Tag Archives: climbing

be prepared.

(Post by Russ Stewart of London – December 2021)

The Boy Scout movement prides itself in offering youngsters the opportunity to experience adventures that may not otherwise have transpired.

Of course, such challenges are well researched and risk assessed. So in the summer of 1976 when given the chance to climb Mont Blanc in France (not a difficult climb although weather and altitude sickness can complicate matters) I was well up for it.

Despite the heat of the summer of ’76 I recall the cold, and a lot of snow on the ground, during the climb. Sadly, the party of two behind us lost a member on the Grand couloir. He was struck by a falling rock and fell down the couloir into the crevasse below. 

 (A relatively safe crossing of the couloir exists if the steel cable car route is followed. However, the following video shows the principal hazard on the climb, the Couloir du Gouter, In essence it’s a “chute” that channels rock falls. At the foot of the couloir is the crevasse.)

(This video is a lot more dramatic than the few rocks we encountered.)

I watched the attempted helicopter borne rescue from the accommodation hut at about 10,000 feet. An alpine rescue chap got out of the helicopter, inspected the crevasse, and made the universal signal indicating death. The rescue team then flew off. I suspect the body is still there. 

On a lighter note, I have a vivid memory of opening a jar in the hut, whereby, due to air pressure reduction at altitude, the contents exploded, showering the room with coffee powder.

I decided not to open a beer. 

After a few hours kip in the hut bunkhouse all climbers commenced the 6,000 feet or so remainder of the ascent. At 3am the altitude and absence of light pollution rendered a breathtaking view of a canopy of stars.

(Stars over Mont Blanc – photograph by Colin Woods.)

On reaching the summit, I had to bury the four cans of McEwans Export I’d brought for the traditional celebration – they had frozen solid.  However my quarter bottle of Grouse had remained drinkable, so it was all good

“Be prepared” as Baden Powell advised. 

After reaching the summit, we went to the aid of a group of lively Italians who were in trouble, on the couloir during their descent. The main motivation was that one of our party was roped to their group, two of whom were dangling over a void having tried to jump across rather than follow the steel cable assisted route!

We declined to join them in a drink when safely on the other side. I think they understood the Glasgow vernacular, “F off”. 

We continued our descent through a thunderstorm, my brother receiving a light shock through the metal handhold on a rock being struck by lightning. A refreshing Silk Cut restored his equilibrium.

Yeah like I mentioned in the opening, these adventures are well researched, risk assessed … and, of course, ‘safe.’

 

 


Kilmardinny Country Club

Russ Stewart: London, March 2021

The early 70s, was a simpler time – pre computer games, pre mobile phones and pre scandal surrounding some of the TV icons of the day like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.

In those days Kilmardinny Loch, a mere five minute walk from Bearsden Academy, was a hive of activity and an after school playground for early teens and older. 

It was our ‘hangout rendezvous’ with some kids going home first to change into more suitable clothes, whilst many others just went straight there from school. 

Coarse fishing took place at an area called “sandbank”, which should have been called “fagbank” given the amount of discarded cigarette butts.

Roach, perch and pike provided  meagre fare, whilst a gigantic pike was rumoured to eat ducks. 


In fact I remember a 14lb pike being pulled out of the loch but the catch was deemed invalid for the record book, as the method used to snare the monster fish involved a butcher’s hook and a frog attached to the end of a rope, tied to a tree, overnight.

Kilmardinny Loch

Being a wooded area tree climbing was popular amongst the more simian of character.  Alcohol fuelling the desire to climb  and, on occasion, the type of descent.

An investigation, with respect to a fall from a tree into the loch, prompted a police probe into the source of the bootleg whisky being sold by the loch for 50p a bottle.
I often wonder if that local moonshine operation is still in existence!

There were some great “off road” bicycle runs around the loch which enabled the rider to ramp up decent downhill speeds, culminating in a semi doughnut shaped skid in the mud at the foot of the tracks.  

Cyclists had to beware though as there was a spate of incidents involving fishing lines being stretched across the cycle paths, at mouth height.
Perhaps this was the frogs revenge! 

At nearby Mosshead a perpetual footie game took place, often continuing till the light failed, with players coming and going as they returned from having their tea ( not dinner) and maybe after a bit of homework. 

It wasn’t exactly Hampden and the ‘pitch’ had a pronounced incline for the benefit of whoever was shooting downhill.
The slope had other purposes however, and also served as a pretty good ‘bogie’ point to point racetrack for the dexterous few who’d put together their own carts.

The games a bogey….

Every winter there was an insane challenge to be the first on the loch ice. 

I recall playing footie on the frozen loch, and the surface would rise and fall in rhythm with the players congregating and dispersing around the ball.

If football wasn’t your thing it was always worth investing in ice skates as the loch would freeze annually, in fact the ice proved thick enough on occasion to sustain a bonfire in the centre of the loch, which did, of course, occur .

I’m not really sure when the loch area fell out of favour as a post school social hub, perhaps when Bearsden Academy relocated.

From all accounts it is very quiet now.

I’m guessing computer games and mobile phones are the order of the day now rather than those seat-of-the-pants outdoor pursuits we used to enjoy at the not-so-exclusive Kilmardinny Country Club…..