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Bright idea to be prepared for changing conditions in Highland mountains

By John Davidson

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It is important to be able to navigate in the dark. Picture: Mountaineering Scotland
It is important to be able to navigate in the dark. Picture: Mountaineering Scotland

It is not only headtorches that hill walkers are being urged to add to their packs as the clocks go back this weekend.

With British Summer Time ending on Sunday morning, mountain-lovers are getting set for the start of the colder season in the hills.

With that in mind, Mountaineering Scotland is suggesting people go better prepared as well as brushing up on their navigation skills.

Ross Cadie, the organisation's senior mountain safety advisor, said: “This season brings colder, wetter and windier weather, so packing that extra warm layer and adding thicker, better waterproofs will make life more comfortable and enjoyable when out on the hills and mountains.

“Having things in your bag that you can use to look after yourself is really important too. The colder weather means that you will need to have items that can keep you warm and sheltered from the elements if you need to wait for help.

"I would suggest carrying a group shelter, extra warm layer, a spare hat and pair of gloves, and a bothy bag, as well as the usual first aid kit, phone and whistle.”

First of all, packing a headtorch – and a spare – is vital for those heading out into the hills at this time of year, especially as the earlier darkness can catch people out.

Mr Cadie said: “With the clocks going back on Sunday, it is a timely reminder of both the joys of mountain adventures in autumn and winter, as well as the need to go prepared for rapid changes in conditions.

“Making sure that you have a fully charged, good quality headtorch is vital. And, if you are expecting or planning to spend time out in the dark, either with an early start or a late finish, then having a second headtorch, and spare batteries, would be an excellent idea."

Mountaineering Scotland is also encouraging people to take the opportunity to improve their navigation in the dark. The membership organisation is hosting night navigation courses throughout November to help people deal with getting off the hill safely.

Donald MacRae, vice chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said: "The winter months can be a fantastic time of year to get out into the mountains, however it can present greater challenges. Make sure you are well equipped and know how to use kit such as an ice axe and crampons. Check the weather forecast, think how the weather will impact on your day, there is nothing wrong in turning back.

"Ensure someone knows where you are going, what time you expect to return and what to do if you do not return.

“Please remember that if you are lost, in need of assistance or in an emergency in the mountains, dial 999 and ask for 'police' then 'mountain rescue'. In winter, the sooner we are contacted the better. Our volunteer teams will assist any hour, any day, any weather.”

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