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Rockfall warning

Monday 12th June 2017, 4:49pm

Events last weekend in Coire an’t Sneachda in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms have highlighted the need for all hill-walkers and climbers to be vigilant when climbing on or passing below mountain crags. 

Two separate teams over the weekend were injured by rock fall. On Saturday a team on a route known as Fingers Ridge had a very lucky escape when a large slab of rock gave way.  Ironically they were clearing loose rock from the route when the accident happened. (Read Ron Walker’s own account of his accident.)

And on Sunday a team were injured on Pygmy Ridge, in the same Corrie.

Walkers and climbers are familiar with the shattered, loose rock around the crags and corries of Scottish Mountains. The process of freezing and thawing through the winter season continues to dislodge and shatter rock faces, and natural erosion processes continue as they have since the mountains were created.   

Shaun Roberts, Principal at Glenmore Lodge, said: “I do believe that the nature of winters over the last decade, along with the generally more intense precipitation has had an impact on Coire an t-Sneachda. 

“We have experienced a number of winters with very deep snow packs, including snow laying at depth on the steep broken ground of the Coire.  Over a season and under the influence of gravity this snowpack will displace, but often not dislodge, blocks and boulders of significant size, leaving behind a significant challenge for the summer climber. 

“And this year we enjoyed a super dry May but then received almost our monthly quota of rainfall on one day in June.  

“I suspect these weather patterns are having an impact on the stability of some areas and we continue to approach climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda with a more heightened sense of the objective dangers.”

Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor with Mountaineering Scotland said: “Hillwalkers, scramblers and climbers should be extra vigilant when journeying either below or approaching scrambles and climbs - particularly if there are other parties above or there has been heavy rainfall in the previous few days. 

“Specifically, hillwalkers should be particularly cautious when ascending or descending the Goat Track in Corie an’t Sneachda when there are climbers above them.” 

Coire an t-Sneachda. Fingers Ridge can be seen profiled in the centre of the image. Pygmy Ridge is profiled further left, with a notched tower breaking the line of the cliff