Fatal Accident Inquiry - Skye

Mountain Training UK Briefing Note for its Providers and Association members regarding:

Produced 19/12/14

Fatal Accident Inquiry by Sheriff Principal Derek C W Pyle into the death of Graham Greig Paterson who died in Coire na Banachdich, Cuillin Mountains in late December 2012.

The Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of Graham Paterson, who died on Coire na Banachdich in December has just concluded. The Sheriff’s determination was given on 4th December 2014 and published here on 15th December.

Mountain Training UK recognises the risks involved in participating in walking, mountaineering and climbing activities and the potentially serious consequences that can result from any accident. Our sincere sympathies go to Mr. Paterson’s wife and family for their loss whilst also acknowledging the harrowing experience of his client.

The Sheriff made two recommendations, which can be summarized as:
  • Ensure that those acting as “mountain guides” are properly qualified and equipped to provide a commercial service for adults.
  • Inform the public of the importance of party members being equipped to deal with the possibility of an accident occurring to the leading member of the party.
The terms ‘Guide’, ‘Instructor’ and ‘Leader’ have specific meaning with regard to mountaineering qualifications. Each one defines a particular range of activities that an individual has demonstrated competence in. Summer and winter are also key words in defining the scope of qualifications with the latter requiring further assessment in a range of additional competences. Mr Paterson had begun the process of registering for the first level of summer qualification for leading in the mountains, the Mountain Leader Award, but he did not hold any qualification issued by Mountain Training. Our qualification system is clearly illustrated here.

Regarding the need for qualification, Mountain Training’s aim is to educate and train people in walking, climbing and mountaineering activities and over a fifty year period we have developed a hierarchy of mountaineering leader and instructor qualifications which we strongly recommend to all those interested in leadership (voluntary or professional) and to those seeking to engage leaders, instructors and guides. Our qualifications are the result of considerable deliberation on the range of skills needed to operate competently and safely in the mountains. Mountain Training’s qualifications are the benchmarks for those who work with the public and are recognised as such by government and across the adventure activity sector.

Our Fifth Edition of the ‘National Guidelines for Climbing and Walking Leaders‘ gives general advice on safety management systems and the operational scope of each qualification. We support the Health and Safety Executive’s view that there are several ways for activity leaders to demonstrate their competence. We believe that our qualifications, the supporting professional associations and their continuing professional development (CPD) processes contribute to a largely self-regulated sector which is generally acknowledged to be “safe”. We have actively contributed to the development of accreditation systems, both statutory (AALA) and sector-led (AAIAC) and expect to launch a further system of ‘Adventuremark’ accreditation for ‘micro-providers’ through our Mountain Training Association in 2015.

Regarding the importance of party members being well equipped, and well informed, the Sheriff’s account of this incident is a salutary reminder to all leaders to consider carefully how much to involve all participants. It has been the custom and practice of our leaders over the last fifty years to work alone, as often as not with a single client, and all to great effect; whether that be achieving a particular objective or intense training in a particular skill. Nevertheless this incident reminds everyone that roles can be reversed and in that case the more informed and better equipped the participants are then the greater the chance of a successful outcome should an accident occur. Similarly, we encourage an incremental introduction to mountaineering with venues and locations being selected to suit the skills, abilities and aspirations of the party and have recently developed accredited Hill and Mountain Skills courses, which provide a good introduction to these skills.

Owen Hayward, Chair. Mountain Training UK