A Wander with old pals Strathpeffer and a few memories of a big walk in 1978!

2017 Jim & Terry at Strathpeffer March. Where has the hair gone?

Yesterday was a day catching up with some old pals, Terry Moore and Gillian were up at Strathpeffer and we had a catch up. Jim and Pam Morning also came over and we had a great wander around this lovely area from Strathpeffer to Rogie falls following the forest tracks and bike trails we had a great catch up in great weather. We got some great views of Ben Wyvis on our walk and how lovely an area this is another gem not far from home.

A great wander with good pals.

It was fun to catch up and we had a few chats about the old days and some of the adventures. Pam and Gillian never let on and it ended up a bit longer than we thought but we had a great day and a fun walk around a superb area.

The bike trails look great and this is the area of the famous Strathpuffer 24 a 24 hour biking endurance event. One for the future!

Strathpuffer Route

Strathpuffer 24 Rules

  1. Riders must compete on pedal bikes using human power.
  2. Riders cannot accept outside mechanical assistance or parts on the course except from other competitors.
  3. Riders may accept outside assistance and change parts at the designated service area.
  4. Only one rider per team may compete at the same time.
  5. Riders must ‘dib’ at the control on every completed lap.
  6. Any riders/teams retiring must contact an official as soon as possible.
  7. All riders must carry emergency food supplies, a whistle and an emergency light.
  8. All riders must carry or wear appropriate clothing for warmth in the event.
  9. All riders must carry a basic first aid kit.
  10. All competitors under-16 years must provide written permission from parents.
  11. Any non-school competitors who will be under-14 during the event must contact the organiser’s before entering. If entry is permitted by the organisers the competitor must accompanied by an adult at all times whilst competing.

 

1978 Winter West to East with a young Terry Moore, Jim Morning and me.I think this was taken in Strathfarrar nearly 40 years ago.

It was funny to watch the boys who were navigating along the tracks Terry with his 40 year old map and Jim with his hi tech phone. Terry get a new map we had a great catch up then lunch in Strathpeffer. It was a big change from the nearly 40 years ago when we did an incredible winter walk from the West to East in Scotland in 1978. How times change.

 

RAF KINLOSS 1977–EAST–WEST TRAVERSE OF THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS 

28/10/1977 –19/11/1977 –  Heavy Whalley, Jim Morning, Terry Moore.

This was the first expedition in to attempt a Traverse of Scotland in November winter. This walk was the based on an idea by the late John Hinde, a former RAF Team Leader. Myself and Jim had done a North to South in 1976 in May and we were cocky young lads and I think he had the last laugh.  The daylight is very short in November 6-7 Hours and the weather is notoriously poor. We learned from this walk, lessons never to be forgotten throughout our lives. Jim and Terry were already excellent mountaineers and later on climbed all over the world including Everest West Ridge. They became two of the finest mountaineers that RAF Mountain Rescue ever produced.

During that walk we set up food caches and were completely unsupported and self-sufficient, we walked the whole way no lifts were taken. We were met every 3- 4 days and were supplied by land rover. The weather was awful, we nearly died it snowed and snowed the A9 was shut and the Walk was supposed to be called off but we continued. During it we became great friends but became great pals and have remained so.

This was a complete winter traverse with snow on every hill, extremely deep in places; blizzards were common, navigation crucial. In the end it was a survival exercise, very nearly pushed to the limit on several occasions.  Totals  Munro’s climbed 57, Kilometres 506, Ascent; 33149 metres.

Tea break at Rogie Falls.

We had a superb lunch in the Highlander Hotel and then headed home a great catch up and plans to meet again.

Where have all the years gone?

Posted in Enviroment, Family, Friends, Local area and events to see, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather | 2 Comments

A short walk in the Cairngorms then a another broken heart at the rugby.

It was a lazy start away at 0800 to pick up Gus and Yeni from Forres then head to Cairngorms for a short walk before the rugby. The forecast was not bad at all for March as we drove to Aviemore to meet Brent in the Mountain Cafe. We take it easy on these walks and started the day with a bacon roll and tea a slow start. It was then a short drive to the lower Ciste Car park for a wander up on to the plateau. The hills looked stripped with the lower peaks stripped completely of snow it was warm as we arrived at the near empty car park. Glenmore Lodge were there in force and of on winter skills and ski mountaineering.

I do enjoy this walk as I did it often when I was ill a few years ago and just to get the view of Strath Nethy and away from the crowds. I used to sit above the crags and get the air and the space and so close from the road.

No snow and a walk in the sun from the car park. Meall A Buachaille devoid of snow behind.

The path is fairly muddy for the first ten minutes as this area is popular with climber now with the crag  Creagan Coire Cha-no    –    This is a small east-facing winter crag overlooking Strath Nethy was developed in the 2010/11 season, and has around 30 routes to date. Its short approach (less than one hour and a bit for me from Coire na Ciste car park) will probably ensure popularity for years to come.

The groups were on the big snow patches doing winter skills as we headed up onto the plateau.

It had been a funny winter and I was just wanting to check my leg out and it was okay we were taking it easy as only one of us was under 55 the eldest 74! We saw a few ptarmigan no hares though and the snow was soft all day just some ice in places near the watercourses.

Is this creeping club moss?

There was more snow on the plateau and little wind the sun was warm and I must not forget my sun screen and put it in my bag when I get back. Sun damage has battered my face and hands so keep them covered up especially when high up in the sun and snow.

 

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Heading to the Cairngorms today –  then hopefully the rugby ?

Out with some pals today to the Cairngorms with a few mates  before the rugby a big match today England v Scotland fingers crossed. It will be interesting to see how the leg copes after the “great pancake injury “when I was down South. I have missed the hills but had some great views of the Cairngorms when playing golf at Grantown on Thursday they looked plasters with snow and stunning.

 

I am hoping that the weather is not too bad and we get a wander in the fresh air. I also have a pal up Terry Moore and Gillian staying at Strathpeffer so hope to visit them on Sunday! 


Maybe a dram watching the rugby!
Come on Scotland!

  • It will be interesting to see how busy the Cairngorms are today the forecast looks better later in the day  it will be also interesting to see how busy the Ski area is as there is lots in the local press about how much money they are losing due to a poor winter. 
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The Lancaster crash on Beinn Eighe in Torridon.

 THE LANACASTER CRASH ON BEINN EIGHE ROSS AND CROMARTY, SCOTLAND – 14th March 1951

IN THE MEMORY OF THE CREW OF LANCASTER TX264

Yesterday a group of RAF Mountain Rescue went to Torridon winter training they climbed Fuselage gully on Beinn Eighe. In 1951 a Lancaster crashed near the summit and this particular crash had a considerable influence in changes to RAF Mountain Rescue later on.

 

The crash aroused and held the attention, even curious with that desire to know the true facts, rumours do circulate by ‘word of mouth’ at happenings like this one and for some considerable time.  The lines of communication in the early fifties were still a newspaper, local or national, or the ‘Wireless’, very few people had a telephone and Television was in its infancy.  ‘News of this kind was news’, where to listen or read would create an ‘image’ in the mind.  Headlines in the ‘Press and Journal’, Aberdeen, were – Search of hills for missing Lancaster, Missing plane sought in Sutherland, Aberdeen.  Pilot on missing plane, Where the missing bomber crashed, Plane wreck not yet reached.

The RAF Kinloss Team in 1951 on the call -out photo Joss Gosling collection.

It is a sad story as anything of this nature is, particularly for the members of the Rescue Teams but does indicate without doubt ‘special significance’ or ‘emphasis’ on Mountain Rescue, with the extreme difficulties, along with mistakes, these teams faced in that day and age.  A detailed description of particular places and local features from Maps had to be the main concern and fully understood.

 

Beinn Eighe is a name, aggregated, for Peaks similar to each other or bearing a definite relation to the one preceding it. This mountain in winter is one of Scotland’s great peaks and accessible only by mountaineers. The gully where the main wreckage is a loose tricky ascent in summer and should only be attempted by mountaineers.

 

The following narrative relates the events of the Beinn Eighe crash on the 14th March 1951 until the 27th August, a very harrowing rescue mission undertaken by the RAF MRS, and civil MRS, despite being called out in all weathers of extreme severity and inhospitable terrain, are all volunteers.

 

1951 digging the wreckage near the summit. Photo Joss Gosling collection

On the 13th March 1951 at 1804hrs, Lancaster TX264 call sign ‘D’ Dog of 120 Squadron, converted for reconnaissance purposes, took off from RAF Kinloss, a ‘fog free’ climate of the Moray Coast between Lossiemouth and Nairn.  The pilot was Flt Lt Harry Reid DFC, 24 years of age, a total crew of eight with a Second Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer and four signallers.  It was a ‘Navigational Exercise’ via Cape Wrath, the very name a ‘mingled feeling of anger and disdain’ this being the extreme north-west point of the Scottish mainland and named after the Viking word ’hvraf’ meaning a turning point where the Vikings turned south to the Hebrides in the ninth century.  The cape is isolated and its heathland untamed.  Around midnight the aircrew flew over the Lighthouse.

 

The last position, sent by radio was at 0127hrs 60 miles north of the Cape, this was the very last message from the aircraft.

