The search dogs of Northumberland’s mountain rescue team were training recently, practising their avalanche rescue capabilities.
There are several areas in the county where avalanche is a serious risk when there are significant accumulations of snow on the hills.
The Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team (NNPMRT) and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team (NOTMRT) last responded to an avalanche in February 1988, in the Bizzle area of The Cheviot, which resulted in two fatalities and two people injured.
Avalanche survivors are often buried, requiring others to dig them out.
Time is critical to avoid running out of air and dogs play a vital part in finding people quickly.
The dogs find people through the scent that all of us give off and, as such, avalanche training requires real people to be buried in the snow.
A member of NNPMRT was buried last week and filmed Ben, one of the search dogs with NOTMRT, during an under-snow rescue. You can watch the video on the Gazette website.
When the hills of Northumberland are in full winter conditions, walkers should be aware of the additional risks that need to be managed.
This includes route choice to avoid slopes with unstable snow conditions – 90 per cent of avalanche victims are the trigger leading to the slide.
If such slopes are unavoidable then transceivers, probes, shovels, ice axes and crampons should be carried.