Sgurr Na Stri Skye only 494 metres it’s tiny but packs a punch! What a viewpoint one of the best and a sad night in 1982.

This was a mountain I hate to say I had never climbed. I was always to busy when on Skye climbing, traversing the ridge and rock climbing. My first ascent was one of the most wildest call-outs I can recall. It was early December 1982 a wild winters night. I had just completed a 12 hour shift rations the planes at RAF Kinloss. The station was still on a war footing after the Falklands War. The Nimrod plane was doing huge flights to the South Atlantic it was very busy period.

Sgurr na Stri

The story has been written about in my blog in the past. It was a very hard call out in awful weather. Landing at Achnasheen to wait till another snow storm broke through. Then the helicopter nearly hit electricity wires trying to pick up the Skye Team. The engine was knackered but the pilot managed to drop us at Camusunary bothy. We were all glad to get off.

The river At Camusunary the bridge is long gone.

We met a good pal staying in the bothy with his mates Paul Rosher who thought a nuclear war had started. We crossed the river it was wild and straight up the hill. It was full of snow very tricky ground little buttresses and the rock ver loose after the crash. All the way up there was small pieces of wreckage and still burning in places. We followed my dog there was little searching done. This aircraft had a canopy that ejected the crew. We were praying this had occurred. Sadly it was not to be. We found the main wreckage near the summit. Sadly there was no lives to save. We had to stay with the crash site till about 1100 next day when we were replaced. It was an awful night before we had good bivy bags. We had no comms till the morning I wandered about all night trying to get contact with the dog as the troops tried to sleep. Having to wake them up as they were frozen. That’s was the best daylight I have ever seen as the sky lightened and the islands came into view. I have gone into that incident in other blogs in far more details. I spent a week with the USA investigation team chasing the short daylight locating wreckage.

Routes – unlike many of the high Cuillin, Sgurr na Stri is not technically difficult, making it a popular objective for walkers. That is not to say it is without challenge, nothing this good comes easy in life. Walking routes to Sgurr na Stri are long, either starting from Sligachan and following the river or starting from Elgol and traversing the coast to Camasunary Bay. There is the famous Bad Step to negotiate. The good news is that both approaches are magnificent. In summer there are a few boats that do the trip from Elgol.

A visit on the 30 th Anniversary in 2012.

The pilot in the left hand seat of the aircraft was Major (Lt Col. Selectee) Burnley L. (“Bob”) Rudiger Jr., aged 37, from Norfolk, Virginia. Major Rudiger was survived by a wife and two children who were then resident at Risby, Suffolk.

The plaque at Elgol

The weapons system operator in the right seat was 1st Lt. Steven J. Pitt, 28, from East Aurora, New York. Lt. Pitt was survived by a wife and two children, then resident at Icklingham, Suffolk.

You * The Strathaird estate was at the time owned by Ian Anderson otherwise more famous as the lead singer and flautist of the rock group Jethro Tull.”

F111

Diminutive Sgùrr Na Strì may be reach 494 metres in height, but it’s proof that – when it comes to mountains – size doesn’t matter. Reaching it requires a long and quite rugged walk, but the rewards are immense. Many walkers reckon that the view from the summit – over Loch Coruisk, the Cuillin and the sea – is the finest in all Britain.

The view

There are some rock climbs on the cliff and a couple of scrambled. They can add to a great day.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, PTSD, Weather, Well being | 1 Comment

Ben Loyal – 764 metres and an epic rescue after a plane crash of a Handley Page Hampden.

My first impression of Ben Loyal many years ago sometimes called the “Queen of Scotland” was so impressive. It was a Misty day and the hill emerged as the hill cleared. You can see this mountain from a long way it looks surreal. This was nearly 50 years ago and still when I see it it brings back some classic days.

Ben Loyal – Ben Loyal is a wonderful mountain just south of the Kyle of Tongue. It well merits the long drive north to reach it. ( Walk Highlands ) Although it is also possible to ascend Ben Loyal from the east side above the A836, this completely lacks the drama of the classic route from the north.

Climbing and Crag features

The best of the climbing potential is to be found on the summit tors of Sgor a’ Bhatain, An Caisteal, and Sgor Chaonasaid, and also on the western cliffs of Sgor a’ Chleirich. Also worth noting is the massive boulder field by the side of Loch Fhionnaich which would seem to have endless interest and potential for the boulderer. The rock type is syenite, this is a form of granite which has no quartz present.

Ben Loyal 

This classic mountain is known as the Queen of Scottish mountains by many. It is an isolated mountain of 764 m in Sutherland, the north-western tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located south of the Kyle of Tongue and offers good views of the Kyle, Loch Loyal to the east, and Ben Hope to the west. Ben Loyal has the remains of an Hampden aircraft that crashed on the mountain in 1943. Grid Ref NC 583498 Sgor Chaonasaid at 1600 feet.

Handley Page Hampden

The aircraft is a Handley Page Hampden, Serial No: P2118 Unit Codes: Z9-D Squadron: 519sqn Crash Date: 25.08.43 Based: Wick Crew:

Pilot; Flt Lt H. Puplett DFC,

Navigator: F/O G. Richie,

Radio Operator/Air Gunner:F/O C. Faulks

Air Gunner:Sgt T Hudson-Bell

Ben Loyal

F/O Faulks was the only survivor when the aircraft flew into the side of Sgor Chaonasaid, the highest point in the Ben Loyal range. The aircraft was returning to Wick from an aborted search for missing Hampden P5334 when it flew into the hillside in a thunderstorm just before midnight on 25th August 1943. 

The rescue party arrived Ribigill a large farm house between Tongue and Ben Loyal, the rescue party were led by shepherd Mr E Campbell and Dr F Y McHendrick. The survivor was strapped to a piece of aircraft wreckage and carried him down from the mountain. after a long trip by horse and cart he was taken by RAF ambulance to Golspie’s Lawson County Hospital about forty miles away. He arrived there some 15 hours after the crash and was found to have very serious injuries including a broken right leg, a smashed up left foot and severe facial injuries and was initially not expected to live. Having spent some 18 months in hospital he rejoined his squadron taking up a ground-based role but was keen to be in the air again. He flew again before the War ended.

Ben Loyal

Shepherd Eric Campbell and Dr Fowler Yates McKendrick M.B. Ch.B were both awarded the British Empire Medal for their rescue attempt on that night (Gazetted 3rd December 1943. In all they made six trips up and down to the aircraft that night, recovering the injured man and the bodies of his comrades. Dr McHendrick was also praised for his efforts in keeping F/O Faulks alive as they removed him to safety.

The tale and others is well told in the Book Down in The Highland’s – Dave Earl & Peter Donaldson. DOWN IN THE HIGHLANDS 2 – Military Aircraft Accidents in Caithness,Sutherland & Ross & Cromarty 1943-1948

A great source of information.

That is a tale few know about ? What a film it would make.

Please treat these crash site with respect they are places where folk died and should be treated respectfully.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Books, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Cranstakie and Beinn Spionnaidh and the Mosquito crash.

Cranstakie 800 metres and Beinn Spionnaidh 772 metres. (Hill of strength)

These are Twin Corbetts rising East of the A838 road from Rhiconich to Durness. The most Northerly Corbett is Beinn Spionnaidh.

These are two Corbetts I never appreciated in my youth. There a long way North to these hills. I only heard of the crash site of the Mosquito from a story of some metal and wood found not far from the summit of Cranstakie. I took several trips to these hills and the crash site was tricky to find in poor weather. It’s a great navigation exercise to locate it and pay your respects.

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito is a British twin-engined, shoulder-winged, multirole combat aircraft, introduced during the Second World War.

Unusual in that its frame was constructed mostly of wood, it was nicknamed the “Wooden Wonder”,or “Mossie”.Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, nicknamed it “Freeman’s Folly”, alluding to Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman, who defended Geoffrey de Havilland and his design concept against orders to scrap the project.[In 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. It’s role in the war is very underestimated and the role it played I feel was very underrated. What an aircraft and they were so versatile.

The Mosquito

Cranstakie and Beinn Spionnaidh 

These two quartzite-topped Corbetts are the most northerly mountains in Britain. Together they give a rough but enjoyable hillwalk; the views are every bit as good as might be guessed from their position. Cranstackie is the most distinctive of the two peaks, whilst Beinn Spionnaidh has the most open outlook of the north coast.

Beinn Spionnaidh is the northernmost peak in Britain over 2500 feet. A whaleback ridge of quartzite scree, it offers unique views of the north coast.It’s neighbour another Corbett Cranstackie is a mountain of 801 m in Sutherland, the northwestern tip of the Scottish Highlands. It is a Corbett located west of Loch Eriboll and northeast of Foinaven. Like Foinaven and Beinn Spionnaidh to the northeast, its top is covered with loose, broken quartzite.

Photo taken in 2000.

On this hill is the wreckage of a de Havilland Mosquito Mk.IV DZ486 of No.618 Squadron, RAF, crashed on Cranstackie NC 350560 at 2000 feet near Durness on the 5th April 1943 while on a bombing exercise from Skitten Mosquito DZ486 – Flew into hill while on a bombing exercise .The aircraft is reported to have flown over Durness and Balnakeil before turning south and flying down the glen towards Cranstackie. 5.4.1943

Crew : F/O (124.814) Donald Louis PAVEY (pilot) RAFVR – killed 

Sgt (1220369) Bernard Walter STIMSON (obs) RAFVR – killed.

