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Plotting a route back to the hills

Mountaineering organisations are working together towards a return to hill walking and climbing in Scotland.

As we approach the end of week eight of lockdown, mountaineering organisations in Scotland are asking the hill walking and climbing community to ‘hold the line’ and to avoid travel and stay local for their daily exercise in accordance with the current Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance.

Despite an easing of restrictions in England this week, the advice for people in Scotland remains the same – stay home and only go out for essential work, food or health reasons – although people in Scotland may now go outside to exercise more than once per day.

Walkers and climbers are keen to get back out to the hills and crags, and Mountaineering Scotland – the organisation representing hill walkers, climbers and ski tourers in Scotland – is leading discussions with partners in the Mountain Safety Group on how to deliver a phased return to the
hills and mountains.

This group of key mountain safety organisations, including Scottish Mountain Rescue, Police Scotland, Mountain Training Scotland, Glenmore Lodge and the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, has developed proposals this week which are being submitted to the Scottish Government outlining how mountaineering activities such as hill walking, climbing and bouldering can be re-introduced.

Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue said: “It is good to be working as part of the Mountain Safety Group, to ensure we can get people back out into the outdoors undertaking their preferred activities as soon as there is a safe and responsible way to do so within the Scottish Government guidelines. We hope to see everyone out there soon, but preferably not on a rescue!”

George McEwan the Chief Officer of Mountain Training Scotland added: “Prior to lockdown, our leaders, instructors, coaches and guides supported active public participation (both voluntarily and professionally) in walking, climbing and mountaineering, which does so much to support improved
health and well-being. As we look forward to reactivation, we are supporting the work of Mountaineering Scotland and the rest of the Mountain Safety Group, to facilitate a phased return to the outdoors which is both safe and socially responsible.”

Mountaineering Scotland has also taken on board feedback from its members and discussions with organisations across the Scottish outdoor sector, including sportscotland, outdoor sport governing bodies and the national parks, so that everyone can enjoy Scotland’s outdoors in a way that
considers the safety of individuals as well as rural communities. Further work is ongoing to produce a position statement and more detailed supporting guidance.

“These are unprecedented times” said Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland “and I’d like to thank Mountaineering Scotland members for keeping to the current guidelines. We know it’s been a challenge but it’s great to see the mountaineering community pulling together in this way.”

“We want to see an immediate return to hill walking, climbing and other outdoor activities as lockdown starts to ease, and have been encouraged by the way the outdoor sector in Scotland is working together to make this happen in a safe and responsible way.”

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