Winter is still with us be careful!

I am heading for the Island of Eigg for the weekend weather permitting and away from the crowds as it is a May holiday. Winter is still with us and looking at the forecast still winter in big mountains. Every night for a week it has been below freezing on the summits of most Munros. I was out in the North West and it was at times a cold wintry day, more like mid – winter than Spring. There is still a lot of snow about and in these freezing temperatures it will be hard in places. A slip without and ice axe or crampons could be serious.

Ski poles will not stop a slip!

Ski poles will not stop a slip!

The Mountaineering Council Of Scotland Safety Officer has advised those going out in the Mountains to be careful. It is worth reading and advising any friends and family to be aware of these conditions, which are not unusual for the end of winter.


Ice axe and crampons still may be needed and the knowledge of how to use them!

Ice axe and crampons still may be needed and the knowledge of how to use them!

Wednesday 27th April 2016

Prepare for winter in Scotland’s mountains this May Bank Holiday

May Bank Holiday is approaching fast, but the high mountains of Scotland are still hanging onto winter after an unseasonably cold spring. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and British Mountaineering Council are joining forces to recommend hill walkers north and south of the Border be prepared to deal with late-lying snow conditions when they head for the Scottish hills this weekend.

This spring has been unseasonably cold, with a northerly airstream and accompanying cold conditions affecting the whole of Scotland. This has resulted in some of the best skiing and winter climbing for several years. It looks like that these conditions will also result in many Scottish mountains holding their snow long into the summer.

While Scottish mountains look stunning at this time of year in their winter garb, late winter conditions can pose a significant challenge to hill walkers and mountaineers, particularly underfoot.

Usually located high up on the shady, northern sides of mountains,late-lying snow patches will often be hard and compacted after frequent melting and refreezing, offering little traction for boots to grip into and a high chance of slipping. Crossing them, especially if the terrain below is steep, requires caution. Route choice is important and hill walkers are advised to consider a ‘snow-free’ alternative or simply turn around.

Heather Morning, our Mountain Safety Advisor says, “Every spring thousands of hill walkers enjoy getting back into the hills again. The vast majority have a fantastic experience. But for those who do get into difficulties when encountering old snow patches; sadly a slip and subsequent slide in the wrong place does result in fatalities.”

We urge walkers planning to head up onto the higher mountains in Scotland to take a good look at the mountain weather forecasts in advance of heading out. If temperatures at 900 metres are forecast to be below freezing they would advise hill goers to be prepared with winter equipment – including a rigid pair of boots, crampons and an ice axe – plus the skills to use them effectively. Mountain specific weather conditions can be found at

Heather continues “My advice, if you don’t have the kit or knowledge to deal with hard snow is to adjust your plan, or enjoy a day out on one of our fabulous lower hills or glens, where there is no chance of encountering old snow patches”.

The MCofS and BMC are keen to get the message out to the many hill walkers planning to visit Scotland’s mountains from south of the Border this May Bank Holiday weekend.

Carey Davies, the British Mountaineering Council’s hill walking officer, said: “It’s important to remember there can be a big difference in climatic conditions across different parts of Britain, especially in spring. The south of England can have sunny t-shirt weather while the Cairngorms are still in sub-Arctic snow conditions. Even lowland Scotland can be a completely different world to the upper reaches of the Highlands”.

Carey continues, “When spring arrives a lot of people feel the pull of the mountains and want to get up high again. But don’t forget to check the weather forecast carefully and be prepared for things like snow fields and cornices.”

For further information

winter safety from MCOS

Be safe but go and enjoy the late winter.

Be safe but go and enjoy the late winter.

Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Sheep ticks – worth looking into?

Every Year I get them, it is worth reminding you and your pals about them?

Hi, this may be interesting you: You HAVE to learn this tick removal trick before you go camping! This is the link:

Dr Alan Walker, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Parasitology, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Veterinary Field Station, Roslin. October 12.


Ticks are small, blood-sucking arthropods related to spiders, mites and scorpions. There are many different species of tick living in Britain, each preferring to feed on the blood of different animal hosts. If given the opportunity, some of them will feed on human blood too. The one most likely to bite humans in Britain is the Sheep tick, Ixodes ricinus. Despite its name, the sheep tick will feed from a wide variety of mammals and birds. Bites from other ticks are possible, including from the Hedgehog tick, Ixodes hexagonus, and the Fox or Badger tick,Ixodes canisuga.

