Author Topic: Scottish avalanche information  (Read 9596 times)

Lyle Brotherton

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Scottish avalanche information
« on: December 26, 2012, 06:55:11 PM »
Speaking with Heavy (Dave Whalley) earlier today, he told me that the Cairngorms have lots of snow still, nice but…



Continuing great fluctuations in the weather, in particular direct sunlight and temperature, significantly increase the incidence of avalanche. For 20 years the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service have been collecting avalanche data and publish daily forecasts of the avalanche, snow, and mountain conditions during winter. They are available for you mobile phone, either using its browser at www.sais.gov.uk or by receiving SMS text messages. If you are visiting:

Creag Meagaidh
Glencoe
Lochaber
Northern Cairngorms
Southern Cairngorms

it is well worth signing up for.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2012, 07:02:15 PM by Lyle Brotherton »
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 05:13:08 PM »
Such sad news from The Glen (Coe) this weekend with four young climbers killed in an avalanche and another critically injured.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/9816018/Two-young-doctors-killed-in-Glencoe-avalanche.html

For a long time now I have been personally dubious about the risks of climbing in Scottish winter conditions and I am now prompted to make them public.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine, Paul Messer, lost his right arm from the shoulder, when it was sliced off by falling ice whilst ice-climbing in the five fingered gully on The Ben (Nevis). I myself, whilst attending an advanced avalanche course held here in Scotland, was avalanched, leaving me in little doubt that avalanche prediction in Scotland for the general public is almost impossible.

Unlike our European partners Alpine environments, we are subject to constant temperature change and precipitation, causing the risk on many slopes to change hourly. Of course there are avalanches in the Alps, some sadly proving fatal. However, in the UK I believe we are at a far greater risk from them and for me personally, on the risk/benefit scale, does not justify me ice-climbing in Scotland, but also winter climbing, when I can do this in much safer environments abroad.
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Skills4Survival

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 10:42:40 PM »
Very sad. What I have learned, just by reading news of the past 25 years. The best can die, even when following rules and regulations, just by having bad luck. Is that too black/white?
Ivo

adi

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 11:58:44 AM »
Sad news. I was actually telling people there was a significant avalanche risk the day before because of the nature of the snow structure. Quite unusual to see snow like we had in the UK. Very dry and granular.   
"We do not belong to those who only get their thought from books, or at the prompting of books - it is our custom to think in the open air, walking, leaping, climbing or dancing, of lonesome mountains by preference, or close to the sea, where even the paths become thoughtful." Friedrich Nietzsche

Callum

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2013, 02:42:46 PM »
Not everyone can afford to go to the Alps or beyond. Having said this, I would not ice-climb either in Scotland.

boogyman

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2013, 06:37:04 PM »
I have re-read this post several times, and still wonder whether I should post it or not; just let me know if it sounds inappropriate.

That is sad news, absolutely. However, I wonder whether the inherent risk of a sport like iceclimbing isn't exactly what attracts those who practice it. For clarity, I am not stating "they were looking for problems, now they found them", but I am just wondering whether the same practicioners would be iceclimbing if it were a 100% safe activity?

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2013, 01:38:29 PM »
I can only speak personally; for me the adrenaline rush of climbing is twofold, exposure & achievement.

Exposure is the amount of free space around you, not necessarily height, especially when on an inverted face. The greatest I have experienced to date was on a via ferrate in the Dolomites where not only was the exposure massive but involved a 2m free climb, over a bare face with sparse and tiny holds, at the end as the iron rungs had disappeared with time.

Achievement, simply getting to the top!

The fear of having a slab of ice slice my arm off or being suffocated in an avalanche is not a motivator.
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Pete McK

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2013, 09:26:40 AM »
Lyle wrote: I myself, whilst attending an advanced avalanche course held here in Scotland, was avalanched, leaving me in little doubt that avalanche prediction in Scotland for the general public is almost impossible.

Sadly the recent deaths in the Cairngorms prove you are right Lyle, that the professional can get in dramatically wrong. The 18 year old boy, named as the third victim of the climbers killed in the avalanche in the Cairngorms last week, was a member of a mountaineering groups that were on a course being run by Glenmore lodge, the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre for outdoor activity courses. The other two fatalities were both active RAF personnel and members of the RAF Mountain Association.

Skills4Survival

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2013, 01:26:20 PM »
One can only mitigate risk up to a certain extend, what remains..you have to accept, if not, get out and leave the scene. Think it is called "inherent risk". That part you simply have no control over even if you would want to. Would be interesting to know the % fatalities actually made by the latter type of risk (so..sheer "unluckiness")
Ivo

Callum

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2013, 02:13:46 PM »
Tragic and yes, British avalanche forecasting and prediction is an imprecise science, however, on the risk/benefit scale, according to Scottish Natural Heritage Statistics, 7.2 million people visited the Scottish Mountains for mountaineering and hillwalking, so proportionately, tragic as these deaths are, they represent a very low percentage of the overall people involved in these activites.

Skills4Survival

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2013, 08:58:55 PM »
Good point indeed.
Ivo

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2013, 12:01:54 PM »
Perceptive as always Callum ;)
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Pete McK

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2013, 10:33:04 AM »
We have a dusting of snow here today, about 3-4 cm. At what depth does snow become liable to avalanche, I can’t seem to find anything written about this?

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2013, 09:14:27 AM »
Phew, some question Pete and I don't know the immediate answer. I could blether on about snow packs, but this does not really specifically address your question, however, I know a man who should be able to answer it and have pinged him :)
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Skills4Survival

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Re: Scottish avalanche information
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2013, 11:34:23 AM »
Think there are more dependency parameters which need filling. Look on amazon and look for "avalanche safety" it gives a few books, also meant for the outdoor enthousiastic ones, like hikers. Think it has to do with things like temperature, snow type, snow cover and slope angle and maybe an outside trigger in some cases. There is a national snow & ice data center, which might have some info.

http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/science/avalanches.html

Here you see some types of avalanches: http://skiing.about.com/od/avalance/a/types-of-avalanches.htm

REI store chain has some basic info in four parts:
http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/avalanche-basics.html
http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/avalanche-snow-tests.html
http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/avalanche-reducing-risk.html
http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/avalanche-rescue-checklist.html



Ivo