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This is one of a series of misadventures in Scotland's mountains - either close calls, accidents or mountain rescues - where the protagonists look back and identify mistakes they made which could have avoided trouble, so that others can learn from them...and avoid making the same mistakes themselves! Although often anonymised, today's Near Miss comes from Munroist Helen Todd. 

You canít beat a blue sky day on the hills in winter, and I especially love the end of the season when the snowline sits halfway up the higher mountains. But this time of year also makes me a bit nervous because the sun is stronger and the snow softer, which means crampons arenít much use and your ice axe can go through the snow like butter. 

It was such a day in 2014 when my husband and I headed for Gairich from the dam at Loch Cuaich. The landscape was utterly stunning under dark blue skies with excellent visibility. At one point we disturbed a golden eagle which flew off over Glen Kingie. However, it was clear that a major thaw was underway, and the path was very boggy at first with drifts of wet snow higher up so it was hard going.

We took a while to study a route up the final steep 300m of the mountain. We could see the path zig-zagging up, but unfortunately it was crossing large sections of snow and we expected this would be wet and unstable. So as we headed up, we left the path and climbed the steep grassy slopes on the south side of the mountain. There were one or two wet scrambles over rocky outcrops, a fair bit of slushy snow and the grass was wet and slippy, but we gained the summit ridge without too much of a problem and crossed snow drifts to the top.

We spent a magical half hour on the summit, taking in the incredible views before retracing our steps. I was halfway down the steep section where it almost all went horribly wrong.

I had my ice axe to hand to dig into to the wet grassy mountainside. Then I found Iíd slightly misjudged a section which was steeper than Iíd thought, and was a very boggy, mossy outcrop. I was trying to manoeuvre myself down it and needed both hands, so I dropped my ice axe to the bottom of the outcrop. I clambered down, and then slithered down the last foot on my bum. My feet hit the ground, but instead of stopping they slipped on wet snow and suddenly I was sliding down the hill and I couldnít stop, my ice axe lying uselessly above me.

ďSurelyĒ, I think, ďIíll stop in a minuteĒ, but I donít, I keep sliding downwards, faster and faster. I instinctively roll over on to my stomach, my hands grapple and grab fruitlessly above my head at the wet grass and slushy snow, trying without success to slow myself down.  My fingernails trying to dig into the ground Ė but Iím still gaining pace. Iím shouting ďOh, oh, oh!Ē in shock at the suddenness with which this has happened. I know how steep this hillside is and I know there are rocky outcrops I could hurtle over - but even if I avoid these it could be 200m before I come to a stop. It doesnít look good, Iím going ever faster, my outdoor gear providing a lovely sleek surface to help me on my way.

My husband is 10 yards to my left shouting ďArrest, arrest!Ē, not realising Iíd no longer got my ice axe in my hand. It seems to go on for ever, but the relief, the inexpressible relief, when I finally come to a stop on a flatter shelf, after probably only about 50 feet and the longest 10 seconds of my life.  I really had thought that I would end up at the bottom of this steep grassy slope, and probably not in a great shape.

I cower, crouching and holding on to the wet ground, legs shaking, shouting across to reassure my husband that Iím OK.  He grabs my axe and we head to some less steep ground to sit down. 

I was in shock and I think Malcolm was too.  We had a piece of cake and the last of our tea to settle us before heading down as safely as possible, ice axes at the ready.

It was then a straightforward return, back the way we had come, but we were both pretty subdued. Gradually aches and pains began to assert themselves; Iíd twisted my back during the slide, and my hands were beginning to bruise, my shoulders were stiffening Ė and my trousers were soaked from the slushy slide. We were pretty relieved to catch a glimpse of the dam again, and our car waiting for us.

Lesson learned? Never underestimate grassy slopes and remember that ice axes are not just for arresting you on ice Ė they can be very useful on steep, wet ground too. But donít let go!  And be very aware of slushy snow and just how slippy it can be.

Also, if you do have an incident on the hill, donít get up and rush on afterwards but try and have a moment to calm down with some food and drink. My instinct was to get off the mountain as soon as possible, but I was in shock and could easily have fallen again, so you need to wait.

Iím keen to return to Gairich now Iím on my second Munro round, but I suspect Iíll wait till the snow is long gone next time.

If you've had an experience in the hills that you think others could learn from, please get in touch using one of the three options below: