The information in this
section is 'required reading' for anyone
heading for the mountains. Incident
management is information taken from
the pages of the Mountain Rescue Council
Handbook and describes the correct way
to behave in cases of emergency or accident.
The section dealing with winter conditions
and avalanches are short but concise,
the time spent reading these section
will be time well spent.
you are involved with an accident or
illness in the hills your first responsibility
is to safety - your own and the casualty's.
Once you are satisfied that there is
no further risk of injury, the situation
should be analysed, and if appropriate,
help should be summoned. The best method
is to send a person to the nearest telephone
armed with a written description of
the injuries, the location and the time
of the accident. If a party is overdue,
the decision to call for help is not
easy, but its usually better to err
on the side of caution and refer to
the Police who will ask a Team Leader
to discuss the matter with you. In either
case contact, initially, should be made
with the Police through the 999 system.
They will refer the incident to the
local team. Many teams now use pagers
to summon an initial party, telephone
call-outs are also widespread and in
remote areas it may take some time for
a team to assemble and reach the area.
In more popular areas, turn out time
can be measured in minutes but you should
be aware that in Mountain areas the
turn-out will not be the same as you
might expect from emergency services
in a town centre. If you are with the
casualty you should monitor his condition
at regular intervals and keep a written
record that can be passed on when help
arrives. If you are making the call
for help, please remain by the phone
or at an agreed rendezvous until the
team has spoken to you.
Where the incident involves
a casualty at a known location, the
usual format is for an advance party
to set off as soon as the first team
members arrive. They will be equipped
with first aid, stretchers, ropes and
other equipment and will be backed up
by the rest of the team as the incident
progresses. In cases of severe injury
or in difficult terrain, team leaders
through the police can request assistance
from helicopters (usually the Search
and Rescue Flights of the RAF or Royal
Navy), but this should not be assumed.
The team on the hill will be in contact
with base by radio and if extra help
is required, another neighbouring team
may be asked to attend.
Behind the scenes many
other people are involved in keeping
the team at a state of readiness and
their role should not be under-estimated.
In case of a missing party, the team
leader in discussion with the police
and the informant will make the decision
whether to initiate a search and if
so when and where to start searching.
Increasingly the services of the Search
and Rescue Dog Association (S.A.R.D.A.)
and the R.A.F. are called on at this
stage of the proceedings. Small groups
of rescuers may also be sent out to
search obvious routes and possible descents
from the planned journey. Although nightfall
may limit the search it does not prevent
it and in all cases of injury or missing
person it should be remembered that
Mountain and Cave Rescue is a twenty
four hour, three hundred and sixty five
Should the initial search
draw a blank, the area will be widened,
usually at first light, with extra teams
and dog handlers being called in. Management
of such operations may be handed over
to a panel drawn from the regions teams
or to specialist Search Managers that
are being used in some regions. On reaching
a casualty, the team will usually take
over responsibility but you should remain
on hand to help re-assure the patient.
Evacuation by stretcher can be more
awkward than it may appear at first
sight and a carry-down can sometimes
be a protracted affair. If a missing
person is found by a search party uninjured
then they can often be walked off to
the nearest road or track. If there
is an injury however, a rescue party
will be assembled and sent swiftly to
the scene. All of this takes time during
which the casualty and other members
of party including yourself will start
to cool down, make sure you use any
extra clothing available and take occasional
drink and food to keep the body systems
Once a casualty is brought
from the hill, a good deal of work remains
to be done. Vehicles and equipment must
be dried out and returned to its proper
storage place, casualty details must
be passed on to the police and hospital
authorities and in some cases, the attentions
of the media may also occupy some time.
The Mountain Rescue Council
is primarily concerned with rescue and
all issues relating to maintaining and
developing effective resources for teams.
However, not to take advantage of the
opportunity to educate and inform interested
parties - on the basis that prevention
is better than cure - would be remiss.
