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Should Climbers Be Out In Bad Weather?

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

A debate on social media has been sparked about whether climbers should be out in bad weather following the release of a clip showing the ‘treacherous’ conditions faced by volunteer mountain rescue teams in the Cairngorms.

The Daily Record reports that a 10-strong team from Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team faced adverse weather conditions on Saturday 4 December as they battled with deep snow and freezing winds while they carried a casualty off the mountain following an avalanche.

Cairngorm MRT tweeted about the rescue of the man who had sustained a lower leg injury and explained: “The climbers were able to self rescue down to the coire floor, they were met by the team and stretchered back to the ski area.Multiple reports of avalanches in Coire an t-Sneachda this afternoon.”

However, the post sparked a debate about whether hikers and climbers should be on the mountains in such weather.

One social media user commented: “Nothing like putting other ppls [sic] lives in danger, because you have a hobby.”

Other users agreed, often in disbelief why people would want to be out on the hills in such conditions, and praised Cairngorms MRT.

However, outdoors enthusiasts and TV presenter Muriel Gray took the opposing side of the debate, saying: “Because being on the mountain in severe conditions is what brings you experience. And the volunteer rescuers know that.”

Others agreed, and defended the climbers, saying that many of those commenting will ‘never gone beyond the summit of Sauchiehall St’ and will have little understanding of the ethos of mountain rescue, nor the education on the risks associated with climbing.

Some people made the point that regardless of the season, the weather can change very quickly on a mountain, and getting into trouble can happen even on a sunny day with clear skies.

However, some climbing fans noted that warnings of adverse weather and avalanches posted in the morning should have been enough to deter people from climbing that day.

If the snow was problematic in the morning, that’s your cue to bow out of the situation, not have a go anyway,” one hiker wrote.

Others commenters agreed with Muriel Gray’s post but added that ‘common sense must play a part’, particularly given the warnings.

The leading mountain skills and safety organisations in Scotland have toned forces for a fourth #ThinkWINTER campaign to help direct people to the most relevant sources on winter hiking and mountaineering, which can be found here.

Damon Powell, the chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said if people are lucky enough to enjoy the mountains of Scotland, particularly at a time when many people would say they are at their finest, then they are urged to #ThinkWINTER, and ensure they are suitably equipped and have the necessary skills to be able to enjoy the outdoors safely.

He added that such preparation will help support the volunteer mountain rescue teams, who will be able to assist climbers ‘any hour, any day, any weather’.

The Cairngorm MRT rely on public donations to fund the work that they do, and are always in need of people contributing, you can find out more here.

If you’re looking for a winter mountaineering course, get in touch today.

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