A busy day are you getting into the festive spirit?

I was getting sorted out for Christmas and a visit to a few people who I hold dear to me. I was away early to Aberdeen to visit Robyn and the “haar” mist was down as was the rain. It took over 2 hours to get to Aberdeen and the road was awful. All these lost billions of pounds in the oil years and the main road the A96 like the A82 is still very poor?


We managed the jobs some shopping in a busy Aberdeen, city life is not for me and the shops were frantic yet we got things done had some lunch and I was glad to get it over. I dropped Robyn at the dentist poor soul and got out of Aberdeen before the rush. Thank goodness for the GPS!  I had a few presents on board and stopped at Inch to see my niece Judith and drop of a present and meet the boys who were so excited for Christmas. We forget how important it is to the wee ones. It was then to Elgin to collect Granny Vicky and Grandpa Gordon’s presents for Ellie Skye and Lexi.They live down South and I hope to visit them before Christmas and take them down.  Now granny’s spoil the kids and the presents look great the car full when I left after a lovely visit. I played the Snowman on the way home to get into the mood and as I emptied the car much to the interest of a few folk asking if Santa lived in Burghead? The wee house looks great with all the presents for the kids and my family and the fire on. It truly is a lovely time and all that matters is that the kids are having fun and my heart goes out to all those who will have a hard time at this time of year.


I was just sorted and tea eaten when the door bell rang and Donald Watt my pal from Lochaber  Fort William popped in to say goodbye as he and Norah his wife head home today. We watched a great game of football and had a few drams and the usual war stories. A great way to end the day and now for the golf Christmas party today.

No hills just now but lovely to see the excitement build up for the kids and let them enjoy it as it can be gone so soon.

Stay young!


Posted in Family, Friends | Leave a comment

Great Bothies – do you support their upkeep?

Where it all started for me?

Where it all started for me? Name this bothy now no longer used?

This is where it all happened for me as a member of the Boys Brigade making up a group who needed another one to complete the journey. It was winter we had huge bags, they were all 15 and I was a skinny 13, it was the mid 60’s. After an awful nights camping and exhausted we made it next day to the bothy, got a fire going and absolutely soaked we dried in front of the fire. The smoky room and the tales from a couple of real bothy characters had me hooked and still does. My Mum could not believe the smell of wood smoke  on my clothes but to me they were a badge of honour. From these simple days I have loved the bothies and they have been a huge part of my life. From wild call – outs,like Camusunary in Skye, to Sourlies in Knoydart, Sheneval and so many more each has a tale and so many have enjoyed the company and the tradition of a free wild shelter in Scotland. Some abuse them and it takes a great deal of skill to keep the landowners sweet all done by the good people of the MBA who maintain and look after the bothies.

Thank You.


What bothy ?

What bothy ?

Last year I spoke at the 50 th Anniversary of the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) in Newtonmore what a bunch of people who do great things. It was a great honour to me at the time and I was amazed that from these early days in Galloway where that journey has taken me. Why don’t you join them and support a great cause?   How many of us stop out the weather at a bothy for a break and have never put our hands in our pockets to support such a great tradition, feeling guilty, get donating!

Camusunary old bothy in Skye

Camusunary old bothy in Skye


Mountain Bothies – Celebrating 50 Years of the MBA

The MBA will be 50 in 2015 and to mark the occasion, we have compiled an anniversary book. It tells the story of how Bernard Heath formed the Association 50 years ago. It recalls how some of the buildings which are today’s bothies were found. It includes tales of work parties, some of which have found their way into MBA folklore, and shows that although materials and methods of working may have changed, the enthusiasm of volunteers has not. Illustrated by photographs, line drawings and cartoons, it is a celebration of 50 years of activity by our volunteers who take delight in maintaining simple shelters in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places.
The book will cost £10 per copy including postage and packaging. All profits from its sale will go towards furthering the work of the Association.
Available here.



Posted in Books, Bothies, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

A few thoughts on GPS – My GPS no more?

It is great when you read all the information supplied by the gear testers in the Outdoor magazines. There is little written a year or two years on from their words of wisdom. I am pretty rough with my kit especially technical gear like GPS. I have over the years used GPS as in the military when I was with the RAF Mountain Rescue teams a few of the technical troops showed me there great uses on the hills. The RAF teams used them a lot on the USA F15 crash in the Cairngorms in 2001 to mark wreckage etc for the investigation team. 