I have visited this site on 3 occasions its a grand hill and enjoyed looking for the wreckage not easy in the days before GPS. 

Crash site details – NC 350560 ROUGH GRID REF:,
I would appreciate an updated reference for the crash site and any photos.

Please remember that these hills are special in many ways.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides | Leave a comment

Stac Pollaidh another great wee mountain. Poems, climbing and superb views. Mountain in miniature.

The drive up from Ullapool on the North West Coast to Stac Pollaidh is still breath-taking despite the North Coast 500. Before this you could stop and see these wonderful peaks rising above the wild moors. Nowadays the solitude can be broken by a fleet of cars or vans on the road in peak season. The wonderful poet Norman MacCaig sums it up beautifully – why was I not taught about this man at school.

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 Pollaidh
Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,
Canisp — a frieze and
a litany”


Assynt Coigach : There are some great peaks in this wild area. Often you will meet only a few folk. I have been so lucky to walk and climb in this area for many years. In any weather it’s always worth it. I remember my first trip up to the North West I was astounded by these mountains as we arrived in Ullapool. I was a Munro bagger and saw little else but Munro’s in these early days. To see the classic shapes of the mountains all different. The light is superb ever changing no matter what time of year. Yet if you get a day in winter it’s exceptional on these hills.

Stac Pollaidh Steep (mountain by the pool 612 metres) – many do not climb the true summit but just to be on the ridge with its sandstone pinnacles and views of the sea and Myriad of Lochans. Add to that the views on a great day this hill may be small in stature but big in my heart. I have had great days here scrambling and rock climbing it’s an also a grand wander round the mountain on a good path.

Stac Pollaidh days

The true summit includes a rock move that stops a few the famous “Bad step” care needs to be taken here. There are good holds on the right hand side but remember you have to down climb this on your return. Yet this is so worthwhile and to spend a night on the summit and watch the sun set and rise is in my mind is wonderful. The Far East top is also an interesting scramble.

Climbing – early ascent by RAF Kinloss MRT of this pinnacle.

The summit crags of this distinctive and beautiful little mountain provide excellent quick-drying climbs, up to 100m in length. The pinnacles offer a good scramble with exceptional views. The sandstone can be very rounded and there is lots of grit about and like any mountain check your holds!

On the Bad Step.

I have rock climbed here on several occasions and there are plenty of routes of all grades. In a good winter a traverse of the hill is fun I also had some fun on a couple of ice routes which were interesting. I have met some famous photographers and their clients on very early starts waiting patiently for sunrise. The view of the lochans and the sea is one of the best. This is a mountain to me that keeps on giving.

Many years ago we did a training exercise on the main cliff. It was interesting with a stretcher and casualty and a few loose sandstone blocks crashing about. It was serious learning on that day. I have also done a couple of call outs here as this wee hill can bite if your not careful. Please keep to the paths as the erosion is fairly bad with the sandstone and weathering can ruin the paths if care is not taken.

Nowadays there is a lovely well pathed walk round the hill passing many of the hills features. It is well maintained and a lovely short wander on a late afternoon just before sunset. It’s a grand first mountain to introduce a “want to” be climber it is a short day but one to show them a bit of scrambling. Off course don’t forget your Fish and chips in Ullapool at the end of the day. Perfection?

Lots of great routes in this great book:

Probably the most significant guidebook to Scottish hillwalking in recent times, this handsomely illustrated book from The Scottish Mountaineering Club describes the recommended routes on The Grahams & The Donalds. The Grahams is a list of 224 Scottish hills between 2000ft (610m) and 2500ft (672m) in height and was complied by Fiona Torbet (nee Graham) and Alan Dawson in 1992. The Donalds is a list of 140 Scottish hill summits above 2000ft (610m) in the Scottish Lowlands and was compiled by Percy Donald in 1935. This is the first and only colour definitive guidebook to The Grahams & The Donalds and follows in the footsteps of the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s best selling guidebooks to The Munros and The Corbetts. There are colour location maps of each group, together with their neighbouring hills, plus 175 detailed colour route maps and over 250 detailed descriptions, including links to other hills. The guidebook is illustrated by 320 colour photographs of the hills. There are Gaelic hill name translations plus an indexed list of Grahams and Donalds in height order, together with a full standard index. Edited by Rab Anderson & Tom Prentice and written by some of the foremost authorities on the Scottish mountains.

