How to stay safe on the hill

Tips on dealing with emergencies when hill walking in the UK

We’ve all seen the articles of mountain rescue coming out for unprepared individuals on the hill, sometimes with tragic consequences, others just embarrassing. (see here for a typical case). But how do we prevent that being us? Here are some tips to help you avoid making the headlines:

Before it goes wrong

Make sure you have the correct kit

  • What is the weather going to be like? Is there a storm coming in? Do you have enough warm and waterproof clothes with you?

  • Do you have enough food and drink including some for emergencies?

  • Do you have any emergency kit? See this post for more details.

Know how to navigate

  • Do you have a map and compass and know how to use them? Do you know how to find yourself on the map if you are lost? Click here to find out about our navigation courses.

  • Are you relying on a phone to navigate? This can be useful in addition to a paper map but phones can break and often run out of battery in cold weather or if you are using the GPS a lot. Also have you downloaded the correct section of the map before you leave home?

Your plan

  • Does anyone know where you are? When should they expect you back and when should they start to worry? Consider completing a route card before you go and leaving it with someone you trust.

  • Do you have a contingency plan – plans change as does the weather. Have you planned out a shorter or lower level route if the weather gets worse or you are taking longer than expected?

When it is going wrong

You are lost and the weather is bad or it’s getting dark – you need to get off the hill quickly and safely

(c) Tori Middleton, The OMM

  1. Make sure you have enough clothes on and have a snack while you’re working out what to do.

  2. Do you have the skills to relocate yourself with a map and compass?

  3. If you can’t relocate yourself – can you get yourself down to a road? In England and Wales, and a large amount of Scotland, you won’t be too far away from a road. For example, in the Lake District, if you don’t know which is the right valley, can you get yourself down to any valley? The weather is likely to be better lower down and there might be a farmhouse where you can call someone. This may be a long walk out (and possibly an expensive taxi back to your accommodation) but if you are uninjured and have adequate light then it may save an emergency call out.

If someone is injured

  • Can they get themselves down with your help? If the weather is good and the injury isn’t too severe then can you assist them down. If it is a sprained ankle, can it be strapped? Does anyone have any walking poles they could use to assist themselves?

  • Do you have an adequate first aid kit and know how to use it?

If you know you can’t deal with it yourself

If the weather is very bad, you have an injured member of your party, or it's getting dark and you don’t have the kit and knowledge to get yourself down safely - you need to get out your emergency clothes and emergency bag, hunker down somewhere sheltered and call for help. Click here for how to call mountain rescue and what details to give them.

Mountain Rescue is there to help when needed, but can you do anything to avoid needing to call them?

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