Many outside of the Mountaineering world will not realise that the mountains in Scotland continue to take a toll. This year there have been 11 fatalities on the Scottish Mountains according to the Media, every one a tragedy. At present there are 4 others missing one for over a year in the Scottish Mountains. I have always been interested in Mountain Safety and was the Statistician for the Scottish Mountain Rescue for some years. I have noticed along with others who looked at this recently that three of the missing are solo male walkers in their 60’s, my age group! What can we do?
Firstly as Heather Morning the Mountain Safety Officer says ” thankfully most of us return home safely” but for a few others a day out can end in tragedy and trauma that can go on for years. Yet for the families of the “missing” these are terrible times.
In my 40 years involvement in Mountain Rescue I have searched for climbers and walkers a few who seemed to have vanished. The anguish of the relatives and families is unforgettable and as mountaineers and walkers we should always bear this in mind when we venture out. Many families are still in touch and the loss of a loved one in the mountains especially if they remain missing for a long period is heartbreaking for all the family. It is tragic time for all concerned and Mountain Rescue Teams, SARDA and other Agencies continue to search long after the Media leave.
Some advice that I give out in my lectures on Mountain Safety is given below:
If going out alone please tell someone where you plan to go, its easy leave a message or text someone your intentions. I have a hill buddy who I tell or my Stepdaughter and on the summit leave a message by text when possible. It is easy and saves a huge amount of worry for those who sit and wait while we enjoy these wild places. A simple call when down at your transport so easy and it is not hard to do. If something goes wrong then the Rescue Agencies have a start point! It is worth leaving a note on a Bothy or your tent simple route! These are the first places that the Rescue Agencies will check if you go missing! Some say it takes away from the solitude of being in the wild ! Tell that to a relative that is waiting or as I have seen and heard them shouting into the hills for their missing father, husband child! It’s a no brainer for me, I have seen this grief close – up it horrendous!
As we get older common sense tells most of us we cannot do as much as in our youth so plan your day accordingly and enjoy what you do. You are not that 21 years old but still can have great days. A slip or a fall can be serious so take care, many accidents start with a simple slip!
I also feel as we get older for many our eyesight gets a bit worse, I have unfortunately wore spectacles all my life so it’s not new to me. I have learned for many years to cope, I enlarge up my maps on the computer so in bad weather I can see the cliffs/ danger areas without my glasses. Many of this age group are coming to grips with wearing spectacles add rain and snow and you could have a viability problem. The screens on phones and GPS in bad weather can be hard to see and batteries can fade all in a normal day in the mountains.
Does this ring a bell? Navigation is a huge part of mountain accidents so the old thought ” I know the hills like the back of my hand” is to me rubbish. Get your map out and compass and practice your skills no matter how big your ego is. I learn every time I go out and skill fade is so relevant as we get older.
Please take this advice as I go out often on my own and love it and if you take care it is wonderful in the mountains at this time of year.
Safe walking and climbing.