A short but lovely day on Morrone/ Morven a lovely wee Corbett (859 metres)above Braemar.

We were down at the Braemar 50 th Anniversary dinner and after the long night 0200 we had a great breakfast at the Cranford B&B in Braemar and headed for the local Corbett Morrone you can see it from dining room at breakfast. It was a lovely day with a full snow cover and Braemar was looking stunning , how the snow makes everything look so different.  It is only a short distance from the B & B and the road was icy and the walk is only a very short day but a special view-point of the massive Cairngorm hills. The car park just behind the village was deserted and we were in snow all the way.

Navigation is so important in winter.

Navigation is so important in winter.

It was great to be out especially in the winter after last years lay off through illness but was lovely to get walking again in the early snow. Rachel is a runner and she was going to have a slow day but the views were superb of all the Cairngorms were on view and just a bit of cloud on the snow covered tops.  It is a steady pull up onto the main ridge and I was amazed by how much snow there was and we did a  bit of navigation easy on a day like this but just to keep in practice. Top tip = best to practice in good weather in winter ready for the rigours of winter. The plateau to the summit is good for judging distance in the snow and it was good to be out, it was cold but an enjoyable day.

Rachel enjoying the views

Rachel enjoying the views look at that scenery majestic.

It was a bit of fun getting the mind going again working out the distances and time on the map, gosh I was rusty but we were soon at the top of our wee hill. On the top is Nearing the summit, one has a bird’s-eye view of Braemar. The top of the hill is adorned with a radio mast and buildings dating from 1969, part of a University Of Aberdeen research station.

The mast at the top.

The mast at the top.

Braemar mountain rescue team also has a radio relay station on the summit.] At the highest point there is a Trig Point  and a large cairn. The view is extensive, with an all-round mountain panorama from the Cairngorms to Lochnagar and the Glenshee Ski Centre. The descent from the mountain can be varied by following the vehicle track serving the summit structures, which runs south and then east to end on the old military road in Glen Clunie, from where it is a short walk back to Braemar.



We had a cup of tea and enjoyed the views and it was wintry on the summit but we had a wander back down the same way and enjoyed the short walk. It was amazing how much snow there was and how it can change your plans for the day later in the winter, well worth remembering. It was a great walk back the sun was out and more and more wild views, yet apart from a few buzzards we saw little wild life, where have all the deer gone?

Worth Remembering that the snow can slow you down especially at this time of year. Plan your day accordingly.

Worth Remembering that the snow can slow you down especially at this time of year. Plan your day accordingly.

It was a magic drive back over the Lecht with the roads clear and the hills plastered. I stopped to drink it all in and admire the views. The road was very quiet on the way home and I got a great view of Lochnagar that cleared at the end of the day. I had a minute and looked at it Lochnagar is definitely a Queen of mountains. The  great Buttresses and cliffs had snow on them and they would be winter climbing  on them soon if not today. I had a few thoughts of Mark and Neil who were killed on that mountain many years ago. It is still raw to me even on a beautiful and wonderful weekend like this.


The mountains have many moods and yet hold us to their wildness and beauty.

It is in winter that the Scottish Mountains Excel

No one who has seen the skyward thrust of a snow peak, girdled by its early morning cloud and flushed with the low sun, will dispute with me.

Follow a long ridge of encrusted snow to its sunset tower and tread the summit at moonrise.

This is Scottish winter climbing!

W.H. Murray






Posted in Charity, Enviroment, Lectures, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | 6 Comments

Winter Wonderland in Braemar and a Great night at the Braemar MRT 50 th Anniversary Party.

At the weekend I was over at Braemar celebrating the Mountain Rescue Team 50 th Anniversary. I had been asked to speak at the dinner at Balmoral in Royal Deeside a great privilege for me. Snow had fallen and the drive over across to the East was interesting. I was very lucky to have a good friend Rachel with me. She had raised over £2000 for Mountain Rescue running the famous Tranters Round in Lochaber with another pal in the Moray Mountaineering Club. Tranters Round  A huge day of 18 Munros in 24 hours and I thought it would be a nice gesture for her to meet some incredible people for all her efforts.

Interesting drive over to Braemar.

Interesting drive over to Braemar. The snow tyres were essential and careful driving. The November light and the quite roads made this a wonderful winter drive.

The views were staggering as the fresh snow made the drive extremely interesting and the winter tyres and a slow drive in the conditions were essential. We had a great drive over and plenty of stops the great Cairngorm peaks were in view snow covered. Lochnagar soon came into view and the road got very icy but it was an enjoyable journey with lots of stops for photos. We had a late lunch in Braemar then a walk and drive to Linn Of Dee again the road was very icy and on the way back there was a car in the ditch but the occupants were okay.  Sadly we never saw any deer at all, maybe the cull at Mar Lodge and the shooting season had a part to play, to me this was very unusual. We were staying at the Cranford Bed & Breakfast in Braemar run by Sarah and Alastair who are a big part of the Mountain Rescue team and made us very so very welcome. It is a great B&B and their kindness and hospitality was exceptional. We got invited to pre – drinks in Braemar it was a busy evening and then got the bus to Balmoral and into an incredible party. The food was exceptional as was the evening and the dancing wild and fun the 30 + Eightsome Reel exhausting,  Unusually for me  I felt it was a very difficult After Dinner talk e as felt a bit upset as I spoke about the team and how much it meant to me. I had so much help when I lost my great pals Mark and Neil on Lochnagar in 1995. I have written before how appreciative I have been  for the kindness and care given to me and the families of Neil and Mark by the Mountain Rescue Team at Braemar who recovered them. I was also wearing Marks kilt last night which I have always wore with great pride so it was a poignant night for me. I cannot thank them enough, what grand people and the true Mountain Rescue family. It was amazing to see so many familar faces that make the team all in their kilts and the lassies in their finery so smart and enjoying the evening. Braemar seems to have the mix of young and older team member’s just right. Their future looks bright for them.

2015 The Braemar party and a great privilege to be in the photo.

2015 The Braemar party and a great privilege to be in the photo. Thanks to Braemar MRT for the photo.

There were some great speaches and great appreciation of the support of the team by the families, Community, local Estates and of course the Royalty. The best out of the evening tales for me  was when time allows on a call – out  is what each member of the team have in their “piece” (sandwich) on a call – out. As the Team member struggles to ensure they have all the kit  for the call -out if their lucky their piece may be made by their partners, when time allows!  On the hill if they get a break usually in the dark and wild weather when the team stop and are often are in a group shelter trying to get a few minutes out of the weather or a long wait on the hill waiting for day break.  The chat to break the long wait  is about what each has to eat and often on Valentines day call – outs ( Braemar seem to get a lot of them) It was so funny to hear the varying “pieces” from Love hearts and banana to the frozen jam piece uneatable and the odd rose!. These stories and some of the epic rescues that got harder, the snow deeper and the weather worse as the night wore on. We all do this and as the night went on and for me meeting so many old faces  and their partners was a great experience.  It was so good to meet the wifes and partners and feel the friendship from all, this was a special night and it was an honour to be invited. The journey back in the bus with the bagpipes in full flow and the arrival at Braemar at 0145 where the party continued and we sneaked away as we had hoped to climb a wee hill  in the morning. It was a lovely night with the snow down in the village and the sky clear and the hills plastered with snow.  This was Scotland at its best and its people a humbling experience to be part of it, thank you Braemar MRT.

Braemar Mrt

Braemar Mrt – Thanks


The cost of running the team is roughly £70000 annually and the teams as they all do need funds. They have published a great book on the History of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team and it is a great read and a great stocking filler for those who love the Cairngorms.

Mostly Happy Returns a great insight into Mountain Rescue.

Mostly Happy Returns a great insight into Mountain Rescue.


50 Years of Service – Anniversary Book
This book celebrates the team’s achievements and many characters with assorted misremembered tales of derring-do, wild haverings and the dottled recollections of by-gone days when storms were stormier, snow was snowier, and tweeds, tackity- beets and a muckle Thermos kept the elements at bay.

Read on and enjoy……

How to get a copy of our book:
Each book costs £10.00 and we can post it to any UK address by Royal Mail 2nd Class delivery for the small additional charge of £2.00. Please allow 14 days between ordering and delivery.


Cheque for £12.00 made payable to Braemar Mountain Rescue Association and sent to:
Braemar Mountain Rescue Association
23 Albert Road
AB35 5QL
I see that the winter climbing season has started already the stick men are out and about have a look at the UKC website and the winter climbing forum! Have a  safe winter.





Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/ sMT, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Wild life | Leave a comment

Happy Anniversary Braemar Mountain Rescue – 50 years of saving lives. Part 2.

Today I travel to the Braemar Mountain Rescue Association Dinner at Balmoral where I am saying a few words after the meal. The weather is now winter and it may be an interesting drive across to Braemar. Yesterday I was working on a tiny piece of the history of the team and this is the second small part of the history of this great team who cover the Cairngorms. The tale is well told in the book below which the team has produced to celebrate the history of the team.

