Safety Series

'Stay Off Snowdon' Message Is Ridiculed

This week, the Snowdonia National Park Authority called for people to stay away from Snowdonia due to winter conditions. The advice has not gone down well.

Snowdon sunset  © Sean Kelly
Snowdon sunset
© Sean Kelly, Mar 2006

"The first layer of snow has now frozen and compacted, and with the accumulation of fresh snow there is a high likelihood of avalanches," a statement issued by the park said.

"In these conditions mountaineers should stay off the slopes of Snowdon and other peaks until the Met Office's red warning for snow conditions, which is the most severe warning, has been downgraded. Once conditions have improved, anyone who ventures onto the hills must have the appropriate experience and skills and all the necessary equipment."

The advice followed heavy snowfall in Wales, and at least one avalanche-related rescue on Snowdon.

It is unprecedented for a UK national park authority to unilaterally declare the mountains 'closed' due to winter conditions - and they have no legal power to do so in any case.

"This call... sets a potentially dangerous precedent by obscuring the role of individual judgement" said the BMC in a rebuttal issued today.

"The statement by Snowdonia National Park Authority also contradicts one of the two statutory purposes of national parks: to 'promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of national parks by the public.'"

A quote in the National Authority's press release was wrongly attributed to Llanberis Mountain Resue Team. Alun Allcock, Chairman of the team, responded:

"The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team do not, and never will, endorse the advice given yesterday by the Snowdonia National Park Authority in relation to avoiding the mountains of Snowdonia at any time of the year.

"Hazards exist on any mountain, but it is not the role of our mountain rescue team to decide when these mountains are 'safe'. As with all risk, changing mountain hazards can be mitigated by personal experience, route choice, equipment, weather and ground conditions.

"The ethos of mountain rescue was, and remains, that of 'mountaineers helping other mountaineers' and we will continue to turn out to people who feel they need our help without judgment. And, we'll all be out over the next few days making the most of the conditions!"

The BMC is a member of Mountain Safe - a forum of bodies in Wales including Mountain Rescue, Mountain Training, Plas y Brenin, North Wales Police and Snowdonia National Park Authority themselves. Mountain Safe was formed to ensure that key safety messages were considered, balanced and appropriate, giving positive advice to mountain users on how to enjoy the hills more safely.

"Mountain Safe members are disappointed that none of the group were consulted before Snowdonia National Park Authority issued this statement" said the BMC.

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