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Mountain Skills and Safety

We've teamed up with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland to provide information on the key navigation skills for hillwalkers and mountaineers, together with advice on winter safety and avalanche awareness.

The MCofS recognises the importance of self-reliance in mountaineering and the right of mountaineers to participate in a risk sport.

MCofS Participation Statement:The MCofS recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.

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Enjoy the Scottish Hills in Safety

Set in some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe, Scotland's hills and mountains offer a host of different pleasures and experiences for walkers.

From a gentle walk amidst the rolling hills of the Borders region, to the awesome beauty of Glen Coe with its challenging walks (and climbs), there is something for everyone.

However, hazards do exist, despite the relatively low height of Scotland's mountains. This page gives some simple guidelines for your enjoyment and safety. It is designed to help both inexperienced and regular summer hillwalkers.

Before You Go

Before setting out on ANY trip, obtain a weather forecast from national and local radio, television, newspapers or online. Leaving word of where you are going can be a good idea.

You can print off and fill in either of these forms and leave them with a friend or family member before you go: CLIVE form or Going to the Hills form. If you do, don't forget to advise them when you return.

The Weather

Changeable is the best way to describe the weather in Scotland - and it can change at an alarming speed. Even on warm sunny days bad weather might be on the way. So, if the wind strengthens, clouds thicken, visibility decreases or the temperature falls, consider whether you need to revise your plans.

Planning

Choose a walk which is appropriate to you or your group's experience, fitness, navigation skills, knowledge of the area and for the prevailing weather conditions. As a general rule, take children only on routes which allow for a safe and easy retreat. Do not take children on long walks. Most areas of Scotland have walks to suit all levels of ability. Consider turning back if someone in your group is tiring or getting cold.

What to Take

For a full kitlist click here

On Your Walk

Tracks and Paths

Part of Scotland's attraction is the wilderness of its countryside. Mountain paths are not signposted and even those marked on maps may sometimes be difficult to trace.

It's very easy to follow a sheep or deer track that leads to nowhere! Use your map and check your location at all times.

Scotland's Varied Terrain

The ground you cover - from heather and peat bog to rocky paths - makes walking in the Scottish hills exciting; however, it can make walking slow and exhausting. Rivers and burns can rise rapidly and become impassable. Consider these points when planning your walk, for it will affect the distance you can cover in the time available.

Shelter

Do not assume you will find emergency shelter on the Scottish hills as even those marked on maps may not be suitable. Ensure that you are properly equipped.

Snow

During the summer months you may find patches of snow. You should avoid these areas unless you have the skills to cope with the extra hazard. Remember, many mountain accidents result from a simple slip. It can snow during any month of the year in the Scottish hills. Hillwalking in winter should be regarded as mountaineering and requires extra precautions. Daylight hours are shorter and weather conditions are more severe. Gain experience in summer conditions before venturing out in winter.

In an Emergency

If one of your party has an accident and cannot be moved:

  1. treat any injuries as best you can
  2. calculate your exact position on the map
  3. if possible, leave somebody to care for the casualty whilst others descend with a map to get help
  4. on reaching a telephone, dial 999 and ask for the police
  5. report the map grid reference where you left the casualty and details of the casualty's condition

Enjoy the Scottish Hills in Safety

Take note of the guidelines on this page and you will enjoy the beauty of Scotland's mountains and countryside and return to enjoy them again and again.

Safety and skills information is provided courtesy of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland