Climbers urged to stay safe on Scottish hills

Mountain rescue crews in Scotland are on alert for winter call'outs. Picture: Robert Perry

Mountain rescue crews in Scotland are on alert for winter call'outs. Picture: Robert Perry

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Climbers and hillwalkers are being urged to stay safe on the hills, as the first winter storms continue to cause severe disruption across the country – and as statistics show 25 people died on Scottish mountains in 2012.

About 7.2 million outdoor enthusiasts head out each year. The latest figures released by the Scottish Government reveal a total of 720 people had to be assisted by mountain rescue teams in 2012. Of these, 240 were injured and 25 died.

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Sport minister Jamie Hepburn issued a “be aware” call as he met winter safety instructors at the Snow Factor at Braehead near Glasgow.

Avalanche hazard information reports for Scotland’s highest mountains have now resumed.

The Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) provides forecasts for walkers, climbers and skiers from December to early April. During the winter of 2012-13, eight people died because of avalanches – the highest number of deaths in five seasons of SAIS forecasts.

There were 350 avalanches recorded that winter. Of these, 325 of the snow slides occurred naturally and 25 were triggered by people.

Mr Hepburn said: “Scotland’s hills and mountains are some of our best assets, and in the winter months they can be at their most beautiful.

“We want people to enjoy the Great Outdoors, but it’s vital to remember how treacherous this environment can be, even for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. Tragic situations do unfortunately happen.”

He said simple precautions could save lives, such as ensuring people had the right equipment before heading for the hills. The minister added: “Technology can be useful, but don’t rely on that alone to navigate for you. Having a map and compass and the knowledge of how to use them is the best way to stay on course.

“The weather in Scotland – especially on the hills – can change extremely quickly, so check localised weather information and mountain information of the Sportscotland avalanche information service.”

He said enthusiasts should take advantage of training facilities to improve mountain and climbing skills, such as the Sportscotland national outdoor training centre at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore, and also the Snow Factor at Braehead. Scotland’s ski season is due to start today at two of the country’s five winter sports resorts.

Both CairnGorm Mountain near Aviemore and the Lecht in Aberdeenshire are planning to offer some limited snow sports and runs. Ross Coulter, marketing executive at CairnGorm Mountain, said: “The good news is that there is also some heavy snow forecast ahead.”

Nevis Range, Glencoe and Glenshee are all looking to open next weekend.

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