I have seen many things in my life in the mountains and have never been part of the “mountain Police” I believe in everyone’s right to go out into the wild and enjoy and experience these special places. Unfortunately I have spent much of my life and still do talking to families who have been involved in mountain tragedies all over Scotland.
Just now the mountains are incredible the winter is long and the conditions due to the Arctic weather mean that the ground is frozen hard, it has below zero for a long time now. All the snow open to the wind is rock hard neve (hard snow) where the ground is incredibly difficult to walk on. As the ground steepens it becomes worse and a slip unless stopped when ascending or descending can be and is at times fatal or you can have a serious injury. No matter how well equipped you are. I had two good friends who were coming down off Ben Nevis yesterday after a wonderful days climbing in a fantastic venue and in superb conditions. As they came down the mountain path at the zig – zags above the red burn they were amazed how many walkers were on the hill without crampons and ice axes! They are both very experienced mountaineers who have spent over 30 years involved in mountain rescue. They now work offshore and climb whenever they can and are out all over the mountains regularly. They were descending with crampons and ice axe out, the snow was rock hard neve. One of the party was a ten-year old boy and another was crawling on the ice and they were still going up to the summit.
The weather was superb but very cold – what would you do?
I have followed a few Blogs and tweets where a few have defended the right to go on the hill as they do and a few have used the defence that they are walkers not mountaineers. Some say there is no need for crampons as they can stay off the ice? Crampons to me are a necessity in winter but so is the skill to use them as is the use of an ice axe. Maybe I am not as talented as them but there again few have seen the grief I have after a slip or fall.
Have a think if venturing out this Easter these winter mountains are outstanding, the weather is special but it is a hard winter. It is still full on winter and will be for several weeks. Enjoy,the holiday take care but give yourself a chance, you owe it to those who play the waiting game while we enjoy these wild places!
“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
I am off to the North West at last it is snowing in Burghead at sea level, I hope we have a good and safe day before the Easter crowds arrive.