Missing hillwalker in Scottish Highlands writes name in snow to help mountain rescue teams

With no mobile phone signal for miles around, one walker in the Scottish Highlands had no other choice but to leave clues in the snow as to his whereabouts.

Mountain rescue teams had started a search for a 40-year-old man who was unable to reach Aviemore as planned on Sunday due to treacherous weather conditions, forcing him to take refuge in a mountain bothy.

Rescuers were alerted he was missing on Monday by owners of the man's accommodation in Aviemore. Mountain rescue teams from Braemar and Cairngorm went on the hunt for the walker.

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Their first clue as to where he was came as they looked through Corrour Bothy’s book and found he had written his name.

“There is nothing specifically spectacular about that, it’s what people do when they visit the bothy,” said Matt Smith, of Braemar Mountain Rescue, “but a set of lone footprints had left the bothy fairly recently”.

Yet it was far from certain at first that they were the missing man’s footprints, said Mr Smith.

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“We started to follow the footprints and curiously to us the footprints led in entirely the opposite direction from his intended route, so we were left wondering whether we were chasing a ghost or, dare I say it, somebody that was not the person we were actually looking for,” he said.

The missing man was unable to reach Aviemore as planned due to the weather conditions, so he took refuge in a mountain bothy on the Corrour Estate. PIC: Copyright Elliot Caunce.

Unable to connect to the outside world in the remoteness of the Scottish Highlands, the walker from the south of England had to think of a way to tell anyone looking for him where he was going and that, in fact, these footprints were his.

“The guys were scratching their heads about these footprints and where they might go and who they might belong to, but I think they were scratching their heads at the time right besides where he’d written his name,” said Mr Smith.

“And I think one of them looked down on the ground and went: ‘That’s the guy’s name’.”

“It was almost a comedy moment, they described it, they nearly walked over his name and wouldn’t have seen it, but the hand of fate was pointing in the right direction.”

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And along with his name written in the snow, the well-equipped walker had drawn arrows to the direction he was walking.

Not only did it help rescuers, it meant they could stop searching other parts of the mountains as they knew he was not there.

“He ended up getting to a road end and had actually been given a lift into Braemar itself where, by another twist of fate, he was met by one of the rescue team who part-owns one of the mountain shops who obviously knew he was missing,” said Mr Smith.

“He was absolutely fine, I think probably a little bit tired, but you would be if you’d spent three days on any mountains during the winter.”

According to the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team, the man was properly equipped and provided his family with a detailed route plan before he left for his hike.

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