Cornices - A Safety Warning From the MCofS

Last winter season at least 18 people walked over a cornice in Scotland. Since it's still very much winter on the hills, the MCofS have issued the following safety reminder: ​

Mountaineers all over Scotland delighted last weekend in perfect winter conditions, with clear blue skies and sun glinting off crisp white snowy hills. It was the sort of glorious weekend when no-one could question why people take to Scotlands winter mountains. But experienced mountaineers know that the weather isnt always like that, and with forecasts this weekend expected to be more mixed than last weekends ideal conditions, it's worth remembering the dangers of cornices.

Mega cornice on the summit ridge of Ben Lui, 55 kb
Mega cornice on the summit ridge of Ben Lui
© Dan Bailey -, Feb 2014

Found above cliffs and steep slopes, these projecting ledges of snow can be surprisingly hard to see in poor visibility. In fact last winter season 18 people walked over cornices.

Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor with The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, says:

'The Scottish Mountains are an awesome, inspiring and challenging environment which I would encourage all enthusiastic hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy.'

'But people do need to be cautious near corrie edges, and avoid cornices.'

In poor visibility, or in a white-out, these can be hard or even impossible to see, so navigation skills are essential for anyone venturing into the mountains so that they can avoid this hazard. Necessary skills include being able to take accurate bearings and walk on them, and knowing how to measure distance on a map and assess that on the ground using pacing and reading the ground.

'There are also simple tips that can be real lifesavers' Heather advises: 'attaching your compass to your jacket so you dont lose it, and having your map in a small waterproof case so you can see the detail while protecting the map from the elements. Keeping your compass away from metal objects and your mobile phone is also essential as these can affect the bearing if in close proximity.'

'I strongly recommend people invest in navigation skills training before venturing out in winter. Check out the Mountain Safety pages on the MCofS website and current weather ( and avalanche information ('

Forums 0 comments

This has been read 5,596 times
Return to News from March 2016