Safety & Skills

Hazards must be faced in hillwalking and mountaineering, just as in most physical and sporting activities. The difference is not in the likelihood of injury, but in the distance from help, the time delay involved (most of us carry a mobile phone but reception is often non-existent) and the lack of shelter from possible extreme weather. The sense of achievement is heightened when a route has been completed in difficult conditions, but acceptance of hazard must not be based on ignorance. Good clothing and equipment is of course vital, but even the best provides no protection if the necessary knowledge and skills have not been learned. The following are basic skills which we hope every club member will acquire and improve on!

Route-planning, taking into account the abilities and equipment of the party, and the prevailing weather and ground conditions. Estimating the time required, anticipating 'escape routes' for eg badly deteriorating conditions.

Knowing your position. You may be confident in your map and compass skills in fine weather, but what if you are in a white-out and a -50C gale? Even a GPS can be difficult to use then!

Recognising a hazard, and taking action (such as modifying the route) to avoid it or minimise its possible effects. In winter conditions there are additional hazards and corresponding skills required.

Knowing when to turn back (this cannot be learned from books!)

Knowing what clothing to wear, and what to carry as spare.

Knowing what and how much food and water to carry.

Knowing when it is safe to continue in the dark, and, if not, how to survive a night in the open with minimum discomfort.

Knowing the mountain distress signal (and carrying  whistle and torch).

There are of course further skills such as mountain first-aid and use of snow-holes. These are best learned on professionally-run courses such as those at Glenmore Lodge. Club members benefit from a discount on a number of courses such as Winter Skills.

The Mountaineering Club of Scotland’s website gives useful information and videos covering all aspects of mountain skills and safety on the hills. It is worthwhile following the links and studying the advice given, as it may help save your or another person’s life.