Lockdown Thoughts : a few trips Abroad The Wall of light – Canada Weeping Wall. Bugs MacKeith and our early trip.

Spindrift on Weeping Wall Canada

It was the winter of 1984 had been to the Alps on several occasions but this was my first big trip. Canada in winter then was a big proposition nowadays many do it but then it was and felt a huge undertaking. It was in the last week of a 6 week expedition we were now in the most incredible ice arena I had ever seen. I will never forget the first time I saw this cliff was in 1984 and I was in awe of it to me seemed to have me to be a sea of ice. I had never seen anything like it in my forays into winter. There hardly anyone about in winter in Canada then even on the Highway 93 in these days it was winter and climbers were few.

At that time there were under 100 ice climbs in the area, nowadays there are hundreds. It’s a Mecca for ice climbers.

My pals Tom and Mark had read an article in the SMC Journal by an ex pat Scot Bugs McKeith saying there was so much ice in Canada waiting to be climbed. He along with a few locals climbed these incredible pillars of ice with basic ice tools learning the hard way and pushing ice climbing to a new level.

Sadly Bugs was killed not long after he wrote his article about this mecca for ice climbers. The seed was sown in Tom and Mark though how we got the trip together at that time it was incredible.

Alistair ‘Bugs’ McKeith -, Alistair (1945-1978) known as Bugs.

Bugs is probably best known for his early pioneering role in the development of Canadian ice-climbing, but he started off life as one of a small but influential band of Edinburgh-born climbers of the 60s known collectively as ‘The Squirrels’.

His pre-Canada climbing record is impressive: new summer lines in Scotland, early repeats in the Alps as well as new routes in the Dolomites and Mont Blanc and participation of the first ascent of the North Pillar of the Eiger in 1970.

McKeith’s climbing career took a brief rest after this when he joined the British Antarctic Survey, but he put the time to good use to experiment with ice-climbing techniques – a factor which would lead to his innovative and bold approach in North America shortly afterwards.

After travelling and climbing in the Andes and back in the European Alps he returned to Scotland, he became dissatisfied with the ‘smallness’ of the place and moved to Canada. From the early 1970s onwards, McKeith was one of the driving forces behind the development of Canadian ice climbing, importing Scottish know-how to a largely unexploited arena and unsuspecting local climbing community.

The first ascent of Tatakakken Falls was futuristic in the extreme; a thousand feet of Scottish Grade VI ice it was the hardest icefall climbed at the time and the first at its grade. McKeith also made the first ascent of the famous Weeping Wall, off the Jasper-Banff highway. Innovative aid was employed during this ascent, the crux being overcome by the use of etriers hung from Terrordactyl ice axes– a technique which emphasised McKeith’s technical aptitude and willingness to think creatively. With his period of greatest achievement probably still to come, McKeith suffered an untimely death at the age of 33 when he was caught in a cornice collapse while descending Assiniboine having completed a major face climb.

What he had helped start in western Canada, however, was to evolve into a major facet of world climbing activity. Canadian climbers were and still are world leaders in ice climbing.

Standout climbs: 1st British ascent of North America Wall, Yosemite, USA, 1971; 1st winter ascent North Face of Mount Stanley, Canada 1973; 1st ascent Tatakakken Falls (Grade VI), Weeping Wall (V/VI), Canada. What a man, what a time to climb.

This Weeping Wall was the Mecca of ice climbing with the World famous Polar Circus just a few miles away. Two of our group did an early one day ascent of this climb which was incredible at the time. 

The Weeping wall It is 5 minutes from the road and just dominates the view and in these days there were exciting abseils of the cliff after a route, nowadays its a lot easier with chains and bolts.

We stayed at Rampart Creek is a Hostel in the wilds just a few minutes from Weeping Wall. This is a wonderful hostel set in a surreal location. It has no running water and all power is by Solar and they have a wee generator. The assistant warden was a lovely lady called Darcy who looked after us so well, she even cut wood for the sauna, what a lady, what hospitality. We had a great night and a couple of young American climbers were the only other people staying. It was an early start as Dan and Dave were after a big route on the Weeping Wall. This mecca for ice climbers forms a huge cliff about 2 hours from Jasper.

Climbers come from all over the world to climb on this incredible cliff. It has two tiers the first about 600 Feet separated from the Upper tier by steep snow and trees.

The Weeping Wall

The only way off this cliff is by abseil of trees and bolts in the wall. There are few bolts on the belays and most are ice screws or the famous V-Thread (also known as the “Abalokov” anchor, named after a Russian climber who popularised the technique) and the ice bollard. In a V-thread two intersecting tunnels are bored into the ice to form a “V” shaped tunnel. A sling or cordelette is then threaded through the V and tied in a loop. The rope is passed through the sling, which remains left behind after use. We got to Rampart Creek after an eventful drive and then settled in for the night, it was a cosy place but so much snow about must make it a hard life to live so far away in the winter. We had some great nights here in the past and I remember cutting ice from the river.