I look back in 2012 this was the norm for a GPS

Accuracy 3 metres – 95%

National Grid

Battery Life 50 Hours (Not yet)

Weight  150 grams

Satellite Acquisition Cold 2 mins       Warm 1 sec

Satellite Retention – HFU

Cost APPROX WITH MAPS £350 nowadays they are more accurate and so many models to chose from. 

My view on Rescues all GPS Should be downloaded after every days search as standard. This holds huge information of where has been searched accurately for Search managers!  I wonder how many Rescue Teams in 2016 use them for this ?

2001 Line probe and marking with GPS. USA F15 crash Cairngorms.

2001 Line probe and marking with GPS. USA F15 crash Cairngorms.

In the early days we used them just for grid references ideal on marking crash sites etc but as I got a bit more tech savy I was hooked and have had most options and models since they came on the market.


From the simple Garmin,Etrex, Sat map and I now have my system on my Iphone which I use as a back up for map and compass.  As I am out a lot on my own it is of great use to me. So many times they have been a great addition to my navigation tools especially in winter. I did a bit of work in the past with my pal the GPS ” navigation Guru “Lyle Brotherton who wrote a lot on Gps and its uses in his superb book on navigation and for those who are technical or just want more information it is in his book. Ultimate Navigation!

Training in the past with GPS Garmin

Training in the past with GPS Garmin

I few years ago I bought the Satmap is has done me  well and I mapping extremely good but had lots of problems with my rough handling and sent it away for various fixes which were costly. I had a few problems with the screen and a few other things like the battery compartment opening being flimsy ( that was fixed twice for free). Satmap are very good  and this was as always quick and efficient service but it is costly. Recently I sent it away again as I had another snag with a line on the screen and was quoted with a £60 fix plus others nearly £90 and as I had the device for 4 years it was not worth it. I was also quoted that I could have a £30 discount for a new device of about £350. I decided not to go with it old age and pension so I decided they could keep the device so if anyone wants a free case and battery pod contact me!

What I got back – 

“We have completed the assessment of the device you have sent in for repair. The cause of the broken screen is due to impact damage to the TFT LCD screen. The broken TFT LCD screen can be rectified With a TFT replacement. The cost for the TFT replacement is £60. We are also recommending a Front Clam Replacement (new specification with highly visible orange buttons). The cost for this is £22 plus postage and this covers brand new front casework, new buttons, seals and screws.

I have included a link here to make payment for the TFT and Front Clam Replacement.”

However, we are offering a small trade in discount for Active 10’s, against a purchase of a new Active 12 unit. The value is dependent upon an assessment to confirm that the hardware is in full working order, which in this case he Motherboard is. As the condition of the casework, buttons and seals does not affect the value we are able to offer you £30 discount on the purchase of an Active12. 

We have some options for existing Active 10 users wishing to upgrade, they are as follows:

Active 12 Unit only (no mapping/accessories)

• Satmap Active 12 GPS unit

• 1 year free access to Satmap Xpedition Premium (online mapping and planning tool).

• 10% map discount voucher (terms here http://www.satmap.co.uk/discvoucher.php)

• Documentation, including Quick Start User Guide

• Price £290, not including discount (plus £8.95 secure delivery)


This option will allow you to use all of your existing accessories and mapping. The only A10 accessory not compatible with the A12 will be the screen cover, due to the change in dimensions.

Active 12 SOLO (no mapping)

• Satmap Active 12 GPS unit

• 1 year free access to Satmap Xpedition Premium (online mapping and planning tool).

• 10% map discount voucher (terms here http://www.satmap.co.uk/discvoucher.php)

• Power bundle, including 2700 mAh LiPol rechargeable battery and wall/car charger

• Standard carry case and lanyard

• USB cable – for charging and data upload / download

• Documentation, including Quick Start User Guide

• Price £320, not including discount (plus £8.95 secure delivery)

Any accessories that you have sent in with Active10 will be returned with your Active12 as all accessories are compatible between the two devices (however the viewing area of the outer screen cover varies slightly between models). 

If you would like to go ahead with a purchase of an Active12 please let me know – alternatively use the payment link above to continue with the repair to the A10.  

Kind Regards

Technical Support

Satmap Systems Ltd.

Such is life !



Now I use my Iphone IN A PROTECTIVE CASE with OS maps with OS Mapfinder which is ideal for me and always carry a spare battery  and connecting cable on the hill for my phone a “no brainer”.

