I am down on the West Coast at Onich near Fort William visiting a friend it has rained all day yesterday and there were no views, just a heavy rain and wet mist. I wanted to go for a walk on the hill yesterday but declined as it was pouring I am sure the rivers would be very wild. I learned very quickly that rivers in flood can cause real problems.
On our walks across Scotland we soon became very aware of the dangers especially in areas like Shenevall on the North West or the huge rivers in the Fannichs and Glens. Rivers in flood in the mountains are very dangerous and every year someone drowns in the mountains trying to cross a swollen river. We had to get to the bothies at night and many a time we were pretty worried unlike the photo below, boots of and get across. Ski poles are great nowadays for rover crossings. Top tip they help the balance and the secret is to move slowly and take time.
I have been on several call outs where a group has been unable to cross due to heavy flooding and have had to wait some times overnight to let the river drop. In times of heavy rainfall, swollen streams can provide a formidable problem for the mountain walker. And crossing them can present hazards far more serious than just wet feet. A friend sent me this photo – crazy stuff – rivers can kill even the most experienced so please be aware of the dangers.
Avoidance is the key – careful planning of a trip and good observation should almost eliminate the chances of a difficult crossing. However, local flooding is not always predictable and occasionally a wet crossing is necessary, particularly in remote parts of Scotland. Fast moving water can be powerful and difficult to exit from. The water will be cold and the river bed slippery and awkward.
Downstream obstacles such as trees, waterfalls and boulder chokes may prove killers if anybody is swept away. Mountaineering equipment is not designed with swift water in mind and will generally hinder rather than help. And if things go wrong during a stream or river crossing there can be many potentially serious problems to deal with, such as a split party, communication difficulties, immersion hypothermia, loss of equipment, injury etc.