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Cairngorm tragedy

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50 years ago today

 Myfyr Tomos 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

Many thanks for that. About a month earlier, my year at school had been on our first outdoor ed week at a centre in North Wales. The start of the addiction. Our geography teacher later talked to a group of us about the tragedy that had occurred in Scotland - he appeared quite shaken by it. 50 years! Crikey.

In reply to Myfyr Tomos:

That same day I was on the Cobbler with 2 pals.Wild weather with the wind hurling dinner plate size bits of snow crust in the air.On the way down we meta school group with teacher sheltering at the Narnain boulders.One wee lad was in a bad way with incipient exposure. My pals stayed with the group and I headed down to the Mountain Rescue post which in those days was at Succoth farm. Jock Paterson the farmer called the various volunteers out and we all headed back up the hill withS stretcher etc. No harm done  to the wee lad  who soon recovered and we got the party back off the hill . I always remember one of the rescue team who was the shepherd at Succoth farm. He was clad in an old Harris Tweed  jacket and bunnet  with big tacketty boots and a half bottle of Bell' s in his inside pocket!

 Myfyr Tomos 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

Wonderful account. How much snow on the tops up your way today?

In reply to Myfyr Tomos:

None up here( Gairloch area)at the moment  but getting colder today with snow showers on the tops tonight and more significant snow later in the week

Post edited at 12:05
 cragtyke 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

BBC News - The worst mountain disaster in British history
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-59048640

Just seen this.

In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

I think it was this incident that led to the high level shelters in the Gorms, like El Alamein and St Valery to be demolished.

In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

El Alamein wasn't demolished. It escaped by not being in the right place, IIRC... It looked a bit draughty when I visited it a few years ago.

In reply to captain paranoia:

You're right. ,I now remember it's escape from demolition.The other high level one was I think the Curran Refuge

Post edited at 15:14
 Sean Kelly 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

I first stayed in Jean's Hut also in January 1971 for a week. Mick Geddes was also there. Both now sadly gone.

In reply to Sean Kelly:

Jean's Hut was a good place for a post- climb swally or two. The old Sinclair Hut was also a good stop after a long day in the Braeriach corries,even if it was a bit of a concrete box

Post edited at 16:53
 Graeme G 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

I visited the Sinclair shortly before it was demolished. It was just full of litter, no way I’d have wanted to spend much time there.

Post edited at 17:13
In reply to Graeme G:

Yes strictly a refreshment stop only unless you were desperate!

 Rick Graham 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

Iirc, Jeans and the Sinclair hut were not part of the initial shelter cull. Think they both survived into at least the mid 80s.

On  first visit to the Cairngorm's in winter, Easter 1970, with a schoolfriend, we tried to stay at the Curran bothy but could not find it in poor visibility .  After a bit of "square searching" or whatever the fancy name is now , eventually found the ventilation stack just clear of the hard snowpack , which must have been 3 or 4 metres thick. We have been the previous summer and tried to remember the relative position of the door to the stack. We  gave up trying to find the doorway after an hours futile digging.

It was nice to get to the Sinclair that night.

In reply to Rick Graham:

Your experience at the Curran reminds me of the 2 nights spent in the emergency shelter in Coire Leis on the Ben. Like you we had to dig our way in through a couple of feet of snow. Inside was another foot of snow and 2 bibles neatly wrapped in polythene,  so we had 1 each for the weekend!!

 Dave Hewitt 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

Good story re the Cobbler, TWoB. There's strikingly less snow on the anniversary this time round - I did an Ochils thing this afternoon and while it turned chillier while I was out, the views north to Lawers etc didn't include any snow even once the initial cold front had passed through.

I had two nights in the Sinclair in June 1988 and seem to recall it was tidy and in reasonable nick then. Those nights bookended an anticlockwise wander round the Cairngorms 4000ers, plus the Devil's Point, in weather that was lovely almost all the way round then absolutely lashed it down for the Cairn Lochan/Lurcher's stretch at the end, such that I was very glad to get back to the bothy.

Re Jean's Hut, as others on here will know, it was unusual in having moved from one coire (Cas) to another (an Lochain). I seem to recall my late friend Maxwell Craig saying he was part of the team that shifted it.

 Lankyman 20 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

> Your experience at the Curran reminds me of the 2 nights spent in the emergency shelter in Coire Leis on the Ben. Like you we had to dig our way in through a couple of feet of snow. Inside was another foot of snow and 2 bibles neatly wrapped in polythene,  so we had 1 each for the weekend!!

My only emergency winter bivvy was on the Ben after an overlong ascent of Tower Ridge. Couldn't find the summit shelter and had to dig into the snow and sit it out. One of my less enjoyable nights out, sitting in melted snow. Fortunately, it was April so not too cold and night relatively short.

 Rick Graham 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Dave Hewitt:

Just googled on Jeans hut, might be your mate on some of the photos. 

In reply to Dave Hewitt:

I had forgotten about the move ofJean's Hut from one Coire to the other,Dave.

 Dave Hewitt 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Rick Graham:

> Just googled on Jeans hut, might be your mate on some of the photos. 

