Avalanche body focuses on mountain safety

Posted by Jonathan Garside on 30/04/2013
Not all mountain users are aware of the avalanche risk in winter

Safety on the mountains was top of the agenda at a special seminar held at the sportscotland national training centre Glenmore Lodge on 20 April.

Organised by the Snow and Avalanche Foundation for Scotland (SAFOS) with assistance from the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS), attendees traveled from all over the UK to take stock of the current state of avalanche education in the UK and look at the potential for future developments.

The focus was on getting the basic principles of safe travel in the mountains in winter across to mountain users in a clear and succinct way. A total of 18 human triggered avalanches were recorded this season by the SAIS, which, although fewer in number than in previous years, resulted in the tragic loss of eight lives.

Ross Purves, Chair of SAFOS, said: “The range and expertise of those attending the seminar was a testament to the importance of the subject. The commitment of all involved to improving what are already excellent education programmes was very impressive.”

The seminar was attended by representatives from across the mountaineering sector, including Scottish Mountain Rescue, the British Mountaineering Council, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, British Mountain Guides, Association of Mountaineering Instructors, British Association of Ski Patrollers, Mountain Training UK, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge and Play y Brenin (the national mountaineering centres of Scotland and England and Wales respectively), and the SAIS.

Bob Kinnaird, Principal of Glenmore Lodge, said: “It is vital that organisations continue to work together to help ensure climbers and walkers stay as safe as possible whilst enjoying the Scottish mountains. Everyone who attended the recent seminar is committed to building on the information which is already available and we will strive continually to improve the service provided.”

SAFOS advises sportscotland on the provision of avalanche forecasts in Scotland, and seeks to bring together those involved in avalanche education and research in the UK. The seminar was one of a series organised by SAFOS over the years to address themes important to those enjoying, and working in, the Scottish mountains.
 
The seminar continued to build on work initiated previously about decision making in avalanche terrain held in autumn 2011. Work will now continue to develop core avalanche education messages next winter. These will be developed over the next few months by key contributors and a leaflet and other resources are planned to be available in autumn 2013.

Mark Diggins, Co-ordinator of the SAIS, said: “I was pleased by the significant attendance of representatives from throughout the UK and the commitment and co-operation that took place in considering how future avalanche and mountain information can be consistently presented to all those who wish to enjoy the Scottish winter mountain environment.”

Jon Garside, the BMC Training Officer noted how the BMC can help with educating the wider mountaineering community,  “The BMC has been providing good practice winter mountaineering advice for many years. We welcome this initiative to help us and other organisations ensure that a consistent and clear message about avalanche awareness is delivered.”

Professional Instructors and Guides deliver mountain safety messages in their work. John Cousins, Executive Officer of Mountain Training UK, identified the way in which these messages can be tailored for different audiences,  “MTUK welcomes the work being done by SAFOS and in particular the opportunity to ensure that avalanche education is integrated from initial safety messages through to the training of Mountaineering Instructors.”

The sportscotland Avalanche Information Service publishes daily forecasts of the avalanche, snow, and mountain conditions at the five most popular areas of Scotland during the season.

SAIS has a budget this year of £160,000 which includes SAIS avalanche forecasting operation, contingency for forecast provision during prolonged winter conditions, a pilot avalanche forecast service for the Torridon area, North West of Scotland and commitment to avalanche education initiatives.

 



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