We climbed the easy Snivelling gully to get a feel for the cliff. Then onto other routes. Pure steep ice with gear limited at the time. It was bold climbing for its time. Then the wild abseils of with no back up then on the way of a prussic knot. Crazy but wonderful times.

Posted in Articles, Books, Friends, Gear, Ice climbing Canada, Mountaineering, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

As we enter another lockdown. Thinking of you all.

I have been over in the West in lockdown with. Friend who is in my bubble. We have been enjoying some exceptional weather when the new Lockdown measures were announced last night.

I am near Applecross and we had decided to walk up to Beleach Na Ba yesterday as the road was closed due to snow.

We knew new measures were coming later that day this would be our last day out. The weather was superb but bitter cold with no wind. The road usually busy with the “famous/ infamous NC 500 “ and had the snow gates locked from just outside Applecross.

There is no access from either side of the Beleach just now or will there be for a while. We decided to take advantage of this and wander up the road to the viewpoint at 2000 feet. We were amazed how incredible it was a road walk but into another world .

Gates locked

We entered a winter wonderland initially the road was covered in ice then as we got higher so much snow. To go off the road was murderous the snow was so deep so any plans to do so we’re scuppered we had to follow the road .

Walking of the road the snow was so deep and untouched and covered with animal tracks criss crossing in the snow. The animals were loving it and had the mountains to themselves. No cars or vans just a quite place to be. With incredible views of the sea and the mountains.

The higher we went the deeper the snow on the road but the views were exceptional. It was a day like no other Crystal clear but by now the sun was up giving us some warmth. All we could hear was the crunch of our boots in the snow. It was stunning, we entered the shade at times then it became bitter cold and as we got higher the snow deepened into drifts like frozen waves.

There were miles and miles of untouched snow with the sun making it glisten. Yet no one about bar a couple of locals and a single bike track. I could not believe we were walking on the road in such an incredible day.

At the deserted car park

From the top it was a pull up we could see Skye and the Islands Rum,Eigg and Jura looked incredible as did the saw toothed Cuillin. The snow amplified the beauty and we sat had lunch in awe of such a day.

As far as the eyes can see

It’s hard to believe this was just a road walk from sea level to 2000 feet. Then it was time to descend with Islay the Collie in front all day. She hardly went of the road all day such was the snows depth. We saw a few grouse and deer on our return journey.

We headed into a superb sunset I got a message that lockdown was imminent so we enjoyed every minute of the walk back.

By now Skye was so stunning in the distance. We saw the deer high on the ridge silhouetted against a yellow sky as we descended then they headed down into Applecross it was The West at its best .

The sky turned yellow and was magnificent showing Scotland at its finest. We would now be heading for another lockdown and things would change again🌞

End of the day.

It will be hard but we will see no one apart from a few delivery folk. They are vital for the locals. There will be no travel as such but my friend has so much beauty around her with the Coast at her doorstep. It will be a long month but has to be done. At least we have great memories of a special day at a strange time.

Sadly as we enjoy ourselves and maybe have a moan many folk are dying, the NHS is struggling and we all have to do the right thing. Stay safe and help others by keeping to what we are asked. It is also important to keep your spirits up.

Let’s hope that the vaccination system helps and all our friends and family stay safe and take great care. Please stay in touch with those on their own make that call look after each other and think of those less fortunate .

I will try to keep the blog going living past tales and will be thinking of you all.

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Health, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | 4 Comments

New year local wandering.

I have been over with a friend since lockdown in the West we both live alone and could not travel to see families so we decided to stay at Kalies. It makes a big difference to have some company. There are few people here no one is about and it’s easy to self isolate here.

The magnificent Beinn Alligin

Yesterday was low key after a lovely New Year night. We are lucky but the wildlife we saw just outside Kalies house was incredible. We saw some sea Eagles soaring above the Loch they are local visitors, there were the Otters, seals and the local deer. Kalie knows her area so well the best places to spot the wild life I am learning so much. You never stop learning.

Kalie started the New year with a swim in Loch Torridon she is a brave lass. I was a wimp and just watched ( excuse got a ear problem just now) that was my excuse. We had a great laugh though.

Crazy !

The weather came and went with some showers but the Torridon hills looked superb. They hills looked plastered with snow with huge dumps over the last few days. The hills are uniformly white with only a Little Rock showing. We can see Beinn Alligin across the Loch when the weather clears . It looks magnificent snow covered.

I can see the West side of Beinn Alligin it reminds me of a big Call out with the Torridon team when I was at RAF Leuchars in Fife. It was March 1986 when a hill party were overdue after a day on Alligin in winter. We had the Wessex Helicopter and as we were dropping of hill parties all over the mountain my mate Jock saw something in the snow. It was a Dachstein mitt a great spot and we located the walkers avalanched here. Sadly one had been killed in a fall on the West Ridge and the other two were badly injured. I doubt if we would have located them without the incredible door from the helicopter.

