News 2021

Title:  Winter Hiking Safety Warning
Date:  08/01/2021

Winter Hiking Safety Warning

In normal times hiking in winter can be an amazing experience, at present Mountaineering Ireland advises those who enjoy outdoor activities to support and adhere to the current travel restrictions for exercise (5km from home in the Republic of Ireland, 10 miles in Northern Ireland). Updates on these restrictions can be found on: https://www.mountaineering.ie/aboutus/news/2020/?id=330

The mountains will be there in the future. When restrictions are eased, consider these three key questions when planning your day:

1. Do I have the right gear?

Your kit doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to keep you warm and dry during wet and cold conditions and, in the case of boots, they need to fit well. Many recent Mountain Rescue callouts have related to poor footwear or lack of crampons. Crampons, an ice axe and the skills to use this equipment may be necessary when there is snow on the mountains. Below is additional advice on suitable gear:

  • Carry a map and compass and know how to use them
  • Make sure your mobile is charged, but don’t rely on it for navigation and communication as there may not be mobile signal along your route.
  • Carry a torch and a whistle, it’ll save the day if you get caught out by the dark.
  • Carry food and drink to keep your energy levels up.

2. Do I know what the weather will be like?

The weather has the potential to make or spoil your day. This doesn’t have to mean that a spot of drizzle or even a howling gale has to stop your day out. Being prepared and adapting your plans is the key to being in control of your day.

3. Am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day?

Whatever your planned activity for the day, be honest with yourself about you and your companions’ knowledge, fitness and ability. We all like to kid ourselves that we are fitter, or indeed more capable than we are, but in this instance it pays to be honest.

  • Know where you are going and again, carry a map and compass and know how to use them.
  • Plan for the least able member of your group.
  • Stay within your comfort zone, especially in winter when the margin for error is tighter and during Covid-19 when Mountain Rescue and hospitals are already stretched.
  • First aid saves lives and knowing what to do in an emergency can make all the difference.

Knowledge and skills

Article on Winter Walking by Mountaineering Ireland's President Paul Kellagher: https://www.mountaineering.ie/AboutUs/News/2020/default.aspx?id=326

Happy Hiking – Mountaineering Ireland’s advice on staying safe in the Irish hills and countryside - https://www.mountaineering.ie/hillwalking/HowToStart/default.aspx

Watch this useful video from Donegal Climbing on What to carry in Winter: https://www.mountaineering.ie/TrainingAndSafety/SkillsVideos/default.aspx 

More information on Winter Walking can be found here: https://www.mountaineering.ie/hillwalking/Walkinginwinter/default.aspx

Read other useful Winter Safety articles here: Training Downloads (mountaineering.ie)

Mountain Rescue

Mountain Rescue volunteers are under pressure due to an increase in participation in outdoor activities and an associated rise in the number of callouts. Covid-19 protocols and loss of fundraising opportunities further stretch the provision of this valuable emergency service.

By asking yourself the three questions above every time you go out you will be taking responsibility and making conscious decisions when planning your day, thus reducing the likelihood of a callout, and increasing your enjoyment and experience.

Participation statement

Hillwalking, climbing and rambling are activities that can be dangerous and may result in personal injury or death. Participants should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.

Mountaineering Ireland advocates safe practice on the hills, mountains and crags and supports the promotion of this via AdventureSmart (check www.adventuresmart.uk for more information).

Photo: Kerry Mountain Rescue Team

 

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