Avalanche forecasts continue amid virus outbreak

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

  • Published
Southern CairngormsImage source, SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Image caption,
A snowy scene in the Southern Cairngorms this week

Scotland's avalanche risk forecasting service hopes to continue until its usual season end date.

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) assesses snow and avalanche conditions in six mountain areas from mid-December to mid-April.

SAIS said people were expected to visit hills and mountains for walking, mountaineering and skiing, unless official advice around the coronavirus pandemic discouraged such activities.

A spokesman said: "Given the snow conditions, Easter holidays, and the likelihood of a large number of visitors we will run the service until Sunday 19 April."

He added: "Currently there is a general desire to keep the mountains open and to enable access to the outdoors for the benefit of people's health.

"However, this may change if official advice relating to Covid-19 affects access to the outdoors.

"At the moment we will operate as normal whilst considering carefully official advice regarding our personal health, and limiting interaction with people."

Image source, SAIS Lochaber
Image caption,
Avalanche activity on Aonach Mor in Lochaber

People have been heading into Scotland's hills for outdoor activities, but are advised to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as social distancing.

Scottish Mountain Rescue has also asked people to stick to "familiar and safe" areas to reduce the risk of accidents.

SAIS provides forecasts for potential avalanche hazard for Lochaber, Glen Coe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms, Northern Cairngorms and Torridon.

It plans to issue its last forecast on 18 April and close for the season the following day.

Image source, SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Image caption,
SAIS hopes to continue its service as normal

So far this season, SAIS has recorded a provisional figure of almost 250 avalanches. Most of the avalanches have been occurred since winter storms in February.

Andrew Vine, a 41-year-old climber from the Manchester area, was killed in an avalanche on the west face of Aonach Mor, near Fort William, that month.

Total number of avalanches and fatalities recorded in SAIS seasons

  • 2018-19 - 144 (3 fatalities)
  • 2017-18 - 260 (0)
  • 2016-17 - 90 (0)
  • 2015-16 - 207 (3)
  • 2014-15 - 305 (1)
  • 2013-14 - 350 (0)
  • 2012-13 - 129 (8)
  • 2011-12 - 154 (0)
  • 2010-11 - 178 (1)
  • 2009-10 - 220 (5)
Image source, SAIS Creag Meagaidh
Image caption,
Creag Meagaidh is one of the six areas SAIS provides forecasts for

Avalanches can occur naturally, be triggered accidentally by people, or be caused deliberately to remove an avalanche risk in ski areas.

Hillwalkers, climbers and skiers use SAIS information alongside weather forecasts to help them plan trips.

All images are copyright of the Scottish Avalanche Information Service.

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