Avalanches – please be aware. The most common trigger is you!

90 avalanche

“Yesterday there was a Cornice collapse in No 4 Gully on Ben Nevis with reports of 5 people caught in the resulting avalanche. Everyone managed to walk out with only one very minor injury. New major avalanche protocol worked well with helicopters from Prestwick and Lossiemouth attended. Emergency Medical Team from Paisley were mobilized along with Glencoe MRT and the Ski Patrol from Aonoch Mor. Although not needed it was good test of system. Hope it is not needed again this year” From Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team.

Lucky Escape Ben Nevis

Lucky Escape Ben Nevis Article Press & Journal – photo Lochaber MRT.The response by the Emergency Services was quick and efficient and well done all. What would happen if there as there have been several avalanche incidents in various areas in Scotland at the same time? Unfortunately it would be a longer wait for assistance if you were involved, what would you do and would you be able to cope?

Forecast Areas

Forecast Areas

There have been two incidents in the last week involving avalanches that involved Mountain Rescue Teams that I know about. Few will know this has happened as they rarely get a big media in the South unless they involve fatalities or serious injuries. In the North of Scotland the local papers are pretty good at reporting incidents. The other incident was in Torridon just before New Year where a very lucky climber went 1000 feet and survived. On both occasions Mountain Rescue Teams were involved and the helicopters were invaluable. The weather allowed a speedy recovery but we as mountaineers must be aware if we are hit by an avalanche it will be a while before help comes. In Torridon it was approximately 2 hours before assistance was with the casualty. That was a quick and incredible response for a remote area. Please do not be fooled by the quick response of the  Rescue Services that depends on so many things, the weather being one and you or survivors being able to call for help.

Much has been learned from the  past of Avalanche incidents and whenever possible the new techniques and skills by the Mountain Rescue teams will be invaluable and save many lives.

aval decisions

What can we do to help?

Avalanche Education is invaluable and every day the Scottish Avalanche Information Service is out putting together their forecasts, how many read them along with the weather information? These are incredible people and provided an outstanding service please use it.

How many have attended a current course and had a refresher on Avalanche Awareness? There are so many now Ski Mountaineering and going into wild mountaineering terrain where rescue may be difficult. Do you carry the tools and expeience to assist your mates if it all goes wrong? We spent hundreds of £ on gear but so little on education?

We learn every year no matter how experienced we are and as I am awaiting another operation therefore in my eyes my current winter mountaineering is very restricted   especially on what is happening in the mountains just now. I have little clue what is going on above the snow line as every day it changes. Many come for a few days in winter, travel  and spend hard-earned cash with a wish list of climbs and walks. Please be prepared to change your plans if the weather and forecasts are against you. The hills will always be there for another day, the secret is to be there with them!

3 phases avalanche

Have a search on my Blog on Avalanche Awareness and relevant blogs!

The emergency Text Service and also on the internet and other Blogs there is now so much information about Avalanches , why not have a look?


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Avalanche info, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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