Comments and photos welcome .

Posted in Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Quinag – another classic mountain with 3 Corbett’s and some incredible climbs and memories.

Those who know their mountains will understand that Quinag is a magnificent mountain. Any mountain containing 3 Corbett’s summits is incredible. The summits Spidean Coinich, Sail Gharbh & Sail Ghorm Quinag will never let you down in my opinion. In summer it’s a cracking peak with views to the sea that are outstanding and that’s some Statement from those who know these North West mountains. The most Westerly summit has outstanding views of the lochs and sea. In winter it’s a different mountain and you will rarely see anyone else. Yet the many cliffs have some incredible climbs on the sandstone tiers.

Walk Highlands sums it up : “Quinag is a magnificent and complex mountain with three summits attaining Corbett status. The ascent of all three is one of the finest hillwalks in Scotland, with fine peaks, dramatic ridges and stunning views. If the full walk is too much, the ascent of the first peak (with a return the same way) is a short and fairly straightforward hillwalk with rewards out of all proportion to the effort involved. The mountain is under the stewardship of the John Muir Trust.

TERRAIN

Mostly good hill paths. Mountainous terrain with some very steep ground but only a minimal amount of scrambling.”

Wee Bull Turner “on Quinag. 

Near Miss on Quinag :

I always loved being up on the North West coast on the hills,climbing and away from the crowds. There is little better than introducing some “young rockstars” to real climbing away from the “climb by numbers” of the popular crags. I was at RAF Leuchars at the time and we would raid Kinloss’s area . Often we would wander on these hardly climbed cliffs. The only problem was you could get the full “mountaineering experience” of loose rock and route finding. The day this photo was taken I think we were supposed to be on a route on Quinag. What a place to be pick your line and have a look.

Pinnacle on Quinag. From old MRT calendar

We got to the top of a pinnacle when I was belaying I heard a crash then a huge rock came crashing down. The smell of the sulphur and the fear gripped me. Lucky I was on a small ledge where I had adjusted the belay a bit. As the rock passed where I had been it missed I knew I was lucky another of my 9 lives gone. Yet what a day on the sandstone what an adventure and yet it could have been all so different. Life is about adventure and those who love exploring will enjoy this place . 

From (Wee Bull ) Stephen Turner – I can still remember that moment in vivid detail, time seemed to pass at a fraction of normal speed. Me on a stance on one foot and holding on with one hand being pushed and swinging to one side as a giant boulder slid straight at me. Thinking I have killed Heavy and at the very least I’m about to have my hand crushed before I fall. I recall the smell of smoke coming from all the sparks from that boulder as it tumbled down the hill, which seemed to go on forever. Then as casual as you like Heavy appears from along the ledge he was belaying me on. Turns around and tells everybody “That’s why you always have an extendable belay”.

This large and complicated mountian has several cliffs that give worthwhile winter and summer routes. Despite its height it tends to hold snow well.

The steep north face of Sail Garbh is an impressive cliff, excellent in winter but too low to freeze frequently. The climbing is often wintrier than appears from below though.

I last climbed the 3 Corbett’s a few years ago on my own. I was met by a Broken Spectre on the ridge and fresh snow. As I came out of the mist this was my view!

Winter Quinag

On the ridge it was a cracking day very icy but felt so remote. It was such a great day to be out and I had a great look at some of the cliffs and the new winter climbs. Sadly the paths had a lot of erosion in places but the ridge was straightforward and the bitter wind made you keep going with few stops. Getting back to the car 6 hours later my face felt blasted by the wind but what a day. The views out to the sea to the West and the wild North make this an exceptional place to be.

Quinag another mountain of so many memories.

This Corrie brought back many memories but this was of a good friend who was the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team Leader Phil Jones was killed in a wind slab avalanche on February 3 1991.

Phil Jones – Assynt MRT ( photo Assynt MRT)

I was just coming home from running the annual winter course for the RAF mountain rescue Teams 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. When the news broke that it was Phil it was a terrible tragedy as I knew Phil and the Assynt team well and cannot imagine that happening during a training exercise in such a remote area.

I went to the funeral in Lochinver a very sad and difficult day and still miss Phil who was a great help to me in that wonderful area in the far North of Scotland. It took a long time for the Assynt Team to get over this tragedy. We climbed together and Phil was always showing us new cliffs and crags and some of the many rarely climbed classic routes in the area. It was 25 years ago since Phil died in that lovely but savage Corrie of Seanna Braigh and as the rain and mist came down on my walk out I had a wee thought for him and his family.

An amazing place with so many varying memories, the peace and quiet was incredible and the hills so green and the heather coming into bloom made this a great walk out even in the torrential rain.

