Dangerous conditions on Scottish mountains
- Friday 15th March 2019
March 15th; 2019
Following the fatalities in the avalanches on Ben Nevis earlier this week, a number of warnings have been issued to those heading into the mountains.
Bad weather in the Cairngorms, by Wallace Gilbraith.
The advice is that walkers, climbers and/or backcountry skiers need to check avalanche and weather forecasts before heading in to the hills. The warm weather in February saw the snow pack almost disappear but since then winter has returned with a vengeance and the crags and gullies have seen a dramatic and rapid loading of new snow. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) has recorded five avalanches in the West Highlands in the last few days, highlighting the unstable nature of the snowpack.
Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Adviser with Mountaineering Scotland, said: “Mountain conditions in Feb were unusually mild, resulting in the majority of the mountains being snow free. However, over the past few days winter has very much returned.
“When you’re heading up into the hills, whether it’s for walking, climbing or skiing, it’s absolutely essential not only that you check the avalanche forecast but also that you understand what it’s saying. Different slopes on the same hill may have completely different snow conditions.
“A careful study of the mountain weather forecast is also an essential part of your planning, and your planned route should be finalised with that forecast in mind. Something else to be mindful of is being flexible. Don’t become fixated on achieving your original goal. As conditions on the hill change, then so should your decision making. Often I end up on Plan B, C or D as my journey on the hill progresses.”
Kev Mitchell, Vice Chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue said: “We encourage people to make use of all available information, including weather and avalanche forecasts. It is important to plan your day taking into account the conditions, ensure you are prepared to make safe decisions based on the weather and environment you are in and the group you are with.”
Trafford Wilson, CEO of Snowsport Scotland, said: “Back country skiing and boarding, whether in the mountains or through the glens, offer some amazing opportunities for unforgettable days out, and it’s encouraging to see so many people taking up the challenge.
“But skiing or boarding away from pisted and managed slopes adds a considerable degree of seriousness and people must be sure they are properly equipped and experienced.”
Avalanche forecasts and explanations of how to interpret them can be found at www.sais.gov.uk Mountain specific weather forecasts can be found at www.mwis.org.uk.