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Winter hill goers warned to stick to limits – and Covid rules

By John Davidson

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Travelling the hills between Glen Almond and Strathbraan. Picture: Helen Gestwicki
Travelling the hills between Glen Almond and Strathbraan. Picture: Helen Gestwicki

People are being reminded to stay within their limits in the winter mountains and ensure they are following Covid-19 guidance at all times.

It comes after a number of hill goers have called for help from the mountains and ended up with fines for breaching travel regulations.

Mountain rescue services say they are still available 24/7 and people in need of help should call on them if required.

But with more wintry weather on the way, Mountaineering Scotland is making the call to stay safe.

The organisation that represents hill walkers, climbers and ski tourers says that while there is no shortage of snow in the mountains, Covid-19 restrictions on travel have meant that for most people access to the high mountains is either limited or totally out of reach.

However, many people are being creative and venturing out to explore and enjoy what their local area has to offer, although some are still unsure how far they can travel for outdoor recreation and exercise or what clothing, equipment and skills are needed to enjoy the outdoors safely in the current winter conditions.

People are legally allowed to travel for exercise up to five miles beyond their local authority boundary. However, the Scottish Government recommends that you travel no further than you need to reach to a safe, non-crowded place to exercise in a socially distanced way.

Rules related to household mixing also apply outdoors during the lockdown and 2m physical distancing must be maintained at all times.

Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland.
Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland.

Further information on the current travel guidelines for outdoor recreation and exercise in Scotland is available on the Mountaineering Scotland website at www.mountaineering.scot/coronavirus, along with further guidance for walkers and climbers which highlights the additional considerations to be aware of in the presence of Covid when taking part in outdoor activities.

With more winter weather on the way, Mountaineering Scotland and Scottish Mountain Rescue are now reminding people to keep within their limits, be aware of the extra challenges of winter conditions, and to remember the Scottish Outdoor Access Code applies in winter too.

Indeed, making thorough preparations and ensuring you have appropriate skills, knowledge and equipment is more important than ever, along with remembering to park responsibly, take litter home and avoid disturbing sheep and other grazing animals.

Stuart Younie, chief executive officer of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “There are fewer people about in the hills and mountains because most are adhering to the travel guidelines and tending to choose less busy areas, meaning climbers, walkers and skiers need to be far more dependent on their own skills and resources.

"The unusually cold start to this year has also brought full winter conditions to the lower hills and paths, which means we have seen skiing and winter walking taking place in areas where we wouldn’t normally see so much activity, especially in the hills accessible from the central belt.

“The basics of heading to the hills in winter are explained on our website at www.mountaineering.scot/thinkwinter – and that’s free advice available for both members and non-members.”

Some recent incidents have highlighted the situation where hill goers have travelled further than the travel restrictions allow and have then required assistance to get off the hill safely, resulting in charges and fines for the breach of travel regulations.

Mountain rescue volunteers stress that their support is available 24/7 for anyone getting into difficulties in the hills by calling 999 and asking for Police, then Mountain Rescue.

Damon Powell, chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue, added: “Despite the challenges the current situation is putting on our volunteer members, Scottish mountain rescue teams remain ready to respond to anyone who gets into difficulty in the outdoors, wherever that may be. If you are lost or injured and can’t get off the hill, call 999, ask for Police then ask for Mountain Rescue.”

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