Looking out of my window at the falling snow I keep thinking of the climbers killed by an avalanche in Glen Coe yesterday. I did my winter mountaineering training in Glen Coe many years ago and in fact was subsequently up Bidean Nam Bian in snow on my own a few years later. I love mountains, I love them even more in the snow, and I love risk. 

I used to satisfy my need for risk riding fast motorbikes, then in a more modest form playing sax in a pop band, then climbing hills in all weathers, now I get to write the odd challenging blog post and stand on stages. It’s not the same. There is something deeply satisfying about competence in the face of real risk. Keeping a lid on your fears, knowing what you are doing, and managing the risk to come out alive.

The guys in Glen Coe were probably just unlucky. Some will no doubt argue they shouldn’t have been there. But, odd though it may sound, I keep feeling jealous. Obviously not of the outcome – but of the endeavour.

3 thoughts on “Risk

  1. When I was at Aberdeen University we saw a number of deaths on the Mountains and one of the key things was the fact that the majority of those that died were English who visit for the weekend and so went out regardless of conditions because of the fact that they have travelled so far for so long.

    Risk is always a hard thing to understand, our children are stopped doing many of the things we did as youngsters as they considered too dangerous. As such they are missing many experiences and have a different attitude to risk, which can be demonstrated by their preparations today for a trip to the Ballet in Islington which had all the attributes of an attempt on a walk to the North Pole.

    For those that lost their life in Glen Coe all that we can say is that they did so living rather than watch others do so.


  2. Yes I have heard that theory about the English deaths Ian and whether true or not it does come to mind every time I am on a hill and feel pressure to get to the top because I have travelled so far and waited so long. Knowing when to turn back and save it for another day is a key skill. In fact the time I got to the top of Bidean was my second attempt. The day before I was with a friend with no mountain experience who was getting really jumpy and we turned back. I felt safer coming back on my own the next day but still kept making decisions at each point of return whether to go on or not.

    Totally agree with your last sentence.


  3. Some similarities.

    I was also looking for risk and adrenaline with a big motorbike, when younger, and afterwards moved to climbing. But I continue…, including ski mountaineering which is the riskiest sport related to avalanche. Although they say the rate of death is higher among mountaineers than skiers because skiers have more knowledge and are more prepared.

    Avalanche and seracs are the most difficult risks to assess. The experts tell you that even if you make a test (don’t know in English…cutting in the snow to show the different levels and check its cohesion) it doe snot guarantee that somewhere else in the same slope there will not be risk.

    I am sad for these guys.


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