|The Scottish hills demand respect at all times of the year.
If you intend to try hill-walking, follow these helpful tips and you won't go far wrong.
- Watch the Weather
Always get a weather forecast before you set out, and be prepared to change your
plans if the forecast is not good. Scottish daily newspapers carry quite detailed
forecasts which often include advice for hill-walkers. Local radio stations are another
good source. Or you can phone MountainCall for an up-to-date report on hill conditions.
The numbers are 0891 500441 for the West of Scotland, and 0891 500442 for the East of
Scotland (these calls cost 50p per minute).
- Plan Carefully
Good planning is the key to an enjoyable day out. Make sure you have enough time
for your planned route. Check the length and difficulty carefully. Everybody in the party
should know what lies ahead before you set out. If you are unsure of the fitness of anyone
in the party, shorten the route or make it easier. Allow time for drink and food stops and
try to build in an 'escape route' in case the weather turns against you.
- It's Colder on Top!
At most times of the year, it is colder and windier the higher you go. Make sure
you have adequate clothing with you. Scottish hill weather can change with amazing
rapidity. Keep an eye on the weather and learn the signs that tell you of worsening
conditions approaching. Never be afraid to cut the walk short and head home - there's
always another day.
- Wear Good Gear
Use the 'layer principle' - take several thinner layers that you can adjust
according to conditions rather than one thick one that is inflexible. You can control your
temperature much more easily this way. For the higher hills you should always take full
waterproofs, a fleece, hat and gloves. Be aware of the wind - 'wind chill' makes it feel
much colder than the air temperature might suggest.
- Feet First
Good boots are an essential item of kit. For hill-walking and rough terrain you
need properly designed boots with ankle support, good tread on the sole and preferably
waterproofing. Any specialist outdoor shop will advise you. Break your boots in with
gentle walking before embarking on long hill days.
- Be Prepared
All hill-walkers should know how to use a map and compass and should take these
invaluable aids on every hill walk. These skills can save your life and add enormously to
your enjoyment. If you want to learn, there are good courses available through the
Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
- Leave a Note
Before you set off it is advisable to tell someone - a friend who isn't walking,
the place where you are staying, even the police - how many of you there are, roughly what
your route is, and when you think you will be back. Please remember to let them know when
you have returned - too many rescues have been mounted simply because someone forgot to
check back in and it was assumed they were lost.
- In Remote Country
Many areas of Scotland are remote. Tracks and paths shown on the map might not be
visible on the ground, or can be very rough. Off the path, the terrain is often slow and
difficult to cross. Don't underestimate it. There is often no shelter of any kind in hill
areas. Rivers and streams can rise very quickly after rain, making them impossible to
cross. Never try to cross if you are unsure. Check the map for the nearest bridge or safe
crossing point. Slow-moving rivers can be waded but use a stick for balance or cross in
twos, arms linked.
- In Emergency
The distress signal is six quick blasts on your whistle (or six torch flashes at
night), wait for one minute, then repeat the signal. If there are more than two in the
party, one should stay with the person in difficulty while another goes for help, taking
with them exact details of location and nature of the difficulty.
There are voluntary Mountain Rescue teams covering all the hill areas of Scotland.
In an emergency the police (dial 999) should always be used as a first point of contact.
It is worth saying that in many hill areas, mobile phones will not work.
- Winter Walking
Hill-walking in winter in Scotland should be regarded as mountaineering and needs
extra equipment such as ice axe and crampons and the skills to use them. Winter skills
courses are run by Glenmore Lodge and other centres, and are regularly advertised in
outdoor magazines and in some tourist publications.
- Helpful Leaflets
Helpful free leaflets called Enjoy Hills in Safety, Learn to Read or Get Lost, (basic
advice on navigation) and Winter Essentials can be obtained from the Scottish
Mountain Safety Forum, Mountaineering Council for Scotland, 4a St Catherine's Road, Perth
PH1 5SE Tel: 01738 638227.