It was a long day yesterday as I had to drive to Aberdeen ARI Hospital for a final check with my Consultant so all is well now and that was great news. The weather was wonderful with the sun and a frost all the way to Aberdeen a very busy road in the morning traffic. I got a call asking to go on the BBC Radio Scotland programme at 0900 about the Mountain Accidents that have taken a heavy toll this week. I said I could do it by mobile but in the end it was not be they called and said that they would not use me. Earlier the Team Leader of Glencoe was on Andy Nelson who gave a great insight into the mountains as they are just now. Andy is a well-known mountain Guide and exceptional mountaineer it was great to hear him talk. He spoke about the dangers of the heavy snow and winds this winter and the possible avalanche conditions and the need to be aware of past and present conditions. The journey to the hills and looking at the snow conditions on the way in and what to look out for. He also mentioned the need to tell someone of your plans and teams need an idea of where to go if it all goes wrong. Later on I listened to the same arguments on the radio and sad to hear Dorothy Grace Elder again call to close the mountains and the usual Insurance calls. David Gibson of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland was on the program and did very well in a hostile environment and stated the case of mountaineers and lover of the wild to pursue their love and make their own choices, plus lost of tips on Mountain Safety. It must be hard for the families especially for the two that have still not been found on Ben Nevis to listen to some of the comments. We must never forget that so many families are effected by a mountain tragedy. They will be reading the papers, media and blogs. Be careful what you say and comment on, they have suffered enough. The weather is still poor on Ben Nevis with a Considerable Avalanche Risk and the Search is awaiting better weather. My thoughts are as always will all involved a tragic situation.
I get asked a lot what more can we do to help Mountain Safety, the mountains are without a doubt dangerous that is one of the reasons that attracts us to them. We can never make them safe this is natures world and things change dramatically. It is the same advice I give much of it was already said by Andy Nelson.:
Preparation, – Before you go on the mountains in days before and on the day look at the weather, avalanche conditions and local reports and blogs. Plan your climb /walk and tell someone your plans, if they change tell someone or text your change of route. Have the emergency text service on your phone AND SPARE BATTERIES. The weather and conditions can change your plan so be flexible. Learn to navigate in all weathers and the use of winter equipment ice axe and crampons no point in carrying them if you have never been trained in their use? USE A MAP AND COMPASS AS WELL AS YOUR GPS.
Get used to winter conditions and try to ensure your personal admin on the hill is good. Carry spare gloves and gear small duvet, spare food to ensure you have a safe day and if something goes wrong you can cope. A bothy bag ( survival shelter) is for me essential in winter, as is a head torch and batteries. Most accidents are caused by small things going wrong, the loss of equipment a glove or axe or head torch add in POOR NAVIGATION, add a slip or trip and you are in trouble, be careful – “Look well to each step.
” Thousands are out enjoying the winter every day just be careful and and enjoy these wonderful places.”
I would advise all winter mountaineers to attend an avalanche course and to learn the basic winter skills needed navigation, use of ice axe and crampons with an experienced mountaineer or take a simple training course. You spend £££ on your gear how much on training? There are so many good trainers out there and it will not cost you the earth and may save your life and allow you to travel in winter safer?
I try to do my bit for Mountain Safety and every winter I do a few lectures and my blogs often carry a safety theme. There is a lot being done by Mountaineering in many areas and education is one of the answer to improving safety for all mountaineers. There are so many places to get good training for mountaineering and the skills needed to cope with the winter. The Mountaineering Council Of Scotland run courses on all aspects of mountaineering and are worth joining as these are sometimes run subsidised courses for Mountaineering clubs. They also speak for mountaineers at times of crisis and though it is not easy to keep everyone happy I feel they do a great job, its worth a look on their website and maybe supporting them by joining?
It was a long day yesterday and I got the all clear after a long illness and cannot thank the NHS and ARI at Aberdeen and my Surgeon for all the help, I was an awful patient. Now I will try to get fit and not be over-anxious about getting out and wait for the right weather and my fitness to improve. I am so lucky I can pick my days out now I am retired and change my plans accordingly. Many do not have these options and travel along way for a planned climb or mountain no matter what THE WEATHER OR THE CONDITIONS.
It is always worth remembering ” the hills, the climb will always be there, the secret is to be there with them?”
Worth reading Cameron Mc Neish – Mountain Accidents and Mountain Safety
February 18, 2016
Alex Roddie – Twitter Journalism and mountain Tragedy