The rivers are in spate be aware – As always Nature rules and respect the weather. There will always be another day?

River Awareness

Two of my friends recently very experienced mountaineers  who I spoke to this week have had snags with rivers and the rain is still falling with today a break and then more rain for the weekend. One pal was on a big walk in the Cairngorms he was alone and coming back in the dark in Glen Feshie could not cross the river and though he was off the hill and was on the forestry road a ford in the Glen was flooded.  He sensibly waited in the trees and crossed later next day when the river had slowed down. Two others were in Knoydart after two big Corbett’s and could not cross the river even though they went upstream for an hour. They camped and waited till next day, sadly missing out in one Corbett. What great decisions they made sadly in a real situation and you are late back off the hill many of us will push on despite consequences and few think a river can be a problem.. Rivers at night in spate are a massive danger and it worth reminding folk especially at this time of year. Things can go wrong after a after a hard day, heavy rain, flooding, add sleet,strong winds and and limited daylight you have to take great care.

Please be aware that river crossing is serious and most years there are a few accidents in rivers. I have been lucky on a few occasions and I know of a few where the rivers were so high that hill parties have spent the night on the hill and to let the river calm down!  Rescue Teams even helicopters have had to rescue folk from bothies and rivers and if you are in a remote place if anything goes on you and your party are on your own. The big mountains are still shedding lots of water add to that more heavy rain due and you can have a problem, so please be aware of the power of nature and the effect on a mere human.

Even small burns can prove a snag.

I have been on several call outs where a group has been unable to cross due to heavy flooding and have had to wait sometimes 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 wild river – the Tarquinn collection.

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. Ski poles are very hand as well and have helped me and others on many occasions.

They can be deeper than you think.

On our big walks across Scotland  in the bad weather the most danger was crossing the rivers after a heavy rain or thawing snow. It gave me even more respect for these hazards that on a good day are so simple.   On our winter walk West – East in 1978 in November/ December near the end of a huge 4 days where the A9 was closed we were trying to make Braemar after a huge 13 hour day , it was full on winter. The last problem was the river Dee after a crazy day on these remote Munros Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch. It had been a terrible trip and we were completely exhausted. The navigation was very hard and the snow deep, ploughing through deep snow all day. At the end of the day we had to cross the river Dee near the Chest of Dee when Jim fell in the frozen river.

The river crossings can change in the day.

He was very lucky to get out and was incredibly cold, there was no way he could change and just wrung out his gear and headed out. We had a bit of an epic getting to Linn Of Dee. I was sent to the Keepers house where the kindly keeper took us in for the night. We could not make the road walk to Braemar so knackered we were.

Skye Coruisk waiting for the river to calm down.

Even more recently in December a few years  ago we could not cross the river after a few days at Coruisk in December and had to wait for the next day. All the usual crossings were too dangerous and it was hold on and then leave, I have seen strong men and women swept down a river and been to incidents where sadly things have gone very wrong.

The power of nature always rules and the best thing to do is to respect it and wait till things calm down. There is lots of advice on river crossings mainly for MLC Training but at times you have to let nature run its course.  It’s a lot different in the dark in an area you may not know well and a river in full spate is not the place to be.

Check that route

Every year the rivers taught me something how they change and how you have to be aware of them, well worth looking at that route you planned, Remember the daylight is getting shorter and a river may slow you down or even benight you. Check that route, check the torch and battery  always think common sense

Worth a thought?

More information.

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 Articles, Bothies, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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