The consequences of falling through a cornice can be serious

The consequences of falling through a cornice can be serious

A mountain expert has warned hillgoers of the danger of a hidden danger to walkers and climbers.

Heather Morning of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland said cornices are beautiful but potentially fatal mountain features.

Instances of people falling through the snow and ice formations on Scotland’s mountains are not rare, and the consequences can be serious.

The MCofS said winter conditions are now firmly established in the mountains and walkers should be prepared to turn back if they are unsure of their abilities.

It said: “Cornices are ledges of snow which form on the edges of cliffs and steep ground furthest from the wind. From the side or below they can be beautiful curls of snow and ice and might extend for several metres over thin air.

”But for people walking on the top of the mountain there can be little or no sign that they are there, making it all too easy to walk out on a fragile shelf of snow which collapses under your weight.

“Recent strong winds and heavy snowfall mean cornices will have formed on many of our mountains and will remain a hazard for the rest of the winter.”

Heather Morning: 'Don't be afraid to turn back'

Heather Morning: 'Don't be afraid to turn back'

Ms Morning, the council’s mountain safety adviser, said: “It’s a very real hazard. Last winter there were 18 recorded incidents of people falling through cornices.

“They can be especially hard to detect if visibility is poor, in cloud or in falling snow.

“So if you are at all unsure of your ability to navigate, then turn around if the visibility becomes poor. The mountain will always be there another day. If the forecast is for poor visibility, then plan ahead and choose a lower mountain or a walk in the glen.

“If you are confident in your navigation skills then plan ahead. It is easy to anticipate where cornices will have formed by studying the prevailing few days’ weather pattern. Always err on the side of caution and navigate away from corniced edges.”

The council also pointed out it runs subsidised mountain safety course, details of which are available on its website.

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