Mountaineering experts are pleading with hillgoers to go prepared for winter after a series of tragic incidents over the past few weeks.
Ten people have died on Scotland’s mountain s this year, prompting three official organisations to point out that hillwalkers and climbers need to a take the right approach to winter expeditions.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, British Mountaineering Council and the Scottish Mountain Safety Forum issued a joint statement today.
The three groups said: “The primary consideration of every expedition, whatever the season, should always be a safe return.
“But conditions in winter make particular demands: shorter days, low temperatures and conditions underfoot which can quickly alter.
“Whether you’re out walking or attempting a technical climb, the presence of snow and ice adds an extra dimension to the risks and rewards of a day spent in our wildest environments.”
The mountaineering bodies said preparation is an essential component of every day on the hill, especially in winter.
“Preparation not only includes carrying the correct equipment – and knowing how to use it – but getting the latest weather forecast and checking the status of hazards like avalanche risk,” they said. “It’s essential also to assess whether the chosen activity is within the ability of all the party as well as the time available.
“For many climbers and hillwalkers, preparation is not just necessary but enjoyable. Preparing correctly displays the signs of thoughtful competence towards safe movement in the hills that is the mark of a good mountaineer.
“Effective navigation, knowing when your limits have been reached and whether to turn back, are also extremely important.
“Turning back must not be considered a failure.
“The benefits of recreation in the hills are numerous and widely recognised. Hillwalkers and mountaineers find their lives are enriched by their experiences.
“These are best realised through planning and preparation, recognising all the challenges the journey may present.”
Recent deaths of hillwalkers and climbers prompted freelance journalist and former MSP Dorothy-Grace Elder to call for access to the mountains to be restricted. Her comments on Newsnight Scotland and the use of contentious fatality numbers by the programme’s presenter brought demands from the MCofS for clarification of the facts.
Ms Elder also said the MCofS should ‘get tough’ and should say ‘don’t go in bad weather’.
Today’s statement said: “The British Mountaineering Council, Mountaineering Council of Scotland, and the Scottish Mountain Safety Forum very much regret the recent mountain tragedies, and extend their deepest condolences to the bereaved families.”
The expert groups said more information on good practice is available on the MCofS and BMC websites. Weather and avalanche information can be found on the Mountain Weather Information Service and sportscotland Avalanche Information Service site respectively.