'Lucky escapes' in avalanches in Scotland's mountains

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image copyrightSAIS Northern Cairngorms
image captionWalkers on the Cairngorm Plateau where temperatures plunged to as low as -14C

Some people had "very lucky escapes" after being caught in avalanches in Scotland's mountains last winter, according to a new report.

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) said 20 people in total were involved in human-triggered snow slides during its 2017/18 season.

Half of these people were carried down mountainsides by snow.

There were no fatalities due to avalanche activity recorded during the season, SAIS said.

In its new annual report, SAIS said air masses from the Siberian Arctic brought strong winds and below zero temperatures to Scotland last winter.

Temperatures of -14C, but falling to wind chill temperatures of -30C, were recorded in the Cairngorms.

image copyrightSAIS Southern Cairngorms
image captionAvalanche debris at Lochnagar in the southern Cairngorms

In the report, SAIS said: "Cold temperatures and high wind speeds throughout the Scottish Highlands during the winter presented challenging conditions for avalanche forecasters carrying out hazard assessments in the field.

"However the additional effect of prolonged cold temperatures and dynamic weather cycles providing different snow conditions presented a pattern which had a significant effect on snowpack stability."

The service recorded 260 avalanches during its 2017/18 season.

Of this number, 230 were natural and/or cornice triggered. Cornices are large overhanging ledges of snow.

Thirty avalanches were triggered by people who were walking, skiing or climbing in the mountains.

SAIS said: "Some avalanche occurrences were minor, in that small releases occurred, but others were more significant and resulted in people being carried down by the avalanche, some with very lucky escapes."

image copyrightSAIS Southern Cairngorms
image captionLast winter was cold and windy, SAIS said

Every winter, SAIS assesses avalanche hazards and provides daily information on the stability of snowpack in the six mountain areas.

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

Hillwalkers, climbers and skiers use the information to help them plan trips.

The new SAIS season starts on 14 December.

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