‘Unsavvy tourists risked lives’ viewing avalanche

Two ‘un-mountain savvy tourists’ risked their lives by going to view the scene of an avalanche on a Scottish Munro - with one was dressed in deck shoes and shorts and the other was in jeans.

The two 'tourists' can be seen at the bottom of this picture approaching the avalanche. Picture: SAIS Creag Meagaidh Blog

An expert from the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) criticised the pair for being unaware of the potential of another massive snow slide in Coire Chriochairein, a 3,258ft mountain between Kingussie and Spean Bridge in the Highlands.

The scare was witnessed by the SAIS forecaster on Tuesday, the same day he also spotted two snowboarders looking for a decent descent line next to the avalanche debris.

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In a blog, the forecaster said both groups had been at risk of a collapse of large overhanging areas of snow known as cornices, adding: “It is a fine line between agony and ecstasy.”

He said of the split boarders: “I genuinely believe these two guys weren’t aware of the cornice hazard. It’s too nice a day for bad things to happen.”

They did, however, manage their descent without any drama, but the forecaster added: “Yes, a happy ending but I’m guessing they were none the wiser about ‘what might have been’ given the conditions.”

He said a cornice collapse in the area would have filled the gully they had been in.

On the other pair the forecaster said: “Different demographic, same deal.

“Passed two young guys - one in shorts, deck shoes and a hoody (I kid you not…), the other better clad but with denims on - working their way up to have an up-close-and-personal look at the very large pile of very recent cornice debris in the Inner Coire.”

He said the good weather, ease of access to the Munro from a car park and the Easter holidays had drawn “un-mountain savvy tourists” to the hills.

The forecaster added: “People just don’t see stuff, or if they do, the context is all wrong in their mind and they can’t see something that is really obvious.”

The welcome run of warm weather in the past few days has increased the risk of more avalanches on mountain, the SAIS said.

In the run up to the Easter weekend, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland urged people without the appropriate equipment and knowledge of winter conditions to stay away from Scotland’s highest mountains.

There have been 190 avalanches recorded so far this season - 47 being in the last month - compared to 351 last season.

Two months ago, at Coire Ardair near Creag Meagaidh, there was an avalanche described as “a full depth size three event”.

The snow slides are measured on an international scale of one to five. Size five slides are big enough to destroy a village or large forest. SAIS said a size three slide at the location was uncommon.

Last month the largest avalanche recorded by the service so far this season was discovered in the Southern Cairngorms.

A member of staff at Glenshee Ski Centre alerted SAIS to the slide on Glas Tulaichean, a 3,448ft Munro.

SAIS Southern Cairngorms said the full depth avalanche was filled with mud, rocks and large blocks of snow.