Safety in Skye and Lochalsh Mountains

The path is easy going and is probably suited to all ages
Staying safe in the Scottish Wilderness

Introduction to safety in the hills of Lochalsh and Skye

All the Mountain Rescue Team members are volunteers and rely on donations for equipment and training. These men and women are dedicated professionals who will immmediately stop what they are doing when the alarm is raised and set off into the hills to come and rescue you.

So try to do everything possible to help them by being well prepared and also by being aware on how to walk safely in the mountains and the highland wilderness.

Mountain Rescue Teams are run by volunteers and would appreciate donations. Below are links where you can find out more and donate.

Kintail Mountain Rescure Team

Torridon Mountain Rescue Team

Skye Mountain Rescue Team

SARDA (Search and Rescue Dogs Association)

RAF Mountain Rescue Team

Reporting an incident : Police Tel: 08456 033388

Please read the legal waiver at the end of this page. click here

Preparation for hill walking in the Highlands

NOTE: Please note that the following is simply a guide to how me and my friends handle the situations encountered while walking in the Highlands. We are not survival experts or mountaineers.

Tell someone where you are going, the route you intend to take and when you intend to return. There is also a form called 'Going to the Hills' at all police stations. Fill it in and give it to the desk officer or leave it with the hotel, B&B owner or a family member.

If your journey is spontaneous and you didnt get a chance to tell anyone where you intended to go... simply write down the information and leave it on the dashboard of your car i.e. where it can be seen. If you are biking do the same thing but place the note in a waterproof polythene bag and secure it to the handlebars. Where you are going and the route plus Your Name and Postcode in block capitals are essential!

Make a back-up plan too; if something goes wrong its good to have a second option. Example: Find a bothy on the map near to where you will be going in case you have to overnight unexpectedly in the hills.

Dont go into the hills alone if possible. Try to have at least one other person with you.

Aquaint yourself with the area. What the terrain is like and potential dangers. Example: On the top of the Cuillin Ridge there is no water, so take some with you. Or .. that the Cuillin hills are naturally magnetic, making compass reading problematic.

There are no dangerous wild animals in the Lochalsh area however give cows (bulls), goats and rams a wide berth as they can (rarely) be a problem.

Check the weather. There are loads of websites with reliable weather forecasts. Check the weather on the day, the day before and the day after. For example .. if you are climbing in the snow Its useful to know what the weather was like the day before as the the snow may have been melting. Similarly if there was torrential rain* then the hills will be waterlogged and boggy and there could be a risk of mud slides. (*Especially important if you go caving / pot-holing)

Find out what time sunset is! Do you really WANT to wander around in the wilderness in the dark?

Allow plenty of time to get back off the hill. It can take more time to come down a hill than going up, so dont just rely on half the time to get out there and half the time to come home. You will also be more tired on the return journey so try to stay alert.

Make sure you have a good (Ordnance Survey) map of the Area you intend to go to and make sure it covers ALL the area. Lochalsh is a huge area and spreads over at least three Landranger OS maps. 24, 25, 33 Skye is another two maps. 32, 23

Wear the right clothes and enough of them. The wind can kill you - it makes cold temperatures feel colder and is called wind-chill. Many layers of clothing and a wooly hat is a good idea. Make sure your head covering is attched to you or has a strap to prevent it blowing away. Thick socks are essential. Stout walking boots are good for rocky terrain. Make sure they are broken in and not new. Thermal underwear and breathable fabrics like GoreTex are good long term investments.

Service your equipment. Make sure your electrical equiment like sat-nav, torches, phones etc are fully charged or you have new batteries in them. Lighter and Gas stove should be checked for fuel, functionality and dryness. Matches should be kept dry.

First Aid. Make sure you (or your buddy) have some basic knowledge of how to deal with accidents. Here is the Saint Johns Ambulance First Aid Website. www.sja.org.uk

Navigation. Make sure at least one of you can read a map and use a compass in thick mist or at night.

Take pictures with your phone or camera. The view is different on the way up a hill than it is from the way down. So different in fact that without obvious landmarks like a road or river its easy to lose your way back home. If you are going up a hill for example, take regular looks back down to where you came from and at the "view" in general so that on your return journey the view looks familiar. If you took pictures on the outward journey, if needs be you can refer to them on the homeward journey.

Make sure you are fit. Dont over reach you capabilities. Climbers should always climb WITHIN their capabilities and the within the limit of their equipment.

Look after your boots and equipment and they will look after you. When you get back home - unpack your rucksack and clean and service everything, making careful note of items needing replaced or replenished. Do it right away and dont leave it till your next journey to the hills.

Highland Survival Equipment List

Walking or climbing in the hills dictates you travel as light as possible, however there are several items that you should try to take with you when posssible. They will enhance your experience and greatly increase your chances of survival and coming home safely.

Knife (Good quality folding and lock or sheath)

Torch (These new LED head torches are most excellent!)

Bivvy Bag

Map - in polythene to keep it dry

Spectacles if you use them

Pen or pencil (just really useful for notes)

Mobile Phone or cell phone (do not rely on it)

Good Compass, a watch and a whistle

SatNav if they work in the region. (do not rely on it)

Food (not just your sandwiches but emergency rations)

Flask with warm or cold drink.

GOOD suitable clothes and thermal underwear for cold areas

A few painkilling tablets and sticky plasters

A black plastic bin bag (or white one)

Rubbish - although it may not be dangerous to humans, rubbish is dangerous to wildlife. So please take your rubbish home with you.

FINALLY....

If there is an emergency on the hill and you cant make it home for whatever reason remember the priorities:-

  1. Shelter + Heat (Fire is your friend)
  2. Drink
  3. Food

HYPOTHERMIA
Even the most experienced of mountain climbers can get caught out in cold weather. Its useful therefore to know what hypothermia is and how to recognise the stages.
Very simply put; hypothermia is the condition in which the core body temperature falls below the point where the metabolism i.e. your body cannot function properly any more (around 35 degrees Celsius).
The first stage is shivering and so is the second although the shivering is more pronounced and uncontrollable. In the second or moderate stage movement becomes less controlled and slow. Extremities like ears and lips can go blue. There is mild confusion. Stage three is where you cant speak, stumble around and the heart rate, respiration and blood pressure all decrease. Skin turns blue and death follows unless you are helped or manage to warm yourself up.
My friend who came close to death described Hypothermia thus.. "I got cold and shivering. Then found things very amusing and laughed and couldn't think straight. Finally I tried to desperately to stay awake because I felt warm and wanted to go to sleep. I knew if I did that would be it". Thankfully he survived in a snow hole with a small stove, hot snacks and a good sleeping bag.

Help this page - send us your tips or experiences. Also if you find a mistake or dont agree with any of the contant please email: sales@lochalsh.com We welcome any comments.

Legal Waiver
Please note that the page is simply a guide to how me and my friends handle the situations encountered while walking in the Highlands. We are not survival experts or mountaineers. This simple page is not intended as a guide or advice but just years of experience condensed in a few paragraphs. We accept no liability for anything that might happen to you as a result of reading the information herein. The page and website is not endorsed by or affilliated in any way to any of the aforementioned search and rescue organisations.
If the information proves useful, write to us telling us how and we will pass that on to everyone else walking in the hills. (sales@lochalsh.com)

Have a great time in the Highlands of Scotland!

 

 

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