Two of my friends recently very experienced mountaineers who I spoke to this week have had snags with rivers and the rain is still falling with today a break and then more rain for the weekend. One pal was on a big walk in the Cairngorms he was alone and coming back in the dark in Glen Feshie could not cross the river and though he was off the hill and was on the forestry road a ford in the Glen was flooded. He sensibly waited in the trees and crossed later next day when the river had slowed down. Two others were in Knoydart after two big Corbett’s and could not cross the river even though they went upstream for an hour. They camped and waited till next day, sadly missing out in one Corbett. What great decisions they made sadly in a real situation and you are late back off the hill many of us will push on despite consequences and few think a river can be a problem.. Rivers at night in spate are a massive danger and it worth reminding folk especially at this time of year. Things can go wrong after a after a hard day, heavy rain, flooding, add sleet,strong winds and and limited daylight you have to take great care.
Please be aware that river crossing is serious and most years there are a few accidents in rivers. I have been lucky on a few occasions and I know of a few where the rivers were so high that hill parties have spent the night on the hill and to let the river calm down! Rescue Teams even helicopters have had to rescue folk from bothies and rivers and if you are in a remote place if anything goes on you and your party are on your own. The big mountains are still shedding lots of water add to that more heavy rain due and you can have a problem, so please be aware of the power of nature and the effect on a mere human.
I have been on several call outs where a group has been unable to cross due to heavy flooding and have had to wait sometimes overnight to let the river drop. In times of heavy rainfall, swollen streams can provide a formidable problem for the mountain walker. And crossing them can present hazards far more serious than just wet feet.
A friend sent me this photo – crazy stuff – rivers can kill even the most experienced so please be aware of the dangers.
Avoidance is the key – careful planning of a trip and good observation should almost eliminate the chances of a difficult crossing. However, local flooding is not always predictable and occasionally a wet crossing is necessary, particularly in remote parts of Scotland. Fast moving water can be powerful and difficult to exit from. The water will be cold and the river bed slippery and awkward. Downstream obstacles such as trees, waterfalls and boulder chokes may prove killers if anybody is swept away. Mountaineering equipment is not designed with swift water in mind and will generally hinder rather than help. And if things go wrong during a stream or river crossing there can be many potentially serious problems to deal with, such as a split party, communication difficulties, immersion hypothermia, loss of equipment, injury etc. Ski poles are very hand as well and have helped me and others on many occasions.
On our big walks across Scotland in the bad weather the most danger was crossing the rivers after a heavy rain or thawing snow. It gave me even more respect for these hazards that on a good day are so simple. On our winter walk West – East in 1978 in November/ December near the end of a huge 4 days where the A9 was closed we were trying to make Braemar after a huge 13 hour day , it was full on winter. The last problem was the river Dee after a crazy day on these remote Munros Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch. It had been a terrible trip and we were completely exhausted. The navigation was very hard and the snow deep, ploughing through deep snow all day. At the end of the day we had to cross the river Dee near the Chest of Dee when Jim fell in the frozen river.
He was very lucky to get out and was incredibly cold, there was no way he could change and just wrung out his gear and headed out. We had a bit of an epic getting to Linn Of Dee. I was sent to the Keepers house where the kindly keeper took us in for the night. We could not make the road walk to Braemar so knackered we were.
Even more recently in December a few years ago we could not cross the river after a few days at Coruisk in December and had to wait for the next day. All the usual crossings were too dangerous and it was hold on and then leave, I have seen strong men and women swept down a river and been to incidents where sadly things have gone very wrong.
The power of nature always rules and the best thing to do is to respect it and wait till things calm down. There is lots of advice on river crossings mainly for MLC Training but at times you have to let nature run its course. It’s a lot different in the dark in an area you may not know well and a river in full spate is not the place to be.
Every year the rivers taught me something how they change and how you have to be aware of them, well worth looking at that route you planned, Remember the daylight is getting shorter and a river may slow you down or even benight you. Check that route, check the torch and battery always think common sense
Jenny has made it back to Europe! She is truly entering the last phase of her around the world adventure now… A herculean effort took her across the last of Canada and onto the plane for Lisbon. Already this weekend shes pushed on through Portugal and starting to make her way up through Spain.