There are four stages to a tick’s life-cycle: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Larvae, nymphs and adults all only feed once in each stage. The whole life cycle lasts around 2 years.

Ticks feed on the blood of other animals. If a larval tick picks up an infection from a small animal such as a vole, when it next feeds as a nymph it can pass the infection to the next animal or human it bites.

They cannot jump or fly, but when ready for a meal will climb a nearby piece of vegetation and wait for a passing animal or human to catch their hooked front legs. This behaviour is known as questing. The tick will not necessarily bite immediately, but will often spend some time finding a suitable site on the skin.

sheep tick

Once a tick has started to feed, its body will become filled with blood. Adult females can swell to many times their original size. As their blood sacs fill they generally become lighter in colour and can reach the size of a small pea, generally grey in colour. Larvae, nymphs and adult males do not swell as much as they feed, so the size of the tick is not a reliable guide to the risk of infection. If undisturbed, a tick will feed for around 5 to 7 days before letting go and dropping off.

The bite is usually painless and most people will only know they have been bitten if they happen to see a feeding tick attached to them.

The risk of infection increases the longer the tick is attached, but can happen at any time during feeding. A Public Health England leaflet for GPs points out that disease transmission can be in less than a day. As tick bites are often unnoticed, it may be difficult to determine how long it has been attached. Any tick bite should be considered as posing a risk of infection.

Adults are most often bitten around the legs. Small children are generally bitten above the waist—check their hairline and scalp.


It may be worth wearing long, light-coloured trousers tucked into long socks is the primary defence against these ticks, no matter how hot the weather. People should be informed of the risk of wearing shorts in tick-infested country. Ticks will be found mostly where there are roe deer or red deer, which in Scotland is on all rough hill country but particularly woodland, including conifer plantation. Sheep also support deer and their pastures are likely to be infested. Bracken is often thought to be a place where many ticks are found but it is no worse than any rough vegetation where deer or sheep are found. The time of year when most ticks are active is April to June, with a smaller peak in September. Check carefully for ticks on your skin after walking in ticky areas.

A bite from an infected tick will produce a slowly spreading red rash around the tick bite over several weeks. This is not the little itchy plook at the bite site of any tick. If you get this symptom, or if you think you have some of the odd flu-like symptoms, see your doctor. There are effective diagnostic tests and the disease is easily cured with routine antibiotic treatment at its early stages.

Comments Sheep ticks #

Kenny Kennworthy  –  remember, a bullseye rash only manifests in about 50% of cases. A massive problem in Roseisle and Culbin forests.


Anne Butler  – Use Bravecto for the dogs. I used it for Molly last year as did Heather with Milly. Beforehand using Frontline l was pulling 20 live ones a day off them after a day on the hill.
After the first Bravecto tablet from the vet Molly only had two dead ones all year!

Years of roaming around Scotland and I never had a problem. However, after walking the dog in Roseisle forest I found a tick on my leg with a red blemish around the bite. A few weeks later I found a rash in the same place, but it was very faint, only just noticeable. I was put on Doxycycline for 10 days and they took a blood test. The NHS lost my blood test and it was too late to take another after the event! That didn’t really matter because often the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria don’t show anyway. I have had no symptoms of lyme disease onset since. I was very lucky.
Not so lucky for a guy I met at Heriot Watt. He had been doing ecological surveys in Roseisle forest and picked up a tick – no rash. The event led to lyme disease and he never got out of his bed for 18 months and 10 years later is still on 10 tablets a day to try and control it. It still badly affects him. Most importantly the NHS doesn’t have the expertise to treat full-blown lyme disease.

Any Comments?


Posted in Enviroment, medical, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Leaving the West Coast is never easy, especially after that special weekend.

We had a low-key night in Ullapool after our great day on the hill it had been a busy few days and I was in bed by 2130 and awake by 0530.  There was no walking down the harbour after the meal we were to tired and I left Yvette to catch up with Dave and the kids and I went straight to bed.

