Are you ready for the change to winter?

Hopefully we have still got some summer left but I have not been out for a while but heading West this weekend. So I had a look at my kit. My summer bag was light.

I have added some more gear to my bag !

Warm gloves ( plus a spare) A better hat for winter and a buff.

My winter waterproofs are in. Bothy bag checked and torches. I carry two. Worth checking your torch after every trip.

I carry a small flask in winter well worth the weight.

My phone battery is also checked as is my map and compass. It’s easy to break a compass that has been in your bag all summer.

I noticed when I was teaching navigation last year that a lot of guys rely on their phone as a watch. I still use a watch especially for navigation legs and timing . Comments ?

A few tips / Get away early have a cut of point in the day to be down low it’s not easy coming down steep ground in the dark!

Practice navigation now before your in that white out. This is the time to check your taking of bearings timings etc.

Goggles to me are essential in winter. As are glasses if you need them to read the map or your phone.

When the snow comes Practising ice axe arrest 10 years ago is not so good. Practice every year. Go out with someone experienced and learn about ice axe breaking and crampon use. my advice even better take a course. You will not regret it!

Your route for the day all the Munro guides give summer time’s for hill days. In winter it all changes. Routes are dependant on weather and snowfall . Read the forecasts and the Avalanche report (this starts mid December) it will give you a guide to what’s been happening high up. Use these tools there free.

Remember wind has a huge effect on the hill. We always overestimate the wind speed read and understand what the speeds are and the effects on your day.

Eat well before hand porridge is a great fuel hydrate and have some food handy that you can eat on the move.

Carry a small duvet that you can use in an emergency or during your breaks . Plan for what to do if someone has a problem on the hill?

Are your boots in good condition ensure your soles are not worn out . This is the time of year for slippy wet grass ! A slip can be very serious.

Winter is a great time of year but you can prepare yourself for it. Plan a sensible day and remember “the hills are always there the secret is to be there with them”.

There are few paths in winter it’s a lot of route finding and constant checking of navigation.

Do not be a follower we all have our part to play on a day on the hills. Take an active part in the navigation check the leaders bearings and timings. It’s so easy to put the hood up and leave it to others?

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Poetry on the hills – How I missed out for so long .

Norman MacCaig.

This is part of his work that made me read lots of his poetry. I love the poetry of the mountains and wild places and coming from Ayr the land of Robbie Burns it makes me sorry I took years to appreciate it. I was so proud that a few years ago the Mountain Bothies Association printed my poem in their book.

Hear my words carefully.
Some are spoken
not by me, but
by a man in my position.’

Norman MacCaig was born as Norman Alexander McCaig in Edinburgh on 14 November 1910. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh (MA with Honours in Classics, 1932). In 1940 he married Isabel Munro and they had two children. He won the Cholmondeley Medal in 1975 and in 1985 he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.  He was made an OBE in 1979.

Yet this is the poem I love:

A Man in Assynt

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 a 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?

What words and how they sum up these specail hills. I love them so much. If you get a chance there are some recordings of Norman MacCaig that with his special voice it brings the poem to life.


The journey to Shenevall 

Cars fly by as you cross the road, to another world,

Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

The track winds’ through the trees,

The river breaks the silence.

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

Midges and clegs abound here but not today,

 too cold, its winter.

Cross the river, is that bridge in the wrong place?

 Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top,

the wee cairn, stop, no rush, drink it all in.

An Teallach, snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

Every corrie on that great hill has a particular thought. Memories

Fisherfield, these great hills, the light changing, to the West.

 Youthful memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress?

Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer,

they are still there; Shenevall.

It never changes, only the seasons.

Fire on, primeval.

Tea in hand,

Alone with my thoughts.

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.

Memories ­­

Thanks to the MBA! Heavy Whalley for Yvette Feb 2013


I was given a wonderful book by friends many years ago Poems of the Scottish Hills and I read it often. I think that made a huge influence on me.

What’s your favourite Poem ?

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Books, Bothies, Mountaineering, People, Poems, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments

Another great Doctor Tom Stuart of Braemar MRT passes away.

Thank you to Braemar MRT for passing on this sad news.

Braemar MRT photo

It was with great sadness that we heard of the death of Tom Stewart earlier this month. Many will remember Dr Tom Stewart who was our team doctor for many years and an ardent supporter of mountain rescue.

Posted in Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People | Leave a comment

Staying in touch and a short winter wander Cha-no to that nearly ended with a serious injury.

I often get asked why I write the blog it’s easy to answer as I get so many stories contacts from it. It is great to hear from past friendships and from other mountaineers some now gone and families trying to find put more about them. At least once a week I find or catch up with old pals.

I am back home know trying to sort out a broken boiler but hope to be back on the hills soon. How I have missed them. Yet it was important to stay in touch and visit folk again. So please feel free to comment on anything you read but remember that we should always treat everyone with respect whatever their views.

It’s also important to remember the lesson from Call outs or adventures. It’s the way we gain experience yet few offer up tales and many lessons are lost. So let’s hear the odd tale “I learnt about mountaineering from that”

One of my tales:

I was recovering from several operations a few years ago and would wander alone up from the lower Cairngorm car park Coire Na Ciste onto the cliffs overlooking Strath Nethy. It had a huge healing effect on me. There is a winter climbing cliff that is not too busy away from some of the crowds that throng the Northern Corries.

This small east-facing winter crag was first developed in the 2010/11 season. The cliff has a short approach (less than one hour from Coire na Ciste carpark) and short routes allowing you to climb many routes in a single day.

Whilst it’s still nowhere near as popular as Lochain/t’Sneachda, Cha-no is no longer as secretive as it once was. As such it’s very likely that you’ll bump into other people. However, if you turn up with a mindset to climb anything (including unclimbed routes) as opposed to just the small number of popular routes, you shouldn’t be queueing!

You can download a SMC PDF mini-guide to this crag from

It’s only a short walk about an hour and your up on the plateau. It was very early winter December and I arrived about 1100 and decided to wander up to the cliffs. I had all my kit crampons etc with me the snow was down to about 800 metres and blowing across the plateau slowly like a silent serpent.

It’s a pretty quiet area at that time of year but I thats why I love it. I was soon crossing above Coire Loagh Mor. There were patches of hard water ice in places where the streams had frozen but they could be avoided as there was also a lot of snow as well. It was not worth putting crampons on as I could see the ground and avoided the ice by going to the snowy areas. This is a wet area and low lying ice that forms here quickly as its very high up.

I was loving being out again walking slowly but enjoying the wildness and the views. I love early winter and could make out other footsteps ahead so there may be a few climbers on the cliff. It’s a lovely wander but it was clear but often I have had to navigate to where the routes start. I often go to the 1028 metres high point to confirm my navigation then look for familiar landmarks.

This day it was fine though no problems finding the cliff and most most folk abseil or down climbing from the ridge to the bottom of the cliff. I could see a pair climbing and was surprised by the amount of snow about.

The Crag

I watched them for a while and had lunch and took some photos. I noticed that the weather was changing and snow started to fall steadily and quietly . The wind got up and I decided to head home. I was now in cloud so took a bearing and headed back. It was getting late and the light was slowly fading.

Busy cliff.

I had been recently advised that I had the start of Cataracts in my eyes. I had noticed this in poor light that my vision was not 100% and was aware as was my doctor but on a long list with the NHS to get fixed.

I wandered back the snow was drifting and I followed my bearing. To be honest I forgot about the water ice and as the snow hit heavier I never saw the frozen stream. I fell and even though it was flat I went sliding down the ice on my back. I could not stop and I could see the Corrie rim in front of me ? My ice axe was on my bag I was using my poles. The only way I could stop was to direct myself into a Boulder.

The area on another day covered in snow but has ice underneath.

I stopped lay there my ribs were sore but I had not gone into the corrie. That would have been serious. I felt a right idiot but stumbled back to my van and was aching. It was getting dark and managed to get home. I had visions of what could have happened and how serious it could have become . Even worse it would be the Cairngorm team who would have picked me up.

There are lots of lessons to learn.

Lesson 1 – Treat a winter walk with respect even a short one. Get away early !

Lesson 2 – I should have put my crampons on or at least had my axe out and poles away.

Lesson 3 – as you get older you do not react so quickly so take it easy.