But it’s not all plane sailing, a broken gear cable is the latest in frustrating mechanicals that combined with over 100 days of non-stop, back to back, big days in the saddle are taking there toll. But none of this is going to wipe the smile off Jenny’s face, as the race for the finish line begins!
A big thank you to sponsors Leigh Day Cycling Unitas Global APIDURA Shand Cycles Endura komoot Hunt Bike Wheels RitcheyLogic John Hampshire Coaching Cycling UK Insta360
Yesterday I had a lovely visit from Andrew and Karin Miller who had travelled all the way from Australia. They had been trying to get information on an aircraft crash that a relative died in during the war. He told me how the family missed him and like so many dies so young. The aircraft were very basic in these days and the navigation was simple as were the weather forecasts and this was when the war was a fight for survival. There were so many crashes and much was classified at the time due to morale. We lost so many aircraft training and when they crashed in a remote area such as this it would be some effort to bring the casualties home. Yet one of the crew survived and had a marathon walk out in full winter at night of a high Munro top. What a sad tale but worth a read?
They found my piece on the internet and we had a lovely few hours I showed them the area and some of the photos of the crash site in this remote area. We have arranged if I stay fit a visit to the crash site on there next visit to the UK. They were lovely folk who were great company and we managed some lunch in the Bothy and they were impressed with a visit round the village. They headed of to visit the grave of James at Lossiemouth and they told me for 40 years flowers were put on the grave every year by someone in Lossiemouth, they never found who it was and were so impressed by there kindness. It was great to be able to help and I gave them a copy of of the crash area marked on my map, which they will treasure. They are lovely folk who are involved in helping folk in many ways in Australia and it was a joy to meet them. They are lovers of art and gave me a lovely lithograph as they left and a voucher for the Bothy.
I have read with much interest your personal interest on the
Wellington crash on 10 Dec 1942.
Andrew and Karin Miller from Australia on a visit to their relatives grave and hopefully a visit to the crash site in the future.
The pilot James Heck was my uncle.
I didn’t ever meet him because I was born in 1953 however James was my
My mother and my grandmother spoke much about their loss of James (a
son and a brother)
I am in Aviemore at the moment (I arrived today).
I would be very interested in having a chat with you about your
research on the crash? He came yesterday for a visit with his wife.
Beinn Alder Crash 10 th Dec 1942
This is some of the wildest country in the UK, if going in be aware of big walk in/or cycle and these are big mountains, good navigational skills are necessary. Please respect the crash site and be aware that young lives were lost here. Even today with mountain bike access please be aware that this Estate is very good to walkers and climber. This is due to respect and trust of each others activities especially during the stalking season.
There is an amazing story of a Vickers Wellington aircraft 10/12/1942 that crashed south eastern flank of Geal Charn One crew member survived in mid-winter and went for help – what 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 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. He was taken in and the next day transferred to hospital in Fort William. I cannot imagine trying to get off the mountain 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? It is an incredible survival story and to have to leave his mates must have been awful, survival in this place in mid December is a huge pull.
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 rest of the crew died in the crash.
Following the recovery of the bodies of those who had been killed the task of clearing the site was given to No.56 Maintenance Unit at Inverness. They inspected the wreck and decided to abandon it until the spring of 1943 before any work could begin. 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. Some tale! I am sure there was an aircraft Tyre down near the road coming out of the BeinnAlder Track near the Dam at Loch Eiricht and the railway line; it would make sense that is where some wreckage was taken by the mules?
The wreckage is in three debris fields, with the lowest lying (containing a few twisted pieces of fuselage) right on the main path going over the Bealach Dubh between Ben Alder and Geal-chàrn at an altitude of about 730m. 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 where the snow holds on for a long time.
OS 10-figure grid refs (GPS):
NN 48049 73196
NN 48072 73585
NN 48223 73680
Thanks to Danny Daniels and others for the information.
