Accident Black Spots in the British Hills

Mountain accidents can of course happen anywhere, but certain locations do generate a lot of work for local rescue teams, and over the years particular black spots have become notorious. From the treacherous rock step that separates England's two highest fells, to the unexpected hazard of Snowdon's mountain railway in certain winter conditions, we're looking at some of the worst cuplrits here.

We don't like to be ghoulish at UKH, and ordinarily focus on the rewards of hillwalking rather than worst case scenarios. With this run through some of the spots often associated with incidents we're aiming to help people enjoy long and fun-filled hill careers, not scare them into an armchair for the rest of their lives.

Who better to talk us through the accident black spots than the rescue teams that have them on their patch? This article couldn't have been produced without detailed feedback from a number of MRTs and other safety experts.

crib goch rescue  © jhs3jtmh
crib goch rescue
Joel M-H
© jhs3jtmh

"I know from over 40 years' experience that there are 'popular areas' for accidents historically" says veteran RAF mountain rescue team leader Dave 'Heavy' Whalley.

"I was the Statistician for Scottish Mountain Rescue for a few years and have always been interested in accident prevention. I also spent four years working in the ARCC sending helicopters all over the UK. There are many spots in the UK that can be especially busy for the local rescue teams - particularly if there's snow.


"In RAF Mountain Rescue we did not have an area that was ours as such, and travelled all over Scotland assisting local Rescue Teams. Tricky areas and 'black spots' were part of our area knowledge and we would point them out to new team members.

"Yet as well as the well known places there are others that can be dangerous, but that people forget. Take the tragic avalanche in the Chalamain Gap in the Cairngorms in 2013, in which three people lost their lives. From the 1950s this area was used by RAF MRT for their annual winter courses, however after a few near misses the teams stopped using this venue in the late 60's, as it could be pretty avalanche prone in certain conditions. But time and experienced folk move on, and memory fades."

We may be talking about infamous black spots here, but the obvious caveat needs repeating: accidents can happen anywhere. Highlighting a particular place that seems to catch walkers out is not to imply that mishaps cannot occur elsewhere. The following list is by no means exhaustive in any case, and likely to be notable as much for places we haven't mentioned as those we have. At the root of most incidents is human error at some stage, a fact worth bearing in mind whenever you make a decision in the hills.

"In the end you have to take care wherever you are" says Heavy. "Look well to each step, as they say..."

Sharp Edge, Blencathra

It's a narrow ridge, the slate is slippery as glass when wet, and there's a definite and very exposed crux: and yet, as one of the best ridge scrambles south of Scotland, Sharp Edge is inevitably popular in all weathers and all months of the calendar. The result is a steady trickle of accidents.

Blencathra  © stevethex
Blencathra
© stevethex, Dec 2009

The first recorded incident on Sharp Edge was in January 1961, to a young man who had slipped and fallen 100' and sustained a fatal head injury. With over 100 incidents and 11 fatalities since then, Sharp Edge is a continuing major responsibility for the members of Keswick MRT.

"Blencathra is a deservedly popular peak and its complex array of ridges attracts walkers year round" says Chris Higgins, Team Leader of Keswick Mountain Rescue Team.

"One of these ridges is Sharp Edge, which is a spectacular, narrow arete which Wainwright referred to as "a breaking wave carved in stone"' with "one awkward place, calling for a shuffle off a sloping slab on to a knife edge". It is this slab and knife edge that Keswick MRT often refer to as the "usual place" in our reports of incidents, and it is here that we go to some of our most demanding and dangerous rescues."

It's only a grade 1 scramble, albeit a very airy one, and under perfect conditions Sharp Edge is not technically difficult, provided that you have a good head for heights. But of course, conditions are frequently far from perfect.

"When wet, windy or icy the route becomes a serious and potentially hazardous undertaking" says Chris Higgins.

It's treacherous in wet, windy, snowy or icy conditions... in other words, a lot of the time  © Dan Bailey
It's treacherous in wet, windy, snowy or icy conditions... in other words, a lot of the time
© Dan Bailey

"The main cause of accidents on Sharp Edge is slips on the very polished and slippery slate. In an effort to avoid this committing section many attempt to traverse on the path/s that run on the northern side of the ridge, but these present their own very dangerous idiosyncrasies - the rock is shattered and loose, the holds slope the wrong way and any rock that is integral to the mountain is also very slippery. The majority of falls from Sharp Edge result in serious injury or death.

"Rescuers are also at significant risk of personal injury when on Sharp Edge - these are always serious situations requiring significant resources - highly trained personnel (all volunteers), specialist equipment and frequently helicopters from the Ambulance Service or Coastguard.

"Some callouts to Sharp Edge are to rescue the unwary or inexperienced, but thankfully uninjured, who have become stuck - too terrified to move up or down. In this situation walkers need to sit tight and await the arrival of the rescue team who will then fix ropes along the edge and lower them to safer ground. It is important to note that team members are not super-human, and whilst every effort is made to be as fast as possible in responding, you're in for a wait of something around an hour and a half before help arrives."

Snowdon

As the highest mountain outside Scotland, and with many possible routes of ascent, Snowdon naturally attracts the crowds. Upwards of 700,000 people visit it annually, and through sheer weight of numbers this popularity naturally leads to a lot of work for Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, who typically attend over 200 incidents per year.

"Statistically, as with hillwalking generally, walking on Snowdon isn't a particularly dangerous pursuit" insists Gruff Owen, of Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team.

The Snowdon Horseshoe from Crib Goch - 6am  © Nicholas Livesey
The Snowdon Horseshoe from Crib Goch - 6am
© Nicholas Livesey, Apr 2013

"Most of the incidents we attend as a team are for people who are lost or people who are uninjured. Among the team we refer to these types of incidents as CDD's, or "Cic 'Dan Din" - Caernarfon Welsh for a "kick up the arse". This is always said in good humour, with the understanding that we all need this at some point!

"Having said that, there are places on the Snowdon massif where it can and does go seriously wrong. We have areas where we attend very frequently but to people who are uninjured, and other areas where incidents are rare but often serious.

"Let's focus on the places that take people by surprise. Accidents in these areas often feel like the most cruel, because you can really understand the decisions that people have made to lead them into trouble. Snowdon is exceptional in that regard, it's a tourist's mountain that's marketed and sold all over the world. So it's unfair to expect the same level of decision making from a tourist as an experienced mountain walker. I mention that because to understand some incidents and some so-called black spots you may have to put yourself in the "tourist" frame of mind. Experienced walkers will know that the Snowdon Ranger sign doesn't point to the friendly Snowdon Ranger and there won't be a train waiting for them at the summit at 7pm in December..."

Crib Goch  © Mark Bullock
Crib Goch
© Mark Bullock

Crib Goch

Unsurprisingly, Crib Goch sees more incidents per visitor than any other area on the team's patch. Its sharp rock peak cannot be ascended without scrambling, while the famously exposed knife-edged ridge connecting it with Garnedd Ugain is the scene of many epics and near-epics.

"That may well qualify it as a black spot for many people" says Gruff, "but people should really expect it to be a serious undertaking. Even a small amount of research should help people know what to expect. These days, in my experience, most people attempting Crib Goch know what they're letting themselves in for. Incidents there are either very unfortunate, or people who've bitten off more than they can chew."

Zigzags below Bwlch Glas on the Pyg/Miner's Track

The fact that this area is traversed by a very popular path, and is generally straightforward in summer, is no guarantee that it'll be a stroll in the park all year round. This steep slope can be treacherously icy in winter, and may be banked up by steep neve on which a slip could be serious. On the other hand in certain snow conditions it can become avalanche prone. And a cornice often forms at the top of the slope.

Watched by bemused onlookers, an ill-equipped party set off down the PYG track  © David Dear
Watched by bemused onlookers, an ill-equipped party set off down the PYG track
© David Dear, Mar 2010

Steep ground above Pant y Lluwchfa and the intersection of the Pyg and Miners' Tracks

This is a spot that has lain dormant for many years, according to Gruff, though formerly it saw frequent serious accidents and fatalities. So much so, that the National Park Authority put in extensive work on the path to lead people away from the steep ground around the copper mines.