There was a small cairn on I am sure Quinag just of one  of the beleachs/ tops with a great view of the wild Assynt that Phil loved and I visited it not long after the funeral.

Can anyone give me a Grid Reference of it please?

This was from my Blog 21 Aug 2011

Phil Jones photos Assynt MRT.
The late Phil Jones Team Leader of Assynt MRT – photo Assynt MRT

I went to the funeral in Lochinver a very sad and difficult day and still miss Phil who was a great help to me in that wonderful area in the far North of Scotland. It took a long time for the Assynt Team to get over this tragedy.We climbed together and Phil was always showing us new cliffs and crags and some of the many rarely climbed classic routes in the area.  It was 25 years ago since Phil died in that lovely but savage Corrie of Seanna Braigh and as the rain and mist came down on my walk out I had a wee thought for him and his family.

An amazing place with so many varying memories, the peace and quiet was incredible and the hills so green and the heather coming into bloom made this a great walk out even in the torrential rain.

There was a small cairn on I am sure Quinag just of one  of the beleachs/ tops with a great view of the wild Assynt that Phil loved and I visited it not long after the funeral.

Can anyone give me a Grid Reference of it please?

This was from my Blog 21 Aug 2011

The Assynt Mountain Rescue Team is still going strong from its forming in 1977 . Assynt Mountain Rescue works with the Police, Coastguard and other agencies in Sutherland and Caithness, volunteering to provide search and rescue support. Assynt Mountain Rescue can be on call any time, any day, and in any type of weather. All the Assynt Mountain Rescue team members are volunteers who share a love for hill walking, mountaineering, rock climbing, snow and ice-climbing, caving and generally being in the outdoors.

We rely on voluntary support and funding to provide this service. We work out of two bases – our main rescue post is at Inchnadamph, and we have a mobile unit at Thurso.

Posted in Corbetts, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 2 Comments

More Classic smaller mountains: Fionaven the Reay Forest North – West Sutherland.

I have promised a pal that we will climb the Corbett Fionaven she has been waiting to climb in for a while. I hope next May when I am fit enough still to climb a big mountain after my health recovers. Its up in the North West beyond Laxford Bridge on the A838. I love this mountain been very lucky to climb it about 10 times. It is spectacular and can be seen for miles the shattered quartzite makes the hill look white and in winter it’s a wonderful day. It’s a long day and if you combine a climb with the ridge and its tops you will find it hard going. I love the names of this hill Gannu Mor, Lord Reay’s seat, A’ Cheir Gorm, Creag Urbhard. Loch Dionard and Strath Dionard. It is a place a love with many great days spent her. In the early days we would add the Corbett Arkle to the day, it was rush, rush, rush in these days. How daft we were. The last tine I was on Fionaven it was a slow day but I loved looking into these wild Corries and the vast expanses of wildness.

MAP

unro, Foinaven is – regardless of status – a truly magnificent mountain. A complex massive of narrow, shattered quartzite ridges, Foinaven gives a memorable expedition. To me it can be a great long hill day and the very fit can add it along with Arkle. It was always another special hill way before some of my team mates pals had backed it in the Grand National at odds of 100/1 in 1967.

Fionaven falls twelve feet short of the required 3,000ft for Munro status – and is all the better for it! It is a long and complex hill with many hidden secrets in winter a fine traverse. The views are superlative and it’s a massive amount of rock and shattered Corrie’s that with the view to the sea and the huge moors this is the wild North. It now has an Estate road that takes you in to Strath Dionard and Loch Doinard that you can cycle in. In the very early days there was no such access. There was a no bikes sign but as the track I was told the road was partly funded by SNH I wonder if it’s still inforce or even legal?

Foinaven is a range in itself, offering an abundance of wild and characterful terrain to explore. That said, the track down Strath Dionard has somewhat tamed that wild feeling “Despite the track the mountain’s location at the extremity of the northern mainland will hopefully ensure its quiet demeanour remains intact. The scale and complexity of some of the cliffs only becomes apparent once you are stood beneath them. There is a lifetimes worth of exploring to do here – assuming you are not easily spooked by loose or unstable rock!” SMC Guide

Northern Highlands North (SMC)

Edited by Andy Nisbet

The first of three comprehensive guides detailing the rock and ice climbs of the Northern Highlands. An indispensable guide covering the climbing north of Inverness from Beinn Dearg to the north coast and eastwards to the Wick sea cliffs. Also includes Orkney and Shetland. Covers the popular cliffs at Reiff and Ardmair.

This is an SMC climbers’ guidebook, published by Scottish Mountaineering Press.

