Winter walkers need to prepare for the hills

Winter walkers need to prepare for the hills

Scotland’s sport minister today urged winter walkers and mountaineers to get themselves ready for winter.

Shona Robison made the plea as she visited the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s mountain safety adviser Heather Morning. The minister for public health and sport said people should be prepared before venturing on to the nation’s hills and mountains.

The minister, who is the Scottish Nationalist Party’s MP for Dundee East joined Ms Morning during the trip to the Cairngorms where she also met the safety adviser’s search and rescue dog Milly.

Ms Robison said: “Scotland offers some of the world’s most beautiful hills and mountains and I want people to be able to enjoy all of the spectacular scenery this country has to offer.

“However our countryside can present many hazards to climbers and hillwalkers, particularly those who are not suitably prepared. It’s a sad fact that every year climbers lose their lives and it’s extremely important that those wanting to enjoy the outdoors take the time to plan ahead, check the weather and have the correct safety equipment before heading for the hills.”

The sportscotland Avalanche Information Service goes live on 17 December this year, and is an essential service for walkers and climbers heading for the Scottish mountains. In January this year, three mountaineers lost their lives in an avalanche in Coire na Tulaich on Buachaille Etive Mòr.

Heather Morning, mountain safety adviser

Heather Morning, mountain safety adviser

Heather Morning has produced a wealth of information on the Mountaineering Council of Scotland website, and also contributed to grough’s own story on winter mountain safety.

In particular, walkers, mountaineers and climbers heading for the Scottish Highlands should remember the following safety points:

  • Check the weather and avalanche information forecast before you set off and remember that conditions can change quickly. Localised forecasts are available on the Mountain Weather Information Service and the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service
  • Make sure you know your limits and don’t tackle anything that is too ambitious. Winter in the mountains can be challenging and a route that at any other time of the year is easy, can take longer and be more physically demanding
  • Whether going for a relaxing walk or for a challenging climb, be properly equipped and ready to cope with changing ground and weather conditions
  • Consider joining a hillwalking or mountaineering club where advice and access to experience and knowledge is available
  • Take a map and compass and know how to use them. Do not rely solely on technology such as GPS or an electronic compass
  • Winter conditions can be serious so carry an ice axe and crampons, know how to use them and practice on less serious terrain
  • Tell someone where you are going, what your route is and how long you expect to be on the hill.

The MCofS has also arranged a series of free winter lectures and subsidised avalanche awareness and winter skills courses. Details are on the MCofS website.

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