Mostly Happy Returns a great insight into Mountain Rescue.

Mostly Happy Returns a great insight into Mountain Rescue.

As I mentioned in yesterdays Blog the team was started many years before by the keepers, local Police and climbers and there is a huge ethos of helping others in distress the Mountains  over many years.  I covered up to the early 70, s  from now on the team is by now far better equipped than the early years. They now have some incredible transport gone are the hill pony’s or Garrons and now they have Land rovers and other tracked vehicles which they need in these huge wild hills.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh kindly accepted a new Landrover on our behalf recently at Balmoral. The Landrover was partly funded by the Order of St John Scotland, who support Scottish Mountain Rescue by helping to fund many vehicles and team bases. Our thanks to the Order and to our Patron

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh kindly accepted a new Landrover on our behalf recently at Balmoral. Photo Braemar MRT

“HRH The Duke of Edinburgh kindly accepted a new Landrover on the Braemat Teams behalf recently at Balmoral. The Landrover was partly funded by the Order of St John Scotland, who support Scottish Mountain Rescue by helping to fund many vehicles and team bases. Our thanks to the Order and to our Patron a great patron of Mountain Rescue.”

Lochnagar a great photo from Braemar Mrt Facebook Page.

Lochnagar a great photo from Braemar Mrt Facebook Page.

Braemar  have been at the forefront of vehicle use in Mountain Rescue since the inception of the Teams. They use a fleet of four Land Rover Defenders, which are split between the Braemar MRT and Police Scotland MRT. The land rovers are used all year round and, depending on the snow cover, will take them at times very close to the casualty, which speeds up the rescue process immensely. It also means the casualty is so much closer to a warm environment and they will not be expected to continue further than necessary, on foot, when they are already exhausted.

Photo Braemar MRT.

Photo Braemar MRT.

The team use tracked all terrain vehicles to continue to give us close access to the mountains in winter. These include two Kassbohrer personnel carriers, road going versions of the piste bashers that you see in the ski areas. One is now over twenty years old and still giving good service. A second was purchased in 2003. These machines, given the right conditions have been to the top of Ben Macdui, Scotland’s second highest mountain, and into the Corrie of Lochnagar. Being able to get into these areas with a machine can mean the difference between life and death, not only for a casualty, but for the rescue team too. They have been used as a mobile ‘bothy’ on many occasions, by many people and teams, during some horrendous winter storms over the years.

Other machines they have, are a Glen Almond all terrain vehicle which is capable of carrying heavy loads onto the top of a mountain under almost any conditions. We also have two Ski Bikes which are also used for fast response checks of areas but are limited to getting good snow cover to be effective.  You can only imagine the thoughts of the Keepers and others in the early days seeing all the equipment that the team know has.

The kit is important but it is the people that make the team and if you read the history of the team and the incredible variances of call -outs the team area involved in. They cover the huge Cairngorms with Aberdeen, Tayside, Cairngorm and with help at times from the RAF Team at Lossiemouth and SARDA.

I came into Mountain Rescue in the early 70’s and travelled all over Scotland with the RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars  Mountain Rescue Teams.  I was involved in so many Call – outs and worked with the Braemar team on many occasions. We did some huge searches together many I have written about in my Blog, epic days where staying alive in the crazy conditions was paramount. This was before mobile phones and GPS and at times basic gear.  Few know that  Braemar were at Lockerbie after the tragedy in 1988 that was Christmas that many of us will never forget and such is the measure of the team I only found this out recently.  One of the most difficult was the Rescue of Jacquie Greaves who was found  alive after a 3 day search in the wildest of weather in 1994. The RAF Kinloss team were carrying a video that we used for training, when we found her. MOD in its wisdom released it and there was a huge debate about this in Mountain Rescue circles. We were slated by many in and out side the system.  What many forget was that all that winter we had been recovering fatalities and to find someone alive was a great event for everyone. To find someone alive after 3 days in  that wild winter was incredible for everyone. I will never forget the support that Braemar gave us after this event. Their Base for Rescues and storage of equipment was by now an incredible place and you should be complimented on the design and facilities, It was long overdue and a place to run a big incident from and speak to the relatives in privacy. It was the model for many teams in the future.

Typical Weather the team work in but add a blizzard or two. Photo Braemar MRT.

Typical Weather the team work in but add a blizzard or two. Photo Braemar MRT.