What a film this story would make and few have heard or have knowledge of this story, it was hidden in the tragedy of the war. I bet there is still a few who would know the tale, the keepers from Corrour would have been involved as would the Beinn Alder Estate any information would be gratefully accepted. I had planned to go up on the 70 th Anniversary but was ill for two years. I will make a point of going up on this 75 th Anniversary in 2017 God willing! I did but the weather was so poor no photos were taken and most of the wreckage was covered.
Do you have any contacts on the Estate who may be have a tale of this epic?
David “Heavy” Whalley firstname.lastname@example.org Oct 2018
A few years later in the same area but not so high up as the crash site this tragedy occurred, this is a wild area of 6 Munro’s that even today are a big event. There is a bothy at Culra but that is out of action just now due to a problem with asbestos.
The Corrour tragedy on 29 -31 December 1951. Five members of the Glencoe Mountaineering Club form Glasgow decided to spend New Year at Ben Alder bothy. All were fairly well-known mountaineers at that time. I spoke to Hamish McInness many years ago about this tragedy and he knew some of them as mountaineering was a small sport then. They had planned to get the train to from Glasgow to Corrour Station near Loch Ossian a lonely but beautiful place to the North of Rannoch Moor. They arrived after the afternoon train and got a lift from a lorry to Corrour Lodge at the end of the loch. After a meal cooked in the woods they set off for Ben Alder Cottage some 11 kilometres away over a high pass at 2030 hours. They were carrying large packs with 3-4 days food as the bothy at Ben Alder Cottage is very basic. After about 4 kilometres the party became tired and 3 decided to bivouac in the lee of a river at about 500 metres. The other 2 pushed on and tried to cross the beleach W.S.W of Ben Alder but due to deep snow they also bivouacked.
They woke at 0600 and with the wind now and a gale blowing behind them tried again to reach the beleach; they turned back and met the others at 0915 near a small lochan. The weather was so bad that they found it difficult to pack their kit. They all then tried to head back to Loch Ossian only a short distance away. The wind was in their faces and weather were extremely wild, winds over 80 -100 mph recorded across Scotland; one by one they succumbed to exposure and died. The only Survivor was the wife of one of the fatalities who reached Corrour Lodge where the local keeper and the SMC were staying and mounted a rescue party. Nothing could be done; it was a terrible tragedy and rocked mountaineering in Scotland for many years. They must have had such a hard time dealing with such a tragedy. There is an account of this in the book the Black Cloud (L.D.S. Thomson) and the SMC journal Vol 25 No 143. It must be noted that some of the accounts are taken from the survivor who had lost her husband and will still in a state of shock even a few weeks after the incident. Weather forecast in 1951 was very vague and exposure was unheard of in those days. In the same SMC Journal Doctor Donald Duff a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue wrote an article on Exposure Tragedies, much is still relevant today. In 2013 in the same area a solo walker was found after a big search, another fatality this is wild country and in winter a hard place to be.
This is from our walk in December 1978 Leaving Ossian Youth Hostel on our 21 day unsupported walk we did the 5 Munros adding in Beunn Na Lap on Geal Charn we had a epic a white out came in and we struggled to find the ridge to Carn Dearg, Twice we retraced our route the nearing was right yet there was a cornice baring our way. Time was not on our side and we climbed down it. We were on the correct line but the snow was so heavy it had a big cornice on the wind. It was then on to our last Munro and the bothy, shattered that was in early December and we were very fit. It shocked me that we had such a hard time. How did the survivor get off these hills on his own in similar weather.
We had one big day before a break at Dalwhinnie all night it snowed even more and the bothy was covered outside in snow in the morning. There was the estate track that in two to three hours that would take us to Dalwhinnie but that was not the option we headed out into the “White Room” again to Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil big hills with very tricky navigation on the summit plateau with huge Cornices. This is as wild as the Cairngorm plateau and remoter we would have to be on our toes.
Oct 2018 From Andrew Miller the power of the Internet from a relative of the crew of the Wellington, who lives in Australia. We had a great visit and hopefully they will accompany me on a visit in the future.
I was at Plockton on the West Coast after staying in the incredible Station House by the railway line. I said good-bye to Lyle and Judy who had a long drive South and planned a bike ride. The road to Applecross is getting repaired near Lochcarron and it is a convoy drive past the cliffs and the rockfall that is ever-present that is a constant battle with nature. For a short piece you travel on the railway line!
