/ NEW ARTICLE: EDITORIAL: Recent Deaths on Snowdon

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UKC Articles - on 22 Feb 2009
[The Snowdon railway running above the cliffs of Clogwyn Coch - Cloggy on the right, 1 kb]UKC Editor Jack Geldard takes a look at the recent deaths on Snowdon. Walkers have fallen down the cliff of Clogwyn Coch, which has been renamed in the mainstream media as the 'Killer Convex'.

With Snowdon viewed as a tourist mountain, complete with railway and cafe, surely it's safe to just walk up the line of the railway track?

Jack describes the area of the tragedies, and looks in to just how easy it is to be caught out in the mountains in winter.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1653

smithaldo - on 23 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:

Interesting article Jack,

from earlier posts I have seen I agree that there is a definite losing of 'respect' for british mountains under winter conditions. Possibly fuelled by sites like this though, where winter conditions are posted by people who know knacker all about what they are talking about, then people just follow blindly on.

Also the now culture we have means people want to tick the 'hard' routes and then brag about it, i.e. going straight onto point 5 rather than doing a few climbs first. I suppose it is just human nature in a sense and a reflection on changes in culture over the past 20-30 years maybe (or maybe even the past 10-15 years with the rise of the internet and generation y)
Dave Musgrove - on 23 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:

It is the funeral today of Brian Middleton, one of the climbers who died in this area 2 weeks ago. Brian was 70 years old but one of the fittest climbers I know for his age still climbing E2, and F6c on bolts and indoor walls. He was walking alone and descending Snowdon. I am not sure which way he'd gone up but he was fully equipped with axe and crampons He had over 50 years of mountain experience.

We will probably never know exactly what happened but having slid 300 feet myself in an uncontrollable glissade in Glencoe as a youth I can only confirm just how easy and quickly one can get out of control even with all the proper equipment on an icy slope. I was lucky, escaping with a few bruises and a bad cut in my leg where my own axe stabbed me.

Dave
James Oswald - on 23 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:
Interesting article Jack.
James
Offwidth - on 23 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:

"...the neve slope had actually turned in to a patch of sheet ice. This would have been almost impossible for even the most competent climber to cross without crampons."

detour round? or worst case old fashioned step cutting?
In reply to UKC Articles:

A thoughtful article - thanks for that.


Chris
gethin_allen on 23 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:
Interesting article, although, the person who drew the railway track line on the top picture need to have another look at the map as it currently goes to the top of crib y ddysgl.
In reply to Dave Musgrove: Very sad. From the picture it looks like someone who was practised and experienced could ice axe brake there, but of course it's not always possible and as you say its very hard to know what really happened.

What a great thing though to be still be that fit active and still enjoying the mountains at 70. Condolences to his friends and family
JimmAwelon on 24 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:

Jack, just for clarity when you call it 'the railway path' - This is the railway line rather than the 'Llanberis Path' public footpath/right of way that follows the railway line some hundred metres or so to the right (in descent)?

I am assuming that the issue is that people use the railway line (track bed) itself in the winter because it is a gentler gradient (and there are no trains running) than what I call the Llanberis Path. Is that right? The Llanberis Path steers people further away from the railway line, Clogwyn Coch and this Killer Convex right? Or does the Killer Convex encapsulate the whole hilside and two possible routes in their entirety?
phizz4 - on 25 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles: Perhaps my memory is getting a bit weak with old age but that spot on the railway has always been known for its problems in winter, in much the same way that descending from above the Devil's Kitchen could be dodgey if you came down the wrong gully line. There seemed to be a 'grapevine' of this type of local knowledge, which perhaps doesn't operate now.
Karl Bromelow on 27 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:

"Is it time to take stock, at all levels of our sport, from walking up Snowdon to speed soloing the north face of the Grandes Jorasses? To walk before we can run? To make time to build the basic skills that one day, without us even knowing, might save our lives."

Then from Dave Musgrove:

"still climbing E2, and F6c on bolts and indoor walls. I am not sure which way he'd gone up but he was fully equipped with axe and crampons He had over 50 years of mountain experience."

I think it's obvious that Mr Middleton knew very well how to run. These accidents happen to the most experienced and well informed from time to time and always will.

There is, I suggest, no correlation atall between these recent incidents and a proposed loss of respect for the mountain environment.
gingerdave13 - on 27 Feb 2009
In reply to Karl Bromelow: perhaps there is no correlation. However, thinking back to last year there was a spate of accidents in the cairngorms where they could perhaps (hindsight is a wonderful thing) have been avoided by heeding the forecast or being a bit more cautious.
Duane - on 27 Feb 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:
thought this was a very informative and helpful article.

especially being one who went up snowdon and survived during these 'dangerous' conditions.
Karl Bromelow on 27 Feb 2009
In reply to gingerdave13:

No doubt, but it's a completely different point for Jack to raise the question of whether there has been a change in depth of respect outdoor activists have for the mountain environment. I can't imagine that's even remotely true. A more reasonable explanation could be an unfortunate coincidence of difficult conditions, bad luck and lapses of judgement. These will happen again. That's the nature of things. Reading anything more into it than that is highly speculative journalism in my opinion.

Raising awareness of such dangers, as were present on Snowdon at the time in question, by publishing the article is unquestionably a worthwhile thing and I'd praise UKC and Jack for that. I simply find those comments regarding a possible change in attitude a bit silly.


Michael Griffith - on 01 Mar 2009
In reply to Karl Bromelow: It would be interesting to know how many people have slid over the edge of Clogwyn Coch over the years. How easy it would be to erect a couple of hundred yards of ski fence or avalanche barrier. On a mountain already extensively despoiled by the multi-million pound concrete on the summit, the landrover track up tp Glaslyn, the wooden huts, the discarded bulk bags of rocks used for path building, and the great steel cages over every old mineshaft, how can anybody object to a bit of life-saving fence ? You will not change attitudes very quickly, if ever, but you could start saving lives right now.
IainRUK - on 01 Mar 2009
In reply to Michael Griffith: I think that could be potentially far more dangerous, snow would drift on to it, people would use it to drag themselves up, I think it'd just encourage people to push on. I don't think going around sanitising the mountains is the way to go. More people will have been killed on Crib Goch yet that isn't justification to install a via ferata system.
tradmania on 01 Mar 2009 - mer063-61823-rtr-adsl-201.altohiway.com
In reply to UKC Articles:

I wouldn't go so far as to say people are 'losing respect'. I think that it is simpler than that. Climbers and walkers get to spend more time out in the better weather, they become fit, strong, confident and competent. Then they go out in winter and get tripped up by the peculiarities of the sorts of risks and challenges that winter presents. It's a lack of understanding rather than respect. Plus probably an urge to take advantage of opportunities that come but once a year, even when conditions are marginal.
Gordon Stainforth - on 01 Mar 2009
In reply to tradmania:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)
>
> I wouldn't go so far as to say people are 'losing respect'. I think that it is simpler than that. Climbers and walkers get to spend more time out in the better weather, they become fit, strong, confident and competent. Then they go out in winter and get tripped up by the peculiarities of the sorts of risks and challenges that winter presents. It's a lack of understanding rather than respect.

Re. your first point: a fine line - the two almost indistinguishable.

>Plus probably an urge to take advantage of opportunities that come but once a year, even when conditions are marginal.

Re. your second point: a total fallacy in historical terms. It's many many times easier now to take advantage of winter climbing opportunities, quite spontaneously, than it was even 15-20 years ago. I suspect that what you're really talking about is the sheer level of greed-fuelled stupidity that is now realisable within very small windows of opportunity.

Paz - on 01 Mar 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:

Thanks for fleshing out the news reports Jack. And congrats on the E7.
phil26 - on 02 Mar 2009
In reply to UKC Articles:

I can't remember when I first heard about deaths in this area. I first visited snowdonia as an eight year old in 1958, but didn't start climbing for another eight years - 1966. I think it was then that I first heard about multiple deaths in this area in 1963 - a really cold winter - but I was taught that it was a danger site. My memory is a bit dim, but in those days Snowdonia was a much more popular destination for holiday makers and Easter was when the season began. As I recall circumstances were similar - warm benign weather in the valley and ice on the convex slope. I think it's far too easy to generalise about different attitudes to safety, clothing etc., In my view people were much less prepared then than they are now and just as determined to press on without adequate equipment. You need to remember that in those days clothing generally was pretty poor, with gaberdine mac's not an uncommon site in the hills and it was only around that time that cagoules and fleeces began to emerge. I also recall seeing a report in the not too distant past looking at data from the Mountain Rescue team of the era, but I could be wrong ...
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pec on 02 Mar 2009

> How easy it would be to erect a couple of hundred yards of ski fence or avalanche barrier. On a mountain already extensively despoiled by the multi-million pound concrete on the summit, the landrover track up tp Glaslyn, the wooden huts, the discarded bulk bags of rocks used for path building, and the great steel cages over every old mineshaft, how can anybody object to a bit of life-saving fence ?

Rather than sanitise the mountain further what we should reaaly do (but no doubt commercial pressures would make it impossible) is get rid of the railway and cafe etc. so people might have a bit more respect for it.

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