Preparation, often more
than half the enjoyment from a venture
is found in the planning phase, and
forethought has added to, not detracted
from, an experience. The following may
prove useful to this process:Intended
Route (Is there enough daylight)
- Intended route
- make use of local knowledge, assess
physical ability of participants,
time scale of journey, anticipate
problem areas, devise alternatives
in order to cater for change in weather,
condition of party etc. Leave route
detail at appropriate point (home,
hotel, camp site, etc.) but please
remember to let relevant people know
if for any reason your destination
has changed e.g. navigation error,
weather conditions, or time taken
far exceeds anticipated journey time.
This will ensure that the emergency
services are not activated in good
faith, when no real problem exists.
Please do this at the first opportunity!
Not after the pubs have shut! N.B.
Route detail left on parked cars has
led to many thefts and a number of
false alarms through inaccurate information.
- Ensure all
members of the party are equipped
for the venture. Take account
of the time of year and the nature
of the activity you are taking on.
Choice of purpose designed
equipment is now very broad indeed,
and there are many retail outlets throughout
the country who will offer advice as
to the most appropriate item to suit
your needs. Having the kit is one thing,
but knowing how to use it is vital.
(A false sense of security can develop
because one has the required items,
but little knowledge of application.)
For the individual, clothing
needs to have good insulating properties
combined with comfort. Outer layer needs
to be windproof and water proof (jacket
and overtrousers); headgear and gloves
are important. Jeans are not recommended
as they give no protection when wet
(not windproof) and can be very uncomfortable.
Many accidents are caused by inappropriate
footwear being used. Boots with a
good quality Vibram type sole are
essential. Remember also that well
worn old soles are a hazard in themselves.
Boots that have a sloping front edge
to the heel section have also proved
a problem on steep wet grass and snow.
Also a cut away angle at the back
of the heel does not allow the boot
to be firmly dug into the slope.
Always carry some extra food for emergencies,
e.g. sweets, chocolate, glucose tablets
etc. Remember an active day in the
outdoor environment does use up a
good quantity of body fuel. No fuel,
- Map &
Compass: Essential items, but
of no value if you don't know how
to use them. Also referring to a map
when you need to may be too late.
Carry it on your person, not in your
rucksack, and refer to it on a regular
basis. (Makes all sorts of decisions
so much easier if you know precisely
where you are quicker and more accurate
- Whistle: Learn
the signal for rescue. (Six good long
blasts. Stop for 1 minute. Repeat).
Carry on the whistle blasts until
someone reaches you. Do not stop because
you have heard a reply, because rescuers
may be using your blasts as a direction
finder (especially in bad visibility).
A must. Spare bulbs and batteries
are a sound precaution. (Can be used
for signalling as well - as for whistle).
- First Aid:
A small kit can be invaluable in dealing
with minor problems, thus preventing
them becoming major ones (Elastoplast,
wound dressing, crepe bandage etc.).
Useful additions to the list are pencil
and waterproof pad for written messages
in an emergency. For more serious
injuries, splints, bandages and even
stretchers for certain injuries can
be improvised from ice axes, skis,
tent poles., etc.
Kit: A polythene survival bag
for shelter and spare clothing for
warmth if benighted or injured are
Snow and ice, plus the
reduced daylight hours, can change a
pleasant 4/5 hour stroll in the summer
to a long epic journey in mid-winter.
Paths which pose no real dangers or
problems can change overnight, and many
real hazards are formed by the ground
conditions. A good example would be
the Llanberis path up Snowdon, and the
dangerous snow slopes that can build
up on it for most of the winter. Correct
kit is obviously very important, as
is understanding the limitations and
problems inherent in using such equipment.
Most waterproofs, tops and trousers,
are very slippery if you fall on snow
or ice (less friction).
Having an ice axe offers
the only protection - if you know what
to do with it (what about practising
braking on a safe slope) and crampons
can be invaluable. Carrying survival
equipment is very important due to the
fact that the odds of an accident are
higher in these conditions. Adding a
sleeping bag to everyones list makes
good sense. There is a flip side to
every situation and good snow conditions
can enable one to travel quite quickly,
in full control. Glissading can help
on down-hill sections, but beware unless
you know the ground and snow conditions
for the full length of the slope.
