Snow and Avalanche Center 2011 Avalanche News

Dog who triggered avalanche is reunited with his owners after mountain rescue
7:24 PM,  December 21, 2011

It was a meticulously planned rescue operation – every move could have sparked a fatal avalanche. But with flawless execution, a beloved dog was saved from an icy ridge more than 3,000 feet up a mountain and reunited with his owners.

Jason, a two-year-old cross-breed, was running away up through the snow on Stob Ban, near Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands, when he plunged over a ridge. His owners watched in horror as he triggered a small avalanche in which he was swept down the mountain.

A mountain rescue couple had to set up a snow anchor, then carefully abseil over a cornice, to finally reach the trapped pet.

Mick Tighe, 61, who rescued the dog along with his wife Kathy, said they had battled sub-zero temperatures and the threat of an avalanche to rescue the distressed dog.

Mr Tighe, a well-known mountain guide and rescue team member, said: ‘The poor thing was trapped on a ridge.

‘To get to him I had to abseil over a big snow cornice. We were in real avalanche territory.’

The couple were phoned by the police last Thursday to be told a couple had reported their dog was missing on 3,278ft Stob Ban in the Mamores group of mountains.

They set off at 4am on Friday, tackling the snowy mountain in the dark in order to reach the summit at sunrise.

After being given accurate descriptions of where the German Shepherd/Husky Cross might have strayed they managed to locate him quickly. Rescue: Jason with Mick Tighe, one of the mountaineers who saved him

He was found at about 8am, roughly 350 feet below the summit, on an icy ridge - where he had spent the whole night in the freezing cold.

Mr Tighe added the dog owners had been ‘very sensible’ in deciding not go after Jason themselves.

‘That could have been disastrous’, he said.

‘However, weatherwise it was near perfect, with snow conditions excellent.’

Fighting against temperatures down to minus-five degrees, the couple set up a snow anchor in which Mrs Tighe lowered her husband over a ledge.

Jason already had a search and rescue harness on so Mr Tighe attached him to a rope with a clamp device, and then his wife belayed them both back up.

‘It was a struggle as Jason is quite heavy and initially he just didn’t want to leave his ridge but we got up eventually’, Mr Tighe added.

On the descent, which was also tricky, the couple met the dog’s owners, understood to be from the Shropshire area.

And they were overcome with joy at being reunited with their mischievous pet.

‘It was a very happy scene’, said Mr Tighe, who has carried out over 1,000 rescue operations in the mountains over the years.

His wife, a senior cardiac physiologist at the Belford Hospital in Fort William, ofter referred to as ‘The Climbers’ Hospital’, is also an experienced mountaineer and former resuce team member.

Mr Tighe added: ‘I’ve rescued a lot of pets before, including two dogs that had spent a week in a blizzard.

‘While this wasn’t an easy task, it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary.’

In this case, he said that Jason was a ‘lively’ pet who ran off on his own accord.

‘They were a well-equipped and well-organised couple who had gone on a hike and this was a purely unfortunate incident.

‘I’d be the first to criticise if this was a so-called "stupid tourist" error.

‘But this was purely down to Jason’s exuberance more than anything – his liveliness got him into trouble.

‘Jason’s actually a former rescue dog so it’s probably a bit ironic that here he is being rescued again’, added Mr Tighe.

Jason was said to be none the worse from spending the night on the mountain.

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