North – South Walk Loch Droma and some of the Fannichs to the Nest Of Fannich bothy.

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet.

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF) and only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be and gaining authorisation by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO ) The three of us were very different Jim Morning (JM) extremely fit and powerful a talented mountaineer very organised and efficient. Paul Burns (PB) a man who felt no pain has huge powers to shut out what was going on and just get out and do it. He was a bit of a nightmare with his gear but could cope with any discomfort and pain. Heavy Whalley (HW)  I had to work so hard every day at fitness and in the end got there most days a battle, I was my own man and at times a bit unorganised!  The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Day 5 May 13 Route . Loch Droma bothy – Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor ,Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan, Meall Gorm, Meall A’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Na Chlach Geala Sgurr nan Each – The bothy the Nest of Fannichs.

Day 5 the Fannichs a wild day

We were glad to leave the damp wet bothy and head for another big hill day we had planned to climb as many of the Fannichs as possible. The snow was down to the road and we had a day planned for the high peaks of the Fannichs. This range of peak contains 9 Munros and most lie on the A835 road to Ullapool. It is a route do do lightweight and in later years I did it in its entirety on 12 occasions , twice in winter a long 16 hour day!. Not today though with a big bag and poor weather we would see what happens?  The main ridge is fairly continuous with outliers and the final two are separated by a big beleach of 550 metres. It was a big pull out of the bothy up the broad snowed up slopes and onto the main ridge a big pull in the winter weather. Our wet gear and feet were a worry as we were wearing the standard Curlies very basic boots and three pairs of socks to try to keep them dry and warm but no chance. We were soon on the summit of Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich. This is a good viewpoint but not today and now in cloud onto the big summit of Sgurr Mor with its very steep ridge and in the bad weather it was not easy to find the summit cairn perched close to the edge of the cliff.  We had thought of picking this up on the way back but the weather was worrying and better to get it done and if the weather improves skirt it in the way back!  This is a tricky place on a winter day not the place to slip with the snow very icy covered with fresh snow.

Sgurr Mor winter 2014 Photo Pete Greening

This is an impressive hill and stands proud with its summit like at times a big Alpine peak. There was little shelter so we kept moving on out to the far two Munros Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan, simple but a long walk out into wind. We were left a  dilemmas , should we leave our bags on the beleach but the fresh snow made it an easy decision to make, No! It was then back along the ridge climbing Meal Gorm again ( does that count as another Munro) with the odd views of Loch Fannich below. We were back over Sgurr Mor the weather made any attempt at skirting it impossible and then out onto Meall A’ Chrasgaidh and back to the beleach and the Sgurr Nan Clach Geala and its huge buttress breaking through the and giving us great views. That day we saw the mighty An Teallach and the Fisherfield wilderness more remote Munros and of course the previous days Beinn Dearg hills and then the days to come with the great glens mountains sneaking a view, The final peak of the day is Sgurr Nan Each and the wild descent to the Nest of Fannichs bothy. There was no way in the conditions we could do anymore hills 6-7 Munros was enough for today, the weather was wild and we just wanted of the hill and into the bothy.  It was comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at last and get the fire going with the dry bogwood left by previous visitors and some dry wood by the Fannich Estate.  On arrival we got changed and then the process of fire on, stove on and food on the go tea and soup were wonderful and then the evening meal. We were soon sorted and pretty tired with two hard days, we slept well as the weather again picked up and the snow turned to rain. I was always amazed as how Jim coped on arrival each night he was amazing and so organised everything was packed neatly everything in its place and me and Paul lived completely the opposite and Paul was definitely worse than me.

Heading up onto the first hill big bags and basic gear Beinn Liath Mhor Fannichs.

Jim and Heavy Heading up onto the first hill big bags and basic gear Beinn Liath Mhor Fannichs.

Distance for the day 21 miles and 7547 feet of ascent.

