Highlands & Islands

Weather patterns 'heighten risk' of rockfalls

Rescue helicopter with MRT member Image copyright Cairngorm MRT
Image caption The coastguard and Cairngorm MRT rescued an injured climber on Saturday

A pattern of weather involving deep snow followed later by dry and then wet conditions has been blamed for increasing the risk of rockfalls.

Hillwalkers and climbers have been warned of the potential danger after two people were injured at the weekend.

They were struck by loose rock in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms.

Safety experts at outdoor centre Glenmore Lodge and Mountaineering Scotland said weather in recent years had heightened the risk of rockfalls.

Shaun Roberts, principal at Glenmore Lodge, near Aviemore, 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."

Mr Roberts added: "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."

Image copyright Cairngorm MRT
Image caption Saturday's incident saw a climber suffer a serious arm injury

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."

In the first of the weekend's incidents, Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team was called to help a climber who had suffered a serious arm injury in a major rockfall on Fingers Ridge.

Despite poor weather and the danger of rockfall, the rescue in "extremely dangerous" conditions was successful.

On Sunday, a climber suffered a serious hand injury after being hit by a large piece of loose rock.

He was struck by the two metre by two metre block coming down off Pygmy Ridge.

The ridge was previously the scene of a fatal rockfall.

A small group from the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team went to the man's aid on Sunday afternoon and escorted him to safety.

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