 

At 0200hrs a boy living in Torridon, on the east end of Upper Loch Torridon, looking through his bedroom window saw a red flash in the distance, but didn’t think any more about it until he saw the headlines in a Newspaper, ‘Missing Plane Sought’ and this was two days after the aircraft went missing.  He mentioned it to the local Postmaster who immediately contacted RAF Kinloss.  Similar reports had been received.  An Airspeed Oxford was sent to search which concentrated on Beinn Eighe.  The wreck of the Lancaster was sighted on the 16th March.

 

On the 17th March the Kinloss RAF Rescue Team arrived in the area and on the 18th approached Beinn Eighe from the North and into Coire Mhic Fhearchair from Loch Maree.  Wreckage from the Lancaster was found after arriving at the foot of the Triple Buttresses and lying in the ‘corrie’.  A ‘corrie’ is a semi-circular hollow or a circular space in a mountain side.  This particular wreckage had fallen, the bulk of the aircraft being much higher with the crew inside.  At the foot of the Western Buttress were the port wing, undercarriage, two engines and various cowlings.  On the following day the starboard wing and some other parts had been blown down by the strong winds, but still no fuselage.

 

The next day another party managed to climb higher and spotted the fuselage, burnt out, but couldn’t reach it.  Further attempts were abandoned for the time being.

 

The weather over the whole period of the search was ‘exceptionally’ severe for the time of the year.  It was intensely cold with constant snow showers and high winds and temperatures well below freezing at night.

 

The North of Scotland is much closer, in fact ‘considerably’ closer to the Arctic Circle than North Wales.  Conditions in winter can be more ‘Alpine’, they may be ‘Artic’.  Between Beinn Eighe and Sail Mhor the weather was absolutely ‘atrocious’, with the wind coming over the ridge with such force it was virtually impossible to move, and the snow anything from one to four feet.  The gully from the corrie was a solid sheet of ice.

 

It was certain that no one was alive in the wreckage, and in the opinion of the Officer in Charge of the team the wreckage was so situated it couldn’t be reached by any members of the public unless they were ‘highly experienced climbers’.

 

The CO at RAF Kinloss, in the meantime, had offers from the Moray Mountaineering Club, a Doctor John Brewster with this Club having considerable climbing experience in Winter.  This offer and another suggestion for help from the Scottish Mountaineering Club, holding their Easter meeting at Achnashellach to the South of Beinn Eighe were both declined.

 

On the 24th March Dr Brewster informed the CO that men from the Moray Club were going to Beinn Eighe on their own initiative, the RAF team were ordered to return to base.  Five men from the Club arrived at Torridon and attempted to reach the aircraft but of no avail and didn’t make a further attempt.

 

Another attempt was made by a Royal Marine Commando, Captain Mike Banks and Angus Eskine.  After a really difficult time with the weather, particularly gusts of wind that brought the human body on all fours, these two reached the main bulk of the aircraft.

Commando Climber worth a read for Mike Banks info. I interviewed Joss Gosling many years ago on the comments and his make interesting reading. I feel that the RAF were trying to keep things low key at the time and I would imagine there was some inter service rivalry at the time! My views

 

 

This Book Commando Climber tells the story from Mike Banks !
Eventually all unauthorised visits were stopped and the RAF Team once again returned to Beinn Eighe and this time reached the wreckage.  It was most difficult and dangerous work recovering the bodies; three were actually in the fuselage.  The last body was not recovered until 27th August. Rumours, idle gossip as always, flourished that the crew had survived the impact but rescue being too late.  It was obvious to the rescuers, and verified by the medical authorities that death was ‘instantaneous’ in all cases.

 

After the last body was recovered the team sent the large pieces of the fuselage and wing hurtling down the gulley and later came to be known as ‘Fuselage Gulley’, much of it remains to this day.

 

Five of the crew of Lancaster TX264 are buried in Kinloss Cemetery, set in the peaceful grounds of the ruined Abbey, they are Sgt W D Beck, Sgt J W Bell, Sgt R Clucas, Flt Sgt J Naismith and Flt Lt P Tennison, in a section reserved for many aircrew who have died flying from RAF Kinloss over the years.

 

EPILOGUE

 

On the 28th August 1985, a group of Officer Cadets led by Sergeant Jim Morning and Sgt Tom Jones were airlifted on to the summit of Beinn Eighe by a Sea King Helicopter from 202 Squadron. One of ‘D’ Dog’s propellers was recovered and put into a lifting net and taken by the helicopter to the road, and then to RAF Kinloss.

The Old RAF Kinloss Section and Prop now moved to RAF Lossiemouth – I need a new photo please???

The twisted three-blade propeller now stands outside the wooden Mountain Rescue Section building as a permanent memorial to ‘D’ Dog’s crew. The gully where the aircraft crashed is called by mountaineers Fuselage Gully and one of the propellers has to be climbed over and is used by climbers as a belay in winter.

 

THE CREW:-

 

PILOT

 

 

Flt Lt H S Reid

SECOND PILOT Sgt R Clucas
NAVIGATOR Fg Off R Strong
SIGNALLER Flt Lt P Tennison
FLIGHT ENGINEER Flt Sgt G Farquhar
SIGNALLERS Flt Sgt J Naismith
  Sgt W D Beck
  Sgt J W Bell

 

The standard of a Mountain Rescue Team, of even the rescue service as a whole fluctuates considerably and, sometimes, alarmingly.  Several factors contribute to this.

 

For many years there was ‘National Service’ eighteen months to two years.  A Man would be trained as a good mountaineer and when competent he would be lost to civilian life.  Sometimes several members would be demobilised at the same time.  Not only would it be imperative to find new volunteers but also men to train these novices, also the teams had to be commanded.

 

To say that they were sometimes led by incompetent men is unfair and misleading, but because there might be no experienced men available at one time, they were often led by Officers and NCO’s who would be incompetent to deal with emergencies, even those which might appear simple problems to the experienced mountaineer.

 

Sometimes, and by chance, the fault might be corrected in time, for with tact a good team could teach an Officer his job (although no team will tolerate an inefficient NCO.  Either the NCO will go, or the good men and therefore, the standard of the team).  Tact was required on both sides and when life is in the balance, as it always is on rescues, feelings ran too close to the surface.  The fewer experienced mountaineers in a team, the more tolerant prevailed.  As the Service took shape and experienced men were in the majority the teams worked more smoothly, and with, as it were, less emotional involvement.

 

Teams at the start of 1951 were inadequately equipped and poorly trained, but where – in Wales – this knowledge was confined to the RAF, in Scotland the repercussions of the Beinn Eighe disaster were widely publicised.  About this time two Medical Officers Berkeley and Mason who had put forward suggestions for improved efficiency came to the notice of the Air Ministry.  It was largely due to the efforts of these two Medical Officers that the organisation and training of the teams underwent a drastic change in the following year.

Joss Gosling at Beinn Eighe

One of the team members who was on the crash and has a unique account of what happened Joss Gosling who lives in Fort William. He was only a young lad at the time and the crash affected him greatly. Joss was a competent mountaineer as he had climbed previously before his National Service. He had some unique photos and a diary of events of what happened. He explains how awesome it was to see the corrie for the first time and how he felt during the long days of searching and recovery. His description of the great Corrie being like a Cathedral always sticks in my mind and when the mist swirls in these great cliffs you can feel his words of that eventful time. He explained that the “ugly step” on the ridge caused problems as the kit they had was very poor but they did their best, he is a wonderful man and a great example to us all. Joss was at the crash site on the 50th anniversary in 2001 and speaks with great authority on this tragedy. The RAF Kinloss team put a small memorial on the propeller below the gully in 2001 in memory of those who died in this crash, “lest we forget”

I was very privileged to have my last weekend before I retired from the RAF in this area as a member of the RAF Kinloss mrt.  This area due to its history is unique and I have spent many days enjoying these peaks. The “Torridon Trilogy” Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin became test pieces for team training first in summer then in winter conditions. Many of the classic climbs in summer and winter were climbed by team members and a few epic callouts over the years. These hills have huge corries and alpine ridges where rescues have occurred mostly not reported by the National Press. The local Torridon Team and the RAF MR have assisted climbers and walkers over the years.  I have climbed Fuselage gully on many occasions with team members during my 37 years with the Mountain Rescue Service. In early Dec 2007 with two of the young, Kinloss Team members we had a special day. This was my last day with the RAF before I retired. It is a fairly simple climb by modern standards but I broke a crampon at the beginning and it made the day very interesting as we were being chased by a big storm as we descended. One crampon on the steep descent was thought provoking and I can only think of how the team in 1951 with their simple kit coped. I was brought up to respect the history of this majestic area and its people; there was no finer place to spend my last weekend than in this special place. On my retirement I spend a two great years with the Torridon MRT as a team member. Finally retired from Mountain Rescue it is a great privilege to return to and enjoy the beauty of this mountain, its ridges, corries and wild life.

 

 

At the Memorial with Geoff

Recently in 2009 two well known climbers were avalanched whilst descending from Fuselage gully and the wreckage stopped them being seriously injured as one of the climbers hit the propeller on his way down the gully. It made big news in the Press!

2012 Any Nisbet photo of the Prop in the Gully.

In 2011 on the 60 th Anniversary of the Crash at the exact date a group of serving RAF MRT & Torridon MRT went up to crash site. The actual weather according to Joss Gosling who was on the actual search for the aircraft was very similar. We had thigh deep snow and the journey into the corrie took over 3 hours. BBC Radio Scotland accompanied us on the day and did a programme on the incident. We had a moving ceremony at the crash site, where we left a small wreath. The Stornoway Coastguard helicopter flew over the site as the weather came in making it a very moving day.    Joss now in his 80’s was interviewed by the BBC Scotland at the Hotel where the team had camped 60 years before.

 

What a story to tell and it still lives on and must never be forgotten.

 

Beinn Eighe –

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.

The long walk, views expanding as we climb.

Liathach Brooding

Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer

They have been there for many years

What have they seen?

A family of Deer

Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.

Memories!

This is a wonderful poignant place.

Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie?

Beinn Eighe wreath – photo E MacLean Torridon

This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe.

 

 

Recently in 2013/2014 and 2016  a relative of the incident Geoff Strong a nephew of Fg Off Robert Strong who was killed in the crash asked to visit the crash site. He lives down South and has now three times made the pilgrimage with myself and friends to the great Corrie. This place even after all these years after the 1951 crash mean so much to many.

Myself and Geoff at the Memorial below the gully.

People ask why do I visit these places?

 

Just speak to Geoff and then look in Joss eyes who was there when he tells his story of a young lad in 1951.

 

“Lest We Forget”

 

RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue have now been disbanded and there place taken by RAF Lossiemouth MRT. The memorial has been moved from Kinloss to Lossiemouth and I would appreciate a photo of it?  I still would?

I head up again this May 2107 with Geoff and this time Heather Joss’s daughter to visit the site and may be go over the tops with Heather. Joss is now in his 80’s and is excited his daughter is going up to see a place that means so much to him.

The Cathedral that is Beinn Eighe.

It was great to see that the RAF MR were up the gully this week March 2017 and the tradition lives on as do the teams. Take care and it is great to see an event such as this still not forgotten.

2017 RAF Mountain Rescue at the scene March – photo Edward Jones.

Heavy Whalley March 2017

 

Still looking for a photo  of the new memorial at RAF Lossiemouth

 

 

 

Posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Books, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Gear, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 9 Comments

North Wales in the late 70’s. Thanks to a few friends. A grand place to be and learn.

1979 Ben Lui crash Hercules transport

The blog on climbing in North Wales brought back so many memories of great days in North Wales when I was posted down South as a full-time Deputy Team Leader of the RAF Valley Mountain Rescue Team, I was posted to RAF Buchan on the East Coast of Scotland for nearly two years still coming out with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. I had no car so I got the bus and train to Kinloss some 80 miles away, it would take 4- 5 hours and at my cost. There was no sign of getting back to Mountain Rescue as my trade said no way, I was a Caterer by trade and told my folks I was going to come out the RAF (PVR) My Dad was not happy and he had some contacts as he was sadly a Tory and got George Younger involved who was I think the Defence Minister at the time. My old pal Eric Hughes the Officer I/C at RAF Kinloss got involved and thanks to Al Haveron the Team Leader at RAF Valley he took a chance on me and off I went. I never knew of my Dad’s involvement in the plot until after his death when Eric told me.

The Snowdon Horsehoe bike race

Arriving in North Wales I had a hand over from one of the Legends Colin Pibworth who was the Deputy there at the time. Pib was a mountain Rescue legend and I was a Scottish upstart so he at first never spoke to me, hard times and I joined the Team Leaders Course that was on at the time on their cliff rescue training on Holyhead and Gogarth a steep learning curb. I had only been in North Wales once on my MLC Assessment so my area knowledge was non existent.  I got the cold shoulder at first from some but lucky I had just done a winter traverse of Scotland over 21 days and was very fit. My first weekend was the 14/15 Peaks, they made me carry a full length rope but I was going great and the rope was ditched along the route and I was only one of two to finish that walk out of 7 starting!   Pib met me at the end and after that day we were great pals just a different generation. Next day it was down to Tremadoc rock climbing with wee Jock Cameron who became my climbing mentor. We climbed “One step in the clouds/ crowds” and Merlin Direct classic climbing and after that I got the bug and climbed badly every weekend.

Tremadoc photo – Merlin Direct.

Al the Team leader went away for a month to run the Royal Tournament at Earls Court as the Mountain Rescue Display and I was left the team. I had a few problems as some of the old and bold pushed their luck at times but that was sorted out. A few still saw me as a “wee laddie from Scotland” but that soon changed and the top boys Pete Kay, Dave Booth, Jock Cameron, Davy Walker, Stan Owen, Pib RIP  and others were great support and help keep me in line. It was a great period of learning but also learning how to handle the difficult troops many who were very talented climbers and mountaineers.

1980 Lakes Pete Kay-

We had our own helicopter flight at RAF Valley 22 Squadron Wessex and we became great pals and again that was a huge learning curb for me.  We used to have given a weekend off to be with the helicopter flight at Valley on base and go out with them on SAR operations on the hills. Politics were heavy at times with the odd dispute between local teams when we arrived on scene and a few times our troops were taken off the helicopter to stop a dispute.  I handled that in my own way with the Llanberris Team Leader John Ellis Roberts who first time we met tried this ploy with me but in the end we both got dropped off in the Trinty Gullies on Snowdon together. There it ended in mutual respect as we raced to the casualties and after that we became great friends as he was some man in the mountains.  John passed away recently he was still climbing in his 70’s and taught me a lot in these early days. We did many call – outs and always had a great relationship with Ogwen Cottage MRT, Tony Jones Team leader at the time RIP and the team were great friends with RAF Valley and still are with the current team.

RAF VALLEY MRT

I managed to head to Scotland about 4 times a year with a few team member’s we even had a winter week in Seanna Braigh up in the North Of Scotland  where we got some great climbs in. It was usually with a few new troops and what an insight for them in the early days of their apprenticeship.  We would come up and wind up the Scottish troops with our raids on their routes. The team was prominent on a missing aircraft a Jaguar on Ben Lui  in Scotland which crashed in November 1979 when the team was flown up from a weekend in Wales for a 3 day search in wild weather. My blog covers that story and was I impressed with the troops on that call – out. I also managed a big walk across Scotland with Dave Booth, Jim Morning, Dave Mitchell and Frank MacKenzie a South to North a great trip away for 22 days.

Carn Mor Dearg

We had many incidents short sharp call outs, many technical where ropes were used as North Wales is a busy place especially in the couple of great winters we had. The Devils Appendix and routes in the Pass, The Black Ladders were all climbed as I got out most days when these sensational conditions were in. It was as good as Scotland but with less walk in?  It was busy in summer to and every weekend was spent on the crags getting to know them intimately and regularly getting involved in incidents. I climbed all the classic routes in Classic Rock and a few others enjoying the variation of rock and weather. These were great times and when I look back superb days and great company. Many are still pals today. We had some great relationships with the locals and a few of the team married local lassies as always happens. I loved the cafe scene after a day on the crag or hill a brew and a cake and the “old Milk bar” in Betwsy Coed and Cobdins were the place to be. Team discount was the norm. The social scene was immense and we had some fun lost in the mists of time and a few parties I had to drag the troops out of this was the 70’s remember?

The Annual Snowdon Horseshoe Bike Race where all the RAF Teams took part and many of the civilian teams, great fun with the run across Crib Goch with a bike and then the run round the complete horseshoe and back to Pen Y Pass. Crazy days before Health and Safety and so competitive for some. These were the days of RAF Stafford MRT, Saint Athans now gone and of course RAF Leeming and Valley still going strong.

Early days on Hollyhead mountains big boots

Every month for one weekend we went to the Lakes or the Peaks more great climbing and add to that of North and South Wales we were always busy and getting to know other areas. We had annual grants to Scotland, Arran,  Braemar,Ben Nevis, Glencoe, Skye, Torridon superb days climbing and mountaineering and sound memories.  My three years in North Wales were superb and my last day was on the Idwal slabs with Pete Kay, Nige Hughes and Jock Cameron, on the slabs, Lazerus and Grey Slab.

I also learned about death in the mountains and we lost one of our own Mick Hernon –  Mick was a great pal and on  29 July 1980 was killed whilst descending the Pic Badile after ascending the West Face. Mick was a well-loved man by the RAF Team and an ex member of the Stafford Mountain Rescue Team. Mick was at RAF Valley when killed in the Alps and climbed with us often. A sad day for us all Mick left a  young wife and two young children.

This was one of my first times I had lost a close pal in the hills and Mick’s family were with him on a RAFMA Meet where Mick training for a Himalayan Expedition. It was a tragic time made worse as Mick had limited Insurance for an accident in the mountains at the time. The funeral at Stafford was a sad affair and one that took a long time to come to terms with. Mick at the time was an outstanding climber and climbed with many of the top climbers of the day in North Wales. We all still miss him! It made me push the troops to get insured when in the Alps.