It is still worth reading the daily avalanche updates and building a picture up of what is going on high in the mountains .

The Scottish Avalanche information App is a great tool and it’s free and you can check the Areas daily so easily.

I feel for those stuck in cities alone and missing family. My brother is very ill lives abroad and we can do little to help. Many are a lot worse please think of others not just the hills and wild places who are ill and alone.

Posted in Articles, Family, Friends, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Munro Facts updated by Anne Butler.

I completed my Munro’s in November 1976 on An Socath Braemar I was Munro number 146 then!

Not everyone records their completion but for those who do Anne Butler has some facts !

My last Munro was An Socach is a situated some three miles west of the A93 road from Perth to BraemarThe summit is 944 metres translation: “The projecting place”

My Munro’s rounds by the number of legs!

These were different days then. The hills were quiet and few had the paths we have now. There were few guidebooks but what an adventure they were I recommend them to everyone is a great way of getting fit.

Nowadays there is even an App on the phone and so many guide books and websites available now.

The Munro Board at Kinloss

Munro Matters updated by Anne Butler who wrote this summary on the Munro matters Face book page. She gave me permission to use it:

At the end of 2020 there were 6860 Munroists on the Scottish Mountaineering Club ‘List of Compleators’.

Of those 6860 people:
9.9% have completed the Munro Tops
10.5% have completed the Corbetts
9.6% have completed the Furths (3000ft hills in Wales, Ireland and England)
3% have completed the Grahams
3.6% have completed the Donalds
1% have completed a Full House (Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Furths, Grahams and Donalds).

It is estimated that approximately 15% of Munro compleaters choose not to register their compleation with the SMC.
There is no Munroist No. 284 on the list, this number is dedicated to ‘The Unknown Munroist’, all those people who choose not to register.

The male/female split on the list is 79/21%.

337 of the listed compleaters are multiple Munroists

243 people have completed 2️⃣ rounds
54 have completed 3️⃣ rounds
17 have completed 4️⃣ rounds
10 have completed 5️⃣ rounds
4 have completed 6️⃣ rounds
2 have completed 7️⃣ rounds
1 person has completed 8️⃣ rounds
5 have completed 🔟 rounds
1 person has completed 1️⃣6️⃣ rounds

Notable achievements:

  • In 1901 Rev A. E Robertson became the first person to compleat the Munros.
  • In 1923 Rev R. Burn became the first person to compleat the Munros and Munro Tops.
  • Paddy Hirst was the first female compleater in 1947.
  • Steve Fallon is the current record holder with 16 completions and he is well on his way to 17.
  • Stewart Logan has completed 10 rounds of Munros and 10 rounds of Munro Tops. A total of 5100 summits over 3000ft (allowing for reclassifications).
  • Bert Barnett has completed 5 rounds of Munros, 3 rounds of Munro Tops, 3 rounds of Furths, 4 rounds of Corbetts, 3 rounds of Grahams and 3 rounds of Donalds. A total of 4150 summits.
  • In 2020 Donnie Campbell compleated the fastest Munro round in 31 days, 23 hours.
  • Thank you Anne fee in the post !!!
On behalf of all the members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team may I congratulate you on a really fine achievement in ascending An Sochach 3097 feet in Breamar on 13 November 1976. You completed a unique double with Tom Mc Donald to join a small band of climbers who have ascended all the 280 “Munro Mountains” in Scotland.

These words still mean so much to me.

Thanks Anne for the use of your article. Go and enjoy these hills .

Posted in Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Beinn Eighe Liathach and Beinn Alligin attempt Oct 1976 then a call to Cruachan.

Torridon at its finest

I am in Torridon just now the hills are plastered with snow after a bleak morning of rain and sleet. The weather cleared in the afternoon and we had a great wander as we descended the Torridon hills cleared they were plastered with snow. They looked stunning in the afternoon light a “snow nirvana”. We could see most of the great Torridon hills but Liathach Beinn Eighe and Beinn Aligin were the showstoppers. As the light faded we were treated to an incredible change of light add to that the moon hitting Loch Torridon it was a special evening. The temperature dropped suddenly everything froze but what spectacle it was. My memories flashed by of incredible days on this area. The highlight looking back was a winter attempt at all of the Torridon trilogy and the tops. In winter with snow this is a true adventure these mountains become Alpine and can be extremely hard mountain days.