Moon out in Ullapool

Moon out in Ullapool

I was still tired and had been up early and watched the early morning light down by the harbour. There was even a seal in the sea and with incredible panorama of the snow-capped hills and the Loch Broom and the sea it was an incredible sight in the changing light. How often have I been here and passed through this great place, even staying in Ullapool always chasing another hill or climb and missing the simple things. Now I have time its great to enjoy the simple things like the views and explore these places at a slower pace, old age has its benefits?   This morning the magic Ben More Coigach dominates the view and was covered in last nights fresh snow and with a bit of cloud looked like it rises straight from the sea it looked massive.

Early Morning light from Ullapool.

Early Morning light from Ullapool. Beinn Dearg looking great with the fresh snow

I had a wander before Yvette was ready and over to the Caravan /camping site near the sea, there were plenty of camper vans and a few hardy campers up already and it was bitter cold. I watched them shiver as the made brews but what a place to be?  I walked along the shore and was thinking what a spot to camp for the future as is Ardmair a few miles North and many others, we are spoiled for choice in the West.

2016 Ardmair beach April

2016 Ardmair beach April –  One bonny place.

It would be very hard leaving the West today,the weather was still wintry but we had a great journey through familiar hills after enjoyable breakfast in the Ceildh Place in Ullapool. We loved our journey stopping on the way, the usual places, last glimpses of An Teallach, that spiky ridge, the Fannichs and Beinn Dearg a huge snow dome summit shimmering in the sun. We stopped  for tea with pals Anne and Mark just appreciated the the great views as always ever changing, Ben Wyvis was so clear and the fresh snow made it look even more impressive. I loved the time with someone specail Yvette and me have rarely ever had time like this and I cannot thanks Dave, Geoff Renee and the girls for giving us the time together. We had a laugh as well, so many memories and such a wonderful weather. I needed this break and its been a hard few years and losing my Sister was an awful time and reminds me how special family time is. You should never put of time like this life is so short and can change so quickly.

2016 April Descent to Shenaval Yvette

I have so many memories of the weekend, the weather so changeable, the mountains were wonderful with the smattering of snow and Yvette laughing all the time. She had travelled light and had to wear some of my hill gear as she did many years ago as a wee lassie. She told me since she was very young none of my gear ever fitted her as she was a “Borrower Super Model” and I was a “Wee fat Borrower”  It is great to see that the family tradition will continue with Lexi and Ellie Skye when they come up into the mountains! My gear is ready for them.

I said goodbye to Yvette at the airport and she had a safe trip home.

On the way to Shenavall

On the way to Shenavall – Thanks Yvette xxxx

It was amazing but when we came off the hill my sister called an said that there was an article about the Mountain Bothies and an article that I had been quoted in – Have a look it made our day.

Herald Logp

Herald Logo

Basic but brilliant – Scotland’s bothy bounty – Colin Hutchison

The joy of the Mountains.

The joy of the Mountains and Wild places. You cannot beat it

The winter weather is still with us today even at Sea – level it was a bitter wind with heavy seas today. Be careful on the hills it still is winter and may remain for a while. There is fresh snow about and with the freezing temperatures, there will be hard snow about, so please enjoy be careful, but its still time for winter gear.

From the Police

“A climber who had to be rescued after getting lost in the Cuillins on Skye has been criticised by police.

Skye Mountain Rescue Team and the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter were called out on Sunday evening.

The helicopter crew picked up the man and airlifted him to safety.


Safety – Common Sense !

Lochaber and Skye Police tweeted: “Google maps on a phone with no charge, no map and a hopeful attitude are no mix for hills on Skye (or anywhere!) be prepared not rescued.”

Jonathan Mustard, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, added: “Prepare and plan for your walks in the hills. Wear suitable clothing and footwear, ensure you carry suitable equipment like a map, GPS, a fully-charged mobile phone or a locator beacon and make sure you check the weather.

“If you do get into difficulties, call 999 and ask for help.”


Posted in Books, Enviroment, Friends, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment

Great weekend to the North West – A Special Journey to Shenavall Bothy.

What a great weekend on the North West – Shenavall Bothy and Four Season in one Day.

