Cimbers and walkers urged to take care in Scottish mountains this Easter

Walkers and climbers are being urged to take care in the Scottish hills this easter - and always leave word of where they are heading. (Picture: Gary Crawford/Flickr.)
Walkers and climbers are being urged to take care in the Scottish hills this easter - and always leave word of where they are heading. (Picture: Gary Crawford/Flickr.)
  • Easter is early so still snow in the mountains
  • Always leave word of intended destination
  • Check current weather conditions

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Police Scotland have issued a joined plea to outdoor enthusiasts to stay safe in the Scottish mountains over Easter.

As well as being mindful to conditions - with Easter coming early this year, there is still snow in the hills - they urge walkers and climbers to always leave word of where they are heading.

There are currently six people missing in Scotland’s mountains. Tim Newton and Rachel Slater, who went missing on Ben Nevis in February, and earlier this month Jim Robertson from Glasgow went missing in the Cairngorms.

Still missing from last summer are three hill walkers lost in separate incidents in the Lochaber/Glencoe area: Tom Brown, Eric Cyl and Robin Garton.

The importance of always telling someone where you are going has been underlined by the sister of Tom Brown, who has told of the heartache and nightmare of financial and administrative difficulties that followed his disappearance.

Marjorie Ballantine said: “My experience – following the disappearance of my brother – demonstrates how irresponsible it is to set off alone without indicating to anyone where you are going – and the terrible implications for your family if you do unfortunately sustain a fatal accident and your body is never recovered.

“People like to be free to roam, but they generally have a good idea of one’s objective for a day. When a person goes missing the relatives are faced with awful uncertainty and grief.

“There’s also a legislative process of immense complexity to deal with. While the aftermath is bad enough, the next of kin are unable to administer the financial situation of their missing relative, due to legal issues, and they suffer financial hardship while lacking information about the actions they are able to take in relation to the missing person’s property.”

Voluntary mountain rescue team members, Police Scotland, RAF mountain rescue and Search and Rescue helicopters commit time and effort in searches for all the missing people, even after the chances of recovering them alive have gone.

The difficulties presented when someone goes missing was outlined by Police Scotland’s area commander for the South Highland area, Chief Inspector Brian Mackay, said: “We do not want to discourage anyone from participating in the great outdoor experience but do advocate the benefits of taking the time to share your intentions with another in case things go wrong.

“We work closely with the volunteer mountain rescue teams in Scotland to provide a world-class service any time and in any weather. We have experienced a number of challenging searches for missing climbers in recent months, including for people who have left minimal or no information regarding their intentions.

“When walkers are reported overdue or missing, having left no information about their intended walking route, police and mountain rescue face the potential of having to widen the search to the entire mountain range, which poses a significant challenge.

“We know that not everyone will want to leave a written route card, but we are asking the hill-going public, and even those on lower level rambles, to make sure that somebody knows where they are going, so that we have a better idea where to look for them if they are overdue.”

Heather Morning, mountain safety advisor with The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, added: “No one wants to feel as though they are controlled or restrained when they head into the hills; likewise none of us would imagine that it might be ourselves that gets into difficulty.

“However, whenever I go out alone – or with a group – I always let someone know which mountain/route I am heading for. It might be as simple as texting or emailing a friend with my intended plans, or giving someone a call. Losing a family member in the mountains is bad enough, but to not have any ‘closure’ with no body being found must be the worst possible scenario.”

In addition, Heather advises anyone heading out into the mountains this Easter to check out the current mountain weather, and the avalanche and snow conditions at the Mountain Weather Information Service and {|the Scottish Avalanche Information Service|Click here to visit the Scottish Avalanche Information Service).

“Scotland’s mountains are a beautiful, awe-inspiring and challenging environment, and a day out in the mountains, whether on foot or ski, can be a truly magical experience,” she said.

“But Easter is early this year and many of the higher Scottish mountains will still be holding snow. Don’t let that magical experience turn into a nightmare for you and your family this Easter.

“Planning ahead and researching your route and conditions will help you decide what kit to take with you. For example, will your intended route cross snow patches? Are these likely to be hard snow? Perhaps your route takes you up a north facing corrie which will hold snow and likely remain firm while in the shade. If that is the case, then ice axe and crampons will definitely be required.”