Snow and cold take deaths to record high: Rescue workers are warning climbers of changeable weather, reports John Arlidge

THE WEATHER was blamed by mountain rescue workers yesterday for the 14 deaths in the Highlands so far this year - twice as many as in the same period in 1993, and the highest recorded figure for the opening months of any year.

Mountain safety groups warned climbers and walkers in the Scottish mountains to guard against unseasonably variable temperatures and winds, which have been accompanied by the heaviest snowfalls for seven years.

Alf Ingram, secretary of the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland, said: 'In the past two months we have experienced temperatures from plus 5 or 6C to minus 27C with the wind chill, and winds of between zero and 125mph.

'Sometimes these changes have occurred within a 12- or 24-hour period, so that people who have looked out of the window in the morning and thought that they would be going out for a pleasant stroll or climb for the day have found themselves locked in a battle for survival.'

Douglas Paterson of the Glasgow Weather Centre said: 'There is much more snow on the slopes now than at this time last year because, unlike 1993 when a prolonged thaw led to serious flooding, temperatures have stayed mainly below zero. As well as creating avalanche problems the snow, combined with high winds, has also led to the build-up of large cornices (snow overhangs) - which are extremely dangerous.'

Last week Jacqueline Greaves, 53, fell through a cornice in the Cairngorm mountains and spent two nights in temperatures below minus 20C before being rescued.

The body of an Irish climber, Kevin Mulroy, 29, from Edinburgh, was recovered from Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain, yesterday morning. Rescue teams said the man and his companion Brian Boot, 27, from Chester, made a 'navigational error' while attempting to descend in 'white-out' blizzard conditions and fell into a gully.

In response to the latest deaths, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland yesterday issued safety guidelines for climbers. Kevin Howett, national officer for the council, said that despite warnings climbers and walkers were underestimating the dangers on the peaks.

'The mountains of Scotland may not be as high as the Alps or as steep, but they are much, much further north,' he said. 'When you get up above 1,000 metres there is nothing between you and the North Pole, and when the wind starts blowing and the snow closes in conditions are arctic.'

Climbers should check long- and short-range weather forecasts and local avalanche warnings before setting out, he said. If navigating with a map and compass was not 'second nature', they should practise the skill. He added: 'You can't beat the mountains but you can come to terms with them. We are not saying climbers should stay off the slopes, but they should act to minimise the risks.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent