There were only 14 days without a mountain rescue callout. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

There were only 14 days without a mountain rescue callout. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

A study by Britain’s national mapping agency has revealed many hillgoers are clueless about what to do if things went wrong.

Ordnance Survey said one in eight of people asked would not know how to deal with a mountain emergency if they had no phone signal.

And three-quarters of recreational walkers don’t plan their route properly or pack the right gear, the survey found.

The figures were released as OS announced it was teaming up with Mountain Rescue England and Wales, the umbrella body for voluntary teams south of the border, to try to reduce outdoor incidents.

There were only 14 days last year where a mountain rescue team in England and Wales wasn’t called out.

In 2016 MREW attended 1,812 callouts, up 170 on the previous year, of which 360 were serious or fatal. Mountain bike incidents also continued to rise in 2016, though not at the same rate as previous years.

OS’s survey of more than 2,000 adults from across Great Britain who enjoy recreational walking and hiking highlighted the need for a more safety-minded approach when venturing outdoors.

A total of 83 per cent of those questioned admitted that if they were in trouble on a mountain and had no phone signal they wouldn’t know what to do. It also revealed how more and more walkers and hikers, especially those from younger generations, are not carrying paper maps, compasses or whistles, and are relying entirely on the functionality of their mobile phones, even though only 28 per cent of all respondents would think to check in advance the availability of a mobile phone signal in the place to where they are heading.

Mike France, chair of Mountain Resue England and Wales

Mike France, chair of Mountain Resue England and Wales

Mike France, chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, said: “Each week thousands of people head outdoors in Britain and enjoy their adventures without incident.

“We certainly don’t want to discourage people from doing this, but people need to make sure they have the right kit and have let someone know the route they’re taking if they are heading off the beaten path. This can save lives.”

Mr France said almost 500 of the incidents MREW attended could possibly have been avoided. “We had people contacting us because they were lost, stuck, or suffered a minor slip, some said they were ‘simply unable to continue’.

“These types of incidents place a huge strain on our resources and volunteers, who in 2016 gave up over 80,000 hours of their time helping and rescuing others who have run into difficulties. It’s great to be partnering with Ordnance Survey’s GetOutside initiative and educating people on both the benefits and steps people should take to enjoying the outdoors.”

Paul Cook of Wasdale Mountain Rescue team said: “The big area of growth has been in people phoning up on a mobile from Scafell Pike saying that they are lost and asking if we can help them. It’s vitally important that people who go into the mountains have the right map and compass, and that they know how to use them correctly.”

    OS and MREW compiled a checklist for people heading to the hills to ensure they enjoy the experience and don’t become a mountain rescue statistic.

    • Plan ahead. Investigate the route thoroughly and take into account your experience and capabilities and the experience and capabilities of anyone joining.
    • Check weather conditions. Weather can change dramatically over the course of a walk, especially in hilly areas. Have a contingency plan in mind in case the walk needs to be cut short.
    • Practise your navigation skills. Make sure you are confident of interpreting a map and using a compass to navigate. Being able to give the emergency services an accurate grid reference for your location can save valuable time and lives.
    • Carry and wear the right kit. For the basics, warm and waterproof clothing – multiple thin layers are always better than one thick jumper, walking boots, a map, compass and navigation skills are essential, as are a decent supply of food and water. If you’re heading into the mountains or for longer walks, you really should be thinking about a survival bag, a torch or head-torch, spare batteries, a whistle, spare clothes, hat and gloves, a first aid kit, spare food and even an ice axe and crampons – but know how to use them properly. Take a good rucksack to carry everything in and that you’re comfortable carrying it.
    • Always have a back-up. If you prefer to navigate with a GPS device, do carry a paper map and compass as back-up. The free app OS Locate app will give you an accurate grid reference for your location and does not need a phone signal.
    • Let people know where you are. Letting someone know where you are going and when you are likely to return is a good idea. Make sure you notify them when you return and agree a time when they should contact the emergency services if you don’t contact them.
    Nick Giles, managing director of Ordnance Survey Leisure. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

    Nick Giles, managing director of Ordnance Survey Leisure. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

    Nick Giles, managing director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, said: “Great Britain is a varied and beautiful country, offering something different each time you head out.

    “Mountain rescue do an awesome job in often difficult circumstances, and it is a job we should all be appreciative of. Their figures for last year and our survey findings demonstrate the ongoing importance of keeping safe and being prepared when heading outside.

    “While you can never eradicate accidents, we can at least as individuals take more responsibility in the hope preventing incidents. Let’s see if together we can reduce the number of mountain rescue incidents in 2017.”

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