In recent years there
has been an increasing number of avalanche
accidents. These have been caused mainly
by climbers attempting routes during
or shortly after a heavy snowfall which
has fallen on older snow or after a
sudden thaw. Various types of slab avalanches
and wet snow avalanches are most common
and their danger and frequency should
not be underestimated. New snow or drifting
snow accumulates as soft or hard slab
under the influence of the wind, particularly
in the lee of ridges and other natural
features. Such places should be avoided
until the snow has consolidated.
This is one of the few
incidents when you should NOT go for
the rescue team. Your efforts and those
of any companions could be the avalanche
victims best chance.
Life expectancy after
half an hour drops to 50% and therefore
the first hour is crucial.
- Your first concern
should be for the safety of you and
your party, check for further danger.
- Mark the last
seen point of the victim.
- Quick search,
listening carefully and looking for
any signs, mittens, hats or rucksacks.
- Mark the point
carefully and dont remove any items
found these can be useful clues to
the line of fall of a submerged avalanche
- If avalanche
cords or tranceivers are being used
your task should be relatively straightforward.
- Undertake a thorough
- If after an hour
you have not made any progress, send
for further help. If you had a reasonably
large party, you might have sent for
help earlier, but never at the expense
of an immediate search being undertaken.
- The casualty
dug from the snow should be removed
to a place which is safe from further
avalanche, their nose and mouth cleared
or at least checked.
- All avalanche
victims should be insulated from the
cold ground (or snow) and should be
treated for hypothermia and shock.
Partially submerged victims should
be pulled from the snow very quickly.The
golden rule of not climbing for 24
hours after a heavy snowfall is good
advice. It should be remembered however
that good knowledge of the previous
weeks weather is also important. Heavy
winds some time ago could have produced
windslab slopes which could still
be dangerous, particularly if a stable
cold period has existed. A good understanding
of windslab and its significance is
therefore advised as well as the 24
hour rule of thumb.
For further information
read Mountain Leadership by
Conditions in Scotland
are materially different from those
in other parts of the UK; the country
is more rugged and longer distances
must be covered on foot, whilst inhabited
dwellings in mountainous districts are
few. Experience gained only in England
and Wales can be misleading. Weather
conditions are more unreliable and more
severe; even in the summer months blizzards
of snow or sleet may occur above 2500
feet and in the winter the snowstorms
may reach Arctic severity. Gale force
winds are frequent and increase exhaustion
both by the general buffeting and disturbance
of balance and by their chilling effect
on the body temperature.
For these reasons mountaineering
in Scotland requires a high standard
of physical fitness and endurance, some
experience of snow conditions, adequate
reserves of food, warm and windproof
clothing, ice axe and proper boots.
In winter, boots with vibram soles with
crampons for use on hard snow and ice
are a sensible combination. It cannot
be too emphatically stated that vibram
soles without crampons on snow and ice
are quite unsuitable for Scottish mountaineering.
Expeditions should start
early; in the winter the day is short
and it may be necessary to start before
dawn. A careful watch should be kept
on the weather and condition of the
snow during the day, and if doubt exists
about the suitability of the surface,
the weather and the ability of the party
to complete the climb before dark, then
it should be remembered that retreat
is better than benightment or the need
for a rescue party. If caught in a blizzard
or lost, seek or build a temporary shelter
or dig a snow hole before any of the
party is exhausted or gets cold. Exhaustion
and cold together are killers.
This sport takes people
into many different environments these
days; for example sea cliffs, slate
quarries, roadside crags, high mountain
crags, etc. This does pose an interesting
dilemma for the participants as to what
kind of kit to take; for example, on
a low sea cliff traverse: is a rope
or a life jacket most appropriate? The
meeting of two different environments,
as in the above example, does introduce
a number of new hazards which have to
be taken into account. Other examples
could be gorges, gills, etc. From accounts
of incidents over a number of years
the following are a few of the lessons
which can be highlighted:
save lives. The most frequently
occurring serious injuries are to
the head, which is least able to withstand
them. Whether from falling rock or
sustained in a fall, appropriate headwear
will greatly reduce injury. Gone are
the days of what seemed like 10 kilos
of fibre glass stuck on top of your
head. Modern materials have made them
light, comfortable and even stronger.
