#4 – Would you like some ice with that?

Big ice fall on the Twll Du cliffs, Cwm Idwal

What a week!  One of my excursions included sub-zero temperatures where I was glad I was wearing my down jacket, and with a perceptible avalanche risk and so much ice that I regretted not wearing crampons……….Yes, shopping at ASDA can have its moments!

The temperature here in West Yorkshire did not rise above zero for more than a week, and we had snow avalanching off roofs.  As for the pavements, I would feel a bit foolish striding into ASDA wearing 12 point crampons, but last week the pavements here were lethal – my risk assessment for walking outside was along the lines of – “Yup, it’s risky!”

Mention the phrase “risk assessment” and people either nod wisely, possibly with a pained expression, or their eyes glaze over.  If you think about it, though, we are carrying out risk assessments all the time in our everyday lives – can I get across the road before that Eddie Stobart truck runs me down, can I get away with putting the rugby on TV without it causing a domestic…. well you get the picture.

Our trips out in the hills involve an element of risk, even easy, uncomplicated hillwalking, so the ability to carry out a simple risk assessment can be useful.  It’s really not rocket science.  Things to consider are –

What can go wrong?

Who will be affected if things go wrong?

How likely is it that things will go wrong?

What are the likely consequences of things going wrong?

Can we do anything to stop things going wrong, or to make the consequences less serious?

No need to fill in a long complicated form, just keep asking the questions.  The process is exactly the same, whether you are planning a simple walk up a valley bottom or climbing 30 metres of vertical ice with your last protection a long way away.  By thinking about the risks beforehand, it’s easier to come up with a solution if (when) things don’t go as planned.


Anyway, my risk assessment must have been OK, ‘cos I managed to get home from ASDA without breaking anything.  Just in time for pre-dinner drinks…..

”Would you like some ice with that?” – “Nah, too risky, might choke on an ice-cube!”

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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5 Responses to #4 – Would you like some ice with that?

  1. Mike says:

    Fabulous “colour” pic. Not a glacier, but them pointy things will go right in your head if the drop.


    • It would make your eyes water a bit!!


    • If you look at the image very closely you will see two people – Go to the base of the obvious cleft (Twll Du, otherwise the Black Hole or the Devil’s Kitchen) From there, go horizontally left about half the distance that Twll Du has in height – there are two tiny black figures below two very large black boulders.
      If you can pick the figures out it will show the scale of the icefall.


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