The call – outs came thick and fast and there were some huge lowers on single ropes of the  wild cliffs of Lochnagar. Many of these were epic call – outs some that lasted days and are incredible tales of endurance and bravery. These tested the team to the full but the tales are so well told by those whom were there at the time. The effort and the expertise of the team operating and training in these conditions is incredible.  There were a few near calls for the team and a few outside Mountaineering think that today technology  will sort everything  in SAR. It is a great help  but will never  rescue people on its own and without the team being there in typical cairngorms weather conditions many casualties would not survive. I worked very closely with Graham Gibb the Team Leader in my period on many Rescues and we had many great success and a few sad ones but we I feel worked well together and pooled ideas and experiences. I got to know so many characters, great people many who you met on a wild day on the hill and would never recognise in the street without a balaclava or ice crusted face.   They helped the RAF on many occasions especially the ” The Braemar Panzer Core” who drove the tracked vehicles and saved us many miles of wild walk outs in winter. Thanks to Beano RIP and John especially after our epic at Loch Etcheacan. (See my Blog for more info)

Etchecan hut sidoo


The 90’s were at times very sad days they called this period in Mountain Rescue ” The Black Winters” and I lost several great friends. Two of my best pals Mark Sinclair and Neil Main were killed on Lochnagar on 16 March 1995. Mark had served with me in RAF Kinloss Team in the 80’s and I had been on several expeditions with him, he was my best friend and Neil his pal was a strong and powerful mountaineer and a real character. It was a terrible time for Marks and Neil’s family but I will never forget the kindness and care given by the Braemar Team. The support was immense when we all needed it and I will never forget the kindness by so many of the Mountain Rescue Family. For the first time in my life I took a few months out of Rescue such was the sadness that was in my heart. I had just handed over the team and became a team member again after my spell as Team Leader at RAF Kinloss was over. This was great and I was back out on the hill again and not coordinating, from “Hero to Zero” we call it . We had many more epics Glenshee in 1999 epic weather and a 3 day search that I will never forget. Days of the body getting battered by non – stop winds typical Cairngorm weather and searches. Many with great success.

Current Braemar Team photo Braemar Team.

Current Braemar Team –  photo Braemar Team.

The  Braemar team have moved on with the great assistance by the helicopters has improved over the years from those simple machines of the 60’s and 70’s. Many of the team were there in the early days of  the Sycamore,  Wessex, Sea King and now the new Bristows helicopter.  One of the first uses of the helicopter a Sycamore at the Canberra crash on Carn An – t Sagairt Mor in 1956.

1956 Sycamore at the Canberra Crash.

1956 Sycamore at the Canberra Crash.

Changed days indeed but whatever aircraft Lochnagar on a dark and stormy night in a helicopter is not for the faint hearted  and one I do not miss!. In 2001 I missed the USA  F15 Call -out in the Cairngorms where the team were very busy for several months and heard all about the team’s response  and huge efforts during this tricky time as I now better than most how difficult working with the military can be at times like these.

The Sea King helicopter in Lochnagar sadly no more. Photo Braemar MRT.

The Sea King helicopter in Lochnagar sadly no more. Photo Braemar MRT.

The team continues to carry out its job in these wild mountains in a hugely professional way. To many you are a great example on how to run a team with the Police and the locals working so well together. Your combined experience, in-depth training,skills and history have been hard-won and some great individuals have made huge influences over the years. The strength though is the team, the men, woman (and dogs) that make this such a special group to belong to.  It is an amazing history you have you are unsung heroes all of you but even more so you are part of a unique Mountain Rescue Family. I know this from what you gave to me and my friends in these dark days when I lost my pals on Lochnagar.

Braemar Mrt

Braemar Mrt

In Mountain Rescue we are so lucky we are supported by family. and friends who without their love and care we could never do this at times difficult job. They sit and wait for us at home as we go out on these wild call  – outs and pray for our safe return. Few outside the Mountain Rescue Family can imagine their thoughts at times and the worry that many have. We at times miss birthdays,social events, parties and other important family events due to a Call – out and it does at times effect relationships and especially our children..  Yet finding someone alive and bringing them off the hill is an incredible experience that we have had the privilege to be part of.

Avalanche training Braemar the forefront in this area - Photo Braemar Mrt

Avalanche training Braemar the forefront in this area and skill – Photo Braemar Mrt


These are dark days just now with tragedy all over the world yet in every part of this incredible land we have people like you all willing to help others. There are still so many good people about and we must never forget it in these sad days. Mountain Rescue has changing beyond all recognition from the days of the Tractor, trailer and coal shovels on Beinn A ‘ Bhuird in 1965 . We now have a highly trained team with so many different skills, equipment and training. It has been a privileged to work with Braemar Team in the past and I am sure the future for the team is going to be busy. Mountain Rescue is not just about  wild Rescues in Mountains and we all acknowledge the changes that the teams copes with. Nowadays one-third of incidents are now non – mountaineering assisting the Police in rural searches for vulnerable people. The team have risen to the challenge and at the forefront of this type of incident and lead the way in many new techniques and skills. You are a huge part of the local emergency planning in times of extreme weather and as the task of Mountain Rescue devolves so will this team.

