THINK SAFE – SAFETY ON THE HILLS
Leading on from my article ‘Introduction to Walking in Scotland’ before venturing out onto the hills and mountains of Scotland you should firstly consider your own safety and secondly the safety of others in your party.
Hill walking has its risks. Firstly you are away from the main populous areas in Scotland where assistance can be readily obtained and secondly communications may be a problem.
There are several things you can do in advance of your walk. The first question you should ask yourself is “are you fit enough for the challenge?” If not lower your expectations and commence a fitness regime to enable you to meet the challenges of a day out on the hills. You should consult your family doctor first if you have been living a sedentary life style.
If you consider that you are fit enough you should then plan a walk within your and your companion’s capabilities. There is no point in deciding on a 20 mile hike over the top of a hill if you can only walk for around 3 hours.
Now that you have decided on the route you need to ensure that you have a map of the area and you know how to read it. A compass will be of use to ensure you are walking in the correct direction. A map and compass, and knowing how to use them is a must if you are intending venturing off the beaten track.
The next thing to consider is the weather. Check local forecasts on the radio, television or on the internet a few day’s beforehand and if possible on the day of your walk as it will give you an idea of the weather pattern. If the weather isn’t to your liking postpone the walk until suitable weather arrives. The following are very useful. The first one divides Scotland into five different mountain regions while the BBC web site allows you to select weather for a particular town or city.
You must also be properly equipped to walk in the hills. A layering system is best but do not use cotton materials as they do not dry very well. This includes jeans. You also need suitable footwear and ensure any new boots have been broken in. Waterproof or rainproof gear should also be carried together with a hat and a pair of gloves.
In addition you need some food and drink. Snacks are best and this is your opportunity to include a couple of chocolate bars. If it is cold you should consider taking a hot drink. This should all be carried in a suitable backpack together with some spare clothing and a first aid kit containing plasters, blister pads and any medication you may need.
If you own a mobile phone take it with you but ensure that it is fully charged. However you should be aware that reception in the hills and mountains of Scotland is unreliable. You may need to climb to get a signal. In addition a whistle may be a useful addition. Six short blasts are used to summon assistance and it is probably more useful that shouting for help. To acknowledge a distress signal it is three short blasts. Before setting out leave details of your route with a reliable person and also the time of your expected return together with instructions on what to do if you fail to meet that deadline. Also ensure that that person is aware of any change to your plans or if you have come off the hill and decided to go visiting to prevent any unnecessary call-outs.Despite how well prepared you are an incident on the hills may still occur. It may not be with your group but with someone you come across. If an incident does occur firstly you need to consider your own safety and the safety of the other members of your party before treating the casualty. If you are unable to walk the casualty off the hill and assistance is required and you cannot get a mobile phone signal you will need to send for help. This will involve splitting up your party and whoever goes for help should be fully briefed on the extent of injuries to the casualty, what assistance is required and the exact location of the incident. Someone should remain with and comfort the casualty.The following link details lists to the Mountain Rescue Teams in Scotland on the www.mrcofs.org website .
Some of these MRT’s have there own web sites with some additional useful information.
Despite what you read or hear in the news the majority of walkers return home without incident so don’t be put off by what is said. Go out onto the hills and enjoy yourself with the knowledge that you are properly prepared for any eventuality.
Think Safe – Safety on the Hills was compiled, on behalf of the Scotland Travel Guide, by Lindsay Boyd who owns and runs Caledonia Hilltreks a guided hill walking business operating throughout Scotland.
Other articles by Lindsay on Visit our Scotland includes the Introduction to Hillwalking in Scotland