Would you advise wearing a helmet when scrambling?

When I was with the RAF Mountain Rescue looking back I am sure when we went scrambling we wore helmets. This was as we had you carry them anyway on case we were airlifted to a Rescue. On many searches it was wise if there was a chance of a fall on steep ground we wore helmets. In places like Skye due to loose rock to me they were essential.

After getting down

Nowadays I still wear a helmet if out on a scramble. A few years ago I was with pals on the Dubhs Ridge in Skye during a heatwave.

“It was a perfect day in Skye one in a million and the forecast was exceptional. We had set of early about 0500 and enjoyed the first bit of the day. We were already hot and had a great break after completing the first part of the route.. It is easy to sit and admire the views especially when it is so hot, my water was down to 1 litre and we had a long way to go. I grabbed a drink and headed up. The two boys ahead were about 40 feet above us when I heard a shout of below and a rock flashed by me and hit another of the party on the head, it was a scary moment. Within seconds he had a huge bump like an egg on his head and was shaken but fully conscious. I got down and was very worried when I saw the damage. There was no other option but to get down as quickly as possible and luckily there was a steep grass ramp taking us into the Corrie. I had been done it before so in good weather it was fine.

The Dubhs

The other two wanted to come down with us but we thought that we three could cope. We were in a remote area and no communications were possible apart from the emergency text service ) We were pretty experienced so managed the situation, you can take little chance with a head injury. We monitored him all the way down and stopped at the streams to keep the bandage wet and the swelling down. It took 3 hours to get off and we were glad to see the Loch Coruisk. Our patient was feeling okay (as hard as nails) and soon was down in the river cooling off. He went for a check up later and was a bit of a celebrity on the boat back. How stupid were we that day not wearing helmets after 40 years in the mountains we had made a silly mistake. Looking back we were extremely lucky.

Another lesson taught to us all it could have been so much worse. What are your thoughts?

A great guide to the ridge

Some comments more welcome :

Years ago when I was younger probably not but now I do quite often things dislodged from above so a helmet is sensible maybe age and experience helps. Kirsty

Bruce – Personally yes, especially so when in a group, or if it’s busy – a couple of weeks ago I made my group wear helmets on the scrambling section of Mt Olympus, basically in case some ‘Malaka’ (as they call them in Greece) knocked something down on top of us.

Glen – Depends although mostly yes. Maybe not on Crib Goch or CMD arete, maybe yes on Fiacaill Ridge, Aonach Eagach. Definitely on Curved Ridge, Castle Ridge, Pinnacle Ridge. I also work on scrambling routes and always helmets in that case inc. An Teallach, Liathach…Just my tuppence worth.

Maybe a sign of age (or maybe experience) but these days, find the helmet is on early and off late. Recently been in Colorado and helmets are totally normalised for scrambling (more to do with rockfall than falling off granted). Graham K

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 Islands, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Would you advise wearing a helmet when scrambling?

  1. ptsd17 says:

    Unfortunately an RAF Regt Sgt I used to go climbing and walking with in Germany was killed by a dislodged rock from a climber further up Mont Blanc, it was a one in a million chance as he was quite sheltered where he was, but a shout from the people above instinctively made him look up at the wrong moment 😕😕 I’m sure if he had a helmet on he’d have survived.


  2. I’d say helmets should be worn for scrambling especially here in the Cuillin. Always surprised how many people you see without them and even worse the people you see somewhere like the Great Stone Chute with a helmet on their pack not on their head. Given how light and comfortable modern day helmets are, it’s a bit of a no brainer.

    Liked by 1 person

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