Highlands & Islands

'Exceptional' 12-hour effort to rescue fallen skier on Aonach Beag

Lochaber MRT on a rescue Image copyright Lochaber MRT
Image caption Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team has been on 16 call-outs in the space of a month

A skier suffered multiple injuries after falling 200m (656ft) through a cornice in whiteout conditions on Aonach Beag in Lochaber.

The man was rescued 12 hours after going through the overhanging ledge of snow on Sunday.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team said it carried out its "most difficult and technical rescue" in the past year.

It involved two members of Lochaber MRT and Nevis Range ski centre's ski patrol being lowered to the man.

He was given first aid before being winched to safety.

Conditions during the rescue, which involved a total of 22 members of Lochaber MRT, were described as being "very challenging" with strong winds and limited visibility.

Inverness Coastguard helicopter flew rescue team members and also equipment to the scene to help in what Lochaber MRT called an "exceptional effort" to save the skier.

The man was eventually winched up to the summit of the mountain and lifted to the Nevis Range gondola to be carried off the peak. He was taken then on to Belford Hospital in Fort William for treatment.

During the rescue effort, four members of Lochaber MRT sought to reach the fallen skier's location by making a 1,000m (3,281ft) climb.

They managed to get within 200m of the man before having to withdraw due to a high risk of avalanches.

'Long haul'

Team leader John Stevenson told BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie programme that the rescue had been complicated by where the man had fallen.

He said: "He was down a gully, so access to him made it very difficult for people to get to him.

"It was a long haul getting people to the top of the climb where he was and getting equipment up there."

Image copyright Lochaber MRT
Image caption Lochaber MRT has encountered challenging weather conditions this winter

Sunday's call-out was the 16th for Lochaber MRT in a month.

The other rescues included the team deploying a drone to find two climbers stranded on a crag on Tower Ridge. The team were able to guide Inverness Coastguard to the climbers' location to rescue them.

The team said it was encountering some of the most challenging winter conditions in a "very long time".

'Virtually no winter'

Last year, was Lochaber MRT's quietest year for call-outs in a decade.

Its members responded to 78 calls and rescued 82 people. The team usually handles about 100 call-outs in a year.

It said the low number of call-outs was most likely due to 2017 having "virtually no winter", with little snow and mild weather.

This winter has seen frequent spells of heavy snowfall and high winds, which has resulted in deep snow drifts and numerous large cornices.

One hundred and thirty seven avalanches have been recorded so far in the Scottish Avalanche Information Service's latest season. There were 90 last season.

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