Iphone and case with mapping and spare battery and cable is my system. I find that I can enlarge the maps on the screen and its easier for my eyes to take in the detail on a enlarged screen. Any views?

Iphone and case with mapping and spare battery and cable is my system. I find that I can enlarge the maps on the screen and its easier for my eyes to take in the detail on a enlarged screen. Any views?

I love that I can enlarge the screen in difficult areas and this is great if you like me have poor eyesight. So in the end this is what I will do and always carry my map and compass with me and have an enlarged map of any tricky navigation areas on my route.  The maps are fairly reasonable priced and you can download them as you need them from OS.

Lots of great info in this book for all those who want more info out there on GPS and simple navigation tips.

Lots of great info in this book for all those who want more info out there on GPS and simple navigation tips.

As a rescue tool the GPS is exceptional it should be carried by each search party on a big search and downloaded to show where you have been. I wonder still how many Rescue teams do this? The GPS has so many uses but few use them to their capacity?

My GPS  when I when I was with the RAF teams had so many way points marked in so many areas like – 4 gully on Ben Nevis, Goat Track Cairngorm, Glencoe, Lost Valley beleach Glencoe, and the top of climbs so many others that I used in an emergency a great tool for Rescue and training!

To any firms out there – If you want any GPS tested by a normal person I am there and willing?  It will get a real trial? Feel free to contact me !


You still need the old skills as well as technology never forget that!
Some comments on Twitter!

@snoweider @HeavyWhalley I really rate the Garmin Foretrex 301. No mapping but does the basics really well in any conditions.

@snoweider Yep, in winter I feel the balance tips in favour of having buttons that can be used with gloves (and guaranteed waterproofing).

lucy Arran I’m a happy smartphone navigator (with the usual disclaimers) , and often run tracks (carry spare batt) but prefer a seperate GPS in winter.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments

1983 memeories of the Cessna Crash at Balbeggie. No snow on the drive home and then a fun night with Lochaber MRT legend.

I had a slow drive back and returned by Glenshee and Braemar, there was no snow and the hills were bare. I stopped at Braemar Mountain Sports and bought some Christmas presents.


  • The Ultimate kit bag essential for all outdoor activities! – Running, Cycling, Dog Walking, Skiing, Fitness, Fishing, Motorbikes, Golf, Sailing, Snowboarding
  • Seamless 100% Microfibre – Hypoallergenic, No fade or lose elasticity, no itching or chafing : Designed with seamless edges (no stitching), so they can be worn under your ski/cycle helmet without causing chafing.
  • Protection from the wind,snow,sun – Stay Dry with this wicking fabric – Year round accessory : All of our scarves are made of high quality specialist technical Microfibre, which means even though they are thin they keep you warm and wick moisture in the summer – A technical baselayer for your head and neck!
  • Neck warmer, snood, head band, ski scarf, face mask, bandana, beanie hat
  • One size fits all – Men, Women, Children and medium sized dogs!

A couple of buffs for the girls a frozen one and another top that I needed, I feel it is important to support the local shops in mountain areas? I was soon back home a three hour drive with a stop for a new power lead for my laptop.


Balbegie crash one of the few where we located 4 survivors a big call – out after an all night search with 202 Sqn RAF Leuchars,  SARDA, Tayside, RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars MRT. Few know the story of this incident does anyone have any information as what I have is pretty scant yet I was there and it was tragic but we recovered 4 badly injured casualties.

I always thought it was a Swiss Curling Team involved and have a bit of information on the incident. It would be good to find out a bit more on the incident? We found I am sure the pilot a bit of a distance from the aircraft near a fence and it was a big learning curve for me. Al Haveron was there and was a big influence on the casualty handling as Triage was is in its infancy! Any help would be great.

RAF Kinloss 11-12/11/83 Balbegie

Nr Dundee

Missing Cessna aircraft.  4 found alive with major injuries.  2 Fatal. SARDA, Tayside, RAF Kinloss/ Leuchars.

RAF Kinloss were directed by the NRCC assist in the search for an overdue Cessna aircraft. Kinloss MRT left their training base at Tyndrum at 2150z and arrived at Balbeggie  at 2300 hours. A night search ensued in very heavy hill fog till 0450z on Sat morning. All hill parties were withdrawn for a first light search. ( a short break for food)

A first light search ensued with Tayside MRT, SARDA ,RAF MRT and 22 Sqn RAF Leuchars. The crash site was located by a SARDA dog handler at 0810z at Grid Ref Map 53 211301. Kinloss MRT and others administered first aid and Rescue 34 – Leuchars Helicopter evacuated the 2 fatalities and the 4 seriously injured casualties to  Dundee Ninewells Hospital.  This is all I have found on the incident plus the AIB report which says little.

It was a massive learning point for me, dealing with multi casualties, ensuring all were located we found one survivor a distance away from the crash and how even a low rural hilly area can be so hard to search in poor weather. Control of the searchers as the arrived to help was tricky and valuable lessons were learned. It is amazing that I had nearly forgotten this tragic incident yet we saved 4 lives and so many lessons were learned for my future involvement in Mountain Rescue. Anyone who was there would be great if you got in touch ?

I was thinking on the way back of my great pal Al Macleod whose Mum I had visited in Rattery. Al was killed many years ago on the Matterhorn and these hills I drove past were where he lived and worked as a young keeper. He was superbly fit and loved the mountains and when he joined the RAF Mountain Rescue he was in his element.  How bright a man he was and I have met few with his talent and determination and Al was taken far to soon.  I helped organise the funeral all these years ago one of my first and it was then that the Mountain Rescue Family became apparent. The love and care of the family from everyone was never to be forgotten and Al’s family will never forget the support and care.  It was a job I had to carry out on sadly on several occasions.

Big Al MacLeod on Hells Lum Crag photo Bill Batson.

Big Al MacLeod on Hells Lum Crag photo Bill Batson.

Later when I got back I went out with Dan Carrol and Al Swadel to meet a great pal Donald Watt a past Team Leader Of Lochaber MRT. Donald and his wife Norah are in the village for a wee break and it was a big birthday for Donald. We had a great night spraffing about past rescues and listening to Donald’s stories. Norah has a few as well and in the early day in the 60’s when no one had a car or a phone the Police would pick the team up for call -outs. Donald and Norah were then a young married couple and had just moved to the area. The neighbours  for ages thought Donald was always in trouble as the Police car was always at the house and taking him away! These are wonderful stories of the early days and the great characters of Lochaber MRT and how the wifes would race around and get the other team members.    Hardly anyone had phones in these days or cars and the call out system was simple. Norah was always saying that she would not sleep till they were off the hill, what amazing people they are and the effect on the families is something few realise these days. There are so many tales of Lochaber and of the incredible Mountain Rescue story it was great to hear them from a man like Donald and his incredible wife Norah.




Posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

  Thanks for a great night in Blairgowerie Tayside MRT.


Last night I did a talk for The Tayside MRT at there new base in Blairgowerie! it was an interesting night and very enjoyable! I travelled down early and visited a few friends on the way sadly there was no snow on the hills! I met a friend Heather for a coffee in Blairgowerie and then on to Brian and Kathy who I was staying with in town. Brian is an old pal from my RAF days in Mountain Rescue. I also went to meet Helen MacLeod my pal Al Macleod’s Mum (Al was sadly killed on the Matterhorn) his Mum Helen still lives in Rattary. We had a great catch up about life and lots of magic memories of Big Al it was a wonderful visit and one I will cherish. Brian  took me round as he knew Al well and to see Helen and it was lovely to get the stories of Al and memories of someone so full of life. As I walked out I noticed a great photo of a young Al high on the French Spur on Everest, its a poor copy but the original is a dynamic photo of one of my best pals in his prime.

I will be back at New Year hopefully to see Helen what a lovely visit it was and so many thoughts on the way home.


We had a great chat and then to Brian’s and Cathy for dinner and then went over to the Tayside Mountain Rescue Team Base in Blairgowerie! This Base is just opening and has been donated by the Order Of John a charity that has done so much for Scottish Mountain Rescue. It was a great night and there new building is impressive and it is great to see the plans that the team have for the future. I had been down to set up a few hours before and when I got back my power pack had blown out?


Lucky I had a back up of my chat on a flash drive and the wee talk went ahead with another laptop. I spoke as I said before about many of the great characters in Mountain Rescue who had helped me and taught me so many valuable lessons in the past.  It was good to be back speaking to Mountain Rescue team member’s and I hope they enjoyed it.

Balbeggie crash - 4 survivors incredible.

Balbeggie crash – 4 survivors incredible.

It was amazing how short the memory is as I spoke about an aircraft crash nearby at Balbeggie where the Tayside team, SARDA RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars were involved and after an all night search we located the aircraft with 4 survivors all badly injured . This was one of my few recoveries from an aircraft crash of live casualties.


This was a letter I wrote to the Order of St John

Many, Many thanks.

Firstly please accept my sincere apologises for not writing before to thank you for all your great work for the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland over the years. I was the Chairman of the Mountain Rescue Committee in the early nineties when we were first approached by the Order of St John who wanted to assist Mountain Rescue in Scotland.

I was at that time in the RAF and serving at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. I was the Team Leader of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and was the first military member to serve as Chairman. In the RAF we are extremely well equipped and even had 5 full –time staff, our primary role is to assist in the recovery of crashed military aircraft in the mountains of the UK. The RAF Teams are well funded by the government unlike our civilian counterparts who at that time had to raise all their funding through Charity. I felt it was one of my main tasks as Chairman with my Executive Committee to try to get additional cash or sponsorship for the civilian teams.  This may sound fairly simple but to Mountain Rescue in these days this was very radical! Sponsorship financial assistance many thought would come with strings attached and many in Mountain Rescue were wary of their independence.

Mountain Rescue as you are aware is made up of civilian volunteers all who are all unpaid and to some, sponsorship was the first route to professionalism creeping into Mountain Rescue. This was a great worry to many as things were changing at this period of time Health & Safety was raising its head and litigation was a worry in the care of casualties.

I spoke to the Executive Committee and we all agreed that any help from the Order Of St John would be a huge benefit not only to Mountain Rescue in Scotland but far more importantly to the casualty. I had a meeting at RAF Kinloss with from Sir James Stirling Of Garden and explained that there may be a “hearts and mind” exercise ahead when he met some of the teams.  I was very frank but was so impressed by the attitude and desire of the Order to help. Many Sponsors would have left it there but incredibly The Order agreed to speak to a few of the “Characters in Scottish Mountain Rescue” especially those who were very wary of this new idea.  He travelled far and wide and met some of the characters who make Mountain Rescue so unique. This was not an easy task. Due to this magnificent work of the rest is history.  This was a key point in Scottish Mountain Rescues development.


I retired from the RAF in 2007 and for 3 years was a member of the Torridon & Kinlochewe MRT, who are in the process of building a long overdue base for the team. I am still very active as a mountaineer and it is incredible to see MR Bases all over Scotland from Skye, to Glencoe to the Borders and the Islands. The new Base in Arran looks wonderful and this is where my family started me on my “Affair” with the mountains, nearly 50 years ago. What you have achieved is incredible for the Order and a wonderful addition to Mountain Rescue. I spent nearly 40 years many as Team Leader having to talk to casualties in the back of a land rover or an old building during searches. Even worse is speaking to relatives after a fatality and to have some where warm and secure to speak and comfort them in nearly every MRT area was so needed and is a huge improvement. As important is having an area for Team Members to train and debrief after an operation and store and service equipment is a wonderful accolade to the Order. In addition the Team bases are now part of the local facilities in some areas, this gives especially the remote areas locals the opportunity to share in teams facilities. I do wish more people realise what the Order has down for Mountain Rescue and I hope the small logos on the buildings and Bases are testimony to your great achievements. The Bases and vehicles you have supported over the years had made a superb difference to Mountain. I have heard that you plan to continue this support of Mountain Rescue in Scotland in the future, long may it continue.

The Order of St John I salute you.

David “Heavy” Whalley MBE. BEM.

Burghead  December 2011.  updated Dec 2013.

I am in the process of writing a book on my life in the mountains and hope to explain the part you have played in Mountain Rescue. I also have a website and do various lectures on the mountains and try to explain to my audiences what you have done for us all. Again many, many thanks.




Please edit as you see fit!

Posted in Charity, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Lectures, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Heading to Bairgowerie for a talk to the Tayside MRT.

I am off on my travels to Blairgowerie to talk to the Tayside Mountain Rescue. I will visit the late Al MacLeod’s Mum my best pal who was killed on a fall on the North Face of the Materhorn it will be great to meet her again.


Big Al MacLeod after his successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger a great pal and superb friend.

Big Al MacLeod after his successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger a great pal and superb friend.

