/ Walking through Chachalmein gap

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MG - on 15 Feb 2013
Curious to know how many people prior to yesterday would have given serious consideration to the avalanche risk while walking through Chachalamein gap given a Cat 3 forecast. I am happy to admit I wouldn't have.
MG - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to MG: And yes I know I spelt it wrong.
nickyrannoch on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to MG:

No I wouldn't have. I would have given thought to the conditions underfoot, too shallow and bouldery to avalanche, rather than what was above me. Sobering.
OMR - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to MG: Wouldn't have given it a thought but, without wanting to start speculation, we don't know what they were doing there.
Mark Bull - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to nickyrannoch:

> No I wouldn't have.

Me neither, though it is not clear to me exactly how yesterday's avalanche was triggered.
Eric9Points - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to nickyrannoch:

Haven't been through it for a few years but yes, I was surprised that there was much to avalanche there.
Sutty22 - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to MG: I went through there on my own last week and I must admit, I thought of the possibility of avalanche and thought it to be minor due to the relatively short gully walls. I don't mind admitting that I gave very little thought to the slopes that were further above and out of sight. Taking the time to check my map might have enlightened me somewhat.

I actually went through the next day with a guide, who made us adopt safe travel techniques over several sections. This was an eye opener for me and I said a little oops to myself over the things I hadn't done the previous day. It's all a big learning curve and after yesterdays news I shall be much more vigilant in these terrain traps.
Ron Walker - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to MG:

Strangely enough I was asked the very same question just a few days ago on a similar gap on a similar aspect. I said I wouldn't worry about it on that day unless lots of very deep fresh slab was building on the corniced scarp slope above or somebody was crossing above or digging under it, as we were at the time, much to their horror!
I reassured them by saying that the snow pack was well consolidated and frozen on that day but to be aware that given the wrong circumstances with fresh drift snow and bad luck it was a possibility and needed serious consideration in any terrain trap that could funnel the snow into a narrow gully or gorge. A few days later a lot more fresh drifted snow had fallen creating a week layer under the deep firm windslab which was ideal for cutting block for igloos but presented a deeply buried week layer. This later got buried yet again with the recent storms and southerly winds. See https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=331469010286986&set=a.313456935421527.54844.124310161002...
So in answer to your question it was thought about but dismissed as a fairly remote possibility then...
RomTheBear - on 15 Feb 2013
Same thing, I was suprised to hear that it avalanched. I probably wouldn't have worried to much going there. Scary.
Fultonius - on 15 Feb 2013
I guess it just goes to show that nature has no regard for education and experience (making no comment about the actual incident since I know no details).

Even the most well prepared can still get caught out.
Darkskys - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to MG: I remember walking through this alone at night time in summer...just the atmosphere alone was enough to put me off ever walking through it.
It reminded me of something out of a greek film, then when I heard about the avalanche I knew immediately that this was the spot.
Didn't see the reports on avalanche so can't comment but I'm not a fan of that spot!
Pero - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to Sutty22: I'm interested to know what the guide adopted as "safe travel techniques".
Sutty22 - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to Pero: Mainly travelling individually over a slightly suspect slope, rather than all together. We also took a slightly higher line on the way into the gap to avoid a localised deposit of windslab.
IainRUK - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to nickyrannoch)
>
> Haven't been through it for a few years but yes, I was surprised that there was much to avalanche there.

Same.. Obviously I don't know what conditions were like but it wouldn't have struck me to be overly worried at that point.. plenty of other places once you get into the Larig Ghru would have worried me, but doubt that would have..
Simon Caldwell - on 15 Feb 2013
Wainers44 - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to MG: Walked through it twice this new year, once alone after a bit of fresh snow...that time I approached it from above and did think the banks looked a bit heavy, but it seemed very stable.

Other time snow was thawing and had stablised/settled even more. In fact we stopped and dug snow holes.

I (clearly wrongly) figured it was probably too low and too rough to be a serious consideration.
Michael Gordon - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to above:

I would have also thought it a fairly safe option.

Was it a natural avalanche or triggered by the victims?
Michael Gordon - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I see from the SAIS report it was triggered.
IainRUK - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to Toreador: Certainly not lacking experience.. don't think I knew the guy from Valley but just had a quick look at his history.

IainRUK - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to Wainers44:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> I (clearly wrongly) figured it was probably too low and too rough to be a serious consideration.

You probably know, but its something I keep in mind to remind myself as I think many think similar..

The Lewes Avalanche right in the south of England remains one of the most deadly in the UK's history..

I think many think low altitude.. relatively small slopes.. relatively safe.. I basically say that in my post above so I'm certainly guilty of it..
ads.ukclimbing.com
Wainers44 - on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to IainRUK: You are right, its terribly easy to think I'm not really in the high mountain so it cant happen here...so so sad that it takes such an awful event to make us reflect on this type of risk.
Martin W on 15 Feb 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I see from the SAIS report it was triggered.

The latest BBC report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-21469089 states: "Investigators cannot say how the avalanche was triggered."

The Scotsman, however, is reporting that it was the RAF team that triggered it: http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/off-duty-raf-climbing-team-triggered-avalanch... They seem to be basing that on a statement made by the Northern Constabulary:

Insp MacLeod said: “We had officers inspecting the area after the avalanche and there is an ongoing inquiry.”

He confirmed the avalanche was triggered on the south side of the gap where the RAF team were climbing.


Although that doesn't seem to say quite what The Hootsmon seem to have interpreted it to be saying...

If nothing else, it looks as if the polis want to find out exactly what did happen.

Tragic outcome for the three victims, and their families and friends.
Michael Gordon - on 16 Feb 2013
In reply to Martin W:

I'm going with what the SAIS forecaster says.

I think whether it was triggered or not has quite a large bearing on lessons learned. Avalanches should never just be seen as 'acts of God' but they are perhaps nearer that end of the scale than if started by the victims (as most are).
Castleman - on 25 Feb 2013
In reply to MG:

Walked through on Friday. A sobering reminder to see how deep the rescuers needed to dig and how much snow can accumulate in a terrain trap - even if it doesn't have huge slopes above it.

JohnnyW - on 25 Feb 2013
In reply to MG:
Been through it many times, in all sorts of conditions, and no, I would not have thought it avalanche-prone. I have made this point to many of my ''oh, look, another load of 'you lot' getting themselves in trouble again'' acquaintances.
jas wood - on 25 Feb 2013
In reply to MG: We passed the leader concerned on the walk-in who stated they were going into the gap to learn techniques.
We walked through the gap 20 mins prior to this avalanche occurring and we both passed comment on that side of the gap being "loaded" so we chose to contour the scoured side opposite which was quite bare.

Crown wall of the avalanche was very defined and approx 1.5mtrs high
Aftermath was particaully sobering.

Did i avoid the slope - yes
Did i think it could have caused as much damage - certainlty not

Lets hope something positive is learned from this very sad incident

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