Fred and Ben navigate around the Fairfield Horseshoe

Fred and Ben navigate around the Fairfield Horseshoe

The number of rescues we report here on grough is testament to the potential dangers of walking on Britain’s hills and mountains.

Although fewer than 0.5 per cent of mountain rescues involve deaths, there are many things walkers can do to help themselves becoming a rescue statistic. Three expert bodies have jointly produced a DVD to educate hillwalkers in how to enjoy their days on the uplands without succumbing to the common hazards which might be encountered.

Hill Walking Essentials is just that: expert advice for anyone thinking of moving their walking expeditions from safer, low-level routes to Britain’s hills and mountains, and for those who want to build on their experience and move on to tougher routes involving, for instance, scrambling.

The 140-minute disk was produced by the British Mountaineering Council, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Mountain Leader Training England and covers summer hillwalking techniques from navigation to weather awareness; river crossings to dealing with ticks.

Even seasoned hillwalkers will learn a few essential tips for their trips to the mountains. What, for instance, might it mean if you felt like your skin was being touched by a spider’s web? What’s the ‘favourite’ time for mountain rescue callouts?

Scrambling techniques are illustrated on the DVD

Scrambling techniques are illustrated on the DVD

The footage, shot last year in the Lake District, Lochaber and Glencoe, follows Frederlina Yong and Ben Brittain-Dodd as they tackle the Fairfield Horseshoe and the Carn Mòr Dearg Arête. The pair then go on to complete the classic Highland scramble across Aonach Eagach.

In addition, there is footage of an ascent of Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mòr. But even if you aren’t contemplating getting the ropes out for an airy ascent, there is plenty of information for run-of-the-mill hillwalking.

Technical chapters on the DVD cover weather; dealing with cliffs and boulder fields; hypothermia and hyperthermia; river crossings; clothing and kit; dealing with ticks, and how to undertake a leader’s award. There is also a discussion on the state of mountain rescue and how best to deal with incidents, should you be involved in one on the hills.

The navigation chapter, in particular, should be viewed by anyone who has ever found themselves lost on the hills. Anticipation is the key to good mountain navigation and Frederlina and Ben pay close attention to the terrain as they tackle the Lakeland route and then the CMD Arête. Relating the map to the ground, especially contours, is important.

Time estimation, breaking routes into easily navigated legs, and looking out for potential hazards are dealt with.

The disk also stresses the importance of choosing routes according to experience and ability and the fact that a progression on to tougher routes, including scrambling, is the key to not overfacing the walker.

It’s clear that there is no real solution to one of the Highland’s most enduring hazards. Every navigation halt on the route to Ben Nevis’s peak is accompanied by a cloud of midges. I pitied the poor film crew too, who must have been bitten to death. Not too many takes along the Allt a’ Mhuilinn, I bet.

Ticking off features, using the compass, estimating distance, using catching features, relocation and use of GPS units are all discussed.

While midges may be a nuisance, ticks are much more serious. Many of these blood-sucking arachnids carry Lyme Disease, which can have very nasty consequences if untreated. There were 797 cases of the illness in 2007, with another possible 200 instances going unreported. Hill Walking Essentials has advice on how to avoid, and deal with the little biters.

There is information on leadership qualifications, from the Walking Group Leader award for moorland terrain, right up to International Mountain Leader for those who want to take groups in Europe and beyond.

Mountain rescuers discuss hillwalking

Mountain rescuers discuss hillwalking

A hillside discussion complete with a very unimpressed-looking Search and Rescue Dogs Association canine member imparts useful information on mountain rescue. Did you know, for example, that there are only two emergency call-handling centres for mobile phones in Britain, so it’s important to say early in your call just where you are?

Some of the most impressive footage is on Aonach Eagach, with its difficult pinnacles, overlooking Glencoe. The DVD stresses that party members should be comfortable with the routes they undertake. The ridge is not a place for beginners; routes should match experience.

If everyone venturing on to Britain’s hills watched Hill Walking Essentials, the uplands would see fewer casualties and certainly our mountain rescue teams would have fewer calls to lost souls on the hills.

Fred and Ben tackle Aonach Eagach

Fred and Ben tackle Aonach Eagach

For aficionados of Britain’s mountains, the DVD also provides footage of some great scenery while at the same time informing and educating.

Forget the latest reality show. This is Britain for real.

Hill Walking Essentials costs £15.50 plus postage and packing, and can be ordered from the BMC’s online shop.

You should also be able to get your hands on it in good outdoors shops.