Outdoor enthusiasts are being advised to check the weather information before venturing out. Mountain experts from Scotland have issued the warning for the Highlands, but the advice applies everywhere – knowing the weather forecasts allows you to plan and take the right gear.
Mountaineering Scotland said, that hikers and other people heading to the area should plan carefully but also not be obsessed with one route, but will to adapt to the local conditions.
The deaths of three men recently on the North Face of Ben Nevis caused by an avalanche which also left one man in the hospital has caused the organisation team to issue the message.
Mountaineering Scotland, which represents mountaineers, hill walkers, climbers and snow sports enthusiasts in north of the border said that you should pay close attention to weather and avalanche forecasts and alter your plans accordingly. A spokesperson for the organisation said “Winter has now come back with a vengeance, but the sudden and heavy snowfall, combined with lower temperatures and high winds has produced snow conditions that can fluctuate rapidly, as well as rapid changes between hostile and benign weather.
“The Scottish Avalanche Information Service has recorded five avalanches in the West Highlands in the last 48 hours, highlighting the unstable nature of the snowpack.”
Heather Morning, who is the mountain safety adviser for the organisation said: “Mountain conditions in February were unusually mild, resulting in the majority of the mountains being snow-free.
“However, over the past few days winter has very much returned.
“When you’re heading up into the hills, whether it’s for walking, climbing or skiing, it’s absolutely essential not only that you check the avalanche forecast but also that you understand what it’s saying. Different slopes on the same hill may have completely different snow conditions.
“A careful study of the mountain weather forecast is also an essential part of your planning, and your planned route should be finalised with that forecast in mind.
“Something else to be mindful of is being flexible. Don’t become fixated on achieving your original goal. As conditions on the hill change, then so should your decision making. Often I end up on Plan B, C or D as my journey on the hill progresses.”
Isla Campbell, who is the Police Scotland Inspector said: “We do not want to put anyone off enjoying the great outdoors activities we have here in Scotland but we would ask that people plan their routes, take sensible precautions and consider whether it is safe to climb a particular route.
“The environment of the Scottish mountains is by its very nature an unpredictable one and it is important that people take as many precautions and plan ahead as much as possible if they are going to go climbing, especially at this time of year.
“Detailed information about weather conditions and avalanche risk are available from agencies including the Scottish Avalanche Information Service and we would encourage climbers to look at this information before heading out on the mountains. Be prepared to alter your routes or plans if there are indications that inclement weather or avalanches could affect your climb.”
The Scottish Mountain Rescue, vice chair, Kev Mitchell said: “We encourage people to make use of all available information, including weather and avalanche forecasts.
“It is important to plan your day taking into account the conditions, ensure you are prepared to make safe decisions based on the weather and environment you are in and the group you are with.”
So before heading to the hills wherever they might be, check the weather before heading out and if there has been snow recently, check avalanche risks etc, don’t put yourself or mountain rescue lives in danger.
Once you know the weather, then it’s vital you have the right equipment for the conditions.
The message here is not to not explore places during bad weather but to understand the conditions and plan accordingly. The same spot can change dramatically throughout the year and I would highly recommend you visit the places in the different seasons to appreciate its beauty.
Its also knowing your level and limits, if you have never really been walking before and only done a bit of rambling, to think you can go and summit Ben Nevis during winter isn’t the best of ideas, however if you have done lots of winter hiking and have already summited Ben Nevis during the summer and autumn seasons then it might be ok for you to try (so long as the weather conditions are suitable and there are no avalanche warnings).
Happy exploring and stay safe.