Cicerone author becomes an avalanche expert

Cicerone father and son writing team Allen & Blair Fyffe, have written a guidebook covering all the best winter climbing routes in the Cairngorms and on Creag Meagaidh, Lochnagar and Braeriach.

Allen has been an active mountaineer for over 35 years. He's been involved in every aspect of mountaineering and climbing in Scotland, and has done more than 200 new routes, summer and winter.

In 2006 Blair completed a PhD on slab avalanche release at Edinburgh University. He now works as a forecaster for the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) during the winter months. I caught up with Blair recently to find out how he got involved with SAIS.

"Avalanches are a phenomenon in which I have always been interested. From where I lived as a child it was possible to see the great slab of Coire an Lochan where, most years during the spring, a large full depth avalanche occurs. From a young age I remember every year watching as, over the days and weeks, cracks appeared, grew, and eventually the whole snow slope avalanched.

One year I remember my dad took me up there to investigate the debris, and in later years when I was a bit older I would go up to investigate the debris myself. When I graduated from university I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself, but was lucky enough to know the people involved with the SAIS, and that winter managed to get a job as an assistant forecaster. This led on to a return to university where I did a PhD on slab avalanche release, and after that onto a job as a forecaster in the Lochaber region. This winter will be my 6th as a forecaster in Lochaber area.

Avalanche hazard assessment is achieved by traveling in the mountains on foot or by ski and carrying out snow profiles and field tests, noting many factors which, when combined, present an indication of the current avalanche hazard. On return to base the weather forecast provided by the Met Office team in Aberdeen is used for further information. With this an avalanche hazard forecast is determined, and after discussion between the SAIS forecasters and the Co-ordinator an Avalanche hazard report is published."

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