“The kit on the outside and the equipment may have changed.
Underneath the heart and soul of the team remains the same”

Thank you Braemar Mountain Rescue for all you have done for those in trouble in the wild Cairngorms. You have a special place in my heart and have a great party and a safe winter and successful next 50 years.

The Braemar team and the new helicopter have a safe winter and a great next period in your history.

The Braemar team and the new helicopter have a safe winter and a great next period in your history.

Your friend Heavy







Posted in Aircraft incidents, Avalanche info, Bothies, Enviroment, Equipment, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Braemar Mountain Rescue Association Anniversary 50 years of Saving Lives. Part 1.

On Saturday night  I will be with Braemar Mountain Rescue Teams Anniversary Association and will be doing an after dinner chat for the team. It is a great privilege to be able to speak to such a great bunch of people on their Anniversary of 50 years  of Saving Lives. In these sad days it is still uplifting to have so many good people in our society who rarely reach the public spotlight but just get on with a job of helping others.   The team covers a great swathe of the Cairngorms and have an incredible history over more than the official dates of the team forming. Much of my chat is taken from the superb  book “Mostly Happy Returns” celebrating 50 years of Service by the team since it was officially formed in May 1965.  (This would be a great stocking filler for any lover of the mountains and wild places and helps the teams funds.)

Mostly Happy Returns Braemar Mrt 50 th Anniversary.

Mostly Happy Returns Braemar Mrt 50 th Anniversary. A great read and well worth buying.


  • In Scotland there were many call -outs before the Team was officially formed as the Cairngorms are a place many love and enjoyed. In these very early days it was and still is the local keepers, police and climbers that helped those in trouble on these great mountains. The first recorded call – out was in  1862 in Glen Kander  a retired admiral fell whilst looking for geological specimens and  lay for 52 hour before being located “by a body of young men and guides who found him.” The photo below shows the job done in those early days and the simple gear.


Early call -out

Early call -out


  • There were so many local people involved in these Rescues and a few that I have met including Johnnie Robertson  the Keeper from Loch Muick,who with his brothers did so much in the Lochnagar area along with many others. There was also Bob Scott of Mar Lodge Luibeg another incredible person all great characters of Mountain Rescue History. This to me is classic Mountain Rescue Keepers,Locals, climbers from local Clubs and the Police all trying to help those in trouble. In 1959 there was the tragic Glen Doll Disaster where five died on the trek from Jocks road to Glen Doll.  The  Chief Constable decided to from a Police Team after this as mountaineering was becoming so popular. There was some basic rescue gear held in the Police Stations at Ballater and Braemar earlier at this time to assist Rescues. It was simple kit but had a Thomas Stretcher, basic first aid kit and a few ice axes etc. The RAF Mountain Rescue also supplemented these post with some more gear including crash axes to get into aircraft!


  • The RAF Mountain Rescue Teams at this time  were formed during the war and was one of the main Rescue Services available.  They were there primary for aircraft crashes and would assist in Rescues and searches in the Cairngorms and all over Scotland and were the mainstay of Mountain Rescue in this period. The early Braemar Team trained with them on Liathach on the West Coast.
A Bobby on Ben MacDui.

A Bobby on Ben MacDui. A great account of the Cairngorm Rescues.


  • In the 60’s things changed and the local Policeman  John Duff  and a few others were involved in a tragic avalanche on the remote Ben A Bhuird.  When the survivor in a party of 4 got out to Mar Lodge it was dark and John Duff and several others went to help. They had such simple gear in these days: 1 tilly’ lamp, 3 torches, coal shovels and two walkie talkies that never worked. Compare this with todays gear? It involved for transport for the search party  comprising of a keepers land rover for the searchers involved.  It is a tale well described in many mountaineering journals and in “Bobbie on Ben MacDui “by John Duff  a wonderful insight into Rescue in this era. They located I fatality  and worked until the middle of the night and went back next day with no sleep in daylight.  They located a live casualty incredibly after over 22 hours under the snow and then the found the final fatality not long after. They gave the casualty “Fags and whisky  and transported him out in  a Tractor and trailer.  In 1965  the Team was founded after another  tragedy when two youngsters were found near Derry Lodge one aged 15 this was Bob Scott the Head keeper of Mar Lodge last call- out a man and a legend in the mountaineering world. From these incredible early days the team has gone from strength to strength. The Team training and gear improved and many successful call -outs and were heavily involved in a big Rescue on Lochnagar and a huge lower in 1969 with a climber on the winter cliffs tested the teams new skills and training.  The tragic  Cairngorm Disaster in 1971 where 5 young school kids  died of exposure along with an instructor on the Plateau involved the team and after this many changes in  Mountain Rescue and  Mountaineering occurred. Mountain Bothies high on the Cairngorm plateau were demolished after heavy heated discussions by various agencies, the Police, Mountain Rescue teams concerned and many outside agencies and experts.  Things had changed from the early days when it was a borrowed land rover and a tractor for incidents. The Fire station was taken  over and a Base built one of the first in Scotland and a new Land rover was gifted by  the Order Of St John.  The team was involved in a huge carry -off  from Bunting Gully on  Braeraich that involved 9 hours of stretcher carrying, the conditions were that bad they averaged a mile and hour.  No helicopter in these days.  Things were changing but still the team was still based on the ethos of these early days and the great people involved.  To be continued!




Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Avalanche info, Books, Bothies, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Looks Wintry Ahead – Wearing glasses on the hill and a day of stupid mistakes! Remember you can always come back another day.

The winter may have arrived so it is definitely worth looking at the weather forecast and seeing what is going on?   The early days of winter walking are a reminder of what is to come and even the most experienced learn every winter.  I am so looking forward to a winter walk it is so different and after a winter blasting on the face  you feel so alive.  It will be the usual “faffing” for me dropping a glove putting on kit taking it off, sorting out the rucksack but it is so worth it, to be out there among the mountains. Slowly you get organised and you are back coping with winter. Winter always excites me and I cannot wait to get out just watch that enthusiasm and need to get out on the snow leads to tunnel vision and make sure that you do not get dragged into a climb/ route that is not on due to weather conditions. Here is one example that happened to me in 2001!

Cairngorm Map

Many of us older mountaineers now wear glasses and a few have wondered how I coped over the years with them. I have worn them since 4 years old!

At the Clachaig after my Mountain Safety Chat this year as I was packing up a gentleman came over with  his wife and asked me how I cope with Glasses on the hill. It is a question that I am getting asked more and more.  One thing about getting old is so do even the great and the good. It is so funny to watch these heroes trying to cope with glasses it is like their invincibility has been tested and found wanting! Various friends asked me for the first time in 40 years how I cope especially when winter climbing in wild weather, heavy rain, mist and blizzard conditions? No one was interested before and I struggled for my whole life with very poor vision..

My answer “when it gets that bad I would rather not see where I am”

I have been wearing glasses since I was 4 years old when I was tested and have tested the awful National Health Specs to destruction over the years. As I young lad I broke so many pairs I was constantly in the opticians it was my second home!  I wore specs even when playing football which I loved and was sure I invented a band round the legs to keep them on! I smashed so many pairs but you just have to get on with it and they have been a huge hindrance all my life

Playing football in Specs nothing to climbing with them?

Playing football in Specs nothing to climbing with them?

Wearing glasses and playing football – I used to get some micky taken out of me.

I used string as well to keep them attached but they still got smashed regularly and also they were held up by Elastoplast and more sellotape. I tried all types but still manage to break even the un – breakable and have had too always carry a spare pair everywhere. I tried contact lenses but no joy my eyes just did not cope so for 55 years I have worn glasses. On the hill I had a few pairs of prescription lenses made for my goggles over the years they were not cheap at all the last pair cost £300! The tale of how I lost one of whilst out climbing alone in the Cairngorm’s.

I was going to Everest in 2001 to Tibet a trip of a lifetime and was really tied up with organising the food and in the planning of a massive 4 month trip. Days on the hills were hard to get done as things got busier and every day out was valued. The weather just before we went away was wild and I saw that one day there may be a break in the weather as was to get worse early in the afternoon so I rushed up to the Cairngorms. The car park was empty and there were few people about even though it was a Sunday. I walked into the Corrie Ant Sneachda very early there was still no one about it was already wild and the weather had come in early. I decided to climb an easy route on the Corrie  ” The Slant” it takes a traverse line across the buttress, I put on my helmet and geared up just axe hammer and a sling and a wee bit of gear. The snow was now heavy what I could see of the crag was white due to the heavy snow and spindrift.

Looking at the cliff one hour from the car park on a good day!

Looking at the cliff one hour from the car park on a good day!