Beinn Eighe

My first attempt at this epic day it was in 1976 it was an early winter and we were at Torridon with the RAF Kinloss MRT staying at the boathouse on the loch shore. I had just completed my first Walk from North to South of Scotland in May of that year and pretty fit. We were going well it was myself Jim Morning and a budding young star Berty Bertwhistle that made up our hill party. That day we started very early on Beinn Eighe on the Black Carls many miss this ridge well worth the effort with its crumbling quartstone then on to the two Munro’s and all the tops. It’s a great day doing this hill alone just doing the Munro’s. When you add in all the tops it’s a wonderful high level alpine walk and scramble. You have to double back on places and at the end descend the steep screes into the Glen into Coire Dubh Mor up onto the screes then a scramble onto the ridge route finding can be tricky and then on to the main ridge. The Liathach ridge in winter is a great day but add on the last Munro top Meall Dearg it’s to me an Alpine day. This can be loose in summer but in good winter conditions it’s truly an magical end of a great hill. We were dropping of the hill heading for Alligin pretty tired heading into the Glen. It’s a big pull onto the Horns of Alligin then up onto the Two Munro’s on Alligin when we got a call on the radio that we were called out. It was to Ben Cruachan for a missing walker. We headed down as fast as we could feeling the days efforts to our land rover in Alligin car park. It was then change a bowl of soup and a long drive to Cruachan. In these days 3 /4 hours we were needed for an early start we did not hang about . I will never forget that drive Jim Morning who was with me on our attempt on the Trilogy was driving the big 4 tonner on these tight roads. We arrived and managed a few hours sleep at the Police station and then we had a 2 day search on some serious ground. Sadly the walker was not located till several years later on the other side of the mountain. Just another day another adventure it seems another life.

As I write this these mountains hold so many great days . On Beinn Eighe The famous Triple Buttress with its 1000 feet climbs. The Lancaster crash in Fuselage Gully. The many trips with relatives and friends to the crash site forever etched in my memory.

The New Memorial in the Corrie with the late Joss Gosling boots who was on the initial call out in 1951

There is also the ugly step on the ridge to Sail Mor this stopped a few on the 1951 call out as it was technical winter ground few visit this spot.

The Ugly step on the 1951 Call out Joss Gosling collection.

The wild remote Corries that few see and exploring every one. Camping high up near the Loch, swimming in the Loch way before “Wild swimming” was an thing. Watching Eagles soar meeting the family of deer and seeing the Lochans shine in the sun. This is Gods country.

2007 My last day on the RAF Kinloss Team with Mark Freestone now the Team leader on the Ugly Step.

Liathach has so many memories of great winter routes hard fought traverses of the mountain in poor conditions and more hidden Corries Coire Na Caime a vast hardly looked at Coire compared with the others that have so many ice climbs in winter. I have wandered in her on several occasions. To me the Northern pinnacles in a winters day that would not be out of place in the Alps. You get a great view of the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles the crux of the main ridge. It was her that one of our team fell here in the 70’s and was saved when the Team Leader Pete Mc Gowan descended after him during a winter traverse. He was very badly injured and a huge carry off the hill in the early days before the helicopters could push it in bad weather. Its a long way from home.

Liathach and the Northern pinnacles what a route worth the walk in. With the Munro top Meall Dearg.

Beinn Alligin is a grand outing there are some wonderful scrambles in the back Coire the via The Great cleft onto the ridge. The Horns of Alligin all great fun and exploring the gullies and ridges and the views to the sea from the summits .

From the Beinn Eighe painting by Pat O’ Donavan

Add in the big forgotten call outs that never made the news with the Local Torridon Team. Big stretcher carry offs from Beinn Eighe. Avalanches on Liathach more huge stretcher carry’s and one of our own who fell from the pinnacles. Finding routes of the hill in the dark. Searching the steep sandstone terraces covered in fresh snow or wet slippy grass. Bringing someone off alive everyone working together exhausted but in tune with life. These are memories.

Meeting Martin Moran the local guide in the past with his clients now sadly gone. He always took time to chat and ask what you were up to. So many adventures that a winters view can conjure up. There are of course the Corbett’s every one a gem well worth the effort but sadly missed for their larger neighbours.

It’s raining again today I doubt there will be many views . Yet this place means so much in any weather thank you Torridon.

Posted in Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being | Leave a comment

Be kind, think of others and contact that lonely person we all know off?

I am lucky I am still going keeping well apart from the usual aches and pains.

It’s not easy for many folk just now but I feel some of the anger and frustration on the internet and web does not help. I am lucky locked down on the West coast a wonderful place with a friend. The weather is not great but we manage to get a short soaking every day. Yet I miss my pals the socialising and contact with others. I have a relative far away who is very ill. As a family we can do little for him but be there from a distance. This is so hard.

Many of my friends are missing the hills and wild places. It’s not good but not the end of the World. Many others have lost family, jobs and for others life may not be the same again

.

