Rock-slope failures in the North West Highlands

Colin K. Ballantyne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over 400 postglacial rock-slope failures >0.1 km2 in extent have been identified in the NW Highlands. Most are rock-slope deformations (40%) or arrested rockslides (38%), with smaller numbers of fragmented slides, rock avalanches and rockfalls or topples; 78% are located on schists. All can be considered paraglacial features, preconditioned by rock damage due to ice loading and unloading, glacial erosion, thermomechanical effects and hydromechanical fatigue during successive glacial episodes. Progressive failure (brittle shearing of internal rock bridges and reduction of friction angles to residual) has probably played a major role in reducing rock-mass strength to critical levels, and there is evidence that seismic activity caused by reactivation of faults during glacio-isostatic uplift may have triggered rock release in some (possibly many) cases. Numerous debris-free failure scars represent rupture surfaces of rock-slope failures where displaced rock or runout debris has been removed by glaciers during the Loch Lomond Stade or earlier. Rock-slope failures operating throughout much of the Quaternary have played a significant role in shaping the present form of mountain summits and ridges, glacial troughs and many cirques.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandscapes and landforms of Scotland
EditorsColin K. Ballantyne, John E. Gordon
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783030712464
ISBN (Print)9783030712457, 9783030712488
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2021

Publication series

NameWorld geomorphological landscapes
ISSN (Print)2213-2090
ISSN (Electronic)2213-2104


  • Arrested rockslides
  • Debris-free failure scars
  • Earthquakes
  • Fragmented rockslides
  • Paraglacial
  • Progressive failure
  • Rock avalanches
  • Rock-slope deformations
  • Rockfall
  • Toppling failures


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