An interesting night with Clive Rowland “Wee chat” about an epic on the Ogre in Pakistan.

The Ogre – Baintha Brakk or The Ogre is a steep, craggy mountain, 7,285 metres high, in the Panmah Muztagh, a subrange of the Karakoram mountain range. It is located in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan: 7,285 metres: Karakoram

First ascent: Doug Scott, Chris Bonington

I have known Clive for many years he had a Climbing shop in Inverness and was always good to us lads with little cash. At the time he was an incredible mountaineer yet always interested in what we were up to. I got to know him well when my mate was killed on Lochnagar and he helped us a lot, there was no fuss just help and advice. He is a true Mountaineers mountaineer and few in his local pub have a clue of his past achievements. So last night was specail.

The Ogre in Pakistan holds a huge interest to mountaineers especially on the first ascent when Doug Scott broke both legs high up on the descent. What happened next was an epic of survival and Clive Rowland was a big part of the team that got Doug off the hill safely after 10 days on the mountain.

It is a great story of survival at high altitude and though it was written up in 1977/78 in books it is still an incredible story. There was a bit of press on the story at the time but imagine this tale nowadays with the Media coverage we have.

Clive told the tale in his own unassuming way and this was part of a series of the “Bandstand Bleathers” in the Braeval Hotel in Nairn for charity.

These were the Golden Years of British Alpine and Himalayan mountaineering. The world was a different place then so was the media interest. I so enjoyed the story so laid back and Clive’s dry sense of humour. Not many there realise what a man he is and what tales he has to tell.

He was asked “How did he get home” – he drove back via Afghanistan which was an epic on its own.

That’s another story?

We all hope maybe Clive will get his book finished there will be some stories in that.

Thanks to those who organised it: the Braeval Hotel and of course Clive and Fiona for making this an unforgettable night.

Posted in Books, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Thinking of my Mum – 40 years on.

This is always a hard week as every year at this time as the years go by its still the same today as it was when my Mum passed away.  This is the anniversary of my Mum’s passing she died in 1980 I still miss her every day, she was as all Mum’s are a special lady.  As you get older and wiser you appreciate her more and more. She raised 5 children washed cooked and looked after us, how she managed is incredible.  She was also the minister’s wife and worked so hard for the Church throughout her life which was never easy. These were the days when she was at the beck and call of not only her family but a needy church.  As the youngest of 5 children I was spoiled in every way, always in a scrape or trouble and being a Ministers son a bit of a rebel. Mum died of Leukaemia and right up to end told my sisters to keep it from us and even though I phoned her every week she still spoke as though all was well. I was at RAF Valley in North Wales in a relationship and with my job as full – time Deputy Mountain Rescue Team leader she thought I had enough on. It was only on her last few days I was told to get home as Mum was dying. It was a huge shock to me to see this lady so frail and yet not a moan though she was in great pain. It was a sad few days.     

My Mum was always there for me and we had a great bond through her love and care! She loved her family, their kids, the church, the mountains, football the tennis and dedicated her life to her family her grandchildren and as always the church. Money was really tight but we never wanted for love and she brought us all up almost single handed as Dad pursued his life as a minister. In these days he visited most of his congregation at night and we hardly saw him. During my wild years my Mum saw something in me as Mum’s do and as I grew up we got a lot closer! When I went and joined the RAF she loved that I was in Mountain Rescue though she worried about me daily as only Mum’s can do! We spoke every week on the phone as most of my leave was spent chasing mountains I was a rare visitor home!

All these years on I can never get these times back and like many regret my selfishness but that can be what happens when you work so far from home.  I wonder how many who read this sadly feel the same? At least you can do something about it.

https://heavywhalley.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/1936-my-mum-xxx.jpg
My Mum – sadly I never got her looks!

I rushed home on the train arriving in the early morning and walked with my dog from Kilmarnock to Ayr money was tight. I was shocked poor Mum was so frail and yet every week on the phone she never said a thing or complained and just listened to me and gave me advice. Poor Mum I later found out was in terrible pain for a long time but never moaned, she was incredible during these last few months. She told me to get my brother back from Bermuda and then she died shortly after he arrived home. We got some special time only two days together near the end and she was so upset she told me that she had little to leave us a monetary sense. Yet she had given us a lifetime of love and care and that is what matters. In this modern life I despair at times when I families ripped apart after a loved ones death over money and possessions. To me love, care and kindness is the greatest gift ever that parents can bestow on their kids.

The next few short days were awful and I think I was programmed to seeing so many tragedies in the mountains that it took me years to realise what had happened. Even at the funeral I was like a robot and had to rush back to work next day to North Wales. How I miss her and wish I could have done more for her and when in trouble or down she is still always still there for me!

Sadly it took me many years to grieve for her.

She was such a beautiful person in every aspect who loved us all yet had time to guide and be there for us. I shared so many secrets with her over my life and she was always there to listen when I needed! How she would have loved to see her grandchildren and their kids now. I would have loved her to have met all the great Grandchildren and Lexi and Ellie Skye and shared their lives! I also hope I got some of her good points I got the love flowers from my Mum so every few weeks I buy some or pick them and they always remind me of her. I have her deep love of the wild places and still feel her with me when out and about, sadly what would she have made of today’s world, I wonder?

She loved her tennis and would have been so proud of Andy Murray getting fit again and his brother in the tennis world and I believe she watches them in heaven and is praying for Andy to get well. I have had a few near misses in life in the mountains and I am sure she was there with me giving me that extra drive and push to get out of a situation. She told me how much she worried about this all-consuming aspect of my life.

Mum loved the Mountains and wild places.

Please give your Mum and Dad a hug or a visit or a call we all owe them so much they make us who we are. Mum I miss you as we all do thanks for being there for me. I am off to get some flowers for the house and for my friend Wendy, she reminds me so much of you every way.

Last year was incredible I wish I could have told her about my trip to America and the meeting of so many kind folk. So many reminded me of my mum one 81 year old who had lost her daughter 30 years ago in the Lockerbie Tragedy was so like my Mum. She radiated love and care and had no bad words to say despite what the world had thrown at her and her family, She spoke to us all and  gave us all a hug and I had a cry I am sure my Mum saw it and was happy for us.

Yet every year I miss her more and those I have lost including my two sister Jenifer and Eleanor who I lost this year. As you get older you think a lot more I suppose you have time it’s always worth looking after them every time you see them. Always make time for each other and learn and love form those we owe so much to.  

Last Sunday in the Church that Mum and Dad loved in Ayr there are two plaques on the wall dedicated to both my Mum and Dad. Flowers were placed this year in memory of them both and I was sent a photo it was a lovely thought.

Flowers in the Church in Ayr in memory of Mum and Dad.

Thanks Mum XXX

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

The Snowdon Charity Bike Race over the horseshoe including Crib Goch. Memories.

Snowdon Bike Race over the horseshoe including Crib Goch. Memories and history.

The Snowdon Horseshoe.

When I arrived in North Wales in 1978/79 as full time Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader of the Valley Team the Annual Snowdon Charity Bike Race was in full flow. It was an incredible event to raise money for local charities. The course was the classic round the Snowdon Horseshoe starting at Pen Y Pass onto Crib Goch and completing the horseshoe over Snowdon and Lliwedd and back to Pen Y Pass.. Each team in my era had 3 members and the bike had to be cycled at the end of the race at Pyn y Pass. Usually one team memeber carried the bike frame and the others the wheel on back packs.

Tom MacDonald Dave Booth, Pete Kay some did it in fancy dress.

For those who have never climbed The Snowdon Horseshoe Length: 11km   Height gain: 910m   Highest point: 1085m   Approx time: 5 – 6 hours  

The Snowdon Horseshoe is one of, if not the best ridge walk in Wales. Although there is not so much height gain as in some of the routes described, the terrain is highly interesting. The route should not be attempted by anyone with a fear of heights, since includes the knife-edge arête of Crib Goch, and for the same reason it should be avoided in high winds, and also in winter unless you are properly equipped and experienced. There is also a walk down a steep scree slope on the South East side of Snowdon.

The Classic picture of Dave Booth on Grib Goch ridge with the Bike frame on his back.

This is what I wrote in I think 1980 – “The Annual Snowdon Bike Race was won again by the RAF Valley team – Alaister Haveron, Dave Booth and Stan Owen beat the record by 19 minutes and the time of 1 hour 56 minutes for Crib Goch, Snowdon and Lliwedd and back to Pen Y Pass raising over £500 for charity was another great event.” Not a bad time I wonder what the record was later on? Anyone help.

I was amazed at the interest in the race which had been running for many years. Most of the RAF Teams took part and the American PJ. A few of the local civilian Mountain Rescue teams and our RAF helicopter crew from 22 Sqn entered and it was so competitive. The times of the winning team was impressive to carry a bike across a steep ridge.

The Start some took took it less seious.

I remember training a young team member who was a good runner by Chris Summerfield by taking him over the ridge twice a week running I was fit the and my Dog “Teallach” was even faster. It was to get him to know the route and move fast on the terrain I did a bit of running in these days. Our team leader Alaister Haveron was so committed to winning the race for the Valley team it was very competitive. These were great day out and raised a lot of money for local charity’s. We would also have a big party after it with all the teams involved.

Bike Race Nige Hughes and Eric Joyce note the frame and wheel carried separately

I am looking for memories photos of these incredible days. The race was stopped even though it was run early in the day for various reasons. Long before Health and Safety looking back were we all mad or were these the “Golden Years.”

1980 ? At the end putting the bike together to cycle in. Pete Kay and Arnie Palmer in action.

More info _ Ian Carltiledge – took part in the first Snowdon bike race. That is when these photos were taken, back in 1959. I recognise some of the participants in these photos. Bottom left – left to right – Johnnie Lees, Bob Pearson, Hovis Brown, K C Gordon and, I think, Ollie Harris. Bottom middle – JRL, Hovis and Bob Pearson and bottom right, riding the bike down from Crib Goch – Dick Newby! Correction! On checking with my old mate Vic Bray, the first Valley MRT bike race around the Snowdon horseshoe took place in 1958, not 1959 as I stated! There were two teams. The photos posted were of team A! Vic and I were in team B! I can’t remember who won!

1959 Bottom left – left to right – Johnnie Lees, Bob Pearson, Hovis Brown, K C Gordon and, I think, Ollie Harris On the ridge. RAF MR Service

Historical :Back in the early 70’s the ex RAF MRT Valley members held a Snowdon Bike race each year. Teams of 3 with a ‘bike’. The bike had to be ‘rideable’ at the start at Pen y Pass, at the summit of Snowdon and again at the finish at Pen y Pass. The route was the Horseshoe. We used to go round all the businesses in the area collecting money which was presented at the end to the accident unit at the old C&A Hospital in Bangor as we supplied them with many patients while we were on the Valley team. Teams would get the most minimalistic bike that could be ridden. They were dismantled for the carry round but one year a team of ex troops wore tween jackets, flat caps, nailed boots and got a RAF bike which they took round complete. Sterling chaps. Thanks to Don Willians for this information.

Johnie Lees in action what a man.

Any information would be great to get hold off and photos its well worth saving these incredible stories. Can you help?

The Bike complete ! Early days.

Most years as Alaister was running I helped with the safety cover on Crib Goch but I did it one year and we did well. I cut my hand in a fall on Crib Goch but what an event done in 2 hours I would be lucky to get round in 5 hours nowadays. These were fun days and so good to look back on.

