Always Think Safety are you prepared for that simple slip that can make your day a bit more than you thought?

As the winter is mild and the winds are up its worth looking at a simple winter walk one day only 3 kilometres from the road that ended up a very interesting day.

Most of us when we go out rarely think of what we would do in the event of an accident to our party. How many talk about what would you do if this occurred. Many have a vision of a phone call to the Police and a helicopter emerges in a few minutes and plucks you from the hill to a place of safety. Thankfully this often happens but at times the phone reception is poor, the helicopter is on another task and you will have to wait for the local rescue team to assist. If you are in a remote area this can take take lots of time. Even in a busy area like the Northern Corries you may be waiting a while. This incident was in Corrie an – t Sneachda a few years ago when a walker broke her ankle after a simple slip. It was a typical winter day. The path was very icy in the walk in, it was gusting 30 – 40 mph, and when crossing the frozen river she fell and broke her ankle. It was a pure accident and can happen to anyone.

Coire an – t Sneachda – Flag marks the spot. less than 3 ks from the road.

Snow was coming and going and though Corrie Sneachda is only 45 – 60 minutes from the road things can quickly develop. The weather came in as it does we had called the helicopter as it was in the area.

Bivy Bag in action.

These photos show how easy things change. Within a few minutes the Casualty was cold and shocked as you can see there was little shelter. No matter how fit you are the shock of an injury can and does hit you very quickly. It is amazing how quickly you can become immobilised and this is winter where even with today’s kit hypothermia hits quickly. It was just before the big boulder field as you approach the cliffs and the lochans not far from the road. Even though we called the helicopter and we notified Cairngorm MRT we sent a couple of troops to go back to our wagon and bring a lightweight stretcher, this was as a back up. Past experience had shown that the helicopter may not get in as the winds were pretty gusty here.


Great news or so we think!

We get sorted the Casualty out the wind, treated and in bivy and bothy bag. It should be simple now as the helicopter on its way. Despite the Casualty having a lot of gear we had to give her more and put a troop in with her in the bothy bag to keep her warm (great gear)

Cloud now in and we have to get her out.

The weather comes in again the Helicopter has tried to get in we hear it but quite rightly is not coming. We have the news confirmned that its too windy and added with the not viable. Our quick stretcher nearly with us they have done us proud and we have diverted a few troops who are climbing nearby and we have enough to evacuate. We have been with her for about about an hour.

This is the weather as we move her out.

Few folk realise how hard it is to carry a stretcher especially in winter its not easy and need lots of man/women power. Even the short distance from the Corrie to the road in crampons is hard work but at least you keep warm. The path is covered by snow and ice. If you tried to do a Health and Safety Assessment of this and the Risks of a trip or fall it would make you think?

Even a short distance is hard work.

I have just found these photos and it shows how quickly it can all change. Accidents happen and this was one of our own a Controller from the ARCC that wanted to see what we did at weekend. She was a good lass and it was unfortunate that happened. The Controllers in these days sent the helicopters to assist the Police, Ambulance, Mountain Rescue Teams , Coastguards etc. We had a policy in the military to show them what the conditions could be like hence the wander into the Corrie. There was a lot of learning that day. It easy to sit in a warm Control Room and forget what those do in the front line.

This was a short carry off imagine one in winter from Loch Avon or up North where I have stretcher carried for over 6 hours all night. Your day out could be a bit longer than you thought!


A few points – Its worth looking at a plan if it goes wrong on a day out.

Make sure someone knows where you are going. Carry some extra gear share the weight a bothy bag is an essential in winter as is a small medical kit. Make sure you can navigate carry a map and compass and know how to use them. Carry a phone and back up battery know there limitations. Make sure your torch is serviceable. Talk over what you would do if someone has a problem.

Comments welcome.

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 and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Always Think Safety are you prepared for that simple slip that can make your day a bit more than you thought?

  1. Bob Sharp says:

    Heavy. I’m researching a feature on slips and trips based on Scottish stats across the last 100 years. Lots if interesting reports from casualties. Looks like slips and trips account for around 25% of all incidents and this hasn’t changed across the decades. Perhaps the problem is destined not go away! Writing in the SMC Journal over 40 years ago Ben Humble said: “The ‘simple slip’ will always be with us, and will take its annual cull of the tired, unwary or downright unlucky.” It may sound a bit negative but I think his words still hold good today. Anyway, I’ll send you a draft copy for comment. But give me a few weeks yet. Bob

    Liked by 1 person

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