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'Plan Your Walk, Walk Your Plan' advise mountain rescue teams

By Tom Ramage

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Hillwalkers and climbers are being urged to plan their walks and prepare for all eventualities as mountain rescue teams based in the North have recorded their busiest period on record.

In 2020, Police Scotland has recorded a 20% increase in call-outs across the Highlands, North East and Tayside regions in comparison to any other year. In Tayside the team has deployed on 64 occasions since January, in the North East teams have deployed nearly 50 times, while teams in the Highlands have deployed to more than 210.

Sergeant Peter Lorrain-Smith, Police Scotland’s mountain rescue co-ordinator, said: “The North of Scotland is lucky to have some of the most beautiful hills and mountains in the country, and over the past few months we have experienced a significant increase in the number of people heading outdoors to enjoy themselves.

Know where you're going and let others know too
Know where you're going and let others know too

“By all means I do not want to put anyone off appreciating our great outdoors, however I must highlight just how crucial it is that you are prepared.

"Plan the route you are going to walk and consider whether it is safe to climb and if you have the ability to complete it safely. Also take sensible precautions and ensure you have suitable equipment, clothing and supplies. Unfortunately we continue to come across examples of people not being prepared for the walks or climbs they have embarked on, including people without maps, torches or basic survival gear, nor the skills and knowledge to use them.

"Many people have told us this is the first time they have ever hill-walked or climbed, and didn’t appreciate just how quickly conditions can turn.

“Our message remains simple - come to the hills and mountains and enjoy them, but be prepared for all eventualities and don't go beyond your ability; preparation is the price of admission. Scottish mountains are by their very nature extremely unpredictable, therefore it is important that people take as many precautions as possible and plan ahead.”

Police Scotland’s mountain rescue teams continue to carry out vital training during this period, and continue to work alongside other mountain rescue teams in Scotland.

Sergeant Lorrain-Smith said: “I am extremely proud of the work that has been carried out by our teams and the partners we work with during this critical time to help those in need. I appreciate that getting outdoors is great for people’s well-being at this challenging time, however the well-being of our teams is also a priority for me and I can see the impact this increase in demand on our services is having, combined with the wider Covid-19 restrictions we all face.

“If you do find yourself in need of assistance because of being lost or injured then phone 999, ask for Police then Mountain Rescue. You will be helped however because of the current restrictions in place, it may take longer than normal for us to get to you.”

It is also important to be aware of, and have respect, for the Outdoor Access Code, particularly as it relates to where and when not to park on what can often be narrow and somewhat crowded roads at this time of year. Emergency vehicles can require access to almost anywhere and a badly parked vehicle could hinder emergency access. Use designated parking areas where possible. Details of the code can be found at www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot

Scottish Mountain Rescue will be launching its #ThinkWINTER campaign in early December which Police Scotland will be supporting – please search for the hashtag #ThinkWINTER on social media and follow its channels.

The #ThinkWINTER quick checklist includes:

Check the mountain weather forecast – pay particular attention to wind speed, temperature and cloud cover.

Take warm layers, waterproof clothing, hat, gloves and boots with good grip plus a headtorch with spare batteries.

Pack plenty of food and drink to keep you going, plus some extra just in case.

Build up your navigation skills and confidence with shorter, smaller days before taking on bigger hills and longer days.

Be prepared to turn back if the weather or conditions change.

Let someone know where you are going, what time you will be back and what to do if you don’t return when expected.

If you are injured or lost and can’t get off the hill call 999 and ask for Police and Mountain Rescue.

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