It will soon be Easter, but it’s still full-on winter in Scotland’s mountains. That’s the message from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) and the British Mountaineering Council (BMC). The MCofS and BMC advise that climbers and hill walkers need to be realistic about the seriousness of the Scottish mountains at this popular time of year, and of the need to match knowledge and experience to mountaineering objectives.
The Easter warning is being issued because:
- Easter in Scotland is popular with groups travelling from further afield
- Easter is quite early this year
- The current winter conditions could continue through and beyond the Easter weekend.
Sadly, this winter has seen a significant death toll on Scotland’s mountains, many of them related to avalanches. Avalanche awareness should be a key component of planning a trip to the mountains over the Easter holiday period. Anyone heading to the Scottish mountains at Easter is being encouraged to give serious consideration to the following ten-point checklist:
- Check the mountain weather and avalanche forecasts.
- Follow the MCofS on Twitter and Facebook, and check the “Something for the weekend” #sftwe safety tips on Fridays and Saturdays. These messages warn of likely hazards over the coming weekend.
- Be realistic about your ability to interpret and act upon weather and avalanche forecasts.
- Be prepared to lower your expectations if weather, visibility and pace dictate.
- Allow for the remoteness of many Scottish mountains.
- Plan routes carefully and consider likely hazards like avalanche-prone slopes, river crossings and steep cliff faces.
- Read the Winter Safety pages on the MCofS website and watch the Ice Axe Self Arrest video on the MCofS YouTube channel.
- Day length increases at this time of year, but it is still easy to be caught out after dark. Everyone in a group should carry a head torch and spare set of batteries or a spare head torch with new batteries.
- Be aware of everyone else in your group and don’t allow your group to get separated in poor visibility.
- Never be afraid to turn back. The most important objective of a day in the mountains is for there to be more days in the mountains in the future.
MCofS President, Brian Linington, said, “There are always more visitors to Scottish mountains at Easter and Whitsun and we urge them to act upon this advice. Many are keen to get to grips with the mountains, but the pattern when I was part of the Skye Mountain Rescue Team was for a high number of incidents at Easter. This was due to a number of factors, including loose holds after winter ice had loosened everything up, together with very icy old snow patches in critical shaded spots. Both factors caused fatalities in the Cuillin at Easter.”
BMC Deputy CEO, Nick Colton, said, “The mountains of Scotland are glorious places to walk and climb. Go prepared, plan and heed the advice that is available. Remember conditions can change quickly and you may need to adjust those plans and expectations accordingly. Enjoy the challenges and spectacular scenery that Scottish hills have to offer but, most importantly, get back down safely.”
The BMC runs training events and publishes good practice information, to enable climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to develop their skills. Read the ‘Essential winter know-how’ at www.thebmc.co.uk/winter-climbing-and-walking-skills.
We would remind climbers and walkers of the need to dress warmly, comfortably and flexibly to make the most of winter days out by building layers of clothing – baselayers, mid layers and outer layers.