Cairngorm Disaster

(Feith Buidhe Disaster)

Britain's worst mountain accident took place between the 20th and 22nd of November 1971 in the Cairngorm Mountains. A party of teenagers from Ainslie Park School in Edinburgh had set out from Lagganlia Centre for Outdoor Education with three leaders, two of whom had limited mountain experience. The plan was a two-day mountain navigation exercise, but bad weather descended. Having failed to reach the Curran Shelter in a blizzard, the party spent two days sheltering in a snow bank. Despite attempts to locate them, five children and a leader died. A memorial service for the victims was held at Insh Parish Church at Kincraig on 28th November 1971.

A subsequent Fatal Accident Inquiry, which included notable scientist Dr. Adam Watson (1930 - 2019) as an expert witness, made a number of recommendations about expedition leadership, suitability of winter expeditions for untrained school pupils and the value of high-level mountain bothies as shelters. The last point gave rise to much debate and eventually the demolition of such shelters on the Cairngorm Plateau on the basis that they gave false comfort to the inexperienced, and trying to find these in bad conditions was worse than attempting to head for lower altitudes.

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