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Safety Precautions Summarised

Safety Precautions Summarised

Before you set out

  • Carry a map at least 1: 50,000 in scale.
  • Have with you spare warm clothing, especially gloves, balaclava and spare sweater as well as windproof and waterproof outer garments.
  • Carry emergency rations (and don't eat them en route!).
  • Carry a whistle, torch and small first aid kit in case of accident.
  • Leave information of your route and then keep to it. For example, at your Hotel/ Lodge, or best, on day trips, at home.
  • Until you have a great deal of experience never go out on mountain alone - the safest number is four or more.
  • Know where the local Rescue Posts and nearest telephones are situated.

Planning your route

  • Estimate the time that it will take, and make sure that you have sufficient hours of daylight, leaving a wide safety margin for any miscalculation or delay.
  • Remember that the weather can change very quickly; if conditions are bad in the valley they will be considerably worse higher up, and a walk that you found easy in summer may be very different in winter. Always plan your route in relation to the prevailing conditions and be very cautious about what you attempt in bad weather.
  • Do not overestimate your own stamina or ability.
  • treat the hills with very great respect in snow conditions and do not go up snow-covered mountains unless you are familiar with snow and ice climbing technique and the use of an ice axe. Plan your day accordingly.

Out on the hills

  • Never let anyone get left behind - a party should always stay together, moving at the pace of the slowest.
  • Never be afraid of turning back if weather conditions worsen or you realise that the route is too long or too hard for you.
  • If you wear boots soled with composition rubber, be sure that you are aware of their limitations-slippery on wet grass, lichened, mossy or greasy rock, ice or hard snow.
  • On a steep slope be very careful not to dislodge loose rocks on to those below. When rock scrambling, a party should keep close together so that if a stone is dislodged it will not have had much time to gather momentum should it hit one of the party below. On a scree slope it is best to zigzag or adopt an arrowhead formation.

On the descent

The majority of mountaineering accidents occur on the descent from a peak when, once the climb is over, there is a tendency to become hasty and careless. Particular points to note are:

  • Don't take a short cut - invariably the path takes the safest, easiest and quickest way.
  • Always descend the longer, more gradual side of a mountain; scrambling down steep rocky ground can be very dangerous.
  • Never run, slide or glissade down a slope unless you can see a clear way to the bottom.
  • Do not follow streams downhill. They may end in a waterfall.

If you get lost

Stay together, sit down, keep calm. Carefully work out from the map your approximate position and consider whether to stop or continue. If the latter, decide in which direction you ought to go, and then trust your compass. If a member of the group is exhausted or if you find that darkness is descending and you are still on the mountain, it is better not to try to get down in the dark unless the whole group can move on and you are on a path or quite certain of the route. Map reading at night is extremely difficult and one cannot tell the difference between a boulder and a precipice. Accept the fact that you are out 'for the night', look around for some shelter from the wind and make yourself as comfortable as possible. You should, of course, be carrying spare clothing and emergency rations. Get ready for the Bivouacs.

If the weather and the visibility are good you will be able to decend next morning to another valley. Then get word to your original destination before a search party is sent out. If at dawn the weather and visibility are poor, so that you feel it is still too dangerous to attempt to move, then give the International Distress Signal in case a rescue party is searching for you.


Most accidents in mountains are due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Carelessness.
  • Over-estimation of one's physical stamina or technical ability.
  • Lack of observation.
  • Lack of knowledge.
  • Failure to act together as a group.

Only you yourself can guard against the first two dangers or causes of accidents. When you go out walking or climbing, always go prepared for the unexpected - a sudden change in the weather, a delay or setback which leads to an unforeseen night out in the open. Remember that if you are wholly unprepared a night out in winter conditions can be fatal.


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Published on: 2005-05-16 (2020 reads)

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