(U1AA or BS4423 are the design
standards to look for) it simply
down to, or after a climb can pose
real problems. Lack of concentration,
wearing smooth soled friction boots
which are great on rock but more like
skis on grass.
use of equipment. Generally; harnesses,
ropes, belay systems, too much friction
off runners, bad positioning of karabiners,
incorrectly tied knots. These are
skills that are easy to develop and
much information is available from
many sources including the M.L.T.B.
- If climbing
on sea cliffs check the tide times,
plus their height. A difference of
3/4 metres can alter a route a great
deal. Weather conditions influencing
sea state/swell can play a big role
too, also changing the nature of routes
- What is the
location of the nearest telephone
should a problem occur.
- Take account
of other people who may be climbing
in the same area. That stone you
knocked off by accident may not be
a danger to you, but who is below?
Everyone is there to have a good days
climbing, and consideration of factors
like noise, leading through, etc.
can only add to the experience.
For more detailed climbing
info :- B.M.C.,
This thorny issue has
always been a consideration that hill-goers
and climbers have had to bear in mind.
The increased pressure on our limited
areas of wilderness makes it even more
important that individuals find out
what the situation is in their intended
area of activity. Many factors influence
status of access, from Public Rights
of Way to courtesy footpaths by agreement,
seasonal variations depending on birds
nesting or deer-stalking. Guide books
are generally informative, especially
when added to local knowledge. Ignorance
of this issue is no defence when problems
The majority of people
who go out of their way to remote areas
of our country have always done so in
a manner that pays regard for the future
of that environment (there are always
a few who have little thought). However,
the increasing pressure on limited resources
by folk who wish to experience the great
outdoors are issues we cannot ignore.
Whether you have been climbing 30 years
or 30 days gives one no more or less
a right to be there, but how you make
use and take care of that environment
is ultimately the bottom line. There
are no simple answers to many of the
problems and many differing views as
to their origin and solution.
The symptoms of such problems
as erosion, declining habitats etc.
are very obvious, yet some of the treatments
- such as limiting or denying access
to certain areas - are difficult, contentious
issues. We all take on some of these
dilemmas by our use or abuse of these
resources. It goes without saying that
care and respect for the countryside
and other users, whether animal or human,
as embodied in the Country Code is a
basic, minimum practice; but reality
- through observation of users, day
after day - is of some people paying
scant regard to these issues. You buy
into this complex area by taking that
first step outdoors (being there), not
by joining specialist organisations
or pleading ignorance.
This section does not
do justice to the many issues of safety
and other considerations when taking
part in an activity on the hills. However,
we hope to stimulate your interest in
developing skills in this area, and
thus help you and others gain real pleasure
from the venture you undertake.
It is not possible, in
a single section, to cover all the issues
or all the information that is available,
but we have endeavoured to highlight
key areas that need to be taken into
account. So many different uses of the
mountain environment exist at present
(rock climbing, walking, running, ice
climbing, biking, alpine and cross country
skiing, etc.) making the subject too
broad to cover in fine detail. To help
individuals become more aware of key
issues we hope through the Bibliography
to help you to access further sources
of information for more detail and further
development of what can be essential
skills in certain circumstances. Developing
this skill level and adding experience
to it is, in many ways, what the 'Mountain
Environment' is all about. The points
highlighted above are the learning outcomes
from many years of accident statistics,
and actual experiences of people who
have ventured out on to the hills and
have ended up in situations rarely planned
for. These are not theories thought
out around the fireplace or committee
table, but have been proved sound practice
by mountaineers of all standards in
many parts of the world and on varied
terrain including those in this country.
A greater awareness of these will, we
hope, increase peoples enjoyment of
their sport, and ultimately decrease
the demands made on rescue services
through good practice and sound judgement.