As Easter weekend approaches, mountain safety experts are appealing to people to stay away from the high mountains unless they are properly equipped and experienced.
The Easter weekend is traditionally a busy time in Scotland’s mountains, with thousands of enthusiastic hill walkers making their first visit to the mountains since the end of winter.
However an early date for Easter and continued wintry conditions in the mountains – fresh snow has still been building up this week – has left some mountain rescuers with serious safety concerns for the weekend ahead.
Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Adviser for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS), said: “Sadly, during the month of March this year, three people lost their lives in the Scottish mountains. They weren’t attempting severe ice climbs – they had set off to enjoy a hill walk up one Scotland’s many Munros.”
Now the MCofS is warning people of the dangers of heading for the hills with inadequate equipment or experience. That warning was endorsed by David Dodson, Leader of the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, who said: “Lomond Mountain Rescue Team would like to stress that, despite the spring-like conditions at lower levels, it is still very much mid-winter high on the hills and it is vital to head out prepared with essential safety equipment and – equally important – having the mountaineering skills to use them”.
Simon Steer, Chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, added: “It’s a sad fact that the beautiful, yet deceptive conditions on the hills at Easter means that this is often a busy time for the volunteers in the mountain rescue teams. We hope that hill goers will heed advice of the MCofS to avoid getting into difficulties which can place both themselves and their rescuers at risk.”
Continuing cycles of freezing and thawing through the winter turns old snow ice-hard, making it impossible to keep one’s feet without proper crampons and turning a slip into a slide which can lead to serious or fatal injury as the victim is taken over rocky ground or cliffs.
Heather Morning said: “If you are heading above 600m this Easter you MUST take an ice axe and crampons. And rigid-soled boots MUST be worn to kick steps across old, hard snow patches.
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that a pair of lightweight slip-on snow-spikes will do the job. They won’t. Crampons that are not securely clipped and strapped to your boots will roll off as soon as you leave flat ground.”