Day 6. May 14 Nest of Fannichs – Fionn Bheinn and Scardroy Lodge . The leaving of the bothy was not easy wet clothes on and huge rivers to cross that were pretty swollen by the rain and snow. These rivers were endless and we got soaked as we headed round Loch Fannich and into the back of Fionn Bheinn our only hill for the day. This hill is described as an uninspiring hill in many guides but from the Fannich side it is a wild place and we enjoyed once we got there the lovely North Corrie of the hill the Toll Coire was impressive.

Fionn Bheinn in a wild day!

Fionn Bheinn in a wild day!

From here it was down onto the road at Achnasheen and from here I felt awful. I told the other two to keep going and I would catch up on the way to Scardroy Lodge in Strathconnon. I had a bug and went downhill very quickly and the easy pull over to Scardroy left me wasted it was less than 5 miles and 500 feet but what a mess I was in when I arrived. The keeper and his wife were with Jim and Paul and had a meal and a dram for us I went straight to bed feeling awful. and worried about tomorrow!

Distance 21 miles and 7547 feet a really hard day in wild weather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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North to South – Seanna Bhraigh, Eididh nan Clach Geala, Meall Na Ceapraichean, Cona’ Mheall Beinn Dearg. Loch Droma

Day 4 May 12

The night was spent in the bothy at Loch Coire Mhor below the great cliffs of Seanna Bhraigh a wild place. This was day 4 of a walk from the North of Scotland from Ben Hope  to Ben Lomond in the South by three young member’s of the RAF Kinloss MRT. We were staying in bothies where possible and carried our gear and food with us using pre placed food caches every 3- 4 days. It was a trip into the wild with basic maps one inch to the mile and simple hill kit. It was May 1976.

Day 4 Route big hills and wild country.

Day 4 Route big hills and wild country.

It is a great way to start a day right in amongst the hills and the bothy at Loch Coire Mhoir is the place to be. Outside is the incredible ridge of An Sgurr onto the steep narrow Creag an Duine Ridge interesting way up onto the summit plateau of the huge Luchd Corrie and the summit of Seanna Bhraigh.

Looking down the huge Luchd Corrie

Looking down the huge Luchd Corrie

This is where the famous Corriemulizie Club mainly from St Andrews University who produced a guide to the area in 1966.  I was to lead a trip for 5 days in 1981 to climb here an amazing trip but that was in the future. It is still an area rarely visited and I enjoyed the wildness of these huge cliffs.  From here the weather changed and it snowed and it is a long way to the next Munro Eididh nan Clach Geala this is really remote and challenging area where navigation has to be on the ball.  There are some secret cliffs in this area and many I have still not visited. I was so looking forward to seeing the remote Coire Ghranda and I was to snow- hole on the beleach years later after a wonderful climb in this remote Corrie.

The wild Corrie Ghranda Beinn Dearg a wild place to be.

The wild Corrie Ghranda Beinn Dearg a wild place to be.

The main cliff of Beinn Dearg and the normal approach up Gleann na Squaib most go for the classic Emerald Gully a real tick in the old days but in later years I was to have some wild days on Penguin Gully and other climbs of a modest standard nowadays. These   were climbed by such great talents of Scottish Winter climbing like Tom Patey, Bill Murray and Norman Tennant some of the greatest climbers of the pre and post war eras . The hills are hard work and in the weather we had tricky there were few paths and by now the snow had covered them one we went to Meall nan Ceapraichean and out to Cona ‘ Mheall and then in white out up to Beinn Dearg our last Munro of the day. It was very tricky finding the top as there was still plenty of snow about and big cliffs to be aware off.   From here it was a tricky descent still lots of snow very hard in places. It was very steep and into a very wet glen walk to Loch Droma bothy a very simple broken down hut by the A 835, where we managed to get a small fire going and our wet clothes off. We soon ate and were in our beds early everything was soaked and we were off to the big hills of the Fannichs tomorrow another huge day, with wet gear.    I went up to the house to mention we had arrived but no joy, so we just got on with our night meeting no one again. We had spent a whole day of the hill helping making the track up to the house for the Very Senior retired RAF Officer the year before who owned the house. I remember it well and spoke my mind about it at the time but was only a young lad.  It was a tricky day with long spells of hard navigation this was not a place to underestimate in bad weather and we were walking into a wind from the summit plateau only getting a break in snow covered peat hags, We saw few footprints until Beinn Dearg this is a lonely place to be and never easy in bad weather.  It was a wild night in the bothy and the snow and rain fell most of the night, it was damp and wet and I could not wait for morning to come. The Deer were down at the wee bothy all night and on the road after the salt and shelter it was a night to be in!

