Published: 10/12/2017 12:15 - Updated: 10/12/2017 12:21

Check conditions before venturing into Cairngorms, urges avalanche service

 

The Chalamain Gap where an avalanche claimed three lives several year ago
The Chalamain Gap where an avalanche claimed three lives several year ago

An early avalanche warning has been issued to walkers and climbers ahead of the full time launch of the winter service that assess the risk of snow slides.

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) said high ground in the Highlands was expected to have the greatest amounts of snow.

SAIS said while there was a "mostly thin cover" of snow in the mountains there was "potential" for avalanches in sheltered areas - which are usually above 800m (2,624.8ft).

Every winter, SAIS assesses avalanche hazards in Lochaber, Glen Coe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms, Northern Cairngorms and Torridon.

Its daily avalanche risk forecasting season for the different regions will be launched this Friday.

SAIS’ most recent forecasting season, 2016-17, involved the service’s lowest number of recorded avalanches in almost 10 years.

There were 90 avalanches between December last year and April this year.

In the 2015-16 season there were 207 avalanches and 305 in 2014-15 and 350 in 2013-14.

During the winter of 2012-13, eight people died because of avalanches. It was the highest number of deaths in five seasons of SAIS forecasts.

A game changer in keeping people safe on the mountains is also available this winter.

And funding for the Be Avalanche Aware App has poignantly its roots in tragedy.

The initial seed financing of the app, which has cost over £30,000 to develop, came from donations from Glencoe Ski Club and a fund set up in memory of one of its members, Daniel Maddox.

Mr Maddox, 41, from Clackmannanshire, was with a friend on the Etive Glades run near the Glencoe ski centre when he was caught in an avalanche in 2013. His body was found 24 hours later under 13ft of ice and snow.

Mark Diggins, co-ordinator the SAIS, has said that the new app was "one of the most significant things to have been developed for mountaineers, snow sports enthusiasts and hillwalkers".

The free app will have images and video clips of features that could suggest avalanche risk as well as map of the person’s location in relation to the risk.

"The hazard risk will always be there in the mountains - it is about making informed choices and this will help greatly," he said recently.

The SAIS forecast service first started in 1988. It costs around £160,000-a-year to run, funded by SportsScotland. Its 16 forecasters are all experienced mountaineers - some of whom have even climbed Everest.

Mr Diggins said he was hoping for "lots of snow and cold weather" for winter outdoor enthusiasts.

But with those conditions also comes the threat of snow slides.

"When we have cold temperatures it creates conditions where crystals grow in the snow and weaken it," he said.

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