"These path works were very successful in reducing the number of incidents in the area" Gruff says. "However mountain areas are dynamic and constantly changing landscapes, the paths on Snowdon need constant and significant investment to keep them to a high standard, and this is a significant challenge for a Park Authority who are having to manage greater numbers of visitors with fewer resources. Unfortunately, as the path slowly erodes in this area we are starting to see an increasing number of walkers losing the path and getting into serious difficulty in this dangerous terrain."

Gruff's advice:

"Be mindful of your surroundings and the terrain even on well established paths. Consider donating to the Snowdonia Giving; Snowdon Mountain Paths appeal and why not get in touch with Snowdonia National Park Authority to ask about volunteering opportunities on Snowdon's footpaths."

Another rescue under way on Snowdon  © Sean Kelly
Another rescue under way on Snowdon
© Sean Kelly, Feb 2006

Snowdon Railway - Clogwyn Coch (Winter)

The point at which the Snowdon railway runs above the cliffs of Clogwyn Coch is the infamous winter black spot on Snowdon, and accidents here have lead to it being called the Killer Convex. It made the headlines in 2009 after four people were killed over a short period.

"There have been numerous fatalities here over the years, and many more close calls where we've had to fetch people who've found themselves balancing on a sheet of ice above several hundred feet of cliffs and broken ground" says Gruff.

"It takes very specific and relatively rare winter conditions for Clogwyn Coch to become dangerous. Firstly, there needs to be enough snow to fill the railway cutting. Secondly, that snow needs to undergo a sustained period of freeze and thaw (or trampling from lots of feet) for the surface to become frozen into solid névé. Once that happens the railway cutting becomes an icy slope at the top of the "killer convex" and can be treacherous even for experienced walkers carrying an ice axe and crampons.

"On any other mountain, very few people would find themselves on this kind of terrain unless they had a good idea of where they were heading and what they were doing. But Snowdon is unique, both because it has a railway that cuts into its steep flanks and because the average visitor doesn't expect to find themselves on the kind of terrain typically associated with the Alps or carry the equipment to deal with it. The cruel thing about Clogwyn Coch is that most of the time it's not a dangerous route, and this has lead to a popular expectation among walkers that it's OK to "just follow the railway line." And that's true 99.9% of the time - the railway cutting forms a track to traverse an otherwise steep slope. Over time the message that it's a 'safe route' becomes reinforced: 'Just follow the railway line' is possibly one of the most common pieces of advice you'll hear on that side of the mountain.

"Another element that contributes to the number of incidents we see on Clogwyn Coch is that more people follow the railway down during winter conditions. The answer lies further up the mountain at an area called Bwlch Glas, the saddle between Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon. Here the railway converges with the Llanberis path, the Pyg/Miners' tracks and the Snowdon Ranger path. In winter conditions the area becomes almost featureless, the Llanberis path and Snowdon Ranger path both disappear under the snow and a steep cornice forms at the top of the Pyg and Miners' track making that descent a scary prospect, even if you've just climbed up it! For many, the railway becomes the most attractive option. In that way, Bwlch Glas can act as a one-way valve channeling people down the railway track even if they had intended to descend elsewhere.

Gruff's advice: Carry an ice axe and crampons, and know how to use them. Put your crampons on in good time and in a safe place, don't wait until it's too late.

"Microspike crampons can be useful under very specific conditions" he says, "but steep terrain in the mountains isn't one of them - unless you're Kilian Jornet! Research your route and be prepared to turn around if you have to. Remember that it's often more difficult to descend in winter conditions."

Clogwyn Du`r Arddu from Clogwyn Coch  © mr mills
Clogwyn Du`r Arddu from Clogwyn Coch
© mr mills, Dec 2008

Snowdon Summit - Scree slope between East Ridge and the Watkin Path

The area beneath Snowdon's summit has seen several serious incidents and fatalities over the years. It differs from Clogwyn Coch in that it isn't a single spot, but a fairly wide area where people can get into difficulties.

