Experts urge safety in winter mountains

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Hillwalkers and climbers are being urged to stay safe as they prepare to enjoy what for many is the most rewarding season of the year.

With winter now starting to bite, many hillwalkers and climbers will be looking out their ice axes, crampons and head-torches. But mountaineering experts have stressed that it takes much more than this to be ready for winter.

Mountaineering Scotland has highlighted the high quality of online information which can be easily accessed before heading for the hills.

Mountain safety adviser Heather Morning said: ‘There are some excellent resources for mountain weather information. Check out www.mwis.org.uk and the excellent new Met Office mountain pages at www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/mountain-forecasts

‘If there is snow on the ground, then check the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) at http://www.sais.gov.uk/, which provides free daily reports on snow conditions and an avalanche forecast for six mountain areas of Scotland.’

General advice is also available through the Mountaineering Scotland website at www.mountaineering.scot and, in partnership with Tiso and Cotswold stores, the organisation is running a free winter safety lecture tour.

Check out www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/courses-and-events/winter-safety-lectures for dates and venues.

Heather added: ‘Folk heading out onto the hills in winter should take advantage of the advice and information on offer to ensure a safe and enjoyable day.

‘As well as making sure you have an ice axe and crampons that fit, remember that winter days are shorter and colder, so a head-torch with spare batteries is essential. A simple bivouac shelter is also a very good addition to the kit you carry in your winter rucksack.’

Kev Mitchell, vice-chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said: ‘Mountain rescue in Scotland is provided free by world class volunteers on call at all times and in all weathers. We fully endorse the Mountaineering Scotland winter safety message and would encourage hillgoers to ensure that they have left details of their intended route and expected return time.

‘People should also be aware of and use the latest navigation and location technology such as GPS or OS locate and other similar apps to avoid navigation errors. However, it is critical that a paper map and a compass are carried and that people know how to use them.

‘If you require assistance on the hills, dial 999 ask for police then mountain rescue.’

For more essential winter mountaineering advice go to the Mountaineering Scotland website at www.mountaineering.scot/activities/mountaineering/ winter-mountaineering.

For more details of Scottish Mountain Rescue teams visit www.scottishmountainrescue.org.