What can we do but try to stay positive be kind and caring,lift that phone and call someone you care about. I have an old friend in her 80’s in a home we cannot visit she has to eat in her room now every day. Her hearing is poor her eyesight failing yet we chat daily. Yesterday she heard from no one outside her carers. We can all do our bit to help.

Try to stay positive and hopefully we will be able to give each other a big hug when the time is right.

Thinking of you all lots of love to you and yours .

Posted in Articles, Family, Friends, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 1 Comment

Happy Christmas / Dog Tales – Exiled in England and then the return to Scotland.

Chapter 3

First of 12 ascents of the South Clunnie 9 Munros learning all the time.

In 1982 Heavy was posted to RAF Innsworth near Gloucester there was no Mountain Rescue team nearby. It was awful and when we arrived Heavy was told that no dogs were allowed on the station by the Station Warrant Officer. (SWO) He was a wild man.  As always Heavy ignored authority and we moved into an accommodation block with others and I slept in the room until the SWO found out. Heavy was back to working in the Catering Office and his boss let me come to work every day. I sat outside a lot and played with all the high ranking officers that lived there, they all liked me and played sticks and things. The SWO was not happy but could not get rid of me. I left him a message in the guardroom when Heavy was orderly Corporal one weekend!

We were saved by joining the Stafford Mountain Rescue Team where his mate Jim Morning was the Team Leader and had many great weekends as Heavy met them in his car at weekends in Wales or the Lakes. It was great to be back with the troops and I made many friends and climbed a lot more at the Peaks and other venues. At times we would meet the “odd jobs worth” on the crag or scrambled about or as I sat by the bags who wanted me on a lead but Heavy just gave them a hard time. It was long drives back at times 0300 in the morning and then straight back to work.

I slept, poor Heavy had to work. We did a few callouts one for an aircraft during the week a Harrier that crashed in Wales and I sniffed the fuel on the ridge in a night search. I had to watch as this was tricky place to be at the crash site and there were many sharp bits of metal, fuel and Heavy kept me away once they found it. The smell of fuel was overpowering to my nose and I was to find this out on many other occasions. I was glad to leave after the casualty had been recovered. We came back to Innsworth as heroes and life got easier, I was now a celebrity on the camp. Heavy upset more people on the camp and within a year we were heading back to Scotland.

I had been back twice with the RAF Stafford Team and what a trip. Once we went to the North West a huge journey and so no other humans, I did some big days, The Fannichs I think 9 Munro’s in a day , The An Teallach hills and Fisherfields and The Beinn Deargs, Seanna Bhraigh  hills my Munro book was getting ticked. I was also allowed to go to Stoer and had fun swimming round the Sea Stack with the seals whilst the troops climbed.  I also did a East to West of Scotland with Jim Morning,Bob Foreman and

East To West Scotland, With the Stafford Troops

At last we were posted from Innsworth for back to RAF Kinloss but first the RAF MRT Annual Winter Course. The car was packed with me in the passenger seat. The road was blocked on the A9 and we had to go by Braemar it was some drive and Heavy is not a great driver. We arrived at Grantown for the winter Course where Heavy was instructing I was immediately told in no way could I stay in the Centre. Welcome to Scotland!

To be continued

Posted in Bothies, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, SAR, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments

A few Christmas thoughts

I was used to being away or working most Christmas periods. In the RAF we had a duty team to cover any call outs. We were usually stationed in Fort William or Newtonmore over the period. It meant we were away from our families a lot. This is like so many of the Emergency Services who cover the festive period. We stayed in the village Halls and Christmas Day was spent cooking for the team. There were no mobile phones in the early days and it often meant a few call via a phone box to our loved ones. Most Christmas days were spent on the hill these were quiet days yet we still had a few mountain incidents. Often the helicopter would come out and visit us on the hill training.

We often had Call outs at this time sadly more often in the later years for vulnerable people.These involved folk suffering from dementia or mental health issues. Never easy to cope with at any time of year far less than the festive period.

It will be hard for many this year as travel restrictions due to Covid have meant many families will not gather this year. There will be many folk alone. Please take time to think of them phone them or get in touch.

So to all who are working in the Hospitals, Police, Fire, Ambulance, RNLI, Coastguard, SAR helicopters Mountain Rescue teams and all other Agencies a safe and Happy Christmas.

It’s never a time to be alone and many will be.Thinking of you all and many thanks for your love and kindness over the years.

The tree in Inverness

Merry Christmas everyone.

Christmas Newtonmore
Posted in Articles, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Well being | 4 Comments

Chapter 2 Dog Tales, visits to Scotland.

Scotland was where my owner loved and we did our first winter climbing course together at Grantown On Spey. The Military said that I was not allowed to be in the Centre, but every night I was in with the troops and I think Heavy got into trouble.  I loved the Cairngorms and met so many people, Glenmore Lodge and other Mountain Rescue teams. I loved the winter skills days as I would have fun but it was cold hanging about and I learned to find shelter in the snow. After this we would snow hole it was all new to me a night out in the wild mountains of the Cairngorms. This was all fun and after a long day on the hill we would arrive and dig a snow hole. I would chase the debris all day as the troops dug them.  

Visits to the Lakes Striding Edge.

I loved the snow holing Heavy was scared as he told me the weather could change very quickly and we may not know. I learned quickly as soon as I felt the snow building up outside (the lack of air told me) I would be out and dig the entrance. Over the years we had a few epics and once I found a very young troop who had gone out for a pee in his bare feet and could not get back in as the snow was so icy, I heard him outside while the rest were asleep and woke them up (Lassie would have been proud) I also later on found a lost couple of climbers who had seen the light in our snow­ hole in the Cairngorms but were scared to come in as they thought I was real Alsatian that bite. I barked when they arrived in the middle of the night and had to wake Heavy up and go outside to bring them in.  I loved the snow, this place Scotland with my big feet was ideal for the snow and I was seldom cold. In my first two years I learned so much but Heavy was too busy to train me a search Dog as he was the Deputy Team Leader at RAF Valley in Wales. I was a bit wary at night and kept going in all weathers and this was to be a life saver one day. We did a few rescues it was hard work in the snow this was wild country a step up from Wales.

Cairngorms Scotland Top of Goat Track.

We stayed at the famous CIC Hut on Ben Nevis, where no dogs are allowed but I was quite and the custodian did not notice till it was too late. I hid under the bed after a hard day on the hill.  I did a few snow gullies that year and I was far better soloing than roped up depending on how hard the snow was. I learned to do as I was told and wait till the leader had climbed up. On the way down when it was icy I would follow Heavy’s footprints and on the odd occasions he would cut steps, I got better on snow after a few frights.

I met many Search Dogs in these early days some were a bit snooty but Heavy stood his ground and on the hill we became a formidable pairing. I got very fit and strong and with my winter coat I could handle most weathers better than the humans. He promised me we would get moved to Scotland after Valley and we would do these Munros lots of days like the 14 peaks, big winters and lots of fun. I was a bit disappointed at the time but he had also fallen in love with a lovely woman Vicky and I had competition for his attention. I had not met many women since I was a puppy and I had to get use to this change in my life. I also had a wee girl as well in the house: Yvette Vicky’s lovely daughter she was tiny and we had some fun, she was always dressing me up but so did the troops, it was no problem. I loved them both and I really got looked after and allowed in the front room, but not on the sofa.

It was a fun time for me after a long weekend or even a 4 day grant on the hill I would sleep in the back of the land – rovers and wake up at the bothy. I would get dried after a wet day on the hill then a meal and then sleep or play with any troops that had the energy left. Life was good!

In Wales things were going very well and life was indeed good but poor Heavy had problems his selfish life in the mountains it was a lonely one for his partner. At this time as always the Mountains became all-consuming Vicky was a young beautiful lassie and Yvette such a lovely girl he did not get his priorities right.

At the same time his Mum passed away he was broken hearted. Vicky and Yvette were a great help and I went down with him to Ayr. It was a tragic time his Mum had Leukaemia and the family had not told him. He was heartbroken as his Mum was so important to him. She had hidden it from him as they did in these times, he spoke to her often but she never even said she was ill. On returning to North Wales he was glad he had a family helping him. We spoke a lot then I knew he was hurting. I think all the tragic things he had seen in the hill affected him and he did not grieve.

Things broke down with his relationship, he could not cope and sadly Vicky left with her daughter to go back to Scotland, it was a hard time for all. I had got used to family life and loved them all very much playing with Yvette and her pals was a lovely change from the hills. Heavy was very upset at the time (us dogs worked that out) and the house was very empty. Gone were the easy nights of being pampered by my new friends and Yvette who was only little was so special. We got up to all tricks together and it was as much fun as going on the hills.

Yvette and Teallach

Many are scared when they see a big Alsatian but I was very soft and loved kids, I was jumped on dressed up and ridden as a horse. It was just like the troops in the team at the weekend but worse.

During this sad time we got out a lot on the hills and days got longer and harder as the mountains became all-consuming as Heavy tried to get on with life. He hid his grief for his Mum I think it was dealing with so many fatalities in the hills, made him cut out any grief. The hills were now his life and he took great joy on this but he was hiding from his hurt.

I had met his Mum and Dad then later in the year his Dad took ill whilst he was on the Team Leaders Course in the Peak District. He was rock climbing when the Policeman came up to the crag and told him. The troops dropped us at Crewe Station and we got the overnight train to Kilmarnock, the train was a great way to travel for me. We arrived in at 0500 and we walked into Ayr 12 miles away rather than wake anyone up, we were to skint for a taxi. We were a funny sight walking along the main road. It was a hard time and his Dad wanted to see me and we went to hospital where I was allowed in. I knew he was upset when Dad died and when we got back home to Valley when he went to bed I followed him up and slept under the bed. I was never allowed to do this before and did so afterwards. Dogs understand.

