Rockfall Warning in the Cairngorms

Following two rockfall-related accidents in the same Cairngorms corrie in just two days, Mountaineering Scotland have issued a safety warning to climbers and scramblers.

Between the fingers., 203 kb
Between the fingers.
© Grahame N, Sep 2009

On Saturday a team on a the VDiff Fingers Ridge, in Coire an t-Sneachda, 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. One of the team suffered a serious arm injury and a highly technical rescue in grim conditions was carried out by Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team.

The next day a climber from a different group suffered a serious hand injury after being hit by a 2mx2m block on the scramble Pygmy Ridge, also in the same corrie.

Walkers and climbers will be familiar with the shattering effects of freeze-thaw action on mountain rock, but there's speculation that loose rock is becoming more of a problem in certain areas as a result of recent weather patterns.

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, added:

"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."

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