During this period I had my dog Teallach and he love the place  and became a real character in the area. We met many of the old and bold, Joe Brown, Jim Perrin and many of the new wave of rock stars Paul Williams RIP became a great pal as did the Tremadoc Cafe Eric Jones and Pete’s Eats in Llanberris.

We could climb after a days work in the summer at Holyhead mountain or on the main sea cliffs and even travel the 60 minutes to Tryfan or the slabs or a bit longer to the Pass. I must get back to a re union in North Wales and get up a few classics before I get to old.

The Laked Gimmer crag

Maybe this year?

Anyone got any photos of the era at RAF Valley and who knows where Wee Jock Cameron is?

Wee Jock Cameron WHERE IS HE???????

The team is still at RAF Valley no longer in the old section off the camp and a place I loved near the beach and now part of the farm I think. The SAR Helicopters have gone sadly another era over. Things change but the memories get better.

2013 visit to the old section

Paul Duckworth  ” Quackers” as a bairn and the goat! at the old section in better days!

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A Dream of White Horses – a classic photo of climb on Gogarth in North Wales and memories of two great pals.

Jock and Al on “Dream of White Horses” both loving the exposure and the climbing above the sea. The climb is 4 pitches longand it is a major UK classic taking a rising traverse leftwards across Wen Slab to a sensational finale where the zawn drops away below your feet. The climbing itself is not hard but the grade is well justified due to the exposure and the consequences of either the leader or the second falling off the final pitch into empty space. Carrying prussics is highly recommended. Traditionally climbed in four pitches but the first is often bypassed in the common event of big seas.

Some days are special and  a few days ago I was amazed when I was offered a classic photo of two pals on an incredible rock climb on Gogarth a sea cliffs in North Wales! I loved this photo as it has a special place in my life I last saw it just before my pal Jock Pirrie passed away from a long battle from Cancer. It was in his house and his pride and joy above the fire in the front room. Jock was very ill and it was the last time I saw him these were hard days as he was cared by his loving wife Lorraine. Cancer is as we all know awful and to see “Jock ” and his and Lorraine’s bravery throughout was humbling even though it  was a tragic time. Jock was one of these few guys you meet a true character. He was a real climber, surfer, extreme athlete  way before all these sports were popular. He was a typical proud Jock, football fan ,golfer you name it he did it but even more important he was that man, who always cheered you up, with his welcome cry “how’s it going wee man?” I knew him from my Mountain Rescue days in North Wales and climbed with him often when he moved back up to Scotland.  We had many adventures with the “bad boys club” that went away once a month climbing the great routes in Scotland. Jock,  Al and others also did the famous bridge jumping of the Menia Bridge in Wales and various others like Kylesku bridge up North and they gave me  a few Police problems to sort out.

It was that at photo in his house that always stuck in my mind as it also had another great pal Al MacLeod who was killed on the North Face of the Matterhorn in July 1989 on the belay with Jock. It is hard to believe that Jock was taken so young of cancer 10 years ago and his wife Lorraine offered this classic picture to me few days ago and it now has pride of place in my wee house.  She knew how much it meant and  I picked it up yesterday from Lorraine we caught up and the memory’s came flooding back so easily. As I travelled home I thought what a pair they were Al and Jock real characters and how I miss them. They were both special people every minute was spent doing something and living life to the full every day, they were also such great pals that only a bond in the mountains can make.

Hard Rock by Ken Wilson a wonderful read.

 

The photo of Jock and Al was taken on an incredible climb in Anglesey on Gogarth in North Wales sea cliffs . It is one of the greatest climbing cliffs in the U.K. This climb starts on top of the big cliff is a wild descent right at the edge of the sea and it is a tricky place to get to. The climb is the magnificent “Dream of White Horses” what a name, what a situation. The photo is off both of them on the belay enjoying the exposure of a hanging belay above the sea.  They are both so full of life and sums up the camaraderie and friendship of the cliffs and big mountains full of confidence and in their prime. I wonder who took the photo and who was with them that day? Can anyone help?

Dream of white Horses is an iconic climb and the classic photo by Leo Dickinson’s of the first ascent in Hard Rock an the write up is powerful writing.

Hard Rock First published in 1974, this is an anthology about British rock-climbing. 60 of the most famous climbs in the country are covered, including such classics as Cenotaph Corner, Central Buttress of Scafell and The Old Man of Hoy. Each route is described in essay form by a climber who relates his own experiences during an ascent, in the context of a discussion about the intricacies of the climb and its history. Large crag and action photos (many of which now have a period flavour) embellish each chapter. The climbs themselves, though long since overtaken in terms of difficulty, are almost all regarded as timeless classics and have a “must do” status for all serious climbers. In this new impression, notes are added about all the changes in grades and other improvements that have taken place in recent years, thus bringing the book up to date for the Nineties.