Distance 16 miles and Height 6599 feet.

This was written on a winter trip to Beinn Dearg now the views I enjoyed are not the same?

POEM THE CORRIE OF THE 4 LOCHS April 2013

Familiar view, dry frozen moorland.

Swans on the Loch, little wildlife about.

Stop, the view the Fannichs – snow plastered.

Grind up the hill, frozen loch.

Peaceful, hard going in the snow.

Huge Cornices, ice ribbons, gullies

The big corrie – wild remote exciting.

Walk across the frozen loch

Take it all in – Wildness as it was.

Only nature is working here.

Time out – enjoy.

The journey back – hard going

Ruined crofts – what have they seen?

The Dam – landscaped changed by man?

All gone now?

Soon the road.

Wind-farm site-

Are we losing it?

The wild?

 

 

 

 

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North – South Scotland 1976 – Conival and Ben More Assynt – to Loch Coire Mhoir Bothy below Seanna Bhraigh.

This is the story of my first Walk from North – South of Scotland in May 1976 it was an adventure and no day was ever the same. The gear was simple the maps basic but what a trip.

Route Day 2

Route Day 2

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The crash site in Assynt

The crash site in Assynt

Day 2 May 10 th 1976

It was all a huge adventure for us; we had never appreciated the distances into the mountain or the unusual aspects that we would have to climb the hills. We left Merkland  Lodge by 0800 there was plenty of day light it was May and wandered down the A838 past Loch Merkland and down a few miles to the top of Loch Shin and then follow a hydro road into the wilds. All the time we could see Conival and the huge massive of Ben More Assynt in the distance. After we left the track it seined endless we hit the purgatory sloped for about two hours to eventually reach the Summit ridge of Ben More Assynt. It was a great day and the views of the moonscape Assynt of the great hills and the sea were incredible, how I was to love this place and spend a lot of time here on the nearby Aeroplane Flats where a plane and crew had crashed in 1941 and are buried on site, what a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives for us and how many visit this remote grave?  It was along the narrow ridge of broken Quartzite blocks (interesting in winter) to the days second Munro Conival . From here we could make out our route and our next objective Seanna Bhraigh and the Loch Coire Mor bothy. We were heading for Ben More Lodge hidden in the back of Loch Ailish for the night and had a great scramble down the short ridge to Dubh Loch a place of remoteness and beauty. On the way we spotted several gullies still holding lots of snow on the other side of the Coire and the possibility of good climbing in a scenic area. I was taking note for future trips to this area and wonder how many visit this coire and see its hidden beauty. There were vast herds of deer moving around and so much other wild life, spring was in the air and the winter was leaving but the hills would still hold their winter coats for a few more weeks.   It was a wet glen walk as the hills were shedding there snow in the May sun but we were soon on the track and then the Estate road to Ben More Lodge and again great hospitality from the keeper who was glad to see us after a long winter. He asked us where the deer were and we were rewarded by a huge dram again as the Keepers phone from Merkland had said we enjoyed a dram after the hill. It was incredible hospitality again and we were soon in the bothy sorting out our meal and then an early night.

The new bothy next to Loch Coire Mhoir - Maggos bothy

The new bothy next to Loch Coire Mhoir – Maggos bothy

Today’s distance was only 17 miles and 4478 feet of ascent but much was on tracks and hard ground onto the hill, we were feeling great and this walk was going well.

 

Day 3 May 11 – Ben More Lodge – Loch Coire Mhor bothy

This was the only day planned to purely road walk and it was along trail down to Oykel Bridge and then follow the forestry and estate road into Corriemulzie Lodge a huge open moorland. In these days there were few cars and we had an easy walk to the hotel and very upmarket place for the famous fishing on the river Okyel.

Day 3 North South

From here it was head down and into the wilds the weather was again special and after Corriemunzie Lodge the track along Strath Mulzie and into Loch Corrie Mor and our bothy for the night below the impressive Luchd Coire and the ridge leading to Creag Duine looking so impressive. The view changes as you get closer and the 5 kilometres of cliffs are rarely seen by the Munro baggers from the West. I love this place and its history the Coire Mor bothy and the Corriemunzie Club for many years climbed these huge cliffs in winter and many are rarely visited or climbed. This is a true remote place and to see it at the end of winter with the great rim of cliffs above a featureless plateau is so impressive.

View on the walk in impressive

View on the walk in impressive

I had our first food cache hidden here and it was in good nick and we soon had a wee fire and a meal and then enjoyed the ambience of this place. All the greats of this club had spent many nights in this tiny bothy and though Spartan I revealed in its history and even had a simple guide of the time to pick out the lines on the cliffs. I would visit this again and run a winter 4 day trip a few years later. I was outside enjoying the view until late, more herds of deer were around we had seen no one on the hill after three days and tomorrow we would hit the big hills right outside our door. We had a big day planned 5 Munros in a wild area and the weather was changing.

Great cliffs of Seanna Bhraigh

Great cliffs of Seanna Bhraigh

Today’s distance 21 Miles and 1400 feet

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North South of Scotland Ben Hope – Ben Hee to Merkland Lodge.

 

Day 1 Ben Hope - Merkland Lodge

Day 1 Ben Hope – Merkland Lodge

1976 May – RAF Kinloss MRT – North to South Traverse of the Highlands.

The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet.

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF) and only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be and gaining authorisation by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO ) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Day 1 Sunday 9 th May – a long drive up to Tongue in the far North of Scotland the night before  it took 4 hours and then we were  dropped off at Ben Hope the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland. The ascent was from North of the Broch of Dun Dornagil.

The Broch

The Broch  of Dun Dornagil

In 1976 it was not as it is today a big path but an easy ascent by small waterfall and then along the fine ridge with its big cliffs to the West. It has great viewpoints and its splendid isolation makes it a lovely peak to climb. Today was not for hanging around as one does the weather was fine and though we carried 4 days food in our sacks we still carried all the up and down?  The views are great the magic Ben Loyal looks and is a great day out and the landscape is wild in every aspect, the views to the sea and the huge moors make this a place to stop and drink it all in.  In these days we must have been daft and it was rush, rush rush.  I was lucky enough to enjoy this peak on many occasions and even to run up this peak several times along with other peaks all in one day. I also climbed this peak by various ways including by a gully in winter on the big cliffs and great ways up but not easy access  a bit of a walk in and the a grand but serious scramble from the North a long walk in that gives a different aspect to this fine peak. You can miss the scramble by a gully but it is still a grand outing and worthy of an ascent?

Ben Hope

Ben Hope

We had no idea what we were taking on this was our first walk, we were very fit and wanted no support on the walk. We had set up food caches in lodges and bothies and were carrying very basic gear as this was 1976. The maps were inch to the mile and pretty basic in these days. From here we were heading to Merkland Lodge via the Corbett Ben Hee ( the fairy hill) After  Ben More it was along the road and along the Estate Road past some incredible places and names Gobernuisgach Lodge and then on to Beleach Nam Meirleach the robbers path and onto Ben Hee an amazing hill with some big cliffs worth having a look at. This would be great mountain bike ground today as the road cuts across some wild places. It was rough walking I bet there is a good path now but we were soon on the top \nd the weather was fine it was then down to the Lodge at West Merkland to see the keeper who met us with a big dram and a great bothy an enjoyable day and despite the hill bag weight about 40 lbs it was not too bad. We were all going fine and had and enjoyed a great introduction.

 

The day’s distance was 21 miles and 5437 feet of ascent, we took our time it was about 8 hours there was no rush! Tomorrow was another day.

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Lancet Edge – Sgor Luthern 1028 Metres – Avalanche

It was 1972  The weekend  was Based  at Ben Alder Lodge a wonderful remote area just of the A9. The team went to different areas every weekend and I had my new Munro s book out, seeing what hills I may be able to climb! The team used the garage and sheds at the Ben Alder Lodge a 5 mile drive up a rough estate track near the A9 near Dalwhinnie. The Estate road was tricky up to the Lodge a lot of snow had fallen!   This was an amazing place, stags and hinds were right down to the road, there were hundreds of them. As a very young team member I was spell bound by the area, it was like the eyes could not take in the views and sights. The keeper Mr Oswald was a long-time friend of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and our leader George Bruce. We had the use of the estate tracks to those huge remote hills a great privilege and fantastic assistance to great days in the mountains. George took great time to build up relationship with every estate in Scotland as this was invaluable for future call outs and building up the team’s area knowledge to assist us on call outs in the future.  This was way before the Freedom of Access we take for granted.  All the time I was learning from the way he spoke to people he had a magic touch, which I was to see on many occasions. The team took a couple of barrels of beer out which we had in the garage when we got there and it was amazing as the team members all sang folk songs round a fire that night, I loved it. The garage was where we cooked as well and most of the team were in tents. It was amazingly cold all night and next morning when we got up I could not believe the view; Loch Ericht was frozen solid as was all our water. One of the tasks is that the team members all take times to cook and as a trialist I had to get up and help the cook with breakfast at 0600 and make the traditional bed –tea, round all the team. The numbers out this weekend were again very high nearly 30 people, a busy time for the cook, I was trying to pick up all the skills as if you did a bad cook you were in the river, that was the tradition. Luckily I was very glad as my Mum had brought me up to be able to cook basics including breakfast, soup and basic meals like mince and tatties they gave me great life skills for the future. Thanks Mum!

This  was the last weekend of the trial  to be a member of the RAF Kinloss Team and I was to go out with George Bruce the Team leader and 2 other team members. George had planned a winter scramble or climb up a magnificent ridge called Lancet Edge near Culra bothy right in the heart of the Alder Estate. It was a wonderful drive across the moor, full of snow and a drive across the icy river Pattock by land rover. It was all thrilling stuff even before we got on the hill. There were stags and hinds everywhere, many following the wagon thinking that they may have been getting fed. I thought to myself people would pay a fortune to be in especially in a hard winter and this was one? We passed the Garrons Highland ponies that live out in the open only using the trees for shelter when the weather gets bad. These ponies are the Estate transport for bringing down the stags and Hinds from the hill after a cull. The views of the mountains is incredible, snow everywhere and blue sky, these are huge mountains with the magnificent Ben Alder dwarfing its lofty neighbour’s with its sprawling ridges and huge corries. We stopped at the Culra bothy an open shelter used by climbers and left the wagon there. It is a very basic building with a fire, stone floor, sleeping space and freezing cold.  I had spent many a night in bothies like these in Galloway whilst training for the Duke of Edinburgh award but this was a different league.

Lancet Edge Alpine looking

Lancet Edge Alpine looking

This bothy takes you right from its door  to our objective  Lancet Edge which was opposite Ben Alder this was a ridge on the huge 1028 metres  Sgur Lurtharn, it looked so Alpine and impressive. A thin icy ridge running up to a snowy plateau to my inexperienced mountaineering mind I wondered how we would get up that ridge. It was an incredible place to be a fin of a ridge plastered with snow in this remote area.

Steep ground on Lancet Edge

Steep ground on Lancet Edge

We had with us a very experienced climber who had worked at Glenmore Lodge as a civilian Instructor who was one of George’s friends Davy Sharp. Davy I found out on the walk up across the moor was just recovering from a serious avalanche accident in the Lake District the previous winter. George was great form in walk in telling stories, talking about the area and setting an enjoyable pace, not the usual rush to the top. It was bitter cold about -15 but we never felt the cold .He was teaching and laughing all the time and in the hour on the walk in we learned many new skills. I was shown again how to use my axe and crampons on some ice on a small buttress and how to ice axe brake properly on some steep snow, we then set of kicking steps up the slope leading to ridge. As is the normal procedure we all took our place in front kicking in the snow was hard work. As we got higher, the snow became deeper and was lying in places in drifts on top of steep frozen grass. I know now that this is not a good combination. We traversed round some steep buttress and marvelled at the views which opened out as we got higher. Just below the top of the ridge I was just behind George when I heard a crack and then we were tumbling down the hill, I remember going over a crag and falling getting battered and shaken. I came too half buried in the snow about 600 feet below where we were.  I was very shaken and George was soon at my side he  was completely in control and explained that we had been avalanched and in his usual sense of humour said this was very rare in Scotland and a great honour to be avalanched in such experienced company!

We went over these cliffs!

We went over these cliffs!

What a man he was, his humour was just what we needed and I was to learn so much from this great man, throughout my Mountain Rescue Career and throughout life.   We managed to get back to Culra Bothy and then to the wagon by now Dave could hardly walk and was taken to hospital for a check-up. George reckoned that we had fallen over 600 feet some of it over a steep cliff, we were very lucky that no one was killed. I had used up one of my mountaineering lives!

A very remote area away from assistance!

A very remote area away from assistance!

When we got back to the Base Camp at Ben Alder we spoke to the keeper George who in his own measured way said “aye I thought the hill was pretty dangerous after the heavy snow and that wind” You were very lucky and offered us a dram. Later I stiffened up and and bruising came out on my back and legs but next day I was back on the hill. I was the only one out of the avalanche who went out next day.  As George said when you fall of you have to get back on straight away. I had a wonderful day on Ben Alder climbing it by an amazing ridge the Short Leachas a great winter scramble, what a day.  The plateau to the summit was incredible with huge cornices by now the weather had changed and it was difficult navigation to the summit. I marveled  at the team navigating in a full white out, over this complex plateau, with its huge cornices overhanging the cliffs. Near the summit we heard a huge crash as a cornice tumbled down into the corrie.

Ben Alder another great mountain in winter even more so but be aware that these are big hills.

Ben Alder another great mountain in winter even more so but be aware that these are big hills.

I was really tired on the way off but they dragged me up Beinn Bheoil as well which was complex as the wind was in our faces and the slopes very steep, this was serious mountaineering. Getting back to the land rover I was exhausted but again happy and the river crossing in the wagon was serious as there was a big thaw on. When we arrived back at the Lodge Mr Oswald the keeper said that we were lucky to get the land rover over the river as it could have been there for the whole winter!  George had a wee word as we packed up he said, you have passed your trial wee man, you are now a Novice team member. He said that you showed them but do not let it go to your head, it is a long way to go and you are just starting, take no hassle from anyone, stand up for yourself and learn every time you go on the hill. My mountaineering apprenticeship had started .What adventures already? I had so much to learn, I could not wait for the next weekend. It was not to be my only avalanche!

Chance in a Million

 

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Winter Aware – By Mark Diggins at Boat of Garten Lecture Monday 10 th November

Winter is upon us, are you winter aware – It is wise to get your gear ready and serviceable but also time to be Avalanche aware – there are courses and lots of ways to do this. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service will soon be up and running make a point to look at these great source of information daily. As with the Mountain Weather with various great sites available, please access and use the information not only when you go on the hill but also prior to your visit. This will allow you to build up a guide of what is happening in the area you want to climb, walk or ski in. This book is a must for all those who use the winter mountains.

Chance in a Million

Boat Of Garten Talks – Our next talk is on Monday 10th November at 7.30 pm at the Boat of Garten Community Hall
Our subject is – Dealing with Avalanche hazards in the Scottish winter mountains by Mark Diggins

As winter fast approaches this is a timely subject and Mark will provide an informed, expert and experienced account of the characteristics of our snow pack and mountain environment and the challenges it presents to both forecasters and mountaineers. The presentation will outline the factors encountered in the Scottish winter mountains and the effect this has on snow pack stability. Using examples from past years he will illustrate the weather systems and the resultant snow pack encountered and the impact this may have on human activity and infrastructure.

