William the day before and met Heather’s Dad Joss Gosling who was in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and was on the call -out for the Lancaster in 1951. Joss is now 88 and Heather was going up to the small memorial on the propeller for Joss as it is a place that means so much to him and Heather and the family.
The day starts of from the car park and starts gaining height taking the wonderful path along Coire Dubh Mhor.
The forecast was to get brighter later in the day and as the showers came in heavy at times and with the wind it was hard to get the rest to believe me. It did though and as we left the main path the weather brightened and this wild part of hill looked superb with the lochans sparkling in the sun and the big Corbetts looking great. All along we followed the huge bulk of Sail Mhor that towers above impressively.
We saw the hinds down by the river spotted by our wild life guide Eoghain and as we made our way up the hill this place gets wilder and wilder. Off the path this is wild country and we marvel at our path that wynds up the hill it is an incredible walk. As you walk the views change, you can see the huge hidden Corries of Liathach and all the way to the West every step the views open. I love this place. It was not a day to rush and all were going well, we had plenty of stops to drink it all in. The many lochans, the huge boulders and the space this is a place that nature makes us look so small?
The final hour into the Corrie lip is stunning as you turn round the hill and head for the round Sail Mhor the path steepens into the Corrie. The waterfall was flowing after the recent drought as the path steepens, the breathing gets harder and the sun came out getting ready to welcome us to one of the wildest views in Scotland.
From Walk Highlands
“Compared to the majesty of Liathach, Beinn Eighe looks less impressive from the road – an enormous and uninviting scree-girt ridge. Hidden away from the traffic however is its finest feature – the magnificent Coire Mhic Fhearchair, one of the finest corries in Scotland. A popular and straightforward hill walk reveals the classic view of the towering Triple Buttress reflected in the waters of a beautiful lochan. ” So well said.
When Heather’s father Joss first saw this place in that winter in 1951 after a 4 hour walk in deep snow and terrible weather from the other side of the mountain he said ” it was Cathedral like with the Triple buttress and the loch covered in deep snow”.
What they came across in that day stayed with him all his life and one can only imagine the horror these young men came across. Today it was benign a bit chilly but we needed a stop we had lunch and some time to think and enjoy this wild place.
From here it was follow the loch on the left side itwas a sight today almost turquoise and clear along the path and then to the far end with the burn flowing in and the grass by the waters edge. All the time the Corrie opens up the huge cliffs over 1000 feet tower above the deep slashes of gullies with snow still there and the wild quartze screes and with the loch is there a finer corrie in Scotland?
As you wander up the screes the wreckage is every where huge tyres, engines, metal every where it is massive and a huge amount remains from 1951, it is a sombre place. You spot new debris on each visit and the power that occurred here in 1951 gives sombre thoughts.
The screes are full of bits and pieces and this must be easily my 30th visit to the Corrie in the past on the way to the summits or a rock climb or winter climb here. I have shown so many folk this place and its secrets, each time it is different in summer and winter. I find so many new pieces of wreckage, and it is ever-changing with the weather especially in winter when the heavy snow moves it downhill. The constant power of nature.
We met a young lad from RAF Lossiemouth on his own and it was his first visit to the site and we showed him the memorial that is rather battered by the weather since it was put on the propeller on the 50 th anniversary in 2001 and needs replaced?
It was good to spend some time here and great that Geoff and Heather were with us and we all had a bit of time at the memorial on the propeller.
It was then time to have a few minutes and few more thoughts and then wander back a fair journey but the sun was out and the whole Corrie looking great in the light.
We were soon back at the head of the loch had another break and then another bit of time to enjoy this place and the views. I thought of those who had lost there lives here and yet they are not forgotten and the wreckage will be a constant reminder of what occurred here in that wild night in 1951.
Flt Lt H S Reid
|SECOND PILOT||Sgt R Clucas|
|NAVIGATOR||Fg Off R Strong|
|SIGNALLER||Flt Lt P Tennison|
|FLIGHT ENGINEER||Flt Sgt G Farquhar|
|SIGNALLERS||Flt Sgt J Naismith|
|Sgt W D Beck|
|Sgt J W Bell|
It was a great wander back in the sun the knees were a bit sore but the views made up for that and by 1630 we were back in the car park having a cup of tea in the van. It was then over to the Torridon Inn for a great tea. We met old pals Kallie and Taff for the meal so we had a catch up. In between Heather called her Dad and I managed a few minutes on the phone with him. Heather told Joss that she had worn a RAF Mountain Rescue jacket that I had got for him at the memorial. Joss was over the moon and the photos will be one he will treasure as I will. Special moments for us all.
As we get older we look at things so differently and as a young man charging round the hills at times we forget who and what went before us. Joss is from a generation that I look up to, what they did with the limited gear, equipment and training and what we have today is due to their hard won lessons being passed on. It was well worth it a great day a long one getting home after 2100 nearly 16 hours on the go.
People ask why do I visit these places again and again. Because to people like Geoff and Joss they mean so much.
“We follow in the footsteps of heroes”
Special thanks to Eoghain MacLean for his help and guidance all day, what a man a joy to be on the hill with. To Torridon a place that will always be a huge part of my life thanks for the day as always you never let me down.
Beinn Eighe poem Oct 2012
Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.
The long walk, views expanding as we climb.
Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?
As usual we meet a family of deer
They have been there for many years
What have they seen?
Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.
Then the wreckage, glinting in the sun.
This is a wonderful poignant place.
Only too those who look and see.
How mighty is this corrie?
This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe.