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Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Got a question about Scottish avalanches?


Postby helenw » Fri Nov 06, 2020 11:04 am

Want to know more about avalanches in Scotland's mountains - and how to stay safe?

We'll be interviewing Mark Diggins of the Scottish Avalanche Information Service for Walkhighlands later this month - so here's your chance to put questions to the expert.

Please let us know what you want to ask. Many thanks!
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby jmarkb » Fri Nov 06, 2020 11:23 am

Conditions in Scotland can never justify a "Very High" avalanche risk rating on the European scale which the SAIS uses - I don't think this is widely known or well publicised. It would interesting to ask Mark whether he thinks this is a problem, and if it potentially could be affecting risk assessment by hillgoers - e.g. "Considerable" is a 3 on a scale of 1-4, not a scale of 1-5.
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby al78 » Fri Nov 06, 2020 11:57 am

jmarkb wrote:Conditions in Scotland can never justify a "Very High" avalanche risk rating on the European scale which the SAIS uses ...


Is that because the Scottish mountains are too small in scale for avalanches at the top level to happen?
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby rodderss » Fri Nov 06, 2020 12:21 pm

Came across this article yesterday about SAIS

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-54810817
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby jmarkb » Fri Nov 06, 2020 1:17 pm

al78 wrote:Is that because the Scottish mountains are too small in scale for avalanches at the top level to happen?


Yes, and also there is never really any threat to infrastructure (roads, buildings, etc.).
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby jmarkb » Fri Nov 06, 2020 1:19 pm

rodderss wrote:Came across this article yesterday about SAIS

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-54810817


Misleading headline! Steven McKenzie has something of a habit of scraping the SAIS website and blogs for easy copy.
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby al78 » Fri Nov 06, 2020 4:10 pm

jmarkb wrote:
al78 wrote:Is that because the Scottish mountains are too small in scale for avalanches at the top level to happen?


Yes, and also there is never really any threat to infrastructure (roads, buildings, etc.).


I heard somewhere that one reason the Drummochter pass was developed as the primary route north instead of the shorter Gaick pass is because the steep sloped hills along the latter make it prone to avalanches.
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby Backpacker » Fri Nov 06, 2020 4:32 pm

al78 wrote:
jmarkb wrote:
al78 wrote:Is that because the Scottish mountains are too small in scale for avalanches at the top level to happen?


Yes, and also there is never really any threat to infrastructure (roads, buildings, etc.).


I heard somewhere that one reason the Drummochter pass was developed as the primary route north instead of the shorter Gaick pass is because the steep sloped hills along the latter make it prone to avalanches.


I read the same thing here https://www.discoveringbritain.org/activities/scotland/viewpoints/drumochter-pass.html
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby nigheandonn » Fri Nov 06, 2020 4:42 pm

Using Drumochter means you can keep to one road for a bit longer before doing the right for Ruthven, left for Fort Augustus split, too, although I expect the difficulty of keeping the Gaick open is part of the reason.
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby Scraggygoat » Fri Nov 06, 2020 6:21 pm

SAIS is a victim of its own success; discuss?

Many hill-goers just look at the avalanche forecast, rather than following the weather/snow reports for the days ahead of a trip, then looking at weather forecasts, and coming to their own predictions of likely snow distribution, snow stratigraphy and re-distribution, at risk slope aspects and elevations. With looking at SAIS being a final compare and contrast stage.

Secondly the Press routinely report, or folks on forum's mention 'the avalanche forecast was considerable...' as a subtext that people shouldn't have been out on the hill.

Both of these show a misunderstanding, firstly that the forecast is gospel and somehow a specialist skill rather than something the every hill goer can and should work towards, and secondly that aspect (and subtle change of aspect) is being ignored.

How do you propose to break the cycle of press/forum miss-reporting undermining understanding and hill-goer over reliance on your forecasts?
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Re: Got a question about Scottish avalanches?

Postby BigTed » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:53 pm

Five people were killed when an avalanche buried a building in the Gaick Pass in January 1800. So maybe local knowledge about avalanche risk in the Gaick Pass was part of the reason for going by Drumochter?

http://www.cairngormclub.org.uk/journals/PDFs/Articles/J050/The%20Cairngorm%20Club%20Journal%20050%20-%20The%20Three%20Gaicks%20WM.pdf
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