2018 – This is a Big Winter and year of the Big Snows and even bigger Cornices. Snow shoes some thoughts.

This is a big winter the first for many years and so many are loving the hills and enjoying the blue skies and big snows. Every weekend thousands are out having fun and it is wonderful seeing all my pals photos enjoying these conditions. The only problem this is a  full on winter, the first for many years. When the wind picks up and the snows change so does the visibility especially on the high tops. As always safe travel in the mountains in these conditions it is important to be able to navigate it is the key skill. It is hard enough whilst walking in a white – out  but add skis and you have to be very skillful to travel in these conditions. Add in the avalanche risk as you move over varying ground and it can be an extremely hard day full on concentration is needed. Wild off piste skiing is now so popular and so many are out on the Munro’s and high hills loving the fast movement on pristine snows.

In the past you saw few who did this and most were extremely competent mountaineers nowadays there are so many out enjoying these wild pristine slopes. Just be aware that there is danger out there and you need all the skills to cope with the wild Scottish weather to ensure you enjoy your day.   It is so worth going on a course or getting some advice through the many organisations that enjoy off piste skiing and doing and Avalanche Course. If you have a problem out in the back of beyond it will be you and your mates that you will rely on in an avalanche or accident. Would you know what do to or what gear to carry? Get on an Avalanche awareness course and no matter how experienced you are it will be enlightening. Do you carry a shovel , probe, avalanche transceiver? have you read the weather and avalanche forecasts? Does anyone know where you are going?  You can still have fun but at least you have a chance if it all goes wrong and the Mountain Rescue Teams and SARDA have a chance of finding you?

Comments  are as always very welcome.

Photo Al Barnard


From Lochaber MRT – “The Team has been out again today on major rescue on Aonach Beag. Twenty two team members have been out since midday rescuing a skier who had fallen through cornice while navigating in across summit. Skier has fallen approximately 200 metres and has suffered multiple injuries. Conditions are very challenging with strong winds and limited visibility. Rescue 951 has been assisting but limited by low cloud levels. They lifted team members to about 1.5 km from top of mountain. Team carried technical rescue equipment to location of incident. Two team members and a ski patroller from Nevis Range have been lowered to casualty and carried out first aid. The team have now winched the casualty back to summit and at moment are making their way back to the top Gondola station. Hopefully will have casualty down at Belford Hospital by mid night.

Four team members tried to reach casualty from the Sanctuary and climbed about 1000 metres up the NE face of Aonoch Beag and reached about 200 metres below the location of casualty. Deep unstable snow and potential of avalanche prevented further progress so they retreated back down to be picked up by 951 after long walk in deep snow. Snow shoes purchased by team the week were worth their weight in gold as without them progress would have been impossible.

Todays rescue has been an exceptional effort by the Team. This has been one of the most difficult and technical rescues we have had to carry out in last 12 months.

Earlier two team members went up Beinn a Chaorinn searching for the missing local climber. Unfortunately snow cover still too deep and unstable so no luck in search.

Cornice Beinn a’ Chaorainn

Today’s call out is the 16th in past month which has involved around 3000 hours of volunteer rescuers time in some of the most challenging winter conditions experienced in a very long time. Conditions have meant rescuers, from many mountain rescue teams in Scotland, having to go out in very difficult and dangerous conditions. Well done all teams who have been out on mountain rescues as well as resilience work helping out stranded motorist and workers who have required assistance due to the exceptional winter conditions this year.”

Finally please tell folk your plans where your going and what time you will be home, there are many who sit and worry at home whilst we enjoy these wild places. we can be so selfish at times?

2005 – snow shoes, We have had snow shoes since the Cairngorm disaster in 1971 and though only used in big winters they are an incredible piece of gear.

We have also being doing a number of searches with drones which has the benefit of [providing images from areas where is too dangerous or difficult to put in rescuers. The footage is taken back to base and scrutinised for any sign of missing climbers. On one of the earlier searches with drones images of two climber crag fast on Tower Ridge and we were able to talk in R951 to pick them off the route. New era in mountain rescue evolving and we are pleased to be at the forefront of this.” Great effort well done all.

Stay safe Lochaber and what a superb job you are all doing.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Avalanche info, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Lectures, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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