"In the summer it's usually people getting stuck in the upper reaches of the scree slopes beneath the summit, or following a misleading ridge that takes you to the brink of the Trinity Face / Clogwyn y Garnedd" says Gruff.

"In the winter, the area's high altitude and southerly aspect can lead to a solid covering of névé after a period of freeze-thaw, and a slip from anywhere in this area can lead to a significant fall towards Cwm Tregalan a long way below."

Y Lliwedd  © Nicholas Livesey
Y Lliwedd
© Nicholas Livesey, Feb 2015

It may look like an attractive shortcut for people who want to descend to the Watkin Path, thinks Gruff. A combination of misleading tracks, landscaping around the summit area and the illusion that people ascending the Watkin Path are walking directly towards you can draw people to a point where they think it will be easier to descend the scree slope below.

"For those looking down towards the Watkin Path from the summit area it may feel counter-intuitive to turn your back and walk past the summit cafe and descend the Rhyd Ddu path for 150m before taking the the safer track - and actual line of the Watkin path - which cuts diagonally through the scree slope" explains Gruff.

"To complicate matters, if you're familiar with the terrain it is possible to descend the East Ridge of Snowdon. Llanberis local and ex-team member Gareth Wyn Hughes, who currently holds the record for the Snowdon Horseshoe (1h23m48s), will have taken this route. And ascending from Bwlch y Saethau is a little more straightforward - though still a serious scramble. Although it looks fairly innocuous from above, the whole slope consists of a mixture of craggy buttresses, large loose boulders, steep slippery grass and scree. A fall from anywhere in this area would be, and has been, very serious."

Gruff's advice:

"Research your route before setting off on your trip. Take a map and compass and know how to use them. There are many misleading tracks in the mountains that lead to dangerous areas. Make your own decisions and don't blindly follow others, as my old boss at the National Park used to say: 'There are more sheep than woolly ones in these mountains'."

Ben Nevis

The sheer weight of numbers on Scotland's highest means there's always plenty of work for the local rescue team. Home to some of Britain's greatest rock and winter climbing, the north face is the most serious mountain arena in the country, and the closest thing we have to alpine terrain. In winter in particular, this side of the mountain is beyond the scope of hillwalkers.

Even confining ourselves to The Ben's least technical route, the Tourist Track from Glen Nevis (otherwise known as the Mountain Path or the Pony Track), there's clearly ample opportunity to come to grief. By virtue of its status Ben Nevis will always attract crowds, many of whom may scarcely before have set foot on a mountain. There's a tendency for the inexperienced to underestimate both the scale of the physical challenge and the potential ferocity of conditions up high, and many rescue call-outs are simply to ill-equipped, cold or disoriented walkers.

Descending Ben Nevis  © AlH
Descending Ben Nevis
© AlH, Feb 2012

But beyond this predictable catalogue of human error, the mountain's topography includes some notably hazardous spots too. The summit plateau is ringed with steep ground, and in poor visibility - particularly if there's snow underfoot and the cliff edges are corniced - real caution is required in descent in particular. A line of purpose-built of cairns marks the safe way off, their size indicative of the depth of winter snows; if even they are obscured walk 150m from the trig point on a bearing of 231° grid to safely skirt the deep indent of Gardyloo Gully, and then 282° grid for nearly 1km, bearing in mind the tendency for the unwary to drift too far left onto treacherous ground that slopes off into Five Finger Gully. You should only begin to relax from a heightened state of navigational awareness once certain you're safely established on the zigzags of the Tourist Track. But don't relax too much - there's still treacherous ground on either side of the slope traversed by the path - the lower part of the Red Burn for instance, which can be steep hard snow in winter, and is worth avoiding in descent.

photo
Ben Nevis Map
© MC of S

"In my day, Five Finger Gully was renowned as a place of 'hellish call-outs' but I think summit cairns have helped" says Dave Heavy Whalley.

"However in a heavy winter they can bank out. Coire Eoghain seems to catch folk out, too, as can the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. This can be due to the changeable snow conditions. There were many accidents here in the past."

"The summit of the Ben on a bad day is not the place to be without the skills to navigate in poor weather; and really this goes for most mountains."