£25.00

This was a place I loved the old classic Corriemulzie Mountaineering Club Guide of 1966  a rock and Ice Guide to Easter Ross, this guide that I still have gave me some great ideas of climbing in this area.  Some of the great names put up routes here, Lovat, Weir, Clough Sullivan, Park, Tranter and Rowe.   It had a history in the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team; we had to visit this wild place.

I climbed here a lot in the mid 70’s we had a long day on the routes South Ridge Right Hand section it was a modest 300 metre VDIFF it was long loose and tricky route finding. The RAF Kinloss Team had put up a few routes in the past and we followed a tradition from the 50’s. It was the Team Leaders Pete McGowan last weekend we climbed another route and got back about 0100. I remembered the walk out in bright Moonlight and seeing the fish in the river by torchlight. It was an introduction to big loose mountain routes and a huge experience for me. Next day we were up Ben Kilbrek no stopping us then. I am sure there was a big accident where two climbers were killed here in the 60’s and that put a few off climbing here? The late Blyth Wright told me of these stories many years ago.

This was from my diary “I remember having a fun day but lots of crazy route finding and near misses with loose blocks and the late Jim Green missing me with a huge one that crashed down beside me. The smell of cordite stays with you as the rocks smash down the cliff. The climbing gear in these days was limited, protection basic and we had big bags and big boots it was a scary day but what a place to be. It was along climb 1000 foot but so many variations were possible and our route finding was basic. Thinking back it was a massive learning curb and a big serious place to be, Jim must have smoked 50 fags on that route.

The walk out was long and seemed to go on for ever as we then did the traverse of the mountain.

Another was in the early 80’s – I was just back from North Wales at Valley and back in Scotland. We had very big bags and a wild VS route with a very young Pam Ayres of about 1000 feet loose in places and we had a shower of rain making the rock very slippy. On the summit we sunbathed and I fell asleep. When I woke Pam had the rope and the rock gear in his bag he did not realise we still had the ridge and a long walk out ahead. Another time (We even took a boat into the loch by Sea king for the Estate many years ago and after we put it into the loch climbed all day. Was that cheating? ) We did many more routes over the years and never saw anyone on the cliffs. The winter potential was incredible and we climbed an ice fall with the late Mark Sinclair in the early 80,s. I know that the late Andy Nisbet and others did some wild climbing here on the main cliff. I took a few of the young rock jocks in to the cliffs and they learned about loose rock and mountain routes.

This was a route I did a few times it was classic scramble with a big walk in.

“Almost at the top of the country now, and we visit the beautiful Foinaven. Wild, rugged & remote (once you’ve left the NC500 superhighway), what more could you ask for? Our last route on the mainland is Ganu Mor Slabs (Grade 3 ***).

A huge plate of immaculate gneiss perched above one of the roughest and wildest corries in the country. Serious and committing but never technically hard, with views over hundreds of square miles of empty Sutherland. When combined with the (almost as good) North Face of Cnoc Duail and the Lower Coire Duail Slabs it makes a superb scrambling day.”

In winter it is an incredible place with so much to climb for the modern winter climber but remember you are a long way from home, be careful and have fun. You will be far from the winter crowds but that’s what makes this mountain classic.

https://www.smc.org.uk/publications/scrambling

To me it was a classic scramble that I was glad I had a rope with me at times.

Sadly I cannot find any photos on the cliff but I will spend some time going through my old slides they must be there.   The views of the far North of Scotland are unique and it’s a place despite its length to savour before the big walk out. I once had a sunset as we walked of it was a magical experience.  

In April 2009 hill runner Manny Gorman set out on a continuous, unmotorised journey around the 219 Corbetts – Scottish mountains between 2500-3000 feet high – covering a staggering 2600 miles & 420,000 feet of ascent, by foot, cycle and yacht, in a record 70 days. It was just supposed to be a fun adventure holiday for him and his partner Brenda, but the wildest Scottish weather, complicated logistics, calamitous injuries and a final vicious twist in the tale ensured it was one of the toughest journeys possible within our own shores.

Posted in Books, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Another wee Classic Mountain – The Cobbler 884 metres (2,900 ft).

The Cobbler is another iconic hill. Though not a Munro its a Corbett don’t let that put this hill of your hill days. I climbed it as a very young lad (about 10 years old) with my Dad and Mum. I remember the summit scramble being so intimidating to a wee boy and being so pleased I did it.

The summit shot.

As John MacKenzie writes in “Classic Rock” this often missed by many for the bigger hills of Glencoe and Ben Nevis. It is a hill steeped in history with many famous Glasgow climbers cutting there teeth here on the schist which when wet is exciting . There are routes of all grades here and on a dry day a superb cliff.

