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Police Scotland officers plea for Highland walkers and climbers to make sure they are properly prepared for the hills and mountains after rise in the number of call-outs

By Philip Murray

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Mountain rescues are on the rise in the Highlands. Picture: Police Scotland.
Mountain rescues are on the rise in the Highlands. Picture: Police Scotland.

A SURGE in mountain rescue call-outs in the Highlands has sparked a police plea for the public to respect the dangers posed by the region's mountains and wild areas.

So far this year, police say they have seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of call-outs across the Highlands, Tayside and the north-east hills – and teams in the Highlands have been called out to 210 incidents so far in 2020 alone.

Scottish mountain rescue teams based in the north have also recorded their busiest period on record.

And the force has urged hillwalkers and climbers to "plan your walk, and walk your plan" and make sure to prepare for all eventualities.

Sergeant Peter Lorrain-Smith, Police Scotland’s mountain rescue co-ordinator, said this was important all year round, but especially true in the cold and dark months of winter.

He 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.

“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.

"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.

“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.”

Scottish Mountain Rescue will also be launching its #ThinkWINTER campaign in early December which Police Scotland will be supporting. 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.

Officers have also urged the public to respect 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.

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.

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