Skier missing after avalanche in the Scottish Highlands

Search resumes for missing skier swept up in huge avalanche in the Scottish Highlands
Emergency services called to area near Glencoe Ski CentreThirty people involved in the search operationLeader of mountain rescue team admits it is unlikely the person would be found alive
Person described as 'an experienced off-piste skier' who was 'out of the ski area'
Temperatures could drop to -10C in the Highlands tonight

By
John Hutchinson

PUBLISHED:

18:18 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:25 GMT, 31 March 2013

Rescuers have resumed their search for a skier missing after being caught up in a major avalanche in the Scottish Highlands.

The man was skiing in an off-piste area behind Glencoe Ski Centre with his friend when the avalanche struck at about 1pm yesterday.

He was swept away during the incident and efforts to find him have so far been unsuccessful.

Harsh conditions: The search for the missing person is focusing on an area 'off the piste' near to the Glencoe Ski Centre

Harsh conditions: The search for the missing person is focusing on an area 'off the piste' near to the Glencoe Ski Centre

About 30 people from Glencoe and Lochaber mountain rescue teams, police, the mountain resort's ski patrol and a helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth have all been helping with the operation in the Etive Glades.

John Grieve, leader of Glencoe Mountain Team, said the avalanche travelled about 1,000ft down the rocky face of the slope.

'The avalanche has actually gone into a gully, and in some places the snow is about 40ft deep,” he said.

'Our guys have been out digging deep trenches and probing from there, as our poles are obviously not long enough to do it from the surface of the snow.

'The missing man is an extremely experienced skier.

'We have called off the search for tonight and will resume at first light tomorrow morning. We will continue looking until we find him.”

Scene: The ski lift at Glencoe Ski Centre, Scotland

Scene: The ski lift at Glencoe Ski Centre, Scotland

Mr Grieve added that, given the circumstances, it was is unlikely the skier could have survived.

'It's not like a normal ski slope where it is mainly smooth and straight,' he said. 'There are a lot of rocks around and it is more dangerous.'

The missing skier's friend is not thought to have been hurt in the incident.

Glencoe Mountain Resort posted on its Facebook page: '(We) regret to say that an experienced off-piste skier skiing outwith the ski area was caught in a major avalanche this afternoon.'

Off-piste skiing, also referred to as 'back country' skiing, involves the use of unofficial slopes which are not patrolled or maintained.

A forecast on the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service website on Friday placed Glencoe at 'considerable risk' of an avalanche.

'The snowpack is moderately to poorly bonded on many steep slopes,' it said.

'Triggering is possible, even from low additional loads, particularly on the indicated steep slopes. In some cases medium-sized, in isolated cases large-sized, natural avalanches are possible.'

An RAF search and rescue helicopter, like the one pictured, assisted the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team in the operation

Hope: Rescue teams are combing the Scottish Highlands after one person was believed to have been caught in an avalanche

Mark Fulton, 25, from Gourock, Inverclyde, was skiing all day with his family on the slopes at the Glencoe Ski Centre and saw the rescue mission unfold.

'I was up there from about 10am and at lunchtime we went in to get something to eat at the cafe and we saw an emergency helicopter hovering about,' he said.

'It looked as though it was coming in to land near the bottom of the hill. When we were leaving later I saw police and mountain rescue vans all gathered as well.

'I didn't actually know there had been an avalanche until I was driving home and heard it on the radio.

'It's just not something you think about when you're going out skiing, you never think something like that will happen to you – it's like when you get on a plane, you don't think it's going to crash.

'I just hope the person is found safe and well.'

Earlier this year four climbers were killed in an avalanche on Bidean Nam Bian, a mountain which is about 10 miles from Glencoe Ski Centre.

Hospital doctor Rachel Majumdar, 29; PhD student Tom Chesters, 28; Christopher Bell, 24, also a PhD student; and 25-year-old junior doctor Una Finnegan are thought to have fallen 1,000ft in the incident on January 19.

Meanwhile, police said an ice climber was airlifted off Ben Nevis on Friday after injuring his leg.
He was taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William by a helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth at about 4.45pm.

In a separate incident, a 48-year-old man was rescued when he injured himself while out walking in the Cuillin Hills, on the Isle of Skye on Friday.

He was airlifted to hospital in Glasgow and is said to be in a stable condition.