Al Macleod 14/7/1989

In Mountain Rescue you meet some great characters and my great friend Al McLeod was on of them. He died after a fall on the Matterhorn North Face whilst soloing. It was a tragic day when we got the news. Al was just leaving the RAF and had planned a years climbing. He was a superb mountaineer and just back from an unsuccessful attempt on Everest West Ridge, he had attempted the summit and was 1000 feet from the top after climbing the Hornbein Coulior, the weather came in and they descend. As a young man he had so much to live for, he like the rest in our prime of youth felt so at one in the mountains. He was so powerful and regularly ran back to the bothy after a huge hill day. He never showed tiredness, just power and though not a natural climber on rock he was so strong. As a winter climber he was exceptional. He loved the mountains and the wild and as a local boy from Blairgowerie he had spent his life in the hills. He was the man who looked after me after Lockerbie, he was a true friend in all aspects and I never forget him.


On researching my talk I was amazed at the influences during my 40 years in SAR. My early Team Leaders, George Bruce, John Hinde, Pete McGowan and Ray Sefton all so different made incredible impressions on me. They had so many talents and to work with them and many others was an incredible experience and one I treasure.

Leadership is often talked about and the military try to teach it rather badly in my opinion to many of their Officer core. What I learned through the years was incredible and if you could bottle it and learn from your mistakes it would be some teaching manual, a best seller.  What the military was a bit scared of was the way we operated it was not the respect of rank but of experience and ability no matter what your rank. I learned much from the “young guns” and was glad so many developed into  strong and sound mountaineers, leaders and in many other aspects of life.

Another good thing you were only a Team Leader for a few years, I did back to back tours at RAF Leuchars and Kinloss 7 years in total with so many incredible test and learning points. In that period I dealt with the Lockerbie Disaster, The Shackleton Crash in Harris  and the Chinook crash on the Mull Of Kintyre. Add into that 25 -30 call – outs a year and many fatalities it was a testing period. In addition I lost 3 pals on the mountains. In the end I was burnt out and my family suffered. I try to talk about this as there are so many lessons to be learned for future leaders. I learned much from the civilian Team Leaders, Hamish McInnes, Peter Cliff, Graham Gibb, Terry Cornfield and Donald Watt, many became pals and were always fair to me a young keen Team Leader.

I was never a team leader again but stayed as a Team Member and watched the changes develop. I was the Chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue during this period and helped get Goverment financial assistance for the civilian Teams and from the Order Of St John which has been incredible for the Teams.


The RAF Mountain Rescue has changed three Teams now but still the same people a lot more admin as only the military can produce by as a good pal said. Willie Mac Ritchie the ex Team Leader at RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth stated.

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

How right he is and long may it continue.

Ray Sefton and Hamish MacInnes.

Ray Sefton and Hamish MacInnes.

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Avalanche info, Equipment, Family, Friends, Himalayas/ Everest, History, Ice climbing Canada, Lectures, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, SAR, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Stats in Mountain Rescue Why Bother? Please read.

The letter below was published in the Scottish Mountaineer and made me think again about Stats and there use in Mountain Rescue.

I would appreciate any comments.


For many years the Scottish Mountaineering Club annually published a lengthy list of brief Accident Reports. These reports simply detailed the date and location of each mountain accident, gave the ages and gender of those involved, said how many man-hours were involved for the relevant mountain rescue team and finally said how the incident was resolved. No names were published. To give two examples:


‘February 24 – Ben Nevis (near CIC Hut). A lone walker was walking in the area of the CIC Hut

    when an avalanche carried him about a hundred metres. He suffered limb injuries and was

    carried first by stretcher then airlifted to Hospital in Fort William. Glencoe MRT, R177 (the helicopter).

    94 hrs.’


 ‘January 2 – Signal Point, nr Clachaig Inn (NN122566). A female walker (62yrs) slipped and fractured her

    ankle. The team carried her out to a waiting ambulance. Glencoe MRT. 13 hrs.’


Much to the regret of SMC members and the wider Scottish mountaineering community, since 2012 the SMC Journal has not been sent these most valuable reports. Through a fog of obfuscation we seem to have learned that Police Scotland (or at any rate someone in your organisation) has decided that these reports cannot be published because, so it seems, it is thought that the reports contravene the provisions of the Data Protection Act. This seems to be a sad mistake. So far as we can see, the reports barely breach the Act at all: no names are published and if it was felt that publishing either the gender or the age of the victim might allow identification this could easily be avoided. One would simply say “Two people…two climbers…two individuals…etc.” I believe that the present sorry situation rests on a simple misunderstanding of what the reports need involve. All that needs to be retained is the place, the time of year, the cause of the accident and the number of hours which the rescue team had to put in to resolve the situation. My Deputy Editor stands ready to alter any reports received so that no names, ages or genders are mentioned.


