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Mountain Safety

Reprinted with kind permission from Mountain Rescue
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The following points cover the minimum precautions you should take in order to maximise enjoyment and enhance your chances of a safe return.

Planning and Preparation

Plan before setting out!
Consider the equipment, experience, capabilities and enthusiasm of the party members. Check the weather forecast and local conditions; Mountains can be major undertakings. Night falls early in the winter and the further north you go!

Learn basic first aid. Many accidents occur towards the latter part of the day when your energy levels are down and your phone battery life is low. Did you remember to charge your battery before setting out?

Clothing and Footwear

Wear suitable boots with a treaded sole which provide good support for ankles. It is advised that clothing should be colourful, warm, windproof and waterproof.

Take spare warm clothing, a hat and gloves; it is generally colder the higher you go.

Food and Drink

Food – In addition to your usual food intake, take chocolate, dates, or similar sweet things, which restore energy quickly. You may not need them yourself, but someone else may.

Drink – In warm conditions dehydration can be a real problem, your body uses more water climbing than walking on level ground. Take plenty to drink, as you become more experienced you will become better able to judge the amount of fluid your body requires under different conditions.
‘Isotonic’ sports drinks consist of a good balance of salts, and carbohydrates, necessary to replace the sugars, salts and mineral lost through perspiration. This may also reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps.

Equipment and its Use

A map, compass (and the ability to use them), and at least one reliable watch in the party should always be carried.
In all conditions, you should carry a whistle, torch, spare batteries, bulbs and a survival bag; but in winter conditions, an ice-axe and crampons are essential.
Climbers and mountain bikers are all urged to wear helmets at all times.

Party Size

If in groups, make sure party leaders are experienced; do not let the party become separated.
Take special care of the youngest and weakest in dangerous places.
If you prefer to go alone, be aware of the additional risk.

Emergency Procedures

Be prepared to turn back if conditions are against you; the Mountains will still be there tomorrow.
If you have a serious problem, get a message to the Police (999) for help as soon as possible and keep injured/exhausted people safe and warm until help reaches you.

If you cannot contact anyone, use six whistle blasts or torch flashes, repeated at minute intervals, to signal an emergency.
Report changes of route or timetable to someone who is expecting you.

Mobile Phones

Do not rely on a mobile phone to get you out of trouble. Signal coverage in mountainous areas is very unreliable.

Mountain Rescue has many years of experience in calls from mobile telephones and, whilst they are excellent when they work, there are many things that can go wrong.
Even moving a few feet in the mountains can mean losing the signal. You will be advised of best practice when contacted.

If you are able to summon help using your mobile phone KEEP IT SWITCHED ON SO YOU CAN BE RE-CONTACTED.

Weather Forecast

Check the weather forecast before you set out and be prepared to change or abandon plans if the weather is unsuitable.

Other Dangers

All can be avoided

  • Precipices
  • Slopes of ice or steep snow
  • Very steep grass slopes, especially if frozen or wet
  • Unstable boulders
  • Gullies, gorges and stream beds
  • Streams in spate
  • Snow cornices on ridges or gully tops
  • Exceeding your experience and abilities
  • Loss of concentration, especially toward the end of a long day
  • Dangers – require constant monitoring
  • Weather changes – these can be sudden and more extreme than forecast
  • Ice on path (carry an ice-axe and crampons – and know how to use them)
  • Excessive cold or heat (dress appropriately)
  • Incipient exhaustion (know the signs; rest and keep warm)
  • Accident/illness (don’t panic – if you send for help, make sure you stay put and the rescuers know exactly where to come)
  • Passage of Time – especially true when under pressure – allow extra time in winter conditions

Pride is one of the biggest dangers

It is no disgrace to turn back if not certain. A party must be governed by the abilities of the weakest member.