Travelling on the railway.
Later than I hoped to get started I had wander on the bike from sea level past Kishorn along past the Cioch of Applecross on the bike and up near Bealach Na Ba Applecross ‘ the jewel.
Passing the Cioch at Applecross.
It is a place I love with the cliffs right down to the road it has some classic climbing in summer and winter. I have climbed here often it is so accessible as the road is so close. It is so like Wales or the Lakes to me and a wild place with the great cliffs towering above the road and with the sea nearby this is a special combination.
Sadly the road is so busy this is the North Coast 500 country. It is a massive attraction now yet this small single track road struggles to cope with the traffic. This is just a piece of the route and it would be good if they add on each bit please drive courteously on each page, most do but there are a few idiots.
A land of breathtaking landscapes, secretive hill lochs, mist shrouded mountain peaks and Mediterranean style beaches. Drive through thriving communities with a vibrant culture stretching back thousands of years to the Neolithic ages.
A truly stunning area of extravagant landscapes, lochs and roads, your NC500 journey will really begin to light your imagination as you drive.
Yet it is great for folk to see a part of Scotland but why rush through? I should have left earlier and was stopping nearly every lay-by for cars camper vans as big as houses on wheels. The motorbikes were about but they were very courteous. It was getting awfully dangerous so I decided to get back the big camper vans were the worse.
As I was coming back down I then had a nutter who came flying round a corner tyres smoking. It was like a film, he was out of control. He was Completely unaware of who or what was on the road and when I shouted at him to slow down he came back screeched to a halt. He explained graphically and told me this was a road to enjoy and to F …… off back to England !
Charming man sadly full of road rage , why I will never know and just what I needed today I did not take him on and peddled off.
Sadly I did not get his number but he was a young lad in a red knackered sports car. He was on something drugs or drink ! I legged it I am to old to battle nowadays and was worried he would come back and knock me off my bike. You meet all types but I will meet you again ! That really spoiled my day !
I hope whoever you are you get bad Karma.
It was a stunning day though but that shook me .I hope to get back to the Beleach and have a very early start next time !We could do with some Police presence about! That road that was such a place is some scary road now ! Progress or ……,,,,,,,,,,?
It was then calm down get back to the car. It was a lovely day but spoiled it for me and I did feel threatened. Is that an age thing? I hope he did not kill someone with his driving the skid marks are on the road still!
It was then head back enjoy the views and the sun! I popped in to see a friend but they were not in so no “TLC” Yet I loved my visit I did not really have the time but spent time with friends that mean a lot to me!
The sun is out and helps clear the head after a strange day !
The world had a few head-cases I just met one ! Yet what a place to be.
On the hills above the Belaech something for everyone but ?
Alaska – Nova Scotia It’s a #wheeeeelylongway!! Skidded to a hault last night at Halifax Airport, on route to Lisbon to start the final push of 3000km back to #berlin! Yet again the bike shops of the world sprung into action and met me with a bike box and supplies 🙌🙌 worldwide these shops have saved the day!!! Mostly looking forward to ditching my winter kit and returning to some sunshine 😎 not sure when 1800miles became #nearlythere BUT that’s most definitely what it feels like! Plus that’s all the flights out of the way so the daily panic of loosing my passport is over, yeeehaaa! #eastboundRTW #jennygrahamis back in Europe 🌍🚴 #bikeshopsoftheworld #loveyourloacalbikeshop #saveabikeridetheplanet
I had another good day at Plockton on the West Coast the sun was out and we enjoyed places I had missed in the past. So much time has been spent in the high hills it’s great to see the other parts of this unique place. We we’re heading for the Castle at Duncraig that is getting renovated. That is going to be some place it’s impressive. The walk starts just from near where we are staying and starts by walking along a path by the Loch and at times you are so close to the railway.
A pal was going to come from Applecross but the road diversion from Lochcarron made it not feasible and her family arriving later so we missed poor Kallie again.
It is a magical walk the tide was out and the path let’s you have some great views of Plockton and the sea. If this was down South it would be mobbed but not here.
