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A useful inclinometer/thermometer

When there’s masses of snow on the hills, as there is now in the Scottish Highlands, there’s always a risk of avalanches. Every winter season (which can last from October to May) there are many avalanches, most not involving anyone. Some however are triggered by people and these can cause injuries and deaths. The likelihood of being avalanched can be reduced if you take precautions.  Knowing what to do if one occurs is also wise. Checking avalanche forecasts where available (the Scottish Avalanche Information Service covers six areas) and the weather forecast can give an idea of conditions.

Knowing the slope angle and the air temperature (particularly rapid changes in the latter, which can lead to the snowpack becoming less stable) can also help in making safe route decisions and assessing snow conditions. This is where a new product called Slope Angel comes in. It combines an inclinometer and thermometer in a tiny waterproof electronic unit that only weighs 16 grams and which is simple to use. It runs on an easily replaceable 1225 3V button battery that is said to last 1-2 years depending on usage.

The Slope Angel has one button that lies flush with the casing so it’s hard to press accidentally. Once pressed the display cycles through temperature in Celsius and Fahrenheit and the angle of the slope. After 16 seconds it switches off. The device can be placed directly on the snow but to keep it parallel with the slope it’s better to place an ice axe or trekking pole on the snow and put the Slope Angel on this. Trying this out I found it easy with an ice axe but a little tricky with a pole due to the round narrow shaft.

Three cue cards are provided with the Slope Angel with useful information on the device and on avalanches.

The Slope Angel was designed for off-piste skiers in the Alps but is useful for anyone venturing into snowbound mountains. Hillwalkers may feel that only climbers venture into avalanche terrain. However most avalanches occur on slopes between 34 and 45°, angles not uncommon on walking routes.