Over the weekend I have been away with my Stepdaughter Yvette who arrived from the deep South at Inverness airport on Friday afternoon. The weather forecast was pretty wild for late April with snow, bitter cold and winter conditions on the mountains. We had a great drive up to Ullapool where we were staying in the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool. We stopped on our journey so often to get photos and see the hills with fresh snow looking magic. I never get tired of these views, so many, in such a short space of time it is overwhelming, never taking any of them for granted.  I know what it is like to be away from the wild places and Yvette was  loving every minute. We stopped for a cup of tea with pals with a view of Beinn Wyvis that makes the soul so happy. Then we had lunch in Ullapool in a lovely wee café at the front and sat outside, Yvette wanted a view until a winter shower hit us. The views of Loch Broom, the harbour and in between showers the snow-capped Beinn Dearg were as always stunning.

Looking from the shoulder of Stac Pollaidh

Looking from the shoulder of Stac Pollaidh a place of great beauty s short walk from the road.

We had some time to spare and needed a walk and headed up to Assynt and stopped at Ardmair beach another incredible place with views of the Summer Isles. We had a great wander and as the sun was out then headed up to Stac Pollaidh in Assynt, each bend in the road specail and so invigorating. This is a lovely place  for a walk, it can be busy but today there were no cars in the car park it was incredible and we wandered round the back of this mountain we had great views of so many of Assynt mountains. These are wonderful  peaks,sculpted by nature with a myriad of  lochs, the massive  space, no one about and the sea dominating.  This is what life is about and why we love these places, we sat and enjoyed it out of the wind and feeling the warmth of the sun.

Head clearing views!

Head clearing views!

We had a lovely walk, it was warm and so peaceful and then we headed back to Ullapool again breathtaking view and booked in to the accommodation and then had a superb tea and a few drinks. It was amazing that we were eating a lovely meal in the Seaforth Hotel when the RAF Mountain Rescue arrived and stopped at the local 5 star chippy. It was like old times and Yvette thought I had planned it, I went out and had a chat they were the RAF Lossiemouth Team heading off to Lochinver for a weekend training. It brought back a few memories and great to see them again and made my day.

Great to see the troops from RAF Lossiemouth MRT - a chippy break healthy eating!

Great to see the troops from RAF Lossiemouth MRT – a chippy break healthy eating!

It was a wonderful night and the weather was looking good, the night ended with a walk to the moonlight harbour. Next day we had planned a walk to a place we both love Shenavall a remote bothy that is nestled at the foot of An Teallach. The forecast was not great with fresh snow and cold winds, we packed our winter gear. We were away early and a short drive round to the track that takes you into Shenavall.  The drive from Ullapool is wonderful on its own and on this day magnificent though it was grey and snowing a bit yet we got great views of Loch Broom and then the Fannichs and the mighty An Teallach that dominated. The snow was down and the hill was in winter grabh as we parked at Corrie Hallie near Dundonnell.

Yvette in the wilds

Yvette in the wilds

We met a walker who was going out for 2 days wild camping and we had a good chat with him and his Mum and Dad who were dropping him off. The weather was still a bit rough a biting cold and the odd flurry of snow. It is a fair walk into Shenavall and I was wary of the weather as the snow was down to about 2000 feet.  As soon as we set of the weather brightened and we had an incredible few hours. It was Scotland at its finest and all Four Seasons in One Day. Every view was special and the snow on the hills added to-day it was a wonderful walk, we cherished every minute in such a place. We saw some deer at the beginning of the day and a few goats that crossed the path near Shenavall and even more higher up with a young kid, amazing.

The Journey to Shenavall.

2016 April Walk in Shenevall

Cars fly by as you cross the road, to another world.

Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

2016 April looking twards Fisherfield

The track wynds through the trees, the river breaks the silence,

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

2016 An Teallach Jan

Midges and clegs abound here but not today, too cold, its winter.

Cross the river, is that bridge in the wrong place? Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top, the wee cairn.

2016 The wee cairn on the way to Shenavall

2016 The wee cairn on the way to Shenavall

Stop, no rush, drink it all in.

An Teallach. snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

2016 April looking twards Fisherfield

2016 April looking towards Fisherfield.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

Every Corrie on that great hill has a particular thought. Memories

Fisherfield, these great hills, the light changing, to the West



Youthful  memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress? Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Collect some wood

Collect some wood

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer, they are still there;

2016 April view Sheneval


Shenevall. It never changes, only the seasons.

Fire on, primeval, tea in hand, alone with thoughts.

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.


