Highlands & Islands

UK mountaineering groups working on avalanche messages

Northern Cairngorms
Image caption The organisations are eager to see all walkers and climbers having basic knowledge of the risk

Twelve mountaineering organisations from across the UK are working together on making sure walkers and climbers have basic information on avalanches.

Eighteen snow slides triggered by human activity were recorded in Scotland's mountains last winter.

Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) said that while the number was fewer than the previous season there were eight fatalities.

Updated education messages are being developed ahead of next winter.

The number of deaths caused by avalanches during the 2012-13 season was the highest in years.

According to SAIS, there were none in 2011-12, one fatality in 2010-11 and five in 2009-10.

While there is no suggestion those killed last season did not have avalanche awareness skills - some were described as experienced climbers - the organisations are eager to see all walkers and climbers having basic knowledge of the risk.

The Snow and Avalanche Foundation for Scotland (SAFOS) with assistance from SAIS brought the other groups together at Glenmore Lodge, near Aviemore, last month.

Scottish Mountain Rescue, Mountaineering Council of Scotland, British Mountaineering Council, British Mountain Guides, Association of Mountaineering Instructors and British Association of Ski Patrollers sent representatives to the seminar.

Staff from national mountaineering bodies Mountain Training UK, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge and Play y Brenin also attended.

The organisations will contribute to an updated form of education messages that will include a new leaflet.

Scottish Mountain Rescue has also purchased six new manikins - a life-sized anatomical human model - for use in avalanche training.

Designed to be more realistic, the adult-size manikins are also more hard wearing and will be given to Cairngorm, Braemar, Torridon, Lochaber and Glencoe mountain rescue teams and Sarda Scotland.

Bob Kinnaird, principal of Glenmore Lodge, said mountaineering organisations were committed to building on current information.

He said: "It is vital that organisations continue to work together to help ensure climbers and walkers stay as safe as possible whilst enjoying the Scottish mountains."

Heather Morning, mountain safety advisor for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, welcomed the chance to work with the other groups.

She added: "The recent meeting provided the opportunity for some productive and thoughtful discussion, which will hopefully lead to a more structured and consistent message being delivered to the mountaineering public."

Off-piste skiing

The SAIS recorded a total of 129 avalanches during its most recent season of providing avalanche forecasts.

In January, four people died in Glencoe after they were caught up in a snow slide on Bidean Nam Bian.

They were later named as Christopher Bell, from Blackburn, Una Finnegan from County Londonderry, Tom Chesters, from Sidmouth in Devon, and Dr Rachel Majumdar from Merseyside.

The following month, three people were killed in the Cairngorms. They were part of two separate groups climbing up opposite sides of a gorge in the Chalamain Gap area.

Two off-duty RAF personnel Fran Capps, 32, from Dulverton in Somerset, and Sqn Ldr Rimon Than, 33, died.

The third victim was William Currie, 18, from Penzance, who was on a winter skills training course.

Last month, Daniel Maddox, 41, from Clackmannanshire, died in an avalanche while off-piste skiing near the Glencoe Mountain snow sports centre.

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