Barf, northern fells

An unexpected entry on our list, Barf was referred to by Wainwright as a 'little rogue mountain that cannot be tamed'. Walkers are often drawn to its steep eastern flank, attracted by the whitewashed beacon of rock known as The Bishop.

View from the wonderfully named and great little summit of Barf  © allenp
View from the wonderfully named and great little summit of Barf
© allenp

"Having ascended the shattered and eroded slate to see this "venerable figure" it is tempting to continue the ascent to the top" says Chris Higgins of Keswick MRT.

"A route exists, but it is steep and on very loose ground, particularly just above The Bishop itself where 'the walls of rotten rock cannot be trusted for handholds and fall apart at the touch'!

"The ground above becomes less intimidating. However, the route then leads to the rock barrier of Slape Crag which needs to be ascended via a short, but steep and exposed, rocky ramp. This is where people become stuck - upward progress is barred and retreat is far from attractive so out comes the mobile phone!

"There have been a variety of types of incident on Barf, with people being hit by loose rocks dislodged from above, slips on the loose ground resulting in broken legs or ankles or people becoming stuck. Over the years we've recorded more than 40 incidents on this "little rogue" and we are being called more and more to help walkers stuck on Barf. This small fell, of undeniable Lakeland character, has become a significant danger area in recent years."

Glen Coe

In 2017, Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team had 46 rescue callouts, and so far in 2018 there have been 47. These tend to be concentrated in the glen with a small number further afield in the Glencoe patch (which extends from Bridge of Orchy to the tip of Ardnamurchan).

Aonach Eagach

This classic grade 2 scramble gives an exposed and spectacular traverse, linking the Munros of Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. The ridge is narrow, with multiple exposed and technical scrambling sections. Some areas are also quite polished and can feel slippery in the wet.

The ridge has always been a prized route for scramblers but is now gaining popularity in the skyrunning community, so is seeing more and more traffic each year. The consequences of a fall from the ridge are catastrophic and result in multiple casualties (and sometimes deaths) each year. The ridge is a committing undertaking with only two convenient ways off; the start and the end.

"The main blackspot on 'the ridge' is the Pinnacles" says Sarah Macdonald of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team. "This is really the 'crux' of the route and many hillwalkers get 'cragfast' in this area. The Pinnacles are not easily avoidable and the best way to avoid getting into difficulty here is to have the skill and experience necessary to make the traverse safely - certainly there are more escapable grade-2 scrambles out there on which to build confidence, before taking on the Aonach Eagach."

Enjoying the ridge   © Al Todd
Enjoying the ridge
© Al Todd, Nov 2018

Clachaig Gully area

This deep-cut gully on the south-face of Munro Sgorr nam Fiannaidh used to be a popular rock climb back in the 70-80s. Indeed it was a coveted route on the Classic Rock tick-list. However, due to its loose, rugged and esoteric nature, it has fallen out of popularity in recent years, in favour of more solid and cleaner lines in the Glen. Today the gully is a blackspot for hillwalkers descending from the Munro summit, having completed the popular Aonach Eagach traverse. Most are seeking the Clachaig Gully descent path (which lies west of the gully itself), and get off track or slip. A fall into the gully proper is often fatal. Most incidents today however, occur away from the gully itself on the descent path which is steep, loose and in places slabby.

"It is tempting for walkers to descend the Clachaig Gully descent path as it is the most direct way down and leads straight to the pub" says Sarah Macdonald.

"As a descent from the Aonach Eachach, it is far safer for walkers to descend the NW ridge of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (West top) towards the col with Sgorr na Ciche (Pap of Glencoe). Here walkers can pick-up a major path that descends to the Clachaig Road".

photo
Twilight in The Lost Valley, Glen Coe
© G. Robertson, Dec 2010

Lost Valley

The Lost Valley or Coire Gabhail is the 'hidden' valley where the historic MacDonald Clan hid their rustled cattle, and also where they fled in escaping from the 1692 massacre. Due to the dramatic scenery, short distance (4km round trip) and low ascent profile, the Lost Valley trail is the most popular walk in Glencoe, attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists every year. Many of these visitors are inexperienced or inappropriately equipped for the terrain. Although an 'easy walk,' the path has a few rocky sections and low down in the glen, it runs close to the edge of a deep and treacherous gully (Allt Coire Gabhail).