A skinny Heavy with cut hand after the race.

Thanks for all the help with this piece any photos would be gratefully appreciated and any tales of the event.

Comments welcome.

Posted in Charity, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, History, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

An Winter Ascent of Central Gully Direct on Lliwedd, A Memorable Day.

This is the last of a series of articles by a pal Andy Watkins who wrote them up after being confined to a wheelchair after a being knocked off his bicycle. This last article is about a winter cliff in North Wales on the mountain cliff LIwedd. Its a huge mountain cliff over 1000 feet sweeping to the lake. It was a place for the early climbers preparing for the Alps. Its a huge cliff and though I never climbed here in winter myself but had a few wild days on the Classic Rock routes. We even did a Rescue here when another climber fell nearby its a serious place. In winter which in Wales can be fickle this is a wild face with some classic climbs. This is Andy’s account of the Classic Central Gully Direct. As usual its an understated account of a winter climb on a classic Welsh cliff.

An Winter Ascent of Central Gully Direct on Lliwedd, A Memorable Day.

The cliff. from Cold Climbs.

It must have been February 1987 when we drove, Gary Lewis and I, S. Wales to N. Wales in my 2cv. The forecast was good but there was no snow at the edge of the road.

I planned to do Central Gully Direct but there was no snow at Pen-Y-Pass, in the morning, so I thought my luck had deserted me. There was snow below Lliwedd though and things looked more promising. When we got to below the Direct there was a thin covering of ice and I decided to try it. The problem was that the ice was too soft to enable a secure placement. I led and got a poor runner at 50 ft. I advanced another 60 ft until I came to a steep slab beneath an overhang.

Here, the snow was even softer but I managed to get one placement with my trusty Simond Chacal, which I managed to mantelshelf onto. This put me below the overhang. I had just surmounted this when the rope came tight. The belay was 10 ft above me. There I was 100ft above a poor runner and I’d run out of rope.

What could I do but shouted down “Climb when you’re ready”.After a short interlude, Gary started climbing and I got to the, loose, spike for a welcome belay. Luckily neither of us fell off!

The gradient of the gully eased after this and we soloed to the top. Gary was effusive in his praise and said “that had been a lead that Mick Fowler would have been proud of “.

We returned to the SWMC hut in Deniolen and I basked in adulation.The next day Gary dragged me up Vector and some other E2s at Tremadoc, I forget which ones, but I will always remember that climb.

Note: Thanks Andy for these articles they were superb and many of your pals have read and enjoyed them I have put these together for you.

Peter White ( Chalky) Most of us have had epics on at least one of those ridges! A very understated account of an incredible achievement but that is Andy… absolute legend.

Bill Batson – I climbed with Andy on several occasions, both on rock and ice. Always an adventure of life on the edge. Stunning days in fabulous company.

Dougie Borthwick – That makes Tom & myself look very sedate…5hrs to do the same route.. in summer 😅. Nice memory of partying all night, doing the 4 ridges then drinking the Alt a Mhuillin dry 😂. Wonderful read 👍👍

Eric Joyce – A legend

Posted in Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Kept In The Dark, A night time ascent of Route Major Carn Etchachan the Cairngorms.

This is the third article of a series that a good pal wrote after a bicycle crash that has confined him to wheel chair for many years. Andy Watkins is an incredible man and I remember coming of the Cairngorms at the end of a long day on our Annual winter course. I was running it 10 days of worrying about the 30 – 40 troops plus some nasty call – outs. Wandering off a bit late off the hill we met Andy and Phil heading in to climb a big route in the Cairngorms at night. I asked him to drop in when he completed the route we were staying at Grantown on Spey.

The route was Route Major a 283 metre winter climb grade 4/5 a three star winter route on a huge cliff.

Route Major – from Cold Climbs.

The guide book says a complex route finding a classic winter route with good situations. Amazingly first climbed in 1957 by Tom Patey and M. Smith.

Kept In The Dark, – Andy Watkins

A Night time Ascent of Route Major

Phil Eastwood came in at the right time. I had done Route Major on Carn Etchachan three times before, so I knew the route well. However I’d never climbed it at night. We decided to climb it that very Friday night and collected our gear together accordingly, fitting new batteries into our head torches and making sure we had spares.

So that night we started walking at 5 o’clock, just as it was getting dark, it was February, so it got dark early. We met the RAF Mountain Rescue Winter Course, and they were most surprised to see us going in at that time.

They asked us if we were going to bivouac and were amazed, when we said, we were going to climb a grade IV/5 at night. The first pitches of Route Major are up two snow ramps, which we soloed to save time. It was fully dark by then as we geared up and put our head torches on, at the start of the difficulties.

The next pitch is up a thinly iced corner. This is mixed climbing at it’s best and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Then, with few problems route finding, we found ourselves below the crux. It is formed by a stepped, leftwards leaning, corner. This went OK and we soon found ourselves on the final pitches. From the top of the stepped corner, you traverse left, until the exit gully is reached and we were on top.

There was a full moon and broken cloud as we walked out, and drove back, more than ready for a long sleep.

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

Dicing with Death Feb 1990 – A winter Ascent of the Central Buttress of Beinn Eighe

This is the second of a series of 5 articles written by my pal Andy Watkins. Andy was sadly knocked of his bike many years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair. I knew Andy well he was a member of the RAF Mountain Rescue when I was in Valley North Wales and we met and climbed a lot. He moved up North at RAF Lossiemouth and was oneof a group who were pushing military climbing in the 80,s and 90’s. He travelled light on the hill never felt the cold and was always introducing many others youngsters into this crazy climbing game. His gear was basic. This is an article about a wonderful climb on that Torridon Giant Beinn Eighe. “Dicing With Death”

Intro Heavy Whalley – The Triple Buttresses of Beinn Eighe, located in the stunning Coire Mhic Fherchair and is one of the most impressive cliffs in Scotland. The sandstone buttresses are capped by large quartzite cliffs. There is an array of classic summer rock and steep mixed climbs as well as some long mountaineering journeys. Central Buttress (Winter) VI 7. I have climbed a few routes on Beinn Eighe in winter the classic Eastern Buttress stands out but after a long day on Central Buttress in summer it was well out of my ability. The Central Buttress was a classic of the day climbed by a formidable team of Alan Rouse and Alec MacIntyre in Feb 1978. These were folk we met a fair amount as the climbing world was a lot smaller then.

This is Andy’s Story.

The phone rang on the Thursday night. Nick Clements, my partner on this escapade, was free for the weekend. I finished at 12 o’clock, lunchtime, but Nick had to work until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was February 1990 and we arranged to go to Beinn Eighe to do the Central Buttress of Coire Mhic Fheachair.

Beinn Eighe Central Buttress – from the classic Cold Climbs.

It was featured in cold climbs but would it be in condition? We decided to go anyway, I’d never been in to Coire Mhic  Fheachair and the walk would do us good.

After driving across to Torridon, from Morayshire, on the Friday night, we had a drink in the Loch Maree hotel, before driving a short distance down the road and turning in for the night. There was no snow by the side of the road, and our prospects looked bleak. At the time, I was driving a Lada Niva, a hopelessly unreliable beast, which insisted on overheating given half a chance. It had the advantage however of the seats folding flat so that you could use them as a bed.

We woke the next morning to find a warm wind blowing. But this is Torridon, and you walk in from sea level. It might still be frozen higher up. We decided to look, and decide when we got there. We started walking. Initially there was no snow and it was not until just below the first tier, that we encountered any, and that was melting fast. Having walked in we were loath, not to try it. Accordingly, we set out on the first pitch.

The Triple Buttress of Bheinn Eighe can be divided into two tiers. The top were covered in ice but the lower tier was bare. We roped up and started climbing. Initially the rock was bare and we climbed in boots, only putting on crampons on the second tier.  