The weather was getting wild even for Cairngorm conditions and it was getting worse and still snowing heavy. Half way up the route the wind got up and I took my prescription glasses / goggles off to try to clear them as they had misted up. The next minute I was hit by some a gust of wind and the goggles went flying off into the gloom.

The climb on  a good day a lovely easy climb across some great scenery.

The climb on a good day a lovely easy climb across some great scenery.

I was so lucky I was not knocked off the cliff but as most people know I am as blind as a bat without my prescription goggles. There was no chance of getting out my glasses that I carry as a spare as they would have been useless in the conditions. I could hardly see anything but manage to pick the line up the route a true epic onto the Cairngorm plateau. The route was really in poor conditions with lots of fresh snow but at least it was sheltered just below the top. On the top the wind was now howling and I could not get my spare glasses out of my bag ( they would have still have been useless ) as it was an incredible wind with now driving snow. It was now a full Cairngorm white out/ blizzard and I was on my own. Goggles are the only things for these conditions and it is very tricky navigating in conditions like these and my goggles were gone. I felt that even though I knew this area pretty well I still must have the map and a bearing to get me to spot height 1141.

Goggles a winter essential ensure if you wear glasses they fit on them or you need expensive prescription glasses.

Goggles a winter essential ensure if you wear glasses they fit on them or you need expensive prescription glasses.

It is only about half a mile away but it was so hard. It was so hard trying to read the map and take a bearing bad enough with good eyesight but with my poor eyesight awful. It was very serious on the plateau incredible and very hard for people to understand that this lovely place can become so deadly. Even though I have climbed in this area for 40 years I was struggling , I was in the “White Room” I made it to the Cairn at 1141 and tried to get out of the wind to make matters worse I was now partly snow blind and there is a big Cornice around the top of the plateau. I had to be wary but the wind was now at an incredible force and I needed to get down as quickly as possible. I tried to pick my way down the ridge avoiding the crags and cliffs and things were very nearly out of control.  Eventually I got down out of the worst of the wind and realised I had come off into Coire An Sneachda down some steep boulders but into the safety of the corrie. From here I struggled back an awful mile back to the car. I still remember the deep snow drifts me falling, stumbling but getting there and eventually exhausted I got back to car severely chastened. It took over an hour to get my vision back and my frozen balaclava off and drive back, a lucky man.


Learn from every mistake !

Learn from every mistake !

I was very lucky made a collection of a  few basic errors and nearly paid for it.

The forecast was awful none else was about that should have been a clue!

Trying to get a climb / walk in and being pressurised by my own stupid reasons that I had to get out.

Not looking after my kit on the climb and losing my goggles could have been a fatal mistake.

There is no such thing as knowing the mountains like “the back of your hand” in a full winter storm you need everything going for you to get back safely. Navigation is essential even in these days of modern technology.

Worth blowing up the scale of the map for tricky area’s if you have the technology to do this, makes it far easier to see with poor eyesight.

Sometimes experience makes you forget the basics and think you are invincible. Nature always shows you how vulnerable you are.

Hopefully I learned some huge lessons from this crazy day out in a wild day.

Somewhere in the Corrie may be a pair of prescription goggles you will need to have very poor eyesight to see through them.

The hills/climbs will always be there, the secret is to be there with them.

Remember you can always come back another day.


From the Mountain Weather Information Service for the Cairngorms for Friday

Frequent snow and hail
Hail and snow showers and risk thunder.
The showers may be very frequent in
some areas, and significant risk over
several hours of more or less constant
precipitation giving sustained whiteout.
Extensive Cloud
There may be breaks to 900 to 1100m, but
overall extensive cloud above 450 to
700m, although breaks to 1000m southern
summits in Cairngorms NP and west
toward Ben Alder.
Glimpses of sun, if any.
Overall visibility may frequently be
appalling, and near zero where in snow
and hail.

Have fun!

Posted in Equipment, Friends, Gear, mountain safety, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather | 8 Comments

A talk – Mon 23 November at 1930 at Boat Of Garten Community Hall – Martin Moran Higher Ground the Life of a Mountain Guide.

Martin Moran book Higher Ground

Martin Moran book Higher Ground A great read and a ideal stocking filler for Christmas.