It was a wander full of various trees Oaks, beech and I am sure the massive Douglas Firs. It also has a tiny Station halt near the Castle.
We only saw two other folk on our walk it was magical what a peaceful place and kids would love it we even had a shot on a swing in the trees. Terrifying but even Byron the dog had fun at our attempts.
We can take all this for granted but I never forget that we are so lucky as all the time you get different views. Plockton and the coast the sea and the different aspects and the ever changing light. Byron the dog went mad and there were some great laughs. Mainly at my expense.
It was then a wander near the Castle and lunch at the rocks by the old renovated boat house. What a place to be and even the train came by what a journey that trip is to Inverness.
The Castle woodshed is bigger than my house.
Some kayakers in the cove and were there enjoying their day and what a spot with the sun and the views !
It was the ideal spot for lunch and with the sun what a difference from yesterday’s weather. The small stop at Duncraig station is magical and this line is one of the best in the UK. The Halt even has a small waiting room that makes this place so incredible.
It was then a wander back for coffee into Plockton after another walk onto the tidal island near the pier!
We were lucky as the tide was coming in fast and Calumn the boat shouted at us as we were enjoying the sun on the rocks .
What a place to be and we were lucky we could walk back before the tide came in it would have been a long wait. To much time enjoying more views and the heat of the sun. The wet boots on the way back made it a fun day. Calumn was laughing at us from the pier.
It was a wander back to the house then out for evening meal in the village.
Walking back just before the tide came in.
Then home tomorrow. Plockton was such fun thanks to Lyle ,Judy and Byron.
I have been over in Plockton again staying in the wonderful Station House at the railway station. My hosts were an old pal Lyle and Judy Brotherton and Byron the dog!
The Old Station is now converted into a holiday house and is incredible as it is still a wonderful working train line and we get 4 trains a day. This line the Inverness to Kyle line is a must travel.
The drive over was wild windy and wet and the road near Lochcarron has a convoy system that goes over the railway on special tracks.
I was not held up at all and the road is protected by rockfall by wire mesh. There are regular rockfalls and the road even goes through a tunnel. The weather was wild with Loch Carron blowing a bit, yet there was no rush and I was soon at Plockton.
A bit wet .
It was great to see Lyle and Judy and after a drink we went out in full metal Gortex
It is such a great area and we had a wet walk but despite the weather hugely enjoyable.
It was then down to the Pontoon to meet Calum Mackenzie who is a local celebrity. He runs a great local Calum’s Seal trips in his boat and is great company ! We met on my last trip and a real character that you only find on the West Coast. He has just been filming with Paul Merton and he is so funny with his local tales of the area and its characters. We had a laugh as the weather was to wild to go out and had a dram with him. A whisky Mac magical and just needed for a wet day.
The Captain Scott built in Buckie in 1971 for the Dulverton Trust and sold in 1977 to the Sultan of Oman
We spoke about Calum’s love of the sea and I asked him if he ever saw a ship called the Captain Scott. I first saw it in February 1972 lying in anchor in Kintail. It was my first weekend out with the Mountain Rescue RAF Team at Kinloss. I could not believe it when Calum told me he was on the Captain Scott as a young lad that month. As a local lad he got a late spot on the ship for a month! He would have been on board when I first saw this ship ! That was 46 years ago! Wow!
We then had lunch at the cafe Gun Aimn in Plockton a superb smoked salmon sandwich and so friendly and all great local wonderful food.
It was a great catch up and then back over the hills to the house for a great tea. Lyle and Judy had invited Gilly a local artist to join us and we had a cracking evening. She is working on a project about a Scottish Artic Explorer and
Botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison what a lady
who lived at Carlowrie Castle. Near Edinburgh.
Isobel Wylie Hutchison(30 May 1889–20 February 1982) was aScottishArctic traveller andbotanist. She also wrote poetry, books on her travels and articles in various geographic magazines. She painted many scenes from her adventures.
What a lady I had sadly never heard of who had travelled to do many places in a era when few did.
The weather was clearing up so it looks great for tomorrow. We had an early night all set for a good forecast tomorrow.