Little accident reports like this are most helpful to hillwalkers and climbers. They identify accident blackspots; they put flesh and bones on mere statistics; they are a vivid and engaging historical record of what went wrong for some individuals in Scotland’s mountains and a humble memorial of all the time and effort which needs to be put in by the rescue services to put things right (if they can be put right). If you have read of accidents taking place because of unstable snow conditions in Coire na Tulaich on the Buachaille in Glencoe you might think twice before descending that way in a thaw. Not publishing these reports because of some ill-informed fears about “confidentiality” is a mistake, and, in the view of those who understand Scottish mountaineering, actually compromises safety.

I do not know who it is who is obstructing the publication of these reports. I am not even a hundred percent certain that it is someone in Police Scotland, but if it is (as I am lead to believe) I do wish that he or she would consider carefully what I have said and enter into a meaningful dialogue about the issue. I am quite confident that with a little goodwill and commonsense the matter could easily be resolved.

Peter Biggar.

This is my article a few years ago

I have decided to write about something that few people will be aware of and

their relevance to Mountain Safety and nowadays to Mountain Rescue Funding. I

have been fortunate as for many years I was involved in meeting two of the main

protagonist of the Scottish Mountain Rescue Stats Ben Humble and John Hinde.

They compiled the Stats for the Scottish Mountain Rescue Committee; Ben was a

renowned mountaineer and had a great interest in mountain safety. When Ben

died he left a great legacy through the Scottish Mountaineering Club Annual

Journal where the Stats were put in since the early 40’s. Ben wrote and worked

tirelessly and his article “A survey of Mountain Accidents In Scotland 1925 – 45″

was a breakthrough at the time. After this Ben compiled a yearly listing of

Mountain Accidents in the Journals. It was when Ben passed away John Hinde

took over and did another outstanding job for many years; they left a unique

history and so much information for future generations especially in the aspects

of Mountain safety.

Nowadays Mountain Rescue Teams are extremely busy and after a call out the

last thing they need is to afterwards is to compile the call –out report. Yet they

are so important especially nowadays. I took over the Statistician job for several

years and had various problems keeping up with the reports. There were in these

days 400 call –outs many involving several teams. The paperwork involved was

very hard work and at times it was a constant battle to keep up to date. It

became nearly a full time job and kept me very busy in any spare time I had.

I did a talk a few years when I was the Scottish Mountain Rescue Statistician it

was to try to get the teams to realise how important they are. None of us like

paperwork but it is so essential especially when trying to raise funding from

Government Sources. I found this out the hard way in the late 80’s when they

were going to cut the RAF Teams or even get rid of them. It was a real panic but I

was the only Team with a history going back to 1944 and could prove to the

“Bean Counters” that 10% of our incidents were for military aircraft and military

personnel. That Bean Counter was put back in his box for a few more years. It

was also very relevant in the early days of trying for funding from the Scottish

Government when I was Chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue. We had to

explain to the First Minister that Teams put in a huge amount of hours in on

training, courses and looking after equipment apart from attending incidents.

These are a few points from my talk!



The information gained from a few years incidents can be so helpful to teams. It

can help show the areas in which Team Training should go. If your Team mainly

does Lowland Urban searches should you spend do much time and money on

expensive equipment on Technical gear? Maybe look more into Search planning

and training? Or if you carry out a lot searches in areas of swift water should the

training be increased in this area? Agree fully on this one. A rich profile of what a

team does and where it does it can help inform not only training (what and

where) but also what kinds of equipment to purchase. It’s all about matching

what the team does in theory to what it actually does in practice. I suspect that

in many cases this is not the case.

Also, an accurate and up-to-date picture about what happens across Scotland

can help advise the Press, Government and safety organisations such as the

MCofS on what aspects to focus on, and also avoid these organisations passing on year after year inaccurate myths (e.g. all mountaineers are ill equipped and

Inexperienced numpties hell bent on jumping off cliffs!)