On the first tier, I was lay backing a crack, when the whole boulder came away and, bouncing over me, fell to the screes below. Nick was sure that I had fallen, but I managed to step back onto the ledge below. It was the size of a small car and it would have crushed me if it had hit me.

At the second tier, we had to put on crampons and, as we’d hoped, ice abounded. Nick led off in the gathering gloom. The second tier is made of quartz, the water flowing out over the non-permeable rock to form a series of iced grooves.

We climbed on, dispatching this section in two long pitches. It became fully dark, and we had to put on head torches. The last tier is provided the crux. Nick led this bit and I led the last pitch to the, perfectly flat, summit.

Here there was a moon, among scudding clouds, and we didn’t need our head torches.We headed down to the Loch Maree hotel and had a well-earned drink. It was before the days of 24 hour pubs, and I seem to remember having a lock in, drinking with the guests and talking to a man, still buzzing from doing the route. He just couldn’t understand what made us do it.

Only twenty hours before, when I had pulled off the big boulder, I had asked myself the same question. Was it in full winter condition?

Decide for yourself. It was harder if anything. All I know is I’d come very close to being crushed.

Thanks Andy another great tale.

Notes My pal Ron Walker wrote this after he an incident in the Cairngorms. Tip, Tap Test.

” Unfortunately loose rock and rubble is normal on mountain routes and is to be expected even on the most solid and well travelled line, treat every handhold and foothold as if it were loose because many are or will be in the future – so take care. Tip, Tap and Test with your hands and feet as you climb, remember the three T’s!”

This Classic book was a wonderful addition to climbing at the time first published in 1983 and became a bible for many. The essays on each route are wonderful, well worth getting hold of. Great days.

Posted in mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Winter Adventures – A day at the races on Ben Nevis Castle Ridge, Observatory Ridge, North East Buttress and Tower Ridge.

Winter Adventures

Andy Watkins – photo A. Watkins Collection.

This is a from a good pal who I climbed with many years ago. It is his birthday this week I was supposed to go down South to celebrate his birthday. Due to other family commitments I could not make it. My pal Andy Watkins sent a series of articles that he wrote.

This is the first in a series :

Andy Watkins on the Sword At Carn Eacheacan – photo Nick Clements

A Group Of Five Short Articles About Winter Climbing

Do you have climbing memories? I do. I can remember some climbs, the most hairy, the sketchiest, the best, classic conditions, or the worst, very vividly sometimes.

At other times, I struggle to piece together the details. But my climbing memories are important to me, and so there are times I rehearse particular memories, actively trying to remember what it was I did on a certain day.

There are “old climbers, and there are bold ones”, the saying goes, but few who are both, and so all climbers who don’t die get old and have memories. There are lots of climbers. That’s a lot of climbing memories. What happens to all those memories if we don’t actively remember them? Do they just get erased, like the old messages on our answer messages?

If I write down my best climbing memories, will I remember them better? Will you help me remember them? Here are five of my best:

“A Day At The Races”{setting the record straight)

My first story starts, as do all good stories, with a failure. At the end of March, it must have been 1992 or 1993, Nick Clement, Phil Caesley and myself failed in our first attempt to climb the four ridges of Ben Nevis in a day, managing only Castle Ridge, in foul weather, before admitting defeat and skulking off down the Tourist track. There was a big avalanche in Castle gully, which I remember as a cautionary signal for the day.

In good weather, Phil and myself returned to Ben Nevis the following weekend. We intended to climb all four ridges un-roped to save time. We had in our bags a spare jumper, a Gore-tex suit and some Twixs chocolate and Phil had a “gopping” Cream egg which was a real struggle to get down with a dry mouth. It was the first time I had taken a litre of water on the hill. On previous visits to hills I had carried a much smaller water bottle.

