With Scotland’s hills and mountains currently at their most beautiful and most challenging, the UK’s mountaineering bodies have issued a joint safety reminder, emphasising the need for preparation before heading out into the mountains. Whether you’re out walking or attempting a technical climb, the presence of snow and ice adds an extra dimension to the risks and rewards of a day spent in our wildest environments.
The primary consideration of every expedition, whatever the season, should always be a safe return. But conditions in winter make particular demands: shorter days, low temperatures and conditions underfoot which can quickly alter.
Preparation is an essential component of every day on the hill, and especially in winter.Preparation not only includes carrying the correct equipment – and knowing how to use it – but getting the latest weather forecast and checking the status of hazards like avalanche risk. It’s essential also to assess whether the chosen activity is within the ability of all the party as well as the time available.
For many climbers and hillwalkers, preparation is not just necessary but enjoyable. Preparing correctly displays the signs of thoughtful competence towards safe movement in the hills that is the mark of a good mountaineer. Effective navigation, knowing when your limits have been reached and whether to turn back, are also extremely important. Turning back must not be considered a failure.
The benefits of recreation in the hills are numerous and widely recognised. Hill walkers and mountaineers find their lives are enriched by their experiences. These are best realised through planning and preparation, recognising all the challenges the journey may present.
The BMC, the MCofS and the SMSF continue to offer advice on good practice in the hills, acting as a resource for mountaineers and hill walkers of all standards to make their visit to the mountains as safe as possible.