Walking in Scotland - Hillwalking safety measures

  • The Midgie
  • 1 March 2009
Faerie River

Much of what we know about safety in the mountains arises from the mistakes that people make. Dr. Bob Sharp, of the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, takes us through the key aspects for a safe and enjoyable day in the mountains

Many accidents result from poor preparation. Think through your day in terms of clothing, equipment and effort. Always take spare clothing, waterproof gear and a hat and gloves. Ensure you have enough food for the day, as well as drinks to keep you hydrated. All items should be packed in a waterproof lined rucksack. Most importantly, you should have a map of your walk (an Ordnance Survey map not a photocopy from a guide book!) as well as a compass and torch. Many walkers are benighted because they fail to carry a simple torch with fresh batteries.

Next, plan a route that is within your physical capability and can be completed during daylight. Don’t push the envelope! Think about the ground your route will take and also consider alternative routes should the weather turn poor or someone fall ill.

Top tip: spend five minutes looking at the forecast the evening before, check the Mountain Weather Information Service at www.mwis.org.uk

Key skills
It’s no good having all the correct gear if you can’t use it properly. Learn how to read a map and compass and master basic skills such as setting the map, relating map to ground, taking a bearing and walking on a bearing. If you don’t have these skills then plan a route below cloud base.

Pace yourself to make sure you don’t fatigue or overheat. Make sure you have regular stops (but if the weather is very cold keep them brief). Be mindful of wet ground and loose rocks - slips are common on descent. And if you’re with a friend, then stay together.

Emergency procedures
Occasionally things go wrong. Follow these steps:

1 Stay calm and take time to assess the situation and safeguard the group.

2 If anyone is injured, remember ABC - airway, breathing, and circulation (signs of life/blood loss). Make any casualties warm and comfortable and if anyone is unconscious place them in the ‘recovery position’.

3 Determine your exact position on the map and consider the options for descent to safety: what will the terrain be like? How far is it? Can you carry the casualty? Will the casualty’s injuries be made worse by travelling? Could your situation be resolved by staying put?

4 If things go wrong, then find shelter. But don’t use up valuable time and energy unless you are sure about finding shelter.

5 If you decide you need outside help and have a mobile phone, then conserve battery life by having all the details to hand before phoning. If there is no mobile coverage consider moving to another location to phone from. Dial 999 and ask for Police and Mountain Rescue. When connected provide location, number and names of people in the party and any injuries.

6 Be ready to provide the following additional information: mobile number, nature of the incident, time of the incident, weather conditions, equipment at the accident site, any distinguishing features of the accident site.

7 If going for help on foot then leave at least one person with the casualty and, if possible, send two or more people for help. Make the casualty’s location easily seen by search parties.

Whilst the chances of an accident are exceedingly remote, the risks are increased if you fail to take note of this simple advice.

Further information about mountain safety can be obtained from www.mcofs.org.uk/home.aspWalking in

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