Phil admits the dehydration training seemed to work though.

We carried a single 9mm rope but, in the event, did not use it. I had done all the ridges before but Phil had only done Tower Ridge, Castle Ridge and North East Buttress leaving Observatory Ridge for this event.

We were both experienced winter climbers but Phil had only done a dozen routes. This included a solo of Point 5 gully so he was not a novice!

We started on Castle Ridge, which we despatched in double quick time, descending via the abseil posts, which we did every time due to the avalanche risk.

We then ascended Observatory Ridge with the Zero Gully finish, for speed reasons, as cramponing on steep neve’ is fast. Phil commented on the sustained nature of the route, what he actually said was very rude saying the route was ——- hard but this is a family magazine and the actual words are unprintable.  

Then we turned our attentions to NE Buttress, which we despatched in a very quick time. The only pitch that I remember is the 40ft corner pitch at the top of NE Buttress, and I’ve got a picture of Phil on the traverse in, the rest is a blur.

We descended via the Abseil posts for the last time to the foot of Tower Ridge for our “piece de resistance”. The average time is 5 hours. The first ascent, by Norman Collie, took 5 hours in 1894, a good time today.  It was our last route and we did it in 56 minutes, not our best time, we had done it in 53 minutes after doing Hadrian’s Wall, but we were to tired this day, hence the longer time.

We topped out to meet two climbers who’d just done Tower Ridge and said they’d just seen two climbers on Observatory Ridge and were suitably amazed when we told them it was us. The looks on their faces when we told them we’d done 4 ridges in a day had to be seen to be believed. They shared a can of Guinness with us to celebrate our achievement.

We descended the Tourist Track just as it was getting dark and drove to Onich, where the RAF Mountain Rescue team, from RAF Kinloss, were staying and I drank beer out of tins long into the night, while Phil slept like the dead.

“Heavy” Whalley, the Team Leader, said that he thought it was the first time that it had been done and I should write an article about it.

(D Whalley – Many of my team including me were on the Ben and had seen Andy and Phil and offered them a bed for the night if they made it or possibly a “stretcher” ride home. I was very worried about them all day. Yet when they arrived it was one of these nights. It was inspirational to all of us and sowed seeds in many of the younger troops what was possible)

It must be emphasised that conditions were perfect, we just followed in the footsteps of those that had gone before and we didn’t jump the Tower Gap, climbing down into it instead, but it was still a good day, especially as we descended via the Abseil Posts and not number 4 gully.

We only took 13 hours, from car to car, more time spent in ascent of the mountain, descent and walking across the top than in ascent. I hope this sets the record straight.!

I had met Andy many years before in South Wales he was an incredibly driven climber. Climbing with little gear much of it needing repaired. I once met him and gave him a pair of crampons as his had no front points left. He climbed in Ron Hills and a woolly jumper soloed a lot and was always pushing the boundaries climbing solo at a bold pace.

Sadly Andy was knocked of his bike and is now confined to a wheelchair. It was a tragic event I visited Andy when I was down South at Innsworth and Andy was in a Care Home. I visited most weeks and it’s incredible to see what Andy has achieved.

This is what he wrote “I don’t climb any more because I was knocked off my bicycle in the year 2000, and I can no longer walk. I’m in a wheelchair. All I’ve got are these memories now.

But I can remember, and that at least is something.”

Thank you Andy for sharing this adventure and you were a huge inspiration to that group of climbers in my team and the military mountaineering clubs. If anything had happened during these days I would probably been involved in the investigation about what happened. It was always in my mind and worse if it was a pal . I had known Andy since the 70’s when we met at St Athans in South Wales. He one if a group that pushed the RAF Teams climbing to a new level. Getting that boldness, ability and drive within the Military environment is not easy to achieve. When you become a leader it is even more apparent. Yet this is what our sport is all about. No matter what level you achieve.

I will get down to see you Andy.

Posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Bothies, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Health, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment