Its not enough to be a path follower? Food for thought? Comments welcome.

When we go out on the hills we have a “duty of care to each other” and when we have an epic or an accident it is too late to think what if?  How many times have I spoke on the phone to lots walkers who did not have a map or were separated from their hill party in bad weather. It is not a nice experience and that could be you!  Yet the mountains are about fun and enjoyment adds some risk into a day but why stack the odds.

Walking on a path in the mist, add some snow and its gone or over rocky ground, in poor weather, what next?

Walking on a path in the mist, add some snow and its gone or over rocky ground, in poor weather, what next?

When you loose a path in mist, poor weather, or fresh snow you could end up on very serious ground!

Lee Wales on a ledge somewhere in Scotland

Many know my background 40 years in Mountain Rescue seeing many sad accidents and fatalities, yet I go out often and alone and still enjoy the mountains. I have had accidents and many near misses in my life where at times I was having over 150 hill days plus expeditions a year. I have also taught many basic skills over the years to so many novices.

When we decide to go out we should all have a map and compass and some knowledge of their use? Top Tip – THE MAP WILL BE NO USE IN THE RAIN AND SNOW UNLESS YOU HAVE IT PROECTED IN A MAP BAG OR CASE?

map and sign

In the Mountains it is not enough to be a “path follower” we all need to open our eyes and be able to look after ourselves. This starts with fitness and basic skills like map reading and map interpretation and the basic use of a compass. This only comes with practice it took me a bit of time to get the hang of it.  It is a skill that needs constant practice but you can learn and added to the GPS/ Phone that many have is a tool to be used to help but not the answer to everything, a strong basic knowledge of navigation is essential.

So next time you are out bashing these Munros and hills take some time if you have the experience to teach the others a few basic skills like reading the map and being aware of where you are. Then add taking a few simple bearings and walking to a point keep it easy and then add more. Look round identify the hills and features and work out without a compass what direction you should be walking in?  Navigation can be fun it is essential.

taking a bearing

Top Tip – LOOK AT THE MAP AND WORK OUT THE DIRECTION YOU SHOULD BE WALKING IN!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wearing glasses does not help in the mist and rain, I enlarge my maps for the tricky areas so I can read them without my specs – Top Tip ?

This is one of Lochnagar around the cliffs.

The map has been enlarged to show more detail in poor weather. Remember to ensure you have the grid figures as well! - Top Tip.

The map has been enlarged to show more detail in poor weather. Remember to ensure you have the grid figures as well!  – Top Tip.

Update – Kev Hewkin – Heavy, that’s a good idea one I use myself, but if you do you need to remember that 2cm no longer = 1km, the scale needs to be adjusted accordingly

 

When we go out  we should only take out competent hill walkers/ Mountaineers? Not mr job etc. My reply is “Who helped you learn?” someone gave time and of their knowledge surely its good to give back to others and they will grow from strength to strength? Then they will be able to go out and enjoy the mountains safely.

Learn the basics in good weather map orientation essential.

Learn the basics in good weather map orientation essential.

Make sure you carry a phone and if you have the Emergency Text service registered it may help you even in an area of poor communications.  See below for details and it is free?  If on a meet make sure that your contact number is up to date, if not change it.

Plan your hill day a good guide is  *Naismith’s rule : 4km/h distance + 600m/h ascent. This changes with fitness, gear carried,weather, snow, wind and remember to add breaks. Why not try some prior planning and see if your day is possible? Looking at the map is enjoyable and builds your knowledge.

 

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland run  reasonably cheap navigation course get on one! Many others like Glenmore Lodge and many local guides will help and day with one of these agencies is cheaper than your £150 boots or jacket?

ben navigation map

Is your phone number registered with the emergency Text Service?  –  The emergency SMS service people in the UK send an SMS text message to the UK 999 service where it will be passed to the police, ambulance, fire rescue, or coastguard. Simply by sending an SMS message to 999 you can call for help and the emergency services will be able to reply to you. You will need to register your mobile phone before using the emergencySMS service, click on the Registering your phone link above for more information. Click here to download the emergencySMS leaflet.

So there we are a few ideas, mostly simple but it may give you and even more importantly those who wait at home some peace of mind if anything goes wrong. We follow this crazy pastime and yet many worry about us we are due it to those that sit and wait.

Safe mountaineering!

Enjoy the hills and wild places any comments welcome.

Enjoy the hills and wild places any comments welcome.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, SAR, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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