109: Terrible toll of avalanches in the Highlands

Rachel Slater and Tim Newton died after failing to return from climbing Ben Nevis
Rachel Slater and Tim Newton died after failing to return from climbing Ben Nevis
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More than 100 people were caught up in avalanches in the Highlands over the last year, including a Yorkshire couple who failed to return from a climb on Ben Nevis.

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service said a total of 205 avalanches were recorded during last winter, with 46 triggered by people themselves.

Among the 109 people involved in incidents, three died - all during February.

Experienced climbers Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27 from Bradford, were reported missing on February 15.

Bad weather and the risk of further avalanches hindered searches for them, and their bodies were not discovered for five weeks.

Adrian Bankart, from Derbyshire, was climbing with a partner just days later on Creag Meagaidh when an avalanche occurred. He was airlifted off the mountain but later died in hospital.

Some of the incidents recorded were labelled as minor but others were more significant and resulted in people being carried down by the avalanche, according to SAIS.

The report said the winter of 2015/16 had been fraught with severe storm cycles, with “wind speeds reaching 140mph on the tops and often continual 100mph speeds persisting throughout some days”.

In January two climbers had a lucky escape in Creag Meagaidh after a small avalanche swept one of the pair over crags and broken ground for 300 metres.

The SAIS assesses avalanche hazards in the Cairngorms, Glencoe, Lochaber, Torridon and Creag Meagaidh.

Avalanches are assessed on whether they are low, moderate, considerable or high.

Members of the public are advised to check the weather and snow conditions on the SAIS website before venturing into the hills.