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Walker dies in avalanche on Y Garn

Sadly, another tragedy in Snowdonia (GW/NW-004). A timely reminder that even the well prepared can get caught out.

73
Roger MW0IDX

In reply to MW0IDX:
Are thoughts go out to the family
Nigel

In reply to 2E0NHM:

True, Nigel, but we have to spare some thought for ourselves: cornice breakaway kills many people every year, even the greatest and most experienced mountaineers can fall victim to it in poor visibility, but often it is just plain ignorance that kills. I well remember years ago when I was finishing up Tower gully after climbing Tower Scoop on Ben Nevis. My companion looked up and swore, I looked up and there was somebody standing on the edge of the cornice looking down at us, we shouted telling him to get back but he didn’t grasp what we were telling him, and eventually sauntered off with his hands in his pockets. The luck was with him, the cornice didnlt collapse under his weight, but he was at least three metres beyond the rock face with nothing but snow between him and a short flying lesson, two hundred feet straight down. What also kills is a failure to grasp that the break point will not be straight down from the edge of the rock, but perhaps a couple of metres on the “safe side” of the edge.

Stay well away from the edge when the edge is snow unless you really, really want a helicopter ride!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
An avalanche or winter skills course is a must for those going out and about over the winter period.
I did mine earlier this year, it cost a bit but worth every penny!

Adrian

In reply to MM0TAI:

We went to the BMC lecture on winter skills 10 days ago. Some very revealing pictures of what people do sometimes stand on in blissful ignorance. A useful refresher.

Rod

In reply to MM0TAI:

I was lucky enough to do a winter climbing course in Glencoe under Hamish McInnes in 1974 though I already had some fun routes under my belt by then.
Not so long before then there were no courses, you learned the hard way! In truth everything that you need to know is available in print if you can absorb knowledge easily in this way, but for the beginner the huge value of a course is that you get taken into places that may seem over-awing whilst under the wing of an expert, something which gives you confidence that might otherwise take years in coming.

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
I did 5 days in the Cairngorms with glenmore lodge, it was a real eye opener. Reading materials about a subject are fine but for me I find hands on learning more useful. And as you say an expert on hand Is a boost.

Adrian

In reply to MW0IDX:
Firstly I express my condolences to the friends and family of the deceased. Also to the uninjured victims and rescuers who will have been traumatised by this event. None of what I have put below is judgemental or attempts to apportion any blame. On the contrary I suspect this could have very easily happened to me.

It APPEARS (and I emphasise appears) that this was in very poor visibility and the group of three (who had only just teamed up to get off the summit) were looking for the NE ridge. This is quite narrow and by being just a few metres short on the descent you find yourself at the top of Banana Gully. This is a very easy mistake to make.

In these circumstances there are a couple of choices.

  1. Pick a different descent, maybe go back to Llyn y Cwn and down the Devils Kitchen path.
  2. Find a couple more people and rope up one person to “walk the edge” with the other four acting as a human zig zag belay set well back. This technique needs practice too. I always carry 30m of 9mm rope on every day out in the high mountains, summer or winter.

Finally, it is not very common practice in the UK hills yet, but in the Alps almost everyone skiing off piste or winter walking/snowshoeing carries three pieces of equipment which help to locate and then extract buried victims.

  1. A 457KHz avalanche transceiver - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalanche_transceiver
  2. A snow shovel
  3. An avalanche probe.

These pieces of kit (with the training to use them) can allow buried victims to be located and then exposed quickly, preventing asphyxiation. However, you have to have someone else who doesn’t get buried to search for you with another transceiver, shovel and probe. This is one of the few times when rapid help by those on scene is more important than getting professional rescue help. Statistically you need to get dug out in the first 15 minutes to stand a reasonable chance of survival.

But to be fair, if you get avalanched in the UK you are, sadly, much more likely to die from trauma injuries sustained in the fall than from asphyxiation due to burial. This is due mostly to shallower snow covering and also the types of snow we get here with our maritime climate vs. the dry powder snow in the Alps. This accident on Y Garn would appear to be an example of this.

To put my comments in context, I’m a Winter Mountain Leader and International Mountain Leader, plus a member of a North Wales MR team and I usually run the winter skills training.