1953 – 15 Feet gas piping used as Avalanche Probes on Ben Nevis By RAF Kinloss MRT.

1953 3/53 2-7/04/53 Ben Nevis

South Castle Gully

From the RAF Kinloss MRT archives: A  Six-day search for two avalanched climbers. They left kit in CIC hut and not returned. Team climbed North & South  Castle, 2, 3 & 4 gullies. Casualties found when snow melted below North & South Castle gullies. 2 Fatal.
Avalanche on Ben Nevis

1953  – Avalanche on Ben Nevis – RAF Kinloss Mrt is this the earliest picture of Avalanche probing in the UK?

This year there have been 3 tragic avalanches and they raise huge media interest and every year they take a toll, despite the improvement in education and information available. It is a constant effort by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service to ensure that as much information and education as possible is out there for all to use free of charge.

Still  a must read for a winter lovers.

Still a must read for a winter lovers.

We are very lucky to have such a service and even in my early days mountaineering information was very vague and based on Avalanches abroad and not the unique weather we have in Scotland and the UK. The   Avalanche Service has come a long way since the photo above of a huge avalanche in 1953 on Ben Nevis where it took a long time to recover the casualties after a thaw. Equipment, training and techniques have improved nowadays  but it must have been a difficult task in 1953 on Ben Nevis.


These days where when it was commonly thought that avalanches do not happen in Scotland only in the Alps and Greater ranges like the Himalayas. It must have been pretty revolutionary for the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team to make probes from gas piping made by the RAF Workshops and start probing in the gullies.  I am sure I located a piece of the piping used when I was wandering about in the area about 10 years ago and must go up and see if I can relocate it.  It was in the basin below North and South Castle gullies near Castle ridge.   I was climbing and could not take it with me, I must go back.

Has anyone seen it?

1953 one of the earliest photos of Avalanche probing in the UK? RAF Kinloss MRT

1953 one of the earliest photos of Avalanche probing in the UK? RAF Kinloss MRT

In the old guide books the information was there about some of the danger areas that regularly avalanche and it is well worth passing on this information. In this old guide-book it was clearly marked nowadays it is lost in route descriptions ? An improvement or not ?

Danger Areas ?

Danger Areas ?

As the winter draws down it sounds it is not finished yet by the sound of the weather outside and a weather warning for today in Scotland with snow at low level. The Scottish Avalanche Service ( SAIS) has done a great job keeping us aware if the conditions all over Scotland. The new service for the Torridon area in the North West has been a great help to mountaineers and hopefully funding will be found to continue this vital Service for the future.  There daily forecasts and blogs are great and many thanks for the SAIS for all their hard work. A wonderful service fought for by many and never to be taken for granted?

Modern Avalanche searching following in the footsteps of the past.

Modern Avalanche searching following in the footsteps of the past.

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, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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