Cairngorms Avalanche Incident

Three people were caught in an avalanche in the northern Cairngorms on Thursday; all three have died.

The Chalamain Gap, 82 kb
The Chalamain Gap
© Dan Bailey

The avalanche was reported to have happened shortly after 12:30 in the afternoon, in the Chalamain Gap.

The three people were buried 3-4m deep when rescuers arrived on the scene. The SAIS report states that the avalanche occurred on the northeast wall of Chalamain Gap - a steep convex slope. The avalanche was approximately 400m wide with a 1-2m deep crown wall, and debris 3-5m deep.

All three were airlifted to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. A man and a woman were pronounced dead in the hours following the search, and in the early hours of 15 February police have released a statement to say that the second man has now died too.

Officers from Northern Constabulary were assisted in the operation by members of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, SARDA Scotland dogs, RAF Lossiemouth MRT and RAF Helicopters.

Update: Inquiries into the avalanche are ongoing.

Police say that there were two groups of climbers on opposite sides of the gorge. One group was part of a Glenmore Lodge-organised winter skills training course and the second was a separate group of off-duty RAF personnel who were climbing in the area.

One of the deceased has been named as Rimon Than (33) Squadron Leader, RAF Valley, North Wales. He was a member of the Army Mountaineering Association (AMA) and a qualified doctor, and according to the BBC he had recently returned from an AMA expedition to China that made the first ascent of Wupingfeng mountain (5640m) in Sichuan province.

The other member of the RAF party has been named as Fran Capps. Flight Lieutenant Capps, 32, originally from Dulverton in Somerset, was commissioned into the Royal Air Force in 2001 as a Logistics Officer and worked on a variety of Royal Air Force Stations. She had served on operational tours in Iraq, the Falkland Islands, Afghanistan and Qatar.

Officer Commanding Logistics Squadron, Squadron Leader Georgina Mews, said:

'Fran was an exceptional person to know, having unbounded passion and energy and being loved by everyone on the Squadron. Her loss will be felt across the whole Logistics Community and wider.'

Tribute was also paid to the pair by Air Commodore Russell La Forte, President of the RAF Mountaineering Association:

'I and all members of the RAF Mountaineering Association are shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of two of our colleagues in an avalanche in the Cairngorm Mountains on 14 February. Both Rimon and Fran were stalwart members of the Association. Talented mountaineers and tireless members of the Association's committee, they both contributed an enormous amount to RAF and Service mountaineering, having led groups on expeditions overseas. They will be greatly missed by the military mountaineering community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families at this tragic time.'

For the police, area Inspector Murdoch MacLeod, said:

'Clearly this is a very tragic incident and our thoughts are currently with the families of those who have lost their lives.'

'It is important that we pay tribute to work of the rescuers who responded extremely quickly to the incident and located all three climbers in a short space of time.'

Update 21 Feb: The third victim has now been named. He was 18-year-old William Currie from Penzance. William was on a course at Glenmore Lodge.

The Reverend Alistair Bolt from the Chapel Street Methodist Church in Penzance told the BBC:

'On behalf of the community I just feel this is terribly sad.'

'We're a very close-knit community down here. Lots of people know lots of people. We will be remembering them in our prayers and thoughts.'

Nb. If you haven't yet seen them these two recent avalanche articles could be worth a read:

Avalanche - The Basics, Part 1: Anatomy of an Avalanche

Avalanche, the Basics - Part 2: Staying Safe

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