Highlands & Islands

Avalanche incidents in 2015/16 involved 109 people, says SAIS

Tim Newton and Rachel Slater Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Tim Newton and Rachel Slater died in February while on a climb on Ben Nevis

A total of 109 people were involved in avalanche incidents as members of a group of walkers or climbers last winter, according to a new report.

Three people died following avalanches that occurred in a 10-day period in February, the Scottish Avalanche Information Service said.

SAIS added that two other fatalities during the winter of 2015/16 may also have involved avalanche activity.

The service recorded 205 avalanches between December 2015 and April.

Of the avalanches, SAIS said 159 were released naturally and 46 were incidents triggered by people.

Some of the avalanche occurrences were minor, but others were "more significant" and resulted in people being carried with down by the avalanche, the service said.

A total of 21 people were carried down by an avalanche, it said.

'Stormy conditions'

In its report, SAIS, which has not named the three fatalities, said: "Significantly, 21 human triggered avalanche incidents occurred during a 10-day period in February, with three fatalities.

"This period was also during the mid-term holidays and coincided with stormy conditions, poor visibility, snowpack instability and when considerable to high levels of avalanche hazard were issued by the SAIS, notably in the Lochaber and Creag Meagaidh areas."

February saw the deaths of Adrian Bankart, 54, from Derbyshire, following an avalanche on Creag Meagaidh and Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, from Bradford, who mountain rescuers say were caught by an avalanche before starting a climb on the North Face of Ben Nevis.

Image copyright SAIS Northern Cairngorms
Image caption SAIS teams assess avalanche risk hazard in six mountain areas
Image copyright Paul Noble/SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Image caption An avalanche assessment pit being dug in the Southern Cairngorms

SAIS assesses avalanche hazards in six mountain areas.

These are Lochaber, Glen Coe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms, Northern Cairngorms and Torridon.

The service provides information on the stability of snowpack on the mountains from between December and April.

Every winter, hillwalkers and climbers are advised to check SAIS and mountain weather forecasts before planning trips into Scotland's hills.

Arctic conditions

In its report it said the winter of 2015/16 saw severe storm cycles crossing the Atlantic and bringing "very strong storm force winds" with severe gusts.

Wind speeds reached 140mph on mountain tops and often continual 100mph speeds persisting throughout some days.

Arctic conditions were experienced at the end of January with northerly and easterly bringing colder temperatures and fresh snow "that presented a period of instabilities within the snow pack, and different challenges", said SAIS.

In the winter of 2013/14, the service documented one of its highest numbers of avalanches with 350 snow slides detected during one of the snowiest winters in Scotland's mountains in almost 70 years.

SAIS's newest season is to begin on 17 December.

Image copyright Paul Noble/SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Image caption SAIS dog amid snow and low cloud in the Southern Cairngorms

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