The Cobbler – from the SMC Guidebook a classic.

The Cobbler – also known as Ben Arthur – has the most distinctive outline of any mountain in the Southern Highlands and makes a fantastic shorter hillwalk. Extremely popular, the path on the way up has been improved in recent years and once past the initial zig zags makes a pleasant ascent. This route explores both main peaks of the Cobbler before descending on a rugged path between the two. Alternatively the route can be made easier by returning the same way. Walk Highlands There are many caves and howffs that have a history of there own. Spending the night in a howff – a cave or other natural refuge – has been a magical experience for many walkers and climbers down the years.

Punsters crack.

I remember a very easy climb with Teuch Brewer that took us onto the summit ridge in June 1972. it was the South East Ridge. The lower two-thirds are mostly walking. Best started from the base of the buttress proper (some rock moves), or easy grass ledges round to the left. Then fun but avoidable moves over large boulders at a minor col. Up to a short grade 3 rock step, and walk to base of the obvious crux wall, climbed by a quality, exposed crack and ledges. Finish with airy grass ledge walking, with an optional short wall. First ascent : G Thomson & party Oct/1889. I was so pleased after that easy climb. I had just joined the Rescue team at Kinloss. Years later I was to climb here about 20 times here. A few times in the rain being really scared as my feet slipped about. I wore socks on my feet one day in the pouring rain on Recess Route . We took many of our young rock stars here the VS routes made you think.

Photo the Classic Punsters Crack.

We had some superb routes long day’s moving from route to route and even a few where we were picked up after a climb by the Wessex helicopter. Cheating !

The Cobbler and Munro’s.

Another classic day was a route on the Cobbler, Ben Narnain, and Ben Ime and Ben Vane. A lot of height as well and if you added in Spearhead Arete it was a hard day.

Photo – Wessex on the Cobbler – Our Yellow Taxi.

I hope if you climb the Cobbler you have as much fun as me. What a great hill.

Posted in Corbetts, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing | 1 Comment

Great wee hills: Ben Stack – Sutherland.

Situated in the far North of scotland in Sutherland this mountain is to me iconic. I have climbed it several times twice in winter and the views on a good day are magnificent. You rarely meet many folk on it and though near the road it’s a great short day. It lies southeast of Laxford Bridge and northwest of Loch More along the A838 road, and just west of Loch Stack.

This mountain is so shapely though not big on stature it’s still a real mountain. So many miss it on there journey to better known mountains in the area. I did it as an afterthought and loved it the views are outstanding of the sea and the vastness of this area. It is surrounded by cliffs but the path up it takes you on to the ridge and on a good day the views expand as you climb, There are great views of Foinaven and Arkle the hill can look intimidating but there is a route through the crags.

A grand hill : Ben Stack is a mountain in Sutherland, in the northwest of Scotland. It is 721 m (2,365 ft) high. It lies southeast of Laxford Bridge and northwest of Loch More along the A838 road, and just west of Loch Stack.

Note – Apparently Tolkien’s inspiration for Mordor……. Great hill Lorriane

Ben Stack photo Babs MMC

Walk Highlands – “Ben Stack is a very fine and shapely mountain rising in splendidly above Loch Stack. Its ascent is a short hillwalk, usually begun from the southeast with a short bog at the start. There is a steeper alternative approach from the north. In winter it’s a superb short day though I have only climbed it twice. My pal Angus Jack was up for a sunset in winter and took a great photo looking towards the sea as the sun set.

Many years ago when I was on duty in the ARCC when we received a call in August 2005 for helicopter assistance. 

The news was that former Cabinet minister Robin Cook, 59, has died after collapsing while hill walking in north-west Scotland on Ben Stack. 

It is believed he was taken ill while walking with his wife Gaynor near the summit of Ben Stack, at around 1420 BST, Northern Constabulary said.

Mr Cook was flown by coastguard helicopter to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where he was pronounced dead, said an NHS Highland spokesman. 

Mr Cook quit as Commons leader in March 2003, in protest over the war in Iraq.

Following Mr Cook’s death, former friends and colleagues paid tribute to him. 

The Conservative leader Michael Howard said: “He is a very great loss. He was someone who made an immense contribution to our political life.”

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: “Scottish, British and international politics have lost a good and gifted man.

It was more than three hours before police confirmed his death, as it is believed family members were being informed. 

That was a busy day.


Posted in Mountaineering, Friends, Recomended books and Guides, Enviroment, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Well being | Leave a comment

There is so much love and kindness about. The world is not full of selfish uncaring people.