The photo shows the waves crashing on the cliff and the two small figures climbing battling their way up on the first ascent. This photo was always one I always loved and is an iconic photo and a thing of beauty and natures power. To go down to Gogarth on a wild day is interesting and I often went down to watch the seas in a storm when at Valley for 3 years.

 

Dream of White Horses the Route.

The photo is now up in my front room and tonight I will have a dram for Jock and  Al two of my best pals and now gone. We have so many great memories and when I did that classic climb with my mate Jock  Cameron I was down in North Wales as the Deputy Team Leader of the RAF Valley Mountain Rescue Team. Gogarth was the local cliff but too hard for me but in the end I did climb Dream with my mate Jock Cameron in the late 70’s and was pretty scared at the time it was such a place to be but it had to be done it was expected. Gogarth was a place right on our doorstep and we had a few epics with the troops pushing the boundaries and the odd epic late at night before the RAF became so Health and Safety aware. So many of our best troops cut there teeth on these cliffs and improved the teams climbing ability dramatically There were some big falls and late ascents and sneeky epics at times all in the learning for young tigers cutting their teeth. I had come from 8 years in Scotland and had only done a few climbs in summer Tower Ridge, Observatory Ridge on Ben Nevis, A few on Creagh Dubh many at Polldubh, Cummingston, Savage Slit on Cairngorms, The Skye ridge, the Cioch and other classics on Skye and Glencoe. I had climbed 6 routes on Fionaven in the North West and Beinn Eighe in Torridon but was mainly a walker.  This was after a bad fall at Huntly’s Cave that put me off for a while so Wales and RAF Valley was just what I needed.  The troops at Valley sorted me out and I got to enjoy the climbing in the mecca that is Wales.

We trained at times on these cliffs at Gogarth lowering stretchers and crag snatches as it was a place we thought we may have an epic rescue one day. I did the Team Leaders Course getting lowered off Red Wall by the potential team leaders all on a single rope? We worked with the Coastguards and life boat these were wild days and it remains in my memory as some place with the foaming seas the booming lighthouse and climbing at times by the light from the lighthouse.  Many pals like Pete Kay climbed it often with the troops it became a right of passage for the Climbers. It became a classic  adventure within the team and after I left one of the team climbed it in plastic boots. Young Mark Hartree or 2BA lead most of Dream in his Riachle plastic boots in November 1987 .”

He had to get a head torch at the end tie of the ropes and run to his bag get his torch to shine on the other two who seconded him. The last pitch was in the dark  guided by the flashing of the lighthouse and his head torch from the belay” With him was our Jock  Pirrie and Ian MacGuire cocky young star!

“Dream” in plastic boots crazy Jock loved that as would big Al. These were wild days, they were at the invincible stage.

There are so many great memories thanks boys you are so missed.

“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

may your God hold you in the palm of his hand. ”

1984 Jock Pirrie on Ben Nevis Centurion

Thank you Lorraine the photo of my two mates is special and one I will look after, thinking of you.

 

2000 Jock Pirrie on Pabbay out there as always.

Dedicated to the memory of two great pals Jock and Al.

Today is my golf morning with the Hopeman Seniors and this is where Jock played sadly I never played with him but he is well remembered for his work with the youngsters I will have a few thoughts today old mate.

 

 

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Happy Birthday Elma the Godmother of RAF MRT.

Aunty Elma of Crainlarich –  RAF Mountain Rescue you will be glad to know is still going strong she recently hurt her ankle but is coping an inspiration to us all in RAF Mountain Rescue. As normal she told only a few it is her birthday do not forget it she misses the troops but has been visited by all three Teams recently magic well done all. If passing Crainlarich please pop in but do not forget the flowers and cake ingredients?

heavywhalley

Elma with some of the troops Elma with some of the troops

Elma at the party thanks Ali MacDonald for the photo Elma at the party thanks Ali MacDonald for the photo

MRS ELMA SCOTT – “The Godmother of RAF Mountain Rescue”

I have known Mrs Scott Elma for over 30 years I first met her as a young RAF Mountain Rescue Team Member with RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in the 1978.  I was on the top of Ben More with Don Shanks and this very fit new boy Scotty after a great hill day. Scotty said ” fancy some tea and scones” I thought he was kidding and he pointed down into the Glen where his families house was and that is when I met Elma! Her house below Ben More at Crainlarich is renowned as one of great highland hospitality after a hill day or a rescue. At times we had over 50 people in the house a great place to be.  She…

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