Thanks - yes, I'd been looking at those too. Can't see Maxwell there however, although it was long before I knew him. Think he was involved with Glenmore Lodge at the time. He's been gone a while but I'm still in occasional touch with two of his daughters (one of whom is in the LSCC!), so I'll see if I can find out any more from them over time.

 NathanP 20 Nov 2021
In reply to cragtyke:

> BBC News - The worst mountain disaster in British historyhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-59048640

> Just seen this.

Coincidentally I was just reading that BBC report. There was a comment along the lines that the people most directly involved were getting on a bit now and the memory of this tragedy wouldn't live one. I'm sure I'm not the only one on here from a (slightly) younger generation who thinks of this whenever I'm on or heading for the Cairngorm plateau, especially when I feel others are depending on my decisions.

 Bob Aitken 21 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

I was on Beinn Sgritheal on the Saturday of the Cairngorm tragedy.  Three of us – Mike and Kai, later famous as the hospitable hosts at the Crask Inn, and me – set off from an Aberdeen University Lairig Club meet in Kintail in a dump of fresh snow to sea level and thick clag down to about 500m. We humped tents over the col SE of the Ratagan road into upper Glen More, pitched camp and had a quick snack, and headed up the NE ridge of Sgritheal.   Mike and Kai sensibly turned back when we reached cloud level and it got seriously unpleasant, but I being young, very fit, and Munro-driven, kept going.  On the plateau top I could only make progress into the wind and snow by going bent double over my axe with my head down and a hand shielding my face so that I could breathe, or by crawling.  The buffeting was ferociously bewildering.  Going downwind wasn’t much better -I kept getting lifted off my feet and knocked over.  I was very glad to find my way back to the descent ridge. 

It was among the worst conditions I’ve been in on any mountain.  I hate to think how desperate it must have been for the Cairngorms party a thousand feet higher up.  And I can hardly bear to think what state of mind Cathy Davidson must have been in, when she was just my own age and responsible for a party of inexperienced schoolkids.  Utterly tragic.

 scotthldr 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Bob Aitken:

What strikes me is that there isn’t any kind of memorial either at the scene or at the ski centre. Walked through the area last Monday and it’s hard to imagine the horrific conditions experienced that night.

In reply to scotthldr:

We came upon a designed quartz stone circe about 8-10ft across at/near the disaster location a few summers back on a hot July walk back from Macdhui. Pure white blocks about 8-10 inches each. Maybe 10 in total. I have mentioned this before on forums but no-one has commented. I wasn't alone that day. With the greatest respect to those affected is there anyone who knows of this ? 

In reply to Alan.rodger:

I should add that the stone circle was imbedded to ground level not upright like standing stones.

 Cog 21 Nov 2021
In reply to scotthldr:

> What strikes me is that there isn’t any kind of memorial either at the scene or at the ski centre. 

I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of a memorial at Lagganlia, but can’t find it on an internet search.

 profitofdoom 21 Nov 2021
 Cog 21 Nov 2021
 Kimberley 22 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

And on the same weekend in Nov 2006 there was another tragedy which involved students from Aberdeen University, never ceases to amaze me how brutal it can be in November.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/north_east/6168554.stm?fbclid=IwAR37zWhSEld7hD11TWKV1gCEPCCT-pQ08Mg3gWzTN9dkvCZ8DsagcKKxoJo

Post edited at 15:01
 Bob Aitken 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Kimberley:

Brutal's the right word.  See https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/winter_climbing/savage_conditions_in_the_cairngorms_yesterday-278804 - “If you've never been in weather like that, you will simply have no idea just how bad it can get”.

Every now and again I worry about that complacent old adage from Wainwright (and others) that "There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.   In the sad context of this thread I hope comment is superfluous.

 Babika 22 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

Just re-read the article in Games Climbers Play. 

Harrowing, compelling reading. Time doesn't diminish its impact. 

 uphillnow 25 Nov 2021
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:

Another account and the findings of an inquiry can be found in the July edition of Climber & Rambler (1973)  - Lessons to Youth Parties from the Feith Buidhe Disaster   by Adam Watson and John Duff.

 DaveHK 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Bob Aitken:

> Every now and again I worry about that complacent old adage from Wainwright (and others) that "There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.  

I tend to correct it when I see it in the context of winter in the mountains.

 OMR 09:37 Fri
In reply to uphillnow:

There's also a quite harrowing account by the aircrew of the helicopter which found the first survivor. Shows you just how desperate conditions were. https://www.aircrew-saltire.org/lib128.html 

 David Myatt 11:19 Fri
In reply to OMR:

Thanks for posting the RAF link, it made sobering reading. In Feb ‘75, as a first year at Dundee Uni, the club camped 100 yards to the side of the lower ski car park. The wind rose during the Saturday while I was climbing The Vent, but it was ok. After tea at the tents, we piled into the minibus and went to the pub at Nethybridge. While there, the storm increased and we only just made it back to the car park, to find the campsite flattened and the flysheet of the Artic Guinea I was in destroyed. We grabbed our pits and dossed in the the toilets at the Glenmore campsite. The ski road was closed until mid Sunday pm, whereupon we recovered the remains of the tents. And this was no where near the plateau...it must have been hellish there. 

David


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