The Boat Of Garten Community Centre  will have Martin Moran giving a talk. Martin Moran has an incredible life and this will be well worth going out to hear him.For decades now, Martin Moran has made his living as a mountain guide based in Strathcarron, Wester Ross. The Scottish hills have by no means bound or defined him though. It was after his ascent of the North Face of the Eiger that he made his decision to take the mountain guide qualifications. Martin has climbed and guided in the Alps, Norway, and the Himalayas, experiencing life changing adventures, near death experiences, meeting and guiding many interesting people. Humour has never been far away, but neither has excitement and interest. He has lived life in the mountains to the full and this is his story. He is an incredible unassuming person a member of his local Torridon Mountain Rescue Team and one of the incredible mountaineers of his generation.

Martin Moran Blog 31 Jan 2015 “Reflections on a Rescue” Avalanche on Liathach Jan 2015. and Blog and I advise all to read this article from his blog he allowed me to republish it on my blog on 17 April 2015.

This will give you a rare insight into this incredible man. www.moran-mountain.co.uk/blog/

This is from the Boats Of Garten’s Flyer on the evening.

“We are delighted to confirm our next speaker for 7.30pm, Monday 23rd November in the Community Hall will be Martin Moran.  His talk “Higher Ground – the life of a mountain guide” is definitely not to be missed!
Martin is one of Britain’s most experienced and respected mountaineers and mountain guides, having been the first person to complete all the Munro’s in a single season in Winter back in 1985.
Since then he has run a successful climbing school, running alpine courses for 30 consecutive seasons and has lead 23 expeditions to the Indian Himalaya. He has developed a secondary career in writing and lecturing and has authored 5 books.
This talk will draw extensively from his autobiography – Higher Ground – and his experiences in Scotland, The Alps, Norway and the Himalayas. He will celebrate the remarkable people he has met and guided along the way along with the magnificent mountain ranges he has explored. With observational and satirical insights Martin’s talk will entertain as well as inspire”.
Admission – £5 adult (under 16 free with an adult)
Free access to art gallery
Wine, beer, soft drinks bar
Posted in Book, Books, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Lovely Day in Aberdeen – what a change in a day. Bennachie a lovely wee hill.

I took and old friend to the eye clinic yesterday afternoon in Aberdeen it is 70 miles each way on the very busy Aberdeen Road and what a change in weather after one day. As usual the eye clinic was busy and the staff exceptional, time for everyone and great care with every patient, amazing. From the rain and mist of Glen Affric to the clarity of yesterday it was a majestic morning  with the sky out all day and great views all the way. Sunglasses were worn all the way the sun was so strong a hint for winter driving?  On the way the lovely wee hill Bennachie  is a range of hills in Aberdeenshire It has several tops, granite tors and the highest of which, Oxen Craig, has a height of 528 m (1733 feet). Though not particularly high, compared to other peaks within Scotland, the mountain is very prominent, owing to its isolation and the relative flatness of the surrounding terrain, and dominates the skyline from several viewpoints. I love this wee hill and have only climbed it a few times I did not have the time today but I must get up it this winter.

"Bennachie from the North" by Tommfuller - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bennachie_from_the_North.jpg#/media/File:Bennachie_from_the_North.jpg

“Bennachie from the North” by Tommfuller

The peak that stands out the most visually is Mither Tap (518 m, 1699 feet) and from its top there are good views of the county to the north and east. Most of the tops lie along an east / west ridge, with the exception of Millstone Hill (409 m) an outlier or spur which is separated from and to the south of the main ridge. Mither Tap has an Iron Age Fort on its summit. Unlike with many other hilltop forts in the area, there are no signs of virtification on the stone. Bennachie is visible from a number of distant points; it is a lovely mountain.

The distinctive shape of Bennachie is a landmark that’s meant ‘home’ for thousands of years. People have lived in a fort carved into the hill top, and in radical farming settlements on its slopes. They’ve quarried its stone to build houses, and spun yarns about devils and giants who built its tracks or threw its giant boulders in fits of anger. I passed it many times on my way to Aberdeen for my operations and it was a special landmark for me it looked stunning as we returned just as the darkness fell and a clear sky with a magic crescent moon made it a lovely but busy drive home. I never got a chance to get a photo but what a lovely view all the way back.

When I was travelling back from my operations in Aberdeen I saw this hill often on my journeys and it meant so much to me, what another cracker on my doorstep. Last night the wind was up again and the wee house rattling and another wild forecast. The hills are now snow covered in many places and I hope to get out on Thursday and see what is happening on the hills. I must check my bag and check it, get my ice axe and crampons out and big winter gloves and goggles an see what the weather has brought.  Keep checking the weather and see what is happening on the mountains.

1976 Early winter walking on Ben Lui  who is the wee guy with the hat?

1976 Early winter walking on Ben Lui who is the wee guy with the hat?

Posted in Books, Enviroment, Views Political?, Weather | Leave a comment