Friday, 11 March 2022

It's Still Winter In The Hills. Take Care!

Andy Ince on a chilly Toll Creagach, March 6

On Toll Creagach a few days ago I wandered round the chilly summit gazing at the spectacular views. In the sunshine and with good clothing against the cold wind it was a glorious place to be. Anyone out on the hills in the Highlands that day will have had a similar experience. But not every day is like that and even on such days winter skills and equipment are required. Toll Creagach is a rounded hill with no cliffs but even so has a steep enough slope to sport a cornice, a cornice that was sagging with much debris below it where sections had broken off and triggered little avalanches. In poor visibility it would be easy to stray too close to the edge.

Cornice on Toll Creagach

The slopes to the summit were icy in places too. I had snowshoes with serrated metal edges and crude crampons. Even with them I took a gentler route at one point during the descent when the snowshoes started to slip. If I hadn't had the snowshoes I'd have been using crampons, which I did have with me, along with an ice axe.

It may feel like spring in the glens. It's still winter on the mountains. 

Ben Nevis from Toll Creagach, March 6

These thoughts were engendered by returning home to the grim news of accidents and deaths in the mountains, six of the latter in the last two weeks. Just two days after I took the photo above a man died on Ben Nevis and twenty-three others were rescued. These are sobering figures, tragedies for many families. 

Due to this high number of accidents Police Scotland has issued the following warning and advice

Take extra care and plan ahead before heading to the hills and mountains

Police Scotland is appealing to hill users and mountaineers to plan ahead and take extra care in the coming weeks.

Mountain Rescue Teams across Scotland have been experiencing a recent increase in callouts and six people have tragically lost their lives over the last two weeks.

Last night Mountain Rescue Teams dealt with an incident on Ben Nevis when police were made aware of a number of people in difficulty.  One man, aged 28 was pronounced dead at the scene and 23 people were assisted off the mountain. Two men, aged 29 and 37 were treated in hospital.

A search for Nick Gillingham, last seen near the summit of Stob Coire Nam Beith, Glencoe, has been stood down today due to weather conditions. It will resume once it is safe for mountain rescue teams to do so.

Inspector Matt Smith, Police Scotland Mountain Rescue coordinator said, “The onset of spring has brought some more settled weather patterns and a welcome increase in daylight hours.  We would urge those seeking to venture into the outdoors to take extra care.  Challenging winter conditions still prevail in the hills with large areas totally covered in snow and ice. 

“Often these areas are completely unavoidable and snow may be rock hard with a high likelihood of a fall unless crampons and an ice axe are carried and most importantly, the group has a knowledge in how and when to use them. A slip in these situations may have very serious or fatal consequences.

“As with all outdoor activities, planning is key and a number of key partners produce resources and guidance to help keep you safe including the current #thinkWINTER campaign backed by Scottish Mountain Rescue and Mountaineering Scotland.

“It is vitally important to understand the risks of your activity, the experience of your group, the prevailing weather conditions during, and at your intended destination and that suitable equipment is carried to allow you to navigate safely over steep or icy terrain. Make a plan, don’t be afraid to adapt and make sure you think about what to do if things go wrong.  The photo you’ve seen on social media is not always a true reflection of what you may find when you get there.

“The volunteer Mountain Rescue Teams across Scotland are an amazing network of dedicated and highly skilled people who will do everything they can to assist you if you find yourself in difficulty but responsibility for staying safe on the mountains rest with us all and involves good planning, sound decision making and the ability to carry and use the correct equipment. By all mean enjoy Scotland’s spectacular scenery but do so safely.”

If you do need emergency help on the mountains, dial 999, ask for the police and then for Mountain Rescue.

The thinkWinter campaign referred to can be found here







1 comment:

  1. Good advice as ever Chris. I think FOMO (fear of missing out) has a lot to do with the number of folk getting into trouble in the mountains. I think some people see photos and videos on social media and think 'I'm having some of that'. Last weekend was the best weather window for quite a while and saw dozens of people on many of the popular routes, some of them clearly were ill-prepared or inexperienced.

    ReplyDelete