2010 Sheneval Beinn A' Chaliaim JLY

Thanks to the Mountain Bothies Association !   Heavy Feb 2013 For Yvette.

Shenavall – A Brief History

Alex Sutherland –  “Shenavall was first occupied by one Colin MacDonald and his family on a cold dreich morning in November 1891. With a swirling mist obscuring the surrounding peaks of An Teallach and Beinn Dearg Mor and many mountain burns in full spate, their arrival by boat at the head of Loch na Sealga was not an encouraging start to occupancy that was to last all of ten years. The family’s miserable possessions consisted of no more than a few trunks, some bedding and a wheelbarrow. The stonemasons who had built their home had left only the previous day; the walls remained unlined, and the bare earth was strewn with rubble. Within days, however, father and son had plastered the walls with some blue clay taken from a nearby mound of glacial debris. Major improvements were started in the spring with the construction of upstairs bedrooms and insertion of wooden wall linings and floorboards. The family’s arrival was due to Colin’s father having been appointed stalker on the Dundonnell estate. Mr MacDonald was also a skilful crofter, fisher, shepherd and stonemason. Evidence of the latter skill can be seen in the well-constructed dry-stone barn which abuts the house to this day. A Busy Life Colin was born in the now ruined house which still stands on the left hand side of ‘Destitution Road’ before the descent to Little Loch Broom. Mrs MacDonald must have been busy looking after four children – three born during the family’s sojourn at Shenavall.”

2016 Shenavall

2016 Shenavall

As we arrived the view is wonderful and the deer were down at the Bothy, you do not see the bothy till the last 10 minutes of the walk what a view it always is and we savoured the descent. We had some time at the bothy it was in a fine state lovely and clean with two people staying but they were up high enjoying the hills.  The massive Loch Na Sealga dominates the area as do the two huge Corbetts Beinn Dearg Mor and Beag, neglected gems as this is a wild area that contains 5 remote Munros. I loved our short stay and what memories I have of this place and it has been recently renovated with a new stair and the rooms renovated and a paint, it looks wonderful. The MBA relies on donations to keep its great work going and is well worth supporting have look on their web

Basic Accomadation

Basic Accommodation

We took another path back home round by the river Sealga passed the now ruined bothy at Achneigie  it was so magic a place and we had a break. This place must have some tales it is boarded up and looking a sad place but we sat by the river and thought of how hard life must have been living here and Shenaval. It was then onto the Estate track a steep but lovely walk up onto the path a bit of a pull but so different views and then the back to the familiar path and the car. I have walked this way on so many occasions after the great traverse of An Teallach and the Fisherfield 5/6 all in one day and the pull up from Shenavall is a killer only about a thousand feet but after an 18 hour day purgatory. Poor Yvette was regaled with these tales as my memories came back. In winter it is a wild place with little shelter and hard going in wild weather even going to the bothy and back is an adventure.

The ruined bothy at Achneigie how many stories

The ruined bothy at Achneigie how many stories – Has anyone got information on this place?

It was a long day and we were feeling it on the way back and the views kept changing and the weather so special. The hills were all snow covered and clear and it was warm in the sun, we had that tiredness that is enjoyable even in my aching bones. It was a day I had wanted to do for a couple of years since I have been ill, what a joy to be out and these great peaks are still there and I will return to them.

Door with a view.

Door with a view. Shenavall

What a day we had and the weather held all day, it had threatened but apart from a snow flurry it stayed away.At times it was cold and a bitter wind blew a time for hats and jackets, then the sun came out and it was wonderful.

The wild goats

The wild goats in the tree.

We met more goats on the way home that made our day and more deer. As we left there were a herd of goats near the road with about 20 including young and a great end to the day. They were up the trees and on the road verge, what a finish to  a great day.

2016 Primroses April Assynt


Despite the cold weather the flowers are coming out and the primroses were looking great as we saw them at various times in the weekend so beautiful in such a wild place. It was back to Ullapool a shower and then a great meal in the Ceilidh Place to end the day. This was so specail a day for us both and one we will never forget. I cannot wait till Ellie and Lexi are older  to show them these specail places, we live in a wonderful country that is ever changing in the weather and light.

The joy of the mountains better than any other ?

The joy of the mountains, tires but happy after a great day.



