Should you advise people poorly equipped on the mountain in dangerous situations?

I have seen many things in my life in the mountains and have never been part of the “mountain Police” I believe in everyone’s right to go out into the wild and enjoy and experience these special places. Unfortunately I have spent much of my life and still do talking to families who have been involved in mountain tragedies all over Scotland.

Coire na ciste

Ben Nevis - no axes just a few sticks ? Is this adventure or ............. any views!

Ben Nevis – no axes  or crampons – just a few sticks ? Is this adventure or …………. any views!

Just now the mountains are incredible the winter is long and the conditions due to the Arctic weather mean that the ground is frozen hard, it has below zero for a long time now. All the snow open to the wind is rock hard neve  (hard snow) where the ground is incredibly difficult to walk on. As the ground steepens it becomes worse and a slip unless stopped when ascending or descending can be and is at times fatal or you can have a serious injury. No matter how well equipped you are.  I had two good friends who were coming down off Ben Nevis yesterday after a wonderful days climbing in a fantastic venue and in superb conditions. As they came down the mountain path  at the zig – zags above the red burn they were amazed how many walkers were on the hill without crampons and ice axes!   They are both very experienced mountaineers who have spent over 30 years involved in mountain rescue. They now work offshore and climb whenever they can and are out all over the mountains regularly. They were descending with crampons and ice axe out, the snow was rock hard neve.  One of the party was a ten-year old boy and another was crawling on the ice and they were still going up to the summit.

The weather was superb but very cold – what would you do?


I have followed a few Blogs and tweets where a few have defended the right to go on the hill as they do and a few have used the defence that they are walkers not mountaineers. Some say there is no need for crampons as they can stay off the ice?  Crampons to me are a necessity in winter but so is the skill to use them as is the use of an ice axe. Maybe I am not as talented as them but there again few have seen the grief I have after a slip or fall.

Have a think if venturing out this Easter these winter mountains are outstanding, the weather is special but it is a hard winter. It is still  full on winter and will be for several weeks. Enjoy,the holiday take care but give yourself a chance, you owe it to those who play the waiting game while we enjoy these wild places!


“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

I am off to the North West at last it is snowing in Burghead at sea level, I hope we have a good and safe day before the Easter crowds arrive.




About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Should you advise people poorly equipped on the mountain in dangerous situations?

  1. Andy Smith says:

    Hi Heavy. I read your blog and initialy thought as you wrote “it is everyones right to go onto the hills and enjoy themselves” but having said that its not everyones right to go out “ill equiped” and to put both themselves and others in danger whether that be on snow capped mountains in winter or when the sun shines in the summer months, and by others i mean the people who are with them or inevitably the rescue teams who have to deploy to help/save/recover them. I have very little experience at the type of hillwalking/mountaineering that you and some of the other folk on here do but i would never do anything that would put myself or others in jeopardy and i certainly wouldnt take anything for granted when it does come to going into the hills and mountains.Over the years i have heard countless stories from the likes of yourself and others at Kinloss or crews and teams when stationed at Lossiemouth about hapless individuals who have seen the sun out and have decided they now have the ability to conquer anything from Ben Rinnes to Everest wearing only a pair of trainers and a gortex jacket. The mind boggles. To be honest would a well meant word in an ear or a minimal code for equipment that was enforced actually stop “joe public” from just popping out for a stroll in the mountains ? and It would be a tough one to police even if you wanted to wouldnt it ? Common sense does prevail for the majority of folk using the great outdoors but unfortunately i think the hapless few will still do “as they think fit”.
    All the best from the mountainless Northampton.


  2. ptsd17 says:

    Yes I believe you should tell them, the same way you should tell a skydiver about to jump that he hasn’t got a parachute, no point in waiting until after the event. It could be that they just never thought of having that bit of kit, or didn’t realise it was needed on that route. Those responsible walkers will either say it’s packed, or thank you for your advice, and the ignorant big headed ones well at least you can leap sound after watching the news in the knowledge that you actually said something. Remember winching Bob Daines,


  3. ptsd17 says:

    Bloomin phones…
    Remember winchman Bob Daines, he would be nice as pie to a correctly geared up walker winched aboard, heaven help you if you were in jeans an trainers on the hills!


  4. Derek Watters says:

    Although conditions here in Ireland are not as severe as in Scotland, relative to what we are used to, they may well be proportionally worse! I have been signing from the same hymn sheet as yourself this past few days, especially as the long weekend approaches. I have not told people not to go to the hills, but merely informed them of the severity of the conditions I have encountered and the need for proper winter gear.


  5. ptsd17 says:

    Heavy, same goes for your routed walking plan. I usually go out alone, and sometimes for a couple of days at a time camping out. I always lodge my route with a local police station giving details of my route, places camping, vehicle & registration , equipment description and people to contact. When I park especially on multiway trips I leave a note in my windscreen advising a route plan has been left with local police. On my return I advice the station, or post a note if not in to say I’m safely off the hills. Now if the missing journalist had done this maybe the outcome would be a happy one.


  6. GRM says:

    I recently encountered 4 young Japanese students as I was coming down off Ben Arthur. I had turned back a few meteres from the top due to the conditions. They were totally ill-equipped the girls wearing town coats and one even in white trainers. I advised them that conditions weren’t ideal butthree of them decided to carry on anyway. I watched from the path as they continued to ascend. As I watched I was greeted by a young lad clad in T-shirt , jogging pants and trainers. He asked what I was doing and when I told him he announced he would “Look out for them” on his way up. At which point I thought “What’s the point ? ” and continued down the hill. I recalled an old saying much beloved by an old army instructor of mine ……….”You can’t educate pork !”


  7. Ash says:

    Agree with the sentiments but it’s not a night club with a dress code and nothing annoys me more than the snobbery of those who may have all the gear directed at those who aren’t clad in lycra and goretex…Sir Hugh and Arthur W would probably be sneered at by some of these fluoro-wonders…Boaties go out ill equipped as well…we need to be a friendly cmmunity rathe rthan hill police and accept the fact that common sense isn’t always that common


    • rob says:

      ash i am sorry i cant agree. its not a nightclub with a dress code but it requires skills, common sense, experience, judgement and the right safety equipment. it doesnt have to be brand new. you can get amazing kit very cheap or second hand at the end of winter. even old serviceable kit from sir hugh’s and arthur w’s day would be better than having no safety equipment at all and relying on mountain rescue.


  8. Larry says:

    Yes definitely tell them, in fact if so dangerous to go on say to them “you must not go on, we will not let you”


  9. Gary Hodgson says:

    It’s a hard one Heavy. We were on Sgurr na Banachdich yesterday. It was cold and many areas of neve above 700m. We saw a group of 3 descending in ‘summer’ atire. trainers/approach shoes. 1 small rucsack between the 3. of them. they were descending by a mixture of sliding, bum sliding or gingerly trying to get grip in the hard snow. We passed them later on below the snowline. They ‘got away with it’ this time. Next time? Unfortunately I see this so often on the hills now and it just seems so comenplace.


  10. raz.frew says:

    met a few numpties who still had price tags on their kit.
    get skills, go light, move fast. Be aware of the consequences. (ive had a few epics and some really cold nights but im still here so I assume im on the right side of my limits)


  11. graham says:

    id love to go up in the winter months but the weather can change way too fast ,no matter how much gear and experience you have you cant beat the weather,ill settle for your pictures and live thanks .tell them they probably wont listen but at least you tried to warn them .


  12. summitfever says:

    I have nowhere near the experience like your good self, but I do work in the outdoor industry, guiding in mountains overseas. Inexperienced people who are ill equipped are in NEED of advise and in my experience are more than happy to be helped by someone who obviously knows their beans. The difficult situation is the team that THINK they know what they are doing, that’s where a little bit of diplomacy and tact can be used. Sorry I’d rather deal with a bruised ego than another real time casualty extraction.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.