Heather Morning: features in the video warning of Scotlands mountain blackspots

Heather Morning: features in the video warning of Scotland's mountain blackspots

Scotland’s hillwalking safety supremo features in a short video detailing the four main accident blackspots for walkers and climbers as winter conditions take hold.

Heather Morning, mountain safety adviser with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, offers advice on how to deal with the principal sites in the Highlands where hillgoers come to grief. The blackspots are in Glencoe, Lochaber and the Cairngorms.

Top of the mountain rescue hit parade is Ben Nevis though, as Heather points out, this is because of its popularity, with more than 200,000 ascents each year. However, in bad conditions and poor visibility, which are more likely than not to be expected on Britain’s highest mountain, navigational errors can lead to trouble.

Top spots are on the southern side of the mountain. Although the sheer rock faces of Ben Nevis’s northern gullies are true climbing territory, they are fairly obvious, even in bad weather, though cornices will build up in winter. It’s the less apparent pitfalls of Five Finger Gully and Coire Eòghainn that could catch unaware walkers out. The corrie in particular is in line with the direct grid bearing of 231 degrees that leads from the summit cairn. Walkers need to be aware that, after 150m, they should turn right and follow a grid bearing of 282 degrees to steer clear of the perils of Five Finger Gully, the top of which lies within 100m of the tourist zigzags leading back down to Lochain Meall an t-Suidhe.

Glencoe scores twice in the blackspot league, with the pinnacles of Aonach Eagach and the ill advised descent route down the Clachaig Gully both potentially fatal. And on the other side of the glen, the normally safe, if scree-bound, ascent of Buachaille Etive Mòr via Coire na Tulaich is particularly prone to avalanche, due to its north-facing aspect. In January this year, three mountaineers perished in one such incident in the corrie.

The final blackspot on Heather’s six-minute verbal tour of the Highlands is on Cairn Gorm’s northern corries: the Goat Track in Coire an t-Sneachda passes under some of the most popular winter climbing routes and the main danger here is from rocks and other debris dislodged by climbers on the gullies above.

Heather, who is also a member of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, is clear that the four blackspots are not to be avoided necessarily. But an awareness of the potential pitfalls is vital and the consideration of alternative routes should always be at the forefront of walkers and climbers in Scotland if the risk of accidents is to be minimised.

The video was produced by TGO Video with the MCofS, is backed up by further safety advice on the council’s website.

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