24th January 2009

Climbers killed in Buachaille Etive Mòr avalanche

An avalanche on Buachaille Etive Mòr caused several tonnes of snow, which had been precariously supported by high pressure, to come tumbling down the mountain.

Three men – Eamon, John and Brian Murphy – were killed, and six others were injured. They had been climbing in blizzard conditions, and the snow slip carried them half a kilometre down the mountain. They weren’t covered to a great depth, but it was enough to cost them their lives.

Rescue mission

RAF and Royal Navy helicopters flew to the scene and the men were flown to Fort William, where they were pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.

Mountain rescue leader John Grieve told Scotland on Sunday, “it was really bad up there. It was snowing heavily, but there was a gap in the weather. It was really hairy up there and really soggy. Nearly all avalanches are slabs of snow coming down, but here there were no big, dry blocks. The conditions were very difficult.”

Snow funnelled into pass

A climber who had been on the mountain at the time of the avalanche was quoted in the Observer the following day. “Coire na Tulaich acts like a funnel, about 10 metres wide and 20 metres deep,” he told the newspaper. “As the first climber neared the top, a slab of snow, around 300 metres wide, slipped and gave way. Thousands of tonnes of snow was funnelled into a 10-metre-wide pass. The people below wouldn’t have had anywhere to go to escape. It could have been moving at up to 75mph. The survivors were very lucky.”

Before the 2009 accident, the most recent fatal avalanche at Buachaille Etive Mòr had been in 1995. However, the following year, another avalanche killed two men from London when they were descending the peak at the end of their climb.



Other events that occured in January

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