Lesson 4 – in poor visibility or light be aware of your limitations. My Cataracts did not help.

Always tell someone whenever you are going into the mountains !

Comments welcome

Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

All well in Crianlarich – visiting Aunty Elma a lady who always looks after RAF MRT.

On my way back from the deep South from a good trip with old pals I drove to see Aunty Elma at Crianlarich. My old mountaineering mates tell me I need to post cheery posts. Elma has looked after many of us over the years on our visits to Crianlarich. She is a wonderful person who looks after RAF Mountain Rescue. Her wee house has always been a haven for many.

She was in great form and as usual had a wonderful spread of homemade cakes, Soda Scones and fresh pancakes.

I got all the updates on everyone and many will be glad to know she is in good health. She loves her letters, cards, photos of the families and phone calls so please keep them coming. It was raining as I arrived but a rainbow came out as I left so fitting. It is a place of memories her wee house to many.

Just for me!!!

How many stores have been told here by all who had tea, soup and cakes after a call out at Elma’s. I wonder how many did she fit into her wee house?

Elma had always been there for us giving us advice in all things and often telling us things that we needed to know. I got many rollockings here in the past.

So as we start to move about again if you can give Elma a call and drop in and see her.

She sends her love to all as always. you are all her bairns. So get writing or give her a phone she loves hearing about her Mountain Rescue Family.

Stay well and happy.

Comment – Bill Rose “Kindness to others is rewarded with true friends. Love thy neighbour no matter how far they travel.”

Posted in Bothies, Family, Friends, Health, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Keswick Mountain Festival thanks to all.

Yesterday I did a Q & A ( Question & Answer session) with Cameron McNeish at the Keswick Mountain Festival. I travelled down to another world from Scotland. It was so busy and there first big event since Covid. I was hosted by my long time pal Terry Moore and Gillian his wife. We had a great catch up and a magical night in their house near Carslile.

Terry’s !

Next day we were away early as Terry said it would be busy and it was. I was not speaking till 1700 so we had a great time looking round the stands and listening to various speakers in the outdoor tents. The theatre by the lake is a wonderful location and there were so many races/ runs on all day for all ages and abilities it was uplifting to see.

One of the events

I was told that a friends daughter Shona Cammack was exhibiting her pictures for the first time we paid her a visit at the Festival.

Shona and her art ! Lots of memories there

Shona Cammack·@adventuresketchbook·Scottish artist. Painter of mountains and other wild place

Her recent interests have been with Scottish mountain bothies and that is what she will be offering this time !Adventure Sketchbook was duly visited and we had a long chat with Shona her partner and her brother. Terry being a fine artist was impressed. A talented lassie and I loved her art.

We had a great wander Terry looking after me it was a long day till we met Cameron for a chat on my talk. I must admit I was apprehensive I had not done a chat fir about 3 years but Cameron put me at ease and I think it went well. As I said it’s a bit strange if you have not been speaking for such a long time. Yet they were a good audience and Cameron so professional as always. The organisation was faultless and as a first live event for 18 months it was an honour to speak here. Thank you all.

Cameron . thank you !

We had a visitor Al Hinkes popped in before we went on stage. He was on great form and we had a lively discussion as you do !

As we finished we met Richard Else who was also speaking after me with Meg and it was grand seeing some friendly faces.

After this we headed home my throat was sore and I had my Persistent cough again. The we stopped and Italian meal in the town where Terry’s paintings were in pride of place.

It was then back to watch the tennis I only managed to watch one set what a match though. I was really tired it had been a long day. Terry looked after me and as we left the we had seen the Lakes and the sun was out. People were enjoying being out, live music was playing what a day.

The weather was stunning as we left !

Thank you all for making my day. For Terry Gillian and Cameron for all the help. Big thanks to Terry’s Cockerel for the early calls from 0400.

Terry another big thank you.
Posted in Bothies, Friends, Lectures, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Well being | Leave a comment

Heading to Keswick Mountain Festival.

I thought I had retired from these talks that I used to do but was asked to speak at the Keswick Mountain Festival with my friend Cameron McNeish. He is going to do a Question and Answer chat with me. I was asked to go down by. Friend Paul who runs the Celtman Triathlon in Torridon.

It’s been a long time since I did one of these talks but it will be good to see folk again and I do enjoy sharing my experiences I hope it goes well?

During my time as Deputy Team Leader in North Wales we went to the Lakes a every month. We had some great days superb climbing and mountaineering.

In the Lakes late 80,s

This was before the Lakes got so busy but when I came back North to RAF Leuchars and Kinloss we went to the Lakes rock climbing a lot. I have some great memories of classic days and a few Call outs.

On Gimmer

So I hope it goes well and if your in the Lakes it would be great to see you at Keswick Mountain Festival on Saturday.

Posted in Enviroment, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

How to call for help in the Mountains in an Emergency ?

We are delighted to see so many hillwalkers and climbers enjoying the mountains over the recent months. This summer has seen a noticeable increase in the number of people heading for the outdoors and, with foreign travel opportunities still limited due to coronavirus, it’s likely that many will carry on their new hobby throughout the winter. We would like to use this opportunity to remind all hillwalkers on ways to stay safe in the hills and how to call for help.

Scottish Mountain Rescue Vice Chair, Kev Mitchell said, “We are very lucky in Scotland to have a world class volunteer Mountain Rescue service. Help us, to help you, by being prepared and knowing what to do in an emergency. If you are lost, in need of assistance or in an emergency, dial 999 ask for POLICE then MOUNTAIN RESCUE. Enjoy our incredible wild places and support our volunteer teams who will assist you any hour, any day and any weather.”

For tips on being prepared, click on the link below:

ScottishMR #StaySafe #BePrepared

Well worth discussing if your with your climbing companion what to do? Also what do you do without a phone signal?

Comments welcome.

It is worth noting that in some remote areas a phone reception is not possible. This can be in a Corrie or Valley. In my days in Mountain Rescue we would often have to move to a high point and try to get a reception. Also as mountaineers we should whenever possible be prepared to be self reliant and be able to cope with waiting for help. You could be on the hill stationary with a casualty for a long time.

It is well worth discussing what to in an emergency.

Comments as always welcome.

Comment – Joe Glennie

Great advice there David Whalley.
I’d reiterate the bit about having a grid reference to hand. The only time I’ve called out mountain rescue from the hill I was in an obvious place that anyone in mountain rescue would know so when the leader of the mountain rescue team asked for a grid reference I just told him where I was…

Him:- “It’s not for me, it’s for the helicopter pilot”

Me:- 😳🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️🗺

Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Best combination of easier rock climbs.

What is your best combination of rock climbs in the easier grade! The book Classic Rock gives so many routes you can add together to make great days and memories.

I feel that the 4 ridges on the Ben are one such day. Up North East Buttress down Tower Ridge up Observatory Ridge down Castle Ridge.

Tower Ridge

There are many more like in Skye .

Cioch Direct a few years ago!

Cioch Direct, Arrow route and Integrity.

Cioch Direct Early 50’s

My best day Skye Rock ***                                   Isle of Skye              

Coir’a’ Ghrunnda – White Slab 600 ft Severe in the sun then on to Sron Na Ciche                                                           Cioch Direct 500 ft  Severe *** Arrow                                        Route 120 ft V Diff ***  Integrity Severe 250 feet.                                                                                                        

Posted in Mountaineering, Rock Climbing | Leave a comment

Ben Stack a Wee gem up North.

Ben Stack is a favourite mountain of mine. Despite its size it’s a classic. Ben Stack is a mountain in Sutherland, in the northwest of Scotland. It is 721 m high. It lies southeast of Laxford Bridge and northwest of Loch More along the A838 road, and just west of Loch Stac a great area.

In winter it’s a stunning peak and to climb it on a short winters day and watch the sunset over the mountains and sea is a magnificent sight.

What’s your favourite hill!

Ideas :

Stac Pollaidh



Ben Loyal

Cir Mhor

Beinn Damh

Beinn Dearg (Torridon)

Ben Aden

Ben Lair – Fuar Tholl Beinn Dearg Mor, Sgurr na Stri, Beinn Airigh Charr, Beinn Lair, Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse, Fuar Tholl, Ben Loyal.

Ben Stack.
Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 2 Comments