Safety Tips

Hypothermia

The effectes of hypothermia are incidious and can creep up on people.
Have spare, warm clothes, and carry plenty of high energy food to keep our glucose levels topped up.
Beware of wet clothes exposed to the wind. The cooling effect is MUCH greater through wet clothes.

Be prepared to change your plans

Make sure you allow enough time to complete your walk and that it is within your capability. Be prepared to change your plan if things aren't going well.

Always carry a torch

What ever time of year, always carry a torch. You never know when or why you may be delayed. When it goes dark in the hills, it usually goes VERY dark! There's little ambient light unless you are lucky to be out when there is a good moon and little cloud. It's worth carry a set of spare batteries as well. If you're lucky they'll be the same size as other devices you might be carrying such as GPS. Modern LED torches are very reliable, and batteries last a long time, and it's well worth considering a headtorch in favour of a hand torch, leaving your hands free.

Learn some first aid

A two or four day course is ideal, but even a one day course would give you the basics. You would learn the basics of ABC, how to do CPR and control bleeding. It can take us up to an hour to get to an incident scene, sometimes longer, if you haven't given us an accurate location. Your intervention might make the difference between life and death.

Battery life

Even modern batteries hate cold weather. Their performance deteriorates significantly in lower ambient temperatures. Keep battery powered devices protected inside bags or jackets, and always carry spares for 'mission critical' devices (apologies for that phrase, but it does best describe devices such as torches and GPS). Beware of battery life indicators on devices as well. They actually signfy voltage drop, and most batteries maintain a steady output for most of their life and then drop off VERY quickly. A battery showing anything less than full charge may not have much life left in it

Check the weather forecast

Always check the weather forecast for the area you are visiting.
Mountain forecasts are available from:

The weather can change unexpectedly and you should be prepared for this. If you are immobilised because you or companion are injured, or because you become cragfast or benighted you will cool down very rapidly. A bivvi bag is useful (essential) to protect you in these circumstances.

Wear appropriate footwear

Your footwear is the link between you and the ground. Buy the best you can afford from a reputable outdoor shop. The comfort of your boots is vital, reducing fatigue and giving support on rough ground. Fashion boots aren't suitable and trainers are only suitable for easy terrain on good days. The lightwieght specialist fellwrunners wear dedicated shoes with deep studded off road tread, not road running shoes for this reason.

Make sure you can navigate

It is essential that you can navigate. Relying soley on a GPS, either free standing, or software on a smart phone, is a hazardous strategy, and can land you in trouble. Being able to orientate a map to the ground you're are on, recognise features on the ground as they appear on a map and being able to tell you direction of travel and distance travelled are skills that not only make remote area travel safer, but it is also VERY satisfying. If your party gets lost, you cannot blame someone else for navigation errors. It's EVERYONES responsiblity!

Winter equipment

For many people, winter is the best time to be on the hills. A beautiful sunny, freezing day on ice and snow covered ground high in the hills can be one of the best days of your life. It goes with out saying that winter days are colder, shorter, and can be wetter. Snow and ice adds an extra dimension. When there is snow on the ground, an ice axe and crampons should be regarded as essential. You may not need them, but if you do, there is NO substitute.

 

Choosing a route and setting the pace

The choice of route for a day out but take into account the ability of the weakest member of a party. There's no harm in setting a challenging route, but there has to be a contingency plan and escape routes factored in to the planning. There's no harm in cutting a route short, or turning back. The mountains will still be there next time!

 

The pace should be set by the slowest member, and they should be given time for rests. It's better to walk at their pace, than to find yourself hanging around for them, and much more social!

Mountain roads in winter

Many of the local roads become impassable in winter due to snow and ice. Kirkstone Pass is often effected, and signs are put up to say so. However, lack of a road closed sign isn't a guarantee that the road IS passable. AND a 4WD is not a guarantee of a safe passage either. Many modern 4WD cars have tyres that are not design to grip in snow or ice.

 

Other more remote roads are more likely to be affected since it is impractical to grit them. Wrynose and Hardknott Passes are often impassbale, sometimes due to significant icy patches.

 

Helmets

Helmets... usually a contentious and much debated issue. Climbing helmets are designed primarily to protect your head from falling rocks, rather than from a fall. They're certainly worth considering when summer and winter climbing, gorge scrambling, canyoning, off-road cycling. If you're organising a group of novices or children then they should be considered essential. Otherwise it has to be an informed decision.

 

More information is available at http://www.thebmc.co.uk/modules/article.aspx?id=3034&s=2

Mobile phones

Mobile phones have, without doubt, contributed to saving people's lives in the mountain environment. However they have also been misused and abused and led to much time-wasting for voluntary mountain rescue teams.

 

Don't expect to be rescued by helicopter

Although MRTs enjoy an excellent relationship with both military SAR helicopters and civilian air ambulances, the majority of rescues are still carreid out on foot, with NO helicopter support.

 

Helicopter limitations...

 

Drinking and hydration

Not something you need to worry about in the Lakes, surely? Well yes it is... You need to drink plenty, especially on warm/hot days. Dehydration, even by a small amount, causes brain impairment, and may be a factor in slips and trips in the afternoon, the biggest cause of callouts for us. In more extreme cases it is life threatening. It can be linked with hyperthermia and uncontrollable rise in body temperature. The best drinking water is tap water taken with you. Easily 2 litres or more might be required. If you run out, then it should be safe to top up from moving, well airated water.