"Most of the callouts we get in the Coire Gabhail area are for overdue walkers who simply underestimated the difficulties involved in the route" says Sarah Macdonald.

"But when we are called to assist a casualty who has actually fallen into the Coire Gabhail gully, a technical rescue often ensues, involving the team hoisting them out on a stretcher."

Helvellyn

"Helvellyn is the Lake District's most popular mountain to climb owing to its accessibility from two main valleys - Thirlmere to the west and Glenridding to the east" says Jon Bennett, one of the Lake District National Park's three Fell Top Assessors, who between them carry out daily reports on ground conditions on Helvellyn throughout the winter season.

The path from Swirls car park on the Thirlmere side is the easier approach. In summer conditions on this ascent there's a steep, but unexposed, section by Browncove Crags which appears uneventful. However in winter this can form into a steep bank of snow where a slip, without the means the stop yourself, can - and has been - serious. "Unfortunately, being seen as the "easier" route, people often ascend and descend this path in winter conditions without crampons and ice axes" says Jon.

The more challenging ascent of Helvellyn is via Striding and Swirral Edges - the classic round from the Glenridding side.

"Fairly common problems encountered on these sharp ridges are people who find the exposure too much and become crag fast, the rock becoming slippery when wet and falls from the "bad step" or chimney which is located towards the end of Striding Edge" says Jon.

Descending the tricky step, Striding Edge  © Ratfeeder
Descending the tricky step, Striding Edge
© Ratfeeder, Dec 2008

"Fortunately, the number of incidents is a very small percentage of the huge numbers of walkers who undertake the edges. This popularity and perceived familiarity with the route gained in summer does bring its own problems during the winter months, which is when, and why, the Fell Top Assessors are employed.

"We frequently find people tackling the edges in winter conditions without crampons and ice axes. This is noticeably so when the snowline is above 600m and especially when above 800m. At these altitudes, the snow may not even be visible from the valleys and so people ascend green fells without crampons and ice axes. By the time that they reach the edges, they will have gained the majority of height, the summit is clearly visible and there's a strong temptation to continue despite the alpine-like conditions they could now face.

"Sometimes, there's no snow or ice on the edges themselves but at the end of each of them there's a steep exit to the summit on its easterly face. In winter this is frequently banked out with unavoidable snow and, owing to its height and the fact that it faces east, it is often the last hard snow in the Lakes to thaw. Again, it is not a place to slip without the means, ie an ice axe, to stop yourself; hence both exits to the edges are black spots. Conversely, sometimes these slopes are not covered in hard snow but rather loose, unstable snow and windslab – making them dangerous as regards avalanche risk."

Winter view from Helvellyn.  © shaun walby
Winter view from Helvellyn.
© shaun walby, Apr 2013

This east facing headwall of Helvellyn also causes other issues in the winter.

"Firstly, owing to winds blowing predominantly from the west, it is frequently topped with cornices" Jon explains.

"This is not appreciated by people standing far too close to the edge. Secondly, when the summit is in cloud in winter conditions the edge cannot be seen and in total white out conditions navigation needs to be spot on with such a steep, corniced drop.

"Regretfully, there will always be accidents in the mountains. The number, though, can be reduced with some planning and taking heed of information that's readily available. On Helvellyn, between the beginning of December and Easter, there is a daily report on the actual ground conditions experienced by real Fell Top Assessors who have walked on the fell, it's not done by a computer! Amongst other things, this report details the height and condition of the snow and what equipment is required to negotiate the fells safely – and enjoyably."

Wasdale

Broad Stand

A series of rock steps and slabby ledges overlooking the col of Mickledore, Broad Stand is a major obstacle that makes direct access between Scafell and Scafell Pike very treacherous. The rock is polished and often seriously slippery, some moves on the route go beyond scrambling difficulty into rock climbing proper, and the potential fall is often fatal. It's equally nasty in ascent or descent, as the poet Coleridge found out in the early 19th Century, and the passage of years has only made it more polished and unpleasant. As such Broad Stand should be regarded as a route for climbers only, and not a place for walkers. Sadly that message hasn't got out to everyone.

"Broad Stand is lethal in wet conditions, with three fatalities in the last 18 months alone" says Keith Hudson of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team.

"Over the years there have been many fatalities and life changing injuries here. It isn't a 'challenge' route, it is really a rock climbing descent route which most climbers abseil down."

Scafell East Buttress - Broad Stand - In context  © TerryB
Scafell East Buttress - Broad Stand - In context
© TerryB, Jan 2009

Piers Gill from the Corridor Route  © Catherine Speakman
Piers Gill from the Corridor Route
© Catherine Speakman

Piers Gill

Another Wasdale trouble spot, this deep ravine below Scafell Pike's popular Corridor Route has caught many walkers out.

"Piers Gill is were people who get lost descending the Pike end up" explains Keith Hudson.

"Sometimes people think the bed of the gill is a path. If they end up on the Lingmell side then the sheep tracks there eventually run into crags with, sometimes, fatal consequences. The Scafell Pike side has a very difficult path with rock steps which can be very hard to follow safely in bad conditions. Again there have been several fatalities in this area."

  • With several accident black spots on their busy patch, the Wasdale team has gone as far as publishing location info on their website.

Ogwen Valley

Tryfan

"Tryfan is Ogwen's hotspot and represents an average of 23% of our 130 call outs per annum" says Chris Lloyd of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation.

"The most likely candidates are hill walkers descending the North Ridge between July and September, summer holiday time. The fourth quarter is a close second due to changes in daylight hours, students and poorer weather. "

photo
Tryfan in November
© Welli, Nov 2009

The number of 'cragfast' incidents on Tryfan is twice the number of those who are injured. However there are roughly two fatalities on the mountain per annum.

"The figures for descending the North Ridge are distorted as many of the statistics start descending the North Ridge and then either wander onto the East Face and get cragfast whilst trying to find a safe escape from North Gully (sometimes leading to fatal consequences), or they make good progress until arriving on the top (or sometimes further down) the rock climbs of the Milestone Buttress just above the A5" says Chris.

"More likely still, people wander onto the notorious West Face, so steep and loose that the wild mountain goats don't go there. We get fatalities as a result of people trying to find a route down here.

"We also get several reports from people camping or driving on the A5 through Ogwen of lights on the hill. Lights, if they are not flashing a distress signal, are of no interest to us! However if the Team Leader receives a report of lights, someone has to drive up to Ogwen to view them. But it is the dark patches in between the lights that may be of concern, as these people have no torch.

Rescue chopper over Tryfan  © Dan Bailey
Rescue chopper over Tryfan
© Dan Bailey

"We also receive four or five calls a year regarding shouts for help. If you do hear shouts for help on Tryfan or Cwm Idwal, please shout back and ask what sort of help they need. A goat bleating can sound like a cry for help!

"Early in 2018 a man who had descended Tryfan to his car did hear shouts for help. Wisely, he returned up the west side and shouted back. The reply came "Call Mountain Rescue, I have broken my ankle" from a very lightly equipped young man, in winter conditions... a very lucky young man.

"There have been some interesting call outs on Tryfan over the 50+ years of Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue and before. Prior to organised teams in the valley (pre-1959) the local GP in Bethesda would be called for serious injuries. In the late 1930s he was called to assist with a young army officer who had slipped whilst rock climbing on the East Face and jammed his leg in a crack. The doctor was called to amputate said leg. Before carrying out the procedure, he tried to lubricate the limb to ease it out. He was successful... and Sir John Hunt's leg was saved for greater things."


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12 Feb

Coire na Tulaich on the Buchaille also springs to mind.

15 Feb

A notorious avalanche blackspot and this has forced me to retreat on one occasion when I checked the snow. Doubly dangerous as many use it as a quick way off the Buachaille.

Another area for concern are those returning across Crib Goch and wander down the Parson's Nose.