We are drawn to the mountains for a variety of reasons with the underlying trend of enjoyment being at the forefront. Experience and knowledge needs to be gained to minimise the associated risks and hopefully the following pointers will give you a good insight into managing these risks and helping you develop and gain further experience within the mountain environment so that enjoyment can be gained.

Before heading out think about your skill set and consider gaining further knowledge and understanding by researching or learning from experienced mountain users. The other option is to attend a Mountain Skills course which will give some structure to your learning. Additionally some first aid knowledge is well worth the investment, particularly if you can attend an outdoor first aid course.

Slips, trips and falls

Lower leg injuries amount to a significant number of injuries within the mountains. These often occur while in descent towards the end of the day. Being tiered and wet ground seem to be common contributory factors.

Control measures:
• Boots with good ankle support and suitable tread.
• Good route choice allowing for gentle descents at the end of the day.
• Walking poles can give a bit more assistance, balance and reduce the impact on your legs while descending.

Medical or Illness

This is becoming a more common cause of mountain rescue call-outs. Heart issues, asthma, diabetes and anxiety/panic attacks are some of the common issues which rescue teams deal with.

Control measures:
• If you take medication, ensure that you have enough for the day and that the weather elements don't affect its use. Another person in your party should carry additional or spare medication.
• Are you medically fit to undertake the route you've planned? Some form of exersize programme and advice from your GP would be worth considering if any doubt exists.

Crag Fast

A fairly common occurrence more so within the more rocky mountain areas. Poor visibility, winter conditions, windy weather, over ambitious route choice and being off route are all common causes of getting stuck.

Control measures:
• Researching routes in advance and avoiding ones with route finding difficulties until you gain confidence in picking a route through steep ground.
• Make sure that all party members know what the ground it going to be like and are happy to do that route.
• Assess your progress throughout the day to see how everyone is coping and adjust the route if needed.
• Every group member should have a head torch.
• Give yourself plenty of time to complete the route.
• Don't rely on following other people.

Getting lost

All the advice within mountain safety is out there pushing people to ensure they have a map and compass. Reality is that having these items are essential, however being able to use them effectively is paramount.

Control measures:
• Brush up on your navigation skills. Being able to measure distance, calculate timings, interoperate contour features, take a bearing, follow a bearing are all of the basis in mountain navigation.
• Keep track of your position on the map throughout the day. Make note of the time taken and review your plan continually.
• Keeping an eye on the weather and visibility to minimise the chance of getting into darkness or cloud.
• If poor visibility is likely to be encountered then stop, take note of your position and formulate a plan. Don't rush, accept that you'll be in poor visibility and prepare yourself – have a drink and bite to eat and maybe put on additional clothing, as things will now slow down.
• People often struggle to undertake the navigation task in darkness, wet/windy weather so the more time you can dedicate to practicing navigation skills the better.

Overdue or Missing

It is a good idea to leave some basic details of your plan with someone. Basic details should include start and finish point, how you'll be getting to the start point and what your expected time of finishing is. There's no need to go into lots of details, as we want freedom from our walks to make good decisions along the way and amend out route accordingly.

Control Measures:
• Give a realistic return time and check-in as soon as possible.
• Make sure that your phone is fully charged so you can check in or let someone know you've changed your route or if you are likely to be late.
• If you are using a car to travel to the venue, then leave the car make, model and registration details with your contact person.
• Make sure you have some loose change so you can still check-in by a pay phone if the area is out of mobile signal. If you were born after 1990, then google 'pay phone' and also learn the symbol used on maps.
• Your contact person needs a plan of what to do if you don't check-in and how long to leave it before they call for assistance.


There are many reasons why you could get caught out in darkness. Whatever the reason, you need to be prepared so that it doesn't become an epic.

Control Measures:
• Consider the time of year and the length of the route you are planning.
• Ensure every party member has a head torch.
• Keep an eye on the time throughout the day and adjust your route or amount of faffing to avoid getting into darkness.
• If you get benighted, then consider if you can navigate yourself back down safely.
• Be prepared that you may need to sit it out and wait till first light to continue down safely.


In general hypothermia occurs when the body's heat loss exceeds heat generation. In particular the combination of wind and rain drains the body's temperature rapidly. The colder the air temperature, the higher the risk becomes. Hypothermia is avoidable with good planning and management.

Control Measures:
• Having adequate clothing for the conditions and also spare layers for those unforeseeable circumstances. See clothing/equipment list from my December article with Trail.
• Carrying a group shelter and a Blizzard vest for each party member is strongly advised.
• Check the mountain weather forecast in advance and on the day and be flexible with your approach.
• Ensure you are fed and hydrated before you set off and keep topping up on food and drink throughout the day. Warm drinks are great on the hill in cool weather.