Tragedy on the Ben.

The BBC reports a couple of deaths from an avalanche on Ben Nevis, GM/WS-001. This apparently happened in Number 5 Gully, which is quite an easy winter climb but known to present an avalanche risk in some conditions.

Such a shame. Take care out there folks.

The Mountain Avalanche Service had issued a prior warning of unstable snow and the highest possible risk of avalance for Ben Nevis (the previous evening) - take cognisance of the warnings issued, they are there to help protect you.
Unfortunate tragic accident which may well have been avoided

I remember the one time I was lucky enough to stay at the CIC hut on the north side of the Ben for winter climbing, I took a little transistor radio for weather forecasts and the only stations I could pick up were Irish and Gaelic! There was a VHF radio link to the mountain rescue but otherwise you are pretty well cut off from the world up there. OTOH anybody doing winter climbing should be familiar with avalanche conditions and snow profiling.

That’s a bit of an embarrassing admission for a radio amateur Brian! ie, that you stayed on the north side of the mountain, but took a radio that didn’t have LW on it! 198kHz would have been your solution there - receivable there from Westerglen transmitter (I think), and available on some pocket radios. It could have been 200kHz (FWIW) depending on how long ago it was.

200kc/s in those days though must would have said 1500m :slight_smile:

Levity over. Sadly another of the party has since died bringing the total to 3. A party of French/Swiss climbers apparently.

Yes, terrible news about the climbers. I wouldn’t have gone on Ben Nevis in those conditions, but then again, I’ve been on The Cloud many times in conditions that most wouldn’t even go on a little lump like that - so who am I to say?

1500m indeed Andy. I remember well in my teenage years all the radio stations announcing (and having jingles made in) wavelengths, even though all radios were marked in frequencies.

“275 and 285, and stereo VHF”
“The Great 208”
“Piccadilly 2, Piccadilly 2, Piccadilly 2-6-1”

Noob! It was 247m when I first listened to Radio 1 :slight_smile:

Some of us are old enough to remember when Home/Light/Third services became Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4.

No.5 gully is often used as an easy decent route.

Here’s my experience of being caught in an avalanche - and in summer!

In those days it was 200 kHz, and I would have said that it was a dead cert to be picked up by my little pocket Rx, but no chance. A semi-circle of 2,000+ feet high crags to the south and Carn Mhor Dearg closing the circle to the north, just a narrow opening to the northwest - I don’t know if you have ever been in Coire Leis, but as a wild, rugged, enclosed and isolated feeling spot it is only exceeded by Coire Lagan on Skye. I loved it!

Yep, that’s me - and Radio Luxembourg announced “208 metres medium wave and 49.26 (?) metres short wave”, I remember listening to the Dan Dare serials and cursing the fading, which was equally bad on medium and short waves! Our house receiver was calibrated in metres and I also remember logging strings of SA hams on 15 metres AM!

Going back to the main topic, I can really sympathise with the attitude of pressing on in poor conditions, whether it is the Ben or the Cloud, there is a great deal of satisfaction in proving yourself tougher than the weather and the mountain, but my copy of the guidebook expressly warns about the avalanche risk in No. 5 gully. If I remember it correctly, the late Don Whillans used to say “the mountain will be there tomorrow - make sure that you are!”

Terrible, just terrible.
With the third having died, it’s sad.
Brings to mind, not that it would have helped here, but is the Wilderness protocol a global practice? Do people adhere to the protocol?
I’m always encouraging hikers to get licensed and carry radios. I’m a believer there’s always someone monitoring the call channels. Am I wasting my breath?

I think that in the form that you are familiar with the Wilderness protocol is a North American practice. Over here there is usually somebody monitoring the FM simplex calling channels, although in many places V/UHF activity is a ghost of its former self, maintained by localised groups of enthusiasts and SOTA activity.

Thanks. The North American Protocol is pretty much a shell as well. I don’t hear much support for it when I ask around.
Skiers call it staying inbounds, and that seems wise – don’t stray out of reception areas, depending on equipment. Your Kilometers may vary.

Truly, the protocol only asks that the frequencies be monitored at specific times. If you have a radio, that’s not too hard to do.
It’s should also be only one possible method of gaining assistance.