Hill Safety

Hill Safety

There is nothing more satisfying or rewarding than a day spent in the hills.  With some simple planning and preparation we can ensure that our trips to the hills endure in the memory for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

Before You Go.....

Plan your route before you go and make sure that it is within your capability.

Let someone reliable and responsible know your intended route and your expected timings and let them know as soon as possible of your safe return.  This person should know how to alert the emergency services on your behalf and when it is appropriate to do so.

Check the weather forecast (use local TV/Radio and the Internet) and make any necesary adjustments to your plans - dont forget to inform your responsible person of any changes.

What to Wear.....

Walking Boots.  A good pair of walking boots which offer ankle support are essential and afford much more protection, on rough terrain, than the wide range of walking, or approach, shoes currently on the market.

Socks.  A pair of well fitting walking socks are also essential in order to prevent blistering of the feet.

Clothing.  Layered clothing for the upper body allows the temperature to be regulated by adding or removing layers. Clothing should be capable of wicking sweat away from the body and will often be made from man-made microfleece or fleece fibres.

Trousers.  Trousers should also be capable of wicking sweat away from the body and there are many good walking style trousers available. On no account should denim jeans be worn - these absorb and hold moisture for an extended period and take a very long time to dry.

What to Take.....

It is important to carry the correct equipment and even more important to know how to use it correctly.

OS Maps.  Always carry the correct maps for the area you intend to visit. A map with a scale of 1:50,000 should be good enough but a scale of 1:25,000 will give much greater detail and accuracy.

A compass.  This can be an essential item of equipment if the weather closes in and can be very useful to confirm your location, especially in the rolling and indistinct hills of Northumberland.

GPS/SatNav device.  These are very useful and if used correctly very accurate however, they must not be relied upon as the only form of navigational aid.  Remember equipment may fail due to technical reasons or damage if dropped and batteries can run out. Some devices are also susceptible to water penetration and could potentially fail when needed most during poor weather.

Waterproofs.  A full set of waterproof overclothing should be a necessity. This should, if possible, be manufactured from a breathable fabric in order allow sweat to pass through rather than being held close to the body.

Food and drink.  You know how much you need but please ensure that you carry an adequate supply of liquid to replace that which will be lost due to sweating. This is vital in order to prevent de-hydration which can become a serious problem if allowed to develop.

Spare clothing. The British weather can be very unpredictable and what began as a warm day can quickly become the opposite. Carrying an extra fleece will allow you to react apropriately to these changes.

A torch.  Usefull to have as a back-up measure should your day take longer than you had planned.  A head torch is most useful as it allows the hands to be kept free and illuminates the area you are looking at.  It can mean the difference between being able to finish a journey happily and in safety to spending a long night out and possibly triggering a call out to the local MR Team!  Also useful for signalling your location or requesting help (six long flashes equals a request for help, keep this up until your rescuer reaches you).

A whistle.  Used to signal for help in the case of an emergency.  Six long blasts equals a request for help and the reply from any responders would be three blasts.  Keep up this six blast sequence until your rescuer reaches you.

First aid kit.  Should contain the essentials to be able to self treat minor injuries.

Bivvy bag.  Useful in emergency situations to provide shelter from the weather.  Ideally these should be breathable and manufactured from brightly coloured or high vis material to aid location by emergency services.

Mobile phone.  Useful to have in order to inform people of any changes of plan along the way or alterations to expected return times etc. Can also be used to alert the emergency services in the event of a real emergency.  Please be aware that signal coverage in the hills is often non existant and at best patchy and therefore mobiles should never be relied upon.  Many smartphones now have navigational capability but this should never be relied upon as the sole form of navigation - see advice above for GPS/SatNav devices.

A strong plastic bag.  Please take all of your rubbish home with you so both you and others may enjoy the hills another day. Also important from an animal welfare point of view, your rubbish can harm wildlife and livestock.

In the Winter.....

Extra spare clothing. This will enable you to respond to possibly very low temperatures.  This should sensibly include a hat and gloves, which should be waterproof or waterproof overmittens.

Extra food and a warm drink.  A flask containing a warm drink or the equipment to make a one (stove/pan etc) should be carried.

Ice axe and crampons.  When snowy these should be carried if you know how to use them corrctly.  If not, perhaps a little more training and experience is required in order to complete your route safely and sucessfully, and it is best left to enjoy another day.

Other Items to Consider.....

Down jacket.  Useful addition in the winter.  Wear when stopped for an extended period, for lunch break etc, to prevent core body temperature from chilling down.

Sleeping bag.  Useful in emergency situations, if benighted or during any period of prolonged inactivity. Use in conjunction with a bivvy bag to keep sleeping bag dry and afford extra protection and insulation from the weather.

Insulating mat.  Useful in emergency situations to provide insulation from the cold ground of the winter months but also useful in summer to sit on for rest or lunch breaks.

Walking poles.  These are very much an item of personal preference but they can be useful to assist with balance on uneven ground, whilst crossing rivers or streams or in winter when walking on snow or frozen ground.

Most Importantly.....

Have adventures, have fun, enjoy the wide open spaces and wilderness and enjoy the peace and tranquility offered by our beautiful hills.

Travel quietly and with your eyes open and you will be rewarded time and again with the simple joys of the world around you!

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