Mark is co-ordinator of the Scottish Avalanche Information Service and manager of the avalanche forecasting team for Scotland. He is also an International Mountain Guide and an accomplished photographer and film maker.
We are in for a fascinating talk accompanied by high quality photographs of spectacular settings.

Entry – Adults £5 (under 16’s free with an adult)
Licensed wine bar/soft drinks
Free entry to art exhibition

 

 

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West – East 1977 Part 9 The End – Braemar to Lochnagar Mount Keen

 

The final days of the West - East 1977

The final days of the West – East 1977

Day 21 November 18 – Braemar – Cairn An – t Sagairt Mor, White Mounth, Lochnagar –Spitall  of Glen Muick .

Sid was amazed we were up and gone by 0700 just as the light was arriving , we wandered up the road to Auchallater  and up to Loch Callater Lodge on Jock’s Road and met many deer sheltering by the Lodge. Then it was up the windswept hills plastered with snow and on to Carn an Sagairt Mor at 1047 meters. It was then onto the open plateau it was wild but by now we were so slick with our navigation and our gear and onto White Mounth and Lochnagar.

Wild weather on Lochnagar nothing unusual!

Wild weather on Lochnagar nothing unusual!

The weather was brutal and with an Easterly wind it bit into the core of your body. It was the coldest this was the coldest I felt on the whole walk it was bitter. We still had to watch the navigation it was tricky and were glad to meet Sid he was frozen it was a quick snack and then get off the hill. Lochnagar in a blizzard is not easy you hug the huge cliffs and have to take care, again it is not simple but Sid was happy to give us a break as we tried to head down out of the weather.

Coming out of the White room on Lochnagar  with Jim and Sid Green RIP.

Coming out of the White room on Lochnagar with Jim and Sid Green RIP.

We were soon down in the Glen then along the track to Spittal Of Glen Muick we were staying with Mr Robertson the keeper another old friend of the team.  Sid headed back to RAF Kinloss and said he would be back tomorrow what ever happened and meet us on Mount Keen the end of the trip.  (Sid was to die of cancer within a year this great big strong man and a real pal I will never forget his kindness meeting us on that second last day.) We were upset that the team would not be there at the end but it was not to be but they were still involved in War Games poor souls. Mr Robertson had a good chat and we stayed in the MR bothy for the night, we had a dram with him and could not believe we only had one day left. We had definitely aged and lost lots of weight but were extremely fit. We slept well and were as usual away early it still was a bit of a walk to go much on our favourite ground peat and bog!   It was another steady day of 24 k and 1219 metres in the wild weather again all day but only 1 day to go.

Nearly there exhausted!

Nearly there exhausted!

Day 22 November 19 – Spittal Of Glen Muick – Mount Keen and Auchromie. It was a bit of a road walk to start then up onto the hill tracks and then over heather and peat hags in deep snow to the most Easterly Munro Mount Keen. This is what many call a boring featureless hill from the Lochnagar side but today we enjoyed it and the sun came out and the miles passed, we did not speak the three of us alone in our thoughts.  There were amazingly a few troops there to meet us on the summit, the war was over and they had come straight out to be with us. Mick Trimby another great mate brought my lovely girlfriend June out and though she had worked like the troops for 5 days with little sleep it was amazing  to see her and great to see them. I was a bit embarrassed on the top of Mount Keen with June being there (how daft is that) and it was strange to have company and then we walked down to Glen Mark. The weather was good and clear and we were of the hill in the daylight  and then a long 3 hour drive home. As we walked down to the wagon we could smell the trees and the fields of green after 3 weeks of snow and whiteness, what a relief. The walk was over and we were alive.  What a trip what an experience for us all.

The end on Mount Keen!

The end on Mount Keen!

Total 47 Munros Climbed, 506 Kilometres and 33429 metres of ascent most in wild weather!

 

At the beginning different people! Thanks to all!

At the beginning different people! Thanks to all!

Notes

It was a massive undertaking at the time with the lack of daylight and the weather we had nearly every day in wild weather. Navigation and Fitness were key elements and the area knowledge we had saved us in a few places. Maps were very basic not like today (2014) no GPS, we planned the route in advance but each day was dependent on the weather. Our route changed with the weather and the that was a key to our safety on the hill.

The hill gear was very basic, no Gortex but the polar fleeces were life savers. We were wet every day and had to keep moving to keep warm. Feet were always cold, wet socks every day along with wet kit.  We always carried a spare pair of gloves and basic kit to change into it was limited as we were carrying everything. We carried plastic bivy bags very basic! The Helly Hansens waterproofs state of the art and orange had a map pocket home-made this was a great addition, the jacket and trousers were very basic and we still got soaked.

Food was simple porridge and simple lightweight food, mashed potatoes and pasta, lots of soups and tea coffee etc, we were always hungry. Hill food was simple chocolate and sweets!  We cooked on a primus it never let us down. I laid out the food in advance and the food caches were for the time great being a caterer by trade helped and still we were always hungry. I lost a stone on the trip and I was a skinny lad then.

Communications – we phoned whenever we got to a phone and were on our own a lot, weather forecasts were hard to get and it was always similar, snow, wind and cloud! Family and girlfriends relied on this for updates.

The road walking was hard work and we carried RAF Sand shoes no trainers then they were basic but a great change from boots, everything was limited due to weight.

Bothies were used whenever and a great bonus the Mountain Bothies is a great asset we only met one person in a bothy on our travels. The fires were so important to try to dry the wet gear very night.   We used the Scottish Youth Hostels twice at Affric and Ossian again we were the only people there!

The keepers and team contacts for Base Camps from Tom Rigg ,Mr MacRae in Skye, Kintail Cluannie Lodge, Mr Oswald at Culra ,the keeper at Gaick, the Keeper and his wife at Linn Of Dee  and  Mr Robertson at Lochnagar were all great to us. We had such hospitality meals and drams and I can never forget them and apologise for losing the names of everyone but my diary got soaked.   We at times arrived very late very tired yet we always got a welcome. The hills were very quiet in 1977 and we only met our friends in the team on the hill imagine that today?

These people were what going on the mountains were all about and remain so vivid memories even today.

A few notes

Jim and Terry my companions were exceptional never complained unlike me and were to become incredibly powerful mountaineers, we never fell out on the trip and we learned so much for the future.  The planning was hard work and on maps we spent a long time on this and the food caches and when you look back with the technology today it was impressive. Our navigation improved as did our fitness and mountaineering skills. As the days went on we did I still I feel at one with the mountains over this period of 21 days and became as one! This was to be a great help when we were under great pressure. The great thing is we are still great friends.

The assistance from RAF Kinloss from Jim Green  , Mick Trimby and Sid Green all sadly deceased  who came out with ice axes, food and transported us home, I have many wonderful memories and to poor June who I was so embarrassed when you arrived on Mount Keen I am sorry. Our families who worried about us and I know my Dad and Mum were praying for us and we needed it.  Ray Sefton and Don Shanks the Team Leader and Deputy at RAF Kinloss who worried if their careers were over as the weather came in. I never realised the level of responsibility for us until I became a Team Leader.   Finally to John Hinde RIP – you really set the” cat among the pigeon’s with your Walk idea in the depths of November. But did we learn from it and many call –outs in the future were successful from  the local area knowledge learned on that walk.

That is it nearly 9500 words on our Walk from West  – East in 1977 and tomorrow I off for a couple of Operations and no doubt dreaming on these wild days as a young fit troop! I will be back, why not trawl through the Blog and read some other tales.

I am thinking of publishing a book but would like a bit of feedback as I have already been let down by one Publisher please send me an email if you would buy it?

Hope you enjoyed the adventure as I enjoyed remembering the trip. More to come ?

 

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