I have been falling apart recently a hard life in the mountains takes it’s toll. Yet I would not change a minute of my life. The latest was a cyst removed from my head in Aberdeen’s ARI. Dan Carrol took me as I could not drive after it. It was a bit deeper than I thought and is taking a few days to heal. I must admit I felt pretty rough after it. I now have to wait 6 – 8 weeks to get the results.

Recently I have gone from one medical problem to another. Each had taken a bit out of me. How I miss the hills but I will be back soon

So many have been so kind and caring. I have had soup, apple crumble and so many kind words from folk. Thank you all

This is a time of all we hear about those who make this world a dangerous place. The selfishness that abounds amongst the so called leaders? Many chase the publicity and the tribal workings of politics from all sides. I am ashamed to say we have food banks in every town and this in 2022.

It would be great if everyone worked together of all parties for the good of the country to get it back on its feet.

Yet I have seen so many kind people many with little money helping others. The kindness I have felt the last few days is wonderful. So my thoughts are don’t get down listening to the news just think what we can do for others.

Thank you all for your kindness and thoughts. I love your jokes about my head it keeps me laughing. It’s easy to get down but the love and kindness from others is heartwarming.

I am so lucky having so many good folk in my life . Please look after others we need each other more than ever. Money is not everything and you cannot take it with you. That old quotation “ there are no pockets on a shroud” is so true. Think what can we do for others. A kind word, a hug mean so much.

My head like a scorpion.

Thanks again for all your kindness, look after each other.

Posted in Friends, Health, Mountaineering, Well being | 8 Comments

Remembrance Week – A forgotten story of the Wellington crash on Geal Charn near Ben Alder.

To me this is an incredible story not well known but worthy of being acknowledged as an incredible survival story of one of the crew.

This crash site is in extremely remote country access can be wild in winter. The route to this site is up an Estate road from Dalwhinnie just of the A9 or from Corrour Station. Many nowadays Mountain bike up here. The bothy At Culra is closed due to Asbestos 2019 and during COVID . To visit in a day is a long expedition and care should be taken these are tricky mountains.

One crew member survived in mid-winter and went for help. It is a story that few have heard. Wreckage can be found on Geal-Chàrn, and then at various points downward on the slopes of Leacann na Brathan, in the vicinity of Ben Alder.

The crash : The crew, from B Flight of No.20 OTU, were on a day navigation training flight from RAF Lossiemouth on 10 /12/1942. The planned route was from base to a point some 30 miles east of Peterhead – Crieff – Friockheim, near Arbroath – Maud, near Peterhead – base.

At some point the aircraft deviated from this route and at about 15:00 while heading in an easterly to north easterly direction (some 40 miles off course) flew into Leacann na Brathan on the south eastern flank of Geal-charn which at the time was snow covered and enveloped in blizzard conditions.

The only survivor of the crash, Sgt Underwood, after checking for signs of life from his crew made his way off the mountain and arrived at Corrour Lodge in a very poor state. This journey after the trauma he had been involved in is an incredible feat of strength in full on winter. Even to modem mountaineers this is a wild area and there was a tragedy here a few years later. 

He was taken in and the next day transferred to hospital in Fort William. I cannot imagine trying to get off the mountain alone high up in winter from this area and all your crew are killed.

How Sgt Underwood managed this is a tale of survival and huge mental courage this is one of the wildest areas and remote hill country in the UK, Sadly little was known of this tale as in 1942 it was the dark days of the war and I would imagine crashes etc were fairly restricted information.

One can only think what was in his head as he headed down to Corrour and what he said to the keeper and his family who live in this remote place?

After the aircraft had failed to return from its exercise a search was organised but nothing was found before the report of the rear gunner reaching Corrour and help was received.

After the aircraft had failed to return from its exercise a search was organised but nothing was found before the report of the rear gunner reaching Corrour and help was received. 

The recovery operation eventually began in July 1943 with a camp being established some distance from the site, assistance was rendered by army personnel of the 52nd Division, Scottish Command. 

They provided 25 pack mules and a 3 ton lorry. With these most of the wreckage was removed from the site, but today a reasonable amount still remains. 

They provided 25 pack mules and a 3 ton lorry. With these most of the wreckage was removed from the site, but today a reasonable amount still remains.

It was here that much of the aircraft was brought down by mules and I am sure that is why the wreckage is there on the path? I am sure this is where the wheel came from as the road passes the point where I used to see the aircraft wheel. Please be aware this is a tricky wild remote area if you plan to visit this is where the snow holds on for a long time.

Grid Ref: 

NN 48049 73196
NN 48072 73585
NN 48223 73680

The crew :

This is dedicated to the crew and the amazing courage and determination of Sgt Underwood. If anyone can give me more information on this incident please do .

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | 1 Comment