Hillgoers are being urged to ThinkWINTER. Photo: Duncan Gray

Hillgoers are being urged to ThinkWINTER. Photo: Duncan Gray

Experts are urging hillgoers in Scotland to prepare for their trips to the mountains, as winter takes hold in the Highlands.

Seven different organisations have co-operated in the ThinkWINTER campaign to try to increase awareness of hazards faced by hillwalkers, climbers, mountaineers and others venturing out during winter.

The move is aimed both at experienced hillgoers and those venturing out in winter for the first time, or who have less experience. It is using traditional and social media and began with the Scottish Mountain Rescue annual conference at Glenmore Lodge at the weekend.

The campaign culminates in the annual launch of the sportscotland Scottish Avalanche Information Service forecast this Friday.

Partners in ThinkWINTER are organisations involved in mountain safety including Scottish Mountain Rescue, Mountaineering Scotland, Glenmore Lodge, the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, SAIS, the Mountain Weather Information Service and Police Scotland.

Mountaineering Scotland said: “Winter has well and truly arrived in Scotland’s mountains and thousands of enthusiasts will be taking to the hills for mountaineering, ice-climbing and snowsports touring, making the most of a season that for many offers the best mountain experiences of the year.

“But the rollcall of accidents over the years underlines the extra hazards faced during the winter season and the need for those going into the hills to ensure they have the necessary experience and equipment and have made proper preparations.”

Topics covered will include raising awareness of the challenges involved, planning, navigation, being prepared for weather and avalanche hazards, and what to do in an emergency.

Heather Morning, mountain safety adviser with Mountaineering Scotland, said: “Scotland’s winter mountains offer some truly magical experiences, but they be gnarly and challenging.

“If you want to get the best out of your mountain adventures then you have to be sure you are properly prepared and have all the skills required.”

Shaun Roberts, principal at Glenmore Lodge, the national outdoor training centre, said: “Successful adventures this winter will require well informed decision making.

“Front-load your activities with some quality time spent assessing the critical information: mountain weather, avalanche forecasts, underfoot conditions, the nature of the terrain.

“Understand your own motivations for your trip to the mountains and find like-minded people to experience them with, ensuring an open dialogue about your plans, you capabilities and equipment.”

Kev Mitchell, vice-chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue, added: “We would always encourage people to enjoy the hills in winter. However, it’s absolutely vital that you are prepared.

“Leave earlier to get back earlier because of the lack of light, and adapt your day to the conditions. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and kept in a warm place, and not used for navigation.

“Mapping software for phones is great but it eats up batteries, especially in winter conditions.”

Mark Diggins, co-ordinator of the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, said: “As the winter season begins we should start to prepare for the normal challenges that we will be faced with in Scotland’s mountains.

“Getting good information helps any mountain enthusiast decide where to go and what to do. Avalanche reports and other useful information can be obtained from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, and the Met Office, and MWIS websites.”

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