A climber has described the moment his group narrowly avoided being crushed by massive rocks as they fell from above him in the Cairngorms.
Kieran Cunningham was climbing the Corrie an t-Sneachda, near Aviemore, along with his friends Rosa Fappiano and friend Theresa Wald, when boulders started raining down the mountain.
They were on the third pitch of the Aladdin’s Couloir route in the Cairngorms when the rockfall happened at about 2.30pm on Saturday, April 24.
A large section of the ridge above Corrie an t-Sneachda, collapsed, sending car-sized boulders hurtling down the 600ft gulley in which they were climbing.
‘Heard a scream from below’
Mr Cunningham was climbing in the Cairngorms for the first time in years when the incident happened, and admitted he thought Ms Fappiano was in “serious trouble” when the rocks began hurtling towards her.
The 39-year-old said: “I was leading and got up to the third pitch and was pulling my partners up beside me, and got one up, while the other was about 50m below us on the rope.
“We heard a scream from below and we looked up and there was a shower of rocks flying over our head and at this point, they were maybe the size of your head or a briefcase or something.
“I was already scared at that point as they were heading in the direction of my climbing partner Rosa who was down below.
“Then, suddenly this huge rock, which was the size of a car came flying over the top and I thought she was in the direct fall-line of the rocks so thought she was a goner, the size of the big rock and there were plenty of others flying down in her direction.
“We really didn’t have time to think at that point, it all happened very quickly, my first thought was that Rosa was in serious trouble.
“Luckily though, when the big rock was coming down and got close to Rosa, she managed to jump out the way and knelt down behind the rock, so the big one bounced just over her head.
“She’s 4ft 11ins so I think if she was any taller, she would have been toast, she did dive in the way of another rock which hit into her arm.”
The trio, from Edinburgh, managed to escape without any serious injuries.
The scale of the rockfall was captured in a video by mountain guide Ron Walker of Talisman mountaineering, who was near the base of the corrie at the time.
Mr Cunningham added: “We got incredibly lucky and we were repentant too for being up there so late in the season and so late in the day, as that’s when things become less stable because often the snow and ice are holding the rock together and rocks are prone to detach at that times.
“I have experienced something like this a few times before, just last summer I was smack on the head on a mountain in the Italian Alps and actually told my two climbing partners that story when we were driving there in the car.
“Falling rocks are pretty much part and parcel of the mountaineering experience so you always hope it won’t happen to you and you don’t expect them to be that big.”
Mr Cunningham is an editor of the Advnture website, and has a book about his rock-climbing (or lack-of) coming out this month.