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Saturday, 26 January, 2002, 11:51 GMT
Mountain safety tests 'vital'
Snowdon is popular with outdoor activity groups
The Scout Association faces renewed calls for leaders to undergo full mountain activity competency tests in the wake of two deaths on Snowdon in the past three years.

Alun Pugh, AM for Clwyd West, said he believed children were "still at risk" on trips into the Welsh mountains and he has called for higher standards of safety.
Alan Pugh
Alan Pugh wants more controls

A senior mountain training expert has also questioned whether changes to the association's safety rules go far enough.

The association said it had decided on grounds of cost and time that scout leaders should not take a recognised competency qualification.

Instead, leaders will attend a training course.

But Mr Pugh condemned the decision, claiming it was the "difference between taking a couple of driving lessons and then not taking a driving test".

Enthusiasm is not a substitute for expertise in mountaineering

Alan Pugh AM

"The answer must be for the Scouts to only take young people into much less demanding terrain, and not scrambling on high ridges," he said.

The latest criticism follows the death of 10-year-old Jonathan Attwell on Snowdonia, in October 1999.

Exactly a week after Jonathan's death, 35-year-old Christopher Oliver died after falling down a gully on Cader Idris, Snowdonia.
Jonathan Attwell
Jonathan Attwell: Fell from ridge

Now Mr Pugh wants a Welsh mountain safety group established and better standards of leadership for those in charge of children's parties.

Following Jonathan's death, the association set about overhauling its outdoor activity rules.

Changes included strict adult-scout ratios and new procedures on authorising expeditions.

The organisation said that those who failed to abide by the regulations could be suspended from the youth movement.

The body's guidelines state: "the association has had to recognise the very real costs involved (both financial, and in terms of time off work) to leaders in a voluntary movement seeking to gain such qualifications".

Mr Pugh, who is an expert mountaineer, is not satisfied with this ruling.
scout gerneric
Better safety for Scout trips is sought

"The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority has significant reservations about the Scout Leadership framework, which fall below the nationally recognised standards," he said.

"It is not possible to eliminate all risk associated with these activities but the use of properly qualified leaders can minimise the hazards."

He added: "Enthusiasm is not a substitute for expertise in mountaineering."

Criticism has come from other areas too.

Ian Peter, of the Mountain Training Trust at Plas y Brenin, Snowdonia, advised the Scout Association on improving standards following Jonathan's death.

"They have done enough to make it out of the firing line, but they could have done more," said Mr Peter.

"Where I disagree most with the Scouts is they bring in more rules and regulations, but unless they change their whole culture, the rules do not make any difference."
Christopher Oliver, Scout leader
Christopher Oliver: Accident victim

A spokesperson for The Scout Association said: "We can show Mr Pugh the changes we have made to our procedures covering Adventurous Activities, many of which are in line with the appropriate national governing bodies' recommendations."

Jonathan Attwell was on his first outdoor trip with the scouts when they climbed Snowdon in October 1999.

After reaching the summit and resting at the cafe at the peak of the 3,560ft high mountain, they began their descent down the East Ridge.

They had only gone 100 metres when Jonathan disappeared from the back of the group - an RAF Sea King rescue helicopter later found Jonathan's body in a gully.

Former scout leader Peter Finlay from Bristol was found not guilty over the boy's death.

He had always denied manslaughter.

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