We visited Scotland for a Grant with the team at Valley. It was a huge drive 12 hours to Torridon on the West Coast of Scotland. We arrived at Kinlochewe and had a 12 hour day On Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Ben Alligin. This was the Torridon Trilogy a huge day and Heavy was on a mission it was the hardest day I had ever done. The next day we climbed the Cioch Nose at Applecross, I ended up in the Loch due to the midges.

This was the beginning of a 10 days in Scotland and then we moved to Fort William and I did the big 4 Ben Nevis, Carn Dearg Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag, The next day all the Mamore Ridge 11 Munros in a day in these days. The Aonach Eag followed up the famous Clachaig Gully both ways on the same trip. I met him as I finished Clachaig Gully and he took me the other way I did the ridge 3 times that day. There were so many other great hills I loved Scotland.  It was such a big place and so few people. It was soon back in Wales and a big rescue the RAF Wessex helicopter had to leave a winchman on the hill in winter during a rescue and we went and helped him off, he had no crampons.

The crewman was wearing flying boots, the aircrew had little kit only basic aircrew gear in these days and the troops had their sharp crampons on and it was even hard for me on the icy snow. There was a bit of carry on and the helicopter came back to get him despite the weather and being told to leave him. It was a tricky and the RAF enquiry was interesting .Heavy getting into trouble for his decisions in support of the crew and giving them mountaineering boots after etc. He was always in a bit of trouble very outspoken even on the hill, at times on a rescue and I knew when to keep out of the way.

North Wales.

We did a big callout on Idwal slabs in the dark when the Team Leader Allister was away the head torch batteries fell apart in the wet a new cheap battery MOD had bought.  (Why do humans need torches anyway I have no problem?) He wrote a signal to someone high up and got into trouble and despite the Team Leaders assistance ended up posted to the Deep South at RAF Innsworth near Gloucester. There were no mountains here and I think the system thought they had got rid of us. They thought that was the end of us but it was not too be. Life was to change.

Teallach on Carn Mor Dearg

Its worth reading the advice on Mountaineering Scotland to taking your dog on the mountains especially in winter. Certain breeds will be better suited to hill walking than others. Medium sized dogs such as collies, spaniels or Labradors are athletic breeds ideally suited to running all day in the hills. However, with sufficient preparation, any breed of dog can be trained to become a fantastic mountain companion.
The weather and your dog | Mountaineering Scotlandwww.mountaineering.scot › hillwalking › taking-the-dog

  1. Well worth a read – Teallach was doing most weekends on the hills every weekend 130 -150 days on the hills annually.

Still looking for photos of Teallach especially in Wales can anyone help.

Comments welcome

To be continued !

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

A bit of cheer. Dog’s tales from the back of a Landover. Chapter 1.

We all need cheered up I hope this will help? They say “a man’s best friend is his Dog.

This is the tale of a special dog Teallach”.

Introduction: I wrote this in several parts in my blog a few have asked me to put it together with a few more tales too anyone wanting to read. It will take time; I cried at the end, you may also? Every year I was on the hills for on average 130 – 150 days of my 13 years of life. As the wee man (Heavy) said you have to train for the conditions so we were out in some wild situations. Train Hard to mountaineer hard.

Photo Teallach aged 7 weeks

On his first Expedition at Braemar only 7 weeks old, no fancy dog bowls just water in camping pan lid.

Chapter 1 –  The Early year’s 1978 Wales

“Learning the hard way”

My name is Teallach I was named after a very beautiful mountain on the North West Coast of Scotland (An Teallach). As a very soft Alsatian almost cuddly Alsatian I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the mountains and wild places. My mother (Dreish) was another Mountain Dog who was a highly proficient and fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog. This was something she never tired of telling me as a pup and she said if I worked hard and had a bit of luck I could  too could chose this way of life. Every year I was on the hills for on average 130 – 150 days of my 13 years of life. As the wee man (Heavy) said you have to train for the conditions so wee were out in some wild situations. Train Hard to mountaineer hard.

I was born in Wales after a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Allister’s Haveron the Mountain Rescue Team Leader in RAF Valley North Wales wife Pat.  The day I met my new owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy” he was introduced to me and the other pups. It was my huge feet that mattered to him when we met and for 12 years we looked after each other.  

To be honest I mainly I looked after him!

My Mum (Dreish) had told me he was a good man they had been on the mountains often and he looked after her when her owner was away.  My first trip was to the vet for my check up and jabs, I have hated white coats ever since. Then then we went to Scotland Breamar from RAF Valley in North Wales. I was 8 weeks old it was a long, long way!  My owner was in Heavy was the Deputy Team Leader of the RAF Valley MRT and had to lead a group in Braemar in Scotland for a week climbing and walking. The vet said it would be okay to go so I travelled in a land rover all the way. I missed my Mum but these humans were kind to me. I travelled in a cardboard climbing boot box a long 10 hour journey. We stopped every 2 hours for me to learn about going to the toilet. The man in the white coat was right as he said it would be good for me to get used to travelling even that as young as that was what I would do every weekend with my owner as he was out most weekends with the team.

Photo – Map Reading at RAF Valley

We arrived in a bothy an old Squash court at Braemar (with lots of new places to explore) and I slept beside Heavy every night waking him for the loo now and again. I had a few accidents and I ate a pair of boots as I stayed with the cook every day I was too young for the hills.

I met all the humans in the team and soon was accepted by them. The local farmer let me meet the sheep and any idea of playing or chasing them was explained to me by the ram. For the rest of my life I gave them a wide berth.  I was taught in the mountains you could not chase anything but that was made up later on by the longest walks I have ever had. This to me was a good compromise.

My boss that week took me up my first Munro he carried me in his rucksack up Lochnagar and it was an incredible place. That day it was so big, windy and wild. We saw lots of birds, other animals and things in the heather, but I was impressed that the humans did not chase them either.  I was allowed out on a bit of rope called a lead, but I was soon trusted not to need this.

Heavy showed me the big cliffs I felt the wind as he took me to the edge of the great cliffs. He explained on a bad day humans could not see the drop but a dog would feel the wind and have the sense to avoid such places in wild weather. In winter it would be worse as the Cornices would be huge and I was made aware very early of the danger.

I was pretty confused but later on in my life it was to save our lives on more than a few occasions.

He showed me the summit cairn always a place that I would mark by lifting my leg, no matter what the weather and this was now my territory and I learned lots over the next few months. My Mum Dreish was also on the Mountain Rescue team and she gave me some great help but always showed me who was Boss. She could climb most things and that took a bit of effort for me but soon I was climbing better than Heavy (not hard). Wales was a great place to learn with the hills not far away. We would climb mid-week and I would wait for him at the top of the climbs as I got older.

I was taken to work in the Mountain Rescue every day and lay under Heavy’s desk, I learnt to be quite and only growl only when an officer entered the room. I also went down to the Wessex helicopter Flight at RAF Valley in Wales. I got used to the noise of these yellow machines, everyone was kind and soon I was jumping in them on my own and hiding out of the way under the aircraft seats. I could hear the noise of them before the troops on the hill and knew it was a lift home. I was always ready and happy when I heard them it was a free lift.  I had to get used to getting winched out was another scary thing but Heavy did not like that either and often I would jump out first to see how high we were off the ground. I was told to sit and wait until a human came and we practiced this everywhere and I got used to it.

The aircrew grew to like me and used to give me food until Heavy stopped them but right up to the end of my life I was always getting the odd snack from some soft centred aircrew person.  

At Valley North Wales was great what a place to learn about the hills but we often got involved in many rescues and I had to learn to keep out of the way especially in winter when the humans wore crampons in the winter. They had sharp points and hurt if stood on my paw. I always knew when it was a bad accident, it was different and the team’s attitude changed. When they were carrying someone off the hill I kept well away. In these early winters I got speared a few times by crampons so I was wary after that and kept my distance. I was soon not on a lead and building my hill knowledge, it was getting easier as in Wales as we were training 3 times a month every weekend.

After a year I was a novice had done the 14 peaks in Wales twice in a day! I also knew who the new troops were and slept on their beds when they were at the pub. We stayed in village halls on the floor on mats and sleeping bags I had my own but used others. I was given lots of freedom and loved my days on the hill. Every weekend it would be a new base camp but we also went to England and the Peaks and the Lake District and twice to Scotland every year. On the Mountain Rescue nominal role I was promoted to Senior Aircraft Dog I was now accepted by all.

The rivers on the hills are dangerous I learnt to swim very early not a problem in Wales but in the big rivers in Scotland I became an exponent of the wild water swimming.

I loved it even in the sea; it was said I may have been half Alsatian and half seal!  If Heavy went to climb a big route I would go with another party usually on a big hill day and he was happy with that as long as I behaved. I would by now learn how to check the party, if it split up and ensure everyone was there. I spared a few blushes at times when I found the odd troop or lost mountaineer in the mist or bad weather. I knew if someone was there even in the mist and would run off find them and come back and tell my leader. In the end everyone wanted me in their party especially on a bad day; I was a type of doggy insurance for would be mountain leaders!

Comments and photos welcome?

To be continued.

Advice if your going to take your Dog on the mountains from Mountaineering Scotland.

https://www.mountaineering.scot/activities/hillwalking/taking-the-dog/weather

Posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering | 4 Comments