Four Mountaineers Dead In Glencoe Avalanche

Avalanche on Bidean Nam Bian hits party of six mountaineers with tragic results.

Posted: 21 January 2013
by Jon

Bidean Nam Bian in Glencoe - image by Clive Griffiths on the OM Gallery.
Monday's SAIS avalanche forecast, as you can see, there are isolated areas of considerable, '3' risk as was the case on Saturday.

Tragic news from the weekend when a party of six mountaineers on Bidean Nam Bian in Glencoe were caught in an avalanche, which left four of them dead and one seriously injured in hospital.

The incident's been thoroughly covered in the national media - see this report from the Guardian web site and from the BBC - but the gist of it is that the party appears to have triggered an avalanche in the Church Door Buttress area of the mountain which swept five of the group an estimated 300 metres over steep ground and rocks, while one managed to avoid the avalanche and clamber to safety.

The avalanche forecast at the time was '3' or 'considerable' on the scale of five used by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, which sounds serious to non-mountaineers, but is actually somewhere in the middle of the scale and referred only to isolated areas of unstable windslab caused by fresh snow being blown around the mountain.

You can spend hours analysing and hypothesising over route choices, awareness of snow conditions and the specialist avalanche awareness skills of the party, but ultimately all that really matters is that four young people - from reports most of the party appears to have been in their 20s - have lost their lives doing something they loved.

Our condolences got to the families and friends of the victims and our best wishes for a full recovery to the fifth member of the party who is in hospital in Fort William.

Winter Conditions

It's an uncomfortable truth that winter conditions invariably coincide with an increase in the number of accidents in British mountains. Not because climbers and mountaineers are reckless or incompetent, but simply because winter mountains are beautiful but dangerous places, with conditions that change and shift rapidly potentially making movement and navigation difficult or dangerous.

Part of the joy of being the in hills is taking a pride in your ability to cope with those conditions and move safely across hazardous ground using a combination of skills and equipment. The majority of the time, it ends well, but sometimes, as well all know, things go wrong sometimes with tragic results as on Saturday.

Just Giving Memorial

Finally, a close friend of one of the victims of Saturday's tragedy has set up a Just Giving page in aid of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team in his memory where you can make a donation in his memory. A really nice gesture and I'm I'm sure they'd appreciate your support.  

Finally, be careful out there. Check out the wealth of mountain weather and condition forecasts on the web and, if necessary, adjust your plans accordingly.

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