Posted in Enviroment, Friends, Poems, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Epic Tales by Ian Skyes at Book chat last night in Inverness. In the Shadow of Ben Nevis.

3-5/03/63 Ben Nevis NE Buttress 41/169714 2 climbers benighted.  500 ft  One of the first call –outs using big ropes - abseil to climbers.  Excellent effort.

Spike and Ross McKerron 53 years after the Rescue on North East Buttress on Ben Nevis..

Last night I went to a book launch by Ian Spike Sykes at Waterstones in Inverness on his great book In the Shadow Of Ben Nevis. It was a great insight into the book and the man and it was packed with many of Spikes old pals. The tales went on from his early days in the Lakes, The RAF MRT at RAF Kinloss, Early days of Lochaber MRT, Huge lowers on Ben Nevis on a single rope, Antarctica exploding volcano, the Alps, his business adventures from Nevisport a great climbing shop in its day to the fight for the building of the Aonach Mor Ski Resort and so many more. It was a chat of humour, big climbs, epic rescues with simple gear, no egos and of great fun and friendship in these wonderful places.

What tales he told and had us in stitches at times with his reminisces.

3-5/03/63 – Ben Nevis – North East Buttress
41/169714 – Kinloss MRT and local Lochaber
2 climbers benighted.  500 ft  One of the first call –outs using big ropes – abseil to climbers.   Spike said it was a classic abseil for Ross one of the troops a hill walker in the team with John Hinde, who abseiled in from the summit. This was an excellent effort. Both climbers were rescued a great effort at the time the photo above shows the boys involved 53 years later.

Spoke in full flow.

Spike in full flow.

It was a great night so  many of the old and bold were there and a great insight into an other world of Rescue, great mountain days and adventures.  He spoke about green issues, local politics all another world to most of us. Even opening the climbing shop on a Sunday and the problems with that.  When you add in the other tales and adventures this book takes you on. One key thing was the friendships with so many who love the wild places and how they last for ever. There is plenty of life left in Spike his trip to the wild Wind River area in the USA recently and the big routes climbed and adventure opens another chapter.

The Badger Ray Sunshine Sefton and Spike top men.

The Badger Ray Sunshine Sefton and Spike top men.

I really enjoyed the night and drove back enthused without my promised copy Spike!! It was a great drive home taking my mate Yeni home and then seeing the sunset over the Moray Firth after a wonderful day.

I must get my book finished now. Thanks for the enthusiastic talk about an incredible life of adventure on so many great places.

I am now off to the far North for some hills and as always the weather is changing but so looking forward to getting out on these wonderful hills.  Live every day as it is your last.



1960 Spike Alladins lamp simple gear in these days.

Posted in Articles, Book, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather, Wildlife | Leave a comment

In the Shadow of Ben Nevis – Book Launch in the Eastgate in Inverness at 18.30 on Thursday 21st April.


Out to Inverness tonight to hear Ian Spike Sykes talk about his book In the Shadow of Ben Nevis. Hopefully will be a good night and catch up with some old pals. I really enjoyed the book and wrote a piece the other day on it on a previous blog.,

In the Shadow of Ben Nevis tells Spike s story from growing up in Leeds in the aftermath of the Second World War, to his time with the RAF during the cold war. He was a leading member Of the RAF Kinloss MRT.


Ian Spikes early days.

After leaving the RAF, he remained an active member of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and was involved in the first lower down the north face of Ben Nevis an epic 1,500-foot descent to rescue stricken climbers in the middle of winter.</>

Following a two-and-a-half-year stint on Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey, he returned to the Highlands and opened the first Nevisport shop with his close friend Ian Suds Sutherland. Together, they brought Sunday trading to Fort William and were one of a small number of shops to revolutionise outdoor retail in the UK. Later, he was a key player in the development of the Nevis Range ski area. Over many years, and against all odds, the project became a reality and a great success.

Recounted within these pages are a great many lively tales of adventures and mishaps, told with immediacy and charm. With a foreword by legendary Scottish mountaineer Hamish MacInnes, a close friend of Spike s, In the Shadow of Ben Nevis is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Scottish mountaineering and mountain rescue.


ISBN:978-1-898573-98-2  Author: Ian Sykes Format: Paperback Publication:

15 Feb 2016 Paperback £12.99

The old ways

The old ways

Posted in Books, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering | Leave a comment

Lessons from Diran Peak – The arrival at Base Camp.

It was interesting looking back on our trip to Pakistan in 1993 and though successful it was a close run thing. We learned so much, I had been to Nepal in 1990 on a small expedition of 6 pals on a very difficult peak but this was very different. We had a big group of 30 as it was the 50 th Anniversary of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. We planned to give as many as possible a taste of the Himalayas and took many novices mostly on the Trekking party 15 went on that, led by Danny Daniels one of the troops. They had no porters and had a wild 3 weeks in remote mountain country. The rest of us were on 2 routes on Diran just under 24000 feet a big mountain in wild area of Pakistan. We had no porters after Base Camp just our Sirdar Jabed and a cook assistant.

The Big Team before we left

The Big Team before we left.

Pakistan is a different place nowadays with the rise of terrorism and the huge changes going on in the World. The travel and arrival in and  through Pakistan was a tale on its own but it all went smoothly Jabed our Sirdar ensured it all went as well as it could. We went and bought local food for the trip in the markets and  myself and Jabed built a friendship and trust that was to last the whole 5 weeks of our trip. He was a devout Muslim and prayed regularly and as I had worked in the Gulf in the early 70’s he was surprised I had learnt a bit about his religion, he was a incredible man. The journey along the Karakorum Highway was mind blowing and at times we thought we would never make it to the mountains. We had to have a liaison Officer who was okay but not in any way comparison with Jabed who loved the Scottish after working with Sandy Allen a well-known Scottish Guide on many occasions in Pakistan. We had hit it off immediately and that friendship helped so much during our trip.

Myself Jabed and the cook built up a great trust and friendship that lasted the whole expedition.

Myself Jabed and the cook built up a great trust and friendship that lasted the whole expedition.

It was important to have on such a big trip a bit of organisation and this Bill Batson who lead it was great. We had a lot to do before we reached the mountains and these were interesting times for all. When we arrived at the mountains after a terrifying at times journey along the Karakoram   Highway, rock fall and closed roads and huge drops in a bus that drove through the night by two drivers on hash ! It was a culture shock to some of the troops!  We even had an earthquake and a bit of a scary time at the road head, there was a festival on and everyone had guns and a place to keep your head down and leave as quick as possible.

The road blocked again

The road blocked again.

Once we arrived we hired the porters and mules for the 3 day trek into Diran our trekking party headed of with huge bags for a 3 week adventure – self-sufficient with tents and food and no Porters, led by Danny.   They had an incredible trip  a massive learning for all there are no tea shops where they were going  and they hit some weather and some heavy snow, it became a survival trip at times and again is a tale on its own.

1993 treking party

1993 treking party led by Danny as hard as nails a big culture shock for many.

This area is renowned for possible Porter problems and the walk to the mountain is over some hard ground including a glacier. We had a problem in bad weather and had an extra overnight stop but the porters were so badly dressed it was a worrying time as it snowed. Jabed was great and proved his worth sorting out the trouble and helping everyone and we were soon on our way again. This is the way it is and was a culture shock to a few of the younger troops.

Mules and Porters

Mules and Porters have a break.

The Base camp is protected by a Glacier and we were lucky to have good weather as we crossed it. The porters never cease to amaze me with many wearing basic shoes and carrying big loads on the glacier. The huge mountains towered above us the impressive Rakaposhi a mountain with big Scottish connections and its huge ridge that seemed endless . Then our mountain Diran  with the huge North Face and ridges what a place to be.  The Base camp was a lovely place with grass and water and also some cows grazing, how they had crossed the glacier I will never know but we had arrived and the mountain awaited. The Porters could not leave quick enough they had enough and got paid and left, we were on our own and set up Base for the next 3 weeks. It had taken over a week to get here but the experience was just beginning .

1993 Jimmy diran

1993 Jimmy Diran – Diran in the distance.

At last we had arrived and the mountain awaited there was much to do but at least we had no donkeys braying all night only the cows wanting to eat anything lying about.

1993 Mules diran 190

We were ready to go and the mountain awaited.

Lessons learned

” Treat and respect people as you would treat others”

Posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Friends, Gear, Views Mountaineering, Weather | Leave a comment