Getting out into the hills is the perfect remedy to the hectic lives we lead and has been proven to enhance our well-being, but we must be prepared as the mountain environment can change very quickly. The weather on the hill could be very much different than at the roadside. We can be prepared by making sure we follow some basic rules.

How to be Prepared

Scottish Mountain Rescue are here to support our member teams to carry out search and rescue operations. We are a very small organisation and supporting our member teams to help them provide a world class rescue service is always our priority. We therefore cannot reply to enquires about the weather forecasts, climbing conditions and route advice. We recommend you visit the websites listed below as a starting point for more information.

Leaving details of your route

It is a good idea to let a responsible person know the details of where you are going and what you are doing. This can be achieved using an information or route card, many examples of which are available, as in the link below.

Mountaineering Scotland – Route Cards

 

What to take?

Having the right kit is essential not only to keep you warm and dry but to keep you safe. The kit you buy, and use should reflect the type of activity that you intend to do and the conditions you may face. Outdoor shops will be able to provide you with advice on what you may need. The following list details the essentials for general hillwalking:

Boots
Well fitting, suitable for the terrain you will walk on and the activity you plan to do. Gaiters may be beneficial for areas that are particularly boggy or where ticks may be present.

Clothing
A layered system is always best as you can adjust for the temperature better. The base layer should wick away the moisture with an insulating mid-layer and a breathable waterproof jacket (with hood) and trousers. A hat and gloves should be packed also. Avoid any materials that may absorb water e.g. cotton T-shirt or jeans. If possible, wear clothing, especially a waterproof jacket that is a bright colour, so that you can easily be found in the event of an emergency.

Navigation
Always, always have a map and compass and know how to use it. Smartphones or GPS are excellent navigation aids but should not be relied on solely. Make sure you have the right map for the area you are walking in and check that your compass is working each time before you set off.

 

Rucksack
Only use a rucksack big enough for the items that you will need. You may have to keep the contents in a waterproof bag if the rucksack is not waterproof.

Safety equipment
A whistle, head torch (with spare batteries or – better – a spare torch), survival bag, group shelter, first aid kit and mobile phone are essential. If you walk on your own, consider using a Personal Locator Beacon.

Other items
Walking poles are very useful as they save energy and limit damage to the knees. Don’t forget to pack according to the weather so a sun hat, sun glasses and sun screen along with midge repellent/net should be packed if appropriate. Take enough food for the whole of your journey and have some packed as emergency rations. Carry a water bottle. You will usually be able to top this up from mountain streams, but it’s best to check availability in advance so you don’t run short.

Winter conditions in Scotland are prevalent for many months of the year. Additional items may be required such as extra clothing, helmet, ice axe, crampons, winter boots and avalanche equipment.

What skills do you need?

Some skills are required to remain safe on the hill and there is a vast amount of resources available to inform beginners and experienced walkers alike. Mountain skills courses are available to cover all skills required in the mountains and these are often the best way of enhancing your knowledge and skills for the mountains. Mountaineering Scotland and Glenmore Lodge both offer a range of courses.

There are many factors that go to make up how you can remain safe on the hill, such as having the right equipment and having essential skills such as navigation, knowledge of the effects of weather (use a mountain weather service), first-aid, recognition of the hazards and what to do in case of an emergency. To gather experience, don’t jump straight in at the deep end: take a progressive approach and build on the skills and experience you have already gained so that you’re not tackling things beyond your capabilities.

What to do if you have an accident?

Only a very small number of walkers or climbers get into difficulty in the mountains, but you must be prepared and know what to do and who to call. If you are involved in an accident in the hills, the main thing is to remain calm, assess the situation and then decide what to do;

Make sure you and the group are not in immediate danger
Give first aid to the injured
Locate your exact position
Keep warm and decide whether to descend, find shelter, remain where you are or call for help.

If you call for help in the mountains, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Police and Mountain Rescue. The following information will be required;

Location (6 figure grid reference or named location)
Number of casualties and nature of injuries
Number in the group and what equipment the group have
Your phone number and the numbers of any other mobiles in the group.

Register your mobile phone now with the 999 text service as, if the signal is weak, it still may be enough for a text message and these can only be accepted if the phone used has been pre-registered. It’s simple to do: just text the word ‘register’ to 999. You will get a reply and should then follow the instructions you are sent. This will take about two minutes of your time and could save your life.