Deadly Peaks

THE TRAGEDY at Aonach Mar is the worst avalanche incident recorded in Scotland, but it is not the worst disaster to hit the Scottish mountains. In 1972, six teenagers from Edinburgh died after they were caught in a blizzard on a 4,000ft summit plateau of the Cairngorms.

The most dangerous time of the year for climbers and skiers is from mid-December to mid-April, when most avalanches are recorded. The notorious 1994-1995 "season" claimed 12 lives. There have been a total of 48 deaths recorded from avalanches since 1980. More than 200 people have died on the mountains in the past 18 years.

Guides and safety experts have attributed many accidents to inexperienced climbers underestimating the dangers. With its frightening cliffs and swiftly changing weather, Ben Nevis is said to kill more climbers than the Eiger in Switzerland. However, the experts say the Scottish peaks are statistically safer now than a few years ago. "It is accepted that fatalities have been in decline in real terms when the rise in participants is considered," a rescuer said.

Linus Gregoriadis

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