Team areas will have accident hot spots that are current today it may be

worth having a look back and see if any changes are relevant? Casualties

do get found in areas that were hot spots in the past. At times many of the

current team may have limited knowledge of this historical fact as elder

Team member’s leave and their knowledge could be lost forever? Agree

fully. A recent Professor of IT is quoted as saying “ “The experiences of our

past are still the best road map to our future”. You are correct that hot

spots of the past disappear and new ones appear. Its only we you carry out

an objective analysis that trends like this appear. This can help a present

team to find out more about the new hot spots (where are they, how do you

gain access, what are the technical challenges, and so on). Far better to be

Pre-warned than be caught out on a rescue!

Medical – Look at the injuries your team deals with make priorities in these areas that are

you need to. If you deal with 80% ankle lower limbs make sure all can treat and

the equipment is suitable. How many stretcher carries do you do how often do

you practice? It is easy to get side tracked? Fully agree. No point in spending

£1000s on fancy kit to deal with a broken femur when your team has never ever

had such an injury! Also, if a team mainly deals with searches with no injured

people then why train numerous members to become EMTs etc, when the money

and time would be better spent on training up people to become better at

searching and search management.


Funding – The government are interested in Stats – man/ women hours so important. What

about the hours on training and sorting gear and exercises they are never

submitted in the figures only call out hours. What about travel to and from a call out,

sorting out gear, standby hours etc. “Bean Counters” only want numbers but

that is how it works . It is really worth working out how many hours the team

spends training/ courses and kit maintenance? It will amaze you! When you add

up all the hours carried out by every team across a full year it sums to around

40,000 hours (give or take). This translates into many, many full time police

Officers, which goes to show not only what a comprehensive job we do, but also

and how much money is saved to the public purse.


Safety/Research – The common causes of accidents in your area maybe worth alerting climbers and walkers to current trends in your area. Is safety not a Mountain Rescue Concern?

The SMR/MRS is the organisation in the BEST POSSIBLE position to advise

everyone – Press, Government, Course Providers, Governing bodies, etc, what

goes wrong. It has a moral obligation to publish its annual statistics far and wide

and in a timely manner – not two years late! Also, as a government funded

Organisation, should it have a legal responsibility to do this too? Some  of he recent accidents on Ben Nevis (winter 2015) have been in the same area and involve walkers ? Why is this trend happening?


Historical – So many casualties will come back many years later to find out what happened

to them or a loved one. It is good to have some back ground on the incident and

what happened. Many things re –occur on a regular cycle. You and I can recount

numerous instances where family members have come back to us for

information about someone in the family who died (a grid reference, more detail,

who assisted etc.) and SMR has a moral responsibility to help these people by

providing relevant information.


Stats are so important –

The world has changed nowadays with the Data Protection Act and personal

privacy, with new regulations to ensure that this is adhered to. We do not need to

name any casualties but age and other factors are very relevant. With one Police

Force I was assured that we would have current and accurate stats that we can

use for the next generations to learn from, I wonder how far we are from this now

the Single Police force is up and running. I feel we owe it to John Hinde, Ben

Humble and all the other Statistics Officers who maintained and published

accurate and up-to-date records to tackle this problem before it is too late.

Is it only me that sees this as a problem?


Any comments welcome?

Worth noting

Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW) is very open about what it does and you can download annual figures from as far back as 1980 right through to 2013.

Go to – http://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/information-centre/incident-statistics


Irish MR is not quite as up to date but still open about publishing its annual stats.  Go to –



Do we seem to be lagging behind?

Thanks to Bob Sharp for his input and Ben Humble and John Hinde for the inspiration!



Past Comments –  A comment 0f Congratulations on a very forceful and heartfelt defence of management information in mountain rescue.

All the points you make are valid, both north and south of the border as well as across the Irish Sea. For the last two decades I have been trying to instil these same points into the English and Welsh MRTs. I believe progress has been made but I am still not satisfied that the MREW figures are complete. For what it is worth, my sympathy goes out to all the statisticians who have followed John Hinde; not only a difficult act to follow but one made harder by poor co-operation from teams.

The production of management information is vital for the development of mountain safety and rescue. This point is well-made by Heavy. All the aspects covered by the article are essential if mountain rescue is to develop in a way that reflects changes in society. Without this steady flow of information, it is likely that lessons will be overlooked, will not be learned or quickly be forgotten.

Please consider publishing your article further afield. It might even blow some of the blinkers away.

Ged Feeney
Statistics Officer – Mountain Rescue (England & Wales)


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