Returning to the hills — advice for walkers and climbers

Mountain climbers are being urged to take care as they head back to the hills.
Mountain climbers are being urged to take care as they head back to the hills.

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Mountain climbing has never been more popular, with ‘Munro-bagging’ a top hobby among people of all ages throughout Scotland.

Mountaineering Scotland, the national representative organisation for hill walkers, climbers and ski-tourers in Scotland, welcomed the news that travel restrictions were lifted from last Friday, April 16, earlier than expected, and are urging people heading for the hills to make sure they are properly prepared and ready to be flexible in their plans.

CEO Stuart Younie said: ‘We were delighted with the unexpected news last week, and particularly for those living in the cities and smaller local authority areas who have had limited access to the outdoors during this lockdown, as they can now get back to doing what they love.

‘The last 12 months have demonstrated how important outdoor recreation is for our physical and mental wellbeing and, as things start to ease, it will play an important role in our economic recovery, particularly in rural areas.’

Mountain climbers are being urged to take care as they head back to the hills.
Mountain climbers are being urged to take care as they head back to the hills.

Popular destinations are expected to be busy, meaning walkers and climbers travelling by car may have to set off early or consider going somewhere less busy.

Mountaineering Scotland also advises that to get the most out of their day, people should think carefully about the conditions they are likely to meet on the hill.

Snow still lies extensively on the higher hills, and fluctuating temperatures have meant much of it is likely to be very icy, and the consequences of a slip more likely to be serious. That caution is particularly relevant in the mornings on north or north-east-facing slopes.

Heather Morning, mountain safety advisor for Mountaineering Scotland, said: ‘An ice axe and crampons to cope with any icy stretches really are still essential items of kit at this time of year.

‘People should also be conscious that, with limited opportunity to climb in the hills over the last few months, they may have lost some hill-fitness and may well prefer to take on easier walks to begin with so they can ease themselves back into the swing of things.’

It is also important to act in a responsible manner while enjoying access to the hills, especially with the extra pressures due to higher visitor numbers.

Snow and ice remains in some regions so climbers should ensure they have essential items of kit necessary to deal with these conditions.
Snow and ice remains in some regions so climbers should ensure they have essential items of kit necessary to deal with these conditions.

‘We’ve all been through a stressful few months,’ Stuart added. ‘So we should be considerate of  residents and our fellow visitors, whether that’s by parking considerately, making sure we leave no litter or damage, or just in interacting with others.

‘If we all take care and look out for each other, we can make sure our long-awaited return to the hills is memorable for all the right reasons.’