Safety on the hills
These notes are intended to add to the safety, comfort and pleasure of those who use the facilities of the club, in order that maximum benefit is derived from a healthy and rewarding activity.
1. Assess your physical fitness
Know yourself and your physical limitations. We all like to stretch ourselves, but recognition of the line between stretching and foolhardiness can mean the difference between a pleasant outing and a lot of trouble and embarrassment. Members receiving medication are strongly advised to seek the advice of their doctor before undertaking, in particular, the more arduous walks.
Remember that in the hills conditions can change very quickly. It is advisable to stay in a small group of not less than three persons, at least one of whom should be proficient in the use of a map and compass. If in doubt at all, ask any club official who will go over the route with you and if necessary, arrange suitable walking companions.
2. Check the Weather beforehand
Checking the local weather beforehand can give you a good idea of what conditions to expect on the walk. Conditions can vary significantly depending on the altitude at which you are walking. The Met Office provides a Mountain weather forecast giving details of what to expect at various heights in popular walking locations across the British Isles. This link here will take you to the forecasts for the area where the club undertakes most of its walks.
3. Wear and carry the proper gear
Footwear should comprise of one or two pairs of warm, well-fitting woollen socks, and well-fitting hill-walking boots. The boots do not have to be heavy or expensive, but should provide good ankle support with soles and heels designed to give maximum grip in wet or slippery conditions.
4. Dress for the weather
Clothing should be made up of a number of layers of garments giving good insulation and at the same time, allowing freedom of movement, e.g. base layer, shirt, sweatshirt or fleece top or one or two long-sleeved medium weight jerseys. Jeans afford little or no protection against wet and are NOT suitable. Water and windproof over-trousers and hooded anorak or cagoule are essential as are long-wristed gloves or mitts, woollen hat or balaclava helmet. Gaiters are useful protection in snow, bogs and long heather. Carry spare emergency clothing, suitably protected from damp – socks, woollen jersey, light trousers and survival bag. Remember that even in summer in the Scottish hills it is normal to be cold and the exception to be “baked”. But be prepared for the warm days and use sun cream where necessary and carry a light shirt and shorts, but beware of ticks. You will need a suitable waterproof rucksack. Newcomers to hillwalking can obtain advice on sources of supply by asking club members.
5. Carry a First Aid kit
Elastoplasts (Compeed or similar are excellent for blisters), gauze, lint, antiseptic cream, bandages, paracetamol are not bulky or heavy, and may be needed, even if only for dealing with the odd blister, skin graze or headache.
Start the day with a nourishing, high-protein breakfast and carry something nutritious for lunch. Make sure you carry plenty of fluid, preferably hot (e.g., tea or soup) and some high calorific emergency rations such as chocolate, mint-cake, dried fruit, glucose tablets. Never be parted from your food.
7. Emergency gear
This should include a whistle (six regular short, sharp blasts if in trouble), a torch (remember to check periodically that it is working and bring spare batteries), and some loose change (you may need a telephone on reaching help). A mobile phone can also be useful but remember in the hills you are often out of range of a signal. Remember to bring any medicines you require.
8. Check in
Please note the time you should finish the walk and sign against your name to say you have returned.
9. Use the route sheet
Route sheets for each outing are available through the web site and copies are available on the outward bus journey. They are issued in a spirit of helpfulness, and it is inevitable that from time to time, walkers will wish to vary from the prescribed route. Any variation, whatever its nature, must be brought to the attention of the person in charge of the outing, before commencement of the walk. He or she will take into account the known physical and navigational ability before approving, or otherwise. If such approval is not forthcoming, the decision of the person in charge (normally the club president or his nominated representative) must be regarded as final. Study the route sheet on the outward journey and if unsure of anything, ask. Take special note of the pick-up point and time.
10. Learn basic navigation skills
Advance notification of each walk will be available on the club website shortly after the programe. The details include O/S Landranger map numbers. These will fall, normally, within the “working quadrant” of the club which is within an approximate 75 to 80 miles radius of Aberdeen. Study the area and familiarise yourself with contours and features in advance. Carry the correct map for the outing and a reliable compass and learn how to use them. The use of GPS and various navigational phone apps has become common practice, but be aware that they can fail, especially due to low battery. If you are using a GPS device or a navigational phone app always have downloaded maps, as there is often no phone signal on the hills. For safety’s sake always carry a map and compass and know how to use them. There are many experienced navigators in the club, each of whom will be delighted to assist , and from time to time, formal class instruction is available from the club. Practise in good conditions, and build up confidence against a time when you may have to rely on your own expertise in poor conditions. Do not assume, because somebody is purposefully striding out ahead, that they know what they are doing or where they are going. Often the reverse is true, so if you are following “blind”, it is prudent to establish the competence of those you are following.
11. Enjoy the company
Above all, remember we are a club, with responsibilities not only to ourselves but to each other, and that it is all supposed to be a social, healthy exercise. Be aware of those around you, particularly those who appear new or unsure of themselves, and help where you can. Conscious effort and awareness by those who are experienced club members will do more to contribute to the pleasure and safety of the outings than all the advice and rules in existence.
In the event of a mishap
Accidents do occur on the hills. We hope with care that they will never happen, but it is prudent to know what to do in the worst scenario. It is impossible to cover every eventuality, but the following are common sense guidelines.
12. Sudden illness or accident
In the event of sudden illness or accident, make the patient as warm and comfortable as possible and do not attempt to move them. The fastest and strongest walkers should seek help and raise the alarm as quickly as possible by contacting Emergency Services on 999. Those seeking help should first be sure of the exact location of the patient. Other members of the party should stay with the patient and render such support as is possible under the circumstances. Details should also be sent to the person in charge of the outing by the quickest possible means.
13. Navigational error
In the event of navigational error and delay, every effort should be made to contact the waiting bus with a clear message indicating the names of those delayed, their present position and their intentions.
14. Becoming lost
In the event of becoming lost and unable to descend before nightfall, accept that it is probably safer to make yourselves as comfortable as possible for the night rather than risk injury or death by traversing dangerous terrain after dark.
15. Keep your head
Stay calm and as warm and comfortable as possible without unnecessary exertion. Remember that help will be coming at first light, so move around only in daylight and in as conspicuous a way as possible. Wear your brightest garments on top and use your whistle at frequent intervals.