Skiers at the Glencoe ski centre. Photo: Glencoe Mountain Resort

Skiers at the Glencoe ski centre. Photo: Glencoe Mountain Resort

A mountaineering legend will open a pioneering avalanche training site this weekend.

Hamish Macinnes, who climbed with fellow luminaries Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott and Dougal Haston, and who was a member of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, will launch a transceiver training park at the Glencoe Ski Centre.

Now in his 80s, Macinnes also invented a mountain rescue stretcher and was instrumental in the formation of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association and the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service.

On Saturday, he will officially launch the park, consisting of permanently buried avalanche transceivers, to enable emergency teams, backcountry skiers, climbers and hillwalkers to test their emergency equipment and hone their companion-rescue skills.

Operators of the ski centre said studies confirm that practice search preparation time is significantly shortened with access to such dedicated training sites. And advanced skills such as deep and multiple burial searches can be developed in less time and in more realistic scenarios when utilising transceiver training parks.

Mountaineering Council of Scotland mountain safety adviser Heather Morning said: “The opening of the avalanche transceiver park at Glencoe Mountain is an excellent initiative which could prove to save lives in the future.

“The culture for off-piste skiers and boarders to wear transceivers is increasing, as is the use of transceivers by mountaineering and climbing parties in the Scottish hills.

Heather Morning: 'Could prove to save lives'

Heather Morning: 'Could prove to save lives'

“Having the opportunity to practise with avalanche transceivers prior to an incident is obviously essential. Like any piece of safety equipment, it is no use having the gear and not knowing how to use it.”

A spokesperson for the SAIS said:”The transceiver park at Glencoe is a great initiative and is a long overdue resource that will benefit many groups and individuals who are involved in the winter mountains.

“Freeriders, off-piste skiers, mountain rescue personnel, ski tourers, climbers and walkers will be able to develop their avalanche rescue search techniques.

“The great winters that we have experienced, both last year and this, have provided great opportunities for freeriders and skiers to explore slopes and gullies away from the piste. The transceiver park will help raise awareness of the existence of avalanche hazard and the responsibilities of getting the right gear and knowing how to use it effectively.”

Gordon Fraser of Edinburgh-based Anatom, which installed the equipment, explained: “Backcountry Access Transceiver Training Park is a training system created to make it easier for recreation snow users and pros to practise with their transceivers.

“It features nine permanently buried transmitters at different orientations and wired to a central control panel. Search scenarios can be changed at the flick of a switch on the control panel. Instead of digging holes and reburying transceivers all day, you spend your valuable time actually practising with your transceiver.

“The training park stays in place for the entire season and eliminates the time consuming task of physically developing transceiver search scenarios. The training park allows for searches to be done in a non-contaminated environment – one without footprints, shovel marks or holes that have been refilled.”

Use of the park will be free, though donations will help with its upkeep. The park will be open from 10am to 3pm daily and the ski patrol will be on hand to provide assistance to those using it.

The new owner at the ski centre Andy Meldrum said: “It’s great to be involved in such an exciting project which will ultimately help ensure our mountains are safer places. As a Community Interest Company it’s just the sort of project we want to develop at Glencoe.”

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