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Friday, February 23, 2024

Expert of Mountain Rescue ‘Heavy Whalley’ Wins Top Mountain Award

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Organisers of The Fort William Mountain Festival have announced that David Whalley BEM.MBE, one of the UK’s most experienced mountain rescue experts, whose distinguished service at the forefront of mountain rescue and mountain safety education in Scotland has spanned more than 40 years, is the 16th recipient of the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, sponsored by JAHAMA Highland Estates.

David Whalley known to most by his nickname, Heavy, was a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Mountain Rescue Service for 37 years. 

The team’s primary task was to attend to aircraft crashes, whilst training in the mountains all over Scotland. 

He was Team Leader of RAF Leuchars, RAF Kinloss, and Deputy Team Leader at RAF Valley in North Wales. 

He spent the last four years of his RAF career working in the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre at RAF Kinloss.

During this time Heavy took part in more than 1000 mountain and over 80 aircraft incidents in mountainous areas.

This included being Senior Team Leader at the Lockerbie Disaster in December 1988 when 270 victims of a terrorist attack lost their lives. 

He was also involved in the hunt for survivors when a Chinook helicopter crashed on Mull of Kintyre in 1994 and the four RAF crew and 25 terrorism experts were killed.

In his early career as a catering accountant in the RAF in the 1970’s he was very focused on getting into their Search and Rescue Team. 

He was initially rejected because, at seven stone and five foot four inches, he was deemed to be too skinny. 

However, as a veteran of countless rescues, he quickly earned his nickname, Heavy, for his size and huge spirit.

After leaving the RAF he joined the Torridon and Kinlochewe Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) serving with them for 3 years until he retired.

As a winner of the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, a mountain hero who celebrates achievement, accomplishment and the spirit of adventure in the outdoors, Heavy Whalley joins previous esteemed winners including Dave Morris, Andy Nisbet, Jimmy Marshall, Myrtle Simpson, Ian Sykes, Karen Darke and Dr Hamish MacInnes in the Excellence in Mountain Culture Hall of Fame.

Heavy was a member of the Executive of The Scottish Mountain Rescue Committee for over 20 years, serving for five years as the Accident Statistician and three years as Chair.

He has been awarded the BEM, an MBE and the Distinguished Service Award for Service to Mountain Rescue.

He is both an Honorary member of the Torridon and Kinlochewe MRT and President of the Search and Rescue Dog Association Scotland.

As an active climber and walker, he climbs every week and is a member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and Moray Mountaineering Club. 

He has climbed in most parts of the world, has completed Scotland’s 282 Munros seven times, and was a member of the successful 2001 Everest North Ridge Expedition.

Heavy is a true ambassador for mountain safety and culture, who has dedicated much of his life to the mountains in Scotland, Europe and the Himalayas.

He continues to share his passion for the outdoors and his vast experience and expansive knowledge of mountain rescue by teaching and lecturing on mountain safety. 

See Heavy’s blog – https://heavywhalley.wordpress.com

On the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, David Whalley BEM.MBE. said:

“To be put forward for this award and named in the same group as the past winners of the Fort William Mountain Festival is so humbling.

“It is a great honour, thank you.”

Alvance British Aluminium Managing Director, Tom Uppington, commented:

“As the sponsors of this prestigious Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, we are delighted that Dave ‘Heavy’ Whalley has been recognised for his inspirational work and tireless devotion to public safety.  

“JAHAMA Highland Estates [part of Alvance British Aluminium, based in Lochaber] greatly values the hugely significant impact that Dave’s enduring public service to those in need across the Mountains and Moorlands of Scotland has had on so many people.  

“As the owner of much of the land surrounding both Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis, including the main winter climbing venue of the North face of the Ben we are acutely aware of the importance of having a resilient and sustainable voluntary mountain rescue service ready to go to the assistance of those in need.  

“Dave’s passion for a lifetime of selfless dedication, putting others safety before his own, makes him a worthy recipient of this award.”

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