Winter walkers should be able to distinguish snow types

Winter walkers should be able to distinguish snow types

It’s snowing! Or, at least, it has been. Reports from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland say the first snow of the season has been spotted on the summits of Cairn Gorm and Braeriach, above 1,100m (3,609ft).

And with that, comes the need to wise up on winter safety in the Scottish mountains and, indeed, any of the high ground of Britain.

Last January, brothers Eamonn and John Murphy, fellow An Teallach Mountaineering Club member Brian Murray and four other club members set off from a Glencoe mountain hut to climb the area’s best known peak, the sentinel of the glen, Buachaille Etive Mòr. The three men would lose their lives that January day, buried in a slab avalanche near the head of Coire na Tulaich, the most popular route to the massif’s main munro, Stob Dearg.

A large slab avalanche in Scotland. Photo: Avalex

A large slab avalanche in Scotland. Photo: Avalex

Other mountaineers on the Buachaille were luckier and survived. But winter mountain walkers and climbers need to be aware of the fact that fatal avalanches don’t just happen in the Alps or the Himalaya – they are a British phenomenon too.

This is a major concern for the MCofS’s mountain safety adviser Heather Morning, who has set up a series of avalanche awareness courses at discounted prices for anyone who wants to be that bit safer this winter on Scotland’s peaks.

Each course is aimed at the general hillwalker. They are not certified – they are to enable walkers to increase their knowledge of snow and avalanches.

The sessions will teach winter walkers which areas to avoid and improve their understanding of forecasts and reports. An indoor theory introduction will be followed by a practical session on the hill.

Assessing avalanche risk

Assessing avalanche risk

Qualified instructors will deliver the course at a ratio of one instructor to four participants. It is important to note the basic winter skills won’t be covered, so anyone booking should have their own winter hillwalking equipment – winter boots, crampons and ice axe – clothing and the competence to operate in the Scottish hills.

Cost of the one-day courses is £35. They will be held at Glenmore Lodge and the Cairngorms on Saturday 9 January and Sunday 10 January. Further courses will take place at the Nevis Range and on Aonach Mòr on Saturday 30 January and Sunday 31 January.

Anyone interested should contact the MCofS office on 01738 493942 to book.

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