What a winter this could end up being, Scotland has had a hell of a plastering of snow and even the Lakes is full to the brim with the white stuff.
While my thoughts are in winter mode I reflected on past trips and remembered a day out with Dave Owen in 2004. It brought a stark reminder of how fragile our winter play ground can be, you hear it every year about climbers getting caught out in Avalances.
See my passed article
Avalanche at Corie Lochan Winter 2004
It look like the Lairds weekend would be the last chance I had to get up to Scotland this season so I was keen to make the most of it. My last trip up to the Cairngorms with Keith, although an enjoyable on had not been very successful ended up in Corie Lochan floundering around in deep snow. Dave, Ann Owen where out for a week so he was keen to get out with the lads for the weekend and agreed to a day out with me, with Hells Lumb the chosen destination over in the Loch Avon basin. Saturday morning I was surprised when Dave crawled out of bed a 5am with out a hint of disapproval, as he's not the best of risers at that time.
By 6am we where driving up a snow laded road to the Cairngorm sky area, we weren’t to worried a bout the road up as Dave had his secret weapon with him a set of snow chains. Best laid plans and all that had not accounted for the barrier (First there) to down on the approach road up, and a armed guard on the frontier border not willing to let us through, snow chains or no snow chains. "8.30 well be opening and that's my orders", so much for the early start. We weighed up walking up the road but that would add an hour to our day plus the walking back to the car, I could see that Dave had cast his vote as he snuggled down to sit it out, and catch up on some lost sleep.
9.41 am, and the boards were open, and by this time every man and his snowboard were in the queue, including the rest of the crew who had opted for a more leisurely start. Although we got walking first we were soon over took by a young university group heading for Corie Snechter, as with a few more teams. With the mist down and again in deep snow we filed in line for the usual plod up, the normally well mark path, taking our turn to break trail. It had seemed along time to get to the Corrie and I hadn’t remembered those the big boulders on a previous walk in to Snechter, but I knew if you kept the fascial ridge on you right you couldn’t go wrong. By this time climbers had started to spread out heading in different directions, four lads in front consulted their GPS and confirmed that we had actually ended up in Corire Lochan, and at one the penny dropped and we realised the era of out ways. Four climbers in front decided to head up the slope to find a route; Dave and myself opted to sit it out for a while to see whether the cloud would clear as forecast, and have a lunch stop.
Eventually we decided to head up to pick the fascial ridge up and drop down in to Snechter, not wanting another performance like my last trip with Keith.
As we made our way up the lower slope we could hear shouts from above next thing theirs an avalanche coming down towards us, quick side step and its passing us by, with me not thinking to much about it, until I look down to see two lads half buried at the bottom only 50m below us. As we descended down to them they were frantically trying to excavate them selves from the snow frightened and confused, as we assessed the situation it was very difficult to find out what injuries they had with both suffering from shock. The backs of their jackets were in taters, as they must have tumbled down together over rocks with axes and crampons flying everywhere. Luckily the next lad on the seen had been in the RAF mountain rescue and knew all the drill, taking charge of the situation, phoning the rescue team, and sorting out the casualties. I had tried to probe for one lad’s lost sack to dig out his spare kit, to be told that he had none, I advised the lads above to make their way down the path of the slide to avoid any more slips. Soon a large party had gathered and spare kit was handed over to make the casualties comfy and sheltered from the elements. We tried to put one in my bivy bag but couldn’t move him due to his suspected pelvic injury; fortunately a two-man shelter was at hand helping the situation.
Mean while the area was made safe and ledges dug ready for the R.T. We could hear a helicopter above but knew with the visibility they would have to be dropped off below the cloud line and come in on foot. Fortunately the weather was kind or it would have been a different kettle of fish, with a lot of very cold people stud around. It took about two hours for the Tayside RT (How were at Glenmore lodge on an exercise weekend) to get to us with the doctor coming up first, assessing the casualties and giving oxygen, soon followed by the test of the team. It took another hour to get the first Casualty on the stretcher and down to the corrie floor with helpers holding ropes at the rear. At the bottom we where met by the Glenmore R.T who were making ready to go up with the second stretcher and give the first team a well earn rest. I was glad to see the cloud lifting by this time and the helicopter coming in, saving a very long hard carry out to the car park. With plenty of other lads on hand we decide to take our leave and head off back, as we looked back up at the slope we could see the large slide and funneled below the Vent where the lads had come down passed us.
It was very sobering thought that Keith and my self had walked across that very spot only three weeks before!
That week a package arrived with my bivy bag in it and a note to say that the lads had be discharge from hospital the next day badly bruised but none the worse, but it could have been so different with so many people on that slope, us included!
Learn off other peoples mistake as you won’t learn them all your self.
Report for Scottish press
During the first weekend in March on very large slab avalanche released on the east facing flank of Corrie an Lochain ( N of the Twin Burns). A rough estimate put its width at 350m leaving a crown wall of over a metre. This is the largest avalanche for the past five years in the N. Corries area. It appears to have been trigger by some unsuspecting soles which resulted in a search of the debris.
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