Yesterday I took three pupils from Lochaber High School to the foot of Number Five Gully to experience a little of what Ben Nevis can offer mountaineers in the winter. Hopefully these young people will remember the grandeur of the North Face and be inspired to explore it some more later in life. It was a nice, dry and cold afternoon but it came in to snow on the tops late last night.
Fourteen hours after it started snowing a team of three people were avalanched from Raeburn's Easy Route or somewhere close by. They called the Lochaber MRT and we went up to help them. They managed to get back to the CIC Hut by themselves despite back and head injuries.
We had about 30cm snow fall in twelve hours and it has come down to 400m above sea level. The avalanche forecast was quite accurate and was very clear about this snow coming in and the hazard it would produce. It gave a considerable avalanche hazard which means human triggered avalanches are likely and this is what happened with the team that got caught in one today. While we were out looking for them another avalanche came down from Number Two Gully which was probably naturally triggered. Natural avalanches are possible in a considerable avalanche hazard.
I think it was Hamish MacInness who said we will be wise to avoid climbing during fresh snow fall and for 24 hours afterwards. Most avalanches occur during snow fall and just afterwards. Even if you just stick to this rule and nothing else you will raise your chance of successful climbing. Better still, learn more about the Be Avalanche Aware process and do some training.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.